In the end, it was Lin Qinhe who settled the bill. After sending Tao Xi back to school, he returned to the villa and saw Luo Zhengyin sitting alone on the sofa in a disheveled manner, holding a string of red peace knots in her hand.
After sending Yang Duole back, Luo Zhengyin wanted to have a good talk with Yang Duole, but not only did she fail to do so, Yang Duole even quarreled with her, and finally untied the peace knot he had been wearing and locked himself in his room again.
Lin Qinhe poured a cup of warm water, went to sit next to Luo Zhengyin and handed the water to her.
Luo Zhengyin said “thank you”, took the water glass, and only drank a sip before she said apologetically: “Qinhe, you help me say sorry to Tao Xi, I wanted to invite you to sit together to eat and chat tonight, but…”
Lin Qinhe said, “It’s okay, I was going to take him to eat something too.”
Luo Zhengyin thought of the slightly strange atmosphere between Lin Qinhe and Tao Xi tonight but she didn’t say anything, just looking at the string of peace knots in her hand, with exhaustion between her eyebrows. She confided to her son:
“Lele really isn’t quite right recently. His grandfather told him to go back to Fang’s house and he didn’t go. He took time off from home for a few days and didn’t go to school and when he recently went to school, he kept locked in his room every day after he got home. I asked him but he didn’t tell me what happened. After coming back tonight, he lost his temper. I was afraid if there’s something wrong with his body.”
Lin Qinhe also tried to communicate with Yang Duole some time ago, but Yang Duole kept his mouth shut. After thinking about it, he said to Luo Zhengyin: “You can ask him to see a psychiatrist.”
Luo Zhengyin couldn’t figure out why Yang Duole would have psychological problems. Thinking of the fact that Yang Duole seemed to be more irritated in the western restaurant tonight, she hesitated and asked Lin Qinhe tentatively.
“Is there any conflict between Lele and Tao Xi at school? I feel that Lele doesn’t like him very much.”
Lin Qinhe looked a little unhappy at her words and said in a deep voice: “Tao Xi and him have nothing to do with each other.”
Luo Zhengyin heard the implication of Lin Qinhe’s defense of Tao Xi, sighed and said, “I’m just asking because last time I heard you guys quarrel, you seemed to have mentioned him, I didn’t mean to blame Tao Xi.”
She originally thought that when she held a birthday party for Yang Duole this year, she would invite Tao Xi to come and play. After all, Lin Qinhe and Tao Xi seemed to have a good relationship and she also liked this child, but now she thought it was not quite appropriate for Tao Xi to come over.
“Did Auntie Fang make this peace knot?”
Luo Zhengyin was stunned and looked down at the already old peace knot, her tone had a bit of sadness.
“Yes, from what Uncle Fang said, it was made by A’Sui herself for Lele when she was pregnant with Lele in Qingshui County. It means peace and happiness, but it is a pity that she failed to put it on Lele by herself.”
When Luo Zhengyin finished, she saw Lin Qinhe frowning, so she asked, “What’s wrong?”
Lin Qinhe shook his head and continued to ask, “Do you know where Auntie Fang lived in Qingshui County at that time?”
Luo Zhengyin looked at Lin Qinhe in surprise and asked, “Why are you asking this question too?”
She knew that Lin Qinhe never took the initiative to mention Fang Sui, and even was a bit evasive
Lin Qinhe seemed to be thinking and asked, “Did Lele also ask?”
Luo Zhengyin nodded and recalled, “Last time after Lele came back from school, he suddenly asked me this question, but I didn’t go to Qingshui County at that time and didn’t know. I only knew that A’Sui was living in a farmhouse at that time. Uncle Fang refused to tell me where exactly it was.”
After she finished speaking, she looked at Lin Qinhe, but saw Lin Qinhe looking serious, and after a few seconds of silence, he asked her again:
“The oil painting of peach blossoms in the mountains hanging in the painting room, was it painted by Auntie Fang when she was in Qingshui County?”
Luo Zhengyin was stunned, and quickly realized which painting Lin Qinhe was referring to. It was her favorite. The peach blossoms on the banks of the clear stream in the mountain col were like brocade, and a farmhouse with black tiles and white walls was halfway up the mountain, with smoke curling. It was a kind of calm and serene paradise.
“Yes, she painted a lot of landscape paintings when she lived there. They were all brought back by Uncle Fang later. I also have a few here.”
