The end of this semester came quickly. Sitting in the examination room of Wenhua No. 1 High School again, Tao Xi felt that he was more stable than the last midterm exam, his heart was steady and his hands were steady.
On the day after the exam, Yang Zhengming took him back to his grandfather’s house. Grandma made a special table of dishes. The family gathered to celebrate the end of his exam and usher in the winter vacation.
The results came out on the third day after the exam. Tao Xi progressed from 42 to 21 in the mid-term exam. Except for Lin Qinhe, the unbeatable first place, this result had greatly stimulated a class of students. After all, a student who had only transferred from Qingshui County for half a year had almost rushed into the top 20. Given a little more time, wouldn’t he be shoulder-to-shoulder with Lin Qin He?
Tao Xi was quite satisfied with this result, but before he had time to celebrate with Lin Qinhe, he was taken back to his grandparent’s house by Yang Zhengming. His grandmother made a bigger table of dishes to celebrate his big progress in the final exams, and the three adults also gave him gifts for the final exams. Tao Xi was not very polite, he accepted them all and stayed at his grandparents’ house all night.
He understood that his relatives were trying to build a home for him. Perhaps, the affection was in such a meal, a vegetable, a dish, accumulating sand into a tower.
Tao Xi returned to his home with Lin Qinhe with a bunch of gifts the next day. Regarding his living with Lin Qinhe, the two elderly people didn’t say anything. It might be that Yang Zhengming had already told them in advance, but he didn’t know how he said it.
When he came home, Lin Qinhe had also just returned from seeing Luo Zhengyin at the sanatorium.
“Is Auntie Luo feeling better?” Tao Xi sat on the carpet with his legs crossed, holding a gift box, and asked Lin Qinhe who was sitting on the sofa.
Lin Qinhe handed the scissors on the coffee table to Tao Xi and said, “Better, she can be discharged from the hospital tomorrow.”
Tao Xi sighed with relief as he took the scissors to cut the ribbon on the gift box, and he suddenly heard Lin Qinhe say, “My mother wants to see you tomorrow.”
“Sure, I’m going to visit your mother too.” Tao Xi put down the scissors and looked at Lin Qinhe. Lin Qinhe looked calm, but he saw the hesitation in Lin Qinhe’s eyes.
Tao Xi moved closer to Lin Qinhe, rested his chin on Lin Qinhe’s knee. Tilting his head, he asked: “Are you worried about something?”
Lin Qinhe looked down into Tao Xi’s eyes, stroked the lashes at the end of his eyes with his thumbs, and whispered, “Nothing.”
Tao Xi felt itchy at the end of his eyes, and blinked quickly. The tail of his eyelashes swept across Lin Qinhe’s fingertips, and the finger quickly moved away.
In fact, he knew what Lin Qinhe was worried about. He not only wanted to go see Luo Zhengyin, but also to confirm one of his suspicions, and to say something to Luo Zhengyin.
The next day, Tao Xi bought some gifts for visiting, and followed Lin Qinhe into the villa where Luo Zhengyin lived, the same place where Lin Qinhe and Yang Duole once lived.
The interior decoration of the villa was full of artistic atmosphere, but it also looked very deserted. The first thing Tao Xi saw was an oil painting hanging on the wall of the living room. In the painting was a young girl wearing a white dress, sitting in a field of purple flowers, her smiling eyes were innocent and affectionate.
Tao Xi recognized that it was her mother Fang Sui’s self-portrait.
The nurse who took care of Luo Zhengyin came down and said to Tao Xi, “Madam has just woken up, please go up.”
Lin Qinhe said to Tao Xi, “I’ll wait for you in the living room.” He knew that Luo Zhengyin wanted to speak with Tao Xi alone.
Tao Xi nodded and was just about to turn around to go when Lin Qinhe held his wrist and told him, “If she is not in good condition, you can call me up.”
