In the evening on the last day of the holiday, Pan Yan came back with a straw hat and a suitcase. As soon as he walked in, he affectionately spoke: “Xi Da! Did you have a good vacation? Have you finished the painting?”
Tao Xi rubbed his sore wrist, not having a good temper: “Pay the money with one hand and deliver the goods with the other.”
Pan Yan gave a thousand yuan to Tao Xi. After he got five paintings, he was amazed: “It’s too awesome. I have a feeling of deja vu about this painting. I think it was painted by me, but I don’t think it was painted by me. “
Tao Xi ignored it, took the money out of the bedroom, and went directly to the street to find a mobile phone shop.
Seeing that he was wearing the uniform of Wenhua No. 1 Middle School, the clerk kept introducing him to the high-end machine: “Look at this. It has large memory and high pixels. Even if you sit in the last row and took a picture of the blackboard, you can definitely see every word clearly.”
Tao Xi was very excited but the wallet said no, so he simply said: “You can find one for me less than 1,000 yuan and can download WeChat.”
The clerk muttered: “Which mobile phone can’t download WeChat now?”
Tao Xi finally spent 999 to buy a domestically-made smart phone that had passed the season for two years. Holding the lone coin from the change, he went to the business hall to buy a phone card with his own money.
After returning to the dormitory, he took a shower and lay on the bed to play with the new mobile phone. Fortunately, there was Pan Yan as a guide. After Tao Xi played around for a while, he roughly figured it out.
The first one he downloaded was WeChat. He signed up for a WeChat account with his mobile phone number. The WeChat name was very honest with his real name, and his avatar was still the original grey human head.
He tried to take a picture of himself with the front camera of his phone, but when he saw it, he hurriedly deleted it.
“Xi da, add WeChat account.” Pan Yan was sorting out the photos taken during the holiday and intended to post it to his Moments.
Tao Xi grabbed his mobile phone and looked at his empty WeChat friends list, and refused: “It’s not good today, I will add you tomorrow.”
He wanted Lin Qinhe to be his first WeChat friend.
Pan Yan couldn’t figure out why he would pick a day to add a friend, but he would rely on Tao Xi in the future, so he replied: “Okay, you can add it anytime, I’ll be there on call.”
Tao Xi decided to “decorate” his WeChat account, not wanting Lin Qinhe to see his WeChat account as an unfinished building tomorrow.
He jumped up from the bed, jumped onto the seat and started painting.
Tao Xi painted a small dark blue planet with gouache. The planet was wrapped by a silvery white band of light, flying silently in the universe.
He adjusted the angle and light with his phone for a while, then took the picture, and set it as an avatar after a simple crop.
Then he took a photo of the moon in the snowy night he drew during the Art Club meeting last time and set it as the Moments’ cover photo.
After looking at the cover photo and profile picture of his Moments, Tao Xi turned off his phone and went to bed with satisfaction.
The next day, Tao Xi rushed into the classroom early in the morning with a fully charged cell phone. He read English book and Chinese book for a while, before wiping the two tables carefully. It took him a long time to settle down.
But he still got distracted when reading English, waiting for Lin Qinhe to come, thinking of how to talk and ask him for his Wechat ID.
If Lin Qinhe didn’t agree, he would pester Lin Qinhe all day. If it didn’t help, he would find another classmate. Anyway, he must add him.
But until the bell for the first period rang, Lin Qinhe still didn’t come to the classroom
The first class, the second class, the third class…
Yang Duole was not there either, maybe he was on sick leave, but why was Lin Qinhe miss classes?
Tao Xi held the phone in the drawer and couldn’t help but asked Bi Chengfei, who was known as the CIA of Class 1.
“Xueshen didn’t tell you? He is about to participate in Math and Physics competitions. Today, he should be going to the city to participate in the competition preparatory meeting. It is a bit far away, so it is guessed that he will not come to school today.” Bi Chengfei really lived up to expectations.
Tao Xi was slightly startled, Lin Qinhe did not tell him.
Forget it, tomorrow Lin Qinhe would come and he would ask him for his WeChat account.
Tao Xi was carrying his mobile phone everywhere that day, for fear of losing it. After all, this was the first real electronic device in his life, and he had to contact Lin Qinhe in the future.
