Cactus in Distress Chapter 39

Chapter 39

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Sun Yutan’s family was a prosperous one, with her grandparents having three sons and a daughter. However, her eldest and second uncles had settled in another province and did not return home that year. Only her father, Sun Ping, and her aunt, Sun An, remained in the family. Sun An, who was of a different generation than her brother, had married into the Zhuo family and had a young son named Zhuo Zhan.

Armed with Sun Ping’s reminders, everyone in Sun family remained calm when they saw Chen Rui, whom they had never met before, getting off the car.

Although everyone was busy, they still took the time to show their hospitality to Chen Rui, perhaps even going a bit overboard with their politeness. They made a point to remind Sun Yutan to convey their offers of rest and comfort to their guest, and even suggested that he join them for some leisurely activities.

Sun Yutan, however, was quick to deflect their requests. “Why not ask him yourselves?” she suggested.

The others hesitated. “We don’t really know him well enough,” one admitted.

Sun Yutan’s aunt intervened, giving her niece a playful pat. “Come on, Tantan, why don’t you go and be nice to him?”

“But I’m already being nice to him,” Sun Yutan protested.

“Ah, but is he being nice to you?” her aunt teased, as she continued with her household chores.

The group of adults stood idly by, hindered by various excuses and distractions. Only Zhuo Zhan curiously stared at this unfamiliar big brother and asked him, “Big Brother, do you want to eat roasted sweet potato?”

Chen Rui reached for his wallet assuming the child was asking him to purchase the sweet treat. But Zhuo Zhan was quick to grab his hand, insisting instead, “No, no, come with me.”

The boy led Chen Rui to the back of the house where a small brick stove was nestled in a corner. Though nothing was currently cooking, the stove was covered in a thick layer of charcoal ash that glimmered with the remains of a flickering fire.

Sun Yutan also followed under the urging of her aunt.

Pointing to the charcoal ash, the boy exclaimed, “It’s right in here. I saw my mother put it in!”

As Chen Rui scanned the area for a suitable tool, Sun Yutan came to the rescue with a long wooden stick. With a grin, Zhuo Zhan cheered, “Big Sister. Big Sister.”

Sun Yutan squatted down and rummaged in the fire pit, pulling out several black things.

Zhuo Zhan was about to grab one, but Sun Yutan stopped his reaching hand and said, “Be careful, it’s hot. Let it cool down for a while first.”

After waiting for a while, Sun Yutan plucked a long sweet potato from the pile and gingerly rotated it between her hands, testing its temperature before carefully splitting it open. A rush of hot steam and a tantalizing sweetness filled the air as she gazed upon the translucent, yellow flesh. Zhuo Zhan couldn’t contain his excitement as he clutched the sweet potato like a precious treasure, and ran to show his mother.

Sun Yutan held out her hands, which had turned black from handling the charred sweet potatoes. “Chen Rui,” she called out his name, and as he turned to look at her, she reached out and touched his white face, teasingly rubbing it.

While Chen Rui was still processing what had just happened, Sun Yutan laughed and quickly ran away.

Thinking he wouldn’t dare to give chase, she assumed that Chen Rui would be preoccupied with washing his face. However, Sun Yutan was taken aback by his incredible speed and agility, as he moved like a sleek leopard, chasing after her with ease.

“Are you looking for trouble?” Chen Rui grabbed her waist with one hand and held her hands. “I think you’re just itching for a fight.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Whenever this happened, Sun Yutan would quickly bend her waist and plead, “I’m really sorry, Chen Rui, I won’t do it again.” Although she said so, she couldn’t resist rubbing his nose with her finger, turning Chen Rui’s usually cold and stoic face into that of a silly cat.

Her laughter rang out arrogantly, and Chen Rui responded by pinching her neck, a mischievous glint in his eyes. Without thinking, he leaned in and rubbed his cheek heavily against hers. Sun Yutan couldn’t dodge and was covered in his rubbing. Now the two of them were like two peas in a pod.

Staring at him incredulously, Sun Yutan couldn’t help but retort, “You’re so childish and petty!”

But Chen Rui lowered his head and kissed her.

Sun Yutan said, “My mother is upstairs watching, you know.”

Chen Rui immediately let her go and turned around. The curved balcony on the second floor was empty, with no one in sight.

