In the blink of an eye, time’s flow reverses

As the evening approached, Jiang Huaixi followed Lu Zizheng back to the hotel.
Before they could go upstairs to rest, the car that came to pick her up had arrived.

Lu Zizheng stood at the hotel entrance, observing Jiang Huaixi empty-handed, just as she had arrived, calmly stepping into the car.
Then, she opened the car window and nonchalantly said, “You can go upstairs now, don’t make it seem like you’re reluctant to part with me.
I didn’t take the coffee and pastries you like that I bought just now…”

Lu Zizheng chuckled and turned around, entering the hotel without hesitation, waving her hand dismissively, “Take care, no need to see me off.”

Soon after, the sound of the car starting could be heard.

Lu Zizheng paused and turned back, standing still for a long time, watching as the car carrying Jiang Huaixi merged into the ceaseless stream of traffic, gradually disappearing, bit by bit…

Her heart, as if slowly, slowly, descended into emptiness.
Jiang Huaixi’s hurried arrival and hasty departure seemed to stir up a hurricane in her heart.
The storm approached forcefully, nearly sweeping away all her calm and composure.
Yet, when it was time to leave, she could hardly find a trace of its presence.

In the silence, her phone vibrated.
She opened her bag and took a look—a text message from Jiang Huaixi: If you don’t come up soon, the coffee will get cold…

A smile curled up on Lu Zizheng’s lips as she replied, “Don’t be so sentimental.
The coffee tastes good, too bad you won’t get to enjoy it.”

Putting her phone back, she glanced at the bustling traffic ahead, then at the coffee and cake in her hand.
Lu Zizheng smiled and decided to go inside after all…

When Lu Zizheng returned to Linzhou, she went alone.
It was said that even Lian Xuan had some last-minute work to handle in Jiangbei.
Lu Zizheng had merely heard about it and didn’t pay much attention.
The past was already indistinct, and she didn’t want to get entangled in it anymore.
After returning, she would pack up her things at Fengshang and then return to the translation agency.
This brief encounter with Jiang Huaixi and Lian Xuan would mark the end of a perfect chapter.

On the evening of her return to Linzhou, Lu Zizheng immediately informed her mother, letting her know that she would be home to accompany her beloved mother the next day.
Mama Lu expressed her joy and promised to prepare a feast to celebrate her belated birthday.
She insisted that Lu Zizheng needed to replenish herself since she couldn’t eat well outside.
Mama Lu also reminded her to make sure Jiang Huaixi joined them.

Lu Zizheng casually replied, saying she didn’t care and that she had someone to take care of her every day, ensuring she had delicious food and drinks.
She didn’t need her mother’s efforts.

After hanging up the phone, Lu Zizheng hesitated but ultimately sent a text message to Jiang Huaixi: Do you have time tomorrow? If you can, come home with me for a meal.

It was rare for her to take the initiative to invite Jiang Huaixi like this.
The moment she sent the message, she became restless and anxious.

However, much time passed, and her phone remained silent.
Lu Zizheng earnestly checked her phone settings to make sure it wasn’t on silent.
She thought that perhaps Jiang Huaixi was busy and hadn’t seen the message.
Maybe she would respond later.

She took out a book and tried to read for a while, but couldn’t calm her mind no matter what.
Deciding to shut off her phone, she went to take a shower.

Half an hour later, she emerged from the bathroom and turned on her phone.
There was a notification for an unread message.

She opened it, only to find Jiang Huaixi’s rejection: “Sorry, I’ve been quite busy these days and can’t make it.
Please send my regards to your mother.”

For a moment, Lu Zizheng felt a sense of disappointment.

It seemed like this was the first time Jiang Huaixi had refused her request in so many years.
Of course, she rarely gave Jiang Huaixi the opportunity to reject her either.
Perhaps it was because she had never experienced the feeling of being rejected by Jiang Huaixi that Lu Zizheng couldn’t let go of it, even for a moment.

The next day, she finished up the final tasks at Fengshang and made a stop at the translation agency before taking a car ride back to her mother’s house.
Since it was the weekend, Lu Zizheng decided to stay at her mother’s after having dinner.
She took a shower and laid in bed, but still couldn’t fall asleep for a long time.

On the bed, the pillow that Jiang Huaixi had used when she stayed over was still there, quietly resting on the left side of her own pillow.
A single bed had suddenly transformed into a double bed.

