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    With the mid-year meeting looming, the public housing complex had already cleared out their banquet hall, yet Fu Luoyin still hadn't found an opportunity to give Lin Shuicheng his ring.

    Fu Luoyin was quite frustrated.

    He even contemplated asking Lin Deng to invite Lin Shuicheng to play a finger loop game, where the one who traps the other's finger wins – but that idea was promptly shot down by Lin Deng: "Are you crazy? Big Brother would never just obediently hold out his hand for me to tie a knot! He'd use that knot to explain geometric sequences to me!"

    Fu Luoyin: "…"

    In the end, it was Su Yu who came up with a solution: "Why don't you just use one of those adjustable rings? As a big CEO, can't you solve such a small issue? Listen to me and use a sliding clasp ring! It might be ugly, but your and Sister-in-law's life event is the most important!"

    Su Yu had recently started working again, returning to the Su family's business to intern and learn. At the same time, he had also embarked on a series of arranged blind dates.

    He was prepared, albeit reluctantly, to take over the family business. The majority of his potential matches were heiresses or scions from other well-matched corporations within the Alliance, and he planned to settle for someone he found tolerable, as a strong alliance – provided they were willing to do the same.

    There were many young people in the Alliance from equally prominent backgrounds, but not many were suitable for a "settlement." This was a source of distress for Su Yu.

    Taking Su Yu's advice, Fu Luoyin invested a significant amount in a rare pink diamond rough, which he hurriedly had cut and polished into an engagement ring. He would need two sets each for the engagement and wedding rings, giving him a legitimate reason to ask Lin Shuicheng for his ring size.

    In Star City, at the K&M Studio.

    "The boss wants to use such high-quality raw pink diamonds... for a campaign clasp ring?" The designer was perplexed. "That seems quite wasteful."

    The assistant dared not speak up—this wasn't just wasteful; it was a travesty!

    Zhou Heng wiped his sweat and explained, "That's what the boss wants. He needs it urgently for a proposal, but he hasn't found the right ring size. He said it's a pity, but there will always be another chance to bid on a blue diamond or some other jewelry next time."

    The designer pondered, "I see your point, but a pink diamond of such quality might not appear again for many years. How about this? I won't polish it intricately during the cutting process, and I'll leave some room for adjustment when welding it. After the boss proposes successfully, I can offer a free second round of processing. Then, the two of you can customize it again. Would that work?"

    He lowered his gaze onto the pink diamond and muttered, "It would be a shame otherwise."

    Zhou Heng hurriedly communicated with Fu Luoyin, who was frantically arranging the proposal scene under the leadership's guidance. Fu Luoyin merely told him, "Anything's fine, as long as it's done before the summer annual meeting."

    Thus, Zhou Heng spoke to the designer, "Could you have it ready by the 9th? The boss plans to propose on the night of the 9th, at the Alliance Administrative Building. We'll send a driver over three hours in advance to pick it up."

    "No problem. You don't need to rush; it can be done by the afternoon of the 8th. I only have two orders currently, so I'm not in a hurry."

    Zhou Heng left the address and phone number.

    The designer watched as the assistant saw the clients out, then resumed work on the ring design, muttering, "I prefer customers like Lin Shuicheng – so good-looking, polite, and willing to discuss design options with me. Dealing with someone like today's silent customer is such a headache."

    As Fu Luoyin grappled with ideas for the venue, he found himself in a quandary. He had no idea what kind of proposal style Lin Shuicheng would appreciate, but as the saying goes, the most cliché approach was often the best. Fu Luoyin loved the warmth of everyday life, and back when he was in military school, he had helped his comrades plan proposals, typically involving a gathering of family and friends, a bouquet of flowers, and a ring.

    He wanted everyone to see that Lin Shuicheng belonged to him. Even if it meant resorting to the most clichéd method, he would make sure everyone knew about their relationship and how much he cherished Lin Shuicheng.

    He had already discussed this plan with the other event organizers and received their approval, so now he was bold in his preparations, arranging for balloons, streamers, dry ice, a large cake, and engagement invitations – all except for a specific date.

    Fu Luoyin knew Lin Shuicheng wouldn't decline. The only thing they hadn't discussed was timing, because both had been so busy in recent years. He was afraid Lin Shuicheng might feel rushed.

    But if he didn't propose, he feared Lin Shuicheng might slip away.

    "I need roses too," Fu Luoyin pondered. "And a dozen antihistamines. Also, a dozen eco-friendly fireworks with customized text."

