The man raised his eyes and gave Qin Zhuopu a glance, then walked past him without any expression.
Qin Zhuopu was frozen in place. His brain ached for a moment. He had a feeling as if he had seen this stare before.
No matter how he looked, he still felt that the man and Lu Ying really resembled each other.
If he hadn’t known that Lu Ying had no blood relatives, he would have suspected that the man was Lu Ying’s brother or father!
How could there be such similar faces in the world? Lu Ying’s face was absolutely rare, not in the sense of how unique and perfect his eyes, nose and mouth were, but in the sense that his beauty was in the bones, not in the skin.
Qin Zhuopu subconsciously turned around and asked, “Sir, do you know Lu Ying?”
The man stopped walking and turned back to face him solemnly.
When he saw the man’s face up close, Qin Zhuopu felt a little more at ease. At first glance, the man looked very similar to Lu Ying, but on closer inspection, he was quite different. Lu Ying’s eyebrows were long and slender, his eyelashes were thick and black as if he was born with his own eyeliner. There was no other way to describe it: Lu Ying looked bewitching. Although he was tall, he couldn’t be called strong or heroic.
The man in front of Qin Zhuopu, however, seemed very strong and aggressive, with thick eyebrows and deep-set eyes, not angry but arrogant, and the corners of his mouth were turned down as if someone owed him a few billion…
Qin Zhuopu frowned. Was he out of his mind when he thought that this man and Lu Ying were like a family? Unless Lu Ying was angry or unhappy, the corners of his mouth were always slightly upturned; he was born with a smiling face. When Qin Zhuopu saw Lu Ying for the first time, even though Lu Ying was covered in dust on the construction site, wearing a helmet and moving bricks, his face grey and sweaty, a glimpse of Lu Ying’s smiling face made his heart beat faster in an instant.
Lu Ying and this man… there was resemblance in the bones.
No way to deny it, they were similar.
Only this man was older.
Qin Zhuopu couldn’t decide for a moment if this man was in his thirties, forties, or fifties and sixties? It seemed that either age would not be too much. The man was wearing a simple shirt and trousers, with a strong figure and an aura that didn’t fit in with the modern style of the surrounding buildings… as if he should not be here, but rather in a place like the deep mountains and forests, in the wild.
The man suddenly said, “I didn’t expect to see you again.”
“You know me?” Qin Zhuopu was surprised, “You are an… elder of Lu Ying’s family? A relative?”
The man said very little. He suddenly raised his hand, plucked a green leaf from a nearby tree and handed it to Qin Zhuopu.
Qin Zhuopu didn’t know what this meant, but subconsciously took the green leaf and stared at it in his hand. The more ordinary the leaf was, the more bizarre he felt.
When he looked up again, the man had already disappeared.
Qin Zhuopu stood frozen in place for a moment before remembering that he had to go to the bakery to find Lu Ying. He turned around, casually slipping the green leaf into the breast pocket of his shirt.
“Why haven’t you said anything since you got back?” In the small townhouse, eating the fresh fruit the man had just bought, Yang Sigu leaned back in his recliner and asked lazily.
The man kept silent as he lowered his head, struggling with a durian.
Yang Sigu looked up at his serious face and sighed with a smile, “Did you run into Lu Ying on your trip out? No, if you ran into him, you wouldn’t have come back so quickly.”
“I ran into that boy surnamed Qin.”
“So it was him. Was he shocked to see you? Lu Ying looks like you when he’s not smiling, but when he smiles, he’s much cuter than you.”
“I’ve long advised you to have more trust in people. Even if you don’t trust him, you should trust Lu Ying’s instincts. After going round and round, Lu Ying still chose to be with him. What else do you have to say?”
The man put down the durian with a sigh, “I’ve given it back to him.”
“In that case… let’s hide in the mountains, shall we?”
“Why should I hide?” The man looked tense.
Yang Sigu rolled his eyes: “I’m afraid your old bones will be torn apart. Then I’ll be widowed.”
