How many colors were there for hydrangeas?
Chi Xueyan sat in the breakfast restaurant in the early morning, looked up at the hydrangeas already blooming outside the window and noted down the first color.
Clustered on the green branches, the clouds were as white as ever.
It was still early and the air was a faint cool gray-blue. The long-established breakfast restaurant had long been full of customers and there were lively conversations everywhere.
The local dialect was soft. Chi Xueyan might not be able to understand it all but he felt quite good.
In the casual atmosphere of smoke and fire, bowls of small wontons with special soup were served. Local diners moved neatly and left after eating.
The bowl of wontons in front of He Qiao was eaten very slowly.
Even Chi Xueyan deliberately slowed down his eating speed.
But he still wasn’t as slow as He Qiao.
In fact, he really wanted to laugh but he barely held it back. He seemed to ask He Qiao unintentionally, “Do you want to eat buns? The buns store opposite is open.”
The steamed stuffed buns shouldn’t be too sweet.
Chi Xueyan knew that the local cuisine of this area was sweet but he hadn’t expected to casually enter a popular wontons store in the morning and end up eating sweet wontons.
It refreshed his worldview.
He was surprised but it wasn’t that he couldn’t accept it. Thus, he tried it early.
For He Qiao, it was even more difficult to accept.
He didn’t like sweets very much and he didn’t eat sweet things often, let alone meat wontons that should be salty.
Chi Xueyan thought about it for a while. It was as outrageous as sweet and sour squirrel fish being made salty.
Hearing his suggestion, He Qiao’s fingers holding the spoon paused. He glanced at the soup bowl in front of Chi Xueyan that had no wontons and shook his head slightly.
“No, do you want to eat it? I’ll buy it.”
Chi Xueyan also shook his head. “No, I’m already full.”
He stopped talking and quietly waited for He Qiao to eat his breakfast.
The person sitting opposite him didn’t have a sweet tooth but he ended up eating every wonton in the bowl.
Thus, Chi Xueyan withdrew his eyes that were staring at the flowers outside the window. He walked with He Qiao down a long street where white hydrangeas bloomed.
Not far away was a hill located in the city. It had a very low altitude and the hill was planted with another variety of hydrangeas. It was Endless Summer with various colors.
Surrounded by Endless Summer was the temple that Chi Xueyan went to when he was in the sixth grade of elementary school.
The temple had a great reputation and was full of incense. Thus, the two of them deliberately chose an early morning on the weekday to avoid the crowds as much as possible.
The daylight became brighter bit by bit. The trail was still quiet and the air was fragrant and fresh. The two of them walked side by side, passing by pious pilgrims.
According to Han Zhenzhen’s idea, this trip was to have Chi Xueyan come to redeem the promise with God. It would be more complete if he brought He Qiao.
First, it was to end the fortune that revealed his fate when he was a child and the other was for Han Zhenzhen to give thanks for the good marriage that she prayed for not long ago.
Chi Xueyan wasn’t familiar with these unique customs and rituals. He didn’t know what it truly meant to redeem a vow to a god.
He felt the fact that he, who had been calculated to experience a bloody disaster, could bring his loved one to see the Endless Summer blooming on the mountain was probably redeeming a vow.
Blue, pink, purple.
Now he had noted down several colors of hydrangeas.
“What color of hydrangea do you think will taste better when made into ice cream?”
Beside the quaint courtyard wall of the temple, Chi Xueyan looked up at the flowers in the spring. He wasn’t in a daze but instead asked a question of the person beside him.
He found the wall where he had waited for his mother in elementary school. The scenery was as beautiful as he remembered. The Endless Summer at the head of the branches seemed to be the same as it was back then.
He Qiao could only use his imagination to answer this question. “Pink.”
It was because the flower that Chi Xueyan was looking at this moment was pink.
Chi Xueyan thought for a while before saying in a rarely serious manner, “In theory, pink and white should be more delicious. Cold colors affect appetite so blue might be the most difficult to eat.”
Seeing his serious expression, He Qiao couldn’t help saying, “Do you want to try it after we get home? Do pink and white.”
“Do you want to taste the petals first?” Chi Xueyan continued to imagine it seriously. “I tasted the petals of other flowers when I was a child. The taste was very strange. In any case, it wasn’t sweet.”
This was a quiet corner of the temple and few pilgrims passed by.
There was a little novice Buddhist monk sweeping the floor next to them. He heard their conversation and couldn’t help laughing. Then he said, “If there is no taste then you can’t make ice cream.”
Chi Xueyan turned his head and looked over.
The novice monk was armed with a broom and looked childish. He was almost the same as when Chi Xueyan first came to this temple.
He was dressed simply and his eyes were bright. They were full of the clarity and cleanliness unique to those at the beginning of their lives.
Chi Xueyan looked at him and asked curiously, “Have you tasted it?”
