Chapter 26: An Ache in the Heart

A slop bucket that had been left out for who knew how long, dirty and smelly, had just been thrown at Cheng Xi. Almost immediately, a thick, sour odor assaulted Cheng Xi’s nose.

She was petrified with shock, standing there frozen and wet. The one who had thrown the dirty water all over her was an old grandmother with a slightly bent back. When she had approached them with a dirty bucket, Cheng Xi thought that she was planning to dump out her trash somewhere. But only a moment later, she had seen her hoist the bucket up high, and aimed its contents at Lu Chenzhou.

Cheng Xi’s taking the shot for Lu Chenzhou was a subconscious act; she had originally planned to merely pull him out of the way. However, because he was tall and heavy, even though she managed to pull him away, she had also thrown herself into the line of fire.

The old grandmother didn’t leave even after pouring the filthy water all over her, staring at her with a fierce expression as her mouth mumbled foul words in a dialect Cheng Xi couldn’t understand.

Lu Chenzhou’s chauffeur had been listening to music on his phone in the car, but upon hearing the commotion, his heart almost stopped beating. He immediately ran over and grabbed the old grandmother, but  just as he was about to shove her, Cheng Xi quickly stopped him. “Don’t touch her!”

The old grandmother looked frail and elderly. If anything were to happen, they would be in big trouble.

The chauffeur looked at Lu Chenzhou. He coldly nodded, so the chauffeur slowly let go of the old lady. But he didn’t leave, and stood in front of Lu Chenzhou and Cheng Xi alertly. “I’m telling you, don’t think that you can get away with things just because you’re old! You can’t suddenly pour water on people. Are you crazy?”

It wasn’t totally clear if the old grandmother had understood him, but she spat at the chauffeur and loudly scolded him.

The surroundings were quickly filled with people gawking at the scene. Even the restaurant owner’s wife came running out. When she saw Cheng Xi and the two men being scolded out of the blue, she hurriedly tried to dissuade the old grandmother from provoking them further. “Old grandmother, please don’t scold them anymore. They’re here because they were appointed by the court. They don’t want to be part of it either.”

The old lady didn’t care, and kept on scolding them even after throwing the bucket at them.

Cheng Xi didn’t say a single word. The restaurant owner’s wife got some people to restrain the old lady and pulled Cheng Xi aside. “You’re young, so please don’t get too worked up by what old people say.” 

Despite the calamity that had befallen Cheng Xi, she really didn’t want to pursue the matter with the old lady any further. However, she had to understand what was going on. “Who is this old lady, and what’s she so angry about?”

The restaurant owner's wife knew her. “She’s just an old woman who lives alone right around here. She used to have a son, but he was spirited away by Chen Jiaman’s mother when they were young. Then, Chen Jiaman’s mother found another man to live a good life with, whereas her son ended up dying in an accident. Thus, she hates the guts of the Chen family. I don’t know who told her that you were serving as Chen Jiaman’s defense attorney, but she was so angry that she came right over to cause trouble.”

After hearing the background, Cheng Xi was rendered speechless.

The restaurant owner’s wife then tried to persuade her, saying, “If you’ve already cleared things up, then leave quickly. That old lady’s really stubborn, and she might come back again later. Given how old she is, regardless of whether you win or lose against her, it won’t end up well for you.”

This was true. Cheng Xi’s scalp felt numb when she glanced back at that old lady whose frail body belied her surprising attack power. She thanked the woman, and then told Lu Chenzhou, “You guys can leave first.”

She was still drenched in the disgusting slop, so she couldn’t get in the car with them.

Lu Chenzhou didn’t say a word. He seemed to be in a daze, thinking about something.

And it was then that he looked different from regular people.

Cheng Xi didn’t want to disturb him, and only wanted the chauffeur to take him away quickly. She didn’t know if the chauffeur knew about Lu Chenzhou’s unique disposition, as he was a bit anxious, even asking her, “What about you?”

Before Cheng Xi could respond, Lu Chenzhou said, “Go on ahead and find a hotel, get a room, and buy a set of new clothes.” 

Once he finished speaking, Cheng Xi and the chauffeur looked at each other, exhaling simultaneously. 

His plans were thoughtful and Cheng Xi had no problems with them. The chauffeur followed his orders and drove off. Only then did Lu Chenzhou look in the direction of the old lady again before directly leaving.

He walked quickly. Because Cheng Xi was scared of bothering him with her smell, she didn’t rush to catch up with him, and instead walked slowly behind him.

As they walked, even though Cheng Xi had discarded her totally ruined jacket long ago, she still attracted all sorts of attention. As she shivered in the cold, she had to continuously tell herself, Don’t worry. Only random strangers who don’t know you are looking at you.

It was just that there were a few bystanders who were also taking pictures of her with their phone, so she had to lower her head and hope that her face hadn’t been exposed.

Luckily, the hotel that the chauffeur made a reservation at wasn’t too far away, and he was back in ten or so minutes.

The hotel wasn’t large, but the lobby was very new; the hotel had probably opened quite recently. Lu Chenzhou waited at the front of the hotel, watching her walk over while covering her head and face.

“Here?” Seeing him standing still, she asked.

Lu Chenzhou nodded.

The chauffeur had just finished checking in and was about to buy a new set of clothes for her. Seeing her, he quickly said, “The room card is at the front office. Please go up first, and I’ll have someone bring the clothes over when they’re ready. Right, what sizes do you wear?”

