Kong Zong didn’t turn back and walked ahead with a bag on his shoulder. He tightly gripped his phone, which was tucked in his windbreaker’s pocket. He was worried that Kang Yixin would catch up and ask to see the deleted photos on his phone.
Kang Yixin was acting crazy today, and Kong Zong couldn’t understand why. He had only taken a few affectionate photos of her nephew and her husband’s student, but she seemed overly excited. She would switch between anger and distress.
Maybe her recent mental state was poor, and finding out that her nephew was gay was the final straw. Kong Zong thought he should have waited to take the photos until they were off the car to avoid her seeing them.
Ever since they came back from Japan, Kang Yixin hadn’t been herself. When she arrived home that night, it was almost eleven o’clock. Kong Zong was playing games in the living room when he looked up and saw Kang Yixin looking tired and worn out. She hadn’t put on any makeup, her eyes were swollen, and she had dark circles. It was evident that she had been crying for two whole days.
Recalling his dad’s phone call on his birthday, telling him that Kang Yixin was sick, Kong Zong was almost certain his dad had cheated. His mom had gone to Japan to catch them in the act, judging by the hoarse voice on the phone.
As he thought about it carefully, there were noticeable signs of his dad’s infidelity. His dad had stayed as a guest lecturer in Tokyo for a long time, rarely returning home. In contrast, Kang Yixin had gone to Tokyo alone multiple times, much more than his dad’s visits. It was clear that the family wasn’t a priority for his dad anymore. Otherwise, why would he force his own son to change schools without any care?
Kong Zong wasn’t indifferent to his mom, nor did he want to go against her. But Kang Yixin didn’t give him a chance.
On the day Kang Yixin came back, Kong Zong asked her several questions. However, Kang Yixin avoided answering, probably to protect him from getting hurt. She didn’t even dare to look into his eyes before going upstairs. The next morning, when he woke up, he saw the family doctor’s car parked downstairs. On his way to class, he passed by Kang Yixin’s room and went inside. As expected, he found two newly opened bottles of Lorazepam tablets, the anxiety medication Kang Yixin used to take, placed beside her bed.
In the following days, the atmosphere at home was tense. Kong Zong was already worried about the school transfer issue, and Kang Yixin’s expression, lifeless and unable to speak, only frustrated him further. He became fed up, thinking that she wasn’t in a state to handle important matters. So, in a fit of stubbornness, he decided to move to a hotel. It was partly to relax and partly to provoke Kang Yixin, hoping she would take action. He didn’t want to transfer to A University!
During his days at the hotel, nobody initially contacted him. Kong Zong started to think that the issue of transferring schools might have been forgotten. After all, he had searched online and couldn’t find any previous cases of transferring from D University to A University. Domestic universities weren’t as lenient as foreign ones, and D University and A University were in different provinces.
It wasn’t until this morning when his advisor called him, asking him to fill out a form, that Kong Zong panicked. He hurriedly rushed back home, expecting his mom to be there. Surprisingly, his mom didn’t go to work that day and happened to be at home. It was the first stroke of luck for Kong Zong today.
The second stroke of luck was capturing the photos of Liang Chong and Ning Yiwei.
Kong Zong reached the steps of the library and nervously glanced back. He took out his phone and slowly restored all the deleted photos. He scrolled through them, chose a few where Liang Chong’s face wasn’t visible, and took screenshots. He removed the shooting information. Kang Yixin had been eager for him to delete the photos, probably because of her nephew. Selecting some pictures that didn’t reveal Liang Chong’s face should be enough.
After selecting the photos, Kong Zong played the five-second video he took, silently. The sight of his cousin, Liang Chong, being involved with Ning Yiwei made him feel disgusted to the point of wanting to vomit. But there was also an undeniable sense of excitement. He believed this was heaven’s way of punishing Kong Shenfeng and Liang Chong’s favoritism towards Ning Yiwei and rewarding him.
Looking at the photos, he couldn’t help but smile, his head lowered. It all made sense now. No wonder Liang Chong had said things like “Touch Ning Yiwei again,” and “Who do you think you are without Kong Shenfeng?” It indicated their close relationship.
