Yi Hui didn’t make a sound, Zhou Jinheng turned on the car stereo and under the sound of soothing music asked him where he was going in the afternoon.
“The Art Association.” Yi Hui said laconically.
The place was very close to here, Zhou Jinheng drove quickly and arrived within half an hour. When Zhou Jinheng asked when he should pick him up, Yi Hui said, “No need, I’ll go back by myself.”
Walking on the promenade of the Art Association compound, Yi Hui thought that for the next four months, Zhou Jinheng must not be actively provoked again. It would be better not to speak at all. Who knows where this guy had learned those skills. He would not only comfort himself but also twist other people’s words to cheer himself up. A simple sentence could be interpreted by him to have a false meaning.
Once upon a time it was clearly not like this; he had all the wind and all the rain he wanted, and there was no need to give himself a shot of anaesthesia through this commoner’s method of spiritual triumph.
Yi Hui found that the frequency of comparing the two lifetimes had increased recently, and he even began to wonder whether he really had no other meaning when he said those words, such as subconsciously expressing concern.
This thought made Yi Hui feel terrified. An art exchange meeting was being held in the Art Association building. Tang Wenxi was not there. After listening to the lecture, he walked to the corner and sat down, holding a disposable cup in a daze.
“Do you mind if I sit here?”
A voice sounded in his ear, and Yi Hui said, “You can sit” without thinking. When the man really sat down in the vacant seat next to him, Yi Hui glanced sideways and was stunned.
The man smiled and stretched out his hand: “Hello, my name is Fang Yuqing.”
After hesitating for a few seconds, Yi Hui shook his hand: “My name is Jiang Yihui.”
This was an exchange meeting for those who loved art, and there was nothing out of the ordinary to meet him here. Yi Hui thought about it, took a sip of water and tried to slow down his heartbeat that was beating too fast since he heard his name.
This was the second time he had heard Fang Yuqing’s name. The first time was in his previous life. He heard from others what an outstanding man Fang Yuqing was and how much Zhou Jinheng couldn’t forget him. Yi Hui was ashamed of himself but at the same time, he still held hope in his heart. He thought that it was all a thing of the past. Zhou Jinheng had already married him and would slowly forget the first love that ended in failure.
As a result, it turned out he was too optimistic. Looking at those three years, when was Zhou Jinheng not angry at him because of the regrets that failed to materialize? Even the pitiful tenderness at the time of intimacy was based on the similarity.
Looking at the man sitting next to him, Yi Hui found that he did have many similarities. He had the same amber irises, the same upturned nose, the same lips with a wavy curve when he was not speaking; even the line from the jaw to the neck was similar to the one he could see in the mirror.
No wonder Zhou Jinheng was able to have sex with him back then, Yi Hui thought self-deprecatingly. At that time, he called making love playing games because of his shyness. Looking back now, playing games was the best summary of their ridiculous relationship.
There was no love, only a contract. Apart from those games, the only thing left was the current arrangement. If there was such a thing as fate, he and Zhou Jinheng were probably destined to have a clash of fortunes, and no matter how many lifetimes they had, they were not destined to end well.
“I remember that Mr. Jiang was the gold medal winner of the live painting competition held by the Art Association last year, right?”
Fang Yuqing’s words brought Jiang Yihui’s thoughts back to the present. He nodded, and Fang Yuqing smiled: “At that moment, I participated in the final review. The ‘Sunrise’ was indeed amazing, but the use of colour was too monotonous. The organizing committee originally planned to award it a silver award, but I strongly recommended giving it the gold award and asked for extra points to be added to it.”
Yi Hui didn’t know that such a thing happened, and for a while he didn’t know whether to thank him or to ask why.
Fortunately, Fang Yuqing didn’t shy away and said directly: “Because the man in the painting looked particularly similar to the man I know. I thought at the time that if someone could paint a person with such great brilliance, as if he was above all things in the world, the artist must have loved this person very much.”
Yi Hui’s heart thudded suddenly; he swallowed dryly and said, “No, I don’t love him, I just painted it casually.”
“Ah, is it actually like this? I thought that people who love painting would hide such small inclinations,” Fang Yuqing said with regret, and then smiled again, “But the man I am talking about, the man who is very similar to the man in the painting, is my lover… I love him very much.”
In the afternoon, Yi Hui went to the hospital to visit Jiang Xuemei. He saw a bunch of daisies on the bedside and asked where it came from. Jiang Yimang pulled him aside and said, “The guy surnamed Zhou was here just now. I didn’t yell because Mom was sleeping. Fortunately, he didn’t say anything, put down the flowers and left.”
