The scheduled driving practice got canceled. Suddenly, there was some free time before dinner.
Ning Yiwei turned his face to look at Liang Chong and asked, “So, where do we go next?”
Liang Chong slowly started the car and asked Ning Yiwei in return, “Where do you want to go?”
“Zirui’s birthday is next week,” Ning Yiwei thought for a moment and said, “I want to order a cake.”
Since their freshman year, Ning Yiwei and Zhou Zirui had a discussion about exchanging birthday gifts. They decided that every year on Zhou Zirui’s birthday, Ning Yiwei would order a cake specified by Zhou Zirui. And on Ning Yiwei’s birthday, Zhou Zirui would give a book of Ning Yiwei’s choice.
Towards the end of last month, Zhou Zirui had already sent the address of the cake shop and the cake model for this year to Ning Yiwei. Ning Yiwei calculated the time and realized it was time to order.
Ning Yiwei took out his phone and found the text message Zhou Zirui had sent him with the cake shop information. He showed it to Liang Chong and said, “Go here.”
Liang Chong quickly glanced at it and noticed that the cake shop was in a somewhat remote location. He asked Ning Yiwei to help him with the navigation and they headed towards the cake shop.
As they drove out of the school gate, Ning Yiwei yawned and instinctively raised his left hand to cover his mouth. He felt a pain on the back of his hand, interrupting his yawn halfway. He frowned and made a sound, “Hiss.” He looked down at the back of his hand, feeling a bit worried, “I’ll have to rest for a few days again.”
He had exerted too much force when fighting with Kong Zong just now. Now he realized it.
Ning Yiwei rubbed his sore left arm again and complained, “My arm hurts.”
“Since you still feel pain,” Liang Chong suddenly spoke up, “next time, don’t just hit people randomly.”
“Kong Zong provoked me first,” Ning Yiwei retorted, unwilling to back down.
Liang Chong paused for a moment upon hearing this and asked Ning Yiwei, “Why did you argue with Kong Zong today?”
“It was a fight,” Ning Yiwei corrected.
Liang Chong listened while the navigation changed lanes and casually responded to Ning Yiwei, “Fine, a fight.”
Ning Yiwei didn’t want to explain in detail to Liang Chong, so he vaguely summarized, “Kong Zong provoked me.”
Unlike before, this time Liang Chong didn’t give Ning Yiwei a chance to evade the question. “Be more specific.”
Ning Yiwei reached out to grab Liang Chong’s hand and whispered, “Don’t ask so many questions, please.”
Liang Chong allowed him to hold his hand, squeezing Ning Yiwei’s palm, but still persistently continued the topic, “If you don’t tell me, I’ll go ask Auntie myself.”
“Don’t ask her,” Ning Yiwei sat up nervously, “I’ll tell you.”
He organized the events in his mind and explained the cause and result of the situation to Liang Chong, then puzzledly added, “It’s one thing for Kong Zong to target me, but why target my mom?”
Ning Yiwei didn’t care about many things, but his family was something he refused to compromise or give in on.
“I’m not wrong anyway. Even if Professor Kong called me and asked me to apologize to Kong Zong, I won’t apologize,” he stubbornly emphasized.
Liang Chong didn’t try to persuade or say anything to smooth things over. Instead, he gently reassured Ning Yiwei, “You don’t have to apologize to anyone, I promise.”
This made Ning Yiwei feel safe.
In fact, as long as he was by Liang Chong’s side, Ning Yiwei always felt safe.
“When I was little,” Ning Yiwei suddenly felt the urge to confide in Liang Chong, so he said, “My mom used to work as a cleaner in a small hotel, before coming to your house. That was when I was six years old.”
He looked at the trees and pedestrians swiftly passing by outside the window, paused for a moment, and continued, “In the hotel, cleaning shifts were divided into three shifts. My dad also worked in a factory with three shifts. When they had the night shift, my mom would bring me to the hotel and set up a few chairs behind the towel rack in the linen room for me to sleep on. The hotel was owned by my parents’ fellow villagers. They introduced other villagers to work there, so many people inside knew about my parents’ situation.
“One night, while I was sleeping in the linen room, I heard people talking outside the towel rack. I was half asleep and thought it was my mom. I walked out to see the head of housekeeping and a woman embracing each other with half of their clothes off. The woman he was holding looked up and started screaming loudly and frighteningly. The manager of the guest room department came over. The housekeeping head didn’t know that my mom let me sleep in the linen room. He kept yelling at me, and my mom held me while arguing with him. She covered my ears so I couldn’t hear.”
