Always By Your Side - Chapter 14
Chapter 14: Whose Lovesickness Is Deeper than the Sea
When Cheng Bai woke up, he didn’t open his eyes right away. He took a deep breath first and felt his head swell. It seemed like there was a big temple bell over his skull. The top of his head was a bit numb, and his neck was a little—he tried to bend his fingers. His right hand had no problems, but his left hand…couldn’t move.
“It’s really bad timing. Auntie Zhu’s youngest son is getting married. The day before yesterday, she asked me if she could go home for a week to help with her son’s wedding. Yuanyuan, please help me take care of Cheng Bai here. I’m going home to clean up and bring him a change of clothes.”
It was his father’s voice. Also, Cheng Yuanyuan? She was here too?
After that, Cheng Bai heard the sound of a door opening and closing. It seemed his father had left.
Cheng Bai opened his eyes and was taken aback by Yuanyuan who had just turned around to look at him.
Cheng Bai blinked his eyes, did not speak, and blinked again.
“What’s the matter? Are your eyes uncomfortable?” Yuanyuan asked in a low voice as she drew nearer.
“Ah.” Cheng Bai cleared his throat. “What’s the date today?” As expected, the moment he spoke, his voice was extremely hoarse.
He thought he had been in a coma for a long time, but it turned out to be less than two days. Obviously, it felt like he had slept for a long, long time. So long that he had carefully relived his life of more than twenty years in his sleep.
Cheng Bai didn’t speak and Yuanyuan didn’t know what to say. She stood there stupidly for a while. When she saw him close his eyes once more, she secretly breathed a sigh of relief.
The room resumed its peaceful state. Yuanyuan sat on the small sofa at the back. Cheng Bai naturally wasn’t sleepy anymore. Now he was just tired. He closed his eyes to rest his mind. Before long, he opened his eyes again and looked at the person at the end of the sofa. After a while, he said, “Cheng Yuanyuan, come here.”
Yuanyuan lifted her head for the first time, “What for?”
“Then I’ll go and call the nurse,” she said hastily.
Seeing that she was getting ready to leave with vigorous agility, Cheng Bai used strenuous effort to stop her: “Come back.”
Yuanyuan suspiciously turned around.
“For this kind of thing you need to call a nurse? You come.” Cheng Bai’s voice was very gentle, and his words and expressions were all spoken slowly. If he replaced them with friendly words, then paired with this tone, it would remind people of tenderness and sweet talk.
His complexion was pale, but his self-talking and arrogant temper hadn’t changed. Since he was currently a hero who had fought against a natural disaster, Yuanyuan intended not to argue with him for now.
“The outer side of my right arm.” Cheng Bai’s right hand was placed on the quilt. On the back of his hand, a needle that was suspended to a drip had been inserted. Compared to his left hand that was in a cast, his right arm was not bad. Except for some light abrasions, the appearance of his skin was still clean and white. Yuanyuan walked over. She reached out and scratched his white arm. As a result, Cheng Bai’s skin that resembled water tofu suddenly had three red marks emerge.
Yuanyuan hurriedly put her hands away and looked at Cheng Bai apprehensively.
“Go cut and clean your fingernails,” Cheng Bai said with a stormy face.
For those three red marks, Yuanyuan felt a little apologetic and explained: “I usually cut them, it’s just that lately I’ve been busy and forgot. Besides, there are no nail clippers here…”
Cheng Bai cut her off: “You have such a sharp mouth, just bite it directly.”
Yuanyuan was stupefied. Staring at him blankly, she said: “You didn’t fall and break your head, right? Don’t you have an obsession with cleanliness, Doctor Cheng?”
“I do, you don’t.” Cheng Bai closed his eyes and pulled himself together. Making himself look extremely sick and weak, he said, “Enough, get me some water to drink.”
At this time, there was a group of people standing outside the door. It was a team of five people led by Deputy Dean Zhang Deyu.
