After getting off the plane, he got into the car and rushed back as quickly as possible. Before dark, Luo Wencheng came to the three-storey villa again.
He walked in quickly. The man he hadn’t seen for four months hadn’t changed much, but the cat in his arms had changed a lot.
The original shiny and smooth fur had fallen out, revealing pieces of skin here and there; the original fat body was deflated, as if there was only a skeleton and some skin left.
Luo Wencheng was stunned.
He didn’t even care to look at Lu Chong, his attention was all on the big cat, and when Lu Chong walked towards him, he naturally took the cat from his arms.
“Ribs, I’m back, Ribs.” In his hands, the cat was light and bony, and her eyes were weak and tired, with little energy.
Luo Wencheng remembered that when he first came here, this big cat pounced on him on the stairs and grabbed his face with fierce energy, and then spinned around him, lively and active, lazily and nimbly dragging her fat belly. Tears fell from his eyes.
He raised his arms, rubbed his face against the big cat, and said in a trembling voice: “Ribs, open your eyes and see who’s back, didn’t you want to see me?”
The cat raised her eyelids and licked Luo Wencheng’s chin: “Meow…”
“Ribs.” Luo Wencheng kissed her.
“Meow…” The big cat licked him.
Lu Chong watched as one man and one cat kissed each other, and warmth gradually rose from the bottom of his eyes.
When the two of them had had enough of making out, they sat down on the sofa. Luo Wencheng hugged the cat and asked, “How long has Ribs been like this?”
“About half a month now.” Lu Chong looked at the cat who had closed her eyes again in Luo Wencheng’s arms after the moment of affection had passed, and was panting hard, “At first she just shed some fur, didn’t move around much and had little appetite. But yesterday she suddenly became active, always going to your room, sniffing and meowing, looking for you everywhere, and not letting anyone take her away.”
Luo Wencheng’s eyes were a little red again, and he cautiously touched the big cat: “Is there no way?”
Lu Chong looked at the cat and said in a low voice, “It’s time.”
Luo Wencheng lowered his head and buried his face in the sparse cat fur, unable to control his expression.
He thought he was calm enough to face death with a straight face, but at this moment, because of the imminent departure of the cat, he still felt uncontrollable heartache.
Luo Wencheng was almost inseparable from Ribs, holding the cat wherever he went and whatever he did, and the big cat seemed to have completely forgotten her owner and would meow and yell if Luo Wencheng was away for a short while.
For dinner that day, she ate a little more. She slept next to Luo Wencheng at night very peacefully. The next day, she was in good spirits and lay in Luo Wencheng’s arms, kneading him with her paws and playing with him.
However, in the afternoon, her spirits quickly waned.
The sun was still high at that time. Luo Wencheng was sitting on the carpet in the patio with Ribs in his arms. The sun shone brightly on them. He felt that the cat in his arms that was quite active just now was slowly moving less and less, and her limbs were softening little by little.
Luo Wencheng realised something and met Lu Chong’s gaze.
There was no need to say anything. The two saw the same emotion in each other’s eyes. Lu Chong stretched out his hand and gently placed it on the top of the big cat’s head, rubbing it with his thumb tenderly.
“Mee…” Ribs stretched out her front paw. Lu Chong held it in his hand, “Good girl, go to sleep in peace.”
The big cat opened her eyes wearily and slowly, looking at Lu Chong. Her bright yellow round eyes were full of affection. Then she rubbed her face in the crook of Luo Wencheng’s arm and slowly closed her eyes.
The cat’s tail fell down, Ribs’ body in the hands of the two men was losing its temperature little by little.
Luo Wencheng raised his head, his eyes flushed, looking at the brilliant flowers and plants in the courtyard and the warm sunset, and suddenly felt an inexplicable fear.
Not because of death, but because of parting.
Ribs’ body was quickly sent for cremation. Lu Chong didn’t choose to bury the ashes in the backyard of the villa, but took them to the amusement park under construction.
He told Luo Wencheng that Ribs was picked up here.
“When she was picked up, she was only the size of a palm. It was a newborn little kitten abandoned by her mother. She seemed to grow so big in the blink of an eye.” He talked about the funny and embarrassing stories of Ribs over the years, “She was like a child to me, and she was the only one who kept me company over the years.”
Luo Wencheng looked at his slightly red eyes. This was the first time he had seen Lu Chong like this. His nostalgia, his reluctance to part, his melancholy and his deep suppressed sadness all made him look extremely fragile and soft at this moment.
Luo Wencheng forced himself to look away; if he looked any further, he was afraid he might be unable to resist hugging the man.
“In fact, you should be happy for her. She has lived for almost seventeen years, longer than most cats. She has been active and happy all her life. She only felt pain in the last half a month. It’s already very good, isn’t it? And she had an owner who loved her so much. She received the best care and the best love from you. She accompanied you, and you were also with her. There should be no regrets.”
Luo Wencheng looked at the small mound of earth where the ashes of Ribs were buried, right between two trees, with the amusement park for company, where it would be lively and would not feel lonely, and at the same time where no one could disturb this cat that slept here.
He said softly: “So don’t feel sorry, sir. Parting is always inevitable. All we can do is to grasp every day before we part. And after parting, with a feeling of blessing and gratitude, it’s good to miss each other once in a while.”
Lu Chong turned his head, stared at Luo Wencheng and slowly asked, “You are leaving too, aren’t you?”
