In early March, Xiao Hong and Xiao Feng came back from the northwest. The things there were almost dealt with, and the two of them were thinking about home, so they didn’t stay there longer.
On the way back, the two of them took turns driving, and Xiao Baiwan squatted quietly in the back seat all the way, guarding the various northwest specialties the two of them had bought. Among them were more than a dozen boxes of air-dried beef that Xiao Feng specially bought, and when Xiao Baiwan smelled the smell of beef, he refused to leave the back seat. After seven or eight hours of driving, the two of them got off the highway and entered the city. The first thing Xiao Hong saw was the willow trees planted on both sides of the street. It had only been a few days since the rain but the new shoots of the willow trees had already grown to finger length. The sun was shining down, the verdant colours were flowing, and the leaves on the trees were vibrant and soothing.
Xiao Hong had previously travelled halfway across China, from the northwest to the north, and all that his eyesight saw was dull and grey. How could he have imagined that Fengcheng was already looking green? He couldn’t believe it, so he deliberately opened the window a crack and took a look outside to make sure it wasn’t just his eyes, but that the willows on the roadside were really sprouting new shoots.
“What’s going on? Spring comes so early in Fengcheng?” Xiao Hong asked as he told Xiao Feng to look outside.
Xiao Feng had been in Fengcheng for more than ten years, and this was the first time he had encountered such a situation. He simply rolled down the window and looked out. Not only were there the willows on the roadside, but as far as he could see, on the road junctions and in the cracks in the masonry on both sides of the street, wherever the soil was exposed, everything was emerald green. He shook his head, a little unsure, “It’s probably because it’s by the sea and the weather is warm this year.”
It was indeed not too cold this year. There was a breeze blowing on their faces, and although it was still a little cool, it didn’t cut sharply like in winter but was noticeably softer. Xiao Hong took a breath; the air outside the window was crisp and fresh. In winter he hadn’t thought there was much difference between Fengcheng and the northwest, both being northern and heavily industrialised cities, and the wind was blowing similarly. But now, the air in Fengcheng was much fresher than that in the northwest.
Xiao Hong closed the car window with some emotion, “The air outside is good, much better than that in the northwest. I heard that a lot of trees were planted in Fengcheng last year, so it seems that greening and environmental protection are quite effective.”
There were other people who felt the same way as Xiao Hong. The change in the environment was not something that couldn’t be seen, it was plainly in front of people’s eyes. Anyone who paid regular attention to the weather forecast would have noticed that Fengcheng had had an air pollution index below 50 for a week, with the air quality reaching excellent standards.
This change had another effect. According to statistics from several major hospitals in Fengcheng, the number of asthma patients admitted to hospitals in the last week had decreased by 50% compared to the same period last year, which meant that half of the asthma patients in Fengcheng had their condition under control during the peak of spring, not because of medication, but because of the improved environment. All of these changes were attributed by the public to the impact of the new environmental protection policy implemented in Fengcheng since last year, and environmental protection became the hottest topic among Fengcheng people for a while.
Xiao Feng and Xiao Hong chatted about the changes in Fengcheng all the way home, and by the time they arrived it was already past 3 o’clock in the afternoon and almost 4 o’clock. The two parked at the door of Unit 3 and together moved their things to the house. Xiao Baiwan sniffed and didn’t feel the scent of Dahei, jumped out of the car and tilted his head with a sigh of relief. He didn’t expect that a walnut would fall and hit him on the head.
On the second floor balcony, the white kitten licked its paw and meowed triumphantly at Xiao Baiwan.
Xiao Baiwan growled in anger, but unfortunately the distance was a little too far and growling was simply not enough to deter the kitten.
“Xiao Baiwan.” Xiao Hong called out to stop him from barking loudly.
Xiao Baiwan stubbornly pawed the walnut at his feet, barking at Xiao Hong in a low voice.
Xiao Hong raised his head, glanced at the cat upstairs and touched Xiao Baiwan’s head soothingly. He didn’t know what was going on; when he went to the northwest this time, it seemed that he could suddenly understand the meaning of Xiao Baiwan’s bark. At first, Xiao Hong thought it was his illusion, but after a while, Xiao Hong felt that something was wrong. It wasn’t an illusion. He really understood what Xiao Baiwan said.
Xiao Hong didn’t hide this from Xiao Feng, and Xiao Feng didn’t take it seriously when he heard it. He had seen Lu Lingxi and Dahei asking and answering questions several times when he was at home, and had a vague suspicion that they seemed to be able to communicate with each other. Now that there was Xiao Hong and Xiao Baiwan, he wasn’t surprised at all. However, after Xiao Hong accepted this fact, he found it very interesting and urged Xiao Feng to also have a pet. After raising it for a long time, maybe he could have a spiritual connection with it. Xiao Feng ignored this suggestion; there was already Dahei at home, that was enough.
With Xiao Hong’s presence, the little white cat didn’t dare to provoke Xiao Baiwan anymore. It waved its paws at Xiao Baiwan, turned its head and ran back to the house. Xiao Feng looked at this scene and laughed a little. He didn’t say that the cats and dogs in the community were just smarter than usual; they were almost becoming intelligent.
Xiao Hong finished moving the things and had a few words with Xiao Feng in the yard before taking Xiao Baiwan away. As soon as Xiao Feng entered the house, Wang Shuxiu looked over, “Where’s Big Brother, won’t he eat here tonight?”
