Always By Your Side - Chapter 13
Chapter 13: Merely Relatives
When Fu Beichen and Yuanyuan reached the exhibition hall, the sky was already dark. However, the exhibition hall was brightly lit inside and out, and there were also two rows of flower baskets neatly arranged at the door.
Fu Beichen took Yuanyuan inside. As soon as he entered through the door, someone greeted him and led him to the guest table to sign in. He tactfully declined and stated that he was not a guest, then politely shook hands with the man. In passing, he introduced Yuanyuan.
The man seemed to look at Yuanyuan with astonishment but didn’t act too rudely. He stretched out his hand and said: “Hello, Editor Cheng. Your guidance is welcome.”
“I don’t dare, I don’t dare. I don’t know anything about this field, I’ve just come to learn.” Yuanyuan was overwhelmed by his flattery, and hurriedly reached out to shake hands.
Along the way, someone would always come over to say hello to Fu Beichen. They all seemed to be well-acquainted with him. Yuanyuan wanted to stand nearby and watch, but Fu Beichen seemingly regarded her as a small child. He was afraid of losing her. As long as she was even a little bit far away, his gaze would search for her. At some point, his hand simply cut the distance between them and seized her around the waist.
When Yuanyuan realized afterwards, her neck was flushed from embarrassment. But looking at Fu Beichen, he was still as natural and magnanimous as before. It was as if everything was a matter of course. Looking at the thoughtful eyes surrounding her, she really didn’t want to damage Fu Beichen’s reputation, so she planned to take a subtle step forward.
Her small movements were immediately detected by Fu Beichen. He glanced at her and said: “Are you sure you want to stand here and take a closer look?”
Yuanyuan followed his line of sight and found that she had stopped in front of an erotic picture. She was immediately struck dumb.
“If you’re not looking, let’s go ahead and eat something.” Fu Beichen looked at her appearance. He stopped teasing her and directly took her to the innermost guest lounge.
After the exhibition was finished, Fu Beichen sent her back to her residence. Before Yuanyuan got out of the car, he said: “Get a good rest. Goodnight.”
“En. You too!”
Fu Beichen drove away. Gazing at the figure in his rearview mirror, he thought he would surely get a good night’s sleep tonight.
The next morning, as soon as Yuanyuan arrived at the office, she saw her colleagues gathered around discussing something. Their expressions were heavy. When someone saw Yuanyuan coming in, they said to her: “Yuanyuan, have you seen the news? There was an earthquake in S Province early this morning. They said it had a magnitude of 7.6. The specific number of casualties hasn’t been counted yet, but it appears to be very grave.”
Earthquake? Yuanyuan’s heart immediately seized.
“Let me look.” She quickly turned on her computer. Sure enough, the news was all about the earthquake in S Province. The articles of post-disaster news made everyone’s mood heavy. “How could this be…” Yuanyuan murmured. It was difficult to bear.
“I cried as soon as I saw the news. It’s terrible,” a female colleague with red eyes said.
On the second day after the earthquake, Yuanyuan received a call from Cheng Shenghua. She learned that Cheng Bai had joined the hospital’s medical rescue team. On the first day of the earthquake, he had set off to the disaster area.
Cheng Shenghua called firstly to talk about Cheng Bai, but secondly because he was concerned about Yuanyuan. If her office sent someone to report on the disaster area, he hoped she wouldn’t go. When all was said and done, she was just a girl, and her mother would be very worried.
Yuanyuan explained that she was only doing cultural publications and therefore there was no way she would be reporting on the earthquake. Then she couldn’t help asking about Cheng Bai: “Uncle, then you…why would you agree to let Cheng Bai go?”
Cheng Shenghua sighed, “Back when my father and I were soldiers, we both participated in earthquake rescue work. I never want to see those tragic scenes again in my life. Of course I disagree with Cheng Bai’s going. But he told me he’s twenty-five years old and can take responsibility for his actions. Ai…” Cheng Shenghua’s words were full of worry.
When the call ended, Yuanyuan was still in a daze. Cheng Bai had gone to the disaster area?!
