Chapter 348: Fire and Water
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Zhang Feng was in her sixties. Before her incarceration, she was a woman of high standards and promoted her own self-care routine diligently. She would go to the extremely private HS Beauty Clinic for biweekly treatments, for example. She was always refined, from head to toe, and did not appear a day over 50 years old. If it weren’t for the fact that Grandfather Huo disliked plastic faces, she would have certainly done some work to cling on to her final vestiges of youth. Zhang Feng now appeared much older, like she was in her 70s. However, she wasn’t in the mood to look into the mirror and saw Zhang Baochen as her last lifeline when he came in to visit. She frantically asked him, “What’s going on? I hear that Dacheng Industries is in hot water and that we’ve lost all our shares?”
The lost shares were just the beginning: they had been forced to spit out all that they’d gleaned all these years. Zhang Baochen couldn’t help whining, “Mom, what on earth did you and Shihui do? Dacheng Industries went under and had me lose my entire fortune! If it hadn’t been for the Chief giving me an apartment, we’d be renting right now.”
“What?! How could Dacheng Industries cause you to lose your fortune?” Zhang Feng was shocked. “Zhao Da had told me that there was no risk in taking shares!” Zhang Feng had no idea what had been happening outside since she’d been locked up. Her hearing hadn’t yet begun either.
Zhang Baochen grimaced and said, “Mom, did you know? Dacheng Industries had been involved in several illegal armament deals. The military agreed to let me off easy and not press charges if I repaid all the illicit funds. I sold all my properties and, combined with all my saving deposits, managed to scrape together 2 billion RMB to avoid jail time.”
“What?! You sold all the properties?!” Zhang Feng screeched, her face pale as her gnarly hands reached out. The veins looked like worms bursting under her skin.
“Prisoner 38! Watch yourself! You will be forbidden from seeing visitors if you keep up this unruly behavior!” The female guard barked at Zhang Feng.
“Mom! What are you shouting for?” Zhang Baochen immediately hushed his voice. “People are looking our way!”
Gasping in deep breaths, Zhang Feng’s eyes were bloodshot as she stared blankly at Zhang Baochen. “You …You idiot! You paid all the money back just because they asked?! You didn’t even go to court! Just how scared of jail are you exactly!”
“I don’t want to go to jail!” Zhang Baochen objected. “I won’t go to jail, even if it means I have to lose all my money!”
“You idiot! I’d rather go to jail than than lose all my money!” Zhang Feng was extremely furious. “It seems I coddled you too much; you don’t even know what it’s like to be penniless!”
“Mom, stop thinking about it now; everything’s been sold already anyway. Also… the Chief gave me an apartment and the four of us are living comfortably.” Of course, Zhang Baochen meant to say that the apartment was more comfortable than a rental. It was no comparison to the apartments they had previously owned or the Huo manor.
“You shouldn’t have accepted the house. Instead, you should have pleaded with the Chief to allow you all to live back at the Huo manor.” Zhang Feng rested her head on her hand, leaning against the long table as she muttered; her heart was broken. She couldn’t accept this outcome. She had stood on the highest point and had looked out, finally, out at the most beautiful scenery—to now go back to the low and miserable place she had started from, it made her wretched. Although it was where she really belonged, she had never accepted it.
Zhang Baochen gripped Zhang Feng’s arm and whispered, “Mom, the Chief is here to see you too. Why don’t you ask him for help and see whether he can get you out of here?” All this time, Zhang Baochen and Zhang Feng had refused to believe that Grandfather Huo would sit by idly and allow Zhang Feng to rot in jail.
Grandfather Huo certainly wasn’t sitting idle. After Zhang Baochen had left, he went in to visit Zhang Feng. As she waited, Zhang Feng combed her hair, washed up, and changed into a white sweater with white straight-leg trousers. Her waxy complexion appeared even more haggard in the light colored fabric, and she seemed especially pitiful and vulnerable. This was how she had initially caught the interest of Grandfather Huo in the first place. As soon as he saw Zhang Feng in the visiting room, he immediately felt distressed for her. “What…What’s the point of this? You ended up in here after all that trouble.” Grandfather Huo sat across from Zhang Feng and asked her with great concern, “Are you comfortable in here? Did anyone do anything to you?” Grandfather Huo surveyed Zhang Feng’s white hair and was just as shocked as Zhang Baochen had been. He had never seen Zhang Feng so unkempt.
