vol. 1: chapter seventeen – tricked

Seeing her younger brother’s expression, Li Jinghua somehow felt that he was up to something mischievous. “What is it that you need to keep safe…?” she asked cautiously. “You didn’t secretly pick up another stray cat while you were out with Xue Rui, did you? I’ll tell you in advance, I cannot store living beings,” Li Jinghua informed him. Li Xinwen just grinned at her before rushing upstairs.

She was suddenly reminded of when Li Xinwen secretly brought back a cat and hid it in his room. At that time, Li Xinwen was still in middle school. They weren’t living in this house then but in a much smaller and humbler house. She remembered that cat , its black fur was falling off and it was skinny from not eating well. Her brother managed to keep the cat in his room for three days before their mother found out.

If it wasn’t for their mother’s allergy, Li Xinwen would’ve still had the cat now. Unfortunately, he had to give it away to a shelter. After that he never brought back a cat again. But once he began working as an actor, Li Jinghua found out Li Xinwen had again taken in a cat. Except, this cat was placed in a different home. It was a certain apartment in the city, one where Li Xinwen stayed in if he had ongoing work. At first, Li Jinghua did not mind, but when she went to visit a few months ago, she saw that the number of cats in that apartment had increased from one to thirteen.

Li Jinghua had scolded Li Xinwen for being irresponsible. His work usually required him to go over to the set, and sometimes he would need to stay for a few days. When that happened, who was going to feed the cats then? She still remembered the desperate look on Li Xinwen’s face and she couldn’t help but feel sorry. In the end, she offered to help look after them while Li Xinwen was busy, as long as Li Xinwen promised not to pick up another stray cat. Li Xinwen was grinning too back then, and it was also the same grin he showed earlier.

“…-jie, Hua-jie…” Li Jinghua felt a light pressure on her shoulder and saw Li Xinwen looking at her worriedly. “I’ve been calling you for a while now. What were you reminiscing about? Hua-jie should smile more. You look more beautiful when you smile,” Li Xinwen said, and only then did Li Jinghua realize that she was indeed smiling.

“It’s nothing. I just remembered about you and your cats.”

“Cats?” Li Xinwen quickly consulted the original’s memories and sure enough, the original did keep some pets in another apartment. “Have you been taking care of them all this time?”

“Of course. I promised, didn’t I?” Li Jinghua said before noticing the large wooden box on the coffee table. “Is this… The one you wanted me to keep safe?” Li Jinghua asked. “What is it?”

Li Xinwen could hear the curiosity in his sister’s tone. “A cauldron! Hua-jie, you must help me keep this safe. This tre–… I mean, this antique costs ten million!”

“Cauldron? The one that you got when you bid against Mr. Min?”

“The same one!”

Li Jinghua’s heart started to pound rapidly. ‘Is this the same cauldron that Mr. Min used to make that medicine that could help fight the zombie virus?’ she wondered. Though in that distant future Li Jinghua did not have a good life, some news still reached her ears such as the magical cauldron of the Min family that managed to produce medicine. “Ah‘Wen, do you know the use of this cauldron?” she asked. ‘Ah‘Wen doesn’t know how important the cauldron is for Mr. Min… I have to tell him…’ she thought as she prepared to explain it to Li Xinwen.

“Of course! This is one of the Twelve Celestial Cauldrons of legends! Such a great treasure, it’ll make refining pills much easier!” Li Xinwen became overly excited explaining what the cauldron was to Li Jinghua. Despite being a man of over three centuries old, when faced with such legendary treasures, even a thousand-year old cultivator would act like a child.

“Pills? Do you mean medicine? Can you make medicine with this?” Li Jinghua asked, excitement building inside her. ‘Does Ah’Wen actually know?’

“En! As long as I have the ingredients!” Li Xinwen nodded his head proudly.

“Then can you make medicine to fight against the zombie virus?”

“Vi…rus?” Li Xinwen suddenly remembered where he was currently. ‘Ah! I’ve been so excited that I’ve forgotten my current situation!! Virus? Let’s see… Oh, it’s like a plague that enters the body system and poisons the body…’ Li Xinwen quickly composed himself before he replied to Li Jinghua. “Of course. As long as I know the composition of the virus, and as long as I have the ingredients, then it’s possible.”

