With his head propped on his palm, Fu Jia felt there was an awl stirring up his brain, sobering him up one moment while confusing him again in the next.
Five minutes later, he tossed the exercise book aside. His hand lifted and dropped a few times, but ultimately he decided not to throw the pen away.
He received the exercise book from the teacher when he went to register for evening classes. The teacher said he wouldn’t even be able to keep up with the lowest level classes if he could not finish and have a solid understanding of the problems in this book.
Fu Jia gritted his teeth and did two more questions before his train of thought was disrupted by a clamor outside the window.
He found an angle from which he could see the yard and saw the finely arranged table sets and the large crowd that came and went.
It was the end of May, the fifteen birthday of Lin Fengxun. When the boy was born, the doctor said he would not be able to live past five. When he was five, the doctor said he would not be able to live past ten. Later, although the doctor never brought up that kind of funeral talk again, the Lin family and the Lu family retained the habit of throwing big parties for Lin Fengxun’s birthdays. This time they made it exceptionally big, inviting nearly half of the entire business circle.
The people were mainly coming for the Lu family. Lu Zhiyuan, Lu Wanqing’s big brother, had an unusual amount of influence in the business community. Anyone would wish to use this opportunity to deepen their ties with the Lu family or to get close with them.
Lu Qi’an came together with Li Qinhe. As soon as they arrived, they went straight up to Lin Fengxun’s bedroom.
Li Qinhe shoved the present in front of Lin Fengxun, blocking his line of sight, “Guess who?”
Lin Fengxun looked on helplessly. “Brother Qinhe…”
“Hahaha!” Li Qinhe broke into a grin. “Happy birthday Fengfeng!”
Lin Fengxun took over the box and said, “Thank you brother Qinhe.”
Li Qinhe ruffled his hair. “Do you still really need to thank me?”
Lin Fengxun did not exchange anymore pleasantries. Although he was smiling, the expression he had on his face wasn’t warm enough.
Li Qinhe didn’t mind it at all as he knew this brat would only be intimate with Lu Qi’an. “Where’s Sis Wanqing? I’m gonna go say hi.”
Lin Fengxun looked out the window. “She’s in the yard. She hasn’t left since early this morning and insisted on doing everything on her own to feel at ease.”
Li Qinge smiled and went to fist bump Lu Qi’an. “That’s how the Lu family does things.”
Lu Qi’an seamlessly avoided his hand and said to Lin Fengxun, “Fengfeng, I’m going to take him to the yard. I’ll be back in a bit.”
Lin Fengxun nodded.
The two of them walked out of the room. Before the door was shut, Li Qinhe hugged his arms and gave them a good rub.
The way Lu Qi’an addressed others was rather estranged. He would never leave out the last name when he was addressing his peers. Lin Fengxun was the only exception where he would call him ‘Fengfeng’ before him.
“If I hadn’t met Fengfeng afterwards, I wouldn’t have believed that a Lu knew how to smile.” Li Qinhe ridiculed. “Especially Uncle Lu! I almost wet my pants the first time I met him. But then leaned down to pick up Fengfeng the moment he saw him and even laughed until wrinkles came out.”
Lu Qi’an shot him a look. “Did you want my father to carry you instead?”
Whenever Li Qinhe recalled that scene again, goosebumps broke out all over his body in an instant. “No. No thank you…”
Sure enough, Lu Wanqing was currently engaged in a conversation with a middle aged person at the yard. Upon catching sight of Lu Qi’an and Li Qinhe approaching her, she quickly excused herself.
“Sis Wanqing, you must be exhausted!”
“You rascal! How dare you arrive this late! It must be your dawdling that made Lu Qi’an late too.” Lu Wanqing reprimanded him smilingly. “Do you have idea how many uncles here are asking me for Qi’an?”
Li Qinhe hurriedly begged for forgiveness. “It’s my fault! I’ll definitely be here earlier next time.”
Lu Wanqing laughed. She liked it when Li Qinhe said ‘next time’. She liked to see today being celebrated again and again, in each and every one of the coming years.
She wanted her son to live on for a long time.
“Almost all the guests are here. Auntie, I’ll go bring Fengfeng down.” said Lu Qi’an.
Lu Wanqing looked around her surroundings before nodding. “Go ahead. By the way, please help him put on a thin coat. It’s a bit hot and stuffy right now.”
