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Hold On (Let Me Go)

Chapter Text

The red faded from her eyes, something metal clattering on the ground next to her.

“Eh?” Qiao Ling muttered, mind struggling to understand the scene in front of her.

“Lu Guang!” Something shoved her to the side. Cheng Xiaoshi hovered his hands over the wound, hesitating as the blood continued to seep out and stain the white jacket.

“Qiao Ling. Qiao Ling! Call the ambulance!” Xiaoshi yelled in desperation as he pushed his hands against Lu Guang in a futile attempt to staunch the bleeding.

Qiao Ling snapped out of her stupor, opened her phone and typed in 1 2 0. She waited for a few tense seconds as the call rung before-

“Ambulance. What is your emergency?” A voice came through the phone.

“M-My friend collapsed on the couch in front of me. He’s bleeding out and unconscious.”

Cheng Xiaoshi continued to apply pressure to the wound, breath shuddering as he watched the blood bubble up past his fingers. Lu Guang faintly moaned in pain but did not move, too weak as he lay still on the couch. 

Sirens grew closer as red and blue flashed across the walls, yet the sound was unable to drown out the piercing silence that had overtaken Xiaoshi. He felt disconnected from his body, almost watching as a bystander, numb as his hands were gently moved away.

An unfamiliar face swam into his vision, blocking his view of Lu Guang being surrounded by paramedics. When had he been moved to the chair? Cheng Xiaoshi ignored the person, tuning out their voice and instead looked down at his hands, covered in red.

Red like blood.




 

 

 

Red like the eyes.







 

 

 

 

 

Red

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His vision narrowed in on itself, edges growing fuzzy. He wheezed and stuttered as he fought to take in his next breath while his chest constricted. His body trembled and fear coursed through his veins. Xiaoshi’s mouth grew dry as he started to feel lightheaded as if he was about to collapse.

“Sir!” A voice cut in through the haziness, Xiaoshi gaining awareness of his shoulders being shaken lightly. “Focus on my voice.”

Xiaoshi blinked as he processed the words, vaguely aware of Lu Guang being loaded onto a stretcher behind the person in front of him. He nodded.

“Take some deep breaths for me.” His breath hitched as he became uncomfortably aware of his breathing. The paramedic in front of him exaggerated their breath for Xiaoshi to mimic.

Breathe in, two, three, four, release, two, three, four.

The trembling slowly faded and the edges of his vision became clear once more. With Xiaoshi in a calmer state, the paramedic began to move away but was stopped by Cheng Xiaoshi grasping onto the sleeve, preventing them from moving further and grabbing their attention.

“C-can you take me with him?” Xiaoshi pleaded, voice hitching as he looked up at the paramedic. They seemed to hesitate before giving him a short nod and removing his hand from their sleeve. Xiaoshi moved to stand, stumbling as the leftover adrenaline left his legs shaky like a newborn foal. He reached out and grasped the armrest of the chair and propped himself up, waiting till he gained his strength before trailing behind the paramedics.

Cheng Xiaoshi made his way into the ambulance, directed towards one of the seats next to Lu Guang’s stretcher by one of the paramedics. He watched Lu Guang’s face closely and observed the slight movement of his chest as he breathed. On his face sat an oxygen mask that fogged up with each rise and fall of his lungs. 

Xiaoshi sat unaware of the trip as the piercing silence allowed his thoughts to become a storm within his head, struggling to corroborate the recent events with reality. 

He made friends with denial as Lu Guang was transferred onto a gurney and whisked off into a surgery room.

He made friends with guilt as he sat in the waiting room, listening to the faint chatter in the background, assaulted by the bright lights and bland decorations of the clinical environment.


The heart monitor beeped steadily in the background, accompanied by the faint hissing of the oxygen mask. Lu Guang lay silent as he has been for the past few hours, ever since coming out of emergency surgery.

Cheng Xiaoshi sat in a chair beside the hospital bed, deep in thought as he rested his head in his hands. Qiao Ling had left a while ago to clean up the studio, leaving him alone.

“Lu Guang, the doctors said you’ll wake up soon,” Xiaoshi sighed, “They’re just not sure when. You barely survived.” 

He fell silent, guilt wracking his body as he stared down into his hands. His mind flashed back to the image of Emma throwing herself off the bridge, his inability to catch her. Xiaoshi’s hands shook.

