Tao Xi walked into the ward, and Fang Zuqing who was on the hospital bed and Ye Yurong who was sitting on the side both looked at him.
The moment the eyes of the two old people met him, he seemed to feel a slight tremor, and the heavy emotions made him suddenly uncomfortable.
He was dumbfounded for a moment, standing in place and not knowing what to say. Luckily, Yang Zhengming on the side helped him to take away the fruit he was holding and put it on the bed, saying to Fang Zuqing, “This is what Tao Xi bought for you.”
Ye Yurong hurriedly stood up from the chair. It seemed that her eyes were red when she saw Tao Xi. She took two steps towards Tao Xi, but did not dare to go in front of him, beckoned towards him, called in a soft tone:
“Child, come and sit here.”
Fang Zuqing was wearing a hospital gown, with a dangling needle in the back of his hand, and his pale face was filled with a drooping sickness, as if he had aged overnight. After seeing Tao Xi coming in, the hand with the hanging needle kept trembling.
Tao Xi walked to the chair beside the hospital bed and sat down on the chair under the eyes of the three people.
Yang Zhengming took another chair and wanted to help Ye Yurong to sit down, but Ye Yurong did not sit down, and instead turned her back and wiped tears with the back of her hand. She then poured a cup of warm water and handed it to Tao Xi, while asking him intently whether he had breakfast and whether he was hungry.
Like yesterday in the conference room, Tao Xi took the glass of water with both hands and said thank you softly.
He could feel the old people’s careful attention, and he could also feel the heavy and deep shame behind this attention. He accepted them one by one, because it felt like if he showed a little resistance, Ye Yurong would shed tears sadly.
He picked up the warm water that Ye Yurong poured him, bowed his head and took a sip.
Ye Yurong finally sat down beside him, and the two old people’s eyes fell on him. Tao Xi felt that their eyes seemed to have weight. He curled up his fingers, trying to say something, but didn’t know what to say.
Obviously he was the closest person by blood, but he was also the strangest person.
This awkward atmosphere lasted for ten seconds or so before Fang Zuqing spoke up. He seemed to be struggling a bit to speak, but still tried to clear his throat and asked Tao Xi, like all parents do, “Have you taken time off from the school teacher?”
Tao Xi nodded and said, “I took a leave of absence.”
The two old people had been scrutinizing the seventeen-year-old boy in front of them, and those eyes were too much like their daughter’s. They were a little frightened when they first saw it in the conference room yesterday, but now when they look closely, they were full of unspeakable pain.
Ye Yurong didn’t look away, took out a handkerchief to wipe the corners of her eyes, then stretched out her hands and gently held Tao Xi’s hand. Tao Xi did not resist, just lowered his gaze.
Ye Yurong looked down at Tao Xi’s hand, his eyes reddened again. These slender hands, like her daughter, were naturally suitable for holding paint brushes, and shouldn’t suffer the slightest bit of suffering. She didn’t dare to imagine what life her grandson had been living in the past seventeen years.
After a long silence, Tao Xi heard his grandmother trembled:
“Child, these years, I have wronged you all these years.”
Before she finished speaking, a few tears dropped from her dim eyes and fell on the back of Tao Xi’s hand.
Tao Xi shrank impenetrably as if he had been scalded, and his eyes were a little swollen.
In the end, he just shook his head in silence.
“That family, do they treat you well?” Ye Yurong couldn’t help but ask the question she wanted to ask the most, she looked at Tao Xi somewhat eagerly, her tone was fluky with anticipation.
Sitting on the hospital bed, Fang Zuqing’s sullen gaze also fell on Tao Xi’s face, silently asking the same question.
Tao Xi didn’t know how to answer this question. The seventeen years of life seemed to flash in his mind only briefly. Too many emotions were stacked together, pressing on his throat and tongue. In the end, he only said:
“I have been doing well.”
But this answer didn’t seem to give the two old person half comfort. They both fell silent, and Yang Zhengming, who was standing by the side, did not speak either.
They had already heard Su Yun talk a lot about Tao Xi last night and didn’t even have time to be surprised why the Lin family secretary knew so much about it.
They knew how poor that family was, with an adoptive father who worked outside all the time and a sick sister, knew that Tao Xi had excellent grades, had taken the top spot in the county, and was able to come to Wenhua No.1 High School through the Lin family’s funding program, and also knew that he had inherited his mother’s talent for painting, and even though he had been delayed for many years, he could still be shortlisted for the top national competitions.
A child who wanted to have a good life couldn’t do without his parents’ hard work. Their child walked the most rugged road in the world and became excellent people.
But this road should have been a smooth road.
He walked on this road alone for seventeen years, traversing mountains and ridges, and after all the hardships and dangers before he got home, only for them to witness the child they had raised nearly cutting off and destroying his promising future.
