“My child, you may have to leave me not long after you come into this world.
If you happen to read this diary someday, please remember that both your father and I love you.
Your father is a nice and kind man; in fact, he’s the best man and best father in the world.
If one day you happen to read this diary, please go and find your father.
His name is Cooper Mitchell, but he doesn’t know about your existence.
If you see him, tell him that I still miss him, and I’m still alive.”
Tears streamed down Sophia’s face incessantly as she read those simple words that were so genuine.
Then, she continued, ‘I had an ultrasound today. My goodness—”
As she flipped to the next page to find out what came after that sentence, she realized that the next few pages had seemingly been torn off. “Huh? Where’s the rest?”
She then went on to search through Annabel’s belongings, hoping to find the few missing pages, but her effort was to no avail.
Did those pages go missing some time in the past twenty years?
She instantly felt dejected as she wanted to look at the ultrasound images.
She then wiped away her tears on her face and proceeded to put Annabel’s belongings, especially that diary, away in a box that she later put a lock on. If one day she happened to meet Cooper, she thought she would pass all these belongings to him.
It had been twenty-two years, and so many things had changed. She wondered if that was also the case with Cooper.
Meanwhile, in Michael’s office, while he was flipping through a thick dictionary, he found a few pages from a diary that had already turned yellowish; they looked like they were torn from a diary.
The first page read: ‘I’m pregnant with twins! Coop, did you hear that? We’re going to have two kids! Earlier today, I heard from Liam and my father that they were planning on sending me and my babies to the Edwards Family in exchange for some money.
No way. Not a chance! I’ll never return to the Edwards residence, and our babies can never go there too. I need to think of a way.
Since I can’t be there for my babies, I’m going to find someone to take care of them. Coop, you won’t blame me for that, will you?”
In between those yellowish pages was an old ultrasound image in which twins were seen hugging each other.
Seeing that, Michael was extremely intrigued by it, and he stared at it for a good instant.
So this is chica’s first-ever ultrasound…
Eventually, he placed the image and the diary pages into a special storage device.
He reckoned that it would be better to keep some of these things from Sophia for the time being. What mattered the most to her right now should be happiness, wealth, and her husband; nothing else should matter.
On the other side, the Johnson Family had been trying to reach Sophia on her phone for the umpteenth time.
“Sophia, since you’ve already obtained five percent of the shares from the Edwards Family and have also become their daughter, please help me and my family out.
Your elder and second brothers are getting married soon, and their in-laws have asked for more than three hundred thousand worth of wedding gifts…”
“Go and earn the money yourself!”
Sophia angrily hung up the phone.
Ever since they found out that she was a fraudster, Joe and the Johnson Family often called her to ask for money.
Joe was trying to get back his shares in the company and sue Sophia for fraud, while the Johnson Family simply wanted some money. However, Sophia told herself that she would never give them a single penny.
After hanging up the phone, before she could review too many questions on her study materials, Liam called again. “Sophia, you b*tch! Don’t forget who brought you up and who—”
All of a sudden, Sophia interrupted with a cynical sneer. “Moron. If I didn’t treat you as my uncle, I would’ve called the police to arrest you already. Get lost!”
After hanging up the phone, Sophia was no longer in the mood to study. She lay on the table and started to breathe heavily.
All of a sudden, some of the bad memories of her younger days came back to her because of her recent interactions with the Johnson Family.
She told herself that she hated the Johnson Family, Liam, and every living member of the Johnson Family.
Outside of The Imperial, Natasha showed up again; she was still dressed immaculately while carrying the latest Gucci handbag. While entering the community, her car was stopped by security.
“Who are you looking for?” the security asked rather impatiently.
A big smile washed over Natasha’s face as she responded, “I received an invitation from Linus from Villa No. 2 to come and visit him. My name is Natasha Mitchell.”
“Please hold on a second.”
The security guard proceeded to ring up Villa No. 2, and since today was the weekend, Linus was at home. As the call got through, Linus picked it up.
“Hello, is this Mr. Michel from Villa No. 2? You have a visitor named Natasha Mitchell. Do you know her?”
