When Lu Lingxi was discharged from the hospital, he left the chlorophytum he was raising to Sister Tian. The pot of chlorophytum was raised by him extremely well; its leaves were so green and lush that, in Sister Tian’s words, one look at it made her feel good. Since Sister Tian liked it, Lu Lingxi was happy too. This pot of chlorophytum was the first plant he had ever raised, and as a major contributor to his discovery of the white panel, it had a very special meaning in Lu Lingxi’s heart. If it wasn’t for the fact that he had too many bits and pieces that he and Wang Shuxiu had to take back with them, Lu Lingxi wouldn’t be able to bear to leave it behind.
Seeing Lu Lingxi look at the chlorophytum reluctantly, Sister Tian smiled and joked, “Don’t worry, Xiao Lu, Sister Tian will help you raise this chlorophytum first to ensure that it is well nourished and then you will take it back one day when you come to the hospital.”
When Sister Tian said this, Lu Lingxi smiled in embarrassment.
After bidding farewell to Sister Tian and the other people in the ward, Lu Lingxi followed Wang Shuxiu out of the hospital. The two of them took a taxi, and Wang Shuxiu gave the address and repeated it to Lu Lingxi on purpose, telling him to remember the name of the district. Lu Lingxi nodded, looking out the car window.
Fengcheng was located in the north of China, not far from the northern capital, Zhongjing, and was a large, heavily industrial city. As it was summer, the streets were very lively, with a constant flow of traffic and people, men, women and children who walked in a hurry or looked casual. The whole city was full of vitality and Lu Lingxi was fascinated for a while. In the past, in the Lu family, he seldom went out and if he did, it was mostly to the hospital. In the oppressive and tense atmosphere at that time, he was not in the mood to watch the outside world. This was the first time he observed a city so vividly, not through videos and text, but with his own eyes.
The taxi came to a stop at a red light, and a little white puppy was struggling to get out of its owner’s arms on the pavement not far away from them. The owner, who seemed unable to bear the tossing and turning of the little puppy, squatted down and put it on the ground, while holding out his hand carefully around it to protect it. The puppy looked around curiously with big, wet eyes and tentatively stretched its front paw to take a step. There was no danger. The puppy was about to take the second step when a little girl passed by and exclaimed in surprise at the sight of the puppy. Startled by the exclamation, the little puppy stumbled, turned around and jumped into its owner’s arms, refusing to come down again.
Lu Lingxi could not help but laugh at this scene, but after laughing, he felt that his current mood was somewhat similar to that of the little puppy. Perhaps because he had been locked up in a small world for too long, Lu Lingxi was full of longing for the outside world. But when he could really walk out, he was vaguely afraid. He knew nothing and had no experience of social life at all, could he adapt to a new life? This question hovered in Lu Lingxi’s mind, replacing the joy he felt when he was just released from the hospital and giving rise to a hint of apprehension about the unknown life. The puppy would have an owner to show it the world, and it could jump back into its owner’s arms if it was scared, but what about him?
“What are you looking at?”
Wang Shuxiu leaned over and the taxi moved. She did not see the puppy outside, but saw a street square not far away and immediately pointed it out to Lu Lingxi.
“See? Your mom works there, Shida Plaza, remember.”
For the rest of the journey, Wang Shuxiu excitedly pointed at the buildings outside the window and introduced them to Lu Lingxi. Perhaps it was because they were almost home, the surrounding area was basically the area where Lu Lingxi used to walk around. The places he used to go, the place where he used to go to school, the park where his last fight happened and where he had the accident. In the end, Wang Shuxiu patted Lu Lingxi’s head and concluded, “Remember these places if you can, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t remember, just think of them as new places to visit. When your mom came to Fengcheng from the countryside, I couldn’t even read a few words, but I’m still alive and kicking here. If you have nothing to do in the next few days, let that boy Yi Hang accompany you around and get familiar with the surroundings.”
“En.” The apprehension in Lu Lingxi’s heart was swatted away by Wang Shuxiu. With Wang Shuxiu’s introduction, his whole heart gradually settled down.
The taxi turned east and west on the road and soon stopped in front of an old neighbourhood near the centre of Fengcheng.
“Here it is.” Wang Shuxiu got out of the car carrying the bags and pointed the way for Lu Lingxi.
Lu Lingxi got out of the car after her, and the first thing he saw was a row of small sheds built crookedly at the entrance of the district, and the figures inside the sheds who were pointing at them.
“Wang Xiaohua, who did you bring back, he doesn’t look like your son, ah?”
A slightly teasing remark came from inside a small shed, and the people burst out laughing.
Wang Xiaohua was Wang Shuxiu’s original name. When Wang Shuxiu was born, her parents were poor and uneducated. In that era, a daughter was not worth much, so they casually gave her the name Xiaohua (little flower). When Wang Shuxiu left her hometown to make her way in the world, she felt that the name Xiaohua was too rustic and changed it to Wang Shuxiu (elegant, warm and virtuous).
When Wang Shuxiu married Lu Yishui and moved to this neighbourhood, she had already changed her name. Originally, no one knew that her previous name was Wang Xiaohua, but once she had a fight with Lu Yishui and Lu Yishui called out her old name, which was overheard by the neighbours who were bored watching. Since then, everyone liked to make jokes about her name when they had nothing to do.
When Wang Shuxiu heard their teasing, she sneered and responded spiritedly, “It’s none of your business who I bring back. If he doesn’t look like my son, does he look like yours? Fine, then give money to raise him.”
