When Li Mingxuan arrived home this evening, he did not go home immediately, but stood downstairs and stared for a long time at the light spilling out of that familiar window.
It was early in the winter and every apartment in the building was lit up. Among the countless similar windows, Li Mingxuan recognized the familiar one at once. From the day Shen Xi agreed to be with him, this place had been another home for him. Whether he was getting off work or returning from a business trip, he always rushed back as soon as possible because he knew Shen Xi would always be waiting for him at home. Today was the first time he felt afraid at the doorstep of his home. He was afraid that once he pushed the door open, the warm memories of the past would be nothing more than an illusion in the mirror.
He spent the entire afternoon doing nothing but recalling everything that had happened since he and Shen Xi met on the plane. Whenever he thought about it in the past, his heart was always filled with sweetness, but this time there was a touch of bitterness lingering in his memory. He involuntarily linked everything that happened to Shen Group, from Shen Xi’s sudden return to China to his resentment towards Shen Dehan, from Shen Xi’s secret investigation of his past to his close relationship with Lu Gesen, from Shen Group involvement in repeated incidents to Lu Gesen’s role in them every time… Li Mingxuan closed his eyes in pain, not wanting to think and not daring to think any further.
He did not want to suspect Shen Xi, but his thoughts were out of control. He wanted to put it all out of his mind, but there was always a voice that reminded him that all he was doing was just deceiving himself. Li Mingxuan didn’t know what expression he should use to face Shen Xi. What scared him was not Shen Xi’s revenge against the Shen family, but what kind of feelings Shen Xi had for him if all that was true. In this relationship where he was full of joy, gratitude and dedication, was Shen Xi just putting on a mask to play a role in front of him?
As time passed, the biting chill finally brought him back to his senses, and he tried hard to suppress the emotions that were rising in his heart. Finally, Li Mingxuan walked into the elevator pretending that nothing had happened.
The moment he opened the door, he subconsciously looked at the sofa. Every time he came back in the past, Shen Xi would be nestled on the sofa watching TV with the remote control in his hand, but today there was no Shen Xi there. There was a sound coming from the kitchen and Li Mingxuan gently walked over. Under the glowing white light, there was Shen Xi cooking something seriously.
Li Mingxuan stood there quietly, watching Shen Xi’s back, unblinking. Aware of the scorching gaze behind him, Shen Xi turned his head and smiled slightly, “Hungry? It will be ready soon.”
Shen Xi’s smile was the same as always, and Li Mingxuan couldn’t help but step forward, hug him and kiss him fiercely. The kiss was very sudden. Shen Xi remembered the meal he was about to cook and subconsciously tried to push Li Mingxuan away but couldn’t refuse and was held in his arms.
Shen Xi’s unfinished words were blocked. Li Mingxuan’s kiss was swift and intense, as if to prove something. Shen Xi was not resisting and raised his head to bear the kiss obediently.
It was not until Shen Xi was breathless from the kiss that Li Mingxuan stopped, holding him tightly in his arms, as if desperate to rub him into himself.
That was it, Li Mingxuan thought, maybe Shen Xi and Lu Gesen were just old acquaintances from abroad and everything was just his cranky thoughts. He didn’t have the courage to question Shen Xi about it, he was afraid the answer would far exceed his expectations. Just let him close his eyes and pretend that he didn’t know anything. He loved Shen Xi and he wanted to be with Shen Xi.
Li Mingxuan’s unusual behaviour made Shen Xi realise what was going on. He did not say anything and silently reached out and hugged Li Mingxuan. Both of them seemed to forget about the meal being cooked until a faint smell of burning came out.
Li Mingxuan let go of Shen Xi, smiled gently and rubbed his hair, saying warmly, “I’ll do it.”
As he watched Li Mingxuan skillfully throwing away the burnt rice and washing the pot, Shen Xi quietly stood behind him. As the scent of the food came out, the room was filled with a faint warmth, but Shen Xi knew that everything in front of him would be temporary. With the collapse of the Shen family and the revelation of the truth, he could already expect Li Mingxuan’s reaction. Shen Xi’s eyes became complicated. When Li Mingxuan turned his head, he closed his eyes to hide the entanglement in them, and opened them again after he had restored his previous calm.
This night was like any other night before, and Shen Xi fell into a deep sleep in Li Mingxuan’s arms. What he didn’t know was that Li Mingxuan sat alone in the living room smoking for half the night after he fell asleep.
