Closing his eyes after more than thirty hours without sleep, Zhou Jinheng had a lucid dream.
The so-called lucid dreams meant knowing that you were in a dream and still having a sense of autonomy. But even if everything in front of him was illusory, he could only watch as a spectator, unable to move, unable to speak and unable to participate in anything, even though it was something he had experienced, something that had really happened.
He saw Yi Hui sitting curled up in the corner, alone in a small and cramped room.
He held his phone tightly and two minutes later he lit up the screen to see the time, calculating something soundlessly. It was hard to wait for the whole hour; he hurriedly exhaled some warmth on the palm of his hand and opened the dial-up interface to make a call to the contact named “husband”.
The long beep turned into a series of short ones. While listening, Yi Hui recalled what the people who sent him up the mountain said. They said that Young Master Zhou had gone to find his first love. That man was beautiful, smart and could draw, so he would definitely not come tonight.
Every time he thought about it, Yi Hui’s face paled and his hand holding the phone trembled. No one answered at the other end.
Zhou Jinheng in his dream was very anxious. Just as he was about to step forward and hug the trembling man, the picture suddenly turned and he walked past a department store in the center of S City.
He saw himself and Yi Hui walking side by side in the street. After the blind date dinner arranged by the two families three years ago, the two of them were pushed out for a walk by their elders on the grounds that “the two of them need to chat nicely”.
Yi Hui blushed unnaturally and walked very slowly. He was so nervous that he looked for a topic desperately: “You, do you like painting?”
Zhou Jinheng, with his hands in his pockets, still looked to be in his teens. He frowned impatiently, thinking of his first love who left him to learn to paint. His tone was not good: “Don’t like it.”
Yi Hui let out an ”oh”. He was surprised and a little lost at the same time, but quickly regained his spirit and continued to search for topics: “Then do you like to catch dolls?”
Zhou Jinheng was very annoyed. He just wanted to get rid of this fool quickly. He turned into the department store on the side of the road, his face cold, and stood in front of a row of doll catching machines at the door.
Yi Hui trotted to keep up, and when he saw Zhou Jinheng buying tokens, he was surprised and said, “Can you catch dolls?”
Zhou Jinheng ignored him and started to insert the tokens as soon as he exchanged them. However, he was irritable and lacked patience, and he didn’t catch anything after spending most of his money.
When he stepped up and raised his leg to give the crappy machine a kick, Yi Hui, standing in front of another machine, waved at him: “Grab this, this one has a round head, it must be easy to catch.”
He hesitated for a moment, then reluctantly walked over, inserted the token, manipulated the joystick, saw that the position was right, lowered the claws and, sure enough, caught it.
Yi Hui applauded and cheered like a child. When he got the Doraemon doll, his face was full of disbelief: “This, this is for me?”
Zhou Jinheng said perfunctorily, “En, it’s for you.”
Yi Hui’s face turned redder and he said “thank you” shyly, with a conspicuous faint blush spreading to his auricles.
He thought this would make this fool quiet for a while, but who knew that it didn’t take long before he started chattering again: “How did you know that I like Doraemon?……This Doraemon is so cute, I want to place it at home, on the bed, so that I can see it every day… By the way, what do you like, can you tell me?”
Zhou Jinheng was so annoyed by him that he had a headache and stopped abruptly. Yi Hui didn’t stop in time, knocked his head on his shoulder and covered his forehead with a little “ah” in pain.
“I like quiet.” Zhou Jinheng turned around and said to him with a cold face, “It’s best to make a home on a barren mountain in the future, with no one to bother.”
Yi Hui was so frightened that he shrank his neck. When Zhou Jinheng turned around and continued to stride forward, Yi Hui rubbed his head and tried to keep up immediately, hugging the doll: “Mountains, I like mountains too. When I sell my paintings and have money, I will build a small house on the mountain and invite you to play, okay?”
Zhou Jinheng, who was watching, wanted to step forward and tell him that he had just said it casually, don’t take it seriously. But in a whirlwind, he passed onto the next scene without warning.
It was a café where they met one last time before they got married.
Yi Hui learned from Zhou Jinheng to order a glass of iced Americano. He opened his mouth and took a sip. It was so bitter that he frowned. Seeing that the man on the opposite side of the table had drunk half a glass nonchalantly, he hurriedly hid his exaggerated expression and asked him about his preferences as if unintentionally: “Do you usually drink this?”
