His mind was so chaotic that his thoughts were like paste.
He had completely no idea what he was thinking.
He grabbed the phone, and entered Lao Yang’s birthday, unlocking it easily.

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He opened WeChat, and the top message bar showed his avatar, with a red circle that read 13.

The newest message displayed, [I wish you a bright future and a long life.]

With a trembling right hand, he opened it, and inside were the messages he sent, interspersed occasionally with a few “mmm” replies.
He scrolled up, and the earliest one dated back to more than a year ago. 

He remembered that around that time, Lao Yangxin had changed his mobile phone.
Back then, though his contact with “Xu Ziyang” was intermittent, it had never broken off completely.

So perhaps, Lao Yang began using Xu Ziyang’s number to talk to him before he changed his phone?

When was that? Two years ago? Two and a half years ago? Even earlier, after… Xu Ziyang went abroad?

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When Lao Yang came back with his whole body enveloped in the smell of cigarettes, he saw Tao Ran pursing his lips tightly, sitting there stiff as a rod, with his phone clenched in his hands.

There was a “boom” in Lao Yang’s head, and he was stunned.

Tao Ran glared at him, forcefully swallowing down his anger.
He asked in a hoarse voice, “Lao Yang… Tell me honestly, did something happen to Xu Ziyang?”

On the way home, Tao Ran was in a daze.
He couldn’t understand.
He just sent a couple messages, that was all.
How could Xu Ziyang die?

In his mind, he kept repeating back what Lao Yang said just then, the sweet memories he shared with Xu Ziyang, Xu Ziyang’s chilly face when they broke up, and the way Mother Xu hugged him and stroked his head.

The fragments of countless memories mixed together, all of the ups and downs in the past, and the joys and the sorrows.

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[Da Yang found out he had bone cancer back then… it was already in the advanced stage, and he only had around half a year to a year.
The hospital said there was no cure, they could only do their best to delay the end.]

Before their inexplicable cold war, they had a good relationship.
At that time, Xu Ziyang always acted like a spoiled child, telling him that his bones hurt.
Tao Ran felt so bad for him, so he told Xu Ziyang to go to the hospital, but they were always tired[1].
When they weren’t at work, they spent all their time messing around with each other.
Every time, they said they would go, and every time, they would forget.

Later, after so many times, they became accustomed to it.
They felt like they were still young, so they didn’t take it seriously.
Tao Ran simply thought that Xu Ziyang was still growing, bought a bunch of cookbooks, and clumsily cooked bone broth for him.
One bowl a day, his cooking skill got better and better, and Xu Ziyang looked hale and hearty, saying that he would drink it for a lifetime.

Tao Ran patted himself on the back and said proudly, “Of course.”

[At that time, I accompanied him to the examination.
I wanted to call you, but Da Yang would rather die than let me.
He said you had just lost your parents.
If you knew he had a terminal illness, you would mentally collapse.
He persuaded everyone, me, his parents, and some of his other relatives, that this matter must be covered up so that you don’t find out.]

He was deceived so miserably… He came to the door countless times to beg Father Xu and Mother Xu, and begged them to put in a few good words for him, but Mother Xu kept crying, kept crying, and broke down once and told him to leave.

He couldn’t do anything, thinking that they didn’t want him there, and could only leave.
Walking down the road, he felt like his heart was being squeezed, and that the whole world had abandoned him.

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Is it because my personality sucks?

Is it because I’m too spoiled?

Is it because I have low EQ and I don’t know how to read the mood?

Is it because I’ve gotten old and I’m no longer as fresh and good-looking as when I was young?

He felt so low that he thought he really sucked.
It wasn’t surprising at all that Xu Ziyang didn’t want him anymore.

[He also said, he truly regretted pampering you into a spoiled mess.
It wasn’t that he regretted pampering you, but that he regretted not teaching to live independently when he had time.
He said that you had been spoiled all that time by your parents, and then they left.
He only wanted to be even better to you, thinking he could spoil you for a lifetime.
Only he didn’t expect that his time could be gone so soon.
He was so worried that he couldn’t sleep, saying that you didn’t even know how to order takeout.
How could you live without him?]

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He recalled Xu Ziyang’s words again.
At that time, they were all dressed in black, kneeling in front of his parents’ tomb.
Xu Ziyang took his hand and swore in front of his parents’ tombstone, “Mom, dad, you can go in peace.
You can hand Tao Ran over to me now.
I will take care of him, I will always stay with him and treat him well.
I will spoil him and love him even more than you did.
From now on, I’ll only let him have a smile, no more tears…”

[He was worried that your personality was too direct.
Without anyone to protect you, and now that there are so many people of low character around, if you offend them, how will they screw with you? After thinking about it, he felt that instead of letting you grow through hard knocks, it would be better to give you a push.
So that’s why he pretended to break up with you.
On one hand, he didn’t want you to know that he had cancer.
On the other, he wanted to ignite your fighting spirit, so you would learn to be independent and coolheaded.
He said the process would definitely be painful, but if you were forced to grow up knowing he was going to die, it would only be worse.]

It was true.
It was true.
In the three years since they broke up, he had learned a lot.
He learned how to make breakfast in ten minutes, how to fold his shirts the way they did in the store, how to change light bulbs and unclog the drain, and how to put away clothes he had hung up to dry on the same day.

His temper had also improved.
Whenever something happened, his first reaction was not to get angry, but to suppress his anger and think of a solution.
When people gossiped behind his back and laughed at him, he no longer scolded them on the spot.
After letting his temper out on people close to him, he knew how to reflect and quickly apologize.

He was truly becoming better and better.


[1] 腻歪, a slang term meaning they had sex until they were sick of it.

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