After being asked so much about Fang Sui by Lin Qinhe, Luo Zhengyin naturally noticed that something was wrong, but he saw Lin Qinhe’s brow was furrowed, his expression became heavier, and there were a few moments of panic between his brows.
Luo Zhengyin asked suspiciously: “Why do you suddenly ask about A’Sui?”
“Just remembered something.” Lin Qinhe stood up from the sofa, looked down at Luo Zhengyin, and asked.
“Can I go to your painting studio to take a look?”
Luo Zhengyin also stood up and nodded: “Of course you can.”
“Thank you.” Lin Qinhe said to her, turning around and walking towards the stairway.
A wry smile appeared on Luo Zhengyin’s face. It was clearly Lin Qinhe’s home here, but Lin Qinhe was always so polite. Looking at Lin Qinhe’s back, she suddenly thought of something and said:
“Qinhe, what you said to me last time, I thought about it for a long time, but I still can’t agree.”
Lin Qinhe paused in his steps and turned to look at her, not saying a word.
Luo Zhengyin took a few steps closer, slightly tilted her head to look at her son, who had long been much taller than herself, and said in a persuasive and pleading tone.
“Qinhe, have you ever thought that if you do this, Lele will be very sad. He is in a bad mood now, we should spend more time with him.”
Lin Qinhe looked at her in silence.
Luo Zhengyin thought for a moment and asked, “Did your grandfather say something to you?”
Lin Qinhe said with a calm expression: “Grandpa did say many times before that he wanted me to move to the old house, but I never agreed and told him that I wanted to continue living here.”
Luo Zhengyin frowned. Lin Qinhe was sent to her by Lin Zeshi from his brother’s house only after he was five years old. The old man of the Lin family initially opposed leaving his grandson with her, but she reluctantly persuaded him on the grounds that two children of the same age would grow up together and have a companion.
Lin Qinhe looked at his mother, held the corner of his mouth and smiled, his voice was calm:
“You may not know that the reason why I stay in this home is never Lele, but you.”
Luo Zhengyin’s gaze suddenly trembled, she opened her mouth, wanting to say something, but saw that Lin Qinhe had already turned to leave.
Tao Xi returned to the empty dormitory on the weekend and sat on the easel to paint after showering. He followed Qiao Henian’s advice to participate in an art competition called CAC, which had high influence and international influence. If he could get an award, it would be very beneficial to his school application.
The deadline for submission was very close, and Tao Xi had almost finished the painting, but he stared at the painting and thought about it for a while, then suddenly took it off the easel and replaced it with a new blank drawing paper.
After painting the first draft for nearly half an hour, Tao Xi put down the brush, covered the easel with a white cloth before he went to wash his hands and then turned off the light. He climbed onto the bed and got under the quilt, staring at the ceiling in a daze.
He knew he was on the edge.
He had already made the decision to tell the truth after Lin Qinhe’s competition, but he couldn’t help but feel timid about the unknown afterwards.
Perhaps this was called being afraid of being close to home. There were seventeen years between him and his relatives. Even if there was blood tie, he couldn’t believe that those relatives would accept him.
Even if he was accepted, how could he stand in this completely strange family?
Yang Duole would not be willing to return to his original family, and those who raised him for more than ten years would not easily abandon him. In the end, he and Yang Doule might end up having to play the role of brothers under one roof.
This was the most likely ending, but could he fit into such a family?
Tao Xi took a deep breath, turned on the phone screen in the dark and clicked on the WeChat box with Lin Qinhe. He wanted to send a message to Lin Qinhe, but found that the time had passed twelve.
Tao Xi finally locked the phone screen, covered and wrapped himself tightly with the quilt and closed his eyes to sleep in the dark.
He said to himself, if he couldn’t fit in, then just don’t fit in. Hadn’t he been here for more than ten years?
Even without relatives, he could still live well alone.
Besides, he still had Lin Qinhe.
Tao Xi convinced himself, and finally settled down to sleep, but dreamed all night.
He dreamed that when he was ten years old, he was at his grandmother’s house. Tao Le forgot to turn off the tap of the water pipe and flooded his grandmother’s cellar filled with sweet potatoes. When Guo Ping knew it, she chased and beat him with a bamboo cane without asking anything.
He was in so much pain that he cried out to his mother, not me, not me.
He ran to his grandma and begged her to testify for him, but grandma only held Tao Le silent.
He dreamed of that night in the hospital again. He quietly hid outside the door of the ward and saw his grandparents sitting in front of the hospital bed, holding Yang Duole’s hand, heartily dropping tears and calling softly “good grandson” over and over again.
