When they arrived at the museum in the Lin family’s car, the exhibition had already started for more than an hour and the opening ceremony was over.
In the soothing light music, brightly dressed men and women strolled leisurely in the spacious and bright exhibition hall, admiring the paintings, and occasionally talking softly.
This was a world Tao Xi had never been to before, but he didn’t feel out of place, instead he had a sense of ease that he should belong here.
As soon as Qiao Yitang arrived, she joined her university boyfriend who had been waiting for a long time and walked away. Tao Xi took Lin Qinhe and Tang Nan all the way to find the booth of his paintings, the most remote corner of the exhibition hall.
“This is my painting.” Tao Xi pointed to the painting he had hung on the wall and said to Lin Qinhe.
On the canvas was a little girl in a red corduroy coat, with a black natural curly hair and a pair of bright apricot eyes. She was flying through the golden rapeseed field in spring, happily chasing a pink butterfly.
The little girl’s chubby cheek had a large piece of red spots like butterflies, from the bridge of the nose and spread to the left side of the face, but people who looked at the painting would not have the slightest idea that the little girl looked ugly, because the smile on her face was more brilliant than the spring light in March.
Tang Nan looked up at the painting and asked curiously, “Gege, who is she?”
Tao Xi looked at the girl in the painting intently, and with longing in his eyes, he said softly: “This is my sister.” He turned his head to look at Lin Qinhe and asked with a smile, “Isn’t my sister very cute?”
Lin Qinhe hummed and whispered, “The same as you.”
Tao Xi was startled, biting his lower lip to hide his embarrassment.
Lin Qinhe looked at the painting, finally understood why Tao Xi was always anxious to make money. For a mountain village family with a meager income, he knew very well what a child with Lupus Erythematosus meant.
He looked at the boy who was looking at the painting.
He thought at the time that this person might have worked harder than he thought.
When Tao Xi noticed Lin Qinhe looking at him, he looked back and was slightly stunned.
He heard Lin Qinhe say to him: “Tao Xi, you will have your own painting exhibition in the future, and many people will come to see your paintings.”
The tone was serious and determined.
Tao Xi was stunned, curled his eyes and said, “If I have my own exhibition, will you come to see it?”
Lin Qinhe answered without hesitation: “Yes.”
Tao Xi’s eyelashes trembled, he looked at Lin Qinhe’s beautiful side face, blinked and said with a smile, “Okay, when I have my own exhibition, I will tell you the first thing, you must come!”
The kid Tang Nan on the side didn’t quite understand, and shouted, “I want to come, I want to come too!”
Lin Qinhe patted the top of Tang Nan’s head and said indifferently, “You forget it.”
The two took the kid to see other paintings in the exhibition hall. On the way, they met Qiao Henian and a few seniors from the Calligraphy and Painting Association. The old man was determined to let his student know more people, so pulled Tao Xi away and refused to let him go.
Originally, Lin Qinhe had been by the side, but Tang Nan suddenly clamored that his stomach hurts. Tao Xi asked Lin Qinhe to hurry to take the child to the bathroom to solve it, so as not to create other problems.
Lin Qinhe had a black face, he was very unhappy to carry Tang Nan away.
Tao Xi was led by Qiao Henian to meet several seniors in the literary and art world. He was somewhat nervous, but still tried to be polite and decent. Those seniors knew that Qiao Henian had taken a student after many years and had long been very curious about it, so they were very enthusiastic about Tao Xi.
One of them was the current president of the Painting and Calligraphy Association, named Guan Shuwen, a well-known calligrapher. He joked to Qiao Henian: “Old Qiao, your student looks a little like my daughter.”
Qiao Henian knew that the president, who had been a flirt in his youth, had an illegitimate daughter who had once tried to learn painting from him, but he had refused, so he said, “Really? He looks more like one of my former female students.”
Guan Shuwen’s face was a little unsightly when he heard that, as if he was thinking of something.
Tao Xi didn’t notice the undercurrent surging between them. After bidding farewell to several seniors, he intended to go to Lin Qinhe, but halfway there, he was drawn to a painting hanging in the non-sale section of the exhibition hall.
In that painting, a young peasant woman in a straw hat wearing black rubber shoes was planting rice seedlings in a water field in a mountain pass with green seedlings and white water. Another young woman in a long white dress was sitting in front of an easel painting on the edge of the field. A few white herons flew from the field to the damp mist-mantled mountains and fields, rippling lightly on the water surface.
