The two people stood at the crossroads and looked at each other.
Suddenly, they broke into laughter at the same time.
Tang Hao saw the basketful of tangerines in Yan’er’s hands and rushed forward to take it from her. “Let me help you!”
Shi Yan’er silently nodded.
Two of them walked back toward the village, shoulder to shoulder.
“When did you arrive here, Brother Hao?” Shi Yan’er asked in a low voice.
“Not too long ago,” Tang Hao answered, “Right, Yan’er, you should be in the third year of high school when the next semester starts?”
Shi Yan’er lowered her head when she heard the question. She had a bitter expression on her face.
“What’s wrong?” Tang Hao asked.
“Brother Hao, don’t you know that I’ve dropped out of school?” Shi Yan’er answered with some difficulty. She sounded dejected. “Half a year ago, my dad hurt his leg when he went into the mountains. We’ve spent more than a hundred thousand yuan trying to find a cure.
“We’ve emptied our family savings and incurred many debts to cure the leg. I can’t continue studying anymore. I’m helping Mom tend to her tangerine grove at home.”
Tang Hao was silent when he heard that.
“I’m sorry, Yan’er, I didn’t know…” he apologized after a long while.
“It’s fine!” Shi Yan’er shook her head and smiled.
Tang Hao could see that the smile was forced. There was a hint of sorrow in her eyes.
He sighed and felt sorry for her.
His impression of Yan’er was that she was an intelligent and obedient girl. She always had good results, and she was also admitted to Westridge First High School. She was a year younger than him and was his junior.
He was expelled from school for fighting in the semester she enrolled in the school. He had never met her in school and had only heard it from his maternal uncle.
This was his first time hearing about her father’s accident.
Yan’er’s intelligence should have been enough to be admitted to a prestigious university. Her future would have been bright if not that she had to drop out of school. Tang Hao felt that it was unfortunate.
Yan’er smiled when she saw Tang Hao fall silent. “It’s alright, Brother Hao, it’s just school! Next time I can start a small business, or otherwise… I can deliver packages along with you!”
“You shouldn’t do that. Delivering packages is tough work! It’s not a job for girls like you,” Tang Hao replied.
“What’s a little bit of hard work?”
“You cheeky girl…” Tang Hao smiled. “I’ve already quit my job. I’m planning to start a business with some capital that I have.”
“Oh? What kind of business?” Yan’er’s eyes sparkled as she asked curiously.
“Medicinal herbs. I’m planning to set up a plantation here in Dragonrock Village.”
Yan’er’s eyes opened wide. “I’ve heard that you need a lot of money to set up a plantation?”
“Indeed! But I do have some money, and I’m connected with some rich bosses, so there shouldn’t be a problem,” Tang Hao said.
“Really? That’s great news!” Yan’er said excitedly, “Then you’ll have to hire me in the future. I’m very hardworking.”
“Silly girl, you… should go back to school. You’ll have a better future if you graduate.”
“But…” Shi Yan’er lowered her head.
“Alright. I’ll follow you home and check out your dad’s injury. I’ve picked up some Chinese medical skills lately, maybe I can help,” Tang Hao said.
“My dad has visited a few hospitals, even those in the district capital and province capital. We’ve spent a lot of money, and nothing has worked,” Shi Yan’er said dejectedly.
“Let me have a look!” Tang Hao sped up his footsteps toward the village.
The path wound down from the mountainside and they soon reached the base. After another turn in the road, the village was in front of them. Tang Hao furrowed his brows when he saw that many people were gathered at a location in the village and causing a commotion.
Many cars were parked at the entrance to the village. One of them was even a police car.
The people were gathered at Yan’er’s house.
Yan’er was anxious when she saw that. She started running toward her house.
“What’s going on, Yan’er?” Tang Hao asked.
“They’re debt collectors.” Yan’er’s face looked pale, and her eyes were filled with panic and helplessness.
“Don’t worry. I’ll go with you.”
The two of them hurried in that direction.
A crowd of people were gathered in the clearing in front of Yan’er’s house. Almost the entire village was there.
In the middle of the crowd were about ten people dressed like hooligans. They looked unfriendly. Behind them were two uniformed police officers, watching the scene unfold with a mocking look on their faces and a cigarette in their mouths.
Standing in front was a short, fat middle-aged man in a business suit. His nose was flat and his face was full of pimples. It was not a pretty sight. On his girthy neck was a thick gold necklace, and all his ten fingers were adorned with gold rings.
His appearance was exactly that of a windfall tycoon as if he was worried no one knew that he was rich.
This fat person was standing in front of the door with a fierce expression on his face.
Standing at the doorway was a woman, and next to her was a middle-aged man in a wheelchair.
“Shi Xuefeng, and you, Zhang Hongfang, both of you better listen carefully. You had better return the one hundred and fifty thousand yuan today. Otherwise… I’ll let you know the extent of Hu Dahai’s power.” The fat person, whose name was Hu Dahai, said viciously.
Zhang Hongfang was a little pale in the face. “Boss Hu, is it possible… that you give us a few more days? You should know the situation of my family,” she begged.
“Delay a few more days? I remember you saying the same thing the last time I was here! How long more are you going to delay it?” Hu Dahai laughed coldly.
“But we… we really have no other choice!” Zhang Hongfang begged.
“No other choice? Don’t you have a piece of farmland and a house? They’re not worth much, but you still can get some money out of those.”
“Where will we stay if we sell our house? Boss Hu, you are a gentleman with a big heart. Please give us a few more days! We will do our best to gather the money for you.” Zhang Hongfang was almost kneeling.
The crowd of villagers felt sorry for them when they saw this scene.
“Sigh! Xuefeng’s family is extremely unlucky. How did a happy family turn out to be like this? Sigh! I feel so sorry for them!”
“This Hu Dahai is too cruel. He’s like a tyrant! I’ve heard that he only lent them the money because he is fond of Yan’er, and now he’s making Xuefeng’s life difficult.”
“Yan’er is the treasure of our village. She can’t marry a man like him!”
The villagers were indignant, but they were helpless against the group of hooligans and the two police officers.
Hu Dahai was the terror of the village. He was relatives with the police chief in the nearby town. Any regular villager that crossed him would be hauled into jail.
“Gather the money? Do you think you can? You won’t even get that much money even if you sold yourselves!” Hu Dahai smiled coldly. “Didn’t I say this before? As long as you agree to marry Yan’er to me, I will write off the entire debt.
“Think about it. What kind of person am I? So many people want to be my parents-in-law. I’m offering this chance to you and you reject it. Are you out of your mind?
“Here! This is the contract. It will come into force as soon as you sign it, and we will be relatives after that. When Yan’er comes of age, we will immediately hold the ceremony and have a fabulous wedding banquet.”
Hu Dahai pulled out a contract as he spoke and shoved it in Zhang Hongfang’s face.