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Hearing this, Cui Dingchen’s heart suddenly trembled. Some thoughts that he shouldn’t have appeared in his heart. He looked straight at Xu Zhao. He didn’t open his mouth until a while later,” Why don’t you know who that person is?”
Xu Zhao honestly answered, “Because I was drunk at that time.”
“You drank? You can drink?” Cui Dingchen remembered that Xu Zhao didn’t drink.
“Mn, I can’t drink.”
“Then why were you drunk?”
“Because that day was Qi Shuai’s birthday.”
After Cui Dingchen asked three questions in a row, Xu Zhao finally became more talkative. Xu Zhao reached out to give Xu Fan some soup and added more vegetables to his plate before whispering to Xu Fan, “That day was Qi Shuai’s birthday. Qi Shuai called many of his classmates out to celebrate, including me. We had a good time and drank some as well. We even missed the deadline to head back to the school dormitory. Many people went to their own houses for the night. Qi Shuai paid for a hotel for the rest of the people.”
Cui Dingchen asked, “So, you also stayed at a hotel?”
Xu Zhao nodded. “Mn. In the past, my family was poor, so I only drank two cups, and I already wasn’t able to last. After arriving at the hotel, I was feeling dizzy before someone came into the room.”
“I don’t know.”
“You couldn’t see who it was?”
“I couldn’t see,” Xu Zhao said. “At that time, only the county town had consistent energy. So the power wasn’t steady and there would be frequent outages. I was also drunk and confused and thought it was Qi Shuai. That’s why I didn’t reject him.”
Hearing this, Cui Dingchen’s face changed slightly, but he continued to ask, “And then?”
Xu Zhao continued, “Then something happened that shouldn’t have happened. When I woke up the next morning, I found out that it wasn’t Qi Shuai laying beside it but a stranger. I was too timid. It was the first time I’d encountered something like that, so I subconsciously wanted to escape. I didn’t dare look at the person and ran away.”
Xu Zhao organized the original Xu Zhao’s memories and tried to express them verbally. He didn’t notice how Cui Dingchen’s expression was changing bit by bit.
After pausing for a bit, Xu Zhao continued, “After returning to the school, it seemed like Qi Shuai knew about my relationship with a stranger and started distancing himself. I don’t know how it happened, but rumors started going around.
“Unfortunately, the entire county town was poor back then as well, and food was even scarcer. My two brothers tried to prevent me from going to school again, even though my mother kept urging me to go.”
“But I didn’t want her to suffer anymore, so I took it upon myself to drop out. Not long after returning to South Bay Village, Xu Fan came.”
After finally briefly telling what happened before, Xu Zhao raised his gaze to look at Cui and found Cui Dingchen to have an ugly expression. He was stunned and whispered, “Youngest uncle.”
Cui Dingchen returned to his senses.
Xu Zhao asked, “Youngest uncle, what’s wrong?”
Cui Dingchen’s gaze was a bit unfocused. He looked at Xu Zhao for a while before asking, “W-which hotel was it?”
Xu Zhao couldn’t understand why Cui Dingchen asked the question, “What?”
Cui Dingchen directly asked, “When you slept with the stranger, which hotel was it?”
A-asking that kind of question. Xu Zhao felt awkward, but he still answered honestly, “It was at the Construction Hotel, near the school.”
It was the Construction Hotel!
Cui Dingchen quickly asked, “Which room number?”
“I don’t remember.” He was too scared and in a rush back then, so he didn’t even remember the way to the gate, much less the room number. He truthfully answered. Seeing Cui Dingchen, who was usually very calm, with an ugly expression, he felt a bit uncomfortable and down and asked, “Youngest uncle, do you care?”
Cui Dingchen was half a beat slow when he asked, “Care about what?”
Xu Zhao said, “Do you care who the other person was?”
Rumbling went through Cui Dingchen’s brain, but he instinctively replied, “I don’t care.”
Despite this, Xu Zhao still felt that Cui Dingchen was suddenly acting very strange and called out again, “Youngest uncle.”
Cui Dingchen suddenly came back to his senses and said, “I’m gonna head to the bathroom.”
Xu Zhao’s only reply was a puzzled look.
Cui Dingchen quickly stood up and felt an inexplicable sense of panic. He accidently bumped the chair with his feet, shocking both Xu Zhao and Xu Fan. He quickly apologized, then left the private room and walked toward the faucet. He pressed both of his hands in the pool of water, his hands trembling.
Five years ago—
Provincial Agricultural School—
A person bolting away—
H-how could it be such a coincidence? He couldn’t be his normal self while facing Xu Zhao. He could only escape to think. To think about the strangeness of all of this… C-could it be Xu Zhao?
Thinking this, Cui Dingchen’s heart shook. He thought of Shen Jiayang… If it was Xu Zhao, then who was Shen Jiayang? Cui Dingchen couldn’t figure it out. All sorts of thoughts flowed through his mind, filling his brain. But the idea of it “being Xu Zhao” was too strong in his mind. So strong that he almost lost his mind. He turned around and went to room 206 to find Shen Jiayang.
However, Shen Jiayang and the others weren’t in room 206. Only the two waiters cleaning up the room remained.
Cui Dingchen asked, “Where did everyone go?”
A waiter replied, “They left.”
Cui Dingchen asked, “When did they leave?”
The waiter replied, “They left a while ago.”
“Any idea where they went?”
