Overnight, strong winds blew in Yuanguang, accompanied by thunder and rain, as if it was the end of the world.
Heavy rain poured violently, completely soaking the entire city. The sky outside the window turned dark, covered with dark clouds.
Sui Yang canceled all of his scheduled plans and stayed by the floor-to-ceiling window with his pet toy rabbit, staring at each other with wide eyes.
“This city wasn’t really suitable for living,” Xie Min, who had never witnessed Yuanguang’s sudden weather changes, confidently commented, “Although Yuhai doesn’t have air quality as good as Yuanguang, the weather isn’t this extreme.”
Sui Yang nodded in agreement. The rabbit, dressed in black, hopped a little closer to the window, almost touching it, and said, “But it was quite impressive, like a disaster movie.” Then, with a highly erratic train of thought, the rabbit turned around and said to Sui Yang, “I want to find a disaster film to watch.”
Sui Yang turned on the television and helped the rabbit find the movie it wanted to watch. They both sat on the sofa. The rabbit’s feet moved on Sui Yang’s hand, and it turned around to ask, “Aren’t you going to work?”
Sui Yang responded with a “Hmm,” and Xie Min fell silent. The two of them then started watching together.
After watching for a while, the protagonist in the movie celebrated their birthday and lit the candles.
The table was filled with gifts, and the protagonist, accompanied by family members, unwrapped them one by one.
Seeing this scene, Sui Yang had some thoughts.
Perhaps due to the gloomy weather, and Xie Min remaining silent, Sui Yang’s self-control became weaker. He awkwardly initiated a conversation with Xie Min, “Xie Min, how do you usually celebrate your birthday?”
“I don’t celebrate much.” Xie Min seemed immersed in the movie plot. After a few seconds, he replied, “If I didn’t have work, I would have a meal and drinks with friends. If I had work, I would just work. Why are you asking this? It’s still early for my birthday, but yours is coming soon, right?”
“Oh, right, when I got back and recovered,” Xie Min tapped Sui Yang’s palm with his hind leg, “I would give you a birthday gift to thank you for accommodating me during this time.”
“What should I give you?” he muttered to himself.
The rabbit’s back was wrapped in clothes, completely black, concealing its pink color. It thought that gifts should look cool.
Sui Yang felt that there couldn’t be a cuter LEGO toy rabbit in the world, making it difficult for him to part with it. However, Sui Yang’s time with the bunny was short-lived, and when the next heavy rain came to Yuanguang, Sui Yang would likely be left alone.
“What do you like?” the little bunny, perhaps unable to come up with an idea, asked Sui Yang.
Sui Yang gently touched his ear and said, “You don’t need to give me anything.”
“But I still want to,” Xie Min generously said.
Sui Yang didn’t want him to dwell on it, so he steered the conversation. “What do you like to receive? Do you like carrots?”
“Get lost,” Xie Min kicked him just as expected. “I don’t know.”
“How can you not know?” Sui Yang laughed and continued, “What gifts from friends make you happier?”
“There’s nothing I particularly like. Most of my birthday gifts are from business partners, so they don’t hold much meaning,” Xie Min told him. “Only the ones from Jiang Ci and a few others, I open them myself. The rest are handled by my subordinates. They unwrap them and give me a consolidated list so I can get a general idea.”
“……” Sui Yang couldn’t help but comment, “You’re so lazy.”
“Why? Those are all business exchanges. Do you unwrap them all by yourself?” The toy rabbit suddenly turned its head, giving Sui Yang a glance. Its small, round, pink rabbit face looked quite cartoonish, with a hint of doubt in its tone. “Really, President Sui?”
Xie Min’s question caught Sui Yang off guard because Sui Yang never received birthday gifts from others.
After a few more seconds, Sui Yang thought that Xie Min was so carefree and probably couldn’t grasp the situation, so he completely abandoned any pretense and asked directly, “So, how do you handle the gifts you receive?”
The movie reached its first minor climax. Xie Min watched for a while before saying to Sui Yang, “The ones with expiration dates, I let Xiao Chi and the others divide them. It seems that he puts the more valuable ones in the storage room of my office lounge. Why do you care about that?” Xie Min turned the tables. “Are you implying that you have too many gifts to handle and won’t appreciate the ones I give?”
“Don’t accuse me.” Sui Yang immediately clarified.
Xie Min let out a soft “hmph.”
The silhouette of the black-clad little rabbit appeared heartless and carefree to Sui Yang.
Sui Yang watched him for a while, realizing that his request was inappropriate. However, he still said, “You really don’t have to give me anything. But if you insist on giving a gift, if you’re still Xiao Tu by then, spend my birthday with me this year.”
“Huh?” Xie Min seemed momentarily stunned.
Sui Yang sensed that Xie Min wanted to say something else, like asking “What do you mean?”
Before Xie Min could ask, Sui Yang hurriedly added, “Is that okay?”
A subtle awkwardness filled the air. Sui Yang tried to remedy the situation. “I haven’t celebrated my birthday with a small animal before.”
Xie Min cursed at him and eventually chose not to ask any questions, only whispering, “Do as you wish.”
Perhaps wanting to lighten the mood, while the movie’s main protagonist began a lengthy emotional scene, Xie Min struck up a conversation with Sui Yang, “You know, when I was in my second year of college, Xie Cheng gave me a birthday gift. It was the only time he ever did.”
Xie Min suddenly laughed and said, “He had been swindled and wanted to borrow money from me. So, he gave me a pair of hideous shoes as a gift.”
Sui Yang also laughed and followed up with a question, “Really? How did he get swindled?”
