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    Chapter 79 [VIP] The Best Friend's Shield (17)

    Jiang Shaoyan didn't even know how he left the hospital. He felt as if his heart was numbingly painful, like something had been brutally torn out, leaving behind a bloody wound.

    His vision blurred with tears, he could barely see the path beneath his feet. He stumbled and accidentally bumped into a bench nearby.

    With a sharp "clang" sound, he finally found an outlet for his emotions, his whole body beginning to tremble uncontrollably.

    "What should I do? What can I possibly do now?"

    "Not long ago, she was utterly infatuated with me, deeply in love. She would smile at me, tease me, and celebrate my birthday with me…"

    "Her affection for me was so evident, so strong that she even cast aside her dignity for me. But why? Why did she manage to forget me so completely in the blink of an eye?"

    "Does she really not have any feelings for me anymore?"

    Jiang Shaoyan looked up, letting his tears flow freely down his cheeks.

    "I can't bear it, I really can't accept it…"

    "I know I've been a ruthless, despicable person. When she loved me deeply, I didn’t cherish it and recklessly trampled over her feelings. And now, when she's withdrawn her affection, I finally realize its worth."

    "I'm aware this is my own doing, I deserve this pain. I'm not worthy of forgiveness, but I still can't let go…"

    "No matter how rationally my mind tells me this is the best outcome for us both, that I should wish her happiness and not disturb her life again, the mere thought of her with Fu Qingzhou sends a piercing pain through my heart…"

    "Endless regret keeps surging from the depths of my heart, threatening to engulf me."

    Jiang Shaoyan covered his face with his hands, tears slipping through his fingers. He suddenly let out a low, uncontrollable laugh, which lasted a long while before he slowly wiped the tears from his cheeks.

    "I really can't let her go," Jiang Shaoyan sighed deeply.

    "No matter what, I can't just leave her like this."

    With that thought, Jiang Shaoyan stood up from the ground.

    He looked back over his shoulder, his eyes closing weakly. His long eyelashes trembled as he concealed all the complicated emotions in his eyes.

    "Finally, he took out his phone from his pocket and made a call to Fang Wanzhu."

    ……

    "Jiang Shaoyan's meeting with Fang Wanzhu wasn't for any other reason; he had promised to help the Fang family through their recent financial difficulties."

    "He was aware that the Fang family had been struggling lately."

    "To overcome this hardship, the Fang family had been desperately seeking marriage alliances, ready to sacrifice Fang Wanzhu's happiness for financial assistance."

    "He had no concern for Fang Wanzhu's happiness. His willingness to help her was not out of lingering affection, but simply to prevent her from an arranged marriage, giving her the chance to continue her relationship with Fu Qingzhou."

    "Looking at the pale-faced Fang Wanzhu before him, Jiang Shaoyan felt no stirrings of emotion, barely even fluctuating feelings."

    "He couldn't understand why he had once, like a man bereft of senses, hurt Nan Yan for her sake, readily abandoning Nan Yan at her every call, going to great lengths to make her happy…"

    "But after shedding the lingering resentments in his heart, he realized he had never truly understood Fang Wanzhu, nor did he understand what he had been so obsessively clinging to."

    "Now, he even harbored resentment towards her. Why did she have to call him that night?"

    "Why did it have to be him?"

    "Why couldn't it have been someone else?"

    "If that call hadn't happened, if he hadn't insisted on seeing her that night, abandoning Nan Yan, would things between him and Nan Yan not have ended this way?"

    "He couldn't predict what that outcome would have been."

    "But now, he harbored even greater resentment towards himself!"

    "Because all of this was his own doing, a consequence of his actions. They had already decided to start over at that time…"

    "Every time he thought of this, Jiang Shaoyan's heart would uncontrollably shudder, a dull and bitter pain spreading from the tip of his heart."

    Upon hearing Jiang Shaoyan's words, Fang Wanhua's initially depressed mood seemed to lift slightly. "So, you're really willing to help our Fang family through this crisis?"

    She was momentarily beset with apprehension, fearing that he might make another request that would put her in a difficult position. After all, Fu Qingzhou had recently given her quite a shock, and she now lacked the energy to deal with such matters.

    Jiang Shaoyan coughed a few times; since that day, he had been running a low fever and wasn't feeling well. Nonetheless, he passed the contract over. "You can take a look. This is a draft prepared by the lawyer. I have no ulterior motives – I just don't want to see you pressured by your own family over this matter."

    Fang Wanhua examined the contract back and forth, ensuring there were no issues. After a moment of silence, she asked slowly, "You truly have no other conditions?"

    Jiang Shaoyan let out a weak chuckle, his smile carrying a hint of relief and apology. "Don't worry about that. If I said I'd help you, I won't play any tricks on such matters. Besides, aren't we friends? And you and Fu Qingzhou... ah, forget it."

    "There's no point in talking about it. This was all due to my selfishness from the beginning."

    As he spoke, he let out a soft sigh midway, his eyes filled with endless regret, a hint of moisture flickering beneath them.

