Even after getting off the plane, Yuan Zhongzhou still hadn't asked Shao Chengze how he knew the woman was already a mother, whether he knew her, and if so, why he didn't say hello.
The beautiful woman looked no more than 25 at most, so how could she possibly be a mother already.

Shao Chengze was annoyed by Yuan Zhongzhou's nagging all the way, and threw his bag to the person who came to pick them up at the airport.
He said impatiently, “If you want to know, go ask her yourself.”

Yuan Zhongzhou did have the audacity, but he was dragged around half dead and just sat on a plane for over 10 hours, so he knew without looking in a mirror that he currently looked ghastly.

“How do I look?” He straightened his collar and smoothed his hair with both hands, and asked Kong Yichan.

Kong Yichan looked him up and down and said, “Worse than a ghost.”

At that moment, a group of people happened to walk by.
The woman he had been thinking about was leading them.
Yuan Zhongzhou's mouth opened a few times but he couldn't get any words out.
He watched her increasingly distant back like gazing at a faraway mountain, and regretted a bit that he hadn't even asked her name, and didn't know if he would have a chance to see her again.

Kong Yichan didn't have time to humor Yuan Zhongzhou's lovesick melancholy.
She only saw the coldness in her boss's eyes.
Yuan Zhongzhou grew up abroad since he was little so he didn't understand the domestic situation.
If she wasn't mistaken, the woman who just walked by should be the second young lady of the Cheng family, Cheng Jinlan.

In fact, Kong Yichan wasn't too clear about the major figures of the prestigious families either.
It was only after she became Shao Chengze's assistant that she crammed on Shao family history for a few days.
Any matter involving the Shao family inevitably touched on the Cheng family.

It was said that the Shao and Cheng families were mortal enemies, though no one knew exactly what enmity they had.
But what outsiders did know were the Shao family's three codes of conduct: the Shao family must not cooperate with the Cheng family, must not intermarry with the Cheng family, and absolutely must not appear together with the Cheng family at public events.

Judging only by the boss's expression, the rumors of deep resentment between the Shao and Cheng families seemed true.

After Cheng Jinlan got in the car, she took off her ring and threw it in her bag, then threw the bag onto the seat next to her with a loud thud.
Tang Yicheng thought his boss was just in a bad mood from lack of rest after the long flight.
He quietly urged the driver through the window to drive faster and steadier.

Cheng Jinlan said with half-closed eyes, “You get in too.
Take you home first, then go to Cheng Garden.”

Tang Yicheng was about to say it was out of the way since they were going in opposite directions north and south.
It would be too much trouble.

Cheng Jinlan opened her eyes to look at him.
“Don't fuss.
With your two big suitcases, it'll be hard to get a taxi too.
Go home early and rest today.
There are still a bunch of things at the hotel tomorrow to take care of.”

So Tang Yicheng didn't decline further.
First he and the driver loaded the luggage into the car, then he got in the front passenger seat.

This boss of his had the reputation outside as the arrogant, domineering Second Miss of the Cheng family.
At first when he started working with her, he truly felt apprehensive, after all, accompanying a princess was even harder than “accompanying a lord is like accompanying a tiger”.
As the sole treasure in the hands of the Cheng family across three generations, it was no exaggeration to call her a “princess”.

But after getting along for a while, Tang Yicheng discovered that this Second Miss of the Cheng family was not as the rumors described, haughty because of her status and background, yes, but seldom temperamental.
She definitely wouldn't yell at or scold people randomly as the outside world said, only when she didn't sleep well her mood would fluctuate a bit, but she could calm down quickly without involving others.

So Tang Yicheng didn't know where those gossip and little tales about his boss came from, but she never cared about those rumors and validated or clarified them, living her life openly and uprightly no matter how lively the outside chatter got.

Cheng Jinlan adjusted her seat and had just closed her eyes when a figure emerged in the pitch blackness before her—eyes slightly slanted upward at the corners, smiling, melting ice and snow.
She scoffed to herself, after so many years he still smiled just as unpleasantly.

Some annoying shadows kept barging in, preventing her from falling asleep.
With half her sleep-deprived brain clearly awake and the other half muddled and weak, she felt increasingly uncomfortable physically.

In the seasonal transition from spring to summer, it was neither cold nor hot.
The road into the city was congested during morning rush hour.
It felt a little stuffy in the car so Cheng Jinlan rolled down her window halfway.
Before the fresh air could rush in, she first saw through the similarly lowered car window beside her half a profile.

