Chapter 69: Uneven Steps
Jiang Shuxuan's heart was in turmoil. If possible, he would have rather brought her to his side earlier, instead of letting the Gu family abuse her like this.
"I'll go in…" Jiang Shuxuan sighed lightly, a hand reaching out to smoothen her hair. Hot air radiated from her body, and her body was dry instantly, her wet clothes refreshed and clean without a speck of dirt on it.
Gu Xiqiao wiped her nose as she looked at him. "Whatever for?"
"…to give them a fight?" Jiang Shuxuan saw that she was now warm, and felt his worries dissipate a little, but the clouded look in her eyes remained.
"Really, you fight too much, too violent. However, it was I who had bullied them tonight…"
‘Then why is the one who's hurt and in distress, you?'
Jiang Shuxuan pressed a hand to his temple, and thought that perhaps her intelligence was not in her right state now, and decided not to argue further. "Alright, let's return first then."
"Oh." Gu Xiqiao said softly with her head bowed down, being more obedient than she usually was.
Jiang Shuxuan pursed his lips, not used to her current demeanor. He glanced back to look at the gold-plated words, a flash of steel in his eyes.
The rain wasn't letting up, and it was obvious that the umbrella wouldn't be able to cover two people. However, when the rain was about to touch the two, it seemed like it hit an invisible barrier instead, sliding off it and falling into their surroundings.
The black car drove away slowly.
Under the rain in front of the Gu family house, the plaque with the words ‘Gu Manor' had been struck by lightning—shattered and laying in several pieces on the ground.
At night, Gu Xiqiao slept soundly, even though she had been expecting to be unable to fall asleep. She even slept better than she had before.
After sleeping, she went out for her morning run like usual. Seeing her return, Mrs. Zhang immediately brought a bowl of soup out for her, urging her to drink.
Gu Xiqiao smiled at her, and drank the soup slowly.
She had had a good sleep, and she felt more relaxed after a good rest. The shadows that hung over her from her previous life were slowly receding. And in her new life, leaving the Gu family was not the end, but a start—the beginning of her life.
She didn't need to rush for classes now. In her free time, she would just move a table and chair, draw under the tree, or write large characters. Sometimes, a few birds would land on her shoulder, but when Mrs. Zhang came over, they would spread their wings and fly away.
Haha sat beside her, lazing on the grass.
Wu Hongwen was holding the sour plum soup that Mrs. Zhang had made in his hands. He and Xiao Yun had been taking turns to spend time with her. The two were able to see that although Gu Xiqiao didn't express much on her face, her heart was in deep turmoil. Wu Hongwen, who was usually very chatty, was also unusually silent these days.
The sun was not shining too bright today, and an occasional breeze would blow. It was good weather that was rarely seen.
"You don't have to specially come here." Gu Xiqiao said suddenly, not raising her head nor turning around which made Wu Hongwen stop in his steps behind her. "I'm alright now, with you guys coming to see me persistently, I feel even more pressured."
From this angle, he could clearly see her expression which looked like it was carved from ice, her eyelashes waving lightly in the breeze. The sunlight was not too bright, and Wu Hongwen felt slightly dazed from the view, but he replied subconsciously, "No, I'm happy to."
"Alright, alright. Let's go out then." Gu Xiqiao smiled, a resigned expression on her face as she put away her painting tools.
Wu Hongwen was quick to help, his eyes lighting up at her words. "Go out? For real?"
Due to the good weather, the streets of N City were bustling with people. There was also an artificial lake next to the street, and there were many boats floating on it, and people were also gathering under the shade of trees beside the lake.
[Daily Mission activated: Help the indicated person, Shen Nianzhi]
[Mission completion reward: 20 points]
The system gave off a notification suddenly, and Gu Xiqiao froze, her eyes following the transparent arrow in front of her to find the task objective.
There was a street artist by the lake, and to her surprise, it was a girl. Gu Xiqiao immediately glanced at the information sent to her by the system. The girl's name was Shen Nianzhi, an orphan at birth and just finished her college entrance examination. She had become a street artist in order to raise her college funds.
After reading through the information given by the system, Gu Xiqiao suddenly recalled this person. In her previous life, Gu Xijin's talents in oil painting were well known in N City, and the only other person able to match her talents and popularity was Shen Nianzhi, whose talent was in Chinese painting. Gu Xijin was the most revolting person at that time, taking Gu Xiqiao's painting to trample Shen Nianzhi beneath her feet.
Shen Nianzhi was someone who had the urge to trample over the bunch of people who were in front of her currently. She had just taken the A-level art test, and she didn't have the funds for college and the fees were already very high. Apart from working every day in a fast-food restaurant, she worked as a street artist during her spare time, earning money while becoming familiar with painting tools to avoid any loss in time to make money.
When she had first achieved a little result in the beginning, she had been slightly proud, to the point that she didn't put much interest in Gu Xijin, who had been the same age as her. But the competition in the Academy of Fine Arts had made her realize how ignorant she had been.
A portrait had taken first place, and she had gone to specifically see the drawing. It was a simple but rigorous painting—the lines were fine and neat, rich but not overly so. The painter had used realism techniques, combined with skillful and delicate brush strokes to create an astonishing painting.
Shen Nianzhi had never seen such an intimidating painting before in her life, and this made her more convinced that the second placing she had gotten was what she fully deserved. She knew that the difference between their skills were like heaven and earth, and from what she heard from the dean, the person who had submitted the drawing was a girl of similar age to her, which piqued her curiosity more.
However, the girl had kept a low profile, refusing to participate in the national art exhibition, losing the opportunity to become famous overseas.
Due to the influence of the unknown girl, Shen Nianzhi no longer felt arrogant over receiving the national award. She gave up the opportunity to head overseas and instead began to hone her skills slowly, starting by being a street artist.
Of course, she still wanted to meet the unknown girl, but she never had the chance to.
Shen Nianzhi was also someone who the dean of the Academy of Fine Arts held in high regards due to her talents, so the dean's daughter was displeased with her. She would take the time to humiliate her in front of people while she was drawing for others, and out of respect for the dean, Shen Nianzhi would not take her actions to heart, but this time this was too much—even for her.
Clearly knowing that Shen Nianzhi's talent lay in scenic painting, she had intentionally brought a bunch of people over for her to do portrait painting for them.
Shen Nianzhi had patiently explained to them this fact, but the bunch of people refused to listen, causing a commotion that attracted the attention of other onlookers. She knew that due to this, today would be a lost cause for her, and could only quietly pack her tools. If she couldn't beat them, the least she could do was avoid them, right?
But things couldn't go on like this, she had already been bothered by them for three consecutive days. If this continued on then she would need to have a discussion with the dean. As she continued packing, she reached out for the chair, but was startled when a pair of hands met hers instead.
It was a beautiful pair of hands, clean, slender, extremely delicate and pale under the warm sunlight. She definitely had a pair of artist hands. With that thought in mind, Shen Nianzhi couldn't help but look up at the owner of the hands. What kind of person would these pair of hands belong to, she wondered?
Disregarding the eyes of everyone around them, Gu Xiqiao set out the table and chair that Shen Nianzhi had packed away.
At this time, the young girl at the head of the group finally snapped out from her daze, pointing at Gu Xiqiao as she asked, "Hey, who are you? Are you looking for trouble!"
"The one who will paint for you." Gu Xiqiao replied lazily, smiling at the girl once she had finished setting up the table.
Wu Hongwen had also arrived at the same time this was happening, Gu Xiqiao had sent him to buy some Chinese painting tools. Luckily, this was a commercial street, and it didn't take him long to find the things she wanted.