Suddenly being wrapped in a wide embrace, Lu Ying still felt the low voice saying “Happy New Year” reverberating in his ears. The hug caught him unawares, right after his sudden turn and a sight of the man on such a snowy night.
The night was still dark, but it was the first day of the New Year, the Year of the Pig. Lu Ying had been looking forward to it for a long time, twelve year, the whole round. Everyone said that your Chinese Zodiac year brings good luck, good luck for yourself and good luck for others.
It was the first day of the Year of the Pig, only thirty-five minutes past twelve, when Lu Ying turned around and fell into the arms of the man in front of him.
Was this the good luck for the first day of the Year of the Pig?
With his head pressed into the nook of Qin Zhuopu’s shoulder, Lu Ying heard the humming voice sound with a bit of difficulty as the arms wrapped around his waist tightened. Hot breath touched his ear one moment and brushed over his neck the next.
“I knew you were here.”
The voice echoed in his ears, close and clear, and Lu Ying heard a bit of joy and satisfaction in it, as well as a bit of anxiety and exhaustion.
He had arrived in Qixia Town just after seven o’clock, so when did he come to the foot of Qixia Mountain? On New Year’s Eve, it was cold and there were no assistant bodyguards accompanying him. He didn’t even wear a cold-proof coat, as if he had just finished a meeting, left the office and hurriedly found his way here.
“I’m relieved to see you.” Qin Zhuopu sighed with a smile, his tight embrace finally slowly relaxing. Although he was reluctant to let go, to see someone he wanted to see was already the best start to the New Year. The most desirable gift of all.
He didn’t even know why he was in such a hurry and in such a state of panic. He had seen too many doctors recently, each one expertly helping him analyse his ‘condition’ regarding his memory. He didn’t know if he was sick or not. He watched time pass and the New Year was approaching. He could put aside any expert, any cause of illness, any work. The restless heartbeat demanded him eagerly to go back, with his own eyes to see the person he missed, to hug him, so that he could be at ease this year.
“Where are you coming from?” Lu Ying pursed his mouth slightly, looked at Qin Zhuopu intently and couldn’t help but say that. This man was dressed in an elegant suit, but he was dirty and covered in mud and leaves, his shoes and trousers unsightly.
“I took a plane straight from the United States to Caifeng Airport, called a car and came to Qixia Town.” Qin Zhuopu gazed at the man in front of him and his smile deepened, “I didn’t get a response from you when I called and texted, so I went to the bakery first and it was closed. I went to your door. I waited for you and you didn’t come. I guessed you were probably on Qixia Mountain, so I came.”
Lu Ying listened to his calm and gentle words and was a little bewildered, “You went to the mountain?”
Qin Zhuopu paused, “I found the mountain path at the foot of the mountain, but… I seemed to have gotten lost and walked back.”
Lu Ying immediately frowned and sighed: “Are you stupid? At least ask the people at the bottom of the mountain, everyone knows not to go up Qixia Mountain during the New Year. The mountain is all foggy, didn’t you see it?”
“Yes, the fog is very thick.”
“Then why did you go up there?” Lu Ying glared at him. One could go up Qixia Mountain whenever one wanted; anyway, there would be a disappointment, there was no beautiful or impressive scenery. But from New Year’s Eve to the third day of the Lunar New Year, Qixia Mountain would be covered in fog. The villagers below the mountain would avoid Qixia Mountain during the New Year’s Eve and no one would mention going up the mountain. Even if someone wanted to sneak up, they couldn’t get up there.
Qin Zhuopu said with a quiet smile, “I shouldn’t have returned to China so early, but I just suddenly wanted to see you. The more I stayed in the United States, the more uncomfortable I felt. Now that I’ve seen you, I feel much better.”
The man in front of Lu Ying seemed really relieved now, his posture relaxed and at ease, but also tired.
“If I hadn’t come down, you wouldn’t have seen me today. What would you do then?” Lu Ying raised his eyebrows at Qin Zhuopu, thinking that this big boss was really a piece of work sometimes.
Qin Zhuopu looked at his shoes and said, “I’d go back to town and check your apartment. If there was no one there, I’d find a hotel and settle down. My phone is out of battery. I’ve spent a long time at some family’s house in the village but unfortunately they didn’t have a proper charger. You can’t stay in the mountains forever, you’d definitely have to come down in a few days. But… if I didn’t catch you in person, you wouldn’t want to talk to me. It’s been so long and you haven’t replied to a single message.”
Seeing the intense resentment and resignation in Qin Zhuopu’s eyes, Lu Ying grunted and muttered, “Didn’t we agree before that you would stop following me?”
“I didn’t follow you.” Qin Zhuopu looked at him and smiled.
Lu Ying immediately rebuked him, “Then why did you come?”
“Now I am not me, I am a star that has fallen here across the ocean, the star is not following you, it doesn’t have its own will.”
“……” Lu Ying’s eyes crossed.
