In the second half of the birthday party, a huge multi-layer cake was pushed in by the waiter. The private room that had been noisy for two hours was finally quieter. Seventeen candles were lit on the exquisite cake. Jin Jing made a wish with her eyes closed while everyone sang ‘Happy Birthday’.
“Beauty, what did you wish for?”
“I guess it’s a wish to be with the person you like?” A girl followed, and many people instantly understood and passed a few glances to each other and laughed, as if they knew who Jin Jing liked.
Jin Jing squinted at those people and scolded them: “Don’t make trouble! It’s not this wish. It won’t work if you say it.”
Tao Xi surrounded the big cake like everyone else, watching Jin Jing cut the cake piece by piece and distributed it to everyone. He took the cake Jin Jing handed over and said thank you.
When she gave it to Yang Duole, Jin Jing smiled and said to Yang Duole:
“Yakult, it’s your birthday next. Will you invite us to have a Christmas birthday party at home this year like last year?”
Li Xiaoyuan followed and said, “Yes, I also want to ask, I remember last year was held at Lin Qinhe’s house, Auntie Luo also prepared a Christmas gift for each of us.”
As soon as they heard the three words “Lin Qinhe”, everyone started booing Jin Jing again. No wonder she asked Yang Duole this question. Jin Jing blushed and and scolded a few words.
Tao Xi looked at Yang Duole and saw that the person whose birthday was on the same day as him was unnatural for a moment. He took the cake from Jin Jing and smiled: “Of course it will be done.”
After Yang Duole finished speaking, he looked at Tao Xi subconsciously. With a piece of cake in his hand, Tao Xi smiled at him with his head tilted. Yang Duole quickly retracted his gaze, pursed his lips, walked to the sofa and sat down, picking up the phone as if he was sending some news.
Tao Xi picked up a small fork and ate the cake in his hand. The taste of the cake was very sweet and delicate. He used to eat birthday cake only occasionally on his classmates’ birthdays, but the cakes sold in the best cake shops in the county were very rough in texture.
“Then the next one is Tao Xi, right? I remember it was on December 26th, very close to Yakult.” Li Xiaoyuan asked as he walked up to Tao Xi. As class president, he had memorized the birthdays of every student in the class.
“It’s very close to him, almost the same day.” Tao Xi took a bite of cake and looked at Yang Duole before he replied.
Yang Duole buried his head, the finger on the phone screen paused.
It might be due to Guo Ping’s guilty conscience. Tao Xi’s birthday on his household registration was December 26, while Tao Le’s birthday is on December 28. Over the years, Tao Xi had been following Tao Le to eat a bowl of longevity noodles on the 28th, considered it as for his birthday.
He didn’t know the day his mother gave birth to him until last year.
The birthday party was about to end. A group of people who had drunk were still crying and howling. Tao Xi’s phone vibrated, he took it out and took a look. As if calculating the time, Guan Fanyun sent him a WeChat message:
“I have a friend who came here just now. He graduated from the California Institute of the Art, and he studied oil painting just like you. Now his reputation is not small. I heard that you want to apply to a school in the United States. How about introducing you to this big shot? The other person is very nice, you can ask him any questions you have.”
Tao Xi stared at the message, the bright light of the screen condensed in the dark pupils. He slowly raised his head, his face half bright and half dark.
Yang Duole was discussing his birthday party with a few people with a smile, not noticing his sight.
Tao Xi lowered his head and slowly typed on the screen, “Okay, thank you.”
Guan Fanyun quickly replied, “No problem. Which private room are you in, I’ll take you there.”
Tao Xi replied to her with the room number, held the phone in his hand, and went to talk to Jin Jing. Jin Jing thought that Tao Xi had to go back to the dormitory and as there was a curfew, he didn’t want to stay. She asked him to pay attention to safety on the road.
During this time, Yang Duole kept looking at this side from his side.
Tao Xi didn’t look back. After bidding farewell to other classmates, he opened the private room door and walked out, closing the door behind him and separating all the noise.
Guan Fanyun was walking in high heels in the corridor. Tao Xi could smell the alcohol and the strong smell of smoke on this woman from a long distance. He lowered his eyelashes slightly to cover his disgust.
Guan Fanyun walked to Tao Xi with a cigarette in his hand, and looked at the fair-skinned boy in front of her. His temperament of being a good student was too obvious that he was a little out of place with this place.
She squinted her eyes and smiled, and said in a cordial tone: “Did you say goodbye to your classmates?”
Tao Xi glanced at the door he had just closed and nodded.
“Let’s go, my friend will be here for a while.” Guan Fanyun said. She didn’t want to stay here long.
But Tao Xi didn’t move, he raised his eyes to Guan Fanyun and said, “President Guan, I suddenly remembered that I have a classmate who should also be able to go to your party with me.”