Meanwhile, Natasha was eagerly waiting in her car. Even though her uncle had already moved out from The Imperial, she reckoned that she still had ways to sneak in.
Much to her surprise, Linus’ voice sounded out from the hands-free device, saying, “I don’t know her.”
After hanging up the phone, the security guard rudely chased Natasha away.
Natasha could not believe what she just heard. How could Linus say that he did not know her?
This doesn’t seem right. Linus must have heard it wrong.
She right away gave Linus a call, which was answered by Linus’ assistant. “I’m sorry, but today’s Mr. Michel’s day off, so he won’t accept any visitors.”
Then, his assistant hung up the phone, leaving Natasha in shock and disbelief as she stared at her phone.
No. This must be a misunderstanding. Linus would never treat me like that!
Natasha would not leave. She then insisted, “No. I need to go in and see Mr. Michel. I have an appointment made already.”
Having lost his patience with Natasha, the security guard ordered around a dozen strong men who came out of the seemingly small booth.
The security then responded, “Miss Mitchell, if you insist on not leaving, we can only resort to coercive measures.”
Looking at the group of strong and tall men, Natasha reluctantly asked her driver to drive away.
As the car left The Imperial, Natasha still would not give up on calling Linus, hoping she could use her relationship with Linus to enter The Imperial to find someone.
However, right now, she could not even get through to Linus’ assistant’s number. That was her last hope as she did not know Linus’ landline number nor his personal number.
Feeling agitated, she threw her phone away and looked up just to see Liam, Sophia’s poor uncle, and his wife as they were walking alongside the road.
It would appear that they were also here to find Sophia. While walking, they were cursing at the same time.
All of a sudden, Natasha got an idea: she could perhaps use Liam and his wife to make a scene in order to embarrass Sophia; the bigger the scene, the better. It would be best if it could cause Bayside University to expel Sophia.
Liam was not the best example. Based on Natasha’s investigation, Liam used to be a teacher at a public elementary school. It was a stable job with a promising future career in education.
However, he was fired from his job after that and went to a private school to be a teacher.
The reason he was dismissed from his job was not disclosed, but based on what Natasha found out, it was because he harassed several female students in his class.
After the parents complained, his school decided to fire him right away in order to protect their reputation.
At this moment, Natasha asked her driver to pull up to the side of the road for her to get down. Before she got out of the car, she heard the angry voice of Liam’s wife.
“That fcking btch! If she refuses to give us money again next time, I’m going to let everyone know about all the bad things that she did back in the days.
I’m going to let people know that she’s nothing but trash!”
Liam responded, “Please lower your volume…”
Liam’s wife responded, “What are you afraid of? I’m not making things up. Since little, she’s always been a flirty show-off, and I’ve kept every single picture of hers!”
Natasha’s eyes lit up as she heard that. Does this family know something about Sophia that she’s been trying to keep away from everyone else?
The car came to a stop. The cursing coming from Liam and his wife halted as well.
Spinning around, they saw the limited-edition luxury car that was parked next to them and Natasha who got off from it. Immediately, both of them flattered, “It’s you, Miss Mitchell!”
Looking at the eyes that were filled with greed, Natasha took out a bank card from her bag. “I’m very interested in what you guys said earlier, including the pictures.
If you tell me honestly, the one million in this bank card will be yours.”
The couple fixed their gazes on the bank card; their eyes flashed with green lights…
In the meantime, winter had visited Bayside City. When the snow came, the Imperial welcomed Linus as its new resident and a luxurious housewarming party was in preparation.
A thin layer of snow fell on the ground, covering the earth with plain silver clothing. The temperature dropped significantly, and breath froze into ice the moment one were to exhale.
Michael had filmed more than half of his shots for the documentary film.
When he finished one of the shots flawlessly, Michael, who was only wearing a single layer of garment, was trembling.
He took the down jacket that was handed over to him by Hale and took a sip of warm water.
While he was doing that, he glanced at Harry, who was scrolling through his Twitter feed.
Harry was stalking Little Kitten’s account again. After he discovered that Linus was gay, Harry found that he was no longer the only protagonist in Little Kitten’s dirty comics.