They even used the weight of an adult to force him to sign a letter of understanding. The compensation clauses that they thought were full of sincerity were also ironically obvious, it was something that he should have had since birth, but they used those as a condition to force a compromise, it was so absurd and ridiculous.
They hated Guo Ping as much as they hated themselves.
Now their child was still willing to take the initiative to visit them and say to them that he was doing well.
Ye Yurong turned away and couldn’t bear to ask any more, Fang Zuqing’s pale face covered with furrows was blue, and and his turbid eyes were condensed with sorrow and regret, he used the hand with the needle, trembling to reach out to Tao Xi.
Tao Xi hesitated for a moment and took Fang Zuqing’s hand back. He heard the old man with white hair in front of him say to him in a hoarse voice:
“Child, grandpa is sorry for you, you can blame me and hate me. I am sorry for my daughter and my grandson. I promised her to raise her child well and let him grow up healthy and happy. But I let him suffer for so many years outside alone. After finally returning to the doorstep, you still have to suffer from the grievances…”
He began to weep in the middle of the talk. This old professor, who was never smiling, had never cried so much except after the death of his daughter. He clutched Tao Xi’s hand tightly, crouching as if he was apologizing.
Tao Xi felt the uncontrollable trembling of the old hand, and the shame that came over his head was too heavy and wrapped around him impermeably, making his heart feel dull and even his breathing a little sluggish.
He took a deep breath and tried to calmly say to the old man: “You didn’t have to apologize to me. I won’t resent you and hate you, really, I’ve had a really good time all these years.”
But the two old people were still very emotional, Ye Yurong could no longer hold back, she tentatively stretched out her hands and put her arms around the teenager in front of her.
Tao Xi did not resist, and leaned stiffly against Ye Yurong’s arms. He had never been hugged by grandma before. At this time, he was helpless like a child being hugged by an adult for the first time, with his hands and feet cramped.
Ye Yurong gently patted his stiff back, like his grandmother used to hold his sister Tao Le. He heard his grandmother crying and saying to him:
“I’m sorry, it’s Grandma’s fault for not taking my grandson home sooner, my grandson wanted to go home, I didn’t even know, I left him alone for so long ..”
Tao Xi’s Adam’s apple suddenly rolled, he closed his eyes hard, and the tears accumulated in his eyes silently soaked grandma’s clothes.
Yang Zhengming looked at the two people and child in front of him, tears came from his red eyes.
How many seventeen years were there in life, could the remaining years of the old man have another seventeen years? Destiny made such a cruel joke, those years would never come back.
Tao Xi didn’t know how long grandma held him and cried, and finally he and Yang Zhengming calmed the two old people together. Ye Yurong wiped away her tears, held his hand and asked a lot of questions, asking him about his childhood, whether he was sick, whether he was eating well, whether he was bullied at school…
In fact, these past events have no retrospective significance. Tao Xi picked out some unusual things and answered them simply.
They didn’t mention Guo Ping, nor Yang Duole. The former made them hate to their bones, while the latter, a child raised by themselves, was obviously still in an emotional state and didn’t know what to do.
Tao Xi noticed their avoidance and didn’t say anything. After having a conversation with the two old people and seeing Fang Zuqing look tired, he planned to say goodbye. Just as soon as he stood up, he suddenly heard the sound of the door being opened.
He turned around and saw Yang Duole standing at the door, his eyes colliding with his.
Yang Duole stared at Tao Xi for two seconds, then his eyes bounced over the other three people in the ward. There was no expression on his face, and the next second he turned around and lifted his feet to leave.
“Yang Duole!” Fang Zuqing on the hospital bed shouted sternly, coughing violently after shouting.
Yang Duole stopped stiffly, but did not look back.
Ye Yurong was going to step forward and hold Yang Duole. Seeing Fang Zuqing coughing, she had to bend down to give Fang Zuqing a good air, but Yang Zhengming had already strode forward and grabbed Yang Duole’s arm, and said coldly:
“How much longer do you want to hide?”
His original intention was to ask Yang Duole until when he wanted to avoid admitting his mistake, but Yang Duole clearly misunderstood him. He violently broke away from Yang Zhengming’s hand and looked at Yang Zhengming, sneering:
“Your son is not here? Or do you want to hold a ceremony to recognize relatives and specifically call me to hand over your son’s identity to him?”
Yang Zhengming’s face became extremely ugly. He finally managed to contact Yang Duole yesterday and only said that Fang Zuqing had fallen ill and asked him to come to the hospital, but Yang Duole refused. He didn’t expect Yang Duole to come today and run into Tao Xi here.
He held back his anger, and seriously said to Yang Duole: “Let’s not talk about this matter first, just talk about the good things you did yourself, slander Tao Xi for plagiarism, and almost ruin other people’s competition. Shouldn’t you apologize to him?!”
