Xin Qing recounted the incident involving the Jiang family to Xiao Rui. In the end, she told him, "No matter what your thoughts are, I'll never let you return right now. Not yet."
Xiao Rui went silent in thought. After a while, he asked, "Will you allow me to meet with them?"
"Sure. I'll call them." Despite knowing that Xiao Rui was wise beyond his years, his reaction to what she had just told him still brought conflicted feelings to Xin Qing's heart. Somehow, she had a feeling that this kid might be tougher than she ever was.
When told that Xiao Rui desired to meet with them, Song Chunli thanked Xin Qing profusely over the phone, which made Xin Qing feel rather awkward. After all, it was not Xin Qing's own idea to have the meeting but Xiao Rui's own decision.
After discussing with each other, Xin Qing and Song Chunli had decided that, for security reasons, they should have the meeting at Ying's residence. The meeting would take place this coming weekend.
Friday came all too soon. Compared to Xiao Rui who was calm and composed, Xin Qing was a complete nervous wreck.
"Mom, I won't go back with them," Xiao Rui said, concerned that Xin Qing's emotional state might negatively affect the baby. He reached out and took Xin Qing's hand. Then, in a reassuring tone, he said, "You don't have to be nervous."
Xin Qing smiled at him sheepishly. It was not like she wanted to look so pathetic, just that she could not help the anxiety bubbling inside her...
Song Chunli and Jiang Qianren were very punctual; they both arrived at Ying's residence during dinner time on the dot.
Song Chunli's eyes were practically pinned onto Xiao Rui the moment she stepped through the door. "Xiao... Xiao Rui?!" She said. Jiang Qianren, on the other hand, appeared calmer, though his tightly balled fists had betrayed his true emotions.
Chen Huan gave Xin Qing a pointed look before carrying Liuliu upstairs. Xin Qing got the message and nodded at Chen Huan.
"Please, have a seat, Aunt Song!" Xin Qing took Xiao Rui's hand and gestured for Song Chunli to take a seat. "Is tea okay?"
Song Chunli's focus was entirely on Xiao Rui right now, so she answered Xin Qing's question with a half-hearted nod. "Anything will do," she said.
Jiang Qianren slinked up to Xin Qing and asked, "What's with the kid's poker face?"
Xin Qing tilted her head and whispered back, "He's born that way."
Jiang Qianren smirked and said nothing else.
"Xiao Rui, I'm your grandmother!" Song Chunli said with tears in her eyes. Then, she rummaged in her handbag and took out a photo. "And these are your parents!"
"I'm your uncle!" Jiang Qianren said, trying his best to inject a bit more friendliness into his smile.
When Xiao Rui remained taciturn, Xin Qing patted his head and said, "You don't have to use those titles if you're still not used to them."
A while later, Xiao Rui finally spoke. "I need some time to get used to all this," he said. "But I acknowledge the fact that you're my family." Song Chunli nodded quickly. "Oh, it's no big deal, no big deal at all. You can use them once you're more comfortable with them!"
Unbeknownst to everyone, Xiao Rui had already frowned several times during the exchange. The meeting went much smoother than Xin Qing had expected. Heck, it did not even feel like a meeting involving the reunion of lost relatives. Other than Song Chunli's relentless crying and the way Jiang Qianren was looking at Xiao Rui with a face that screamed, "Orphans deserve all the love and care in the world!" Xiao Rui had never spoken another word for the rest of the meeting.
Xiao Rui spoke for the second time when they were sending off their guests, "Goodbye!"
"So. What do you think of them?" Xin Qing asked Xiao Rui after their guests left.
Xiao Rui tilted his head to one side and thought for a moment. "Nothing's wrong with Jiang Qianren."
"Okay. Are you saying that something's wrong with Song Chunli?" Xin Qing asked in surprise.
Xiao Rui nodded and said, "Her aura is in chaos. I've been getting strange vibes from her the moment I saw her. She's exceptionally unstable."
"I suppose that's very normal for a grandparent to see their long-lost grandchild for the first time."
Xiao Rui went silent in thought. After a moment, he reached over and picked up a tea cup. Then, he emptied the contents of a half-finished bottle of coke into the cup.
"..." Once again, Xin Qing found herself being put to the test of parenting a child with a high IQ. "What does that mean?" She asked weakly.