Lu Zizheng lay on her side, quietly staring for a while.
Then, with a sudden burst of frustration, she punched the pillow: “Who allowed you to invade my bed like this…”

But after tossing and turning for a while, she ultimately couldn’t bring herself to put the pillow away…

The following day, Lu Zizheng was awakened by a phone call.
As she reached for her phone, she realized it was her college counselor, someone she hadn’t contacted in a long time.
She sat up immediately, fully alert, and answered the call.

The counselor invited her to come back to the university on Saturday to attend the 150th anniversary celebration evening.
Additionally, if she had the time, they wanted her to hold a seminar for the freshmen, sharing her experiences and how she planned and navigated through university life.

Lu Zizheng hesitated for a long time before politely declining the teacher: “I feel like I may not be qualified to give advice to the freshmen.
I believe in their own paths, which won’t be more twisted than mine, and they will definitely have a more brilliant journey.”

The teacher remained silent, seemingly dissatisfied with her response.

Lu Zizheng had no choice but to sincerely say, “Teacher, as you know, I’ve never been good at opening up to others.
And all my planning for university life boils down to one thing: to excel in being myself and leave no room for others’ criticisms.”

The teacher sighed and reluctantly said, “You, after all these years, you haven’t changed.
I won’t force you to hold the seminar, but if you have the time, please remember to come back and attend the evening celebration.”

Lu Zizheng smiled, “I definitely will.”

Over the years, Lu Zizheng’s life experiences had already given her a deep understanding.
The things in one’s story can only be truly known by the person living that story.
The path one walks can only be judged by the one treading it.
In reality, there is no one correct path to follow in this world.
The so-called path of life is sufficient if one can walk it happily.
Each person’s life belongs to themselves, and there is no need for others to make judgments or comments about it.
She didn’t want others to interfere in her life, and naturally, she didn’t want to meddle in the lives of others.

On that Saturday, Lu Zizheng went to her mother’s house in the morning, as usual.
After a lazy afternoon meal with her mother, she leaned back on the sofa and watched the airplanes fly across the sky, leaving behind trails that slowly stretched out.
Suddenly, she impulsively decided to go back to the university.

She strolled slowly through the East Gate of the campus.
The lake of longing was still there, with its shimmering blue waves.
Couples sat by the lake in the gazebo, and people carrying bags of purchases passed by.
From their youthful smiles, Lu Zizheng glimpsed moments of time flowing before her eyes.

Unconsciously, she found herself walking to the most familiar place on campus—the Jiangji Library.
During those weekends, she could spend the entire day there.
Only here could she feel the steady and comfortable rhythm of her heartbeat, where she felt most at peace and at ease.

Lu Zizheng ascended the steps leisurely and, at the entrance, she saw that the same caretaker from many years ago was still there.
Amidst all the changes, there seemed to be hidden elements of the unchanged.
Her campus card was no longer usable, but fortunately, after registering with the caretaker, she was granted entry.

With the final exams still far away, the library seats were sparsely occupied.
Lu Zizheng randomly picked up a book on the second floor and headed to her usual spot on the third floor.
She sat there for the entire afternoon until she noticed that the sky had ominously darkened.

She descended the stairs, stood at the entrance to record her departure time, and just as she set down her pen, she heard the sound of pouring rain, as if it had suddenly arrived.

Lu Zizheng stepped outside, standing on the steps, caught between a dilemma.

Suddenly, a blue umbrella emerged from behind her and appeared over her head, providing her with a patch of clear sky.
Jiang Huaixi’s clear and composed voice sounded from behind, “Let’s go.”

Lu Zizheng turned her head and looked at Jiang Huaixi, and for a moment, time seemed to reverse, as if she had returned to that rainy night many years ago when the downpour suddenly began.

It was deep autumn in October back then.
After finishing her evening self-study, Lu Zizheng went to the library and stayed until closing time.
However, just as she swiped her card and stepped outside, she heard the sound of raindrops pattering against the branches—the sudden onset of a heavy rain.

Lu Zizheng was wearing a thin dress and carrying her backpack.
She watched as some boys dashed into the rain with a carefree spirit, or girls made phone calls to ask their roommates or boyfriends to bring them an umbrella.
She simply stood there quietly, hoping for the rain to stop soon.

A clear and composed voice spoke behind her, saying, “Let’s go, I’ll walk you home.”

Lu Zizheng slightly turned her body and saw Jiang Huaixi standing behind her, holding an umbrella.
In the dimly lit night, Lu Zizheng couldn’t discern Jiang Huaixi’s expression clearly, but she could see a faint sparkle in her eyes, like stars shining brightly.