Luo Wencheng smiled and didn’t look at Lu Chong: “I have already left, but this time I’m going abroad and I don’t plan to come back again. I want to travel, look around, and stay for a while if I come across a place I like. Maybe I’ll meet someone who likes me and I also like him, then I might stay with him and live out this life.”
Lu Chong suddenly reached out to him and brushed away the tears that rolled down from his eyes.
Only then did Luo Wencheng realise that he was crying: “I really…” He lowered his head and wiped away his tears, then turned his face away and looked at the undulating hills and the vast sky in the distance, and smiled, “At that time, I won’t think of you too often, sir. Whether I’m happy or not, I won’t contact you again, sir. I won’t ask for blessings on my birthday. Sir, you don’t have to miss me or send anyone to follow me. You don’t need to know my whereabouts, otherwise I will think that you are concerned about me, sir, and I will feel uncomfortable.”
The more he said, the more he tried to control his emotions, the more tears surged down and the more he wiped them away. He stopped in tears and laughter: “Really… I really, why am I acting like a girl?”
Before he finished speaking, he was forcefully embraced.
Luo Wencheng stood still in a daze, looking down at the feet of the two of them next to each other.
He suddenly said, “Lu Chong, I really like you.”
He felt the arms holding him stiffen for a moment and then start to loosen.
He raised his head and looked at the man so close to him, so obviously within reach.
If he could, he really didn’t want to leave.
“So I want to ask you one last time, is it really not possible?”
Lu Chong looked down at his amber eyes that were almost transparent by the oblique sunlight. From a distance came the sounds of the amusement park construction and the noise of trucks transporting various building materials. It all sounded so distant, with only the young man clear and dazzling in front of him.
His heartbeat seemed to become very slow at this moment, then he closed his eyes, lowered his arms and took a step back: “I’m sorry, Wencheng.”
Luo Wencheng looked at him steadily, and smiled softly after a long time: “It’s okay.”
He didn’t expect to get the answer he wanted, but… he was not reconciled in the end.
You know what? I really, really, really want to live for you.
With you, live.
He smiled again, turned around, took two steps and turned back: “Do you know? I have a secret, a big, big secret, but I only tell it to the people who love me the most and only love me.”
Lu Chong looked at him; his face seemed a little pale as he slowly said, “There will be.”
“Well, you think so too, how could a good person like me not find someone?” Luo Wencheng said with a touch of arrogance and content, “If you don’t like me, naturally more people will, okay, it’s not like it’s the matter of life and death.” He looked at the time: “I should go, there are a lot of people waiting for me in the provincial capital.”
Lu Chong also smiled: “I will see you off.”
“Okay.” Luo Wencheng waved his hand at the little earth mound over there, “Ribs, I’m leaving, I will come back to see you next time I have a chance! But that may be ten years, eight years or more years, don’t miss me too much!”
There was a car parked on the side of the road. Lu Chong had personally driven here to bury the ashes of Ribs, and now he had to take Luo Wencheng to the airport.
Luo Wencheng sat in the passenger seat, propping up his cheeks and sighing regretfully: “I can’t believe I forgot to get a driving licence this year, otherwise I could have been a driver for you, sir.”
After a while, he said, “But sir, this is the second time you have been a driver for me. I guess this is a treatment that most people can’t even think about, right?”
And then, “I just saw that the online tickets are gone. Sir, can you really get me a ticket?”
The chattering didn’t stop.
Lu Chong drove smoothly and remained silent.
He was originally a little absent-minded, but the voice in his ears kept talking and talking, gradually awakening some of his memories.
That person was also long-winded and kept talking and talking to him. It was also when they were about to be separated, and also in the car; Lu Chong recalled in a daze, the feeling of deja vu, the hazy intuition… Something that had been incomprehensible for more than ten years seemed to strike him like lightning and a certain nerve suddenly twitched.
Lu Chong stepped on the brake.
Luo Wencheng’s body lurched forward because of inertia, and he looked at Lu Chong in shock: “What’s the matter?”
Lu Chong’s expression seemed even more shocked than his, that kind of horror, that kind of disbelief, and he looked at Luo Wencheng with a gaze that was completely incomprehensible.
Luo Wencheng was so confused and creeped out by his look that he was at a loss for words.
Lu Chong grabbed Luo Wencheng’s wrist, his expression almost vicious: “You…”
The car was hit hard, jumped and skidded for a few metres, both people falling forward at the same time.
Lu Chong looked at the back of the car and his face suddenly changed. He immediately stepped on the gas and grabbed the steering wheel.
Luo Wencheng accidentally bumped his head, and his vision was black and dazed for two seconds. He struggled to regain his senses and saw the front of a huge, hideous truck hitting from the rear on Lu Chong’s side.
Their car had been hit just now and crashed into the mud on the side of the road. The tires sank into a pit, and the whole car was tilted. No matter how good the performance of the car was, it couldn’t be driven out for a while.
With another “bang”, the truck hit the black car again. Next to it was a slope, and then there was a large area of wasteland. From a distance, you could see the black car being hit by the truck like a toy. It flew out and even rolled in the air several times.
The truck, too fast for its own good, also came crashing down, dumping steel all over.
In the end, most of it hit the car.
Luo Wencheng saw the ground moving away and then approaching again. For a long time, his vision was full of blue sky.
Then he was pressed down by an embrace and couldn’t see anything.
There was only an endless roar of impact in his ears.
He couldn’t feel the vibration and flipping of his body, nor could he feel the slightest pain, and finally even the deafening impact went far away.
All he could feel was the hot blood on his cheeks that seemed to be drowning him.