"Xin Qing!" Ailey said, running over. "It's really you?"
Xin Qing knew there was nowhere for her to run at this point, so she resigned herself to a greeting. "Ailey, so you're having a meal here, too? What a coincidence!"
Ailey nodded haphazardly, though her eyes kept straying towards Ying Qingcang. Ah Sha had a children's fork in her hand. The tip of the fork held a sodden piece of biscuit, which had been soaked in milk. Ah Sha thumped the surface of her high chair and was lifting the fork in an attempt to shove it into Xin Qing's mouth.
"Ah... um... meh... meh... ma!" Xin Qing opened her mouth to bite down on the biscuit. Ailey let out a shriek, pointing at Ah Sha. "My God! She just called you mom!"
At the sudden noise, Ah Sha's eyes went wide. Then, she began wailing.
"You've startled my daughter," Ying Qingcang said. He stood up, lifted Ah Sha into his arms, and began giving the baby a series of gentle pats. Xin Qing took a napkin and dried Ah Sha's tears. Ailey looked sheepish. "I'm sorry," Ailey mumbled. "I was just taken by shock. So you're already married!"
Ying Qingcang shot Xin Qing a warning look. Xin Qing had no choice but to keep her mouth shut. She took over Ah Sha instead and gave the baby a few kisses. Ah Sha, who had already calmed down, leaned against Xin Qing's shoulder and stared at Ailey with teary eyes.
"She's so cute. Can I hold her?" Ailey was instantly captivated by the baby. Just then, Meyer came over. "Do you even know how to hold a baby? What are you going to do if you drop her?" Meyer said in a tone of exasperation. Then, he smiled at Xin Qing. "Wow. This is totally unexpected. You were married so young!" Meyer turned to Ying Qingcang. "Hi. I'm Xin Qing's classmate. Err... maybe I should start calling her by a different name now?"
"Ying," Ying Qingcang uttered a word in a haughty manner.
Meyer did not seem to mind at all. He grinned and nodded to Xin Qing. "Hm. From now on, I should call you Mrs. Ying."
"So this is the famous Chinese student from the academy!" said a woman who had sauntered up beside Meyer. It was the same woman who was sharing Meyer's table. Ailey's attitude was a complete deviation from her usual amiable disposition. "Didn't you mention before that the rumors aren't to be trusted? Now see for yourself. Xin Qing's younger and prettier than you, isn't she?" Ailey said in a strange tone as she looked at the other woman mockingly.
"Ailey!" Meyer said, frowning. The other woman smiled at Xin Qing. "Yeah. Too bad she's already another man's wife!" she told Ailey. The woman ignored the glare that Ailey was shooting at her. She turned to Xin Qing and said, "Nice to meet you. I'm Mira, Meyer's fiancé!"
"A pleasure!" Xin Qing glanced at Meyer and noted the look of utter helplessness on his face. Ailey was still glaring at Mira furiously. Admittedly, Xin Qing was starting to feel a little confused.
Ying Qingcang did not appreciate having their meal rudely interrupted by these people. "Today's my daughter's birthday," he said, forgoing all forms of politeness. "Would you mind leaving us so that we can have a peaceful meal as a family?" Ying Qingcang's words had instantly caused Ailey to choke back her suggestion that they all share a table. In the end, Ailey followed Meyer back to their own table. As they were leaving, Mira halted her steps, her eyes lingering on Ying Qingcang. Smiling, she said, "You have no idea how showy your wife has been, right? Everyone is going on about that diamond mine she owns!"
Ying Qingcang's cold gaze glided across Mira's face. "That belongs solely to her. It wasn't from me," Ying Qingcang said without even looking at Mira.
A change went across Mira's countenance. She smiled awkwardly before turning around to leave.
Xin Qing watched Mira's back as the latter walked away. Feeling strange, she asked, "I barely know her, but yet why do I feel like she hates my guts?"
"Ignore her. She's just another trifling person," Ying Qingcang said as he took Ah Sha from her. He placed Ah Sha back in the high chair. "Let's eat before the food gets cold."
