Chapter 256 – The Past Like Smoke
“He was my wife’s younger brother,” Sheng Jiaqi said. “More than twenty years ago, he disappeared. When we found him, it was over a decade later. What we found was a cold tombstone…” Sheng Jiaqi’s voice trailed off.
“Come in,” Chen Yunlan said, inviting the two in. Sheng Jiaqi’s surname made Chen Yunlan speculate about something.
The young man who came to Chen Yunlan with Sheng Jiaqi was Cookie. As soon as Cookie and Sheng Jiaqi entered Chen Yunlan’s house, they were stunned by the chaotic interior.
Records indicated that Chen Yunlan was an internationally renowned painter. Indeed, do artists’ aesthetics differ so uniquely?
However, the next moment, both Cookie and Sheng Jiaqi saw Chen Li sitting at the dining table, and both father and son were somewhat surprised.
Had Chen Li already discovered his own identity?
Sheng Jiaqi and Cookie exchanged a glance, each harboring some speculations.
“Please, have a seat,” Chen Yunlan said, leading the father and son to sit on the sofa in the living room. Observing the looks exchanged between them, Chen Yunlan asked, “Do you know Chen Li?”
Sheng Jiaqi shifted his gaze away from Chen Li and went straight to the point: “To be frank, part of the reason we came to see you this time is because of Qu Ran, and another part is because of Chen Li. We want to know if Chen Li is Qu Ran’s son.”
Zhuge Yu walked over, just in time to hear Sheng Jiaqi’s question, but he didn’t make a scene; he just stood aside, showing no other expressions on his face, although he was somewhat shocked inside.
Qu Ran’s surname was Qu, and the only Qu family related to the Sheng family, especially Sheng Jiaqi, was that Qu family!
But what was going on? Wasn’t Chen Li supposed to be Chen Yunlan’s son? How did it suddenly turn out that he was Qu Ran’s son? He remembered that under Mr. Qu’s lineage, there was a son and a daughter; the daughter, Qu Qing, married Sheng Jiaqi, and the son seemed to have disappeared when he was in his teens.
Now, the Qu Ran mentioned by Sheng Jiaqi should be the missing son of Mr. Qu!
Was it Sheng Jiaqi who got it wrong? Or was it Chen Yunlan who made a mistake? How could Chen Li possibly be Chen Yunlan’s son and also Qu Ran’s son?
These were two men!
Zhuge Yu felt his intelligence was being challenged; he suddenly couldn’t understand it.
The same doubts were also harbored by Wei Chen. Encountering Sheng Jiaqi and Cookie at Chen Yunlan’s house was surprising enough for Wei Chen. However, now he was not only surprised but also puzzled.
So, what exactly was the background of Chen Li?
Although both Zhuge Yu and Wei Chen had doubts, they tacitly refrained from interrupting their conversation and didn’t deliberately avoid it either. Chen Yunlan didn’t stop Sheng Jiaqi from finishing his earlier statement, indicating that they could listen to the forthcoming conversation.
Chen Yunlan indeed didn’t mind if Chen Li and Wei Chen overheard the subsequent conversation. In fact, Chen Yunlan seized this opportunity to openly discuss the events from over twenty years ago, despite the fact that it would reopen his unhealed wounds and pour salt on them.
“Mr. Sheng, I believe you already know the answer, which is why you’ve come to me. Yes, Chen Li is Qu Ran’s son,” Chen Yunlan said, pausing deliberately before adding, “More precisely, Chen Li is the son of both Qu Ran and me, carrying the blood of both of us.”
As Chen Yunlan finished this statement, it caused a stir.
No, it wasn’t a surprise to everyone, at least not to Sheng Jiaqi and Cookie; it merely confirmed what they already knew. Chen Li was indeed Qu Ran’s son, the grandson of Mr. Qu!
The ones truly shocked were Zhuge Yu and Wei Chen.
Was Chen Li really the child of both Chen Yunlan and Qu Ran? According to Chen Yunlan’s implications, Chen Li was not born through another person’s involvement!
But how could that be possible? They were two men! How could two men have a child?
Chen Li was equally puzzled. This contradicted his understanding. He looked at Wei Chen in confusion, but Wei Chen shook his head, indicating he couldn’t fathom the relationship either.
The conversation in the living room continued, unaffected by their confusion.
Sheng Jiaqi was surprised by Chen Yunlan’s openness. Meeting Chen Yunlan’s gaze, he also spoke candidly, “Before coming here, I had someone look into the events from over twenty years ago. Although the information isn’t very detailed, it does shed some light on the truth. I deeply regret the circumstances between you and Qu Ran and thank you for taking care of Qu Ran.”
Though Sheng Jiaqi didn’t know: if Qu Ran hadn’t met Chen Yunlan back then, would he have passed away even earlier? Or would he have been found by the Qu family while still alive?
However, these questions held no relevance. So many years had passed, Qu Ran had been gone for so long that seeking answers based on ‘what ifs’ would only disturb peace without any real purpose.
