何所冬暖 何所夏凉 SEASON: Chapter 3

 

We meet an adorable little boy in this chapter. He’s too precious!

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What I’ve Become Has Nothing To Do With You

 

A tall figure stood under the dim light with a deep and indistinguishable expression.

“Miss Jian.” He said in his usual cool tone.

I’m not sure how long he’d been standing there, or how much he’d actually heard. I decided to remain silent.

I’d already had enough today. My mentally exhausted being couldn’t cope with any more. I wanted to disregard him and leave, but clearly, this would be wishful thinking on my part.

He walked towards me. “If possible, Miss Jian, please return to the Jian house with me.” His low voice paused for a second, and then, he added another sentence. “Right now.”

Right now? I frowned and tried to force down the irritation that was bubbling from within. “Mr. Xi, I think you’ve forgotten that our arrangement is for tomorrow.”

He stared intently at me. “Right now I think you are probably free.”

“Xi Xi Chen, I must say, you really are too presumptuous.”

He acted as if he didn’t hear and directly stated: “Let’s go.”

I started to get angry. Anyone in this kind of situation would have been angry. I have no idea why he’d come to bother me, but this was completely unnecessary!

“Tomorrow afternoon I will go over.” I uprooted from my spot and turned to head towards the apartment entrance.

“Your father is going to Singapore tomorrow.”

I immediately halted my steps!

What does he mean? Is he trying to say that, Jian An Jie, who got kicked out from her house, no longer had the rights to return to the Jian House whenever she wanted? Or, is he implying that even if it’s to see my biological father, it’ll still depend on if that father is available to see me.

To this day, in regards to Xi Xi Chen, I have to admit, I am scared of him and ——hated him. That’s right, hate. Six years ago, when he hit me, in that moment of piercing pain, I had to endure endless humiliation and a finalized guilty charge.

I turned to face him with a calm expression. After all, six years of hardship had trained me to become more secular and hypocritical. Unlike the weak and helpless me from before.

“If that’s the case, then, please inform my father that he doesn’t need to bother wasting his time with me tonight. He’s busy tomorrow, and I also will leave this place tomorrow afternoon. Regardless of why he needed to see me this time, I’m sure it couldn’t have been all that important. I’ll just let this be a wasted trip on my part. I’m sure Mr. Xi would be delighted to help me pass this message on to my father?

The moment I finished speaking, Xi Xi Chen used three large steps to appear in front of me. I never anticipated that a man’s movement could be this quick. I was momentarily stunned. By the time I realized that I should’ve been scared and to retreat, he had already grabbed my arm.

“What do you mean?” The emotions in his eyes were intimidating.

If Ye Lin’s closeness caused me to panic, then, faced with Xi Xi Chen’s closeness, I experienced shock and fear.

I tried to separate my arm from him, but realized that while he wasn’t holding on very tight, it was very secure.

“Let go!”

“Let go? But, it’s okay for him to touch you?” His eyes displayed restrained anger. If it wasn’t for the close proximity observation, I never would’ve found out. Although, I’m not really sure where his anger was coming from. I’m baffled by it. After all, in this kind of situation, the one who should be angry is me!

“I don’t think you have the right to question my behaviour!”

He looked at me with persuasive dark eyes.

When he spoke again, they’d already restored to it’s usual calmness: “If I’m not mistaken, Miss Jian, you’re implying that you’re returning to France tomorrow?”

“More or less.” I’ll be visiting my mother in Shanghai tomorrow and returning to France the day after. But, I didn’t think it was necessary to explain all that to him.

“More or less?” His tone reverted back to arrogance. “In that case, Miss Jian, you must return to the Jian House tonight.”

“Preposterous! What identity are you using right now to tell me “I must”?”

“By law, I’m considered your elder brother.” When Xi Xi Chen said these words, his voice was somewhat chilling.

“This is too novel!” I controlled my urge to laugh. “Don’t use these nonsensical relationships to pressure me! I feel disgusted just listening to it!”

“That’s good! I also……” A sudden ring tone cut off what he was about to say next. Xi Xi Chen withdrew the cellphone from his suit pocket. After a quick glance, he frowned and picked up. “…….Yes……Okay.”

He passed the phone over to me, “Your father.”

