1, February 27th, completion of the first phase of the underground laboratory construction
Liang Chong and Kong Shenfeng both attended the completion ceremony and were featured in the news.
The emcee on stage introduced the laboratory while Liang Chong and Kong Shenfeng sat together. One was always well-dressed in a suit, while the other had been dressed up by his wife in a suit.
With the principal’s strong support, the laboratory’s funding finally fell into place. The principal invited Professor Kong to attend the ceremony, and he couldn’t refuse. However, the emcee’s speech was too simple, and he quickly grew bored, unable to resist covering his mouth with a booklet to stifle a yawn. Liang Chong glanced at him but didn’t say anything. Kong Shenfeng noticed Liang Chong’s gaze and put down the booklet, leaning towards him to speak softly, “Did you hear? Xiao Ning is going to Geneva next month.”
“I heard a little,” Liang Chong replied, his eyes fixed on the stage.
Kong Shenfeng was somewhat surprised. “It was only confirmed this morning. How did you already hear about it?”
“Because before the ceremony started, Ning Yiwei spent a full minute telling me a popular science story about the European Organization for Nuclear Research discovering the Higgs particle,” Liang Chong said without any expression.
Liang Chong’s phone kept receiving text messages from Ning Yiwei. He casually mocked Ning Yiwei’s remark, “How can I be as knowledgeable as you?” which Ning Yiwei took seriously. Ning Yiwei enthusiastically recommended books to him, sending one every ten minutes, along with an introduction to the book. He even emphasized, as if afraid of triggering any resistance from Liang Chong, that they were only for reference and didn’t need to be read in their entirety. If Liang Chong really didn’t want to read, Ning Yiwei offered to read them to him.
In fact, Liang Chong’s knowledge of physics, although not comparable to Ning Yiwei’s, was not poor either. During his student days, he could even be considered quite good. Otherwise, Ning Yiwei wouldn’t have constantly come to his house to borrow books. However, Liang Chong’s aspirations lay elsewhere. He didn’t believe that he had to understand every cutting-edge article.
“Oh, really?” Kong Shenfeng didn’t seem to think that a minute was a long time. He asked Liang Chong from a different perspective, “Where did Xiao Ning start from?”
Liang Chong didn’t need to think twice and calmly repeated, “In 1929, Peter Higgs was born by the River Leen in the UK.”
“A very good starting point for popular science,” Kong Shenfeng commented.
Liang Chong had no intention of engaging in a deep conversation with Kong Shenfeng. He stared at the changing screen on stage, looking very focused.
After a quiet moment, Kong Shenfeng leaned over again, seemingly oblivious to Liang Chong’s strong interest in the host’s explanatory script, and asked, “Xiao Liang, are you going or not?”
Liang Chong thought for a moment and replied, “I’m busy during that time, so I won’t accompany him.”
Liang Chong had things to attend to both before and after Ning Yiwei’s scheduled departure, so he planned to surprise him after his arrival. He didn’t know if Kong Shenfeng could keep a secret or not, so he only revealed half of the plan.
“That’s a shame,” Kong Shenfeng exclaimed happily. “Both your aunt and I have set aside some time off!”
Liang Chong patiently watched the host’s explanation on stage for a while, then remembered something and turned to ask Kong Shenfeng, “Why did Ning Yiwei only book one plane ticket?”
“Oh, it’s like this,” Kong Shenfeng explained, “Xiao Ning didn’t know we are going, and your aunt is afraid he would feel uncomfortable going on a trip alone with us. So she wanted to make it seem like a chance encounter.”
“Is there any difference?” Liang Chong asked sincerely.
Even someone as slow as Ning Yiwei should be able to tell the difference between intentional and coincidental encounters.
“Of course there is,” Kong Shenfeng lowered his voice and tried his best to make a comparison, explaining to Liang Chong, “It’s as different as a peach and a Z boson.”
As he spoke, he used a pen to draw a simple sketch of a peach in his notebook and wrote a ‘Z’ beside it.
Liang Chong glanced at it briefly, then looked away and said, “That’s quite different.”
Finally, the host finished the explanation and invited Professor Kong to come on stage. Kong Shenfeng stood up, and the two of them stopped their casual conversation.
Ning Yiwei and Zhou Zirui were talking on the phone while doing a jigsaw puzzle, not even noticing when Liang Chong returned.
