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    Chapter 85 [VIP] Best Friend Shield (23)

    A relieved and warm smile suddenly appeared on her face, her eyes curving like shallow crescents, reminiscent of her demeanor that night at the shop window.

    Fu Qingzhou suppressed a nearly indescribable urge deep within him, as if something was about to burst forth.

    He wanted to grab her hand, to ask something more - what did her visit mean today? Were her words tonight sincere? What did she truly want from him?

    But this time, before he could reach out, she turned and stepped away, giving him a smile,

    "We'll see each other again tomorrow."

    A pang struck Fu Qingzhou's heart.

    After saying that, she waved at him, clutching her small bag close to her chest, and turned to leave without looking back.

    Fu Qingzhou opened his mouth, unable to utter any words to make her stay, just watching her walk away until her slender figure disappeared into the night.

    For some reason, he felt an unsettling sense of never seeing her again.

    Had he done something wrong?

    Why did he feel such an emptiness in his heart, as if he had lost something precious? But hadn't she said it was all just a joke to deceive him?

    The next day's wedding was lively. The Fang family was well-regarded in the city, and the once-famous Fu family was now more known for their overnight bankruptcy. Most of the guests were acquaintances, some admiring the Fang family for their loyalty in marrying off their daughter to a penniless man, while others whispered about Wanrou's physical impairment from the accident and her reliance on her ex-boyfriend.

    The wedding was well-attended, with many coming to help, including Nan Yan.

    She arrived early that day, serving as a bridesmaid. Wanrou had specially chosen a beautiful bridesmaid dress for her, a light champagne-colored silk gown, gentle and clean.

    When Fu Qingzhou opened the door, he was greeted by her slender, faint silhouette, the silk of her gown trailing to her ankles, standing quietly by the mirror, seemingly within reach.

    She turned and saw him, her face showing surprise, then a calm, sweet smile. She asked him, "Do you think it's pretty?"

    Fu Qingzhou's breath paused for a moment.

    Seemingly lost in thought, he averted his gaze, then said steadily, "It's very beautiful."

    His eyes slowly shifted to the bride.

    Hearing this, Wanrou couldn't help but smile, her face radiating happiness. She gently touched the hem of her wedding dress, her eyes twinkling with joy, "That's because you chose well. You said this dress suited me."

    "It's a shame about that diamond-studded one. Now that I think about it, that one might have been even more beautiful. Oh well, I shouldn't dwell on it. The more I think, the more regretful I feel. It's true, women are often the greediest when choosing a wedding dress..."

    As she spoke, a satisfied smile appeared on her face, one hand propped on the dressing table, a few strands of hair falling across her forehead, her eyes brimming with tenderness.

    Fu Qingzhou forced a smile, about to change the subject.

    Just then, his phone in his pocket rang.

    Turning away to answer, his expression didn’t change much after hearing the other end, responding quietly, "Okay, I'll come and get it now."

    Hearing his urgent tone, Wanrou's curiosity was piqued, and she casually asked, "What’s wrong? Do you need to go out for something?"

    Fu Qingzhou hummed in response, replying indifferently, "It's not a big deal. The custom wedding rings you ordered are ready. The staff member supposed to deliver them had an emergency and can't come, so I need to go pick them up. Don’t worry, it’s fine."

    Saying this, he prepared to leave, but Wanrou grabbed his wrist, "Wait, just a moment…"

    She glanced at the phone, her face showing a hint of difficulty. It was getting late, and there were many things at the wedding that required the groom's attention. It would be troublesome for her to handle everything alone if he left, "But it's already quite late. Can you manage to go and come back in time? Maybe it’s better to ask them to deliver it."

    Fu Qingzhou exhaled lightly, offering her a reassuring smile, "It's not a big deal. It won't take long. I'll be back quickly."

    "But the guests have already..."

    Wanrou hadn't finished speaking when Nan Yan suddenly interjected with a smile, "Let me go instead. You two are the bride and groom; you can't be missing from the wedding. I'll go get it."

