When Ruan Zhizhi heard him speak that way, she couldn’t help blushing. Perhaps the chandelier in the ballroom was too bright; it refracted from Shi Yan’s body, making him appear especially good-looking that evening. Even his eyes, which were always cold to the bone, seemed a little warm.
Ruan Zhizhi, who had been flustered a moment ago, suddenly felt relieved.
“Shi Yan, although you used to be my senior brother from the same department, I have personal affairs with Zhizhi, just the two of us. I hope that you, an outsider, will not get involved.” Li Sichen had been neglected on the side for a long time. After seeing the undisguised dependence on Ruan Zhizhi’s face, he finally couldn’t help but open his mouth sullenly. And with each word and sentence, he emphasized the word “outsider”.
Although Ruan Zhizhi had explicitly rejected him, in Li Sichen’s heart, he had never believed that she could let go of him completely, much less that she could redirect her affections to someone else in such a short span of time.
Deep in her heart, Ruan Zhizhi was extremely slow at warming up to others and was an introverted person. It took a year for her to let her guard down and slowly fall for him. Now, she and Shi Yan had only gotten to know each other for a number of months. How could she expose that sort of expression towards him?
He couldn’t accept it.
Shi Yan smiled mockingly. There was a lot of noise in the crowded dance hall, so no one paid attention to the activity in their little corner. He approached step by step, wielding his natural height advantage to lower his head and look down at Li Sichen. His tone of voice was cold and belittling: “Outsider? Maybe this word should be returned to you, Li Sichen. I already told you before, don’t always think of looking back after missing your opportunity.”
When he said this, he turned to look at Ruan Zhizhi, who was lowering her eyes and didn’t speak. His features softened a little. “Zhizhi is now my girlfriend. In the future she won’t have anything to do with you. I hope you won’t bother her again.”
While he spoke, his expression was flat, and his voice was light yet also very cold, making those who heard it shudder in fear.
Standing by his side, Ruan Zhizhi couldn’t help but extend her hand to gently hold his.
Feeling the warmth coming from her soft palm, Shi Yan lowered his gaze slightly. All kinds of emotions flashed in his eyes. He turned her hand over and held it with movements that were very gentle, as if he knew that his tone just now had scared her.
Li Sichen lowered his hands and clenched them into fists. He didn’t continue to speak with Shi Yan, instead turning his head to look at Ruan Zhizhi. Word by word, he said with difficulty: “Zhizhi…you and him…is it true, you’re together?”
Ruan Zhizhi replied softly. For some reason she couldn’t bear it. “It’s true, so…between you and I, it’s really, completely impossible.”
Li Sichen didn’t speak for a long time. His shoulders sank, and it seemed like all his strength had diminished in a split second.
Shi Yan pulled Ruan Zhizhi’s hand and walked forward step by step. When passing by Li Sichen, he paused, lowered his head, and whispered in his ear at a volume that only the two of them could hear: “Li Sichen, three years ago, she sincerely took out her heart. But you threw it down and shattered it. Today, I actually want to express my gratitude to you. You originally had the chance to be together, but from now on, it is no longer possible.”
Li Sichen didn’t respond. He only stood there, motionless. His eyes were empty, as if he had heard what was said, but at the same time hadn’t.
Shi Yan and Ruan Zhizhi gradually drifted away, and he shut his eyes amidst the blurred crowd. Absent-minded, he seemed to return to that midsummer seven years ago, when she was walking alone on campus, dragging a cumbersome suitcase behind her while looking like she was at a loss. He couldn’t help but take pity on her.
Blinking his sour eyes, the scene turned back to his graduation speech in their fourth year. In order for him to have memories of a perfect speech, she ran through six streets to buy a necktie. Before he went up, she stood backstage, looking shy and bowing her head, carefully tying his tie and wishing him well in his speech.
Ruan Zhizhi, who once loved him so much, was still lost by him in the end.
There were beautiful people before her eyes and the sounds of drinking and partying in her ears. Ruan Zhizhi’s mind was in a mess. Just now, before leaving, she had seen Li Sichen’s sullen expression. Subconsciously, as a friend who had known him for many years, she was still a little worried about him. But she also knew that from now on, she would have nothing to do with this person. Moreover…at this very moment, Shi Yan was by her side.
The man walking beside her, as if nothing had happened, lowered his head and asked her in a soft tone if she was hungry.
Hearing his inquiring voice, Ruan Zhizhi was able to realize her hunger now. Thinking back, she’d only eaten a few bites of cake while chatting with Gu Nian the entire night.
Shi Yan saw her expression. There was an unrestrained smile on the outer corners of his eyes and the tips of his brows. “Want me to take you out to eat something?”
Ruan Zhizhi’s eyes lit up at first, but soon after she remembered something and replied a little dejectedly: “Tonight, the supervisors in our company are all there. If they find out I slinked off early, I’m afraid I’ll suffer criticism.”