Liang Chong stood at the doorway, arms folded, observing as Ning Yiwei paused his puzzle-solving. They spent five minutes discussing the best pose for the first photo at the exhibition hall entrance with Zhou Zirui.
“Ning Yiwei,” Liang Chong called out only after Ning Yiwei had settled on a pose.
Startled by the call, Ning Yiwei turned and glanced at Liang Chong, saying to Zhou Zirui, “Liang Chong is back, I’ll hang up now.” He then placed his phone aside and walked toward Liang Chong.
Before Liang Chong could speak, his own phone rang as well. He picked it up and saw it was his grandmother. Leaning against the doorframe with his shoulder, blocking Ning Yiwei’s way out, he answered the call to bid his grandmother goodnight.
“Liang Chong,” his grandmother said, “Come over tomorrow.”
As Ning Yiwei approached Liang Chong, raising his hand as if pretending to push him away, Liang Chong grabbed Ning Yiwei’s wrist and pulled him into an embrace. It took little effort to draw Ning Yiwei into his arms because Ning Yiwei didn’t put up much resistance.
“Is there something urgent?” Liang Chong half-hugged Ning Yiwei, teasing him. Ning Yiwei raised his face, unable to suppress a smile, but refrained from making any sound. Instead, he held onto Liang Chong’s waist tightly, gesturing for him to quickly let go.
Ning Yiwei’s body was warm, and they were pressed too closely together. Liang Chong took a step back, pressing Ning Yiwei’s shoulders to keep him in place, creating some distance between them.
At that moment, he overheard his grandmother saying on the phone, “I asked my master to pray for a health-preserving porcelain sculpture for Qichao. Next time, please bring it for me. By the way, do you know about Xiao Zong dropping out of school? Yixin never mentioned it to me. I don’t know what happened.”
Liang Chong frowned and didn’t answer directly, “Who told you that?”
“Xiao Zong told me when he came to see me this afternoon,” Grandma said, worried. “If I ask again, he won’t say anything. I don’t know if I should ask Yixin, so I’ll ask you first.”
“I’m not really sure,” Liang Chong lied with his eyes wide open, “You should ask Auntie.”
Grandma said, “Okay,” hesitated, and hung up the phone.
“What’s going on?” Ning Yiwei overheard some key words and curiously approached to ask.
After Kong Zong was expelled from school, Kong Shenfeng and Kang Yixin didn’t ask Liang Chong to withdraw the lawsuit. However, Kong Shenfeng returned early from Tokyo and enrolled Kong Zong in an advanced remedial class, monitoring him going to and coming back from school every day. After much consideration and discussions with Ning Yiwei, the couple decided not to reveal the truth for the time being.
Ning Yiwei didn’t mind much himself. His concern was mainly about Lu Jiaqin and Ning Qiang’s feelings once they found out.
Kang Yixin was not as composed as Kong Shenfeng. She suspended Kong Zong’s secondary card and, due to her poor physical and mental state, moved to an apartment near the company, rarely returning to the house where Kong Zong lived. Ning Yiwei felt she was lonely alone, so he often went to accompany her. Kang Yixin probably remembered the first time she cooked supper for Ning Yiwei, a maternal love meal. She kept thinking about cooking something for him as a late-night snack, usually ending up with a smoky kitchen and screams.
A few days ago, Ning Yiwei secretly took out some family photos and made a copy, creating a photo album of his own from childhood to adulthood to give to Kang Yixin. They arranged to meet for lunch at the mall. After finishing their meal, Kang Yixin wanted to drive Ning Yiwei back. When they reached the parking garage, Ning Yiwei caught sight of Kong Zong waiting by Kang Yixin’s car, looking around anxiously.
Kang Yixin and Ning Yiwei exchanged glances, and in the end, Ning Yiwei chose to sneak away and returned to the elevator.
This made Ning Yiwei feel like a sneaky runaway cat, with separate family responsibilities. They would gather together on dark and windy nights, only to separate when the sun rose again.
Of course, there was bound to be a sense of loss and a tinge of sadness during these separations, but apart from that, there may not be any other temporary solution.
As soon as Ning Yiwei heard Liang Chong mention “Auntie,” his ears perked up.
“Nothing much,” Liang Chong said. “Grandma knows about him dropping out of school.”
“Liang Chong,” Ning Yiwei turned his eyes around and said, “How could you deceive our elders?”
“Watch your words,” Liang Chong said.
