Cactus in Distress Chapter 1

Chapter 1

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The plane touched down at Haicheng airport at ten past one in the afternoon. Sun Yutan stepped off, feeling the weight of the long flight still clinging to her like a heavy coat. The other passengers shuffled out in a silent procession, like puppets being tugged along by invisible strings. But Sun Yutan lingered behind, taking her time as she made her way down the aisle and towards the baggage claim.

She hadn’t told anyone about her trip, so it was a shock to see Xiao Shan waving excitedly at her from the airport pick-up point.

Xiao Shan was quick to explain. “Boss predicted you’d be returning within the next few days, and since there’s only one flight, he instructed me to wait at this specific time. And here you really are!” He took the box from her hands and grinned. “So, where to now, Sister Xiao Tan?”

“Isn’t Boss Zhou good at fortune-telling? Ask him to predict something,” she quipped.

Without missing a beat, Xiao Shan replied, “Boss said that you’re likely to go back and sleep. He also said he’ll come to find you for dinner tonight.”

Sun Yutan laughed. She had indeed planned on spending the day in the comfort of her bed, enjoying the peace and quiet of her own company. “Your boss is quite the fortune-teller, isn’t he? Maybe he should quit running a club and start a small stall instead.”

Xiao Shan chuckled. “No way. Boss is only good at fortune-telling for people he knows well.”

As if on cue, Sun Yutan’s phone began to ring. She glanced at the caller ID and saw that it was none other than Zhou Shuxin. He informed her that he had already arranged for a cleaning service to tidy up her residence on Anshan Road. Furthermore, he had replaced all her bedding and household items with new ones.

Zhou Shuxin’s voice was filled with amusement as he inquired, “Do you require any additional services, Miss Sun?”

Feeling a little dejected, Sun Yutan declined his offer, bidding him farewell with a meek “Goodbye, Boss.”

“See you tonight,” he replied before ending the call.

Sun Yutan had been in a deep slumber when the clock struck seven in the evening. Awoken by hunger pangs, she rose from her bed and nibbled on a few bites of cake she had purchased earlier while simultaneously applying her makeup and calling Zhou Shuxin.

Realizing that she needed to purchase more items, Zhou Shuxin suggested they head straight to Haidu Shopping Mall.

Sun Yutan ascended the escalator to the second floor, her steps slow and measured. As she reached the top, her gaze was drawn to a small shop in front of her. The signboard bore no text, but the three distinct symbols of cacti piqued her curiosity.

Stepping closer, she was met with a sight that left her breathless. From the wooden shelves on the walls to the corners of the floor, the shop was a veritable oasis of cacti in every shape and size imaginable. Each container that held them was carefully chosen, ranging from humble clay pots to exquisite white porcelain bowls, and even shiny silver iron cans that matched the plants within them perfectly.

The white walls that surrounded the display were simple and clean, devoid of any excessive decoration. In the scattered light that filtered through the windows, they were transformed into a canvas that reflected the lush greenery, creating an atmosphere of simple elegance that complemented the cacti’s diverse and vibrant postures.

Sun Yutan felt as though she had been transported into the fabled Grand View Garden. Her eyes drank in every detail, and she longed to examine each specimen more closely. Zhou Shuxin observed her with a smirk, knowing her love for cacti all too well. He also knew that despite the abundance of choices before her, the cactus that Sun Yutan would ultimately choose would be the most ordinary one in her eyes.

As expected, Sun Yutan’s hand reached for a metal tin adorned with a vibrant English print. At its center sat a plump, round golden barrel cactus. She could already hear the teasing comments on the tip of Zhou Shuxin’s tongue.

“Hold your tongue,” she cut him off, her tone stern. “I know what you’re going to say.”

Zhou Shuxin merely shrugged and held out his hand. “Do you want me to carry it for you?”

Sun Yutan snorted and slapped away his hand. “No need. Don’t forget when you accidentally knocked over one of my pots.”

“Didn’t I already pay you for it? Besides, the pot didn’t even break. I thought you were just trying to scam me,” he retorted.

“That’s not fair, Boss. Both pots are on display in your store,” she protested.

“That’s because you couldn’t take them away,” he countered.

“I think you just pretended to be generous because you knew I couldn’t take them away,” she shot back.

Zhou Shuxin chuckled and playfully put his arm around her shoulder, pinching her ear. “You’re clever, but you’re a little late to the party.”

