The news of Shen Ji’s dismissal from the company spread throughout Shen Group together with a statement from the board of directors. Although the statement did not mention specific reasons, everyone was shocked and linked it to the incident of Shen Cheng’s misappropriation of public funds that had just broken out. People were speculating privately about the relationship between the two brothers, especially taking into account that after the incident, Shen Cheng was still the general manager of the company, but Shen Ji was expelled from Shen Group. This inevitably led to everyone muttering behind their backs.
Shen Ji carefully tidied up the personal items in his office until the last one was collected. He looked around the empty office with a perplexed expression. There was a really complicated feeling in his heart. Unlike the last time when he just changed the office, this time he was leaving Shen Group completely. After taking a deep breath, Shen Ji took one last look at the room, pushed open the office door and walked out.
There were quite a few employees coming and going along the way, and all of them nodded awkwardly when they saw Shen Ji passing by. Shen Ji nodded in response as usual, and walked to the elevator with a calm expression. The elevator doors closed in front of him but Shen Cheng still did not appear, and the mirror inside the elevator reflected Shen Ji’s slightly self-deprecating smile. Shen Ji lowered his gaze. He had already done everything he could, and Ah Cheng could only rely on himself in the future.
When Shen Ji left Shen Group, Shen Cheng had just woken up from his hangover. The soft bed beneath him reminded him that he was not at home at the moment. In a daze, he got up and sat there, pushing the person in his arms away. His mind was in a state of confusion, his head throbbing with pain.
Shen Cheng subconsciously wanted to smoke. Since a few days ago, he found himself more and more addicted to smoking. Originally he would only occasionally smoke a cigarette on the spur of the moment, but now, in just a few days a pack of cigarettes had been almost finished by him.
“Pass me a cigarette.” Shen Cheng squinted at the familiar figure on the sofa not far away, shaking his head in an attempt to wake himself up. Although he wanted to ask Shen Rong what he was doing sitting there, the thought of needing a cigarette now outweighed everything else.
A cigarette was soon handed over and Shen Cheng eagerly took it and inhaled fiercely. An unparalleled pleasure immediately swept through his body. He only felt his pores open instantly and any feeling of discomfort disappeared. After enjoying this sensation for a long time with his eyes closed, Shen Cheng was about to take a second puff when his body suddenly froze and he looked at Shen Rong with a shocked and angry expression, “What did you give me?”
Shen Rong looked innocent, “It’s the cigarettes you usually smoke, I found it in your clothes.”
Shen Cheng’s eyes were full of suspicion. He violently threw the cigarette in his hand aside. Although the taste was as usual, he felt that something was wrong, this cigarette was obviously different. Although he was messing around outside, unlike Zhang Qiu, there were some things he would never touch.
Shen Rong’s face looked aggrieved, and Shen Cheng was momentarily unsure whether what Shen Rong said was true or false. He waved his hand impatiently as Shen Rong walked out with his head lowered.
The moment Shen Rong turned his back, the corners of his mouth curved in a sneer. So what if Shen Cheng found out that something was wrong? A few days had passed and Shen Rong had just seen that there were not many more cigarettes left in the box, so Shen Cheng must have smoked a lot in the past days. Looking at him just now, it was obvious that he was enjoying it very much. Shen Rong did not believe that Shen Cheng would be able to endure it.
After Shen Rong left, Shen Cheng came to his senses completely and all the memories of last night came back to him. The board meeting, the argument, his father’s disappointed expression, the drunkenness, the celebrating, and most impressive of all, the figure of Shen Ji leaving the hospital alone. The young man beside him pouted and leaned closer to him. Shen Cheng pushed him away in annoyance and the young man cowered away sensibly, not daring to disturb him again. His father’s disappointment and the figure of Shen Ji leaving alone alternated in Shen Cheng’s mind. After dressing haphazardly, Shen Cheng found his mobile phone and pressed the company’s number.
“Hello?” Lu Gesen’s serious voice came through.
Shen Cheng suddenly didn’t know what he was going to say.
“Cheng Shao?” Lu Gesen immediately guessed that it was him, and Shen Cheng said hesitantly, “Is Big Brother gone?”
“Dashao has just left.”
“Left.” The look on Shen Cheng’s face became complicated, “Did Big Brother say anything?”
“Dashao didn’t comment.” Lu Gesen’s tone was stereotypically calm as he said that.
Shen Cheng didn’t know why a sense of loss welled up in his heart. He was in no mood to say anything else and hung up the phone. Shen Ji left Shen Group without saying anything, which made Shen Cheng feel very uncomfortable. He vaguely understood in his heart that he and Shen Ji could never go back to the old days. Upset, Shen Cheng thought, didn’t Big Brother used to love to lecture him most of all? Why did he leave without saying anything this time? Did he really rest assured leaving Shen Group to him, or was he completely disappointed in him?
As various thoughts flashed through his mind, Shen Cheng subconsciously took out a cigarette from his pocket and lit it up.
The tingling sensation swept through his body once again; his confused mind instantly calmed down, all his worries disappeared, and Shen Cheng only felt that he was in heaven. The word “paradise” flashed through his mind and Shen Cheng came to his senses with a jolt. He looked warily at the cigarette in his hand; his reason reminded him to throw it away, but his heart was tempted by the ethereal feeling he had sensed before and he couldn’t resist. After a half-hearted struggle, Shen Cheng warned himself to take one more puff only, just one more. As the incomparable pleasure filled his body, Shen Cheng could no longer remember what he had intended to do. After smoking the entire cigarette, Shen Cheng slumped down on the sofa with his eyes closed in satisfaction. He didn’t see Shen Rong standing at the door, watching him, a cold smile on his face.
