Waking up, Yi Hui suddenly raised his head, and the hour hand on the wall clock had just passed the number twelve.
He turned his head and looked around. It was late at night, and the auntie in the next bed was asleep. There were occasional chirps of cicadas outside the window. No one called him.
Perhaps it was the lack of sleep these days, Yi Hui thought. It was rare to get a full night’s sleep, but he was awakened from his sleep by a voice that came from nowhere.
Trying to relieve his aching back, he straightened and stretched out his body, rubbed his temple with one hand and reached out with the other to touch Jiang Xuemei’s forehead. Her temperature was normal and he leaned over to check the thermos flask beside the bed.
When he went to fetch water, he passed by the IV room. The TV hanging on the wall was replaying some entertainment news. Zhou Jinheng, who was wearing a mask, was surrounded by reporters. At the bottom of the screen, there were eye-catching subtitles saying “Zhou Jinheng ceases filming ”Mountains and Seas”. The penalty for breach of contract is more than 10 million. The director condemns him for having no professional ethics.” The lines were extremely flashy.
The TV sound was not turned on, so Yi Hui didn’t know what he said to the microphone.
Yi Hui quickened his pace and walked back with the thermos flask. Back in the ward, Jiang Xuemei slept quietly. He filled the cup on the table with water and opened the notebook to draw for a while. He was dissatisfied after redrawing an outline seven or eight times. He took the pen and looked at the blank screen. For the first time in days, he was in a daze.
More than ten million… a lot of money.
In the past, Yi Hui had a well-off family, but only after he became Jiang Yihui did he acquire a specific concept of money. He knew that having no money meant that he had to work all day long to have food and clothing, which also meant that he couldn’t even afford to get sick.
Jiang Xuemei’s surgery was scheduled for next week. The family’s savings were just enough to pay for the surgery. They put the charge on several bankbooks and bank cards together and when paying the bill Yi Hui was so nervous that he counted the zeros on the monitor several times.
According to the doctor, the cost of the surgery was only the beginning, the subsequent continuous medication and nursing care were the big ones. Yi Hui planned ahead and started preparing the money before the surgery. He took a lot of commissions on the Internet in one go. A netizen told him that a comic website was recruiting artists. He sent his resume to apply. After being accepted, he got another job colouring serialized comics every day.
At first, he didn’t dare to accept the kind help of netizens. Dora-Hum-Hum left an indelible shadow on him. He was not a clairvoyant and couldn’t know who was on the other side. The kindness he accepted could be returned, but the feelings he gave could not be taken back.
Once bitten by a snake, afraid of a rope for ten years. Yi Hui was afraid of this invisible and untouchable way of communication and did not want to experience this kind of heart-wrenching torment of suddenly learning the truth again.
It felt like being caught off guard and pushed into biting cold water in the bright warm spring. The salty water overflowed over his head and filled his nasal cavity and he couldn’t even scream.
After painting until dawn and after Jiang Xuemei woke up, Yi Hui turned on the sound of his mobile phone. Just as he was about to put it down, he received a transfer message from Tang Wenxi for 20,000 yuan.
Yi Hui called him and he said, “All my net worth is here. Although it’s a drop in the bucket, it’s still a piece of my heart… I wish Auntie a speedy recovery!”
After Yi Hui expressed his gratitude, he said that he wanted to send him an IOU. Tang Wenxi pretended to be stupid and said, “What’s an IOU? Oh, the portrait you said you owed me. When you are done, I will personally come to you and make you paint it. You must make me more handsome when the time comes!”
He had a first-class level ability of controlling topics of conversation and Yi Hui couldn’t defeat him with words, so he silently wrote down an account in his heart. No matter how good the relationship between the person was, neither money nor love debts could be owed. This was a truth he had learned.
With the advent of summer vacation, Jiang Yimang was about to pass to the third grade. The school arranged make-up classes, so Yi Hui sold a few paintings cheaply and scraped together some money to pay the tuition fee. When he returned to the hospital, he got a new payment slip. The number was staggering.
“Let’s go home after the surgery.” Jiang Xuemei said, “There is no difference where I recuperate. I am lying in bed anyway.”