The whole painting revealed the tranquility of the mountain village. The two women in the painting were busy and idle, but the expressions on their faces were calm and peaceful. They dressed very differently but looked like long-time friends and confidants.
Tao Xi held his breath and looked at the name framed by the black frame below.
He squeezed his fingers instantly, his eyes flushed uncontrollably. He thought.
It turned out that in the eyes of his mother, the years in the mountains when he was born were peaceful and beautiful.
It turned out that her mother also painted Guo Ping, who was with her at the end of her life, into her own world by heart.
Tao Xi suddenly heard a strange and familiar voice calling him. He turned to look in the direction of the sound, and saw Yang Zhengming walking towards him with a smile. There was a beautiful young woman beside him, holding Yang Zhengming’s arm.
He could hardly describe his emotions at this moment, and could only try to suppress the emotions that were surging up, mechanically lifting the corners of his mouth and greeting Yang Zhengming: “Uncle Yang.”
Then he glanced at the woman next to Yang Zhengming, and a strange feeling suddenly surged in his heart, because that woman, who was probably in her twenties, looked a little like him, especially those eyes.
The woman looked at him, also stunned for a moment, but soon raised her chin slightly to reveal a smile.
Yang Zhengming said in a polite tone: “Are you coming to the exhibition alone?”
Tao Xi shook his head and said, “I came with my classmate.” He didn’t say which classmate.
Yang Zhengming smiled and said, “I saw your painting at the booth over there. I thought it was good and wanted to buy it, but I heard from the staff that it had been sold.”
Tao Xi was stunned and couldn’t hide his surprise, “Sold?”
Yang Zhengming who didn’t expect Tao Xi was still clueless about it, said: “Yes, I heard that the painting was sold not long after the exhibition started, the buyer’s name is Su Yun, do you know him?”
Tao Xi shook his head in a daze and said, “I don’t know.”
But Yang Zhengming knew the secretary of the chairman of Ruize Group. He was surprised but didn’t say anything. Instead, he introduced his female companion to Tao Xi and said:
“This is the vice president of the Qinghua1Green jade/Cyan Painting Association. Guan Fanyun, maybe you can get to know each other.”
Guan Fanyun seemed to be dissatisfied with this introduction. She looked at the man beside her angrily, and handed Tao Xi a business card with a smile:
“Hello, my name is Guan Fanyun. I also think your paintings are good. You can join our Qinghua Painting Association and you can meet many like-minded friends who are about your age.”
Tao Xi guessed that this woman called Guan Fanyun was Yang Zhengming’s lover. She was not like him, but like Fang Sui.
But that person had gone, what was the point of doing this for those who had already died?
He took Guan Fanyun’s business card with both hands and said thank you.
After exchanging pleasantries, people who were not familiar with each other should have gone to their separate ways, but perhaps Yang Zhengming saw Tao Xi staring at the painting too intently, or perhaps because of some innate connection, Yang Zhengming could not resist asking Tao Xi.
“You also like this painting?”
Tao Xi was quiet for a few seconds and said, “The place in the painting looks very beautiful.”
That was the place where he was born and raised, but the beauty had bound him for sixteen years.
Looking at the painting, Yang Zhengming seemed to evoke some memories, the gentle and polite smile on his face faded a little, and he slowly said:
“This is my late wife’s painting, she liked it very much and spent the last days of her life there.”
Guan Fanyun glanced at Yang Zhengming, holding back what she wanted to say, but her expression was already a little unhappy.
At that moment Tao Xi thought a lot of things and wanted to ask Yang Zhengming many questions, but in the end he only asked one question, to his father:
“You didn’t visit there afterwards?”
There was your child there.
Yang Zhengming was silent for a while, raised the corners of his mouth and smiled helplessly, and said, “I really wanted to go, but I did not dare. I had reached the entrance of the village once, I planned to visit the house where my wife was staying when she was pregnant. But I still went back. There is no way, sometimes people are just so cowardly.”
Tao Xi’s breathing was stagnant, and he thought, why did he ask this question?
Cruel and meaningless.
He suddenly wanted to escape here. He didn’t want to see this painting. This painting proved that his mother once cherished Guo Ping, and he didn’t want to see this father who was accompanied by his lover.
When he was about to pull his leg and leave, someone tapped him on the shoulder and said to him: “Why don’t you look for me?”
Tao Xi looked over, and Lin Qinhe was looking at him with a slight frown.
He looked at Lin Qinhe and watched hard, as if he finally found a shore to anchor after a long time drifting in the water. He raised a smile and said, “Came across a very nice painting and looked at it more.”
