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Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance: Chapter 9

Chapter 9

On Wednesday afternoon, Duan Yuan’s flight departed, and Mrs. Duan went with him.

Duan Zhu and Ji Bie returned home, and life went on as usual.

Before the Lunar New Year, Duan Zhu received several acceptance letters from excellent schools, which Ji Bie envied. He grabbed Duan Zhu and asked him to share his experiences.

Although Duan Yuan had an early break, his behavior upon returning was strange. He didn’t provoke Ji Bie once and often looked at Ji Bie and Duan Zhu in a strange manner, which made Ji Bie uneasy. Duan Yuan spent a few days at home and then went out with friends, leaving Mrs. Duan alone at home. She wandered aimlessly from upstairs to downstairs, adding a hint of an eerie atmosphere to the house, which was far from the relaxed and happy atmosphere when Duan Yuan was away studying.

Fortunately, Ji Bie was approaching the end of term and didn’t have time to think about other things; he focused on preparing for exams.

Time passed quickly, Ji Bie’s final exams ended, and the winter vacation began. Before he knew it, it was time for the Lunar New Year.

Mr. Duan went directly from the company to the estate. The Duan family, along with Ji Bie, went together. Duan Zhu asked Ji Bie to stick close to him, and Ji Bie obediently stayed by his side almost constantly.

The Duan family’s estate was in M City, a two-hour drive from the airport. It was vast, with undulating greenery and a standard golf course. Mr. Duan was a genuine general, and Mrs. Duan’s family was in business. She was an only daughter, and the couple had five children. Mr. Duan was the second son and inherited the family business from Mrs. Duan. With his business acumen, the family prospered, with more members engaging in business than in official careers.

The Duan family was quite prosperous, with members scattered across the country, making it difficult for the younger generation to meet except during the Lunar New Year. Ji Bie didn’t particularly enjoy the holiday because he didn’t fit in with the Duan family.

Duan Zhu was always the center of attention, with everyone surrounding him, forming a small social circle. During these times, Ji Bie would wisely keep his distance, burying himself in his phone to alleviate the awkwardness.

This year, the younger members of the Duan family seemed to be trying even harder to please Duan Zhu, as if something had already happened that Ji Bie wasn’t aware of.

A new indoor swimming pool had been built on the estate, and Duan Zhu said he wanted to go swimming. Seven or eight teenagers quickly changed into their swimsuits and rushed to the pool.

Ji Bie didn’t want to go, but he had never seen Duan Zhu swim. Out of a curious sense of wanting to join in, Ji Bie put on a large bathrobe and reluctantly followed them.

Sitting on a chair by the poolside, Ji Bie asked a worker to bring him a glass of juice and watched the people in the pool play.

Duan Zhu’s cousin, Duan Weiran, sat beside Ji Bie and watched with him.

Among the younger generation of the Duan family, Ji Bie communicated with Duan Weiran the most. Duan Weiran was the same age as Ji Bie and attended a prestigious private girls’ school. Unlike the other younger relatives, she didn’t like being part of the circle revolving around Duan Zhu.

Not long ago, there was a debate competition, and Duan Weiran also participated. Ji Bie met her once, and Duan Weiran asked for his contact information, saying they could discuss academics together.

“Aren’t you going swimming?” Ji Bie asked her.

Duan Weiran smiled and said, “You didn’t go either.”

“It’s too crowded,” Ji Bie said.

“All useless,” Duan Weiran commented, “It would be great if it were easy to approach Duan Zhu.”

Ji Bie didn’t respond, and she continued, “Even if Duan Yuan and Duan Zhu have different mothers, after all, they are half-brothers. But he still doesn’t care. He just wants to suck up to Duan Zhu during the New Year; it’s too naive.”

Ji Bie glanced at Duan Weiran, wondering why everyone knew about this.

“Oh, don’t you know?” Duan Weiran suddenly hesitated when she saw Ji Bie’s expression and asked him.

Ji Bie neither confirmed nor denied it, so Duan Weiran said, “Then pretend you don’t know.”

Ji Bie nodded, and Duan Weiran leaned closer, whispering in his ear, “Living with Duan Zhu and Duan Yuan, don’t you find their relationship strange?”

The person closest to Duan Zhu in the swimming pool was their cousin, who had just graduated from university this year and was telling Duan Zhu about his internship at a subsidiary company last year. Duan Yuan stood on the periphery, usually the one closest to Duan Zhu, but this year he was far away, with no expression on his face.

“…I don’t see it,” Ji Bie said.

He really didn’t notice anything unusual. Duan Yuan had always respected and feared Duan Zhu since childhood, but Ji Bie could sense that Duan Yuan admired his brother.

“You’re too dull,” Duan Weiran said, “In recent years, all of the Duan family’s property has been under Duan Zhu’s name—”

She stopped halfway through her sentence because she caught Duan Zhu’s gaze.

Duan Zhu suddenly emerged from the water, got out of the pool, and walked over to Ji Bie and Duan Weiran. A maid holding a towel came over to cover Duan Zhu.

The worker brought two glasses of freshly squeezed juice over. Duan Zhu walked up to Ji Bie, took a sip of his orange juice, frowned, handed it back to the worker, and said, “Remake one, with less ice.”

Ji Bie watched silently as Duan Zhu approached. Duan Zhu then asked him, “Why aren’t you getting in the water?”

“Too many people,” Ji Bie said.

“If you’re not getting in the water, why change your swim trunks?” Duan Zhu bent down, adjusted Ji Bie’s robe collar, glanced at Duan Weiran politely, and asked, “What are you two talking about?”

Ji Bie leaned back a bit, away from Duan Zhu’s hand, and said, “Talking about exams.”

Duan Zhu smiled and said, “Really not getting in?”

He squatted down, held Ji Bie’s ankle, and said, “If you’re not getting in, go back to the room and change your clothes; your legs are so cold.”

Duan Zhu’s back was facing the pool, and the people in the water didn’t know what he was doing, but Duan Weiran could see clearly. Duan Zhu’s face wore a smile that Duan Weiran had never seen before, and her heart skipped a beat—Duan Zhu adjusting Ji Bie’s clothes seemed calm and relaxed, but his expression carried a deliberate unnaturalness, as if he were nervous about Ji Bie and Duan Weiran being too close.

“I’m not cold.” Ji Bie pulled his leg back. Duan Zhu’s hand was wet, and when he touched Ji Bie, Ji Bie’s calf got wet too.

Duan Zhu saw this and took a towel from a nearby table, carefully drying the water off Ji Bie’s ankle before saying, “Even if you’re not cold, change.”

Ji Bie and Duan Zhu locked eyes for two seconds, then Ji Bie made a sound of agreement and stood up, walking back to the corridor.

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