When Jiang Yimang returned home that night, she immediately realized that the atmosphere at home was not right.
“Don’t bother your brother.” Jiang Xuemei grabbed her hand when she was going to knock on Yi Hui’s door, “He is in a bad mood, so let him stay alone for a while.”
Jiang Yimang went downstairs unhappily and kept looking upstairs while eating: “Brother really doesn’t want to come down and eat with us?”
“Hush-” Jiang Xuemei asked her to keep her voice down, “Don’t make trouble, he promised me that he would come down for dinner when he calmed down.”
Jiang Yimang grasped the point: “Calm down? What happened?”
Jiang Xuemei shook her head and said she didn’t know.
Thinking of her son’s reddened eyes when he came back, she was more impatient than anyone else to know what was wrong but was afraid that chasing and asking would have the opposite effect. So she had to pretend that everything was okay and waited for him to figure it out and tell her everything himself or for a suitable time to ask a casual question.
In the upstairs room, Yi Hui sat on the bed wrapping himself from head to toe in a blanket.
He had this habit since he was very young. He did it when his parents quarreled over him, when his mother hugged him and cried and when he was bullied by other children and didn’t want to talk about it.
Drowning in the darkness made him feel safe. He was the only one in this small world. No one would scold him, no one would look at him weirdly, and as long as he wanted to hide, no one would find him.
His reaction just now had been almost instinctive. He didn’t want to see that man, nor did he want to be seen by that man. He closed his eyes as if burying his head in the sand. He was used to admitting his mistakes and waiting for punishment, so he stayed stiff and waited, even if it wasn’t his fault, even if he acted only in self-defence.
The cheek the man had touched still felt a bit hot. Yi Hui raised his hand and rubbed the unusually warm skin. With just one touch, he immediately withdrew his hand and then wrapped himself tighter.
His vision was blurred, but his mind was very clear. He knew that he had overreacted just now.
He should walk down the road with his head held high, not to run as soon as he encountered someone, and when asked, answer in a dignified manner, “My name is Jiang Yihui.”
He was now Jiang Yihui, not the timid Yi Hui who was afraid of everything.
He now had a home and a family, so he didn’t have to go back to that big cold and empty house and wait for someone who would never come back.
Thinking about it this way, Yi Hui felt a little emboldened. He picked up his mobile phone and wanted to see how his brother and sister-in-law were doing recently. He also wanted to call Tang Wenxi. Tang Wenxi called him when he was going home just now, but he hung up without saying a word. He had to call him back and say that he was okay.
As soon as his hand stretched out of the blanket and touched the mobile phone, his fingers felt numb from a sudden vibration.
It was a text message from an unknown caller: [Feeling better? 】
Yi Hui was puzzled. His gaze moved to the number and when he saw the string of digits he knew by heart, with a shiver he almost pressed the dial button.
He didn’t reply, and he didn’t plan to reply, but the text messages came one by one.
[I scared you just now, would it be better to change to text messages? 】
[The number was entrusted to someone to find, I hope it didn’t scare you]
Yi Hui read these text messages several times and didn’t understand what he meant by “scare”.
There was no need to understand.
He simply switched off the phone.
Later, Yi Hui went to Jiang Yimang’s room to borrow her computer, opened a search engine to check the news he wanted to know and left a message for Tang Wenxi on QQ.
Jiang Yimang stared at him from the side for a long time, then leaned over and asked, “Brother, are you okay?”
Yi Hui blinked: “What’s wrong?”
“If nothing is wrong, then that’s good!” Jiang Yimang was straightforward. Yi Hui said he was okay and she believed it. She immediately changed the subject, rubbed her hands and raised her eyebrows, “Then my goddess avatar…”
Yi Hui patted her head, smiled and promised, “Tomorrow, tomorrow will be good.”
He opened his eyes the next day and took a deep breath of the fresh air outside the window. It was much better.
It was so good that Yi Hui felt that he was ridiculously stupid yesterday. He was confused by the man’s casual words and turned back into that stupid fool.
After having breakfast and repeatedly assuring Jiang Xuemei that he was okay, Yi Hui sent his family away and devoted himself to a quiet time alone.
When he was about to go out in the afternoon, he still hesitated. He stood in front of the mirror at the door for about five minutes, looking at the man in the mirror and making sure that he was not the former Yi Hui before stepping out.
Just as he reached the road, the man emerged from around the corner, still wearing yesterday’s clothes, and followed relentlessly behind.
It was useless to hide, so he had to face it.
Thinking this way, Yi Hui tried his best to overcome his fear and said first, “I’m sorry for hitting you yesterday.”
Zhou Jinheng was taken aback for a moment, as if he didn’t expect Yi Hui to take the initiative to talk to him, let alone say such a sentence.
“It’s okay, you didn’t mean it.”
