On a sunny noon in early autumn, the sun still blazed hot.
The late summer heat had been dispersed by a gentle breeze, leaving behind a lingering sensation of scorching sun that stubbornly refused to leave.
It was a weekend, and the New City East District appeared somewhat deserted.
Only a few private cars occasionally sped by on the main road.
Without any surveillance cameras nearby, they didn’t even bother to slow down.
In a corner beside the main road, an old-style convenience store had half of its roller shutter down, casting a shadow.
The middle-aged owner, sitting alone behind the counter on a reclining chair, propped up his feet.
He was enjoying the breeze of a fan while listening to the noon news on the radio.
This was an awkward time when those who were resting didn’t want to go out, and those working overtime hadn’t returned yet.
So, the owner took it easy, lazily listening to the radio and dozing off.
However, he suddenly felt the light in front of him blocked by something, obscuring his view.
Squinting his eyes, the owner put down the newspaper.
With a puzzled expression, he turned towards the entrance and realized that a rare new customer had arrived.
The new customer was a handsome and tall man.
He wore a thin motorcycle jacket over a plain black T-shirt.
He had a pair of sunglasses perched on his nose and large wireless headphones hooked over his right ear.
He didn’t look like a local resident; rather, he resembled a member of some passing motorcycle gang.
“Uh, sure, got it—” The new customer didn’t seem to be addressing anyone specific.
He squeezed through the half-open rolling shutter and mumbled a few vague responses.
Then, he gestured towards the cramped cigarette cabinet behind the store owner and briefly said, “Hongtashan.”
The store owner slowly rose from the reclining chair, turned his head to look at the cigarette cabinet, and absentmindedly asked, “Regular or menthol?”
“Menthol ,” the man replied.
The owner fetched a pack of cigarettes for him as instructed.
The man pulled a ten-yuan bill from his pocket and dropped it on the counter.
He took the pack of cigarettes and smoothly slipped out through the gap in the roller shutter, just as he had come in.
“Got it,” Lu Ye straightened up and adjusted his slightly crooked headphones.
With a sigh, he said, “25 New Yang Road, Wei’s Art Training Center, New City District Branch.
I’ll pick her up and take her to the bus station after that.
bus route 217, right? I’ve got it memorized, won’t forget.”
“Right,” the voice on the other end of the phone said satisfactorily, “Thank you for helping out.
You’ve just come back, and I’m already sending you around.”
“No problem, it’s within my jurisdiction,” Lu Ye took a cigarette out of the pack and put it in his mouth.
He walked casually towards his parked motorcycle at the roadside and continued, “But seriously, why did you send your child so far away to learn art? Wasn’t the main campus in the city good enough?”
“You don’t know, there’s a new teacher at the branch.” The voice on the other end of the phone suddenly became excited, and the speaker continued enthusiastically, “Young and promising, very professional.
Rumor has it that he graduated from the Paris Academy of Fine Arts and is exceptional in sketching and oil painting.”
“Paris? More like Brazil.” Lu Ye chuckled and couldn’t help but mock, “A graduate from the Paris Academy of Fine Arts coming to this small place to teach? Are you sure he is not a fraud?”
“Don’t look down on art training centers, and besides, Brazil has ceramics and stone carvings in their art as well.” The voice on the phone replied calmly, then changed the subject with a playful tone, “Hurry up and pick up Mingming.
If you’re late, you won’t get your pickled meat tomorrow.”
Lu Ye couldn’t do anything about his elder sister’s stubbornness, so he sighed softly, tightened his grip on the headphones, and hung up the call.
He finished the cigarette in his hand by the trash can, then hopped onto his motorcycle and sped away.
From the main road, he turned six traffic lights and arrived at the New City West District.
Unlike the East District, which had no large supermarkets or any entertainment facilities, the West District had caught onto the wave of industrial development in the past years.
The entire area was divided into two parts: one side was the commercial area and the other side had gradually become a thriving street for education and training.
Since it was a weekend, the education and training street was filled with children attending extracurricular classes.
The children ranged in ages, from elementary school to different grade levels.
Looking around, all that could be seen were clusters of vibrant and colorful little individuals.
With many cars and many people on the street, Lu Ye wasn’t in the mood to squeeze in.
He parked his motorcycle at an intersection and continued walking the rest of the way on foot.
The training center he was headed to was at the back of this street, not facing the road directly.
It was a three-story storefront with a unique design.
A small courtyard was enclosed by a low fence at the entrance.
The courtyard was adorned with various paintings and artwork, making it particularly recognizable from a distance.
As he arrived at the entrance, it happened to be the time when the training center was letting out for lunch break.
A group of children rushed out of the door like cattle let out of their pens, and each child dove into the embrace of their respective parents.
Among the children was Lu Mingming, and when she spotted Lu Ye from a distance, her eyes lit up.
She immediately rushed over like a little sparrow and threw herself into Lu Ye’s arms.
“Uncle, uncle, please lend me fifty yuan.” Lu Mingming clung to his leg, speaking in a playful tone, “I need it urgently.”
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