In the evening Lu Lingxi went to meet Xiao Hong with Wang Shuxiu and Xiao Feng. It was clear that Wang Shuxiu took this meeting very seriously and deliberately went home to change her clothes.
The couple went to the best restaurant in Fengcheng, the Baijia House, where Xiao Hong had booked a private room. Since the Baijia House was located in the west of the city, a bit far from the street of Tiny Garden, Xiao Feng drove over early and picked up Lu Lingxi. Before going out, Lu Lingxi considered leaving Dahei at Dong Zhi’s place, but Xiao Feng said no, take him with you, they are all family members. Besides, Xiao Hong also liked dogs and had a Tibetan mastiff at home and must have brought it with him this time. When Xiao Feng said this, Lu Lingxi hesitated for a while, and then took Dahei, as well as Xiaohei, whom he put in his pocket.
When they got into the car, Wang Shuxiu and Lu Lingxi sat together in the back. Dahei squatted at Lu Lingxi’s feet. Xiao Feng glanced at Wang Shuxiu from the rearview mirror, smiled without speaking, and drove. Wang Shuxiu’s face looked as if nothing had happened, but she couldn’t help but feel a little nervous in her heart. Although Xiao Feng always said that his elder brother and sister-in-law were nice and not the kind of people who would be nitpicking and looking for shortcomings, she was still apprehensive. She had only ever felt this way when she went home with Lu Yishui to meet his mother.
Lu Lingxi sensed Wang Shuxiu’s nervousness and after thinking for a while whispered, “Mom is very beautiful today.”
What he said was nonsensical but Wang Shuxiu understood. Dahei gave a “woof” following him, and Wang Shuxiu couldn’t help but smile at Dahei’s hairy face.
As soon as she smiled, the tension in her heart dissipated. She intended to live with Xiao Feng and have a solid life with him. It was best if Xiao Feng’s family liked her, but it didn’t matter if they didn’t like her for the time being. As the old saying goes, you can see people’s hearts over time and you will know what kind of people they are after a long time. Wang Shuxiu was in a relaxed mood, and the atmosphere in the car seemed to follow suit. Soon they arrived at the Baijia House. Xiao Hong and his wife Zhou Xiaoman had already arrived.
The Baijia House was an antique building, and the private rooms inside were small courtyards separated from each other. The environment was very secluded and even if you brought your pets, you didn’t have to worry about disturbing others. Xiao Feng called Xiao Hong as soon as he got out of the car. When they found the private room, Xiao Hong was already standing at the door waiting for them.
Although Xiao Feng and Xiao Hong were brothers, they looked completely different. While Xiao Feng was lean and fit, Xiao Hong was tall and big, and looked very strong. Xiao Hong, in particular, was more than half a head taller than Xiao Feng, his height reaching a full 1.9 m. He was wearing a fur coat. When he stood in front of the door and blocked it, he truly personalised the saying “one man can hold the pass and ten thousand cannot pass”. He spoke in a loud voice, with the characteristic forthrightness of a man from the northwest, and smiled broadly when he saw Wang Shuxiu and Lu Lingxi from a distance, “Sister-in-law and Xiao Xi, we are family now, don’t be polite.”
Xiao Hong’s kind attitude made the last trace of apprehension in Wang Shuxiu’s heart disappear. With her refreshing temperament, she immediately smiled and called out, “Big brother.”
Lu Lingxi already knew what to do and followed Wang Shuxiu, calling out obediently, “Uncle.”
Xiao Hong’s face bloomed with joy as he was called “Uncle” and he laughed. As soon as Lu Lingxi said that, Xiao Hong pulled out a bulging red envelope from his pocket and handed it over. “Here, Xiao Xi, take it and buy whatever you like.”
The red envelope was visually loaded with money, and the estimated amount was quite a lot, almost to the point that the red envelope was about to burst. This was the first time Lu Lingxi had ever encountered such a situation, and he was a bit overwhelmed. Wang Shuxiu was also stunned. Xiao Feng smiled and said, “Xiao Xi, take it, it’s a small gift from your uncle.”