He wanted to run into the ward, but couldn’t get in, so he could only shout to them outside the door.
It’s me, look at me, look at me.
But grandparents could not see him or hear him.
Tao Xi woke up to find that the quilt had been kicked around by himself somehow. His throat was sore and he didn’t seem to have much strength in his body. He struggled in bed for a while, but got up before the bell rang, washing and dressing quickly, and then went out to practice English.
After a night of partying, many people in the class the next Monday were a bit depressed and a large number of people fell down after class.
Tao Xi was also very sleepy and had some headaches, but held on to stay awake.
After spending the whole morning and noon, Tao Xi felt his head hurt more. He lowered his head to organize the notes of the previous class in the notebook, and suddenly felt a hand on his forehead, and he felt a little cold to the touch.
Tao Xi looked aside. Lin Qinhe retracted his hand and said to him with a frown, “You have a fever.”
Tao Xi stretched out his hand to touch his forehead, feeling that it was not burning, and then joked to Lin Qinhe: “Maybe your hand is too cold. Why don’t I hold it for you?”
Lin Qinhe, however, still looked serious. He got up and walked to the podium, said something to Zhou Qiang who had just come in to prepare for class, and then walked over to Tao Xi, holding his wrist and pulling him up from his seat.
Tao Xi opened his eyes and looked at Lin Qinhe. He didn’t want to skip math class.
“Go to the infirmary.” Lin Qinhe’s tone was not to be disobeyed.
Tao Xi was dragged to the infirmary by Lin Qinhe. Recently, the cold wave had been violent. There were many sick people in the infirmary and the sound of sneezing and coughing was endless.
“Are you not covered with a quilt properly at night?” The female school doctor asked with no surprise. She had treated Tao Xi’s wounds and she knew Lin Qinhe well.
Tao Xi nodded listlessly while sitting on a stool with a thermometer in his hand.
“How old are you, still kicking the blanket.” The school nurse kindly joked.
Tao Xi’s face was a little embarrassed. He looked at Lin Qinhe, but heard Lin Qinhe ask him seriously, “Didn’t turn on the air conditioning in the dormitory?”
He shook his head and said, “I don’t like to turn on the air conditioner, it’s too dry.” In fact, he thought that turning on the air conditioner by himself was too expensive.
After a while, the school doctor looked at the thermometer and said to Lin Qinhe, who was standing aside, “37.8 degrees. Okay, the fever is not too high, I’ll give him some medicine.”
“Do you need to take time off to go back and rest?” Lin Qinhe lifted his hand to touch Tao Xi’s forehead and asked the school doctor.
“No need, no need!” Tao Xi hurriedly answered, he didn’t want to be absent from class.
The school doctor felt that the two boys had a good relationship, but Lin Qinhe was a little too nervous, she said with amusement: “Take time off to go home? That’s not necessary, take the medicine.Take a good rest and keep warm, you should be fine soon.”
Tao Xi raised his jaw towards Lin Qinhe and agreed: “Right, I’m in good health, I’ve never taken medicine when I had a cold before, I’ll be fine soon.”
The children in his place were all raised rough and a little headache and fever were not taken seriously at home. At most they went to the old Chinese medicine doctor in the village to buy some herbs to drink. But he neglected to mention that when he was twelve years old, he had a fever and didn’t get better even after three days. There was blood in his nose and he passed out in class and was taken to the county hospital by the teacher to get his life back.
The school doctor reprimanded Tao Xi: “This is not right. If you are sick, you still need to take medicine. Don’t underestimate the flu and fever. After a long time, it may become a serious illness.”
Tao Xi was stabbed by the facts, gave a guilty “en”, and quietly looked at Lin Qinhe on the side, only to see Lin Qinhe staring at him with an unclear look.
He lowered his head in surprise and continued to listen to Lin Qinhe and the school doctor, without interrupting anymore.
Finally, Lin Qinhe took the medicine from the school doctor. Tao Xi finally breathed a sigh of relief and quickly stood up and said, “Go back to class, ba.”
Lin Qinhe did not say anything. He raised his hand to wrap his scarf, only letting him reveal half of his face, and then led him outside, silent all the way.
Tao Xi felt that there was something wrong with Lin Qinhe, as if he was not angry, but there was a somewhat heavy emotion.