Hearing her say such things, Shi Yan nodded, turned around, and took her to the buffet table to find something to eat.
Ruan Zhizhi picked up a helping of french fries and tried with the utmost effort to control the feelings of hunger in her stomach. She chewed small mouthfuls with reservation. After all, as a newly promoted girlfriend, she needed to be dignified and graceful.
Shi Yan watched her. He was silent for a while, then started to speak softly, “If you don’t eat quicker, the waiter is going to come and clear the table soon.”
Ruan Zhizhi: ……
This man really had no sentiment.
Although she thought this way in her heart, her mouth still accelerated her chewing actions.
Shi Yan chuckled lightly. As if somewhat bored, he casually took a napkin from the table, leaned on the tabletop, and began to fold the paper lazily.
His fingers were deft and slender, like two butterflies fluttering and intertwining. Even his fingertips were suffused with a good-looking colour.
Ruan Zhizhi tilted her head to look at the natural, flowing motions of his hands and suddenly remembered the paper rose he had handed her that night at the bar in Lijiang a long time ago.
“Do you really like paper folding?”
“When I’m bored, I use it to pass the time, that’s all.”
Ruan Zhizhi stared at him without blinking, and exclaimed in admiration from the bottom of her heart: “How amazing.”
“Do you like it?” Shi Yan lowered his eyes, concentrating on the semi-finished product in hand. He meticulously folded the paper until it turned into a pentagon, neatly pressing a few equal corners along an imaginary line. Then, without waiting for her response, he said casually, “If you like it, I will fold something for you every day in the future.”
Hearing these lines of his that resembled words of love, it was like spring coming upon a withered tree in Ruan Zhizhi’s originally calm heart. Her heart instantly thumped and palpitated, and even her breathing became rapid.
Moments later, a vivid and adorable little rabbit was born from Shi Yan’s fingertips. He reached out and handed it to her very gently. Just like last time, he said succinctly: “For you.”
This time, Ruan Zhizhi didn’t hesitate and directly took it. The moment she received it, she was suddenly a little glad that she hadn’t gone out of her way to discard the paper rose before.
The little rabbit in her hand seemed to still carry the residual warmth of his body temperature. Ruan Zhizhi reached out to touch the rabbit’s ears. At that moment, a surge of happiness emerged in her heart like a tidal wave.
Time spent together with him made the happiness almost static.
The two were in the middle of chatting when all the lights in the centre of the hall suddenly went out. Immediately after, beams of white spotlights spilled over the front stage. Ruan Zhizhi saw the leader of their company walk up and begin delivering a speech. The contents were nothing more than some bureaucratic words that were meant to take part in the merriment.
At the same time, the crowd that had dispersed just a moment ago began to gather in front of the stage with great cooperation.
Ruan Zhizhi followed the tide of people while thinking, That’s great. After the leader finishes delivering his speech, there will be more free time.
Thinking of how Shi Yan had specially come to the ball in order to accompany her to dinner, Ruan Zhizhi couldn’t help feeling a little guilty in her heart. She silently moved another inch over to Shi Yan’s side, reached out, and carefully poked his waist. She said quietly, “Shi Yan, are you hungry?”
Just now when she was wolfing her food down, she hadn’t seen him eating. At this moment, he ought to be starving.
The other party lowered his eyes. He watched her small movements falling on his waist. Apparently, he seemed to reap benefits, and immediately responded in a quiet tone within the crowd: “Not hungry.”
After he finished speaking, his fingers went down. With light movements, he captured her fingers that were trying to run away from his waist. Then, little by little, he gathered them into the hollow of his palm. He didn’t speak. The two of them were crowded in the sea of people, the lights were dim, and no one was paying attention to them. Only Ruan Zhizhi knew that he was now reaching out and using his fingertips to scratch her palm softly and irregularly.
A little ticklish, a little scalding.
Help…In a moment, when the lights in the hall came back on, it would certainly be discovered that her face had turned red.
Shi Yan’s actions were simply a foul.
Quite soon, the leader’s speech concluded. The light switch in the hall was turned on by a staff member, and their sights became brightly lit again. Shi Yan also ceased his small movements, readily retracting his hand in a fluent manner.
Blushing, Ruan Zhizhi looked at him and wanted to ask questions. But after thinking again, she felt that it was too unnatural, so she dropped it.
She was already almost twenty-six years old. How could she still blush at the drop of a hat, like a little girl yearning for love? Even she spurned herself.
The clock pointed towards nine o’clock. The curtain of night had long descended, and the evening wind that blew over was very cool and refreshing. The sky was densely covered with stars, brilliant and dazzling, and many people went to the outdoor swimming pool to dance and chat.
Shi Yan bowed his head and asked her, “Want to go back? Or stay for a while.”
