The town was small, so from time to time, you could meet acquaintances.
Liao Nanqing never thought that he would run into his former neighbor, Auntie Zhang, at the stationery store.
Auntie Zhang and Su Ya were in the same dance team, and she came to Su Ya today to send her handmade wine stuffed steamed buns. Originally, she came with a smile, but when she saw Liao Nanqing, the corners of her mouth fell instantly. She twitched the corners of her mouth with a smile, with a hint of gossip, and looked at Su Ya who was peeling apples for them: “Little Liao is here too. A’Ya, you know each other?”
Liao Nanqing was stunned. He bowed his head hurriedly, and his fingertips began to tremble slightly.
The face in front of him was no different from eight years ago, even the traces of the years made it clearer.
Su Ya, who didn’t know the inside story, put down the apple in the fruit bowl and drew a paper towel to wipe her hands: “It’s a friend of my nephew who always helps me to take care of the store recently. He’s a good boy, do you know him too?”
“Oh, we used to be neighbors.” Auntie Zhang glanced at Liao Nanqing, the eyes did not carry much friendliness. She changed her face to a kind one, took Su Ya’s hand and said intimately, “The math class you recommended to my little granddaughter last time was especially good, her grades went up a lot. Today I made a snack at home so I bring it to you to try.”
Saying that, it seemed like something was taboo, and she left after a few quick words.
Su Ya remembered about the dance team, and chased after her to say a few words to her. From afar, Liao Nanqing couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but in while talking, Su Ya looked back at him.
Liao Nanqing had always been sensitive, Su Ya’s attention made his feet tingle and his heart nestled in an extinguished fire, he hurriedly put away the exercise papers into his backpack.
“You’re going back?” Su Bei Mo’s laptop was playing a disaster movie. He took off his headphones, was confused as he looked at Liao Nanqing.
Following Liao Nanqing’s sight, Su Beimo also noticed Aunt Zhang having a bad face.
“Nothing. I have something to do today, I’ll leave first.”
“Liao Nanqing!” Su Beimo could feel that Liao Nanqing was in trouble. He looked like he was going to run away, and he couldn’t wait to fly away with his wings.
Liao Naqing pinched the shoulder strap of his backpack, took two steps, and then looked back at Su Beimo. It was like the movie on the screen, stormy and thunderous. The trees that fell to the ground crushed the calm, and the tide swept by and washed away the beautiful town in the past.
And the appearance of Aunt Zhang, in Liao Nanqing’s mind, was not much better than this disaster film. Even Liao Nanqing was even more afraid of her appearance.
Just because this person knew all the accidents, she would tell Su Ya all of this, along with the false story, and then Su Beimo would also know.
Soon, Liao Nanqing would lose his friend Su Beimo and accept the same contemptuous look.
Even if she didn’t say it today, she would say it tomorrow and she could say it the day after tomorrow.
Because back then, she was the one who told the secret.
The nightmare that he couldn’t forget after eight full years, the beginning of all the rumors.
Su Ya returned to the stationery store with a serious expression and pushed the glass door closed. She noticed that Liao Nanqing had already gone back. Under the sun, she and Aunt Zhang talked outside for about twenty minutes or so.
Su Ya wiped the sweat at the corner of her forehead with a tissue, sat down with a heavy heart, and sighed.
“Just now, Xiao Zhang told me…” The tissue in Su Ya’s palm was kneaded into a ball, and she described the matter in a different way. “Do you remember that we had a big news eight years ago? There were so many news reporting that, making people panic.”
For the news eight years ago, Su Beimo had little impression.
At that time, he was in the third year of junior high school, going out early every day to study and returning home late. If there was only one big news that impressed him, it was the panic murder case that happened in the town that year.
The offender killed his neighbor.
As for what the motive for the crime was, the offender didn’t say a word, and he was mentally shaken. However, after investigation, it was found that the victim was a debtor of the offender, who repeatedly came to provoke the offender and had many conflicts with the offender’s family. In addition, there were traces of injuries to the offender’s family members.
As for the specific reason, Su Beimo didn’t care too much.
“The murderer is Nanqing’s father.”
Su Beimo only felt that there was something stiffly rattling in his heart, clicking and snapping.
Su Ya hesitated before saying: “There is one thing that the news didn’t report much. His father killed that person because of him. Because that person, he, he seemed to have taken Nanqing… to him…”
Su Beimo took a deep breath. Su Ya’s endless hesitation and surprise was reflected in his eyes.
Su Ya shook her head, “hey, I can’t say that.”
And how did they spread it around.
Regarding this pain as a joke, a broken word while killing time after dinner, piled up over time, and pressed all over Liao Nanqing, crushing him and defeating him.
Su Beimo’s heart was prickling, and he finally knew why they all called Liao Nanqing a ‘Little Convict’. No wonder everyone alienated him and laughed at him. Liao Nanqing’s father killed someone who committed a crime, and was finally sentenced to a suspended death sentence for various reasons.
