"It's been a while since I last saw you, and you seem to have lost weight," Ling Shu said, lifting up Ya Qi's chin.
But in reality, she didn't hear what he said at all, only feeling Ling Shu's breath close to her.
"Have I become ugly?" Ya Qi instinctively touched her face, caring about Ling Shu's opinion.
"No, you're still as beautiful as before, just thinner. I still prefer you to be a little chubby, with some flesh to pinch," Ling Shu said with a flippant tone, but in reality, he only reached out to pinch her face, completely different from those customers who liked to be handsy.
"Rosie, where did you get these grapes?" he asked the dancer on his other side.
"Freshly arrived today, Ling Shao really knows his goods," Rosie said with a smile, no longer the shy and inexperienced girl she was when they first met.
This place was like a big dyeing vat. Even if you came in with white cloth, you would at least come out with a shade of pink, if not dyed black or blue.
"Go get me some more. This tiny bit won't be enough for us to share," Ling Shu said, and Rosie went off gracefully to do his bidding.
Lately, she had been showing signs of competing with Ya Qi for the top spot as Feilengcui's first dancer. She had even managed to lure some of Ya Qi's clients over to her side.
Ya Qi wasn't stupid, of course.
She knew what was going on, but the two of them kept up a facade of friendliness.
All the undercurrents of competition were hidden from view, and Ya Qi didn't want to ruin Ling Shu's good impression of her.
Lost in thought, Ya Qi suddenly found a sachet in her hand.
"Who gave you this pretty little thing again? I don't want anyone else giving you gifts," she pretended to pout, hiding her jealousy.
"Open it and see," Ling Shu said.
Ya Qi pouted and untied the ribbon on the sachet, her expression turning to surprise.
Inside were several rolls of beautiful banknotes and some crisp bills, stuffing the sachet full and making it heavy.
"This, Young Master Ling?"
"Take it, it's all clean money. You've always wanted to leave Feilengcui, this place isn't suitable for you. Find some relatives to stay with first, it's not safe to be alone outside. And remember, don't flaunt your wealth."
Ling Shu had received a lot of compensation from He You'an before, but he had donated most of it and left some for the Li Hexin.
The rest was now in this sachet.
Ya Qi's eyes turned red. "Thank you, Mr. Ling, but you must have worked hard for this money. I can't take it..."
Ling Shu lazily leaned back on the sofa, impatient with her crying and whining.
"Alright, enough already. Put it away quickly. If Rosie sees it when she comes back, she'll definitely go tell the boss, and then you won't get a single penny!"
Out of the corner of her eye, Ya Qi caught a glimpse of Rosie approaching. She didn't have time to say more, so she quickly stuffed the sachet into her pocket and lowered her head to adjust her expression.
When she lifted her head again, she was once again the charming and graceful dancer, Ya Qi.
"You're so good to me, but you never touch me. Everyone else wants to buy me for a night out, but you've never bought me."
Her words were full of resentment, but in reality, if Ling Shu were willing to touch her, Ya Qi would even pay him.
Ling Shu lifted her chin and looked around.
"I don't like women who complain. I like the way you smile, sweet like a honeydew."
Ya Qi chuckled. "Why not grapes?"
She felt her slender waist being embraced by his long arms. Ling Shu leaned in, and her heart skipped a beat, two beats, three, four.
"Because grapes can be a little sour. Sometimes when you eat a sour one, it's hard to swallow."
The two remained in this position for several minutes.
Ya Qi felt like an inexperienced little girl, unsure of where to put her hands and feet.
Blushing and feeling hot, she asked in a low voice, almost whispering in his ear,
"Are you hiding from that man behind us? He's been standing there for a while. Is he a spy or a bad guy?"
"Shh." Ling Shu only replied with a monosyllable.
Ya Qi blushed from her cheeks to her ears, and the heat was spreading towards her neck.
Luckily, the lighting was dim, so it wasn't clear.
Rosie looked on with envy and leaned over to snuggle and act cute.
"Young Master Ling, want to dance? You only danced with Sister Ya Qi today, you haven't danced with me yet. You can't be biased!" Rosie said.
"Dancing or a tip, which one do you choose?" Ling Shu joked.
Rosie's eyes rolled, "Then I'll choose dancing."
Ling Shu shrugged, took her delicate hand, and the two of them walked towards the dance floor.
Ya Qi stole a glance behind her.
That person was still standing in the shadowy corner.
He was tall and lean, leaning against the wall at an angle, and even lowered his head to light a cigarette.
Ya Qi couldn't see his appearance, but from his temperament and demeanor, she could vaguely guess that this person must not be ugly at all.
Unfortunately, no matter how good-looking he is, he can't compare to Ling Shao.
After the dance, Ling Shu led Rosie back.
The latter was sweating profusely, with a flushed face.
Ya Qi handed Ling Shu a glass of wine, and also turned her head along with Ling Shu's gaze.
She exclaimed, "That person is gone."
Ling Shu didn't say anything and sent Rosie to open another bottle of wine.
"Do you like him?" He teased Ya Qi.
Ya Qi coquettishly replied, "If I do, will you be jealous?"
Ling Shu tilted his head back and drank most of the wine in his glass, and honestly said, "No."