Xiao Rui pointed at the tea cup. "When two incompatible substances are mixed together, the result will always be uncanny."
"So you're saying that Song Chunli's behavior is uncanny?"
"Yes. That's how her emotions felt like to me. It's like she's struggling with something internally."
Xin Qing patted her chest in relief. "Okay. Then something must be wrong with her!" She said. Good thing she never brought up the thing about Ying Qingcang.
"About what happened to father, it's fine to ask Jiang Qianren for help. Although Song Chunli is acting strangely so far, she won't try to harm me for now."
Xin Qing nodded and said, "I'll ask Ah Cang first."
Back in the capital, an FAW sedan slowly pulled up at the lawn of the military district. The guards opened the passenger door carefully and a silver-haired old man stepped out of the vehicle. The old man's face was full of vitality and his body looked tall and straight; he gave the impression of someone who was in the pink of health.
With huge and long strides, the old man entered the quadrangle. When he stepped through the door, he immediately spoke to the woman sitting in the living room, "Have you confirmed it? Is he the lost child?"
"He looks exactly the same as Qianze as a child. It has to be him," Song Chunli said in an exhausted tone. "I'll do a DNA test once I have your permission."
Jiang Min was the commander-in-chief of the nation's three armed forces. Even until today, he had yet to retire from his post and his hold on the nation's military power remained as tight as ever. He knew he had to hold the fort until Jiang Qianren was capable enough to take over his position, only then would he finally retire. Otherwise, there was not a single doubt that the Jiang family would be forced out of the main stage of the military world.
Locating his long lost grandchild was, to the old man, the greatest source of comfort he could have in recent years. In a stern voice, he spoke to Song Chunli, "Don't take the test just yet. It'll draw too much attention." He turned around and prepared to head upstairs. Then, he halted his steps and turned his head back around to glance at Song Chunli.
"If you're still unable to let things go after so many years, then Qianze won't be able to rest in peace," he warned.
A violent shudder shook Song Chunli's body. In a high-pitch voice, she yelled, "Would my son die the kind of horrific death that he did if it weren't for that child? Why didn't you hand the child over to them that year? Why did you let my son die!"
"Silence!" Jiang Min roared. His eyes, like a pair of burning torches, stared into Song Chunli. "Don't you dare forget that he's Qianze's son. All you'd been doing is wallow in your own grief over the death of your son. Why can't you just put yourself into his shoes and see that the boy is also his son!"
With a dark look in his eyes, Jiang Min threw out his words, "I will never allow any trouble to befall my grandson. If you insist on pushing yourself to the point of lunacy, then don't blame me for being cruel."
"You..." Song Chunli stared at Jiang Min's back. Then, she buried her face in her hands and fell limply to the couch. A few seconds later, she let loose a series of heart-wrenching sobs.
Probably because he was worried about her, Xin Qing noticed that Ying Qingcang had been coming home more frequently than usual ever since she found out about the bomb inside his body; basically, he would show up at home once every two nights.
"Say, should I seek Jiang Qianren's help?"
Ying Qingcang was holding her in his arms as they sat on the balcony. The wind of early autumn was infused with coldness. The couple had a blanket draped over their bodies while they chatted with each other through the tablet.
"Wait for a while longer. If Boss Wan isn't able to make any progress, then you can seek his help. But I'm guessing he won't be of much help to us either."
Xin Qing's face fell. "But Chen Huan said the Jiang family could help us!"
"She said the Jiang family, not Jiang Qianren." When Ying Qingcang was done writing, he poked her forehead gently. Then, he wrote again, "The one who holds the real power in the Jiang family is Jiang Min."
"Jiang Qianren's father?"
Ying Qingcang nodded. "Find a way to let Xiao Rui meet him."
Song Chunli could never represent the entire Jiang family. The only one calling the shots in the Jiang family was Jiang Min.
While Xin Qing was struggling to come up with a way to broach the subject with Jiang Qianren, she received a call from Song Chunli, saying that Xiao Rui's grandfather wished to see him.
"Sure!" Xin Qing tamped down the bubbling excitement inside her heart. "Let me know the moment he's in town. I'll bring Xiao Rui home."
The National Day arrived soon enough. Jiang Qianren told her that he would be arriving in S City tomorrow. His father would be with him, too. Xin Qing even had a phone conversation with Jiang Min himself. The man had formally extended a meal invitation to her.