Cheng Jinlan gritted her back teeth.
She was about to roll up her window when the man had already turned to look over.
Her hand paused—she didn't want to lose momentum in their first eye contact across space in years.
She moved her hand away from the button, imperceptibly averted her eyes, pretending she had seen an irrelevant stranger, or to be precise, a wisp of air that didn't impede her leisurely continued appreciation of the spring scene outside the car.
Cheng Jinlan's only regret was taking off her ring earlier.

Although she looked leisurely on the surface, inside she was tense.
Even if she didn't look, she could sense an inescapable gaze lingering on her face, extremely annoying her.
She didn't know what he was appraising, yet couldn't make a scene.
Fortunately the deadlocked traffic finally loosened up.
Her car went first, making a turn at the next intersection based on taking Tang Yicheng home.
Her line of sight and the man were tossed behind—if possible, she hoped to never see him again for the rest of her life.

When Cheng Liqi saw the car pull into the yard, she immediately jumped down from the swing and ran over.
She had looked forward to her mom coming home today, waking up earlier than usual weekends.
After eating, she practiced piano for half an hour before running outside to swing.

As soon as Cheng Jinlan got out of the car, she was hugged around the legs by the little girl running over.
She bent down to pick up the child, and scratched her perked up little nose.
“How did you wake up so early today?”

Cheng Liqi wrinkled her nose.
Her eyes curved into smiles as she whined, “Of course it's because I wanted to see Mommy sooner, so I woke up early early.”

Her bright eyes and brows contained laughter, overlapping into a scene not long ago.
Cheng Jinlan spaced out for a moment.

Cheng Liqi tried hard to charm her, but didn't get the expected response.
She took the initiative to kiss her mommy.
“Mommy, don't you want to see me sooner?”

Cheng Jinlan came back to her senses, and smothered her little face in kisses.
“Of course Mommy wanted to see you sooner.
Mommy almost thought herself to death missing you.”

Cheng Liqi giggled.
She hugged her mommy's neck and swayed.
“Mommy, I helped Xiao Qi with a really really big favor!”

Yesterday after Cheng Liqi came home from school, she pulled her grandma Fei Zuhui and asked if there was an actress big sister surnamed Shen with a mole under the outer corner of her left eye.

Coincidentally, Fei Zuhui did know of one.
The lead actress in the TV drama she most recently started watching, a freshly rising little starlet named Shen Xiwan.
She had a beauty mark under the outer corner of her left eye, adding a touch of weakness to her already delicate and exquisite features.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call her a incarnation of Lin Daiyu from the novel.

Cheng Liqi stared at Shen Xiwan's photo for a good while, and finally determined that Shen Xiwan must be Xiao Qi's mom, because the red mole under their eyes looked so alike.

Cheng Jinlan tidied her daughter's hair, blown messy by the wind, and went along with her words.
“What did you help him with?”

Cheng Liqi's big lively eyes shifted around.
She moved to whisper in her mommy's ear, “Secret, can't tell Mommy.”

This was her and Xiao Qi's secret.
They only knew who Xiao Qi's mom was now, but still had to find her.
His dad couldn't know about looking for his mom, because he didn't like Xiao Qi finding his mom.

Cheng Liqi had her own little plans in her little head, also knowing to change the topic to divert the adult's attention.
“Mommy, what gifts did you bring me?”

There were many gifts, big and small, piled to fill up an entire suitcase.
Seeing the gifts, Cheng Liqi forgot her dear mother.
She yelled once, impatiently dropped from her mommy's arms to go unpack the presents.
Cheng Jinlan laughed and scolded her a little greedy wolf.

Aunt Qu followed behind Cheng Jinlan to take her clothes, urging her to hurry upstairs and shower, then come down to eat.
Chicken soup was simmering on the stove, just waiting for her to come back and eat it.
Fei Zuhui valued old traditions—the dumpling that left home was the noodle that returned home.
For anyone in the family returning from a business trip, the first meal must be noodles.

Cheng Jinlan first hugged Aunt Qu, then hugged Fei Zuhui.
Pointing to another suitcase, she said, “These are for you two elderly, no one else gets a share.”

Fei Zuhui smiled at Aunt Qu.
“She's treating us two old folks like Cheng Liqi to coax.”

