In Ji Anning’s mind, there was a moment of confusion. Various complex emotions collided and clashed within her, some fierce and violent, conflicting and tearing at her rationality.
Finally, she suppressed all these emotions, took a deep breath, and regained her composure.
“Actually…” She clenched her fist, trying to speak as calmly as possible, “I don’t really recommend going to bars. And as for NL, I only worked there for a short period of time, so I can’t really help much.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. I’ll just tell her,” Meng Xinyu said, not bothered by it.
“Found it! Take a look!” Bai Lu held her phone out in front of Ji Anning.
“See, this is Sun Yaxian’s boyfriend,” she whispered, “Whenever she goes out to play or eat, she takes photos and posts them on her social media.”
The man, rumored to be an elite from Cambridge, looked to be in his twenties, not yet thirty. He had an average appearance but carried a good demeanor, exuding a sense of maturity.
Sometimes, a man’s qualities were not just based on his looks. Knowledge, temperament, and even wealth could be reflected outwardly. Taking all these factors into consideration, he seemed to be quite an impressive man. He matched well with a beautiful girl like Sun Yaxian.
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She stared at it for a moment and asked Bai Lu, “Could you send me this picture?”
“Sure,” Bai Lu was a bit curious, “But why do you need her photo?”
Ji Anning said, “There’s someone in the background, and they look familiar. I want to show it to someone and ask.”
Bai Lu was about to ask who that person was, but the bell for class rang. She sent the photo to Ji Anning and then returned to her seat. By the time the class ended, she had forgotten all about this matter.
During lunchtime, Wen Yu noticed that Ji Anning seemed unusually quiet. Over this period, due to the smooth progress of her work, she had been becoming more and more cheerful. He wondered what had happened today.
“Are you feeling unwell?” he asked.
Ji Anning glanced at him, but there were others at the table, so she just said, “No,” and remained silent.
Wen Yu sensed that there was something left unsaid in Ji Anning’s glance, which slightly surprised him.
Ji Anning wasn’t the type to sulk or be melodramatic. When she had something on her mind, she would earnestly communicate with the other person. Although her seriousness often amused Wen Yu, he couldn’t deny that smooth communication between a couple was truly satisfying.
No unnecessary drama, awkwardness, or misunderstandings.
Wen Yu knew that if Ji Anning wasn’t saying something, it must be because she couldn’t for some reason.
He didn’t press further and instead asked, “Are you going home later?”
Ji Anning glanced toward the cafeteria entrance. The cold wind at the end of November had blown the cloth curtain up, and it was overcast outside.
If the sun were out, she could have taken her grandmother out to sunbathe. On a day like this, they could only stay indoors.
“Going back,” she said, “to give my grandmother’s knees a bit of warmth.”
In winter, her grandmother’s knees would ache. She had specially bought an infrared heating lamp for her.
Her grandmother’s knee pain wasn’t due to a single cause. It was a combination of rheumatism and pain in the lower limbs caused by herniated discs. It wasn’t too severe at the moment, but it would worsen over time. That’s why Ji Anning planned to take her grandmother to the hospital for a check-up on Thursday, seeking early diagnosis and treatment, hoping her grandmother’s condition could be better than in her previous life.
After saying that, she turned to Chen Hao and asked, “And you?”
Chen Hao replied, “My maternal grandfather (waigong)3grandpa on mom’s side, my maternal grandmother (waipo)4 grandma on mom’s side and paternal grandmother (nainai) 5 grandma on dad’s side has passed. The only elder left is my paternal grandfather (yeye)6 grandpa on dad’s side, who is in our hometown. My dad asked him to come live with us, but he refused.”
Bai Lu had always been lively, talkative, and curious. She casually asked Wen Yu, “What about you, Wen Yu?”
Wen Yu replied, “My grandparents passed away early, and I never got to meet them. My maternal grandparents were sent by my mom to settle abroad. The air and environment are better there, more suitable for the elderly.”
Ji Anning had a unique understanding of Wen Yu that others couldn’t compare to. She sensed from his tone and demeanor that he didn’t seem close to his maternal grandparents.
Wen Yu had disappeared from the school during the second semester of Ji Anning’s freshman year, more than half a year from now.
Since being together with Wen Yu, Ji Anning had also subtly inquired about his family situation. But Wen Yu was astute; he could sense when she delved too deeply. She circled around and probed, but only managed to gather a few inconsequential details.
Furthermore, Wen Yu valued his privacy greatly. Unless Ji Anning took the initiative to ask, he rarely brought up his family. This was completely different from other students who casually discussed their family situations.
After finishing their meal, Bai Lu and Chen Hao went back to the classroom. These two were deeply in love, as if time was never enough.
Wen Yu felt a bit sour and gave Ji Anning a somewhat resentful look, like a grumbling spouse.
Ji Anning felt a bit helpless. She knew what Wen Yu was sour about. He always wanted to progress their relationship more quickly, but she was diligently maintaining a measured pace.
Ji Anning deeply understood Wen Yu’s intensity and determination in love, how profound his feelings could be. However, she didn’t know whether it would be long-lasting.7Carpe Diem. Seize the day. We can’t predict if something would last forever.
Once he obtained what he wanted, he might become indifferent, even disdainful, and leave just like that. This was one of the flaws in a man’s nature.
Back when she was working at NL, Ji Anning had often heard those street-smart older sisters curse the kind of men who were passionate before intimacy but walked away after pulling up their pants.