Ignoring the caution expressed, Ning Yiwei enjoyed the excitement, not considering it a big deal. “Ah, what if Grandma finds out that you also sued him?”
“I didn’t sue him,” Liang Chong corrected him. “You sued him.”
Ning Yiwei pouted and couldn’t help but ask Liang Chong, “Since I sued him, when can I finally see the email he sent? My classmates in the research group sent me a link to debunk a ridiculous online fundraising scam targeted at mentally disabled children, claiming it was that email. It seems like a setup!”
“Didn’t I show it to you already?” Liang Chong flipped through his phone, found the photo, and showed it to Ning Yiwei.
With just a glance, Ning Yiwei knew that these were the few stolen kiss photos that Liang Chong had carefully edited for his own twisted enjoyment. Each time he looked at them, his eyes hurt. He pushed Liang Chong’s phone away, deciding to end the topic. Instead, he started introducing the 1,000-piece Charles Bridge puzzle he was about to complete. However, before he could say a word, Liang Chong pulled him back, bringing them even closer.
2, March 27th, the first day of spring break
Ning Yiwei’s pilgrimage journey began with a chance encounter.
Liang Chong was not in D City for the past two days. Ning Yiwei forgot to turn on his phone last night, and the alarm didn’t go off. He almost missed his flight. When he rushed to the airport, went through security, and boarded the plane, he finally noticed Kang Yixin sitting in the seat next to him, and Kong Shenfeng across the aisle.
Kang Yixin was initially reading a book. When she saw Ning Yiwei looking at her, she closed her book and said to him, “Weiwei, what a coincidence! You’re on this flight too.”
Ning Yiwei paused, then turned to glance at Kong Shenfeng, thinking it couldn’t be just a coincidence.
He had sent the flight number, seat number, and hotel name to Professor Kong half a month ago because Professor Kong claimed that students needed to report their travel plans according to school regulations.
Kong Shenfeng cleared his throat and said, “It’s our 25th wedding anniversary, so we’re going on vacation.”
Ning Yiwei didn’t know what to say and could only congratulate them, “Oh, that’s great! Congratulations!”
“Weiwei, Weiwei, come here,” Kang Yixin called Ning Yiwei back and praised him happily, “You’re so punctual! You have a sense of time!”
Ning Yiwei felt a bit embarrassed and honestly admitted, “Actually, I woke up late.”
“Have you been tired these past few days?” Kang Yixin seamlessly switched to a concerned expression.
The two storage trays between their seats were quite spacious. She was afraid Ning Yiwei wouldn’t hear clearly, so she placed her hand on the tray and leaned her head towards him.
Kang Yixin had been resting well lately. She had stopped taking medication, and she had gained a little weight. She didn’t look as gaunt as before, and her complexion had improved significantly.
Ning Yiwei felt too embarrassed to admit that he had only started packing his luggage late at night and slept very late. So, he mumbled a few vague sentences. Fortunately, Kang Yixin didn’t delve further. She took out a new mirrorless camera she had bought at the airport and kept taking photos of Ning Yiwei.
She took pictures of Ning Yiwei eating, typing, reading, sleeping, and yawning. She even asked for retakes when Kong Shenfeng accidentally appeared in the frame. When the flight was two-thirds complete, the camera’s memory card was full. Kang Yixin asked Ning Yiwei to transfer the photos to Kong Shenfeng’s device so that he could transfer them all to the computer.
This was Ning Yiwei’s first time traveling with his birth parents. It felt incredibly strange.
Shyly, he took out his precisely minute-by-minute itinerary and shared it with Kong Shenfeng and Kang Yixin. Kong Shenfeng praised the itinerary for its “very scientific time allocation.” After looking at it for a while, Kang Yixin hesitated and said, “Weiwei, why don’t you plan some time for shopping?”
“I want to go shopping too,” she said worriedly. “Neither of you is accompanying me.” She didn’t refer to herself as auntie or mom when talking to Ning Yiwei. She simply said “I.” Ning Yiwei didn’t know what to call her, so he would just respond with vague expressions.
Ning Yiwei thought for a moment, changed the color of several time slots on the itinerary to yellow, and showed it to Kang Yixin. “You can use these flexible time slots for shopping. Feel free to choose, and mark the selected ones in blue.”
Kang Yixin was extremely touched and marked all of Ning Yiwei’s flexible time slots in blue.