Lin Qinhe didn’t mean to blame Tao Xi. He looked at Yang Zhengming and said “Uncle Yang” indifferently.
Yang Zhengming looked at the two teenagers in front of him, remembering the painting that Su Yun had bought. With a thoughtful smile, he said, “Qinhe, I thought you would not be interested in the exhibition.”
When Luo Zhengyin held an exhibition for Fang Sui, Yang Zhengming and Yang Duole also went there, but they had never seen Lin Qinhe.
Lin Qinhe slightly blocked Tao Xi behind him, and said coldly to Yang Zhengming: “Just because I wasn’t interested before doesn’t mean I’m not interested now.”
Yang Zhanming smiled, understood that he was not welcome here. He did not say anything else and took his female companion to say goodbye and left.
Lin Qinhe turned around, looked at Tao Xi’s eyes for a moment, and asked in a low voice, “Do you want to go and rest?”
Tao Xi still looked at him and nodded obediently.
Whenever Tao Xi showed such a look and looked at him with dependence, Lin Qinhe wanted to raise his hand and rub his hair, but he finally resisted and took Tao Xi to the tea break in the corner of the exhibition hall. Sitting there were Qiao Yitang who was bored and playing with his phone, and Tang Nan, who was sleeping on his back after having an upset stomach.
“You have finished looking? My boyfriend was approached by a mentor, so he left me and ran away.” Qiao Yitang lowered her mouth unhappily.
Tao Xi sat down by the coffee table and saw Lin Qinhe poured a cup of coffee in front of him, and asked him, “Should I add sugar?”
He nodded and said, “Yes, a lot of sugar.”
He wanted to eat a lot of sweet things now.
Lin Qinhe, however, directly placed a whole candies from the tea break in front of him and asked, “Is this enough?”
Tao Xi looked at the exquisite packaging of various candies in front of him, and suddenly remembered that night at the hospital, Lin Qinhe put a candy with a smiley face on it in his hand and said to him: “All children will become happy after eating this candy.
He looked up and said to Lin Qinhe with a smile, “Of course it’s enough.”
This person always seemed to be easily aware of his unhappiness.
Tao Xi picked up a candy, removed the paper and put it in his mouth, feeling the sweetness on the tip of his tongue. Gradually, the sweetness diffused from his tongue to his chest, as if there was really no bitterness left.
The three people sat and chatted, mainly Qiao Yitang complaining about how unreliable her boyfriend was. Tao Xi occasionally responded, but Lin Qinhe did not say much, looking down and playing with a colored candy paper.
Before long, a staff member came over to Tao Xi and said, “Hello, Mr. Qiao asks you to come over.”
Tao Xi was startled and looked at Qiao Henian, who was across from the exhibition hall. There were several middle-aged people standing beside him, men and women, who seemed to be waiting for him.
Qiao Yitang said, “Someone must be interested in your paintings, don’t be nervous, just chat, go ahead.”
Tao Xi subconsciously looked at Lin Qinhe, who nodded to him and said, “I’ll wait for you here.”
Only then did he get up and leave.
Qiao Yitang looked at Tao Xi’s back, smiled at Lin Qinhe and joked, “Not worry about him going alone? You’re not going to accompany him?”
Lin Qinhe took a sip of coffee and said flatly: “He will always have to face many people and many things alone. I believe he can handle it.”
Qiao Yitang tsk-ed: “Look at your tone, like an old father.”
Lin Qinhe glanced at her coldly.
Qiao Yitang was not shocked. She looked at this old friend who was obviously a year younger than her, but seemed much older than her, and thought to herself, such a twisted person, when will he get what he wanted?
She suddenly remembered that when she was a child, because the two families were friends, she and Lin Qinhe often visited each other to play. When she was about seven years old, the family raised a clingy white kitten. When Lin Qinhe came to her home, the cat wrapped around Lin Qinhe’s legs, but Lin Qinhe was cold-tempered at the time. No matter how cute the cat was, he held the cat’s neck and threw it.
However, after that, Lin Qinhe suddenly came to her house more frequently. Every time he walked in, the cat would meow and pester him. He was neither cold nor warm, but didn’t bother to touch the cat.
She hated her cat for eating inside and picking outside2吃里扒外: live off one person while secretly helping another, but she was obsessed with it. But once she happened to see Lin Qinhe squatting in the corner of the stairs. He took out a few dried fish that he had brought home from his pocket, and was feeding the cat, petting it gently while feeding it, obviously he liked it so much.She finally understood the reason why her cat was pestering Lin Qinhe, and felt that this younger brother was really twisted. He liked it, but he refused to admit it.
