“Jiang Zhaoyan!” Before Qi Cong could speak, Shen Jia blew up first. He turned his cap to the back of his head and rushed towards Jiang Zhaoyan. “How dare you TM (Chinese slang for – motherfucker), I—”
“Jia Jia!” Qi Cong hurriedly reached out his hand to stop him.
Unwilling to stop, Shen Jia looked sideways at Qi Cong and said, “Brother!”
Seeing this, Jiang Zhaoyan relaxed his taut body and frowned at Qi Cong. “You went out with this man again. Didn’t you say you won’t get in touch with him anymore?”
When Shen Jia heard his words, he was about to rush forward once again. His chest heaved rapidly. He was obviously furious.
Qi Cong directly stood in front of Shen Jia at this moment. Shen Jia’s brain was so feverish that he shouted, “Brother Cong! Wake up and stop protecting him! He is not worth it!”
“I know.” Qi Cong raised his hand to help Shen Jia turn his hat to cover his face. “There is surveillance here. You’re a public figure. You can’t do it. I will.”
Shen Jia was quiet all of a sudden.
Jiang Zhaoyan stood far away, so he didn’t hear their conversation. He strode towards them with an impatient look on his face. When he got closer, he reached out and pulled at Qi Cong’s arm. “Why are you cuddling? Qi Cong, come here and make it clear to me. What was with your previous phone call—”
Qi Cong turned around, following Jiang Zhaoyan’s movements. He looked into Jiang Zhaoyan’s eyes and punched him in the abdomen without holding back his strength.
Jiang Zhaoyan groaned, eyes wide as he hunched to cover his abdomen and backed away. He looked at Qi Cong in disbelief. “You . . .”
“Finished?” Qi Cong took a tissue from Shen Jia and wiped the arm held by Jiang Zhaoyan previously. “If I want to change the access code of my apartment, I’ll change it. It’s none of your business.”
Jiang Zhaoyan looked at Qi Cong with a ghastly expression. His tone was unsteady from pain. “You-You are possessed!”
“Yes, I am.” Qi Cong grabbed Jiang Zhaoyan tie and pulled hard, tightening his already loose tie a little bit. His voice was low and cold. “As soon as I remember that the reason why my parents were living in that shabby house on a hot day was because I turned blind because of you, I want to kill myself . . . and you.”
Jiang Zhaoyan had never seen such a cold and sharp Qi Cong. For a moment, he completely forgot to react and just stared at Qi Cong in a daze. Before, Qi Cong clearly used to look at him with the gentlest and most harmless eyes in the world, but these eyes were now brewing a storm that was diametrically opposed to gentleness.
“Jiang Zhaoyan,” Qi Cong tightened his grip on the tie further, his voice low, without any ups and downs in tone, yet dangerously sexy, “get out of here! Leave! Don’t be disobedient! I don’t have time to deal with you now. If you show up in front of me again, it will be much more than just one punch.” Then he loosened his grip on Jiang Zhaoyan tie, pushed him hard to the wall, and walked past him in his apartment.
Shen Jia hurriedly followed Qi Cong and raised his fist threateningly as he passed by Jiang Zhaoyan. “Did you hear? Stay away from Brother Cong!” With that, he shouted cheerfully and followed Qi Cong.
After the conversation followed by the sound of a door opening and closing faded away the corridor turned completely silent.
Jiang Zhaoyan finally regained his senses and realized he had been holding his breath all this time, his heart even aching slightly because of the lack of oxygen. He quickly took a deep breath, ripped off the strangling tie, and turned to look in the direction of Qi Cong’s apartment.
Just now. . . That was Qi Cong?
. . .
The checkout process went smoothly. After seeing the landlord off, Qi Cong and Shen Jia started packing.
The last time he came here, he was in a hurry. Qi Cong had no time to take a closer look at the things in the apartment. This time, after taking a closer look, the sense of dissonance suddenly grew stronger.
The Qi family were a typical Southern family. The whole family’s taste for food was for light and sweet; they were not fond of too much spice. But Qi Cong picked up all kinds of spicy sauces from the kitchen, and there was even an unfinished portion of spicy spring onion oil noodles in the fridge.
Qi Cong usually liked to use bath products with clear texture, so he didn’t like bath products that left a slippery feel on his body, but the bath gel in the apartment was very greasy at first glance.
Qi Cong didn’t like to wear flip-flops and felt uncomfortable wearing them, but there were several pairs of flip-flops in this apartment, one of which was probably worn for so long that the sole of one of the shoes was worn out.
There were also many other things—for example, the way the pillows were placed, the choice of soft and hard bristles for the toothbrushes, and the texture of the bath towels . . . many living habits were revealed through the objects, and all of them were different from Qi Cong’s preferences.
It was weird. Too weird.
