Chapter 2/5

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Located at the northern outskirts of Zhonghai, was a row of antique houses set up by a river bank. Amidst the greenery, the houses exerted an ambience of elegance and tranquility.

This area used to be the home of Zhonghai’s most famous education institutions. Due to the increase in population over the past few years, many of the institutions had made their way into the city center to further accommodate their expanding network of students.

Now all that was left in the area were the first and oldest institutions ever built within the boundaries of Zhonghai. These were the few that withstood the test of time.

One of the those institutions was named Yu Lei Highschool. It was covered in thick vines which engulfed both sides of the school gates. Beyond the gates stood several well-worn cement pavements. Each one of them led to its own four to five story high academic building. This was an institution that would hardly stand out in the eyes of the casual pedestrian.

Yang Chen was one of the very few people to have set foot in the institution without any affiliations to it. He was strolling on a walkway paved with pebbles as he made his way through a grape trellis towards the school gate. He then made his way to the entrance of the broadcasting room.

The old security personnel stationed in that room saw Yang Chen approaching and warmly smiled before asking, “Young man, did you manage to find Madam Tong?”

Yang Chen nodded with a smile as he passed him a cigarette. The old security happily accepted it from Yang Chen’s hands.

Yang Chen drew his lighter and lit the cigarette for him before doing so for himself. Yang Chen then continued, “Madam Tong had just ended her class. So I headed towards the direction of the office you pointed out earlier. She was just evaluating her students’ homework.”

“That’s great. At least you got what you came for.” The old security guard had been serving in his post for many years. It had come to a point where the days had begun to blend together, making life at his job extremely boring. It was extremely rare for someone to come by and have a smoke and chat with him. So naturally, he was very welcoming to Yang Chen’s kind gesture.

“But it’s still all thanks to you, Brother. Without you, I would’ve been wandering aimlessly around the school. It would have taken me a much longer time to find who I was looking for,” Yang Chen continued with deep appreciation towards him.

The old security guard proudly replied, “I’ve been working in this school for almost thirty years now. There’s nothing I don’t know! Events that had happened roughly ten years ago are still as fresh in my mind as they were in the past.”

Yang Chen continued the conversation by bringing up a series of questions about past events that had happened in the school, be it important or insignificant. The old security guard was more than happy to regale the events as he enthusiastically babbled on. Yang Chen listened attentively—in particular—to the stories of Lin Ruoxi’s alma mater.

Yang Chen researched about Lin Ruoxi’s previous elementary and junior high schools that were specifically pointed out by Wang Ma. He discovered that both of them had unfortunately merged with bigger schools, rendering it impossible to find Lin Ruoxi’s previous seat in class, or the educators who had once taught her.

Luckily for him however, Yu Lei Highschool had braved the test of time and was still standing where it was years after the other schools had left. Even though it was not extremely well-known in Zhonghai due to its dilapidated exterior, the quality of education was still among the best in the area.

Yu Lei International was a huge enterprise. A small investment placed by a corporation in a school was not an uncommon sight.

Yang Chen—through the old security guard—managed to locate Lin Ruoxi’s class teacher. Everyone called her Madam Tong.

She no longer taught the challenging senior-year students due to her age. Instead, she relegated herself to fewer responsibilities by taking up freshmen classes, which meant less workloads for her.

When Yang Chen came up to her, she was caught off guard when she found out that he was Lin Ruoxi’s husband. She stared at him with a face full of confusion for a better part of their conversation.

By the look of Madam Tong’s face, Yang Chen could decipher its meaning without having to hear her utter a single word. It simply spelled out, How did Lin Ruoxi fall for a man like him?

It was evident that no matter how many years had passed, Lin Ruoxi’s presence had never waned in her teacher’s heart.

Yang Chen however came prepared. If he were to come up to the teacher and start of by saying ‘Lin Ruoxi is my wife and I’m here to understand more about her prior student life’, without any presented evidence, there was no way she was going to believe him. Not to mention a woman like Lin Ruoxi most likely had a parade of men after her.

Noticing the suspicious look on Madam Tong’s face, Yang Chen retrieved his marriage certificate with Lin Ruoxi.