Ruan Zhizhi thought about it for a bit. Afraid that her colleagues would see her with Shi Yan, and that they would stand in a circle and watch them like pandas, she replied: “It’s late, let’s go back.”
Shi Yan nodded. The two of them left the hall one after another, walking along the clear, gleaming swimming pool towards the exit.
The evening wind brushed by gently, wrinkling the pool of spring water.
The pair had only walked a few steps when they directly saw a beautiful woman walking over with a glass of red wine, blocking them in front. The woman was tall and slender, with a thin waist and long legs. Compared to Ruan Zhizhi, her appearance was not inferior in any respect.
“Handsome guy, I’ve noticed you for a long time. Let’s have a drink together?” When she spoke, she inadvertently teased her long, wavy hair. It was just the right amount of allure and seduction.
Ruan Zhizhi couldn’t help but cast a profound glance at Shi Yan. When the other party received her expression, he understood and reached out to seize her waist, saying in a light tone: “Excuse me.”
The woman was stunned, as if she hadn’t expected him to turn a blind eye to her. And yet Shi Yan didn’t look at her. Quickening his pace, he held Ruan Zhizhi and walked swiftly past her.
Ruan Zhizhi nodded in satisfaction, and then couldn’t help heaving a sigh: “You say you’re a man, but how can you look more seductive than a girl…”
Shi Yan, who usually had a cold, severe, and indifferent expression, was not bad. But she was afraid that his looks would soften and he would reveal a tender expression. That would truly take people’s lives.
It was just like King You of Zhou in the feudal drama Fire Beacon; even though he knew that the consequences might be irreversible, in order to praise Baosi’s smile that deranged all living things, he was most willing to harm the country.
While Ruan Zhizhi’s imagination was like a heavenly steed soaring across the skies, she hadn’t noticed in the slightest that there were men around them that were secretly looking at her.
The evening wind blew a little urgently, brushing her tulle skirt up. Since the long skirt began to fork at the base of her thighs, at the moment that the wind blew it up, it inevitably exposed a pair of long, slender white legs.
The person involved was unaware of this, but Shi Yan frowned imperceptibly.
“Zhizhi, your dress is very beautiful.”
“Ah?” Her thoughts were pulled back from the sky. Ruan Zhizhi lifted her head to look at him. Somewhat embarrassed, she brushed her bangs aside. “Thank you.”
Shi Yan pursed his lips and said considerately: “I’m not telling you what to wear, it’s just that it’s not summer yet, after all. I suggest you still wear a little more, otherwise if you catch a cold in this weather, you won’t be able to recover for a week.”
Ruan Zhizhi: “……”
It turned out that he thought her dress was too revealing.
Ruan Zhizhi looked down at the hem of her skirt being blown by the wind while she walked. She replied like a well-behaved primary school student who had been called on to speak by the teacher: “This dress is something I bought in a hurry today. Indeed, it is a little cold. I plan to take it back tomorrow and return it.”
When Shi Yan saw that she was talking to him like this with her head lowered, saying mild words almost cautiously, there was a lump in his throat. He didn’t know how to answer.
Seven years ago, he was like a thief who was not fit to see the light. Every day, he hid in a corner behind her that no one could see. Even though he couldn’t talk to her, so long as he could keep looking at her secretly, he was satisfied.
At that time, she was also like this, sharing her smile with another man without holding back. Sometimes he would think that if Ruan Zhizhi was willing to show him this kind of smile, he could give anything.
There wasn’t anyone in this world who understood the importance of Ruan Zhizhi to him. From childhood to adulthood, the relatives and close friends surrounding him regarded him as a virus—something to avoid. Only she had taken the initiative to approach him, concerning herself with the first draft of a paper he had thrown away. She smiled at him and reached out to him in the darkness.
He had never told Ruan Zhizhi that after experiencing such a tragic family transformation in his childhood, he was actually also afraid of the dark. Therefore, back in the laboratory, when she shivered and extended her hand, he hadn’t refused.
It felt so good to be needed by someone. Since then, after experiencing it once, he wanted it again. He was like a drug addict beyond cure, one she could not treat.
Seven years ago, he never would have thought that one day, she would stand in front of him like now, with only him in her eyes, speaking to him so carefully.
Shi Yan looked down at her. His thin lips pursed into a small curve. His expression was hidden in depth, and a surging light reflected in his pupils. In the next second, he stretched out his hand a little uncontrollably, holding her tightly in his embrace.
Ruan Zhizhi was taken aback by his sudden action, but she did not reject him.
This was the second time Shi Yan had hugged her. Ruan Zhizhi shrank into his arms. In her heart, she silently thought that she liked Shi Yan. Otherwise, her heart wouldn’t be throbbing this violently when she embraced him.
The man bent down and lowered his head on her slender shoulders to conceal his red eyes.
So this was the feeling of a dream come true.