“It was one of those investment scams with high interest rates, claiming to be a prince of Saudi, asking him to invest in oil fields. Only someone with no common sense would fall for that.” Xie Min recalled the old story with a hint of helplessness. “He lost all his living expenses to the scammer and ended up with a lot of credit card debt. He couldn’t even afford the rent. My dad was already strict with our living expenses, so he didn’t dare to ask. He knew I had made some money with my classmates, so he came to me.”
“Did you lend him money?” Sui Yang asked.
“Yeah, there was no other way. After all, he’s family,” Xie Min counted the amount, “He owed me for over three years. He only paid back half and then stopped. When I urged him, he played dead. Damn useless. How long had you been using…”
Xie Min suddenly fell silent.
Sui Yang knew what he was about to say, and his heart started beating a little faster. He didn’t want Xie Min to remain silent, so he changed the subject for Xie Min. “Is your dad still strict with you?”
“Yeah, he has high expectations,” Xie Min replied in a calm tone, with a bitter smile. “The company didn’t give me many shares, as if he were guarding against me like a thief. Damn, I don’t want to work for him anymore,” Xie Min complained with exhaustion.
Sui Yang thought of many ways to respond, but each one sounded like a promise, too ambiguous. It could ruin the fragile normalcy of their relationship and spoil the atmosphere. Besides, Xie Min wouldn’t accept it anyway.
However, what Xie Min just mentioned about their time in college was something Sui Yang was most eager to know.
If we rewind time back to Xie Min’s second year of college, Sui Yang wasn’t doing well at that time. Every night, when he was exhausted, he would wonder what Xie Min was up to.
Now, hearing it directly from Xie Min’s mouth, he felt like he had stolen a glimpse of Xie Min’s past. If they hadn’t broken up, perhaps Xie Min would have shared these complaints during their phone conversations back then.
Of course, deep down, Sui Yang knew that making assumptions was just self-torment.
The moment of a sudden and irreversible turn of events arrived swiftly.
Sui Yang went to Xie Min’s house for the first and only time, spending the last truly happy evening of his life.
The next morning, when Sui Yang woke up, he realized Xie Min was no longer in the room.
Xie Min used to struggle to get out of bed, so it surprised Sui Yang how early he was up that day. Sui Yang got out of bed and walked out. He noticed the study room door was slightly ajar and heard Xie Min talking on the phone inside.
Sui Yang didn’t want to disturb Xie Min and was about to go back to their room when he heard Xie Min say, “Didn’t I already give you a hundred thousand yesterday? I heard you say a hundred thousand, and now it’s fifteen thousand more. Don’t lie to me.” Xie Min lowered his voice. “How can you make such a mistake? Do you have any bills? Show me the bills. Just send them to me. Don’t go find him. I don’t have that much money right now. I’ll gather it as soon as possible and give it to you. If you come to his apartment complex again, I’ll call the police.”
Xie Min’s tone was light yet urgent, carrying a sense of helplessness that Sui Yang had never heard before, along with a compromise that Sui Yang didn’t expect from him.
Then Sui Yang’s mind went blank, realizing he had done something he shouldn’t have.
He had imagined successfully separating emotions from reality, placing them in two different universes, but he couldn’t truly do it.
Sui Yang was no longer the envy of everyone, and even with his calm demeanor, he couldn’t withstand the harsh reality.
It wasn’t enough to disregard the pain to dissolve the predicament. Incompetence was just that—incapability. It seemed like Sui Yang had no ability to prevent Xie Min from suffering alongside him.
“Then send it to me right away. I want to see it now,” Xie Min said to the person on the other end of the phone. “Hurry up.”
Sui Yang returned to Xie Min’s room and stood by the bed, hands hanging at his sides, waiting. After a while, Xie Min came back and said, “You’re awake? Let’s go out for breakfast.”
When Xie Min looked at Sui Yang, his eyes were smiling and shining, as if he had just gone downstairs for a sip of water.
Sui Yang also looked at Xie Min seriously, recalling and speculating about the time Xie Min repaid the money on his behalf yesterday, how naturally he acted as if nothing had happened and brought Sui Yang home. Sui Yang realized that Xie Min had a talent for deception.
“What do you want to eat?” Xie Min looked at Sui Yang, nudging his arm. “Sui Yang?”
They went out for breakfast, and Sui Yang found an excuse to separate from Xie Min.
If it were the present-day Sui Yang, he would have many resources and ways to resolve this matter.
But when he was nineteen, he didn’t have any. He acknowledged and accepted that fact.
When his father faced trouble, his mother took him to visit many old friends, but most turned them away. They exhausted all the relationships they could borrow, but it was merely a drop in the bucket. To this day, whenever he thought about that situation, he was tormented by a sense of powerlessness and anxiety. Dr. Zhuo advised him not to dwell on it, but he couldn’t always comply.
Finally, on that day, Sui Yang contacted the lawyer in charge of his family’s case.
The lawyer was busy but decent. After Sui Yang briefly explained the situation, the lawyer became furious. He made a phone call to the contractor and accompanied Sui Yang to confront him at the construction site. The contractor was visibly guilty, pretending to go over the accounts and claimed he made a mistake. The total owed was only a hundred thousand. He promised not to bother Xie Min again.
Afterward, Sui Yang returned to the lawyer’s office to discuss further arrangements.
Sui Yang hardly checked his phone and didn’t contact Xie Min. It was past 8 o’clock in the evening when he just arrived home when Xie Min called.
Xie Min asked where Sui Yang had been all day, why he hadn’t contacted him or come to the library. At first, Sui Yang remained silent, which made Xie Min upset. He asked several times before Sui Yang finally replied and said he was at home.
From the moment Xie Min knocked on the door of his house, everything that followed became Sui Yang’s darkest nightmare.
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