After disembarking and collecting their luggage, the three of them boarded the hotel shuttle together. While on the bus, Kang Yixin received a phone call.
Ning Yiwei guessed that the caller was his biological grandmother on his mother’s side, Kang Yixin’s mother, because Kang Yixin addressed her as “mom” when answering the call.
Ning Yiwei couldn’t make out the specific content of the conversation, but he sensed a stern tone. Kang Yixin tried to interrupt a few times, but the other person didn’t listen. Finally, when it was Kang Yixin’s turn to speak, she said, “Mom, Kong Zong made a mistake, and when you make a mistake, you have to take responsibility.”
After saying that, Kang Yixin paused for a moment and listened to her mother’s words. Finally, with a hint of helplessness, she replied, “I didn’t tell you because the situation is very complicated.”
Kong Shenfeng, sitting in front, noticed that something was amiss with the phone call. He turned around and asked Kang Yixin, “What’s going on?”
“My mom found out,” Kang Yixin muffled the microphone with her hand and said in a frustrated tone to Kong Shenfeng. She looked helpless and uncertain.
“Let me talk,” Kong Shenfeng gestured and reached out his hand. Kang Yixin leaned forward and handed him the phone. Kong Shenfeng said, “Mom, it’s me. Yixin’s health is not very good. Please tell me what’s going on.”
The cabin was well-sealed, and every word spoken could be heard by those around. Since the bus was on its way to the hotel and couldn’t stop, even though Ning Yiwei felt a bit awkward and trapped, he had no choice but to listen to Kong Shenfeng’s intermittent conversation with Kang Yixin’s mother. “Yes, he is my student… it’s complicated… No, that’s not true… What did Kong Zong say?… No, Ning Yiwei is not that kind of person… Yixin and I are in Switzerland and will be back next week… No, we’re not only thinking about ourselves… Yes, the remedial institution is still an option… Mom, probation can still allow him to take the college entrance examination… We can’t withdraw the lawsuit, the other party refuses… He is just my student, and besides, he did suffer harm. When we come back, we’ll… Mom? Mom?”
Kong Shenfeng turned back and showed Kang Yixin the screen of his phone, saying, “It’s ended.”
Kang Yixin took her phone back, locked the screen, and comforted herself, “Forget it.”
After saying that, she glanced at Ning Yiwei, and her lips moved. Before she could speak, Ning Yiwei, being considerate, answered quickly, “It’s alright! You don’t have to tell me!”
Kang Yixin seemed amused by Ning Yiwei’s response. In the dim cabin, her eyes were bright, her hair was loose, and her lips were pursed as she smiled, making Ning Yiwei feel a little uncomfortable. Then she leaned over and gave Ning Yiwei a brief hug, her hand resting on his back for a second before she pulled away. “Not telling you is unrelated to you in the first place.”
Kong Shenfeng also turned back and said to Ning Yiwei, “Xiao Ning, you don’t need to worry about these matters.”
Ning Yiwei nodded, and the car fell silent.
Kang Yixin held her phone and lowered her head, fiddling with it. Ning Yiwei thought she might be editing a text message, but when they arrived at the hotel, she still hadn’t sent it.
3, March 30th, the fourth day of the spring break
At 7:50 in the morning, Ning Yiwei and Kong Shenfeng went downstairs together for breakfast, but Kang Yixin hadn’t arrived yet.
They grabbed some food and sat down. Ning Yiwei glanced at the trendy sweater Kang Yixin had bought for him. Kong Shenfeng leaned over and asked Ning Yiwei, “Xiao Ning, to be honest, do you regret marking so many flexible hours?”
“Sigh,” Ning Yiwei picked up a piece of melon, took a bite, sighed again, and cautiously looked around to make sure Kang Yixin hadn’t come down yet. Then he whispered to Professor Kong, “I really regret it!”
“Actually, I gave you a signal on the plane that day,” Kong Shenfeng shook his head and said, “You didn’t see it. I’ve also been in a similar situation before. Later on, I learned that it’s important to keep a backup plan.”
Ning Yiwei sighed once more and said, “Next time, I must reduce it by half.”
All of his flexible hours were spent accompanying Kang Yixin for shopping. Not only did Kang Yixin buy things for herself, she also dragged Ning Yiwei to try on clothes. Ning Yiwei often found himself interrupted after reading a few lines of a research paper and pushed into the fitting room. By the time they returned to the hotel, he felt mentally and physically exhausted. Liang Chong seemed busy and there was a time difference between them, so they hadn’t had a proper conversation for several days.