Xin Qing brought Xiao Rui to the meeting on her own. Since it was the holidays, Ah Sha and Xunxun were back home as well. If Monica and Chen Huan tagged along, Ah Sha would no doubt feel suspicious. Even now, Ah Sha still thought that Xin Qing had given birth to Xiao Rui. Everyone had decided to keep her in the dark for the time being.
The meeting would take place at a restaurant near the edge of the city. The place was a manor that offered a fantastic view. Inside the manor, in a well-concealed booth, sat an old and a young man.
"Nice to meet you, Uncle Jiang!" Xin Qing greeted him politely. At the same time, she was thrown off balance by the look she saw in the old man's eyes. He was, in every possible way, a living legend of the Republic of China. The man exuded strength and power from head to toe. With his sharp, penetrating eyes, his appearance was far from that of an old man.
Jiang Min acknowledged her greeting with a nod. Instead of flaunting his status and rank, the man politely invited Xin Qing to take a seat.
"Miss Xin, I thank you," the old man said, raising his tea cup. "The Jiang family owes you a favor."
Jiang Qianren gave his father a look of disapproval. "Ah Qing and I are friends. What's with the formality?"
Jiang Min gave his son a brief look before turning his eyes to Xiao Rui.
"Hello," Xiao Rui greeted with a nod.
Xin Qing had noticed the slight tremble in the old man's hands just now. At that observation, the light returned to Xin Qing's eyes once again.
"You look exactly like your father when he was a child," Jiang Min said, looking away from Xiao Rui. "Are you willing to come back with me right this instant?"
"Dad!" Jiang Qianren panicked. "This isn't what we agree last time! Seriously? Trying to snatch her son away just moments after you meet her? Give me a break!"
Jiang Min glanced at Xiao Rui again. "I want to hear your thoughts on this."
"I won't go back with you. Not now," Xiao Rui said, his face devoid of any expression. "Do you know the exact identities of the people behind my parents' murder? Do you know their motives? Will the Jiang family really be able to protect me if I return with you?"
Jiang Min's lips tugged upwards and he glanced at Jiang Qianren. "This kid is tougher than you."
Jiang Qianren was rendered speechless. "So, what, he's tougher than me just because he has the balls to defy you?"
"Miss Xin," said Jiang Min.
"Sir?" Xin Qing answered quickly and had inadvertently used a submissive tone when she did; this old man's aura was just too imposing.
Jiang Min spoke at a slow pace, "Then I must ask you to continue looking after this child. The door of the Jiang family will always be opened to him whenever he wishes to return."
"My son will not die in vain," Jiang Min said. "I know very well who murdered him." Then, Jiang Min turned to look at Xiao Rui. "Do you want to avenge your parents' death?"
Xiao Rui gave the old man a firm nod. "They are my parents, so I will avenge their death!"
"Good!" Jiang Min laughed. "I'll be waiting for you, kid."
On the way home, Xiao Rui told her in a serious tone, "Jiang Min is a hero."
Xin Qing whole-heartedly agreed. The old man must have had a lot of extraordinary and exceptional experiences during his life. In his youth, he was a patriot who possessed the will to make tough decisions in service of his country. Even now in his dotage, there was still a formidable aura about him. His presence alone was enough to command respect and reverence. Nobody could look upon such a man without experiencing a feeling of deep admiration.
"That is why we can negotiate with Jiang Qianren."
When a dejected Boss Wan told them that he was unable to find a solution to the problem, Xin Qing decided to go all in. For several days, she had been thinking of a way to broach the subject to Jiang Qianren. Well, more like, how get Jiang Qianren to relay her request to his father.
The most important aspect of it all was that she had to keep everything from Song Chunli. If Xiao Rui did not trust Song Chunli, then it goes without saying that Xin Qing would not trust her either. Xin Qing, too, had once wondered about the things that were going on inside Song Chunli's mind. The way Song Chunli had cried when she first approached Xin Qing to claim Xiao Rui did not seem fake to Xin Qing.
Was she actually sincere in her wish to reconnect with Xiao Rui? Or did she have other hidden agendas? They were immensely lucky about one thing, though: regardless of Song Chunli's true agenda, she would still have to wait until Xiao Rui was old enough...