After Xiao Xia returned from her hometown, she tidied herself up a bit and reported in to the law firm.
The matter with the Japanese ghost last time had left her mentally and physically exhausted. In the end, she took the longest sick leave of her life, a whole two months. In the blink of an eye, winter had turned to spring.
“Hmm, you’ve gotten darker, but quite a bit sturdier.” The director beamed, as though he was happy to see this laggard return to their elite team.
Xiao Xia hurriedly offered some local specialties from her hometown.
Having been teacher and student for many years, and then superior and subordinate for many more, the director didn’t stand on ceremony with her. He took the things before indicating for her to sit down.
“Xiao Xia, you returned at the perfect time. I was just about to give you a task.”
“Director, please give your orders.” Xiao Xia acted like an obedient child.
“Oh, it’s about a relocation.”
Although the director was vague, Xiao Xia was still startled!
Was the director finally tired of her incompetence, or had she taken too long of a sick leave? Was she going to lose her job? Was she getting demoted to being the coffee girl? She lived paycheck to paycheck, and had to freeload a few meals off Wan Li towards the end of each month to get by. If she was unemployed or demoted, wouldn’t she have to live on the streets?
“Relocation…this…how about another chance?”
The director browsed through Xiao Xia’s gifts with interest, and responded without raising his head. “What chance? Do you think I’m firing you? Don’t worry, it’s just a normal relocation!”
Normal relocation? They only had this one firm. Where could they relocate her to? He even told her not to worry, as if that’s possible! An outcast like her was very frail. The slightest breeze could screw her over.
“When you came in, wasn’t I just finishing up with someone else?”
Xiao Xia thought about it and nodded.
That person had walked past her and they had nodded at each other. From what she remembered, he was around thirty years old, of average looks and build. She couldn’t recall anything else. To put it plainly, he was a very ordinary person that didn’t stand out.
“Who was he?”
“He’s called Guan Zheng, a former student of mine. He graduated four years before you, so technically he’s your senior.” The director raised his head. “He’s a very idealistic person. I’ve taught many students, but he’s honestly the one who most believes in the law. He’s got his heart set on protecting social justice.”
The director seemed a little moved. “There are many passionate people who set out to study law. However, it’s not as easy to maintain one’s innocence after getting into it. There are too many things to be greedy for! Xiao Xia, do you know why I’ve always looked out for you amongst so many students and workers?”
“My dumb luck, right!” Xiao Xia giggled.
“It’s because you have a kind and honest heart.” The director smiled. “This sounds very sarcastic, but it’s the truth. You might be the one person in this firm who doesn’t go against your conscience for money, or struggle against others for it.”
Xiao Xia felt cold sweat trickling down from her neck to her chest. Was he describing her, or Lei Feng?1 She had just been worried about getting demoted, and not having enough money to buy the designer dress she had her eyes on. The director’s words now made her feel like she was letting him down!
She lowered her head in shame and said quietly. “You’re overpraising!” In her mind, she was thinking that two thousand bucks for that dress was too much of a scam! However…it was also too beautiful!
Wasn’t the director trying to manipulate her here?
“I’m telling the truth.” The director said earnestly. “However, let’s get back on topic. Guan Zheng has been working hard to improve things using the law ever since he graduated. During his school years, he was a famous talent with impressive legal and business acumen. He had many opportunities to become rich, but he felt it was all beneath him. His ideals were much more important than money.”
“Truly an idealist worthy of praise.” Xiao Xia said sincerely.
“That’s right. It might not be easy to understand, but he is just that kind of person. He is actually very chivalrous, willing to help the weak, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. These years he’s been working with some likeminded individuals in spreading the law to rural villages and offering free legal services to disadvantaged groups. He only returned last month. What do you think he came here to do?”
“To visit his old professor!” Xiao Xia blurted out, but she was aware this had to do with her relocation. She really hoped she was mistaken, but the director’s answer crushed her hopes.
“That’s part of it. The other part….” The director gave her an affectionate glance, but Xiao Xia somehow felt his face was old and crafty. “With the help of several investment groups, he’s started a chain of volunteer legal agencies for the common folk. There are around a dozen throughout the nation, and there is one in this city. However, he doesn’t have that many helpers so he came to me for recruitment. He wants to find someone young with a sense of justice and ability to support his endeavor.”
An image appeared before Xiao Xia of that beautiful dress turning to ashes.
“I think that of everyone in this law firm, you’d be the most suitable.” The director finally got to the point.