Lu Lingxi looked at Xiao Feng and hesitantly took it, “Thank you, Uncle.”
Xiao Hong looked even happier and patted Lu Lingxi’s shoulder vigorously, “Good boy.”
He had so much strength that Lu Lingxi almost fell to the ground from his slap. Xiao Hong smiled and welcomed them to come in, explaining to Wang Shuxiu as they walked, “Your sister-in-law is not in good health, so I didn’t let her come out.”
Wang Shuxiu hurriedly said that it was fine. She had heard Xiao Feng say that his sister-in-law’s health was a bit weak and that his elder brother was treating her like a treasure.
When they entered the room, Xiao Feng’s sister-in-law, Zhou Xiaoman, greeted them with a smile. Zhou Xiaoman was more than ten years younger than Xiao Hong and looked very young. She didn’t look like a northerner, with a petite figure and a very gentle smile. When she stood next to Xiao Hong, the two of them could be described as “beauty and the beast”.
As soon as Xiao Hong saw her, the expression on his face unconsciously softened, and even his loud voice was suppressed, spontaneously and automatically changing from rough to delicate, as he introduced them to her in a gentle voice: “Xiaoman, this is our sister-in-law, and this is our nephew.”
Zhou Xiaoman liked Wang Shuxiu and Lu Lingxi very much, smiling at them in a friendly manner, and when she spoke her voice was as gentle as her appearance.
They were about to take their seats when a majestic low growl suddenly sounded from the corner of the room. Xiao Hong immediately smiled and explained, “Don’t be afraid, it’s our Tibetan mastiff. Xiao Baiwan, come here,” Xiao Hong called, turning his head. (Baiwan means ‘million’ and Xiao here is actually the family’s surname, not ‘Xiao’ for ‘little’, as in Xiaohei’s name).
Lu Lingxi: “……”
Xiao Feng smiled helplessly. The Tibetan mastiff raised by his elder brother’s family had a very good pedigree and had a rebellious temperament. When he encountered a pack of wolves, he dared to rush at them, but he was given the name Xiao Baiwan by his elder brother, and his momentum was gone.
Following Xiao Hong’s call, a huge black Tibetan mastiff, looking like a small lion, slowly walked out of the corner of the room and stopped at Xiao Hong’s feet. The Tibetan mastiff’s gaze never left Dahei. With a faint hesitation in his eyes, he barked threateningly at Dahei.
Dahei had been on guard since the Tibetan mastiff appeared. Hearing the Tibetan mastiff barking, he reluctantly bared his teeth and also gave a low growl.
Sparks flew when the two dogs met, and Xiao Hong gave an unexpected “eek”. He had noticed the dog called Dahei with Lu Lingxi outside but hadn’t taken it too seriously. It wasn’t that he looked down on dogs without pedigree, but he liked fierce dogs, and Dahei looked too docile for him. But what he didn’t expect was that Dahei would dare to fight with their Xiao Baiwan, their Xiao Baiwai who dared to fight with the wolves and won in the end. What was even more unexpected was that Dahei’s momentum wasn’t weak against Xiao Baiwan at all and even gave the impression of being on par with Xiao Baiwan.
This was the first time that Xiao Hong had been blindsided. He looked at Dahei with interest and reprimanded the Tibetan mastiff in a low voice, “Xiao Baiwan, stop making trouble.”
The Tibetan mastiff known as Xiao Baiwan reluctantly suppressed his hostility, closed his mouth and stopped barking.
Dahei gave Lu Lingxi a low bark. Lu Lingxi reached out and stroked his head. Dahei rubbed his head against his palm affectionately and quieted down as well. However, he was always wary of Xiao Baiwan and followed Lu Lingxi every step of the way, as if protecting him.
Xiao Hong found it even more interesting to watch. This dog was definitely not an ordinary dog, but seemed to be specially trained. But generally the dogs that got this kind of training were dogs like Tibetan mastiffs or bull terriers and other fighting dogs; it was really rare to see a simple dog trained like this. He thought so in his heart but didn’t show it on his face, inviting the people to sit down and eat. Xiao Hong had already inquired about Wang Shuxiu’s and Lu Lingxi’s tastes, so he ordered the food exactly according to their tastes.
