127 Arriving at the Shen Family Home

A black Rolls-Royce slowly stopped at the entrance of the village where Shen Xi lived.
Guan Lei left Xue Li in the car and walked up to Shen Xi’s house alone.
He peered through the door that stood ajar on which the drawing of a humming general hung.

Shen Yan and Lu Shan, who had just returned home to prepare dinner, noticed the young man at their door, his head tilted as if trying to solve a puzzle.

They thought he was passing by but were quickly disproved when he addressed them.
“Excuse me, is this Shen Xi’s house?”

Shen Yan and Lu Shan looked at each other and replied, “Yes, and you are?”

Guan Lei bowed, greeting Shen Yan and Lu Shan politely, “Hello, Uncle and Aunty.
I’m Shen Xi’s classmate.
My name is Guan Lei.”

Guan Lei easily deduced the man and woman’s identities.
A glance was all he needed to see the similarities between Shen Xi and the couple about to eat their dinner.
No wonder Shen Xi was so beautiful! She must have inherited her parents’ good genes.

Shen Yan carefully sized up Guan Lei.
He did not look half bad, save for the clear fatigue he wore on his sleeve.
Even from where he sat, Shen Yan could see the dark circles under the lad’s eyes and the furrow creasing his brow.
The poor teen seemed like he had not slept in a while!

When Lu Shan heard Guan Lei introduce himself as Shen Xi’s classmate, she was overjoyed.
“So you’re Xixi’s classmate.
Quick, come and have a seat.
Xixi is preparing for the physics competition this weekend, so she has not returned.
Didn’t she tell you? It’s okay.
Aunty won’t think less of you even if you didn’t know.”

Lu Shan was really happy.
In the past, Jiang Xue always complained about their poor family situation and never invited her classmates home.
She even refused to tell anyone her home address, fearing they would learn of her plight.

Learning that Shen Xi did not mind telling her classmates where she lived was a breath of fresh air, one Lu Shan and Shen Yan treasured deeply.

Guan Lei was stunned upon learning Shen Xi was not home.
He had thought Shen Xi would return home for the weekend.
If Shen Xi was not home, where was she preparing for the physics competition being held the following weekend?

It was not long before Guan Lei connected the dots.
Shen Xi had suffered an injury to her face.
She probably did not want to worry her parents, so she lied and told them she needed to prepare for the upcoming physics competition.

While lost in thought, Lu Shan, the ever enthusiastic mother, pulled Guan Lei into the house proper.

Guan Lei tried objecting to no avail.
Since he was already inside Shen Xi’s house, he took the opportunity to look around, his curiosity commandeering his attention.

The shabby furniture and minimal furnishing surprised Guan Lei.
If he had not seen it for himself, he would not have believed Shen Xi’s family survived off a firewood stove.

Where a rice cooker, a basic appliance in any modern household, should have been sat was a large iron pot instead.

Although it was already September, the summer heat had yet to fade.
Shen Xi’s house did not have air-conditioners.
The heat would have been unbearable were it not for the small electric fan in the corner.

Guan Lei had asked Xue Li to investigate Shen Xi and knew her family was not well off.
However, Guan Lei never imagined she would be so poor.
It seemed he ought to help his partner a little more.

After all, as his partner, Shen Xi could not be allowed to appear too shabby.

Though the house was sparsely decorated, it had a homely feel with cute cartoon-like images doodled here and there and even on the sides of the old firewood stove.

The few paintings hung up were skilful creations even he, with his lacking skill in the fine arts, could appreciate.
The colours blended and created something more than a sum of their parts combined.

Lu Shan tucked Guan Lei into one of the rickety dining chairs at the table.
She faced the fan at Guan Lei and said, “Give me a second.
Let me harvest a few vegetables from our back garden, and lunch will be ready before you know it.”

Meanwhile, Shen Yan had started a fire and had already washed the rice.
He wiped the beads of perspiration forming at his temple before quickly excusing himself to help his wife in the garden.
Guan Lei remained the sole tenant in the now empty house.

He got up and surveyed the two bedrooms.
Neither room had a fan.
A deep sigh escaped his lips as he failed to conceal how upset he was.
Guan Lei was suddenly acutely aware of how fortunate he was to live in a mansion, enjoy the luxury of constant air-conditioning, and eat delicious food cooked by renowned chefs.

By contrast, Shen Xi’s life seemed miserable.

Guan Lei called Xue Li, “Shen Xi is not at home.
Find out where Shen Xi is now.
Also, contact the renovation company and get someone to redesign the Shen family’s home.
I want everything custom-made and designed according to the specifications.
When they’re ready, have them sent here.”

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