Cui Dingchen left room 206. He didn’t return to room 210 immediately, but walked out of Liberation. He bought a box of Chienmen from the store next door. He hadn’t smoked in a long time because Xu Zhao and Xu Fan didn’t like it. However, he couldn’t calm down right now, so he could only have a smoke to calm down a bit.
He slowly sucked the cigarette as he watched the passing pedestrians and bikers go by. He tried to remember the night five years ago, but he couldn’t recall anything. He sat on a stone on the side of the road.
After finishing the cigarette, he calmed down a lot. His heart also calmed down. He stood and entered Liberation and walked directly to room 210.
Father and son, Xu Zhao and Xu Fan, were sitting inside the private room. They seemed to be casually chatting. When they saw Cui Dingchen walk in, the father and son turned their heads in sync.
“Second Grandpa Cui, w-where did you go?” Xu Fan asked.
Cui Dingchen stared at Xu Fan for a minute.
Xu Fan tilted his head and asked, “Why are you staring at me?”
Only then did Cui Dingchen finally say, “I’m staring because you’re handsome.”
This was the first time Cui Dingchen praised Xu Fan so seriously. Xu Fan was shy as he lay in Xu Zhao’s arms and whispered, “Dingchen, Second Grandpa Cui said that I’m handsome.”
Xu Zhao reached out and touched Xu Fan’s little head before turning to Cui Dingchen to say, “Youngest uncle, what happened to you just now?”
“I’m sorry.” Cui Dingchen lied, “Just now, uh, my stomach was hurting.”
“It wasn’t because I—”
“No,” Cui Dingchen interrupted. “No, absolutely not. I don’t care what you did in the past. The ones I like are you and Xu Fan now. My stomach wasn’t feeling good earlier so I had to use the bathroom.”
Hearing Cui Dingchen say that he didn’t mind, Xu Zhao let out a breath of relief. Hearing Cui Dingchen say that his stomach suddenly started hurting, Xu Zhao worriedly asked, “And now? Does it still hurt?”
Cui Dingchen had to say, “It’s a lot better now.”
“Do you want to eat some more?” You didn’t eat much earlier.”
“I’m done. I’m gonna go pay,” Cui Dingchen said.
Xu Zhao stopped Cui Dingchen and said, “I already paid.”
Cui Dingchen looked at Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao said with a smile, “You treated me so many times already. I need to pay you back, so I paid just now.”
Cui Dingchen smiled. He wouldn’t quipple with Xu Zhao over little things like this. He said, “Alright, let’s go then.”
“Wait a second,” Xu Zhao said.
“What’s wrong?” Cui Dingchen asked.
Xu Zhao said, “I want to pack the food we didn’t finish to take home.”
Cui Dingchen glanced at the dining table. Xu Zhao was a very polite person. Not only for people, but he even had good table etiquette. It was like he hadn’t eaten anything. As Xu Zhao helped Xu Fan eat, he only took food from the edge of the plates. Therefore, the leftover food was just like new. It would be fine to take home and eat.
“Sure.” Cui Dingchen nodded. “You just so happened to buy two lunch boxes today too. They’re in the trunk. I’ll get them.”
“Thank you, Youngest uncle.”
Cui Dingchen got the lunch boxes from the trunk. He took them inside the restaurant to wash first before heading to room 210. They packed up the remaining food and brought it to the car together.
Sitting in the car, Xu Fan was very excited. His small mouth moved non stop as he talked. Later, he started talking less and less. In less than five minutes, he fell asleep in the crook of Xu Zhao’s arm.
Cui Dingchen automatically slowed down the car, but they still quickly arrived at South Bay Village. Cui Dingchen got down first, leaned into the back seat and took Xu Fan. Xu Zhao got out after.
As soon as Xu Zhao got out, he said, “Youngest uncle, give him to me. I’ll carry him.”
Cui Dingchen said, “It’s fine. I’ll carry him.”
“His body is dirty right now. I should probably carry him.”
In fact, Xu Fan was very clean. It was mainly because Xu Zhao was afraid that Cui Dingchen would think that children were troublesome, but Cui Dingchen still insisted on holding Xu Fan.
Xu Zhao could only carry the food and the other things.
The two walked toward the courtyard together.
Mother and Father Xu welcomed them.
Cui Dingchen didn’t hand over Xu Fan but went straight to the west wing. He put Xu Fan to bed. He looked at him with a complicated expression until Xu Zhao brought a cup of water over for him.
Cui Dingchen drank a sip, then said, “Xu Fan’s asleep. You should sleep for a bit too.”
Xu Zhao nodded, then asked, “What about you?”
Cui Dingchen said, “I’ll head back to the county town first.”
“Do you have some business to take care of right now?” Xu Zhao asked.
Cui Dingchen truthfully answered, “Mn, just a bit.” Moreover, it was something very urgent.
Hearing that he had something he needed to take care of, Xu Zhao made Cui Dingchen stay any longer and said, “Okay, you should head back. Be careful on the road.”
Cui Dingchen nodded and reached out a hand to stroke Xu Zhao’s cheek as he said, “I’ll come back to pay a visit to Mom and Dad in a few days.”
Xu Zhao laughed.
Cui Dingchen lowered his head and kissed Xu Zhao’s forehead and said, “I’m heading out.”
Cui Dingchen greeted Mother and Father Xu, and after giving the New Year’s gifts, he walked out of the courtyard gate. He got into the driver’s seat, started the car, and slowly drove out of South Bay Village. After getting on the dirt road, he increased his speed. When he got on the paved road, he went even faster.
However, he didn’t return to the Cui residence nor his own home, but to Shen Jiayang’s house instead.