Tao Xi did not let Lin Qinhe accompany him the next day. He went to Hannan Hospital alone against the cold wind, bought some fruits like last time, and went straight to Guo Ping’s ward. Tao Jian was not there, only Guo Ping was in the ward.
Tao Xi barely recognized the woman who had tubes all over her body on the bed. Her face was so swollen that he couldn’t see what she used to look like. When she heard the sound of the door, she looked over to the door very slowly, as if it took a lot of effort to recognize who was coming.
Guo Ping’s yellow and swollen face couldn’t make out any expressions. She opened her mouth hard and called out “Tao Xi”.
Tao Xi raised his foot and walked towards the hospital bed, without calling any name.
They didn’t really have much to talk about. Or rather, since he knew the truth, he didn’t talk much to Guo Ping, and Guo Ping had become increasingly silent to him since then. Only with a pair of eyes full of sadness occasionally look at him, and he was extremely disgusted with this look.
Now he saw a little smile in Guo Ping’s more cloudy eyes as she said, “You came to see me.”
“I came for Tao Le.” Tao Xi said with little tone, placing the fruit in his hand on the bedside table.
Guo Ping nodded softly when she heard this, saying: “Tao Le is at her grandmother’s house, she wanted to come with me to see you in Wenhua City, I didn’t let her come, let her study well at school.”
“I will let her transfer to study here.” Tao Xi said, Yang Zhengming promised to help him with this favor and find a good junior high school, and Tao Le would transfer in the next semester.
Guo Ping hadn’t spoken for a long time, and when she spoke again, her voice became much lower: “She is blessed to have a brother like you.”
After she finished speaking, she lifted the hand with the needle, pointed to the drawer of the bedside table with some difficulty, and said, “There is a wooden box in the first drawer. Take it out and take a look.”
Tao Xi took out the narrow, palm-length wooden box from the drawer. The wooden box should be made of leftover bits and pieces; it was rough and old.
He opened the wooden box, and inside was a knot made of red rope. The hands weaving it were obviously a bit clumsy; the knot was not very smooth and beautiful.
Tao Xi stared at the string of peace knots for a few seconds, then suddenly raised his head to look at Guo Ping.
“Your mother, ah, had long and slender hands, and she was so good at drawing, but I don’t know why she was so slow at learning how to knit ropes. I taught her for a long, long time before she finished knitting this string of peace knots.”
Guo Ping looked at the peace knot in Tao Xi’s hand, and seemed to be lost in memory: “The first time I saw her, I thought how could there be such a good-looking person, with eyes always containing water and speaking warmly and softly.”
“She came to my door and asked me if she could stay at my house. I saw that she was pregnant with a child, thinking that I was also pregnant with a child and the two of us could be companions so I agreed to her. She didn’t worry at all. She gave a large sum of money as soon as she moved in, and didn’t want to think about if I lied to her.”
“At that time, the other daughter-in-laws in the village envied me, saying that I was so lucky to have met a nobleman from a big city. I thought so too. I have been in Taoxi Bay all my life and I have never seen anything in the world. Your mother is the most powerful person I know. I don’t even dare to think of the word friend, but she really regards me as a friend…”
Tao Xi heard the word “friend” and his breathe was stagnant, he couldn’t listen anymore, and asked the question he most wanted to ask in a cold voice:
“She treated you as a friend, why would you do that?”
She trusted you so much, but you left behind the child she gave her life in exchange for, and handed your own child to her relatives.
Guo Ping fell silent, slowly moving her eyes away from the string of peace knots, looking out of focus at the IV drip hanging on the head of the bed. She lowered her voice and continued weakly:
“I didn’t study much. Your mother had a lot of things I don’t understand. Sometimes I didn’t understand what she said or painted. The only thing I could understand about her is her love for you.”