Madam Tong was still unconvinced by the certificate. It was only until Yang Chen started describing Ruoxi’s background, and how Wang Ma introduced the school to him before she believed him.

Between their introduction and the time which school ended, Yang Chen accompanied Madam Tong as they circled the school compound. Madam Tong took this time to recount her past with Lin Ruoxi.

This might have been the longest Yang Chen had ever spent listening to anyone’s history. In the two hours which Yang Chen had paid close attention to, he envisioned scene after scene of the events portrayed in Madam Tong’s flashbacks. And there in the middle of it all, was an unfamiliar version Lin Ruoxi. A Lin Ruoxi that he never got to know.

When it was about time for school to end, Yang Chen reluctantly bade her farewell as he understood that she had other tasks to take care of.

But right before she left, Yang Chen sneaked in a final question. “Are you sad that Ruoxi has not visited after all these years?”

With a gentle smile, Madam Tong replied, “Throughout the years of my teaching career, the amount of students I have taught could very well be in the thousands. If every one of them came back to visit me, there’s no way I could ever work in peace! But I’m just glad to know that Ruoxi has now become the CEO of Yu Lei. She is doing a lot better than most of the students that I have taught. For that, I’m satisfied. With that personality of hers, I would be more surprised if she actually came to visit me!”

Yang Chen felt a little emotional. A small part of him pitied himself for never truly having experienced the life of a student. This teacher might’ve been a stern and unconforming educator. But now as she regaled stories of her past students, she came off most as a caring and compassionate mother.

With these complicated emotions inside, Yang Chen once again encountered the old security guard on his way out and decided to have a quick chat before school ended.

The old security personnel passionately shook Yang Chen’s hand, hoping that he would stop by again, which left Yang Chen feeling quite awkward. This man must be really bored at work, Yang Chen thought.

Walking to the parking lot, Yang Chen drew his car keys ready to make his way back, before he noticed a familiar presence.

From a distance, an attractive figure wearing a white blouse and a pair of sky-blue skinny jeans moved gracefully through the pedestrian alley on her bicycle.

Her dark brunette hair elegantly fluttering in the wind prompted a narrow glance from Yang Chan as he identified the owner of that mesmerising smile. It was someone whom he had not met in a long while, Zhao Hongyan!

“Hongyan?” Yang Chen yelled out in surprise, excited that he ran into an old friend.

Zhao Hongyan, who was cycling on her bike, instantly recognised his voice. She pulled on the brakes to stop her bicycle. Her initial reaction of surprise quickly turned into a bright smile before she replied, “Yang Chen, what are you doing here?”

Yang Chen and Zhao Hongyan both slowly made their way to each other. The two of them had known one another for around a year now. They had spent large amounts of time together in the company which led to them getting very close. Not to mention the intimate moments they spent together. A while ago, Yang Chen even helped in an incident involving Zhao Hongyan’s husband whose entire family were crazy, leaving them closer than ever before.

And it was because of those events, their reunitance had an ominous feeling of non-clarity.

Yang Chen quickly glanced through Zhao Hongyan’s bicycle basket. It was filled with vegetables and meat. So he rhetorically asked, “Were you coming from the market?”

“Yup.” Zhao Hongyan nodded with a smile. “I don’t believe I have mentioned it but I live right around the corner from here. What about you, did you come from Yu Lei Highschool?” She recalled something in her mind and continued, “Oh yeah, that day at Boss Lin’s office I remember mentioning my family problems. Are you by any chance accompanying her back to her alma mater?”

Yang Chen could clearly remember the events that happened not too long ago. Lin Ruoxi had invited Zhao Hongyan into her office, and offered to settle her father’s medical bills in exchange for several clauses. Some of which included staying with Yu Lei International for 10 years and a paycut of fifty percent.

Now that Zhao Hongyan had brought that up, Yang Chen recalled the question he previously had in mind. “Well I had some stuff to deal with, that’s why I came over on my own. What about you? Didn’t you sign a 10-year contract with the company? Did something happen to your father which required you to move back?”