“Lao Yang, ah.” Zhang Deyu turned his head to look at Yang Yi, the deputy director of the department where Cheng Bai was working. “Didn’t you say that Xiao Cheng normally doesn’t talk much? Isn’t this a lot of talking!”
“Can we compare to his family?” Yang Yi laughed, “Just now didn’t Xiao Zhao say his little sister is inside?”
After that, the leaders knocked on the door before entering.
Cheng Shenghua would be back soon. Before Cheng Shenghua returned, Yuanyuan and Cheng Bai had a rare tacit cooperation. Several hospital leaders were received appropriately.
On that day, Yuanyuan had just returned to her residence when she received a call from her mother.
“Yuanyuan, tomorrow is Saturday, are you coming back?”
“Mom, Cheng Bai got injured and Auntie Zhu isn’t there. I don’t think I’ll be coming back. I’m going to stay and help Uncle Shenghua.”
“What? Cheng Bai was injured?”
Yuanyuan suddenly remembered that her mother didn’t know about Cheng Bai’s work in the disaster area. She had not told her, and of course Uncle Shenghua would also not say anything.
Yuanyuan explained to her mother. Dai Shufen said a few words to her immediately after hearing the news. She rebuked Yuanyuan for not telling her about such a huge matter, and also stated that she would go to see Cheng Bai early the next morning. Yuanyuan noticed the imbalance and thought, Why does it feel like he is your only son? Did you know that he’s always enslaved your daughter? Yuanyuan flopped on the bed, then her phone rang again. She thought her mother still wanted to speak with her and pressed the “answer” button tiredly. She picked up the call while making fun of her own suffering: “Alright, I was wrong, I should have told you—”
It was Fu Beichen.
Yuanyuan instantly opened her eyes.
“Ah, I’m sorry. I thought you were my mom.”
“Your mood isn’t very good, did something happen?” His tone of voice always calmed her down so easily.
Yuanyuan didn’t have any concealed thoughts from Fu Beichen, “It’s just that my mother said a few words to me. It’s nothing. Fu Beichen, were you looking for me for something?”
“Do I need a reason to find you?” Fu Beichen asked slowly with a small smile.
Fu Beichen spoke one minute and was quiet the next as he chatted with her. He listened to Yuanyuan’s voice becoming more and more soft, her replies becoming less and less frequent, and then…He smiled. She was probably asleep now.
Fu Beichen put away his mobile phone and looked at the subtitles on his paused laptop screen. It was the exact phrase, “Do I need a reason to find you?” He closed the laptop and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as he pressed his forehead.
On Saturday morning, Dai Shufen rushed to Yuanyuan’s place with big and small bags. Yuanyuan took a look and discovered that they were all for Cheng Bai. She wanted to say a few words of complaint but remembered yesterday’s lecture. Therefore, she obediently kept her mouth shut and took her mother directly to the hospital.
On the way, Dai Shufen told Yuanyuan that the rental period for the shopfront at their house was up. The female teacher who originally opened a book café had a son that recently gave birth to twins in the United States. She was going over to help look after the babies. Although there were currently many people who wanted to rent, Dai Shufen preferred to open and run her own small teahouse.
“Yi? Mom, why did you think of opening a teahouse?”
“In the past I had to take care of your grandmother, and I didn’t have time to earn any money. Everything came from the shop rent and your father’s remaining assets. When you were attending school, I could only give you a little each year. You’ve worked hard and you’ve never complained about me. But when you get married in the future, I’ve always wanted to save up for your dowry.”
In Yuanyuan’s heart, she thought, I complained about you yesterday.
“Do you still remember Uncle Yong?”
“Yong…” Yuanyuan’s eyes turned, and at once she remembered. “Ah, Bighead Uncle Yong!”
Dai Shufen glared at her, “It’s not big or small.”
Yuanyuan chuckled, “Who made his name so odd. Why is he called Yong Yu? Isn’t the bighead carp (yong yu) a fish with a big head? Besides, his head really is super big!”