If she let him have what he wanted too early, and if he subsequently grew disinterested and decided to part ways, she might lose her identity as a girlfriend. And then, she would probably lose the ability to understand and be involved in his affairs.
In this lifetime, for Ji Anning, being in love with Wen Yu, being together or breaking up, none of that was the most important thing.
For both her and him, being safe and sound was what mattered the most.
Even if it’s just being well and happy individually, it’s okay.
So, after quitting her job at the café, even if she had time in the evenings, Ji Anning refused to go out with Wen Yu for entertainment on weekends.
From his descriptions, she could tell that his idea of fun and relaxation often involved alcohol and recklessness, much like the reckless revelry in the private rooms at NL.
Ji Anning was familiar with that environment. She feared that their relationship might spiral out of her control in such an environment.
Ji Anning had always been somewhat serious and stubborn. To Wen Yu, she was always special.
She held firm to her principles, not easily swayed. Despite Wen Yu’s sourness, he wasn’t angry; in fact, his infatuation with her seemed to deepen.
From another perspective, this precisely proved the flaws in a man’s nature.
Isn’t the unattainable always the best?
Wen Yu wanted to accompany Ji Anning home, but she said, “You should go back to your dormitory for a nap. The heating lamp requires undressing, which might be inconvenient for you.”
She looked up at the sky and muttered to herself, “Though it’s overcast, the air is quite good today. I’ll open the window for a bit to let in some fresh air later.”
Wen Yu knew that Ji Anning didn’t like coming to her small and cramped home.
It was an old building, designed in a very outdated way. As soon as you entered, you were in the living room; there was only this one room, so small that it didn’t differentiate between a dining room and a living room.
The living room had no windows. To the left of the entrance was the restroom, small and dimly lit without windows. There were two doors beyond the small living room: one led to the bedroom with a small balcony, and the other to the kitchen, which was relatively well-lit and had a window, but Ji Anning always locked the door with an iron lock.
The balcony in the bedroom was also fully enclosed.
In short, the ventilation in that small house’s living room wasn’t good, making it a bit stuffy. And her grandmother… caused the house to always have an odd smell.
Ji Anning insisted on going home for lunch and in the afternoon. Besides heating up food for her grandmother and taking her out for walks in the sun, the most important thing was to open the windows and let in some fresh air.
However, even with that, there always seemed to be a faint, lingering smell in the house.
Wen Yu held Ji Anning back and asked, “Did you want to say something just now?”
The strong wind was blowing, classmates were hurriedly moving about; it wasn’t the right time for a conversation. Ji Anning hesitated for a moment and said, “Hmm, let’s talk about it tonight.”
It was almost December, and indeed, it was getting cold outdoors.
Wen Yu said, “Then you better head back.”
But he insisted on escorting Ji Anning, despite her objections. He said, “Don’t mind me! I’m driving out for something!”
Hearing his insolent tone, Ji Anning knew he was just bluffing. He was clingy, excessively so, always wanting to be with her, much like Bai Lu and Chen Hao.
Like a clingy large dog, there was just no way around it.
Ji Anning could only let him walk to the roadside with her and then gave him a stern look.
Wen Yu touched his nose and said, “I’m leaving.”
His car was parked by the road; he parked there almost every day, and it had essentially become his designated spot. He mockingly walked toward his car, then actually opened the door and got in.
Ji Anning almost burst into laughter, ignoring him, and crossed the road on her own.
Wen Yu, being caught in the act, watched her cross the road from his car and made a clicking sound with his tongue. He really had nothing to do; he was just messing with Ji Anning.
He felt it was foolish to get out of the car now and return to the dormitory. He put his hand on the steering wheel, hesitated for a couple of seconds, looked at the strong wind blowing fallen leaves outside, and suddenly remembered Ji Anning saying that the air was quite good today.
The air had become increasingly worse in recent years, especially after the heating was turned on in winter, the sky would become visibly hazy. Every time he came home recently, he heard Cheng Lian complaining about the air multiple times. Her complaints weren’t limited to the air; in short, returning to that home, Cheng Lian made everyone feel miserable. Wen Yu usually just greeted her and quickly went to the study to accompany Wen Guoan.
Thinking of this,Wen Yu had an idea. He started the car and drove away for real.
Since quitting her job at the café, Ji Anning had more free time in the evenings. With more time to study, she felt much less pressure academically. In her previous life, studying had been quite challenging, but now, she realized it was likely due to the fact that her part-time job had consumed a lot of her time and energy.
Now, she cooked dinner for herself at home every day. This way, her grandmother could enjoy freshly cooked meals almost every day. She only worked on weekends and couldn’t guarantee being home to provide her grandmother with warm packed meals.
It was fortunate that her grandmother would find food in the lunchbox when she was hungry. Ji Anning was genuinely afraid that there might come a day when her grandmother wouldn’t even recognize the lunchbox anymore.
She had originally planned to talk to Wen Yu after dinner, as usual, when she went for her kickboxing club training. But before she could even finish cleaning up the dishes, someone knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” She hastily wiped her hands and hurried over to ask.
“It’s me,” a deep and masculine voice sounded. Just from the sound of it, she knew it was Wen Yu.
Ji Anning was slightly surprised and opened the door for him.
Wen Yu entered carrying a box, and it seemed quite heavy.
“…What’s this?” Ji Anning inquired, “What’s in the box?”
Wen Yu placed the box on the floor, stood up straight, and smiled, “An air purifier, Swedish-made. It’s particularly effective at removing odors.”
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