Zhao Hongyan consequently shook her head and replied, “No, my dad has actually gotten a lot better after the kidney donation thanks to Boss Lin’s medical funding. He has almost fully recovered and could go back to working. However, his well-being is still far from optimal which requires me to support him. Besides, now that my dad has resumed his business, I can make a little more there than I did at the company. This means I will be able to pay off my loans a little easier. I brought it up to both Mingyu and Boss Lin, and they both supported my decision. So here I am.”

After listening to her explanation, Yang Chen felt relieved. Even if the medical expenses reached millions, money could always be earned. A healthy body was something that cannot be regained once it was lost.

But after the topic ended so did the conversation. Both Zhao Hongyan and Yang Chen had not seen each other in quite a while. The sudden meeting left them in an awkward situation, without any ideas on how to continue the conversation.

Zhao Hongyan was silent for a bit before she gave a shy little grin. “Since you’re here, why don’t you follow me to our glutinous rice ball store? Our recipe was passed down for generations. I can guarantee that it is not your typical dessert!”

Yang Chen had a wide grin on his face. How could I forget? Ruoxi loves the glutinous rice balls from Hongyan’s place! If I bring some back with me, it’ll help with my situation for sure!

Thus Yang Chen willingly accepted her invitation. Zhao Hongyan led led the way on her bicycle while Yang Chen followed behind in his car as they leisurely made their way to the storefront.

Zhao Hongyan’s family-owned glutinous rice balls shop had an antique outlook. The storefront housed a sign with the words ‘Zhao’s Glutinous Rice Balls’. Flanking its sides were paragraphs describing the history of their family business. Located between a row of hip restaurants and eateries, it was rather underwhelming to say the least. But nonetheless, there was a surprisingly long queue outside the shop!

“I didn’t know you needed to queue for glutinous rice balls.” Yang Chen had never before seen quite a sight like this one. The places that he previously went to buy glutinous rice balls for Lin Ruoxi had never garnered such a long queue
Zhao Hongyan boastfully replied, “Oh this is still manageable. Wait till school’s over. The queue usually stretches all the way across the road. More often than not, we run out of ingredients to satisfy the ever-growing demand.”

Yang Chen was amazed. It was no wonder Lin Ruoxi had been praising it from the moment she tried it. The crowd itself was a testament to their glutinous rice balls.

Since there were many people at the storefront, Zhao Hongyan quickly made her way into the store, casually greeted her father and her brother and told them about Yang Chen’s visit. Business was hectic so all they could do was to give Yang Chen a courteous smile and invited him to the back for tea.

Zhao Hongyan accompanied Yang Chen to the back of the store which functioned as the living room where her family stayed. She prepared a pot of tea for him to go along with a plate of exquisite rice balls.

“Try them out. These are all our classic glutinous rice balls. If you like them just take some along with you. Don’t forget to share them with Boss Lin.” Zhao Hongyan was clearly in a good mood as she continued to enthusiastically talk about her family business.

Yang Chen was mesmerised by the glutinous rice balls that were before him. The refreshing and enticing smell wafted through the air around him, making his mouth water uncontrollably. He couldn’t help himself but devour them in huge mouthfuls.

One bite into the glutinous rice ball unraveled its sweet fragrance without being overpowering. The red or soy bean filling was pleasantly sweet but not too greasy.

Yang Chen once again approved of Lin Ruoxi’s taste buds. These glutinous rice balls were a treat that no one could resist.

“How was it?” Zhao Hongyan was eager to know.

Yang Chen was extremely busy feasting on the glutinous rice balls. When posed with the question, he raised his thumb up while saying, “It really is good. I believe the crowd outside is real now. It’s definitely not background actors!”

“Screw you! Why’d you have to say that?” Zhao Hongyan exclaimed. “If you like it a lot, feel free to bring some home. Even though the ingredients are starting to run a little low, there’s always enough to treat a friend.”

Yang Chen licked his lips. A smile smile escaped his lips revealing some ulterior motives. “Hongyan, I want to ask you something.”


“Can your rice balls be custom made?”

“What do you mean?” Zhao Hongyan was clueless of what he was trying to say.

Yang Chen awkwardly rubbed on the back of his head as he replied, “I would like to ask your father and brother to make some custom made glutinous rice balls. It’s nothing too drastic. Just a slight tweak on your famed glutinous rice balls.”