“That…I do have a sense of justice. As for ability…I’m still self-aware enough on that front.” Xiao Xia struggled.
She wasn’t unwilling to do some volunteer legal work. Every time the firm received such cases, she often fought to get the assignment. She liked helping others by nature. She was softhearted and wasn’t good at refusing others. She was extremely satisfied with helping the weak.
But if she left this place and went to work somewhere else, there probably wouldn’t be anyone willing to tolerate her mistakes anymore. More importantly, such non-profit organizations that relied on donations from common folk for salaries meant she would have to change her lavish spending habits. Furthermore, she would forever part with those beautiful clothes.
She had also just spent all her pitiful savings on gifts for those two stinking men!
“Don’t say that. Child, you’ve always lacked confidence in yourself! It’s just that sloppy nature of yours. If you were more serious, you’d definitely be an excellent lawyer. You are actually a very chivalrous girl, and meet Guan Zheng’s requirements exactly.”
“I feel like all those chivalrous heroes are very poor!” Xiao Xia grumbled.
She didn’t think the director would hear her, but he was still sharp despite his age.
“Oh, you’re worried about your finances!” The director started laughing. “You don’t need to worry about this. Although you’re going to work at his non-profit organization, you are still part of the Vast Sky law firm. Your insurance, bonus and salary will be paid by us.”
Oh? There’s such a good thing?! What a wonderful surprise!
Xiao Xia wasn’t one to hide her emotions. Her face was filled with joy and surprise!
This way, she could take assignments she liked and help others. She no longer had to be depressed at the Vast Sky law firm, but her salary didn’t change! Of course there wouldn’t be any commission for winning cases in a non-profit, but she didn’t get much of that here anyway. It wasn’t really a loss!
Helping the weak while wearing a beautiful dress and dolling herself up prettily. This truly made her feel a bit like a heroine!
“Now you’re happy?” The director looked at Xiao Xia’s childishness which hadn’t changed since she was a student. He couldn’t help but feel amused, but his mood also lifted along with hers. He felt a little reluctant thinking how he would no longer get helplessly angered by her in the future.
Xiao Xia nodded wildly. “Thank you, professor. As expected, you are talented in finding the best use for people and making use of their strengths.” She shamelessly flattered. “I will definitely work hard for the sake of justice.” She swore, forgetting how she had been unwilling earlier to leave the high salary here because of a dress.
“En. Come visit me often in the future. Don’t only come on payday. Go pack your things.” He pulled out a business card from his drawers. “I’ll give Guan Zheng a call right away and tell him I’ve picked someone. You can go report to this place tomorrow.” He gave her a few more instructions before telling her to leave.
The director was very happy watching Xiao Xia in high spirits through the floor-to-ceiling glass door of his office. He wanted Xiao Xia to be a little happier. Furthermore, he also didn’t have to suffer his subordinates’ dissatisfaction at protecting her from her mistakes anymore. Two birds with one stone, a great plan as expected!
When Xiao Xia returned home with her stuff, she realized she had an uninvited guest.
“Hey, is this my house or yours? How come you’re letting yourself in?” Xiao Xia glared at the intruder. The latter sat comfortably on her sofa, eating the tasty food her mother had packed for her without any intention of helping her with the heavy lifting.
“We’re such close friends. Your house is my house.” Wan Li glanced at the key on the coffee table. They had made duplicates the last time they all lived at Xiao Xia’s house.
“How did you know I’d be back today?”
“I called and asked auntie. She also asked me when the two of us are getting married.”
Xiao Xia rolled her eyes at him!
“Didn’t you miss me?” Wan Li asked with some anticipation.
“I didn’t.” Xiao Xia lied.
How could she have not? It had been over two months! She not only missed Wan Li, but had also missed the other man until her heart ached. At least Wan Li had called her. Ruan Zhan actually didn’t contact her for two months.
She was unable to make sense of it. Did he like her? Why did she feel he treated her so well at times, far better than an ordinary friend? Yet other times he was so cold, as though she didn’t exist in this world.
“You really didn’t?”
“Is there a benefit in missing you?” Xiao Xia also sat on the sofa, squeezing Wan Li over to the side.
“I knew you were materialistic.” Wan Li wiped his hands with a paper towel and pulled out a small box from his pocket. “You spent your birthday at home this year, so this gift ended up being after the fact.”
Xiao Xia’s face blossomed in a smile. It wasn’t because of the present, but because Wan Li had remembered her birthday.
“See, see? You’re smiling so wide your eyes disappeared. You were so ferocious a little earlier!”
“All women like gifts!” Xiao Xia declared.