The smile on Guan Fanyun’s face froze for a moment. She looked into Tao Xi’s eyes and a strange feeling emerged in her heart, but she quickly responded, “They shouldn’t be a member of our association, so they can’t participate.”
Tao Xi made a regretful “Ah” and said: “But you should know him. I saw you and Uncle Yang together last time to see the exhibition. Uncle Yang’s son, Yang Duole, don’t you know him?”
At the top of the corridor, the dim spotlights shot down obliquely, casting elongated cross shadows under his fine eyelashes, gently shifting between blinks.
Guan Fanyun finally understood where the strange feeling in her heart came from. Tao Xi’s eyes were a bit like her, or rather more like the person she tried to imitate.
She was smiling clearly, but the coldness made her palms feel cold.
She subconsciously avoided Tao Xi’s gaze that was looking straight at her, and her face was astonished: “Of course I know, did Lele come here today?”
Tao Xi nodded and said, “Yes, he is still inside. I’ll call him out and see you.”
Guan Fanyun saw that Tao Xi was about to go back and opened the door, so she hurriedly took his arm and squeezed out a smile: “No, actually he doesn’t really want to see me, we hardly see each other. It’s just a coincidence today.”
Tao Xi calmly broke away from Gu Fanyun’s dark-green nail polish hand. He said, “Really?”
After a pause, he smiled at Guan Fanyun and said, as if to himself, “I thought you changed the address of the meeting here to invite Yang Duole to your meeting.”
Guan Fanyun’s heart jolted and she looked at Tao Xi in disbelief. Those eyes were staring at her, and there was no emotion in the dark pupils, only the shadow of the eyelashes cast on the lower eyelid flicked slightly.
She almost felt that Tao Xi had seen her intentions.
“President Guan, can we meet your friends now?” Tao Xi asked.
Guan Fanyun did not dare to look back at Tao Xi’s eyes, tightly squeezing the cigarette in her hand, her heart was in a mess. For a moment she was a little hesitant whether to continue with her original plan. After a few seconds, she finally made her decision:
“Let’s go, my friend will be here for a while.”
Tao Xi put the phone in his pocket, and a mocking smile evoked at the corner of his mouth.
He was about to go with Guan Fanyun when he suddenly saw a figure at the corner at the end of the corridor, his footsteps instantly paused.
Lin Qinhe first looked at Tao Xi and frowned slightly, and when he saw the woman beside Tao Xi, his frown deepened.
“Why did you come over so fast?” Tao Xi asked as he walked to Lin Qinhe quickly.
Lin Qinhe stared at Tao Xi’s eyes, trying to find out the gloomy look he had just seen in these eyes, but that seemed to be just an illusion, Tao Xi looked at him with a gaze that clearly only had dependence and happiness in it.
Lin Qinhe didn’t answer, he held Tao Xi’s wrist and pulled him behind him, then looked at Guan Fanyun whose eyes were a bit evasive and asked, “What are you guys talking about?”
Guan Fanyun obviously sensed Lin Qin He’s hostility towards her, she pulled out a somewhat stiff smile, “Tao Xi is a member of our Qinghua Painting Association, I’m planning to introduce a friend to him.”
Her tone was natural, but her heart was in a panic. It was impossible for her to not know this young master of the Lin family who grew up with Yang Duole. She also knew that he had a deep background and could not be offended. Like his mother Luo Zhengyin, he hated Yang Zhengming as much as she did, let alone her.
Lin Qinhe did not believe all of it. He turned his head to look at Tao Xi and asked, “Is that so?”
Tao Xi nodded, didn’t say anything, his eyes dropping to look at his toes.
Lin Qinhe looked at Guan Fanyun with a smile at the corners of his mouth, his voice was without emotion: “What friend? Can I also get to know them?”
Guan Fanyun had already figured out a countermeasure just now. She raised her hand and pretended to look at the phone. Showing an apologetic look, she said to the two of them:
“Unfortunately, my friend suddenly sent me a WeChat saying that something is going on and he’ll have to leave later. I’m sorry, I’ll find another opportunity to invite you guys to meet me next time. I’ll go back first.”
Lin Qinhe looked at Guan Fanyun’s hidden anxiety and guilty conscience, and said, “Okay, please give my regards to Uncle Yang.”
Guan Fanyun’s eyelids jumped and said with a smile, “No problem, Zhengming has always wanted to visit you and your mother too.”
Lin Qinhe watched Guan Fanyun walk away. He turned around and looked at Tao Xi who had not spoken, his tone became serious: “What’s the matter?”
It was impossible for him to fail to see Guan Fanyun’s strange attitude, and it was even more impossible for him to fail to see Tao Xi’s abnormality. For the person in front of him, he had always been keenly aware of all his emotions.