To Xin Qing, the meal was painful albeit a happy one. Ying Qingcang had helped cut up her food into small cubes. That way, it would be less likely for the food to come into contact with the blister in her mouth when she ate. But the food was so appetizing that she would often forget all about her wound and ended up touching it anyway. When that happened, Xin Qing would press a hand to her mouth and smack her own head on the table. After a few bouts of such display, Ah Sha began imitating Xin Qing's actions happily, thumping her tiny head on the surface of the table and high chair. While doing that, she was chuckling happily as if feeling no pain at all. At the sight, Xin Qing did not know whether to laugh or to cry.
The restaurant staff was aware that it was Ah Sha's birthday, so they brought out a small cake, which came in the form of a mermaid. They even helped Xin Qing take a family photo. When the meal was over and it was time for all three of them to head back, Ah Che materialized out of nowhere like some kind of apparition. The man came up and gave Ah Sha a birthday card.
"Don't get too close to that Meyer," Ying Qingcang said, standing at the doorway of the bathroom where they had given Ah Sha a bath.
Xin Qing gave him a perplexed look. "Whoever I hang out with is my personal freedom!" she said, but regretted it the moment the words left her mouth. She clammed up, lowered her head, and went back to drying Ah Sha's hair.
"If you don't listen to me now, then don't come crying to me when something happens in the future," Ying Qingcang said, taking Ah Sha from her. Xin Qing pondered his words for a moment. Then, she moved closer to Ying Qingcang. "What's wrong with Meyer?" she asked.
Ying Qingcang glanced at her. "I thought you don't need my interference?"
"Fine, I take back what I said just now!" Xin Qing said, raising her palms in surrender. When Ying Qingcang was still ignoring her, Xin Qing took Ah Sha's palms and raised them too. Both mother and child smiled at Ying Qingcang. Ying Qingcang pursed his lips. "Meyer's family owns a traditional family business," Ying Qingcang said as he walked out of the bathroom with Ah Sha. "Right now, the chain supermarkets owned by the Meyer family are run by five brothers including Meyer's father and uncle. There are 3 men and 2 women in this generation. Meyer is the second oldest. Above him was a cousin brother, his uncle's son."
"So this is about some kind of inheritance feud?" It was the only thing Xin Qing could think of.
Ying Qingcang shook his head. "That's the weird part about their family. For generations, they had never lived separately or had any kind of family feud."
"Then what's there to worry about? Besides, it's got nothing to do with me anyway!" Xin Qing said.
Ying Qingcang looked at her sullenly. "That Mira, the woman we met at the restaurant today, is the one chosen by Meyer's family to be his fiancé. He has no choice but to marry that woman."
"A business wedding! Poor guy," Xin Qing said, feeling loads of sympathy for Meyer. Such a gifted and talented designer, yet he was born in this kind of family.
"That's his own choice," Ying Qingcang went on. "There's a rule in his family. If a male member of the family does not intend to be involved in the family business, then he must commit to the marriage arranged by his family. The woman would have been handpicked by the family, and would no doubt be capable of running the family business on behalf of her husband."
"Ah," Xin Qing said. "So you're saying that because Meyer chooses to be a designer, he must sacrifice his own happiness to marry a woman who is capable of running the family business?" It all became clear to Xin Qing now. "What a bunch of b*llsh*t rules," she thought.
"Mira was the one her family had picked, though it seems like his little sister likes you more!" Ying Qingcang had a goading look on his face. "So, you must tread carefully. If Meyer's family thought you're trying to sabotage the marriage they'd arranged for Meyer, then you'll be in big trouble."
Xin Qing released two chuckles. "Wow, I guess I should really thank you for reminding me!" she said, looking at Ying Qingcang before leaving to take Ah Sha to bed. The next morning, Xin Qing called the academy and requested a day off. She wanted to spend time with the child, since it was not often that Ah Sha would be here. As for Ying Qingcang... well, Xin Qing did not even want to see his face.