Dai Shufen didn’t feel like nagging at her, so she simply said: “Ten years ago, he stayed at our hotel and left a box of things behind. Afterwards, we kept it for him. We knew he would come back to look for it. Because of this, he has always been very grateful. Your Uncle Yong came on a business trip a few days ago. He visited our house and sat for a bit. He knew that your grandmother passed away and asked me if I wanted to open a tea shop or teahouse. He has channels in Fujian and Guangdong. It just so happened that our house’s storefront was also vacant. I think, by referencing the previous operation style of the book café, we can try opening a teahouse.”
Yuanyuan thought, Nowadays Mom is by herself in her hometown, she must feel lonely and bored. “Mom, I support you. But you don’t need to work so hard to make money. Just earning some and spending it on yourself is good. Your daughter can earn her dowry herself.”
Dai Shufen stroked her daughter’s head.
After arriving at the hospital, Dai Shufen saw Cheng Bai. She showed care in every possible way as she asked him how he was. She then recalled the things she had brought and quickly pulled out a thermos. When she opened it, an enticing fragrance immediately permeated the air.
“Mom, what is that? It smells so good.” Yuanyuan leaned over.
“It’s called Qu Yu Sheng Xin soup.” Dai Shufen patted Yuanyuan’s head. “It’s for Cheng Bai to drink.”
In an instant she had lost favour again. Feeling wronged, Yuanyuan touched her head and sat to the side.
Cheng Bai took a sip of the soup and said to Dai Shufen, “Auntie, this soup has pseudoginseng, rehmannia glutinosa, and red dates, right? It improves blood circulation to dissipate blood stasis. This is most suitable to drink within two weeks of a bone injury. Thank you for your trouble.”
Dai Shufen smiled: “Sure enough, you really are a child from an imperial physician’s family. You only had one sip and knew the Chinese medicines inside. The lean pork inside doesn’t have fat or tendons, so drink as much as you like.”
“It’s enough for you to come and see him. What are you bringing so many things for?” Cheng Shenghua, who was off to the side, said this to Dai Shufen.
While Dai Shufen and Cheng Shenghua talked, Yuanyuan watched Cheng Bai leisurely drink the soup. Her stomach unexpectedly rumbled, and she was instantly embarrassed.
Cheng Bai looked at Yuanyuan and said: “Wipe your saliva. Even if I wanted to give you this soup to drink, it’s not suitable for you.”
Dai Shufen smiled angrily at her daughter, “This child!”
Dai Shufen originally wanted to stay and look after Cheng Bai, but the nurse’s aides in the VIP ward were taking good care of him. In addition, it was possible Cheng Bai would feel uncomfortable with her there, so she didn’t mention it. Still, Dai Shufen instructed her daughter: “Yuanyuan, your office is close by. Every day when you get off work, just come by and check on Cheng Bai. Keep him company and chat with him. Help when you can. Tomorrow is Sunday, you should stop by early in the morning. Make some breakfast and bring it over—right, later we’re going to the supermarket, I’ll prepare ingredients like hawthorn for broken bone recovery. You just have to get up and cook it tomorrow.”
Yuanyuan listened to the anguished wailing in her heart. By doing this, she would die young before Cheng Bai even healed! But on the outside, Yuanyuan still agreed with her mother very sincerely. At noon, Cheng Shenghua took Dai Shufen and Yuanyuan out for lunch. Not long after the three of them left, little Nurse Zhao came in to give Cheng Bai an IV drip.
“Doctor Cheng, your little sister left?” she asked sweetly.
“Little sister?” Cheng Bai’s eyebrows furrowed slightly.
“Yeah, Cheng Yuanyuan, she told me when she came in yesterday.” Little Nurse Zhao studied Cheng Bai and asked suspiciously, “Don’t tell me she isn’t?”