In the news, large and small aftershocks continued to occur in S Province. It was just broadcast that another aftershock with a magnitude of 4.6 had occurred. Going to the disaster area to provide support was a political duty. The staff arrived at the hospital on the day of the earthquake, and the personnel on the task list were determined by their leaders. However, Cheng Bai had applied to join of his own accord.
The leader of this mission happened to be Zheng Lizhong. Although he praised Cheng Bai’s initiative that day, he still had to ask: “Have you and your family discussed this?”
“My dad and I talked.”
At this moment, Cheng Bai was following his medical team in the rain. Their surroundings were pewter grey, as if they were walking in an endless ruin. Wang Yang followed behind Cheng Bai. Regarding his old classmate’s choice this time, Wang Yang was deeply moved. Initially, he hadn’t applied to join the earthquake relief team because he was his family’s only son. His mother and father didn’t agree with him taking any risks.
But sometimes, the will of man could conquer everything. Wang Yang still remembered when Cheng Bai had just filled out the application form. Wang Yang met him at the entrance to the washrooms.
At the time, Wang Yang stopped him and said: “I always knew you weren’t afraid of death. Now I admire you even more. Hero!”
Cheng Bai only said, “I’m just using what I’ve learned.”
Wang Yang looked at Cheng Bai’s figure, “How can I compare to my bro, I feel like I’m not a man?”
After that, Wang Yang followed suit and also submitted an application. With his parents, he would act first and report later.
The disaster area’s environment was much worse than they had imagined. When Wang Yang first arrived, he still had some high aspirations. But not long after the work started, he finally experienced what it felt like to be tired and want to give up. Wang Yang was now a little regretful that he had allowed Cheng Bai to incite him. Because apart from being tired, he was also scared. On the other hand, Cheng Bai really didn’t seem to know what fear was.
For more than a week after the earthquake, Yuanyuan watched the increasing number of missing and dead people reported on the television and Internet every day. Her heart felt extremely unwell. Sometimes, she also had the urge to rush to the disaster area and offer her meagre strength. But when she calmed down, she understood that she did not possess the skills for disaster relief. Going would only increase the burden for rescue teams. What’s more, Uncle Shenghua had also said this—she had to take her mother into consideration.
Over these days, she sent two text messages to Cheng Bai. One was from the night she learned he had gone to the disaster area: Uncle told me you went to the disaster area for disaster relief. The second was sent when she woke up this morning: How are you doing right now? He did not reply.
She thought it didn’t matter if his mobile phone was dead, or if he was still in the disaster area, or if there was no signal, or if he was simply too lazy to pay attention to her. It was okay so long as he didn’t have an accident, because Uncle Shenghua would be very heartbroken otherwise. But then Yuanyuan thought again, Cheng Bai had always had the body and mind of iron and stone. Surely nothing would happen.
That day it was a weekend, but Yuanyuan had woken up early because she couldn’t sleep. The sky was crystal clear as if it had been washed. She went to the west of the city to see the scenic area of Xizhao Lake. Xizhao Lake was a famous tourist attraction in Jinghai. The lake was bordered by mountains and forests, and could be said to have excellent feng shui. Therefore, many celebrity residences and famous temples had been built in the vicinity.
As its name implied, Xizhao Lake was a good place to appreciate the setting sun. That was why there were not many people there in the early morning. Yuanyuan walked alone by the lake. In front of her eyes were clear waves that carried gleaming reflections of sunlight, and once in a while a koi leapt up in the air. There were the cries of oriole birds in her ears and in the distance she could hear the morning bells. Seeing and hearing these, she felt that life was everywhere. It allowed her to feel some relief from the death and parting she had been hearing about these days.
The trail by the lake twisted and turned. As she walked, there would be several forks in the path leading to different places. Yuanyuan relied on having visited many times when she was in middle school. She was not unfamiliar with this area and wouldn’t easily get lost, so she casually followed the pathway. Gradually, there were no people around, and the path became increasingly deeper. There seemed to be the high wall of a house at the end of the path, and she went to have a look. Sure enough, there was a tall gate made of stone, and inside were many buildings. The style seemed to be from the Republican Era.