Lu Qi’an heeded her request and went upstairs to carry Lin Fengxun down to the yard. This was his usual routine ever since he was strong enough to carry Lin Fengxun so he was extremely reliable and proficient in doing it.
Before they entered the yard, Lu Qi’an placed Lin Fengxun down so that he could walk on his own. Although his leg muscles were atrophied and it was tough for him to move, Lin Fengxun was proud person so he wasn’t willing to let other people see how he wasn’t able to walk on two feet. Thus, he even especially went through great lengths and time to practice for that sake alone.
He gradually walked towards the crowd and everyone moved to open up a pathway in succession as they gave him a round of applause. Lu Wanqing came to his side, wrapping her arm around his shoulders affectionately. All eyes were on this pair of mother and son, conveying their blessings to them. The atmosphere in the air was heartwarming yet bustling with noise and excitement.
Out of everyone there, only Fu Jia had his eyes on Lu Qi’an.
For all this while, he looked solely at Lu Qi’an.
He himself also had no idea as to when he was unable to part with that crevice, only knowing how to peer at them all day long as if the world inside there had become his only source of joy.
All of a sudden, Lu Qi’an turned around and looked in Fu Jia’s direction.
From the yard, it looked nothing more than a poorly lit, unremarkable corner.
Fu Jia’s eyes ran into Lu Qi’an’s. The intangible glance seemed to have nailed him firmly to the spot.
But he promptly realized that it was impossible. It was so bright outside and so dark within. How could Lu Qi’an possibly see him?
However, Lu Qi’an just stared at him emotionlessly like that and mouthed something to him.
He said two words, none of which required him to open his mouth wide.
“Don’t…” Fu Jia repeated after him, “Don’t look.”
“What are you looking at?” Li Qinhe asked.
“Nothing.” Lu Qi’an withdrew his eyes.
Li Qinhe glanced towards that direction, but nothing strange was there. It was just one of those dark corners which could be found in every villa.
“You…” Just when Li Qinhe was about to ask more about it, someone walked over to them from afar. The man came with quite a lot of fanfare— he even brought two body guards with him.
Li Qinhe could not stop sighing, “He still came.”
The man walked straight up to Lu Wanqing and offered his hand, greeting, “Sister-in-law. Qi’an. It’s been a while.”
Lu Qi’an and Lu Wanqing frowned simultaenously.
Lu Wanqing didn’t take his hand. “It definitely has. I thought you’d forgotten this place and would never visit again.”
The man’s name was Lin Heng. He was Lin Qing’s younger brother, and Lin Fengxun’s uncle.
“Sister-in-law, how can you call it ‘visiting’? This place belongs to the Lin family, so of course I’ll always try to find time to come back.” Lin Heng retracted his hand very naturally. “Where’s my brother? It’s really too thoughtless of him to not come back even on Fengfeng’s birthday.”
Lu Wanqing replied, “I don’t know what he’s doing out there. But the family has me, so it doesn’t matter whether he comes back or not.”
Li Heng smiled. He didn’t say anything else and turned away to chat with other people.
Lin Qing had always been a “immature” person since his early youth. He didn’t want to inherit the family business and indulged himself in arts instead. However, it was not like he had any brilliant pieces to present. For the majority of the time, he was simply “roaming around the world”.
In the eyes of his parents who had already passed away, the one and only time when Lin Qing was “mature” was when he married Lu Wanqing. Unfortunately, they died too early to see how Lin Qing, little by little, handed the family over to this woman, nor were they aware how Lu Wanqing crowded out the other family members.
Just like his mother, Lin Fengxun also felt sick every time he saw this uncle of his. “Why does he have to come? We didn’t invite him!”
He disliked how Lin Heng looked at him and his mother. There was greed hidden behind those eyes, so secretive yet intense. It very much reminded him of a ferocious wolf lurking after its prey.
“Don’t worry.” Lu Wanqing gently stroked his back. “Mom and your brother Qi’an are all here.”
Ever since she was still a child, Lu Wanqing had never feared anything.
Because the Lu family would protect her always.
As night drew to a close, the guests gradually took their leave, and the yard was soon left as empty as it always had been.
But Lin Heng showed no intention of leaving.
Lu Wanqing knew he didn’t come all the way to here for nothing. Since the man would not give up without wreaking havoc, she simply went over to invite him herself, “The family is having dinner together tonight. You can come if you want.”
