The painting competition was held in the fine arts building of a university on the outskirts of the city.
For the competition that started at nine o’clock in the morning, the family of three arrived after seven o’clock. A banner was hanging over the door. While there were not many people, Jiang Xuemei took a group photo with her two children under the banner and said that she would print it out and hang it at home.
Breakfast was bought at a nearby stall, three buns and a bag of soy milk per person.
Yi Hui took a bag of soy milk and studied it for a long time. He didn’t know how to deal with it. Jiang Yimang took it and bit open a gap, inserted a straw and handed it back: “No one here knows you. Don’t pretend to be elegant.”
Yi Hui had never drunk this kind of bagged drink, so he hesitated to take it and then observed for a while before leaning over and taking a sip. Jiang Yimang asked him if it was delicious. He bit the straw and nodded, “It’s delicious.”
It was rare for Jiang Xuemei to hear her son say that something tasted good. She wanted to give him her bag and asked, “Didn’t you dislike sweet food before?”
Yi Hui choked and coughed violently while covering his mouth. Jiang Yimang patted him on the back and explained on his behalf: “Didn’t Dr. Liu say that he might change? It’s not unusual for his taste to be different from before.”
Both mother and daughter had careless personalities. Jiang Xuemei easily accepted this theory and told Yi Hui to go in and have a good time and then come out to have dessert together.
This time the competition was not much to talk about. The theme was set early in the morning. Although they painted on the spot, the contestants had enough time to prepare in advance and most of them had specific ideas.
Besides, it was not a formal competition. Yi Hui knew that Jiang Xuemei just wanted to find a reason to take him out, so he was not nervous and walked into the competition site just for the sake of participating.
Spreading out his painting tools, he looked up and saw the big word “Sunrise” written on the blackboard. Perhaps because they were a campus group, most of the participants around him started with landscape paintings, but Yi Hui took a different approach. He sketched an outline of a man in the right part of the drawing, surrounded with translucent light. There was no sun on the whole paper, but it could be seen that the man in the painting was walking in the light of the sun rising in the east.
Since his rebirth, while retaining his memory, Yi Hui had been affected by the condition of the body of the original owner almost all the time. Although he was thin in the past, his physical fitness was good. But now he had a cold and fever every three days and couldn’t drink much cold water. So he took it for granted that he would inherit a little of the original owner’s painting habits but after he really started drawing, he discovered that he still kept most of his own brushwork.
The man in the painting was standing against the light, his short hair fluttering in the wind, and thousands of strands of golden morning rays poured through every small gap between his hair and shoulders, brushing the side of his face and his deep facial features in the shadow. The man’s chin was raised slightly, his figure tall and straight. Unexpectedly, he looked like a god descending into the light.
Before the paint was dry, Yi Hui hurriedly handed in the painting.
He didn’t dare to look at the man in the painting again, for fear that the face backlit by the sun would be visualized in his mind and overlap with another face.
After packing up his painting tools and going out, he planned to meet Jiang Xuemei and Jiang Yimang at the main entrance, but he didn’t expect to meet someone he knew on campus.
To be precise, Jiang Yihui knew him. It was a handsome boy who also came to participate in the competition. When he saw him, he waved desperately: “Jiang Yihui!”
Yi Hui turned a deaf ear and walked forward, lowering his head. The boy relentlessly caught up and stopped him with his arms open: “Jiang Yihui, why are you ignoring me?”
Yi Hui had nowhere to hide, so panicked that he didn’t dare to raise his head: “No, no.”
Fortunately, Jiang Yihui was not an outgoing person. The boy thought he had forgotten his name and reported that his name was Tang Wenxi, his college classmate.
“You really, after four years in college, you still don’t remember my name and have to make me re-introduce myself every time. So embarrassing.” Tang Wenxi complained but there was a happy smile on his face. He suddenly remembered something and changed his words, “Oh, no, it was two and a half years. I almost forgot that you dropped out in your junior year.”
He didn’t know whether it was a coincidence but the people around Jiang Yihui were very lively and interesting and since he was reborn, the people he had met were all as kind and friendly as the boy in front of them. Under his influence, Yi Hui couldn’t help but relax and let his guard down, chatting with the boy about the competition they had just finished.
In the end, Tang Wenxi invited Yi Hui to have lunch: “Let’s have a meal together. There is a small restaurant outside the school. There will also be a few junior brothers and sisters there. It just so happens that we haven’t spent time together for a long time.”
Yi Hui refused, saying that his mother and sister were waiting for him.
“Then let’s go together.” Tang Wenxi said enthusiastically, “Anyway, there are not many people, so everyone can fit in.”
Yi Hui was afraid of getting along with strangers and was racking his brains on how to refuse, then a man came from a short distance away, walking at a quick pace, “Weren’t you just picking up something? What’s taking so long?”