As he was thinking about that, he felt a little disappointed…
Soon after Michael took another few sips of warm water, he checked the time on his watch.
The sky was getting darker, and Sophia was about to leave the campus.
It was almost time for him to go home and have a warm meal while cuddling with his wife.
However, Hale came toward him with a solemn expression while he held onto his phone. “Boss, it’s Young Master Stan.”
Noticing Hale’s serious expression, Michael’s heart sank.
It had been a while since he last saw Hale looking so serious.
The last time was when the Fletchers called and informed him that Celine and Justin had had an accident.
Taking a deep breath, Michael answered the call. On the other end, Stanley was sobbing. “Uncle Michael, I’m really sorry… Aunt saw the posts and she ran out from the classroom.
I searched the whole campus along with Sean, but we couldn’t find her. Uncle Michael—”
“Post? What post?” Michael’s brain exploded, but he tried to keep calm.
However, there was only the sound of Stanley’s cries coming from the other side of the phone.
At this moment, Harry suddenly came over and patted his shoulder.
“Look at this, bro.”
Taking Harry’s phone, Michael quickly skimmed through the information. Instantly, Hale saw a furious expression on Michael’s face; it was something he had never seen on him.
When Michael received the news of Celine’s accident, he was sad. But this time, he was absolutely enraged!
His wrath had reached its extreme, and Michael was looking like a beast. One could see the turbulence in his scarlet eyes.
Hale knew that something big must have happened this time!
Putting away Harry’s phone, Michael left the set without a word. Even Harry set off with him quickly with a sullen face.
A storm was coming to Bayside City!
In the meantime, Linus was sitting in the president’s office of the Michel Group’s Bayside City branch.
He did not have any classes for the day and had been dealing with the company’s work all day.
From the window of his office, he could overlook the entire ancient Imperial Palace and the building of Asco International that was not far away.
One day, he would also be able to own a place on this land.
After working for a whole day, Linus stood in front of the window with a cup of coffee in his hand. While he was enjoying the magnificent view of Bayside City, a wave of panic surged through his heart; his heartbeat accelerated suddenly.
Linus’s form began to shake, and the coffee cup in his grip fell to the ground at once.
In an instant, the robot vacuum came over and cleaned up the shattered cup and stains. At the same time, the healthcare provider robot was activated.
It scanned Linus’ entire body and reported, “Mr. Michel, I’ve detected an abnormal condition in your body. Do you need me to contact the family doctor?”
Leaning himself against the chair as he took a seat, Linus found his hands trembling badly.
He felt an overwhelming panic and a heart-piercing agony in his heart. What is happening to me?
Knowing that this was not a physical but a psychological problem, he instantly said, “There’s no need.” The robot left.
Linus tried to relax for a while, but the indescribable feeling in his heart did not fade away.
Suddenly, he felt something wet on the back of his hand. Taking a glance, it turned out to be drops of tears…
Immediately, Linus touched his face in shock. I’m crying?!
It seemed like he could not control his own emotions. All he wanted to do now was to cry, and he had never felt this way before.
When he decided to call his doctor, a familiar face suddenly appeared in his mind—Sophia!
A voice seemed to be telling him that something had happened to Sophia!
He quickly called Sophia, but Stanley was the one who picked up the phone.
“Linus, my aunt left the campus alone.
It’s getting dark and we couldn’t find her at all.
She didn’t bring her phone; not even her bracelet! I can’t find her!” Stanley was sobbing.
Linus stood up at once. “Don’t panic, Stan. Tell me what happened. Why did Sophia run away?”
Stanley said, “Check the news of Bayside University now.”
Ending the call, Linus switched to the search engine on his phone and looked up the news.
He found that a news article related to Bayside University had appeared on the hot topic of most of the major search engines today.
‘The Campus Belle of Bayside University Was Raped! Pictures and Proof!’
Clicking into the news, there were several unclear photos that seemed to be taken years ago. The background of the photos looked like a haystack in a village.
There were three to four boys who were between the ages of seventeen or eighteen.
They were pressing a girl into the haystack, and her body was completely exposed under the camera lens.
