Ning Yiwei discovered that Liang Chong could be unreasonable at times. He entered Ning Yiwei’s room claiming not to be tired, but later he took Ning Yiwei’s bed without permission, insisting that he needed to adjust to the time difference. He forcefully asked Ning Yiwei to close the curtains and lie down with him.
After lying down for a while, Ning Yiwei realized that Liang Chong seemed to have fallen asleep. Liang Chong held Ning Yiwei from behind, with his arm around Ning Yiwei’s waist, breathing quietly and evenly.
Ning Yiwei had slept well and obediently the night before, so he felt wide awake. Since Liang Chong wasn’t there to advise him on social matters, he resorted to lying on his side, struggling while holding his phone, fully focused on thinking about how to reply to Kang Yixin.
He read the two messages Kang Yixin had sent him twice, pondered for a while, and decided to reply like this: “Hello, I’ve already had breakfast, but the location for lunch is still undecided. I’ll probably have it with Liang Chong.”
By doing so, Kang Yixin would probably understand the implied message of “I already know the details.”
After a while, Ning Yiwei received two text messages at the same time.
One message was from Kang Yixin, and the other was from Zhou Zirui.
Ning Yiwei opened Zhou Zirui’s message, which arrived a little later. Zhou Zirui asked Ning Yiwei if they could meet at the library entrance at 1:30 in the afternoon. Ning Yiwei then remembered that he had planned to go to the sixth-floor auditorium of the library with Zhou Zirui today to attend a long-awaited special lecture.
Ning Yiwei immediately replied, “Sure!”
Afterwards, he opened Kang Yixin’s message. Kang Yixin said, “But isn’t Liang Chong in France?”
Ning Yiwei once again fell into contemplation, but before he could think for a few seconds, Liang Chong snatched away his phone. Liang Chong glanced at Kang Yixin’s message, sat up, reached for the bedside lamp, and dialed Kang Yixin’s number directly.
Kang Yixin quickly answered the call. Ning Yiwei leaned closer to listen. He heard her say, “Xiao Ning,” her voice slightly trembling.
“Auntie, it’s me,” Liang Chong said. “I’m back.”
“Oh,” Kang Yixin paused for two seconds, her tone returning to normal as she spoke to Liang Chong. “I was texting with Xiao Ning. How come you’re back?”
Ning Yiwei tried to snatch his phone back, but Liang Chong pushed him away.
Liang Chong switched hands, holding the phone to his ear with one hand while gripping Ning Yiwei’s wrist with the other.
Ning Yiwei turned his head slightly and locked eyes with Liang Chong. Liang Chong lifted his wrist and, while talking to Kang Yixin, gently kissed the back of Ning Yiwei’s hand.
Liang Chong’s lips were warm, and the significance of the kisses was lost on Ning Yiwei. He just paused for a moment and felt his heartbeat quicken.
Blushing, Ning Yiwei stared at the side of Liang Chong’s face, only to find that Liang Chong appeared calm, his eyes lowered as he spoke to the person on the phone. “I was worried about him, so I came back.”
“Hmm,” Liang Chong added, “My mom doesn’t know.”
Liang Chong didn’t put the call on speakerphone, and the phone was far from Ning Yiwei. He couldn’t hear what Kang Yixin was saying, so he could only guess their conversation based on what Liang Chong said.
After a few seconds, Liang Chong responded to Kang Yixin, “I’ve already told him.”
This time, Kang Yixin seemed to say more, and Liang Chong remained silent for a while. Ning Yiwei felt anxious and moved closer to Liang Chong, hoping to eavesdrop on the conversation.
Liang Chong glanced at him, leaned against the head of Ning Yiwei’s bed, and patted his own leg.
Reluctantly, Ning Yiwei sat face to face on Liang Chong’s lap, pressing close to him, allowing Liang Chong to hold his waist. Only then did Liang Chong share the phone with him, splitting the device between them.
As a result, Ning Yiwei only heard Kang Yixin say, “Thank you, Xiao Chong.”
