Chapter 323 – Revisiting Yunlan

The midnight chimes resounded amidst the cheering of countless households. For China, the year had just passed, marking the time to bid farewell to the old and welcome the new. Outside the window, numerous fireworks bloomed simultaneously, carrying the New Year’s visions of thousands of families, blossoming at the very first second of the new year.

Chen Yunlan stood by the window, his gaze fixed on the colorful fireworks in the sky. It was unclear what he was thinking at that moment, only a faint smile remained on his lips.

Though he appeared to be smiling, an inexplicable sorrow overflowed within him.

For Chen Yunlan, this was yet another sleepless night, much like countless days before. Once he closed his eyes, tumultuous emotions surged forth, leaving him restless. Tossing and turning throughout the night, in a daze, he felt as if he had drifted off to sleep yet remained strangely awake, waiting for dawn to mark the start of a new day.

Fireworks outside burst forth in succession, casting their multicolored light on Chen Yunlan’s face. He lowered his head, diverting his gaze from the dazzling fireworks. They were too beautiful, too breathtaking, almost too… unattainable.

His phone, placed by the bedside, rang. Chen Yunlan walked over to pick it up. The caller ID displayed an unfamiliar number, and though he contemplated declining the call, for some unknown reason, he slid to answer it. By the time he realized it, the phone was already at his ear.

“Chen Yunlan, it’s me.”

A slightly hoarse and deep voice came through the phone, prompting Chen Yunlan to take a moment before recognizing the caller. “Mr. Xie, hello,” Chen Yunlan replied calmly and lightly.

“I’m downstairs in your residential area. Come down,” Xie Chunsheng’s voice sounded devoid of any emotion.

Without hesitation, Chen Yunlan declined, “I’m sorry, I need to sleep.”

A low chuckle came from the phone, followed by assertive words that echoed in Chen Yunlan’s ears, “Chen Yunlan, I don’t mind coming up to get you myself. You should know I have the means. Of course, if you don’t mind me disturbing your family, I’m more than willing to come up.”

Chen Yunlan didn’t respond immediately. After a long silence, he finally conceded, “Fine, I’ll come down.”

“I’ll be waiting for you downstairs,” Xie Chunsheng’s voice contained a subtle sense of achievement, faint and almost imperceptible.

Chen Yunlan changed his clothes and left the house. Normally, at this hour, the residential area was quiet, but since it was the Spring Festival, many were still up celebrating. The area was festively adorned with large red lanterns and festive couplets, giving off an air of jubilation.

Chen Yunlan, however, paid little attention to the festivities. He intended to meet with Xie Chunsheng and then return home. He had not put on many clothes when he left, and the night’s breeze had a chill. He pulled his clothes closer around him, curling up against the cold.

As he approached the community gate, he noticed a car parked not far away under a streetlight. Chen Yunlan guessed it was Xie Chunsheng’s car. After hesitating for a moment, he started walking towards the vehicle.

Xie Chunsheng spotted Chen Yunlan approaching. Seeing him in such thinly layered clothes, Xie Chunsheng frowned. ‘Why doesn’t this person take care of himself?’ he thought, removing his own coat and stepping out of the car.

Just as Chen Yunlan reached the streetlight, he saw the car door open. The tall and long-legged Xie Chunsheng emerged, holding a coat in his hand.

Stopping in his tracks, Chen Yunlan watched as Xie Chunsheng walked towards him. As Xie Chunsheng tried to drape the coat over him, Chen Yunlan sidestepped, avoiding it.

“Mr. Xie, what business brings you here at such a late hour?” Chen Yunlan’s tone was icy.

Xie Chunsheng didn’t reply but, in a manner that allowed no refusal, draped the coat over Chen Yunlan, scolding softly, “It’s cold out at night. You should dress warmer.” His tone wasn’t harsh but conveyed genuine concern.

“If Mr. Xie truly cared, he wouldn’t have called me out so late,” Chen Yunlan said. Under Xie Chunsheng’s pressure, he didn’t remove the coat, but his attitude didn’t soften.

Not wishing to argue further, Xie Chunsheng held Chen Yunlan’s hand and said, “Get in the car with me.”

Chen Yunlan shook off Xie Chunsheng’s grasp and, without a word, looked at him with indifference.

Chen Yunlan’s hand was that of an artist, while Xie Chunsheng’s was hardened from life’s battles. He could easily overpower Chen Yunlan if he wanted, but fearing he might hurt him, he refrained from using force. Nevertheless, this didn’t mean Xie Chunsheng was giving up. Their eyes met, devoid of emotions, yet it made Chen Yunlan feel suffocated.

“I don’t mind carrying you to the car,” Xie Chunsheng stated.