This place is really nice, Yuanyuan thought. Just as she was about to step forward and walk in, someone suddenly stood in front of her.
“Little girl, it’s not easy to get in here.” Even though the sudden speaker had a good-natured tone, Yuanyuan still jumped in fright.
It turned out to be a guard standing beside the gate. The guard stood perfectly straight like a clay figurine. Yuanyuan had been attracted to the charm of the house and hadn’t noticed his existence.
Yuanyuan nodded and apologized to him in embarrassment. The guard did not speak anymore, straightened up, and proceeded to stand guard. Yuanyuan let out an “ah?”. If there were guards here, what kind of place was this? She looked at her surroundings but did not see any signs. She glanced at the guard who had resumed his statue shape. She was too embarrassed to ask, so she took a step away, turned around, and intended to go back.
Who knew that when she turned around, she would jump in fright again.
“Why are you here?” Fu Beichen was also surprised to see Yuanyuan.
“I, I was just wandering around.” Yuanyuan felt this was unimaginable. “And what about you?”
Fu Beichen looked at her for a long time before saying, “I purposely came here.” As he said so, he looked past the gate, then stated simply: “When I was a kid I used to live here.”
“When you were a kid?” Yuanyuan was stunned, but then remembered who his grandfather was. She stared foolishly at the large tree branches stretching out between the eaves in the distance. Looking back at Fu Beichen, she said: “You really are the legendary grandson of a top party member.”
Fu Beichen smiled lightly: “It’s just a residence.” After saying so, he added another sentence, “I haven’t come here for a very long time. In fact, after moving out in my second year of high school, I haven’t come back to see it once.”
“Yi, why?” Yuanyuan touched the stone wall on the side of the road with her hand. The rough sensation gave her the sense that there was a special history here. Fu Beichen solemnly counted the slabs of stone until he accurately found the one. On the surface were vague traces of inscriptions. Those childhood memories seemed to take after those faint engravings by fading away.
“Because the elderly are all gone, and the younger generation that grew up together each have their own place now. All that remains here are memories.”
Yuanyuan smiled and said: “Then today you’re looking for memories?”
“Sort of. I also took some photographs. I plan to go back and pick a few to send to my aunt.”
“Is this your aunt that’s an author?”
Fu Beichen nodded slightly. “My grandfather’s death anniversary is approaching, and a newspaper invited her to write a memoir. She called me the day before yesterday. She said she was writing and writing when she suddenly wanted to come back and have a look. Today I’m taking this trip for her.” While he spoke, he looked towards Yuanyuan. Fu Beichen smiled. “I never expected to revisit this place after so many years and encounter you. Cheng Yuanyuan, do you believe in fate? Some people are destined to meet again and again to prove—” He stopped.
Yuanyuan saw that he didn’t intend to go on, and asked: “Prove what?”
Fu Beichen smiled but did not answer. Instead, he changed the topic: “Don’t you have a friend who’s a Buddhist monk? Don’t Buddhists say that everything in this life is the cause and effect of the previous life? In our previous lives, we must have been involved a little.”
Yuanyuan grinned: “I hope I didn’t owe you money in my previous life. If that’s the case, the outcome will definitely be pessimistic. In this lifetime I’m poor, I probably can’t return it.”
“Maybe it’s me who owes you,” Fu Beichen murmured softly. Yuanyuan didn’t hear it, and he said: “Shall we have lunch together? Lately my company has had a lot of work. I’m up to my ears in it.”
It seemed as if his last sentence was some sort of explanation.
When Yuanyuan heard this, she shook her head: “That won’t do, I can’t owe you any more.”
She spoke strictly, and Fu Beichen couldn’t help but laugh. “Did you forget? I’ve never invited you to dinner, the one who asked was you. You’ve invited me to dinner twice.”
“That’s because your righteousness is higher than the sky. I was merely repaying your kindness just in case.” Yuanyuan suddenly thought of something and said: “By the way, I decided to make a pendant out of the piece of jun ware porcelain you generously gave me last time. I’ve even thought about the name, I’ll call it ‘Nirvana’.”