Cheng Jinchuan came downstairs, leaning lazily on the railing.
“It'd be nice to have someone coax me too, unfortunately no one does.”

Cheng Jinlan scoffed at him.
“If you, Young Master Cheng, want someone to coax you, yell once and people lining from the south end of the city to the north end would be happy to coax you, just whomever—don't keep pitifully waiting—”

Seeing his mother's sinking expression, Cheng Jinchuan quickly cut her off.
“Clear your schedule tomorrow night and accompany me to a wine reception.”

Cheng Jinlan declined.
“You have a bunch of girlfriends.
Can't you take any one of them instead? If nothing else, someone from your secretary office or PR department can stand in.
The next few nights, all my time belongs to Cheng Liqi.
I'm not free to accompany you to some murky wine reception.”

If he wasn't truly desperate, with an important reception tomorrow night and no one else left, Cheng Jinchuan wouldn't be asking this auntie's favor.
He had been abstaining from meat lately so none of his girlfriends could go.
His secretary office was all men.
The PR department…best not mention the PR department.
All his current lawsuits were because of them.

“If you help me out this once, the painting in my office is yours for the hotel to use.” Cheng Jinchuan put out terms.

Cheng Jinlan's heart stirred.
She had wanted that painting for a long time but Cheng Jinchuan always refused to relinquish it.
The few paintings she brought back this time were good but didn't particularly satisfy her.

Cheng Jinchuan added more bait.
“It won't take too long.
Show your face with me, mingle for a bit, and I'll let you leave after an hour.
It won't disturb your mother-daughter time tonight.”

Cheng Jinlan replied, “Deal.”

Cheng Liqi in the living room listened to her mommy and uncleargue.
She craned her neck to look at Cheng Jinchuan.
“Uncle, didn't the pretty big sister agree to go with you to the reception?”

With this one sentence, three gazes landed on Cheng Jinchuan's face.
A girl actually rejecting Young Master Cheng's invitation? Cheng Jinchuan gave a light cough.
“Weren't you and your little boyfriend planning to go look for someone?”

Uh…Uncle's ears were too sharp.
She and Xiao Qi spoke so softly, but Cheng Liqi obediently and cleverly smiled at Uncle.
“Uncle, I love you the most.”

Cheng Jinchuan felt he had won this round.
He raised his brows arrogantly at his little sister.
Cheng Jinlan scorned him for bullying a child.

Fei Zuhui wanted to ask about that pretty young lady, but Cheng Jinchuan sensed his mother's intention and threw over his shoulder, “Dress nicely tomorrow”, before slipping away.

Dress nicely, huh.
Cheng Jinlan thought she might as well wear a sack there tomorrow.

In the end she didn't get the chance to wear a sack.
Cheng Jinchuan had dresses and jewelry delivered early.
Cheng Jinlan casually flipped through them—the latest brands she usually wore.
Considering he had been quite thoughtful, Cheng Jinlan gave him this face and didn't wear a sack.

When she got out of the car, she saw Cheng Jinchuan and his scoundrel friend Li Peifeng standing at the entrance smoking around a trash can.
Li Peifeng whistled at Cheng Jinlan.
How twisted—people who knew he was a slick boss wouldn't think anything of it, but people who didn't would assume he was some petty punk off the streets.

Cheng Jinlan glared at him and told him to quiet down.
She just didn't understand how someone as serious as Uncle Li could have a son like Li Peifeng, who was so silly and frivolous.
It could only be explained by a genetic mutation.

Li Peifeng took out his phone.
“I have to take a picture and send it to Shi Ran.
I don't believe he can stay in that remote wilderness after seeing this photo.”

Cheng Jinlan hurried to grab his phone.
Li Peifeng had long arms and legs.
He raised his hand up high while she was wearing a long dress and high heels, so she couldn't reach it no matter how she tried.

Li Peifeng was halfway through a smug grin when his eyes fixed on someone behind them.

Cheng Jinchuan had been casually watching the commotion while a cigarette dangled from his mouth.
Seeing the new arrival, his eyebrows gradually knitted into a frown.

Cheng Jinlan wanted to turn around to see who had come that provoked such a big reaction from them.

“Excuse me, coming through.”

The clear voice drifted into the April night breeze, and Cheng Jinlan's bare back involuntarily shuddered.

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