Wei Ying eventually calmed down after a while, though he hiccuped with sobs from time to time. Jiang Yanli was still running her fingers through his hair as Lan Zhan explained to her and the others what happened before and after he came home. He also told them about his other injuries, the exam at the hospital, and the interrogation from the police.
Wei Ying listened quietly with his eyes closed. All of the crying had made him feel exhausted again. However, another part of him was relieved that his family didn't hate him.
Madam Yu didn't seem to either. Not as far as he could tell, anyhow. She had been unusually silent since she had requested him to tell everyone about the incident. This amazed him; he expected her to already be halfway through a full-blown tirade.
He opened one of his eyes a little to sneak a peek at her. She was still sitting on the other couch. While she was clearly outraged, she also looked pensive. He wasn't sure if her anger was directed at him or Wen Chao. Hopefully, it was the latter. The last thing he wanted was for her to be upset with him when Wen Chao was the one who had hurt him.
Exhaling deeply, he shut it again.
Lan Zhan finished telling his family his side of the story not long after. Everyone grew quiet as they digested everything. Madam Yu, Uncle Jiang,and Jiang Cheng were still furious, but there was underlying sadness in the latter two's expressions as well. Jiang Yanli continued to look heartbroken.
After a while, Uncle Jiang - who had moved to sit behind his daughter again - placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Thank you for helping A-Ying and being there for him when he needed it, A-Wangji. You don't know how much we appreciate it," the latter remarked.
Lan Zhan nodded.
"Is there anything we can do in the meantime...as far as the police investigation goes?"
"Not that I know of, other than to wait for someone to contact us. After that, we can think of what to do from there," Lan Zhan replied.
Jiang Cheng was glaring at nothing in particular. "I know what I'm going to do in the meantime," he seethed.
"And you better hope for your sake that it doesn't involve tearing out of this house at any point during the next hour or so, unless it is to go to your home after we leave," Madam Yu snapped, speaking for the first time since she looked over Wei Ying's visible injuries.
Wei Ying found himself agreeing with her for once, to his own surprise. He appreciated the fact that his brother desired to beat Wen Chao's ass, but he didn't want him to go to prison for him all the same. That would make him feel even worse about the situation.
"But why not?!" Jiang Cheng protested loudly. "Don't you see what that fucker did to him?! Look at him! He's hurt! How can you expect me to just sit here when that bastard committed this crime against my gege?!"
She scowled fiercely. "I would lower my voice and watch my tone if I were you, boy. You know better than to speak to me like that. That fucker will get what is coming to him either way...and it will be without you shaming our family with your interference! Do you understand me?" she demanded in a threatening voice, her hand inching down to her purple belt.
"Madam Yu. Jiang Wanyin. Please stop and calm down. You are disturbing Wei Ying. And we do not need any more trouble at a time like this," Lan Zhan interrupted in a low, firm voice as Jiang Cheng cringed.
Indeed, Wei Ying had become tense during that exchange. Jiang Yanli rubbed his back to soothe him as they huffed, but did what he said.
She patted his arm when she felt him relax a moment later. "Xianxian? Are you feeling a little better now?"
He just shrugged.
With a hum of understanding, she kissed his forehead. "Can you look at me?" she queried next.
Wei Ying nodded after another minute.
Jiang Yanli brushed away his half-dried tears once he sat up. "I'm so sorry that happened to you, A-Xian, and I am not the only one. You never deserved what you were put through," she whispered. Then a tiny smile spread across her face. "And I want you to know that I am very proud of you. I know it took a lot of courage to tell Lan Zhan-didi what happened instead of keeping it to yourself. And I know it took much more for you to report that poor excuse of a man and seek help."
Uncle Jiang took one of his hands. "I am also proud of you. And I want to thank you for telling us too. I could see how scared you were, but please know that you do not ever have to be afraid of telling us anything again...even if it would make us angry or upset. You know that we will always help you if you need it," he pointed out.
Wei Ying nodded a second time as he wiped his eyes.
Jiang Cheng then walked over to kneel in front of him. "I'm sorry for what I said, about me hoping you didn't start the fight. I wouldn't have if..." he paused, feeling guilty.
"It's okay. You honestly didn't know," the latter mumbled. "But I forgive you, if it helps."
Nodding also, Jiang Cheng embraced him tightly. Wei Ying's heart swelled with warmth as he hugged him back. It wasn't often that his brother did that.
"It's nearly time for dinner," Jiang Yanli announced when they drew apart a moment later. "Zhanzhan-didi, would you mind if I borrowed your kitchen?"
Lan Zhan shook his head. "Of course not. You may use it," he replied.
"Thank you. A-Xian," she went on, turning to him, "I am going to make your favorite: Lotus and pork rib soup."
