After sending Ning Yiwei back, Liang Chong didn’t directly go home. He took a different route and went to the company.
Liang Chong put a safe in the lounge of the top floor office in the company. He placed most of the things Ning Yiwei had given him inside the safe. It was the safest place for those items, and it made Liang Chong feel like Ning Yiwei had always been with him.
On his way to the company, Liang Chong received a text message from Kong Zong, asking if he could find some time to chat.
Liang Chong didn’t reply. After he swiped left and deleted it, he realized that he had caught some of Ning Yiwei’s childishness recently. Deleting someone’s message for no reason wasn’t something Liang Chong would normally do.
Secretary Laila was working overtime, organizing the schedule data for the second half of the month. The only office with lights on the entire top floor was the Secretary Department. She had finished organizing more than half of the data when she decided to play some music on the speaker to relax. However, she saw Liang Chong walking towards her from the elevator.
Laila promptly turned off the music and stood up to greet Liang Chong, “Mr. Liang.”
Liang Chong nodded at her, holding the car keys. He didn’t explain why he was there and didn’t seem to imply any urgent work. He bypassed the secretary and headed towards his own office.
He didn’t close the blinds on the glass door of his office and entered the lounge directly. Opening the door, he walked to the coffee table and bent down to remove the painting that was covering the safe. He entered the password and used his fingerprint to open the safe.
The safe was large, containing a variety of items that Ning Yiwei had given Liang Chong. He kept everything in there, unwilling to discard a single one. It was as if he didn’t want to easily forget any of the words they had exchanged during their time together, even if they were insignificant or mundane.
He surveyed the assortment of miscellaneous items and took out a metal music box with a winding mechanism.
It was an assignment from Ning Yiwei’s metalworking course two years ago. The teacher had taken it to participate in a competition and it had won a top national prize. It was supposed to be displayed in the D Museum. However, Ning Yiwei was very possessive. As soon as the award ceremony ended, he insistently reclaimed it and then presented it to Liang Chong as if it were a valuable treasure.
Sometimes Liang Chong didn’t understand why Ning Yiwei was so insistent on giving him things.
Every time Ning Yiwei gave a gift, he hurriedly presented it to Liang Chong, as if the value of the gift would diminish if he was even a second late.
Liang Chong sat on the single sofa chair beside the coffee table, twisted the winding mechanism, and released it when it could no longer turn. The music box started playing. The sound of the metal pins was clear and pleasant, playing the first four bars of Pachelbel’s Canon. On the metal ball’s track, various colored balls slid slowly in response to the music.
He still remembered what Ning Yiwei had said to him back then—on a very cold winter night. Ning Yiwei excitedly introduced it to Liang Chong, right downstairs from Liang Chong’s house, even before they could go upstairs.
Ning Yiwei informed Liang Chong about the number of parts in the music box, mentioning how meticulously he had polished the metal pins and rewritten the program for the gears five times. He also shared the challenges in crafting the sound cylinder and the difficulties he faced with the persistent teacher who wanted to exhibit the assignment. From the lobby to the elevator and even in Liang Chong’s living room, Ning Yiwei vividly recounted their conversations, earnestly and almost humorously.
Eventually, Ning Yiwei grabbed onto Liang Chong’s hand and asked, “Do you like it?” Without waiting for Liang Chong’s confirmation, he forcefully placed the music box in Liang Chong’s hand, joyfully stating, “If you like it, it’s my gift to you.”
Ning Yiwei’s persistence and generosity could be perplexing. Liang Chong occasionally reminded himself of this fact. For instance, when Ning Yiwei closed his eyes and pretended to sleep in Liang Chong’s car, he did so without any ulterior motives, unaware of Liang Chong’s intentions. Recalling that evening, Liang Chong began to regret repeatedly, thinking that if he had walked slower when entering the restaurant, Ning Yiwei wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to hold his arm.