Lu Zizheng turned her body back, clearly showing that she had no intention of following Jiang Huaixi.

However, Jiang Huaixi opened the umbrella and calmly added, “I don’t know if this rain will stop anytime soon, but one thing is certain: it’s almost time for you to return to your dormitory.”

Lu Zizheng furrowed her brows slightly, raising one hand to shield her forehead, preparing to rush into the rain.

But in the next instant, Jiang Huaixi raised the umbrella and tightly grasped Lu Zizheng’s hand, pulling her downward.
Lu Zizheng struggled and nearly slipped, but Jiang Huaixi coldly glanced back at her and said, “If you want to perform a free circus show for everyone here, then go ahead…”

The rain-soaked steps were too slippery, and Jiang Huaixi walked briskly.
Lu Zizheng struggled to keep her balance, finding it difficult not to slip.
Weighing the pros and cons, she reluctantly gave up trying to break free.

After descending the steps, Jiang Huaixi closed the umbrella and tightly held Lu Zizheng’s hand.
She opened the car door and forcefully pushed Lu Zizheng inside.

To avoid hitting her head, Lu Zizheng instinctively bent her body and fell into the car.
Jiang Huaixi leaned over and pushed her legs inside, swiftly closing the car door.

Lu Zizheng awkwardly sat up on the seat and reached for the door, but Jiang Huaixi had already locked it.
Realizing there was no turning back, a mix of old and new grievances ignited within Lu Zizheng.
Unable to bear it any longer, she angrily slammed her elbow against the car window.

Jiang Huaixi didn’t even spare her a glance but coolly remarked, “That sound was quite pleasant, crisp and melodious.
Would you like to give it a few more tries?”

Lu Zizheng took a deep breath, exhaled, and took a few more deep breaths to calm herself.
She closed her eyes and remained silent.

The car drove out of the campus and within a few minutes, arrived at Lu Zizheng’s dormitory.
Lu Zizheng, with her eyes closed, remained oblivious and motionless in the car.

Jiang Huaixi glanced at her, raising an eyebrow and spoke coldly, “Oh, have you gotten comfortable sitting there? Reluctant to get off now?”

Lu Zizheng opened her eyes and saw the familiar building outside the car window.
She immediately opened the car door and got out.
As she closed the door, Lu Zizheng furrowed her brow and said, “I won’t thank you.”

Jiang Huaixi, without even turning her head, calmly replied, “That’s fine.
I wasn’t expecting a ‘no need to thank me’ from you either.”

Lu Zizheng slammed the car door shut, and Jiang Huaixi’s vehicle swiftly accelerated, disappearing into the vast darkness of the night…

As memories flooded back, even Lu Zizheng herself was surprised.
How magical the hands of time were, transforming her and Jiang Huaixi from initial adversaries into what they were today.

Snapping back to the present, she didn’t follow the flow down the steps but instead asked Jiang Huaixi, “How did you end up here?”

Jiang Huaixi raised an eyebrow, exuding an air of charm, “On the occasion of the 150th-anniversary celebration, you received an invitation, but you forgot about me.
Could it be that you think you’re far superior to me?”

Lu Zizheng saw through her and said, “Well, isn’t that a coincidence? Tell me, did my mom ask you to have dinner tonight?” It must have been her who called her mom.

Jiang Huaixi chuckled, “Is your mom planning to treat me to dinner?”

Walking side by side, exchanging words along the way, they reached midway when suddenly a large group of people rushed in.
The woman at the forefront, stepping gracefully in her slender high heels and elegant black dress, with her usual upswept ink-black hair, was none other than Lian Xuan, whom they hadn’t seen since parting ways in the north.

Lian Xuan stood on the steps, with her subordinate holding an umbrella on her left and the vice principal of the school standing on her right.
Behind her, a group of men and women in suits followed in an imposing manner, resembling a queen on her procession.
She looked up at Lu Zizheng and Jiang Huaixi, and as their eyes met, there seemed to be a fleeting hint of melancholy in her gaze.
However, in just a moment, she was the first to avert her gaze.
Lian Xuan lightly stepped forward with graceful strides and stood on the nearby steps, looking at Jiang Huaixi.
Her face revealed the usual perfect curvature as she gently spoke, “Miss Jiang, what a coincidence to meet you here.”

Jiang Huaixi responded with a faint smile and a nod towards Lian Xuan, acknowledging her presence.
Then, she continued to walk alongside Lu Zizheng, holding the umbrella to shield them both, as they descended the steps, brushing past Lian Xuan.

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