Qin Zhuopu arrived at the bakery, turned on his computer to work purposefully and then went home with Lu Ying at noon to eat western food. There were still more than forty minutes left in Lu Ying’s lunch break and, full of warm thoughts, the two of them naturally stuck together at home. Lu Ying was immersed in a heady, passionate kiss. Breathing rapidly, all he could smell was the familiar scent of Qin Zhuopu, no different than usual. It was very stable and wouldn’t change easily. But then, out of the blue, a very different scent mixed with the smell that Lu Ying was most familiar with.
Lu Ying, with hazy eyes, suddenly felt as if he was electrocuted. He pushed Qin Zhuopu away abruptly, grabbed the clothes on his chest and lowered his head to sniff: “This smell is not right!”
Qin Zhuopu, whose clothes were about to be torn apart, wiped his mouth and said, “What’s the smell?”
As soon as he asked, he saw Lu Ying’s long, slender fingers slide into his shirt pocket and pull out a small, inconspicuous green leaf. Lu Ying’s expression grew more and more excited.
“Where did you get this?” Lu Ying asked in a trembling voice.
Qin Zhuopu answered honestly, “I met a man this morning who gave it to me. By the way, he looks so much like you that I was taken aback at the first moment.”
Lu Ying was ecstatic, “Where did you see him? Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
Qin Zhuopu closed his eyes and held his slightly aching forehead: “I was going to tell you, but suddenly forgot… hmm…” How could he forget?
Lu Ying was in a very anxious mood and wanted to ask for more information; but when he saw Qin Zhuopu’s headache, he hurriedly helped him to sit down on the sofa: “What’s wrong with you all of a sudden? Another headache? Quickly lie down, I’ll help you press the acupuncture points.” He let Qin Zhuopu’s head rest on his lap and sat down to gently massage Qin Zhuopu’s temples with both hands.
Qin Zhuopu’s eyes were tightly closed and he let Lu Ying massage him, but his thoughts were sinking as fast as if they were filled with lead, and he couldn’t even lift his eyelids.
Very tired, very tired…
Yes, he was hurrying home after work, thinking he could have a late dinner with Lu Ying tonight, and then ideally a swim and a bath together. He promised to cut Lu Ying’s toenails today, and not only did he not mind, but he was looking forward to it.
His body was tired, but his heart was exhilarated. When he finally returned home, however, he saw only an empty house and traces that his mother had been here.
Lu Ying left without saying goodbye, and Qin Zhuopu couldn’t bear it and had a big fight with his mother. He went looking for Lu Ying like a madman. At the airport, he didn’t see Lu Ying but only found the emptied mobile phone. He booked the fastest flight to Qixia Town and then walked to the bottom of Qixia Mountain, where, as Lu Ying had said, there was Lujia Village with only a few families living there.
He found the family closest to the foot of the mountain, asked for some information on how to get up the mountain and gave them some money casually. Then he walked towards Qixia Mountain alone.
Qixia Mountain didn’t look high at all from the outside, at most half an hour to climb up, but Qin Zhuopu climbed for a long, long time, not knowing whether it was an hour or two hours, a day or two days…
He was getting tired, and he wondered if he was lost in the mountain forest. Could it be that he had gone to the wrong place? Did Lu Ying really come back here? But if Lu Ying didn’t go back here, where could Lu Ying be?
Lu Ying had often told him about his friends on Qixia Mountain, and he knew that Lu Ying loved the place where he was born.
Lu Ying must be very angry to leave without saying goodbye. If he didn’t find him soon and get him back, he would probably lose Lu Ying forever. No, he couldn’t let it happen!
“Lu Ying! Lu Ying! Lu Ying, are you here?”
He collapsed on the ground in exhaustion, shouting Lu Ying’s name.
Almost as soon as he finished shouting, footsteps suddenly sounded from behind him. He was so ecstatic that he got up and turned around: “Lu Ying, it’s you…”
It was not Lu Ying! It was not even a human being!
