STT – Chapter 12 • Little Panda

15-18 minutes 18.06.2023


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neither too tight nor too loose, perhaps it can last for a long time

However, soon Lu Zizheng’s hazy consciousness was once again engulfed by the pervasive memories of dreams.
Vaguely, Lu Zizheng couldn’t help but amend the evaluation of Jiang Huaixi.
Well, in the end, she didn’t dislike her that much…

Consciousness returned to the dream…

In the hospital ward, Lu Zizheng’s phone, which was originally kept in her jacket, was carefully taken out by someone and placed on the nearby table.
Just as Jiang Huaixi left, the phone rang.
With great difficulty, using her unaffected hand, Lu Zizheng reached for the phone and answered the call—it was Xu Bo.

Upon picking up the phone, she heard Xu Bo’s gentle voice, full of concern, asking, “Zizheng, I just heard that you fainted during class.
What happened? Are you okay?”

Lu Zizheng softened her voice to reassure her, “Sis, I’m fine.
It’s just a fever.”

Xu Bo couldn’t shake off her concern and insisted on knowing the hospital and ward where Lu Zizheng was staying.
She wanted to see her in person before feeling at ease.

Lu Zizheng could only gently persuade her, assuring her that everything was fine and she didn’t need to make a special trip.
She would be going back after finishing the IV drip in the evening.

Knowing that Xu Bo had difficulties with traveling, Lu Zizheng couldn’t bear to trouble her again for such a trivial matter.

Understanding Lu Zizheng’s thoughts, Xu Bo reluctantly gave up.
After reminding her to contact her once she returned to school, another thought struck her and she asked Lu Zizheng, “Do you know Jiang Bao? Are you close with her?”

Lu Zizheng was taken aback and couldn’t respond immediately, “Jiang Bao? Who is that?”

Xu Bo explained, “Oh, it’s Jiang Huaixi.
Because the people in the Jiang family spoil her excessively, everyone jokingly calls her Jiang Bao.”1

Lu Zizheng paused for a moment and couldn’t help but smile.
She remembered the brief encounter with Jiang Huaichuan, and it was true that his family seemed overly protective of Jiang Huaixi.
Thinking about Jiang Huaixi’s aloof and proud face, paired with this nickname, it inexplicably amused her.

She casually replied, “Not very familiar, just had a few encounters.”

Xu Bo’s voice carried some confusion, “That’s strange.
From what I’ve heard, she seems quite concerned about you.
When you fainted, everyone hadn’t reacted yet, but she was the first one to get up from the stands and run over.
And it was also her who called someone to drive over, personally carrying you into the car and taking you to the hospital.
In my impression, she isn’t someone who readily helps others or shows camaraderie with classmates.”

Lu Zizheng hadn’t expected the situation to unfold like this and was somewhat surprised by Jiang Huaixi’s enthusiasm.
After pondering for a moment, she asked Xu Bo, “In your impression, what kind of person is she?”

Xu Bo pondered for a moment and replied, “She appears calm and composed, distant and indifferent, as if she lives in her own world.”

Lu Zizheng chuckled and said, “That may be true on the surface, but in reality, she could be arrogant and self-centered, considering herself superior to others.”

Xu Bo was surprised and asked, “Do you really think so?”

Lu Zizheng smiled, recalling the serious expression on Jiang Huaixi’s face while she was reading earlier, and denied it, saying, “No, I was just making a casual remark.
After all, people always have multiple facets.
But regardless of which aspect it is, she and I exist in different worlds.
After returning to school, I’ll have to think about how to repay her for this favor.”

Xu Bo sighed, realizing that if one wasn’t familiar with Lu Zizheng, they might perceive her as distant, indifferent, and arrogant.
If all exchanges and obligations between people were strictly equal and settled, where would the bonds and connections between individuals be? Most people couldn’t become friends with Lu Zizheng because she never gave them the opportunity to make her owe them anything.

As the drip was nearing its end, the door to the hospital room was pushed open by a composed man in a suit, carrying two bags in his hands.

Lu Zizheng looked at him, her face clearly displaying confusion.

The man smiled politely at Lu Zizheng and took out a thermal lunchbox from one of the bags, placing it on the nearby table.
He said, “Miss Lu, Miss instructed me to bring you dinner.
Please eat while it’s still warm.”

Lu Zizheng looked up and noticed that the drip had finished.
She pressed the bedside button to call the nurse to remove the needle and then said to the man in the suit, “No need, I’ll be leaving soon.
Please thank Jiang Huaixi for me.”

The man furrowed his brow, appearing troubled, and spoke softly with a pleading tone, “Miss Lu, Miss said you’re not allowed to leave the hospital now.
There’s another drip scheduled for tonight.
Please don’t make things difficult for us.”

The nurse entered the room to remove the needle, performing the task with utmost gentleness.
Upon hearing the man’s words, she simultaneously assisted Lu Zizheng with the cotton swab while adding her own persuasion, “Miss Lu, the doctor has arranged for you to receive another drip tonight.
Since you’re already at the hospital, wouldn’t it be best to take good care of your illness?”