    Zhou Heng asked, "What text do you want?"

    Fu Luoyin hesitated, trying to maintain composure. With a serious and stoic expression, he said, "I love you, Lin Shuicheng."

    A proposal filled with kitsch and fireworks, essentially embracing vulgarity to the fullest.

    Zhou Heng couldn't hold back his laughter either. "Boss, how about using more subtle and restrained phrases, like 'holding hands with you until old age'? Little Lin might prefer that, don't you think?"

    Fu Luoyin's ears unexpectedly turned slightly red. He muttered awkwardly, "Whatever I do, he always says it's great. He just smiles at me like that, and you know it makes me uneasy. So... let's go with something more restrained."

    After making all the preparations, Fu Luoyin rehearsed the night before.

    Su Yu, Dong Shuoye, and the others came to preview the setup in advance.

    They finalized the specific details: This year, Lin Shuicheng would be speaking as the representative for the half-yearly award recipients at the annual meeting. After his speech, everyone could indulge in food and drinks. Fu Luoyin purposefully arranged for Lin Shuicheng's speech to be the last item on the agenda.

    Standing in the middle of the empty space, Fu Luoyin explained to them, "When the time comes, I'll break a glass as a signal, and you guys can help lift the balloons and fireworks..."

    Su Yu burst out laughing. "Breaking a glass as a signal? Are you proposing or going to war?"

    Fu Luoyin was a bit nervous. "Then you guys time it! Do I need to kneel down to propose? Should I carry him down from the stage first before kneeling, or should I kneel first and wait for him to come down on his own? What if he doesn't let me carry him with so many people around? When should I give him the ring? Before or after he agrees? Should I give him the ring or the flowers first?"

    Su Yu said, "Be adaptable! Brother Minus Two, don't tell me you have no improvisation skills?"

    He was slightly exasperated. "You've already proposed! Can't you act more mature? Be as composed as your sister-in-law! You've been through so many storms!"

    Fu Luoyin hurriedly adjusted his plans. "So when you see me go up, remember to pull the balloons and ribbons—"

    He chattered on with Su Yu for quite some time, while Dong Shuoye had already fallen asleep beside them.

    As the time drew closer, Fu Luoyin grew increasingly nervous. His nerve-induced stomachache, which he hadn't experienced in a long time, returned. He took a few pills before finally being sent back to sleep by Su Yu.

    The evening party proceeded as scheduled.

    It was a collective banquet for the entire Alliance's public housing complex, taking up three floors. Each level was cleared to set up dining tables and a dance floor, and all attendees were required to dress formally.

    The central floor was reserved for Department Seven, National Security Nine, the Defense Bureau, and the Police Department. The main stage was located at the center of the front row, with every scene on stage projected onto the other two floors from all angles.

    Lin Shuicheng and Fu Luoyin didn't arrive together. According to Lin Shuicheng himself, his experiments at home were almost done, so he asked Fu Luoyin to come over first and accompany Fu Kai and Chu Jingshu for some food. He promised to make it to the party before it started.

    Fu Kai knew about Fu Luoyin's plan to propose to Lin Shuicheng that day and wasn't too supportive. In his opinion, proposals should be intimate moments between couples. However, he couldn't stop Fu Luoyin, so he reluctantly approved the request to use the public space for private purposes with a frown.

    "Said we're here to eat, why aren't you eating properly?" Fu Kai sat at the table, gesturing at Chu Jingshu with his eyes, encouraging her to take the initiative to serve some food to Fu Luoyin and place it on his plate.

    Fu Luoyin seemed lost in thought, looking rather nervous as he kept glancing towards the entrance. Would Lin Shuicheng be late?

    He wondered if there was traffic outside today.

    Last night, he had received the designer's finished ring. The pink diamond had been slightly trimmed and fashioned into the simplest adjustable ring band, barely sufficient but impressive enough to look the part.

    Su Yu and Dong Shuoye were seated together on one side, while Lin Deng eagerly joined the gathering – almost everyone in Department 7 now knew the young boy who spent his days in Fu Luoyin's office, scribbling homework with a long face.

    Fu Luoyin made a token effort to eat a couple of bites. "I'm waiting for Lin Shuicheng."

    "Are you saying that waiting for Little Lin to have dinner with you is an issue? Look at you, child," Fu Kai continued, his brows still knitted together.