“Auntie, you’re being too polite,” Liang Chong smiled meaningfully at Ning Yiwei, “If there’s anything, I’ll let you know.”
After that, he hung up the phone.
Ning Yiwei got angry and accused Liang Chong, “You’re still pretending to be asleep!”
“I was asleep,” Liang Chong said coldly, “but you woke me up with your sighs while thinking about how to reply to the text.”
Ning Yiwei shrugged, not arguing back. He grabbed Liang Chong’s hand and checked the time. “It’s twelve o’clock,” Ning Yiwei said, “Since you’re awake, let’s go eat. I have to go back to school in the afternoon for the lecture.”
Ignoring Ning Yiwei’s dampened mood, Liang Chong took advantage of Ning Yiwei’s receptive posture, hugged Ning Yiwei’s waist, and kissed him for a long time before finally telling Ning Yiwei, “I’m leaving tonight.”
Ning Yiwei was taken aback, although he had some suspicions in his heart, he still asked Liang Chong, “Where are you going?”
“Back to Frankfurt,” Liang Chong said.
Ning Yiwei felt guilty for being so stubborn with Liang Chong the previous night, so he apologized sincerely, “I’m sorry.”
Liang Chong silently looked at Ning Yiwei. Ning Yiwei’s lips moved again, and he said, “I made things harder for you.”
“Alright, stop pretending to be well-behaved,” Liang Chong pinched Ning Yiwei’s cheek and said, “Besides, without seeing you, I can’t do anything anyway.”
Ning Yiwei didn’t know what to say, so he hugged Liang Chong tightly, rested his head on Liang Chong’s shoulder, and softly said to him, “Thank you. Let me treat you to a meal.”
After half an hour, Ning Yiwei brought Liang Chong to the glass house café near the main entrance of D University. They ordered two servings of stewed rice and ice cream.
“The stewed rice in this café is delicious,” Ning Yiwei said. “You used to be in a rush, so you probably didn’t notice the scenery along the road to our alma mater. Let me show you.”
Liang Chong saw through Ning Yiwei’s intention and said, “I think you just wanted to come here because it’s close to the library.”
“Don’t twist my words,” Ning Yiwei retorted stubbornly.
After placing their order, Ning Yiwei rested his chin on his hand and looked at Liang Chong, somewhat nostalgic as he said, “Last time, right here, when Zirui and I were eating ice cream, I saw you picking up Kong Zong. You treated him so well, carrying his bag and opening the car door.”
“Oh?” Liang Chong smiled and said to Ning Yiwei, “Weren’t you dreaming? How did it become a sightseeing experience?”
Ning Yiwei was caught off guard by Liang Chong’s response and fell silent.
When the ice cream arrived, after taking a bite, Ning Yiwei hesitated and stammered, “Liang Chong, have you noticed that technically we’re supposed to be cousins—”
“—In ancient times, cousins getting married was considered an even closer relationship,” Liang Chong quickly interjected.
Ning Yiwei felt like Liang Chong was a contestant in a quiz show who had memorized the answers. But seeing Liang Chong’s serious yet forced calmness, Ning Yiwei couldn’t help but laugh and say, “Well, I didn’t say much.”
He stirred the milk ice cream in his plate and asked Liang Chong with a smiling gaze, “After I finish the lecture, can I accompany you to the airport?”
Liang Chong paused for two seconds before saying, “No need. You go ahead and secure a seat. My schedule has been moved up. I’ll leave at three.”
Ning Yiwei hesitated for a moment, thought again, and then quietly said, “Alright.”
After finishing their meal, it was almost time for Ning Yiwei to meet Zhou Zirui as they had planned.
Perhaps for the first time in his life, Ning Yiwei seriously considered giving up on attending the highly anticipated academic lecture to accompany Liang Chong to the airport.
However, Liang Chong didn’t allow it. He pulled Ning Yiwei into a secluded corner behind the glass house café and kissed him without reservation.
“I’m familiar with the scenery along your university’s roadside,” Liang Chong said.