A wide grin lit up Wei Ying's face for the first time since before his nap. He loved her soup, and the idea of having it overjoyed him no matter how terrible he was feeling. He couldn't help but be somewhat amazed that this time was no exception despite how horrid the occasion was, though.
Jiang Yanli beamed. "There's that smile," she murmured, rubbing the tip of his nose with her finger. She felt relieved. She hated to see him so depressed and hurt. "I will let you know when I am finished making it."
She stood up. "Lan Zhan-didi, can you come with me, please? I want to talk to you."
"Mn. I will be back, Wei Ying."
"Okay," he repeated.
When Jiang Yanli made to pick up the white bag that she had put on the table earlier, Lan Zhan kindly did it for her. She thanked him as they left the room.
"Would you like me to put this on the table? Or would you prefer that I put it on the counter?" he inquired once they were in the kitchen.
"The counter would be fine. Thank you."
After he had set the bag down, Jiang Yanli reached up to give him the hug that she was sure he needed. She knew that he was suffering in silence.
"Are you going to be all right, didi? I know how upsetting all of this must be for you too," she remarked in concern.
Lan Zhan returned the embrace with a heavy sigh. "Mn. I never imagined that something like this would happen to Wei Ying. I do not understand why anyone would want to do that to him. He does not deserve to go through this pain," he murmured.
"No, he doesn't. It kills me to see him hurting like this. It's no wonder he's not himself. And I can tell that he's feeling so lost."
"Mn. He will feel lost and not quite be himself for some time, sadly, even when he receives more help. I will make sure he does."
"I know. All of us will, or we will do what we can. We just have to keep reminding A-Xian that he is not alone, and that we are here to support him, especially when he is feeling otherwise. There will be days where it will feel that way for him. And he is not entirely lost; he is still there. I am sure that even you have seen it. He is just in a lot of pain right now."
Jiang Yanli moved away. "He's so lucky to have you, didi. Like A-Die, I thank you for being here for him and helping him. I don't want to think of how this situation would have turned out if he was with someone who wasn't as loving and caring as you are, or if he didn't have us and was all alone."
Neither did Lan Zhan. Just the idea of it caused a pang in his chest. "Thankfully, we do not have to worry about that."
She gave a small smile. "No. And you know that you can always call or visit me if you feel the need to talk too. You know I am always willing to listen."
"Mn. Thank you, Shijie."
"You are welcome. I will get started on the soup now."
"Would you like me to help?"
With another smile, she responded, "No, but I will let you know if I need anything, and when I am done. Thank you for asking."
"All right. You are welcome."
Lan Zhan turned to leave, then remembered something. "A-Jie. I have a question to ask you regarding Wei Ying," he stated.
Jiang Yanli cocked her head. "Yes?" he inquired.
"I have classes to attend tomorrow and Thursday. Would it be any trouble for him to spend those days with you until they are over? I do not want him to be here by himself, and I am sure that he will not want to be either."
Because was often ill, so she had opted to do most of her classes online for this semester.
"Of course not, didi. A-Xian may come. You know that I am always happy to see him."
"Thank you again."
Meanwhile, in the living room, Uncle Jiang was massaging Wei Ying's arm as he leaned against him. He wanted nothing more than to hold his poor nephew in his arms right then.
Wei Ying was staring blankly at his lap. After Lan Zhan and Jiang Yanli had left the room, he had grown quiet again. Everyone else had as well, too deep in thought to have anything to say.
He eventually looked up after a few minutes, only to find himself meeting Madam Yu's eyes. They were still so full of fury and contemplation that he couldn't help but squirm and bowed his head a second time.
That evil voice in his head chuckled.
See what opening your fat mouth has done? She's so angry that she can't speak for once! Even I can't believe it; she never shuts up when the situation involved you! If she hated you before, she probably does even more now. I wouldn't be amazed if she was thinking that you are nothing but trash...less than trash even. She's probably thinking that you are scum! Lying, cheating scum, at that!
I warned you. I told you that she is the only one to see you for who you are. She will never allow you to look at or speak to her again. You have sunk so low that you are no longer qualified to! It is only because of your precious uncle that she hasn't kicked you out of the family already!
I hope you remember all of this every time you see her from now on. When you bow to her in greeting, be thankful for her inability to have you cast away. You will never be equal to anything other than the muck on the ground to her. She is only waiting until you two are alone to tell you this herself.
You will see.
Wei Ying tried to blink back the tears that were welling in his eyes. He knew that in spite of everything, Madam Yu wasn't that cruel all of the time. After all, she was kinder to Jiang Yanli than she was to him, Jiang Cheng, and Uncle Jiang. She also had several friends, those of which included Madam Jin - the mother of Jiang Yanli's boyfriend - and a pair of twins named Jinzhu and Yinzhu. The three of them had known her since childhood.