Zhou Jinheng didn’t come to chat with him. Thinking of his father’s words, he said bluntly: “Let’s get married.”
He choked on the coffee he had just swallowed and his mouth was instantly overflowing with bitterness. Yi Hui’s eyes teared up but his heart was bubbling with sweetness. He covered his mouth and said “Okay” even before the coughing stopped.
After a while, he realized that he had agreed too quickly and was not reserved enough. He glanced at the handsome boy sitting opposite him, then withdrew his gaze shyly, then couldn’t help but take another look and mustered up his courage to ask in a low voice: “Then you… do you like me?”
Zhou Jinheng was a little surprised, then raised the corners of his mouth in a smile: “Like, of course I like you.”
Yi Hui, who heard the answer he wanted, grinned and overlooked the contempt that flashed in Zhou Jinheng’s smile, just like Zhou Jinheng later who also overlooked his sincere and deep love.
When he woke up, the sun was shining outside the window. Zhou Jinheng was in cold sweat, panting and looking at the clock. Less than an hour had passed since he laid down but he had been in his dream for three years.
Raising his hand to cover his eyes, in the dark, he could still see the endless pictures in his dream.
He saw Yi Hui shrinking in the corner of the hut, with his back against the cold wall, again and again, dialling the number that had been turned off and discarded.
The nights in the mountains were cold and Yi Hui was wearing only a thin shirt. His lips were white with chill and his hands were shaking badly. He shed tears of panic and fear in despair again and again, and then quickly wiped them off with his sleeves, as if he was worried that someone would come later and see it. He didn’t want that man to see him crying ugly.
Besides, today was the man’s birthday, so he couldn’t cry.
He put his ear to the wall, hoping to hear footsteps, but the wind was so strong that he could only hear the sound of tree branches shaking and rustling. After a while, he closed his eyes and when he opened them again, the tears in his eyes had disappeared and the light of expectation dimmed.
He picked up the phone and calculated that the time had not yet arrived. He was afraid that he would disturb that man too often. He hooked his stiff fingers and pressed “110” on the keyboard. When he was about to press the dial, he suddenly remembered that he was an adult. Only children could look for a policeman uncle. After struggling for a while, he deleted the number.
He waited and waited, but no one ever knocked on the locked wooden door.
By the time he was so cold that he couldn’t feel his body, his breathing became weak. He couldn’t open his eyes and he couldn’t even pinch his thighs or bite his lips hard enough to force himself awake.
In a daze, he kind of believed what those people said.
After a while, perhaps he understood, or had a premonition. He clicked on the SMS interface vigorously, put his head against the wall for support and tapped the keyboard with his frozen fingers to send a text message to his brother who was far away in the capital.——
[Brother, he treats me very well, don’t worry about me anymore]
As long as he did this, his brother wouldn’t blame him.
After sending the text message, Yi Hui dialled the number for the last time. Amidst the rapid beeps that sounded both far and near in his ears, he tried to raise the corners of his mouth and said to the cold air in a hoarse and almost inaudible voice: “Happy birthday.”
When he came to the foot of Qingdai Mountain on the outskirts of S City again, the police had already cleaned up the scene.
When he found the owner of the house, the owner said through the door that he would not accept interviews. Zhou Jinheng said that he wanted to buy the hut and named a large number, and the door opened immediately.
Walking along the winding steep mountain road, the homeowner led the way, turning around from time to time to brag to Zhou Jinheng: “This house is really nice. It’s cool in the winter and cool in the summer. Don’t you rich people like this kind of natural scenery? It would be great to stay there for a couple days during the holiday. What’s that called again? Oh, right, going back to the basics!”
When he went to open the door, he changed his tune again and was in a hurry to leave without stepping into the house, for fear of meeting a ghost: “I’ll place the key here for you. I have found someone to clean the house and the smell of the dead body is almost gone. If you mind, you can replace all the furniture here, just be careful not to let the city authorities see the illegal construction.”
He rambled about a bunch of cr*p and Zhou Jinheng barely listened and he also didn’t care about the smell of the dead body that the owner mentioned.
He came to check, to verify that Yi Hui really didn’t like him that much.
He was not good to Yi Hui at all. He had coaxed him into getting engaged for the sake of his personal freedom. He took advantage of him but still was not satisfied, scolded him and hurt him, made him cry many times and caused him to be looked down upon by his own friends, humiliated and bullied.
