The Ye family.
The mansion was filled with a suffocating and dense awkwardness.
Ye Ming stared at Ning Li with a complicated look before asking tentatively, "Ning Li, you… knew Second Master Lu before this?"
The others placed their attention on Ning Li at the same time.
Ning Li said calmly, "Today is my first time meeting him."
Ye Ming sighed a breath of relief, but it only increased his doubts.
Rumor had it that Lu Huaiyu was a blue blood with a cold attitude. He normally would not have interfered with this matter, so what made him change his mind?
Ning Li reacted calmly without showing her emotions on her face.
He frowned and said, "Fine. You guys can go have a rest now. Ye Cheng, come with me."
Ye Ci brought Ning Li to the second floor.
When they walked past a half-shut door, Ning Li slightly slowed down and looked inside.
Inside the bright and spacious room, the white curtains were dancing along with the wind. She could vaguely spot an edge of a frame.
Ye Ci noticed her probing and explained with a smile, "Sister Ning Li, this is the painting room."
Aunt Zhao, who was following them, could not help but join in the conversation while praising, "The master specially prepared this painting room for Miss… I mean the second missus! The second missus is going to be in the final round of Huatsing Cup Calligraphy and Painting Competition. Deputy Chairman Zhan, the organizer, said the second missus is likely to get the first place."
Ye Ci puckered her lips sweetly. "Aunt Zhao, the competition hasn't even started. There are many professionals joining the competition as well. It's too soon to jump to conclusions."
The competition was held once every two years in Yunzhou County. Only participants below the age of 20 could enter, and the one who won first place would get the opportunity to have his or her own personal exhibition. On top of that, the winner would get special admission to Guangxi University while exempted from taking the entrance exam.
Ye Ci was determined to get the first spot.
Ning Li listened to all of it patiently, but all she did was nod faintly before walking away.
Aunt Zhao felt embarrassed and awkward after seeing the response.
Ning Ling probably did not understand the meaning behind Huatsing Cup.
It was as expected of someone from a secluded little town.
Ye Ci's eyes glimmered. She caught up to Ning Li and asked warmly, "Sister Ning Li, it'll be fun during the competition. Why don't you go have a look?"
Ning Li replied nonchalantly, "I might not have the time for it."
Ye Ci was caught off guard by the answer.
Ning Li had just arrived in Yunzhou. She was new to this city. What else could possibly utilize her time?
She was probably not interested, but Ye Ci had personally invited her after all. The rejection was somewhat rude and cold.
Ye Ci felt a little sour but she did not show her expression on her face. She put on her usual smile and brought Ning Li to the room at the farthest end.
When the door opened, a tiffany blue room welcomed them.
Ye Ci said with a smile, "Mom prepared everything and decorated the room just as you like it."
Ning Li seemed to be smiling when she heard that. She then walked into the room.
She put her bag on the desk and then took a glance at Ye Ci who was at the entrance.
"Is there anything else?"
The meaning of her words was obvious. She did not want Ye Ci to linger.
Ye Ci was a smart girl as well. She knew she was not welcome around Ning Li, so she did not plan to linger as well.
She believed she was treating Ning Li with decency, but Ning Li did not appreciate it at all.
"Nothing else. I'll leave you alone now. Have a good rest, Big Sister Ning Li."
Ye Ci then closed the door and left.
Aunt Zhao frowned and turned around to take a glance. She whispered, "Miss, I didn't expect Miss Ning to have such a temper. You invited her out of goodwill but she didn't appreciate your kindness."
Ye Ci tucked her hair behind her ear, the smile on her face fading instantly.
"Big Sister Ning Li is new here. It's normal that she would feel alienated."
Aunt Zhao grumbled, "Alienated? That's not what it is. She's just rude!"
Ye Ci did not answer. Instead, she headed to Su Yuan's room.
The room was meticulously decorated, every corner of the room smelling like a lady's room. There was even a faint fragrance in the air.
Ning Li looked around and found the incense fragrance on the table. She picked it up, headed to the toilet, and poured everything into the toilet bowl. She then opened the window for some air.
The air in summer felt extra dry and hot.
She took a deep breath to clear her mind from the fragrance. Only then did she ease her furrowed brows.
Su Yuan had not asked about her for 11 years. How would she know what Ning Li liked or disliked?
The decoration, the color, the fragrance... Everything was Ye Ci's favorite instead of Ning Li's.
When she was grounded in the sanatorium center for a year, Ye Ci would visit her from time to time. Ning Li would pick up the jasmine scent on her during every visit.
The scent made her stomach turn and gave her a hard time sleeping.
Fortunately, she did not have to stay in this place for long.
The rare peace and quiet were broken by a series of phone notifications.
She took her phone out for a glance, and in the span of seconds, she received more than a dozen messages.
[Aaaaah! Sister Li, guess what I found in the basement? A draft that you drew two years ago!
[Do you still want it? Why not give it to me? Please?
[Please, pretty please? Save me!]
Ning Li rubbed her swollen temples before typing a reply.
[How much did you sell it for?]
She did not receive a response for a while before a careful reply came back.
[I got an offer of six, but I haven't said yes! It's your belonging anyway, so…]
Ning Li did not reply to the question. Instead, she switched the topic.
[I thought you were participating in Huatsing Cup's final?]
This time around, it was silent for quite some time.
[Sister Li, please don't scare me. Since when do you care about such a small competition? Are you… okay?]
Ning Li poured herself a glass of water. There were a lot of things that concerned her now.
[Get first place and the draft is yours. I'll take the money.]
[!!! Are you for real, Sister Li?]
Ning Li did not reply anymore. She scrolled down her contact list to a caller ID named 'Null'.
She sent a message to the particular contact.
[Check whether this car had been tampered with.]
She then typed the license plate of a car and a reply came back almost instantaneously.
[You came to me just for this?]
[Oh, and I'm accepting a competition invite.]
Her phone rang right away and she answered it.
The man from the other side of the call could not conceal the shock in his voice. "What's wrong? I thought you said you're never going to compete again a year ago?"
Ning Li took a sip of water and leaned on the chair. She licked her luscious lips and said, "I need money."
The man raised his tone and volume as though he had heard a joke.
"What did you say?"
Ning Li played with her hair and said, "There's a favor that I must return."
Chen Xiyue sent Lu Huaiyu back to the mansion, Yunding Fenghua.
The mansion was bought one year ago by Old Master Lu for Lu Huaiyu to rehabilitate.
It was an independent mansion located in the heart of the city, hence the astronomical price.
Before he got out of the car, Lu Huaiyu received a phone call.
He answered the phone and said, "Grandfather."
Old Master Lu's strong voice came through the phone.
"Huaiyu, your Uncle Yan found you an expert and he's coming back the day after tomorrow. Do you want him to wait for you or should I tell him to meet you at Yunzhou?"
Chen Xiyue glanced at him.
Lu Huaiyu got out of the car and closed the door swiftly.
"No need." The meaning of the rejection was obvious.
Old Master Lu's voice sounded heavy when he said, "You shouldn't delay it like this. It has already been a year and…"
Lu Huaiyu stood straight and smiled. "I have something to attend to."