I looked at him, and then looked at the all black cellphone. After a long time, I took it.

“An Jie, it was I who requested Xi Chen to get you. Can you come over right now?” Father’s manner of speaking was too courteous, not like how one would speak to their loved ones.

In all honesty, if not for this call, I’d already decided to not return anymore. But, since I’m back already, there’s really no point in wasting a trip. While I’m back, might as well resolve some things for good, so that my subsequent days could be better off.

I returned the phone back to Xi Xi Chen once the line was disconnected. I walked to the community entrance to hail for a cab.

He followed after me. “Do you really have to be this way?”

I turned my head to look at him, and then chuckled. “Didn’t you say I’m scared of you? I admit, I’m scared of you.”

Xi Xi Chen wanted to say more, but finally didn’t open his mouth.

A car stopped in front of me. I didn’t hesitate and just got in.

Inside the car, I called Pu Zheng to inform him. Then, I closed my eyes to rest. After all, what I’m about to face next will cause me to be exhausted.

Jian House. I still came.

The servant opened the door. This time I wasn’t shut outside the door, but rather, I was politely escorted inside and informed that Mr. Jian was in the study room.

I walked up to the second floor study room and stood outside for a long time before finally entering. The meticulous furnishing and bookshelf full of books are clear indication of a successful business man’s rigorousness and dignity ———The middle age man standing next  to the window looked at me——-My father, Jian Zhen Lin.

“You’ve arrived.” He sounded really unnatural. “An Jie, father hasn’t seen you in so many years…..You’ve grown up a lot. All these years, I’ve tried to have you come home, but you weren’t willing. This time, I had to request your mother to ask, and finally, you were willing to return. These years, you must’ve suffered?” He kindly asked me while walking in my direction.

“It was okay.”

“Do you want to drink anything? Tea or juice? I can get Lin ma to make it…..”

“No thanks.” I didn’t think I’d be here longer than the amount of time it’d take to finish a cup of tea.

My indifference caused him to be unsure of how to follow up. We remained in awkward silence until a servant knocked on the door. “Uncle Jian.” A soft voice came through when the door opened.

“Oh, Xi Chen, you’ve returned. “ Jian Zhen Lin didn’t question why we came back separately. He walked to behind his wooden mahogany table and sat down, he also gestured for us to sit as well.

I remained standing in my original spot. Xi Xi Chen brushed pass me and sat down in front of the table.

Jian Zhen Lin looked at me. His eyes repeatedly indicated for me to sit down, but I didn’t. I remained standing, and very upright.

After a while, he sighed. In his eyes were full of helplessness. “An Jie….” His mouth moved, and he seemed to be thinking. Finally, he said, “An Jie, I’ve done you wrong.”

I was stunned. I didn’t think he would apologize to me so directly.

“I’m really pleased that you were willing to return today. All these years, I’d blamed myself. I never perform the duties that a father should’ve performed and I let you suffer hardships outside.”

Hearing those words, it should’ve caused one to feel touched, but right then, all I could feel was a sense of numbness.

“Actually, you don’t have to be.”  It was really unnecessary to waste these empty, courteous, redemptive words on me. “You haven’t done me wrong. At the very least, you gave me money to spend.”

Jian Zhen Lin’s face looked very embarrassed. He tried opening his mouth several times, but no sound came out. In the end, he said: “An Jie. You’re my only daughter.”

This sentence made my chest hurt. I couldn’t help but mock: “Father, I know I’m your daughter, but, you have a son too, don’t you?”

Surprised to see Jian Zhen Lin’s startled and awkward expression, I suddenly felt ridiculous. I didn’t come here to be the bad guy. It’s just that after being hurt repeatedly, I was feeling very sullen.

“You shouldn’t say those words.” A voice sounded.

I laughed, “Don’t tell me that what I can and cannot say, I first have to obtain your permission? Xi Xi Chen, you really mind too much.”

He frowned, stood up, and looked at with me a reproachful expression. “Six years time has really caused you to change a lot.”

I bit my lower lips and turned towards father. “What is your exact purpose in seeing me?” I didn’t want to waste anymore time here.

“An Jie, actually, Xi Chen…..”

“I didn’t travel thousands of miles to get here just so we can discuss about him.” I coldly cut off whatever father might’ve potentially said in relation to Xi Xi Chen.