Within a short time, Wang Shuxiu and Zhou Xiaoman were chatting together, and there was never a shortage of common topics between women. Xiao Feng and Xiao Hong were talking to each other as well, asking Lu Lingxi a few questions every now and then. The meal was a happy one, and they really felt like a family.
After the meal, three fruit plates were served. Xiao Hong was telling interesting stories about the mine while eating grapes. He was in the middle of his story when suddenly a black head poked out from across the table. Xiao Hong’s eyes flashed, he flipped his hand and flicked the grape out of his fingers.
With a “pop” Xiaohei, who had just sneaked from Lu Lingxi’s pocket to the edge of the table, was hit squarely in the head by a grape and fell to the floor, all dizzy. Xiao Baiwan rushed over almost immediately, and Dahei got up abruptly, arching his back and baring his teeth to shield Xiaohei.
“What is this?” Zhou Xiaoman and Wang Shuxiu didn’t know what was happening and were somewhat bewildered.
Only then did Lu Lingxi notice that Xiaohei had sneaked out, and he rather sheepishly leaned down and picked up Xiaohei, whispering, “It’s my pet, Xiaohei.”
Dahei and Xiaohei were obviously the names given by the same person. Before Xiao Hong could say anything, Wang Shuxiu had already raised her eyebrows and slapped the table, “Little bastard, you’re actually raising a snake.” She had been trying hard to pretend to be dignified in front of Xiao Hong and Zhou Xiaoman all night, but the moment she opened her mouth, all of her efforts immediately were wasted.
Xiao Feng looked at her and laughed, speaking up for Lu Lingxi, “It’s okay for the boy to raise a snake.”
“Right.” Xiao Hong followed up, “It’s good for the boy to grow up being tough.” At first, when he saw Lu Lingxi, he thought that the child was a bit too well-behaved, like a girl. But from the look of Dahei and Xiaohei, he seemed to have been blindsided again.
The two of them spoke for Lu Lingxi, and Wang Shuxiu, mindful of the current occasion, glared at Lu Lingxi and didn’t pursue the matter of Xiaohei. Lu Lingxi breathed a sigh of relief. It seemed that his mother was not afraid of snakes either; at least Xiaohei’s road was cleared and he was no longer a hidden member of the family.
When they finally finished eating, it was already past nine o’clock. Considering that Xiao Hong had driven all day, Xiao Feng asked them to go back early to rest. The family could gather at any time. Xiao Hong and Zhou Xiaoman took Xiao Baiwan back to Xiao Feng’s place, and before they left Xiao Baiwan didn’t forget to bark at Dahei through the window in a warning manner.
Xiao Feng laughed and drove Wang Shuxiu and Lu Lingxi home. On the way, Lu Lingxi kept peeking at Wang Shuxiu’s expression. Wang Shuxiu originally wanted to ignore him with a stern face, but she couldn’t help but feel soft at the little bastard’s expression and scolded him with a smile, “That snake isn’t poisonous, is it?”
Lu Lingxi hurriedly shook his head, “No, it’s not poisonous, it doesn’t bite, and it’s very obedient.”
Wang Shuxiu poked him with a finger, “Next time you keep these strange things I’ll throw them away.”
Lu Lingxi agreed ingratiatingly and praised in a small voice, “Mom is the best.”
In the evening Lu Lingxi stayed over at Yan Yue’s place on the pretext that he was looking for him for something. Before he went to bed, he thought of the red envelope Xiao Hong had given him. It actually contained ten thousand yuan. Yan Yue sat on the edge of the bed with Lu Lingxi and counted the money together, and he couldn’t help but smile when he finished.
“This Xiao Hong is quite interesting.”
Lu Lingxi nodded, thinking of the Tibetan mastiff’s name again. “He also named his Tibetan mastiff Xiao Baiwan.” He didn’t even know what expression to use when he said it, and wondered how Xiao Hong was able to call it that name openly in front of outsiders.
“Xiao Baiwan.” Yan Yue was taken aback and laughed even louder.