“Human boy, you have a lot of nerve!”
The stag, as tall as an adult man, stood a few metres away from Qin Zhuopu and opened its mouth to roar at him in human language!
A deer, talking to him???
Qin Zhuopu was stunned and speechless, watching the stag getting closer and closer to him with vigorous steps, a pair of red deer eyes full of anger, “Shameless child, you dare to come after him? You have broken his heart and hurt his body! Never again will you come near Lu Ying. Lu Ying and you have nothing to do with each other. Your fate is over. If you go down the mountain immediately, I will pretend you have never been here. If you keep pestering, don’t blame me for being unkind.”
The real deer was speaking in human language. The words were clear and unmistakable, sounding absolutely unimpeded.
Qin Zhuopu should have felt fear but Lu Ying’s name filled him with courage, “You, you… what is your relationship with Lu Ying… You have no right to stop me from seeing Lu Ying!” Was this a demon or a mountain god? Was he dreaming? It was simply too bizarre.
“Huh, you overestimate yourself.”
The stag’s angry eyes stared at him, the green trees in the mountain forest began to sway wildly, and the rustling sound echoed in his ears…
Qin Zhuopu’s thoughts were getting blurred and all the sounds were getting farther and farther away from him.
Only the stag’s voice echoed in his head with a constant warning, “Lu Ying belongs only to the mountain, not to you. Do not remember.”
Qin Zhuopu awoke from his dream and sat up with a start, his eyes still full of shock.
“Zhuopu, you finally woke up!” Lu Ying was overjoyed, holding a soft towel in his hand to wipe Qin Zhuopu’s sweaty body, “I was so frightened by you just now. You suddenly fell asleep as if you were having a nightmare and couldn’t wake up! You were talking nonsense anxiously and sweating wildly, and your body was hot. I thought you had a fever, so I was going to call Dr. Hu over if you didn’t wake up. Did you have a nightmare? You’re still panting now…”
Qin Zhuopu suddenly hugged Lu Ying fiercely, his body trembling, and managed to say through the clenched teeth, “Lu Ying…”
“Uh… really had a nightmare?” Lu Ying comforted him: “Okay, okay, don’t be afraid, dreams are all fake, and nightmares are all the other way round. The scarier the dream, the better the reality. So no matter what bad things you dream about, don’t take them to heart. You are a man, don’t be such a wuss, Zaizai is better than you.”
Qin Zhuopu took a deep breath holding the man in his arms and said in an inaudible voice: “It was not a dream…” He was pretty sure that those things were all true, all of them were his own experiences from seven years ago. It was the confusing memory that had plagued him for a long time, and it was the factual evidence of the truth that he had been unable to explain to Lu Ying.
He knew that seven years ago, with his character, how could he have never looked for Lu Ying? How could he have calmly turned back from the airport? Even during those seven years, he remembered Lu Ying in his mind, recalling the bits and pieces of the time they had spent together, but he lacked the urge to find Lu Ying. He thought about Lu Ying and remembered him, but he went about his day as if everything was fine. It was only when he saw Lu Ying’s photos and videos on the internet, when he saw the living, breathing Lu Ying, that the black and white picture in his memory finally regained the beautiful colours that it should have had. The impulse, the urge to go to Lu Ying and to get him back was renewed.
So, he didn’t lie to Lu Ying.
Burying his head in Lu Ying’s chest, Qin Zhuopu completely relaxed.
When he closed his eyes, the eyes of that huge stag flashed in his mind, angry eyes… slowly overlapping with another pair of eyes, very similar.
The eyes he had seen this morning, the eyes of the strange man.
A man and a stag, two pairs of eyes, just magically fused perfectly in his mind.
Qin Zhuopu felt cold and stiff all over.
The man and the stag…
The man and Lu Ying…
The stag and Lu Ying…
“Why are you cold again? What dream has scared you like this?” Lu Ying helplessly hugged Qin Zhuopu. “Is it warmer? Otherwise, go to bed and sleep, forget it, I’ll go and get you a cup of hot water first.”