    Fu Luoyin responded with a soft "Mm-hmm," about to lower his head to eat when he felt a tap on his shoulder.

    He turned around to find Lin Shuicheng holding a plate of food, gazing at him with a gentle smile.

    "Where did you pop up from?" Fu Luoyin covered his pocket with his hand, relieved that he hadn't taken out the ring to examine it just now.

    Cats were always mysterious creatures! They could uncover anything!

    Lin Shuicheng placed the tray in his hand down and pulled up a chair to sit beside Fu Luoyin. He looked up at Fu Kai and Chu Jingshu with a smile. "Uncle and Aunt, good evening. I'm sorry for being late; there was something going on in the lab."

    Fu Luoyin glanced at him. "You still haven't answered my question."

    Lin Shuicheng chuckled. "I went to the wrong floor and had to come down via the fire stairs. Seeing the kitchen was busy, I asked for a plate and helped you get some food ahead of time. The dishes here usually come out later than our usual dinner time, so you need to take care of your stomach."

    Fu Luoyin immediately started showing off. Maintaining his composure, he whispered, "Hey, why bother doing all this? There are already so many dishes here."

    "There aren't any that you like," Lin Shuicheng said. "I told Chef Fang we'll add a stir-fried udon to this table later, and have it served separately."

    He spoke casually, just as he would at home.

    Both Chu Jingshu and Fu Kai wore slightly awkward expressions.

    Chu Jingshu didn't know about Fu Luoyin's gastritis or his favorite dishes. Fu Kai only knew that his youngest son had a weak stomach and needed medication, but didn't pay attention to his meal times. In their family, they had never left food for Fu Luoyin or added extra servings, let alone ensured regular meals. Growing up, if either of the two children missed their meal, they would simply have to go hungry.

    The dishes Chu Jingshu had picked for Fu Luoyin were now pushed aside by Lin Shuicheng.

    He had selected Kung Pao beef, stir-fried shrimp, and chicken with mushrooms for Fu Luoyin. Instead of rice, he had swapped it for a bowl of vegetable porridge.

    He didn't say anything, yet his demeanor was courteous and complete. However, Fu Luoyin could always sense a subtle undercurrent beneath his words – one incident might be dismissed as a coincidence, but after several occurrences, it became apparent that something was amiss.

    Lin Shuicheng, this little kitten, sometimes deliberately provoked Fu Kai and Chu Jingshu.

    For instance, when they returned to the Fu family villa, the butler also informed Lin Shuicheng of the household rules. But Lin Shuicheng, the more rules were imposed on him, the more he defied them.

    On the first night he stayed with Fu Luoyin, he went down to the kitchen to prepare a creamy chicken and mushroom soup for him. He also sent some to Fu Kai and Chu Jingshu. As the elders, they couldn't bring themselves to criticize him. Lin Shuicheng nonchalantly replied, "Uncle Fu is a military man, so adhering to a strict schedule for meals and rest is commendable. But Luoyin works long hours with irregular sleep patterns. He can't keep up with that. I'll make sure we both eat on time in the future."

    Fu Kai had no retort.

    That logical yet subtly sarcastic manner was reminiscent of how Lin Shuicheng behaved during the famous painting case.

    Though Fu Luoyin didn't express it, Lin Shuicheng seemed to keenly sense the uneasy atmosphere within the family and quietly protected him as if shielding a weakness.

    Laughing silently, Fu Luoyin held Lin Shuicheng's hand and asked, "Aren't you going to find something to eat?"

    Lin Shuicheng tilted his head and replied, "I ate before coming here. I'll have a bit with you and Auntie and Uncle. Later, I need to speak with him about something. There are also a few colleagues from my previous department at the police station that I want to catch up with – it's been a while since we last met."

    He casually opened the chopsticks in front of him and, rising, helped himself to some noodle soup. As he ate slowly, he engaged Chu Jingshu and Fu Kai in conversation with perfect grace, creating an atmosphere of harmony.

    Lin Shuicheng had no sense of being "married into wealth," nor did the Fu family feel that way – Fu Kai always thought that neither he nor his younger brother were worthy of Lin Shuicheng. Chu Jingshu, on the other hand, knew that Lin Shuicheng's assets, capabilities, and experience were on par with Fu Luoyin's, especially since Lin Shuicheng now led the Quantum Security Barrier project, making his personal safety a matter of national defense.

    Such a person was a treasure, free to come and go as they pleased, and highly sought after by those within the alliance. Lin Shuicheng had no need to curry favor with the older generation.