The girl was crying in despair. Her mouth was wide open; despair and agony were written all over her young face. Her dirty face was covered in dust; half of it was beaten up and swollen.
The one who had taken the photo must have been someone older looking from the hand he had stretched out while taking the photo.
Even from the photo, one could imagine how disgusting the photographer would have looked.
The girl was crying, but the one who molested her was laughing.
Looking at the faces of those persons, blood gushed over Linus’ head. His eyes turned scarlet and he felt like he couldn’t breathe.
Tears were flowing from his eyes and his trembling hands could no longer hold on to his phone. All he could do was watch his phone fall off from his palm.
It was because of the girl in the photo—it was Sophia!
Who are these people? How could they hurt her like that?
And who is the one who posted the photos on the internet?
Slamming the door, Linus went out…
His assistant saw a bloodthirsty look that he had never seen before on Linus’s usually gentle face.
In Bayside University, the school administrators, who were supposed to have gone off from work, were called back for an emergency meeting.
The purpose was to come out with a countermeasure against the sudden scandal.
Sophia was Miss Misty of Bayside University, and she was also the leading female character of the university promotional video.
The university was extremely attentive now that something like that had happened to her. They had to take the matter seriously.
Not only was the main character of the news the golden star of the university, but she was also the campus belle.
The news was very eye-catching, and it was only in a blink of an eye that it had taken over the internet.
Bayside University had to quickly and properly deal with it.
Someone in the meeting demanded, “We need to release a statement to explain that this person is not our student.
We can then deal with Sophia Edwards later. The university’s reputation should be our top priority.”
“No way! The news is already out. To gloss things over isn’t the best way. We must make a police report!” another one argued.
“The smaller the impact, the better it would be.
If we were to spread the news out, it would do no good for both the university and the students. We need to deny the relationship of the university with the news immediately!”
The crowd was arguing endlessly, and no conclusion was drawn.
However, the vice-chancellor had not spoken; he was only looking at the crowd with a gloomy expression.
All of a sudden, a bunch of students broke in from outside.
They were led by the president of the student union and some of the student leaders—Natasha was among them.
In all righteousness, the president of the student union came in and demanded, “Sophia’s news has had too much impact on the students.
We can no longer raise our heads whenever we go outside.
We ask the university to issue a statement as soon as possible to clear the relationship between the university and Sophia. We hope that the university can expel her promptly!”
Many students had broken into a discussion with the school administrators.
Everyone was trying to make their own point, demanding the university to deny any connection with Sophia.
Even Natasha had put on a mask of pretense and said, “I think the top priority now is for the university to deny its relationship with Sophia.
The girls from our university are being criticized whenever we leave the campus.”
The school administrators discussed the matter over and over again, and they finally came out with the safest conclusion they could think of.
The university would release a statement to clarify the relationship and they would privately restrict Sophia’s activities.
When necessary, they would expel her in order to preserve the reputation of Bayside University.
Listening to the decision, Natasha was secretly glad.
Let’s see how Sophia can turn over this time!
I heard that she ran away when she heard the news!
Where is she now?
Perhaps she’s committed suicide! How can she still live in this world after experiencing such a thing?
The school administrators had begun to distribute the work.
Seeing that the vice-chancellor had not spoken, someone asked, “Benedict, why aren’t you saying something? Tell us your opinion!”
The vice-chancellor remained cold, and there was a cold smile hanging at the corners of his mouth.
As he rose to his feet, his firm voice spread across the conference room. “Everyone…”
His sharp eyes swept over the crowd. As someone who had once served as a soldier, his aura was different from everyone present at the scene.
In just a moment, the crowd was suppressed by his strong aura, and they were whispering under their breath.
Firmly, the vice-chancellor said, “I have a question for you. Did Bayside University do something to disrupt the order of things?” No one answered his question.
He went on, “Or, did any of you do something that was against reason and nature?”
There was still no answer. The crowd could sense the wrath that was emanating from the vice-chancellor. They knew that he was very furious at the moment.
The vice chancellor’s sharp eyes swept across the crowd again.
Coldly, he said, “Since every one of you and the university isn’t guilty, why should we be worried about the university’s reputation?