Cheng Bai didn’t answer, instead asking: “Is it your shift tomorrow morning?”
She nodded, “En, yes.”
Cheng Bai said politely: “Then I’ll have to trouble you. Tomorrow morning if you see my younger sister come without breakfast, tell her to go back and bring it. Thank you.”
Little Nurse Zhao was stunned. She wanted to say, “Why don’t I bring you breakfast tomorrow?”, but when she lifted her eyes and saw Cheng Bai’s expression meant to ward off strangers, the words that were about to leave her mouth were quickly swallowed again.
The next day, little Nurse Zhao waited for a long time, but Cheng Yuanyuan didn’t come. It wasn’t until noon approached that she saw the long overdue Yuanyuan—with only an umbrella in hand due to the rain outside.
“Cheng Yuanyuan, your big brother said…” Little Nurse Zhao still stopped her dutifully. However, she felt that Doctor Cheng’s words were really difficult to convey. Not to mention it was almost lunchtime now. She consequently changed her tune: “Have you had lunch?”
Cheng Yuanyuan was taken aback. Cheng Bai had told the nurse to ask her if she had lunch? Wasn’t it only a quarter past ten right now? Normal people probably hadn’t eaten yet. Could that person’s head really have broken? After all, his head had five stitches. Thinking this way in her heart, Yuanyuan beamed at the nurse: “I haven’t eaten yet, it’s still early.”
Xiao Zhao looked at Yuanyuan. She couldn’t help but think that this brother and sister pair were so strange. The older brother had a coldhearted expression every day, while the younger sister was so lively.
“Ah!” Yuanyuan suddenly called out at this moment. She finally remembered that her mother had told her to make hawthorn porridge. “I forgot to make porridge for Cheng Bai.”
Last night she had been in a rush to finish her manuscript until the wee hours of the morning. When it was already past six o’clock, she washed up and went to the hospital. Therefore she really couldn’t be blamed, she truly lacked sleep and had been absent-minded. Yuanyuan was mulling over how to go in and explain it to Cheng Bai. She would offer to make the porridge for him tomorrow, shouldn’t that be okay?
Listening to Yuanyuan talk to herself, Xiao Zhao could finally pass on Doctor Cheng’s words without being abrupt. “Your big brother said that if you didn’t bring breakfast, you should go back and get it.”
“……” Cheng Bai leaned against the head of the bed. He looked at the figure standing two metres away from him. Cheng Yuanyuan was lowering her head and promising him that she would definitely remember to make the porridge and bring it to him tomorrow. He watched her for a while.
Yuanyuan secretly rejoiced that she had managed to flee from the tiger’s den. At the same time, she felt that Cheng Bai was being quite fair and reasonable today. Thus, she asked with good intentions: “Are you hungry? Should I go and get you lunch right now?”
“I was hungry all morning, now I don’t feel like it.”
Cheng Bai’s voice was flat and indifferent, but Yuanyuan listened in fear and trepidation. The satire in his words was too obvious. She swallowed her saliva, “Then…do you want to eat or not?” Yuanyuan felt as if she was possessed by the spirit of the comedian Xiaoshenyang.
Cheng Bai didn’t seem to want to say another word to her. He reached for the book on his nightstand and started reading.
Yuanyuan thought that it was her own negligence after all, so she whispered: “Then I’ll wait until you feel like eating.” The sofa was full of various goods, such as nourishing foods and a travel bag packed with clothes. Only the chair beside his bed was empty. Yuanyuan didn’t dare sit in his presence, so she moved to stand against the wall. She played on her phone while waiting.
Cheng Bai’s right index finger lightly tapped the pages of his book slowly, like an unconscious motion.
And while Yuanyuan lowered her head, she tapped her foot either intentionally or unintentionally. Again, then again. This was what she did when waiting for someone.
Out of the corner of Cheng Bai’s eyes, he saw her movements and was slightly startled. Only then did he understand that, over the years, his subconscious movements when reading books had been learned from her.
