I thought you remembered how much you despised me

As they got into the car, an unusually silent atmosphere filled the vehicle.
Jiang Huaixi turned on some music, and the soothing sound of a piano flowed through the car.
She spoke softly, as if explaining why Lian Xuan appeared at the school: “In Lian Xuan’s name, Fengshang donated a dormitory building.
From now on, we have a new neighbor next to Huatong Building, Lian Xuan Tower.
It sounds quite nice, doesn’t it?”

Lu Zizheng drew a big X on the misty car window, unimpressed, and said, “It’s better to have one person hold you in their heart than be on the lips of a thousand others.”

Jiang Huaixi pondered for a moment and replied, “That actually makes sense.”

Lu Zizheng nodded happily and said, “Of course it does.”

The car passed by an open-air stadium surrounded by iron fences, with a roof resembling an eggshell and a small iron gate that only opened on weekends.
It was raining, and the large track was empty, while on the stands, a few scattered people sat waiting for the rain to stop.

Lu Zizheng suddenly turned her face and asked Jiang Huaixi, “Back then, you clearly didn’t attend physical education classes, so why did you always come to the playground on time for every lesson?”

Jiang Huaixi casually replied, “Isn’t it just to make you, the common folks, envy, jealous, and resentful?”

Lu Zizheng scoffed, realizing she actually thought of herself as some privileged aristocrat.

Jiang Huaixi turned her head and saw the unmasked disdain on Lu Zizheng’s face.
She added in a soft tone, “Don’t you think the air on the playground is exceptionally fresh? And when you look at the sky from a 45-degree angle on the stands, it’s particularly azure, with a touch of poignant beauty.”

Lu Zizheng felt that she might have lost the ability to communicate with Jiang Huaixi.

Seeing that Lu Zizheng remained silent, Jiang Huaixi gripped the steering wheel and made a turn before saying, “Okay, I’ll tell you the truth…” Her voice gradually became soft and gentle as she spoke, “Actually, it was to be able to see you in every class…”

Lu Zizheng’s heart reacted to the sound, fluctuating rapidly, her hand resting on the seat involuntarily tightening its grip.

Unexpectedly, Jiang Huaixi was just taking a deep breath while speaking, but she paused for a moment and then revealed her trademark mischievous smile.
She raised an eyebrow slightly, curling one corner of her lips, “To be able to see you in every class, even the dog-like running motion can brighten my mood, no matter how bad it is.” She paused to think and continued with a touch of genuine curiosity in her tone, “Zizheng, I’ve always been curious.
Why can you run so fast even though you can’t even grasp the basic running posture? It must be a natural talent, right?”

Lu Zizheng looked at Jiang Huaixi’s smiling face without expression and coldly said, “Stop the car.
I want to get out.”

Jiang Huaixi turned her head back, leaving Lu Zizheng with a serene and beautiful side profile.
Her voice remained calm and confident, “Haven’t you noticed? You always enjoy tormenting yourself.
Most people like to listen to positive things, but you are the opposite.
You can’t hear the good things, but the moment something bad is said, it immediately affects you.
Weren’t my words just now genuinely praising your fast running?”

Lu Zizheng smirked but didn’t really smile, “So, I should thank you for your appreciation and praise, right?”

Jiang Huaixi smiled and spoke joyfully, “You’re welcome.
I’ve always been good with words.
What I just said was just a polite remark, so you don’t need to take it to heart.”

Lu Zizheng leaned back in her seat, closed her eyes, and decided not to waste any more energy looking at Jiang Huaixi.
She was determined to follow the saying, “Silence is golden.”

After a while, she heard Jiang Huaixi lower the volume of the music in the car and make a gentle phone call, “Auntie, Zizheng and I are heading back now.
We’ll pass by the supermarket later.
Is there anything you want us to bring?”

“Auntie, it’s raining.
You shouldn’t go out anymore.
Zizheng and I will handle the shopping.
Just wait for us to cook.
Okay… then I’ll hang up for now.”

