Eighteen Months Later:
Mora than a year had passed since Yao Yao's death and their training with Sister Su Jianan had begun. Shi Ai was set to celebrate her birthday today. It was special becuase it was her eighteenth birthday! Shi Ai woke up with a smile on her face. She was happy to have a family to celebrate her birthday with. Though,truthfully she had never been alone in celebrating her birthday. Shi Ai had not known her birthday so she had officially celebrated the day on the birthday of big sister Alicia,whose hand she had held as she came into the orphanage. It was also on her birthday that she had been admitted into the hospital and been discovered with a heart condition. So this day had held many mixed memories for her.
But tonight,Shi Ai was not thinking any of those things. Aunt Luo had planned a party for her daughter and invited all their friends and families. Because she had been recognized as Aunt Luo's orphaned neice,people had been more welcoming for her and Shi Aihad taken tobcalling the Zhang couple as Uncle and Aunt. Aunt Luo's purpose in celebrating tonight was two fold, celebrate Shi Ai's birthday and get her a boyfriend. Aunt Luo had only met Ah Hai once and did not have a very good impression of him. This was her 'subtle' way of making Shi Ai forget him.This was why she had invited many rich boys for the party as well.Shebreally hoped someone would fall for her and woo her.
Shi Ai looked at herself in the mirror and sighed.She was finally eighteen! She twirled in front of the full length mirror as she admired herself. She looked really pretty,she thought arrogantly to herself. Dressed in a blush pink gown,with a sweet heart neck and shimmering skirt, her hair tied up softly and curled to fall around her face,she looked like a princess doll come to life. Her training from the past year had given her a toned look and glowing face. With only a dab of lip gloss and no other make up,a she was ready for the party.
Just then a knock sounded on the door and soon Zhang Min entered the room. Shi Ai turned to look at him and the boy felt his mouth fall open. After a few shocked seconds,Zhang Min said,"I am always amazed by your beauty,little sis!Come on princess,I can see you are ready to cause murder and mayhem." Bending like a hero from olden days, Zhang Min offered his elbow to his sister.
Shi Ai let out a giggle at this and then bowing back like a princess murmured,"Thank you Crown prince!You look ready as well.All the girls are going to swoon. I hope you have smelling salts with you to revive them.."
Zhang Min who had always had a lean and tall body had filled out after receiving strict training from Sister Su. With wider and muscled shoulders,coupled with a charming smile,his fan following had increased a hundred fold.
Zhang Min grinned at his sister's compliment and shrugged," Since they are the ones falling over,they should carry their own medicine."
Shi Ai shook her head and slapping him on the arm said,"What a narcissist you have become." The two siblings then walked out of the room to go downstairs for the party which had already begun.
When they started to descend the stairs,there was an awed silence as everybody admired the striking pair. The girl looked like a picture of alluring innocence whereas the boy looked like a young prince. Even the uncles and aunties present in the ball felt that Mrs Zhang's family had all the beauty genes,whether it was her own children or her cousin's daughter. Every boy wanted to make Shi Ai his girlfriend and every girl hoped that Zhang Min would at least look at them..
Soon,Shi Ai was surrounded by a group of boys and girls all eager to wish her a happy birthday. She smiled happily and accepted the wishes gracefully as she listened to the chatter around her. In the last year,Shi Ai's personality had once again changed or as she preferred to call it evolved. A person's experiences changes them and their personality. As a kid she had been cheerful and social but by the time she joined middle school after the shocking discovery of her age and the heart treatment,she had become reticent and aloof. After Yao Yao,she had held some bitterness in her heart and mistrust towards others ..But Sister Su had helped her see the many facets of humanity and Shi Ai had formed a deeper understanding of those around her. But this was all in theory.She wished to experience the harsh reality of life and she would soon announce her decision to this new family of hers. From an aspiring artist,she had changed her career goal to becoming a social worker. Right now,her mind was occupied by these thoughts though her face showed nothing.She was practicing her speech to present to Uncle Zhang and Aunty Luo to give a plausible explanation. She was sure that they would not object as they had always been supportive of her but the objection would be to something else that she was going to propose to do. Before that she wished to look for her past. Why and how she had ended up in the orphanage.Why had she not known her age. Her nightmares,her fear of closed spaces were all somehow related to her childhood. She was going to go back to country C soon..
There was only one thing she was waiting for before she left.. Ah Hai ..Hebhad told her that his undercover mission would be a long one but he had promised to send her proof that he was fine at least once a year. She had yet to receive anything..Though if she went according to the calendar year, it could mean that there were still six months left to his given timeline. Shi Ai had once said this to Sister Su and the reply she had given had almost scared her out of her wits. "Little Shi Ai. Di you realize that assuring you of his safety may result in him breaking his cover. And you have watched enough thriller movies to know what happens when a persons cover is exposed.Reality is a hundred times harsher." After that, a part of Shi Ai had hoped that he would never take such a risk and another part of her hoped that he would keep his promise.
She was jolted out of her gloomy thoughts by the sound of applause. Zhang Min had brought out a cake and was inviting her to cut it.Shi Ai laughed at the cake's design and vowed that she would do something similar to him someday...Knowing her obsession with Ah Hai, Zhang Min had gotten a cake in the shape of a Knight In Shining Armor. He wanted her to cut and eat Knight..But before she could reach the stage,Uncle Zhang came forward and said,"Wait a minute. There is a gift she needs to receive before she cuts that cake." Dr Zhang then glanced at the cake and continued," It is from her Knight,her fiance."
This caused Shi Ai's eyes to widen and she almost ran to get the delicate box out of Dr Zhang's hands.Even Zhang Min had a comical expression on his face..Seeing the Knight cake and Dr Zhang's gift plus Shi Ai's princess like attire,everyone thought that is was an inside joke and thought nothing of Dr Zhang's words since old fashioned Knights did not exist anymore. But they were all curious about what she had received. Because seeing the gift had almost made Shi Ai glow. A few minutes ago she had looked breathtaking but now she looked like an ethereal goddess.
Shi Ai looked at Dr Zhang with questioning eyes,asking him wordlessly if what he said was true. Seeing her hopeful look,Dr Zhang lowered his voice to a whisper and said,"Yes..it is sent by him. I got it this morning. Even I am not aware what is in the box.All I know was that it was to be handed to you tonight.Shi Ai took the box out of Dr Zhang's hands with nervous fingers. She was happy that he had sent her the proof and happier that it was in the form of a birthday present. It was the best proof that she could have hoped for.
Slowly she opened the lid of the box and peeped inside. Seeing her look of anticipation made a few girls so curious that they were tempted to snatch the box out of her hands and see for themselves what the gift contained.