Sun Yutan stood before Chen Rui, her hand tucked behind her back as she tilted her head and smiled. Her face was covered in a mixture of ash and white, making her look both funny and cute at the same time. “Chen Rui, how can you be so good at deceiving people?” 

“Because you’re a fool,” Chen Rui said.

“You’re the fool,” Sun Yutan pulled him to the outdoor sink in the porch.

Chen Rui rolled up the sleeves of her down jacket and carefully took hold of her hands, gently washing them in the warm water. After cleaning her hands, he sprinkled some water over her face to help wash away the dirt. Sun Yutan obediently bent down, closed her eyes, and allowed him to clean her face. Chen Rui’s touch was light and delicate. The sensation was so comforting and soothing that Sun Yutan couldn’t help but lean closer, feeling as if she were a spring bubbling up with newfound energy.

The warm winter sun slowly climbed up, and the shadows of the eaves were about to retreat to their feet.

Sun Yutan stood in front of Chen Rui, carefully wiping his face.

“Close your eyes.”

“No.” He looked at her, and there were still water droplets on both of their faces.

“Let’s see who blinks first.”

“No need.” He kissed her.

The cozy living room was filled with the joyful atmosphere of the Lunar New Year’s Eve celebration. The elders were engrossed in watching the televised gala, while the adults were enjoying a heated game of mahjong. Meanwhile, Sun Yutan, Chen Rui, and Zhuo Zhan were huddled together on the soft carpet, engrossed in a game of “Train Solitaire” using a deck of cards.

The distant sounds of fireworks and firecrackers occasionally drifted in, but the warm and happy atmosphere within the living room remained undisturbed.

Sun Yutan, true to her mischievous nature, enjoyed teasing the young Zhuo Zhan, slowing down her movements deliberately to prolong the game. With a playful expression, she urged Chen Rui to play his card, much to the frustration of Zhuo Zhan who jumped up in anger. Chen Rui couldn’t help but tease the little boy, “You’re such a boring opponent.”

“Big Sister is so mean.” Zhuo Zhan opened his eyes wide and stared at the cards, afraid of missing anything.

“When I was your age, I was ‘spoiled’ by brothers and sisters. It won’t do for you to be any less spoiled,” said the Big Sister.

“Hmph.” Zhuo Zhan didn’t fall for it. He was so serious about the game that Chen Rui was letting him win. Sun Yutan’s fun was all in teasing him. In the end, he emerged victorious, with more cards in his hand than anyone else. He couldn’t contain his pride and made a face at Sun Yutan before running off to play games happily.

That night, Xiao Zhan also received a big red envelope from Brother Chen Rui, who was fast becoming his favorite.

Before going to bed, Sun Yutan sneaked into Chen Rui’s room.

Her family did not have the tradition of staying up late on New Year’s Eve. They went to sleep when they were tired. The heavy curtains made it impossible to see anything inside the room. In the darkness, she quietly pushed open the door.

Chen Rui’s flashlight shone over. She closed the door and squatted by his bed.

“Come up,” Chen Rui beckoned.

“No.” It was easy to fall asleep on the bed. Her voice was a bit excited. “Touch under the pillow, is there anything there?”

Chen Rui found three red envelopes. “As expected,” Sun Yutan said, “Don’t be surprised. In our family, as long as you’re not married, you can get a red envelope.”

“Then you have to cherish it while you can.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing, are you coming up or not?”

“Nope.” She pulled his hand and checked the condition of his back hand. At the dinner table earlier, amidst the hustle and bustle, she had accidentally spilled a cup of hot sweet wine. In a flash, Chen Rui had sprung into action, swiftly pulling her and the chair away with one hand, while blocking her from harm with the other. 

The entire table had fallen into stunned silence, but Sun Yutan had quickly jumped up and taken him to cool his hand with water. Although there were no visible blisters, his skin had turned red and remained that way for the rest of the night.

“It doesn’t hurt.” He grabbed her hand from behind and didn’t let go.

“Do you want to see the fireworks or not?”

“Where should we go to watch?”

“We’ll steal someone else’s spot to watch from.”

She wriggled free from him and walked over to the window. She drew the curtain to reveal a dazzling sky outside the glass. Against the backdrop of the deep blue night sky, countless clusters of light soared upwards, bursting into magnificent fireworks before descending gently like shooting stars.