Lu Ying was about to get up, but Qin Zhuopu suddenly pulled him back, “Don’t go.” He fell onto the sofa with his arms around Lu Ying, not wanting to let go of him no matter what. He resigned to his fate, he let go of everything in his mind, wanting only to embrace the lover in front of him.
Lu Ying belongs to the mountain, not to you.
No, Lu Ying belongs to me.
The air conditioner was running dutifully, the mobile phone slipped off the sofa and no one had the heart to care.
The rough palm of Qin Zhuopu’s hand gently traced every cell of Lu Ying’s body.
No matter how different Lu Ying was, he would never let go of him again. Lu Ying was his for life.
Lu Ying was late for work in the afternoon and scolded Qin Zhuopu for it. Qin Zhuopu let him scold, just smiling at him and not saying anything. When Lu Ying ran out of the house in a hurry, Qin Zhuopu was left alone in the empty apartment, staring at the sky in a daze. The smell of Lu Ying’s body still lingered on his palms, the warmth under his touch incredibly reassuring.
Regardless of the past or present, including the future, Lu Ying would always be Lu Ying.
It was Lu Ying he had always loved. This was something that would not be shaken in the slightest by anything.
He believed that in Lu Ying’s heart, he was also an irreplaceable existence.
What’s more, they had a lovely son.
They were destined to be forever entwined and inseparable in this life.
In the bakery’s workroom, Lu Ying kneaded the dough dexterously, while the rest of the team went in and out doing their jobs. Fei Qiqi suddenly stood next to Lu Ying and whispered with a chuckle, “Brother Xiao Lu, you guys are too enthusiastic!”
“Hmm? Enthusiastic about what?” Lu Ying was puzzled.
Fei Qiqi quietly raised the makeup mirror, showing the back of his neck, “See? Tsk tsk… oops, don’t make people say it!”
Lu Ying’s face suddenly turned red. He shrank his neck and tugged at his clothes, but no amount of tugging could completely block the scenery. He felt extremely annoyed with Qin Zhuopu’s nonsense. The man had always been very disciplined and measured in the past and would never leave traces in easily exposed places to attract attention. Today Lu Ying didn’t know what happened… everything suddenly became particularly… messy. Also leaving such an eye-catching hickey, it was clearly done on purpose.
“Heh…” Lu Ying sighed and continued to knead the dough, a little worried about today’s perverse Qin Zhuopu. There was also that ordinary leaf; Lu Ying was pretty sure he felt Grandpa Lu’s scent, but the leaf appeared on Qin Zhuopu. And Grandpa Lu was clearly no longer there…
If Grandpa Lu was still around, Lu Ying was sure that they would see each other again one day.
Qin Zhuopu stayed at home today, picked up the child and made dinner. Lu Ying went home for dinner and then continued his evening shift.
When he returned home at ten o’clock, he found that there was a tall, sturdy man at home in addition to Qin Zhuopu. That man was not an ordinary person at first glance, “This is…” When Lu Ying saw the man’s appearance clearly, his words stopped abruptly.
Those wide-set eyes, flat nose, thick lips… the guy looked genuinely ugly.
“Dad, this is Uncle Avatar! Uncle said that he will be responsible for picking me up and dropping me off at school in the future, so Dad won’t have to work so hard. Uncle Avatar will protect me and also teach me to practise boxing, oh!” Lu Zaizai immediately explained clearly to Lu Ying. The little one seemed to really like this big brother.
“Hello Mr. Lu, I am Jin Dachu, the bodyguard hired by Mr. Qin. I used to be in charge of Mr. Qin’s security work. From today onwards I will be at Mr. Lu’s service.”
“Oh oh, a bodyguard.” Lu Ying suddenly realised and squeezed over to Qin Zhuopu, “Why are you suddenly arranging a bodyguard for us? I don’t need one.” And such a look, was it really unintentional?