Jian Zhen Lin sighed, then nodded his head in Xi Xi Chen’s direction. While the latter is currently looking at me with a deep gaze that I couldn’t really decipher.

Later, he picked up a file from the table and walked towards me. I forced myself to stand in place, waiting for him to come closer.

Xi Xi Chen tried to give me the file, but I didn’t reach for it. I took a brief glance. It’s a real estate transfer agreement.

“I don’t need it.” I stated resolutely.

“An Jie. You don’t like us…..” He seemed to be aware that using ‘us’ was inappropriate. He paused and reopened his mouth. This time, his tone was more cautious. “You don’t like me, or aunty Shen living here. I…..They can move out immediately.” The last sentence was spoken very disjointedly.

Why do you have to do it to this step? I didn’t express any opinion. I expressionlessly stared at him.

“An Jie, I’ve regretted all these years. After you went to France, you never took the initiative to contact me…..You are my only daughter.” Jian Zhen Lin’s speech started to become incoherent.

Is this really my father, the all powerful business man? Six years time has really aged him.

In the end, I still stayed. This detestable moment of weakness crumbled my initial resolve.

When the first ray of sunshine passed through the cracks of the curtain and beamed through, I opened my eyes. I didn’t sleep well last night, but eventually did fall asleep. I looked at the familiar scene in front of me: light yellow walls, and a landscape painting drawn by me hung on the wall near the end of the bed, giving me the illusion as if I’d returned to my past. When the phone in my hand started to produce warmth, I turned over to look at the time. It startled me and I immediately sat up.

I squinted my eyes to observe the sleeping little boy curled up beside me.

What’s going on here?

I controlled the surprise and dislike from within my heart and got down from the bed. I picked up the phone and walked to the window. Taking two deep breathes, I dialled Pu Zheng’s phone number.

As soon as the line connected, I said: “I’ll have to trouble you to cancel the flight tickets.”

“How long do you plan to stay there?”

“I don’t think it’ll exceed one week. I’ll inform my mom.”

“Alright. But if they mistreat you even a little, just leave, don’t force yourself.”

“Not good? Heh. Truthfully, it’s the opposite.” When I said this, even I felt like I’m being overly calm. “Stop worrying, even worse scenarios, I’ve already experienced. Now there isn’t really anything that can strike me down.

Once I finished the call with Pu Zheng, I turned back and noticed that the child was already awake and sitting at the end of the bed while hugging the pillow. His pair of big, shiny black eyes were staring at me.

“Older sister.” The little boy quietly called me.

“How did you get in here yesterday?” I’m certain that when I went to sleep, I locked the door. What’s even more incredulous is that when he entered, I wasn’t even aware of it!

The child didn’t reply, instead, he starting smiling. “That’s great! Sister is talking to Yu Lin.” While talking, he tried to get down from the bed. However, he accidentally slipped and fell down. I watched as he got up and pitifully rubbed his injured forehead. I had no intention of going to him and offering comfort. I directly headed to the washroom. I didn’t think there was a need for me to adapt myself into this makeshift family. As to how he appeared in this room ——as long as he wasn’t a ghost, it’s fine.

When I exited the washroom, I thought the child would’ve already left. Only to find the child still there, along with an adult.

It seemed this room had become a public place.

Xi Xi Chen was holding Yu Lin and sitting at the edge of the bed. His expression was very gentle.

“If you two want to playact affectionate family bonding, I suggest you switch to another location.”

When Xi Xi Chen saw me, his eyes flashed for a moment, and then it was hidden again. He put down Jian Yu Lin and casually said to me: “Come downstairs for breakfast.”

I didn’t think he was going to say this. After a second, I habitually rejected his offer. “No thanks.”

“Using this method to express your dissatisfaction is unwise.” He said.

I was about to answer, but he turned to tell Jian Yu Lin, “Go wash your face and teeth, and then go downstairs to eat breakfast, okay?” His tone was so soft.  Seriously, only when he’s talking to this little boy, does his human side return.

“You should also join us.” He raised his head to tell me.

Indeed this sentence was directed at me, but the gentleness that got carried over, what’s up with that? He must’ve momentarily forgotten that I am Jian An Jie and not, Jian Yu Lin.