Does the century-old reputation of Bayside University rely on expelling students that are victimized in order to maintain its glory?”
“Is the reputation of our Bayside University—the most prestigious university in Cethos—so vulnerable and pretentious?”
“Sophia was only eight years old back then. What did she know?
What could she have done?
She is the victim. Why should the victim pay for the consequences brought to her by the wrongdoer?”
His words were firm and impactful; they pierced through the souls of everyone present at the scene, and no one was brave enough to answer.
In the silence, Natasha was the first to stand up.
Without fear, she faced the vice-chancellor and protested, “Mr. Vice-Chancellor, I know Sophia has always been one of your favorite students.
However, things have happened. No matter whose fault it was, she has caused substantial damage to the reputation of Bayside University.
She must be held responsible for this. It is not only for the sake of the Bayside University but also the reputation of the students from the entire university!”
The students behind her were all in agreement as her words seemed to make a lot of sense.
Looking at Natasha and her followers, the vice-chancellor flashed them an icy smile.
With a teasing tone, he said, “Huh! I’m very sorry, then! It seems like Bayside University’s scandal has troubled most of you.
Can you guys please come over and sign your names? I’ll erase them from the system immediately.
From now on, you guys will have nothing to do with Bayside University, and you will never be burdened by the university anymore.”
No one dared to speak—not even Natasha who had argued fiercely just now.
The vice-chancellor was threatening them blatantly. If anyone dared to say something more, they would be expelled!
The conference room finally quietened down. With a slam on the table, the vice-chancellor ordered, “Issue a statement immediately and say that Bayside University will investigate the matter to the end. Since the victim is our student, the university cannot just sit idly by and watch her suffer for the second time!”
“Call the police! Now! Let them find the one who posted the news, including those who had committed the crime! It is up to the police to decide the sentence!”
Although there were people who were in disagreement, none dared to speak out because they had never seen their vice-chancellor so worked up before. Since everyone dared not say anything, the meeting was dismissed.
Natasha could only stomp away in dissatisfaction.
Even if Sophia is not expelled, she wouldn’t dare to come back to campus anymore!
On the other side, Michael had rushed to the campus to meet up with Stanley. Stanley was explaining to him what had just happened as he cried.
“I left for a while after class was over. By the time I came back, I heard that Sophia had run out crying all of a sudden!”
“The post is all over the internet now. Sean is removing them from all of the platforms. The person on the other side is clearly doing this with a plan.
Someone had even printed the photos and posted them on the university’s bulletin board. The entire university now knows that Sophia was molested when she was a child!”
Michael’s brain was constantly buzzing. Closing his eyes and opening it at the next moment, Sophia’s face that was filled with despair and agony kept on appearing before his eyes. His heart was bleeding.
As soon as he finished listening to Stanley’s explanation, he said nothing, but turned around and left in a hurry. Stanley followed suit immediately.
The underworld of Bayside City was all on the move to look for Sophia with the Bayside University as their focus.
She didn’t bring her wallet and phone; there was no way she could have gone far.
Michael was prepared for the worst.
“Keep an eye over all waters and high-rise buildings,” he said to Harry.
Of course, the last thing he wanted was to find Sophia in the mentioned places.
Harry walked away without a word; the horrifying expression on Harry’s face was something one had never seen on him before.
At the Fletcher Residence, the moment Joel got the call from Stanley, he had sent people out to search for Sophia.
Staring at the photo that had been circulated throughout all of Bayside City in just one day, Joel’s eyes reddened.
Irene’s voice rose suddenly. She was curious when she saw anger emanating from Joel, and hence she asked in nervousness.
Putting his phone away, Joel put on his hat and suddenly walked toward Irene. Solemnly, he called out, “Irene Weber.”
“Yes?” Irene looked up and met his eyes.
Joel’s eyes were as ruthless as they had ever been. As if he was giving a military order, he announced, “Today, I’m breaking up with you officially.”
Irene was shocked.
When she had finally returned to her senses, Joel had already gone far.
Staring at his disappearing figure in a daze, Irene was not as disappointed as she had imagined she would be. On the contrary, she felt that the enormous rock in her heart had finally fallen.