"You're planning to keep staying here?" Xin Qing's asked. She was sitting on the mat, playing with Ah Sha. Ying Qingcang was watching them from the couch.
At the question, he glanced at his watch lazily. Then, he stood up. "It's about time. Go get changed. We're heading out."
"Go, go where?" Why were they going out all of a sudden? Xin Qing thought for a while before she asked, "You have plans?"
Ying Qingcang handed Xin Qing Ah Sha's outdoor attire. "We should take part in activities that are suitable for a family of three!"
Xin Qing was led into the car, which brought her to a huge shopping mall. When she got down, Ah Che began introducing the place to her enthusiastically.
"Young miss, the children's playground is in this mall is the best in the world. Most of the facilities there can't even be found back in our country!"
Confused, Xin Qing trailed after Ying Qingcang. She had been here before, but yet she knew nothing about any children's playground. Ying Qingcang led her to the top floor. When the elevator doors opened, her eyes took in the entire space before her, which was filled with colorful Lego houses. There really were all kinds of facilities that could not be found back in her home country.
"How did you know about this place?" Xin Qing said, glancing about excitedly.
"The Internet," Ying Qingcang said as he bought their tickets.
"Whatever..." Xin Qing thought, ignoring him and went to pick up Ah Sha instead.
"Little Ah Sha! Time to go inside and have some fun!"
Xin Qing discovered a special feature of this place; it was meant for families of three. It was stated clearly back at the ticket counter, which only sold tickets in sets of three. If you were to bring your baby here on your own, you would still need to purchase three tickets.
Little Ah Sha was captivated by a small boat, which was shaped like a pony. She lay in the boat while Xin Qing rocked it back and forth. Ah Sha chuckled at Ying Qingcang, who was standing somewhere beside them. The three of them stayed at the playground until evening. When Xin Qing got home, she saw a person standing in front of her door.
"Eva?" Xin Qing said in surprise. "How did you find my place?"
"Finally, you're back." Eva rushed over. "You've robbed me of my opportunity, you filthy b*tch. I can't enter CK because of you," Eva said, lifting her hand in preparation to strike Xin Qing. Xin Qing took a step back at the same time Ying Qingcang reached out from behind her and grabbed Eva's hand. Ying Qingcang gave Eva's hand a fling, tossing the woman to the ground.
Eva clambered to her feet awkwardly. Only then did she notice a man standing beside Xin Qing. The man was even holding a sleeping baby in his arms.
"Who are you?" Eva asked after giving the man a long appraisal. She found this man handsome, even more so than Meyer. From head to toe, he exuded a cold, aloof aura, which made him very attractive. Eva's mind spun and she suddenly came up with an idea. The collar of her shirt had gone askew during the fall. She reached up and pulled her collar down further, revealing her cleavage. "I was just trying to give her a little scare. Why did you treat me so roughly? You even tossed me to the ground!"
Xin Qing cleared her throat twice and shook her head. She really had got to hand it to Eva. She managed to pull off a come-on even at a time like this. Ying Qingcang did not even spare Eva a single glance. He grabbed Xin Qing and headed to the house.
Eva realized something. "You... don't tell me you're her husband?" she asked.
Seeing that Ying Qingcang was still ignoring her, Eva rushed to the front door. "Do you know that your wife had slept with someone in order to gain credit for a design? She's even using your diamond mine to provide for a bunch of gigolos."
Xin Qing turned around abruptly, and stared at Eva. "I warned you last time, you filth. Don't associate me with your disgusting affairs. Now you even have the audacity to make a fuss in front of my doorstep?" Xin Qing pulled out her phone. "I'm calling the cops."
"You, you dare?! I'm, I'm telling the truth," Eva said, looking at Ying Qingcang. Ying Qingcang glanced at her, and handed Little Ah Sha to Xin Qing. "How could we call the police," he said lazily. "That's no way to treat a lady!"
At those words, Eva felt instant glee.