In that instant, there was a sudden surge of inexplicable unease in Qi Yanbai’s heart.

He knew that Lu Ye had only said those words in response to his pressing questions, but for some reason, he still felt a strong sense of being seen through by Lu Ye.

Lu Ye was too perceptive, Qi Yanbai thought.
Perceptive to the point where even if he hadn’t noticed anything, his intuition would still provide accurate and sharp warnings.

This thoroughly disrupted Qi Yanbai’s composure.
He momentarily lost control and felt a pang of guilt, subconsciously wanting to avoid Lu Ye’s gaze.

He hadn’t yet gained the ability to remain calm even when his core matters were touched in front of Lu Ye.
As a result, Lu Ye’s words easily stirred up waves in him.
A subtle premonition welled up within him, as if something was extending and spreading before his eyes, splitting into two straight paths leading in opposite directions.

“What if—” Qi Yanbai softly spoke, “What if I accidentally lied to you?”

“It would depend on how accidental it was,” Lu Ye replied.
He seemed unaware of the turmoil brewing in Qi Yanbai’s heart.
After a moment’s thought, he added casually, “If it’s not too serious, it’s no big deal.
But if it’s serious—”

“What if it’s serious?” Qi Yanbai asked subconsciously.

“If it’s serious…” Lu Ye pondered for a moment and then joked, “Then you might never see me again.”

Qi Yanbai knew that Lu Ye was being serious.

Lu Ye might appear easygoing, but in reality, he was not someone to be messed with.
He had his own set of principles and boundaries.
If someone crossed into a high-pressure area, he might truly retreat promptly.

Qi Yanbai couldn’t quite articulate what his current chaotic emotions represented.
The sense of impending crisis made him instinctively want to retreat, to confess.
However, the sudden onset of doubt was soon overshadowed by a bigger wave, pinning him firmly in place.


He subconsciously tried to say something to change the subject, but before he could speak, he heard someone call Lu Ye’s name from not far behind.

Qi Yanbai blinked, and along with Lu Ye, he looked in the direction of the voice.
A woman with delicate makeup stood a few steps away, waving and greeting them with a smile.

“Sis?” Lu Ye’s face brightened.
He greeted her with a wave, half-jokingly, “What brings you to the exhibit?”

“What do you mean ‘what brings me’??” As she spoke, Lu Wenyu had already approached them.
With a mock frown, she lightly nudged Lu Ye’s shoulder and said, “I’m the one who got you the ticket, you know.
So, why can you come, but I can’t?”

“It’s not like that,” Lu Ye said with a smile.
“Aren’t you always busy? Who would have thought you had the leisure for this?”

“I’m here with a business partner, just socializing,” Lu Wenyu explained briefly.
Then, she turned her attention to Qi Yanbai and extended her hand with a smile, introducing herself, “And who might this be? Teacher Qi, I’ve heard about you from Xiao Ye.
It’s an honor.”

“Yanbai, this is my sister,” Lu Ye reached out, putting his arm around Qi Yanbai’s shoulder and gently pushing him forward.
“Also known as Lu Mingming’s mom.
You should have met her.”

There seemed to be a switch inside Qi Yanbai that allowed him to seamlessly transition into his “perfect teacher” persona.
He instantly calmed down from his earlier tumultuous thoughts and put on a flawless and courteous professional smile.


“Yes, indeed.
We had a brief encounter during registration,” Qi Yanbai nodded politely.
He reached out and briefly shook hands with Lu Wenyu, saying, “Long time no see, Mrs.

“Just call me by my name, or you can call me sister as well,” Lu Wenyu said with a smile.
“Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean I don’t have my own name anymore.”

Qi Yanbai had a highly attuned sense of understanding.
He smiled in response and almost immediately grasped Lu Wenyu’s independent personality.
He adapted quickly, changing his address to the more familiar “sister.”

Lu Wenyu seemed satisfied with his reaction.
She smiled and made a confirming sound before turning her attention back to the two.

Having been neighbors for over a month, Lu Ye had grown used to seeing Qi Yanbai in his comfortable home attire, always relaxed.
Now, seeing him suddenly putting on airs and stiffness, Lu Ye found it a bit awkward.
He lightly squeezed Qi Yanbai’s shoulder, attempting to ease his tension.

“No need to be nervous; we’re not at the training center,” Lu Ye said with a smile.
“My sister is very easygoing; there’s no need to worry.”

“Indeed, no need to be too formal,” Lu Wenyu added.
“I didn’t have any specific reason for coming, just saw the two of you, so I came to say hi.”