After ending the call, the car drove out of the campus, and Jiang Huaixi immediately changed her gentle tone from the phone conversation.
She softly signaled Lu Zizheng, “Let’s divide the tasks.
Think about what you want to eat tonight and take responsibility for paying and putting in the effort.
In return, I’ll take you to the supermarket.
I think it’s fair, don’t you?”

Lu Zizheng sighed inwardly.
The cunning and spoiled Jiang Huaixi, who had just been considerate and gentle in front of her mother, was now asking her to pay and put in the effort…

As they parked the car, Jiang Huaixi walked ahead, while Lu Zizheng followed a few steps behind.
She watched Jiang Huaixi skillfully grab a shopping cart, one hand tucked into her wool coat pocket, and the other leisurely pushing the cart.
Seeing Lu Zizheng walking slowly, Jiang Huaixi turned back and urged her, “Come up front and pick some things.
Let’s go back soon.
I’m cold and hungry now.”

Lu Zizheng caught up to her and started browsing the food shelves, asking her as she picked, “Do you know, the first time I saw you, you seemed like someone untouched by the mundane world.
But later on, the three words you said to me most often turned out to be, ‘I’m hungry.'”

Jiang Huaixi took a few steps forward, stopped, and picked up a box of curry.
She carefully examined the production date and responded indifferently, “Is that so? I thought the first time you saw me, you only remembered how much you detested me…”

Lu Zizheng stood still, her heart sinking.
She remained frozen for a moment before lowering her head with a complex expression.

It turned out that at some point, she had already been able to recall this incident with ease.
When she remembered it now, the indignation and grievances that had filled her heart back then had been completely replaced by a sense of tranquility and indifference.

Lu Zizheng gazed at the woman before her, who was comparing different brands of the same condiment with a focused expression, her head lowered and her eyebrows furrowed.
She felt as if she were witnessing a completely different person.
Bitterly smiling, perhaps she should be grateful for that inexplicable beginning all those years ago.

Lost in her contemplation, Lu Zizheng suddenly saw Jiang Huaixi raise her hand and skillfully place one can back on the shelf while putting another can into the shopping cart.
Then, she delicately used her slender pinky finger to brush away a few strands of hair that hung in front of her eyes and continued pushing the cart forward.
That simple act of lowering her head and raising her hand carried a unique charm that left Lu Zizheng momentarily captivated.

It wasn’t until Jiang Huaixi, seemingly appearing out of nowhere, stood by her side and looked at her with an ambiguous smile that Lu Zizheng snapped out of her daze.
Without warning, Jiang Huaixi spoke, “I think when you go out with me, you should try to maintain your image a bit more.
It would be better not to lower my own image.”

Lu Zizheng awkwardly snapped out of her daze and replied, “So what?”

Jiang Huaixi had a look of exasperation, as if dealing with an incorrigible child.
Shaking her head, she sighed, “I guess it won’t sell now, your prized sense of public responsibility, huh?”

Lu Zizheng was perplexed and looked down, only to discover that the package of instant noodles she was holding had been crushed, seemingly without her noticing.

Jiang Huaixi smirked, “The evidence is irrefutable, no room for excuses.”

Lu Zizheng slumped in resignation, “…”

As the two of them excitedly returned to Lu Zizheng’s mother’s house with groceries in hand, they opened the door only to find Mama Lu sitting on the couch, one hand pressed against her lower left abdomen, clearly displaying a pained expression.
Upon seeing Lu Zizheng and Jiang Huaixi return, Mama Lu, still mustering a smile, stood up despite the pain and walked towards them, attempting to take the bags from Jiang Huaixi and Lu Zizheng to bring them into the kitchen.

In an instant, the smile on Lu Zizheng’s face was replaced by deep concern.
She set down the bags and hurriedly approached her mother, whispering softly, “Mom, what’s wrong?”

Jiang Huaixi bent down, picked up the bags that Lu Zizheng had placed on the floor, and set them aside.
Then she turned around, instructing Lu Zizheng, “Support Auntie and let’s go to the hospital.”

