On the way home, Liang Chong hadn’t noticed that Ning Yiwei had quietly concealed his injury. He was still okay with Ning Yiwei. He carried Ning Yiwei’s backpack and placed it on the back seat. He didn’t open the car door for Ning Yiwei, but it was still a significant improvement.
Liang Chong saw Ning Yiwei bowing his head and messing with his phone. He casually asked, “Are you texting Zhou Zirui again?”
Ning Yiwei glanced at Liang Chong and denied his assumption, “I’m sending an email to Professor Kong.”
“Hmm,” Ning Yiwei quickly typed on the screen without looking up, “Zirui said it wouldn’t matter, but I still wanted to send it.”
“What is it for?”
Ning Yiwei reached a passionate point and took a while before answering Liang Chong, “Explaining the matters of the research team meeting.”
“Is he coming back this week?” Liang Chong asked Ning Yiwei. “Kong Zong mentioned it last night.”
“He’s only coming back for a few days, I definitely won’t get to see him…” Ning Yiwei thought about Kong Zong’s comment about video-calling his dad, which didn’t sit well with him. He put down his phone and said to Liang Chong, “Who is this cousin of yours exactly? His character is so different compared to Professor Kong. Like mud to clouds!”
Kong Shenfeng was the most respected professor for Ning Yiwei at school, and also his idol for many years. Professor Kong, who also came from the prestigious D University’s youth program, continued his studies at a renowned foreign university after completing his undergraduate degree. At the age of thirty-two, he returned to his alma mater under various pressures and spent five years in the research group jokingly called the “Grassroots Team.” Finally, he made a breakthrough achievement.
When he was young, leading a research group kept him busy, but a few years before Ning Yiwei entered school, he suddenly announced the information about recruiting undergraduate students into his group.
For students who wanted to pursue academic careers, joining Kong Shenfeng’s research group had many advantages.
On the one hand, Kong Shenfeng had a great reputation, although he was not as famous as renowned physicists abroad, getting familiar with him, obtaining a recommendation letter, or studying under his supervision would all yield excellent results. On the other hand, Kong Shenfeng was serious both in his academic pursuits and as a person. Even with fewer opportunities to speak, one could still learn a lot from him. Therefore, despite his group being notoriously demanding and not easy to slack off, there were still numerous applicants.
Ning Yiwei and Zhou Zirui went through numerous obstacles and challenges for nearly half a year before finally joining the group.
Kong Shenfeng was strict and had an eccentric personality, not smooth-talking, somewhat black-and-white in his thinking. But he treated Ning Yiwei surprisingly well, even though Ning Yiwei was just an ordinary senior student. Perhaps it was because he had once mentioned seeing his childhood self in Ning Yiwei.
After Ning Yiwei joined the group, Professor Kong started appearing more frequently at the weekly meetings, and even during his time in Tokyo, he would proactively send emails to Ning Yiwei, recommending the latest articles for him to read. He would also ask Ning Yiwei to write a personal understanding after reading and send it to him.
Before joining the group, Zhou Zirui and Ning Yiwei admired Kong Shenfeng so much that they read every interview and news article they could find about him. They couldn’t recall Kong Shenfeng mentioning his son on any occasion. When Kong Zong unexpectedly appeared in the laboratory accompanied by a teaching assistant, both Ning Yiwei and Zhou Zirui were taken aback. As they continued to spend time together, they couldn’t help but find the situation increasingly bizarre.
Zhou Zirui mentioned “blood is thicker than water,” which was true, but Ning Yiwei was straightforward and disliked beating around the bush. He also feared that the situation of leaving the group would become a reality due to the inability to meet Professor Kong. So, he objectively described the sequence of events during the meeting, leaving out what Kong Zong did in the evening. He simply wanted to confirm with Professor Kong if he and Zhou Zirui still had the qualifications to remain in the group.
“I don’t know,” Liang Chong replied to Ning Yiwei, “I haven’t had much contact with their entire family, we’re not close.”
