When Ling Shu returned home, Ling Yao was still awake.
She sat upright on the sofa, hands on her knees, lost in thought.
Ling Shu absentmindedly touched his mouth and collar.
It felt swollen when he touched his mouth, and his collar was damp and disheveled.
There was even some moss on his back.
His hair was wet and messy, and it was obvious that something was off.
But Ling Yao didn't ask. She just glanced at Ling Shu and then lowered her gaze.
"Your brother-in-law hasn't come back yet," she said.
Ling Shu was startled and didn't bother to tidy himself up.
"Is he working overtime?" he asked.
"I called his office, but no one answered," Ling Yao replied.
If he was working overtime, someone should have answered the phone.
It was indeed strange.
Ling Shu said, "It's raining outside. Maybe something came up on the way. I'll go take a look."
"Take an umbrella. Have you eaten yet?"
Luckily, Ling Yao hadn't completely forgotten about her younger brother and got up to get him an umbrella.
"I've eaten, I've eaten!"
Ling Shu hurriedly came and went, disappearing from the doorway in the blink of an eye.
The dark night became even more chaotic because of the rain, like an ink painting that had been splashed with water, becoming blurry.
Ling Shu held up his umbrella and walked out of the house, facing the damp soil mixed with the smell of smoke.
...The smell of smoke?
He followed the scent and looked over.
There was a person standing under the eaves.
It wasn't Zhou Sa.
"Why haven't you left yet?" Ling Shu was surprised.
"Finishing this cigarette." Yue Dingtang said, deeply inhaling the last puff of smoke and throwing it on the ground to stamp it out.
"Let off some steam outside before going back."
Ling Shu: ...
He felt as though the flames that had just been extinguished had reignited within him at the sound of those words.
His memory flowed back to a certain moment, hazy yet unforgettable for the two of them.
Luckily, it was dark outside and the other person couldn't see his expression.
Otherwise, he would have lost all his momentum.
Ling Shu conjured up an excuse and straightened his clothes.
"I'm going to look for my brother-in-law."
Yue Dingtang asked, "Why?"
He still didn't know what had happened to the Ling family recently.
Ling Shu had to explain briefly.
"I'm going to the concession area to take a look. Maybe my brother-in-law went there."
Yue Dingtang said, "Your brother-in-law definitely isn't there."
"How do you know--"
Before he could finish his sentence, Ling Shu saw Zhou Sa.
He hurried over, not even bothering to bring an umbrella, and only noticed Ling Shu when he got close.
"Ah Shu, what are you doing here? And who is this...Mr. Yue?"
Yue Dingtang nodded in greeting, "Hello."
"Hello, hello!" Zhou Sa felt a bit embarrassed, "Come in and have a seat!"
He looked disheveled, soaked through, and Ling Shu moved the umbrella over his head, but Zhou Sa seemed unaware.
Even Yue Dingtang could see that his mind was elsewhere.
Zhou Sa had just inserted the key into the lock when the door opened.
Ling Yao stood behind the door, looking coldly at him.
"So you still remember this is your home."
Zhou Sa smiled awkwardly, "I had something to do and came back late."
Ling Yao turned and went inside without even looking at him.
Ling Shu murmured, "I seem to smell the scent of a world war. Why don't we just go to your place tonight?"
"Running away is not the solution to the problem."
Yue Dingtang said cruelly, pushing him inside. As Ling Yao's anger reached a boiling point, she didn't care whether her younger brother or outsiders were present.
Sure enough, the two of them began to argue.
According to Zhou Sa, he encountered a lost child on his way home and helped the child find their way, which caused him to be late.
But Ling Yao didn't believe him at all.
"You count for yourself, how many times have you come home late in the past two months! You never used to come home this late before. The time before last, it was an injured elderly person, last time it was your boss keeping you, and now it's a lost child. Why does everything in the world always happen to you? Do you not feel ashamed saying these things? Zhou Sa, have we reached the point where we have to resort to lies to maintain our relationship?"
As he spoke, Ling Yao's face revealed a look of sadness.
Zhou Sa was getting anxious, "Ah Yao, listen to me, I really didn't lie to you!"
Ling Yao suddenly asked, "Who is the woman in the concession?"
Zhou Sa was taken aback.
Ling Yao said, "Do you think no one knows about your secret meetings in the concession? Is that woman your mistress?"
Zhou Sa instinctively looked towards Ling Shu.
The latter shook his head vigorously like a rattle drum, indicating that he didn't find out about it.
Zhou Sa frowned and asked Ling Yao, "Did you follow and investigate me?"
Ling Yao sneered, "So, now that I've asked you, are you feeling guilty?"
Zhou Sa said, "If I had any unfaithful thoughts toward you, may I be struck by lightning and die a horrible death!"
Ling Yao asked, "So who is that woman?"
Zhou Sa replied, "She's a widow, and I have nothing to do with her!"
This indirectly admitted the woman's existence.
Ling Shu held his forehead. As expected, the argument between the two became more intense and heated.
Ling Shu was getting a headache from all the yelling and felt the alcohol he had at Feilengcui rising up in his stomach again. He quietly tiptoed back to his room.
Once inside, he discovered an unexpected guest.
"What are you doing here?" he exclaimed.
"Just staying the night," Yue Dingtang replied calmly.
He had never been to Ling Shu's room before, so he took the opportunity to look around.
Ling Shu's family was not as wealthy as Yue Dingtang's, so his bedroom was much simpler with just a desk, a bed, and some books and stationery.
Yue Dingtang was still damp from the rain and couldn't sit on the bed, so he pulled out a chair from the desk and sat down.
Ling Shu was impressed. "You really don't treat yourself as an outsider."
Yue Dingtang replied, "Do you treat me as an outsider?"
One sentence left him speechless.
The driver had already gone back, and now it was raining with no taxis nearby. He realized he had no way to go back.
Reluctantly, Ling Shu accepted this fact and went to the closet to find a towel and clean clothes.
"My clothes are all cheap, please don't mind, Captain Yue," Ling Shu said, pinching his nose.
Yue Dingtang replied easily, "It's okay, I can tolerate you, let alone your clothes."
Ling Shu was itching to retort, but the increasing argument outside silenced him.
As the younger brother caught in the middle of a marital dispute, Ling Shu felt very uncomfortable.
After all, Ling Yao's suspicion was just a suspicion, and there was no evidence yet.
Ling Shu had never seen the woman Ling Yao mentioned. Although Zhou Sa's recent behavior is indeed suspicious, they have been married for so many years and his kindness towards Ling Yao is evident to Ling Shu. Ling Yao has been feeling uneasy about not having children, and Ling Shu is aware of this.
Even if Zhou Sa really has another woman outside, Ling Yao hasn't really considered divorce. She just cried and vented to her younger brother, and Ling Shu provided her with solutions that she didn't want to use.
Family matters are difficult to judge, and Ling Shu finds it very troublesome, even more so than drinking three jin of white wine.
At some point, Yue Dingtang came out of the washroom and saw Ling Shu sitting there in a daze.
The quarrelling outside has also subsided, and it is now quiet.
Ling Shu's expression is confused and dull, like a child facing a difficult problem, not knowing where to start or what to do.
It's a bit cute.