Letting Liang Chong kiss him until his face flushed red, Ning Yiwei was torn between wanting Liang Chong to leave quickly and not wanting him to go. He watched Liang Chong depart with a lost and dejected expression before slowly making his way to the library.
After walking a short distance, he saw Zhou Zirui holding a notebook, eagerly looking around the steps. Ning Yiwei quickened his pace.
Kang Yixin finished her phone call with Liang Chong, and the chef had prepared the meal. She walked out from the heated room.
As she walked, thoughts about their conversation lingered in her mind. She had a faint feeling that something was off with Liang Chong’s tone, but she couldn’t pinpoint what exactly felt strange.
Kang Yixin entered her home through the back door and passed through the living room. Coincidentally, she saw Kong Zong entering from outside, carrying a bag and changing his shoes.
Upon seeing her, he looked up and called out, “Mom.”
Kang Yixin looked at Kong Zong, and a mix of emotions surged within her.
Kong Zong was taller than Kang Yixin, with fair skin and slightly protruding eyes.
Kang Yixin always thought Kong Zong had a high degree of nearsightedness, as he often wore glasses for a long time. After Kong Zong finished the college entrance examination, she took him to have LASIK surgery.
Compared to the cold weather, Kong Zong didn’t wear much, just a long windbreaker and a thin sweater. He carried a new backpack covered in logos. He bought it yesterday afternoon, and although it wasn’t expensive for Kang Yixin, it was worth a year’s living expenses for an average university student.
“I came back to get some books,” Kong Zong said with a mixture of melancholy and unhappiness. He told Kang Yixin, “I have to return them to the library this afternoon. After the exams, I’ll cancel the card.”
Kang Yixin gazed steadily at him, and after a few seconds, she forced herself to appear unaffected and asked, “Have you eaten?”
“Not yet,” Kong Zong changed into slippers, tossed his backpack aside, and continued talking to Kang Yixin. “Mom, can you drop me off at school after we finish eating?”
Kang Yixin nodded as she watched him approach and said, “Sure.”
The two of them had lunch together. Kong Zong looked rather pitiful. He didn’t eat much and had an unpleasant complexion.
During the meal, he repeatedly mentioned to Kang Yixin that the counselor asked him to fill out various forms for transferring schools.
“The counselor said it was the first time he encountered someone transferring from our school to A University,” Kong Zong said with a tone of disappointment, setting down his chopsticks.
Kang Yixin gazed at Kong Zong, feeling a profound mix of conflict and heartache within her.
From being a baby to becoming a young man, Kong Zong had always been protected by her, but now with such a significant transfer, she couldn’t protect him.
Moreover, Kang Yixin admitted that this time she didn’t give her all to fight for him.
Because she herself was in chaos, not knowing how to deal with Kong Zong. Kong Shenfeng said that Kong Zong had made many mistakes and maybe A University would be more suitable for him. Kong Zong needed to experience some setbacks.
However, Kang Yixin lowered her head, looking at the untouched food in her bowl, and still struggled with self-blame. She wondered if the recent events hadn’t happened, would she really not have fought for it?
Both of them harbored their own concerns and couldn’t eat properly. When Kang Yixin put down her chopsticks, Kong Zong said, “Mom, let’s go.”
Kang Yixin took the car keys and went to the garage with Kong Zong.
She drove out of the house’s main gate and after a short distance, Kong Zong suddenly spoke, “My high school classmate told me. A University is located in the mountainous outskirts, and there are bugs in the dormitory during winter. There’s no hot water in the dormitory. You have to go to the water room to get hot water, and there’s no separate bathroom.”
Kang Yixin felt uneasy hearing this and said, “Mom will rent a place for you outside.”
“It’s in the mountainous outskirts, where would we find a place?” Kong Zong muttered, “Are you going to build one for me?”
Kong Zong’s tone made her feel unfamiliar, as if all the disguises had been torn away from her closest kin, revealing a chilling indifference. Kang Yixin felt that every word he said was like a needle piercing her heart.
“My classmates have been asking me why I transferred,” Kong Zong continued, “How should I explain it to them? That I offended a stupid jerk who happens to be my cousin?”