When Shen Xi woke up, Li Mingxuan had already gone to the office, and the sticky note next to his pillow reminded him that breakfast was in the warming cabinet. Shen Xi stared at the sticky note for a while when his mobile phone rang abruptly. It was a call from Lu Gesen, who said that Wang Changlin wanted to meet Shen Xi, while euphemistically indicating that Wang Changlin was exactly the man Shen Xi was looking for.
“Xiao Xi, are you listening? I know this news is very sudden, but Foster Father has a hard time,” sensing Shen Xi’s silence, Lu Gesen explained eagerly.
Shen Xi sat up, haphazardly slipping on his pyjamas, and said, “I am listening.”
Lu Gesen let out a sigh of relief and explained, “Foster Father has been suffering for so many years, he didn’t show up back then so as not to ruin Aunt’s reputation, he has done a lot of things over the years to retaliate against the Shen family, he…”
“I see.” Shen Xi interrupted Lu Gesen’s words, “When and where will we meet?”
Lu Gesen couldn’t hear whether Shen Xi’s mood was good or bad and hesitantly said, “Foster Father is going to the cemetery later to pay respect to Aunt.”
“I see.” Shen Xi hung up the phone straight away.
Perhaps it was because he had already thought of Wang Changlin being that man, now that he had actually heard the confirmation, Shen Xi was not too surprised. On the contrary, knowing that Wang Changlin was that man, a lot of things seemed to make more sense. Why he went out of his way to adopt Lu Gesen, why he was so passionate about Lu Gesen’s revenge, why he ignored Shen Xi for two lifetimes, all the things that Shen Xi felt were painful and incomprehensible before, now had answers.
Shen Xi dressed quickly and drove towards the cemetery without bothering to eat breakfast. There was only one last question he wanted to clarify: why did his mother choose to jump out of the window back then? This was something he had never been able to understand. According to his aunt’s words, his mother had already fallen out of love with his father and would not have jumped because of him, and she was pregnant, so why would she choose to jump for no reason?
By the time Shen Xi arrived at the cemetery, Wang Changlin was already there. Placing the bouquet of lilies of the valley in front of the tombstone, Wang Changlin looked at Han Rou’s picture with a complicated expression. He had never thought that Han Rou would choose to jump from the window with such determination. His fingers gently brushed over the photo, and the last phone call Han Rou made to him before she jumped echoed in his ears.
“Changlin, have you ever really loved me?”
Without waiting for his answer, Han Rou hung up the phone, and shortly afterwards he received the news of Han Rou’s death, precisely after this phone call.
What kind of feelings did he have at that time? Regret? Sadness? Pain or relief?
Wang Changlin sighed. Over the years, he had done everything he could to achieve his goals and had calculated many people, but he had never felt guilty. Only Han Rou, her shadow always haunted him when he dreamed of her at midnight. Wang Changlin closed his eyes fiercely and dismissed the memories. Now was not the time to be weak. His goal was about to be achieved, and the shares in Shen Xi’s hand would be the most crucial step. He could not ruin so many years of careful planning just because of this little bit of guilt.
He could not afford to wait and did not want to wait any longer. According to his plan, it would take him a few years to take over Shen Group but taking into account Shen Dehan’s health, Wang Changlin didn’t know if Shen Dehan would still be there in a few years’ time. If he couldn’t let Shen Dehan watch him take everything from him, then what was the point of what he had done?
There were footsteps behind him and Wang Changlin slowly opened his eyes, the hatred in his eyes dispersing, replaced with painful emotions.
Hearing Shen Xi’s voice, Wang Changlin turned around, his eyes full of pain that he didn’t have time to hide.
The pain in Wang Changlin’s eyes was so intense that a trace of emotion flashed across Shen Xi’s face. The change in his expression was noticed by Wang Changlin, satisfying him.
The pain in his eyes turned into guilt. Wang Changlin did not look at Shen Xi again but turned his gaze to the tombstone and said in a low voice, “I promised Ah Ruo to take good care of you back then, but I didn’t do it. I am sorry for all these years.”
Shen Xi did not expect Wang Changlin to bring up this topic. He already had an answer in his mind, but at this moment he could not help but speak, “Is it because I am Shen Dehan’s son?”
Sadness surfaced in Wang Changlin’s eyes and he nodded with difficulty.
“Ah Ruo was pregnant with my child when she died. At that time, I had just found out that I was going to be a father, and before I could rejoice I received the sad news that Ah Ruo died along with the child. I know you’re innocent, Xiao Xi, but I really couldn’t face you, I couldn’t do what Ah Rou wanted me to do, I couldn’t take care of you.”
“I understand,” Shen Xi said self-deprecatingly. Anyone in Wang Changlin’s position would probably have to hate him.