    Fu Qingzhou frowned slightly but soon relaxed, almost instinctively saying, "Then I'll go with you."

    As soon as he spoke, the grip on his wrist tightened suddenly. Nan Yan first seemed startled, then quickly laughed and declined, "No need, it's not that important. I can go alone. If you're really worried about the time, I can find someone else to go with me..."

    "I'll accompany you."

    Before she could finish, a familiar voice came from the doorway.

    Everyone looked up to see Jiang Shaoyan standing at the entrance, his gaze fixed on Nan Yan. He stepped forward, his tone gentle as if pleading, "Let me accompany you, okay?"

    Nan Yan, in need of help, instinctively nodded in agreement. She smiled at Fu Qingzhou, "Okay, you don’t have to worry now. I’ll be back soon."

    Fu Qingzhou said nothing, just watching them leave together. He felt an itch in his throat, an inexplicable urge to call her back, not even understanding why he felt that way.

    ……

    Since their last encounter at the hospital, this was the first time they were this close again.

    Jiang Shaoyan felt somewhat nervous, trying to ignore the strange feeling in his heart. From the moment they got into the car, he remained silent, afraid to break the rare tranquility, just staring at her.

    He was actually scared, afraid she couldn't handle the shock and might do something impulsive on the wedding day, which was why he kept a constant watch over her.

    He knew it was all because of his selfishness that all of this had happened. If he hadn’t interfered, she could have been the bride at the wedding, happily with Fu Qingzhou, not enduring this pain.

    Instead of how things were now...

    Jiang Shaoyan's heart suddenly filled with an unprecedented sense of guilt and remorse. He had caused her too much suffering during this time.

    Such selfishness disgusted even himself; he despised his own actions. She didn't hate him, and for that, he felt immensely grateful. How could he dare to hope for her forgiveness?

    He was truly uneasy now.

    Fortunately, the journey was uneventful. Nan Yan seemed calm, even smiling as she received the ring, admiring the beautifully packaged jewelry box with a glint of envy and resignation in her eyes.

    "Why are you staring at me like that since we left? Are you afraid I might do something rash?" Nan Yan, noticing Jiang Shaoyan's constant gaze since getting in the car, couldn't help but laugh.

    Jiang Shaoyan uncomfortably shifted his gaze, looking down, his eyes falling on the ring box in her hand. He softly said, "I'm sorry..."

    Nan Yan seemed stunned for a few seconds.

    But she quickly understood his meaning, a fleeting shadow of melancholy passing through her eyes before settling back into calm. She slowly said, "It's okay, I don’t blame you anymore."

    She sighed deeply, as if finally accepting her fate.

    Her fingers gently caressed the ring box, her smile tender, "After their wedding, I’ll leave this place, go somewhere far, far away, perhaps never to return..."

    But before she could finish, their car was violently flipped over by another vehicle that recklessly emerged from a corner.

    "Watch out!"

    Nan Yan instinctively threw herself onto him. The violent impact gave Jiang Shaoyan no time to react, a loud buzzing noise filling his head, followed by a dizzying whirl.

    Their car rolled twice on the ground, finally crashing into a guardrail with such force that it nearly broke, the front of the car sparking.

    It hurt so much...

    Pain was all that filled Jiang Shaoyan's mind.

    In that instant, he felt as if his bones were crushed and reformed by immense force, the intense pain bringing a momentary clarity to his mind.

    "Nan Yan..."

    He called her name in agony, receiving no response. Looking down, the warm, unconscious body in his arms suddenly filled him with a trembling fear.

    His eyes reddened almost instantly.

    Jiang Shaoyan, trembling, held her tightly, "Don't be afraid, Nan Yan, Yanyan, it's going to be alright... it will be okay. I'll get someone to rescue you! I'll find someone right away..."

    Struggling to crawl out of the car, the intense pain and weakness in his legs made it impossible for him to stand. He fell heavily to the ground with a thud.

    He could no longer feel the pain in his knees.