Kang Yixin heard those last two words from Kong Zong and her head suddenly became hot. Her vision darkened for a moment. She slammed on the brakes, turned to stare at him, her whole body trembling. Her voice became fragmented as she said, “How… how can you say… say such things…”
Kong Zong looked at Kang Yixin, not saying a word, but his eyes slowly reddened. He said, “Mom, I don’t want to transfer.”
“If it weren’t for Dad’s insistence, why would I have to transfer?” he choked out, “Dad just likes that… Ning Yiwei.”
“Your father has done his best…” Kang Yixin tried hard not to cry. She took a tissue and handed it to Kong Zong. Taking a shallow, deep breath, she started driving towards D University again. It was as if she was persuading herself, persuading Kong Zong, “He’s not the principal either.”
“And what about Auntie?” Kong Zong wiped away his tears and persisted in asking.
“She’s in Australia taking care of your uncle…” Kang Yixin said in a soft voice, “Your uncle just had surgery. How can I trouble her with these things right now?”
Kong Zong remained silent for a few seconds and didn’t speak to her anymore. He gazed out the window.
They remained silent throughout the journey, and just when the oppressive atmosphere was becoming unbearable for Kang Yixin, they arrived at D University.
The library was near the west gate. Kang Yixin drove into the school gate and saw a parking space by the roadside. She turned in to park.
The parking space was a bit small, and Kang Yixin wasn’t good at parking. She made several attempts but couldn’t get into the space. Just when she was about to give up and find another spot, Kong Zong suddenly said, “Mom! Park quickly!”
Kang Yixin was startled and stopped the car. She turned to look at Kong Zong, wanting to ask him what was wrong, but the way Kong Zong was looking outside scared her deeply.
She followed Kong Zong’s gaze and looked outside.
Through the sparse winter branches of the hedge, she saw Liang Chong and Ning Yiwei kissing.
Kang Yixin didn’t know how long she had been in a daze. The sound of Kong Zong taking photos with his phone snapped her out of it abruptly.
“Xiao Zong…” Kang Yixin stared at him blankly and asked, “What are you doing?”
Kong Zong continued taking photos without stopping. Kang Yixin saw his phone screen in camera mode, continuously capturing stills and even videos. She trembled and, before she could fully comprehend the situation, grabbed hold of Kong Zong’s wrist. His phone shifted slightly, capturing the doorknob.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” Kong Zong appeared casual, as if he was just taking pictures of the scenery. “I’m taking photos.”
“Delete them,” Kang Yixin couldn’t control her emotions any longer. She stared intently into Kong Zong’s eyes and said, “You delete them right now.”
“Why?” Kong Zong said, “If I show these photos to cousin, he won’t make me transfer.”
“Delete the photos immediately,” Kang Yixin tried to snatch Kong Zong’s phone.
Kong Zong blocked Kang Yixin’s hand and hid the phone behind him. “I absolutely won’t delete them.”
Kang Yixin persistently reached behind Kong Zong, and they struggled for a while. Kong Zong became extremely impatient with her entanglement and forcefully pushed Kang Yixin, gripping her throat, and shouted at her, “I won’t delete them! Can’t you do anything on your own? I’ll find him myself!”
“Kong Zong!” Kang Yixin felt like she was being driven insane.
She heard her own voice sharp and hoarse echoing inside the car. She gasped for breath, shifted to neutral, and pressed the accelerator with all her strength. The engine revved, and even Kong Zong flinched at the sound.
“If you don’t delete the photos,” Kang Yixin trembled, shifted to drive, and pointed with a stuttered voice at the wall at the end of the road, saying to Kong Zong, “Then let’s die together.”
Kong Zong looked at her for a long time, deleted all the photos right in front of Kang Yixin, not leaving a single one. Then he opened Kang Yixin’s car door and walked out.
Kang Yixin watched as Kong Zong disappeared from sight. She turned off the engine, sat for a while, and weakly rested her head on the steering wheel. Her shoulders trembled, and slowly, tears began to escape from her closed eyes, little by little.
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