She glanced at Lu Zizheng, noticing that her expression remained unmoved.
She resorted to a pitiful tone, saying, “Miss Lu, Miss has instructed us to ensure that you obediently complete your treatment at the hospital, no matter what measures are necessary.
If you’re gone by the time she returns, then there would be no need for us to come to work anymore.”

Lu Zizheng was taken aback by such a domineering command.
She responded with a hint of displeasure, “Does her words hold that much weight? Is this hospital owned by her?”

The young nurse nodded, saying, “Didn’t Miss Lu know? This hospital is indeed under the name of Miss Jiang.”

Lu Zizheng felt a sudden darkness envelop her.
Jiang Huaixi, you’ve won.

Unable to resist the pitiful pleas of the young nurse and the woeful expression on the man’s face, Lu Zizheng reluctantly decided to stay at the hospital against her will.

Sure enough, a little after 8 o’clock in the evening, the nurse entered the room with another IV bottle.
Taking advantage of the moment while the nurse was preparing the needle, Lu Zizheng asked, “Will I have another drip tomorrow?”

The young nurse smiled and replied, “Rest assured, Miss Lu, there won’t be any tomorrow.
You’ll be discharged from the hospital.” Unable to contain her curiosity, the nurse couldn’t help but ask Lu Zizheng with a gossipy tone, “Are you close with Miss Jiang?”

Lu Zizheng let out a disdainful chuckle and coolly uttered two words, “Not close.”

Sensing the atmosphere, the young nurse wisely refrained from saying anything further.

By the time the drip was finished, it was already past 9 o’clock.
Lu Zizheng was on a call with her mother, assuring her, “Mom, don’t worry, I’ll take care of myself.
Yes, okay, go to sleep.
Good night.”

Jiang Huaixi pushed the door open and closed it behind her, leaning against it as she watched Lu Zizheng hang up the phone, wearing a smirk that could be mistaken for a smile.
“You’re quite skilled at telling lies smoothly.
I bet Auntie has no idea you ended up in the hospital taking care of yourself.”

Lu Zizheng took off her clothes and lay down, coolly dismissing her guest.
“I’m not leaving.
I’ll stay until tomorrow.” It was her way of saying that Jiang Huaixi could leave now.

With a flick, the lights suddenly went out, enveloping the room in complete darkness.
Caught off guard, Lu Zizheng couldn’t help but let out a soft exclamation, “Ah…”

In the darkness, a melodious laughter filled the air, and Jiang Huaixi’s voice carried a teasing tone.
“Such a timid soul.
Can you really sleep alone? I always finish what I start…” As she spoke, Lu Zizheng heard footsteps approaching, and then she saw a silhouette sitting on the chair by her bedside.

Jiang Huaixi said, “I rarely get to be a good person, so I’ll help you to the end.
You go ahead and sleep.
Once you’re asleep, I can leave with peace of mind.
I’m doing you a favor, but I hope you won’t break my principles and turn ingratitude into revenge.”

Lu Zizheng let out a soft “hmph” through her nose, remaining silent.
It meant, “I’m going to sleep now, you can leave.”

She focused her mind on trying to fall asleep, but unfortunately, she was prone to insomnia.
The more she tried to sleep, the more awake she became.
With her eyes closed, she counted sheep one by one, but the more she counted, the more alert she felt.
The night grew late, and a strong northern wind blew, bringing a chill into the room.

She sensed Jiang Huaixi rising gently from the chair, barely hearing any footsteps, but then she heard the sound of the window being closed.
Shortly after, she heard the sound of breathing by the chair once again.

Since the northern wind could no longer enter, it expressed its displeasure by forcefully knocking on the window—once, twice, three times…

As her consciousness began to fade, and drowsiness washed over her, Lu Zizheng faintly heard someone calling her name, “Lu Zizheng…”

After a long day, Lu Zizheng was already exhausted, and now the heaviness of sleep overcame her.
She had no strength left to respond, only wanting to sleep soundly, free from any thoughts.

Just before losing complete consciousness, she heard a soft and gentle voice whispering in her ear, “Sleep, don’t be afraid, tomorrow will be better…”

Lu Zizheng woke up from her slumber, momentarily unsure of what was a dream and what was reality.

Mama Lu knocked on the door and entered, holding a cup of warm water for Lu Zizheng.
She gently touched Lu Zizheng’s face and lovingly said, “Still not awake? Still dreaming, huh?”

Lu Zizheng took the water and looked at her mother’s face, smiling.
Awake now, awakened from a slumber, years have passed, but one thing remains the same—upon waking, the person whose gentle words echoed in her dreams is no longer by her side.

Around ten in the morning, unexpectedly, Jiang Huaixi, who had mentioned having something to do today, appeared.
Accompanying her was a young woman with long flowing hair, dressed sharply in a suit, exuding a cold and composed demeanor.

Lu Zizheng opened the door and looked at them, feeling somewhat surprised.

Jiang Huaixi boldly pushed the door wide open, stepped inside while taking off her shoes, and asked, “Is your mother at home?”

