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C18 Ten Years

"If it's possible, I'd like you to consider becoming the Ji Family's personal physician," Old Master Ji said, his eyes filled with hope as he gazed at Zhang Cheng.

Zhang Cheng was taken aback, not expecting Old Master Ji to hold him in such high regard. Then, the thought of his unresolved kidnapping flickered through his mind. Becoming the Ji Family's personal doctor would surely bring wealth and prestige, but it would also attract the attention of many powerful factions. And if his kidnappers were among them, they would be on even higher alert, making it all the more difficult to uncover any leads.

With these thoughts weighing on him, Zhang Cheng shook his head, a tinge of regret in his voice, "Old Master, I have other commitments right now and, unfortunately, can't take on the role of the Ji Family's personal physician."

The room fell into stunned silence at Zhang Cheng's refusal. He had actually turned down Old Master Ji's offer!

A flicker of surprise crossed Old Master Ji's face, seemingly caught off guard by Zhang Cheng's decisive response. But just as quickly, the surprise vanished.

"If the young miracle worker is not inclined to join us, I won't insist," Old Master Ji said warmly. "Should you need my assistance in the future, Ah Cheng, don't hesitate to ask."

Zhang Cheng offered a slight smile. He didn't understand why Old Master Ji was treating him with such kindness, but he knew it wasn't a bad thing.

"Old Master, please, no more 'Little Godly Doctor.' Just Ah Cheng is fine. By the way, how are you feeling now?" Zhang Cheng inquired, genuine concern in his voice.

"Thanks to your exceptional medical expertise, I'm feeling very well," Old Master Ji replied with a hearty laugh, clearly not dwelling on the earlier rejection.

Medical expertise? Did Zhang Cheng have medical skills too? Zhao Zhijun wondered, his eyes narrowing as he observed Zhang Cheng. Since his return, his son-in-law had become an enigma.

Zhao Qingyu shared her father's sentiments. Zhang Cheng seemed different, transformed. What exactly had happened to him over the past year?

A seed of curiosity was taking root in Zhao Qingyu's heart. Often, curiosity is the first step in truly falling for someone...

Zhang Cheng looked at the buoyant Old Master Ji and gently reminded him, "Old Master, even though I've managed to stabilize your condition, it's crucial that you keep up with your exercise to achieve a full recovery."

"Really, Ah Cheng? My illness can truly be cured?" Old Master Ji feigned astonishment, eyes wide as he gazed at Zhang Cheng.

"Without a doubt!" Zhang Cheng assured him confidently.

Old Master Ji let out a hearty laugh, then grasped Zhang Cheng's hand once more. "Ah Cheng, would you join me upstairs to discuss my condition in detail?"

"Of course." For Zhang Cheng, such a request was no trouble at all, and he wouldn't dream of declining.

As Zhang Cheng consented, Old Master Ji eagerly led him toward the second floor.

"Grandfather, we're at the Zhao Family banquet. Can't this wait until after the event?" An out-of-place voice halted Old Master Ji's ascent.

Zhang Cheng turned to see the source of the interruption—a cream-faced young man frequently seen on television, likely the idol Zhao Qingya had mentioned.

"Ji Feng, since when do I require your input on my affairs?" Old Master Ji's expression soured instantly.

The young man, Ji Feng, quickly backpedaled, "I wouldn't presume to..."

With a dismissive snort, Old Master Ji declared, "No one else is to come upstairs!"

He then continued to lead Zhang Cheng to the second floor.

Zhang Cheng glanced back at Ji Feng with a curious eye. It appeared the Ji Family was rife with internal strife.

A younger member challenging an elder in such a manner was certainly out of the ordinary.

"Ah Cheng, I apologize for the younger ones in the family; they lack understanding," Old Master Ji said with a hint of regret as he ushered Zhang Cheng to a seat.

Zhang Cheng gestured dismissively, signaling it was no issue.

"So, you're saying my illness is cured?" Old Master Ji pressed on.

"Old Master, you're probably more aware of your condition than I am," Zhang Cheng replied with a knowing smile.

