Ruan Ruan’s funeral was extremely simple. Her parents rushed over from Jiangzhe, and after discussing with Wu Jiang, brought her ashes back to be buried in their hometown. Zhao Shi Yong actually didn’t show up to the funeral, while other classmates and friends from the past did not let the distance stop them and traveled thousands of miles to attend, like He Lu Ya, Zhou Mei, even Li Wei Juan, who lived super far in Beijing. Everyone wanted to see, and similarly, everyone cried and wept. Only Zhu Xiao Bei was still in Xin Jiang. On the phone, she grieved for a while, but in the end, said, “She has already gone, no matter where we bring her it’ll be the same. Ruan Ruan’s such a smart and understanding person, she’ll be able to see through everything.”
Choked up with emotion, Zheng Wei asked her, “Xiao Bei, after finishing your Ph.D., are you planning on remaining in Xin Jiang and learning until you become an academic martyr before you’re willing to come back?”
Zheng Wei knew some things about Xiao Bei’s matters. The man she was secretly in love with lost his wife half a year ago. His Uighur wife had died of stomach cancer, leaving him with only his young daughter. While he was grieving and hurting the most, it was Xiao Bei who spent time with him. The man also wasn’t ignorant of the feelings that she had nursed for so many years, and the child was also young and couldn’t be without a mother for too long. He accepted the blind dates that other people set up for him but didn’t accept the woman by his side. He said that Xiao Bei was too good for him, such a young and beautiful doctor had no need to marry such an ordinary widowed man. He was afraid of her finding out one day that he actually wasn’t as great as she had thought he was.
* – Uighur is just an ethnic group from Xin Jiang
Xiao Bei said, “I might not leave here for my entire life. It doesn’t matter what I first came here for, after I saw the moon shining down on the Gobi desert, that vast and empty space stretching out for as far as the eye can see, left to grow wild, I suddenly felt that some things that we insist on holding on to are actually insignificant. What he said might be right, that the one I love is not him, but what I imagine to be love. Right now, I’m in love with this place.”
Li Wei Juan was divoced, and had gained an impressive settlement after finally winning a long and tedious divorce lawsuit. In the past, she had often said, attatining money was basically the same as catching a man. But now, she had gotten the money, but not the man. He had gotten remarried, but she said that she didn’t care. Zhou Mei was preparing to immigrate with her husband and his entire family. Maybe that slow-paced, peaceful like in northern Europe would suit her unorganized nature. He Lu Ya’s children were already attending kindergarten. She had gained a lot of weight and was no longer the same slim, delicate and pretty girl from all those years ago. But, the calm that she emitted from head to toe revealed her satisfaction towards her life. Perhaps in the end, the one who was the happiest was still her.
Zheng Wei took three days off, and after returning to work, she realized that it was as if only one day had passed, yet in comparison, a thousand years had already passed for the rest of the world. Lin Jing didn’t trick her; before, Zhou Qu had only been being investigated. It wasn’t anything big, and the financial files and online records that Er Fen had sent to be investigated also didn’t have any big problems. Only Feng De Sheng was unable to escape, but this was already well within their calculations from the start.
Just when everyone was about to let out the breath of air that they had been holding, the prosecution once again sent over
*- This sentence was EXTREMELY confusing to me and kinda blew my mind SO I am going to say this outright: I think it’s wrong, but somewhat close to the original. Depreciation is reducing the value of ones assets and apparently overhaul is restoring and maintaining equipment. What I think this entire thing means is that they used these terrible methods to cover up their corruption.
If the original financial files that the prosecution had right now weren’t false, then what baffled people was how the original files which had been disposed of had fallen into the police’s hands. The people at Er Fen who could directly access these files weren’t many, and Assistant Manager Zhang had said publicly during a meeting that Er Fen had ghosts. Assistant Director Zhang’s relationship with Zhou Qu was pretty good, he had also said himself, that at his age, the chances of getting promoted weren’t big and there wasn’t really meaning to it either. So, he was not at all satisfied because of Zhou Qu’s downfall, and had even repeatedly visited the headquarters, hoping to work together to find a solution.