Tao Xi agreed and followed the nurse to the second floor. On the way, he found that not only the painting in the living room, but there were also many traces of Fang Sui in the entire villa; photos, oil paintings, and other relics of Fang Sui’s life.
When the door opened, Tao Xi smelled a faint smell of medicine before he even walked in.
The heavy blackout curtains were not opened, and only a floor lamp was lit in the corner of the room. In the dim light, Tao Xi saw Luo Zhengyin leaning against the bed and almost didn’t recognize that this was the elegant female pianist.
Luo Zhengyin looked very frail, her pale face looked sickly, her dull eyes brightened slightly after seeing him coming in and with some difficulty she showed a little smile and said, “Tao Xi, come and sit down.”
Tao Xi politely greeted Aunt Luo, and sat down on the chair beside Luo Zhengyin’s bed.
Luo Zhengyin didn’t say anything else, she just quietly gazed at the teenager in front of her, her eyes seemed to be empty but at the same time filled with something.
Tao Xi was a little uncomfortable by Luo Zhengyin’s look. He wanted to say something to break the silence, but he saw Luo Zhengyin suddenly start to shed tears, silent and painful.
He panicked and gave Luo Zhengyin a tissue, but Luo Zhengyin didn’t take them. She covered her face with her hands and quietly shed tears, as if the tears couldn’t end, and only after a long time did she say to him, “I’m sorry, I’m not completely well, sometimes I can’t control my emotions.”
Tao Xi said it was okay, he knew Luo Zhengyin’s depression was serious, but didn’t know how to persuade her.
After crying, Luo Zhengyin seemed to have calmed down a bit. She lifted her head to look at Tao Xi again, and after looking for a long time, she smiled and said, “You really look like Ah Sui.”
Tao Xi then cautiously followed her words and asked, “What kind of person is my mother?”
Luo Zhengyin’s gaze still fell on his face, as if it fell on a person a long time ago through him. She talked a lot intermittently, mostly about the things that Fang Sui and her grew up with. Those times should be very happy, because when Luo Zhengyin said it, she always had a slight smile on his face.
Tao Xi listened very carefully, and he confirmed his suspicions that Luo Zhengyin did like Fang Sui, in the same way that he and Lin Qinhe did.
It was just that when Luo Zhengyin spoke about Fang Sui’s pregnancy, her emotions suddenly broke down again, and she again covered her face and cried, tears flowing down from her fingers, like a confessor on her knees.
Tao Xi comforted him helplessly, but Luo Zhengyin suddenly grabbed his hand, like a drowning man clutching the wooden board, saying “I’m sorry” over and over again.
“Auntie Luo, you are not sorry for me.” Tao Xi frowned, his hand that was scratched was a bit painful.
But Luo Zhengyin shook her head, still clutching Tao Xi’s hand hard, crying incoherently, “No, I’m the one who’s sorry to A’Sui, I’m the one who’s sorry to A’Sui’s son, it’s my fault, Tao Xi, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
Tao Xi looked at Luo Zhengyin who was immersed in painful emotions, his heart was very uncomfortable. After finally waiting for her to calm down a bit, he planned to talk about other topics to divert Luo Zhengyin’s attention, but Luo Zhengyin looked up at him again, and light appeared in her tear-filled eyes at first, as if she had finally found a way to redeem herself, she said with some excitement.
“Tao Xi, I will make it up to you, I will make up for what I owe you in the past ten years, you can treat me as your mother, okay? Okay?”
She looked at Tao Xi almost pleadingly, as if she would collapse if Tao Xi did not promise her.
There was only a deep sigh left in Tao Xi’s heart. For Luo Zhengyin, the only one who could save her from her despair and guilt was Fang Sui’s child. It was once Yang Duole, but now it is him.
He shook his head, did not agree to Luo Zhengyin, but said to Luo Zhengyin in a soft tone as much as possible.
“Auntie Luo, I know you feel indebted to me because of my mother.” He paused and continued, “But what you owe is not me, and I am not your child.”
