Chapter 44: Settlement Fee

Cheng Xi and Cai Yi left in different directions after dinner, and because everyone else also had to work tomorrow, they all left on their own as well.

Once everyone had left, Cheng Xi waited by the roadside for a taxi. But before long, someone tapped her right shoulder, causing Cheng Xi to look towards her left.

As expected, Lin Fan was standing slightly behind and to the left of her. When he saw Cheng Xi turn around, his face lit up into a slight smile. “Ah, I couldn’t fool you after all.”

This was a little game that the two of them had played when they were small. For a decent period of time, Lin Fan had sat behind Cheng Xi in class. Because they were seated next to a window, Cheng Xi would always gaze into the distance to relax after class. Whenever he saw her like this, Lin Fan would tap her on her left shoulder but lean to her right, or tap her right shoulder and lean to her left.

But Cheng Xi never fell for his track, not even once; she was always able to turn around and spot him every single time.

Cheng Xi laughed at his antics. “Do you want to try again?”

And so Lin Fan went back into his original position and tapped her shoulder again. Cheng Xi turned around, saw no one, and then turned to the other side as she amazedly said, “Ah, it’s you!”

Her acting skills were so exaggerated that Lin Fan couldn’t help but laugh, as did Cheng Xi.

It was a very boring game, but it was one that let the two of them laugh at each other for quite a while. After they finally calmed down, Cheng Xi said, “Thank you. I won’t try to return the money.”

He looked at her, half-smiling. “You can try to bring it up. But every time you do so, I’ll kiss you once, alright?”

Upon hearing this, Cheng Xi looked at him with an expression like she was looking at a stranger.

“What’s the matter?”

“I just discovered that you can also pick up girls now.”

Lin Fan lowered his head and looked at her from underneath his bangs, his gaze smoldering. “If I couldn’t, then I’m afraid that I won’t ever find a wife in this life.”

When Cheng Xi heard him say the word ‘wife’ so warmly and bluntly, her smile actually deflated slightly. She looked at him with a strained expression. “Lin Fan……”

“I know, you can’t reciprocate my feelings right now…… Sorry, I only wanted to make you happy. However, you don’t look too well right now.”

Cheng Xi was very shocked. “Really?”

Had she really exposed herself to such a degree that anyone could read her emotions?

Lin Fan nodded as he gently caressed the corner of her lips with a finger. “Perhaps you never even noticed it yourself, but when you’re truly happy, you don’t smile like that.”

Cheng Xi couldn’t help but become dejected. She had thought that she was hiding her emotions very well.

Lin Fan looked at her gently. “Do you want to tell me about it?”

Cheng Xi sighed. “Actually, it isn’t much. Something just happened with a patient of mine.”

“Alright.” A wisp of disappointment leaked into Lin Fan’s expression, but he didn’t continue pressing Cheng Xi about it. “Then I won’t ask. But if you ever need my help, just let me know.”

Cheng Xi was about to nod when a flashy race car drove by them. Not long after, that car reversed directions until it was in front of them.

The window rolled down, revealing Baldy’s arrogant face. “Hi, doctor. Is that really you?” Then he turned to the passenger side, smiled, and said, “Look, I told you I was right, it’s really your partner.”

“……”

Race cars were usually a bit shorter than other cars, and since this section of road wasn’t particularly well-lit, only now did she realize that Lu Chenzhou was actually sitting next to Baldy.

She couldn’t see his full face as the car door obscured most of it. The only thing that was revealed was a chiseled, cold, and hard jaw. This was the first time meeting after Lu Chenzhou’s grandfather’s birthday. After Chen Fuguo’s incident, she hadn’t had time to look for him, and he hadn’t gone searching for her either.

I wonder if the events of that day left a shadow in his mind?

After mulling the situation over for a moment, Cheng Xi bent her head, and then greeted him. “Mr. Lu.”

Baldy sneered. “Heh, this polite? You might as well remove the ‘Lu’ too and just call him mister.”

No one paid any attention to him, and Lu Chenzhou coolly asked in response, “Do you need a ride?”