Fang Zuqing finally stopped coughing, the old man was furious after a great sorrow. His face was abnormally blue, and his trembling fingers stretched out and Yang Dole shouted:
“Hurry up and apologize!”
The old man was really angry. He found that Yang Duole seemed to have known the true birth of Tao Xi. He had wondered why Yang Duole had framed a classmate who had nothing to do with him. Now that everything was clear, he was even more angry.
In the face of his grandfather who loved him since he was a child, Yang Duole didn’t sneer again. He bit his lips tightly, staring at the floor with dark eyes, but still unmoved.
Ye Yurong finally could not bear it, she wailed and persuaded: “Lele, you have to admit and repent for doing wrong, you made such a big mistake, you should apologize to Tao Xi properly.”
Standing in the ward, Tao Xi watched the farce coldly, put his hand in his pocket and touched the phone, regretting not leaving earlier.
Yang Zhengming calmed down and stopped talking. Ye Yurong was still persuading him. After about three minutes, Yang Duole finally raised his head to look at Tao Xi. He stepped forward and slowly walked towards Tao Xi, standing a step away from him.
Tao Xi stared at the pale person in front of him calmly. He once didn’t dare to look at this person, as if he stared for one more second he would not be able to hide the resentment and cynicism in his eyes. At this moment, he saw this pair of extremely similar Guo Ping’s eyes, like him in the past, filled with strong resentment.
“You did it on purpose, didn’t you?” Yang Duole’s bloodless lips moved, his voice was not loud but it was enough for everyone to hear.
Tao Xi frowned and looked at Yang Duole without a word, his eyes were cold.
“Yang Duole!” Fang Zuqing was almost heartbroken. He didn’t expect Yang Duole was still obsessed, and Ye Yurong also sighed anxiously.
After all, this was the child they have raised since childhood. No matter how disappointed and angry they were, the seventeen years relationship would not disappear overnight. They didn’t want to hurt Tao Xi any more, and they didn’t want Yang Duole to go further and further on the wrong road, which led to irreconcilable contradiction with Taoxi.
After all, they no longer had the position to defend Yang Duole.
Yang Duole turned a deaf ear to the anxious reminders of the two old people. He seemed to be remembering something, staring at Tao Xi, and said with confidence:
“You’ve known it a long time ago. You’ve known it from the first day you came to Wenhua No.1 High School and met me.”
He paused, the corners of his mouth pulled up a smile and continued,: “You deliberately please Lin Qinhe, deliberately approach Yang Zhengming, and deliberately mention to Mother Luo that you want to participate in the art competition in front of me. You are a student of Qiao Henian, because you know these can stimulate me most. You deliberately drew the submission of the competition in front of Xu Ziqi in the dormitory, because you heard what I said to Guan Fanyun that night, didn’t you?!”
Yang Duole spoke faster and faster. At the end of his speech, his chest began to rise and fall, his eyes pierced Tao Xi’s body as if he wanted to gouge his flesh.
“What are you babbling about!” Yang Zhengming’s veins stood out on his forehead. He couldn’t help but come forward and grab Yang Duole’s arm and pull it back, and Yang Duole once again struggled away.
Yang Duole kept staring at Tao Xi and with blood in his eyes, he continued hysterically: “After so long, so many opportunities in front of you, you never say it not because you are not willing! You’re afraid that even if they recognize you back, they won’t drive me away, so you plan to retaliate against me, don’t you?!”
Fang Zuqing coughed violently after hearing this nonsense. Ye Yurong was angry and anxious. She had never said a serious word to Yang Duole but at this time, she couldn’t help but scolded in extreme disappointment:
“Lele! We didn’t teach you like this when you were little, why do you blame others for your own wrongdoings? No one is forcing you to make mistakes.”
But Yang Duole couldn’t hear it at all. He believed that Tao Xi deliberately retaliated against him, and stared at Tao Xi nonchalantly, as if he had to admit it.
But Tao Xi looked calm from beginning to end. He ignored Yang Duole’s repeated questions, and only said:
“Yang Duole, you should go see your biological mother.”
Yang Duole’s pupils shrank suddenly, as if he had heard something that made him extremely disgusted with fear. He gritted his teeth and said: “Did Tao Jian ask you to persuade me? You tell her that I won’t look at her even if she dies!”
Tao Xi looked at Yang Duole’s look of avoiding snakes and scorpions, and thought of the woman who was still waiting to see her own son in the hospital bed, a trace of absurd sadness came into his heart.
“I just feel bad for your mother, who stole my name for you and let you take up seventeen years of my life, but you’re stuck living this ridiculous life.”
“Am I ridiculous?” Yang Duole seemed to be irritated by these words and shouted almost hysterically, “You think I want this name and this kind of life?!”