Regardless of the reason, as long as the law was broken, it would be sanctioned, this was the unchanging principle and no one could refute it. Liao Nanqing’s father chose to act extreme resulting in his own child suffering from so many years of gossip. Tracing the source, it might be a pity, but he did break the law.
And Liao Nanqing was the victim of this incident.
“Aunt, there are some things not to be spread blindly.” Su Beimo said with a heavy voice, “If the rumors spread so much, even the fake will become real.”
Su Ya nodded: “I know, but if this is true, then Nanqing is too pitiful.” She remembered the disdainful and disgusting eyes of Aunt Zhang when she said this, her heart was filled with a sense of powerlessness. It was clear that Liao Nanqing was the real victim, yet he was made to look worthless by these gossips.
Aunt Zhang said it was nothing more than a ‘good intention’ but she wanted Su Ya to also stand in the camp she thought was right.
He didn’t know that the Su family was kind, and in turn, they felt a little bit more distressed for Liao Nanqing.
Su Beimo was even more so. He said to Su Ya: “Even if it is true, he shouldn’t be hurt by this.”
The next day, Liao Nanqing did not come to the stationery store.
Su Beimo waited for him, but finally couldn’t bear it, and sent a message to Liao Nanqing: [Not coming today?]
About ten minutes later, Liao Nanqing replied: [Can I still come? ]
Su Beimo replied in seconds: [Why not? ]
Liao Nanqing didn’t reply anymore, he didn’t know what to say. He should have asked Su Beimo if he knew about the rumors, and he should have asked Su Beimo if he had an opinion on him.
But after seeing the message from Su Beimo, Liao Nanqing’s heart was burning like a pot of boiling water.
Continue to heat up until the water vapor gushes out.
It was Su Beimo who sent him a message again: [No matter what, you are my friend. You are welcome to come to my house for dinner again, might buy fish tonight.]
Liao Nanqing squatted in the corner of the room, looking at the screen of his phone, his eyes were wet. He rubbed his eyes and repeatedly touched every word on the screen, reading this message many times like it was a treasure, and would remember it for many years. Clearly remembered, this Su Beimo who took the initiative to reach out and gave him a hand.
For a long time.
Su Beimo’s cell phone rang: [I want to accompany you to buy fish].
Su Beimo raised the corners of his mouth and typed numbly: [En, the stationery store is waiting for you. ]
Since the age of ten, Liao Nanqing had never heard the word ‘waiting for you’.
He had no friends, no family, and no one really loved him from that moment on. Even for a long time, his father refused his prison visits. Time was a shackle that trapped all his youth and beauty. Everything about him seemed to be stuck at the age of ten, that day, the noon that was as silent as death.
It was still a hot summer day, and the heavy smell of blood was disgusting, and the mistake started at this moment.
Liao Nanqing’s eyes were forcefully covered, and that person seemed to be his grandmother.
She shouted again and again, tearing her heart out: “Sinner1Raw: 作孽: to sin, sinner, ah——”
The shout echoed in his ears, stuffing his brain and making his ears echo with endless chirping sounds. His hands and feet were cold, but sweat began to fall from the tips of his hair. He heard his father’s voice, coming through that empty silence and into his world, saying to him, “Nanqing, I’m sorry…”
Used the wrong way, to protect you.
I’m sorry, Nanqing.
Dad is sorry for you…
The sky was cloudless, and the surroundings were as quiet as a dream. He never saw the cruel scene, thanks to his grandmother covering his eyes in time. But he knew that his dad was broken at that moment, and once he dropped his hand, he couldn’t turn back even if he regretted it. His spirit was completely smashed by a big beam. It clanged and shattered to pieces.
Their family was crushed and there was no room for turning over.
But the final fuse lay in him, it was him, Liao Nanqing, who caused all these disasters!
He regretted it very much, and regretted it a lot. What he regretted the most was that he didn’t stop his father.
Liao Nanqing rushed to the bathroom and took a shower, changing out of his sweaty short sleeves.
He tried hard to keep himself from recalling those black memories, he yearned for a new life, and there was Su Beimo in his new life. He knew he was wrong, but he couldn’t help but want to be with Su Beimo.
He couldn’t wait to see Su Beimo.
He didn’t even bring a backpack, and walked straight out of the house.
Running like the wind and when he arrived, Su Beimo was really waiting for him at the stationery store, the appropriate color crashed into sight as Su Beimo leaned back in his chair, lazily watching a movie.
When he saw Liao Nanqing coming, Su Beimo waved at him. Liao Nanqing honestly walked over and Su Beimo threw a bag of bread into his arms: “There are still twenty minutes left in this movie, you wait for me.”
The bread was stuffed with red beans. Liao Nanqing liked this taste.
“I’ll watch it with you.” Liao Nanqing moved over nervously and looked at the screen, but actually, he was stealing a glance at Su Beimo.
He was as timid as a mouse, but when it came to approaching Su Beimo, his guts broke the sky.
“Huh?” He responded nervously.