Yi Hui guessed that Zhou Jinheng had been too free recently, otherwise why would he do these things that could be done by sending an assistant?
Entertainment news was broadcasting on the bus back, taking stock of this year’s scandal-ridden celebrities. Zhou Jinheng was among the celebrities who were suspended from filming. In order to amplify the impact, the show gathered all the negative news about Zhou Jinheng since his debut four years ago, including the fact that he was photographed going to a wedding ring customization center at the beginning of the year.
This news had been half a year old. Yi Hui deliberately avoided it at the time. Later, he didn’t know if the ring he saw accidentally came from this shop. Now, looking at the photos that appeared on the TV screen, who was it if not Fang Yuqing sitting at the bar with Zhou Jinheng wearing a mask?
It did not rule out the possibility of friendship, but Fang Yuqing’s use of the term “lover” could not be unilateral.
But what did this have to do with him? Yi Hui withdrew his gaze and looked out the sunset window, his restless emotions surging up. Suddenly he didn’t want to go back.
He got off at the next stop. It was a bustling downtown area. It was more interesting to walk around casually than to be bored inside four walls.
A quiet river flowed from the east end of the commercial street to the west end, crossed with several quaint wooden bridges. He saw a piece of land beside the bridge in front of him, with a gurgling spring carved out there.
This kind of place with a lot of people coming and going was a forbidden place for him. Yi Hui only remembered his mother bringing him here when he was very young, holding his hand tightly the whole time, afraid he would get lost.
Perhaps because it was late, there were not as many people today as before. He walked forward and found an inconspicuous place to stand. He saw people stop and marvel at the coins in the bottom of the pool and then walk away with disdain, or take out coins to make a wish.
It was as if he could see his shadow in them; he was the one who had pinned his hopes on an illusory deity.
“Hurry up, give me a coin. I heard that it is a very spiritual place. I want to make a few more wishes.”
“…throw it all in?”
“Well, it seems sincere to throw more.”
“What wish did you make?”
“I want to go back in time.”
“It’s best to go back to when we were still in school. I confessed to you early and grasped you firmly. If you want to go abroad, I will go with you. You won’t get rid of me.”
“It’s also very good now.”
It was a same-sex couple. Yi Hui listened intently, ignoring the seemingly endless sense of familiarity. He stood in a daze until he was awakened by the sound of “HuiHui” and raised his head to meet two pairs of surprised eyes.
In a quiet teahouse, the tables were mostly empty and the fragrance of tea made the air moist and warm. In the middle of the room, the cold air of early autumn was completely isolated.
Ye Qin took a sip from the teacup, was scalded and stretched out his tongue, but still maintained a smile on his face: “If you’re not, you’re not, we just took the liberty to interrupt when we saw you. I hope you can forgive us.”
Yi Hui lowered his head, not knowing where to look: “The person you are talking about… is he very similar to me?”
“In terms of appearance, you are not that much alike.” Cheng Feichi, who had been silent for a long time, suddenly spoke out, “It can be said that you are like two people.”
Yi Hui’s throat became dry: “Then…”
Cheng Feichi, sitting opposite, looked down at his hand clasping the cup and said, “Intuition, intuition is irrational.”
“It’s really irrational.” Ye Qin propped his head on one hand and stared at Yi Hui, “If I were the only one today, I might only secretly doubt it. But he thought so too, so I stopped you impulsively.”
Yi Hui was very nervous and for fear of saying more and making more mistakes, he denied it again: “I am not the person you are looking for. I live in the south and have recently come here to work. I will go back in a few months.”
“Okay, okay, I know you are not him anymore, let’s just make friends, don’t be nervous.” Ye Qin pushed the snacks that had just been served in front of him, “Do you like sweet food?”
Yi Hui nodded first, then shook his head, his face flushed: “I can eat it, a little bit.”
Ye Qin laughed: “Then eat more.”
After the tea, Yi Hui was in a hurry to leave. Ye Qin finished nibbling the last few melon seeds on the plate, reminded him to put on his coat before going out and asked him where he bought the coat that hurt to look at. Yi Hui replied that his friend made it and hurriedly turned away and walked to the door. Two steps later he was stopped again.
“You didn’t even ask who we were looking for.”
Yi Hui turned around slowly, his gaze still pinned to the ground: “Who, who?”
“His younger brother.” Ye Qin pointed to Cheng Feichi, and then to himself, “He is also my brother.”