His eyes swept over the faces of the other three adults, and suddenly he smiled and said: “Always looking for the shadow of a dead person in me. I’ve had enough of this kind of life!”
The three adults changed their faces when they heard this.
“Yang Duole, do you know what you are talking about!” Yang Zhengming frowned and interrupted coldly.
“Isn’t it?” Yang Duole looked at Yang Zhengming with sharp eyes. “Aren’t you disappointed that I am not like her?”
He seemed to be depressed for a long time and finally found a chance to break out, and smiled sadly to himself:
“Yes, I don’t look like her, I can’t draw, Qiao Henian refused to accept me as a student, but what can I do, what can I do! I’ve been trying to learn for a long, long time, but I just can’t. You guys say to me that it doesn’t matter, but you can’t hide the disappointment on your faces!”
Yang Duole’s chest fluctuated violently, his eyes were red, and his pale face was full of tears.
“Lele, we did not…” Ye Yurong looked at the child she had spoiled and raised in front of her in disbelief, she never knew he had such a lot of resentment towards them.
But Yang Duole obviously did not finish venting his grievances, he cried so much that his face was somewhat distorted: “Those relatives joke that I am not biological behind me, that you guys are holding the wrong one, you all told me it was a joke, not to take it to heart, but who of you know I am afraid!”
“Every time my blood was drawn at the hospital I was afraid that you would quietly go and do a paternity test, and every time I had a nightmare, I dreamed that I was a fake. If you find it, you will lose me immediately!”
Yang Duole raised his hand and pointed to Tao Xi, showing an ugly smile and said, “Now the real Yang Duole is back, you guys got what you wanted. You don’t need to be disappointed anymore. Isn’t it great?”
The two old people looked at Yang Duole with red eyes and tears, and their expressions were shocked. They opened their mouths but didn’t know what to say. Yang Zhengming frowned and said nothing.
Ye Yurong was still heartbroken, holding a tissue to wipe Yang Duole’s tears, but suddenly heard Tao Xi, who had not spoken, said:
“Are you trying to make them feel guilty about you by putting all the blame on others and taking it off yourself, as if the whole world has wronged you?”
Yang Duole’s choking stopped.
Tao Xi looked at Yang Duole coldly, as if looking at a child who would only cry and sneer, and asked calmly:
“You know in your own heart exactly how they have treated you these past ten years. Do you dare to say to your grandparents, whom you have called out to for so many years, that they have ever wronged you?”
Yang Duole bit his lip and said nothing.
Fang Zuqing sighed, Ye Yurong turned away and wiped her tears, Yang Duole’s words did hurt them.
“You’ve been with them for so many years that even if they knew you weren’t their own, they wouldn’t leave you behind. It’s not that you don’t know this, you’re just not satisfied and not willing to let me take a tiny bit of it, aren’t you?”
Tao Xi looked straight at Yang Duole, but Yang Duole remained silent and did not speak.
He took a step closer to Yang Duole, looked at the resentment on his face, and said coldly:
“Yang Duole, what disappointed them was not that you were not like my mother, but that they raised you with care and gave you so much love, yet you only learned to be selfish and resentful. You say I am resentful, but what is there to be resentful about you?”
Yang Duole suddenly raised his eyes to look at him.
Tao Xi turned a blind eye to the resentment in Yang Duole’s eyes, and was extremely tired of the farce. He simply bid farewell to the two old men and walked outside the ward.
Not long after he walked out of the ward, Yang Zhengming chased him from behind, took his arm, and quickly let go.
Tao Xi stopped and looked at Yang Zhengming, politely asking, “Do you have anything else?”
Yang Zhengming looked at these cold-eyed eyes, and only felt a mixture of flavours. He said to Tao Xi in a somewhat flattering tone:
“Move in back, grandparents and I hope you can come back, and the room at home is already being arranged.”
The sound of crying came faintly from the ward, and Tao Xi remained silent and did not answer.
Seeing Tao Xi not speaking, Yang Zhengming added: “If you’re not used to living here, I still have a house, so tell me what you think, and I’ll set it up however you’re comfortable, as long as you’re willing to come back and live here.”
This was their original plan. Their child had no reason to live outside. First, let Tao Xi come back to live in Fang’s house. If Taoxi couldn’t adapt, Yang Zhengming was ready to let Tao Xi live in a house he had just bought before, and the property would naturally belong to Tao Xi in the future.
Yang Zhengming expected Tao Xi to say yes, but instead he saw Tao Xi’s eyes turn to the end of the corridor. At that moment, his eyes were like the evening stars suddenly brightening, and for a moment Yang Zhengming was in a bit of a trance. Fang Sui once had also looked at him with such bright eyes.
“Thank you, but don’t bother.”
Yang Zhengming heard Tao Xi say this in his daze, followed by his farewell, and then he walked quickly towards the other end of the corridor.