When Li Jinghua heard Li Xinwen’s answer, she became hopeful. But then a sudden realization dawned on her, which immediately crushed that hope. “I see… Unfortunately, I don’t know the composition of the virus nor do I know what ingredients are needed…” she sighed, feeling defeated.

“Well, maybe we’ll figure it out when the time comes?” Li Xinwen said as he tried to comfort the suddenly depressed Li Jinghua.

“Hopefully…”

Just as the word left her lips, the doorbell rang. Li Xinwen looked over at the clock and saw that it had been a mere ten minutes since he told Xue Rui to return. “Hua-jie, I think your future husband is here.”

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Li Xinwen only said it in order to gauge her reaction. As suspected, Li Jinghua suddenly showed an uncomfortable expression and even looked away from him, as if feeling guilty. He said, “I will go and open the door for him. Help me hide the cauldron in your space.”

***

When Li Xinwen reached the door, he decided to tease the man on the other side. “Rui-ge, is it cold outside?” he asked through the door. “Want me to open this door?”

“Xinwen… Don’t play around. You’ve called me, and now I’m here. If you want me to leave, just say so and I’ll leave…” came Xue Rui’s voice from the other side. From his tone, Li Xinwen could hear how depressed the other man was.

‘Teasing him like this isn’t even fun anymore…’ Li Xinwen sighed before he opened the door. “Come on in.” He gestured for Xue Rui to come in before he closed the door. “You only took ten minutes even though I gave you thirty minutes. Did you drive fast again?” Li Xinwen asked as he led Xue Rui into the living room.

Xue Rui wasn’t going to tell him that he hadn’t even gotten that far when he received the notification that Li Xinwen followed Min Xiaoyu in Donyun. “You’ve seen my driving skills. Getting here in ten minutes isn’t that hard. Plus… I didn’t want to make you wait too long.”

Li Xinwen hummed as he finally returned to the sofa. He stared at Xue Rui who just continued to stand there. He could see that Xue Rui had a complicated look on his face when he saw Li Jinghua. ‘These two really are hiding something…’ Li Xinwen thought. ‘If they broke up… How can I keep my promise to the original Li Xinwen?’

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“Rui-ge, go and take a seat first. I’m sure you and Hua-jie have something to tell me, right? Don’t worry. I have all night, and I am patient. You can take all the time you need to prepare yourself,” Li Xinwen said with a smile on his face.

“Xinwen, what is it that you want to know? To be honest, I’m not sure what it is that we’re supposed to tell you…” Xue Rui said as he took a seat before Li Xinwen.

“Not sure? Is that really the case?” Li Xinwen asked as he narrowed his eyes. Then he glanced over at Li Jinghua who sat beside him. “Hua-jie, explain to me why you were so hostile towards Xue Rui earlier. Don’t lie… I will know…”

Li Jinghua bit her lips as she looked away. “Ah‘Wen… You should know why….” As she said this, she clenched both her hands into a tight fist. “He… took advantage of you, didn’t he? I found out during that future I experienced… He… and you…” Li Jinghua didn’t want to continue and Li Xinwen could sense his sister’s inner turmoil.

“Continue,” he urged Li Jinghua.

“He forced you to sleep with him… And you agreed as long as he kept us safe…” she said as she glared at Xue Rui as if he were the worst scum on Earth. “So when I returned to this time, I decided to break off our engagement and cut our ties completely. But this man! I never thought he’d be so shameless!”

“En. Shameless indeed…” Li Xinwen agreed before realizing what Li Jinghua had just said. ‘Wait! Break off their engagement?! My worst fear has become a reality! Li Xinwen, ah! Your sister just broke off her engagement. How can I keep my promise to you??’ Li Xinwen wanted to say something to Li Jinghua but he was cut off by Xue Rui.

“Nonsense! Even though I–” Xue Rui suddenly stopped himself. As much as he wanted to deny that he wouldn’t take advantage of Li Xinwen like that, he felt that what Li Jinghua said he did was true. At least, the him before would do so. But now, he wanted to earnestly pursue Li Xinwen so he definitely wouldn’t do as such. “A-anyway, I don’t care what future you saw. Whatever happened in that future of yours may not necessarily happen again! For one, I won’t force Li Xinwen anymore. He even promised that he’ll let me pursue him!”

“I did?”

