For The Rest Of Our Life – Chapter 145

Summer home field

In the wee hours approaching one o’clock, Xia Zhijin arrived in Anjiang City. As soon as she got off the plane, she immediately checked her phone, hoping to see if Shi Man had replied to her calls.

To her disappointment, aside from New Year greetings from friends, there were no missed calls or unread messages from the person she had been thinking about on her phone.

Her fingers hesitated on the phone screen for a moment. She took a deep breath, her eyes filled with a glimmer of hope, and dialed Shi Man’s number again. However, the mechanical voice on the other end repeated: “The number you have dialed is currently switched off.”

Xia Zhijin subtly restrained the faint redness in her eyes and a tinge of bitterness crept onto her lips hidden under the mask. She sent a text message to Shi Man nonetheless: “I’m back, will be home soon.”

“Are you running a fever again?” Xiao Liu picked up the luggage nearby, turned around, and saw Xia Zhijin’s complexion getting worse, exhaustion evident. Nervously feeling her forehead, she muttered, “No, I’m not comfortable leaving you alone. Let me accompany you back. I can take care of you if anything happens tonight.”

“No, don’t worry, Sister Liu.” Xia Zhijin coughed awkwardly twice, forcing a faint smile to reassure her, “After finally getting a two-day break, you should spend time with your boyfriend. I’m going home, there are people at home to take care of me.” Thinking of someone at home, she remembered Shi Man, a gentle expression appearing in her eyes, softening her heart.

“That’s probably for the best.” Xiao Liu sighed helplessly, “Just remember to take your medicine, rest well. If Sister Qiong sees me neglecting you like this, who knows what she’ll say to me.” She knew well that she had been with Fu Zhiqiong for three years, but as soon as Xia Zhijin arrived, she made herself come and take care of her, showing how highly she valued her.

Xia Zhijin raised her eyebrows slightly and joked, “Sister Qiong won’t find out. Sister Liu, why don’t you worry about what if the director criticizes me for not being in the right state of mind affecting my performance?”

In fact, she had only met Fu Zhiqiong once after signing the contract and before joining the cast.

“I just led you through the door, gave you an opportunity, but whether you can seize this opportunity and how many more chances the company will give you depends on your own abilities. This industry is like that, and I hope you can go far. I hope you won’t disappoint our expectations.” Fu Zhiqiong poured her a cup of tea amidst the fragrance of tea, and conveyed these words evenly. The implicit meaning was clear.

Success or failure is in your own hands; if you can’t lift yourself up, you can only resign yourself to being a discarded piece.

Afterwards, Fu Zhiqiong assigned her a manager and an assistant, informing her that all future work arrangements would be handled by her manager, without her direct involvement in management. She never saw Fu Zhiqiong again.

With such clear boundaries and distance from her superiors, the ability to strive and earn a name for herself through her own efforts, Xia Zhijin felt reassured and at ease.

The car sent by the company to pick her up first took her home, before dropping off Xiao Liu. When Xia Zhijin mentioned the address of the Shi family mansion, Xiao Liu was briefly taken aback. After a moment, she subconsciously looked at Xia Zhijin with a surprised and inquisitive gaze. The location was in Anjiang City’s famous wealthy district, where every inch of land was valuable.

(If you're not reading on, it means this has been stolen)

Seeing the confusion in Xiao Liu’s eyes, Xia Zhijin gave a faint smile and calmly explained, “It’s not my home, it’s Manman’s home.”

As Xiao Liu pondered about the name “Manman,” she suddenly made a connection and involuntarily raised her voice in astonishment, “Manman’s surname is Shi, isn’t it the Shi from Shixing?”

Xia Zhijin nodded.

Xiao Liu was stunned for two seconds, her gossip-filled heart burning with curiosity. Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, she didn’t dare to ask about the relationship between Xia Zhijin and Shixing. However, she managed to resist blurting out her other question, “Then Zhijin, why didn’t you consider signing with Starlight Entertainment when you entered the industry?”

Being able to live in the Shi family mansion clearly indicated a special connection. To be honest, Starlight Entertainment had rapidly developed in the past two years and was a well-established large company backed by the Shixing Group. Obviously, in terms of resources and connections, they would be better than their studio. Moreover, with Xia Zhijin’s ties to the Shi family, as long as Starlight was willing to promote her, she could easily pave her way to stardom.

Why not? Xia Zhijin slightly furrowed her brows, asking herself inwardly.

Manman had also asked her this question.

She slightly retracted the hand resting on her lap, and after a pause, replied half earnestly, half jokingly, “Because I want to try relying on myself and see how far I can go.”

She had given this same answer to Manman, but Shi Man didn’t understand her perspective. Despite having resources at her disposal, why waste them? Why seek further when you have something so close at hand?

She couldn’t bear to tell Shi Man, nor could she tell anyone else, about her deepest and most fragile desire.