“Did you turn into a thief last night? Look at this dark circle under your eyes.” Su Beimo reached out and pushed a hand to his forehead, “Don’t watch, let’s go, let’s go to the vegetable market.”
“Only so much is left…” Liao Nanqing thought it was because he was waiting here that Su Beimo took the lead in turning off the notebook.
However, Su Beimo only told him calmly: “It’s too hot today, I kind of want to eat watermelon.”
“I’ll buy it for you.” Liao Nanqing said quickly, “I will buy you whatever you want!”
You are my only friend. Even though this kind of feeling was about to surpass friends and become sustenance.
This thought was terrible, and Liao Nanqing hesitated for a moment.
But before he was falling into a terrible deadly loop, Su Beimo pulled his arm and said, “Buy me the biggest one.” This tone was very flat, but listening carefully it had a taste of ‘coquettery’? The voice traversed the long timeline, occupying all of Liao Nanqing’s sanity.
But Su Beimo wouldn’t act coquettish. This was just Liao Nanqing’s beautiful illusion, but it was not derogatory.
At the door of the vegetable market, Liao Nanqing recalled the tone of Su Beimo in a vague way so he found a fruit store and bought a watermelon. He picked the biggest one. The watermelon in the season was not expensive, and it was the best snack to cool off the heat.
Su Beimo wanted to help him get it, but he wouldn’t let him.
An acquaintance suddenly followed behind him, and Su Beimo recognized him as the boy who led the little bullies who had bullied Liao Nanqing at school.
“Hey, from the stationery store! Do you know that his father is a prisoner of reform through labor! The kind that kills people!” the boy shouted contemptuously, and everyone around him looked curiously. Some recognized Liao Nanqing at a glance, while people who didn’t know also stopped to watch the excitement, whispering one after another.
The whispers came into the ears.
Liao Nanqing’s heart ‘thumped’ down, his face was very ugly. He was holding the watermelon and his body was as heavy as lead. For a moment, he almost didn’t dare to look at Su Beimo’s expression. The whispers of onlookers, the unkind eyes, the endless gossip. As long as he was with him, Su Beimo would encounter these sooner or later.
He brought it on.
“Do you know how dirty he is! Do you think you’re any good?” The boy looked like he was about to explode a big secret, nasty to the core, but the world’s favorite gossip to talk about.
Liao Nanqing panicked, his shoulders trembling violently, only to feel that he could not even swallow a mouthful of saliva, stuck in his throat, blocking it badly. His mind was full of muddled thoughts: What if Su Beimo hates me?
What if Su Beimo regrets it?
Can’t let him say…absolutely cannot…
Liao Nanqing clenched his fist, there were cold sweats in his palm, and the watermelon he was holding fell to the ground, smashing a big hole. The bright red watermelon looked sweet, but it couldn’t replace the tense and depressing atmosphere. Liao Nanqing had been talked about for so many years, he was not afraid, but he was afraid that Su Beimo would mind.
But all the time, the sound would get louder and louder, filling his thin auricle
“When this Little Convict was young–”
A fish wrapped in a nylon bag was thrown on the boy’s face. Su Beimo’s eyes were calm and cool, like a boulder hidden after a storm, motionless. He was tall enough to scare these thin boys. The corners of Su Beimo’s mouth were cold and steady, and his voice was rather tempered.
He said slowly: “Shut up.”
The boy was shocked by his look and turned around to leave. Su Beimo tilted his head and strode over to stop the boy. The boy took two steps back, and said vigilantly: “What do you want?”
“In the future, if you find trouble with him again, I’ll show you what real violence is.” Su Beimo was sickly, glancing over at the boy, as if looking at a piece of trash. He knocked down the boy who didn’t dare to say a word again, and tsked like a gangster. The man was not a fierce man, but he was very strong.
The boy threw a swear word and ran away, and when he was far away, he turned back to bark a bite.
Su Beimo bent down and picked up the fish, casually thrown into the trash can aside. Being disgusted with these people made him hate the fish altogether. He turned around and Liao Nanqing stood at the same spot looking at him, eyes red and astringent.
Su Beimo said, “Let’s go.”
Liao Nanqing stood for a while before he nodded vigorously. Under the sight of most people watching, he ran over and hesitated for a long time before reaching out in fear and carefully tugging on the corner of Su Beimo’s clothes, an action that used up all his courage. So humble, so timid, yet very brave.
Would he push his hand away?
He thought about it, thinking about this question countless times in his mind.
But instead of pushing his hand away, Su Beimo held it, squeezed it hard, giving him enough strength, and finally patted him on the back: “Lift your head up, don’t be a coward.”
He said, “I’m here.”
For Liao Nanqing, it was a closed prison that had opened a door, leaking in the light, inviting him out.
He also tried hard to get closer to that light and walk out with him.
T/N: Brace yourself for the next chapter. Also, I’ll be updating on every friday, saturday, and wednesday from now on!
- 1Raw: 作孽: to sin