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Dinner time had morphed into a sort of informal meeting. Around the TV, potatoes in hand, everyone discussed upcoming actions and plans.
Lin Feng harbored a hope, a silent wish that Yan Aoxue would walk with him on the path ahead. His feelings for her, although consistently buried, hadn’t wavered.
Yan Aoxue, her eyebrows subtly furrowed, turned away after a single, resigned bite of her potato cake. She sighed, setting the food aside.
“Why? Don’t you want to come with me?”
Lin Feng’s grip tightened around his chopsticks as he gazed at Yan Aoxue, donning the clothes that she had modified for him, his tail poking out and languidly drooping onto the floor.
Yan Aoxue bit her lip, uttering a single word before setting her utensils down and exiting the room.
Staring at the barely touched potato cake, a melancholic twinge nudged Lin Feng’s heart. He took a gentle bite.
Contact with his parents had been lost, and he needed to find them. Yet, a piece of him wanted Yan Aoxue there too, to meet his parents. Lin Feng was mystified by the persistent distance between them, sensing that while Yan Aoxue cared for him, she simultaneously maintained a level of remoteness.
Never having experienced romance, Lin Feng didn’t know how to verbalize the emotions swirling within him. His downturned ears and motionless tail visibly mirrored his internal desolation.
“Hit a romantic snag, did we? Hey, young man, don’t toss in the towel just yet. Where’s that gusto?”
The doctor, wrapping her arms around Lin Feng from behind, elicited a wave of blush across his cheeks.
“No… Doctor, what are you on about?” Lin Feng, feeling the press of her and a wave of boozy breath, waved his hand, attempting to shoo away the potent scent.
“Mm~ That girl, she’s carrying something heavy, wouldn’t you say? Despite her amicable demeanor, there’s a subtle distance, isn’t there? If you could unearth whatever’s weighing her down, perhaps you might weave a path into her heart~”
A gentle nip at Lin Feng’s ear, and the school doctor, evidently quite content, let out a satisfying belch, promptly nestling into slumber on his back.
“Hey… hey, Doctor!” Lin Feng’s words were layered with both a morsel of irritation and a dash of resignation. “Really, hitting the bottle right at dinner? If I’d known, I wouldn’t have brought back any booze for you.” With the doctor draped over him, he awkwardly chuckled under Song Zhe’s wordless, judgmental stare, and, arms firmly around her, navigated towards her bedroom. Her persistent pleas for beer had been just too tough to rebuff, after all.
As Lin Feng, cradling the lightly snoring doctor, navigated through the corridor to the dormitory she shared with Liu Mengqi, he nudged the door open with a shoulder. Though the doctor was not notably heavy, the boozy scent wafting from her was becoming overwhelmingly unpleasant.
“Lin! Lin Feng!” Yan Aoxue hastily adjusted her top, cheeks tinted with a mild blush as she took in the unexpected sight of Lin Feng entering.
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“Ah… I’m so sorry,” Lin Feng found himself stammering, slightly at a loss as he watched Yan Aoxue surreptitiously slide a bra beneath the covers while clutching her top.
“It’s… it’s okay. Regarding what you said earlier…”
Glimpsing Yan Aoxue’s delicately pale collarbone, Lin Feng took an involuntary swallow.
“Right… um, the doctor’s drunk again,” he mumbled, diverting his attention and easing the doctor out of her white coat, before tucking her gently into bed. It was becoming a familiar routine: the doctor finding alcohol—her newfound vent for pent-up stress—and drinking herself into a stupor each night at dinner.
Lin Feng invariably ended up being the one to carry her back and tuck her into bed. Every time, even in her ostensibly drunken state, the doctor would miraculously find him just moments before succumbing to slumber. Lin Feng was beginning to suspect that she wasn’t genuinely drunk but simply too lazy to trek back to the dormitory on her own.
“Yan Aoxue, could we have a talk?” After ensuring the doctor was settled, Lin Feng’s mind flitted back to the words she’d previously whispered to him. His question, poised in the soft glow of the candlelight, lingered gently in the room.