The Moonlight
The Moonlight Chapter 5

Yue Chu… Could it be Yue Chu?

The man seemed unaware of her internal turmoil and continued to respond earnestly, “I’ve always had stomach issues. I suffer from chronic gastritis, but the pain has become unbearable recently, so I decided to seek medical attention.”

“Your stomach problems have persisted for a while…”

Xu Qingyan quickly closed the medical record, focusing on the patient’s name: Cheng Ran.

She tightly shut her eyes. She knew it was impossible, yet a pang of disappointment still washed over her.

As she glanced back at him, she found him looking at her with a smile. “Doctor, I’m in a lot of pain right now. Could you please prescribe me some painkillers?”

Xu Qingyan lowered her head, suppressing her emotions as she swiftly wrote on the prescription pad.

However, her mind remained blank, and she relied solely on her professional instincts as a doctor while she continued to advise, “Painkillers can offer temporary relief, but they don’t address the underlying issue. With a history of chronic gastritis, you need a thorough examination and proper care. I’ll prescribe some Chinese herbal medicine for you. Try to avoid overexertion, spicy and cold foods, excessive alcohol consumption, and anything that might cause irritation. Monitor your symptoms, and if the pain persists, it’s best to arrange for a gastroscopy. Oh, and irregular meal times can worsen your gastritis. Consider consuming softer foods like noodles, which are easier to digest…”

At this point, Xu Qingyan abruptly stopped herself.

What was she saying? Was she losing her mind? These words had flowed out so naturally, and she rarely lost her composure. In fact, she had become so detached and indifferent over the years. Yet now, her mind was in chaos, and she struggled to regain her composure.

“Doctor, you’re amazing. How did you know that my eating habits are irregular?” the man asked.

Xu Qingyan felt her vision blur and turned her head slightly to look at him. “Most patients are like that,” she said.

When Cheng Ran smiled, a faint dimple appeared on his lips. Xu Qingyan’s pupils visibly contracted as she stared at it, not moving an inch.

It couldn’t be possible. He didn’t know her. She must have been under too much mental stress lately, causing such illusions to arise.

Cheng Ran just happened to resemble him, that’s all. But he resembled him too much, so uncannily true. 

Xu Qingyan’s fingers grew sore from gripping the pen too tightly, and the pen tip slowly smudged a dark blotch on the medical record.

“Thank you,” he glanced at the medical record and then at her employee badge, “Dr. Xu.”

Xu Qingyan opened her mouth but managed to force out a weak “You’re welcome.”

After Cheng Ran’s departure, Xu Qingyan remained at her desk, lost in thought, until the head nurse brought her a lunch box. She mustered a smile and took a few bites, but her mind continued to dwell on the encounter.

The head nurse expressed her concern, “Is it because you were tired from the trip? Ever since you came back, you haven’t seemed quite yourself.”

Xu Qingyan replied, “It’s nothing, thank you,” concealing the turmoil inside her.

Finally, she made it to the afternoon. 

Before leaving, the department head informed her about an upcoming academic conference in the neighboring city, D City, in a couple of days. He tasked her with preparing materials for the event. Despite her distraction, Xu Qingyan forced herself to stay focused and diligently recorded the necessary materials. Typically, she would have worked extra hours to ensure everything was prepared, but today her mind was elsewhere.

As she hurriedly caught the bus, Xu Qingyan realized her destination only when she got off – his house.

She had ended up at his house.

This place had once been a sanctuary of familiarity to her. Besides the incident that occurred here years ago, it was where she had sought refuge, weeping incessantly through countless nights. The version of herself that seldom shed tears had seemingly exhausted a lifetime’s worth right there.

Years had passed since she last visited this place. The entanglement of fear, mixed with longing, had evolved into an oppressive prison, stifling her every breath.

Now, the old house that once stood proudly was nowhere to be seen. The streets, once dirty and worn-out, had been widened, and last year’s real estate demolition had erased the final traces associated with him.

Only fragments of her memories lingered—the weathered clay walls, overgrown grass, and tangled branches; two rows of crumbling houses teetering on the edge of collapse. Now, it was inhabited by people from all walks of life, permeated with the scent of grease and the aura of everyday existence.

Silently, Xu Qingyan settled beside a flower bed across the street and took a seat.

It was still relatively early, and the evening rush hour was in full swing. The streets bustled with traffic, creating a vibrant atmosphere.

However, the spot where Xu Qingyan sat exuded tranquility and solitude. Her gaze remained fixed on the construction site across the road, where towering buildings ascended from the ground, scaffolding stacked layer upon layer. Even at this hour, the site buzzed with activity as workers raced against time to complete their tasks.

His home had once occupied this very spot.

After his parents’ divorce, his mother, already in poor health, had passed away within a year. His father, reportedly involved in a tragic accident while working away from home, had also passed away. When he received news of these incidents, he remained calm. Following his father’s accident, he had taken charge of the funeral arrangements.

It was a dark winter morning, with the world outside still shrouded in night, as he prepared to depart. Before he left, she wrestled with hesitation but eventually made her way to the train station to see him off. He greeted her with a warm smile and said, “Familiarity grows with repeated encounters.”

She playfully rolled her eyes, and he continued, teasingly, “Princess Xu, are you worried about me?”