Inside it was very quiet, but outside the window, the sound of rain was delicate and continuous.
At this moment, the two of them were recalling the same past event from the sound of the rain—on an evening at the end of summer, there was suddenly a heavy rainstorm. Raindrops splattered on the ground, splashing sheets of water.
She held a red umbrella and stood quietly on the stone road in front of the teaching building. In her arms she held a black umbrella. Several rows of hardy banana trees were planted on either side of the stone road. Rainwater beat against the banana leaves as she watched the school gates attentively, as if afraid she would miss something.
The surrounding students passing by all looked at her strangely. She turned a blind eye. She didn’t know how long it would take. Her shoes were soaked through, both feet felt numb, and her shirtsleeves were drenched by the rain, clinging to her arms. It felt very uncomfortable.
At last, she finally got to see the person she was waiting for.
He originally wanted to trouble the classmates at his side to send him to the school gate. But then he saw her, and at a glance, he also saw the medical tape at the back of her neck.
He took the umbrella in his classmate’s hand, “Lend this to me for a bit.”
Seeing him approach, she wanted to rush over. But before she could move, her foot softened and she almost fell. When she raised her eyes he was already in front of her. She quickly smiled and passed the black umbrella over. But he only looked at her without taking it. Then, she heard him say calmly: “How many times have I told you not to wait for me. I don’t need you to help me do anything. I don’t need it.”
The smile on her face froze, “It’s raining so heavily, take the umbrella, I’m leaving now.”
He extended his hand and slapped it. His original intention was to push it away, but he couldn’t control his strength. He struck the hand that was holding a red umbrella and it fell to the ground. The heavy rain hit her in an instant. He didn’t know whether it was the rain or tears that flowed from the corners of her eyes at that moment. Time would make people forget many things, but the things that remained in one’s memory year after year either wanted to be forgotten or unforgettable. Sometimes, they wanted to be engraved in one’s memory for a lifetime.
“There’s a card for the hospital cafeteria in that coat on the sofa. Take it and eat something,” Cheng Bai spoke suddenly.
“Yi?” Yuanyuan withdrew her deep thoughts and looked at Cheng Bai. “Then what about you?”
Cheng Bai wanted to say there was no need, but after thinking about it, he said: “Just pack whatever you want.”
“Oh.” Yuanyuan was indeed hungry. As soon as she heard that she could go eat, she immediately ran over to Cheng Bai’s jacket pocket and took out…his wallet.
“The card is in my wallet.”
“Oh.” Thus, Yuanyuan opened Cheng Bai’s wallet. There were many cards inside, and Yuanyuan searched for a while to find the meal card.
When Yuanyuan lined up at the hospital cafeteria to buy food, she found that many people were sizing her up. She couldn’t help touching her face. Could it be that she had gotten something? The person behind her suddenly asked, “Are you Doctor Cheng’s little sister?”
Yuanyuan turned back and asked suspiciously, “How did you know?”
The young female doctor in a white coat smiled and said, “I heard.” Soon after she did not forget to show her concern: “I hope your older brother recovers soon.”
What could Yuanyuan say? “Thank you.”
That afternoon when Yuanyuan wanted to go back to her place, she was very sleepy and accidentally took the wrong bus. Originally she needed to take the No. 1 bus, but ended up taking the No. 11. Fortunately, the No. 11 bus also stopped at Hongfeng New Village, it was just a little further. When the bus passed by Yanling Alley, Yuanyuan was stunned for a moment. She remembered that the shop address on the Chinese medicine list last time was No. 18 Yanling Alley.
She recalled that after taking the Chinese medicine for two days, her cold and rhinitis had mostly recovered. She called Uncle Shenghua to thank him, only to learn that the medicine hadn’t been sent by him.
If it wasn’t from Uncle Shenghua, then who could it be? Yuanyuan was truly puzzled over it.