He recalled the moment he had first met her: he had just been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, but had stayed in the military hospital for six months because he felt ill. When he was discharged, Zhang Feng had been assigned to be his personal nurse and aid him with his recovery. The young nurse had worn a pure white uniform and stood humbly by his side, obedient as a shadow. At the time, Grandfather Huo had only had eyes for his wife. Xie Ziyan had been a renowned beauty, bold and electrifying; like hard liquor that intoxicated people with a single sip. They had been a happy couple and had two sons in succession as he climbed the military ranks. Within a few years, he broke the glass ceiling and became General. Accordingly, Zhang Feng stayed by his side and was promoted to Head Nurse. Xie Ziyan had been born into the Xie family and so she had been perfect in terms of background, ethics, and aura. However gorgeous and accomplished a woman she had been, she’d also had a terrifying temper and a very stubborn streak. Grandfather Huo hadn’t seen anything wrong with Xie Ziyan until he had been able to compare her with another. It was when Zhang Feng became his nurse that Grandfather Huo realized not all women burned like a passionate fire, but could flowed gently like a still water pond. Water is soft and silent, a humble backdrop; fire burned, consuming fodder for its flames in order to stay alive. Between the two women, it was water that had flowed on with time to extinguish the flames. That was when Grandfather Huo had known that he couldn’t leave water anymore. His expression was conflicted as he watched the terrified Zhang Feng and patted her hands “Don’t fret. I’ll pull some favors. No matter what, you’ve been my nurse for over 40 years and I won’t sit idle.” This was more than a matter of pride—he wouldn’t allow anyone to disrespect her. Of course, it would be impossible for him to directly plead Zhang Feng’s case because Huo Shaoheng would have to be the one to do it, but not even Huo Guanchen would be capable of completing this task.
Zhang Feng sighed in relief. She was reassured as long as Grandfather Huo promised to help. She had never come across a situation that Grandfather Huo couldn’t handle. “Chief… Thank you. My entire family is so grateful to you.” Zhang Feng’s eyes welled up, her waxen complexion flushing red. “Do you remember the year you came to my family home, and to see Baochen’s family?”
Of course Grandfather Huo remembered. He had only gone to Zhang Feng’s maternal home once in his life, and afterwards, had upgraded them to a larger house. Zhang Feng’s father had been so thankful that he and his wife as even knelt before him. He had been shocked and had hastily helped them up while asking them to not act so polite.
Zhang Feng’s father had been insistent, however, and had said, “The Chief is the savior to our family! Please accept our gratitude.”
Normally speaking, Zhang Feng’s parents were elders to Grandfather Huo because he’d had relations with their daughter and had sired a son with her. However, they treated him like an esteemed guest and did not put up airs as the in-laws. Grandfather Huo had only met them that one time and yet, it was still seared into his memory. 16 years had passed and the Zhang Feng who had been by his side all that time was about to face jail time. How could he ever face her parents again? “Sort out your assets and sell off what you can to pay off as much as possible. See if it’s enough to cover everything owed.” Grandfather Huo knew it would be a tricky situation, and said in frustratedly, ” Really though! Over 1 billion RMB? How could you have been so brazen!”
“I still have to repay? But we earned everything through doing business—how can we give up all our money just because the military said so?” Zhang Feng was emboldened by Grandfather Huo’s willingness to help her and his concern for her. “Elder Huo, I really don’t have much money left. All I have is a bit I saved for Baochen, since he can’t officially be a part of the Huo family. How can I leave him with no security for the future? He still has a son and daughter to care for!”
Grandfather Huo frowned. “Well, what do you want to do? Are you really going to refuse paying it back? Do you want to spend the rest of your life in jail?” Capital punishment was also a possibility, but Grandfather Huo didn’t want to mention it for fear of frightening her.
Zhang Feng pursed her lips as she shifted in her seat anxiously and muttered, “What if you were help me… repay the debt?”
“Me?” Grandfather Huo was stunned. “I don’t have that much money.”
“You might not have it, but Sister Xie’s trust fund has enough…” Tears glimmered in Zhang Feng’s eyes and she nearly sobbed. “Just her trust fund’s annual income alone is more than that amount anyway! A wealthy person like her is no comparison to a commoner like me. As long as you withdraw the fund’s income for the year, you can help me out. I won’t ask you to marry me or even ask that Baochen officially become a Huo. I just want to leave him with a bit of money because that’s the only thing I can do for him as a mother.”