    But right now, he couldn't think of anything else. Nan Yan was bleeding, bleeding profusely... He couldn't stop it, what should he do?

    Jiang Shaoyan was on the verge of a breakdown, exerting all his strength to pull Nan Yan from the car. His consciousness gradually clearing, he could only disregard his image, crying out desperately to passersby, "Please, call an ambulance! Hurry, call an ambulance!"

    Kind-hearted bystanders had already gathered to help. After Jiang Shaoyan spoke, he shakily held Nan Yan in his arms, carefully covering her wound with his coat. Seeing the unstoppable bleeding, he felt as if the sky was falling, tears uncontrollably streaming down, "Nan Yan, hold on, the ambulance will be here soon, it's going to be okay, we'll both be okay..."

    Nan Yan seemed to regain some consciousness, but her body might not last much longer.

    She could feel her whole body growing cold, slowly, as if the life was ebbing away from her.

    Nan Yan instinctively tightened her grip on his hand, using all her remaining strength, her voice hoarse and weak, barely audible, trembling,

    "...phone, I need a phone..."

    Jiang Shaoyan leaned close to her lips to hear her, frantically reaching into his pocket, only to realize his phone had been shattered in the crash. In desperation, he grabbed a nearby youngster, "A phone, quick, give me a phone..."

    The youngster, startled by his frantic state and covered in blood, almost fell but quickly handed over his phone.

    Nan Yan looked at Jiang Shaoyan, her lips moving with difficulty, laboriously reciting a number, "Call him for me..."

    Meanwhile, when the phone rang, Wanrou was feeling slightly annoyed with Fu Qingzhou for being out of sorts all day. So, when the phone rang, she instinctively took it from his hand.

    "Qingzhou, what's wrong with you today?"

    "Why are you so distracted?"

    "You're checking your phone more often than you're looking at me. Just ignore these random calls, okay? It's probably just more wedding design sales pitches..."

    She glanced at the caller ID and, without much hesitation, hung up directly.

    Fu Qingzhou unconsciously furrowed his brow, feeling inexplicably uneasy, unable to settle down.

    Hearing Wanrou's words and seeing her mood wasn't great, he suppressed his inner turmoil, responding normally, "It's nothing, probably just overwhelmed by the crowd today. Can I have the phone back, please?"

    Wanrou, however, hid the phone behind her back, then looked up and coaxed with a smile, "No way, I know you're not used to this, but it's our wedding. Qingzhou, a wedding is the most important moment in a girl's life. You don't want to be constantly disturbed by these random calls, right? Anyway, I'm keeping the phone for now. You go and attend to the guests. People were saying how you're more elusive than even the bride, hard to get a glimpse of..."

    Before she finished, Fu Qingzhou was whisked away by a group of acquaintances, not even giving him a chance to resist.

    Elsewhere, Jiang Shaoyan, unable to get through on the phone, watched as Nan Yan's eyes dimmed from a faint glimmer to a dull gray, his heart sinking into despair,

    "Why won't they answer the phone? Please, answer it! I beg you, just answer the phone!"

    Jiang Shaoyan's fingers trembled as he redialed several times, but eventually, perhaps out of impatience, the other side switched off the phone...

    In that moment, Jiang Shaoyan's heart trembled violently, afraid to look up. He feared seeing the disappointment in Nan Yan's eyes, a fear like never before.

    "Forget it, stop calling..."

    Nan Yan's tears finally slid down from her eyes, unable to contain the overwhelming sorrow any longer, a mixture of powerlessness and loss.

    She reached out to Jiang Shaoyan's trembling hand, exerting too much effort, "It's such a pity. I wanted to hear his voice one last time... but now I can't."

    "Tell him for me... that day, I was serious. Apart from the initial deceit, everything I said later was sincere..."

    Jiang Shaoyan, holding her hand against his face, quickly promised upon hearing her words, "Okay, okay, I'll tell him for you. Don't talk anymore, the ambulance is almost here, and you'll be fine..."

    Nan Yan seemed not to have heard him clearly, still lost in her thoughts.