No wonder Zaizai called him Uncle Avatar, he really looked like that.
Qin Zhuopu smiled: “I know you are very good, but he is mainly responsible for picking up and protecting Zaizai. No matter what, Zaizai is still a child, just in case. And in addition to his security work, you can ask him for help in anything that is inconvenient, no problem using him as an assistant. Like school matters, you can ask him to go if you don’t have time.” He had long wanted to place a few people around Lu Ying and the child. But knowing that Lu Ying wouldn’t like it, he didn’t take matters into his own hands. However, now he felt he couldn’t give in to Lu Ying too much.
The biggest hidden problems and doubts in his heart had been solved, and in the rest of his life, apart from living a good life with Lu Ying and Zaizai, protecting them was the most important task. Jin Dachu was only the bodyguard on the surface, and as for the other secret arrangements, Qin Zhuopu would not take the initiative to say anything until Lu Ying found out by himself.
Lu Ying didn’t agree immediately, but then he heard Qin Zhuopu snort coldly, “By the way, I forgot to tell you, Teacher Wang has been expelled from the school.”
“Ah, so fast? It’s only been a day.” Lu Ying was astonished.
“She herself confessed her misdeeds to the headmaster in panic, so she was just dismissed and expelled. I’ll have someone keep an eye on her and tell her not to think about becoming a teacher again for the rest of her life. Do you know why she targeted our Zaizai?”
Lu Ying shook his head honestly, “I don’t know. I didn’t know her before.”
“She has a distant cousin called Zhang Enhui… I’ll take care of this person surnamed Zhang.” Qin Zhuopu’s heart was full of anger. If he didn’t check, he wouldn’t know, but when he did, he was furious. That ugly, old woman was actually trying to force the unspoken rules on Lu Ying! It was more disgusting than cow dung, what the hell, her mind was so dirty! When she didn’t get what she wanted, she made trouble, trying to persecute his son. Let’s see; Qin Zhuopu was not a magnanimous person.
Lu Ying looked confused: “Who is Zhang Enhui again?”
Qin Zhuopu rubbed his hair: “You don’t need to remember disgusting people too well, leave them alone anyway. This kind of person has a lot of shady things in her life, so one doesn’t even need to think of ways to deal with her.”
When he said that, Lu Ying finally guessed, “Could it be Manager Zhang from the shopping mall?”
“Yes, it’s her.”
Lu Ying was furious: “Is it actually her? This woman is so rotten and immoral! I was kind enough to let her off the hook once, but I didn’t expect that she would try to get back at me and drag Zaizai into it. If I had known, I would have put a sack on her and beat her up!”
“A beating and a sack are too cheap for her and would get your hands dirty. Just wait and see.”
Lu Ying trusted Qin Zhuopu’s methods and felt relieved.
The next day, Qin Zhuopu flew back to the company, but even though he was not in Qixia Town, he did a good job of cleaning up.
Within half a month, Zhang Enhui was exposed for embezzlement of five million yuan of public funds. At the same time, the entire shopping mall overnight received the exciting gift of the scandalous photos of her and a number of sturdy men. The same photos were received in her community and at her husband’s work.
Zhang Enhui was a regular at nightclubs and private clubs, with all kinds of bad records listed. Surprisingly, evidence of her taking drugs, gambling, threatening male subordinates at her former job and an affair with a married executive was found.
In the small, isolated Qixia Town, Zhang Enhui’s experience could truly be described as a ‘life well lived’, quite appalling. Zhang Enhui was sued by the company and hounded by the victims’ families for moral damages. Her husband filed for divorce. Even her blood relatives cried that they had no face to leave the house and would no longer recognise such a disgraceful daughter.
After failing to repay the public money, Zhang Enhui was sentenced to twelve years in prison. She unsuccessfully tried to kill herself and then served her time. When she was released from prison, she found that her family had long since disappeared and she was left alone with nothing.