However, that didn't stop him from wondering if some of what that voice said was true. After all, he knew that even if Madam Yu didn't hate him - he would shocked to the core, if so - she certainly never loved him.
It wasn't that he necessarily ever needed her to. (This didn't stop a part of him from secretly wishing that she did when he was younger, of course.) He mostly just wanted her acceptance. He still did. That alone would have been enough. He never revealed to anyone how much it secretly hurt when she yelled at him. Or disciplined him far too harshly. Or dismissed him. Not even Lan Zhan or Jiang Yanli knew, and he usually told them everything.
Furthermore, Wei Ying knew that if Lan Zhan truly believed that he had cheated, he would have said as much by now. They both knew that he had not asked for what had happened to happen.
Why couldn't that voice just leave him alone and stop fucking with his mind? He already felt terrible enough without it doing that.
"A-Ying? Are you all right?" Uncle Jiang suddenly queried, breaking into his thoughts. He noticed that he had became stiff in his arms.
"Just tired, Shushu," he whispered, giving him part of the truth. He really didn't feel like talking about what was really bothering him.
Jiang Cheng stood up then and began to walk out of the room.
Madam Yu frowned at him. "Where are you going?" she demanded suspiciously.
"Outside. I need a cigarette."
Lan Zhan did not allow anyone other than Wei Ying to smoke in the house unless the weather was bad. Not that the latter smoked often; he preferred a jar of Emperor's Smile wine over cigarettes any day. Nevertheless, he kept a window cracked when he did smoke. Lan Zhan hated the smell.
"...Fine. But don't let me catch you going anywhere near your car, or I will come out there after you. I'll be watching you."
Jiang Cheng sighed heavily as he opened the front door and stepped out. True to her word, Madam Yu eyed him closely through the window.
Lan Zhan came in a moment later. "Jiejie is preparing the soup. She will let us know when she is finished."
"Thank you, A-Wangji," Uncle Jiang said.
Madam Yu nodded once.
It was not long before Jiang Yanli did. She dished out the soup for everybody once they were all in the kitchen, then served herself.
No one had much to talk about during the meal, but they were all feeling a little better by this time. Wei Ying, in particular, was enjoying his soup in quiet contentment. He couldn't help but smile when Jiang Yanli, who sat next to him, refilled his bowl without him asking. Not that he needed to, of course.
She had to chuckle at this. Lan Zhan, Jiang Cheng, and Uncle Jiang were glad to see him happy as well. Madam Yu's face was expressionless, but even she would have trouble not agreeing with them that some things would clearly never change. This was one of them.
All of them knew that it would be a great cause for concern if there came a day when he wasn't remotely excited about her soup, however.
After they had finished eating, Lan Zhan put the dishes in the dishwasher, which he only used on the occasions when his and Wei Ying's families had meals at their house. Jiang Yanli insisted on helping, but he told her that she may rest since she had done the cooking.
"Madam Yu," he began when everyone stood to leave the kitchen. "I would like to speak to you alone, if you please."
She rose an eyebrow; he would only request this if the situation involved Wei Ying. He usually didn't otherwise. Nevertheless, she inclined her head. The others walked out of the room to give them their privacy.
"Yes?" she inquired in a terse voice after they were sitting at the table again.
Lan Zhan gazed at her in curiosity. "Earlier...when you said that you were beginning to understand after looking Wei Ying over...did you already know?"
He had been wanting to ask her this since she had uttered that statement. The fact that she had appeared to stunned him.
Madam Yu pursed her lips. "Did I know what happened to him? No...but I suspected that it may have. Not only because of his injuries; it was evident that something had traumatized him just by the look in his eyes. And if it wasn't that, then it was something else."
She then folded her hands. "You have to remember that I used to work at the hospital before I retired, Wangji. I had seen quite a few people come and go with ailments and injuries of all sorts. Some were from other cities or towns, but the rest are people I have known all my life. I was born here too, after all." She shook her head. "When something terrible happens to a person to the extent that it traumatizes them, they end up with that look.
"Just as I had seen it in Wei Wuxian's, I had seen it in a number of patients too. And when you have often enough, it eventually gets to the point where you can without having to try. The trauma doesn't even have to be due to any form of assault; it can be for another reason altogether."
Lan Zhan thought this over. "Mn. I understand. But it took you a few minutes in Wei Ying's case," he pointed out after a long silence.
"Yes. It was because I did not think I was seeing correctly at first. He never had that look in his eyes before," Madam Yu noted.
And it is one that should never be them, Lan Zhan said to himself.
What he did not know was that she was thinking the same thing. No matter how much she resented Wei Ying, perhaps even hated (as Wei Ying believed), she would never have wished for him to be hurt to this degree. As mentioned before, she was not that cruel.
Sighing deeply, Madam Yu stood up. "If that is all, I think I will get ready to leave now. I need to go home."