Zhao Hongyan was puzzled, but she nodded anyway. “It’s not too difficult. Just some rice balls with slight decorations right? With my dad’s craftsmanship it’s not going to be a problem. But why would you need decorations on the rice balls that you’re going to eat anyway?”

Yang Chen let out a long sigh. Zhao Hongyan might not be his woman but she was still pretty close to him. It wasn’t a secretive topic anyway. “I want to bring these rice balls home as an apology to my wife. That’s why I need the decorations.”

“Your wife?” Zhao Hongyan frowned. She might have known that Yang Chen had a wife, but that was all she knew. Now that she was presented with this opportunity to figure things out, she hesitantly replied, “Your wife, could it be…”

“Oh you didn’t know?” Yang Chen asked. Zhao Hongyan might have been kept in the dark about his marriage with Lin Ruoxi. But it was no surprise as it was a well-kept secret from the entire company. Only Mo Qianni and Liu Mingyu knew about it. He explained, ”Well you guessed it right. Ruoxi and I have been married for some time now. We just never publicly announced it.”

Zhao Hongyan was left dumbfounded from the revelation. Only after a few long minutes, she reacted by giving Yang Chen a peculiar stare. Everything that was once a mystery to her was now crystal clear.

“Thank god I didn’t do anything behind Boss Lin’s back,” Zhao Hongyan mumbled under her breath.

Yang Chen however managed to hear everything she said. He teased her by saying, “Thank god for what? What could you have possibly done behind her back?”

Zhao Hongyan’s face immediately became extremely red. She clenched her teeth and glared at Yang Chen. All the time spent between Yang Chen and herself showed underlying feelings of romance brewing. Fortunately nothing came to fruition, or else she might have betrayed the savior that she had always respected and adored.

“If you actually married a woman as good as Boss Lin then you should be content with that. Why would you spend so much time with us female employees back then? What an irresponsible person!” Zhao Hongyan seemed furious on the outside. But deep down, she was just disappointed.

If only she had known that there was something off with this man, she would have asked about the woman whose hand he had taken in marriage. If only she had known it was Lin Ruoxi, she wouldn’t have expected anything out of her relationship with Yang Chen.

Yang Chen’s motive was to neutralise the awkwardness between them. At the very beginning when he first met Zhao Hongyan, his marriage with Lin Ruoxi was just nothing but a contract. That was why spending time with pretty girls was considered alright to him.

As time went by, Zhao Hongyan and Yang Chen had had several intimate encounters. It was kept at bay ultimately because he switched to Yu Lei Entertainment. This led to awkwardness that they were faced with today.

For Yang Chen to say he felt nothing for Zhao Hongyan would be a lie. But they couldn’t truly be called lovers. It was probably in his best interest to keep a clear distance between them given his disastrous love life.

It was smack dab around the peak hours of the store, so Yang Chen had to wait until it was over before he could receive his custom order.

The peak hours however usually lasted until dinner time, so Zhao Hongyan had Yang Chen stay back for dinner at her place. It was not a very difficult decision for Yang Chen to make. He made sure to call back home to inform Wang Ma that he would be eating out while visiting an old friend.

After slightly over an hour the crowd of students subsided. It was only until then did Zhao Hongyan’s father manage to scrape together enough time for Yang Chen and his custom order of glutinous rice balls.

When Yang Chen gave him his request, Old Zhao was confused to say the least. He started to wonder if his old age was affecting his hearing.

Zhao Hongyan meanwhile was laughing hysterically at Yang Chen’s order. It was as ridiculous as they came.

Yang Chen on the other hand, kept a straight face and held Old Zhao wrinkled hands tightly as he earnestly pleaded, “Uncle Zhao, please you have to help me out. The well-being of my family lies in the hands of your glutinous rice balls!”

His words might have sounded weird but Old Zhao agreed anyway. And so he went to prepare the glutinous rice balls.

While waiting, Yang Chen noticed his phone vibrating. It was Rose.

He recalled pleading her to look after Zhenxiu and conduct a detailed background check on this Jiao Yanyan girl. Now that Rose had contacted him, she must have finished conducting her research. With that in mind, he promptly accepted the call.