“You’re unaware of the blessings you have,” Ning Yiwei admonished him, “Professor Kong is your uncle, and you’re not close. Do you know that you can learn a lot from Professor Kong, not just academic knowledge but also virtues? If you regularly keep in touch with him, you’ll surely become a better person than you are now.”
Liang Chong glanced at Ning Yiwei expressionlessly and said, “Am I lacking virtues and goodness?”
“That’s not what I meant.” The influence of Liang Chong’s everyday tyranny deeply affected Ning Yiwei. When Liang Chong looked at him, he quickly added, “I was just saying it casually, no need to take it seriously.”
Liang Chong responded lukewarmly, “Your Professor Kong is too busy. He attends nine out of ten family gatherings. Is that also considered virtuous?”
“Professor Kong is very busy,” Ning Yiwei couldn’t believe Liang Chong dared to question Kong Shenfeng, so he sat up straight and retorted, “He’s busy searching for the traces of truth, busy contributing to all of humanity. As a close friend and relative, you should show more respect and understanding for this scientist who has dedicated his life to cutting-edge science.”
Suddenly, Liang Chong signaled a right turn, parked the car by the side, turned off the engine, and squinted his eyes as he observed Ning Yiwei. “Ning Yiwei, there’s something off about you today.”
He unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned closer to Ning Yiwei.
Ning Yiwei leaned against the car door, trying to appear calm. “What are you saying? I don’t understand. Just drive.”
“Is that so?” Liang Chong bluntly exposed Ning Yiwei, “You’re not in a good mood.”
In Ning Yiwei’s silence, Liang Chong continued, “Why? Did the professor not come to class?”
“No,” Ning Yiwei replied, “He did come.”
“Did he scold you?” Liang Chong asked again.
“No,” Ning Yiwei muttered, “No one scolded me. He even praised me.”
“That happened during the meal, right?” Liang Chong had no intention of letting Ning Yiwei off the hook. He continued to reason, “You and Zhou Zirui went behind the bronze statue. What were you doing there?”
Ning Yiwei was caught by Liang Chong’s guess, and now he didn’t dare to say a word. He then heard Liang Chong say, “Turn your face to the side, let me see your bandage.”
Without waiting for Ning Yiwei to prepare himself, Liang Chong reached out and pinched Ning Yiwei’s chin, forcing his face to turn. However, the movement was gentle, as if afraid of causing further harm to Ning Yiwei.
Seeing the crooked tape stuck behind Ning Yiwei’s ear, Liang Chong released his grip.
Ning Yiwei kept his head down and dared not speak.
“What happened?” Liang Chong’s voice turned cold. “Tell me the truth.”
“I had an argument with Kong Zong at the cafeteria,” Ning Yiwei said. “I made a big movement, and it split open.”
For some reason, Ning Yiwei felt that it was dull to say more and didn’t want to go into details.
“Have I never seen you argue with someone?” Liang Chong completely rejected Ning Yiwei’s explanation. “Ning Yiwei, what you call an argument is sitting there while spitting a few words that make people want to hit you.”
“So he wanted to hit me, and I dodged it.”
After finishing his words, Ning Yiwei raised his eyes and found that Liang Chong’s gaze wasn’t as terrifying as he had imagined. On the contrary, Liang Chong seemed utterly helpless.
Liang Chong’s helpless appearance suddenly made Ning Yiwei anxious. If possible, he wished that this expression could immediately disappear from Liang Chong’s face.
“I was afraid you’d scold me,” Ning Yiwei whispered and voluntarily added more details, trying to make up for his mistake. “He couldn’t argue with me, and he happened to be holding a bowl of green bean soup. He wanted to pour it on my wound. I dodged it.”
Inside the dim compartment of the car, where the streetlights were tall, Liang Chong remained silent for a long time. He got out of the car and lit a cigarette. After smoking it, he returned to the car and gently pinched the obedient Ning Yiwei’s face.
His fingertips were slightly cool, and there was the scent of smoke. However, surprisingly, Ning Yiwei didn’t find it particularly unpleasant or disgusting.