“Nothing to regret,” Chen Yunlan murmured with a soft smile. “At least, I have a deeply engraved memory to accompany me in this lifetime.”
Sheng Jiaqi looked at Chen Yunlan, detecting a complex array of emotions in his eyes, but he didn’t delve into them.
“If and when Mr. Chen is willing, then please tell us about the events involving Qu Ran back then,” Sheng Jiaqi said. He didn’t force Chen Yunlan to disclose everything. As he had mentioned earlier, he had investigated the events from over twenty years ago, but after such a long time, many details had been veiled by time. Even with many connections, Sheng Jiaqi could only ascertain that Chen Yunlan and Qu Ran were once a couple, but due to Qu Ran’s homeless background, it was impossible for the Chen family to accept their relationship, prompting interference.
Undoubtedly, Chen Yunlan and Qu Ran were separated by the Chen family back then. However, there was a period when Chen Yunlan seemed to have vanished, and Sheng Jiaqi couldn’t figure out where he had gone.
As for information about Qu Ran, Sheng Jiaqi couldn’t find much. Apart from the fact that Qu Ran was deceased and a homeless wanderer at the time, how many people would have cared about his fate?
It was for this reason that Sheng Jiaqi intended to personally inquire with Chen Yunlan, as the one directly involved in the events from over twenty years ago.
Of course, if it weren’t for the crucial importance of Chen Li’s identity, Sheng Jiaqi wouldn’t have wanted to unearth these old wounds.
“There’s no ‘willing or not willing.’ If you want to hear it, I can tell you now,” Chen Yunlan said, raising his head and focusing on a childlike painting hanging in the living room. “If you want to listen, come closer, no need to stand so far away,” he addressed Zhuge Yu, Wei Chen, and Chen Li.
However, Zhuge Yu excused himself and left. Despite his curiosity, he understood that this matter ultimately had nothing to do with him. It wasn’t appropriate for him to stay and listen to the story.
Chen Li stood next to Wei Chen, tightly holding his hand. His gaze was fixed on Chen Yunlan. For some reason, he walked to the coffee table, picked up a tissue, and handed it to Chen Yunlan, although Chen Yunlan wasn’t visibly crying.
Following the tissue, Chen Yunlan looked up at Chen Li. Gradually, Chen Li’s face completely overlapped with the one from his memory. “I met Qu Ran in the summer,” Chen Yunlan took a deep breath and began narrating his past with Qu Ran.
Back in that summer, it wasn’t as scorching as the current summers, with occasional breezes tempering the heat. Chen Yunlan was merely seventeen at that time, an age of youthful enthusiasm. However, for him, meeting and falling in love with Qu Ran at that point in time was a mistake.
Chen Yunlan first encountered Qu Ran when Qu Ran was wandering the streets of the bustling city. Perhaps he had just begun his journey as a wanderer. Qu Ran’s attire was still presentable; if not for his vacant gaze and the slightly lost manner in which he roamed the streets, others might have mistaken him for an aristocratic young gentleman.
Chen Yunlan had never been a particularly kind person. However, on that day when he saw Qu Ran wandering the streets, he impulsively took Qu Ran to a nearby eatery and had a meal together.
Qu Ran hadn’t eaten in a long while by that time, but he didn’t display ravenous behavior. In fact, his eating manner was graceful and elegant. It was ingrained in his nature, seamlessly blending into his character.
“This is an aristocrat,” Chen Yunlan thought as he watched Qu Ran eat, dumbfounded by the observation.
However, it didn’t take long for Chen Yunlan to notice a problem with this “aristocrat.” He seemed confined within his own world. Regardless of how Chen Yunlan conversed with him, he didn’t respond, his face blank, head lowered, showing no reaction.
Initially, Chen Yunlan thought Qu Ran was being impolite. Soon, he realized it wasn’t about being impolite but rather a resistance to the world around him.
As young people are often filled with curiosity and a desire to challenge the world, Chen Yunlan was curious about how Qu Ran spoke or what he looked like when he laughed. He even arrogantly thought he could make Qu Ran step out of his own world and face this vivid and colorful world.
Chen Yunlan gradually interacted with Qu Ran and even brought him home, deceiving his family by saying that Qu Ran was a classmate in need of a place to stay while his parents were on overseas assignments.
Chen Yunlan wasn’t afraid of the lie being exposed because his parents were so occupied with work that sometimes they couldn’t even exchange a few words for an entire month.
In their subsequent interactions, Chen Yunlan discovered that despite Qu Ran being confined within his own world, he excelled in other areas, such as having an eidetic memory.
However, what frustrated Chen Yunlan was Qu Ran’s abysmal skill in drawing. No matter how many times he tried to teach him, Qu Ran’s drawings turned out messy and chaotic.
A youthful heart can’t suppress its palpitations.
Gradually, Chen Yunlan found his gaze often following Qu Ran. Sometimes just looking at Qu Ran’s face could absorb him for hours.