After class in the afternoon, Tao Xi put his mobile phone in his pocket and went to the cafeteria for dinner, but Li Xiaoyuan caught him right after he entered the cafeteria.
“Tao Xi, your father is here at school. He is waiting for you at the gate. Go ahead, ba.”
Li Xiaoyuan just went to the gate to pick up the courier. He saw a middle-aged man shouting at the guard to get into the school to see his son. He was dragged by the guard, not letting him in. Hearing the man said he was looking for Tao Xi, he agreed to help him call Tao Xi over.
“Tao Xi?” Li Xiaoyuan yelled again. Tao Xi’s expression was a little strange. When he heard his father looking for him, it was as if he seemed to have heard some bad news, and his bright eyes were covered with a deep cloud of darkness.
Tao Xi took a deep breath and said thank you. He turned around and walked towards the school gate. He walked faster and faster, and finally even ran up, but his footsteps became heavier and heavier.
In the twilight, the students in neat school uniforms on the campus were walking while talking and laughing, Tao Xi stepped on the drawn oblique shadow like a lead, and ran all the way to the school gate.
“I said that my son is studying inside. You don’t believe me, do you look down on people?!” When Tao Jian saw Tao Xi coming while panting, his first reaction was to slap the guard’s table, trying to find his arrogance after he was stopped by the guard earlier.
“You are a visitor. You have to register and contact the head teacher before entering our school! Otherwise, just let someone in, who knows if something will happen?!” The guard on duty was a young guy. Obviously, he had argued with Tao Jian before, and he was even angrier at the moment.
“What do you mean?!” Tao Jian rolled up his sleeves and took a big step, his voice high and loud, “Laozi come to school to see my son! What qualifications do you guard have…”
“Enough!” Tao Xi clenched his fists and yelled at Tao Jian in a low voice.
Tao Jian paused and turned his head to look. Tao Xi stared at him with red eyes, his eyes full of fierceness.
Tao Jian clapped his hands and pointed to the guard: “Laozi don’t care about you.”
“Go out, don’t block the door.” Tao Xi walked outside the door and said to Tao Jian with a cold face. There were already many students who had come to pick up express delivery from the guard post looking at them.
“Oh, go to a good school, so you start commanding Laozi.” Tao JIan didn’t move from the guard room. He took out a crumpled cigarette and a lighter from his pants pocket, He lit it in front of the guard and caught it between his rough fingers. He shouted at Tao Xi, “Laozi didn’t eat anything to see you. Can’t you take me to the canteen for a meal?”
“Parents can’t enter school without calling the class teacher!” The guard couldn’t help but say again.
Tao Jian exhaled a puff of smoke, and by looking at this posture, he was about to argue with the guard again. Tao Xi only felt tired and seemed to have no energy to speak.
“I’ll take you outside to eat.” Tao Xi walked over and bent down to write his name and reason for leaving school on the guard’s registration form. He looked at Tao Jian and slowed down, “Follow me.”
Tao Xi followed the narrow streets to find a noodle restaurant where he usually ate on weekends. Tao Jian was cursing along the way, Tao Xi was only silent.
In the noodle shop, Tao Jian ate the noodles in the bowl with chopsticks. He seemed to be really hungry. After eating, he took a low-quality paper towel and casually wiped off the sweat on his forehead. He tapped the noodle bowl in front of Tao Xi with the chopsticks in his hand, “Buy me another bun.”
Tao Xi put down his chopsticks and went back with two bamboo steamers of buns and put them in front of Tao Jian. Tao Jian began to lower his head to eat buns again.
Tao Xi looked at the noodles left in his bowl, and was not in the mood to continue eating. When Tao Jian had almost finished, he asked, “What can I do?”
Tao Jian must have learned from Guo Ping that he came to Wenhua No. 1 High School to study. But before Tao Jian had been working in the southern coast, why did he suddenly come to Wenhua City? Also, he came to look for him specifically.
Tao Jian threw away his chopsticks, drew a tissue to wipe his mouth lumpily, took a sip of the small bottle of strong wine and burped before he grunted and laughed: “I can’t come to see you?”
