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    Chapter 66 [VIP] Best Friend as a Shield (Part 4)

    Jiang Shaoyan found the thought crossing his mind strangely peculiar, leaving him momentarily unsure of what to say.

    The atmosphere suddenly turned delicate. It wasn’t awkward, but there was a vague sense of ambiguity, like a misty sheet of rice paper separating them, not quite broken through. He wanted to advance further but found it inappropriate.

    For the rest of the walk, they didn’t speak again until they arrived home. It was only then that Jiang Shaoyan let go of her hand, suppressing the emotions he had felt moments before.

    “We’re here.”

    Jiang Shaoyan turned his head to glance at her.

    Nanyan remained silent, her head lowered, lost in thought and seemingly still immersed in her recent musings, unable to snap out of it.

    Just as Jiang Shaoyan was contemplating whether to say something to lighten the mood, Nanyan finally looked up. Her gaze flitted uneasily, she bit her lip, seeming to want to move closer but hesitated, ultimately managing only a cautious glance. Seizing a moment when he was distracted, she quickly leaned in and planted a kiss on his cheek.

    Now it was Jiang Shaoyan’s turn to be stunned.

    Before he could speak, Nanyan expressed her feelings, her eyes filled with unmistakable joy and a hint of inevitable regret.

    “Actually... I wasn’t deliberately trying to imitate Wanrou. I just thought you liked that, so I wanted to be closer to your preferences.”

    "Don't be angry anymore, I won't do it again."

    Her cheeks began to flush, and she tried to maintain her composure, pretending as if nothing had happened, yet her face was so red it was undeniable, even her earlobes tinged with a faint blush.

    Jiang Shaoyan found her reaction quite novel, as Nanyan's closeness initially made him instinctively frown.

    However, after seeing her reaction, a strange, but not altogether unpleasant feeling arose in him, even a desire to laugh. She was the one who had initiated the action, yet before he could respond, she became too nervous to speak, and now she couldn't even bring herself to look at him.

    Did she see him as so unapproachable in her eyes?

    Or had he been so cold that even when his girlfriend wanted to get close, she had to read his mood?

    Jiang Shaoyan was momentarily speechless.

    But then he thought...

    Maybe he had never given her a chance.

    So...

    Should he also try to let go of Wanrou and accept someone else?

    Thinking this, Jiang Shaoyan suddenly relaxed, as if something had clicked in his mind, feeling much more at ease, "I'm not angry, you don’t need to be so tense. Since we've decided to start over, you can try to trust me."

    Hearing this, Nanyan couldn't help but laugh, genuinely happy. Her smile was gentle and pure, like the warm sun of early spring, making one’s heart feel tender.

    In the time that followed, their relationship gradually stabilized. Without Fang Wanrou’s interference, they had a peaceful period, like any ordinary couple, their feelings for each other growing rapidly.

    Nanyan, like a frog in gradually heated water, slowly made Jiang Shaoyan get used to a life with her. Affection is mutual; if he was reluctant to take the initiative, then it was up to her to do so.

    It started as a reluctance to refuse out of guilt, but at some point, their casual dates began to take on a romantic flavor, and their previously non-intrusive 'cohabitation' seemed to develop a hint of romance.

    Nanyan would share interesting happenings from her company with him, like the new rich second-generation employee who seemed a bit dim, exuding an aura of innocence untouched by knowledge, and the old employees who secretly formed a group behind the boss's back, giving him all sorts of ridiculous nicknames, infuriating the boss to the point of assigning an extra week of work...

    Hearing this, Jiang Shaoyan couldn't help laughing, then seriously wondered if his subordinates did the same behind his back, forming groups to give him funny nicknames.

    Many such amusing incidents made their life together more interesting.

    Jiang Shaoyan went from being indifferent at first to somewhat indulging in their interactions. He occasionally shared his work frustrations with her, especially when her fresh perspectives surprisingly made him want to whisk her away to be his personal secretary...

    Being with Nanyan was truly relaxing.

    There was no need to mask his temperament or be overly concerned about her feelings. He could say or do whatever he wanted.

    Her favorite thing to do was to sit beside him, chin in hand, listening to him talk about various things in life and work. It seemed like no matter what he did, she always had a supportive and tolerant attitude.

    But it was the opposite with Wanrou.

    In front of Wanrou, he always played the role of a generous and proper friend, accommodating her actively and carefully hiding his true thoughts, not letting her see his real intentions.