Soon afterwards, the cat fell ill and died. She burst into tears and buried the cat in the courtyard. Lin Qinhe heard from somewhere and he rushed over soon. He moved a small bench and sat next to the cat’s grave. A few dried fish were placed in front of the mound, he didn’t cry nor did he speak, he was just sitting there for one whole afternoon.
Later, Lin Qinhe rarely came to her house.
Qiao Yitang remembered this funny childhood story and smiled. She thought about it for a while, but couldn’t resist taking out her sister’s posture and said to Lin Qinhe in a serious manner.
“You’ve done so much for him, paying for him to study at our school, asking me to take care of him at the art club, introducing him to my grandfather as a teacher, even buying him clothes for the exhibition. You even bought the painting early in the morning for fear of people taking it away. So many things, why didn’t you talk to him?”
She believed that in a place she did not know, Lin Qinhe must have done more things for that person that were not known to anyone.
Lin Qinhe looked at the person who was talking and laughing with someone in the distance, and after a moment of silence, he said in a calm tone.
“I just hope that he will be an excellent and proud person, looking at me with a straight look, not because of gratitude or debt, nor does he have to return the slightest bit of it to me.”
Qiao Yitang was startled, she was silent when she heard the words. It was rare that she did not tease and joke again.
She just felt that the ten relationships she had before seemed to have suddenly become insignificant.
Perhaps true love was to be kind to a person in such a silent and restrained manner, not to pursue this goodness as a means of pursuit, nor to ask for it because of this goodness.
Qiao Yitang also looked at Tao Xi in the distance. The beautiful young man in an expensive dress was talking calmly with several elders. He seemed to have faded from the gloom he had when she saw him for the first time, and she couldn’t tell that he was born in the bottom of the mountain village.
It was as if he was born to be a proud young master from an extraordinary background and had become the outstanding and proud person Lin Qinhe wanted him to be.
But the so-called self-confidence and pride, had always been watered by favor, it was very difficult to grow flowers in muddy swamps.
Qiao Yitang looked at the other side, and suddenly found that Qiao Henian and the middle-aged men who spoke earlier had left, and a pretty young girl went over to speak with Tao Xi.
Her heart moved, she looked at Lin Qinhe on the side and found that Lin Qinhe was also looking there.
She calculated the time in her heart, and as expected, Lin Qinhe got up before it was even a minute the two had talked with each other.
Qiao Yitang laughed and said: “What? Can’t help it? Didn’t you just say he can handle it?”
Lin Qinhe ignored Qiao Yitang and set off to walk over there.
He thought, how could he be as glamorous as he said.
There was no way he could stand Tao Xi saying more than a few words to other people, painting for others and smiling at others.
He hoped that Tao Xi would only look at him forever.
Obviously he was the one who brought him here, he thought darkly, he even wanted to hide him in a place that only he knew.
But he knew he wouldn’t do it.
He would not let Tao Xi become a canary or dodder that was only attached to him.
He wanted Tao Xi to be as bright as a star, bright as the moon, and had a good life.
“Are you going to leave?” Tao Xi was surprised to see Lin Qinhe coming.
Ding Yanan, a freshman art student who was talking to Tao Xi, stared blankly at the tall handsome man who came by. Her face flushed, and she hurriedly looked at Tao Xi whom she had just met, hoping that he would introduce this handsome guy.
But since this person came, Tao Xi’s all attention had been locked on him, and he had not given her any attention anymore.
Lin Qinhe didn’t even look at the girl, and said to Tao Xi: “It’s getting late, let’s go back together.”
Tao Xi nodded and apologized to Ding Yanan. “Sorry, I have to go back to catch up with my homework. I will consider joining the Qinghua Painting Association as you said. Thank you.”
Ding Yanan had a strange feeling in her heart. She felt that the two boys in front of her seemed to have only one another in the world, and even if she stood there, it seemed redundant.
She smiled and said, “You’re welcome. I still hope you will join our association.”
Lin Qinhe was about to turn around and leave, and Tao Xi behind him soon followed after bidding farewell to Ding Yanan.
He paused, and waited for Tao Xi to walk completely beside him before starting to walk back.
He wanted to be a fellow traveler in this wonderful life.
The author has something to say:
OMG the word count has exploded to more than 5,000, and I don’t want to break it into two chapters.
- 1Green jade/Cyan
- 2吃里扒外: live off one person while secretly helping another