“I couldn’t… save anyone,” Xiaoshi sobbed, hand reaching out to grab onto Lu Guang, “Not you, not Emma.”

Tears flowed slowly down his face as he bowed his head in sorrow, trying to find hope in the steady heartbeat that proved Lu Guang was still alive. Xiaoshi reached up to wipe the tears away with his sleeve, berating himself for his weakness.

The clock on the wall steadily ticked as the end of the visiting hours began to draw near.

“...Qiao Ling was questioned by the police while you were in surgery. We didn’t press charges, of course, but… I think she feels guilty. I’m not good with things like this, Lu Guang. I don’t know how to help her.” Cheng Xiaoshi looked up at Lu Guang’s sleeping face. He seemed almost peaceful, unaware of his brush with death.

“I wish you were awake.”

Xiaoshi fell silent. He stared at the white tiles on the ceiling with blinding lights. The whole room seemed too… sterilised. Lu Guang almost seemed to blend in with the room, skin appearing paler than it usually was. 

His musings were interrupted by a nurse knocking on the door, “Sir, visiting hours are almost over. Please leave soon.”

“Okay,” Xiaoshi nodded in reply. He turned away from the nurse and looked back at Lu Guang.

“See you tomorrow then.” And with that, Cheng Xiaoshi stood up and stretched, having not moved from his seat ever since he’d been let into the room. He made his way towards the door and, looking back at Lu Guang one more time, he closed the door behind himself and made his way out of the hospital. 

Back to home.

 

 

How lonely he felt, turning his back on Lu Guang.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Qiao Ling slowly removed the knife from Lu Guang’s stomach, letting him slump over the couch as she turned to Cheng Xiaoshi. Her red eyes bore into Xiaoshi while Lu Guang stained the couch.

“Q-Qiao… Ling?” Xiaoshi stuttered. He couldn’t breathe.

Qiao Ling smirked, eyes dancing with deranged mirth as Lu Guang’s blood streamed down the couch, discolouring the wooden floor. Iron filled the air as Xiaoshi’s surroundings grew darker, blood rushing through the room and covering his shoes. He tried to lift his foot but was met with resistance, almost as if the floor was made of glue.

“The game. Restarts. Now.”

The blood rushed upwards, covering Xiaoshi and dragging him down into the depths. He closed his eyes in fear as he drowned, opening them only when he heard a rushing river in the distance. Wind waved past his clothes and the sun shone down on him, not a single cloud to be seen. In front of him stood Emma, on the other side of the safety barricade.

Xiaoshi gasped before rushing towards Emma, who had started to fall over the edge. He grasped onto her hand, momentarily halting her fall before he too felt himself start to fall. The river rushed towards Xiaoshi while Emma grabbed onto Xiaoshi and reached for his neck.

“Why didn’t you save me!?” She screamed, tears falling from her eyes. Her hands scratched at Xiaoshi, ripping his clothes and drawing blood. Her vengeful face was the last thing he saw before he felt himself crash into the river. 

A piercing silence surrounded Cheng Xiaoshi as he floated in a void, unable to tell up from down or if his eyes were open. Any noise he attempted to make was swallowed up by the darkness.

“This is all your fault,” came a faint call from the distance, “You didn’t try hard enough.”

“Lu Guang?” Xiaoshi called out, surprised to find that his voice worked.

“How could you be so selfish!” Another voice shouted from behind Cheng Xiaoshi. He turned around, only to be met with nothing.

“Why didn’t you listen to me!”

“I-I tried!” Xiaoshi pleaded.

“You didn’t try hard enough.”

“N-no.” Cheng Xiaoshi cried weakly, putting his hands over his ears in an attempt to block out the voices.

“You always mess everything up! You’re the reason for Emma’s death! You should’ve been the one to die instead!”

“Please! I’m sorry !” Xiaoshi’s voice rang out in the emptiness, eyes shut tight. He stood panting in the darkness for a moment, hearing nothing in return. 

Slowly, he opened his eyes to see Qiao Ling standing in front of him, knife in hand and eyes as red as blood. She smiled sweetly as the red faded from her eyes; a soft giggle as she stabbed the knife into her stomach. Red seeped through her clothing as Qiao Ling fell to her knees, head bowed. Her shoulders shook softly before she threw her head back and laughed maniacally, causing Xiaoshi to stumble backwards.

