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As the weather turned cooler, Shi Changan's face that had been tanned from military training improved. He went to and from class every day, and practiced piano in his spare time. He occasionally talked to Huang Kuo on the phone and hung up after a quick conversation.
Gradually, the number of times they talked on the phone changed from occasional to very few, and they only talked about things of the past.
After growing up helpless, they’d gotten used to suppressing their own happiness, anger, sorrow, and joy, and those kinds of innocent heart-to-hearts could no longer be found.
"Changan, do you want to eat this?"
Wang Shinan pushed the bowl of duck necks towards Shi Changan, "It's slightly spicy."
Shi Changan held a duck neck with his chopsticks, and the fragrant scent of Chinese pepper was spread through his mouth from the tip of his tongue. It wasn’t too spicy.
Both of them tacitly ignored Qiao Han who was opposite them.
The other guy in their dormitory had rented a house with his girlfriend outside, and he didn’t even come back to check the bed. Sometimes they didn’t even see him in class, and even if they did, he would be in the corner with his girlfriend.
So Wang Shinan and Qiao Han usually hung out with Shi Changan.
The Mala Tang in front of Qiao Han was battered, and he bit down on a mouthful without realising what he was eating. His eyes fell on Shi Changan's hand. It seemed that even just looking at him felt nice.
Shi Changan’s hands were the most delicate he had ever seen. Each finger was perfect from joint to fingertip. Several times he went a bit crazy and wanted to lick them with his tongue.
Wang Shinan happened to see Qiao Han looking hungrily at Shi Changan, and he immediately stared him down.
Since the beginning of school, he’d found that Qiao Han often stared at Shi Changan with a weird look in his eyes, in short, he was very abnormal.
Qiao Han narrowed his eyes at Wang Shinan with a look of disgust.
Shi Changan was sleeping in the dormitory after lunch when he heard a sharp gasp in his ears. He frowned and saw Qiao Han, the perpetrator, on the opposite bed, leaning against the wall. He called his name as he touched himself.
Shi Changan looked at him with disgust and watched with cold eyes.
Qiao Han, who was caught by that gloomy gaze, was startled, and the plane that was about to take off stopped on the tracks and could no longer get up.
Wang Shinan wasn’t around and the balcony curtains were drawn causing the entire dormitory to be very dark. Shi Changan looked at Qiao Han with disgust, and was met with the mortified expression of Qiao Han who had been jacking off.
"Shi Changan, you give it to me once with your hand, and I’ll use your mouth to help you, what do you think?" Qiao Han took a deep breath, gritted his teeth, and decided to go for broke.
Shi Changan saw a bit of Shi Changle's shadow in Qiao Han, his confidence in everything was the same.
He got out of bed and walked to the door, Qiao Han jumped down in a hurry behind him, "Shi Changan, I know you and I are the same kind of person!"
Seeing the person in front of him freeze, Qiao Han walked over step by step, talking with crazy perseverance, "Let's try it once, if you feel good, then we can continue, if you’re uncomfortable, we can stop at any time."
Qiao Han concluded that as long as Shi Changan so much as nodded, he would make Shi Changan feel good.
Shi Changan went to open the door, as a hand from behind him pushed him against the door, his chin knocking against the wood.
Qiao Han had the upper hand in strength, he pinned Shi Changan's arm, trembling with excitement when he thought of how the other would use those hands to touch him.
"You have nothing to lose, classmates should help each other, right."
Shi Changan grabbed Qiao Han's hair, raised his knee and slammed it into him. Qiao Han let out a painful cry, his pale face as he covered his crotch and screamed.
After leaving the dormitory, Shi Changan touched his bruised chin, his mood heavy.
There were only two classes in the afternoon. After that, he went to Shengshi and sat on the sofa as usual while waiting for Lu Shenxing to get off work.
"Come here." Lu Shenxing looked up from a pile of documents.
Shi Changan put down his book, walked around the desk and straddled Lu Shenxing's lap.
"Something the matter?" Lu Shenxing patted his ass.
"No." Shi Changan said with a smile.
Lu Shenxing's scrutinising gaze moved back and forth on Shi Changan's face, but he couldn’t see any flaws.
"Is your constipation gone?"
"..." Shi Changan coughed awkwardly, "Yeah."
"Let daddy check." Lu Shenxing adjusted his posture, holding Shi Changan's waist, and started his unique method of inspection.
