When Li Mingxuan and Shen Xi entered the door, Shen Bixue was talking to Shen Ji about something.
When they heard the maid’s greeting at the door, they both looked over at the same time. Through the tall green plants in the foyer, one could faintly see Li Mingxuan reaching out to pick up the jacket that Shen Xi had taken off, with a smile on his face and a very intimate attitude.
Shen Ji took a silent glance at the two men’s actions and quickly looked away.
Shen Bixue hesitantly glanced at Shen Ji, got up and greeted, “Mingxuan, Xiao Xi, you’re here?”
Li Mingxuan smiled at his mother, and Shen Xi politely called out “Aunt.”
Shen Bixue really didn’t know how to position Shen Xi in her mind, and when she met him, there was a momentary hesitation. Thinking about the male daughter-in-law that Li Xiyong had mentioned, Shen Bixue stiffly squeezed out a smile at Shen Xi.
Li Mingxuan saw the look on Shen Bixue’s face and gave his mother a reassuring glance before reaching out to take hold of Shen Xi’s hand.
When the three of them returned to the living room, Li Mingxuan noticed Shen Ji, “Ah Ji?”
Li Mingxuan was obviously very surprised that Shen Ji appeared in the Li family’s house at this time. Shen Xi glanced at Shen Ji, who was sitting there with a deep sense of decadence, looking like he already knew that Shen Dehan had stayed overnight at Chu Qianqian’s place. A trace of mockery flashed through Shen Xi’s heart as he wondered how long Shen Ji planned to deceive himself before he admitted Shen Dehan’s so-called true love for Fang Yun was nothing more than the interest to a pretty young face.
Shen Ji nodded to Li Mingxuan and his eyes swept over Shen Xi becoming much colder.
Shen Xi turned a blind eye to this and said indifferently, “Big Brother.”
Shen Bixue and Li Mingxuan looked over at the same time, and Shen Ji nodded in response to the gazes of the two of them.
Shen Bixue breathed a sigh of relief and turned to Shen Xi with a smile, “It’s rare for Xiao Xi to come here. Your aunt doesn’t know your taste, what do you like to eat, I will order the kitchen to make it for you.” Compared to knowing Shen Ji’s taste well, Shen Bixue knew nothing about Shen Xi’s. Thinking of this, Shen Bixue let out a silent sigh in her heart and her eyes naturally softened when she looked at Shen Xi again.
Before Shen Xi could say anything, Li Mingxuan had already told his mother, “Xiao Xi likes spicy food.”
Shen Bixue smiled, “It just so happens that your aunt also loves spicy food, so you can eat together.”
Li Mingxuan looked at Shen Xi with a smile, and was about to speak when Li Mingfei’s voice came from outside the door, “Huh, this is Big Brother’s car, Big Brother is back?” Still speaking, Li Mingfei quickly pushed the door and walked in. Upon seeing the people sitting in the hall, Li Mingfei’s eyes instantly lit up, “Cousin Shen Xi.”
Shen Xi smiled faintly and nodded at him.
Shen Bixue was also obviously very happy and greeted him, “Why are you back all of a sudden? Didn’t you say you were staying at school?”
Li Mingfei obediently let his mother help him take off his jacket and explained in a small voice, “The food at school is not good at all, I miss Aunt Wang’s boiled fish.”
Shen Bixue laughed, “It just so happens that your cousin Shen Xi likes spicy food. We are going to have boiled fish tonight, so you’re just in time.”
“Really?” A hint of surprise flickered in Li Mingfei’s eyes; he turned his head and flashed a big smile at Shen Xi.
With Li Mingfei’s return, the atmosphere in the living room became cheerful.
There was still some time before dinner, so Li Mingfei excitedly took Shen Xi to see his sculptures. For him, Li Xiyong had deliberately partitioned off a small part of the ground floor of the house to be used as his creative studio. The partitioned space was very large, with a variety of small sculptures scattered around, and a corner neatly filled with the tools Li Mingfei needed. Unlike his usual shyness, facing his beloved sculpture, Li Mingfei was in high spirits and excitedly took Shen Xi to show his creations one by one.
The two of them soon came up to a naive puppy, and Li Mingfei inexplicably felt his face flush. The original excitement became nervousness and he suddenly quieted down.
Shen Xi vaguely felt that he seemed to have seen this puppy somewhere before. The scene of meeting Li Mingfei for the first time flashed in his mind. Shen Xi couldn’t help but look at Li Mingfei and reached out to hold the puppy, smiling slightly.
“This is the one you were talking about?”