“But today, there’s no flexible time,” he took a sip of juice and said with excitement to Kong Shenfeng, “Because I have a reservation to see the particle accelerator!”
Just as he said that, Kang Yixin walked over from a distance, and Ning Yiwei immediately stopped talking.
Kong Shenfeng was already adept at handling such situations. He naturally started a new topic about the dismantling process of the LEP collider. Ning Yiwei followed suit. Kang Yixin overheard a sentence and realized they were discussing something she wasn’t interested in. After adjusting Ning Yiwei’s collar, she quickly went to get her breakfast.
In the afternoon, after coming up from the visitor center and expressing gratitude to the engineer who guided him, Ning Yiwei went to the spherical auditorium again and stood in front of the accelerator track, lost in thought. Suddenly, someone lightly tapped his right shoulder. Startled, he turned to look but saw no one. Just as he was wondering, Liang Chong’s voice sounded in his left ear, “Why are you still so clueless?”
Ning Yiwei’s heart skipped a beat. He turned to the left, but before he could see Liang Chong’s face clearly, he was kissed by him.
With his head lowered, Liang Chong’s lips felt cold. He gently held Ning Yiwei’s hand, and his palm carried a chill.
Ning Yiwei felt that Liang Chong must have missed him a lot. The kiss was forceful and urgent, not as casual as when Liang Chong called him clueless. It made Ning Yiwei’s heart ache and filled him with countless emotions that were difficult to express.
In a public place, they couldn’t kiss for too long. Liang Chong separated from him slightly and asked, “Did you have fun?” Noticing Ning Yiwei’s new clothes, he added, “I see you’re having such a great time, ready to live incognito for nine years without being discovered by the owner.”
“Stop making things up,” Ning Yiwei retorted nervously.
Lu Jiaqin even specifically showed him the weather in Switzerland and diligently sent him outfit information every day, asking if he had worn his padded coat.
To alleviate some guilt, Ning Yiwei went the extra mile and brought the carefully crafted floral robe that Lu Jiaqin made for him. He wore it yesterday and nearly died from heat in Geneva.
“Who said I’m living incognito?” Ning Yiwei added.
Liang Chong couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tease Ning Yiwei with a joke and continued, “But don’t wear this sweater back home. It’s obvious that you didn’t buy it yourself and you might be easily recognized by the owner.”
“……picked it for me,” Ning Yiwei fell into his habit of not knowing how to address Kang Yixin.
“Hmm?” Liang Chong grabbed onto Ning Yiwei’s little braid and didn’t let go. “Who is ‘……’?”
Unable to come up with a response, Ning Yiwei quickly turned around and walked away.
Kang Yixin was somewhat surprised by Liang Chong’s arrival.
“Just happened to be nearby to sign a contract,” Liang Chong explained. “Afterward, I came to see him.”
Kang Yixin simply nodded without saying much.
After all, she didn’t feel she had the standing to comment on Ning Yiwei’s love life. Being able to go on a vacation with Ning Yiwei and Kong Shenfeng satisfied her. They had a few more days to return to their own lives.
Kong Shenfeng went to meet a friend in the evening, leaving the remaining three to have dinner at the hotel’s second-floor restaurant.
Kang Yixin naturally sat next to Ning Yiwei after exchanging greetings with Liang Chong and began to vent her frustrations, “Weiwei, it’s really not the same without you here.”
Today, without Ning Yiwei, she took Kong Shenfeng to Lake Leman for a boat ride and asked him to take pictures of her. However, Kong Shenfeng was absent-minded. Not only did he take some poor-quality photos, but he also dropped her camera into the water.
“Fortunately, Mom has already transferred all your photos,” she added.
As the words fell, all three of them fell into a momentary daze.
Ning Yiwei felt that Kang Yixin had been thinking about it secretly for a while, and this time it accidentally slipped out of his mouth.
Kang Yixin’s face appeared somewhat embarrassed. She might have wanted to say something to smooth things over, but deep down, she didn’t really want to.
Because she was Ning Yiwei’s mother, and she hadn’t said anything wrong, why should she change it?
She looked at Ning Yiwei, her gaze filled with complexity, a hint of stubbornness, and anticipation. Kang Yixin diligently colored her hair, but Ning Yiwei still noticed the different shades among her newly grown hair.