Chen Yunlan stared at Xie Chunsheng for a while, knowing this man wouldn’t give up. Reluctantly surrendering, he said, “Fine, I’ll get in the car myself.” With those words, he opened the car door and went in. However, he didn’t sit in the passenger seat; he chose to sit in the back.

Once seated, Chen Yunlan turned his head to gaze out of the car window, deliberately avoiding looking at Xie Chunsheng inside the car.

Xie Chunsheng didn’t force Chen Yunlan. He started the car and drove off into the night.

Chen Yunlan had no idea how long they’d been driving until the car finally stopped. They had arrived at the entrance of the hot spring hotel where he had previously been with Wei Chen and the others. Xie Chunsheng got out of the car and opened the door, making a gentlemanly gesture to help Chen Yunlan out.

As Chen Yunlan looked at the hands outside the car door, his gaze froze.

Faintly, Chen Yunlan seemed to see the gesture of a man reaching out to him from over twenty years ago. The same hand gesture, palm facing upward, with the thumb slightly resting on top.

This hand gesture was the exact habit of Qu Ran!

“Yunlan, please get out of the car,” Xie Chunsheng reminded Chen Yunlan when he noticed no reaction.

The sound of Xie Chunsheng’s voice brought Chen Yunlan out of his daze. He tugged at the corners of his mouth, dismissing it as a mere coincidence.

In the end, Chen Yunlan didn’t place his hand on Xie Chunsheng’s, opting instead to open the door on the other side and exit the car.

Xie Chunsheng walked over to Chen Yunlan’s side as he got out of the car and stood there.

“Why did you bring me here?” Chen Yunlan asked, looking at the magnificent building illuminated by the night. He had recovered from his earlier state, but his emotions were inevitably affected, tinged with a hint of sadness in his voice.

Xie Chunsheng noticed this. His hand clenched at his side, the veins entwined, indicating the turmoil within.

Nevertheless, Xie Chunsheng’s face showed no sign of disturbance. He smiled lightly and said, “I wanted to show you something. Last time you were here, there were urgent matters, and you didn’t have the chance to visit.”

Since they were already there, might as well go along with it. If Xie Chunsheng had any ill intentions, he would have acted already. Chen Yunlan, knowing his physical strength was no match for Xie Chunsheng, didn’t resist. He stepped forward, his departing figure oddly imbued with a sense of tragedy.

Watching Chen Yunlan’s departing figure for a while, Xie Chunsheng eventually followed.

The hotel staff had already taken a break due to the New Year celebrations. The decorations were adorned with red lanterns, creating an eerily quiet atmosphere. There wasn’t a single sound apart from the echo of their footsteps. Instead of a festive Lunar New Year ambience, the silence sent shivers down one’s spine.

However, Chen Yunlan didn’t feel much; he continued walking, guided by Xie Chunsheng. They walked along a familiar route that Chen Yunlan had taken on a previous visit to the hotel. Soon, Chen Yunlan arrived at the same spot where he’d stopped last time.

Again, he halted, not continuing further.

Where was this leading? To Xie Chunsheng’s office, perhaps? Or deeper inside, where there might be something unsavory?

Following behind Chen Yunlan, Xie Chunsheng asked, “Why stop?”

During their walk here, Chen Yunlan had suppressed the emotions churning inside. His voice regained its calmness. “It’s nothing.”

Seeing that Chen Yunlan wasn’t going forward, Xie Chunsheng reached out and held Chen Yunlan’s hand, guiding him forward. “Come with me.”

This time, Chen Yunlan didn’t resist. Influenced by the previous gesture, he looked at the hand holding his own, strangely lacking the urge to resist. And further down the corridor, a faint expectation arose within him.

Sensing Chen Yunlan’s compliance, Xie Chunsheng’s lips curled slightly, and his grip relaxed a bit. Leading Chen Yunlan deeper into the corridor, they arrived at a vermillion door where Xie Chunsheng finally stopped.

The closed door emitted a solemn vibe under the lighting, and Chen Yunlan’s heart raced uncontrollably. He felt an inexplicable pull from whatever lay beyond that door, summoning him.

“Come inside with me,” Xie Chunsheng suggested, not noticing the change in Chen Yunlan. He was also anxious, sweat starting to form on his palms. Slowly, his hand rested on the vermillion door.

Chen Yunlan’s gaze fixated on Xie Chunsheng’s hand. It seemed as though Xie Chunsheng’s hand held an irresistible power, rendering Chen Yunlan unable to look away.

Time seemed to stop in that moment. Chen Yunlan’s heartbeat intensified. He watched as the vermillion door gradually creaked open, and his breathing syncopated with its movement. He even forgot to breathe at times.

When Xie Chunsheng completely opened the vermillion door, revealing what lay beyond, Chen Yunlan’s heart was already in a state of hanging. His heart seemed to stop beating, and he forgot to breathe…

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