Li Mingfei nodded, nervously watching Shen Xi’s expression. He had always wanted to find a suitable opportunity to give this puppy to Shen Xi, but he missed it every time. At first he went to the hospital several times but failed to find Shen Xi. He did not want to pass it on through others, so he was determined to deliver it to Shen Xi himself. Later, when his uncle was discharged from hospital, he went abroad to attend the exhibition and when he returned home, he heard the news that Shen Xi and his elder brother were together. At first, Li Mingfei was quite happy, but for some reason, he slowly became unhappy. So much so that his original intention of asking his elder brother to bring the puppy to Shen Xi slowly became reluctance to let his elder brother touch the puppy. Now looking at how much Shen Xi seemed to like the puppy, Li Mingfei felt his mood improve.
“I also made one bigger than this one. Father put him in the corner of the back porch, Cousin, I will show you.”
Shen Xi smiled and nodded.
The back porch was connected to the ground floor of the villa and led directly to the courtyard. Although it was already early winter, it was very warm inside the porch, and Shen Bixue placed all kinds of green plants there, filling it with lush greenery as far as the eye could see.
The two of them walked quietly to the corner of the porch and Li Mingfei pointed to one side and was about to signal Shen Xi to look over when Shen Bixue’s voice came from another corner.
“Ah Ji, your aunt is not saying these things to you because Shen Xi and Mingxuan are together. The older I get, the more I feel that your father and I have done wrong all these years. We always worried that Shen Xi would do this and that when he grew up, but we forgot that when Han Rou died, Shen Xi was only six years old. He was so young, what would he know? If we had been willing to teach him seriously all these years, things might have been different.”
Shen Ji did not reply and Shen Bixue seemed to sigh, “Ah Ji, are you still holding a grudge for what Han Rou did to Ah Cheng?”
The words “Han Rou” reached Shen Xi’s ears, and Shen Xi suddenly raised his head and looked straight over, even though he couldn’t see anything with the greenery blocking his sight.
There seemed to be silence, and after a long pause, Shen Ji’s low voice came, “I know what you mean, Aunt, you think Shen Xi is innocent, but Ah Cheng was even more innocent back then. He was barely two years old, and if my father hadn’t found him in time, I’m afraid he would have been dead. All these years, every time I see Shen Xi, I think of what Han Ruo did to Ah Cheng for him. Aunt, how do you want me to like Shen Xi? How can I take care of him?”
Shen Ji’s words were extremely clear as he talked of the past that Shen Xi did not know about.
Shen Bixue’s voice followed, “It is impossible to say who is right and who is wrong in this matter. If Big Brother had not insisted on not letting Han Rou give birth to Shen Xi, she would not have been so crazy as to try to kill Ah Cheng.”
Shen Ji laughed coldly, “If Han Rou hadn’t insisted on marrying Father back then, how would all these things have happened? Father loved Mother deeply and clearly promised her that he would have only one wife for the rest of his life.”
Shen Xi stood there quietly, staring ahead blankly. When Li Mingfei heard these words, his first reaction was to look at Shen Xi with worry. Carefully reaching out his hand to pull Shen Xi, Li Mingfei was shocked to find that Shen Xi’s hand was ice-cold, the kind of a bone chilling coldness.
Shen Xi did not pay attention to Li Mingfei. At this moment the conversation between the two kept echoing in his mind. Because his father had married his mother but refused to let her give birth to her child, his mother had lashed out at Shen Cheng, and Shen Ji placed all the blame for the incident on his mother and even hated him.
Listening to Shen Ji’s conviction that Shen Dehan loved Fang Yun deeply, Shen Xi could not help but laugh out loud. Shen Xi’s laughter interrupted the conversation on the opposite side of the porch, and Shen Bixue and Shen Ji looked over at the same time. In the pale yellow light, Shen Xi broke away from Li Mingfei and took a few steps up and around the corner to appear in front of them.
Shen Bixue looked at Shen Xi in surprise, wondering how much of what they just said he had heard, while Shen Ji looked indifferent, his eyes cold.
The corners of Shen Xi’s mouth hooked up. He looked at Shen Ji with a hint of mockery, “You are so pitiful, always refusing to face reality and living in self-deception all the time.”
Shen Ji’s face turned ugly and the corners of Shen Xi’s mouth curled up even higher.
“Isn’t it so? You have to deceive yourself every day, convincing yourself that your father loved your mother deeply. If he loved her deeply, why would he agree to marry my mother? If he loved her so much, what is Zhou Mingmei? And what is Chu Qianqian? You actually know in your heart that even without my mother, there would have been Li Rou, Tian Rou and even Zhang Rou. My father could never have just one wife for the rest of his life. His so-called promise was nothing but a lie.
“You just refuse to admit this truth, to face the fact that your father lied to your mother, or even that your father didn’t love your mother as much as you thought he did. You desperately try to create an image in your mind of the father who loved your mother, you ridiculously deceive yourself, you are cowardly and refuse to face reality. You put the entire fault on my mother in order to make the image of your father perfect. You hate my mother, you feel that it was my mother who broke your father’s promise, that it was my mother who took Fang Yun’s place.”