Initially, Zhang Cheng was puzzled by Old Master Ji's warm reception. Now, it seemed likely that Old Master Ji had already sought a hospital evaluation of his health.

Otherwise, there wouldn't be this theatrical display today. As for why Old Master Ji would feign such surprise upon knowing his recovery was certain remained a mystery.

Zhang Cheng was puzzled, suspecting that there must be a reason he was being kept alone with him on the second floor, perhaps needing his assistance with something.

Upon hearing Zhang Cheng's thoughts, Old Master Ji's cheeks flushed with a hint of embarrassment. "It appears that Ah Cheng's medical expertise is matched only by his exceptional insight," he said. "With that in mind, I'll be forthright. I have a rather bold favor to ask of you."

Zhang Cheng's smile confirmed his suspicions.

"Go ahead, Old Master Ji. If it's within my power, I'll certainly lend a hand."

A trace of bitterness crossed Old Master Ji's face as he revealed his worries. "As you've seen, the Ji Family isn't united as it once was."

Zhang Cheng nodded, encouraging him to continue.

"Though outsiders may be unaware, I know all too well the state of the Ji Family. On the surface, all may seem well, but internally, we're fragmented. Should I pass away, I fear the Ji Family would dissolve within six months," lamented Old Master Ji, his expression one of deep regret.

"You're worrying too much, Old Master. The Ji Family is strong; it won't come to that," Zhang Cheng reassured him.

Old Master Ji's frustration boiled over. "It's my sons... their selfishness has brought nothing but turmoil to the Ji Family!" he exclaimed, pounding his fist on the table.

Zhang Cheng was taken aback by the old man's sudden outburst.

Despite all he had heard, Zhang Cheng was still unclear on what Old Master Ji expected of him.

"How can I assist you, Old Master?" Zhang Cheng inquired, perplexed.

Old Master Ji looked at Zhang Cheng with a longing that made him uneasy. Could the old man possibly want...?

Quickly, Zhang Cheng shielded himself with his hands, but Old Master Ji, realizing the misunderstanding, cleared his throat and spoke awkwardly.

"Ah Cheng, you've got it wrong. I'm simply asking you to persuade your father to come out of retirement to help manage the affairs of the Ji Family."

Relief washed over Zhang Cheng. So, it wasn't what he thought. He was just being asked to coax his father out of seclusion. Wait a minute—his father?

Why would he ask his father to come out of retirement? Could it be that his father was once a person of great importance?

Otherwise, why would Old Master Ji hold him in such high regard? But why had his father never shared anything about his past with him?

Maybe Old Master Ji was privy to some details.

A glint appeared in Zhang Cheng's eyes as he feigned indifference, "My dad mentioned he's done with all that. Now, he just wants to live a quiet life tending to his fields."

At Zhang Cheng's words, Old Master Ji's face fell with disappointment, "It's understandable, considering how outrageous the Bai Family's actions were back then."

The Bai Family? It seemed there was a significant grudge between them and his father.

"Old Master, could you tell me about what happened back then?" Zhang Cheng asked, urgency in his voice.

Old Master Ji regarded Zhang Cheng with suspicion, "Your father never mentioned it to you?"

Realizing he'd given himself away, Zhang Cheng laughed it off, "Please forgive my curiosity, Old Master. I truly wish to know about the past events."

"It's a sad tale of grievances. If your father chose not to tell you, then it's not my place to share," Old Master Ji said resolutely.

Zhang Cheng felt a pang of disappointment – it seemed he wouldn't learn anything after all. He continued, "Old Master, even though I can't convince my father to return, you're still healthy and have ample time to set things right within the clan."

"What good are a few more years to an old man like me? It's probably too late," Old Master Ji said, his face etched with sorrow as he gripped his fists tightly.

Zhang Cheng hummed thoughtfully, then offered, "Old Master, if you trust me, I have a medicinal recipe for you. Send someone to gather the herbs listed, and if they succeed, I guarantee you an extra decade of life."

Old Master Ji stood frozen, eyes wide with disbelief at Zhang Cheng's proposition.

"Ah Cheng, are you serious?" Old Master Ji's voice shook with excitement.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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