Wang Changlin looked at Shen Xi apologetically and wanted to say something, but in the end he sighed and said nothing.
Shen Xi did not care about Wang Changlin’s guilt and said softly, “I want to know why my mother jumped out of the window back then?” This was the main purpose of his meeting with Wang Changlin.
This question seemed to stir up Wang Changlin’s painful memories as he shook his head, “I don’t know, Ah Rou didn’t say anything before, there were no signs, everything was too sudden. But apart from Shen Dehan, who else could have forced Ah Rou to jump to her death? It was all him. If it wasn’t for Shen Dehan, how could Ah Rou have lived such a miserable life? Why did he refuse to cherish her when he was married to her? If it wasn’t for him, how could Ah Rou jump out of the window? Ah Rou clearly said she wanted to divorce him, but…” Wang Changlin was already incoherent at the end of his speech, his eyes looking at Han Rou’s picture on the tombstone in agony.
Shen Xi’s heart was once again moved. Although his feelings for his mother were different from Wang Changlin’s, this pain seemed to be similar, and Shen Xi could not help but say, “Uncle Wang.”
This “Uncle Wang” brought Wang Changlin’s attention back, and he took a deep breath, “I was out of line.”
Shen Xi shook his head, and when he looked at Wang Changlin again, his eyes became much more intimate instead of being distant.
Wang Changlin quickly realised the change in Shen Xi. He had been studying people’s hearts for so many years; he understood that Shen Xi had a certain amount of recognition for him and immediately mentioned many of the Han family’s past events as if unintentionally. As he looked at Shen Xi now, his gaze was different.
In just one morning, Shen Xi’s attitude towards Wang Changlin changed greatly. As they parted, Wang Changlin looked at Shen Xi with a serious face, “No matter what kind of feelings you have for the Shen family, I hope you won’t stop Gesen and me from taking revenge on the Shen family.”
Shen Xi already had a decision in his mind, looked at Wang Changlin and said softly, “Grandpa made a will before he passed away. Once I reach 23 years old, I can own 20% of Shen Group shares. In a few days it will be my 23rd birthday. I wonder if I can entrust Uncle Wang to be the sole agent of the shares in my hands at that time.”
Shen Xi had not told Lu Gesen about this before because Wang Changlin’s behaviour was too inconsistent, but now Wang Changlin’s hatred for Shen Dehan did not seem fake, and if Shen Xi wanted to bring down Shen Group as soon as possible, working with Wang Changlin was the fastest way, so naturally he did not hide the matter any longer.
A look of surprise flashed across Wang Chenglin’s face, “Xiao Xi, you know about this?”
Shen Xi was stunned, “Could it be that you also know, Uncle Wang?”
Wang Changlin nodded, “I only found out a few days ago too. Shen Dehan wanted me to stop you from entering Shen Group.”
A sneer appeared at the corner of Shen Xi’s mouth as Wang Changlin mused, “Since you already know, Xiao Xi, what are your plans? To enter Shen Group?”
Shen Xi shook his head, “I have no interest in Shen Group, not to mention the fact that Shen Group is about to go bankrupt, so what am I going to do there?”
His words made Wang Changlin relax, and when he looked at Shen Xi again his face seemed hesitant.
Shen Xi’s heart throbbed, “Uncle Wang, is there something I need to do?”
Wang Changlin seemed to have made up his mind and looked at Shen Xi frankly, “Xiao Xi, are you willing to transfer your shares to me? In fact, Gesen and I have already acquired 27% of Shen Group shares. If you add the shares in your hands, it will be enough to compete with Shen Dehan in Shen Group. Of course, on the one hand, it is to deal with the Shen family; on the other hand, the collapse of Shen Group is inevitable and sooner or later, your shares in Shen Group will become worthless. Instead of letting them rot in your hands, it is better to get rid of them early. With this money, you can also have no worries about food and clothing in the future. I wanted to ask Gesen to tell you about this idea when I first found out about the contents of the will, but I was worried that you might misunderstand, so I never said anything.”
Wang Changlin’s words were correct and his tone was full of meaning for Shen Xi to consider. More importantly, based on the 27% shares, it was clear that Gao Qiulin’s shares were in Wang Changlin’s hands. Shen Xi thought about his original intention and after a slight hesitation, he simply nodded.
Shen Xi agreeing so easily was hard to believe in for Wang Changlin. After realising that Shen Xi had really agreed, Wang Changlin, who had always been cunning, failed to control his emotions and a smile of satisfaction appeared on his face.