Chapter 218: Asking too much is ‘asking for it’
Li Wan’er looked at Xu Tingsheng. Even as she seemed to feel embarrassed by her request, there was also a spark of hope in her eyes.
Easing his foot off the accelerator, Xu Tingsheng turned to look at her rather interestedly.
As their gazes met, Li Wan’er quickly looked away, instead glancing down at her own feet.
Xu Tingsheng said, “Little Sis, I, your Uncle already paid you for the suits, right?”
Taken aback, Li Wan’er nodded bemusedly, asking in puzzlement, “Yeah, you did. Is anything the matter?”
“That means that I don’t owe you money anymore.”
“So why should I help you then? You don’t feel ashamed?”
“Keep in mind that since earlier, things have already been cleared between us. It means that we’re even, get it?”
Li Wan’er bit her lips, holding back her tears as she nodded, “I understand.”
Xu Tingsheng instinctively felt that Li Wan’er would be an incomparably troublesome woman. Her predicament and her looks made it such that as soon as he got involved with her, there would be no end to the troubles that followed.
Like Tan Yao had said, Li Wan’er was currently equivalent to a little fluffy sheep transported to the wide plains of Africa with packs of wolves circling all round. Anyone who wanted to protect her would have to pay a very hefty price.
Moreover, Xu Tingsheng did not think of himself as a benevolent saint who saved those who were suffering and in pain. Having barely associated much at all with Li Wan’er up till now, he did not want to get involved in whatever problems she might have.
When meeting someone who was down and out, there was no need for him to send them aid in their darkest hour. So long as he did not kick them while they were down or take advantage of them in their time of need, Xu Tingsheng felt that his conscience would be perfectly at ease.
Li Wan’er no longer spoke. Maybe she found it too hard to beg others for help, or maybe she had never had her requests parried in such a manner before. Regardless, she began weeping silently. Every time a tear rolled down her cheek, she quickly wiped it away with the back of her hand, not daring to utter a sound.
However, one could not help but feel pity for Li Wan’er. It was if the phrase ‘pitifully helpless’ was tailor-made for her.
Suddenly, a ringtone sounded.
The 30-year-old Li Wan’er asked the 20-year-old Xu Tingsheng in a pitiful manner, “Sorry, can I please pick up the phone?”
“Go ahead,” Xu Tingsheng replied.
Li Wan’er answered the call. While Xu Tingsheng was unable to make out what the caller was saying, he could clearly hear the animosity in his tone as he continually hollered at Li Wan’er in a threatening manner. A few calls followed in quick succession, but Li Wan’er’s replies only ever rotated around those same few sentences.
“Please don’t be in a hurry to lodge it with the court.”
“I’ve already found someone who’s willing to inject funds.”
“I’ll be there tonight, I will.”
Hanging up, Li Wan’er leaned back into her seat, clutching her phone silently.
Xu Tingsheng knew that with how things were now, so long as he kept firm control over his mouth, not asking anything, so long as he didn’t ask anything at all, not caring about it, this matter would end here just like this.
In a short while, Li Wan’er would be arriving at her destination.
From that moment forth, this woman whom he was really wholly unacquainted with in the first place would no longer have anything to do with him in the slightest. Whether she lived or died, threw in the baton or stubbornly held on, ended up rich or poor, drowned or hanged herself, it would not be any different for him at all.
Despite being cognisant of all of these, Xu Tingsheng still asked eventually, “What’s with you?”
Slightly taken aback, Li Wan’er raised her head to look at Xu Tingsheng’s side profile, shaking her head, “Nothing.”
Xu Tingsheng honked impatiently, dodging a car that had suddenly swerved into their path.
Then he exclaimed even more impatiently, “Li Wan’er, you’re already 31 years old, what’re you being so jittery and insecure about? Do you still take yourself as an 18-year-old girl?”
Li Wan’er said in an aggrieved tone, “I’m not. I know that I’m an old lady, you said it before.”
Xu Tingsheng laughed at that, “It’s not my fault; you are old! Hey, look. If you have something that you need help with and it isn’t too troublesome, let Uncle here see if I can be of any help.”
Li Wan’er wanted to refuse his offer. Yet, there are times in life when one doesn’t even have the qualifications to be stubborn. There was no other path available to her.