Sun Yutan leaned on Chen Rui’s pillow and asked him if it was good. Chen Rui looked at her and said it was just okay.

“Are you talking about the fireworks or me?”

“I’m talking about you.”

Sun Yutan leaned closer and pressed her lips to his, “Is it better now?”


She kissed him again, their lips locked in a long and tender embrace. “And now?”

“A little better.” He smiled and pulled her neck towards him for a deeper kiss.

As the second day of the lunar new year dawned, Sun Yutan and her family made their way back to their hometown of Shaocheng. While Sun Ping and his wife busied themselves with work at the supermarket, Sun Yutan found herself with nothing to do at home. Determined to stave off boredom, she led Chen Rui up to the attic to take a look at her collection of treasures.

Seated cross-legged on a cushion, Sun Yutan pointed out various items to Chen Rui. “This row of Dragon Ball comics,” she explained, “was bought with hard-earned money from my parents. I was absolutely obsessed with it at the time. And this stack of Detective Conan volumes was a birthday gift from a brother. I used to sit here and read for hours on end, losing track of time until it was dark outside and I had fallen asleep.”

Chen Rui seemed somewhat preoccupied, lost in his own thoughts. Sun Yutan nudged him sharply in the thigh, irritation evident in her voice. “Are you even listening, Chen Rui?”

“Hmm,” Chen Rui mumbled absentmindedly. “What’s in those boxes up there?” he asked, pointing upwards.

Sun Yutan stood before the wooden shelf, her eyes scanning over the rows of boxes arranged haphazardly by size. Memories of times long gone flitted through her mind, but she struggled to recall their contents. With a gentle hand, she reached out and retrieved one of the larger boxes, her fingers tracing over the smooth surface before she lifted the lid.

A sudden gasp escaped her lips as she peered inside, her eyes widening in recognition. It was a gift from a friend, given to her upon graduating from primary school.

Chen Rui wanted to take a look, but Sun Yutan held the box close to her chest, unwilling to let him peer inside. There were some memories that were too embarrassing to share.

Chen Rui teased her, “Sun Yutan, you don’t even spare elementary school students?”

“What are you talking about?” Sun Yutan pushed the class album down. “What do elementary school students know, anyway? And besides, who doesn’t have a few rumors about a crush in elementary school? Don’t tell me you didn’t.” She closed the box and put it back, not daring to open any more boxes.

As her gaze swept over the rest of the boxes, she noticed a small black velvet box nestled in the corner. “What’s in here?” She couldn’t remember and walked closer to take it in her hand. But instead of opening it, her heart began to race.

“Open it,” Chen Rui’s voice came from behind her.

She turned around and looked at him. Chen Rui’s eyes met hers, and she felt a sudden rush of warmth flood through her. He dropped to one knee, taking her hand in his own and pulling out a ring

“Marry me.”

In the soft morning light that filtered through the triangular window, everything seemed to slow down. The world faded away, leaving only Chen Rui and the ring in front of her. Sun Yutan was struck by how handsome he looked in his suit, the subtle gold threads on his cuff catching the light and accentuating the play of light and shadow.

Sun Yutan bent down and sat cross-legged, looking at the ring on his hand for a while. “When did you buy it?”

“A long time ago.” So long that he thought he would never use it.

But at this moment, he didn’t feel like reminiscing about the past. He pulled her closer instead.

“So will you marry me or not?”

In fact, he had rehearsed his proposal speech, but Sun Yutan dodged the question, leaving him in agony, and he forgot everything except being stubborn.

“So fierce?” Sun Yutan pretended to be arrogant, trying to withdraw her hand. “Then I’ll have to think about it.”

Chen Rui grabbed her hand and didn’t let go. “I think you take pleasure in torturing me.”

Sun Yutan moved closer to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She whispered in his ear, “I love you,” before trying to pull away.

But Chen Rui wasn’t ready to let her go just yet. He held her waist tightly, his eyes fixed on hers. “Say it again.”

Sun Yutan laughed. “Who’s proposing here?”

Chen Rui laughed too, kissing her hand before looking up at her with a serious expression. “I love you, Sun Yutan,” he said. “Will you marry me? I’m begging you.”

This time, it was a proper proposal. Sun Yutan’s heart swelled with happiness as she looked at him. “Okay,” she said softly, her eyes shining with love. “I will marry you.”


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