Since she’d passed through by mistake today, she suddenly wanted to visit Houdetang and inquire about it—it just so happened that the medicine list was in her wallet. So Yuanyuan got off the bus at the next stop.
Houdetang was not hard to find, but the shopfront was extremely low-profile. Yuanyuan held the medicine list and paced back and forth outside the old door for a while. Since Wang Yue had talked about how powerful this Chinese medicine hall was last time, she felt that if she went in and asked, “Can you help me find out who prepared this medicine list for Cheng Yuanyuan?”, she would definitely be ignored, right?
He Pu returned to Houdetang after having lunch. As soon as he entered Yanling Alley, he saw a girl standing in front of the shop’s doorway. Her hair was in a ponytail, and she wore a thin wool sweater with jeans. Her side profile looked delicate, pretty, and youthful. When he approached, his eyes swept over the medicine list in Yuanyuan’s hand. He was taken aback and opened his mouth to say, “Hello, are you here to visit a doctor? Do you have an appointment?”
Yuanyuan turned her head and saw He Pu in his white coat with a smile on his face.
He appeared to be a doctor from Houdetang. “No…I…I’m not here to see a doctor.” Yuanyuan thought that she was in the way so she stepped aside.
He Pu didn’t leave. He said: “Would you let me see the list in your hand?”
Yuanyuan thought, Why don’t you ask this doctor, he looks very cordial and friendly. Thus Yuanyuan handed him the medicine list she was holding and asked what she had been wanting to ask.
He Pu took the list, read the words on it thoroughly, and couldn’t help cheering in his heart: Expert Fu ah, Expert Fu, I questioned you in every way. You never told me what you were doing with this medicine, but this time I’ve got you!
What was this called? Using no effort! He Pu did not reveal any expression as he studied Yuanyuan. Then he politely returned the medicine list, saying, “Apologies. We only record the information of the person who is taking the medicine. We don’t concern ourselves with who pays.” This was the truth.
“Oh…” Yuanyuan wasn’t surprised, but she was a little disappointed.
In the end she had made a trip for nothing.
At this moment, Yuanyuan’s phone rang. She fished it out of her rucksack to see that it was her mother. She thanked the doctor in front of her, then answered the phone as she walked out of the alley.
He Pu watched her leave before stepping into the medicine hall and giving Expert Fu a call. As soon as the call picked up, he said: “Just now I met a girl with a graceful figure, about 1.65 metres tall. She was pretty with delicate features, a pair of large, round eyes, and a small beauty mark between her eyebrows. I wonder if Expert Fu recognizes her? Ah, right, her name was Cheng Yuanyuan.”
Fu Beichen was quiet on the other end of the phone, then said: “Where did you see her?”
“Houdetang’s front door.” He Pu’s manner of speaking was saturated with ridicule, “It turns out you can take the initiative to show your goodwill to this girl, tsk tsk, I can’t see it, tsk tsk.”
“What did she go there for?” Fu Beichen remained unmoved and only asked what he wanted to know. Could it be that she was sick?
“She came to find out who so very kindly sent her medicine on the sixth of this month. I helped you keep your secret. Treat me to a meal.” He Pu wanted to take credit for his achievement.
“You can tell her,” Fu Beichen said. Not saying it was one thing, but deliberately concealing it was another matter.
“Beichen, are you…really pursuing someone?”
“Hang up, I’m having lunch with people.”
Just when He Pu was about to open his mouth again, he heard his phone beep. The call was over.
Fu Beichen was having a meal with several leaders of the Jinghai Ceramics Museum. After listening to the others idly chat for a while, Fu Beichen stood up. He nodded to the people at the dining table and said, “Apologies, I’m going out for a moment.” Then he walked out of the private room. In the corridor, he called her, and very soon a voice came from the other end: “Hello, Fu Beichen?”
“En.” He never knew that his state of mind could actually be so easily stirred.
Continuous lovesickness, continuous lovesickness.
He didn’t know when it started.
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