Wang Shuxiu’s pregnancy was a big joy, so everyone was happy. Even Pan Liang in his suffering managed to squeeze out a smile and congratulated Wang Shuxiu. On the other hand, Wang Shuxiu couldn’t recover from her state of shock and found it hard to believe. Although she told Xiao Feng she was able to have another child, honestly she didn’t hold much hope for it. She always thought she was too old to have a baby and she never thought she would get pregnant.
When she reacted, the first thing she thought of was Lu Lingxi. Although Xiao Xi was quite in favour of her having another child, talking about it and having a real one was definitely not the same. Wang Shuxiu was worried that Lu Lingxi would feel abandoned and thought she should say something to him. When she looked up, Xiao Feng was standing beside Lu Lingxi, with one hand on his shoulder, and both father and son had the same smile on their faces, looking at her with concern. Wang Shuxiu unconsciously felt relieved.
With this, the atmosphere in the office improved a lot. Su Lang continued to talk about his new drug trial; Elder Zhao was very interested in it and even Pan Xiaobao’s attending doctor wasn’t as resistant as he was at the beginning.
When Su Lang finished speaking, Elder Zhao pondered slightly, “Xiao Su, I would like to go and see your experiments, I wonder if it’s convenient?”
“Of course it’s convenient.” While Elder Zhao didn’t know Su Lang, Su Lang knew Elder Zhao, an expert in the research of blood diseases in China. If Elder Zhao could give them a little guidance on their experiments, perhaps their progress would be a little faster.
Su Lang left a phone number for Elder Zhao, saying that he could call him anytime. Pan Xiaobao’s attending doctor watched the two of them finish speaking, and nodded to Su Lang with some embarrassment. He had gone a bit overboard with his emotional remarks earlier but it was really because they had encountered too many frauds in their department. The more terminal the disease was, the more scammers came to the door, claiming that there was some kind of qigong cure, a cure for cancer, a new drug trial or something. The family who didn’t know better took these charlatans as life-savers, and as a result, the treatment of the patients was delayed until it was too late to regret. The doctor was passing by and heard the conversation; thinking they were another bunch who wanted money, he just…
Su Lang smiled and understood the doctor’s previous concern. He had also encountered similar things in Zhongjing. Besides, their lab really didn’t have much of a name, it was just a private organization, and it was normal to be misunderstood. He was fine, and Pan Liang couldn’t make a decision for a while, so Wang Shuxiu and others said goodbye to Pan Xiaobao and were ready to go home from the hospital.
They separated in the car park; Su Lang originally thought of having a meal with Yan Yue, but now he was in a hurry to rush back to the lab, so dinner could only continue to be put off. As he was leaving, Su Lang looked at Lu Lingxi and wanted to say something, but hesitated for a few seconds and said nothing.
Yan Yue frowned slightly. Su Lang’s behavior was a bit strange. He didn’t like the way Su Lang looked at Lu Lingxi as if he was looking at another person.
“Let’s go.” Yan Yue said.
Lu Lingxi habitually got into Yan Yue’s car. Usually Wang Shuxiu didn’t feel anything when she saw this, but today, perhaps because her perspective changed, she always felt that something was wrong. She thought about it and asked Xiao Feng suspiciously, “Do you think Xiao Xi and Yan Yue are getting a little too close?”
Xiao Feng was taken aback and then smiled. “Yan Yue is not a bad guy. Hasn’t Xiao Xi always been on good terms with him? Why do you ask that?”
Wang Shuxiu couldn’t say; it was just a feeling. She suspected that she might be a bit paranoid because she was pregnant and everything she looked at felt wrong.
Xiao Feng patted Wang Shuxiu’s hand soothingly and said, “If you don’t like Yan Yue as a neighbour, how about we move back to my place and Xiao Xi can come along?”
Wang Shuxiu glared at him, “I’m used to living here, so why bother? Besides, Yan Yue is a good guy, I just think he and Xiao Xi are a bit too close. It’s not a big deal, I guess I’m overly concerned.”
When she said this, Xiao Feng smiled and didn’t say anything more.
They went back to the community, only to find two police cars parked by the building, and most of the neighbours to the left and right standing outside, gathering in groups to talk.