“I’d like you to accompany me to a gathering tonight,” Li Wan’er told him, “where…”
“Where I’ll play the role of the big shot you just mentioned over the phone who’s willing to invest in your family’s business, helping you to swindle those people?” Xu Tingsheng finished for her.
Li Wan’er grit her teeth, nodding, “Yes.”
Xu Tingsheng said, “But I’m not rich. I’m just this driver who secretly takes his boss’s car out for a spin to pick up some chicks just for the kick of it.”
He added, “You can rest assured, by the way. I’m not hitting on you.”
“I know,” Li Wan’er replied, “I mean that I know you don’t have the money. Still, with the car you’re driving today and that suit…you can pretend to be a very rich man and help me out.”
Xu Tingsheng considered it for a moment before asking, “Can you explain things to me first?”
Li Wan’er knew that since she wanted to enlist Xu Tingsheng’s help in this matter, he had the right to know what the situation was about.
“The gathering tonight is an internal gathering for those in the fashion industry, including the suppliers, manufacturers and retailers. My family…owes almost all of them money. If I don’t lie and let them believe that I’ve found someone who’s willing to invest, they’ll immediately lodge a complaint with the court, auctioning off my family’s factory, maybe even our house…all of it.”
“This isn’t anything major, really,” Xu Tingsheng commented calmly, “What do you think I would do in your shoes?”
“I’d quietly sell my factory, house…and all of it, then flee the country with my family. Haven’t you lived in Italy before? Go to Italy then! Just settle down in a picturesque little town and open a Chinese restaurant, tailoring workshop or whatnot. I tell you, no one would be able to find you.”
Li Wan’er allowed herself a wan smile, “But my house’s title deeds, the factory’s authorisation documents and all that stuff are all in their hands. They’re currently watching over the factory too. Also, the factory was built with the blood and sweat of my Dad…”
“The efforts of our ancestors are exactly for that-to be squandered by us, their descendants,” Xu Tingsheng said, “But were you the one who handed all that stuff away? Are you dumb or what?”
“I,” Li Wan’er replied haltingly, “My husband did it. He took on our surname when he entered my family. Afterwards, I was in Italy when my Dad passed away, so it was him who was running the business. I only returned just recently.”
“Where is he now then? Shouldn’t he be the one dealing with this?” Xu Tingsheng asked.
“Must I tell you this too?”
“It’s up to you, I was just casually asking.”
Li Wan’er hesitated for a while, “Alright, I’ll tell you. He’s gone. He mortgaged everything of ours to take out loans, owed a lot of money from the procuring of materials and collected the deposits for many orders…Then, he took off with the money and her, my younger cousin.”
Xu Tingsheng now knew what kind of a predicament it was that Li Wan’er was currently in.
“That’s only right. Apart from being too ruthless in cheating so much money from your family, everything else he did was actually only understandable,” Xu Tingsheng said, “You didn’t love him, right? That’s why you ran over to Italy and spent six years there after getting married. Six years! It’d instead have been strange if your husband hadn’t strayed.”
Li Wan’er looked at Xu Tingsheng, “I know, I asked for it.”
Xu Tingsheng affirmed, “Yeah.”
Hearing this cold, callous reply, Li Wan’er could only stare at Xu Tingsheng for a while, stunned.
Finally, she asked with tears in her eyes, “Why, why must you bully me so?”
Xu Tingsheng was taken aback by this, really unable to comprehend and empathise with how a 31-year-old woman without any societal experience whatsoever looked at life, “What did I do?”
Li Wan’er finally lost it, “You should be twenty, right? I’m thirty-one. On one hand, you call me an old woman, while on the other, you keep calling yourself Uncle. You’ve been lecturing me, being fierce to me, even saying that I don’t know shame. You treat me like some little girl, not showing me any respect at all. I told you about what happened to me. I wasn’t expecting you to console me, but why do you have to be so flippant about it? Why must you mock me like this?”
Xu Tingsheng inwardly labelled Li Wan’er with the well-fitting term ‘mentally deficient’.
As for why a twenty-year-old called himself Uncle, it was because Xu Tingsheng was actually 32, while Li Wan’er did seem very infantile. Of course, this wasn’t something he could actually say to her.
Watching this infantile, mentally deficient 31-year-old woman sobbing in front of him, he sighed, “Alright, stop crying already. I’ll accompany you there tonight. I’ll act like some rich guy for you.”