Shi Changan's eyes were damp. He hummed slightly when he felt uncomfortable and would actively cooperate when he felt comfortable. The inspection process this time was as perfect as ever.
One time when Lu Shenxing and Shi Changan were shopping in a mall, they stared in surprise at the two teenagers who were walking across from them. The tall one lowered his head and said something to the shorter one with a gesture of flattery.
Shi Changan was the most surprised. How did Qiao Han meet Changle? And it seemed that their relationship was very good.
The next day, Lu Shenxing got the information he wanted, and he tapped his desk rhythmically. In the original plot, Shi Changan studied at the Conservatory of Music, he never met Qiao Han, and so originally Qiao Han would never have gone to Shi Changle and tried to use him as Shi Changan's stand-in.
He worried that Qiao Han's existence would affect the fate of Shi Changle, so he sent some people to watch Shi Changle's every move.
After driving the course for two years, Shi Changle was addicted to the racing track. He had encountered various accidents and escaped several times. Lu Shenxing had never paid him any mind and his indifference told everyone in the Shi family that he would no longer look out for Shi Changle, and that the butler no longer passed on Shi Changle's news.
The guys who raced with him found that every time Shi Changle raced, there was always a man following him. Later, they found out his name was Qiao Han and he was a friend of Shi Changle.
Shi Changle never gave Qiao Han the slightest face when they were with outsiders, and was even full of contempt towards him. Qiao Han was also indifferent. Everyone could see that they didn’t get along at all. There must have been some mistake or event that had forced them together.
There was an ambiguous gasp in a toilet cubicle on campus, followed by an impatient voice, "Qiao Han, what's the matter with you today?"
Qiao Han hunched his back, seeming to be a bit irritable. He couldn't achieve the effect he was looking for. He closed his eyes as Shi Changle urged him more and more, so as not to see that his hands weren't as good as Shi Changan's, but he still couldn’t find any relief.
Shi Changle pulled out a tissue to wipe his hands, and slapped Qiao Han's head, "Hurry up!"
A few minutes later, Shi Changle went out and went straight to the sinks to rinse his hands. Qiao Han retched over the basin, his face full of pain.
Why do you look for me if you are so reluctant? Shi Changle smiled mockingly, and walked out without looking back.
Qiao Han snorted and gargled water in his mouth a few times. He rubbed his face in depression before returning to his usual gentle appearance.
The two of them had been strangers for less than a week. They just took what they needed, nothing else, that was the original arrangement.
Shi Changan saw Huang Kuo at the school gate. He stepped out of a Land Rover, dressed in brand-named clothes, tall and handsome. There wasn’t a trace of the scorned man he used to be.
"Changan, let’s go and have a drink."
The car was full of that high-end leather smell, mixed with the scent of women's perfume. Shi Changan sat in the passenger seat looking down, not knowing what to think.
"How is it?" Huang Kuo saw Shi Changan's confusion, he chuckled, "The car!"
Shi Changan said lightly, "Not bad."
"Have you gotten your driver's license?" Huang Kuo turned the steering wheel, "I’ll get you one too."
Shi Changan said, "You know I'm not interested in this."
"Then a piano, since you only like pianos." Huang Kuo smiled, "I have contacted a famous foreign craftsman to make a customized one for you, it will arrive next year. You aren’t allowed to refuse it."
After a short silence, Shi Changan said, "I haven't seen you for a long time. Have you changed jobs?"
"I changed a while back." Huang Kuo said, "I started a company with a friend making leather bags. It didn't go well at first, there were a few problems, but it's developing well now."
The corners of Shi Changan's lips loosened.
"Changan, do you think I found a rich woman?" Huang Kuo laughed.
I was afraid you were on a road from which you couldn't turn back. Shi Changan relaxed. Fortunately, he wasn't.
Shi Changan and Huang Kuo went to the same store they used to frequent.
At meal times, there were a lot of people. The adults were noisy and children were noisy, there were waiters walking around, and the sanitary standards were average.
"Hey, Changan, let's go somewhere else. Why is it so chaotic here? I wouldn't have come if I’d known." Huang Kuo frowned in disgust.
"The dishes are already ordered." Shi Changan called Huang Kuo to stop. "I kind of want to eat the fried hor fun here. I’ll get some packed up for when I go back."
"Fried hor fun?" Huang Kuo curled his lips, "What's so good about it?"
Shi Changan frowned. The Huang Kuo who loved fried hor fun had really changed.
"How are you and Chen Min?"