Luo Zhengyin didn’t seem to understand what he meant and said eagerly, “It doesn’t matter, I will treat you as if you were my own child. A’Sui’s child is my child.”
She didn’t know what suddenly came to her mind again, she grabbed Tao Xi’s hand a little tighter and pleaded bitterly, “Tao Xi, move over here, you can live here with Qinhe, you can treat him as your brother, we are all your relatives, he will take care of you with me, okay?”
Tao Xi looked at the pale and sick woman in front of him, and there was a sudden surge of sorrow. He did not answer Luo Zhengyin’s question, but only asked softly:
“Aunt Luo, what is Qinhe to you?”
Luo Zhengyin stared at him blankly, as if she didn’t understand what he was saying.
Tao Xi took a deep breath, hesitated for a moment, but still said what he wanted to say to Luo Zhengyin:
“Qinhe is your child, just like I am my mother’s child. He is not a continuation of your feelings for my mother, nor is he your foil to make up for me. It has never been me that you need to make up for over the past ten years. It’s Qinhe, do you know?”
He stared at Luo Zhengyin, but Luo Zhengyin fell silent under his gaze, and the hand that grabbed him suddenly trembled and shrank back as if it had touched something sharp.
Tao Xi knew that Luo Zhengyin was avoiding this question, so he held Luo Zhengyin’s cold hand back, handed her the warmth of his own hand, looked into Luo Zhengyin’s eyes, and said in a slower tone.
“You are my mother’s best friend, my mother in heaven must not want to see you living in guilt for her for the rest of your life. She would want you to have a happy family and live a happy and joyful life for yourself, just like you used to do when you were with her.”
Hearing this sentence, Luo Zhengyin’s throat choked violently, her head hung down, tears falling one by one on the quilt.
She choked out, “But I have no way to…”
There was no way to break free from despair, only to live in regret day after day.
Tao Xi sighed softly.
Luo Zhengyin suddenly raised her head, her eyes were blurred, she blinked hard and saw the teenager in front of her smiling faintly at her as he said:
“Thank you for being willing to be my mom, it’s just that I hope that I can have a healthy and happy mom with Qinhe, okay?”
The floor lamp cast a warm yellow light, illuminating this corner of the bed lightly, and after Luo Zhengyin cried for a long time, Tao Xi finally heard her answer, “Yes.”
He kept holding Luo Zhengyin’s hand until she fell asleep again, and only then did he walk out of the room.
Tao Xi stood alone in the corridor, leaning against the wall, looking at the picture of Fang Sui on the wall.
Lin Qinhe grew up living in such an environment that missed Fang Sui everywhere. Facing a mother whose heart and eyes were full of other people’s children, would he also loathe Fang Sui and her child?
But in the end, he ended up with Fang Sui’s real child by mistake.
He couldn’t tell what he felt in his heart, but he remembered what the old man at the wonton stand said to him that day.
That night in the canopy of the wonton stall, Tao Xi took advantage of the fact that Lin Qinhe had gone out to buy a barbecue and asked the old man about the incident when Lin Qinhe ran away from home when he was six years old, and the old man seemed to trust him and told him everything.
In the evening more than ten years ago, a beautiful-looking child was hanging around Old Sun’s stall, and he looked pitiful, so he greeted the child and sat him down on a simple wooden stool and cooked him a bowl of wontons to eat.
The child was obviously hungry, but ate slowly, looking across the intersection as he ate, as if he was waiting for someone.
Old Sun had nothing to do, so he crossed his legs and asked the child why he had run out alone, and whether he had quarreled with his parents.
The child shook his head, buried his head and drank the soup bit by bit without talking.
Old Sun had seen many children who had fought with their parents and threatened to run away from home. Most of them didn’t get more than two miles away before they went back on their own, crying, so he persuaded them, saying. “Mom and dad scold you and beat you occasionally, all for your own good, but they all like you best.”
The child was silent for a while and said in a very calm tone, “My mother does not like me.”