He came up to Tang Wenxi. Yi Hui breathed a sigh of relief and planned to take advantage of the commotion to slip away. However, Tang Wenxi was determined to keep him for dinner. He grabbed his arm and pushed him forward: “Chengxuan, this is the guy I mentioned to you before. The art genius of our class, Jiang Yihui.”
Hearing the man’s name, Yi Hui subconsciously shrank his neck, not daring to look up.
Zhou Jinheng had a friend with this name, and he was very afraid of Zhou Jinheng’s friends.
However, this name was very common, and the capital was so big, there should be no such coincidence.
Yi Hui comforted himself and was just about to look up to say hello when the other party spoke first: “Yi Hui? What are you doing here?”
After coming out of the Public Security Bureau, Zhou Jinheng answered the phone while starting the car to go to the airport.
“Where are you playing?” Yang Chengxuan on the other end of the phone asked.
Zhou Jinheng held the steering wheel with one hand and slammed on the clutch to reverse: “The Public Security Bureau.”
“Did you really call the police?” Yang Chengxuan laughed, “For real? He is such a big guy, he can’t be kidnapped, right?”
Zhou Jinheng couldn’t laugh and said with a serious expression: “I have sent someone to check in S City but I can only find the police here in the capital.”
Yang Chengxuan asked, “Have you checked if he crossed the border?”
“His passport expired and he cannot leave the country.”
Zhou Jinheng snorted coldly: “With his IQ, do you think he knows how to buy a fake passport?”
“True.” Yang Chengxuan pondered for a while and said, “If you think about it, he can only be kidnapped for a ransom but no one contacted anyone about him for so long. Obviously it’s not kidnapping… Could it be that he just disappeared into thin air?”
Zhou Jinheng was not in the mood to joke with him at this moment: “Hurry up and say if there is news, I will hang up if there is no news.”
“Hey, don’t worry, of course I have something.“ Yang Chengxuan didn’t keep him in suspense and said, “Just now I met someone who looked a lot like Yi Hui in the campus of D University.”
“Tsk, aren’t you curious?”
Zhou Jinheng frowned and said impatiently: “If you say ‘looked like’, it means it’s not him.”
Yang Chengxuan on the other end of the phone laughed: “You do know me. It was really not him, I have specifically confirmed it.”
On the contrary, Zhou Jinheng was curious: “How did you confirm it?”
“Doesn’t he have a big scar on the back of his hand?“ Yang Chengxuan said carelessly, “I took a closer look and his hands were clean and clear, there was nothing.”
After he hung up the phone, the wheels of the car kept spinning at high speed on the road and Zhou Jinheng’s brain kept running non-stop.
The scar Yang Chengxuan mentioned was actually a scald.
The little fool’s skin was so white that it was easy to leave traces on his body, not to mention boiling hot water splashing directly on it.
More than once; there were three times in Zhou Jinheng’s memory.
The first time was an accident; the little fool got up early and, afraid that he would be thirsty, brought water to the bedside. He had just woken up and was angry and slapped him away. The cup fell to the ground and smashed to pieces, and the hot water spilled all over the little fool.
The second time was when under the invisible threat of his brother-in-law, he bit the bullet and took the little fool out for Valentine’s Day. The restaurant they went to was where he and Fang Yuqing had been before, so the more he looked at the little fool sitting opposite, the more unsatisfied he seemed. After a barbecue with a charcoal fire was served, the little fool foolishly picked up food for him. He was very disgusted. He raised his hand and pushed away the plate in front of him. The barbecue basin suddenly collapsed, and the hot edge touched the hand that the little fool stretched out.
If the first two times could be counted as unintentional, the third time was mixed with some intention.
That day, he heard that Fang Yuqing had been admitted to his favorite Academy of Fine Arts in Country M and it would be impossible for him to return home in the next two or three years. With the last bit of hope disappearing before his eyes, he was trapped in the cage of this absurd marriage. He could do nothing and his mood instantly worsened to the extremes.
Everyone else knew to back off when he was angry, but the little fool didn’t know any better and followed him around, asking him what was wrong and why he was unhappy, and telling him to eat, saying he would be fine if he ate something sweet and drank some hot water.
He was exasperated with the little fool and full of annoyance with nowhere to vent it. He asked the little fool to take a cup, picked up the kettle and poured the water into the cup. It wasn’t enough to see the little fool breathe hard as he was scalded through the walls of the cup, but he didn’t stop even when the cup was full, as if bewitched, allowing the freshly boiled water to spill out onto the little fool’s hand that was clutching the cup.
That’s where the scar on the back of the hand came from. It might have been better if someone applied the scald ointment for a few days. But the little fool didn’t know how to apply it and covered it all day to prevent others from seeing it, dragging it until a layer of skin peeled from the wound and the scar remained permanently.