Her laughter soon died out, however, replaced by the sound of liquid dripping onto the floor as she slumped to the side, body growing still. The smell of rust overwhelmed Xiaoshi’s senses.

Cheng Xiaoshi’s breath hitched as he stared at Qiao Ling’s silent body, paralysed yet screaming inside. He hesitantly looked down at his feet and there he stood, in a lake of blood. The dying corpses of Emma, Lu Guang, Qiao Ling and various other clients surrounding him. Lifeless eyes stared at him, holding accusations deep within them. Iron stained his mouth as he fought against a wave of panic that threatened to drown him.

Cheng Xiaoshi found himself drawn into the eyes of Lu Guang, who lay lifeless across from him. Xiaoshi sucked in a breath. 

He screamed.

Cheng Xiaoshi shot up in his bed, clasping his hands tightly on the blanket as he fought for his breath, heavy gasps forcing their way in and out as his heartbeat rapidly in his chest. He wondered why Lu Guang hadn’t already called out to him as he usually would have. Xiaoshi began to cry out for Lu Guang before he stopped, chest constricting impossibly more.

Oh. He wasn’t here.

Xiaoshi felt tears well up in his eyes as he took in a sharp breath. He reached out for his phone in a desperate attempt to distract himself from his lonely and cold reality. The light from the phone screen blinded him momentarily as he lay on his side. Xiaoshi opened up WeChat and clicked on Qiao Ling’s profile. He hesitated for a moment, noting how early it was, before shooting her a quick text.

Cheng Xiaoshi closed his phone and stared up at the underside of the upper bunk. He sighed deeply before directing his thoughts back to his nightmare. He recalled the message he had sent to Emma’s parents in her place, a misguided attempt that caused her death. Guilt continued to course through Xiaoshi. Maybe, he thought hesitantly, maybe he could visit Emma’s family. To give them closure regarding the death of their daughter.

Xiaoshi sighed as weariness settled into his bones. He would face this in the morning. For now, he was too tired to think clearly.


Cheng Xiaoshi looked outside the window and watched as the mountains whizzed past, blurring the scenery into streaks of colours. The weather seemed almost too bright for the turmoil that brewed deep within Xiaoshi, holding tight onto the anxieties surrounding the trip.

He looked down at his phone and exhaled heavily through his nose. Qiao Ling still hadn’t replied to his text. Maybe she was still asleep? So much has happened in the last few days that he wouldn’t blame her if she decided to sleep in. If anything, it would do her some good.

The train announced the next stop, prompting Cheng Xiaoshi to stand up and make his way to the exit to get off. He followed the path he recognised from the memories he saw while he was in Emma’s body, watching as the buildings and roads grew less and less, blending into nature. 

Time seemed to drag on with how anxious Xiaoshi felt, expecting the worst out of the encounter. However, it still felt like too soon when he arrived at the door of the familiar house. He took a breath to calm his nerves and reached out a hand to knock on the door softly. Xiaoshi continued to control his breathing in an attempt to calm his nerves as he stepped back and waited for the door to open.

The door opened up to reveal Emma’s mother.

“Who’s at the door?” Emma’s father asked as he came around the corner. The pair looked towards Cheng Xiaoshi curiously.

“Ah, I’m Cheng Xiaoshi. I’m… someone who knew your daughter.”

The parents gasp in shock, “what?”

“I made a selfish decision,” Xiaoshi continued, “I’m the one who convinced Emma to visit you both. A decision which caused her to die.”

The couple glanced at each other with worry before looking back at Xiaoshi as he begins to speak again. “All I wanted was for Emma to be happy but instead, she was kidnapped.” He looked into their eyes and took a breath before persisting. “I was there with her on the bridge.”

Emma’s mother covered her mouth, stunned by the revelation.

“I tried so hard to convince Emma not to jump. Eventually, she stepped towards me but…”

He had failed.

“I wasn’t enough.” Xiaoshi looked down in shame, hands shaking. “She jumped and I couldn’t stop her. I’m sorry. I- S-sorry.” Tears welled up in his eyes and his shoulders shook silently. He fought back his sobs and shut his eyes in an attempt to quell the tears.

Cheng Xiaoshi repeated his apologies over and over until he felt a soft touch on his shoulder. He looked up in surprise, only to be greeted with the watery yet warm smile from Emma’s mother. She rubbed her hand on Xiaoshi’s shoulder in small circles, attempting to give a soft comfort.