When he spoke, he looked serious and sad. Old Sun couldn’t help but be stunned. He smashed his mouth and said, “What kind of a mother doesn’t like her own child. Little friend, don’t think so. Your mother can’t find you now. I don’t know how anxious she is.”
The child stopped talking, and Old Sun wondered whether to call the police. When he was about to call, he saw his niece rushing over anxiously. When she saw the child eating wontons at the wooden table, she was relieved and immediately hugged the child and wiped her tears.
It turned out that Old Sun’s niece was working as a nanny for someone in the university staff building, and the child was the son of the family. Old Sun couldn’t help but ask his niece what had happened.
Perhaps it was because she had a long-standing grievance and when she finally got the chance to air it, her niece rambled on for nearly twenty minutes.
Hearing from her, this child’s mother was a pianist, and she couldn’t live in a well-groomed villa. She moved with her children to the university professor’s building where she lived as a child and hired her niece, who lived nearby, as a nanny.
The professor’s building was already old. When the niece went out to buy things that afternoon, a circuit caught fire downstairs, and the fire went straight upstairs. Fortunately, during the day, the few residents in the building quickly evacuated.
When her niece returned, the fire engine and ambulance had just arrived. She anxiously searched for her employer; the mother and son, and heard from neighbors that the lady had come down with her son in her arms, but had fainted again because of nervousness.
She soon found the unconscious young lady in the ambulance, clutching a painting in her hand, and sitting beside her was a crying little boy who was being comforted by a nurse.
The niece just breathed a sigh of relief when she suddenly realized that the boy was not the lady’s own child, but a child named Lele who often came to play. Her heart was instantly in her throat, and she didn’t have time to ask. She hurried to tell the firefighter that there might be a boy who hadn’t come down on the fourth floor.
The firefighter quickly hugged a little boy with a black and gray face down. She saw the child crying and shouting to the firefighter, my mother and brother were still on it, please help my mother. She looked away and didn’t hold back the tears that instantly fell.
“He took a nap in the room alone and woken up by the smoke. He went to look for his mother, thinking that his mother and brother were locked in the room, knocking on the door desperately and calling to his mother, how could he know that his mother had already carried someone else’s child down, and she also brought a useless painting, just forgetting her own son!”
The niece didn’t dare let the child hear her again, so she complained to Old Sun in a whisper with red eyes: “I don’t know what she’s thinking, she treats her children badly and treats other people’s son like a treasure. I heard she has some kind of depression, but even if she’s mentally ill, even if her son has only been with her for a short time, she shouldn’t treat her own children like this!”
After listening with a complicated expression on his face, Old Sun only sighed. He couldn’t say anything about other people’s affairs. He glanced at the child in the corner who was holding a bowl and drinking soup in his hands, walked over and asked the child: “still eat or not? Grandpa will give you another bowl of wontons.”
The child shook his head and said politely, “Thank you, grandpa, no need.”
Old Sun half squatted down and touched the child’s head. After thinking for a while, he then said to him kindly: “People forget things when they’re sick, and when your mother is sick, she may forget you occasionally, but it’s not because she doesn’t like you.”
The child dropped his long eyelashes and did not say anything
Old Sun also knew that the reason he gave was too far-fetched. After all, the mother did not forget the children of other families. It was hard for him to see the child like this, so he thought about it and continued.
“Besides, besides your mother, there will be many other people who like you.”
The child then raised his eyes to look at him and asked seriously: “Will you like me the most like my mother likes didi*?”1younger brother
He used the word “most” with some emphasis, obviously he yearned for this word very much. Like all children, he always wanted the best, the biggest, and the most.
Old Sun was stunned, and realized that this younger brother was probably the child carried down by his mother, and he could not help asking, “Your mother likes didi, so do you hate the brother?”
The niece was desperately making eyes at the side, as if she was unhappy with Old Sun for raising this somewhat cruel question.
The child was silent for a while and slowly shook his head: “Didi can make mother happy, so mother likes didi the most.”