Sun Yutan jerked away from Zhou Shuxin’s grasp, successfully avoiding his playful pinch. “I already knew, I just didn’t want to embarrass you,” she retorted, brandishing the pot as a warning. “If you try to touch me again, I’ll poke you with this.”

“Be careful not to bump into people,” Zhou Shuxin chided, pulling her wrist and guiding her to the side. As they moved, Sun Yutan noticed a young couple standing behind her. The man appeared to be displeased, likely due to being blocked.

“Hey—” Sun Yutan gasped as she recognized the person standing behind her. “Chen Rui!”

Chen Rui’s impatient gaze softened a bit as he made eye contact with Sun Yutan. After a moment of hesitation, he spoke, his tone tentative, “Sun—”

“Sun Yutan,” she supplied, offering a polite smile.

“Long time no see,” Chen Rui said, his smile stiff. “When did you come back to Haicheng?”

“Just got back today,” she replied.

Before Chen Rui could say anything else, Zhou Shuxin interjected. “We’re actually on our way to dinner.”

Chen Rui nodded at Zhou Shuxin before turning back to Sun Yutan. “And who is this?” he asked, gesturing towards Zhou Shuxin.

“My boss,” Sun Yutan answered.

Huang Shuyu, who had been observing the exchange with curiosity, piped up. “He’s my boss too,” she said, pointing at Chen Rui. Then she winked at Sun Yutan, as if they shared a common bond as wanderers.

Chen Rui checked his wristwatch once more, then suggested casually, “Then let’s have dinner together.”

Sun Yutan waved his offer away with a polite smile. “No, no. You guys are busy, we’ll go eat on our own,” she said, thinking it was best to decline.

Chen Rui, however, was not to be dissuaded. “We’re done with work,” he replied, his tone carrying a hint of no-nonsense. “We haven’t seen each other in so many years, and we rarely get the chance to meet. Let’s have a meal together, otherwise my family will say I’m not well-mannered.”

As they made their way to the rooftop restaurant, Sun Yutan couldn’t help but observe how Chen Rui had changed over the years. The once haughty and disdainful teenager had matured into a refined and courteous gentleman, offering Huang Shuyu a chair and taking an interest in everyone’s dining preferences. In the past, Chen Rui wouldn’t even give her a second glance, let alone initiate a meal together. However, in this moment, she realized her memory was biased, and that Chen Rui had always been gracious in his manners, despite his previous disdain towards her.

While they were dining, Chen Rui couldn’t help but inquire about Sun Yutan’s line of work. With a thoughtful pause, she revealed that she basically held a supervisory position. However, Zhou Shuxin’s shot her a disapproving gaze. Sensing the need to change the topic, the conversation shifted to business matters, with the two entrepreneurs exchanging cards over their meal. Sun Yutan was relieved to enjoy her food in peace.

As they continued to converse, Chen Rui suddenly remembered something and asked about Sun Yutan’s place of residence. “Anshan Road,” she replied. 

“What a coincidence.” Chen Rui wiped his lips and casually said, “We happen to have a project in that area, and I occasionally stay there. Sun Yutan, it looks like we’ll be neighbors.”

“How coincidental,” Sun Yutan responded, not minding the fact that they would be neighbors. Zhou Shuxin then offered, “Do you need a car?”

Sun Yutan smiled wryly at Zhou Shuxin’s persistent offer of a car. “No need. The subway is just a stone’s throw away. It only takes about ten minutes to get there. Who needs a car?”

Zhou Shuxin wasn’t deterred, however. “Let Xiao Shan pick you up,” he suggested.

Sun Yutan laughed, “Don’t even try. You just want to trick me into going to your office.”

“How could you think that way about me?” Zhou Shuxin feigned hurt. “I just want you to come by every day. Our lovely and capable Xiao Tan, how could you not come?”

“Stop trying to sweet talk me, Boss,” Sun Yutan said, rolling her eyes.

Huang Shuyu, who had just returned from the restroom, listened to their conversation with great interest. Unable to resist the urge to comment, she said, “Hey, Xiao Tan, you and your boss have a really good relationship.”

Sun Yutan chuckled, “It’s just revolutionary friendship.”

Chen Rui, who had been silently observing the exchange, suddenly received a phone call and hurriedly excused himself, with Huang Shuyu following close behind.

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