Now, Li Xinwen was confused. ‘When did I…’ he went through his memories before a scene in the auction house replayed in his mind. ‘This bastard! No wonder he was so happy when I told him I’m not going to get involved with someone who’s spoken for! It’s because he’s a free man!’

Li Xinwen was so deep in his thought that he didn’t realize that the two people in the living room were both looking at him. When he did, the atmosphere had long turned awkward. “What? I only said that…”

“So you did agree to let him pursue you?!” it was Li Jinghua who cut him off this time. “Ah‘Wen! You mustn’t agree!”

“Li Jinghua! This is between me and Xinwen! As you’ve said before, we have nothing to do with each other so please stop meddling!”

Li Xinwen noticed that things were getting out of control and their voices were slowly rising. He was afraid that if he let this continue, it would wake their mother. He massaged his forehead, as he felt a headache coming on. ‘I thought this rebirth was a blessing… but it turned out to be a disaster.’

“Alright, enough…” Li Xinwen said with a heavy tone. “I now know why Hua-jie was hostile. And I also know why she wanted me to keep my distance from you, Rui-ge. Now, both of you… Listen carefully to what I say.”

Li Xinwen’s expression turned extremely serious as he glanced over at the two. “Hua-jie, you are to let Xue Rui into your plan. You know it yourself… Xue Rui is an indispensable asset. With him around, we’ll be safer. I already agreed to learn martial arts in Mr. Min’s school, so you must also agree to this.”

Li Jinghua could only nod, and Li Xinwen felt one burden off his shoulders. Next, he turned to Xue Rui. “Rui-ge, I believe in Hua-jie, and if she says the apocalypse is coming, then we’d better be prepared. So let’s put everything behind us and start anew, agreed?”

“Xinwen, does that mean…” before Xue Rui could finish, Li Xinwen raised his hand, telling Xue Rui to stop talking.

“I still do not agree with you pursuing me. In all honesty, I still feel that you and Hua-jie suit each other better,” Li Xinwen responded. He could see that Xue Rui was becoming even more dejected. “However, I always believed that feelings are not forced and people are free to pursue the one they love. If you truly wish to pursue someone, then I can’t do anything about it. I can only tell you that you will end up disappointed if you pick me.”

Xue Rui’s eyes lit up once again. Although Li Xinwen had said he didn’t agree, he also hadn’t told him to stop. ‘Doesn’t that mean I’m being given a chance?’ he thought, and a smile formed on his face.

“The future isn’t set in stone, Xinwen! I will try my best to make you fall for me!” Xue Rui announced confidently.

Ah‘Wen… Are you sure?” Li Jinghua felt that this was not a good idea at all. But her brother was almost an adult now, and she felt that Li Xinwen should be allowed to make his own choices. Still, that didn’t mean that she was willing to let Xue Rui pursue her brother that easily.

“Don’t worry, Hua-jie. If he wants me, he must prove himself worthy. Just because you are no longer engaged, do you think I would let him have his way?” Li Xinwen smirked at Li Jinghua and Xue Rui suddenly felt that things were going in the wrong direction.

“Xinwen…” he called out his beloved’s name.

“Hmm?” Li Xinwen answered with a hum as he turned to face him.

“What can I do to prove myself worthy? I’ll do anything!”

“Anything?”

“Yes! Anything! As long as it’s for you!”

“Good. Remember your word! This weekend, come with us to Mr. Min’s martial arts school! If I have to learn martial arts from them, then you must learn too!” A mischievous grin appeared on his face.

‘I’ll show you the difference between heaven and earth! Then we’ll see if you’ll still have any indecent thoughts about me!’


Mini Theatre 5:

Li Xinwen: Come in thirty minutes and I’ll let you– (Xue Rui’s mind goes elsewhere and did not hear the rest)

Xue Rui: Xinwen…

-call got cut off-

Xue Rui: … What will he let me do again? Hug? Kiss? I’ll just go and find out.

-Drives at full speed-

Mini Theatre 6:

Li Xinwen: Rui-ge, should I open this door?

Xue Rui: Yes.

Li Xinwen: Why?

Xue Rui: So I can kneel down and propose to you.

Li Xinwen: … Please continue to stand outside. Or you can propose to the door instead.

And that, was Li Xinwen’s first win against Xue Rui.

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