Qin Zhuopu’s smile became even softer. He bent over and picked up the umbrella and briefcase on the ground, raised his hand to open the big black umbrella, hiding himself and Lu Ying under it. Lu Ying tilted his head, and Qin Zhuopu’s hand, raised just in time, touched his face lightly, landed on his shoulder and patted it, gently brushing off the snowflakes from Lu Ying’s hair. Lu Ying subconsciously lowered his head to make it easier for him to sweep the snow. For a moment, Lu Ying felt that this action seemed similar. Once in a famous snow-covered city abroad, they strolled through the streets to enjoy the snowy scenery. In the same way, when Qin Zhuopu raised his hand, Lu Ying bowed his head obediently, in a perfect tacit understanding.
“It’s getting late, you should go back. It’s time for me to go too.” Qin Zhuopu broke the silence.
Lu Ying asked offhandedly, “Where to?”
“You go back to the mountain, I’ll go back to the town and find a place to stay, and go home in the morning to celebrate the New Year with Grandpa.”
“Have you booked a hotel?”
“……” Lu Ying resisted the urge to scold him, pulled up the hood of his coat over his head and strode forward, “You come with me.” His phone was dead, he had no reservation and was walking to town on foot and still wanted to stay in a hotel? He wouldn’t even be able to find a place to sleep until the morning.
“You want to send me off?” Qin Zhuopu followed quickly, the big umbrella shielding them again.
Lu Ying sighed: “It’s the first day of the New Year, it’s the middle of the night, you think it’s normal? The hotels that have business are long overcrowded, and those that don’t have business are closed.”
“Then where are you taking me to stay?”
Lu Ying grunted and didn’t answer him.
Qin Zhuopu asked again.
Lu Ying said helplessly, “Just come with me. Don’t ask.”
The two of them shared the umbrella and walked along the country road. Lu Ying was quick on his feet, and Qin Zuopu matched his pace, and it took just a short while for them to return to Qixia Town.
Lu Ying led the way straight to the community, to the apartment he rented, took out the key and opened the door. Qin Zhuopu stepped into the narrow room and the lights snapped on as if in a dream.
Lu Ying bent down and nimbly fished out a clean towel, toothbrush and a pair of socks from the storage box at the bottom of the bed and put them in a plastic bag. After a moment’s hesitation, he rummaged through a bunch of plain white pants he hadn’t worn, checked the markings one by one, found a familiar size, pull it out and stuffed into the plastic bag as well before getting up to face Qin Zhuopu: “It’s very cramped here, do you want to stay?” His small single room apartment was not as big as the toilet in Qin Zhuopu’s house, let alone half as neat and clean. It wasn’t that he was lazy and sloppy, but it would be difficult for any father and son to live in such a tiny space. What needed to be stored had to be stored and there could be no talk of aesthetics.
Qin Zhuopu’s joy cooled down as early as when Lu Ying bent down to rummage for clothes; the apartment was obviously too small.
When Qin Zhuopu had been here last time, he was too out of control to notice anything else. But this was where Lu Ying really lived; such details were not included in the information.
“You don’t want to stay here?” Seeing that Qin Zhuopu didn’t say anything for a long time, Lu Ying asked stiffly. Everything today was an accident. It was an accident that Qin Zhuopu would come looking for him, and it was also an accident that he would bring Qin Zhuopu here. But it was already so late and there was no place to stay outside. Was he just supposed to leave Qin Zhuopu behind? What if he froze to death in the street?…
Lu Ying knew in his heart that, let alone disliked by outsiders, his place was occasionally disliked by himself. Especially when he was busy looking for something but couldn’t find it, and when it was so hot in the summer that it was going to explode, and even when after he enjoyed a delicious meal the smell wouldn’t go away for a long time. He thought more than once about going back to the mountain to live there and forget about the city, but finally dismissed the idea. Zaizai was getting older, so he was thinking of getting a two-room apartment in the new year, with one bedroom and one living room, to sleep separately.
Qin Zhuopu shook his head, “Can I wear your slippers?”
“…oh.” Seeing him bend down to take off his shoes, Lu Ying put down his slippers, a pair of cold sandals.
Qin Zhuopu: “……” So cold.
Qin Zhuopu changed his shoes full of mud and water and wanted to take off his dirty pants. Lu Ying hurriedly shouted when he saw this: “You stay here, I’m leaving.”
At the sight of him running in a panic, the corners of Qin Zhuopu’s mouth twitched, and he deliberately quickly unzipped his outer trousers, “I’m wearing warm pants.”
“…… ” The embarrassed Lu Ying rolled his eyes and pointed in the direction of the bedside, “There are instant noodles and snacks in the bedside table, boil water and eat them yourself if you’re hungry. I’m gone.”
“En, be careful on the road.” Qin Zhuopu knew he had to go back to the mountain because there, there was his son… Lu Ying’s closest… and most beloved person.
Lu Ying walked to the door and suddenly turned back, meeting Qin Zhuopu’s gaze and sending a belated blessing.
“Good luck in the Year of the Pig.”
This man, whether he belonged to him or not, no matter if they could be together forever in the future, was not someone else, not someone irrelevant.
It was the man he wanted to bless seriously.
Lu Ying: Taking off your trousers in front of me, you rascal!
Mr. Qin: Don’t be afraid, I’m wearing my warm underpants.
Lu Ying: …… (disappointed)