She wanted to not rely on the Shi family, to earn her own place proudly and honestly, to one day stand by Shi Man’s side as Xia Zhijin, rather than be remembered only as an accessory of the Shi family and Shi Man.

Xiao Liu didn’t pay much attention, dismissing it as a common problem among rich kids. She couldn’t understand the dilemma of not being able to sing or act well and having to go home to inherit the family fortune. She had to admit that sometimes you just have to accept your fate; some people simply win at the starting line, and the distance of that starting line is one you can never overcome in a lifetime.

To Xia Zhijin’s surprise, when she returned to the Shi family in the middle of the night, she nervously dragged her luggage upstairs in the dark, hoping to find her lover, only to discover that Shi Man wasn’t home.

The bedroom door was wide open, but inside it was empty. The last glimmer of hope shattered, leaving Xia Zhijin’s heart momentarily empty.

(If you're not reading on, it means this has been stolen)

In the darkness, she let out a bitter smile, rubbed her forehead in discomfort, pushed her luggage to the side of the door, and took out a small bread and some medicine from inside, ripped off her mask, then turned and went downstairs.

Turning on the light, she poured some water, symbolically ate a few bites of the bread, and then tilted her head back to swallow all the pills in her hand at once. She returned to the sofa in the living room on the first floor, sitting quietly, waiting for Shi Man to return. Despite being exhausted all over, nearly dozing off on the plane, at this moment, she had no idea what she was thinking, becoming more awake the longer she sat.

Close to two in the morning, the silent night was finally interrupted by the faint sound of a car driving, accompanied by two beams of light shining through the large French windows.

Xia Zhijin immediately stood up, swaying her slightly heavy head to steady herself, and briskly walked towards the door, pulling open the heavy wooden door.

Sure enough, Shi Man had returned.

Chen Zhi struggled to support the tipsy and unsteady Shi Man as they approached the house, with the driver following closely behind. Chen Zhi muttered softly, “I told you not to drink so much. I really believed your nonsense about being able to hold your liquor.” She lifted her head and suddenly spotted the beautiful woman standing in the light ahead, as if she had found a savior, joyfully calling out, “Ah, Sister Zhijin, you’re back! Please come and help me, Manman is drunk and I’m exhausted.”

Seeing Chen Zhi by Shi Man’s side, Xia Zhijin felt a slight sense of relief. Her gaze lingered on Shi Man, whom she hadn’t seen in almost two months, and her expression softened gradually. She strode over to Chen Zhi and embraced Shi Man, half-carrying her inside.

“Zhijin,” Shi Man, still conscious, saw Xia Zhijin naturally leaning in affectionately, whispering in her ear.

“Phew…” Chen Zhi relieved herself of much of the weight, feeling as if a burden had been lifted off her shoulders.

She finally had the time to carefully examine the Xia Zhijin beside her, secretly admiring: indeed, someone destined to debut as a star, Sister Zhijin’s aura now seems different from before. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly has changed, but she’s more eye-catching, like someone who would shine in a crowd. But it seems like her spirit is a bit off?

“Sister Zhijin, are you sick? Your face looks flushed, and your eyes are red.”

“It’s nothing, just a little cold.” Xia Zhijin smiled, casually dismissing her concerns.

Helping Xia Zhijin to settle Shi Man on the sofa, Chen Zhi tactfully said, “Sister Zhijin, I’ll head back first.”

Xia Zhijin gently touched Shi Man’s rosy face and turned to Chen Zhi, “Thank you for bringing Manman back. It’s late, why don’t you stay here for the night and rest?”

Chen Zhi joked, “No need, I’ve already informed my parents that I’ll be heading back. If they wake up in the middle of the night and find out I haven’t returned, they might break my legs.” Initially, she had intended to stay and take care of Shi Man, but with Xia Zhijin back, she felt her presence was no longer necessary.

(If you're not reading on, it means this has been stolen)

Xia Zhijin chuckled softly, seeing her insistence, she didn’t want to impose. Standing up, she asked Chen Zhi to wait a moment, took off her coat and gently covered Shi Man with it. She then went upstairs to get another coat and handed it to Chen Zhi, “It’s cold at night, don’t catch a cold.”

Putting on the coat, Chen Zhi couldn’t help but feel envious of Lin Xian and Shi Man tonight. Xia Zhijin accompanied her to the door, but Chen Zhi insisted she didn’t need a further escort as the driver was outside. As she was about to leave, Chen Zhi thought for a moment, then kindly advised Xia Zhijin, “Sister Zhijin, Manman seems particularly unhappy today. Maybe you should have a good chat with her once she wakes up.”

Xia Zhijin’s eyes darkened for a moment, she sighed and nodded, “Alright, I will.”

Seeing Chen Zhi off, Xia Zhijin returned to the living room and noticed Shi Man seemed a bit more awake, staring at her with peach blossom eyes flushed with alcohol. She gently touched Shi Man’s head and asked in a soft tone, “Feeling uncomfortable?”

Shi Man gently shook her head.