Breaking up—isn’t this what I’ve been looking forward to?
She knew there was no hope for marriage, but Joel’s ruthlessness had gone beyond her imagination…
Because Linus had only arrived in Bayside City not too long ago, he didn’t have a strong foundation. However, he still sent out everyone he had to join the search.
At the same time, since Linus was an expert in electronics and the internet, with the cooperation of Sean, they had taken down all the photos on the internet and reduced the impact to its lowest.
He didn’t know why he was so attached to someone whom he had only known for a few months.
After arranging and dispatching some of his manpower, Linus rushed out the door in a hurry. When he went out, he saw snow falling from the sky.
It’s getting late. Where are you? Are you cold?
Wrapping himself in the down jacket tightly, Linus still felt cold. However, that was someone else’s cold that he was feeling…
He called Stanley. “Stan, has Sophia ever run out like this before? Where would she go if she ran out?”
Stanley was still looking for Sophia along with Michael. They had been to every place she would usually go, but they found nothing.
Wiping his tears away, Stanley said, “We’ve searched those places all over; she wasn’t there. She didn’t bring her wallet and her phone, there’s no way she would go far.”
Hanging up the phone, Stanley looked toward Michael and said, “Linus and Sean have removed all the posts. Sean has also found the person who posted it.”
Michael said nothing. His face was full of gloom, and a thin layer of snow accumulated on the crown of his head. He said, “Stay in touch with Linus. He might know where Sophia is.”
Twins shared a special connection and they were telepathic; Linus might know where Sophia had gone.
On the other side, Linus had been driving around Bayside University after ending the call.
Where would you have gone?
All of a sudden, an image appeared in his mind. An old bench was sitting alone below a decaying willow tree, and there was a river flowing quietly by the side.
A month ago, Sophia had posted a photo like that on her IG Stories. She said that was a place her parents had been to in the past.
Immediately, Linus drove to the park. The sky was getting dark and the park was closed. Linus wandered around the park’s fences for a while and found footprints on one of the lower fences. Climbing over it, he went into the park. Following the picture she posted, he found the river in an instant.
His steps were quiet. On a snowy night, the world was silent. Occasionally, the crisp sound of branches breaking from the weight of accumulated snow could be heard.
As he walked, he tried to keep his steps gentle; he was too afraid to disturb the peaceful silence of the park. Instead of shouting for Sophia, he walked along the river. After a few minutes, he heard someone sobbing in the silence.
Instantly, Linus was overjoyed. Quickening his pace, he darted forward and saw a tiny figure sitting under a small tree. The figure was curled up and trembling in the cold.
“Sophia!” Linus couldn’t help but call out.
The figure heard his voice, stood up, and ran. Linus immediately followed after her and pulled her into his embrace.
When he held Sophia in his arms, he felt like he was holding a pile of ice. She was stiff all over and her hair was damp and frozen.
She was drenched in tears. Even though ten years had passed, she still looked like the little girl in the photos: helpless, hopeless, and vulnerable.
Linus hugged her with all his might, trying to warm up her freezing body.
After struggling for a while in his embrace, Sophia stopped moving. Instead, she continued to cry in despair.
Burying his face into her dampened hair, Linus was overwhelmed with a burst of heartache he had never felt before. His eyes felt sore all of a sudden, and tears started rolling down his cheeks.
He let go of her and quickly took off his down jacket to wrap her in it. Cupping her freezing face, he whispered, “It’s okay. It’s all right now. Everything is over now.”
Sophia was already choked with sobs that she could not say anything. Her eyes were swollen and she was soaked and freezing all over. She wanted to talk, but when her mouth opened, there was only more sobbing. Even her lips were numb.
“Come on. Let me take you home!” Linus grabbed hold of her hand and tried to pull her out.
However, Sophia tugged him from behind. It seemed like she didn’t want to go home yet. Turning around and looking at her wrinkled face, Linus whispered, “What’s the matter?”
Choking on her own tears, she sobbed, “I don’t want to go home now.”
She didn’t know how to face Michael and everyone else.
Fixing his eyes on her, Linus held her cold hands in his palms to warm her up. Knowing that her emotions were probably all over the place and she didn’t want to go home, Linus said patiently, “Then let’s find a warmer place to sit down, okay?”