Tao Xi was very impatient, but it was him who bothered Tao Jian and embarrassed him. He tried his best to calmly ask: “Now you have seen the person and eaten the meal, what else is there?”
Although it was already October, the noodle shop was still hot. Only the iron fan on the wall gave a bit of cool air. Tao Jian took off the washed white jacket, and his rough fingers pulled a few curls of hair. After a while, he raised his eyebrows and said: “Do you still have money? Give it to me first.”
Last month, Tao Jian’s factory went bankrupt and closed down. The boss ran away. Neither he nor a group of workers got the money. A fellow called him and said that Wenhua City had a job opportunity with boarding and lodging. He stood there all night. The green leather train came over. After paying some training fees, he finally found out that he was cheated. He used to spend as much as he earned to play cards, but now he only had a few hundred yuan in hand.
Tao Xi looked at Tao Jian, obviously was not surprised, but still couldn’t help being disappointed. He thought he was being ridiculous for still having expectations for Tao Jian, expecting him to really just come and see him.
He pursed his lips and sarcastically said, “Do you think I will have money as a student? Is there anyone who asks his son for money?”
The latter sentence really angered Tao Jian, his eyes full of fire: “Don’t you have a monthly allowance from the school? Except for the money for meals in the cafeteria, there are still one or two thousand left. How much can you spend as a student with that much money?!”
Tao Xi only felt suffocated. He tried to suppress his voice and said: “You know very well, but you don’t know how much your daughter spends on medicines every month? I leave the rest of the monthly allowance to Tao Le. Don’t you dare to touch a single cent!”
Then, came endless quarrels. The owner of the noodle restaurant tried to persuade him several times, but he was scared back by Tao Jian. Several other people who ate there also hurriedly checked out and left.
“Laozi fucking raised a son for nothing to this day. Which of the money you spent on eating and studying was not earned by Laozi? Didn’t Laozi make you study in a big city today?!”
Tao Xi always thought that he would never be hurt by the person in front of him again.
He thought he had overestimated himself.
He seemed to be calm again, but his throat was dry: “Yes, you are right, but I should have grown up in a big city and studied in a good school, right?”
Tao Jian suddenly smashed the wine bottle on the ground. He stood up and pointed out the door and shouted loudly: “Do you think I want to raise a son who is unfamiliar with me? Then you fucking get my own son back for me?!”
The sharp sound of glass breaking seemed to pierce Tao Xi’s eardrums. He closed his eyes, his eyelashes trembling vigorously.
He suddenly remembered that when he was very young, Tao Jian would bring him candies and toys bought from the city when he came back from work, put him on his broad shoulders, and led him to run around the mountains and fields to play.
When did it start to change?
There were gossips from the village saying that he was not like Tao Jian at all, it was Guo Ping who stole someone outside, and hence, Tao Jian gradually became more and more indifferent to him. As the time spent between the two of them became less and less and Tao Xi also gradually grew up, the two became like strangers.
After knowing the truth from Guo Ping’s mouth, Tao Jian never looked at him directly, and even ridiculed a few words, just like now.
But now Tao Jian came to ask him for money and asked him to return his own son to him.
What a fucking irony.
At that moment Tao Xi wanted to stand up and shout at Tao Jian: “Your son is in this school, and he is in the same class as me. Go and recognize him yourself!”
But in the end, he just opened his scarlet eyes and stared at Tao Jian with a gloomy face and sneered: “You should go to Guo Ping and ask her why she did that in the first place, and then look at your own virtues. Do you think I want to have you as an old man?”
Tao Jian looked at this “son” who had always been silent in front of him in disbelief. He was furious, smashed the bowl on the table with his hand, and dropped a sentence: “I’ll come to you again in a few days! Have the money ready, you owe me this!”
He said and walked towards the outside of the noodle shop with a sullen face, and kicked the table before he went out.
The dark brown soup splashed on the sleeves of Tao Xi’s white school uniform. He sat on the stool for a long time, and the violent ups and downs of his chest gradually calmed down.
He silently wiped the soup on his sleeve with a paper towel, but it wouldn’t come off. He gave up and got up to help the owner clean up the debris and soup on the floor, then settled the money with the owner and gave more as compensation.