After checking the payment slip, Yi Hui raised his head and smiled, “Why is there no difference? Don’t worry, Mom, I still have a lot of paintings in storage that haven’t been sold yet, and I will have money when I sell them.”
In fact, there was no storage. He even sold his usual practice drafts online at a low price. When sorting out the folders of paintings stored on the computer, he clicked on the draft folder that had not been sold before. In addition to the half finished ones, there was only one painting with fireworks as the theme.
The fireworks painted for Dora-Hum-Hum should now be in Zhou Jinheng’s hands.
Right now, there was a shortage of money, so it was not impossible to sell it, but Yi Hui was struggling for a long time and could not do it. Every stroke and every line of this painting was planned by him carefully. It contained many of his little thoughts not known to the outside world. He did not know whether he had achieved the effect of making the other party happy, but at least when he painted this picture, he put all his enthusiasm into it.
In the end, the painting was not put on sale.
They barely survived until the surgery was done, and the first week’s medical and nursing expenses almost emptied out the family’s pockets completely.
The Jiang family’s house was rented. Over the years, Jiang Xuemei had raised two children all by herself. The monthly income was enough to make ends meet, but there was no money left for a serious illness.
It was not that he hadn’t thought about borrowing money. Neighbours could lend you from 10,000 to 15,000, and those who were willing to help had taken the initiative to contribute. All these adding up, it was still far from the cost of subsequent treatment.
Yi Hui even wanted to go to his brother, he knew that his brother would definitely help him. But now that he had assumed Jiang Yihui’s name and became someone else’s family member, he was not qualified to go back and call him “brother”.
He had caused a lot of trouble to his brother in his previous life, so he wouldn’t bother him again in this life.
Yi Hui began to consider loans.
He was not a student, had no legitimate occupation and could not apply for a formal loan, and the amount of online loans was very small and wouldn’t even last them a few days.
Following the small advertisement he saw in the town, he called a private lending organization. The other party asked him to meet in a small remote restaurant. Yi Hui went alone and waited for two people dressed like thugs for half an hour.
One of them asked him to mortgage his real estate. He said that he didn’t have a house and they asked him to mortgage the car. He said that there was only the van that had been used for three years. The two laughed and asked him, “Then what do you have?”
Yi Hui clenched his hands tightly under the table and mustered up the courage to say, “I can draw. I can draw and pay my debts, and I will write you an IOU, and I will definitely be able to pay it off.”
The two laughed again. One of them said, “Pay it off? Little brother, I’m afraid you have some misunderstanding about our business. If the interest can be repaid on time, we will greet you with a smile.”
The other was even more merciless: “You can draw? Children’s drawing or what kind of drawing? Are there still artists who borrow money these days? Tsk, I think you look white and clean, so it’s better to dress up and go sell yourself. It’s a quick and easy way to get money.”
Yi Hui fled in defeat.
In his two lifetimes combined, the malice Yi Hui had received mostly came from resentment and jealousy. It showed in the eyes and words, but because his family protected him well, he not only did not suffer too much substantial harm but also largely remained ignorant of the world.
Therefore, it was the first time he experienced malice that had formed a physical entity from fate, which made him frightened and helpless.
The house was leaking and it happened to be raining all night, so new difficulties were encountered at this point.
A pair of works that participated in the competition were accidentally uploaded by Yi Hui when he was selling his works online. Although they were withdrawn quickly, they had been downloaded many times by then, and the organizer of the competition issued a statement saying that Yi Hui will be held accountable.
When the court subpoena was sent to his home, Yi Hui was picking up the things at home he could sell. Jiang Yimang asked him if it was serious. He smiled and said: ”It doesn’t matter, just a trivial thing.”
At night, he was walking on the road with the three hundred yuan he got from selling junk. Suddenly, there was a thunderous sound. When the raindrops fell on his uplifted face, he could no longer smile, and his eyes, dry and red from lack of sleep, were blank.
It really rained.
He stood in the heavy rain, his eyes widened as he looked at the dark sky. There was not much sadness in his heart and he felt surprisingly calm.
