Extra Four: Toward Death (Like Smoke)
In the golden light projected on the asphalt road, fine snow was flying.
He Qiao stared at the quiet dusk. After a few seconds, he suddenly raised his head to look at the buildings in the distance where the setting sun was blurred.
He smelled the aroma of stir-fried vegetables coming from the restaurant on the street and there were seemingly invisible particles and smoke wafting in the air.
It was a smell that was reminiscent of home.
He Qiao turned around and took the right road.
He walked into the deserted and sparsely populated landscape. Snow gradually spread over his shoulders, and the paper bag full of sugar-fried chestnuts was covered by his coat, still radiating warm heat.
This road was closer to home, which could make up for the unexpected queue time. He would be able to get home at the time he had originally planned.
It should be exactly the moment when Chi Xueyan came out of the bath and hadn’t yet blown his hair.
He Qiao thought like this and quickly walked in the direction of home, until his thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a short shout.
The voice came from a dimly lit alley, mixed with faint pleas and weeping.
He Qiao stopped at the entrance of the alley.
He should’ve been in a hurry to return home and he had long since become indifferent to the fate of strangers. Perhaps he was even less concerned about his own.
But he suddenly remembered the conversation with Chi Xueyan before going out.
—“Did Chen Xinzhe ask you why you did this?”
—”When he asked this sentence, he must’ve remembered the you from a long time ago.”
When he heard this, he thought that perhaps the Chi Xueyan in front of him also remembered him from a long time ago.
It was the him from a long time ago.
Amidst the sobs suppressed by the colorful curses, He Qiao walked into the alley.
The snow grew bigger and bigger, drifting in the narrow wilderness, blurring his vision into sharp and sluggish noise.
Once He Qiao returned home, the loud noise of the hair dryer was heard in the bathroom.
Chi Xueyan washed off the hair dye, took a simple shower and blew his hair.
The bathroom door was open and heat wafted out. He Qiao looked at the silhouette standing in front of the mirror and said loudly, “I’m back.”
Chi Xueyan didn’t respond. It was probably because the sound of the hair dryer was too noisy and he didn’t hear it.
So He Qiao walked outside the bathroom door and quietly waited for possible requests.
When he was there, Chi Xueyan would usually ask him to help blow dry his hair.
He arrived home in time as planned, but when Chi Xueyan’s gaze swept over him, he didn’t hand over the hair dryer. It was as if Chi Xueyan was ignoring him standing at the door.
He Qiao felt a bit strange.
He hesitated for a moment and took the initiative to ask, “Do you want me to help you blow dry it?”
Chi Xueyan still ignored him.
The sound of the hair dryer was so noisy.
However, it didn’t take long for the noise to end. Chi Xueyan always blew his hair very sloppily and wasn’t as patient as He Qiao.
Then he put down the used hair dryer and turned to walk out of the bathroom.
At this moment, He Qiao suddenly froze.
He was obviously standing at the door but Chi Xueyan passed straight through his body.
It was as if he was a non-existent person.
He Qiao realized something and looked down.
He didn’t have the bag of sugar-fried chestnuts in his hand.
There were no traces of dark red hair dye left on his palm and it was almost transparent.
The droplets of water dripping from the dazzling ends of the crimson hair penetrated his outstretched palm and fell to the ground without him feeling anything.
…Was this a dream?
He Qiao turned his head in astonishment and watched Chi Xueyan walk to the dining table and pick up the kettle to pour water.
Clear pure water was slowly poured into the dark green glass.
At the same time, memories that blurred into noise flooded in.
He remembered the unfamiliar girl’s eyes begging for help, the sudden gaze of another person and the sharp weapon waving indiscriminately in the other party’s hand.
He briefly regained his long-ago self.
But that He Qiao seemed destined for no good ending.
He was tricked by fate again. His life had the luckiest beginning and the most absurd ending.
The black coat with the warm paper bag in his arms fell under the knife swung in a panic by the student-like gangster.
This was how his life came to an end.
The blood stains in the secluded alley gradually flowed and spread. White snowflakes drifted from the sky, turning a dirty black as soon as they fell to the ground.
He was dead.
He died in a black mess of snow.
In the still picture of reality, before his consciousness completely fades, countless tidal waves of thoughts rushed through his mind.
He Qiao saw the young man with an immature face throw away the blood-stained weapon and run out of the alley in a panic.
He tripped over stones and he hurriedly got up, stumbling away and running into the endless distance. It was as if a ghost of fate hung behind him.
The unfamiliar girl knelt beside him at a loss, screaming while groping for the mobile phone in her bag, wanting to call for help. Her face had fresh scars and there were still tears that hadn’t stopped.
The hasty flight and embarrassing tears reminded He Qiao of many years ago.
He remembered the boy who stole the car that night, the eyes full of panic and fear, the other party’s playfully smiling face as he stood handcuffed in the police station. His face was full of tears but fortunately, the wrong road was terminated.
He remembered himself who would give kindness naively, remembered himself who had indulged in a happy family and a perfect life, remembered the self-exile where he became increasingly silent after the collapse of the illusion and remembered the strong reluctance and anger that had lingered in his heart.
Suddenly, these condensed resentments were dissipated in the wind and snow like smoke.