Who the heck gave those materials to the District Attorney’s office? Everyone was unable to find out, but those who looked at Zheng Wei with the same expression eventually became more and more. Assistant Manager Zhang made it even more clear, classified files containing secret information could not be passed through her hands. At the next meeting, the transcriber of the meeting was also changed to a newly hired college student.
It was not out of Zheng Wei’s expectations that people would think like this, but she had a clear conscious. Indeed, she could not help out Zhou Qu using her relationship with Lin Jing, but she also definitely did not release any information about the company to Lin Jing. She didn’t explain herself, because she knew at this time it would only make things worse. She could only keep telling herself that she knew the difference between a clean conscious and a muddy one.
Since Zhou Qu wasn’t there, Assistant Manager Zhang once again assigned a lot of her duties away. To put it bluntly, her position as a manager’s secretary existed in name only. But one day, while she was coincidentally passing by the door of Assistant Manager Zhang’s office, she heard a remark from inside: “I hate backstabbers* the most.” Her heart was full of silenced injustices and grievances.
*- Here, they use 吃里扒外 (chi li ba wai) which basically means people who will eat your food and then turn around and betray you to other people.
That day when she was leaving work, she was standing alone in the elevator. When it was about to close, Chen Xiao Zheng rushed inside. When the elevator was about to descend, he looked away and said, “No one has any real proof pinning it on you, don’t take it to heart.” Zheng Wei then knew that he had also been inside Assistant Zhang’s office.
She laughed, but didn’t utter a word.
“Have, have you been well recently… … I heard about what happened to Ruan Wan, it really is unfortunate. But, the person is already gone, you need to start opening up a bit more.”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
He suddenly whipped his head around, his expression full of anguish. “Thank you? Is that all we can say to one another now?”
Zheng Wei’s expression didn’t change as she retreated a step, leaving the close proximity of his body. Reminding him, she said, “Assistant Manager Chen, the company’s elevators are monitored.”
Chen Xiao Zheng reached his hand out to touch her but it fell disappointedly.
Everytime, everytime he got close to her, he always seemed to helplessly let go of his hand.
See, look how much she understands him. Zheng Wei obviously knew it would be like this, but her heart still felt a twang of pain. Rarely could love endure people giving up and dropping their hands time and time again, even if he had once been the person who was standing the closest to her.
There was nothing more wich made Chen Xiao Zheng realize the meaning of the word “punishment” then seeing the knowing smile on Zheng Wei’s face. In front of the woman he loved, he was ashamed and unable to look up.
They reached the first floor and Zheng Wei walked out of the elevator one step faster than him. Breathing in the air far away from him, she heard him give one last word of advice from behind her. “Right now, you taking a holiday for a while would be a good thing for everyone.”
Zheng Wei actually did spend all of her yearly seven days off all in one go. At the moment, she and Shu Bao had already completely moved into Lin Jing’s house. Lin Jing was at work during the day and she slept most of the time. When she was bored, she would go online to play games, and she would also occasionally use the ink and paper in Lin Jing’s study.
Lin Jing wrote bold and refined characters, and they were rather smooth. He had won awards at many different calligraphy competitions. From when he was young till college, he had gained many extra points and got preferential treatment. After working on a piece of good calligraphy, it could even become legendary. Zheng Wei had followed Lin Jing ever since she was young, but other than making the table into a mess and spilling ink everywhere, she had achieved nothing. Looking at her crooked characters, Lin Jing always would sigh and say that this thing called talent was innate.
Over the weekend, Lin Jing drove Zheng Wei to Bei Hai. Honestly, Zheng Wei couldn’t swim, but Lin Jing knew that she had experienced too many unhappy things during this time, and adding on the extreme effect the shock of Ruan Ruan’s death had had on her, he was afraid that she would bottle up all her feelings inside her heart until they all turned rotten. Coming to the beach to breath in the salty air, when her field of view opened up, many things would be easier to think through.