Sophia’s tear continued to fall and she didn’t answer. He dragged her, and she followed suit. Immediately, Linus took her to a place sheltered from the wind and they sat down.
He fished out a lighter from his down jacket, and found some dry leaves and branches in the woods. In a short moment, he lit a fire.
The flame rose, and Sophia sat in front of it to warm up her freezing body. She stared at the fire in a daze; flames danced in her eyes. Her face was slightly numb and her mouth felt dry.
She had been doing a lot of thinking. That was the darkest time in her life; it was the moment she wanted to forget forever. However, everything was presented in front of her like a scab being torn apart. The hideous flesh and bloody wound beneath was exposed. It was unpleasantly stinky and unbearably painful. The wound that she didn’t want to show to anyone was exposed in such a terrible manner to the public.
That kind of feeling was traumatizing. She felt like her soul was stripped away from her utterly.
Linus was very fortunate to find a carton of chocolate milk in his bag. He put it near the fire to heat it before handing it to Sophia.
Taking the milk from him, Sophia took a few sips. Her mouth was dry, but her stomach felt a lot better after she drank some milk.
She continued to stare at the fire. Her face felt numb and cold after being washed by tears. When the fire heated her face up, she seemed to be covered by a layer of film, and it was very uncomfortable.
In just one breath, Sophia finished up the milk and threw the packaging into the fire. Using a stick, she picked at the box and it was quickly burned to ashes by the flame.
Linus didn’t call Stanley; he wanted to stay alone with Sophia for a while.
After a long while, he said, “You should go home earlier. He’s looking everywhere for you.”
Something in Sophia’s eyes flashed; a subtle light seemed to glisten from them. Tightening the down jacket Linus had given to her, she shrank her face into the clothing, looking like a tortoise hiding into its shell.
She wanted to go home too. But, her scars were torn apart so severely. She felt like there was an unbearable smell exuding from her. How could she expect Michael to accept her?
Sometimes, she would rather she had never been to this world before.
There were also times that she would think of the past, and she would hate herself and the whole world.
Back then, she was only three or four years old. She was ignorant and would run around in her open-crotch pants. When her uncle offered to bathe her, she always agreed without knowing anything.
Her two older cousins often bullied her. They were still kids when that photo was taken. They were ignorant, but Liam was old enough to be sensible. However, instead of stopping them, he took out his phone to take pictures. If it weren’t for her grandma, who arrived in time and shooed everyone away…
Before her grandmother passed away, she seemed to have sensed something. Earnestly, she warned her not to let any man simply touch her body—even if he was her uncle!
Sophia still remembered what her grandmother told her: “Never let anyone touch a part of your body your swimsuit would cover!”
She kept that in her mind, and when Liam came and offered to bathe her again, she would splash him with water!
Ever since her grandmother had passed away, Liam’s family had taken her in. Knowing that the only person in this world who could protect her was gone, she could only take care of herself now.
Since then, she lived her life like a hedgehog. Whenever the boys in the village tried to bully her, she would rush toward them like a beast and fight them. She remembered one instance that she hated the most was when a boy urinated in front of her. Like a mad man, she went up and kicked him in the balls!
After that, every boy in the village was afraid of her and they dared not bully her again. However, that did not make her life any better. She continued to live under the shadow of Liam. She wouldn’t dare to sleep soundly at night because the door lock was broken and no one would fix it for her. It was common for her to open her eyes at midnight seeing a dark figure in front of her bed staring at her.
That was the shadow of her life; the nightmare that she could never get rid of in her lifetime.
She bit Liam’s palm that covered her mouth and tried to call for help. Her cries brought her aunt to her.
However, when her aunt discovered Liam’s filthy intentions, instead of scolding her husband, she blamed Sophia, who was only twelve years old, for trying to seduce her uncle and almost beat her to death…
She remembered everything. All of those painful memories were stored right in her mind.
She would always remember the day when she returned home after midterms. She was admitted into the best high school in Riverdale, but she didn’t dare to ask for tuition fees. Later, she heard them discussing trying to marry her, a girl who was still under sixteen, off to a man in exchange for a dowry.
