Chapter 19: You Step Forward I Step Back
Xu Si Bai has made reservations at a restaurant in the central part of the city.
It’s already past lunchtime, so there aren’t a lot of people in the restaurant. Streams of spotlights shine above their heads, and the floor is covered with a thick and soft layer of carpet; the atmosphere is quiet and relaxing.
After Bai Jin Xi finishes ordering her meal, she rests her chin in her palm and watches Xu Si Bai complete his order.
He’s wearing a white shirt and a pair of brown casual pants today. He looks more laid back than when he’s wearing the white lab coat at work. Perhaps because his facial features are too refined and he looks well educated, so when he raises his head and places his order with the waitress speaking in his low voice, it’s as if the waitress has been affected by his aura, she also talks to him in a low voice and very politely.
Bai Jin Xi doesn’t actually know too much about Xu Si Bai’s background. She only knows that his parents are abroad doing research; a literary family. He on the other hand, is a forensic investigator. His pay is not high, and he is not a big spender. But when there are things that he needs to spend money on, he does without frowning; like buying an apartment, car, expensive research equipment and books, donating to disaster fundraisers, treating her to a meal……etcetera. It’s obvious that he comes from a family with some wealth.
If they were in ancient time, he would be a prince from a prestigious family who does not seek after fame or fortune.
They don’t have anything to say after completing their orders.
On the white stage in the middle of the restaurant, a female pianist is playing on the piano; music flows through the atmosphere like a smooth running river.
Bai Jin Xi watches for a while, and then turns her head and asks him, “Have you been busy lately?”
“It’s alright,” Xu Si Bai lays the napkin on his lap, “How about you?”
“Not busy at all,” she smiles, “It’s always not busy after solving a case. I want to take a good rest.”
He also smiles, “You’re off tomorrow, where do you want to go?”
Bai Jin Xi scrapes the silver spoon in her hand across the plate, “I want to visit the police academy. I haven’t been there for a long time.”
Not only it’s been a long time.
She has only been there two or three times after losing her memory; it’s been a few years since the last time.
She seems a little sad about it, so Xu Si Bai says gently, “Okay. I’ll go with you.”
Bai Jin Xi waves her hand, “You don’t have to. I can go by myself.”
He shakes his head, “You’d have to take the bus. I’ll drive you there.”
His tone is determined. Bai Jin Xi knows that she won’t be able to talk him out of it, so she might as well accept his offer. She nods smiling, “Okay. I’ll have to trouble you then. Thanks!”
Their dishes arrive. Xu Si Bai doesn’t like to talk while eating, and Bai Jin Xi has gotten used to this, so they eat quietly. Usually, after they finish eating, they would each go home or go back to work; a very efficient lifestyle.
But unexpectedly, after a few bites into their food, he suddenly speaks, “Jin Xi.”
Jin Xi raises her head.
He puts down his fork and knife, places both of his hands on his lap, and sits up straight. His fair white face is actually blushing slightly. He looks into her eyes.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve always been a boring kind of guy,” he says, “I’ve never had a girlfriend, and I’ve always planned to stay single for life because I feel that maybe living with someone else is not suitable for me.”
Bai Jin Xi stares at him stunned.
He continues, “But……a person’s thoughts and feelings change. These changes are not something that we can control. I think……I should probably find a girlfriend.”
Late at night.
Bai Jin Xi is lying in bed with both of her arms behind her head, looking at the stars outside of the window. She’s thinking about her trip to the police academy tomorrow.
According to the records, she wasn’t born in Jiangcheng, but in a county beside it. She supposedly lived there until seventeen before moving to Jiangcheng. After losing her memory, she has visited the county once. Many of the neighbours have already moved out, so there aren’t a lot of people who recognize her. Whenever she bumps into an old neighbour, they usually recall who she is after she tells them her name, “Jin Xi, you’re all grown up now! You’re so pretty. You’ve changed so much that I can barely recognize you.”
She didn’t study at the police academy in Jiangcheng either. Instead, she studied at the nearby one in City Shajiang. The Shajiang police academy is actually a second rated school; many people who graduate from there don’t become officers, or even if they do, they are sent to small villages and towns. She’s considered lucky in terms of finding a job. It’s just that the last time she visited the academy, there wasn’t anyone who she was familiar with anymore. She did bump into an old classmate who was still studying there and recognized her; he felt quite bad for her after hearing what happened.