Kang Yixin was an ordinary mother with a bit of willfulness. She was indeed imperfect, still clumsy after being a mother for twenty years. She desperately wanted to improve but often found herself at a loss, feeling frustrated and running into obstacles. However, none of that hindered her desire to be closer to Ning Yiwei.
Finally, Ning Yiwei said, “I can accompany you tomorrow to buy new ones. I’m free in the morning.”
After saying that, Ning Yiwei paused for a moment and added, “Let’s get a waterproof one this time.”
Kang Yixin had poor sense of direction. After finishing their meal and walking out of the restaurant, she confidently headed in the opposite direction of the elevator. Ning Yiwei, walking behind her, hesitated for a moment, then caught up with her and quietly said, “Mom.” Kang Yixin turned around in confusion, and Ning Yiwei said, “You’re going the wrong way again!”
After returning to the room, it was their time alone.
Ning Yiwei came out after taking a shower and saw Liang Chong reading a book on the sofa. He walked over, wanting to see if Liang Chong was seriously studying the popular science books he recommended. However, as soon as his fingertips touched the book’s spine, Liang Chong pulled him closer and made him kneel on his lap. Ning Yiwei didn’t know if it was his sitting posture that lacked manners or Liang Chong’s wandering hands that lacked restraint.
Liang Chong untied Ning Yiwei’s bathrobe and gently kissed his still-damp neck and chest. The warmth of his palms touched Ning Yiwei’s waist, making him tense up. Without having done anything yet, it felt like they had completed the whole routine.
A book, untouched and forgotten, was flipped over and left on the sofa. Ning Yiwei leaned against the floor-to-ceiling window, with his legs dangling in the air.
When he still had strength, he was afraid of falling, so he tightly embraced Liang Chong’s neck. After a while, his tightly wrapped arms were bumped apart, and his hand slipped down, hanging down without any resentment. The pink fingertips lightly touched the window, sliding along with Liang Chong’s movements.
4, March 31st, during the spring break.
Ning Yiwei wanted to sleep a bit longer, but Liang Chong persistently woke him up.
Liang Chong mentioned that last night, during dinner, Kang Yixin transferred a few hours of her flexible time to him, and he was now going to claim it.
Ning Yiwei pretended to be an ostrich, burying his face in the blanket for a while before peeking out again. He looked at Liang Chong, leaned closer, and hugged him. “Split the flexible time in half for me.”
Liang Chong accepted Ning Yiwei’s hug-bribe, and his attitude immediately improved. He kissed Ning Yiwei’s forehead and said, “My aunt asked me twice already about the wake-up time.”
“We need to get up now. I’m preheating,” Ning Yiwei said with his face against Liang Chong’s chest, eyes closed. “Five percent, ten percent…”
Liang Chong patiently waited for Ning Yiwei to count. Finally, when it reached ninety-five percent during the preheating process, Ning Yiwei suddenly made a “ding, ding, ding” sound and said, “Low battery! Needs charging!”
Then he pretended to shut down automatically.
Liang Chong was both amused and exasperated. Pinching Ning Yiwei’s face, he said, “Ning Yiwei, you’re twenty, not twelve.”
Ning Yiwei remained in shutdown mode. When Liang Chong tickled him, he bit his lip, trying not to make a sound.
Seeing that Ning Yiwei seemed genuinely unable to get up, Liang Chong gave up and said, “Go ahead and sleep. I’ll message my aunt.”
Ning Yiwei leaned quietly against Liang Chong. After a while, Liang Chong thought he had fallen asleep, but suddenly heard him muffledly ask, “Liang Chong, how do you think I… get along with……?”
He started using “….3..” to refer to Kang Yixin again.
Liang Chong pressed his smooth shoulder and pushed him away slightly. He saw Ning Yiwei open his eyes, with clear whites and dark pupils, but without much focus. It seemed like he was contemplating something too difficult for him. Liang Chong thought for a moment and asked Ning Yiwei, “You called her ‘Mom’ last night. I thought you had accepted her.”
“It’s not that I don’t accept her,” Ning Yiwei immediately corrected Liang Chong. “I just find it strange for both of us to call her ‘Mom.’ If I call her ‘Mom,’ what should I call you?”
Liang Chong lowered his head and glanced at him.
Ning Yiwei focused his gaze on Liang Chong’s face, elongated his voice, and called him, “Cous… in…?”