However, Mama Lu pushed away Lu Zizheng’s hand and forced a smile, saying, “I’m fine, just some stomach ache, it’s an old problem.
You and Huaixi don’t need to make a fuss.
I’ll be fine after resting for a while.
There’s no need to go to the hospital.”

Naturally, Lu Zizheng couldn’t rest easy and insisted, “Mom, just look at how much pain you’re in.
We should go to the hospital and have it checked out.
I can’t be at ease otherwise.”

Jiang Huaixi also stepped forward and gently advised, “Auntie, let’s go…”

However, Mama Lu persisted, “You young kids always like to be so anxious.
I’m really fine.
Do you think I don’t know my own body? It’s an old problem that I’ve had for many years.
I’ve tried both Eastern and Western medicine, but it’s no use.
It’s just a reaction to the cold weather after the rain today.” She stood up, patting Jiang Huaixi’s shoulder with a kind smile, and said, “Huaixi, save your energy for taking Auntie to the hospital and come help me in the kitchen.”

Jiang Huaixi glanced at Lu Zizheng, who wore a worried expression, and then at Mama Lu, who remained steadfast.
Feeling helpless, she finally couldn’t overcome Mama Lu’s determination and compromised, “Alright, Auntie.
Since you don’t want to go to the hospital, then go rest for a while.
Leave dinner to me.”

However, Mama Lu refused, “That won’t do.
Auntie promised to let you have dinner tonight.
How can we turn it around and make you…” Before she could finish her sentence, Lu Zizheng interrupted, “Mom, go and rest.
Huaixi won’t mind.”

Afterward, Jiang Huaixi brought the groceries into the kitchen, while Lu Zizheng supported her mother into the bedroom.
She then went to the living room, picked up a cup of hot water, and brought it to her mother.
After her mother drank it, Lu Zizheng closed the bedroom door and returned to the sofa in the living room.

Sitting on the sofa, Lu Zizheng didn’t even turn on the television.
As the evening grew darker and the night descended, she remained oblivious, forgetting to even turn on the lights.

Jiang Huaixi, wearing an apron and holding a spatula, turned around and saw Lu Zizheng sitting alone in the darkness.
A slight furrow formed between her eyebrows, and then her clear and calm voice resonated in the silence, “Zizheng, come in and help…”

Lu Zizheng’s thoughts were abruptly interrupted by her sudden voice, causing her body to tremble slightly.
Coming back to her senses, she realized that the surroundings had already dimmed, with only the kitchen emanating an orange warm glow in the midst of the gloom.

She stood up heavily and walked towards the kitchen, standing beside Jiang Huaixi in silence.
Mechanically, she began peeling the potatoes, one after another, on the cutting board.

Her mind, after briefly returning to the bedroom where Mama Lu lay, once again plunged into a sea of negative thoughts.
Being prone to negativity, various terrifying thoughts filled her mind, leaving her restless and almost unable to contain herself.

After her father left, her mother became her whole world.
Her mother had promised her that she would never leave her, so how could anything go wrong?

That year, she had just started the ninth grade, only two weeks after her father passed away.
She was forced to stand in the principal’s office with her mother, in that suffocatingly oppressive room, listening to the principal earnestly say to her mother, “Zizheng’s mother, I suggest you take her to see a psychologist.
If this were in the past, it would be considered a criminal offense, and she would be taken into custody.
I can’t bear to see this child ruin herself like this.”

She lowered her head, gripping her mother’s hand in fear, feeling the gentle tremor coming from her mother’s hand.

The principal continued with insincere persuasion, “Moreover, you see, given the situation in the school now, it may not be suitable for her to continue studying here.
This incident has brought significant negative impact to her classmates, the surrounding students, and even the school.
Zizheng’s mother, consider giving her a change of environment, transferring schools.”

With teary eyes, she lifted her gaze to this well-dressed and dignified man.
Not long ago, this man had presented her with a certificate for winning the first prize in the city’s science and technology innovation, in front of the whole school.
He had encouraged all her classmates to learn from her and take pride in her achievements.