Lu Wenyu understood her brother Lu Ye quite well.
When he asked her for a ticket and wanted to invite Qi Yanbai to the exhibit, she sensed something out of the ordinary.
Women are often more sensitive than men, and Lu Wenyu picked up on Lu Ye’s little intentions.
Therefore, she couldn’t help but want to meet Qi Yanbai in person, to see what kind of person he was.

However, Qi Yanbai always appeared flawless when going out.
He maintained his balance, treated people kindly, and always had a friendly smile.
Lu Wenyu had observed them for a short while before coming over.
Seeing that Qi Yanbai’s attitude toward Lu Ye was sincere, she concluded that he wasn’t just acting on a whim.

Lu Wenyu was satisfied with her assessment.
Her impression of Qi Yanbai was quite favorable as well.
However, having spent many years in the business professional world, she was skilled at understanding interpersonal dynamics and didn’t show excessive warmth.


“I had initially planned to treat the two of you to a meal,” Lu Wenyu glanced at her watch regretfully, saying, “But I have a meeting with a business partner tonight, so it’s a bit inconvenient.”

“How about this,” Lu Wenyu suggested, “In a few days, when everyone is free, let’s have a meal together.
We can invite Lu Mingming too—she really seems to like Teacher Qi.”

Lu Wenyu’s tone was natural, and while she spoke, her gaze shifted between Lu Ye and Qi Yanbai, as though she had already made arrangements for them.

Qi Yanbai blinked and subconsciously turned to Lu Ye, as if seeking his opinion.

Lu Ye was touched by Qi Yanbai’s subconscious reliance.
He felt a warm sensation in his chest and gently tightened his arm around Qi Yanbai’s shoulder, making a decision.

“Then let’s do it?” Lu Ye turned to him, asking, “When would you be free?”

“I’m free whenever,” Qi Yanbai nodded and agreed, “Whenever there’s no class.”

“Great, then we’ll arrange it later,” Lu Wenyu said with a nod.
Her gaze swept over the two of them one last time before she nodded in satisfaction and turned to leave.

Lu Wenyu’s arrival had diverted the conversation, smoothly bypassing the sensitive topic from earlier.

During this time, Qi Yanbai had also managed to regain his composure.
He had convinced himself that it was alright.
He wouldn’t betray Lu Ye, much less play him.
Ashley had warned him that there were no shortcuts in a relationship, so he had to genuinely like Lu Ye to win his heart.

Qi Yanbai believed he was doing well.
He had only used minor tactics to progress in the journey of building their relationship.
That didn’t qualify as deception in his mind.

He reassured himself that it was alright and felt his previously chaotic emotions settle down, returning to a calm and steady state.

However, this testing of boundaries had affected Qi Yanbai to some extent.
He was starting to feel uneasy about the gradual progression of their relationship, believing that they needed to define something sooner.

Fortunately, Lu Ye had been softening during these days.
Qi Yanbai clearly sensed the change in his demeanor and felt that Lu Ye was slowly inching closer to him as he had hoped.

Lu Ye wasn’t one to casually flirt.
His use of such ambiguous warning today indicated a shift in his attitude.
Qi Yanbai exhaled a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, and thought that perhaps it was time to take another step forward.


As evening approached, the number of visitors in the exhibition hall increased.

Since it was the last day of the exhibition, many attendees were squeezing in their visits, professionals mingling with the general public, filling the previously spacious exhibit halls.

Qi Yanbai and Lu Ye didn’t particularly enjoy this kind of touristy experience, so they took the opportunity to slip away before the crowds flooded in, making their way deeper into the exhibition halls.

The deeper areas were reserved for private exhibitions.
Qi Yanbai hadn’t known much about this large-scale exhibition before he arrived, but as soon as he stepped into the private exhibit area, he saw a familiar painting on a tall wall near the entrance.

It was a large oil painting, nearly two meters tall, and it exhibited a strange and bizarre style, somewhere between abstract and impressionist.
It was filled with black and red tones and depicted a scene from Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” the journey through the underworld.

The visual impact of the painting was immense.
The entire lower half of the canvas was almost entirely covered in thick black paint, with contorted humanoid figures struggling and writhing, stretching their thin, spindly arms as they tried to climb a narrow, straight staircase at the center of the painting.

Qi Yanbai was familiar with this style and scene.
He even noticed a faint cut mark behind the high highlight in the lower right corner—made by his own hand.

Subconsciously, he took a step back, moving toward the entrance of the exhibition hall.
He turned to look at the information board beside him and, as expected, saw the distinctive “zhe” character in a flowing and artistic style.

Qi Yanbai: “…”

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