Lin Heng laughed wholeheartedly, “Sister-in-law, you finally have some kind words for me. That’s right, we’re all family. There’s no point in making things difficult for each other.”
Lu Wanqing didn’t reply. Her face looked cold and indifferent.
Originally, only Lu Wanqing, Lin Fengxun and Lu Qi’an would be having dinner here, so the kitchen had prepared accordingly. Now, with the sudden addition of another guest, they had to cook his share at the last moment. Therefore, despite there were four people sitting at the table, only three of them had appetizers in front of them.
Lin Heng didn’t show any discontent. In fact, he was smiling ear to ear, “Fengfeng, I came in a hurry and didn’t have time to prepare gifts for you. Tell me what you want now. Whatever it is, I’ll buy it for you.”
Lin Fengxun politely declined with a fake smile, “There’s no need for uncle to spend any money on me. I have mom and brother. They’ll buy me anything I want.”
Lin Heng burst out into a peal of laughter. “Well, that’s true. Sister-in-law and Qi’an pamper you so much that there’s nothing they would not get for you. I’m the one being silly.” After he finished, he put away the smile and changed into a melancholy expression, the whole process was done as fast as switching two cards. “Unfortunately, health cannot be bought with money. If it can, even if uncle has to spend everything I have…”
“Lin Heng.” Lu Wanqing’s cold voice interrupted him. “We’re eating now. Why do you bring up these nonsense?”
She glanced at Lin Fengxun. After making sure that his face wasn’t moved by those words, she let out a sigh of relief.
“What nonsense? Isn’t this a normal family conversation?” Lin Heng sounded puzzled, but he still dropped the topic. It just so happened that his appetizer had arrived, so the four of them ate quietly for a moment.
However, before the peace was able to last for even five minutes, Lin Heng spoke again. “I finally managed to find some time to come home, yet not everyone is here.”
No one responded to him.
Lin Heng arched his brows and continued himself, “I know my brother’s temper, of course. He can’t even stay still for one month out of a whole year. But Fengfeng has two brothers, and only one of them is sitting here. That doesn’t seem right, does it?”
The atmosphere froze instantly before he even finished speaking. With a ‘clink!’, Lin Fengxun accidentally dropped his fork on the ground.
Lu Wanqing forced herself to stay calm and told the servant to bring a new one.
“What’s my nephew’s name again? Is it…Fu Jia?” Lin Heng turned his eyes to Lu Wanqing. “Sister-in-law, do you think I got it right? It’s Fu Jia, isn’t it? Fu Jia.”
Every time the name was pronounced, it was like a knife slashing across Lu Wanqing and Lin Fengxun’s hearts. Lu Wanqing put down her silvers and snapped, “Lin Heng! If you don’t want to eat, then forget about it, so we can see you off earlier too.”
Lin Heng shook his head, “Why would I not want to eat? It’s just that this is supposed to be a family dinner, yet a family member is not invited to the table even though they’re clearly at home. It’s going to create such a bad impression of the Lin and Lu families if other people were to hear about it.” He stood up as he spoke. “If you won’t invite him, then I will.”
He looked around. “I wonder which room Fu Jia lives in. Sister-in-law, is he in the second floor or the third?”
Lu Wanqing’s face was already ashen. She pushed her plate away and said, “I’m done. Aunt Chen, come and clean this table. Let’s see our guest out.”
Lin Heng revealed a chilling smile, “Well, I thought you wouldn’t give Fu Jia a decent room. Should I go search in the storage or the servant rooms? Out of everyone who’s sitting here, neither sister-in-law or Qi’an is his blood relative, and Fengfeng, the only one related to him, is a cold-blooded child who only cares about the Lu’s and can’t see the Lins at all!”
“Get out of my house!”
It was Lin Fengxun who exploded this time. His face was completely drained of blood as he shouted in a piercing voice, “How my family eats or who my family invites has nothing to do with you! Get lost!”
As soon as he finished, he started to gasp for breaths, his lips showing a purplish color.
But Lin Heng didn’t even shoot him a glance. He went on himself, “I guess I’ll start with the servant rooms.”
Panicked, Aunt Chen who stood behind everyone anxiously looked at Lu Wanqing.