Zheng Wei was a bit reluctant to go, but she didn’t want to dash his hopes. However, once she was standing on the silver beach, looking at the winter ocean, sand as far as the eye can see, the elegant red wood forest, and the sky joining together with the ocean at the end of her line of sight… … it was as if her depression was just like the slightly fishy ocean breeze, passing through her body, invisible.
Lin Jing laughed at her, when she had come she had been extremely unwilling, but when she started playing she was even more crazy and energetic than anyone else. In the moist sandy ground, Zheng Wei piled up sand into a lump that didn’t really look like anything. She was completely oblivious to the little grains of sand sticking to her cheeks and Lin Jing, who was crouching next to her, familiarly reached out to brush them off of her face as if he was used to doing it often. However, he actually ended up leaving even more sand on her face and it was only then that he realized that he had gotten his hands dirty earlier when he had helped her pat down her unidentifiable structure.
Zheng Wei was very resentful and paid him back intensely. While Lin Jing wasn’t looking, she took the opportunity to stuff a handful of sand she had grabbed down the back of his collar. The chilly and wet sand fell down his back, covering the inside of his shirt and his skin with sand. It was very itchy and was an odd feeling. Lin Jing was startled, and tried to shake off all of those foreign particles from his clean clothes. Seeing the always neat and tidy him get into a difficult situation made Zheng Wei chuckle and gloat. After laughing for a while, she realized that Lin Jing had been pursing his lips tightly and his eyebrows were wrinkled. Then she realized that she might have been playing with fire and so moved closer to him and asked pitifully, “Are you angry, why don’t you also throw some sand on me to relieve your anger?”
She had only been saying the words and wasn’t serious. She never expected that when she got closer to him, Lin Jing would turn around when she least expected it and laugh at her, saying, “This was what you said yourself, you can’t cry about it later.” He grabbed a handful of sand, and when he pulled open the collar of her sweater, Zheng Wei had already been terrified out of her mind, closing her eyes and crying out loudly, “Ah, ah, help… … Lin Jing, you actually dared!”
“It seems that you are the only person who can do what you want.” Lin Jing single-handedly grabbed both of her flaiing arms and pinned them down. Leisurely, he said, “Do you not know the nasty, itchy feeling of sand on your body? You should really try the feeling.” His hand left her collar, but changed direction and flew towards the bottom of her shirt, exploring. Zheng Wei wanted to laugh and cry at the same time as she immediately curled up. His hand was a bit cold, and along with the rough sand, he slowly wandered around her naked flesh, letting her experience a peculiar new feeling. It seemed a bit uncomfortable, but she also didn’t want him to stop at once. Her smile as she begged for mercy slowly turned into a low murmur that was unintelligible, and her face which was covered in sand looked as red as a piece of coral.
Lin Jing lowered his head and kissed her, and the two of them rolled onto the sandy ground. Below Zheng Wei’s back, the sand was slightly uncomfortable. In the middle of their frantic loving she inadvertently opened her eyes and saw the vast sky, which she hadn’t seen in a long time.
It seemed as if Lin Jing didn’t intend on letting her go just like that, so Zheng Wei managed to push her hand against his chest and said unromantically, “Lin Jing, I have sand in my mouth.” Lin Jing paused for a moment, propped himself up above and and laughed aloud too, saying, “It seems that I have some too.”
The two of them cracked up, and finally, Zheng Wei seriously placed her hand on her belly and said, “After eating the sand, I realized that I’m actually really hungry.”
He stood up, patted the sand off his clothes, and pulled her up. He said, “After we go back and take a good shower we’ll go out to eat.”
The hotel they were staing at was right next to the beach. Lin Jing carried her into the hotel barefoot, heading straight for their room to rinse off.