The housekeeping head had said, “Lu Jiaqin, this adopted little devil you took in is a debt collector. He’s full of bad luck. If you get involved with him, you’ll be poor for the rest of your life.”
“That was the first time I found out that I was adopted, but I wasn’t very saddened by it,” Ning Yiwei said. “My parents had gone through a lot of hardships. They never went to college, but they were good people. Kong Zong had a good life, went to a good school, but he was awful. Even if his father is Professor Kong, I don’t want to be like him. I still want to be Ning Yiwei.”
Liang Chong tightly held Ning Yiwei’s hand, looking at the road ahead, without speaking, as if pondering something.
“By the way,” Ning Yiwei suddenly jumped to the next topic and made a promise to Liang Chong, “If someone insults you, I will fight for you.”
“Thank you.” Liang Chong didn’t sound very appreciative as he thanked him. He paused and said, “I think I should find you a bodyguard.”
“Are they going to help me fight?” Ning Yiwei asked eagerly.
Liang Chong glanced at him and poured cold water on his enthusiasm, “To protect you from getting punched.”
“Then I guess you should always have a driver with you,” Ning Yiwei bantered, “To protect you from shifting gears incorrectly.”
“Ning Yiwei,” Liang Chong called his name.
Ning Yiwei asked, “What?”
Liang Chong said, “Be quiet.”
Shortly after, they arrived at the cake shop, located in a small alley occupying three storefronts. The shop manager had a somewhat eccentric personality. They didn’t have a delivery service contract nor offered online reservations, yet there were still quite a few people coming to buy cakes. A row of cars was parked outside the entrance.
Liang Chong parked the car nearby and accompanied Ning Yiwei as they walked over. They happened to see a couple walking out from the shop, in the early stages of their relationship, taking a few steps before leaning against each other for a kiss.
Ning Yiwei swore he didn’t have any intention to stare, but Liang Chong just covered his eyes.
Taking advantage of Ning Yiwei’s lack of reaction, Liang Chong nudged his shoulder and led him towards the shop. Ning Yiwei stumbled a few steps and reached out to remove Liang Chong’s hand.
Little did he know, in the brief moment he saw the daylight again, Liang Chong’s hand covered his eyes once more, and he spoke to Ning Yiwei as if pacifying a child, “Don’t look, it’s not suitable for young viewers.”
“Liang Chong.” Ning Yiwei felt ticklish from Liang Chong’s hand and couldn’t help but laugh. He then put on a stern face and ordered Liang Chong, “Quickly let go of me, I’m not a child.”
In the late evening at D University, couples were abundant on campus, engaged in kissing and embracing as if it were the most natural thing. Ning Yiwei and Zhou Zirui had lost count of how many times they had encountered such scenes.
Although Ning Yiwei had no interest in these displays, he understood what was going on thanks to a fellow computer classmate in his freshman year who watched adult films during programming software classes. Ning Yiwei had gained quite a bit of knowledge.
With darkness enveloping his vision, Ning Yiwei turned around, shaking his head in an attempt to shake off the hand covering his eyes.
“I’ve already grown up,” he said, holding onto Liang Chong’s waist and burying his head in Liang Chong’s embrace. Finally, Liang Chong let him go.
Ning Yiwei looked up, intending to scold Liang Chong for treating him like a child.
In that instant of eye contact with Liang Chong, he fell silent once again.
A new force exerted itself on the small ball inside Ning Yiwei’s chest, causing it to collide haphazardly against the walls of his heart with even greater strength and intensity than before, at a sixty-degree angle to the horizon.
Ning Yiwei could calculate the ball’s trajectory, but he couldn’t find the reason behind the force. Consequently, he felt anxious and confused, unable to think clearly.
“Is that so?” Liang Chong lowered his head, seemingly avoiding confrontation, and didn’t return Ning Yiwei’s embrace. He asked Ning Yiwei somewhat helplessly, “Do you feel like you’ve grown up?”
Feeling the need for a point of reference, Ning Yiwei suspected that anyone in such close proximity to Liang Chong would experience an accelerated heartbeat. Afraid of revealing his vulnerability, he hesitantly released his grip, took a step back, and quickly turned his attention towards the cake shop. However, the sensation of Liang Chong’s back muscles and the warmth from his chest enveloped Ning Yiwei, causing a chemical reaction inside his mind.
Ning Yiwei focused his thoughts, holding his breath, unable to avoid the inevitable.
This matter was urgent, strange, and couldn’t be ignored. Ning Yiwei thought he needed to discuss it with Zhou Zirui as soon as possible.
If you enjoy this novel, support the Translator ginevre on her ko-fi account :))