A casual response came from the bathroom. “It is just right. Come and help me.”
The heating at home was turned to a temperature that wasn’t low, but He Qiao didn’t bother taking off his coat and went straight into the bathroom.
He pushed open the door and first saw a slightly thin back. The wide shirt collar wasn’t covered by the ends of his hair, revealing the snow-white back of the neck. This contrasted sharply with the crimson spots staining the shirt.
The once dazzling red hair was wet and the color had been turned into a mess.
Chi Xueyan stood in front of the mirror. He used a comb stained with hair dye to regularly touch up the red hair that would fade.
He saw He Qiao coming in and he handed over the comb. “Help me see if the hair roots at the back are dyed.”
He never wore gloves or a scarf to protect his clothes.
It was because every time he dyed his hair, he would take a random piece of clothing from the closet in He Qiao’s room and wear it. Then he would make it so that the white shirt could no longer be washed, again and again.
In any case, He Qiao didn’t protest.
He didn’t want to protest.
He also didn’t wear gloves. He took the comb with residual heat from the other person’s body temperature and patiently helped Chi Xueyan dye the hair roots at the back of his head. He said at the same time, “The contract has been brought back. It went very smoothly.”
Chi Xueyan didn’t speak. It was as if he had already expected this result and didn’t seem to care.
He looked intently at the man in the mirror who helped him dye his hair and reminded, “Comb it more.”
“Why didn’t you take off your coat? Isn’t it hot?”
The comb that gently combed through the roots of the hair paused and the person behind him replied, “I forgot.”
“Take it off now.”
He Qiao said a sentence that was as long as the result of her agreement. “My hand is already dirty and I can’t take it off.”
Hearing this, the corners of Chi Xueyan’s mouth raised slightly, as if he thought it was interesting.
His hands were dirty a long time ago. He made a mess of the originally clean comb handle and then handed it to He Qiao, quickly soiling the once clean palm of the other person.
No matter whether it was the skin colored by hair dye or the life that was difficult to wash off.
In the pungent smell, He Qiao silently combed his hair. He didn’t just do what was requested, but occasionally answered the questions of the people in front of him.
“Is it cold outside today?”
“It is snowing so it is cold.”
He thought of the snow that had been trampled on by colorful footsteps and the petals of flowers in the street flower shop trembling in the cold wind. Then suddenly said, “Your birthday is coming soon.”
Chi Xueyan’s birthday was February 14th, the most romantic day of the whole winter.
The man who was about to grow up another year said casually, “Well, this year isn’t good.”
This was what he said this time last year.
He Qiao never questioned Chi Xueyan’s decision and wouldn’t ask unnecessary questions.
But at this moment, perhaps because they were too close to each other or perhaps it was because the overheated indoor temperature brought an almost warm atmosphere.
He asked a superfluous question.
The man staring into the mirror chuckled.
The air fell silent for a moment.
After a long time, just as He Qiao thought that the other person wouldn’t answer, he suddenly heard a light yet detailed answer.
“Because I loved my last birthday in this house. I don’t want to cover it with other birthdays,” he said.
This was the tone that implied they could continue the conversation.
He Qiao asked, “When you were a child?” ”
“When I was five years old.”
After the age of five, they moved to the home they would live in later, moving into a bigger and better house. Their future was getting better and better.
But this once beautiful happiness was destroyed by his own hands.
Through the reflection of the mirror, He Qiao looked into the eyes that suddenly darkened and he stopped asking.
He withdrew his hand and lowered the comb, ready to exit this distance that was so close that it was slightly overwhelming.
“It is finished.”
But Chi Xueyan suddenly turned around and looked straight at him.
His eyes flashed with an indescribable complex emotion. It was as if he had fallen into a long-term dream that was incomprehensibly beautiful. The crystal clear old dream suddenly flowed out in the wandering thoughts.
“I actually didn’t want to go anywhere that day. I didn’t want to celebrate, I just wanted to watch TV at home and watch cartoons the whole weekend. But they had to take me to the amusement park.”
“In fact, the two of them wanted to play and use me as a cover. Then later, I also had a lot of fun. However, I was very tired, so tired that I lay down on the sofa and wanted to sleep as soon as I got home.”
He Qiao listened quietly, listening to the breath that was close at hand and the fresh and joyful memories.
“Then they told me to eat cake. I didn’t want to eat it. My dad forced a fork and cake plate into my hand. I couldn’t beat him so I had to force myself to eat a little bit.”
“So I ate… No, I was so sleepy that my whole face was covered in cream. When I woke up half-dreaming, I felt that my face was sticky and I opened my eyes in a daze.”
“As a result, I saw my dad tiptoeing to hand the camera to my mother. My mother was going to take a picture of me and she was smiling, not wanting to wake me up. My father was watching from the side and suddenly took the opportunity to kiss her on the cheek.”
“In the end, the camera shook and the photo was shot crookedly. She was so angry that she immediately turned her head and glared back. Then I fell asleep completely. I probably fell asleep smiling—in the end, I liked the cake that I didn’t want to eat.”
The chemical agents seeped into the fragile hair little by little and the person who was immersed in memories also woke up from a long dream.
“I love that birthday and I love that photo, even though I appear on the edge of the frame and it looks blurry.”
Finally, Chi Xueyan said softly, “There will never be a better birthday.”
It was rare for him to patiently tell He Qiao the reason for a decision or to mention a distant and ordinary past in such detail.
He Qiao could almost reconstruct in his mind that night full of laughter.
It was because he had come across this photo by chance. It was placed in a drawer by Chi Xueyan.
In the empty drawer, there was only this photo in a picture frame. Everything else was dark without light.