It was quite funny when he thought about it. They said he was worth nothing, but wasn’t Ning Yiwei in the same boat? Without Liang Chong, what value did Ning Yiwei have? Just a low-class, boastful person who tried to show off his knowledge of Fourier transforms.
Kong Zong opened his email and glanced at the list of names for the research group he had used before to communicate with the members. A smile uncontrollably formed at the corners of his lips as he imagined the expressions on the faces of the research group members upon receiving his email. Wasn’t Ning Yiwei planning to study with his dad? Weren’t they pushing him to transfer schools? Well, then he could just enjoy his time in the research group.
Leaning against the library steps, he used a foreign proxy and bought a new email account. He copied the names of the faculty and students into the recipient field. After some thought, he deleted Ning Yiwei and Kong Shenfeng, then came up with a highly sensational subject line.
Before he could write the content, Kang Yixin’s hysterical face from earlier suddenly flashed in Kong Zong’s mind.
He stopped what he was doing and looked at the phone screen for a moment. He switched to the messaging app and sent Kang Yixin a text saying, “Mom, I’m sorry. I acted impulsively because I felt too overwhelmed by the school transfer.” Only after that did he switch back to the email and continue editing his exposé email about Ning Yiwei.
Kang Yixin had been sitting in the car for a while when her phone screen lit up. She picked it up and saw the message Kong Zong sent her.
In Kong Zong’s contacts, she was still labeled as “Baby.” She read the message several times but couldn’t seem to focus properly, perhaps due to her scattered state of mind. Although the sentences were simple and she recognized every word, she couldn’t piece them together. She stared at the screen for a while until it finally dawned on her that Kong Zong was apologizing.
Kang Yixin didn’t know how to reply. After thinking for a moment, she messaged Kong Zong, “From now on, you must be polite, know your limits, and avoid using vulgar language or engaging in dishonest activities.”
Kong Zong was likely returning books and hadn’t checked his phone. It took a while before he received a reply message.
Kong Zong responded, “Got it. I won’t be coming home tonight either.”
Zhou Zirui and Ning Yiwei went upstairs. At the entrance of Lecture Hall 601 in the library, there were signs indicating the lecture in both Chinese and English. It was not even two o’clock, but many people had already occupied the front rows of the large hall, which could hold 1000 people.
They entered, and a senior student from their research group noticed them and waved, saying, “Zirui! Yiwei! There are still seats here!” Ning Yiwei quickly joined Zhou Zirui as they rushed over.
Among the staff were the teaching assistant and a senior student from the neighboring research group. Professor Zhu, who had free time in the afternoon, arrived early and sat in the front row, chatting with students and sharing interesting stories about Professor Lin Zhengyuan, the guest lecturer. Lin Zhengyuan had previously studied at D University.
“On that day, Zhengyuan was in the lab, and Xiao Kong was attending a class,” Professor Zhu said, as he spotted Zhou Zirui and Ning Yiwei. He paused, smiling, and waved at them. “Zirui and Xiao Ning, come sit here quickly,” he added. Then he continued, “Xiao Kong was closer to Cafeteria 2 in a straight line, while Zhengyuan was closer to Cafeteria 2 in actual distance. They made a bet on who could reach the cafeteria first. Unexpectedly, they both tripped and fell along the way, arriving at my class the next day with bruised and swollen faces. Last time, Xiao Ning fell while being chased by a dog. It immediately reminded me of the two of them.”
Ning Yiwei, who was suddenly called out, opened his mouth briefly, then sadly closed it, giving up on clarifying the rumor. Zhou Zirui sighed and patted Ning Yiwei’s shoulder, showing sympathy.
Lin Zhengyuan, the guest lecturer, had just received the Dirac Award. The lecture had a semi-popular science nature, focusing on his recent research achievements in high-energy physics. He was also a graduate of the D University’s Youth Program and had been staying abroad since then, rarely returning to China. Recently, he finally found some time to give a few lectures at several universities in the country.
