Zhao Zhanhuai directly ignored his mother’s shock and disapproval. After firing Zhang Yufen, he planned to pay a proper visit to Zhao Mingxi again.
And this time, they will have a proper conversation.
As they were only a week away from the birthday banquet, he was hard-pressed on bringing her back.
When he heard that they were having their exams, Zhao Zhanhuai even purposely waited for another two days. Two days later, in the afternoon when they were done with their exams, he got his secretary to drive the car and come along with him to bring the clothes which the nanny brought home back to A High.
He didn’t look for Zhao Mingxi at the International Class this time. He knew the reality of what would happen. If he did the same thing he did previously, he might not even be able to get in a few words before Mingxi would turn and go back to class. He wouldn’t be able to make any progress then.
He wanted to look for Zhao Mingxi’s dean and homeroom teacher first so that they could ask Zhao Mingxi to come over. Then, he would ask them to give him and Zhao Mingxi some time to talk.
Zhao Zhanhuai was having a headache about this matter as well. This was the first time that he, as a 25-year-old man, had to deal with the issue of a rebellious teenager.
Furthermore, he had only attended Zhao Yuan’s Parent Teacher Meeting once when she was in her First Year. He had never done so for Mingxi— Thus, after parking the car outside and entering the school, he was like a blind man as he did not know where to find the dean and Mingxi’s homeroom teacher.
The exams have just ended so they can’t be in the office, right?
Just as Zhao Zhanhuai was tossing his car keys to the secretary so that he could park the car, he suddenly saw a familiar figure coming out from the convenience store.
That girl had some snacks in her arms. When she saw him, she exclaimed, “Zhanhuai ge!”
Zhao Zhanhuai replied, “You are?”
That girl walked over to him. “I am Pu Shuang. I’m Yuanyuan’s close friend. I’ve been to your house before, but you just got back from work and went straight to the study room that day so you might not have noticed me,”
Zhao Zhanhuai nodded. “I see. Nice to meet you.”
Not only was Zhao Zhanhuai handsome, he was also young. With his neat and chipper black and white suit, everyone in school who passed by them would spare him another glance.
And they would look at Pu Shuang as well.
Pu Shuang could feel the heat rushing to her face. She asked, “Did you come here to look for Yuanyuan?”
“No.” Zhao Zhanhuai shook his head. He then thought about how Pu Shuang and Zhao Yuan were from the same class, and since the Evergreen Class and International Class are in the same academic building, they should have the same dean. Thus, he asked, “I’m looking for your dean. Do you know where he might be right now?”
As Zhao Zhanhuai was extremely handsome, Pu Shuang couldn’t help but to ask again, “What’s your business with our dean?”
But Zhao Zhanhuai just said, “Just tell me where he is. If you don’t know, I’ll ask around.”
Pu Shuang looked behind him and saw his secretary carrying a bunch of things while standing afar by the car.
Those things looked like presents.
Could it be that he got these presents for their dean as well as their homeroom teacher, and that he plans to invite them for Zhao Yuan’s birthday banquet? That’s why he couldn’t say anything to her?
When Pu Shuang realized this, she was even more jealous of Zhao Yuan. Her elder brother was so handsome and absolutely spoiled her. He was even so detail-oriented to the point where he would give her teachers presents on her behalf.
No wonder the dean and their homeroom teacher would always pay more attention to Zhao Yuan.
Pu Shuang offered joyfully, “I’ll bring you there.”
Zhao Zhanhuai entered the dean’s office.
Then, Pu Shuang left.
When she left the dean’s office, she coincidentally bumped into Zhao Yuan who had just come out of the piano room. She went over and looped her arm around hers. “Guess who paid a visit to our school?”
Zhao Yuan asked, “Who?”
“Your eldest brother.” Pu Shuang smiled as she leaned in to whisper into Zhao Yuan’s ear. “His secretary was carrying a bunch of things while he went to visit the dean and our homeroom teacher. My guess is that he came here for your birthday banquet. After all, we’re already in Year 3. He would want the teachers to take extra care of you, hence he secretly came over to give them some gifts.”
Zhao Yuan looked towards the dean’s office. A blush formed on her cheeks.
Her whole family spoiled her, especially her second eldest brother Zhao Mo who was the most protective of her. But for some reason, she was always especially attracted to her eldest brother Zhao Zhanhuai.