The sound of the floor being swept stopped. The novice monk nodded with a bit of embarrassment. “I saw that it looked good so I secretly picked a petal to taste. Then I was scolded by Teacher.”
Chi Xueyan’s eyes curved as he continued speaking, “When I tasted a petal, my father saw it. He looked at me, who had just taken a bite, and didn’t know whether to come up to hit me first or take away the remaining flowers in my hand first. But he ended up being stunned in place for a long time.”
The novice monk was amused by this description for a while and chatted with him. “Are you two here specially to enjoy the flowers?”
They didn’t look like pilgrims.
“I’m here to redeem a vow to God.” The stranger who had also eaten flower petals as a child answered him. “When I was around your age, my mother brought me here to pray and helped draw a fortune divination stick for me.”
“Later, she went around looking for a solution to a disaster and worried about me for over ten years.”
He glanced at the man next to him who was quietly listening. “Now the bleak fate heralded in the fortune seems to have really disappeared.”
The little novice monk heard this and sighed. “Your mother is really kind to you.”
“Yes.” The red-haired young man smiled and suddenly asked, “Do you believe in fate?”
Pilgrims often asked the monks similar questions but it was the first time the young novice monk was being asked.
Fortunately, he had already prepared the answer and quickly replied, “All conditioned phenomena are like an illusion, a bubble, like dew or a flash of lightning. Thus, we perceive them.”
As he spoke, he continued to sweep the ground. The branches and leaves in the air were blown by the wind. The bamboo sticks on the ground moved along with it and made a similar rustling sound.
“This is a verse from the Diamond Sutra,” the novice monk said. “Teacher told me to not ask myself whether I believe it or not, but to break the illusion.”
Once he finished these meaningful words, the original calm and light tone gradually disappeared. His voice became quiet, revealing a trace of embarrassment like when he admitted he had eaten the flower petal.
“I like this Buddhist saying the most because it is beautiful.” The young child’s eyes were clear. “What do you think?”
Hearing this, the stranger standing by the courtyard wall gently nodded. Then he raised his head to look at the low-hanging flowers on the tree and softly answered the child’s question.
The person who answered seemed to be a child of a similar age.
“Yes, it is as beautiful as a flower.”
The Endless Summer, like a dream, was in full bloom during the spring of over a decade ago and at this moment.
People came and the hill became more and more lively, except for a trace of restrained tranquility in the temple.
In the quaint pavilion, an elderly couple sat down to rest. The old lady took out a cut apple from her bag, slowly peeled off the plastic bag and handed half of it to her husband beside her.
Her companion waved his hand. “I won’t eat, I won’t eat.”
She held it up stubbornly. After a moment, he sighed and took it.
Chi Xueyan sat opposite them and watched them for a long time until they ate one and a half apples, rested enough and walked to the next scenery.
Then he turned his head and asked the person behind him, “Why did you have to finish that bowl of wontons?”
“It is because you finished eating,” He Qiao said. “I think you like sweets and you might like this flavor of wontons. It can be used for breakfast in the future.”
He made breakfast for them every day.
So he had to adapt in advance.
Chi Xueyan listened to this and quietly lowered his eyes.
He had guessed it.
This was the reason why he suddenly felt a bit sad.
In fact, Chi Xueyan didn’t want this. He preferred to go and buy more palatable buns with He Qiao.
Then he thought again. Every time He Qiao fell in love with him, it might be like this.
Unconditional tolerance and obedience, never rejecting him and always thinking about him.
For his birthday on New Year’s Eve, Chi Xueyan closed his eyes in front of the cake candles but he didn’t have a wish.
Then on this journey, he finally had a wish.
Traveling together emotionally challenged each other more than everyday life. It was because there were more choices and possibilities along the way and more unforeseen, unexpected situations. It fully exposed each other’s different preferences and potential shortcomings.
There was even a special word in foreign languages to describe newlyweds breaking up decisively at the airport directly after returning from their honeymoon.
Before setting off, in addition to looking forward to the scenery along the way, most lovers or partners expected to get along well with their other half. They hoped the other person could try to accommodate their preferences as much as possible, as if this proved a more sincere and greater love.
Chi Xueyan’s wish was exactly the opposite.
It was because along the way, He Qiao was too gentle and tolerant toward him.
Chi Xueyan didn’t want to follow the rules of the travel plan so He Qiao, who originally wanted to make a plan, didn’t do it. He let fate guide the way forward.
Chi Xueyan didn’t seem interested in the arguing couple at the service station, so He Qiao, who wanted to watch it, took the initiative to look away and asked him if he wanted to leave now.
Chi Xueyan might want to travel to the desert so He Qiao, who was afraid of cacti, said that it didn’t matter, he could go. He Qiao also seriously promised to raise cacti on the balcony.