    Everyone could see that Lin Shuicheng's courteous treatment of Fu Kai and Chu Jingshu, and his constant communication with them, was solely because they were Fu Luoyin's family.

    After sitting for a while, Lin Shuicheng got up to move elsewhere. Fu Luoyin wasn't really in the mood to eat – after hastily finishing his meal, he held onto the ring in his pocket, repeatedly rehearsing what he would say.

    It would be terrible if his mind went blank during the proposal. What was even worse was that he often found his thoughts blanking out when faced with Lin Shuicheng.

    As people gradually finished their meals, the tables were cleared away at 8:30 pm. The surroundings turned dark, and spotlights illuminated the stage as the emcee appeared.

    Their seats directly faced the stage, in the front row.

    Fu Luoyin immediately grew nervous, aware that Lin Shuicheng would likely take the stage soon – the award ceremony would precede the evening's entertainment, involving only three speakers.

    He couldn't hear a word of what was being said on stage or how the lighting changed.

    He felt like a primary school student, one who had just been called upon by the teacher for the first time to solve a problem on the blackboard, filled with immense trepidation.

    In the darkness, he saw Lin Shuicheng step forward from the side of the stage as the emcee announced his name, taking the microphone in hand.

    Large screens projected close-ups of the scene in real-time, and Lin Shuicheng's tranquil and delicate face appeared on the big screen, his captivating red teardrop mole at the corner of his eye particularly striking.

    In the shadows, Su Yu and Dong Shuoye, among others, made their way over.

    Su Yu said, "Minus two!"

    Fu Luoyin spoke nervously, "Don't call my name! I've just noticed a serious issue – the lighting here isn't good. There's only light on the stage. What if I kneel down below and end up as a pitch-black silhouette in the photo?"

    Su Yu whispered his suggestions, intertwining them with Dong Shuoye's advice, leaving Fu Luoyin unable to catch a single word. Meanwhile, Lin Deng was also chiming in with his own ideas.

    midst the chaotic commotion in the city, Lin Shuicheng smiled on stage.

    It was that laughter that left them all stunned, only then prompting them to pay attention to what he had just said.

    Dressed in a formal suit, Lin Shuicheng exuded an aura that was both gallant and strikingly handsome, standing as the most captivating sight to behold. He gazed calmly upon the audience below, his eyes lingering on the section where Fu Luoyin sat. "As I mentioned just now," he began, "I am grateful to the Alliance for providing me with this opportunity, and extend my heartfelt thanks to Mr. Kim Lee and Professors Du Qingwu and Xu Kong for their unwavering guidance throughout. However, in my heart, it is to my beloved that I most wish to dedicate this honor. And I hope to take this occasion—though it may briefly consume some of your time—to address a few words to him."

    He smiled gently, the glimmer in his eyes like shimmering stars. "Fu Luoyin, could you come up here for a moment?"

    Both Fu Luoyin and everyone else were taken aback.

    Whistling and applause gradually escalated, leaving Fu Luoyin bewildered. "This isn't what I expected..."

    Su Yu nudged him forward. "Just go up there first! Such a great opportunity! You can propose right after he's done speaking. That'll do it!"

    With that, Fu Luoyin was propelled onto the stage.

    The bright lights on the stage were sweltering, dazzling his vision. Fu Luoyin felt disoriented and slightly awkward.

    Lin Shuicheng stood calmly and elegantly with a microphone in hand, smiling at him.

    Ribbon, wreath, balloons, ring... ribbon, wreath, balloons, ring...

    In a fluster, Fu Luoyin fumbled in his pocket but couldn't find the ring. Desperate, he simply gestured to the audience below, indicating the start of something.

    Down on the stage, Su Yu seized the moment and pressed the button to release the streamers and gold confetti from backstage. But as he looked up, he was stunned.

    According to the plan, confetti and golden paper were supposed to shower down, but now, a myriad of delicate pink and transparent petals filled the stage instead.

    Dong Shuoye frowned. "What's this? Flowers? Did Number Two take his anti-allergy pills? Why are there flowers?"

    Su Yu also gaped. "He did. Number Two was supposed to give flowers, but now… this…"

    What was going on?

    Fu Luoyin also sensed something amiss, something beyond his expectations. Before he could retrieve the ring from his pocket, damp with nervous sweat, Lin Shuicheng tilted his head and smiled at him.

