“Nothing much.” Ji Rou answered vaguely. “Just asking. After all, us mother-daughter are having a heart-to-heart talk!”
“I have no interest in Young Master Long.” Lu Anran lowered her head and murmured. “I’m going to return the gift tomorrow.”
“Mm.” Ji Rou nodded and reached out to pat Lu Anran’s head. “Anran, tell Mom if you are tired.”
“….” Lu Anran gazed into Ji Rou’s eyes. “Mom. I’m not tired.” She was not tired, would never be tired, and could not afford to be tired. She must never get tired! The enemies were like tigers and leopards while the moles were like jackals and wolves. She could not relax her guard even for one moment. Not even one second!
Ji Rou had many words to say but she did not know where to start. Secretly, she entrusted her hope to her husband. If Young Master Long managed to find Brother Hao, and bring him back home, their family would definitely be able to endure it all. At that time, Anran would not need to work so hard.
Lu Anran spent the night in Ji Rou’s room. The next morning, Lu Anran dressed neatly and headed to the Long Residence with Lu Anhu.
When they reached the Long Residence, under the guidance of the residence’s bodyguards, Lu Anran and Lu Anhu entered a study on the west side of the ground floor. As they pushed open the door, they saw a casually dressed “Young Master Long” sipping his tea as he read the newspapers behind the black wooden desk. When he noticed the presence of Lu Anran, he stood up and extended his hand, “Eldest Young Miss Lu, long time no see. Please, take a seat!”
“Hello.” Lu Anran politely shook hands with “Young Master Long” and then sat on the closest chair. “Thank you for the gift yesterday Young Master Long.”
“You’re welcome.” “Young Master Long” smiled and said as he returned to his seat. “Does Miss Lu like the gift?”
“Hurhur, I’m here because of that.” Lu Anran took out the gift box from her handbag and placed it in front of “Young Master Long”. “Thank you Young Master Long for your good intentions.”
“….” “Young Master Long” did not have any reaction nor expression upon seeing the gift box. Instead, he gently touched the back of his ear and after receiving instructions from the built-in receiver, “Young Master Long” replied, “Miss Lu doesn’t like it?”
“Accept no undeserved emolument. Anran feels that she has not done anything to deserve Young Master Long’s present.” Lu Anran smiled and said, “Still, thank you Young Master Long for your good intentions.”
“If Miss Lu does not like this present, I’ll prepare another one and send it over another day.” “Young Master Long” replied smilingly. “Until Miss Lu is satisfied.”
“…..” When Lu Anran heard “Young Master Long’s” words, she could not help frowning. “No need. Anran does not want to be misunderstood by others. Although Lu Corporation is not as influential as the Long Corporation, we still have quite a bit of prestige in S City. To be honest, Young Master Long’s behaviour has placed me in an awkward position.”
“I’m really sorry to have caused Miss Lu so much trouble but I hope Miss Lu is aware that I have no ill intentions.”
“As long as Young Master Long understands.” Lu Anran smiled lightly.
“I think that perhaps Miss Lu has misunderstood.” “Young Master Long” said, following the voice in the built-in receiver. “My behaviour was for the sake of protecting Lu Corporation. Long Corporation Shopping Mall has been built and this time, we have especially selected five businesses. Among which, Lu Corporation has attracted the most attention. It can be said that Lu Corporation is the bellwether of these five businesses. The entrance of businesses is a win-win business collaboration for me and you, however to those well-established businesses that were already there, Lu Corporation’s presence is too much of an eyesore. My action this time was just a temporary deterrent to protect Lu Corporation. Since y’all have paid me, naturally, I will protect y’all!”
“So that’s what it is!” It suddenly dawned on Lu Anran that she has never considered this aspect. “Anran has been short-sighted and misunderstood Young Master Long!” A hint of gratitude and admiration emerged in Lu Anran’s heart.
“That’s okay. I was also negligent and did not explain this matter to Miss Lu in advance.” “Young Master Long” nodded.
After the matter was resolved, Lu Anran felt relaxed and changed the topic. Gazing at the mask on “Young Master Long’s” face, she asked, “Does Young Master Long also wear a mask at home?”
“It’s for receiving Miss Lu.” “Young Master Long” gently touched the back of his ear and replied. “I am used to keeping a low profile and do not want to reveal myself in public. I hope Miss Lu can go easy on me.”
“That’s fine.” Lu Anran smiled and nodded. “These are Young Master Long’s personal matters. I have spoken out of turn. Since everything has been settled, Anran will not bother you any longer.” After saying that, Lu Anran stood up.
“Miss Lu should take the gift with you!” “Young Master Long” also stood up to hand the gift box back to Lu Anran. “I hope we can have a pleasant cooperation and achieve a genuine win-win situation.”
“With your blessings.” Lu Anran took the gift box and exchanged a few sentences of polite pleasantries before leaving the Long Residence with Lu Anhu.
“The room had a total of four pinhole monitors. One at the door, one at the edge of the desk, one on the wall and one on the wooden bookcase.” Lu Anhu said.
“Oh?” Lu Anran did not notice this at all. “This Young Master Long was really being very careful.”
“I suspect that he is not Young Master Long.” Lu Anhu replied. “At least, not the real Young Master Long.”
“….” Lu Anran halted her pace. “You mean….”