Because of this episode, it was ten o’clock in the evening when Yi Hui walked into the gate of the community.
The twelve-hour time limit had been exceeded, but he didn’t worry about it, he walked slowly, thinking intently as he walked.
As he walked, his eyes were dull and damp.
Just after he was reborn, he thought of himself in his previous life to be a joke. He had thought he was living a full, good life, but in the end he died a foolish death and got nothing.
Yi Hui looked up at the sky and took a deep breath. It turned out that this was not the case. It turned out that there were still people who were thinking about him, and there were still people who could find him out in the vast sea of people at a glance.
But he couldn’t admit it, whether it was out of timidity or selfishness. Now that he had chosen this path, he could only go on firmly. He couldn’t afford the identities of the two of them and he didn’t want to go back to the past.
Going back in time was an opportunity that many people dreamed about, but he didn’t want it.
It was enough to experience those love-hate entanglements once, and it was enough to grieve for the fool named Yi Hui once. They should live happily, not wallow in sorrow for the dead fool.
When he was still stupid, he knew that he had to keep his word. Since he said that he wanted to be Jiang Yihui, even if he knew that he was deceiving himself, he had to hide it from everyone for the rest of his life.
After a long time, maybe he can also hide it from himself.
Wandering around the community twice and sitting on an empty bench for a long time, Yi Hui rubbed his sore eyes and stood up. He turned left at the end of the cobblestone road, following the path he had walked countless times.
As soon as he opened his eyes after rubbing them, he saw Zhou Jinheng standing on the side of the road in front of his house, same as the last time he bumped into him at the door while accepting the security guard’s flowers.
Yi Hui walked straight forward, bypassed him, and when he walked into the yard to open the door, he heard Zhou Jinheng ask behind him, “Where have you been?”
Yi Hui didn’t answer the question, but picked the point and said, “I will make up for the missed time tomorrow.”
The time missed today would be filled tomorrow; he did the same thing once last week to take care of Jiang Xuemei.
So he didn’t understand why Zhou Jinheng was so stimulated this time. When he pinched his wrist and pressed it on the wall at the entrance, he was still in a daze.
“I asked where you were.”
His voice was very deep, and Yi Hui was stunned for a moment. However, there was no smell of alcohol. If Zhou Jinheng wasn’t drunk, what kind of madness was this?
“It has nothing to do with you.” Yi Hui looked at him, “The agreement does not say that I have to report to you.”
He also had a temper. He was brought here by Zhou Jinheng and was kept in captivity for no reason. He also had resentment in his heart. Now that he was asked inexplicably, Yi Hui could no longer keep silent.
Hearing only a familiar chuckle, Yi Hui was about to take the opportunity to free his hand from Zhou Jinheng’s grip. Who knew that the hand holding him would suddenly squeeze tightly and then he didn’t feel the wall behind his back anymore. Yi Hui was dragged away, stumbling up the stairs.
“What are you doing… let me go!”
Dragged vigorously up the last step, Yi Hui realized that something was wrong.
Zhou Jinheng was clearly mad, and his violent temper that had been hidden for a long time broke through, even worse than before. Yi Hui felt that his wrist was about to be crushed, and when he fell into the bed, he couldn’t care less about feeling dizzy and went to rub his left wrist first.
Fortunately, there was just redness and his bones were not hurt. He still had to draw tomorrow.
Zhou Jinheng then pressed him down. Seeing him move and thinking that he wanted to run, he grabbed his arms and pinned them on his sides, panting: “Yes, I should have made you honour the agreement a long time ago and saved you from running around without staying at home properly.”
This sounded familiar. He remembered that Zhou Jinheng used this sentence to trap him at home in his previous life and he foolishly regarded it as a worry about him. Yi Hui couldn’t help but sneer: “Why? Did you have enough pretending to be a good person and finally want to show your true face?”
Saying that, he actually felt a long-lost ease.
Starting from Dora-Hum-Hum, Zhou Jinheng was not as reckless and rash as before, even his kindness to him was so subtle and gentle that it was almost imperceptible, building up around him little by little, day by day, so that he had no way to refuse.
He was waiting for this day, to push Zhou Jinheng to the limit, to make him tear off his disguise, to beat him or scold him. If he survived, he would really owe him nothing. When he thought of it, Yi Hui finally felt joy in his heart. He could not wait for Zhou Jinheng to do it now, so that he could get out of the swamp he was sinking deeper and deeper into.
