"Has He You'an died?"
Ling Shu felt a surreal sense of confusion.
It all started with He You'an.
The first time Ling Shu saw her was at a consulate banquet.
This woman, who was incomparably beautiful, was like a gem under the light. No matter which angle she was viewed from, she was dazzling.
Her beauty was not just in her appearance, but also in her temperament, speech, and behavior. If all women were different poems, then He You'an was undoubtedly the most beloved one under Tagore's pen.
At that time, Ling Shu never would have thought that this woman would have any intersection with him, let alone trigger a series of subsequent events.
In this story, there's the overbearing Shen Shiqi, the unrequited love of Lu Tongcang, the capable Jiang He who works under Lu Tongcang, the mysterious Mr. Cheng, and even Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang, who were originally unrelated to the story but got involved halfway through.
They were all men surrounding He You'an.
The more Ling Shu delved into the story, the more he realized how twisted and bizarre it was. The love and entanglements he thought he knew were all overturned.
He You'an's plans and motives seemed to have far exceeded his imagination.
But now, the source of all the entanglements, He You'an, was dead.
Ling Shu's curiosity was like a stone thrown high into the air, refusing to come down and find a place to rest.
"Could it be a mistake? Or did she fake her death and run away?" "Yue Dingtang shook his head.
"Many people went to Longhua Airport to see off He You'an and Mr. Cheng. The plane exploded and crashed shortly after takeoff, still within the sight of the crowd. When we rushed over, some people's bodies were still there, albeit incomplete. We also found He You'an and Mr. Cheng's bodies."
In this situation, it was almost certain that there was no mistake.
Ling Shu was still a bit dazed until Yue Dingtang handed him a cup of hot water.
Only then did he realize that Jiang He had already left.
"Where's Jiang He?"
It turned out that Jiang He had said before that he didn't need to kill Ling Shu, precisely because of the sudden news of Mr. Cheng's death.
This news must have disrupted everyone's plans, even the assassins who came to chase them, were probably leaderless and hastily retreating.
"Before leaving, he said he has repaid your life-saving grace," Yue Dingtang said.
Yue Dingtang furrowed his brows slightly at the Ling Shu's absent-minded expression.
"Have you been injured again?" he asked.
"It's nothing serious, just some superficial wounds," Ling Shu replied, collecting himself. "Why are you here?"
"I went to the hospital and saw that you were gone, leaving only a letter," Yue Dingtang explained.
"Did you discover it?" Ling Shu assumed that the first person to find the letter would have been the nurse who came to give him his injections and change his bandages in the morning.
"Uncle Zhou asked me to bring you some soup on my way to work," Yue Dingtang said.
Ling Shu chuckled. "Captain Yue doesn't usually start work so early, does he?"
"What are you trying to say?" Yue Dingtang remained calm and collected, throwing Ling Shu off his teasing game.
"Nothing much, Old Yue, thank you so much. If you and Jiang He hadn't arrived in time today, I would have lost my life here!"
Yue Dingtang replied, "I only hit the man's leg just now. Strictly speaking, it was not me who saved you, but Jiang He."
Hearing this, it seemed that he was still a little unwilling.
Since they were in school, Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang had been competing.
They competed for academic performance, for the teacher's attention, and for the favor of girls.
At that time, there were not many co-ed schools, and most of the female students came from open and wealthy families.
Du Yunning was one of the best, naturally attracting the admiration of many male students.
At that moment, Yue Dingtang's face was calm and composed, but in reality, he was secretly competing with Ling Shu.
They went back and forth, winning and losing, but every time Yue Dingtang lost, he would come back even stronger the next time, showing Ling Shu that he was not one to forget a grudge and was just as competitive as anyone else.
However, most people couldn't see through his facade and thought he was as steady as a rock.
Upon hearing this, Ling Shu couldn't help but feel that Yue Dingtang's competitive spirit had been reignited because he couldn't save him perfectly, which made him feel a bit uneasy.
As for Ling Shu, he had already learned to let go of unnecessary competitiveness and his past after experiencing a decline in his family's fortunes and living in the mortal world.
He had long since thrown it all away into the clouds.
"No, no, don't say that! Even without Jiang He, your shot was enough to slow down the assassin and help me escape. That shot was so precious, and I never expected you to be the first to see my distress signal and bring people to help. I don't even know how to express my gratitude!"
He quickly smoothed down his old classmate's fur.
Yue Dingtang said, "No worries, take your time to find the right words."
In other words, he didn't mind if he praised him in different ways.
Ling Shu: ...
Wasn't the original intention of this person surnamed Yue to save people?
"I won't say thank you for your great kindness. How about I kneel down and kowtow to you?" Ling Shu said insincerely.
He was sure that someone surnamed Yue would care about his reputation and wouldn't agree.
Who knew -
Yue Dingtang was very straightforward and said, "Sure!"
Ling Shu: ??
"...Suddenly, I remembered that I injured my knee while running just now. It's still too painful to bend, so how about we postpone our matter to another day?" He groaned while holding his knee.