Ya Qi knew the answer, but still felt a little sour.
"You haven't told me who that person is yet. Is he a bad guy following you? Should I call the police?"
Ling Shu laughed, "I am the police."
"Then what do I do if he comes again? What if he asks about you?" She was starting to feel nervous.
"He's my friend, not a bad person or a spy," Ling Shu reassured her.
Ya Qi didn't believe him. "Then why didn't you say hello to each other?"
Ling Shu winked. "If I told you he likes me, would you believe it?"
Ya Qi giggled. "Of course I would! Ling Shao, everyone likes you, even if it's a man, I wouldn't be surprised!"
Ling Shu sighed, half-jokingly. "It's a problem that comes with being so charming."
Ya Qi was curious. "So did you reject him? Are you still friends?"
Ling Shu replied, "Let me tell you a story."
"There were two people who grew up together, childhood sweethearts with a strong bond. The man promised to marry the woman when he returned from military service. She believed him and waited eagerly at the door day after day. But after several years, she received the devastating news of his death in battle."
"She was overcome with grief and nearly took her own life, but eventually found the strength to carry on. Years passed, and she slowly healed from her pain. She met another man who was even better for her, and they got married, had children, and built a happy family."
"It was only then that she learned by chance that her childhood sweetheart had not actually died, but had suffered severe injuries and may not have had long to live. Even if they had been together, they would not have had many happy years. So he forged a death notice to let her go and find happiness on her own."
Ya Qi listened attentively, but in the end, she seemed to only partially understand.
"So, you're saying you're not that girl?"
Ling Shu's mouth twitched. "Do I look anything like her?"
Ya Qi pondered, "So that girl never really loved her lover."
Ling Shu retorted, "What kind of twisted logic is that?"
"If she truly loved him, even if he died, she would continue to wait for him, wait for him for the rest of her life. But she didn't persist, so she couldn't wait for the day when the truth would come."
"Time heals all wounds, including the ones you thought you could never overcome," Ling Shu said.
Ya Qi shook her head, stubbornly holding onto her unusual viewpoint.
"That man thought that by sacrificing himself and helping her, she would be grateful to him. But what if that girl didn't end up living well? Would he regret not being with her? For women, it's better to spend a few years passionately with someone they love than to live a mediocre life with someone they don't like. Maybe what he saw as happiness was just his own illusion, and the truth is not what he thought it was."
Ling Shu was almost dizzy from her words.
He had never realized that Ya Qi was such a persuasive person.
"You men always like to use your own ideas to arrange things for others, thinking that it's for their own good. But have you ever asked if they want it or not?"
At that moment, Rosie came back with the wine.
Ling Shu poured the wine himself.
"I can't argue with you, so I'll punish myself with three cups."
At Ya Qi's strong request, Ling Shu danced with her again.
When they left Feilengcui, it started to drizzle.
Spring rain was as precious as oil.
Ling Shu felt a surge of alcohol, but his mind was not confused, only his steps were a bit unsteady.
He didn't bring an umbrella, so he reached out with interest to catch the rain, wondering if he should take off his coat and cover his head, and just walk back.
Then, he saw a man across the street.
The man held a black umbrella and stood quietly on the roadside, watching him.
The two men looked at each other for a moment.
Ling Shu didn't move, but the other man did.
He strode across the street and held the umbrella over Ling Shu's head.
Ling Shu looked up and smiled, "What a coincidence, Captain Yue!"
But Yue Dingtang didn't smile.
He looked at Ling Shu's carefree expression and couldn't help but sneer, "Did you ever ask if I wanted it?"
Ling Shu stopped smiling.
He turned his head away and muttered a sentence. But Yue Dingtang heard clearly.
The other person said, "I have many old injuries on my body and may not live long."
"I have already asked Liu Zhen and Ji Zhuting, and consulted medical professors. They said that the bullet fragments left in the body cannot be removed and may cause hidden dangers to the body in the future, which may also affect your lifespan, but these are not important."
"Medical technology in Europe is very advanced. I can take you to see a doctor. As long as you are alive, there is hope. This is not a terminal illness. Even if you are covered in injuries and cannot live to be seventy or eighty, at least forty or fifty is possible, right?"
"Nowadays, the world is so chaotic, and I am not sure if I will die of old age before you."
"Ling Shu, I have already missed eight years and do not want to deceive myself anymore."
"Let's not act anymore, okay?"
Ling Shu remained silent, motionless.
But if he felt shocked, angry, and incredulous at Yue Dingtang's words, he would have thrown a punch or turned and walked away long ago.
His current reaction was the most genuine.
Yue Dingtang knew about his past and knew that he had suffered a lot.
Otherwise, how could a person who used to be so tough easily fall ill and have a fever?
This was clearly the body's revenge for old injuries.
Whenever Yue Dingtang thought of his right hand, which could no longer lift heavy objects or do delicate work like a normal person, his heart would ache.
Rather than waiting for the snail to crawl out of its shell, he would rather crawl into the shell himself.
Yue Dingtang reached out and pinched Ling Shu's chin, slightly lifted it, and lowered his head.
On a rainy night, two shadows were elongated and merged together under the street lamp.
"Do not try to impress yourself with your own greatness in a story, even if you only have one day left to live, I will not regret it."