The semester finished quickly, her results hovering somewhere in the middle of the class. She was still far from the excellent students, but Xia Rou was already satisfied with her results.
Just as she said, she wasn't really that smart. The reason she managed to even get her current grades was firstly because the teaching of the teachers was so good, and secondly because she didn't become lazy due to her reincarnation. She acted like a regular high school student, putting in all her effort to study seriously.
During winter break, the weather was already very cold. It started to snow and the temperature decreased every day.
Xia Rou had always been afraid of the cold and disliked going out on winter days. Unless she was dragged out by Cao An to eat hotpot, she hid herself at home everyday.
It was another weekend. Translated by The Novelst
Xia Rou ate lunch alone, and bundled in to rest after lunch. She woke up in the evening and went to the reading room.
There were two floors in the reading room. The number of books in the collection of the Cao Family was quite tremendous. It was said that they were all Madam Cao's masterpiece. She could sense a hint of gentleness when looking at the arrangement of the reading room.
The placement of the thick wooden table in the center, the light-colored fabric sofa to the side, the comfortable wicker chair beside the window, the pillows, and the plain cotton curtains at the windows.
As long as it was left by Madam Cao, even if they might be changed to newer items, the original style remained and the look was kept as closely to the original as possible.
Xia Rou had never thought that Cao Xiong would return there after lunch.
He was laying on the wicker chair beside the window, his eyes closed. It wasn't certain if he was asleep. Beside his hand was a thick book laying on the rug, the bookmark slanted in one of the pages, revealing only half the page.
Xia Rou rarely had the chance to be left alone with Cao Xiong. It was only sometimes when the two were eating together, but they tended to be quiet at the dining table.
Cao Xiong would sometimes ask her about her studies, and sometimes praise her in a few words.
Except for those few things, there was nothing else to say between the two.
There was no sound when she stepped on the thick rug.
Xia Rou stopped in front of Cao Xiong.
The man was laying on the wicker chair, the winter sunlight shining through the windows and scattering on his body. Dust could be seen floating under the sunlight.
Xia Rou was staring at her mother's man.
He still looked strong, but there were deep wrinkles on his skin. Compared to the his youthful appearance when Cheng Wan was still around, he looked much older.
Xia Rou could still remember how quickly he had aged in the ten years of her future, and how he had turned into a very dull, gloomy old man.
Until she died, she had never said even a word of gratitude to this man.
In actuality, starting that rainy night when she was only seven had her mother had been cowardly and seeking death, the person that let them not worry about food or clothing and provided them with shelter was this man.
When she entered the Cao Family, the person to take care of her was Cao Yang. But if it wasn't for the kindness from Cao Xiong in the beginning when he decided to take her in, Cao Yang wouldn't give her a second glance.
Her life had changed because of this man, so at the very least she wasn't wandering around, homeless, with no one to rely on.
However, she had obviously let him down, which was why he didn't want to bother with her afterwards.
Ever since her reincarnation, Xia Rou had thought of it countless times. She felt that she didn't had the right to complain about anyone. Recalling her own past actions, she found herself a little noxious.
Only Cao Yang had never given her the cold shoulder and continued to tolerate her.
Xia Rou let out a soft sigh, squatting down to pick up the dropped book, returning the bookmark to its proper place.
Cao Xiong suddenly opened his eyes.
"Cheng Wan…" he squinted his eyes and called her.
Xia Rou raised her head, looking at him in silence.
After a while, he sighed, and called her: "Xia Rou."
She softly replied: "Uncle." Translated by The Novelst
Cao Xiong closed his eyes again.
"Xia Rou, read me the next paragraph of the book," he said.
Xia Rou them remembered the days in the apartment when the balcony was filled with sunlight, a uniformed man sitting on a wicker chair, having black tea. His collar was opened loosely, Cheng Wan sat right beside him, using her gentle voice to read out a book to him.
With a soothing tone.
"Mn," Xia Rou replied.
Both her knees pulled together and she kneeled on the rug. Under the gentle light, she slowly read out each word.
At this time, her voice was much more delicate than it would be as an adult. There was still a huge difference compared to Cheng Wan's voice. But as Cao Xiong listened to her, he felt that there was a little bit of Cheng Wan's style in it.
He opened his eyes slowly.
He remembered that balcony full of sunlight, a wicker chair, and a gentle, sweet woman.
"Uncle…" Xia Rou stared at the page, before finally asking: "Why didn't you marry my mother?"
Cao Xiong suddenly felt his heart throb painfully.
Cheng Wan had followed him for eight years, didn't she want a title?
No. Of course she wanted it; of course she would be eager to have an official title. However, she knew that this wasn't something that Cao Xiong could give her.
That's why she had obediently followed his unspoken request and never brought up her wish.
But even if she never mentioned it, it didn't mean that Cao Xiong was unaware.
"As a man, my priority is to take care of my own family," explained Cao Xiong.
Although this answer sounded cold and heartless, Xia Rou could actually understand the unspeakable hardships and helplessness from his voice.
She remembered back to how rapidly Cao Xiong had aged, his appearance when his hair turned white all over…
A man who was once like a mountain also… had a weak spot.
"Mn…" Xia Rou lowered her head, a teardrop disappearing into the pages of the book.
"She understood," she said. "She never once spoke a word in complaint."
That, Xia Rou knew, because she had asked the same question to her mother before.
Why couldn't Uncle Cao be her stepfather?
Her mother had a sad expression, but smiled gently to cover it up.
Because, as a father, he had to first protect his own children, she had explained.
Xia Rou had longed to have this kind of father.
She had desired to become his child.
Under the sunlight and the dust, the man himself stretched out his hand to softly touch her head.
Softly, he replied, "Mn." Translated by The Novelst
Proofread by: Hannah