It was a March night, and the weather in Zhongjing still carried a biting chill.
The wind that brushed across his cheeks was so cold that even his nose was frozen red, but Shen Xi did not seem to feel the cold as he stood there greedily breathing in the air in huge gulps. Obviously, Shen Xi had been breathing this kind of air for decades, but at this moment, Shen Xi closed his eyes in intoxication, as if the taste of the air was palpable.
It was the taste of freedom, the taste that Shen Xi had been longing for for ten years.
Under the dazzling neon lights, the word “Shutu” (different way) was quietly hanging there, attracting wave after wave of the city’s nocturnal crowd. This was the place Shen Xi was most familiar with except for the Shen family. Since the age of fifteen, Shen Xi had been a regular customer here. Compared with the coldness of the Shen family, Shen Xi greatly preferred the hustle and bustle of Shutu.
It was here that Shen Xi laughed, fooled around, got drunk and dreamed, and it was also here that fate played a joke on Shen Xi, and he ruined everything he had with his own hands.
Now, time had turned. Shen Xi stood at the entrance, looking at the word Shutu steadily, and the corners of his mouth slowly curved up, the arc growing bigger and bigger until he finally laughed out loud.
As he laughed, Shen Xi remembered how he had been waiting for Tian Wenyao to come and spend his eighteenth birthday with him, how he had been disappointed, how he had taken a large amount of psychedelics at the urging of his dog friends, how he had found an empty room and slept on the floor until he suddenly woke up in the middle of the night.
What happened next he repeated again and again in his dreams for the next ten years. He felt betrayed, he felt humiliated, he was angry, he was furious, there was a fire burning in his heart.
He endured the cold and waited for hours in the night wind, and then drove his car into two people without hesitation. Finally, with blood flowing in his eyes, he was taken away by the police in a hurry. Before leaving, he turned his head inadvertently, and the word Shutu pierced his eyes.
In this life, Shen Xi was not angry. He walked out of Shutu soberly and calmly. Standing at the entrance of Shutu, feeling the scent of freedom, Shen Xi finished laughing and completely left it behind.
Without a car, Shen Xi just walked aimlessly along the road in Zhongjing alone late at night. Without the ups and downs of his temper of his previous life, Shen Xi settled down to quietly contemplate the path he intended to take in this life.
In his previous life, Shen Xi had been ignorant for the first eighteen years and numb for the next ten years. He had never thought clearly about his path.
No, Shen Xi had actually thought about it.
In the beginning when he was imprisoned, Shen Xi had a very difficult time in prison because of the Tian family. He had to watch for being stabbed in the back from all sides and face all kinds of malicious looks all day long. The Tian family did not intend to kill Shen Xi quickly, but instead tried to torture him like a cat playing with a mouse. In the beginning, Shen Xi was often injured. At night, Shen Xi would be in so much pain that he could not sleep. Without a doctor and no medicine, Shen Xi could only desperately grit his teeth and bear the pain and imagine time and time again: if he hadn’t driven into Tian Wenyao and Shen Rong, what would his life have been like?
Shen Xi envisioned all sorts of wonderful lives for himself, but it was just wishful thinking. Once he returned to reality, the huge contrast only doubled Shen Xi’s pain.
As Shen Xi’s life in prison continued day by day and as freedom became more and more unattainable, with Shen Xi’s father extinguishing the last bit of his hope, Shen Xi was finally completely dead, thinking only of how to get through another day. In his spare time, he would never think about what his life would have been like if he had not driven his car into Tian Wenyao and Shen Rong again.
Now standing on a high pedestrian bridge, with the lights of Zhongjing glowing in the night, Shen Xi suddenly had a moment of trepidation. After ten years of an abnormal life in prison, would he still be able to adapt to this world?
In his memory, the eighteen-year-old Shen Xi was gloomy, cranky and unruly, hanging out with a gang of dog friends day in and day out. Ten years later, Shen Xi was still gloomy, but his temperament had been through a lot and the angles of his body had been smoothed out by the years. Could such two completely different Shen Xi still be the same Shen Xi?
Without the ecstasy of just being reborn and the excitement of being free, Shen Xi stood on the bridge as the night wind swept over his body. In the biting cold, Shen Xi asked himself how he was going to continue his journey.
If the eighteen-year-old Shen Xi was a confused beast, full of hatred but not knowing how to vent it, and could only do so by drinking, racing cars and clashing with his family, then the twenty-eight-year-old Shen Xi was not so different from the eighteen-year-old Shen Xi. His heart was still full of hatred, but his painful experience had made him realise that this time he should vent in a different way.
Shen Xi stared coldly in the direction of the Shen family’s house, where tonight likely was no different from before. His father would be in the study, helping Shen Ji familiarise himself with the affairs of the company, while the two waited together for Shen Cheng who was returning late. When the father and two sons reunited and began to stage the great family drama, he himself would always be the one forgotten by them. Not to mention that none of them remembered that tonight was his birthday, the eighteenth birthday of their son, their younger brother.
Shen Xi recalled a saying that Fang Luowei had once quoted to him, “if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” At that time, Fang Luowei used these words to persuade Shen Xi to give up the hatred in his heart. Shen Xi wondered what he said to Fang Luowei then. He seemed to have said that he did not need to gaze into the abyss because he was living in it.
Shen Xi was not Fang Luowei. He was not so magnanimous that he could laugh at those who had hurt him. He was narrow-minded, he was vindictive, he remembered all the hurts inflicted on him and then looked for the right opportunity to retaliate. Because of this, no one dared to take a casual shot at him in the following years, knowing that unless he was killed, he would definitely even the score.
Thinking of Fang Luowei, he wondered how he was doing now. Unfortunately, he only knew that Fang Luowei would come to Zhongjing five years later but knew nothing about where he was five years before. In his previous life, they met in prison. Fang Luowei was imprisoned five years later than Shen Xi and they became friends by chance. If Fang Luowei were by his side now, he would definitely say that it was rare to have a chance to start over and he had to let go of the past and live a good life.
Alone, Shen Xi laughed out loud as he thought about it.
He also wanted to let go of the past as Fang Luowei said, but how could he easily forget? Not to mention the ten years in prison, how could he forget why he had developed that gloomy, irascible nature at the age of just eighteen?
For as long as he could remember, his father had always looked at him with a cold, blatant disgust in his eyes; he was the child his father didn’t want. Although his mother loved him, she was too preoccupied with her own emotions because of her relationship with his father and often completely ignored him. When he was six, his mother took a decisive leap from the window sill of the third floor, leaving him with only a blurred image of her back. His maternal grandfather, who loved him with all his heart, also left him right after his mother when he was six years old. His elder brother, Shen Ji, was extremely cold to him and always treated him like a stranger, while his second brother, Shen Cheng, bullied him since he was a child.
Not being loved by his family and having no friends, what else could he be but gloomy and irritable?
Speaking of which, Shen Xi felt that he was really pitiful. In the long eighteen years, except for his mother and grandfather, the only one who had given him some warmth was Tian Wenyao. Unfortunately, the warmth Shen Xi cherished in his heart was nothing more than a random bet by the other party.
With negative emotions clamouring in his mind, Shen Xi closed his eyes.
Since I am already in the abyss, all of you, come and keep me company.