“Thank you, Xiaoshi. You tried to give our daughter happiness and you tried to save her. We couldn’t thank you enough for what you did for our daughter.” Xiaoshi began to shake his head softly, unable to trust her words. “What happened to her wasn’t your fault.”

The warmth of her voice made Xiaoshi cry harder as he looked to the ground, unable to meet the parents’ eyes as his tears fell to the ground. The trio stood there for a moment until Emma’s father drew Xiaoshi into a hug, whispering a quiet, “Thank you.”

The tender hug lasted until Cheng Xiaoshi began to calm down, sniffling occasionally. Emma’s parents pulled back and Xiaoshi mourned the loss of warmth, missing it already.

“Would you like to come in,“ Emma’s father offered.

“Thank you, but no,” Xiaoshi forced a smile, “I have somewhere else to go.” He took a step back and gave a short wave before quickly retreating, turning around before Emma’s parents could get in a word. The pair stared from the doorway, worried for the stranger but hesitant to call out, instead entering the house.

Cheng Xiaoshi walked away conflicted, distrustful of the reassuring statements. Why did they not blame him? He pondered on their actions as he made his way back to the train station, coming to the conclusion that Emma’s parents didn’t understand how his selfishness played an integral role in the death of their daughter. 


Xiaoshi stepped off the train, looking at the unanswered text he had sent to Qiao Ling earlier in the day. She should definitely be awake by now so either she was ignoring him or… something had happened to her.

Cheng Xiaoshi felt his breath begin to quicken as he became stuck in searching for the worst possible scenario. His mind went into overdrive with panic as he thought back to a red-eyed Qiao Ling standing over Lu Guang. Had the entity come back to finish her off?

Adrenaline rushed through his veins as he ran in the direction of Qiao Ling’s home, darting down the streets and rounding corners at breakneck speeds, barely avoiding passersby. His lungs strained to keep up with the pace but still, he persevered, refusing to slow down for a second.

He rushed to Qiao Ling’s door and rapidly knocked in quick succession, shifting on the spot as he waited anxiously for her to answer. Each second dragged on like an eternity, fear building with each silent second. His thoughts continued to spiral, imagining the scene that would greet him if he had to force his way in. He raised a hand to knock again, only to be interrupted by the sound of a lock unlatching from the door. Relief flooded Cheng Xiaoshi, rendering him weak on his knees.

Qiao Ling greeted Xiaoshi, standing halfway behind the door, almost as if she was trying to hide, but otherwise perfectly fine. He felt almost silly for worrying so much.

“Uh, hey Qiao Ling. You… didn’t answer my text,” He said awkwardly. It felt as if something had broken between them, their relationship fractured and torn with Lu Guang by their side.

Qiao Ling gave a pained smile before replying, “I’ve just been a bit tired today, catching up with all the work that has been building up these past few days. Sorry for worrying you.” She shifted uncomfortably, refusing to look Xiaoshi in the eyes.

He opened his mouth to reply but was quickly interrupted. “Look, I’m pretty busy right now. We can talk another time.”

“Qiao Ling, wai-” He was cut off by the sound of the door closing in his face, leaving Xiaoshi feeling wrong-footed. He felt shocked and slighted by Qiao Ling’s cold reaction, wondering if he had wronged her somehow. Maybe she blamed him for what happened to Lu Guang. That seemed to be the most likely scenario.

He raised a hand to knock on the door again before hesitating. She obviously didn’t want to see him at the moment. Xiaoshi lowered his arm and turned away with a sigh, trudging through the streets back to the photo studio.

Unbeknownst to him, on the other side of the doorway, Qiao Ling sat with her back against the door, phone in hand. On the screen was Xiaoshi’s text message which still remained unanswered. Her body shook with silent shudders as she sobbed into her hand, guilt and fear battling inside her.

After what she did to Lu Guang, there was no way she was going to let Xiaoshi near her. Not when whoever stole her body was still out there.

Chapter Text

“Xiaoyu, help Mama take a quick picture!” The woman said as she pulled out her phone, much to the dismay of her son.

“But Mum!” The boy whined as he watched the ice cream start to melt and drip down the side of the cone, quickly losing its shape in the heat of the summer sun.

“Aiyah, don’t rush Mama,” she chided, handing her phone over as he resigned himself to his mother’s whims and quickly took an amateur picture. Li Yuxi quickly sent the image to her friends on WeChat before placating her son, “There, all done.” And with that, her son finally got his hands on the prize. A scoop of ice cream that he’d been waiting all day to have.