Liang Chong felt as though his entire life, from the moment he was born until now, was devoted to the “Ning Yiwei Solves Problems” lottery. Sometimes the draw occurred every hour, other times every three days, with a frequency that wasn’t insignificant. However, Liang Chong knew that he was unlikely ever to win.
Nevertheless, Liang Chong believed that if there was ever a chance for Ning Yiwei to win the award for “Liking Someone,” that person would probably be hard to find elsewhere.
Ning Yiwei’s willingness to spend so much time making gifts for Liang Chong both puzzled and touched him. Liang Chong reminded himself of this occasionally. For instance, when Ning Yiwei passionately insisted on giving him the music box, he showed how much he valued time.
Liang Chong occasionally turned the winding mechanism, allowing the music to continue playing. He recalled Ning Yiwei’s nervous and clever act of pretending to sleep, while simultaneously contemplating how to navigate his interactions with Kong Shenfeng.
After a short while, someone lightly knocked on the partially closed door of his lounge. The secretary cautiously inquired from the other side, “Mr. Liang, do you need anything else?”
After a moment of contemplation, Liang Chong spoke to the female secretary once the music ceased, “Arrange another appointment with Professor Kong for tomorrow morning. There’s nothing else at the moment. You can go home.”
The female secretary nodded, taking note, and gratefully turned away, heading home.
In Room 502 of Building 4 in the D University faculty dormitory, Ning Yiwei expanded on the phenomena described by the ball theory and shared her recent perplexities with Zhou Zirui and Peng Zhefei.
In order to prevent Zhou Zirui from forming a preconceived impression of Liang Chong that might lead to a skewed understanding, Ning Yiwei temporarily concealed Liang Chong’s name, using “him” instead. He focused on explaining how “in the past, getting closer didn’t make my heart race like this, but recently, whenever I get close, my heart pounds.” He planned to reveal the person’s identity later.
“Yiwei,” Zhou Zirui, listening while contemplating the discussion, interrupted Ning Yiwei mid-sentence, “What you said, th-there’s a part that I don’t quite understand, but I have a-a question for you. Do you have a p-pacemaker?”
“No,” Ning Yiwei replied, feeling troubled.
If he had one, there might be a trace to follow.
Peng Zhefei observed them, seemingly pondering some formless theory. Though he didn’t explicitly express his thoughts, he shook his head at the two younger students and let out a sigh.
It appeared as if Ning Yiwei and Zhou Zirui understood nothing at all.
“C-cousin,” Zhou Zirui asked, “Why are you s-sighing?”
“It’s nothing. Yiwei, please continue.”
“There’s nothing else. Oh, right,” Ning Yiwei told them again, “He used to get close to me often before, and I didn’t think much of it. We’ve known each other for many years, and that’s how we’ve always been. But recently, whenever I see him, my heart starts beating faster, and I get inexplicably nervous. It’s like the kind of nervousness you feel when you can’t open your slides before a presentation, and your mind starts racing.”
“So serious!” Zhou Zirui exclaimed, “When did this ch-change happen?”
Ning Yiwei pondered for a moment and said, “It was after that time at the bar.”
Zhou Zirui furrowed his brow again, falling into deep thought.
“How close did you used to get?” Peng Zhefei suddenly interrupted.
After reminiscing, Ning Yiwei said, “If he squeezed my cheeks or rubbed my head, we would get very close.”
“Oh, big sister!” Peng Zhefei couldn’t help but praise, then he looked Ning Yiwei up and down, as if scoring his appearance.
“Not big sister. He is a man,” Ning Yiwei waved his hand without realizing it.
Peng Zhefei was greatly surprised, “What? You’re g-gay…”
Confronted with Ning Yiwei’s innocent and naive gaze, the word “gay” spun around Peng Zhefei’s mouth for a moment before slowly swallowing it back.
“Liang Chong?” Zhou Zirui immediately guessed.
Just as Ning Yiwei was about to admit it, Peng Zhefei, wearing a puzzled expression, asked Zhou Zirui, “Who?”