Even those classmates who used to politely borrow her homework not long ago now only throw her assignments for no reason, tear her textbooks, and even spit on her desk.

Why did they all change so quickly, becoming so unfamiliar?

Did she really do something wrong?

Is she truly sick?

Is she really, as they say, a freak, which is why they treat her like this?

To Lu Zizheng, it felt as though her world had suddenly turned dim, and everything started flipping and swaying, creating a chilling and terrifying atmosphere.

She heard her mother’s hoarse voice saying to the principal, “Give me some time.
We will transfer to another school.”

Holding her mother’s hand, she walked heavily alongside her as they left the principal’s office.
Behind them, curious classmates waiting outside the office cast various looks their way, and she could occasionally catch fragments of their murmured discussions.

Her mother covered her ears, half embracing her, and they hurriedly made their way out, almost as if escaping.

Finally, they left that campus, leaving behind the eerie darkness that had enveloped them…

Mama Lu embraced her tightly, and the tears she had held back in front of the principal finally streamed down her face.

Lu Zizheng had only seen her mother cry three times before.
The first was at her father’s funeral, and the second was now.
Her chest ached with a stifled pain, and as she tried to speak, her voice choked up, rendering her unable to utter a coherent sentence.
Guilt overwhelmed her heart.
She kept apologizing, her voice trembling, “Mom, I like girls, is it… really so wrong? Am I truly so abnormal and frightening? I’m sorry, Mom, it’s all my fault.
I was wrong, please don’t cry.
It’s my fault…” She cried so hard that she could barely catch her breath.
After expressing her guilt, she also felt a deep sense of injustice.
“Is it because I was wrong that everyone wants to distance themselves from me, exclude me? Is that why the school didn’t want me, and the teachers looked at me with disdain? Mom, is it because I committed a crime that Dad took the punishment for me and left us?” She was filled with fear, holding her mother tightly, asking her, “Mom, will you also reject me because of this? Will you leave me too, Mom… Mom, please don’t reject me… I’ll change, I’ll change, I’ll do anything to change…”

But her mother held her with tender affection, comforting her incessantly in her ear.
“No, Zizheng, that’s not true.
You haven’t done anything wrong.
Mom won’t abandon you…”

In that moment, her mother held her with both gentleness and unwavering determination, saying, “Zizheng, you haven’t done anything wrong, and you’re not sick.
You’re just different from most people in terms of your choices, and there’s no need to be afraid.
It’s just like how everyone else likes to eat vegetables, but you prefer radishes.
What’s wrong with that? They are the ones who are wrong.
Dad didn’t abandon you; his departure was an accident, and it has nothing to do with you.
And Mom would never abandon you, not ever.”

Mama Lu said, “Zizheng, you must believe that even if everyone in this world stands against you, Mom will always stand by your side, forever and ever, never leaving you.”

Mama Lu didn’t know that she truly relied on those words to get through many years…

From then on, she believed that even in this desolate world, there would always be one person who would accompany her, never abandoning her…

But now, she began to feel anxious.
Just how far is “forever and ever” that her mother spoke of?

Lu Zizheng’s eyes gradually turned red, and the motion of peeling potatoes in her hands slowly came to a stop.
She was engulfed in her imagined sadness, unable to extricate herself…

Suddenly, everything went black before her eyes, and a chilly hand brushed over her eyes, causing her to instinctively close them.
She heard Jiang Huaixi’s cold voice saying, “If you want to cry, then cry.
Why hold it in and make yourself suffer?”

Lu Zizheng tried to open her eyes but found that she couldn’t?! She felt a burning sensation, and tears uncontrollably streamed down her face, like a torrential downpour.
Oh! Didn’t Jiang Huaixi realize that she had been chopping chili peppers with her hands? It must have been intentional!

In an instant, her sense of melancholy was cast aside, and Lu Zizheng wiped away her tears with embarrassment.
Her fighting spirit soared, and in her mind echoed: Jiang Huaixi, you’re in big trouble now!

She was determined to stuff the ginger and garlic from the cutting board into Jiang Huaixi’s mouth!

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