Shen Xi laughed coldly, “You think that without your father’s consent, my mother could have married into the Shen family? You think that without your father, my mother alone could have given birth to me? Even without me, what do you think Shen Rong is?”
Shen Ji only felt a fire burning in his heart. Shen Xi’s speech pierced his heart word by word. He didn’t dare to listen and didn’t want to listen, so he could only say sharply, “Shut up!”
The mockery on Shen Xi’s face became more obvious, “You don’t dare to listen? Because you know that I am telling the truth, because I have poked holes in the lies you have been telling to yourself for so many years. Because you know in your heart that the person your father loves most is himself.”
Shen Ji looked straight at Shen Xi, his eyes like knives, chilling cold.
Shen Xi sneered and met his gaze, his eyes full of pity.
Under this kind of pity, Shen Ji’s expression became more and more ugly. The word “self-deception” kept echoing in his mind, and the faith he had always held in his heart collapsed violently. Thinking of where his father was tonight, Shen Ji laughed at himself silently. He really was a joke.
A strong feeling of pleasure surged in Shen Xi’s heart. Satisfied with the despair emanating from Shen Ji, Shen Xi smiled slightly and turned around to leave.
Behind him, Shen Bixue looked at Shen Xi’s back with a bitter smile and could not say a word.
Behind the corner, Li Mingfei stood in silence. When he saw Shen Xi appear, he said nothing, but gently followed him, reaching out to take Shen Xi’s hand, quietly accompanying him all the way.
The hall was quiet, and neither Li Mingxuan nor Li Xiyong were there.
Shen Xi turned to Li Mingfei, “I’ll go first.”
“Where are you going, Cousin?” Li Mingfei said subconsciously.
“Home.” Shen Xi said casually.
“What about Big Brother?” Li Mingfei blurted out.
Shen Xi laughed lightly, “He can stay to keep his good brother company.”
“Cousin?” Li Mingfei said hesitantly, but eventually let go of his hand and said softly, “Be careful on your way, Cousin.”
Shen Xi smiled and left the Li family’s house without hesitation.
Li Mingfei turned his head and looked back; his mother and Cousin Shen Ji were still inside the porch and had not come out. Listening to the sound of the car starting in the courtyard, Li Mingfei darted upstairs to his father’s study. His elder brother must be in the study with his father. Although Cousin Shen Xi had just been smiling, Li Mingfei felt that his cousin was actually very sad in his heart; he must have wanted his elder brother to be by his side at this time.
Thinking of this, Li Mingfei had a dull astringent feeling in his heart; if only he could also be by Cousin Shen Xi’s side.
When Li Mingfei found Li Mingxuan, Li Mingxuan was talking to Li Xiyong about the next step of his work plan. When he heard a knock on the door, he thought it was the maid reminding them to go eat and glanced at the time. It was already past seven o’clock. But to his surprise, it was Li Mingfei who pushed the door open.
“Big Brother.” Li Mingfei glanced at Li Mingxuan, his eyes signalling him to come out quickly. He felt it was better not to let his father know about Cousin Shen Xi. He wanted Cousin Shen Xi to leave a good impression on his father.
The expression on Li Mingfei’s face was one of urgency. Li Mingxuan’s heart thudded. He remembered that Shen Xi had been with Mingfei, had something happened to Shen Xi?
After excusing himself to his father, Li Mingxuan followed Li Mingfei to the corner of the stairs.
“What, did Xiao Xi go back?” Li Mingfei’s words caused Li Mingxuan to freeze and immediately ask, “When?”
“Just now, Cousin said he would go home first.” Li Mingfei said sullenly.
Li Mingxuan couldn’t be bothered to ask what had happened and hurriedly ran towards the door. In the courtyard, the car he had driven here was gone, apparently driven away by Shen Xi. He quickly took another car. With one hand on the steering wheel, Li Mingxuan turned in the direction of Shen Xi’s neighbourhood, while with the other hand, he took out his mobile phone and pressed Shen Xi’s number.
The “beep” sounded, and Li Mingxuan stepped on the accelerator vigorously, praying in his heart that Shen Xi would answer the phone quickly. But unexpectedly, the next moment, the “beep” was suddenly interrupted, and a mechanical female voice sounded, “The phone you have dialled is switched off.”
Li Mingxuan’s heart sank. What had happened when he wasn’t looking? Thinking about the fact that he hadn’t seen his mother and Shen Ji when he came downstairs, had Xiao Xi had a confrontation with them?
After thinking about it, Li Mingxuan dialled Li Mingfei’s phone number.