Cheng Xi looked at Lin Fan; he was standing there silently with half-lidded eyes and an unclear expression. She shook her head. “No, it’s fine. I can get back on my own.”

Lu Chenzhou then turned his head slightly. “Get her in the car.”

The back door of the car opened, and a young man all dressed in black walked out. He bowed courteously towards Cheng Xi before gesturing toward the car. “Dr. Cheng, please.”

“……”

Once again, she had forgotten about Lu Chenzhou’s personality. When he asked you a question, it was never an actual question. Rather, it was just a veil of politeness that was better treated as nonexistent.

If it had been the past her, then she would have accepted his intentions blandly. However, today, she resolved herself to draw a line between them. “I’m sorry, but I’m still busy and don’t need a ride from you.”

After speaking, she immediately pulled Lin Fan away and prepared to leave. But just when she had taken a few steps, the man clad in black stretched out his hand to stop her.

Cheng Xi frowned. “What are you doing?”

“Director Lu is cordially inviting you into the car.”

Cheng Xi usually had a pretty good temper, but she couldn’t help but grow angry now. “And if I don’t?”

That man smiled lightly, unyieldingly polite. Cheng Xi’s frown grew tighter, and even Lin Fan couldn’t help but move in front of her.

“Hey, doctor,” Baldy sniggered from his corner. “Boss Lu asked if he needs to carry you into the car?”

Cheng Xi’s heart dropped. Given Lu Chenzhou’s personality, he really might do something like that.

Lin Fan could also see that Cheng Xi probably wouldn’t be able to leave with him tonight without considerable friction. He didn’t want to distress her, so he unwillingly forced himself to say, “Why don’t you let him send you back? Something also came up for me, so I won’t be able to do so. I’d be worried if you went home alone this late.”

Saying this was a huge insult towards himself, but he had understood very early on in his life the importance of being flexible.

Sometimes, being soft and taking a step back was not due to cowardice, but rather a move made after weighing the benefits and losses.

He actually wanted to reach out and irresistibly caress Cheng Xi’s hair, but in the end, all he did was clench his fist behind him tightly and push her away.

Baldy leaned against the car window as he looked at them lazily, his expression seemingly both a smile and not one at all.

Cheng Xi and Lin Fan were both smart people, so they were well aware that Baldy and Lu Chenzhou didn’t like Lin Fan and had no intention of talking to him at all. She walked over as Lin Fan waved before turning and leaving.

He left very quickly, not turning back. Upon seeing this, Baldy deliberately asked Cheng Xi, “Who’s that fellow? Why didn’t you introduce us to him? He looks somewhat handsome. My, you’re not trying to make our Zhou a cuckold, are you?”

After spouting these inflammatory words, he glanced at Lu Chenzhou, but the latter didn’t even bother looking at him.

Cheng Xi ignored him as well, climbing into the car expressionlessly. “Aren’t you going to leave? This is a restricted parking zone.”

“At worst, I’ll get fined,” Baldy responded blithely.

Cheng Xi was caught speechless by his response. Baldy did drive off after saying that, but he didn’t stop yammering, and even brought up the appointment-booking incident again. “That incident really ended up hurting a lot of rich folks, and even my mom started asking my dad if he was raising a vixen. Haha, they’re fighting at home every day now. How funny.”

“.....Is it really alright for you to talk about your parents like this?”

“What’s wrong with it?” Baldy stared at her superciliously, as if she were a novice to the ways of the world. He drove slowly and started gossiping about his father’s Casanova-like escapades. As Cheng Xi listened, black lines began streaking over her face, but he only seemed to get more and more invested as he spoke.

When she took another look at Lu Chenzhou, he had evidently heard enough, as he was not responding to Baldy at all. Since he was looking out the window, she could only see the back of his head from her angle.

Somehow, along the way, Baldy had shifted topics from his father’s romantic dealings to that day they had spent gambling. “...We’ve never lost that badly before, Dr. Cheng. So you want to play another round? If you’re that lucky again, then I’ll give you a chance and let our Zhou be your escort again.”