Perhaps it was the benefit of having experienced two lifetimes. If you had gone through too many setbacks, you would go numb. If you are cornered, so what?
But he still longed for someone who could help him when he was helpless, who wouldn’t laugh at his incompetence, wouldn’t despise his efforts, and would really feel distressed or happy for him, even if only a little bit, enough to support him.
The phone vibrated in his pocket for a long time before Yi Hui felt it and pressed to answer.
There was no sound at the other end for a long time, and then the voice said instead of a greeting: “It’s raining, have you brought an umbrella?”
Yi Hui shook his head.
The other end seemed to see him shaking his head, and then asked, “Would you rather be in the rain than let me help you?”
Yi Hui shook his head again, and rain fell into his eyes. He didn’t know whether the meaning of his action was “no need” or “I wouldn’t”.
He thought for a while and said, “I am not him.”
There was a short “en” at the other end; as if he was afraid that he would not hear him clearly, the man said again: “I know.”
Yi Hui looked like a person waiting for trial, raised his head and the heavy rain forced him to close his eyes.
“Let me help you,” the man said.
It was raining all over the world, and he had nowhere to escape.
Yi Hui lowered his head, then nodded, as if compromising.
Three days later, the newly hired caretaker was already proficiently dealing with Jiang Xuemei’s medical care and rehabilitation schedule. He was no longer inseparably linked to the ward. Yi Hui unplugged the power of the notebook that had been plugged in at the head of the bed for a long time and stuffed it into his backpack. He told Jiang Xuemei to get well, and he would come back to see her when he had time.
When he put the bag on his back and turned to leave, Jiang Xuemei grabbed his arm from behind: “Really… only half a year?”
Yi Hui turned his head and said with a smile: “Yes, the group is gathering material. With the sponsors and not having to spend money but getting wages instead, imagine how many people are eager to go.”
Jiang Xuemei still did not feel very relieved. The middle-aged woman in the next bed said, “The child is so old, it’s time to let him go out alone. Isn’t it just half a year? Look how nervous you are, if I didn’t know, I would have thought your son was going to join the army.”
With this rare laughter in his memory, Yi Hui got on the high speed train to S City.
The plane ticket was not much more expensive but he wanted to go slower. Last time he went to S City, he held the cake in his arms and was full of expectations, but this time he only brought a simple bag of luggage.
As soon as the train left, he received a message from Jiang Yimang asking him what he was doing and whether he was going to sell his kidney behind their back. Yi Hui laughed, thinking to himself how bleak his expression must have been when he was leaving. Did he look worse than if he was going to die?
He looked at the blurred reflection in the window glass and his noisy heart calmed down slowly.
Yeah, isn’t it just half a year?
Three years of sincerity could not be exchanged for a look back; what could half a year do?
Yi Hui slept on the train for a while, woke up and got off at the station. S City was full of lights. He took a bus to delay time. After arriving at the place, he wandered around a little more.
The area around the villa was large and the roads crisscrossed, but he was not afraid to get lost in it.
Because this was his home once.
When the man sent the address and password, he was still a little confused. When he opened the door and saw the furnishings in the house that were not much different from before he left, he had some visible, tangible sense of familiarity.
Yi Hui brought his own slippers, took them out of his bag and put them on. Walking into the empty living room, he confirmed the fact that there was no one at home. He breathed a sigh of relief, sat cross-legged on the clean floor and began to deal with a mosquito bite on his leg he got while he was hanging out just now.
He smeared the cooling oil that Jiang Xuemei stuffed into his bag before leaving. He actually didn’t like this kind of thing with a strong and stimulating smell, but he had nothing else to use.
Even if he knew that there was hydrosol in the second drawer of the bedside table by the door of the master bedroom upstairs.
He was not bold enough to touch the things in the house, even if many of the things belonged to him. He didn’t even turn on the lights.
Next to him was a small cabinet with a landline phone. When Yi Hui stood up, he saw that the Doraemon sticker on the receiver was still there.
There was no trace of the expected big change in style. At a cursory glance the room seen through the door felt similar, and when he got closer, it turned out it really hadn’t changed.
This made Yi Hui a bit puzzled. He remembered that Zhou Jinheng was about to get married. Even if he didn’t want to get married, his family wouldn’t leave him a choice.