Lu Zizheng closed the door and replied, “Yes, she is.
What’s the matter?” As she spoke, she retrieved a pair of slippers from the shoe cabinet, crouched down, and handed them to the young woman.
It was only when she lifted her head that she noticed the medical kit the woman carried on her back.

As expected, Jiang Huaixi said, “I’ve brought a doctor to perform a simple examination for your mother.”

Lu Zizheng glanced sideways and silently observed Jiang Huaixi as she earnestly changed her shoes.
Lu Zizheng smiled quietly and said, “I’ll go call her.”

Mama Lu thought they were making a fuss over nothing, but since Jiang Huaixi had already brought the doctor, she couldn’t refuse.
She reluctantly went along with it.

The young woman, wearing a stethoscope, listened here and there, pressed here and there.
Lu Zizheng’s heart raced irregularly with each movement, like a series of unpredictable jumps.

After a while, the woman finally stopped and spoke in a calm, cold tone, “There doesn’t seem to be any issues from the examination.
However, it doesn’t provide a definitive conclusion.
If you want a peace of mind, you should go to the hospital for further tests.”

But when Lu Zizheng heard the words “no issues,” her heart instantly felt relieved, and she let out a slow breath.
Mama Lu also smiled and said, “I told you there was nothing to worry about.
Why go to the hospital? Everything’s fine.
Huaixi, thank you for your concern for auntie.”

Mama Lu invited Jiang Huaixi and the female doctor to have lunch at their home.
The doctor, with a calm expression, mentioned that she needed to return to the hospital for work.
Mama Lu didn’t want to impose and cause any inconvenience, so she asked Lu Zizheng to escort the doctor downstairs.
Jiang Huaixi followed along.

At the hallway entrance, the female doctor nodded slightly to Lu Zizheng and Jiang Huaixi, indicating for them to go inside.

Jiang Huaixi didn’t hesitate and promptly turned to enter the building.

Lu Zizheng sincerely expressed her gratitude once again before following Jiang Huaixi inside.

In the elevator, Jiang Huaixi and Lu Zizheng stood on either side, a slight distance between them.
Lu Zizheng gazed at the gap as the elevator doors opened and closed, and softly spoke, “Thank you on behalf of my mother.”

Jiang Huaixi chuckled lightly, somewhat unwillingly.
“You’re not going to thank me? I felt like your ‘thank you’ to the doctor just now sounded more sincere.”

Lu Zizheng changed the subject.
“What’s the name of that doctor? She looks familiar.”

Jiang Huaixi smiled knowingly.
“Oh, so you’ve taken an interest in her youth and beauty? You even used the cliché line ‘looks familiar.’ I suppose you must have dreamt of her at some point.”

Lu Zizheng glanced sideways at Jiang Huaixi.
“I’m being serious.”

She really did seem familiar, but Lu Zizheng couldn’t recall where she had seen her before.
It slipped her mind for the moment.

Jiang Huaixi stopped smiling.
“When did you ever hear me say I wasn’t serious? Her name is Jiang Wang, one year younger than you.
As far as I know, she’s currently single.
Well, you still have a chance.”

Lu Zizheng retorted, mocking her.
“You seem to know quite a lot, even about her relationship status.
Did you put in some effort to find out?”

Jiang Huaixi glanced at Lu Zizheng, raised an eyebrow, and chuckled.
“Now, are you interested in Jiang Wang’s dating history or my dating history?”

Lu Zizheng paused for a moment, then lowered her head, avoiding eye contact with Jiang Huaixi, and replied calmly, “Unfortunately, I’m not interested in either.”

“Ding!” The elevator door opened, and Jiang Huaixi strode out, with Lu Zizheng closely following.
After hesitating for a moment, when they were near Lu Zizheng’s home, she reached out and gently grabbed the hem of Jiang Huaixi’s clothes.

Jiang Huaixi paused and turned to look at Lu Zizheng, who met her gaze with eyes shining and a slightly flushed face, but an expression of utmost sincerity.

Lu Zizheng said, “Huaixi, thank you.”

Jiang Huaixi earnestly looked at Lu Zizheng, her eyebrows curved, and she smiled with pursed lips.
She raised her hand and covered Lu Zizheng’s hand that held onto her clothes, gently clasping it, leading Lu Zizheng forward.
“Hmm, this time it sounds more like it.
The student can be taught.”

Jiang Huaixi’s hand felt a bit cool, and the coolness gradually transmitted warmth from Lu Zizheng’s warm palm to her heart.
Lu Zizheng dared not squeeze Jiang Huaixi’s hand in return, allowing Jiang Huaixi to hold it gently with just the right amount of strength, yet it already made her feel incredibly at ease.

Sometimes, holding on too tightly and exerting too much force can lead to drifting apart, as weariness and laxity eventually set in.
But like this, neither too tight nor too loose, with cautiousness, perhaps it can last for a long time.
Isn’t that right?

“bao” (宝) means “treasure” or “precious” in Chinese, emphasizing the notion that she is treated like a precious treasure by her family.

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