When he thought of the little fool not letting go of the cup even though it was so hot that he was crying, Zhou Jinheng’s expression became more and more grave, his lips pursed into a cold, hard line.
Using his young age and arrogance as an excuse to vent his anger on an innocent person, he also knew that he was too bad at the time. But the little fool not only didn’t blame him, but also tried his best to hide it from others. When Zhou Jinheng occasionally asked about it with a guilty conscience, he said with round eyes and a sincere face that it didn’t hurt, and added, “I know you didn’t mean it. It’s okay, the scar will disappear in a few days.”
The little fool had no concept of time. The hideous scar remained on his hand for more than two years and he did not take it seriously, and when asked by his brother he simply said that he had scalded it accidentally.
How can it be called “treats me well”?
Zhou Jinheng pulled the corners of his mouth but did not laugh.
The text message relayed to him by Cheng Feizhi seemed to land on him like a heavy punch, smashing his guesses and self-assumed truths to pieces, telling him not to measure a gentleman’s belly with a villain’s heart. The little fool was as good as his word, melting his trust and love for him into the passing time, and as long as he looked back at the traces, it could be seen everywhere.
Right, text messages, mobile phones!
With his breath caught in his throat, Zhou Jinheng slammed the steering wheel and made a U-turn less than two kilometres from the airport.
Before the car’s movement levelled out he called his assistant impatiently: “Where is the phone I gave you last time, where did you throw it?”
At two o’clock in the afternoon, downstairs in the company, Xiao Lin watched the flashy red sports car swing into a tailspin and stop steadily in front of him. He couldn’t help opening his mouth and yawning again.
Yesterday’s fan meeting was held from the afternoon until dark. After it was over, he stayed with the other staff to clean up the scene and only went home to rest in the middle of the night. He was still confused when he was awakened by Zhou Jinheng’s call. It took a long time to remember which mobile phone he wanted.
Although he hadn’t been following Zhou Jinheng for long, Xiao Lin had roughly figured out his temper and habits and knew that the most important thing to do as his assistant was to help him take care of what he left behind. The things that were thrown around in particular needed to be put away, as one day he might think of them and turn to ask for them.
Therefore, when he handed the mobile phone that had been discarded not long ago back to Zhou Jinheng, Xiao Lin couldn’t help but feel a little proud, holding his head high and waiting for a compliment, thinking happily that maybe he could even get a big red envelope.
Who knew that Zhou Jinheng’s complexion was still gloomy after he took the phone and his whole body exuded a low pressure that warned outsiders from coming closer. When he turned on the phone, he waved his hand and told him that he could go.
Xiao Lin took a step back and closed the door behind himself. With a soft “click”, Zhou Jinheng was the only one left in the huge conference room.
The mobile phone also turned on smoothly at this time. Seeing the little fool with his big smile on the wallpaper, for the first time Zhou Jinheng did not rush past impatiently but stared for a long time until the screen switched off with timeout and the little fool’s face suddenly disappeared from sight.
His heart felt heavy, as if being dragged down by something. Zhou Jinheng took a few deep breaths, tried to suppress the uneasiness spreading in his heart, clicked on the phone again and unlocked it.
Almost at the same time, the mobile phone started vibrating again and again and text messages that could not be received at the award ceremony venue because of a bad signal poured in at the same time.
When the phone stopped shaking completely, Zhou Jinheng moved his stiff thumb and clicked on the SMS interface.
More than a dozen missed call prompts, all from “a HuiHui”.
The little fool didn’t know that he had left his mobile phone in the car after he got drunk that day and never touched it again, not to mention that when he returned to work in the capital, he simply bought a new mobile phone and changed his number along the way.
The little fool didn’t know anything, he just remembered what he had promised and called the number that he had abandoned a long time ago over and over again, looking forward to him coming back for his birthday.
The time of incoming calls was very regular. From 6:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. the next night, there was a call every half an hour, as if for fear of disturbing him. Zhou Jinheng could even imagine the cautious and expectant look of the little fool when he dialed the phone.
He must have prepared flowers and a cake, his favorite white, his favorite flavor.
Putting down the phone, Zhou Jinheng closed his eyes. In the past two days, he had been busy with work and looking for the little fool everywhere. At this time, there was no one around, so exhaustion crept up between his eyebrows.
In addition to being tired, what he didn’t want to open his eyes to was the sudden influx of memories the string of these missed calls caused.
He remembered. On his birthday, he was blindly drunk. He heard from others that Fang Yuqing was back. He drove to the airport on impulse. It was only halfway down the road, in the cold wind, that he realized the news was so full of holes that it was clearly a joke played on him.
He remembered his anger after realizing that he had been deceived and he also remembered how he beat up the joker but he forgot the mobile phone that was thrown in the back seat and the agreement with the little fool.
The author has something to say: he will know in the next chapter.