Therefore, every time he passed by the martial arts gym and imagined the little boy from twenty years ago, he used that blurry photo as a model.
This meant he seriously agreed with the other person’s decision. “Yes, it is just a birthday.”
There was an extra superfluous question.
“What type of cake was it that year?”
“A chestnut cake.”
“Do you like chestnuts?”
“Probably. In the past, my mother used to bring me a bag of sugar-fried chestnuts when she came home from work.”
This was the end of the superfluous questions.
After Chi Xueyan left the bathroom, He Qiao leaned over to wash his hands.
The dark red spots on his palms hadn’t been completely washed away. It would take time to fade.
But it didn’t matter.
He Qiao walked out of the bathroom and saw Chi Xueyan, who was waiting for his hair to be colored, sitting on a chair at the dining table. The important paper document was next to him but he still did not open it. It was as if he didn’t care.
He obviously didn’t want to stain the old sofa that he used to laze on on weekdays.
After washing off the hair dye, the hair color would be completely set in a few days and Chi Xueyan will return to the sofa.
It was the sofa where the precious photo was taken.
He Qiao imagined for a long time about that birthday night more than twenty years ago when the little boy with a cream-covered face lay on the soft sofa.
In this imagination, the air was filled with a long-lasting illusion of happiness. It was like the last trace of sweetness before the golden sun faded and even the cream he originally hated became sweet.
He Qiao, who had never taken off his coat, walked towards the entrance.
“I’m going out.”
It wasn’t to do the business that Chi Xueyan gave him.
Chi Xueyan’s eyes followed him and watched him put on his shoes.
He was always smart and seemed to guess what He Qiao was going to do. So he didn’t ask, ‘Where are you going?’
He just laughed and said something that sounded out of place.
“Did Chen Xinzhe ask you why you did this?”
“No,” He Qiao said. “He only asked if he really wanted to do it.”
The man who was about to regain his red hair looked up at him and a smile gradually appeared in his eyes.
It wasn’t the unscrupulousness or the indifference that was more common these days.
It was pure clarity.
“When he asked this sentence, he must’ve remembered the you from a long time ago.”
He Qiao didn’t deny this firm speculation.
He had told Chi Xueyan the reason why he knew Chen Xinzhe.
He thought that perhaps the Chi Xueyan in front of him also remembered him from a long time ago.
They met once in a cafe on a blind date.
It was a glorious time when neither of their lives had collapsed.
In fact, he rarely remembered the past and he almost couldn’t remember that self.
He Qiao didn’t continue this topic and said in a low voice, “I’ll come back soon.”
He stared at the thin figure still wearing his shirt and gently closed the door.
The blaze of crimson on the crisp white shirt was always reminiscent of roses in bloom.
As the sun faded, He Qiao passed by a cake shop with rich sweetness. He passed the colorful flower shop and finally stopped in front of a popular small shop.
He waited at the end of the line, waiting to buy a bag of sugar-fried chestnuts.
In front of him was a couple. The girl was holding a paper bag with the logo of another store and it was still bulging.
The boy asked, “What if this one doesn’t work?”
The girl didn’t seem happy. “Then find the next one.”
“But these two are the only ones around… How about I peel it for you?”
“No, it is so unpalatable and difficult to peel. You are not allowed to peel it,” she said angrily. “I’ll throw it away when I can buy some delicious chestnuts.”
Listening to the couple’s conversation, He Qiao’s first thought was that it was a good thing he didn’t go to the other nearby store to buy it.
The second thought that followed was that this girl with a slightly arrogant and willful tone was a bit like Chi Xueyan.
It wasn’t like the present him but perhaps like Chi Xueyan from a long time ago.
But for He Qiao, it could basically only be described through imagination.
The Chi Xueyan that impressed him the most was the day they met again after the blind date ended and there was a long absence.
The red-haired young man smiled and reached out his hand to He Qiao, who was no longer innocent.
“You look sad.”
In the days that followed, He Qiao often remembered this sentence and recalled that moment over and over again.
No matter whether it was when he was staying by Chi Xueyan’s side or when he wasn’t by Chi Xueyan’s side.
Gradually, he was no longer sad.
Chen Xinzhe wanted to know if he was really going to delist the company that had condensed the efforts of countless people, and He Qiao also wanted to know.
The decisions that Chi Xueyan made would often be changed at will, especially when it was about that person.
In fact, He Qiao wasn’t sure whether the other person wanted to use this to negotiate with Lu Siyi or whether he wanted to gamble on everything to break the net.
Did he want to use the contract as a bargaining chip to get closer to that person or to break with the other person in the wildest way?
He Qiao wasn’t sure.
It was okay if he wasn’t sure. He wouldn’t ask.
He just vividly remembered the hand that had been extended to him.
It was a fair and soft palm without the slightest shadow.
Amidst the aroma of chestnuts everywhere, he took the paper bag handed over by the clerk.
He took it in the palm of your hand with the dark red hair dye remaining.
He Qiao carried a paper bag full of sugar-fried chestnuts and turned back in the direction he came.
He reached the fork in the road ahead and stopped briefly.
Suddenly, it snowed again in the sky. Pure white snowflakes fell gently on his shoulders, silently wetting the corners of his black coat.
There are two roads ahead and both led in the direction of home.
One road had bustling stores and the canopy along the road could cover the falling snow. The other road had only deserted scenery but it is closer to home.
The road forked here. The embers of dusk illuminated the asphalt and the sound of people and cars was everywhere.
It was the most common choice.
The author has something to say:
The next two chapters are about different plot trends and the possibilities after taking different paths. At that time, the title of the chapter will prompt whether it is HE or BE.
The direction of BE will have more knives and there is a final explanation for the book transmigration/rebirth, you can freely choose whether to read it or not.