“What’s going on here?” Wang Shuxiu asked, stopping Auntie Ma from upstairs.
Seeing their family coming back, Auntie Ma enthusiastically admonished, “Don’t go home yet, let the police see if there are any snakes in the house.” She looked at Wang Shuxiu and the others and said, half-explaining and half-complaining, “I don’t know what people are thinking nowadays, what’s wrong with keeping cats and dogs at home? In two buildings near us, three snakes were lost in one night, and all of them were poisonous. I heard that only the snake in Xiao Tian’s house had its teeth pulled out and couldn’t bite, but the other two didn’t have their teeth pulled out and were quite poisonous. At first they put up notices all over the community to keep an eye out for them, but later they couldn’t find them and called the police. In the New Year, don’t you think this is a toss!”
Wang Shuxiu listened and couldn’t say anything; the little bastard also had a snake at home. Although it wasn’t poisonous, it wasn’t good to mention it now.
Xiao Feng saw that the situation would continue for a while and thoughtfully said to Wang Shuxiu, “Xiaohua, get in the car first and rest, it’s cold outside.”
Wang Shuxiu thought that she was pregnant and that it would be troublesome to take medicine if she caught a cold, so she listened to Xiao Feng and went back to the car. While the two of them were talking, Lu Lingxi sheepishly pulled Yan Yue and whispered, “Big Brother Yan, let’s go in and take a look, maybe it’s Xiaohei…”
When talking about Xiaohei, Lu Lingxi lowered his voice for fear of being overheard by the people around.
Yan Yue nodded, but refused to let Lu Lingxi go in with him, instead asking Lu Lingxi to wait for him outside. What if it wasn’t Xiaohei but a real poisonous snake that had escaped and it bit Lu Lingxi? While Lu Lingxi was insisting, Fang Lei came out from the entrance of the building and his eyes lit up when he saw them both.
“You guys live here?”
Lu Lingxi nodded; Fang Lei smiled, “It’s a coincidence, do you know what’s going on? Someone called the police and said that several small snakes were lost around here…” He was talking about it, but halfway through he stopped suddenly, looked at Lu Lingxi thoughtfully, and asked in a low voice, “Xiaohei?”
Lu Lingxi looked embarrassed, not knowing whether to nod or not.
Fang Lei was speechless for a long time and called the two of them to follow him in to have a look. Considering Xiaohei’s habits, the three of them went to Yan Yue’s house first. When they entered, everything was normal. Yan Yue called out Xiaohei’s name and saw Xiaohei slowly crawling out from under the sofa, with three snakes by his side.
Xiaohei looked at Yan Yue and then at Lu Lingxi, and herded the snakes to crawl to Fang Lei’s side, coiling and hissing.
Fang Lei was puzzled and looked at Yan Yue, “What does Xiaohei mean?”
Yan Yue smirked, “Xiaohei wants to trade these snakes with you for the cake. Or you can catch them yourself if you want to.”
Fang Lei didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh. So Xiaohei still remembered about the little green snake. When he came in, he was carrying a small box to contain snakes. After ten pieces of cake were promised to Xiaohei, Xiaohei helped him drive all three snakes into the box. Fang Lei was quite satisfied, and so was Xiaohei, waving his tail excitedly. Xiaohei forgot that there was still Yan Yue, ready to settle the accounts. When there were no more snakes on the floor, Yan Yue reached out, picked Xiaohei up, opened his mouth and moved his teeth around, saying sternly, “From now on, you can only drink milk, no more cakes or biscuits. If I see you sneaking around catching snakes again, you won’t even have any milk, and you’ll have to eat vegetables with Xiao Baiwan.”
Xiaohei wilted at the lecture and wrapped around Yan Yue’s wrist ingratiatingly. Fang Lei looked amused and said a few good words in Xiaohei’s defence. Xiaohei had accidentally done a good deed. Nowadays, it was popular to keep snakes and lizards, which was dangerous and affected the lives of the residents around. In particular, some people liked to keep poisonous snakes and refused to pull out their teeth, so one accidental escape would be a problem. Xiaohei scared them this time, and later the police would criticise and educate the owners, urging him to pull out the poisonous teeth, so that the neighbours around could have some peace of mind in the future.