Letting a random man buy her clothes made her somewhat want to go ‘囧.’ “Thanks, just a small jacket will do, please.”

The chauffeur nodded. After Cheng Xi entered the room, she heard him ask, “Director Lu, will you be finding a place to stay too?”

She didn’t pay too much attention to Lu Chenzhou’s reply. The only thought in her mind now was to take a shower and change her clothes.

Her body was simply… too smelly!

Cheng Xi took the longest and most careful bath she had ever had in her entire life, even washing her hair thrice. When she finally came out, she was unable to smell even a trace of sourness.

After picking up her phone, she saw an unread message from Lu Chenzhou. “Your clothes are at the door.”

When she opened the door, she indeed found a large paper bag outside. She took it inside, opened it, and noticed that the inside contained not only a jacket, but also a pair of jeans, a warm undershirt, and a box of disposable underwear.

When she remembered that a man had bought all of this, Cheng Xi felt uncomfortable from head to toe. But since it had already been bought, no matter how she felt, she had to change. Her original set of clothes was too smelly and oily, completely unwearable. 

Besides her new jeans being slightly too large, the rest of the clothes fit her well. After Cheng Xi finished changing into her new set of clothes, she went around in a circle downstairs, and then finally found Lu Chenzhou’s car parked outside. The windows were down; Lu Chenzhou sat inside on the phone, his laptop on his knees as normal.

His chauffeur, on the other hand, seemed to be gone.

Cheng Xi waited for Lu Chenzhou to hang up before approaching him. As she came closer, Lu Chenzhou unconsciously moved away from her.

She felt slightly embarrassed. She stood still, smelling herself delicately. “Do I still smell bad?”

Lu Chenzhou looked at her. Perhaps it was because she had just taken a bath, but Cheng Xi’s whole body exuded a warm and inviting feeling. It was as clear as a polished crystal, and so clean that it made others want to take a bite out of her.

It was a pity that she didn’t realize that herself, instead turning around to gaze at her surroundings. “Is it just you?”

Lu Chenzhou ignored her.

Cheng Xi continued, saying, “The chauffeur, Mr. Chen, bought the clothes, didn’t he? Where is he? I’ll pay him back.”

“That’s not necessary.” Lu Chenzhou said coolly. He looked at her. “This is your payment for helping me avoid a calamity.”

“Er,” Cheng Xi stuttered. “Shouldn’t it be me reaping what I’ve sown?”

Lu Chenzhou shut his laptop, casting sidelong glances at her. “But you seem to be happy about reaping what you’ve sown?”

Cheng Xi shrugged her shoulders. “Then what should I do? Cry? Unfortunately, crying can’t solve my problems. Furthermore, after cleaning myself, I’m as good as new again. So what’s there to be mad about?”

Her words were humorous, and Lu Chenzhou couldn’t help but curl up his lips slightly upon hearing them. “It’s getting quite late. When are the two of you planning to return?”

Lu Chenzhou’s hand, which was resting on his laptop, shook. He raised his head. “You two?”

“Yes, I plan on staying here for a night because I keep feeling like there are still some questions that I haven’t investigated fully.”

“Of course there are problems,” Lu Chenzhou said with a laugh. “At the very least, that old widowed grandmother who tossed a bucket at you has problems. If she were really living by herself, then her bucket wouldn’t have been filled with so much stuff.”

Cheng Xi blinked. “What stuff?” She really hadn’t noticed this, mainly because she had been so shocked at the time that she hadn’t been able to think about anything else.

Lu Chenzhou’s voice was ice cold as he replied, “The most identifiable objects that she flung out at you were potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and noodles. Perhaps if there were only one type of food it would be a coincidence, but what about multiple types?”

Cheng xi understood immediately. The items that Lu Chenzhou had mentioned were exactly what they had ordered for lunch. The leftover vegetables and rice in a restaurant were usually poured into a bucket to be dealt with later.

Something like that could be sold for money; for example, some people would buy it specifically to feed their pigs, and people wouldn’t generally throw it away carelessly. If the old grandmother’s bucket of foul water had really come from the restaurant, then the behavior of the restaurant owner’s wife afterwards was worth considering carefully.

“She truly seemed to be trying to help us, but it felt more like she wanted to quickly scare us away… Does this mean she doesn’t want us to keep investigating?”

Although Lu Chenzhou didn’t say anything, his face revealed an expression of disdain at how long it had taken her to figure it out.

Ignoring his facial expression, Cheng Xi merely sighed again as she said, “So the crux of the matter lies with the restaurant owner’s wife? Not only does she know Chen Jiaman, but she also probably has some deeper connection with her.” Upon realizing this, she became agitated. In her excitement, her two hands extended into the car and grabbed hold of Lu Chenzhou’s wrist. 

“Ah, what are you looking at?”

Lu Chenzhou slightly tilted his head, his gaze landing on her hand, her fingertips just like spring onions, as white as jade. 

Unexpectedly, he didn’t find it dirty. Instead, an ache in his heart sprang out of nowhere. Her fingertips reminded him of the jade tea pet that he often played with in his office, which was the same shade of translucent, warm white.

But the teacup was cold and hard. He idly wondered what her fingertips would feel like.

And, as he thought of this, Lu Chenzhou raised his left hand and lightly caressed Cheng Xi’s hand.

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