“He had a built-in receiver in his ear, hence he had a habit of gently touching the back of his ears. He did not seem to think before speaking and from his expression, it felt more like he was listening respectfully to someone’s instructions.” Lu Anhu said as he recalled. “I think he is likely to be a substitute and not Young Master Long!”
“A substitute?” Lu Anran frowned. “What do you mean?”
“A substitute is very common in the Capital.” Lu Anhu continued. “For the sake of one’s safety, they would specially foster such substitutes. After a long period of time, they could imitate the real one perfectly. However, it is obvious that this substitute of Young Master Long was only hired recently, hence I was able to spot the flaws.” Lu Anhu had previously learnt anti-reconnaissance so he was fairly skilled in discerning the facial expression of others.
“I see…..” Lu Anran began her pace once more. “How interesting…..”
The small holiday during National Day was proof of that sentence “happiness is always transient.” Before one could really relax, it was already time for school to reopen! The only consolation was that military training was finally over. After returning to school, everyone did not have to laboriously stand in their military stance every afternoon, which was pretty good.
At the end of National Day, the next major event was the school’s anniversary stage play. As the day draws closer, Ji Ling also started her intensive rehearsals. Everyone could see the amount of effort she has put in yet Feng Lixing who played the role of the bridegroom, has never appeared. It was only until the day of the performance that everyone knew that Long Yuxing has taken the place of the bridegroom. An even worse matter was that Ji Ling has disappeared before her stage performance….
“Where is Ji Ling? Who is able to contact her?” The forehead of Huang Ying was covered with a layer of sweat. “Hurry and ask the class monitor of Class D to come over!”
“OK, I’ll call her over!” Someone acknowledged and hurriedly asked Lu Anran to come over.
Lu Anran who was called over, was also surprised. “Ji Ling has gone missing?”
“Yes.” Huang Ying replied. “Are you able to contact her?”
“Wait.” Lu Anran quickly took out her phone to call Lu Anhu’s mobile number. “Anhu, where is Ji Ling?”
“Ji Ling is with me. We are on our way to the assembly hall. However….” Anhu took a look at Ji Ling who was grimacing in pain and continued. “She’s injured and not in a good condition right now. Why don’t we replace her?”
“….” Lu Anran was stunned after hearing his words. “She’s injured? How did she get injured?!”
“It’s the two girls in my class.” Lu Anhu said. “When I was buying water, the two of them locked her in the sports storeroom. She sprained her ankle when she jumped out of the window.”
“This….” Lu Anran gritted her teeth.
“Sprained her ankle?” Huang Ying was shocked after hearing this sentence. She then looked at Tian Tian who was in-charge of the Literature and Art Department. “I remember there was a girl from Class A who wanted the script that day and said she was going to be the understudy?”
“That’s right. Her name is Chu Yao, the class monitor of Class A.” Tian Tian replied. It seems that this Chu Yao was a little tricky. She will never believe it if one claimed that Chu Yao had nothing to do with Ji Ling’s injury.
“Ask her to come and act!” Huang Ying frowned and said.
“OK.” Tian Tian replied before jogging out to find her.
“Wait!” Lu Anran hung up her phone as her eyes burst with a hint of determination. “Ji Ling is from my class. I’ll bear this burden and replace her role!”
“You?” Huang Ying sized up Lu Anran with a glance. Although she was aware that Lu Anran had some abilities, but the stage play this time was special so she cannot decide on a whim.
“Let her do it!” Long Yuxing who had changed into his costume appeared and said. “I’ll bear the responsibility if any mistakes happen!”
“OK!” Huang Ying nodded. Since Young Master Long has already said that, as long as someone takes the responsibility, everything is great. Furthermore, she believed in Young Master Long’s judgement. “Hurry up and change Lu Anran’s clothes and put on her make up!”
The backstage got busy again. Just as Lu Anran has finished prepping, Chu Yao appeared in the backstage. “Should I stand-in for the role?” Her heart pounded rapidly. She has to obtain the role of the younger sister this time. Before coming over, she has taken a cursory glance below the stage and the first few rows were filled with big-shots. Her pains and troubles were indeed not in vain.
“No need.” Huang Ying nudged the old-fashioned spectacles on the bridge of her nose with her fingers. “We have already found someone else to replace her role. If you decide to stay and help out in backstage, I can record your credit points.”
“What?” Chu Yao was astonished. How could such a thing happen? “Who is it?”
“It’s me.” Lu Anran held her skirt as she stepped forward. She has already changed into her costume and put on make up. This costume was customised according to Ji Ling’s measurements and was a little large on Lu Anran. The costume fell on her shoulders making her look even cuter.
“You….” Chu Yao looked at Lu Anran in shock. Why was it this Lu Anran again! Goddamnit!
“Lu Anran, it’s your turn to take the stage!” Huang Ying did not even have the time to see Chu Yao’s depressed expression before pushing Lu Anran onto the stage.
As she stood on the stage, the spotlight shone on her, and with the dense crowd at the bottom of stage, Lu Anran had a sudden impulse to cry. This scene. She has imagined it umpteenth times in her previous lifetime, yet it had brushed past her at the very last moment. In this lifetime, she has rejected it countless times, yet she was truly standing here. Was this the so-called fate?
T/N: No Lu Anran… It’s Murphy’s Law...