"Broke up." Huang Kuo ate a mouthful of food and said lightly, "'Her family thinks I‘m no good."
Shi Changan was still hesitating to say something and listened to Huang Kuo. "I just met a new girl, beautiful and generous. But most importantly, her family is very satisfied with me."
"Is she from this city?" Shi Changan asked. He saw that Huang Kuo had a very good life and was satisfied with his new status quo, whether it was in life or relationships.
"No, she’s from overseas." Huang Kuo winked with unconcealable happiness, "She’s a well-behaved woman."
Shi Changan also followed with a smile, "Bring her out for a meal if you have time."
"Hmm, no problem." Huang Kuo passed the braised carp to Shi Changan, "Eat this, it tastes good."
Shi Changan thanked him.
"Are you and your dad okay?" Seeing Shi Changan's pretending to be stupid, Huang Kuo rolled his eyes, "Do you think I'm an idiot, I've know since we were at school."
At first he thought that the red marks on Changan's neck were bitten by a mosquito, and he stuffed some ointment into his schoolbag. Later, he realised it looked just like the hickeys he gave Chen Min.
Shi Changan almost choked. He said, "It's fine."
"Your dad's pretty fit." Huang Kuo smiled ambiguously.
Shi Changan made an awkward sound from his nose, which was a tacit understanding.
The two who had reconciled again talked very happily, and nothing felt unnatural.
"This wine is bad." Huang Kuo spat it out disgusted, "It must be mixed with water."
Shi Changan poured the last sip of beer into his stomach, his mentality towards drinking had changed and so had his tastes.
On the eighth day of September, Lu Shenxing took Shi Changan home from campus, and went to Fengshan in H city for a trip that afternoon.
They climbed to the top of the mountain to set up a tent, took out the food they brought to fill their stomachs, and lay on a blanket to watch the sunset.
As night fell, the temperature dropped a lot, and Lu Shenxing squatted over the fire in his coat to barbecue the meat.
Looking at the stars in the night sky, Shi Changan's eyelid twitched for no apparent reason. He felt uneasy, as if he didn't know what was going on.
"Dad, let's go back tomorrow."
"You don’t want to stay for two more days?" Lu Shenxing turned around and asked in a casual tone, "Don’t want to see the temple?"
Shi Changan shook his head, and touched Shenxing's shoulder with his chin, "Next time."
After returning home the next day, Shi Changan saw two officers on campus who had presented their badges and claimed to be with the narcotics division. He vaguely heard them mention drug trafficking, arrests, jumping into the sea. The words were jumbled in his ears and everything felt surreal.
"You’re his closest friend. If he comes back, there is a good chance that he will find you. I hope you will cooperate with our work."
Shi Changan stood there in silence. Wang Shinan drove away other students who were looking on with curiosity. He didn’t ask and just silently left the dormitory to Shi Changan.
"Dad, can you check something for me?"
Lu Shenxing understood what was going on as soon as he heard him. He agreed but only told Shi Changan some irrelevant answers. He didn’t mention a word about Huang Kuo’s fate, because he knew he wouldn’t believe him.
Shi Changan pinched his eyebrows. Huang Kuo had opened a leather bag company, but it was just a front. He’d been involved in drug dealing with several people in private.
Why did you still go down that road...
For a few days, Shi Changan couldn't get away from it. He wanted to know what was happening with Huang Kuo but also didn't want to know, because he knew that no news was the best news.
About a month later, Shi Changan, who had just woken up, answered a call.
Picking up the phone and pressing the answer button, Shi Changan’s face suddenly changed. He sat still, and didn't even realise when he’d hung up the phone.
Seeing Shi Changan's appearance, Lu Shenxing knew that Huang Kuo's story had reached its end. He put down his glass of water and said, "Changan, what's wrong?"
As if he’d been struck by lightning, Shi Changan stood up and ran out in a panic.
Twenty minutes later Shi Chang sat quietly on a chair, staring at the person covered by a white cloth in front of him. Their swollen facial features made him look both foreign and familiar.
They said they would live together until they were ninety-nine, but now he’d left so suddenly, what was so good about fame and wealth...
Shi Changan's red eyes blinked and a drop of warm liquid slipped off his cheeks.
Then, as if the gate that held his emotions was pulled open, tears dripped from Shi Changan's eyes uncontrollably.
The only friend who accompanied him since he was a child had left him. Shi Changan buried his face in his hands and cried silently.