Old Sun’s heart was mixed, he sighed lightly. Picking up the child from the stool and raising it above his head, he smiled and teased the child with an exaggerated tone, saying.
“It’s okay, little friend, in the future, there will also be people in the world who love you most, most, and most!”
The child’s amber-like eyes lit up and asked softly, “When will that happen?”
“When you grow up, there will be one.” Old Sun smiled as he replied. He also had grandchildren himself, and usually liked to play with children.
The niece on the side could not help complaining: “Uncle, he is still young, don’t talk about it.”
But the child was obviously amused by Old Sun
Old Sun finally watched the niece walk away with the child by the hand.
After that, the child’s house moved away from the university professor building, and the niece did not work as a nanny for Madam anymore, but she would occasionally talk about the beautiful child when she came over, worrying that he would be wronged at home.
What Old Sun didn’t expect was that, after that, the child would follow the road and come over to eat a bowl of wontons. He no longer asked those childish questions and never came alone, occasionally bringing back two bowls of wontons.
At that time, Tao Xi’s eyes turned red after listening to Old Sun.
He had always been faintly aware that Luo Zhengyin had placed too much emphasis on Yang Duole and of her polite and cold treatment towards Lin Qinhe, but he had never imagined that Lin Qinhe had been treated in this way when he was with Luo Zhengyin since he was a child.
He knew that Luo Zhengyin was sick, but he still couldn’t understand.
Nor did he dare to imagine that if he had lived beside Lin Qinhe since he was young, would he also completely take away the mother’s love that belonged to Lin Qinhe?
In the face of the indulgence of those relatives, would he really not become like Yang Duole?
Tao Xi didn’t dare to think about these problems. He patted his face with his hand, adjusted his expression, and walked downstairs in a mixed mood. On the stairs, he saw Lin Qinhe waiting for him in the living room alone. Hearing his footsteps, he raised his head and looked at him, showing a very gentle smile.
At that moment, Tao Xi seemed to see the child who waited for his mother to find him at the wonton stand many years ago. Suddenly his nose became sore, he walked quickly to Lin Qinhe, took his hand, and held it tightly.
Lin Qinhe sensed Tao Xi’s emotions, lowered his head slightly, looked into his eyes and asked softly: “What’s wrong? Did my mother say something to you?”
Tao Xi didn’t say anything, just leaned his forehead on Lin Qinhe’s shoulder, rubbed his neck and asked an inexplicable question, “Do you know who I am?”
Lin Qinhe was taken aback for a moment, and subconsciously replied with an unintentional answer: “You are Tao Xi.”
Tao Xi shook his head.
Lin Qinhe came back and thought that Tao Xi was flirting coquettishly with him, so he smiled and said, “It’s my baby.”
Tao Xi did not hold back his joy. He stood on tiptoe, pressed close to Lin Qinhe’s ear, and solemnly said in a low voice:
“Little friend Lin Qinhe, I am the person who loves you the most, the most, and the most in the world.”
After Tao Xi finished speaking, Lin Qinhe didn’t respond. He only stared at him, as if completely stunned. The amber pupils reflected the figure in front of him, like a deep pool reflecting the moon.
He reached out and poked Lin Qinhe’s waist and asked, “Are you honored…”
Before the question was finished he was suddenly kissed by Lin Qinhe, his lips and tongue met. From gentle and loving to searing and hot, but the person kissing him looked almost pious, as if someone who walked through the desert for several days kissing the Crescent Lake,2Yueyaquan is a crescent-shaped lake in an oasis, 6 km south of the city of Dunhuang in Gansu Province, China urgently drawing water from it.
“I am very honored.”
T/N: I feel sad for these three people who were raised by these irresponsible and selfish adults. And not gonna lie, I have the same question as Tao Xi; if he grew up with LQH, would LQH grow up resenting him?? because of LZY obsession with FS and all.
- 1younger brother
- 2Yueyaquan is a crescent-shaped lake in an oasis, 6 km south of the city of Dunhuang in Gansu Province, China