The pair continued down the mostly empty street, the woman typing away on the phone while she walked and the son happily enjoying his treat. After a few moments, she noticed the missing presence of her son beside her and turned to look down the street in worry. Standing a few paces away was her son, staring at the floor where his ice cream lay melted, the remaining cone hanging empty in his hand.

“Haoyu! What did you do!” The mother cried out as she stalked towards her son in anger. Her son didn’t react, still staring silently at the pink mixture that continued to spread across the brick tiles. The woman called out his name again as she drew closer, this time out of concern for his lack of reply.

The boy looked up at his mother as she arrived in front of him, eyes closed and smiling innocently, “Sorry Mum! I accidentally tripped.”

The mother sighed, both in relief and guilt over her reaction. “Come, I’ll get you ice cream another time. We’re in a hurry.” She grabbed his hand and dragged him along.

A sharp pain hit the back of her throat. She choked.

The object pulled out and she collapsed, unable to breathe as splatters of blood coughed from her mouth. She raised her hands to her throat, shaking in a desperate attempt to keep the blood inside somehow. She searched hopelessly for her son, only to meet brightly shining red eyes with a sadistic grin.

That wasn’t her son.

The boy raised the bloody knife in his hand and slit his throat. The red faded from his eyes, becoming the soft brown of her son. He was dead before he hit the floor.

The mother reached weakly out to her son, tears running down her face as she continued to choke, unable to breathe. Her hand fell short and she lay still, blood continuing to flow from her wound as her eyes lost their shine.


“Welcome to the Shiguang Photo Studio.” The bell at the door rang as two men entered the store, causing Xiaoshi to look up from where he stood behind the counter, wiping clean various camera lenses. He started to greet the customers routinely before stopping short when he recognised the men.

“Xiao Li? Chen Bin? What are you doing here?” Xiaoshi questioned. Were they here to question him again?

“Official business,” Xiao Li replied as Chen Bin placed an unopened yellow envelope on the counter. “You’ve been tied to a murder.”

Xiaoshi turned pale, “What!?”

“Two victims. Murder-suicide. Thirty-four-year-old woman with a thirteen-year-old son. Your name was found at the scene with a message,” Xiao Li listed, placing a photo onto the counter. Xiaoshi observed the purple flowers, his eyes trailing down the stem until he reached an attached note. ‘To Cheng Xiaoshi, you haven’t forgotten me, have you?’ His eyes widened as he emitted a strangled sound, eyes darting back to Xiao Li.

Xiao Li met Xiaoshi with a stern stare, “I would like you to join the police in solving the case. I want you to go into the pictures in the envelope and find any useful information.”

“But-” Xiaoshi began to protest before being interrupted by Xiao Li lifting a hand to stop him.

“Don’t forget that you and Qiao Ling are still being investigated as suspects in Lu Guang’s case,” Xiao Li leaned onto the counter, “but if you help out, any charges could be lessened or even thrown out. Do you want to put Qiao Ling at risk?”

Xiaoshi shook his head, mind in turmoil as he stuttered, “I- I-”

“Think about it. Contact Chen Bin with your answer. Soon.” Xiao Li turned around and waved as Chen Bin followed. Cheng Xiaoshi looked down at the camera lens he had been wiping, conflicted. There wasn’t much he could do without Lu Guang guiding him. His mind flashed to Emma falling off the bridge. What if he made another irreversible mistake?

He looked at the unopened envelope still on the counter which undoubtedly contained the files about the case. Xiaoshi couldn’t bring himself to open it, fearful of what could be contained inside. Instead, he placed it on the coffee table in front of the couch that had been replaced. There had been no saving it from the stains.

Deciding to try and take his mind off the situation, he headed into the darkroom, intending to finish developing the photos left by the last client. Following the complex steps, first submerging the film into a developing solution, Xiaoshi attempted to switch off his brain but was unable to as thoughts flew wildly within his mind. His mind jumped from situation to situation, imagining all the mistakes and consequences that could arise from working on the case. His thoughts became further jumbled as Xiaoshi thought back to the still ongoing case surrounding the stabbing of Lu Guang.

Was he willing to risk it?