“Let me help you upstairs.” Xia Zhijin reached out to embrace her, and Shi Man didn’t refuse, obediently cooperating as she struggled to get up.

“You’re back.” The girl murmured somewhat indistinctly, with a hint of grievance in her voice.

“Yes, I’m back.” Xia Zhijin softly reassured her.

The short distance, which was usually not long, made Xia Zhijin, who was feeling unwell, break out in a sweat as she struggled to escort Shi Man to her room. She helped Shi Man take off her coat, tucked her in under the blanket, sat on the edge of the bed, brushed aside her disheveled bangs covering her eyes, and was about to get up, “I’ll go make you a cup of hangover tea.”

Shi Man, however, grabbed her wrist, her voice low as she said, “You haven’t wished me a Happy New Year yet.”

A fond smile played on Xia Zhijin’s lips as she bent down to kiss Shi Man’s forehead gently, murmuring softly, “Manman, Happy New Year.”

Shi Man still tightly held onto her wrist, unwilling to let go, looking at her as her eyes slowly turned red.

Xia Zhijin bit her lip, as if remembering something, she used her other hand that wasn’t held by Shi Man to reach into the pocket of her nearby coat, taking out a small box and presenting it to Shi Man, her eyes filled with tenderness as she coaxed her, “New Year gift, open it and see.” This was bought with the advance payment she received from the filming contract for Shi Man. She believed Shi Man would surely like it.

A lump formed in Shi Man’s throat, tears slowly welled up in the corners of her eyes, moistening the pillow. She suddenly felt extremely aggrieved, choked up, reaching out to slam the gift box in front of her to the ground, making a loud sound of clattering. In the silent night, the sound seemed particularly piercing.

In that instant, Xia Zhijin straightened up, feeling as though her heart had been brutally stabbed by that slight sound.

(If you're not reading on, it means this has been stolen)

Shi Man, eyes covered, choked out her accusations, “I don’t want it! Why do you all only know how to give me gifts? Why are you just like her, you don’t know what I truly want.”

Shi Man’s tears, seemingly carrying heat, dropped one by one onto Xia Zhijin’s heart, causing a sharp ache at the tip of her nose, swelling her mind with grievances. Perhaps what she could offer Shi Man might seem insignificant in Shi Man’s eyes, but it was everything she could give with all her might.

Bending down, she picked up the gift Shi Man had swept to the ground, holding it like she was picking up her own unclaimed sincerity. She reached out to wipe away Shi Man’s tears, her voice trembling, for the first time openly expressing her distress to Shi Man, “Manman, do you know what I want?”

Shi Man cried with difficulty, hearing her question, seeming even more distressed, unconsciously responding in a series of gasps, “I don’t know, I don’t know. Zhijin, I don’t know. I feel so tired.” Each word more sorrowful than the last. Sometimes, she couldn’t help but feel that Xia Zhijin was far from her, as if she had never truly entered her heart.

Xia Zhijin’s gaze became increasingly desolate. Shi Man had no way of knowing, how could she know, the difficulty of standing by her side with her head held high, how difficult it was to achieve the word “matching”; how could she know that being with someone as obscure as her meant enduring gossip and disrespect from others for a lifetime.

But it wasn’t Shi Man’s fault, how could she let Shi Man bear that burden. Perhaps with someone else, they should all feel grateful and content, shouldn’t they?

The gap between her and Shi Man was her original sin. She introspected, questioning herself if she hadn’t done enough, loved enough, which led to Shi Man’s distress.

Adversity fosters ambition. Guided by her mother’s earnest teachings since childhood, she persisted stubbornly from the impoverished little mountain valley to where she was now. She was willing to sacrifice her life for Shi Man, but she wasn’t willing to forget her own identity for her. What does it truly mean to love someone deeply? She couldn’t provide an answer to herself.

She affectionately touched the cheeks of Shi Man, who had fallen into a deep sleep from crying fatigue, shook her head in pain as if her head was about to explode, physically and mentally exhausted. She sadly glanced at the ungiven gift on the bedside, opened a drawer, and silently placed it at the very back.

She tucked in Shi Man’s blanket, got up, and walked out of the bedroom, preparing to freshen up when suddenly her phone in her pocket vibrated violently.

The screen displayed the time – 2:30 in the early morning. The caller – Zhiqi.

At this time, this call… In an instant, Xia Zhijin’s heart skipped a beat, a sense of foreboding enveloping her mind.

She trembled as she touched the screen, and answered the call.

In the brightly lit study room of the Lin family in the South District of Anjiang City, Zhou Qin had been sitting stiffly since checking her emails at half-past midnight, unable to relax. As if unwilling to accept reality, Zhou Qin once again checked the email sent precisely at midnight, titled “New Year’s Gift.”

Her expression grew increasingly serious, her lips pressed tightly into a straight line, the hand holding the mouse gripped so tightly that her fingertips had turned pale.

LP: The girls are all taking Ls, what is this author?!

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