Maybe it was because of how gentle he was in everything he did.
When she was young, she liked to stick around her eldest brother. But as she grew older and found out that she was not the biological daughter of the Zhao family, she was initially sad and nervous. Then when she looked at Zhao Zhanhuai, a sense of anticipation and happiness appeared in her heart.
There was a vague feeling of a crush forming in Zhao Yuan’s heart, but she could not put a finger on what that feeling was just yet.
Nonetheless, it was an undisputed fact that her eldest brother treated her very well.
The slight dissatisfaction she felt from when her eldest brother failed to console her when he came home that day disappeared instantly. She assumed that he must have been bothered by something in the company, hence he was in a bad mood.
“I’ll treat you to hotpot today.” Zhao Yuan said happily, “Then when we’re done, I’ll get my eldest brother to fetch us home.”
Pu Shuang was extremely jealous. “It feels like you’re a princess. You’re so lucky.”
While the two of them were chatting as they walked downstairs, they saw Zhao Mingxi who was walking upstairs.
They met right at the stairway.
When Pu Shuang saw Zhao Mingxi, she purposely raised her voice. “Yuanyuan, your eldest brother came looking for you in school again. He even got you so many gifts. He treats you so well!”
Zhao Mingxi, “...”
So what was she supposed to do? Cooperate and feign a look of envy?
Zhao Yuan hurriedly covered Pu Shuang’s mouth. She nodded at Mingxi, then ran away with Pu Shuang in laughter.
Mingxi continued upstairs, wondering what business the dean has with her.
Meanwhile, in the dean’s office.
Normal Class 6’s homeroom teacher was a little slow in collecting the exam papers, so when he sent the papers to the dean’s office, he coincidentally bumped into Zhao Zhanhuai who was waiting for the dean.
He unconsciously looked toward Zhao Zhanhuai. In that instant, the wheels in his mind started to run. He felt as if he was really familiar. He looked like someone he used to teach… Zhao Mingxi’s guardian?
When Zhao Zhanhuai saw this middle-aged man staring at him through his spectacles, he immediately got up and offered to shake his hand. “Hello. You are—?”
“I am Normal Class 6’s homeroom teacher, Li Yong.” The teacher did not accept his hand shake. He even tossed the test papers on the table before saying, “Have you come to school to pick up your other sister again?”
“Are you Mingxi’s ex-homeroom teacher?” Although Zhao Zhanhuai had no idea why this homeroom teacher was suddenly so hostile towards him, he still maintained a respectful attitude and explained, “I’m here for Mingxi today, not for Yuanyuan.”
"Humph," The teacher snorted. "How rare of you to look for her. Last year when she got gastroenteritis in the middle of an exam, no one from her family came. I even had to get two students from my class to send her to the hospital."
"She never told us about it!" Zhao Zhanhuai was exasperated. He had no idea that Zhao Mingxi had gastroenteritis. He went through his memories once more and affirmed himself, "She never told any of us!"
"Of course she would never tell you about it! What's the point in telling you?" The teacher looked down at him. "No one from your family has ever attended her Parent Teacher Meeting! I even went out of my way to ask about this last year. Why was it that Zhao Yuan from the Evergreen Class had family members over but our Mingxi had no one? I wanted to ask what the hell were you guys thinking, but the next thing I saw was you leaving in the car with your other sister!"
Zhao Zhanhuai felt a sharp stab in his heart.
It was true that he attended Zhao Yuan's Parent Teacher Meeting. Then he got their mother to attend Mingxi's. However, their mother was so busy with playing with her friends that day that she forgot about it, hence her absence.
"My mother forgot about it." Zhao Zhanhuai could only apologize. "I'm sorry. But this was just one occasion, you…"
“What do you mean ‘just one occasion’? Do you think it was just one occasion?” The teacher had to stop himself before he threw the papers in Zhao Zhanhuai’s face. “There was a period of time when such a hardworking student like Zhao Mingxi would fall asleep in class. I asked her about it a few times. I even gave her a good scolding before she confessed that it was because she was busy cooking all day that she didn’t have time to do her homework, hence she had to burn the midnight oil to complete them and ultimately caused her to fall asleep in class— Aren’t you guys from a wealthy family? Since you can drive cars worth a few hundred thousand yuan, why must you get Zhao Mingxi to cook for you everyday?! She has such a heavy workload as a Year 2 student. Do you not want her to get into university?”