Cheng Xiaoshi quickly rolled the films into several protective cases, keeping the rolls safe until he returned. He couldn’t efficiently work with his mind under stress. Resolving himself, Xiaoshi stepped out of the shop and locked the door, closing for the day, before he made his way in the direction of the hospital.

Maybe talking to Lu Guang would help clear his mind.


A rapid knocking interrupted Qiao Ling from the spreadsheets of numbers that were slowly melting her brain. She closed the laptop and answered the door cautiously to see Xu Shanshan smiling brightly at her.

“Hey Qiao Ling, it’s been a while! I’ve been worried about you,” she greeted, lifting up a plastic bag she held in her hand, “I bought food!”

“Oh, I’ve just been busy catching up with work,” Qiao Ling smiled in response, “You know me, always obsessed with numbers.” She laughed awkwardly, intensely aware of Shanshan’s searching gaze.

“Bullshit. Let me in,” she demanded.

“Ah, sorry Shanshan, I’m still busy with work. I-”

“Nope. No excuses, A-Ling,” Xu Shanshan cut her off.

Dodging past Qiao Ling and stepping past the threshold, she made her way to the kitchen, searching in the fridge while talking. “No one’s seen your face recently,” she said as she pulled a tub of ice cream from the freezer, “So I took the initiative to go visit you.” She shut the fridge and made her way to the living room. Qiao Ling stood by the door, arms wrapped around herself as she watched her friend invade her house.

Xu Shanshan took no notice of her silence and puttered off to the closet, pulling out several blankets and pillows that had been hidden away. “I think you’ve had enough time alone anyway,” she stated, throwing the blankets and pillows onto the couch and setting the ice cream down on the coffee table. She continued to organise the covers meticulously before standing back and nodding proudly at her work.

“Come,” Shanshan instructed, walking over to her friend and pulling her to the nest of blankets and pillows she had created, “Start talking. What’s wrong?”

The two sat in silence for a few moments as Qiao Ling anxiously fiddled with her hands. She opened and closed her mouth several times before finally settling on, “Nothing is wrong, Shanshan.”

“Stop lying to me. Something is obviously wrong. Talk to me, A-Ling. I want to help,” she pleaded.

“I…” She hesitated.

“Please, I want to help you,” Shanshan said, resting a hand on her shoulder, extending a physical lifeline for her grasp.

Qiao Ling broke. Her feelings held behind a fragile glass wall burst forth in sobs. Xu Shanshan gathered her up in a hug, letting her cry on her shoulder as she rubbed her back. The only sound in the room was the sound of Qiao Ling’s heart-wrenching sobs that tore at Xu Shanshan.

After an indeterminable amount of time, Ling began to calm down, her breathing evening out into occasional shaky breaths. She pulled back from the hug and wiped the remaining tears from her eyes, yearning still for the warmth of the hug.

“Sorry,” she apologised. Xu Shanshan didn’t reply, knowing it was Qiao Ling’s turn to talk.

“I… I can’t stop thinking about what happened to Lu Guang,” she explained, “my mind keeps flashing back to that night.”

“Lu Guang is strong. He’ll be up and about in no time.”

“I know he is. It’s just… I feel so guilty.”

“Don’t be stupid. Why would you feel guilty? You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“That’s the thing! I couldn’t do anything. I was useless. I wasn’t strong enough.” Qiao Ling looked away, unable to bear looking Xu Shanshan in the eyes.

“Hey, look at me,” Shanshan grabbed her shoulder, “There wasn’t anything you could’ve done to change what happened. I don’t know the details about what happened that night but I know you, Qiao Ling. I know you tried your best to help. You were able to save him. You called for help. Don’t undermine yourself, Qiao Ling.” She sighed before continuing, “You can’t keep blaming yourself. Let us in, A-Ling.”

Ling laughed bitterly, “I don’t think letting anyone in is going to fix anything.”

“Isolating yourself won’t do anything either. You can’t heal from what happened alone.” Xu Shanshan hesitated, taking a deep breath to steady herself before continuing. “And you can’t leave Cheng Xiaoshi alone either. He was there with you that night. He needs you just as much as you need him, Qiao Ling.”

“I know,” she replied, hanging her head in remorse. Her actions had consequences on others as well.

“Talk to him, A-Ling. Don’t hide away from him.”

“I will. I promise.”

“Now,” Shanshan opened the tub of ice cream she had grabbed and offered Qiao Ling a spoon, “let’s watch a movie. I think you deserve some you time.”