    After speaking, she regretted it and gently shook her head in his arms, "No, don't tell him. I don't want him to be sad..."

    "I know, he's actually... very timid, and insecure. Once deceived, he can't trust anyone again... It's the second time now."

    "He's getting married, on such a happy day. I don’t want him to be upset because of me, so don’t tell him..."

    Jiang Shaoyan nodded vigorously, carefully cradling her face, "Okay, I promise you. Just hold on, anything is possible..."

    Suddenly, Nan Yan coughed, blood appearing at the corner of her mouth, her voice growing weaker, "I really didn't mean to deceive him..."

    Struggling to say these words, her body shook uncontrollably from the pain, tears falling one by one. She gripped Jiang Shaoyan's fingers tightly.

    Gazing straight at him, her eyes conveyed a final trace of reluctance,

    "Ask him, why didn't he answer the phone?"

    "Why... wouldn’t he listen to my explanation?"

    "For two months, I've been waiting for him, always waiting for him to come. I was... trying so hard to get closer to him. Why couldn't he... trust me one more time?"

    Listening to this, Jiang Shaoyan felt as if his heart was being torn apart, the pain suffocating him. He held her fingers tightly, his tears falling onto her face. "No! You'll be fine, Yan Yan. Hang on, just hang on, okay? I'll go find him. I'll bring him to you right now! I won't let him marry Wanru. I'll make him be with you. As long as you're okay, as long as you hold on, you can have anything you want in the future. I don't care about anything else! I don't mind anything anymore! Yan Yan, can you hear me? Please, please don't leave me. I beg you, please be okay?"

    His embrace grew tighter, as if clutching at the last lifeline he had. It was as if by doing so, he could keep her with him forever.

    Upon hearing these words, a glimmer of hope flickered in Nanyan's eyes.

    Her lips curved slightly, and she offered him the faintest of smiles. "Then tell me... Am I pretty today?"

    Jiang Shaoyan nodded frantically, his tears flowing like a broken string. "Beautiful, beautiful..."

    Yet now, she was covered in blood, the original color of her dress indiscernible. Her face and body were stained with blood, making her appearance not only unattractive but barely recognizable as human. Yet, Jiang Shaoyan was on the verge of madness; he agreed to anything she said.

    Upon hearing this, Nan Yan felt instantly gratified.

    Her head leaned limply against his chest, her voice turning soft and faint, "As long as I'm beautiful... Actually, I was supposed to be a bridesmaid... No, I was going to be the bride. He promised that one day I would wear a stunning wedding gown..."

    With those words, Nan Yan seemed to lose all strength, gradually releasing Jiang Shaoyan's hand before slipping into unconsciousness.

    In that moment, it felt as if a massive hole had torn open in Jiang Shaoyan's heart.

    He gripped her fingers tightly, genuinely terrified to the point that his heartbeat seemed to cease. He cried out loudly,

    "Ambulance, doctor, please, call an ambulance quickly..."

    "Yanyan, hang on, I beg you, just hold on, okay?"

    "Fu Qingzhou is coming right away, he's really on his way. I asked him to come see you."

    He pleaded, "Please, don't let anything happen, okay?"

    ……

    At the wedding ceremony on the other side.

    Fucheng Fu gazed at the abundance of white roses on the table, and involuntarily thought of Nanyan.

    He recalled her mentioning that she adored lilies the most, and how she wanted to use them as her bridal bouquet for their symbolic meaning of a hundred years of togetherness...

    Lost in thought, Fucheng absentmindedly plucked a rose from the table, only to be pricked by a thorn, causing a few droplets of blood to surface on his index finger.

    Initially, Fucheng didn't think much of it.

    Was it because the heart was connected to the fingertips?

    Fu Qingzhou gazed at the tiny, almost invisible wound, and suddenly felt an excruciating pain deep within.

    It was a piercing sensation that seemed to stab at his heart relentlessly, leaving him breathless, unable to halt the torment. His eyes even brimmed with tears.

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