Zhao Zhanhuai was shocked. "Mingxi gets sleepy in class…?"
He never thought of this.
He thought that Mingxi was happy whenever she made dinner for them. She was good at cooking, and she wanted to ingratiate herself with the family.
But he never thought about the impact of this matter on Mingxi.
While the first thing Zhao Yuning and Zhao Yuan did when they got home was to do their homework, she was in the kitchen dunking her hands in water with that nanny who treated her poorly.
She was human too. Of course she would be sleepy.
When she first arrived at their home, she was only 15 years old; still a skinny little girl who did not dare to even raise her head.
He did tell her back then that she did not need to make dinner for them.
But Zhao Yuning was an immature child. He only wanted to eat what Zhao Mingxi cooked.
Thus, Mingxi told him with her eyes gleaming, “It’s alright, da ge*. It won’t take me long anyway.”
*da ge = eldest brother
As Zhao Zhanhuai was still not that close to Mingxi and their relationship was still in an awkward phase, he could only let her be.
But if it was Zhao Yuan—
Zhao Zhanhuai could not imagine how their family would allow Zhao Yuan to use her hands which were used to play piano to wash vegetables instead.
Zhao Zhanhuai's heart clenched painfully.
"She's not made out of metal. How could she not be sleepy?" The teacher snorted coldly.
He always thought that Mingxi had a lot of natural talent. He could see through her answers that she was a bright student, but for some reason she would always be either sick or inconvenienced during her exams, hence she had never taken a proper exam before.
This made him wonder if it was because Mingxi lacked certain vitamins in her body— But the Zhao family was so rich, how could they raise a child who lacked vitamins?
He bought vitamins and supplements for Mingxi and insisted that she eat them everyday. After Mingxi gave him the money and thanked him, he couldn’t help but to look at the Evergreen Class’ Zhao Yuan to see how she was doing. In the end, all he saw was a completely different and confident child who was raised with love.
His heart ached even though he was just her homeroom teacher.
Therefore, he naturally held a grudge against the Zhao family.
“When she scraped her knee during Sports Day last year, no one from her family came either,” the teacher continued to complain. “Later on her face got injured and she fell back in her studies. When I heard that she was staying in school, I was happy on her behalf. Now that she didn’t have to make dinner anymore, can you imagine how much more time she would have to study?!”
“It is not enough to provide mere financial support when it comes to a child’s growth. Will you treat your other sister this poorly?”
Zhao Zhanhuai felt a sharp prick in his heart.
The teacher’s words were like a sharp knife, stabbing him in the chest repeatedly.
Because Zhao Yuan will speak her mind. She was raised in a honey pot and taught to be innocent and ignorant. Whenever she needs something, she will say it.
But Mingxi won’t do the same. She was raised in an entirely different circumstance, and was used to bearing her own burdens.
Yet their family used the same method to treat two children with completely different personalities.
Were they too arrogant, or were they simply lacking in love?
They were supposed to treat Mingxi with more care, but they failed to do so.
Zhao Zhanhuai used to think that he merely missed the first 15 years of his sister’s life. But now he realized that he had missed these two years as well.
The teacher plainly disliked him. He turned to leave, but before he went off, he said in a tone full of distrust, “Don’t touch the sealed exam papers.”
Zhao Zhanhuai, “...”
Zhao Zhanhuai felt dejected.
That teacher made one correct point. If their family did their job, why would Mingxi have to ingratiate herself with them? Is it not them who owes Mingxi?
Zhao Zhanhuai suddenly felt that Mingxi’s decision to stay in school was the right choice. If she was only going to receive such poor treatment at home, she might as well move out and live on her own.
At this moment, Zhao Zhanhuai felt extremely uncomfortable. He desperately wants to see Mingxi.
He still remembered that time when he first took her to school to deal with the transferring procedure, how Mingxi’s eyes gleamed with the liveliness and anticipation of a young girl.
It wasn’t until the door behind him was opened that Zhao Zhanhuai came back to his senses.
When Mingxi saw him, she immediately looked around the dean’s office. When she noticed that there was just Zhao Zhanhuai there, she instantly frowned, realizing that it was probably Zhao Zhanhuai who asked the dean to summon her here.