He didn’t know what was wrong with Lin Qinhe. He entangled a few words and walked for a while, only to find that Lin Qinhe was not walking in the direction of the classroom, but led him to the downstairs of the dormitory.
Tao Xi looked at Lin Qinhe in a daze: “What are you doing in the dormitory?”
“You need a good sleep.” Lin Qinhe said.
Tao Xi didn’t really want to, but he didn’t dare to refute Lin Qinhe, so he took Lin Qinhe upstairs and thought for a while with his dizzy head whether he had cleaned up the dormitory in the morning.
After opening the door of the dormitory, Tao Xi turned on the light and hurriedly moved the easel to the side. He was going to pour water for Lin Qinhe, but Lin Qinhe took his arm and led him to the chair, pressing his shoulder to let him sit down.
“Sit here and don’t move.”
Tao Xi obediently sat still, only one pair of eyes followed Lin Qinhe, not turning his eyes.
Lin Qinhe glanced at the dormitory, which was very clean. He recognized Tao Xi’s bed at a glance, because there was a pink bear on the head of the bed, the one they grabbed from the claw machine together.
He suddenly thought, at the crab restaurant that night, why did he take Tao Xi to catch the doll?
Lin Qinhe picked up the air conditioner remote control from the table, turned the air conditioner on and adjusted the temperature, then he picked up Tao Xi’s water cup and went to the water dispenser outside to get a cup of hot water. After adding some boiled water, he found that Tao Xi was lying on the table, his eyes closed and he had already fallen asleep.
Lin Qinhe gently pinched Tao Xi’s cheek and said in a warm voice, “Take the medicine before you sleep.”
Tao Xi struggled to open his eyes, lowered his eyelids, and hugged Lin Qinhe’s waist, resting his forehead against his body to continue squinting sleep. Lin Qinhe rubbed the back of Tao Xi’s head with care, and looked around the dormitory, thinking that the dormitory was too small and the bed was too small.
Tao Xi leaned on Lin Qinhe and fell asleep again, but finally was woken up by Lin Qinhe. He took the glass of water from Lin Qinhe’s hand and drank it sip by sip, feeling that his dry throat was getting better.
Lin Qinhe opened the medicine he had just bought, took out a few pills according to the instructions of the school doctor, and put them in Tao Xi’s palm.
Tao Xi’s face was bitter. He didn’t like taking medicine at all, but Lin Qinhe was staring at him so he drank the medicine obediently.
Lin Qinhe stared at Tao Xi after taking the medicine, closed the balcony door, and said to Tao Xi, “Go to bed and sleep.”
Tao Xi sat still, his white cheeks were stained with rosy red and his eyes were covered with a layer of mist. He raised his head and looked straight at Lin Qinhe, as if he was burning silly.
Lin Qinhe thought for a while and raised his hand to rub Tao Xi’s hair, whispering, “I’m not leaving.”
Only then did Tao Xi slowly get up from the chair, take off his outer jacket and shoes, climb onto the bed and wrap himself into a cocoon with the quilt.
But he did not immediately close his eyes and go to sleep. Instead he wriggled and moved to the edge of the bed, hooking his neck to look at Lin Qinhe, a pair of dark eyes peeking out from the quilt.
Lin Qinhe was a little helpless, knowing what Tao Xi was thinking, he swept his eyes over Tao Xi’s desk and asked, “Are there any books in the dormitory?”
Tao Xi said in a muffled voice: “They are in the drawer.”
Lin Qinhe pulled open the drawer, took out a random book from it and lifted his hand to show it to Tao Xi, saying, “I’m reading here, you sleep at ease.”
Tao Xi let out an “en”, as if finally relieved. He lay down on the bed and closed his eyes, then fell asleep after a while.
Lin Qinhe did not read the book, but lowered his head and looked at the business card in the drawer that he had accidentally brought out.
He picked up the pale golden business card, which was obviously carefully preserved and still looked brand new, with only three words in the center: Yang Zhengming.
Lin Qinhe put the business card back in the drawer, then put the jacket that Tao Xi took off and put it on the quilt that covered Tao Xi. He was tall and could see Tao Xi even by the side of the bed.
Tao Xi may be used to sleeping on his side. A reddish face faced him, breathing a little heavy, eyes closed, only the eyelashes occasionally trembling.
After Lin Qinhe watched for a while, he placed the little pink bear on the head of the bed next to Tao Xi’s head. He stretched out his hand and gently touched Tao Xi’s head, then touched the little bear’s head, letting it accompany Tao Xi to sleep on this small bed.