Tao Xi was really guilty. He still couldn’t tell Lin Qinhe what he had encountered here tonight and what he planned just now, but Lin Qinhe was staring at him inquisitively. His gaze made him unable to make up a reasonable lie.
He glanced at the empty room with the door ajar by the corridor, suddenly grabbed Lin Qinhe’s wrist, pulled Lin Qinhe into the room, and then closed the door abruptly.
There was no light in the room, only the faint flickering light of the song-ordering screen. Tao Xi stretched out his arms to hug Lin Qinhe’s neck and buried himself in Lin Qinhe’s arms. His lips pressed to the skin of Lin Qinhe’s neck. He took a deep breath and whispered:
“I miss you a little bit.”
Lin Qinhe was visibly stunned, slowly raised his hand to hug the person in his arms back and said with a smile in his voice: “Isn’t it not even a day apart?”
Tao Xi rubbed his lips against Lin Qinhe’s neck and felt the hands on his waist clasp tighter. He said:
“In the past few weeks, you have been going to training and competition every day. I often can’t see you at noon and evening. I can’t see you even more when you go home at night.”
Lin Qinhe raised his hand and rubbed the back of Tao Xi’s head, whispering, “Wait for me for a while, soon.”
Tao Xi thought that Lin Qinhe was talking about waiting for the end of the competition. His chin rested on Lin Qinhe’s shoulders, his eyelashes drooping, no one could see the emotions surging in his eyes, as if he was hesitating about something.
After about five seconds, Tao Xi made a decision and said to Lin Qinhe.
“When your competition is over, I want to tell you a secret.”
His greatest secret.
He knew that now was not the best time to say it. This incident would surely cause shocks among several family members and Lin Qinhe was still preparing for the competition. It would definitely affect him.
Lin Qinhe was silent for two seconds before he asked: “Does it have something to do with Yang Duole?”
Tao Xi’s body froze in an instant. He looked at Lin Qinhe’s eyes through the faint light, and for a moment he was not sure whether Lin Qinhe knew about it.
In fact, he was not as confident as he thought. After hearing the dialogue between Guan Fanyun and Yang Duole, he felt uncontrollably angry and ironic. What qualifications did Yang Duole have to “teach” him?
But then came the panic, why should Yang Duole “teach” him? He had enjoyed sixteen years of pampering that should have been his, but would these favors suddenly disappear with the exposure of his life experience?
Impossible, he knew that if you keep pets for sixteen years, you would have feelings, let alone people?
He didn’t even dare to tell Lin Qinhe the truth about tonight, because he couldn’t be sure whether Lin Qinhe would believe him. At one end of the scale was a friend who had been close as a brother for sixteen years, and at the other end was a lover who had been together for less than two months.
He could not be confident about which one was more important.
Tao Xi looked at Lin Qinhe and did not answer his question, but asked a somewhat inexplicable question.
“What if, what I want to do will make it very difficult for you?”
After tonight, it was no longer possible for him to tolerate him and Yang Duole living peacefully under one roof, pretending that nothing was going on.
But what would Lin Qinhe think about this matter then? Would he defend Yang Duole?
Lin Qinhe lowered his eyes slightly and looked at Tao Xi’s eyes. These eyes were filled with a certain uneasiness that he did not yet know. During the few seconds of his silence, the uneasiness seemed to be more intense.
“Why would I be in a difficult situation?” Lin Qinhe asked rhetorically, he hadn’t encountered anything too difficult yet.
Tao Xi was made even more uneasy by Lin Qinhe’s look. He averted his gaze, thought for a moment and said, “For example, it might require you to make some kind of choice or something like that.”
“Choose between you and someone else?” Lin Qinhe asked.
Tao Xi was stunned by Lin Qinhe’s keenness, he nodded hesitantly.
But in the next second a hand fell on his head, rubbing it not too lightly, and the always cold and bland voice of Lin Qinhe rang in his ears.
“If it’s this kind of choice, don’t worry about me being difficult, I will favor you unconditionally.”
Tao Xi suddenly opened his eyes and stared at Lin Qinhe stupidly. At that moment, he didn’t know how to react.
He knew that Lin Qinhe was not a person who liked to express himself, but whenever he was confused, Lin Qinhe always seemed to be able to put his mind at ease with the simplest of words.
He blinked quickly and jokingly said, “What if I commit a crime?”
Lin Qinhe smiled a little at the corner of his mouth, raised his chin slightly, and said, “What crime can you commit?”
Tao Xi thought for a moment, narrowed his eyes and said, “Kidnapping you?”
Tying Lin Qinhe to a place where there was no one, there would be no need to worry so much about so many things.
Lin Qinhe raised his eyebrows slightly and actually said, “You can try.”