    Then, he knelt on one knee before Fu Luoyin.

    Through the amplifiers, Lin Shuicheng's voice rang out clearly and coolly, yet pleasing to the ear. "I've prepared for this moment for a long time, Fu Luoyin. Would you do me the honor of allowing me to place this ring on your finger and spend the rest of our lives together?"

    Lin Shuicheng switched off the microphone and gently placed it on the carpet. Next, he took out a ring from his pocket, looking up at Fu Luoyin.

    Like being struck by lightning, Fu Luoyin stood there, dumbfounded and rooted to the spot.

    Although the microphone was off, the floor microphones on the stage still amplified Lin Shuicheng's voice, albeit with some distortion. Yet, it remained crisp and tender.

    "This diamond is the first new mineral I discovered at the space station. When I saw it, I thought of your name, as beautiful as it is. So, I named it 'Falling Silver.' It's my engagement gift to you, the first one."

    "You said you couldn't wait any longer, but neither could I. Originally, I planned to propose on your birthday, but I wanted to give you this ring earlier, to make you truly mine." Lin Shuicheng's composed voice trembled slightly, as if he was nervous and trying to maintain composure. "Will you accept?"

    Simultaneously, a VCR suddenly projected from behind, casting a shadow of the video above the stage.

    The scene showed Lin Shuicheng in a lab, holding a selfie stick. He wore a white lab coat and glasses, adjusting the camera angle to reveal a pile of pink cherry blossoms on a chemistry bench. "I know you wanted to give me flowers, and I wanted to give you some too. Preserved flowers are too difficult to make, and cherry blossom petals are tiny. It's tough to handle them properly. This is my second gift to you."

    "The paper strips with your finger measurements, I told you I threw them away, but I actually kept them safe." The view switched, showing Lin Shuicheng opening the door to his workshop. "I wanted to make a more special ring for you."

    "I didn't know you when you were in the military, but I've heard from your comrades that you missed out on a limited edition game you loved. Now, I'm giving it to you. This is the third gift. Sadly, I missed your birthdays all those years."

    ...

    "In the year of your college entrance exam... well, I hadn't decided on a gift yet. You asked for my notebook of mistakes. If you don't mind, I'd like to give it to you."

    Preserved flowers, a diamond ring, a rare game disc, an autographed jersey from a favorite soccer star, a notebook of corrected mistakes... all the way down to the smallest item, a baby bottle-shaped lucky charm.

    For twenty-six years, every birthday present he had missed, he compensated for them all.

    He knew how much birthdays mattered to him, so he intended to make up for all the missed celebrations, at least to alleviate his regret and lingering thoughts.

    Behind the projector, Kim Lee grabbed a megaphone and cheered, "Marry him! Marry him! President Little Fu, marry President Little Lin! Marry him, marry him!"

    "F*ck, hahaha, Negative Two was outdone by his sister-in-law, hahahaha!"

    "What's wrong with you, Negative Two! Why are you still standing there!"

    "Negative Two, snap out of it!!!"

    Fu Luoyin turned his head to watch the video clip, then looked down at Lin Shuicheng. For some reason, he felt a lump in his throat, as if a surge of warmth was about to erupt, leaving him at a loss.

    Lin Shuicheng spoke softly, "Fu Luoyin, don't always make me kneel like this."

    Only then did Fu Luoyin come back to his senses. He quickly pulled Lin Shuicheng up and then reached out his hand, obedient like a child, allowing Lin Shuicheng to slide the engagement ring onto his finger.

    Still laughing, Fu Luoyin said, "You actually knew I was planning to propose to you."

    Finally, he retrieved the ring, seemingly so overwhelmed with joy that he was a bit flustered. He lowered his head to look at Lin Shuicheng, "You..."

    Lin Shuicheng offered his hand willingly. "I am willing. And you? Are you willing?"

    Fu Luoyin gently slid the pink diamond onto Lin Shuicheng's ring finger, then whispered, "I am willing."

    Each word was deliberate and resolute, harmonizing with the pounding of their hearts.

    Embracing Lin Shuicheng tightly, cheers erupted from the audience below. Balloons soared up, while golden confetti and petals swirled in the air.

    He was willing...

    To spend the rest of his life alongside him, side by side.

    For the rest of his days, he no longer needed to be stubborn, obstinate, or cling to the past. No more solitary nights illuminated by faint lamplight.

    Because with Lin Shuicheng, everything was understood.

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