    But after all, he was just a human. Everyone gets tired and feels like giving up sometimes, instinctively seeking a more comfortable environment.

    During this time, Jiang Shaoyan could hardly recall what it felt like to be with Wanrou. For a moment, he even wondered if he would have fallen for Nanyan if Wanrou wasn't in the picture.

    Unfortunately, there are no 'ifs.' And men are fickle, often uncaring about those who show interest and instead longing for those who pay them no heed.

    Lost in thought, Nanyan couldn't help but laugh out loud. Hearing the sound from behind, Jiang Shaoyan walked over and ruffled her hair, "What are you thinking about, laughing so happily?"

    "Of course, I'm thinking about you," Nanyan replied knowingly, adjusting his collar with a smile that curved her eyes, her face visibly radiating happiness.

    Jiang Shaoyan wasn't surprised by her response, seemingly accustomed to her occasional expressions of affection, sometimes even finding them a bit exasperating.

    Ever since they had that talk, his girlfriend became much livelier, bolder, and even occasionally daring enough to flirt with him.

    But if he ever responded seriously, she would immediately back down, staying quietly by his side like a tame quail, only moving when prodded.

    Strangely, he found he didn’t mind this at all.

    In fact, when she said she missed him, he couldn’t deny the unexplainable joy it brought to his mood.

    Jiang Shaoyan’s lips curved upward, and he responded softly, “What’s there to miss about me? We see each other every day. Besides, if you miss me, you can always come find me. It’s not like I’m stopping you.”

    Before Nanyan could react, he himself felt a bit awkward.

    His words sounded almost like he was inviting his girlfriend to visit him at work. When did he become so sentimental?

    Jiang Shaoyan then awkwardly patted her head and changed the subject, “Alright, let’s not talk about this. Tomorrow’s the weekend, how about we go out to eat together?”

    Hearing this, Nanyan couldn’t help but glance at him with a look of reproach, her eyes holding a hint of grievance, “Didn’t we agree last week? You said this Saturday you’re all mine, Jiang Shaoyan, you better not back out.”

    That reminded Jiang Shaoyan.

    It seemed they had made such a plan. She had even mentioned preparing a surprise for him, but he had been too busy with work the past few days and had completely forgotten.

    Now recalling it, he felt a bit embarrassed.

    He cleared his throat, “When did I ever back out? I just forgot for a moment. But what are you planning for tomorrow? Wait, what’s that smell? It seems like something’s burning…”

    Before Jiang Shaoyan could finish, he saw Nanyan suddenly stand up in a flurry and rush into the kitchen, quickly turning off the stove while complaining, “Oh no, it’s all your fault. I forgot the soup on the stove, and now it’s ruined…”

    Jiang Shaoyan was both amused and exasperated by her reaction, resignedly admitting, “You can even blame this on me? You never used to be this unreasonable.”

    “And can you move a bit slower? All this rushing around, you’ll end up hurting yourself…”

    But before he could finish, a loud “bang” echoed from the kitchen.

    Then came a crashing sound of porcelain shattering, mixed with Nan Yan's startled cry.

    Alarmed, Jiang Shao Yan, not yet understanding the situation, rushed into the kitchen, full of concern, "I told you to be careful. How could you be so careless? Are you hurt? Did you burn yourself?"

    He immediately started examining Nan Yan’s fingers,

    Nan Yan was still a bit dazed, not even sure where she might have been burned, only feeling a slight pain in her palm. But Jiang Shao Yan was already holding her finger, blowing on it and chiding her:

    "I told you to be more careful. Why didn’t you listen? It's just soup; if it's burnt, just wait for it to cool before pouring it. Why be in such a hurry?"

    After speaking, Jiang Shao Yan kicked away a shard of porcelain at his feet, then fully took in the state of the kitchen: the floor was covered in broken pieces, soup spilled everywhere, some even splashing onto her legs.

    The more he saw, the angrier he became. He scooped her up and, to her surprised gaze, placed her on the sofa, then turned to rummage through drawers for burn ointment.

    It was then that Nan Yan came back to her senses, feeling it was just a minor injury and not worth such fuss, she said somewhat embarrassedly:

    "I'm really okay, it's just a couple of fingers that got slightly burned. It doesn’t hurt anymore, and my pants are thick, the soup that splashed didn't burn me at all."

    No sooner had she finished speaking than Jiang Shao Yan found the burn ointment. Approaching with an expressionless face, his presence was quite imposing, prompting Nan Yan to purse her lips and fall silent.