“She gave you a good name, drew you a picture, wrote a letter, and said that she would take you to many places in the future and teach you how to draw. At that time I suddenly thought, what can I give my children? I’ve never thought about this kind of problem before. Our children were all born and raised in the village and didn’t study much. They grew up just like me, got married, gave birth to children, and went on like this one generation after another…”
“Your mother let me know that as a parent, I still have to consider so much for the children… I wonder if I have to leave something for my child, but that day they said my child was weak and would not live long at all. I am not willing, ah. How can I be willing, I have not even thought about what to give him in the future…”
“Maybe it’s this point of reluctance. That day your father and the others came to Taoxi Bay to pick up the mother and the son. I gave them my child. At that time, I thought, this was the only thing I could give him, and the red string I made myself…”
“Is that your thing?” Tao Xi interrupted the questioning. He felt that there was no need to listen further. There was no hidden feeling he had imagined. Everything was just a selfish use of the so-called motherly love, giving the fate of others as a gift to her children.
He got up from the chair, wanted to turn around and leave when he saw Guo Ping struggling to stretch out her hand to him and her voice was completely weakened:
“Tao Xi, I’m sorry, I stole what your mother gave you. I know you hate me and won’t forgive me. I’m going to go to hell soon, and I won’t be able to see your mother even after I die. If you go to see her in the future, can you help me tell her that I’m sorry…”
Tao Xi looked indifferently at the hand with the needle that stretched towards him. There were countless times when he longed for that hand to hold his hand to pick him up and take him home from school, just like she held Tao Le.
He did not move, and asked indifferently: “You know I won’t forgive you, so why do you expect forgiveness from my mother?”
Guo Ping’s hand gradually dropped, her eyes half closed, and her lips moved as if to say something, but no one could hear it clearly except for herself.
Tao Xi looked down at the woman on the hospital bed, the “mother” he once looked forward to being loved by her, but later hated and loathed. He finally did not say any more sharp words, only leaving a sentence: “You get well, Tao Le is still waiting for you at home.” Then, clutching the string of peace knots, he turned and walked out of the ward.
He originally wanted to ask Guo Ping why he did not treat him a little better out of guilt over the years, but there was no point in asking.
He came to see Guo Ping’s side, only to break the “mother-son fate” of the past ten years. From then on, they had no relationship anymore.
Tao Xi walked out of the tall building of the inpatient department. It was about ten in the morning, the last sunny day before the cold wave, and the sun was shining from the southeast. He raised his hand to cover his eyes, the green light was on on the street outside the hospital, and he followed the crowd to the other side of the street.
The cold wave in Wenhua City came raging. The weather forecast said there would be heavy snow tomorrow, but in fact it started to fall in the middle of the night. Overnight, the whole city was covered with heavy snow, only waiting for people to wake up and sigh with surprise.
The next day, Tao Xi woke up and learned about Guo Ping’s jump from a building through Lin Qinhe.
Guo Ping jumped off the tall building of the inpatient department in the early morning. She should have taken a lot of effort to pull out the tube and needle from her body. Tao Jian slept very hard on the guardian bed beside her and didn’t notice it.
Although the ground had been covered with a layer of snow, there was no chance of surviving from jumping from that height.
Hospitals were unable to avoid the death of patients who jump off buildings every year. After all, not everyone could bear the pain and suffering, so some people choose to be relieved once and for all.
Tao Xi knew that Guo Ping chose to die, not because of torture. She didn’t come to Wenhua to treat the illness, but just wanted to meet her child before she died.
But Yang Duole never went to see Guo Ping from beginning to end.
Guo Ping gave Yang Duole the birth and changed the fate of others, and now she gave Yang Duole the only thing she had, her death.
Lin Qinhe lowered his head to look at the look on Tao Xi’s face. Tao Xi was surprised at the first moment he learned about it, but his expression remained calm afterwards, as if it were not unexpected and there was no sadness.
He didn’t say anything but walked to the wool carpet by the window and sat down, quietly watching the heavy snow outside the floor-to-ceiling window.
Seventeen years ago, two children born on a snowy night were replaced by others. Since then, life had gone wrong and fate had been reversed. Seventeen years later, everything gradually returned to the right track, and the person who changed the fates ended her life in the same heavy snow.
It seemed that others would often sigh with a sentence of karma, but the seventeen years of destiny reversal between the wrong love, regret, pain, regret, resentment…it wasn’t a matter of karma.
And the living people have to patch up the cracks after the farce of fate ends.
Tao Xi seemed to have thought a lot, but also seemed to have thought nothing. Most of the memories of the past seventeen years include Guo Ping. After all, she was the person whom he called mother for fifteen years, but at the end of the day, it seemed that there wasn’t much to recall, those once longed for, and later loathed, all seemed to dissipate in the snow that flew in front of him.