In the end, He Qiao just remembered the clear water droplets that might drip from the end of crimson hair, so he continued along the deserted path and returned home in time.
Chi Xueyan, who knew nothing, was still waiting for him at home. The bad student with bright red hands fled and the shell that stayed in place still held the bag of sugar-fried chestnuts that were gradually cooling.
Heavy snow along the road makes it difficult to discern the fate of being buried in the wind.
In the warm room, Chi Xueyan held a glass and stood at the kitchen window looking out into the distance. He could see everyone who walked in through the gate of the community and the umbrellas of different colors were covered with snowflakes.
He was waiting for the man who went to buy sugar-fried chestnuts to come home.
He Qiao would rather Chi Xueyan not be so sharp and intelligent.
In addition, He Qiao said he would be back soon.
He Qiao wished he hadn’t said this sentence.
In fact, he was already back.
He just couldn’t be seen again.
The world of one person was exceptionally quiet, with no extra sounds.
This was until dusk fell and the sound of sirens and ambulances sounded unexpectedly in the distance.
Once Chi Xueyan heard these sounds, He Qiao saw his originally smiling expression freeze. Then he turned his head to look at the mobile phone on the table.
Time passed quietly until the dazzling wet hair was dried at room temperature and there wasn’t the figure on the road outside the window who was long overdue.
He never missed an appointment for no reason.
Chi Xueyan picked up the mobile phone, flipped to the familiar number and hesitated for a moment before pressing the call button.
He Qiao, who was standing next to him, wanted to stop him. “Don’t call me.”
But he couldn’t hear it.
After a long waiting tone, a very unfamiliar voice came out of the receiver, “Hello?”
He Qiao heard Chi Xueyan’s very calm voice, “Where is He Qiao?”
The other person asked a little seriously, “Do you know the owner of this mobile phone? Are you his family?”
In the midst of the conversation, dusk completely dissipated and the sky finally became dark.
He Qiao watched Chi Xueyan put on his coat and leave the house.
He wanted to follow but found that he couldn’t go through the door.
He couldn’t leave the room and could only watch the slightly thin figure disappear around the corner of the stairs.
It was fine if he couldn’t get out.
Chi Xueyan forgot to lock the door and didn’t take the key.
It needed someone to stay at home.
He Qiao kept watch all night. It wasn’t until noon the next day that Chi Xueyan returned.
When there was a noise at the door, he didn’t dare to look at Chi Xueyan’s expression. He was like a man who had made a mistake.
It wasn’t until the door gently closed that He Qiao, who was sitting on the sofa, turned his head to look over.
Chi Xueyan’s face had no expression. There was no sadness and no tear stains. There was only a faint shadow under his eyes. He should’ve had a sleepless night.
So as soon as he got home, he went straight to the sofa and lay down.
He Qiao on the sofa couldn’t react for a moment.
He subconsciously reminded, “Your hair will fade.”
His hair was dyed only yesterday.
Of course, Chi Xueyan still ignored him.
He closed his eyes tiredly, seemingly not caring that the sofa that he previously cherished would be dyed red by his hair that had not yet been completely set.
The transparent He Qiao stared down at his sleeping face. He was motionless in this position where Chi Xueyan was almost sleeping on his lap.
This was the first time he had been so close to Chi Xueyan, on this sofa where the other party often lay lazily.
It was just that he could no longer quietly help the other party cover himself with the blanket that was about to fall.
Once Chi Xueyan woke up, another dusk had settled in the room. The air was filled with the last sweetness before the golden daylight faded.
He Qiao saw him open his eyes and look at the mottled sunset on the ceiling. He was dazed for a while.
Then he got up, went to the bathroom to wash up and headed to the kitchen to make a bowl of instant noodles.
It looked like business as usual.
Seeing his calm appearance, He Qiao suddenly didn’t know how to describe his mood.
The only difference from the past was that he warmed a glass of milk in a milk pot.
Chi Xueyan was usually too lazy to go into the kitchen and to do housework. This was the first time He Qiao had seen him specially warm milk to drink.
He finished warming it up but he forgot to drink it.
At the dining table, Chi Xueyan took his mobile phone and sent a message to Chen Xinzhe. Then without waiting for a reply, he took the contract that had never been opened and went out.
The steaming cup of pure milk was left on the table along with the swollen instant noodles bowl.
By the time Chi Xueyan returned home the next day, the inner wall of the dark green glass already had a thick circle of milk stains condensed.
He drained the glass of milk, which had already cooled, and stood in front of the sink to wash the glass and instant noodles bowl.
After coming back this time, he didn’t go out again for a while.
He Qiao didn’t know how Chi Xueyan handled the contract in the end. He guessed that maybe Chi Xueyan had abandoned the decision that hurt both sides.
It was because everything was calm. The news channels where the TV occasionally stayed on didn’t broadcast any explosive news related to it.
…Perhaps Chi Xueyan was still reluctant to that person.
In the following days, Chi Xueyan lived alone and sometimes watched TV, sometimes read books and sometimes slept on the sofa.
He never cried and didn’t show any sad emotions. When he saw a funny show or novel, his eyes would curve as he smiled.
It was as if the person who suddenly disappeared from this room had never existed.