However, I naturally won’t be joining them. Dinning across from someone I avoided out of fear, I’m afraid I won’t be able to digest.

From the corner of my eyes, I can see Jian Yu Lin slowly getting closer to me.

I unconsciously straighten my body. Not really caring that I probably accumulated a few more villain slips.

“Sister…..” He walked to the front of me. When he tried to grab my hands, I evaded it out of annoyance.

Xi Xi Chen frowned, “You should be able to tell, Yu Lin really likes you.”

His words caused me to stiffen and my eyes also dimmed. “Like? Then am I suppose to thank you guys for this cheap charity.”

Xi Xi Chen looked at me, there were hints of gloominess in his dark pupils.

Suddenly, the sound of the phone ringing broke the silence in the room. It was Pu Zheng’s phone number. I thought about it, and then headed towards the balcony, deliberately ignoring the two people inside the room.

“What’s up?”

“It’s me.”

I was caught off guard for a moment, but wasn’t too surprised.

 

“I know you wouldn’t pick up my calls, so……”

“Do you need something?”

The other side paused for three seconds, and then his voice was raised, “Stop using that sentence to reply me every time!”

I exhaled. “Then what do you want me to say?”

“I want to see you. Right now. Don’t say you can’t! I don’t mind waiting at Pu Zheng’s place until you show up.”

“……9 o’clock, the coffee shop near Pu Zheng’s place.” He’s never had much patience, but surprisingly was very resilient. I thought about it, and decided that it was best to just go along with it. I also wanted to properly bid him goodbye, since I may not return in the future.

“I already said right now!” When he’s anxious, he had a habit of using a commanding tone.

“Ye Lin. You know, I don’t have to go.”

The other side pondered and finally compromised: “Okay. 9 o’clock. I’ll wait for you.”

I hung up the phone and looked into the distant scenery. The snow had pretty much all melted. Long gone were the vast expanse of white fields, that looked so clean and pure. I used to be very sickly and was also an introvert. Whenever I was unhappy, I would hide in here to look out at the sunrise and sunset. Later, when I went to a foreign land, I was forced to accept, to face, and after encountering failures again and again, I finally was able to tear apart that fragile coat, and slowly become more selfish, malicious and ruthless…..

I caressed my upper right arm, and lowered my head to look at the garden wall.  The remaining snow that had stubbornly clung to the corner of the wall and refused to compromise looked somewhat dejected and depressed. I stared at them without blinking my eyes. We can’t return to the past anymore. Even if I wanted to return to being the weak Jian An Jie, it would be wishful thinking.

I turned to go back to the room. Xi Xi Chen had already left, as expected. Except, Jian Yu Lin was still there, trying to clumsily fold the quilts on the bed.

“You can stop.” Later, we’ll just get the servant to change the set.

He put his hands behind his back. “Sor…sorry, sister.”

“You’re nervous?” I subconsciously asked.

“I, I…….”

It seemed he was really nervous. “Okay, if there’s nothing else, you can leave first.” I really didn’t want to deal with these people, children included.

I put down my phone by the bed and walked towards the changing room.

“Sister!” The child’s voice coming from behind sounded very urgent.

I turned around. Jian Yu Lin slid down from the bed and ran a few steps towards me. Suddenly, he realized something and retreated several steps. Then, he stood in place and looked at me.

“You need something?”

He shook his head, paused, and then nodded quickly.

“So, is it a yes, or no?”

“Sister has to go out?”

“Yes.”

“Where would sister go? What time will you return?” While talking, he took a few more steps towards me. But I think even he wasn’t aware of this movement.

“Young master, I don’t think I have a obligation to report to you my whereabouts.”

“That’s not it. I, I…..”

I felt my head was starting to hurt again. “What exactly do you want to say?”

“I……ah, that’s right. Brother said if sister wanted to go out, you can have the driver take you. That way, we won’t worry, worry about sister getting lost.”

I frowned. What nonsense. “Okay, I know. Anything else?” If there was, I really don’t think I’ll have the patience to pay attention. I would likely just leave directly.

“No more.” Jian Yu Lin happily returned to the bed and put on his slippers. “I’ll go brush my teeth then!” He grinned and ran out.

I lowered my head to look at my own hands, they’re somewhat trembling. I silently reminded myself: Jian An Jie. You don’t have to be afraid. He is alive.