The last picture in his mind was neither Guo Ping nor himself.
Lin Qinhe walked to Tao Xi and sat down. He held his hand and found that it was cold.
After a long time, Tao Xi turned to look at him and said softly:
“My sister doesn’t have a mother anymore.”
Lin Qinhe raised his hand and wiped the corner of Tao Xi’s eyes with his thumb, hugged him into his arms and warmed the hand of the person in his arms with his own palm as he said to him, “She still has these two brothers.”
Tao Xi did not participate in Guo Ping’s funeral. After the cremation in Wenhua City, Tao Jian took away a box of ashes, and later Tao Xi heard that Tao Jian found Yang Duole somewhere. The father and son had a serious conflict. Yang Duole was probably beaten by Tao Jian, he followed Tao Jian back to Taoxi Bay.
Fang Zuqing and Ye Yurong only sighed a sentence of sin after they knew about Guo Ping. At first, the two old men hated and wanted to sue Guo Ping, but when they learned of Guo Ping’s illness, they gave up temporarily. Now that person was dead and gone, there was no place to pursue more hate.
Tao Xi asked the teacher of Qingshui County Junior High School to help and called Tao Le. The little girl cried out of breath on the other end of the phone. Accepting that her mother’s suicide overnight, and even her brother was not her own biological brother, it was too cruel for a girl of this age.
“Brother, are you not coming back anymore?” Tao Le asked helplessly while crying, she paused before saying, “I saw that person. He hates me and I hate him. I don’t want to recognize him as my brother.”
Tao Xi couldn’t imagine how Yang Duole would get along with Tao Le. He said to Tao Le, “I won’t be back, but I’m still your brother and you’re my sister.”
Tao Le cried for a long time.
Tao Xi calmed Tao Le for a long time, clarified to her about the transfer from next semester, and told her to take medicine several times before hanging up the phone.
After dealing with these matters, Tao Xi went to Fang Sui’s tomb once with Lin Qinhe. He tied the string of peace knots that Fang Sui wove for him seventeen years ago on his wrist, along with the string of turquoise that Lin Qinhe gave him.
These were the two most important people in his life and blessings to him.
On the way down the hill after sweeping the tomb, Tao Xi put his head in front of Lin Qinhe and stared into Lin Qinhe’s eyes: “Did you just quietly say something to my mother?”
When he was cleaning the residual snow next to the tombstone, he saw Lin Qinhe look at Fang Sui’s tombstone seriously and solemnly for a long time.
Lin Qinhe raised his hand from his white down jacket’s pocket and put a white hat on Tao Xi, saying: “You told her so much about me, of course I have to say it too.”
Tao Xi’s whole head was put in his hat. He was stunned. Remembering that he said a bunch of words as if he had brought his boyfriend to the door, he was a bit embarrassed, so he grabbed Lin Qinhe’s arm and asked: “What did you say? Did not say anything bad about me, right?”
Lin Qinhe looked at Tao Xi’s face surrounded by a circle of white fluff, and raised his eyebrows: “What bad thing can I say about you?”
Tao Xi felt that the white fluff made his face itchy, so threw the hat to the back, and nodded in agreement: “Yes, I don’t know what shortcomings I have.”
After he finished speaking, he saw Lin Qinhe smile at the corner of his mouth. Realizing that Lin Qinhe was changing the subject, he hurriedly pulled it back and asked, “So what did you say?”
Lin Qinhe put the hat on again, and said, “I didn’t say anything, just thank your mother for giving birth to you.”
“Oh, thanking that.” Tao Xi followed Lin Qinhe and continued down the mountain. As soon as the wind blew the circle of white hairs on his face, he realized that the hat was on his head again.
“Do you like this hat so much?”
“It looks cute.”
“Oh.” Tao Xi was embarrassed again, and jumped forward a few steps, but didn’t take off his hat.
Lin Qinhe casted a glance back. The cemetery was silent amidst the remnants of green mountains and snow. Fang Sui’s tomb could no longer be seen clearly, but it still seemed to be watching them tenderly.
The author has something to say:
Lin Qinhe’s relationship with Fang Sui is very complicated
T/N: today’s update is a bit late because I got something going on yesterday