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The April of that year was the longest and most memorable for Shi Changan and Shi Changle.
On the morning of the 16th, Lu Shenxing went downstairs and saw Shi Changle standing there with his schoolbag and a large suitcase. He was looking at him with a complicated look, disappointment, sorrow, disgust, and unwillingness all gathered on his face, creating a heavy atmosphere.
"Dad, I'm going to Fengzhuang Middle School." Shi Changle said to Lu Shenxing lightly, "You can take care of my transfer."
He spoke again, "I’ll stay at my cousin's house for a bit, you can notify me after you’ve completed the procedures."
He finished everything in one breath. Shi Changle clutched the handle of the suitcase. His dad didn’t seem to object, or want to hold him back. There wasn’t even any anger, he really felt nothing for him. Shi Changle rolled the corners of his lips, as if he would cry at any moment.Lu Shenxing just glanced at him indifferently, and sat on the sofa to read the newspaper.
Shi Changle's small body trembled slightly, his nose was red, he turned around and wiped his eyes, scolded the butler who wanted to help him with his luggage, and dragged away the large baggage.
Shi Chang’an in his room took out a note that had been stuffed under his pillow. There were a few lines written on it: I didn’t lose to you, not once, this time I just lost to myself. Don’t be proud, I’ll win it back.
At the corner of the note was a goodbye, followed by an exclamation point. It was easy to see the writer’s anger.
Shi Changan narrowed his eyes, he knew his brother too well. He was too conceited and eager to win, so he was easily riled up.
"Are you not going to explain what’s going on?"
There was a voice at the door, Shi Changan didn’t bother to hide the note. He lifted the quilt and got out of bed, took out a chestnut wig from the drawer and covered his head that only had some short hair on it. He looked just like Shi Changle, even the prideful look in his eyes was the same, "I made a bet with Changle."
When Lu Shenxing saw the wig, he understood everything. Shi Changan and Shi Changle had exchanged identities again, betting on whether their dad would recognize them.
If he couldn’t recognize him, Shi Changan would leave. If he could, then the one who walked would be Shi Changle.
And Lu Shenxing had a history of failing.
From an outsider’s point of view the odds were about ten to one that Shi Changle would succeed.
But unexpectedly, Lu Shenxing could tell it at first sight when he saw Shi Changle this time.
Shi Changle's blind self-confidence was because he didn’t fully understand what had been happening recently, or was subconsciously avoiding and denying it.
"What would you do if you lost?" Lu Shenxing raised his eyebrows.
"I never thought about it." Shi Changan turned his head to open the closet, "Dad, I need to change."
"I know." Lu Shenxing motioned for him to continue.
"..." Shi Changan took the clothes he found and went to the bathroom. He looked in the mirror. It had been a few days since he’d come back from the hospital, and he still wasn’t used to himself without hair.
Shi Changan's lips curled up, and the corners of the boy's eyes in the mirror lifted and were filled with joy.
This summer, Shi Changle was admitted to a middle school in a neighbouring city and Shi Changan entered a local middle school. The plot had finally begun to deviate from its original trajectory.
The hot wind blew in, and there was no coolness left in the air.
Shi Changan was short-sighted, and could no longer read his comics. His eyesight was much worse than before. Lu Shenxing took him to get a pair of black-rimmed glasses. The tear mole in the corner of his eye was obscured by the lens.
"Dad, you don't like me playing the piano."
At the end of a brisk song, Shi Changan put the piano cover down. He wasn’t asking a question. Every time he played the piano, his dad's expression changed, he wasn’t happy, although he couldn’t understand why.
Lu Shenxing took a breath. "Your humanities grades are very good. Dad hopes you don't take the road of music."
Shi Changan was taken aback, "Why?"
"I want to see you standing on the podium as a teacher." Lu Shenxing flicked his cigarette at the ashtray, slowing down his tone, and deliberately emphasized, "A Chinese teacher."
Shi Changan straightened his lips and sat on the stool in silence.
Lu Shenxing wasn’t sure whether he could persuade Shi Changan. From the description in the book, he could see that Shi Changan was persistent in his dream and didn’t give up easily.
"Young Master, Changle has had an accident while racing cars with someone." The butler thoughtfully added, "It seems that the injury wasn’t light."
He sighed in his heart. From childhood to adulthood, the youngest was always very competitive. He couldn't help but be goaded and provoked by others. Now the young master is no longer looking after him, he worried that something would happen.
Lu Shenxing only said one line, "Send him to the hospital."
Shi Changan and Shi Changle were polar opposites. One brother could take a book and read it quietly for a day, or sit in front of the piano for hours, and dream of becoming a pianist.
The other had a short attention span and wanted everything to go fast. He liked all kinds of cars and racing cars and when he grew up, he wanted to be a racer, so he could drive unrestrained on the track.
Lu Shenxing extinguished the cigarette butt. His task was to change Shi Changan's miserable life without disturbing Shi Changle's destiny.
Hearing the indifferent and alienated answer, the butler left. Perhaps the young master wanted to train the young master and wear out his bad habits.
A piece of news in the evening kept Lu Shenxing from eating his meal.
Two dead. The murderer was Mrs. Kuo, who was born in a wealthy family. A picture was posted beside the column. When Shi Changan saw it, he was surprised before he slowly returned to normal.
In his memory, his aunt had always been exquisitely made up, only wore famous brands, and was arrogant and domineering. Most of his memories were of her cruel expression.