Zhou Zirui glanced at Ning Yiwei and said, “It’s Liang Chong.”
Peng Zhefei hesitated for a moment and double-checked with Zhou Zirui, “The Liang Chong you mentioned, is it the same Liang Chong who donated to Professor Kong’s lab?”
“Yes, it’s him,” Ning Yiwei looked at Peng Zhefei and asked, “What’s the matter?”
Peng Zhefei furrowed his brow, his expression becoming hesitant. It seemed like he had many things to say and questions to ask, but he didn’t dare to speak up.
“Brother?” Zhou Zirui lightly pushed him and asked, “Do you know Liang Chong?”
“Stop bothering me,” Peng Zhefei blocked Zhou Zirui’s hand and said, “Let me think, it’s a bit confusing.”
After a while, Peng Zhefei seemed to have organized his thoughts. He grabbed his own unruly curly hair, uncertainly looking at Ning Yiwei, and honestly said, “Doesn’t Liang Chong have a girlfriend? He’s two years younger than me, this is what my roommate told me.” Peng Zhefei added, “They say he has been in a relationship for many years, but his family doesn’t approve.”
D University had a significant student population, with campuses divided into the north and south. Students from different colleges rarely interacted unless there were important matters. The famous individuals within one college might be unknown in another. Liang Chong was an exception. Despite being humble and low-key, for various reasons, during his four years at the university, everything he did became the central topic of discussion among students from several senior batches.
After rumors about Liang Chong’s love life spread, Peng Zhefei’s roommate celebrated with drinks in their dormitory, saying they finally had one less strong competitor when pursuing girls. Although Peng Zhefei didn’t comment on his roommate’s words, he always believed that the rumor about Liang Chong having a “long-term girlfriend at another university” was reliable. After all, Liang Chong was like an indifferent figure on campus, showing no interest in romantic relationships.
Ning Yiwei didn’t take Peng Zhefei’s words seriously. He shook her head and clarified for Liang Chong, “He doesn’t have a girlfriend. He has never been in a relationship.”
“How do you know?” Peng Zhefei said, not quite believing it, “You’re not always hanging out with Liang Chong, right? Based on what you’re saying, I doubt Liang Chong would even tell you about his love life.”
In the distance, the music signaling lights out in the undergraduate dormitories began to play. Ning Yiwei didn’t want to stay any longer. He wanted to go back.
He had a feeling that he wouldn’t find the answers he sought from Peng Zhefei and Zhou Zirui.
Moreover, he really disliked the idea of Liang Chong having a girlfriend. It made him unhappy, even if it was untrue. Ning Yiwei felt uncomfortable and displeased, wanting to argue against it.
“Liang Chong doesn’t have a girlfriend,” Ning Yiwei reiterated, “It’s getting late, Zirui, Brother. I’ll head home first.”
Zhou Zirui walked alongside Ning Yiwei as they descended from the fifth floor of the faculty dormitory. It was late at night, and the weather was bitterly cold. Ning Yiwei zipped up his coat and carried his backpack on his shoulders as they made their way outside.
“Yi-Yiwei,” Zhou Zirui walked beside Ning Yiwei, noticing his prolonged silence, and cautiously asked, “Did my brother s-say something that upset you?”
Ning Yiwei shook his head and told Zhou Zirui, “No. But Liang Chong truly doesn’t have a girlfriend.”
He escorted Zhou Zirui back to the undergraduate dormitory building and continued walking towards the campus exit.
At this hour, the D University campus was so quiet that not even a dog was awake. The wind rustled the leaves, occasionally causing some to drift down and land on the ground, awaiting cleanup in the morning.
Ning Yiwei looked up and could see in the distance the circular lights on the rooftop helipad of the building belonging to Liang Chong’s corporation.
It was a very tall building, towering high above.
Liang Chong’s career, his family, Liang Chong’s home, and Ning Yiwei all formed Liang Chong’s life.
Like a stable deuterium atom, for the sake of safety, it would be best not to make any changes for now.
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