Qi Cong stood in the middle of the bedroom, looking at the clothes in the wardrobe that he thought were too rustic, which made him feel uncomfortable, like he had broken in someone else’s house by mistake.
“Brother Cong, do you want to take these books from the shelf?”
Qi Cong looked around the bedroom again and walked to the bookshelf in the living room. Looking at the pile of dark and horrible novels, he frowned and said, “No. Contact the apartment property office and donate it.”
After working for more than two hours, they finally finished packing.
When they were leaving, Shen Jia first opened the door and looked around. When he was sure that Jiang Zhaoyan was no longer in the area, he opened the door wide and turned back to Qi Cong saying, “Brother Cong, let’s go.”
Qi Cong looked around the apartment, which only gave him a strong sense of unfamiliarity. He replied in a low voice and picked up the large suitcase at his feet.
After entering the elevator, Qi Cong looked at the poster on the wall again. Unfortunately, somebody had been so incompetent as to tear out the piece where the person’s name was printed on.
Shen Jia leaned over to take a look and asked him, “Brother Cong, are you interested in this movie? Then let’s go see it when it comes out. This movie has just won a prize abroad and is of high quality. By the way, it’s a bit of a coincidence that the actor in this movie and the man you asked me to inquire about before happen to have the same name. If I hadn’t known that the actor of this movie was a rich second generation who grew up abroad, I would have almost thought he was the one you asked me to inquire about.”
Qi Cong suddenly turned his head and asked Shen Jia, “The same name? The man on this poster is Gu Xun?”
Shen Jia was surprised at Qi Cong’s reaction and nodded. “Yes. What’s wrong with you, Brother Cong?”
Qi Cong’s palm was a bit sweaty, but he managed to hold back and ask, “This movie star grew up abroad? Are you sure?”
“It is certain that Gu Xun’s grandmother is from the West, and he grew up with his grandma in the West. Back then, as soon as Gu Xun became popular, all of this was found out by the media.”
Grandma from the West. Isn’t that a mixed-race? Qi Cong’s fast-beating heart slowly calmed down and then sank. No, this man was not Gu Xun, the poor country boy he knew. Also, how could a silly guy like Gu Xun, who couldn’t even hide his emotions and couldn’t speak when he was nervous, become an actor? It was impossible for him to act.
He looked again at the poster in the elevator. The curve of that chin . . . maybe there were many good-looking people who looked like him.
When the two of them returned to the neighborhood, Shen Jia parked the car and followed Qi Cong in the elevator. He suddenly jumped out just as the elevator door was about to close and waved to Qi Cong from outside.
“Have a good talk with Uncle and Aunt tonight. I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning. Have a good night’s sleep!”
Qi Cong was stunned, and before he could react, the elevator door closed. The elevator started going up. Qi Cong returned to his senses, laughingly shaking his head, and his depressed mood because of the poster got slightly better.
Lin Hui and Qi Yin weren’t asleep and were waiting for him in the living room. Qi Cong did not talk to his parents as Shen Jia had suggested, but urged Lin Hui and Qi Yin to have a rest as soon as he walked through the door.
Lin Hui was not happy. “It’s still early.”
“It’s getting late.” Qi Cong deliberately raised his hands and rubbed his eyes. “I’m so sleepy.”
Sure enough, Lin Hui did not say much anymore but urged Qi Cong to rest early just like in the past.
After taking care of his parents, Qi Cong simply took a shower, changed into the new pajamas Qi Yin had bought for him and went to sleep in his new bed.
It was already very late and his body felt tired, but Qi Cong was reluctant to sleep. Ever since he woke up in the hospital, he had been chased by all kinds of information and events. Only now, did he finally have some leisure time alone.
He went over everything that happened these past few days in his head, turned over, and picked up his cell phone from the bedside table. He moved his fingers as he input a string of numbers that were very familiar to his heart and dialed.
“Sorry, the number you dialed is unavailable.”
Qi Cong hung up the phone, and a few seconds later, his fingers moved slowly as he clicked on WeChat. He ignored the huge amount of information inside and switched to the account interface, choosing to switch accounts, entered the WeChat account and password he used three years ago, and then clicked “Log in”.
A scarlet letter appeared promptly: “The account you logged in does not exist.”
Shen Jia once told him that three years ago, after he lost his memory due to high fever, he had deleted all his old social accounts and applied for a new set because he felt it was inconvenient and he was unaccustomed to it.
He knew it, but . . . Qi Cong put the mobile phone on the bedside table, pulled up the thin cover on his face, and beat the mattress in a restrained way.
. . .
The next day, before going to work, Lin Hui held Qi Cong for a long time. Finally, he reached out to touch Qi Cong’s head and walked out of the house with a happy face.
Qi Yin closed the door and said to Qi Cong, “Follow me.”