That night, her uncle and her two cousins broke into her room. They had already agreed with the man to send her over tomorrow. However, they said one should always keep all benefits for one’s own people. Since the old man would be sleeping with her soon, it would be better if her own family was the one who took her virginity away.
They pressed her on the old little bed and tried to rape her. She cried hopelessly and helplessly. She later smashed Liam’s head with a bench in order to escape.
She was covered in blood. Like a stray dog, she limped as she ran into some green fields. Not far away was the scolding voices of the Johnson Family. She ran for about five kilometers alone and knocked open the door of the principal of Riverdale High School…。
Burying her face into the down jacket, Sophia’s tears once again dampened the clothing. The teary face that was hidden between her messy hair broke Linus’ heart.
She didn’t know when Linus sat next to her. He patted her shoulder and said, “It’s over now. One day, those bad guys who hurt you will be punished.”
Sophia buried her face in his chest; her tears soaked through his sweater.
Instead of howling like earlier, she sobbed carefully, trying to restrain her pain and grievances. Linus continued to talk to her.
“My childhood was actually quite tough too.” Linus started talking about his own life, trying to divert her attention.
“I was actually adopted by the Michel Family.” This was the first time Linus had ever told an outsider about his life. “In my memory, my former parents treated me very badly. They saw business opportunities from my talent. They started bringing me everywhere to perform and collected the fees paid. Those days…”
Even though more than ten years had passed and a lot of details had been forgotten, Linus could still remember some of the scariest parts that were hidden deep in his memory.
Sophia’s cries slowly subsided. Her ears pricked as she listened with curiosity, then she asked, “What happened later?”
“That one time when I had just finished filming at the TV station, my brother, Fass, found me,” Linus began.
Speaking of that day, Linus still remembered clearly about it. “Fass told me that he can take me away. He said my talents should not be restrained like this. I should be able to achieve more than that.”
“He asked me if I would like to go with him. And if I don’t, I might become the next Fang Zhongyong.”
It was also many years later when Linus was exposed to Cethos culture that he learned who ‘Fang Zhongyong’ was.
There was once a five-year-old child named Fang Zhongyong, who had never known how to read nor write. One day, he cried and asked for paper and a pencil. His family found him a piece of paper and a pencil, and Fang Zhongyong actually wrote something. His handwriting was pretty and it surprised his parents. So, his father took him everywhere, showing others his writing and making money from it. However, he didn’t let Fang Zhongyong go to school. Later, Fang Zhongyong’s talent slowly dried up and he became an ordinary person. If he was educated after they discovered his talent, he might have grown into a remarkable man.
“What did you say?” asked Sophia as she wiped away her tears and straightened her figure.
Shaking his head, Linus let out a chuckle. He tried hard to remember the day when his destiny changed. “Of course, I left with my brother. I followed him into the Michel Family. He ignored everyone’s criticism, and made me a member of the family, finding me new adoptive parents. He nurtured me since I was young, and was very strict with me. I never let him down. At the very least, I’m not the next Fang Zhongyong.”
Staring at Linus blankly, Sophia could see from his face that Fass was a very good person.
She said, “If I have the opportunity, I really want to know who the person who brought you up into this excellent person is.”
Speaking of Fass, Linus couldn’t help but smile.
To be honest, Fass had come to Cethos with him, but he had been keeping a low profile.
That day when they met Sophia by coincidence and Sophia asked him for a photo, Fass was actually not far away.
Sophia couldn’t help but ask again, “Have you ever wanted to find your former parents in the past few years?”
Without hesitation, Linus shook his head. “Never. When they sold me to Fass, I didn’t belong to them anymore. Besides…”
Linus sighed. “They’re not my biological parents. I don’t know where I actually came from.”
Patting Sophia’s shoulder, he went on, “We’re all the same. We weren’t happy when we were younger, but we have the ability to protect ourselves now as well as the people we love. We shouldn’t always live in the past; it’s useless. We should always look forward to life.”
Nodding, Sophia squeezed the last drop of tear from her eyes.
She should let bygones be bygones!