Lan Zhan nodded as he did the same. "Mn. Thank you for talking to me."
She inclined her head as well in response.
"Fengmian!" she announced when they returned to the living room seconds later. "Let's go. I am ready to leave."
"All right. A-Ying, A-Wangji, do either of you need anything else before we go?" Uncle Jiang queried.
"No. Not right now," Wei Ying replied in a low voice.
"I do not either," Lan Zhan added.
Uncle Jiang nodded. "Call us when you have word from the police then, or if you need anything later on."
Jiang Yanli embraced Wei Ying. "I'd better be leaving too. Don't forget that I will see you tomorrow, A-Xian. Oh, and I left the rest of the soup in the pot, Lan Zhan-didi. It put it in the refrigerator. There is enough for one or two more servings for the both of you. I love you, Xianxian."
"I love you too, and thank you, Shijie," Wei Ying murmured as Lan Zhan bobbed his head.
Jiang Cheng decided to go home as well, so they all went to put their coats and shoes on. Wei Ying and Lan Zhan followed after everyone to bid them good-bye.
The former hugged Uncle Jiang and Jiang Yanli, but when he turned to Madam Yu, his face darkened. He averted his eyes and simply bowed to her, unable to say anything.
Madam Yu abruptly took his arm at that moment and led him away from everybody. Lan Zhan tried to follow, but she shook her head at him.
"I need to talk to him. I won't be long," she remarked shortly.
And with that, she continued to pull him further down the hall. Then she maneuvered him so that his back was facing the door at the end of it.
"Wei Wuxian...look at me," she ordered.
He didn't at first. He was too afraid of what he would see. He knew that she would make him if he didn't, however, so he reluctantly obeyed her.
Her expression was unreadable, which only caused him to feel even more nervous. Was she planning to give him a tongue-lashing? Or worse, hit him?
Probably. I told you that she was waiting to get you alone to tell you what she really thinks of you. And this is it! I'm surprised that she's actually allowing you to look at her, though. If I was her, I wouldn't, that voice sneered.
He cringed and waited for her to do one or the other. Or both.
But she did neither. Instead, she asked, "Wangji said that your doctor recommended a therapist for you, yes?"
Wei Ying blinked. He was not expecting this question.
The voice howled with laughter. HA! Not only does she probably think you're scum, she thinks you're becoming a lunatic too! I told you so! HAHAHAHAHAHA!
Tears pricked his eyes, but he forced them back.
"Wei Wuxian! Answer me!" Madam Yu hissed.
He bowed his head and nodded mutely.
She pursed her lips again. "Good. Consider calling them," she suggested. "They will help you too, should the need arise. And you know that you can always talk to your uncle, or A-Li or Wanyin. I know that that would be more comfortable for you."
Her voice was not kind, but it was not as sharp as it usually was either. Wei Ying gaped at her in bewilderment and shock. He was so used to her being hostile towards him that he didn't how else to feel or react to her advice.
Did that mean - perhaps - that she didn't hate him, after all?
In the end, he could only nod a second time. Madam Yu opened her mouth to say something else, then closed it after appearing to change her mind. She just inclined her head as well before walking away to rejoin the others at the front door. He shook himself mentally before trailing after her.
Lan Zhan kissed his forehead when he stood next to him. "Are you okay, baobao?" he queried.
"Yeah. I'm fine," he mumbled.
Uncle Jiang, Madam Yu, and Jiang Yanli said good-bye to them once more before leaving. As they did, Madam Yu told Jiang Cheng - who was lingering behind - to call her from his house phone as soon as he was home. He nodded sullenly, then rolled his eyes when they were gone.
After that, he pulled Wei ying into another fierce embrace. "Don't worry anymore, gege. Everything will be okay. I don't care what A-Niang or A-Die says. I will find that bastard, and I'm going to teach him a lesson when I do. Wait and see," he whispered so that Lan Zhan wouldn't hear him.
Wei Ying opened his mouth to ask him not to, then closed it and simply hugged him back. He knew that he wouldn't win if he tried to argue. Not this time. He could only hope that he might change his mind.
Jiang Cheng squeezed his arm gently when he moved away. "Please be safe, Wei Wuxian. Lan Wangji, keep an eye on him. Let me know if you need anything," he added.
They promised that they would, and with another nod, Jiang Cheng left the house too.
Author's note: Hi! Hope you enjoyed the chapter. Everything that happened ended up making it longer than I thought it would, which is why I posted this and chapter 5 together. I expected to have Wen Chao confronted by the end of this one. But still, let me know what you think!
Oh, and "A-Niang" means "Mom", "A-Die" means "Dad", for those of you who do not know. Also, Wei Ying's insecurities and low self-esteem are what is behind Wen Chao's voice in his head.