Zhou Jinheng was indeed irritated by him, and his deliberately narrowed eyes became sharp, as if a storm was brewing in them.
When he noticed that the bloodshot eyes contained a trace of desire, it was too late to resist.
Zhou Jinheng leaned down and pressed onto Yi Hui’s half-opened lips fiercely, first biting hard, then licking carefully, prying open his teeth. Before Yi Hui could react, he stuck his flexible tongue in, exchanging saliva while their breath entwined and inseparable.
It was not that he wasn’t kissed in his previous life. Occasionally, Zhou Jinheng would reluctantly kiss him when he felt interested; but such a kiss that was so close that they almost melted into each other was Yi Hui’s first experience.
Zhou Jinheng’s taste filled his mouth and nose, and Yi Hui couldn’t stop shivering. His trembling hand finally broke free from the shackles, climbed to Zhou Jinheng’s shoulder and pushed him away vigorously as he shouted, “What are you doing?”
Zhou Jinheng’s eyes were out of focus; he was still immersed in the kiss just now. He was awakened unexpectedly by Yi Hui’s resistant eyes and said with a sneer: “You don’t think I raised you here for charity, do you?”
Yi Hui’s breath hitched, as if he didn’t expect Zhou Jinheng to say it so bluntly and frankly. He didn’t want to do it, didn’t want to do it with Zhou Jinheng, and he forced himself to calmly say, “The agreement does not say that it should be repaid in this way.”
“It is written in the agreement that the right of interpretation belongs to Party A, that is, me.” Zhou Jinheng’s mouth was pressed against Yi Hui’s ear, as if the devil had issued a sentence, “Pay back the way I said so.”
He propped one hand on Yi Hui’s side, while the other hand reached down, pushing away the thin cloth, and his hot palm touched the sensitive skin on his waist. Yi Hui trembled even more violently, but he was not stronger than Zhou Jinheng. He couldn’t hold down one of his hands with both his hands, and his bent legs could not exert enough force. He could only let him lift the hem, push the clothes up to his chest and rub his hands back and forth on his slightly cool skin.
A heavy gasp lingered in his ears, and when the hot, moist lips fell on his collarbone, Yi Hui suddenly had a surge of energy. He let go of his hand to find the wire at the head of the bed, gritted his teeth and pulled it. There was a strange clatter. He picked up the glass lamp on the bedside table and smashed the lampshade and the bottom support heavily onto Zhou Jinheng.
The movement stopped with the sound of broken glass, but it didn’t stop completely. Before the man pressing on him raised his head, he buried his face between his neck and his shoulder and took a deep breath.
Perhaps the pain was too severe, but Yi Hui heard his breath shudder intermittently.
Zhou Jinheng gritted his teeth, blue veins on his neck protruding. He looked fierce as if he was about to kill someone. But when he looked at him, Yi Hui still saw fondness hidden in the anger in his eyes, as well as pain that came from nowhere.
The pain seemed to materialise, cracking from the center of his pupils, a deep spider web of patterns, each piece a different size stained with blood.
Yi Hui couldn’t help but think of their first meeting after he was reborn. Zhou Jinheng looked at him with these eyes, called him “HuiHui” and asked him to go home with him.
He didn’t know if it was heaven’s intention to tease him. The man he desperately wanted to avoid was the first to recognize him and never doubted it since then. He exhausted his means, pressed hard step by step and never gave up after enduring repeated blows.
And he never admitted it once, never gave him any hope.
A drop of warm liquid fell on his face. Yi Hui blinked, his palms slowly loosening, and the broken lamp fell to the floor.
“You said you would continue to love me, always love me, for the rest of your life.” Every time he said the word “love”, Zhou Jinheng’s voice became hoarse, as if he was in pain; but what scared him more than the physical pain was the repeated cold denials of the man in front of him, “This is what you said….. you can’t lie to me. “
Yi Hui’s eyes widened suddenly, as if he had been dragged into a time-space tunnel by these words he had once written himself and he couldn’t help but watch time rewind quickly in front of him.
In a sketchbook hidden in his previous life, Zhou Jinheng was a majestic lion under Yi Hui’s brush. He was rebellious and arrogant, confident and dashing, and nothing could defeat him.
At that time, Yi Hui only saw his brilliance, but he didn’t know that no matter how arrogant the lion was usually, he would cry when he was injured. He would be willing to expose his fragile side. He would look at him and whimper like a little beast that was abandoned.
The author has something to say: Why did Xiao Zhou suddenly go berserk? You should be able to guess……