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    Chapter 81 [VIP] Shielding Friend (19)

    "What could be more urgent than dressing a wound? Can't you ask later?"

    Observing the scabbed area tainted with fragments of glass, she was exasperated that despite his injuries, he hadn't taken care of them!

    Nan Yan's eyes reddened as she glared at him, unable to contain her frustration.

    Although she sensed something amiss in his tone, she didn't dwell on it. All her attention was focused on his scarred hand, and she tended to it with extreme care, as if it were her own injury. "Fu Qingzhou, are you numb? Can't you see the wound is still bleeding? If you're upset, just speak out. No one will blame you. What's the point of being so hard on yourself? In the end, aren't you the one who'll suffer? Are you stupid?"

    Nan Yan scolded him with frustration. Upon finishing, she hurriedly let go of his hand and turned to fetch the first-aid kit to clean his wound.

    Ever since Fu Qingzhou started working at the construction site, he would frequently come home with bruises and scratches. Every time Nan Yan saw them, she couldn't help but tend to his injuries. Over time, their household first-aid kit became more comprehensive.

    As she stood up to leave, her wrist was suddenly grabbed.

    With one hand, Fu Qingzhou held onto her tightly, so much so that Nan Yan could feel her wrist turning red under his grip.

    The scar on the back of his hand had reopened, and fresh blood droplets trickled down along the pattern of the wound slowly. Some even dripped onto her wrist.

    South Yan was at a loss for words to scold him.

    She didn't dare to struggle too hard, for fear of reopening her wound. In the end, she could only call out his name, "Fu Qingzhou, what's with your tantrum today? Can't you just speak properly?"

    Upon hearing this, Fu Qingzhou finally looked up at her. His unwavering eyes slowly met hers. His unattended black hair fell across his forehead, partially obscuring his brows and eyes. He appeared exceptionally calm, so much so that he seemed expressionless. Suddenly, he asked in a low voice, "I want to ask you, right from the beginning, were you helping me because of Wanru's request?"

    "Was it really her who asked you to look after me?"

    When she heard this, South Yan's breath involuntarily paused for an instant. Although the pause was barely noticeable, Fu Qingzhou still caught it.

    She pressed her lips together, clenching her fingers nervously as if she was reluctant to delve into this topic. She evasively replied, "Why... Why are you bringing this up suddenly? Didn't I already tell you everything back then? Who else could it be besides her? Besides, it's been so long. Why do you still ask about it?"

    Fu Qingzhu's gaze fell again on her fingers that kept tightening and releasing, a subconscious gesture she made when nervous. He hadn't missed the fleeting hint of guilt in her eyes just now.

    Suddenly, he relaxed his grip and a faint smile appeared on his face, though the smile didn't reach his eyes, making him look strangely off. "Is that really the truth? You're not lying to me?"

    South Yan was slightly taken aback by the question, probably sensing that something was off with him today and his unusual line of inquiry.

    Regaining her composure, she smiled lightly and nodded before turning her face away, slightly avoiding his gaze. "Of course, why would I lie to you? But what's with you today? Why are you asking such peculiar questions? Did someone say something to you?"

    She ventured a cautious question, her smile fading slightly, making her appear rather uneasy.

    Fu Qingzhou suddenly chuckled softly and drew closer to her. He tightened his grip on her hand, abruptly pulling her towards him, his gaze fixated intently on her.

    Nan Yan stumbled forward a few steps, accidentally colliding her nose against his chest. Tears welled up instantly in her eyes.

    Through the pain, she lifted her gaze, her teary eyes meeting his. Fu Qingzhou let out a mocking scoff,

    "Still lying!"

    He said this and casually tossed the phone from the sofa onto the table. Suddenly, a familiar audio clip started playing from the previously silent device.

    "Is there truly no room for negotiation at all?"

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

    "From the moment you tasked me with getting close to him, any possibility between us was eradicated! It was you who said that as long as I kept an eye on him, preventing him from being with Fang Wanrou, it didn't matter whom he fell in love with. Why do you now insist on dwelling on this very point?"

    ……

    Upon finishing the recording, Nanyan's expression changed instantly.

    Her complexion paled visibly before one's eyes, a hint of panic and distress inevitably flickering across her gaze.

    The voice in the audio was exceptionally clear, unmistakably the conversation that took place between her and Jiang Shaoyan in the hospital that day.

    But at this moment, she had no energy to dwell on who had sent her the audio. Her concern lay with the content within...

    "Is this what you meant when you said you wouldn't lie to me?"

    Fu Qingzhuo, observing her ashen face, felt the words in the audio relentlessly assault his mind, his nails digging into the palms of his hands.

    From initial disbelief upon hearing the recording, gradually giving way to anger and eventual resignation, he truly never entertained the thought that her advances towards him were motivated by an ulterior motive.

    Why? Why treat him like this?

    He always believed she had feelings for him; she never gave up on him even during his most tumultuous times. She cared for him, looked after him with such devotion. And yet, what was the outcome?

    From the very beginning, it was all calculated proximity. All the comfort, encouragement, and promises of steadfastness were nothing but pretenses!

    From start to finish, it had all been deception — a ploy to keep him away from Wanru. What kind of worth did he possess that they would go to such lengths to scheme against him?

    At this thought, Fu Qingzhuo's grip on Nanyan's wrist suddenly tightened significantly. His eyes reddened instantly, filled with suppression and pain.