“No, Xiaohua, you are not physically fit, Big Brother is going home first.”
When Xiao Feng explained this, Wang Shuxiu didn’t say anything. She looked at Xiao Feng sorting out the northwest specialties on the floor and casually asked, “Why did you buy so many?”
Xiao Feng smiled, “Xiaohua, didn’t you say last time that the air-dried beef from the northwest was delicious? I won’t be going back to my hometown very often in the future, and I always feel that these things bought in other places are not of the same taste.”
Wang Shuxiu was happy to hear Xiao Feng’s reasoning, but on the surface she snapped, “How long will we have to eat this?”
Xiao Feng smiled and gave her a look, “If we can’t finish it, send some to Yan Yue, I heard from Xiao Xi that Yan Yue also likes to eat it.”
When he mentioned Yan Yue, Wang Shuxiu immediately snorted.
Xiao Feng was surprised: Xiaohua hadn’t completely relented yet.
At half past six in the evening, Yan Yue sent Lu Lingxi home. As soon as Lu Lingxi entered the house, he saw a dozen boxes of air-dried beef piled up on the floor and immediately reacted. “Dad’s back?”
Xiao Feng poked his head out of the kitchen and said to Lu Lingxi with a smile, “Xiao Xi, take two boxes of beef and send them to Yan Yue as a thank you for taking care of the family during this time.”
Lu Lingxi’s eyes lit up when he heard this, but instead of going to get the boxes directly, he turned his head to look at Wang Shuxiu first, waiting for her words. Wang Shuxiu snorted and waved her hand with impatience, “Go quickly, don’t dawdle there and come back for dinner.”
Lu Lingxi nodded obediently. When Wang Shuxiu saw that he really took two boxes, she said with a stern face, “We can’t eat it all at home, so you can take two more boxes.” Lu Lingxi and Xiao Feng were used to her hard-mouthed, soft-hearted way. Lu Lingxi didn’t listen to her and still took only two boxes, saying with curved eyes, “Mom likes beef jerky, so I’ll leave more for Mom.”
Although she knew the little bastard was trying to please her, Wang Shuxiu couldn’t help but smile at these words and scolded, “Little bastard.”
Every time Wang Shuxiu ended with “little bastard”, it meant she was in a good mood, so Lu Lingxi ran off in a flash to the next apartment with the two boxes of beef jerky. Ever since Yan Yue had confessed to his family, Lu Lingxi hadn’t come over here, and this was the first time he was going there again. Pushing the door, Lu Lingxi put the things on the table and turned his head to look for Yan Yue.
“Xiao Xi?” Yan Yue heard footsteps, came out of the bedroom where he was changing his clothes and saw Lu Lingxi at once. In surprise he reached out and hugged Lu Lingxi tightly. “How did you manage to come here, Xiao Xi?” Yan Yue asked in a soft voice, lowering his head to give Lu Lingxi a kiss on the forehead.
Lu Lingxi gestured for Yan Yue to look at the boxes on the living room table. “This?” Yan Yue vaguely guessed something but didn’t dare to confirm it.
“Dad asked me to send you these.” Lu Lingxi said with a smile as he hugged Yan Yue’s waist. He thought it was a good sign; although it was Xiao Feng who had asked him to come over, Wang Shuxiu didn’t stop him. Did it mean that he could come to Yan Yue again in the future as often as before?
As Lu Lingxi thought about it happily, Yan Yue also thought of this and raised his hand to rub Lu Lingxi’s hair, asking in a low voice, “Mom isn’t angry?”
Lu Lingxi shook his head, “Mom even told me to take two more boxes.”
Yan Yue smiled and deliberately looked around, “What about the two more boxes?”
Lu Lingxi blinked, with a sly expression, “If I really took four boxes here, Mom would definitely be unhappy in her heart without saying anything.”
Yan Yue chuckled as he listened. Looking into Lu Lingxi’s eyes, he couldn’t help but lower his head and kiss him. Lu Lingxi was in a hurry to go back, “Mom told me to go back quickly, she’s still waiting for me to eat.”
“Don’t worry, it’s been just a short while.” Yan Yue didn’t let go and said softly, “I haven’t hugged Xiao Xi for a long time.” Since Xiao Feng had gone back to the northwest, Lu Lingxi had not spent the night in the plant nursery because he was worried about Wang Shuxiu being home alone. Whenever the two were alone together either in the car or in the shop, Yan Yue couldn’t do anything, mindful of the eyes around, and could only keep holding back his desire for Lu Lingxi. Now that they had the rare opportunity to be alone together, Yan Yue was impulsive and didn’t want to let Lu Lingxi go back.
He gently lowered his head and kissed Lu Lingxi’s lips, grinding tenderly. Lu Lingxi was nervous that Wang Shuxiu would be unhappy if he returned back late, but he couldn’t leave Yan Yue, so he opened his eyes and watched Yan Yue kiss him.
Yan Yue’s eyes were hot and focused and he felt his heart melting when he looked at Lu Lingxi like this. He lowered his head to rest his forehead against Lu Lingxi’s and said, “I’ll come to you tonight.”
Lu Lingxi’s eyes suddenly widened and his heart pounded fiercely. “What if Mom finds out?”
Yan Yue raised his eyebrows and seriously considered, “She’ll beat me up?”
Lu Lingxi imagined the scene for a moment and nodded, holding back a smile.