Chi Xueyan was used to sleeping at noon every day so He Qiao, who had no lunch break habit, accompanied him to rest. When Chi Xueyan suddenly couldn’t rest, He Qiao would sit with him at the window to watch the scenery.
It seemed like He Qiao’s love was more than his and his infatuation was deeper. This was always the case between them. Even their initial marriage agreement naturally followed this.
His way of love was so clear and straightforward, but he never really said ‘love’ to Chi Xueyan.
It seemed that as long as he didn’t say this sentence, he wouldn’t be discovered.
It was for Chi Xueyan, who considered love dispensable or ‘Chi Xueyan’ who still seemed to love others.
He knew that He Qiao must have many memories of ‘He Qiao’ and ‘Chi Xueyan’ getting along in his mind. Thus, some patterns were naturally set from the day they met.
At that time, no one was aware of the problem.
Now he gradually perceived it and he hoped that He Qiao wouldn’t be dominated by his memories.
—Although this was a difficult thing to do.
It was because in addition to his memories, there was also a conditioned instinct.
If a thorny cocklebur fell into the palm of his hand, he withdrew it instinctively out of fear of cacti.
Chi Xueyan was a person with both a good and wicked temperament and he recklessly turned this person’s peaceful life upside down.
He Qiao was the person who held the umbrella and stood silently by his side to wait, fulfilling all his wishes for him.
These vivid impressions were clearly written in He Qiao’s memory and instinct.
But the past should be like an illusion, a bubble, like dew or a flash of lightning. Just let it pass by, don’t be persistent and let it go gently.
Chi Xueyan, who was currently wearing black snowflake earrings, didn’t want a love where a person gave more and the other person occupied the other position.
In this pure white story of a fresh beginning, he wanted an equal love.
There was only the wind moving in the mountains and forests. In the long silence, He Qiao seemed to realize the problem.
He asked, “You don’t like it, do you?”
“I don’t like it,” Chi Xueyan repeated. “Wontons are better if they are salty.”
He watched the old couple move away with hunched figures and said softly, “Even if I like it, I won’t force you to eat it with me.”
Rather than a love that shared the same apple, he preferred a love that gave each other freedom.
It was because he grew up in this type of love.
He talked about that impressive love.
“It has been almost 30 years. My father still hasn’t changed his hobby of wearing a suit and then shaving. He might’ve never soiled his clothes but my mother doesn’t like it. Every time she sees him, she will scold him. But he just likes it and doesn’t want to change it.”
“One person thinks it will stain his clothes and always lectures him while the other person thinks it is cool and never changes. They never fight about it. They only occasionally bicker but they seem quite happy.”
“It is a harmless little thing so it doesn’t matter. It is because we are different individuals and we often think differently. Even so, we can still go on together. We can love each other for 30 years or more. Love should be this type of relationship.”
Chi Xueyan was always very honest.
Once he said this frankly. He stared into the eyes of the person beside him.
The hill echoed with layers of sound. There was the sound of the wind, bird songs, footsteps and chanting in the distance.
There was also a very soft and serious voice close at hand.
“He Qiao, you should be freer, especially in front of me.”
“Don’t lie to me or to yourself just because you care about my thoughts.”
Chi Xueyan knew that he was lying.
It happened at noon when the TV was repeatedly being recognized as an ice cream truck.
Chi Xueyan had already guessed it and preferred that the truth not be revealed, so he said he didn’t want to see the bridge. He asked He Qiao if he wanted to go, but He Qiao also said he didn’t want to.
But the moment he replied that he didn’t want to, he didn’t look into Chi Xueyan’s eyes.
—“I will look down to avoid your gaze when I lie.”
Chi Xueyan had long been given the most transparent key.
He used it to open the lock that stood between himself and He Qiao. He no longer had to doubt the actions of the mysterious book transmigrator.
Now it was placed in front of another lock.
It was a lock between He Qiao and ‘He Qiao.’
He Qiao was silent for a long time before he whispered, “I want to find that bridge.”
In this matter, he and Chi Xueyan had different perspectives and ideas.
He wanted an answer, even if it was just a free and verifiable guess.
People who had no origin wanted to determine their source.
The hydrangeas among the trees swayed gently in the wind, casting colorful lights and shadows, flowing between the differences that appeared for the first time between them.
It also flowed through the ends of the messy hair of the person beside him.
All the light fell into these brilliant, bright eyes, shining on the answer that was always given by another person in the past.
He Qiao saw Chi Xueyan smile. His smile was exceptionally pure, as if he had finally found the precious treasure he wanted the most. A person couldn’t help wanting to kiss his brilliant eyes.
His voice was also serious and gentle.
“Yes,” he smiled and said. “We’ll leave tomorrow.”
The author has something to say:
A kiss with the taste of hydrangeas = 3 =