When he mentioned the word escort, he even slapped his thighs and started cackling maniacally, as tears of laughter leaked out. Honestly, making the situation that awkward was a talent at that point.

Cheng Xi really couldn’t stand it anymore, so she sat up and poked Lu Chenzhou’s shoulder.

He responded surprisingly quickly, catching her offending finger at once.

Cheng Xi wanted to pull it out of his grasp but wasn’t able to; thus, she could only pretend that she didn’t mind it much. “I want to discuss something with you. Can we talk in private?”

Since they’d met by coincidence, she might as well have a conversation with him.

As usual, Lu Chenzhou didn’t reject her request. He let go of her, and, ignoring Baldy’s protests, apathetically said, “Go to Donglai Hotel.”

The emotions vanished from Baldy’s face. It was fine if the two of them ignored him, but he was very displeased that they were even going to ditch him and go off gallivanting somewhere else. “You helped me deal with that old Deng, but what happened to giving me a chance to thank you? Po and the rest are already waiting there.”

Lu Chenzhou chuckled as he dryly said, “Do you all want to be third wheels?”

…...These words were really too provoking, so much so that even Cheng Xi couldn’t help but cough out of shock. Baldy, on the other hand, silently spat out a mouthful of blood, parked the car by the roadside, and started pounding on the steering wheel, making the car horn blare so loudly that even the cars driving by started to protest before finally yelling, “Scram! You talk as if no one else has ever had a romantic encounter before. Just watch me bring seventeen girlfriends over tomorrow and make you drown in jealousy!”

Lu Chenzhou wasn’t fazed at all, and calmly stepped out of the car.

As soon as the two of them were out, Baldy immediately drove off loudly. Despite Cheng Xi quickly following behind Lu Chenzhou, she was still just slightly too slow and was inundated with the car’s exhaust fumes.

Lu Chenzhou saw her lean back and choke a little, and was unable to stop himself from smiling at the sight.

It was a pity that Cheng Xi had been covering her face just then and hadn’t seen it.

Baldy’s parking skills were surprisingly skillful, as he had stopped right across the front door of Donglai Hotel, just past the street.

Lu Chenzhou brought Cheng Xi into the building. She originally thought that he would lead her towards the café, or even to his office. But instead, they ended up going directly into a suite.

From the decoration, it looked exactly like the suite they had ended up in after she had gotten drunk that one night. In fact, given Lu Chenzhou’s fervent desire for cleanliness, it was probably the exact same room.

At the very least, Cheng Xi hadn’t been traumatized from that event, and he didn’t have anything that would cause her to be defensive, so she walked in briskly and confidently.

The room was surprisingly cozy, as the normal sense of pervasive stuffiness endemic to a regular hotel room was absent here. The first thing Lu Chenzhou did when he entered was take off his jacket and wash his hands and face. Cheng Xi, on the other hand, did nothing. She merely picked up a chair, sat down to the side, and as she waited for Lu Chenzhou to finish up, thought about what the best way to explain her thoughts regarding that contract was.

In the beginning, she hadn’t treated that contract too seriously because she had thought that, after he recovered slightly, he would automatically void the contract of his own accord. However, Chen Fuguo’s incident had made her suddenly realize that she wouldn’t ever be able to deal with everything on her own. Her unintentional gestures could very well end up hurting others.

As she sat there, she thought about many things: how to begin, how to end, how to comfort him. But all these thoughts were thrown into disarray after just one sentence from him.

After Lu Chenzhou finished washing up, he sat down on the sofa opposite her, folded up his sleeves, and watched her carefully. After he finished observing her, he opened his mouth and coolly said, “How does it feel to like someone enough to make you not care about the settlement fee?” And then he took out his phone and messed around with it for a while. Not long after, Cheng Xi’s phone rang.

Lu Chenzhou raised his chin to face her. “This is the settlement fee that you have to pay. According to Cai Yi’s request, I’ve already given you a twenty percent discount.”

“……”

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