As for her home in Jiangcheng? It was burnt down. She hadn’t been in Jiangcheng for a long time before that either, so she didn’t have many friends.
Thinking about it now, she’s actually free off all ties and worries after the turn of events.
Ever since she has dreamt of that man a few times, she has decided to visit the police academy to take a look again. It’s because if she really did have a boyfriend, it must have been during the time that she was at the academy.
Thinking about the word “boyfriend” makes her remember the words that Xu Si Bai said to her at the restaurant during the day.
At the time, a possibility flashed across her head, making her heart skip a beat, but she let it go subconsciously, and didn’t bother to dig deeper.
She smiled and said to him, “That’s great. I think you’re most suited to find a girl who’s gentle. That way, she’ll match well with you.”
Xu Si Bai kept his silence for a few seconds and then smiled, “Mm, yeah.”
Xu Si Bai, oh, Xu Si Bai.
She suddenly feels like she doesn’t understand him at all.
She lifts her arm and turns off the lights. She doesn’t want to think about it anymore. It’s time to sleep.
The next day, Xu Si Bai arrives at her place to pick her up.
The Shajiang police academy is about a three-hour drive from Jiangcheng; they can go and come back the same day. In their casual wear, they eat breakfast downstairs, and then start heading off to their destination via the highway.
There aren’t a lot of cars on the highway; Xu Si Bai maintains 90 km/h, drives steadily, and rarely overtakes others. Staring at his hands on the steering wheel, Bai Jin Xi suddenly thinks of Han Chen.
They both have pretty and long hands, but their driving styles are completely different.
One of them drives steadily and comfortably, and the other……is frightening and scary.
“Why do you suddenly want to go back and visit the police academy?” Xu Si Bai asks.
Bai Jin Xi is looking at the morning fog outside of the window, “You remember I told you about the dream I had? I dreamt that I might have a boyfriend in the past, so I want to go back to the academy to take a look.”
Xu Si Bai is also a bit surprised. After a moment of silence, he asks, “A boyfriend?”
“Mm, but it could just be my imagination.”
Xu Si Bai doesn’t say anything more.
After a while, Bai Jin Xi speaks, “Old Xu, I know what you’re thinking about. You’re just being kind and don’t want to put me down. Yeah, if there really is such a person, after I got into the accident and including the few years after, he would have shown up already. So why do I still want to find him? I also have the feeling that it wasn’t a perfect love relationship. It’s possible that him and I might have already broken up in the past. But……there’s a feeling inside my heart that I can’t explain. I just feel that I have to go and take a look. Furthermore, even if we’re no longer in a relationship, if he really exists, it’ll still help me find back my memory, right?”
Xu Si Bai turns to look at her. He’s looking at her with a gentle gaze, “Okay.”
In the same morning at the provincial station of City Lan, it’s peaceful yet busy.
The instant that Han Chen walks into the office, he sees a big box on top of his desk.
He sits down, puts the box on his lap, takes out an utility knife, and cuts through the tape.
His eyebrows raise slightly.
A box full of stuff.
He puts down the knife, takes out the stuff one by one, and places them onto the table. He notices that Bai Jin Xi has packed everything very well, especially some of the goods that are easy to crumble; she has used bubble wrap around them nicely and neatly, not leaving any corners exposed.
It differs very much from her usual careless personality.
Besides the different packages, he also finds a note. There are only a few words scribbled on it: Marinated duck is the best. I know you can only eat a little spicy, but I think your coworkers will probably love them, and the shop owner also said that spicy tastes the best, so I bought four packs of regular, and one mild for each kind——don’t grab the wrong ones!
Han Chen puts the note aside, and flips through the packages. Among the packs of duck necks, duck wings, and others, there is indeed always a pack of mild spiciness at the very top of all of the pile.
It’s almost time for work. A few investigators come in and their eyes light up as they spot the things on Han Chen’s table.
“Duck neck! I like them!”
“What’s this? Dried peaches. Leader Han, where did you get all these?”
Han Chen lets them go through the packages. He leans against his chair, lowers his head, and lights up a cigarette, “Jiangcheng specialty goods. You guys can split it.”