    "If you really don't believe me, you can consult a lawyer to draft a new contract. Once it's settled, I'll instruct my finance department to transfer the money to you promptly, so you won't be put in an awkward position."

    Fang Wanru was momentarily taken aback upon hearing this.

    Although she didn't fully grasp the meaning behind his words, his actions touched her. Recalling his previous words, she genuinely considered him a close friend. Perhaps the series of blows she had recently endured made her particularly sensitive. Jiang Shaoyan's assistance at this moment lifted her spirits somewhat.

    "No need..."

    She smiled at Jiang Shaoyan, her guarded expression easing up, and some of her vitality returning to her face. "Thank you, I trust you."

    Seeing her smile, Jiang Shaoyan's demeanor also gradually calmed, though his complexion remained pale. He coughed again, his voice somewhat hoarse as he said,

    "Alright, if that's the case, you look over the contract first and see if there's anything missing. I'll go to the restroom for now. After we finish eating, I'll have the driver take you back home."

    Fang Wanru nodded in response. "Okay."

    Rising promptly, he headed straight for the restroom.

    Moments after his departure, a call came in, and the cellphone, previously resting on the table, began to ring incessantly.

    The restaurant was naturally a tranquil setting, and with the phone unattended, the intrusive ringing drew the attention of many diners, who now gazed in her direction.

    Fang Wanru glanced at the unfamiliar number on the screen and then upward, toward the direction where Jiang Shaoyan had gone, wondering why he hadn't returned yet.

    She hesitated for a moment before looking back at the phone.

    Observing the persistent ringing, Fang Wanru hesitated but eventually picked up the phone and directly pressed the answer button.

    The call was from her assistant, who informed her about an urgent matter concerning the afternoon meeting at the company. There was also a revised document that needed President Jiang's immediate confirmation.

    Fang Wanru had no choice but to inform the assistant that Jiang Shaoyan was temporarily unavailable. She promised to convey the message once he returned and reassured the assistant not to worry. Only then did the assistant hang up.

    Fang Wanru let out a long sigh of relief. As she prepared to hand the phone back, unknowingly, her finger must have brushed against the screen, causing a short voice message to pop up – it was only about ten seconds long.

    Assuming it was an accidental touch, she was about to dismiss it when she heard Jiang Shaoyan's voice coming from within.

    "Is there truly no room for negotiation or compromise?"

    "Would things between us be different now... if I hadn't urged you to get close to him back then?"

    Fang Wanru's finger, about to press down, paused mid-air. In that moment of hesitation, another familiar voice echoed.

    "From the moment you asked me to get close to him, there was no longer any possibility between us! You were the one who said that as long as I kept an eye on him and prevented him from getting close to Fang Wanru, it wouldn't matter whom he fell in love with. Why are you now fixating on this issue?"

    ……

    The identity of "he" inside is not hard to discern.

    Yet, the content of the recording made Fang Wanru's eyes well up with tears instantly. She covered her chest, feeling astonished. How could they?

    How could they do such a thing?

    What did they treat emotions as? They were casually toying with other people's lives.

    Fang Wanru seemed to have grasped something. No wonder Jiang Shaoyan was willing to help her proactively. No wonder he had seemed hesitant while speaking today. So that was the reason!

    "So, from the very beginning, Nan Yan approached Qingzhou with an ulterior motive, just to keep him away from me."

    "Tears finally escaped Fang Wanzhu's eyes, as she felt deeply wronged. Why did they have to do this to them?"

    "Now, she was filled with resentment and anger…"

    "Everything was a lie, yet foolishly, Fu Qingzhou sincerely fell for her."

    "How was she supposed to accept this?"

    "At this moment, Jiang Shaoyan returned to his seat."

    "He saw Fang Wanzhu crying and was about to ask what happened, but before he could speak, she fiercely slapped him across the face."

    "The force of the slap turned his head slightly."

    "Fang Wanzhu's hand trembled slightly, then tightened into a fist. She played the recording, glaring at him with red, angry eyes, 'So, this is why you wanted to help me?'"

    "'What exactly do you take feelings for? Knowing I love Fu Qingzhou, why did you send Nan Yan to approach him? Don't you realize this hurts everyone?'"

    "When Jiang Shaoyan heard the recording from the phone, his face instantly changed. He reached out to take the phone back, but Fang Wanzhu swiftly retracted it."

    "Fang Wanzhu stared at him, her eyes filled with pain and wariness. Betrayed by her best friend, abandoned by her former lover - what did she do to deserve this?"

    "Seeing her like this, Jiang Shaoyan seemed to be struggling, weakly pinching his fingers."

    "His lips moved, and finally, in a hoarse voice, he said,"

    "'I'm sorry, all of this is my fault. My unwillingness led to this outcome... You can blame me, but none of this is Nan Yan's fault.'"

    "Fang Wanzhu shook her head in despair, tears flowing more abundantly, 'Of course, it's your fault, your selfishness led to this. You knew... You knew Qingzhou had nothing left, why did you still treat him like this?'"

    "'You even deceived him in feelings! You sent Nan Yan to approach him, do you know he genuinely loves her? He even gave up on me for her, how can I accept this?'"

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