His lips were red, eyes were big, and his voice was originally clear and bright, but it was still a bit hoarse from just waking up. There were pillow marks on his face and hickeys on his neck, evidence of Liang Chong’s actions. When he called Liang Chong “Cousin,” he revealed his white teeth, his eyes curved with a mischievous smile, displaying a naive mischief.
Liang Chong observed him for a few seconds and said, “If you insist on calling me that, it’s not a problem.”
Ning Yiwei hugged Liang Chong and chuckled, saying, “Cousin, go and accompany my mom for shopping.”
“Let your dad go,” Liang Chong replied. “I’ll only accompany my cousin.”
“Ah…” Ning Yiwei closed his eyes and said, “You’re so cheesy.” Then he sat up, exposing his slender and fair back to the air, showing various shades of red and purple.
Liang Chong reached out and lightly touched Ning Yiwei, but Ning Yiwei turned back as if he hadn’t noticed and asked him, “Liang Chong, what if we grew up together? Have you ever thought about it?”
“She said you used to have a New Year’s Eve dinner together once every year,” Ning Yiwei couldn’t help but imagine. “You must have found me annoying every time we met. I would be chatting with your uncle at the dinner table, and you wouldn’t understand anything.”
“I didn’t expect you to be quite self-aware,” Liang Chong said calmly.
“But would you still like me?” Ning Yiwei turned his head and asked Liang Chong, “What if you got into a fight and I wasn’t there to save you? What would you do?”
He had many questions: “If your dad was in the hospital and I came to see you, would you still hug me?”
“Yes,” Liang Chong pulled Ning Yiwei down and held him tightly, whispering, “If you offer yourself, why wouldn’t I hug you?”
“What if I don’t offer myself?” Ning Yiwei said, “I’ll just watch you from afar.”
Before Liang Chong could respond, Ning Yiwei changed his mind again and said, “Never mind, never mind. I’ll come over and let you hug me.”
Ning Yiwei lazed around until noon and finally got up after reading two research papers on his phone. He had planned to visit ATLAS in the afternoon, but when Liang Chong arrived, he knew that his schedule might change.
Kang Yixin and Kong Shenfeng went out together, so Ning Yiwei took Liang Chong to places he had been before, wandering around.
They went to the fountain and admired the church. Ning Yiwei acted like a little tour guide and proudly recited all the information about the places he had visited to Liang Chong.
As evening approached, it started snowing. The four of them agreed to meet at the British Garden. Liang Chong held an umbrella for Ning Yiwei as they strolled around.
While chatting near the big flower clock, Ning Yiwei spotted Kang Yixin walking towards them, holding a new camera and capturing moments with Kong Shenfeng, who was also under the umbrella.
At the moment of twilight, the garden’s nighttime lights suddenly lit up. The lanterns illuminated the surroundings, and the night descended.
The snow in Switzerland grew heavier, falling from the sky. Under the bright streetlights, the snowflakes danced in the air, one after another.
Even though he didn’t accompany her to buy the camera, Ning Yiwei mumbled to himself that he had already called her “Mom.” It was a step forward for their whole family.
The snow continued to fall, gracefully covering the garden. Under the vast sky, only the four of them remained.
As Kang Yixin approached Ning Yiwei, Liang Chong called out to him.
Ning Yiwei turned his head and saw Liang Chong kneeling on one knee. From his coat pocket, Liang Chong took out a box and opened it, revealing two rings inside.
Liang Chong said to Ning Yiwei, “You weren’t fully awake in the morning, and it wasn’t formal during the day. I didn’t find the right opportunity.”
Ning Yiwei was taken aback and felt unsure, staring blankly at Liang Chong.
It was rare to hear the word “formal” coming from Liang Chong’s mouth because, although Liang Chong himself was formal, it seemed that they were never formal when they were together.
After Ning Yiwei confessed his feelings, they casually started dating. They casually found a room one day to make love, and they casually decided where to go that night. Love was always spontaneous, and choices were always casual.
Ning Yiwei thought that Liang Chong didn’t care about these things, just like him.
“Although it’s not formal yet,” Liang Chong said.
He half-knelt for a while, a thin layer of snow accumulating on his black coat’s shoulder. He waited until Kong Shenfeng and Kang Yixin walked over before saying, “But I don’t know when you and Auntie and Uncle will go out together next time.”