Lu Lingxi: “……”
Wang Shuxiu talked back and the person who spoke before suddenly did not dare to speak again.
Faintly, someone was heard laughing and scolding, “Ma Laosan, can you do it? Is it really your son?”
“Fuck off! If Lao Tzu’s son could grow up like this, I wouldn’t need to worry about getting a daughter-in-law.”
“Hey, what did Lu Lingxi look like before? I don’t remember at all.”
“Just look at that little brat Yi Hang, he looked exactly the same.”
The people inside the sheds seemed to be full of curiosity about Lu Lingxi. They had already heard about Lu Lingxi’s amnesia. The crowd was more than intrigued to see this kind of scenario that often appeared on TV.
Wang Shuxiu scowled, not bothering to pay any further attention to them, and dragged Lu Lingxi into the neighbourhood.
This neighbourhood was almost twenty years old. After decades of weathering and poor maintenance, the entire district looked very dilapidated. Some of the external walls started to peel off, and more of them were blackened and covered with moss. Although there were flowers and grass in the area, it felt very disordered. Everywhere you went, you could see garbage piling up and every two steps there were small sheds built haphazardly by the residents.
These were things that Lu Lingxi had never seen before, and he followed behind Wang Shuxiu a little uncomfortably. Wang Shuxiu was oblivious to everything around her and kept pointing out to Lu Lingxi whichever building he was passing.
Their home was at the far end of the block, Building 3, Gate 3, No. 101.
“We’re almost there.”
After turning a corner, Wang Shuxiu motioned with her head to indicate that Lu Lingxi should go forward. Lu Lingxi looked ahead and suddenly froze, a hint of confusion flashing in his eyes.
“Those people are?”
Wang Shuxiu followed his line of sight and looked over, violently threw away the things in her hands and rushed up.
“Lu Yishui, you son of a bitch, what are you doing?”
Not far ahead, Lu Yishui, his head wrapped in bandages and one arm hanging on his chest, was directing several big and burly men to carry things out from inside 101. A green pickup truck was parked outside 101, and a lean man sat in the back of the pickup, lazily holding a cigarette and shouting every now and then.
“Hurry the fuck up, you guys, haven’t you eaten in the morning?”
Wang Shuxiu’s voice attracted everyone’s attention. The lean man glanced obliquely at Wang Shuxiu, and Lu Yishui trotted two steps forward to block Wang Shuxiu.
“Wang Xiaohua, I’m warning you not to cause trouble, Brother Feng is not a man to be negotiated with.”
Before Lu Yishui could finish his sentence, Wang Shuxiu had already slapped him on the head. “I’m causing trouble? Do you fucking want to live, you let them move all our stuff away, what about us?”
Lu Yishui squatted under her slap and yelled loudly, grabbing her arm. “Is it not because you didn’t give Lao Tzu money last time? Look what kind of beating I got! If I hadn’t had these things to give, I would’ve lost an arm.”
Wang Shuxiu was so angry that she pounced on Lu Yishui, continuing to hit him. “You gamble?! I’ll let you gamble!”
“All right, all right ah, Wang Xiaohua, I warned you enough, ah!” With his arm hanging Lu Yishui didn’t have the fighting power he had last time at the hospital and could only take the beating while retreating.
The man in the pickup laughed at Lu Yishui’s abject appearance.
Perhaps stimulated by the other man’s laughter, Lu Yishui’s face turned red, he glared at Wang Shuxiu and slapped her.
With a “thud”, Lu Yishui’s slap did not land on Wang Shuxiu, but hit a pile of scattered things instead.
With a stern face, Lu Lingxi held the things in his hand to block the slap, standing in front of Wang Shuxiu.
“Little bastard, you…” Lu Yishui jumped to scold.
Lu Lingxi did not know how to curse and just looked quietly at Lu Yishui with a pair of dark eyes. Meeting his gaze, Li Yishui suddenly felt guilty and his cursing stopped.
The man in the pickup looked at the scene coldly and said loudly, “All right, leave the rest to them.” He said that without even a glance at Lu Yishui and said to Wang Shuxiu, “It’s only right to pay back what you owe. Lu Yishui lost a lot of money to me, so don’t blame me for taking things to cover the debt. How much is this stuff worth? It’s just an add-on. I’m in a good mood today, so I won’t move the rest of your things. I’ll give you another week to pay the money Lu Yishui owes, figure it out yourselves.”
“Hey, hey, Brother Feng!” Lu Yishui held the man tightly, trying to say something.
The man impatiently pushed him away and gestured for his men to drive.
The pickup truck wobbled away from the neighbourhood. Lu Yishui turned his head to meet Wang Shuxiu’s gaze and chucked dryly, “So what…”
Wang Shuxiu spat on him and pulled Lu Lingxi into the house, locking the door and shutting Lu Yishui out.
The house was a mess. The refrigerator, colour TV and several large appliances were missing. Wang Shuxiu held back her anger and smiled at Lu Lingxi as if nothing was wrong, “If the old ones don’t go away, the new ones won’t come. These things have been used enough. Mom will take you tomorrow to buy the new ones.”
Lu Lingxi reached out to support her and could feel Wang Shuxiu’s body tremble slightly. He was afraid that Wang Shuxiu’s anger would be bad for her health, so he said softly, “I want to find a job, and I will support you in the future.”
Wang Shuxiu cursed in a low voice, her eyes slowly reddening.