Mingxi turned to leave.
But this time, Zhao Zhanhuai didn’t know how to treat her.
As compared to the arrogance he had during his previous visits, this time, Zhao Zhanhuai realized that their home was probably a torturous hell for Mingxi. If he was truly thinking for her, the thing he ought to do would not be to force her to go home.
"Mingxi," Zhao Zhanhuai took a deep breath and called out to her. "I came here this time to tell you that if you don't want to come home, it's fine. But I hope I will still be your brother, and if you ever need anything, I will help you."
When he saw how Zhao Mingxi paid no mind to him and continued to walk downstairs, Zhao Zhanhuai felt immense guilt in his heart and hurried after her. He placed a card in her hands and said, “This is my supplementary card. Go ahead and use it. I won’t tell anyone from our family. It’ll be our secret.”
Mingxi couldn’t figure out Zhao Zhanhuai’s intentions.
She said, "Supplementary card? How much can I use? Lies. What if I use up everything in it? Don't you like Zhao Yuan? Aren’t you saving this for your wedding with her? When the time comes, do I have to use this money to wish the both of you an everlasting marriage?"
When she saw how shocked Zhao Zhanhuai was at the end of her rant, Mingxi realized something. Oh crap, I don't think Zhao Zhanhuai is in love with Zhao Yuan yet.
It was a slip of the tongue.
"I don't want this." Mingxi tossed the card back to Zhao Zhanhuai.
“There is only 30,000 yuan in here. It’s what we owe you. Don’t you get it? I’m giving a part of what we owe to you first.”
Mingxi refused to believe that the Zhao family was this kind-hearted. Furthermore, she didn’t think that the halo surrounding the male lead would let her go that easily— If she dared to take the male lead’s money, wouldn’t that bring more bad luck to her? The luck that she worked so hard to obtain might just return to its original state.
Mingxi walked ahead without even looking back.
Zhao Zhanhuai felt helpless. After standing on the spot for a few minutes, he collected his thoughts. He sought for that teacher he met just now and gave his card to him. He explained the situation and asked him to take good care of Mingxi. Although he received another lecture, Mr. Li ultimately accepted it.
Only then did Zhao Zhanhuai feel slightly better.
He returned to the parking lot outside school with a heavy heart. When he saw his secretary carrying the items, he said in a somber tone, “She doesn’t want them. Forget it, let’s head back to the company first.”
As for Zhao Yuan, she was done eating her hotpot. She thought that Zhao Zhanhuai was coming to pick her up today— But in the end, he didn’t show up?
And for some reason, he wasn’t picking up her calls either.
Did he forget again?
Does it take this long to talk to the dean and send him gifts?
As Zhao Yuan was anxious, she couldn’t help but to return to school with Pu Shuang. When they went to the dean’s office, they realized that the door had been locked long ago.
Zhao Zhanhuai’s car was not parked outside the school as well. It appeared as if Zhao Zhanhuai had left quite some time ago.
Zhao Yuan was both angered and embarrassed. She almost couldn’t control the expression on her face. “Didn’t you tell me that my eldest brother went to look for the dean to send him gifts?”
Pu Shuang was hard-pressed as she replied, “It was merely a guess. He only asked me where the dean’s office was. But if he wasn’t going there for you, it couldn’t be that he went for the sake of Zhao Mingxi, right?”
Could it be that he really went for the sake of Zhao Mingxi? Pu Shuang guessed. When she saw Zhao Yuan’s face, she thought, could it be that the Zhao family isn’t as loving toward Zhao Yuan as I thought they were?
Zhao Yuan could feel Pu Shuang’s gaze. She felt as if she was struck. As she didn’t want to dwell on this anymore, she got in the driver’s car and went home.
Once she got home, she realized that Auntie Zhang had been fired.
Zhao Yuan was in disbelief.
“Why didn’t you ask for my permission before sending her off?”
Zhao Yuan rushed to Zhang Yufen’s room. When she saw the empty room, the corner of her eyes went red. “What did she do? What crime did she commit that she had to be fired?”
Their mother was still out shopping. There was only Zhao Yuning and a few workers at home.
Zhao Yuning never bothered about these things. Furthermore, he was wondering about the outcome of Zhao Zhanhuai’s visit to Zhao Mingxi today.