"It hurts so much. I just got discharged from the hospital for a fever, and now I feel weak all over again. I also injured my knee. I have to go back to the hospital to check it out!" Despite being an adult, he acted like a child.
Yue Dingtang sighed. "Alright, stop pretending. After you go back, go to HSBC Bank. He You'an must have left something for you there."
He was also curious about what role He You'an played in this abrupt story. When it came to curiosity, Yue Dingtang was no less than anyone else, but he rarely showed it.
Ling Shu said, "No, I think we should go somewhere else first."
"Where?" asked Yue Dingtang.
"Tangqiao Town in Dongchunli," replied Ling Shu.
Tangqiao Town is a beautiful place nestled among mountains and water.
Even in winter, the fields are green and lush.
The Lantern Festival has passed, and some brave new shoots have already emerged from the branches, clamoring to take the lead in spring.
Although Ling Shu had never been to Tangqiao Town before, his deepest impression of the place was not the scenery, but rather...
"My sister says the drag stove cakes and snow-faced melons here are delicious. She knows how to make them, I don't know where she learned it from. She made them for me once before, and they were fragrant and crispy, with some wild vegetables inside. If you add some lard to the vegetable filling, it would be even more delicious!"
As he spoke, Ling Shu held a freshly baked, steaming hot drag stove cake, stretching his neck to take a bite, revealing a contradictory expression of being burned by his tongue and filled with the aroma.
In comparison, Yue Dingtang was much more refined. He chose to use one hand to poke the cake with chopsticks, and the other to break off a small piece, gently blowing on it before putting it in his mouth once it had cooled.
Even now, he couldn't explain why he had gone to the hospital so early in the morning.
Perhaps it was because he had slept poorly the night before, or maybe he was thinking about the student papers that still needed grading at school.
Or maybe it was because he felt that Ling Shu was too much trouble and wanted to bring him back early to avoid any further mishaps with Mr. Cheng.
Who knew that what Yue Dingtang would see was not the lively and energetic Ling Shu, but a cry for help.
At first, Yue Dingtang's immediate reaction was that Ling Shu was playing a prank on him.
But upon further thought, it seemed unreasonable. Driven by this slight sense of irrationality, Yue Dingtang went straight to the home of the chief of the local police station early in the morning and asked him to send someone to follow him and track Ling Shu's path.
Thanks to Ling Shu's outstanding appearance, many people remembered him, and they finally found him on the train.
Therefore, the only food that Yue Dingtang had eaten today was the flatbread cake in his hand.
Even if Ling Shu praised it to the skies, let alone saying nothing, a hungry person could taste a hint of sweetness in plain water.
"Madam, is there a place called Dongchunli in this town?" On the other end, Ling Shu, with a flatbread in his stomach, slightly satisfied, had already begun to inquire about the situation with the owner of the flatbread shop.
The owner was in her forties, but still had some charm. When Ling Shu and his companion entered, she stared at Ling Shu's face without turning her gaze away for a while.
Yue Dingtang, with his sharp eyes, noticed that the plate of flatbread brought over by the owner seemed to be slightly larger in size and quantity than those at the other tables.
"What are you doing there?" It was just idle chatter, but the owner's expression changed instantly.
Ling Shu noticed, but remained calm. "I have a distant relative living there. Our elders had a relationship, but I haven't met them yet. However, my elders asked me to bring something over. No matter how cold it is outside, I still have to make the trip. Do you happen to know anything about it?"
The owner looked around and sat down, leaning on the table and getting closer, looking like a gossip.
"Everyone in this town knows that it's a cursed place. Ever since a few years ago, when a disease killed many people in Dongchunli, only one household remained. It was a woman, and two years ago, she somehow acquired a baby and has been raising it there. Some say she stole the child from another family, while others say it's a ghost child she found on a grave. So, people avoid going there, and no new families have moved in."
After saying this, she let out a sigh.
"It's true that the widow is pitiful, but unfortunately, her luck is too strong. Who knows if she'll end up taking the child's life too!"
Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang exchanged a glance.
They had thought that Dongchunli area was vast and would be difficult to search, but it turned out there was only one household.
To be precise, it was a widow and a child. Has the puzzle left by He You'an been solved so quickly?
The two of them lost their appetite for chatting and set off in the direction pointed out by the boss lady, with Ling Shu casually dismissing her with a few words.
They were almost in the outskirts of town in Dongchunli, and with the gloomy weather today and the boss lady's words earlier, there was a creepy atmosphere.
The few households they passed by were all dilapidated and abandoned, with no inhabitants and open houses. The yards were covered in dust, and who knows what was behind the half-closed doors.
The only relatively clean household was naturally the one with widow mentioned by the boss lady.
As they stood outside the yard looking around, someone happened to come out from inside.
A middle-aged woman with a child behind her, with a clear and beautiful face, wearing a large cotton coat that made it hard to tell if it was a boy or a girl.
To Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang's surprise, the woman's first words upon seeing them were not to ask for their names or purpose, but to exclaim, "Are you here to pick someone up?"