Ever since Cui He spread the news about the lecture within the research group, Ning Yiwei and Zhou Zirui had eagerly counted the days, looking forward to it.
A teacher arrived at the entrance, calling Professor Zhu away for an unknown reason. The familiar students gathered together, engaging in scattered conversations.
“Oh, by the way,” Ning Yiwei suddenly remembered and looked around, asking a nearby senior student, “Where is Assistant Cui?”
“Don’t even m-mention it,” Zhou Zirui said angrily. “He w-went with my brother to Building 2 of the Computer Science Department to d-discuss the evening social event with that student from the Department of Computer Science named S-Shi Jie!”
“Another social event?” Ning Yiwei commented. He always felt like Zhou Zirui’s brother was either attending social events or on his way to one.
“Yeah, Assistant Cui has been going to social events a lot lately,” the senior student joined in, leaning closer to join the gossip. “He dresses up fancy, wearing trendy slim pants and shiny leather shoes. With that kind of fashion taste, which combines both urban and rural styles, it’s no wonder he can’t find a suitable partner.”
“He’s a-almost thirty now and has never had a g-girlfriend,” Zhou Zirui lamented in frustration. “The whole family is worried sick! My mom even f-forced me to a-accompany them tonight! Shi Jie wr-wrote me a memo, instructing me to f-follow it tonight.”
He took out his phone and showed it to Ning Yiwei and the senior student.
The memo read:
1. Dress a bit plain, making a distinct contrast with Third Elder Brother.
2. Request to split the bill equally (AA), and when Third Elder Brother firmly refuse, show a very disdainful expression.
3. Insert at least five cold jokes from Appendix 1 within half an hour.
And so on.
The senior student and Ning Yiwei scrolled through Appendix 1, where they found a collection of cold jokes. Most of them were lines like, “Do you know what zodiac sign I belong to? I belong to you,” “What time is it? (waiting for an answer) No, it’s the beginning of our happiness,” “You have something on your face. (waiting for an answer) Yeah, it’s a bit beautiful.”
They handed the phone back to Zhou Zirui, speechless. The senior student sitting next to Zhou Zirui couldn’t resist leaning over to appreciate the social event memo from Shi Jie to Zhou Zirui. After reading it, he shook his head and sighed, “Are these supposed to be cold jokes? Zirui, this is an assault on your personality!”
Zhou Zirui said in a resigned tone, “I-I don’t want to go. My mom c-called me in the morning and said that my brother’s l-lifelong happiness d-depends on me.”
“I think they can’t find girlfriends because they always take the wrong paths,” the senior student sympathetically observed Zhou Zirui.
Time flew during their conversation, and before they knew it, it was already three o’clock. The majority of seats in the lecture hall were occupied, and the projector started playing news articles, edited lecture clips, and interview videos about Lin Zhengyuan that the school staff had specially collected. The students watched with great interest, and before long, Lin Zhengyuan arrived. He wore a casual suit, somewhere between formal and casual, and held a thermos cup. He sat down, exchanged a few words with the staff, and poured himself some tea to drink.
Professor Zhu returned and introduced Lin Zhengyuan’s resume and latest achievements to everyone before handing the podium over to Professor Lin.
Lin Zhengyuan was a very articulate speaker, with quick thinking and lively language. Throughout the lecture, which lasted over an hour, he kept it engaging and easily understandable, captivating the audience. Just as most listeners were still eager for more, the slides came to an end.
He allocated time for D University students to ask six questions. Ning Yiwei and Zhou Zirui each wrote down a few questions and, after reviewing them together, selected one. They both raised their hands simultaneously, hoping to increase their chances of being chosen.
Due to Ning Yiwei’s more enthusiastic efforts, and perhaps with Professor Zhu’s personal bias, the microphone reached Ning Yiwei by the third question.
Strangely enough, when Ning Yiwei took the microphone to start speaking, several cell phones in the audience belonging to students from the same research group vibrated simultaneously. A senior student in the back row had forgotten to silence their phone, and it emitted a “ding” sound, seemingly indicating the arrival of an email.
Ning Yiwei paused for a second before proceeding to ask the question.
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