So who was that ring for?
Thinking about these incomprehensible things, Yi Hui fell asleep leaning on the armrest of the sofa.
He didn’t dare to move when he fell asleep. He hugged his bag and shrank into the smallest possible ball, as if this was not the home where he had lived for three years, but a strange territory where he had set foot in for the first time.
When Zhou Jinheng opened the door, what he saw was a long-forgotten scene.
He stood at the door for a long time, until the wall clock in the living room rang twelve times and the man who was sleeping on the edge of the sofa woke up.
Yi Hui rubbed his eyes and looked in the direction of the dark phantom in the bright light. When he looked at the black silhouette at the door, his brain that was still chaotic suddenly woke up.
His ability to move and speak was still suspended, and even though the distance between him and the man at the door was only a few metres, he had an illusion of them looking at each other from far away.
Yi Hui remembered that he had sat here countless times and looked at that man from this perspective.
Each time it was rushed. Zhou Jinheng often came home exhausted, too lazy to talk to him, throwing down his jacket and going to take a shower to rest.
This time it was different. Zhou Jinheng spent at least three minutes looking at each other. When he kicked off his shoes and walked into the house, the first thing he did was not to take a shower, but to go to the kitchen and take out a box of juice from the fridge.
He wore a white shirt today. At some point his sleeves were rolled up, and the muscles of his forearms moved fluently as he poured juice. Yi Hui guessed that he had drunk alcohol, otherwise his movements would not be so gentle.
Zhou Jinheng walked to the sofa with a cup and handed him the juice: “Why didn’t you call me to pick you up?”
The first sentence after meeting again was so unusual, reminding Yi Hui of the chaos of their meeting last time. He didn’t pick up the cup and said, “The place is very easy to find.”
Zhou Jinheng was a little taken aback, put the cup on the coffee table and sat down in a separate armchair next to him: “Is there nothing you want to ask?”
Throughout the whole process from agreeing to accept help in the rain that day, to reaching an agreement and then coming here, Yi Hui seemed particularly calm, as if succumbing helplessly. However, Zhou Jinheng knew this was not the case.
Yi Hui asked, “Where do I sleep?”
“This is your home.” Zhou Jinheng said, “You can sleep wherever you want.”
Yi Hui stood up, picked up his bag and prepared to go upstairs. Zhou Jinheng also got up and picked up the cup on the table again: “Drink it before you go to sleep, it’s your favourite mango juice.”
Yi Hui remembered that there was no “you can drink whatever you want” clause in the agreement. He glanced at the cup and said, “I don’t like mango juice.”
At this moment, the two of them were so close that when he raised his eyes a little, he could see Zhou Jinheng’s beautifully shaped eyes and a long and narrow scar an inch under his eye. The scab had fallen off, leaving only a light red mark. His pupils were ink-black in the dim light.
These eyes were affectionate and ruthless. Yi Hui didn’t know whether he was looking at him or at that other person through him.
“Then what do you like to drink?” Zhou Jinheng didn’t seem to mind, raised the cup and took a sip, “Watermelon juice, orange juice, strawberry juice, or pear juice?”
It seems that there were many choices but in fact they were all sweet.
Yi Hui liked to drink them all.
Without warning, Yi Hui asked, “I was sued in court. Did you do it?”
He had no basis to accuse him but he suddenly thought of it and asked. He didn’t expect a positive answer either. He didn’t expect Zhou Jinheng’s reaction after hearing the question would not be to affirm or deny it eagerly, but to open his mouth and laugh.
“If you think it’s me,” Zhou Jinheng said with conviction, “then it is.”
Before going upstairs, Zhou Jinheng asked Yi Hui if there was anything else he wanted to ask. Yi Hui looked disgusted and coldly dropped the word “despicable”.
Zhou Jinheng laughed again. He held the juice he had only taken a sip of and turned around leisurely. When his face was hidden in the darkness, his smile disappeared without a trace.
It was inevitable to be hurt, but no matter how painful it was, it was not as painful as not being able to find or to look.
As long as I can keep you by my side, why not be a despicable one?