Qi Cong also happened to have something to say to Qi Yin and obediently followed Qi Yin in the master bedroom.
“This is for you.” Qi Yin took out a bank card from the nightstand and put it in Qi Cong’s hand. “The password is your birthday. There is not much money, only twenty thousand, but it should be enough for you to make it through the transition.”
Twenty thousand—this might be all the money his parents had.
Qi Cong’s tight throat moved a little. He reached out and pushed the card back, then took a card out of his pocket and put it in Qi Yin’s hand. “Mom, there are forty thousand in the card. You and Dad can live with it. I’ve paid the rent for this house for a year. After a year, I will certainly change the house for you.”
Qi Yin froze and then slowly clasped Qi Cong’s hand.
“. . . Have you really paid off the money you owe?”
Qi Cong had been prepared for this question and replied naturally, “I have paid it off. JiaJia helped me with a part of it, and I raised a part myself and paid it all off.”
Mother and son looked at each other, and finally, Qi Yin gave in first. She bowed her head, stroked Qi Cong’s thin fingers and squeezed out a smile. “Mom believes you . . . I’ll take the money. Don’t worry about your family. Just go ahead.”
Qi Cong felt relieved in his heart and reached out to hug Qi Yin. “Mom, I will try my best to earn money.”
It wasn’t long before Shen Jia drove from the hotel to pick up Qi Cong and return to Beishi.
All the luggage was put in the trunk, and Shen Jia and Qi Cong got in the car one after another. Qi Yin stood beside the passenger seat and bent over to tell Shen Jia to drive carefully. She then looked at Qi Cong.
Qi Yin reached out to touch Qi Cong’s face and then stepped back. Qi Cong waved to Qi Yin and then closed the car window. Shen Jia glanced at Qi Cong and did not move.
Qi Cong fastened his seat belt and said calmly, “Let’s go.”
When the car started driving slowly, Qi Yin’s figure in the rearview mirror became smaller and smaller until it disappeared completely.
Qi Cong looked at Shen Jia and said, “JiaJia, I want to go to two more places before I leave.”
More than ten minutes later, Qi Cong appeared in the place where Lin Hui was working. He changed his clothes, wore Shen Jia’s hat and mingled with the parents who sent their children over. Through the window, he looked at Lin Hui, who was holding a pamphlet and talking to a teacher in the classroom.
“Is that the new assistant teacher?”
“It seems like it. Why did he come to be an assistant teacher at such an old age? Is his pension not enough?”
“The assistant teacher has to help manage several classes, which is very hard. It’s usually done by young people. Can the new teacher bear it?”
While some parents were talking about it, Qi Cong pressed harder the hat on his head and turned away.
Back in the car, Qi Cong took his hat off and said to Shen Jia, “Go to Wenhua District.”
Shen Jia started the car, hesitated for a moment, before he asked tentatively, “Brother Cong, do you want to find that Gu Xun?”
“No.” Qi Cong put the hat on his leg. “I just want to have one last look.”
He didn’t know exactly what he wanted to see. He only knew that, after this trip to Beishi, it would probably be a long time before he would have the energy to care about his love affair.
Half an hour later, the car was parked opposite a fried chicken restaurant on Xinhuaibei Street in Wenhua District. Qi Cong looked at the shop and didn’t get out of the car.
Shen Jia inexplicably felt that Qi Cong, who was sitting all quiet and silent, was particularly vulnerable. He asked carefully, “Brother Cong, do you want to go and have a look?”
“Here . . . used to be a coffee shop.” Qi Cong moved his eyes away and smiled at Shen Jia. “I often came here to drink coffee after college . . . Let’s go. It will take us several hours to drive back to Beishi. If we don’t leave on time, we may be stuck in traffic during the evening rush hour on the way to Beishi.”
“Brother Cong . . .”
“Let’s go. I can’t wait to see what you look like when you get on stage.”
The orange sports car started and slowly drove away from the bustling new Huaibei Street.
Next to the fried chicken shop, a slender figure holding a cup of coffee walked out of a small coffee shop, which was mostly blocked by a garbage truck. He was wearing a hat, sunglasses, and low-key clothes. He walked down the street to a black car, checking his mobile phone.
Suddenly, he stopped and clicked on a picture.
It was a picture that was obviously taken secretly. In the middle of the picture, a man in an irregular black T-shirt and a cap was leaning against an orange sports car and talking to a thin woman with long hair and a white T-shirt, showing only a vague profile.
There were some sensational titles under this picture: “Shen Jia’s love affair exposed! Wearing street clothes on a date with his girlfriend!”
After a while, he moved, locked his cell phone, got in the car, and shut the door while saying in an unpleasant whisper, “Girlfriend? Blind paparazzi.”
Edited by : Faro