After showering and changing clothes, the two of them arrived to the lobby of the hotel’s restaurant. The seafood at this hotel was extremely famous and well known. Zheng Wei ordered boiled shrimp, a small, thin platter of stone snails. They weren’t anything especially rare, but they were both the freshest seafood from nearby. Sitting in the seat of a booth next to the window, the sunset on the beach could be seen through the clear glass. The dinner also changed and began having a certain tone to it.
Zheng Wei’s face and neck were a sort of clear bright red, and it was unclear whether it was because she had just taken a shower. Her eyes were especially bright in comparison, and even her blinking eyelashes were especially intelligent-looking. Lin Jing also casually dressed up slightly, and his whole body exuded the feeling of a much younger man. His typical shrewd and calm expression was replaced by a fresh vigor. This way, when the two people sat together, they attracted many eyes.
Lin Jing lowered his head and helped Zheng Wei peel a shrimp. When he looked up, he discovered that after curiously taking a look around the room, she had propped her hands underneath her chin and was staring at him intently. Many unpeeled shrimp were left untouched in the bowl.
“No appetite? Didn’t you just shout that you were so hungry that you didn’t have any energy left?” Lin Jing stopped what he was doing and asked, smiling, “Why are you staring at me, am I more appealing than the shrimp to fill your appetite?”
Zheng Wei said, “I don’t know why, but I suddenly thought of the New Year Festival back when I was 17. You brought me to the city temple to walk around the fair. That day, I was also this happy.”
Lin Jing used his napkin to wipe at his hands. After that temple festival, all that had awaited them was a long parting. He reached his hand out and rested it on the back of Zheng Wei’s hand. “If you’re willing, we can always be this happy,” he said.
Zheng Wei batted her eyelashes at him and said innocently, “If you feed me, I will be even happier.”
Of course Lin Jing was willing to obey. He said, “It’s like you’re a small child, not even afraid people will laugh at you if they see.”
Zheng Wei said, “Who is forcing them? We’re not committing adultery. Why are they looking at us for no reason?”
She saw that Lin Jing’s gaze finally fell on one corner of the room. It only stayed there for a few seconds, then immediately was retracted. He took a shrimp and fed it into her mouth, continuing to smile as usual.
Dinner was extremely wonderful, but Lin Jing actually ate with some carelessness. He put down his chopsticks and waited for Zheng Wei, who was perfectly satisfied, to finish. “Done eating? Later I’ll bring you to go see the beach’s nightscape. The night is pretty chilly, we’ll go back to the room to get you a jacket first.”
Right after opening the room door, Lin Jing’s phone rang. After taking a glance, he hung up immediately, then walked over to the suitcase and helped her find clothes without asking.
“Who was it?” Zheng Wei casually asked.
“The most annoying people who call to plead for someone else’s case. They won’t even let me go during the weekends. We don’t need to bother with them.”
Zheng Wei nodded her head, and then his phone insistently rang again.
“I think you should still pick it up, repeated calls are also annoying. Just say something random to get them to leave you alone,” Zheng Wei said to Lin Jing.
Lin Jing picked up the phone and his face immediately grew cold. Zheng Wei discovered that when he frowned, the lines on his eyebrows and the bridge of his nose became extremely fierce looking. He said into the phone, “en” twice, with an extremely cold and detached tone. The only occasional phrases he said were, “that’s right,” or “no need,” or “whatever,” or any of those sorts of words which didn’t really have any real meaning.
As if he couldn’t immediately end the conversation, he put a soft expression on his face and turned to Zheng Wei, then pointed at the sofa in the room, motioning for her to sit down and wait for him. Then, he walked out to the balcony.
Zheng Wei aimlessly waited there, then followed him out to the balcony. Tapping on Lin Jing’s shoulder, she mouthed, “I’m going down first to take a walk.” Then, she took out her own phone and made a gesture of calling on the phone. After hesitating for a bit, Lin Jing covered his phone and whispered to her, “Be careful, don’t go too far.”
Obediently, Zheng Wei nodded. Waving at him, she walked towards the door. Before she had even reached it, she heard Lin Jing call out to her, “Wei Wei, don’t forget to bring a jacket.”