Everyone is obviously good with that, so they all come over and start grabbing the snacks. Someone sure knows what’s good as he grabs a pack of duck wings first thing, but he’s disappointed after reading the flavour on the package, “Mild? How can you eat duck wings on mild? Is there super hot?” Although he says this, he continues hogging the package in his hand as he looks for other snacks.
He picks out another package, and when he raises his head, he sees Han Chen staring at the one that he has been holding all this time. He immediately understands, “I can’t take this one? I’ll save this for you then?”
Before Han Chen answers, Captain Qin of the investigation team walks into the office, “What are you saving it for? He doesn’t eat these. Split them all. Don’t leave any of them behind!”
The investigators are soon done.
The office is gradually permeated with the smell of snacks.
Han Chen’s table is in a mess after they rampaged through it.
He cleans up the bubble wraps and tapes, and throws them into the bin. And then it’s the note.
He picks it up and reads it again. He fetches a book from the table, and slips it inside. He then grabs his phone.
“Got it,” he sends two words.
He waits while smoking, but doesn’t get a reply. He holds up the phone again, and types: “What are you doing?”
After typing the message, he doesn’t press the send button. He keeps quiet for a moment, and then throws the phone back onto the table. He grabs the matchbox, gets up, and goes outside to smoke.
Bai Jin Xi hasn’t responded to his text because she hasn’t noticed it yet.
She has just gotten out of the car and is standing with Xu Si Bai in front of the entrance of Shajiang police academy.
The place hasn’t changed much from the last time she visited; clean white and tidy dormitory, sports field, and walkway; as well as the silver colour police shield logo at the front of the entrance. It’s just that it’s summer right now, so there aren’t a lot of people; the place is quiet.
Bai Jin Xi knows very well that it’s not hard to find “him.” She might find out just by asking an old classmate. But it’s been a few years since she left, and she has already lost contact with many of her classmates, so she doesn’t know where to start now.
The school area isn’t big; they follow the walkway and finish walking around the school soon. They stop at the billboards at the side of the entrance.
Xu Si Bai asks, “Do you recall anything?”
Bai Jin Xi shakes her head.
It looks like her memory has really been damaged thoroughly; even walking around the school that she has once stayed in can’t help her recall any images of being with “him.”
“I want to continue walking around by myself,” she says.
Xu Si Bai nods. He places both of his hands into his pockets, and waits for her at the billboards.
Bai Jin Xi continues walking along the billboards. After a small distance, she stops her footsteps, and looks up at the photos on the wall.
There is a graduation photo of every class on it. There’s one for hers as well.
Probably because it’s been there for a while, the photo has gotten a little yellow, and it’s not too clear. She can only vaguely make out herself wearing a police hat standing in a certain row.
She then reads the names listed on the right side of the photo one by one.
She wonders if “he” is also in it.
She spots a classmate’s name on the list, and she freezes.
After she recovered from the car accident and visited the academy, she had bumped into this classmate. He stayed at the academy to be an assistant instructor. He was kind and empathized with what happened to her. They chatted and exchanged numbers.
She thinks for a moment, pulls out her cell phone, scrolls to his number, and dials.
It takes a few seconds for the other end to pick up.
“Hello, is this Ye Zi Lu?”
“Speaking,” Ye Zi Lu sounds surprised and delighted at the same time, “Bai Jin Xi, is it you? How come you suddenly thought about calling me today?”
Bai Jin Xi laughs, “I came back to the school today, so I thought I’d call to see if you’re here.”
Ye Zi Lu says regretfully, “Just bad luck, I’m out on a business trip. How many days are you staying? Have you eaten yet? I’ll call the cafeteria and make arrangements for you.”
His friendliness warms Jin Xi’s heart. She says, “It’s okay, it’s okay. I’ll be going back today. I called to ask you about something.”
“What did you want to ask?”
Jin Xi pauses for a moment, and then asks, “Do you know when I was in college, did I have a boyfriend?”
Ye Zi Lu also pauses for a few seconds before asking her back, “Why do you suddenly want to ask about this?”
Jin Xi answers, “This helps a lot with recovering my memory.”
“Oh, is that so……” Ye Zi Lu continues, “I wasn’t actually that close with you during college. But I heard that you were indeed in a relationship with a guy at the time.”
Chapter 19: You Step Forward I Step Back