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151 The Cruelest Memory of the Artis

    When Yujia opened her eyes again, some of the young ladies, still pale with shock, were already getting escorted away by their servants and carriages. Meanwhile, Zhou Luowei ordered the servants who were carrying a now-passed out Rong Tianyu, "Quick! Since the Bo Villa is the closest to this place and the Rong Villa is so far away, bring her to my villa! And some of you go run for a doctor! If your Second Miss has any emergencies, your heads are all falling off today!"

    Once the servants carried Rong Tianyu away, Luowei now rubbed her temples, her posture loosening a bit. She glanced across the pavilion at Yujia, who leaned against one of the center poles of the pavilion, staring back at Luowei.

    Luowei watched everyone else leave quickly with a few bids of goodbye, then walked next to Yujia, holding out her hand. "Do you... want to come back to the villa with me? I can get you another set of outer robes... since you're looking like this. If you walk all the way from here to Lingxin, you're going to damage your reputation and get a cold."

    Yujia nodded, grasping onto Luowei's hand and pulling herself up. "Thank you," she quietly murmured.

    Together, they walked and entered Luowei's carriage, which set off soon. Though it was Yujia's first time riding a carriage, she couldn't bring herself to feel interested or excited. She could only stare down at her hands, silently contemplating many things.

    She managed to save Rong Tianyu. But even so, Yujia's mind couldn't stop replaying the events that happened before that. Though she managed to stop being completely immersed in her memories every single time, she could still recall the fear that spread across her entire heart. Just the thought of it made her heart begin to speed up again, worry spreading across her thoughts.

    Among all of this worry, a distant memory flickered in her brain, as if today's events finally triggered them to surface.

    Through the twenty-four years of her life, this memory was the worst one. Worse than failing her most important college examinations. Worse than getting all those countless rejections for her art. Worse than all her fights with her parents. Worse than all the deep debt she was stuck in throughout her past life.

    This was a memory that she tried so hard to bury away. It was the deepest, darkest part of her shame, the one she never learned to accept. She only knew to bury it deeper and deeper, to forget it every time she recalled it, to ignore its sheer existence and pretend like this way, it would all be fine.

    It was a memory from when she was twelve. A year when she was just old enough to recall things with painful detail. A year just old enough to realize that everything was all her responsibility, her fault.

    In this memory, there was a graying beach and a little toddler, her baby brother. One moment he was there, playing in the sand where her parents left the two of them temporarily. The next moment, she looked away upon seeing a friend, and when she looked back, she only saw the faintest glimmer of him vanishing under the tide of the water.

    She had screamed then. She had screamed so loudly, running towards the spot where she last saw him, almost diving into the water before a lifeguard ran forward, pulling her back and telling her that it was dangerous. Then, he went into the water himself, diving into the waves instead of the calm area of water she saw her brother wander off into.

    Her parents were back by now, holding the picnic basket they promised to get from the car. They dropped the basket when they realized that she was crying and that their precious son was gone. They ran up to her, shaking and shouting at her, asking what had happened, but all she could reply was, with a red face stained with tears, "

    I don't know, I don't know, I don't know

    ."

    When the lifeguard came back to the water, empty-handed, no sign of her baby brother anywhere, he only shook his head. At that moment, her mom dropped to her knees, her gaze becoming blank. Her father spun around, diving into the waves himself, in complete disbelief.

    Hours of searching passed.

    But no one could find him, the baby brother that she knew for only two years but loved with all her heart.

    It didn't make sense. It didn't make any sense. She had seen him stumble in the tranquil, shallow water before she could catch up to him and stop him. It was a welcoming, shallow, and friendly section of water in contrary to the strong tides. How could it be that he just... vanished like that?

    Later on, they would tell her that it was a rip current. A silent killer under the disguise of calm, welcome water. Even adults drowned in these currents, much less a two-year-old boy.

    Something, at that time, broke between her and her parents. They blamed her. They blamed her for not watching him carefully enough. They blamed her for being distracted by that friend she saw. They blamed her for being the murderer of her baby brother. She blamed herself too. If she just hadn't been distracted for that split second-

    From that day on, Yujia never neared another body of water either.

    Over the years, with her parents losing the son they always wished to have and having this disappointment of a daughter, their relationship slowly grew more distant and more distant. After all, from the moment that Yujia turned around to see the head of her baby brother slip under the water, it was all destined to be broken.

    And along with the passing of years, Yujia also struggled to forget these memories. She wiped them away every single time she recalled it. With the passage of time, she thought that she had long forgotten all of this. She thought that if she rejected all of it for long enough, she would never have to recall and live through all her shame again.

    That was clearly wrong.

    For now, she was remembering all of it again. The feelings tore at her heart. The memories, the haunting memories, surfaced back, as clear as ever.

    Was this all retribution? Everything she experienced in this world, from the drowning to the fear of water, she deserved all of it, didn't she? She was, in the end, the reason for her brother drowning. In return, wasn't it just fair that she would continue to be faced with being drowned herself? It all made sense.

    "Yujia?"

    Breaking her thoughts once more was Zhou Luowei, who sat across from her. Her sudden voice tore Yujia from these memories.

    "Why are you... crying?" Luowei continued with hesitancy.

    Yujia looked up, finding that her vision was blurred. Her cheeks were stained with burning streaks of tears that she only noticed just now. Her hands were shaking again.

    "I am?" She replied slowly, raising her hands up to wipe the tears away.

    She could not think about her brother's death like that. She

    should

    not think of her brother's death. These memories were too excruciating, too distressing. And they were things of the past. No matter how much shame she felt, she couldn't bring him back from the dead.

    It was all her fault. Yujia knew that. That day, if she could've been the one to drown instead of her brother, she would've done it.

    But for now, Yujia wanted to be more selfish. She wanted to be more selfish and broken and blind and cowardly. The pain was too much to bear. The guilt was too much to bear.

    Once more, she pushed this memory into the depths of her brain, deeper and deeper in the hopes that she would not remember it again. She was a new person now. She had a new start. She shouldn't allow herself to keep recalling the past.

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    "Are you fine?" Luowei probed.

    "Me?" Yujia whispered, finding her voice hoarse.

    Despite the tears- the goddamn tears that kept falling no matter how much she tried to push the memories away- she gritted a smile on her face. A crooked smile that didn't belong there and hurt too much to make.

    "I'm fine."
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