Yan Yue let Xiaohei off the hook this time for the sake of Fang Lei’s face, but he still took Xiaohei to brush his teeth again. Xiaohei curled under the sofa and refused to come out no matter how much Fang Lei teased him.
Fang Lei soon sent away the snakes he had caught, and one by one the upstairs neighbours returned home. Everyone believed Fang Lei’s words that the snakes were caught in the yard, and the neighbours felt that it was too dangerous to live on the first floor. It was a good thing there was not much grass in winter; if it were overgrown with weeds in summer, it would be impossible to find the snakes for a while.
Several families that raised the snakes were lectured by Fang Lei for a long time. Now the law was not perfect and there were no special restrictions on keeping pets or anything. It was okay to raise snakes but it was better to keep non-venomous snakes, and if they kept poisonous snakes, they had to remember to pull out their teeth, being responsible not only for themselves but also for the surrounding neighbours.
After settling the snake matter, Fang Lei didn’t stay long and left in a hurry. He was on duty today and was very busy with a lot of things. As soon as Fang Lei left, Xiao Hong, Zhou Xiaoman and Xiao Baiwan came to see Wang Shuxiu. They were very happy to hear the news that Wang Shuxiu was pregnant and bought a lot of things along the way.
“Little clothes, little towels, little mats.” Zhou Xiaoman spoke to Wang Shuxiu as she sorted them out.
Wang Shuxiu looked at the things that occupied half of the bed and didn’t know what to say. “It’s still early, at least nine months to wait, Sister-in-law, you’re in too much of a hurry.” (They count pregnancy in lunar months (28 days), so the whole term is ten months.)
“Nine months is very soon.” Zhou Xiaoman didn’t care what Wang Shuxiu said and went straight to putting the toys she had bought for the baby on the bed. “By the way, with a baby this house will be a bit small. What are your plans?”
Wang Shuxiu and Xiao Feng now lived in a small, old-fashioned two-bedroom apartment, which was barely enough for a family of three, but not for a family of four. Especially after the birth of a child, they needed space for a crib, toys and so on. Zhou Xiaoman was thinking even further ahead, “The child will have to go to school in the future, right? If the school here isn’t good, you should look for a house near a good school and buy it. Nowadays, schools are zoned according to household registration, so you have to plan ahead.”
To be honest, what Zhou Xiaoman said didn’t occur to Wang Shuxiu at all. She had raised Lu Lingxi as a semi-free-range kid and hadn’t thought about such things.
Zhou Xiaoman looked at her expression and understood, and smiled all of a sudden. “Your big brother and I have discussed it. We plan to sell the mine in the northwest, and the two of us will move to Fengcheng. You and Xiao Feng are just two people, and you’ll definitely be tired of taking care of business with the kids in the future, so your big brother and I can give you a hand. I’ve heard that this community has a nice environment, and your big brother stopped by to look at a few houses when he went out two days ago. When the house here is settled, you and Xiao Feng will move there first. The house there is large, so you can hire a nanny or something and enjoy life.”
Wang Shuxiu was happy to hear that Zhou Xiaoman was settling in Fengcheng, but she was in no hurry to move, “Let’s talk about it later.”
Because of Wang Shuxiu’s pregnancy, everyone was revolving around her during the New Year’s holidays. On the seventh day of the first month, Lu Lingxi and Yan Yue went to Lingshui Village and brought a lot of things with them.
Uncle Li, Xiao Shi… There was also an extra Uncle Xu. Lu Lingxi didn’t even know when Xiao Shi got so friendly with Uncle Xu. All he knew was that there was a new starling in the plant nursery that called “Let’s eat” when it was time.
“Let’s eat, let’s eat.”
It was noon when they went there. Uncle Li was in the plant nursery looking after the plants, while Uncle Xu, who had nothing to do, helped him. The starling flew over the two men’s heads, reminding them that it was time for a break.
Uncle Li smiled and shook his head, “What else does Little Starling know besides eating?”
“Find people, find people.” The starling chirped in a shrill voice.
Lu Lingxi and Yan Yue laughed as soon as they came in and heard it.