In an instant, her sympathy dissipated, and she couldn’t be bothered to respond.

He reached out and took her hand, adjusting her scarf to shield her rosy face from the biting cold. Then, he gently tucked her hands into the pockets of her coat. “Don’t let your hands freeze; you still need them to play the piano. But seriously, you ran away from home for me. I’m truly touched. Now, go back home before your parents get worried.”

“You’re being presumptuous,” she snapped, brushing his hand away and turning to leave.

During that period, he was gone for a long time. 

On the tenth day, she cast a concerned glance at the empty seat he used to occupy. After school, for the first time, she decided to skip her piano class and secretly made her way to this secluded place, once bustling with people.

The low-rise buildings were now filled with residents, and from the outside, you couldn’t fathom how these two small, dilapidated houses could accommodate so many people.

This was the first time that Xu Qingyan had ventured into this place. 

She took each step gingerly, as the hallway lay in darkness, the floor was slick with grease, and every nook and cranny was piled with discarded rubbish. With no knowledge of which room he might be in, she began exploring, moving from one room to another.

Upon reaching the second floor, a woman on the first floor erupted into a tirade, berating her husband for being useless and unfaithful. In her anger, the woman had added an excessive amount of chili pepper to her cooking, filling the air with a choking smell that forced Xu Qingyan to cover her mouth and flee.

Little did she expect to collide with someone. As she clutched her forehead in pain, an overwhelming stench of sweat engulfed her senses. The person started hurling a string of profanities at her, using words that were beyond Xu Qingyan’s comprehension.

Xu Qingyan lowered her head to apologize, hoping to settle things peacefully.

However, the burly man not only persisted in his verbal assault but also started to harass her, taking advantage of her vulnerable position as a young girl. Just when she felt trapped and helpless, a figure suddenly appeared beside her. This person swiftly pulled her behind him and guided her into a nearby room.

“It’s me,” he said.

His voice instantly eased her anxiety. However, in the darkness, she couldn’t quite pinpoint his exact location. After a while, she started getting used to the dim light and vaguely made out his figure.

She furrowed her brow and fumbled for the light switch. He noticed her movement and quickly whispered, “Don’t turn on the light…” But it was too late. As the light flickered to life, she saw him hurriedly raise his hand to shield his face. In that brief moment, she glimpsed tear stains on his face.

Her hand was still on the switch, the next second, she switched off the light again. 

The room once more plunged into darkness, and for a while, neither of them said a word.

It was him who eventually broke the silence, “Weren’t you supposed to have piano lessons today?”

He tried to control his voice, but a hint of nasal tone still slipped through.

She replied with a half-truth, “Yeah, the teacher mentioned that you’ve been missing classes for a while, so I thought I’d check up on you.”

“This isn’t the place you should come to. I’ll be back at school in a couple of days. Don’t worry,” he assured her.

Words were never her strong suit, and now she struggled to find the right ones to comfort him. After a brief hesitation, she simply said, “Take care of yourself.”

He let out a soft chuckle. Normally, he’d tease her, but this time, he said, “Let me wash my face, and I’ll walk you back.”

He escorted her out of the old building, and once outside, she could finally see his face clearly. However by then, he had appeared calm and unaffected, just like his usual self. 

With his eyes fixed ahead, he playfully added, “Do you see a flower on my face, princess?” Xu Qingyan sighed and silently shook her head.

He walked her to the small intersection in front of her house, a routine due to her family’s circumstances. He watched her until she safely entered her home before heading back.

On this particular day, she continued walking alone, knowing that he was still watching her from behind.

Suddenly, she thought she heard his voice, but couldn’t make out what he said.

She turned around, only to see him smiling brightly and waving at her. Perhaps she had misheard him.

The ringing of her phone snapped Xu Qingyan back to reality.

It had been a while since she had delved into her past, but now, it was as if a sealed door had been opened, and memories flooded back.

It was as if she had been yanked from icy waters, her hands and feet numb with cold, her temples throbbing. As she answered the call, she couldn’t help but rub her temples repeatedly. “Ling Ling?”

“Yan’er, where are you? Didn’t we agree to have hot pot together tonight?”

Realizing her dinner plans with her best friend, Xu Qingyan hurriedly looked for a taxi. “Sorry, I got stuck in traffic. I’ll be there soon.”

“Alright, take your time. I’ve already arrived, I’ll wait for you,” Ling Qian replied.

After hanging up, Xu Qingyan scrambled to find a cab. She sent a WeChat message to Ling Qiao: “Traffic’s a nightmare. Go ahead and start without me.”

The response came swiftly, “Haha, Dr. Xu, I’ve already started eating.”

Xu Qingyan persistently tried to hail a cab, but it was proving challenging given the location and the hour. Just as she was growing anxious, a black car pulled up ahead of her.

Thinking the driver was pulling over, she took a few steps forward. But to her surprise, the car inched forward as well.

Confused, Xu Qingyan peered toward the car window, which reflected her own plain face. Then, the window slowly rolled down, revealing half of a profile.

She instinctively stepped back, her body frozen.

The person in the car tilted their head ever so slightly, their thin lips curling into a faint, cold smile. “Dr. Xu,” they said.

His words echoed in her mind: “Don’t ever appear in front of me again.”

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