After an unknown amount of time, Shen Cheng came to his senses. The young man was gone and only he and Shen Rong remained in the room. No matter how stupid Shen Cheng was, he knew that he had been calculated by Shen Rong. The cigarettes he was carrying were the ones he had casually asked Shen Rong to buy for him a few days ago. He could never have imagined that Shen Rong would dare to do such a thing. Thinking about his strange sensations in the past few days, Shen Cheng could not suppress his anger.
Shen Rong still looked innocent, “What are you talking about, Second Brother?”
Shen Cheng punched Shen Rong in the face viciously, “You pretend again, how dare you?”
Shen Rong covered his face and smiled slightly, “Why wouldn’t I dare? I’m nothing but a thing in your eyes anyway. I already have nothing, what would I dare not do?”
“You bastard!” Shen Cheng’s body trembled with anger. He rushed at Shen Rong to swing his fist fiercely once more. Shen Rong was unable to dodge and was hit in the face by Shen Cheng, and the corner of his mouth immediately began to bleed.
Shen Cheng pounced on Shen Rong in a rage and punched him hard in the face. Their commotion attracted the attention of people outside and a group of people poured in.
“Cheng Shao, take your time to explain if there is any misunderstanding, don’t be like that!”
Messy voices sounded around as the crowd pulled Shen Cheng away. Shen Cheng swatted them away forcefully, gave Shen Rong a fierce glare and turned away to leave without saying anything.
Shen Rong slowly got up from the floor and stared straight at Shen Cheng’s back, his eyes full of malice and his lips curved in an odd smile.
Later that afternoon, Shen Cheng returned to Shen Group and locked himself up alone in his office.
His strange appearance was noticed by Lu Gesen. He knocked on the office door with a glint in his eyes, “Cheng Shao.”
“Don’t bother me.” Shen Cheng’s voice came out, full of an indescribable irritability.
Lu Gesen frowned slightly, a hint of suspicion flashing across his face.
The office once again fell into silence as Shen Cheng circled around it distractedly. He hadn’t felt it before, but now there was an emptiness inside him, an indescribable hunger screaming in his mind, wanting, wanting! Subconsciously, he reached for his pocket, but there was nothing but his wallet. Shen Cheng remembered that when he left earlier he had thrown the rest of his cigarettes directly into the trash can. Clenching his fists, Shen Cheng desperately tried to convince himself that he wasn’t actually addicted, that today was just an accident, that he could forget what it was like. But the more he tried to forget, the more he couldn’t help but remember. Ruthlessly sweeping all the papers off the table to the floor, Shen Cheng hesitantly fished out his mobile phone and pressed Shen Ji’s number. The moment the call was answered, Shen Cheng quickly chose to hang up. He didn’t know how to talk to Shen Ji. Could he say he was set up by Shen Rong to possibly become addicted to drugs? The thought of the disappointment that might appear on Shen Ji’s face, mixed with the disappointment on his father’s face, made Shen Cheng inexplicably timid. After he couldn’t control himself and smashed everything in his office onto the floor, Shen Cheng left the office with a blank face. When he left, Lu Gesen looked at the wreckage all over the floor, his brow furrowed tightly.
Shen Cheng did not show up at the company for two days in a row, and after calling again and getting no answer, Lu Gesen apologetically looked at the lawyer who had been waiting for a long time, “Sorry, I still can’t reach Shen Shao.”
There was no impatience on the lawyer’s face, “It’s okay, I can come back another time. Please tell Shen Shao that I have been entrusted by Ms. Shen Bixue to sign some documents with him and he can contact me at any time.”
Lu Gesen nodded, “I will pass on the message.”
The lawyer said goodbye and left Shen Group, and Lu Gesen lowered his head in thought. Where the hell had Shen Cheng gone, not even answering his phone! There were times in the past when Shen Cheng had disappeared, but there was never such a situation as not answering the phone. After thinking for a while, Lu Gesen glanced at the wall clock. It was almost the time when he agreed to meet with Shen Xi. After hurriedly nodding to the secretary, Lu Gesen drove to the cemetery.
In the silent cemetery, Shen Xi stood quietly holding a bouquet of lilies of the valley until he heard the hurried footsteps behind him.
Shen Xi turned his head. Lu Gesen was walking quickly with a large bouquet of lilies of the valley in his hands, “Sorry, there was some delay in the company.”
Shen Xi’s gaze flicked over the lilies of the valley in Lu Gesen’s hands, and he said softly, “I’ve just arrived too.”
Lu Gesen leaned down and placed the flowers in front of Han Rou’s grave with a solemn expression, “Aunt, I’ve come to see you, and I’ve brought your favourite lilies of the valley.”
Shen Xi stood quietly aside, saying softly, “How does Cousin know that Mother liked lilies of the valley? Did Uncle say that?”
Lu Gesen shook his head, “Father didn’t have time to say that back then. It was my foster father who told me.”
“Foster father?” Shen Xi’s eyes flashed as a name came to his mind.
Lu Gesen’s expression softened, “You should have met my foster father, he even mentioned you to me once.”
“Oh, who is he?” Shen Xi said with interest.
With this name he had expected, Shen Xi lowered his eyes silently, hiding his doubts.