"Dad?" Shi Changan turned his head.
"Eat." Lu Shenxing placed some meat into his bowl.
Shi Changan was suspicious. Dad and Aunty were siblings. Would Dad come forward if something happened to her?
This event was playing out completely differently in Lu Shenxing's mind. He had been tolerating that woman for a long time. If his system hadn’t reminded him to not affect her fate, he would have failed this task long ago.
So he swallowed his grievances and quietly waited for the women's fate to play out.
The eloquent reports on TV continued. The victim was a young girl who was about to give birth. Lu Shenxing recalled the plot while he ate. The girl was the same one who had been fucked by Liu Daliang.
Shi Yiwei had given the girl money for an abortion, but the girl didn't do it. Her belly grew bigger and she was about to give birth. As a first time mother, she panicked and secretly came out to find the child's father, Liu Daliang.
Liu Daliang himself was a child who hadn’t matured. He was spoiled by Shi Yiwei and couldn't bear the responsibility at all, let alone face it. He was afraid that the girl would threaten him with exposing the truth and he would be laughed at by classmates and relatives.
Confused by various negative emotions, Liu Daliang had a dispute with the girl. During the scuffle, he pushed her off the balcony and she fell to her death, killing two people.
Shi Yiwei took the blame for her son's crime and confessed to the police.
She had a strong and domineering personality, and Liu Daliang's father could only find his dignity as a man from other women. When he was contacted by the police, he was apathetic.
This case caused a great sensation, and while things were still up in the air, Lu Shenxing knew exactly what was going on.
Shi Changan returned to his room and noticed a missed call. He called back. There was a noisy bang at the other end, and then Huang Kuo's voice came through, breathing heavily.
"Where are you?"
"Counting packages in the warehouse." Huang Kuo squatted on the ground, with the phone between his shoulder and ear, "Hey, I heard about your aunt, it's strange. I reckon your eldest cousin Liu Daliang was involved."
Hearing this, Shi Changan looked back at the door of his room, then got up and closed it, "The case is still being investigated."
"I know, don't worry, I won't talk." Huang Kuo snorted, raising his arm to wipe the sweat from his face. "That little girl was really in over her head. If she wanted to mess around when she was a teenager, she should’ve found someone like me that is reliable and capable. Liu Daliang’s has money but he’s an arsehole.”
He didn't understand the filth and darkness of society. He only felt it was weird. When Shi Changan turned on the lamp and was illuminated by the soft light, he felt more relaxed.
"Shi Changle probably cried." Huang Kuo threw the package onto the trolley, curled his lips and said, "Your aunt is kind to him, she coddles him too much."
Not wanting to continue the topic, Shi Changan glanced at the alarm clock on his desk, "Are you always busy so late every day?"
"No, it will be better when the shifts change. My uncle will be back next month, and I’ll be a wild and free teenager, just like in the movies." Huang Kuo chuckled, "I'll go first. After dinner, I’ll call again."
After hanging up the phone, Shi Changan lay on the quilt of the bed for a while. He was sure if it was the picture of the girl lying in a pool of blood in the news at dinner time or the quiet room that made him feel a sense of suffocation.
Shi Changan put on slippers and went to the second floor, "Dad, are you asleep?"
Lu Shenxing's voice came from the room, "I’m asleep."
After a pause, Shi Changan rubbed his nose and said bashfully "Can I sleep with you tonight?"
Lu Shenxing on the bed opened his eyes, "Come in."
Shi Changan held the doorknob and pushed it open. He walked to the bed in the dark, kicked off his slippers and lay down. He nestled on the outermost part of the bed before he was dragged into a warm embrace by an extended arm.
"Afraid?" Lu Shenxing sniffed the fresh scent of soap from the boy in his arms, his arms tightened, his low voice vibrated with a hoarse sleepiness, "Dad will protect you."
Shi Changan stared at the dark emptiness and fell asleep to the sound of snoring in his ears.
The next day Lu Shenxing took Shi Changan to go abroad. This was Shi Yiwei's fate. Everything was a part of the original plot and he could not interfere.
On the plane Shi Changan tilted his head against the back of his chair. He’d buried all his doubts in his heart and didn’t intend to ask.
Lu Shenxing touched Shi Changan's head, "Sleep, I’ll wake you up."
Shi Changan really fell asleep and he was groggy when he got off the plane. Whether it was wet weather, the scenery, or the blue-eyed and yellow-haired people walking around, he felt a little strange.
When they arrived at the hotel, Lu Shenxing walked into the elevator with Shi Changan in one hand after registering at the front desk.
The suite was very large, and the balcony was comfortable and relaxing. From the windows they could see the magnificent sea clearly.
In the morning, Shi Changan touched his underwear and what he touched with his fingers was sticky and wet. His face changed drastically, from consternation to confusion, and finally fear.
He’d dreamed that he and Dad were holding each other and doing that kind of thing, Shi Changan nervously hid, if Dad found out, he would definitely think he was sick.
"What's wrong with you?" Lu Shenxing was awakened by the movement around him. He opened his arms and rubbed Shi Changan's slender waist up and down.
"No...nothing." Shi Changan tensed his body instantly and tried to pretend to be calm, but he couldn't control the blush spreading across his face.
"Let's take a look." Lu Shenxing stretched out his hand, curled his mouth and said with a chuckle, "Did you wet the bed?"
Shi Changan clamped the quilt down, his finger joints turning white.
Lu Shenxing pulled hard.