I changed my clothes and exited the door. Across the corridor, Xi Xi Chen coincidentally also just came out from his bedroom. When he saw me, he paused his door opening motion.

He was wearing a traditional, exquisite, black suit. It really showed off his slender, tall stature. I’d always known that he looked outstanding. I observed him for two seconds. Finally, I smiled and took the lead to go down first. He followed me down. The distance between us was separated by ten steps.

When facing him, I would faintly feel breathless, fear, disgust, and avoidance. All these emotions mixed together and yet, in the end, it was only a smile. Even I feel I’ve become abnormal.

“Going out?” His low voice came from behind. He was walking slowly, deliberately slow. He consciously maintained that 10 steps pace; not getting close, nor increasing the distance.

Seeing that I wasn’t replying, he calmly continued: “Let me send you. It’s on the way.”

“I dare not bother you.”

When I arrived at the first floor, I noticed that the servants had already prepared the breakfast. Everything here felt unfamiliar, including the breakfast, the table, and the people.

“Mr. Xi.”

“Lin ma. I have to trouble you to bring Yu Lin down for breakfast.”

I exited the big door, and arrived at the community boulevard street. This was a downward slopping street, with both sides filled with vine plants. In the summer, it was so beautiful and colourful.

Outside of the community, there was a bus stop. There were already many people waiting for the bus. Majority were students, wearing their school uniform.

I walked over and chose a spot that had the least people to wait for the bus.

After ten minutes, a white car drove past me, turned left at the first intersection and then disappeared.

I faintly smiled and then closed my eyes.

Not sure how long after, I felt the need to open my eyes, only to crash into a pair of deep back eyes.

Xi Xi Chen’s body didn’t give off a dangerous aura, but, he’s angry? His expression didn’t changed much, but one can vaguely detect some anger.

“Let’s go.” He said.

I put away all of my emotions and adopted the most natural posture. “Don’t you feel your actions are laughable?” I looked at the white car parked three meters away. He left and then returned. This didn’t seem like something he would do.

“Not at all.” He replied in earnest.

“You sure are free.”

“I’ll send you. Public transit really isn’t suitable for you.”

This viewpoint sure was interesting. “Heh, Xi Xi Chen, you sure are noble.” Both elegant and noble. And it was this arrogance that made it unbearable.

His eyebrow scrunched together. “You know what I meant.”

I snickered: “I didn’t think we were familiar to the point that we’re be able to understand each other’s thought processes.” I have slight mysophobia, but what does that have to do with him?

His eyes displayed his disagreement. “Temporary winning of disputes can make you so happy?”

I was stunned for a moment and then hummed: “If you hadn’t mentioned, I wouldn’t have realized I had such a hobby.” The irony in the words were obvious.

However, if I thought about it carefully, these kinds of boastful words really weren’t something I usually said. But when facing this person, repeatedly, malicious words would come forth.

“Jian An Jie. In the span of six years, should I be glad that you’ve become more articulate, or feel pity that you’ve turned so bitterly sarcastic?”

My chest felt stuffy. “How much I’ve changed has nothing to do with you.”

He looked at me and his calm expression did not change. The next moment, he moved forward and pulled me. He dragged me towards the car that’s parked by the street. He held on very tightly, so couldn’t break away!

It really annoyed me. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I didn’t believe that you would’ve voluntarily got in the car yourself.”

“Hah! I’m glad we had the same opinion!”

“You needn’t apply your stubbornness in these kind of situations.”

“Xi Xi Chen!” I couldn’t release from his tight grip.

“Don’t be stubborn anymore, please?” He suddenly stopped his steps and leaned over to whisper in my ear. This close distance was simply too ambiguous, and his voice sounded like the one he’d used when talking to Jian Yu Lin. Mild and gentle. There was even traces of some other emotions mixed in.

In regards to him mistaking the target again, I was at a loss of what to do, and I felt my shame slowly turned into anger. “Xi Xi Chen. You are simply too baffling!”

“Baffling. Really?” He looked at me, like he’s talking to himself, but also like he’s talking to me. When he finished, he faintly smiled, but that smile seemed a bit tragic.

 

 

Photo Credit: @FALLEN_DARK_A.N.G.E.L_

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