Because of this sudden dialogue, his prepared speech was messed up. It was the first time for Zhou Jinheng to coax someone and it was inevitable that he would feel awkward. It took him a while to come up with the phrase: “Did you receive my text messages yesterday?”
Yi Hui didn’t look away: “En.”
“Then… why didn’t you reply?”
He didn’t know if it was an illusion, but apart from inquiry, Yi Hui actually heard a trace of grievance in his tone.
He stood still, without looking at Zhou Jinheng, and said in a natural tone, “Why would I need to reply?”
Zhou Jinheng was startled again. This was completely different from what he expected. He thought that Yi Hui would be angry, sad, and maybe cry. He was even ready to stand and let Yi Hui beat him at will. But he never imagined he would be confronted by such a cold Yi Hui.
So cold as if he didn’t know him at all.
Perhaps to test his suspicions, Yi Hui said immediately: “I don’t know you, don’t follow me.”
The autumn afternoon sun was shining brightly, and the air was filled with a humidity unique to the south.
Zhou Jinheng washed his face with cold water in the only hotel in this small town. He picked up the towel on the shelf and was about to wipe his face. A strong musty smell reached his nose. He frowned, threw the towel into the sink and walked outside to make a call, still dripping.
It took several beeps before the man on the other end reluctantly picked up, “May I ask what the young master wants now?”
Zhou Jinheng was in a bad mood but he had to lower his head when he asked for help: “He turned off the phone, please help me check if there is any other contact information.”
“Yo–” Yang Chengxuan still felt weird, “didn’t you go there, what contact information do you want?”
Zhou Jinheng lowered his eyes and a few drops of water slid down his cheeks: “He refuses to see me.”
“Hey, don’t tell me yet, let me guess.” Yang Chengxuan seemed to be interested, “He said he was not Yi Hui, right?”
His eyelids trembled as Zhou Jinheng gave a muffled “en”.
Yang Chengxuan slapped the table excitedly: “What did I say? If he said ‘yes’, it would mean there are ghosts. I confirmed it for you before. He is really not. He just looks a bit alike and his name just happens to be a bit alike. It’s fine if don’t believe other people, but you don’t believe me either? Are you blind or are you really crazy? Those two people are not related to each other but you have to say they are the same person!?”
In normal times, no matter who spoke to Zhou Jinheng with such an almost sarcastic attitude, he would have been furious.
However, this time he not only endured it but also continued to ask Yang Chengxuan as if he hadn’t heard what he just said: “Please help me check his other contact information, Weibo, QQ and WeChat. These all require a real name to register…”
“Zhou Jinheng!” Yang Chengxuan interrupted him with a sudden burst of laughter, “Wake up, he is dead, Yi Hui is dead! He was dragged to the crematorium and burned! If you want ashes, ask his family for them, instead of going to the southern town that can’t even be found on the map! Was my f*cking head kicked by a donkey too? I actually checked the address and phone number for you and thought I’d let you go and come back sober, my f*cking ……”
“It’s him.” Zhou Jinheng’s simple words blocked the other party’s anger, “There’s no way I could be mistaken.”
Yang Chengxuan hung up the phone in fury and Zhou Jinheng had to find another way. He contacted the man who had helped him find Yi Hui when he disappeared before and asked him to help with the investigation.
In a society where relationships are everything, one cannot rely on one’s words alone. The man knew that he was no longer related to the Yi family by marriage, so he didn’t have to curry favour with him and his attitude changed. Even if Zhou Jinheng couldn’t see his expression, he could hear his perfunctory tone. Zhou Jinheng didn’t want to beat around the bush and promised a substantial sum of money straight away, and the man reluctantly agreed.
Finally, he didn’t forget to “advise” Zhou Jinheng in a dignified manner: “Money is simply worldly posessions, what matters is the friendship between our two families over the years. I believe that with Young Master Zhou’s good looks, he will be able to find a better marriage in time. So don’t forget to give a hand to your younger brother when the time comes.”
After he hung up, the phone screen automatically switched to Yi Hui’s photo. Zhou Jinheng looked at it as if hypnotized.
In fact, there was not much resemblance in terms of appearance, whether it was the face, the figure or the manner of speech. Zhou Jinheng raised his hand to touch the spot on his face where he had been hit and even began to suspect that everything that had happened yesterday was another one of his absurd dreams.
Born into a profit-oriented merchant family, he was brought up with a sense of value – is it worth doing, is it worth the time and effort?
He had always been disdainful of this mentality but it was undeniable that he grew up under the influence of this concept. He would involuntarily consider the value of everything he did, including whether to continue studying or to enter the entertainment industry, and whether to accept the marriage arranged by his family or to give up his dream.
But this was a different matter, and he had no way of converting its possible gains or losses into money, or whatever else was convenient to calculate or measure.
He could only do it, he had no choice.
Without Yi Hui, even breathing seemed superfluous.
If this was really a dream, he would rather hold his breath and never wake up.