Ning Yiwei didn’t feel like taking a cab, so he decided to walk home from D University, which took about half an hour. He also wanted to clear his head, so walking seemed like a good idea.
As Ning Yiwei walked near Liang Chong’s company, he noticed a sedan waiting at a nearby traffic light on an empty street. The car seemed familiar to him. Upon closer inspection, he confirmed that it was the same one Liang Chong had driven when picking him up in the afternoon.
Ning Yiwei took a few steps back, fearing that Liang Chong might spot him and start bombarding him with questions all night. He sidestepped into a small alley and peeked out, keeping an eye on the traffic light. Once it turned green and Liang Chong’s car raced away, he cautiously came out again.
After Liang Chong had driven off into the distance, Ning Yiwei didn’t feel like walking any further. He stood by the roadside and hailed a taxi, asking the driver to take him home.
This taxi driver didn’t follow the rules. After driving a short distance, he lowered the car window and started smoking without saying anything. The window wasn’t opened wide enough, and the car quickly filled with smoke. The wind from outside blew in, bringing bits of ash flying towards the back seat. Ning Yiwei shifted closer to the other side, trying to breathe less often.
Late at night, amidst the scent of smoke, Ning Yiwei was reminded of Liang Chong, the more sharp and gloomy version of Liang Chong during their third year.
At that time, Liang Chong’s father had just recovered from a severe illness and was bedridden. Liang Chong was constantly shuttling between the company, hospital, and school. He would only leave the office very late, while Ning Yiwei, who happened to be in his sophomore year, stayed up studying until ten o’clock. Since their daily routines aligned, Liang Chong would always come to pick up Ning Yiwei.
Ning Yiwei couldn’t pinpoint when Liang Chong had developed the habit of smoking, but by the time he noticed it, Liang Chong was already heavily addicted. The smoke permeated even the car Liang Chong frequently drove, and Liang Chong would often cough.
Curiosity always got the better of Ning Yiwei when it came to addictive substances. One evening, he asked Liang Chong if he could give it a try.
Liang Chong refused outright, citing Ning Yiwei’s underage status, and told him to stop daydreaming.
The more Liang Chong forbade Ning Yiwei, the more he wanted to try it. He asked Liang Chong to buy him a late-night snack from the convenience store and, as soon as Liang Chong left, he took out Liang Chong’s cigarettes and lighter, wanting to experience the taste of smoking.
At first, Ning Yiwei had no experience and didn’t know that you had to light the cigarette while inhaling. He struggled to light it for a long time and felt like it wasn’t working. Just as he saw Liang Chong finishing his purchase and coming out of the convenience store, Ning Yiwei stubbornly took a deep drag and immediately coughed several times. The cigarette had indeed ignited.
Smoking cigarettes wasn’t enjoyable, Ning Yiwei thought, feeling lightheaded. It was too harsh, a bit bitter in the throat, and he couldn’t tell any special appeal. All he could sense was the nicotine irritating his lungs.
As Liang Chong approached closer, Ning Yiwei pressed his mouth against the filter, taking a drag and savoring it again, but it still didn’t seem particularly remarkable.
Before the smoke could reach his lungs on the third drag, Liang Chong opened the car door. He saw Ning Yiwei with a cigarette between his fingers, blowing smoke rings, and was momentarily perplexed. Then swiftly, he reached out, snatched the cigarette from Ning Yiwei’s hand, and tossed it into the car’s ashtray, slamming the lid shut with a click. Ning Yiwei forgot whether Liang Chong scolded him or not, but he remembered that ever since that incident, Liang Chong never smoked in his presence again.
The wind blew into the cabin in gusts, and Ning Yiwei stared absentmindedly at the gradually familiar street scenes. He wasn’t sure why he was reminiscing about this matter, but whenever he thought about it, Ning Yiwei felt a deep sense of nostalgia.
Back then, there were no secrets between Liang Chong and Ning Yiwei. They were inseparable, like two souls intertwined.
Now, their lives had become smoother than before, but Liang Chong began keeping many things from Ning Yiwei. His secrets multiplied, and every action became difficult to decipher. Moreover, Liang Chong became excessively protective of Ning Yiwei, surpassing the boundaries of ordinary family or friends.
Ning Yiwei wasn’t good at metaphors, but he felt that Zhou Zirui had spoken some truths.
Liang Chong himself was like an emotional stimulator in Ning Yiwei’s heart, stirring up storms of emotions.
Whether it was good or bad, Ning Yiwei would bear it all. He was willing to bear it, but no one could take Liang Chong away from his heart. No one.
Upon arriving home, Ning Yiwei stood downstairs for a few minutes to dispel the scent of smoke left by the driver, then went upstairs.
Lu Jiaqin was still sitting on the couch, waiting for him at the door. She thought Ning Yiwei had been studying late at school, so when he entered, her eyes were filled with compassion.
“Weiwei,” she called out to Ning Yiwei and went to the kitchen to bring him a steaming bowl of late-night snack. She urged him to eat quickly to replenish his physical and mental energy.
Under the loving gaze of his mother, Ning Yiwei finished his late-night snack, patting his round belly. He returned to his room, washed up, and rolled around on the bed for a while before succumbing to the urge to pick up his phone. He stared at Liang Chong’s name for a long time and sent him a very short text message: “Are you asleep?”
Immediately, he added, “I can’t sleep.”
Following their usual routine, Liang Chong would call Ning Yiwei back. But today, for some reason, he had the leisure to reply with a text message: “What are you thinking about that keeps you from sleeping?”
Ning Yiwei pondered for a moment and replied: “I’m thinking about why you seemed unhappy this afternoon.”
This time, Liang Chong called him. Ning Yiwei looked at the incoming call, thought for a few seconds, and then answered.
Liang Chong asked, “What are you randomly thinking about in the middle of the night?”
Ning Yiwei clenched the phone, pressing his lips together tightly.
Liang Chong seemed to have just woken up from a nap, his voice hoarse, displaying the petulance that often followed after waking up, especially directed at Ning Yiwei.
“I just want to know why you’re not happy,” Ning Yiwei said.
Liang Chong sighed and asked Ning Yiwei, “What basis do you have to determine that I’m not happy?”
“Liang Chong,” Ning Yiwei didn’t answer Liang Chong’s counter-question but called out his name.
Liang Chong simply responded with a quiet “Hmm,” indicating he was there, patiently waiting for Ning Yiwei to speak.
“How did you know I was pretending to be asleep?” Ning Yiwei still asked.
“… How dare you ask,” Liang Chong replied with irritation. “Next time, I’ll take a photo to show you just how poorly you pretend.”
“Oh,” Ning Yiwei blinked guiltily. “You’ve been doing a lot of things lately that I don’t understand.”
“Such as?” Liang Chong’s patience seemed to be running out.
But since Liang Chong couldn’t reach him when they were apart, Ning Yiwei continued to ask, “If I were really asleep, what would you want to do?”
Liang Chong paused.
Ning Yiwei sensed that Liang Chong was contemplating something. After waiting for a while and not getting a response, he grew impatient and urged Liang Chong, “Tell me, I won’t be upset.”
“Won’t be upset?” Liang Chong casually repeated Ning Yiwei’s words, as if not entirely believing.
Ning Yiwei reassured, “I definitely won’t be upset.”
There was another moment of silence on Liang Chong’s end.
Ning Yiwei seemed to hear Liang Chong laugh softly, a self-mocking tone, before playfully saying, “I’d want to do everything.”
If you enjoy this novel, support the Translator ginevre on her ko-fi account :))