What was there about him to like? How stupid was Yi Hui? Could one still like him after being treated like that?
Zhou Jinheng emptied his mind and searched for justifications to prove that Yi Hui didn’t like him that much. As long as he didn’t like him so much, he wouldn’t die because of him.
With this thought in mind, he walked into the hut and checked all the places that he hadn’t been able to go through carefully that day because of his haste.
There was nothing on the chair, nothing on the wooden table, and there was nothing on the small wooden bed that was about one metre wide. His gaze brushed across the wall in the corner. Thinking that Yi Hui had been sitting there waiting for him, Zhou Jinheng averted his eyes in a panic. It seemed that if he didn’t look, Yi Hui would not be there and would be alive and well.
The hut was less than ten square feet and there was very little that could be called furniture. It was unlikely that there were any hidden compartments or other designs. After confirming that there was nothing inside or outside the window sill, Zhou Jinheng wiped the film of sweat from his forehead. He wanted to go out to take a breath. When he turned around, his toes touched something on the floor.
Looking down, he didn’t see anything at first glance. He squatted down and leaned over to take a closer look, only to see that there was something like a wooden board turned upside down under the bed by the wall. It was backlit, hidden by the corner of the bed, and the brown board almost blended in with the floor, so it was no wonder the police hadn’t noticed it.
Zhou Jinheng gently dragged the wooden board out from under the bed, flipped it over and placed it on the table face up.
His heart rate that had regained its calmness not long ago was once again chaotic and on overdrive as he touched the cloth covering the board.
He began to make various assumptions as if trying to brainwash himself again – maybe it was just a piece of ordinary wooden board left over, maybe it was a decorative painting that the owner had forgotten to take away, or it might be that Yi Hui wanted to use it to paint the mountain scenery. He had always had a soft spot for landscape paintings.
Zhou Jinheng didn’t even want to remove the cloth anymore. He wanted to run away. If he didn’t look at it, he could treat it as non-existent.
But he had to look. He wanted to know where Yi Hui had gone and he wanted to confirm that Yi Hui didn’t like him to the point of losing his life for a casual promise.
After calming down a little, he took a deep breath, pinched the corner of the cloth, raised his hand and pulled the cloth away.
The moment he looked at it, time seemed to stop.
Zhou Jinheng wanted to retreat but he was pinned to the spot and couldn’t move. While his breathing stagnated, a fierce torrent broke through the dam and surged into his mind, crushing his self-deceiving assumptions one after another without missing anything——
Raised snowflakes (flower) because he liked the colour white;
Often heating the water because he didn’t like to drink it cold;
Slept with the Doraemon all the time because he gave it to him;
Ran away from home and squatted in front of the department store because that was where they had their first date;
Bought this house to give it to him because he once said that he liked quiet and wanted to live in the mountains.；
Was not angry when scalded by him and trampled on by him over and over again, because he really liked him.
The little fool did his best to be nice to him for every minute and every second of his day. His “like” was the simplest “like” in the world. As long as the man named Zhou Jinheng was happy, he would be satisfied.
But what did Zhou Jinheng do?
He used, hurt and deceived the little fool who loved him the most in the world again and again, abandoned him when he needed him the most and chose others over him without hesitation.
Even the word “like” that he was the first to say, he said it in a perfunctory manner, but the little fool took it seriously. He held it in his heart like a treasure, and then returned it to him a thousand times over, loving him with all his heart for three years.
Even before his death, he used the most clumsy method to exonerate him, not to disturb him and not to let others cause him even a little trouble.
A ray of slanting sunlight fell on the table through the window, illuminating the painting that had been hidden in the dark for a long time that was finally able to see the sun.
It was a portrait. The man in the painting had a tall nose and deep eyebrows. He had looks that made the whole world envious. His lips were pursed slightly and his expression was haughty, as if nothing in the world was good enough for him to look at.
And the man with the same face outside the painting was so depressed that he seemed to have lost his soul. The setting sun lengthened his lonely shadow, and his lifeless eyes fell on the painting, staring at his former self who was so arrogant and stupid.
He was stupid, he was the real fool.
The things that Yi Hui had promised him were all personally delivered to him one by one, but he never fulfilled the things he promised. He failed and there was no chance of him fulfilling them again.
His little fool was dead.