“Nirvana?” When Fu Beichen heard this word, he couldn’t help but slightly tremble.
“Yes, the colours are so beautiful. Just like the beauty of a phoenix bathing in flames.” Yuanyuan didn’t notice any changes in Fu Beichen’s expression at all. “But, I don’t know where to find someone to process it. It’s so beautiful, I don’t want to choose someone carelessly. They could ruin it.”
While Yuanyuan was speaking, a glaring fire flashed in Fu Beichen’s mind. This large fire had emerged in his dreams many times. He took a deep breath, trying his hardest to erase the scene from his mind: “I know an expert jewelry designer. She usually makes handmade jewelry herself, so for this matter, you can request it from her.”
“What’s the matter?”
“As expected, I can’t escape a life where I owe you at all.”
“So? When there are too many debts, one stops worrying about them. Come to dinner with me, alright?”
Yuanyuan didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, “Fu Beichen, I really can’t outtalk you.”
Fu Beichen just smiled and said: “After we eat, I’ll send you back. I might as well pick up the jun ware porcelain from you too.”
“Okay…” Yuanyuan still didn’t understand Fu Beichen, so she didn’t know: On this earth, there were very few people and very few things that Fu Beichen wanted to cling to.
At dusk, the sky was dark, and dense rows of clouds were arranged neatly above. In the two weeks since Cheng Bai had come to S Province, he was already familiar with such earthquake clouds. An hour before, they had just concluded the day’s rescue work. Returning to their temporary station, he took a few bites of food when they suddenly received an order. In a village not far from them, there were wounded people in urgent need of critical care. However, the precise location and number of people was uncertain. Zheng Lizhong finally decided to set out immediately in order to save them.
Since entering the disaster area, they had experienced three major aftershocks. Several personnel in the medical team had been injured as a result. The past few days, Wang Yang’s heart had been suspended in the air. Every time he went out on a mission, his entire being was tense. But he did not expect that on this day, not long after they reached the rescue location, an accident would finally come to their door—he and Cheng Bai had just entered a private house when all of a sudden it moved. Ash and dust were everywhere in an instant. At that moment the world was spinning, and there were only two words in his heart: It’s over.
When the dizziness and dull pain subsided, Wang Yang opened his eyes. His surroundings were pitch black. When he reached out, he couldn’t even see his fingers.
“Wang Yang, Wang Yang can you hear?”
Wang Yang felt that half of his body had sunk into the ground. He faintly heard Cheng Bai’s voice. With difficulty, he opened his mouth: “Cheng Bai, I’m a little scared.”
“Didn’t you say that you’re a man?”
“Heh…” Wang Yang coughed for a moment, then said: “Bro, lately we’ve been working all day, every day. Making every second count. Free time is hard to come by, let’s chat.” Truthfully, Wang Yang was already too tired, but he didn’t dare sleep. He could only exert himself to talk.
“The girl I like got married a while ago.”
“Restrain your grief, accept fate.”
Wang Yang gave a hollow laugh and weakly said: “Cheng Bai, I suddenly remember there was this one time my dormitory had dinner with your dormitory. Lao Mo got a girlfriend and he invited her to dinner. The outcome on that day was that you got drunk for the first time. You said, ‘I wish to stay with her for a long time, yet I can’t say the word like.’ What was that?”
Cheng Bai’s voice seemed a little empty in the darkness. “Did I?”
“Then Lao Mo’s girlfriend said, ‘That like, it is love.’”
Cheng Bai didn’t answer, and Wang Yang spoke again. “In the past we didn’t dare seek gossip from you, plus you definitely wouldn’t tell us even if we asked. But now it’s become like this…Can’t I ask you who she is? You know, you’ve never had a scandal, so if you have anything to say, just say it. These things are precious because they are so rare from you.”
It took a long time before Wang Yang heard Cheng Bai’s voice. It sounded tired, yet carried a thread of deep love: “Yuanyuan, her name is Cheng Yuanyuan.”
Wang Yang tried to move his body but was completely unable to budge. Then he heard Cheng Bai speak again: “That person was wrong. At least, at that time, it was wrong.”