Kang Yixin looked at Liang Chong, then at Ning Yiwei, silently holding the camera strap and standing beside Kong Shenfeng.
They didn’t express their opinions about this rather informal proposal. They simply played the role of open-minded temporary parents for Ning Yiwei and acted as witnesses to Liang Chong’s proposal.
Witnessing a proposal with only four people present, Liang Chong kept the secret he had specially prepared for them.
The vows may not have been eloquent, but the half-kneel and the rings were sincere.
“Weiwei,” Liang Chong said, “Will you be with me forever?”
“Forever” was not a very rational term, and Ning Yiwei wouldn’t express it like that. But when Liang Chong said it, it seemed fitting.
“Sure,” Ning Yiwei looked at Liang Chong and said shyly, “I’m willing.” He picked up a narrower ring and asked Liang Chong, “Is this one mine?”
Hearing that it was, he put it on himself and then took another ring, holding Liang Chong’s hand to put it on him.
Kong Shenfeng appeared much happier than Kang Yixin.
Professor Kong, who was always frugal, said, “To celebrate your engagement, let’s open a good bottle of wine.” He added, “I’ll foot the bill and order the best.”
They got into the car, and Kong Shenfeng took them to a small restaurant where he used to visit when he was an experimenter at CERN. They opened a bottle of red wine that the owner claimed had a good vintage.
Kong Shenfeng had a poor tolerance for alcohol. After a few sips, he became dizzy and started reminiscing about the day his father-in-law opened a bottle of wine to show his authority when he first visited him. However, he didn’t understand what kind of wine it was and ended up drinking half the bottle, only to fall asleep with his head on the table.
He poured drinks for everyone at the table and said, “I wish you all happiness.”
That evening, Kong Shenfeng drank the most, followed by Liang Chong. When Kong Shenfeng got tipsy, he only knew how to give Ning Yiwei tips on writing abstracts for research papers.
At half-past eight, the resident band in the small restaurant started playing music. The waltz music was melodious and pleasant, making everyone want to dance.
It started with an elderly couple stepping to the beat, and then the couples one by one joined in the waltz.
Kong Shenfeng and Kang Yixin joined in as well. Kong Shenfeng appeared stiff, while Kang Yixin looked beautiful.
The restaurant was warm with the flickering firelight in the fireplace. The crackling sound of burning wood mixed with the aroma of food and wine, creating an atmosphere like a secluded haven in another universe, where desires were met instantly—whether it was wine or warmth.
Young couples filled the restaurant, dancing and laughing, as if experiencing the most joyful and contented night of their lives. They let go of their worries, casting aside their troubles.
When Pachelbel’s Canon in D symphonic version began to play, Ning Yiwei and Liang Chong locked eyes. Then, as the music reached the fourth interlude’s conclusion, they shared a brief kiss, followed by a longer one.
Meanwhile, Kang Yixin and Kong Shenfeng, as if they were still young and had never lost a child, danced a social dance in sync with the music in the foreign land.
Kong Shenfeng wasn’t a good dancer at all, but Kang Yixin didn’t switch partners. She gracefully guided him, swaying to the rhythm.
At this moment, everything felt unreal, causing people to temporarily forget their past pains.
Inside the small tavern, a new and tiny family had just held their first family gathering. It was a small, even partially fragmented family, yet each member secretly loved it, wanting to protect it and make it last longer.
Ning Yiwei didn’t know how to dance, so he held Liang Chong’s hand under the table.
He thought that this gathering was like a new story within a larger narrative, told by a sage. Everyone was aware that the new story was nearing its end, and they would all return to their normal lives. As a result, they cherished the present moment even more.
However, he felt that the next new story wasn’t far away. Problems would always find a solution.
Ning Yiwei possessed the superpower of solving any problem within a second. Every question, he could answer them all.
I revised the side story I previously wrote, as I wasn’t satisfied with it. It took a few extra days because I had to go out. I want to clarify that I don’t adhere to genetic determinism when it comes to the character Kong Zong. His personality was already set before outlining the story. He primarily serves to drive the plot. I didn’t find it meaningful to invest a lot of effort in developing his character since his negative traits are straightforward. I don’t usually discuss character development or the plot of my writing, as once I finish writing, it stands as is, and everyone is free to interpret it in their own way. Lastly, I want to emphasize that I don’t include my personal views or hidden metaphors in my writing. There are no real-life models, and I have never written fanfiction about East Asian celebrities using alternate accounts.
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