Thus, he casually gave her a few consoling words.
But the more she listened to him, the more she felt bothered by it. So she went to sit at the swing in their lawn.
The driver explained to Zhao Yuan, “Miss, you were taking your exams, so we couldn’t notify you about this. Your brother got Auntie Zhang to send something to Miss Mingxi at school. But due to her bad attitude and lies, your brother fired her in a fit of anger.”
“My eldest brother?” Zhao Yuan couldn't believe it. “But he knows that I’m very close to Auntie Zhang. She treats me very, very well. Even if she made a small mistake, he shouldn’t—”
The driver did not dare to finish her sentence. Although they felt the same, after seeing Zhao Zhanhuai so enraged yesterday, they felt that it would be best not to be on Zhang Yufen’s side.
When Zhao Yuan failed to get any response, she felt a sense of foreboding.
Why did her eldest brother fire the person closest to her due to Zhao Mingxi’s small matter?
She used to be the most important person to him.
The sound of a car braking could be heard from outside.
Zhao Yuan walked towards the gate with her red rimmed eyes and pale face. When she saw Zhao Zhanhuai getting down from the car, she could no longer contain the wretchedness she felt in her heart. Zhao Mingxi was suddenly the School Beauty, her eldest brother hasn’t gone to fetch her twice, even Auntie Zhang was fired for no apparent reason.
She didn’t even change her shoes before running into Zhao Zhanhuai’s arms.
The driver and Zhao Yuning were used to such a scene. Zhao Yuning wanted to run over and ask Zhao Zhanhuai about Zhao Mingxi’s matter as well, but in the end, he was superseded by Zhao Yuan. This made him frown in slight dissatisfaction.
Recently, after some comparison between them, he was beginning to realize the good sides of Zhao Mingxi. Not only was she a good cook, she would also play games and rear cats with him. As for Zhao Yuan, aside from her companionship when they were young, after she grew up, she only stuck to their eldest brother.
Sometimes, Zhao Yuning would realize that with regards to this point, it was undeniable that Zhao Mingxi was truly the one related to him—
No one else in this family was allergic to cats or peanuts.
Zhao Zhanhui opened his arms and allowed Zhao Yuan to hug him. He unconsciously softened his tone. “What happened? Did someone bully you?”
Only when Zhao Yuan heard his gentle voice did she let out a mental sigh of relief. She felt so wronged that her tears were flowing freely. She rubbed against his chest. “Why did you fire Auntie Zhang? Answer me!”
Zhao Yuan was usually generous and kind, so this sort of delicate and innocent tone was saved exclusively for Zhao Zhanhuai’s ears only.
Before this, Zhao Zhanhuai would treat this as a normal thing. But now the words Mingxi said kept running through his mind— "Wish the both of you an everlasting marriage."
What did she mean? Mingxi thought that he liked Zhao Yuan? Or was it that Zhao Yuan liked him? But he has always thought of Zhao Yuan as his younger sister and nothing else. How could it be? Was Mingxi overthinking it?
However, Zhao Zhanhuai suddenly noticed Zhao Yuan's tone and the way she squirmed in his arms.
"Da ge, can I go to your room tonight, just like how we were when we were kids?"
The expression on Zhao Zhanhuai’s face changed abruptly.
Could it be that Yuanyuan—?
This isn't right.
A multitude of expressions went across Zhao Zhanhuai’s face.
If Zhao Mingxi didn’t remind him today, he might have just allowed their relationship to grow in this direction naturally. But when he heard this sentence from Mingxi today, it became like a fish bone stuck in his mind.
It was impossible for him to allow this to go on when he was now aware of Zhao Yuan’s feelings towards him.
Just when Zhao Yuan was about to continue her complaint, she felt Zhao Zhanhuai pushing her away stiffly. His gaze was one of avoidance as he walked towards the stairs.
“You’re already a grown up. Stop crying because of such petty matters. Sleep in your own room.”
Zhao Yuan watched in shock as her eldest brother awkwardly pulled a distance between them. He just entered his own room and rejected her.
A if she had been slapped, the complaining words that were about to escape her lips came to a stop.
When Zhao Yuan watched all this unfold, even her blood seemed to have frozen. She belatedly realized that something was amiss, and a sense of fear appeared in her heart.
The old Zhao Zhanhuai would never reject her.
Since when did he…?