She opened the box and saw it was the newest cellphone for women. “No wonder you wouldn’t let me buy a phone. You told me the price was about to drop, but now I ended up getting it for free! This is too expensive!”
“It’s a reward for using your last phone as a weapon to strike the enchanted nurse.”
Xiao Xia ignored him and fiddled around with her new phone. She was still very moved at Wan Li’s thoughtfulness. He remembered her birthday and knew what she needed. He was a good, considerate man. The woman who obtained his love would definitely be very happy.
But how could she casually accept something so expensive? It was because she had already prepared a similar present. Last time Ruan Zhan had broken Wan Li’s phone as well. She had told him she could get a new phone at manufacturer’s costs so he shouldn’t buy one. Her plan had been to buy them one as well.
She ran to her room and took out two things…they were two identical cellphones for men.
“Looks like we really think alike. We even used the same excuse.” Wan Li laughed bitterly. “But did you forget Ah Zhan never uses cellphones? Also, why didn’t you pick different colors? How silly!”
“The numbers are different.” Xiao Xia responded. She didn’t care whether Ruan Zhan used cellphones or not. She just wanted him to be able to contact her at any time.
However…did he remember her birthday?
As though responding to her thoughts, Wan Li fished out something else…it was an ordinary envelope.
“What’s this?” Xiao Xia received it in confusion. “Did you write me a love letter?”
“I can consider doing that. However, this isn’t it. This is that guy Ah Zhan’s belated gift to you.”
A trace of sweetness welled up in Xiao Xia’s heart.
It turns out he had remembered. He also remembered her birthday. She was still present in his heart. It was fine even if it was just as a friend. It was fine as long as she had a spot in that heart of his which alienated everyone else!
The envelope was very light, but slightly heavier than a normal letter. It seemed to be a tiny, hard object…
She was about to open it when Wan Li stopped her.
“Let me tell you in advance not to cry.” He said very seriously. “Although he didn’t spend a penny, he probably gave you what you wanted most. This fellow acts all nonchalant, but is better than anyone at coaxing girls. I admit my loss.”
“Acting all mysterious, I don’t believe you!” Xiao Xia shook off Wan Li’s hand and shook out an object from the envelope.
A jade Bodhisattva amulet lay silently on her palm. It was pure white, and seemed to glow with divine light. Even the red cord it hung from had been changed for a new one.
Although Xiao Xia couldn’t tell with her eyes, she immediately recognized it as the amulet she had lost on the mountain. She was very certain this was the heirloom her grandmother had left her. She had been incessantly heartbroken over its loss.
Now, Ruan Zhan had returned it to her!
She reminded herself not to cry but her eyes filled with tears.
“After you left, the traumatized women of Xiaowang Village needed therapy to remove the evil influence. Therefore, I went every weekend to do some volunteer work.” Wan Li explained on the side. “As for Ruan Zhan, he practically moved in. He posed as a psychiatrist to offer hypnosis therapy to the victims, but was actually using some supernatural abilities without them knowing. Meanwhile, he mapped out the area of the snowy mountain where you lost your amulet. He even calculated how much it might have moved after the snow melted. Then, he divided it into countless squares like he was selling ad space on a webpage. He crawled all over and dug up the place, spending around five to six hours every day. After looking for two months, he truly ended up finding it!”
Xiao Xia was speechless, her heart full.
She never told him. How did Ruan Zhan know she had lost her amulet? Furthermore, he didn’t say anything to her and pretended not to know, but silently helped her find it!
She suddenly recalled a poem:
If I am the reason for your wandering, how can I not love your travel worn face?
If you are willing to brave the world’s misery for me, how can I not love your haggard heart?
They say you’ve already aged, that you’re hard as stone and extremely unfeeling.
Yet no one knows that I am your deepest and softest part, teary and untouchable.
At that instant, she was certain she had a place in Ruan Zhan’s heart. Even if it wasn’t love, it was more than just as a friend. There was at least some goodwill. In that case, it was time for her to implement her “rural villages besieging the city” plan.
She was going to approach from the outside, and get close to him without him noticing, until he was unable to leave her!
Does this count as a trap? She didn’t know.
She only knew that a man like Ruan Zhan couldn’t be rushed. Otherwise, he would slip away. Therefore, she would surround him bit by bit!
Author’s notes: “Witch doctor” is like a crone, or a witch. They are known as the avatar of gods and spirits, able to communicate between realms of yin and yang. They can divine fortunes, talk to spirits, exorcise ghosts and drive away illness.