Liang Chong said gently, “I’ll take you to the hospital.”
“It’s already wrapped up,” Ning Yiwei replied reluctantly. “And it’s not bleeding anymore.”
“Let’s check it again,” Liang Chong’s voice was soft, coaxing, but firm. “It won’t take long.”
Ning Yiwei remained silent, so Liang Chong asked him, “Are you okay?”
After a while, Liang Chong restarted the car and drove forward for a while. He compromised and said to Ning Yiwei, “I’ll have the doctor come to our house.”
Ning Yiwei glanced at Liang Chong with his face turned sideways. The upper half of Liang Chong’s face was shaded by the car roof, expressionless, with pursed lips.
Tension filled the car. Ning Yiwei reached out and lightly pulled Liang Chong’s arm. Liang Chong didn’t pull away. His right hand left the steering wheel and naturally hung there, allowing Ning Yiwei to make amends.
“I didn’t have a proper dinner,” Ning Yiwei found something to say. “That little troublemaker ruined my appetite.”
“Ning Yiwei,” Liang Chong called him, and Ning Yiwei lifted his eyes, responding with a soft “Hmm.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you resemble Kong Shenfeng?” Liang Chong asked him.
Ning Yiwei didn’t respond to Liang Chong’s question, so Liang Chong answered it himself, “Both quite weird.”
Initially, when Ning Yiwei heard that he resembled Professor Kong, he felt a sense of pride. But as soon as Liang Chong mentioned being “weird,” Ning Yiwei became displeased. “Has anyone ever said that you resemble Kong Zong, too? Both so fond of dressing up.”
Liang Chong laughed at his words. “Don’t make it sound like I’m close to him. I barely even remember his name. Besides, I go to the office every day. How can I dress in old t-shirts and sneakers like you?”
Ning Yiwei lowered his head and glanced at his comfortable t-shirt and shoes. He asked Liang Chong, “My mom bought them. Do you have a problem with that?”
Ning Yiwei had never gone out to buy clothes for himself. They were all provided by Lu Jiaqin. Half of them were kept at Liang Chong’s house, and the other half at his own. Every day, Lu Jiaqin would check the weather forecast in D City and send Ning Yiwei a text telling him how many layers of clothing to wear. Ning Yiwei would simply follow his mom’s instructions and dress accordingly.
“How would I dare,” Liang Chong replied.
Ning Yiwei hadn’t finished writing his email. He was worried about it and stole glances at Liang Chong. He opened his phone screen and continued writing. After finishing, he felt that the wording wasn’t objective enough. He read the email from the beginning again, while Liang Chong stopped in front of a restaurant.
Once they were seated and had ordered their food, Ning Yiwei handed his phone to Liang Chong and said, “Can you read it from an ordinary person’s perspective and see if writing it like this would upset Professor Kong?”
Liang Chong didn’t object to the description of an “ordinary person.” He casually took the phone and read through Ning Yiwei’s email, his eyebrows furrowing tighter and tighter.
“What’s wrong? Is it not okay?” Ning Yiwei asked nervously. “Did I insult Kong Zong’s character too much? How should I revise it?”
“There’s no need to send it,” Liang Chong returned the phone to Ning Yiwei and said, “I’ll arrange a face-to-face meeting with him over the weekend.”
“Why?” Ning Yiwei was a bit curious. “Can I also go?”
“No, you can’t,” Liang Chong replied coldly. He looked at Ning Yiwei for a while and said, “Ning Yiwei, you’re quite capable, but you’re too easy to be taken advantage of when you’re outside.”
Ning Yiwei was puzzled. “I’m not easily taken advantage of.”
The food arrived, and Liang Chong didn’t argue with him further. He simply said, “Forget it, let’s eat. The doctor will arrive soon.”
After a few bites, Ning Yiwei couldn’t help but look up again, wanting to speak up for himself.
Liang Chong noticed Ning Yiwei’s gaze and immediately gave him a stern glare. “Eat.”
Ning Yiwei could only lower his head in resignation and continue eating.
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