“Mingfei, do you know why Xiao Xi left?”
Li Mingfei nodded, then thought that his elder brother could not see his movements and quickly said, “Yes. Cousin Shen Ji and Cousin Shen Xi had a little conflict.”
Li Mingxuan was originally only giving it a try, but he didn’t expect to really hear the answer from Mingfei, especially such an unexpected answer. Li Mingxuan asked, “What conflict? When?”
Li Mingfei bit his lips and recounted the situation best he could.
As soon as he finished, Li Mingfei said in a small voice, “Big Brother, I don’t think Cousin Shen Xi was wrong, it was obviously Uncle’s fault, so why does Cousin Shen Ji put all the blame on Aunt Han?”
Li Mingxuan didn’t know how to speak to Li Mingfei; he could only smile bitterly, “These matters are very complicated, one sentence can’t explain clearly. Stay at home. When Father asks, just say that I went home with Shen Xi.”
Hanging up the phone, Li Mingxuan let out a long sigh. No wonder before Han Rou’s death, Shen Ji and Shen Cheng mostly lived in the Li family. He always thought his mother was worried about them being wronged in the Shen family, but it was because of this reason. His mother had never mentioned to him that Han Rou had once done something to Ah Cheng, and neither had Ah Ji. Was this the real reason why Ah Ji didn’t like Xiao Xi?
Undeterred, Li Mingxuan once again pressed Shen Xi’s number, and heard a mechanical female voice again. A hint of worry flashed in his eyes, and Li Mingxuan pressed the accelerator down hard. Li Mingxuan had no way of judging what was right or wrong, but Shen Xi was right about one thing: the source of many things was his uncle, not Han Rou.
As he hurried back to the neighbourhood, the darkness in the apartment caused a huge panic to rise in Li Mingxuan’s heart. Shen Xi didn’t go home as he had said. Where did he go?
Li Mingxuan stood in the living room, panic spreading in his mind as he tried to think of where Shen Xi might have gone. But since they got together, Shen Xi had spent basically all of his time at home, and there was absolutely no place he could have gone.
The cold breeze from the corridor poured in through the open door. In this gust of wind, Li Mingxuan suddenly thought of Fang Luowei.
Quickly finding Fang Luowei’s phone number, Li Mingxuan dialled it and said straightforwardly, “Has Xiao Xi contacted you?”
“Xiao Xi? What happened to Xiao Xi?” Fang Luowei asked anxiously.
The tone of Fang Luowei’s voice made Li Mingxuan feel disappointment; apparently he didn’t know where Shen Xi was either.
“Xiao Xi is not at home, I can’t find him, do you know where he might have gone?” Li Mingxuan asked patiently.
Fang Luowei hesitated for a moment and soon seemed to think of something, “Wait, I’ll ask Wang Xinghai, he knows Xiao Xi a bit better.”
“Wang Xinghai?” Li Mingxuan vaguely remembered the name and said dryly, “Give me his mobile number.”
Fang Luowei didn’t hesitate and quickly reported eleven digits, Li Mingxuan repeated them and immediately hung up the phone after confirming they were correct.
Fang Luowei listened to the sound in the receiver, a trace of worry flashing in his eyes as he wondered where Shen Xi was now. After thinking about it, Fang Luowei held his phone and started dialling Shen Xi’s number over and over again, trying to reach him.
When Lao K received the call from Li Mingxuan, his whole body froze in surprise as he listened to the man on the phone asking where Shen Xi could possibly have gone. Lao K didn’t react for a moment. It was not until the man on the phone repeated himself impatiently that Lao K hesitantly asked, “Are you Li Mingxuan?”
Li Mingxuan gave a quick “en” and immediately asked, “Do you know where Xiao Xi might have gone?”
Lao K subconsciously asked, “Did you have a fight?”
Li Mingxuan frowned and repeated, “Do you know where Xiao Xi is likely to go?”
Lao K thought for a moment and said hesitantly, “Xiao Xi used to go to the cemetery to visit his mother when he was in a bad mood.”
“The cemetery?” Li Mingxuan thought about what Mingfei had said and instantly realised what was going on; Xiao Xi must be there now. Hurriedly hanging up the phone, Li Mingxuan flew downstairs and sped off in his car towards the cemetery.
Half an hour later, looking at the familiar car parked at the roadside, Li Mingxuan’s heart hanging in his throat finally settled down.
Quickly climbing over the wall into the cemetery, Li Mingxuan carefully searched along the rows of tombstones. The light in the cemetery was very dim, and Li Mingxuan faintly saw someone leaning against a tombstone not far ahead, so he hurriedly ran over.
The man leaning against the tombstone slowly raised his head, and in the faint light, Shen Xi’s expression was filled with indescribable sadness.