The noodle shop owner took the money and looked at Tao Xi and sighed. After hesitating, he finally asked: “What’s the matter? Do you want to call the police?” He listened a little and wondered if Tao Xi was abducted when he was a child.
Tao Xi raised the corner of his mouth and smiled as he shook his head and said: “It’s okay, I’m sorry to bother you.”
He finished turning around and walked towards the outside of the noodle shop. The red and golden glow covered every street and alley in the city, but there were still many dark corners that could never be illuminated.
He walked in these dark corners and walked towards the gate of Wenhua No. 1 High School.
The tall school gate stood quietly in the twilight. Tao Xi remembered that when he came here for the first time, he was full of ambition and hope, as if a new door to life had just opened, and he was about to embark on a smooth journey.
But now he looked at this door, wearing a school uniform that belonged here, but wondered if he had ever walked in.
It’s okay, Tao Xi.
He said to himself.
Even if his feet were stuck in the mud, he had to climb up desperately.
Tao Xi walked into the guard room and was about to register with the guard when he saw a slender man talking to the guard. He was wearing a luxurious suit that was very valuable at a glance, holding a small black shopping bag in one hand. Raising his wrist to check the time, he said to the guard:
“I called him and he didn’t answer. Can you help me contact his head teacher? I will pass the things to the head teacher and leave.”
The guard was obviously very kind to the man, always smiling. In a blink of an eye, he saw Tao Xi coming in and said to the man hurriedly: “This student seems to be in the same class as your son. How about you give the things to him and let him help pass them on?”
The man turned around and looked at Tao Xi. When he saw Tao Xi raising his head, he was slightly startled, and then showed a gentle and polite smile, before asking: “Classmate, are you also in the Class 1 of second year?”
Tao Xi looked at the man and nodded stupidly.
The man took a step closer, glanced at Tao Xi’s dirty sleeves, and said in a gentle tone: “Can you do me a favour? This is a small gift I brought to my son when I came back from a business trip. He won’t answer my call and so I have to trouble you to help me bring it to him.”
His words were not the least bit embarrassed that his son was not answering his phone.
Tao Xi glanced at the small black shopping bag. He couldn’t recognize the brand, but it should contain valuable things.
He didn’t really want to help, because he was afraid that he would take responsibility for what went wrong. When he was looking for a reason, he heard the man continue to say:
“By the way, my son’s name is Yang Duole. He just transferred to Class 1 this semester. You should know him.”
Tao Xi looked at the man abruptly, he could hardly feel his breath at that moment.
He heard a very slight cracking sound exploding in his head, and his throat seemed to be suddenly blocked by a mass of wet cotton. He seemed to want to say something, but couldn’t say it.
The man looked at the boy’s red and moist eyes and was startled. After a while, he still smiled and asked, “Can you?”
Tao Xi lowered his eyelashes in embarrassment and nodded at a loss. He said “Okay”, but found that he could not make a sound at all and only made a mouth shape.
“Thank you so much.” The man put the shopping bag in Tao Xi’s hand and joked, “If my son is behaved, I won’t have to go through so much trouble to give him gift.”
The guard on the side was pleased: “Children like to play a small temper during the rebellious period. It will be fine after a while, you don’t have to worry too much.”
The man smiled, as if his son was really just a little upset, He said in a helpless tone, “I can’t help it, he was spoiled when he was a child.”
Tao Xi closed his eyes and took a deep breath, holding the shopping bag and lifting his foot to walk, but was lightly patted on the shoulder with a hand.
The man lowered his head and looked at his eyes. With focused and soft eyes, he smiled and asked, “I just forgot to ask, what’s your name?”
Tao Xi was silent for a while, and heard his dry voice say, “Tao Xi.”
“Tao Xi? A very nice name.” The man paused, then took out a business card from the card holder and handed it to Tao Xi: “If my son doesn’t want to pick it up, you can call me.”
Tao Xi lowered his head and saw three words printed in the center of the pale gold business card: Yang Zhengming.
Below was a string of mobile phone numbers, with no other content except for a very light perfume smell.
Tao Xi blinked vigorously.
It turned out that his father was called Yang Zhengming.
He seemed to use all his strength to lift his hand to take the business card.
Then he left there quickly.