But Lu Wanqing was only concerned with her son. She walked to Lin Fengxun and started patting him slowly on the back, softly saying, “Fengfeng, slow down. Try to breath slowly…”
As if he didn’t see Lu Wanqing and her son, Lin Heng walked straight toward the servant rooms. But as soon as he moved, Lu Qi’an got up and called him, “Uncle Lin, please wait.”
Lin Heng pulled on a fake smile. “What’s the matter?”
Lu Qi’an walked toward him as he said, “I heard from my father that a news company of yours isn’t doing very well recently. If it loses the few funding chains it has left, not even a god would be able to save it.”
Lin Heng’s smile froze.
“My father also said that a person’s luck might change for the better if they do more good deeds and know their place.” Lu Qi’an pulled the corners of his mouth into a hint of a smile, “Wouldn’t you agree?”
Five minutes later, Lin Heng left the Lin’s villa.
Lin Heng had gone, but the villa had flown into a panic. People carried Lin Fengxun to his room in a fluster and called the doctor. The majority of the night was spent in getting the boy examined and getting him to take his meds.
After the doctor left, Lin Fengxun fell into a deep sleep. Lu Wanqing sat next to her son as she watched over him. She looked so physically and mentally exhausted that she didn’t even pay attention to her messy hair.
After sending the doctor out, Lu Qi’an walked to Lu Wanqing’s side and said, “Aunt.”
Lu Wanqing raised her head and gave him a glance. “Qi’an…”
Her voice broke.
Lu Qi’an tried to comfort her, “Don’t worry, Aunt. Father will take care of Lin Heng.”
Face buried in her hands, Lu Wanqing replied with a muffled groan.
By the time she put her hands down, she had already resumed her normal state. In fear of disturbing Lin Fengxun’s rest, she hurriedly led Lu Qi’an out of the room.
“You should go rest. It’s getting late.”
But Lu Qi’an said, “Aunt, let’s talk.”
Lu Wanqing was so tired that she could hardly raise her hand. But seeing how serious Lu Qi’an looked, she still nodded and asked the kitchen to bring some tea.
“What do you want to talk about?”
“I want to ask aunt, why won’t you let Fu Jia move out?” Lu Qi’an went straight to the point.
Lu Wanqing’s eyes looked perplexed. “Why the sudden question about this?”
Lu Qi’an answered, “Since it makes you and Fengfeng so miserable whenever you see Fu Jia, then don’t look at him.”
Humans should avoid the things that cause them pain.
Lu Wanqing felt a throbbing pain in her temple. She held her head for quite a while before replying, “I…I didn’t think it through very well at that time.”
She recalled, “When I suddenly heard that Lin Qing had a son that was already a few years old, I was so pissed off that I couldn’t focus on anything else. You know how stubborn and strong-minded I am, so much so that I just can’t stand a blow like that at all. I was in a fit of pique and had Lin Qing bring the child back. I put him in the servant’s room and sent people to guard him day and night to humiliate Lin Qing and to humiliate…that woman surnamed ‘Fu’.”
Lu Qi’an only listened quietly.
“I started to regret it later. Fengfeng’s body…would fall apart every time he saw Fu Jia, and so would I. I feel sick around him. Both of us do. So why would I keep him in this house to disgust us further?” Lu Wanqing gave a bitter laugh. “But Fu Jia has grown up already and hates us to an unclear extent. I’ve told Aunt Chen to ask him to move out. She tried driving him away, persuading him, and even begging him, but he just wouldn’t leave. It’s so…”
Lu Wanqing tucked some stray hair behind her ears. She found it a bit laughable that she had been discussing these trivialities with someone like Lu Qi’an who wasn’t even an adult. “Let’s not talk about this. You’re still a student. You shouldn’t have to be concerned with this.”
Since Lu Wanqing was reluctant to continue, Lu Qi’an had no intention to ask further about it. He nodded, “Alright, then I’ll go back first. You should rest early.”
Lu Wanqing hadn’t thought that he would leave. She suggested, “Why don’t you stay here tonight? Fengfeng would feel a lot more relieved if he sees you after he wakes up tomorrow morning.”
“I need to go back and talk with my father about Uncle Lin.”
This took Lu Wanqing by surprise.
“You’re still a child. You don’t have to worry about these things.”
Lu Qi’an stoode up. “But I’m going to grow up sooner or later.”
With a smile, Lu Wanqing got up as well and sent him to the door herself. Staring at his back as he left, she felt as if she were looking at her brother when he was still young.