    He sat down, and Nan Yan cooperatively extended her fingers, which had already started to blister.

    Jiang Shao Yan frowned, clearly not expecting the burn to be so severe.

    His fingers were slender and adept, gripping her slightly reddened palm where it was burned. A gentle press made Nan Yan involuntarily hiss, "Lighter, lighter..."

    Jiang Shao Yan glanced at her, letting out a light chuckle, "Didn't you say it didn't hurt? What's with this pitiful look?" Still feeling annoyed, he kept checking her finger, "Didn’t you see how bad it is? You call this 'nothing'?"

    Though he spoke in a lecturing tone, he unconsciously eased his grip, his brow slightly furrowed. Gently spreading the ointment, the faint scent of traditional medicine filled the air, cooling Nan Yan’s hand and instantly easing the pain in her fingertips.

    Nan Yan, looking down at Jiang Shao Yan attentively applying the ointment, couldn’t help but smile, "Shao Yan, are you really that worried about me?"

    She was genuinely happy, her gaze slowly drifting to his lips. Unable to resist, she leaned in and kissed him.

    It was a brief touch, like a dragonfly skimming water.

    Yet her cheeks involuntarily flushed.

    Jiang Shao Yan paused in his movements, not uttering any denial, but his ears turned uncontrollably red.

    Perhaps the atmosphere was too intimate, the kiss felt like a soft, clingy kitten scratching at his heart. It was a light scratch, yet it left a strong itch in his heart.

    After finishing, Jiang Shao Yan turned his face away, slightly uneasy, clearing his throat, "It’s done. Be careful, and don’t touch the broken pieces in the kitchen. I’ll clean them up later."

    Nan Yan, still immersed in the romantic atmosphere, couldn't help but ask, "Can you handle it?"

    Could this pampered young master, who probably never lifted a finger in the kitchen, really clean it up?

    Jiang Shao Yan couldn’t help but give her a look, displeased with her skepticism, "A man can't say he can’t. Besides, cleaning the kitchen isn’t that difficult. Anyway, you should avoid water for the next few days. Don’t exert yourself tomorrow; let’s eat out."

    But Nan Yan immediately shook her head in refusal, "No, we’re not going out. You promised me. I have a surprise planned for you tomorrow!"

    Hearing her insistent tone, Jiang Shao Yan stopped what he was doing, his gaze disapproving, "What’s so important about tomorrow that you need to strain your injured hand?"

    Nan Yan couldn't help but laugh, "Do I really need to remind you? You’ve forgotten your own birthday?"

    It dawned on Jiang Shao Yan then.

    Tomorrow was his birthday. No wonder she had been reminding him from a week ago to keep this weekend free. He had thought it was to accompany her somewhere or meet someone, but it turned out to be for his birthday.

    For a moment, Jiang Shao Yan felt like laughing.

    Yet, he also felt a softness in his heart, a sense of heaviness.

    Actually, birthdays weren't that important to him. While others might find them significant, he didn't care much.

    His family relations had always been cold; after his parents divorced and remarried, they each had their new families, leaving him as the odd one out.

    As a child, watching his parents celebrate his siblings' birthdays, he too harbored hopes. But the greater the hope, the greater the disappointment. So, over time, he stopped caring much about his birthdays.

    And now, she wanted to spend his birthday with him.

    Jiang Shao Yan felt a stir in his heart, looking up at Nan Yan, her eyes curving into a smile as she recounted last year’s events,

    "Do you remember? Last year on your birthday, we had just started dating not long ago. It coincided with the school’s graduation party. It was Wan Rou who reminded me that it was your birthday, otherwise I wouldn’t have known at all…"

    "In a rush, I didn’t really pick out a gift carefully. I just bought you a tie, and Wan Rou even said that the color suited you…"

    Her words took Jiang Shao Yan back to the day of the graduation party.

    But in reality, he had long forgotten what Nan Yan had given him, as he had never paid much attention to it. The reason he remembered that day vividly was because Wan Rou had given him a keychain, his first gift from her, leaving a deep impression. That keychain was still in his pocket to this day…

    With these thoughts, Jiang Shao Yan glanced at Nan Yan, who was still speaking, feeling an unusual sense of guilt and discomfort.

    As he wondered what to say in response to Nan Yan, the phone on the coffee table suddenly rang.

    The ringtone interrupted Nan Yan's ongoing words…

    Relieved, Jiang Shao Yan stood up to answer the call and walked to the balcony.

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