Now, when Lu Ying saw the thick pile of evidence on various bad habits and criminal records of Manager Zhang, he couldn’t help but shake his head and sigh: “It’s amazing, this woman is so desperate. She has done everything from eating, drinking, sleeping around and gambling, so how come she never thought there would be times when the horse would lose its horseshoe?”
“Some people who have riches in their hands tend to fall into the golden cave and cannot extricate themselves.” Jin Dachu, the bodyguard who brought the information, said from the sidelines.
Lu Ying closed the information and threw it to Jin Dachu, raising an eyebrow at him, “What does your Boss Qin usually do?”
“Mr. Qin is clean and disciplined, even smoking and drinking only occasionally. Basically, he’s busy with work and will take time to accompany Elder Qin for regular medical check-ups, walks and chess games.”
“Ahem, I don’t doubt him, you don’t need to say so much. I know what kind of man he is and trust him very much.” Lu Ying waved his hand with a smile on his face and went happily about his work.
After Lu Zaizai changed classes, his mental state also changed greatly. As in kindergarten, he looked forward to going to school every day. When he went home, he happily showed off what he had done today, which teacher had praised him, what new friends he had made, and so on.
One month after the start of the school year, it was time for the National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival, combined into the long holidays.
Lu Ying was very busy. The holidays were a good time for them to make more sales, not to mention the annual Mid-Autumn Festival when moon cakes and mung bean cakes were essential. There was no time like the present for bakeries to make profit.
Lu Ying gathered the shop staff and started preparing and planning long in advance. In addition to product taste selection and pattern innovation, Lu Ying also included the packaging design. Brother Yang was close to his due date, and Lu Ying didn’t dare to disturb him. He was tired but he learned a lot.
On the holiday’s eve, Lu Ying settled everything in the shop and took his son home to rest. Qin Zhuopu didn’t have a long vacation, but he said he would come over to spend the evening with the two of them at the Mid-Autumn Festival, and both Lu Ying and Zaizai were looking forward to seeing him.
At night, as usual, Lu Ying slept peacefully after having a video chat with Qin Zhuopu.
In the middle of the night, when he was sleeping soundly, his mobile phone rang.
Seeing that it was Ji Xiaofeng’s call, Lu Ying picked it up in a frenzy: “Brother Ji! Is there any news from Brother Yang?”
Brother Yang had returned to the mountain a week ago, and Dr. Hu was on standby.
“Good news to you, the baby has been born safely!”
“Wow!” Lu Ying exclaimed.
“Congratulations, little piggy Lu, you have a new little aunt.”
Mr. Gao: Lao Qin, come and try today’s grilled venison, it is nourishing, a man should eat venison!
Mr. Qin (angry): The deer is so cute, how can you eat it!
Mr. Gao: What? (Didn’t you eat it happily before?)
Lu Ying: Let me try it, omg, venison is so delicious (*^▽^*)
Mr. Qin: ……????
Mr. Qin: Let me call you by your nickname from now on.
Lu Ying: Sure, what are you going to call me? Xiao Ying?
Mr. Qin: No, no, I’ll call you Xiao Lu (lù here is “deer”, not Lu like in Lu Ying’s surname).
Lu Ying: Xiao Lu? I don’t like it, a lot of people call me Xiao Lu.
Mr. Qin: Then I’ll call you Xiao Lulu!
Lu Ying: Why don’t you call me Little Piggy? I like that, it’s cute.
Mr. Qin: ……
Zaizai: What is your favourite animal, Dad?
Mr. Qin: Of course it’s a little deer, it’s kind and cute.
Lu Ying: Let’s get a divorce.
Mr. Qin: Why?
Lu Ying: I like pigs and I can’t stand you if you like deer.
Mr. Qin: …Wait, what’s wrong?
A long time later, Mr. Qin, who knew the truth, shed tears.
Mr. Qin: I’m sorry, I ate a lot of your kind…
Lu Ying: It’s okay, I’m also eating (gnawing on a pig’s trotter). Hmm, want some?
Mr. Qin: ……