    He had already bought the ring...

    Not an extravagant one, but it cost him his entire savings for two months - something he earned with his own hands. It was the best gift he could give her, the only one.

    He had planned to hide it in a dumpling, imagining countless scenarios of her reaction when she found it - would she be delighted or simply stunned? As it was his first proposal, nervousness was inevitable. He was so excited that he couldn't sleep the whole night, even fantasizing about various conversations they might have. Yet, he never imagined such an outcome.

    It was truly ironic.

    He now even has an illusion that all of this is fake, a dream he's been having from start to finish. He believes that once he wakes up from the dream, everything will return to normal. However, he is also incredibly lucid, a lucidity that is desperately disheartening. "Tell me, is the person speaking in this recording you?"

    Fu Qingzhou gazed at her with reddened eyes, striving to suppress the turmoil within him. Suddenly, he reached out and firmly grasped Nanyan's cheek, pulling her face close to his, and asked her in a deliberate, measured tone.

    "From the very beginning, you were manipulating me, wasn't it? You made me let my guard down around you, prevented me from seeing Wanru, and even those words you said at the hospital were all part of your ploy to deceive me, weren't they?"

    And he fell for it all, like a fool.

    Initially, Fu Qingzhou had regarded his memories as a stroke of luck. Now, they seemed nothing but a deceitful facade, mocking him at every turn. Each recollection felt like a colossal hand clutching his heart tightly, inflicting unbearable pain with every grip.

    "Did you predict it all along, foreseeing that a wretched soul like me, with nothing and forsaken by all, would inevitably fall in love with you in my most desperate hour? All those promises of loyalty and gratitude were nothing but lies from the very beginning!"

    As he continued speaking, the hurt in Fu Qingzhuo's eyes became increasingly evident. Recalling their shared past, the scene of her weeping and pleading not to lose him, and her joyous kisses and embraces, every memory was a testament to the depth of his former affection. Now, they brought equal measures of despair. At the mere thought of these moments, Fu Qingzhuo's eyes reddened even more.

    "How could I have been so foolish? So utterly and hopelessly foolish! You've been manipulating me from the very beginning, yet I still entertained the absurd notion of proposing to you! Isn't it ridiculous? Watching me, once the pride of heaven, behave like a fool orbiting around you, did it bring you a sense of satisfaction, Zhou Nanyan? Tell me, what did Jiang Shaoyan offer you that could make you so recklessly betray even your own feelings?"

    "Are your feelings that insignificant?"

    "Is there anything you would not betray?"

    With each word he uttered, Nanyan's complexion grew increasingly pale. By the end of his speech, her face had lost all its color, as white as a sheet.

    Fu Qingzhuo, in a fit of anger, pushed her away, causing Nanyan to lose her balance. Unintentionally, her palm pressed against the shattered glass behind her, and tears instantly streamed down her cheeks.

    She wanted to apologize, but her voice was trapped in her throat by the surge of tears, leaving her momentarily speechless. She lifted her head to look at him, only to find her vision blurred by the waterfall of tears, making it impossible for her to clearly see the person before her.

    Nanyan took a deep breath, feeling an intensified sting in her nose. Her voice became even more hoarse,

    "…I'm sorry…"

    "I didn't intentionally hide anything from you. Initially, it was indeed Jiang Shaoyan who asked me to get close to you... But later on, I really never lied to you..."

    Upon hearing this, Fu Qingzhuo looked at her with an utterly mocking gaze. "Is that your explanation?"

    How laughable! How utterly ridiculous!

    Starting from the beginning with deceit, how could he dare to believe that anything she said after that was true?

    Just like now, he couldn't even be sure if the tears she was shedding were another manipulation tactic of hers.

    Her deceit was impeccable; he felt like a fool, toyed with at her whim. How could he possibly trust again?

    Fù Qīngzhōu's eyes fogged over. He turned to her, his gaze cold and piercing. His breaths grew softer,

    "Hah, didn't you ask me in the hospital if I would regret it? I can tell you now with absolute clarity, I am incredibly... regretful! I regret ever meeting you, and even more so, falling in love with you. Zhou Nányān, you truly disgust me..."

    A wave of intense malice surged within Fù Qīngzhōu, a hatred he had never experienced before. He yearned for revenge, to make her regret, to make her suffer, to let her taste the pain he was enduring in this moment.

    Nányān's expression visibly froze.

    especially when she caught the undisguised contempt in Fu Qingzhuo's eyes.

    Suddenly, it felt as if something sharp had stung her chest, triggering an eerie ache that radiated from her heart, causing her breath to come in short, labored gasps.

    In a subconscious gesture, she covered her chest, her eyes widening in disbelief. The tears that had long been held back instantly cascaded down her cheeks, and her entire body began to tremble uncontrollably. By the end, her face was almost entirely washed with tears.

    "I..."

    She gazed at him, utterly speechless.

    Fu Qingzhou, on the other hand, retrieved a intricately crafted silver ring from his pocket and, before her eyes, let it slip from his fingers. It hit the ground with a "ting" and rolled to a stop right at Nanyan's feet.

    "That's it. Our relationship is completely over."

    "All that has passed was my foolishness. From now on, we have no connection. I'd appreciate it if you'd leave and never show your face before me again."

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