“Who was wrong? Cheng Bai, you seem…to be in a more critical condition than me, where are you?” Wang Yang waited for a while, but there was no response from Cheng Bai. He couldn’t help feeling fearful, “Cheng Bai?”
“En…I’m still alive.”
As the day approached the time to get off work, Yuanyuan received a call from Cheng Shenghua.
When she hung up the phone, Yuanyuan was in a daze. Cheng Bai had come back but was also injured. From Cheng Shenghua’s tone, it seemed that his injuries were not light.
Cheng Yuanyuan then asked the editor-in-chief for an hour off. She left work early and rushed to the hospital.
In the lobby of H University Affiliated Hospital, a banner that said “Welcome to Our Disaster Relief Heroes” was being put up. Yuanyuan didn’t look much and ran directly to the elevator entrance. She took the elevator up to the eighth floor. This floor was the VIP ward, all of which were single rooms. As soon as Yuanyuan entered the ward area, she was stopped by a nurse.
“I’m sorry, may I ask whom you’re looking for?”
“I’m looking for Cheng Bai, he’s an intern doctor at your hospital, I’m his…”
When the young nurse heard Cheng Bai’s name, her eyes fluctuated clearly.
And Cheng Yuanyuan suddenly realized that she didn’t know what to say about the relationship between her and Cheng Bai.
“…His younger sister.” After considering it, she felt this was the most suitable way to put it.
“Younger sister?” The young nurse didn’t believe it, because she had never heard Doctor Cheng mention a sister.
This was the VIP ward. If someone rushed in impetuously, the nurse had to ask clearly. If it was an insignificant person, or even someone who intended to make trouble and interrupt the patients’ rest, then the leader would also have to take responsibility.
“My name is Cheng Yuanyuan.” Yuanyuan saw that her work ID was still hanging on her chest. She quickly took it off and held it up for the nurse to see. “Look, my surname is also Cheng.” At this moment, Yuanyuan was suddenly very glad that she and Cheng Bai had the same last name.
The young nurse was half convinced and half skeptical as she flipped through a folder suspiciously. She turned to the page with Cheng Shenghua’s number on it and asked, “Then what’s your dad’s phone number?”
Dad. Yuanyuan immediately realized that it was Uncle Shenghua. She hurriedly reported the number that she knew so well by heart. The young nurse finally believed her, and there was a little flattery in her eyes when she said: “Doctor Cheng is in room 806, the third room on the right. Do you need me to take you there?”
“No need, thank you,” Yuanyuan declined. She then ran over there immediately.
Opening the door of 806, Yuanyuan found that the entire hospital room was excessively clean and tidy. Except for a few flower bouquets placed on the coffee table and the sound of medical devices, there was no liveliness at all.
Because Cheng Bai was gravely injured, some necessary treatments had been done at the disaster area’s hospital the night before. After being sent back today, the hospital had performed another operation on him. At this time, his anaesthetic had not yet worn off. He was still asleep. The curtains in the room were all drawn, but a ray of sunlight filtered through the two-layer blinds. It shone on Cheng Bai’s forehead.
Yuanyuan saw the thick gauze on his forehead. Although she couldn’t tell how much it hurt, it still made her heart drop.
At this time, Cheng Shenghua walked in.
“Yuanyuan?” Cheng Shenghua’s voice was a little hoarse.
Yuanyuan turned around, “Uncle.” She looked at Cheng Bai again, then carefully asked: “How is Cheng Bai?”
“His entire body is covered in bruises and scrapes. The most serious is his left hand and left leg. Both are broken.” Cheng Shenghua’s tone seemed to be complaining, but it also contained pride. “Fortunately, there are no missing arms or legs. He still has his whole body. These injuries, they will be treated and he will be fine. He’s young and vigorous and should suffer a bit. Is it so easy to go to a disaster area?”
Hearing that there was no irreparable harm, Yuanyuan finally let out a long sigh of relief in her heart. Cheng Bai had finally come back, so she didn’t have to be so scared and on edge. She didn’t need to worry about Uncle Shenghua outliving his own child. Pei pei pei, children’s words carried no harm.
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