“Where are you going?” Ming Luchuan’s face froze over in an instant.

 Xia Wennan, with one hand holding the car door, said, “I want to see my grandpa.”

“You think I’m lying to you?”

Xia Wennan’s expression shuttered.
“I don’t care if you’re lying or not; I need to get home.
It’s been—” He was about to say it’s been a few months since I went back, but then realised that it had been so much longer than that, and that the distance between him and his grandpa was now immeasurable.
It was hard to quell the sadness that came rushing forth.
He didn’t want to shed a single tear, so he straightened up and said, “Anyway, I’m going back home now.
Could you please return my ID?”

Xa Wennan knew that Ming Luchuan must’ve needed his identification when he handled his discharge procedures, thus they were surely in Ming Luchuan’s hands right now. 

Ming Luchuan remained seated in the backseat of the car, not moving a single inch.
He merely raised his head to look at him.
“How do you plan on getting there?”

At present, Xia Wennan didn’t have a single yuan on him.
He didn’t have his phone, either.
He ducked his head and summoned a natural tone, “Could you lend me some cash?”

As he finished speaking, Ming Luchuan stared at him mutely.
In the front row, both Xu Feng and the driver were also still. 

“I’ll return the money,” Xia Wennan said.
“Why are you so stingy when your ride is so fancy?”

Ming Luchuan exhaled very slowly.
He paused for a few beats before addressing the people sitting in the front row, “Could you two step out of the car?”

Xu Feng and the driver exchanged a glance, but neither man questioned Ming Luchuan; they immediately opened the door and got out of the car. 

Ming Luchuan stepped out of the car.
He stood in front of Xia Wennan and said expressionlessly, “I’ll take you there.”

Xia Wennan got into the passenger side.
He glanced at Ming Luchuan from the corner of his eye and saw that the man was seated squarely on the driver’s seat. 

They drove away from the hospital.

“Thank you.” After a moment’s consideration, Xia Wennan decided to thank Ming Luchuan. 

Ming Luchuan neither spoke nor looked at him.

The car journeyed out of the city.

Xia Wennan came to this city to attend university.
His hometown was a county about forty kilometres away.
Though he’d studied and lived here for almost two years, he didn’t really know the city well, as he’d spent most of his time on campus. 

The roads outside the city, however, were all very familiar to him. 

In his initial days at university, he was always concerned about his grandpa, who stayed at home by himself.
Every weekend, he’d take the subway and then the bus back home.
As time passed, he grew accustomed to campus life and reasoned that his grandpa should have adjusted to his absence as well, so he made fewer trips home and began to enjoy his time in university. 

Even so, the roads he remembered were different from their current appearance. 

How many years had it been? Oh—six.
In only six years, how could he have changed so much? How could the city have changed so much?

Xia Wennan’s elbow was propped against the window, palm holding up his jaw.
He stared out the window lifelessly, as if he were gazing off into the distance, as if his eyes were unseeing.

The traffic lightened up as they drove out of the city.
Ahead of them was the intercity highway, which, when followed by a left turn, would lead them to the county.

But as they exited the highway, Ming Luchuan made a right turn. 

Xia Wennan immediately straightened up.
“You’re going the wrong way,” he said. 

Ming Luchuan braked at an intersection to wait out a red light, and flipped a look his way. 

Xia Wennan pointed to the left.
“You should’ve gone the other way.”

“Where do you think that would take us?” Ming Luchuan asked.

“Home, of course.” Xia Wennan was puzzled by his question.
Didn’t he know this already?

“Aren’t you going to visit your grandpa?” Ming Luchuan said.

Xia Wennan froze.
In the next second, it dawned on him that a left turn would take them to the county’s public cemetery.

At that moment, the reality that his grandpa had left this world solidified before his eyes.
His face went ashen, and no sound came out of his slightly opened mouth. 

When Ming Luchuan saw Xia Wennan’s expression, he swallowed his swords and quietly closed his mouth, then made the decision for him. 

Tomb Sweeping Day[1] had long passed.
In the afternoon, the cemetery was deserted; there was barely a soul in sight.

The car stopped in the parking lot.
Xia Wennan stepped out in a haze, with no idea where to go.

Ming Luchuan locked the car and started walking towards the entrance of the cemetery.
Xia Wennan trailed after him in a disoriented state, like a lost child who couldn’t find their way home. 

He followed Ming Luchuan all the way to the entrance of a store and saw him pick up a large bouquet of flowers, which was when he realised that Ming Luchuan had come to buy flowers for his grandpa. 

The bouquet consisted of an abundant array of white and yellow flowers.
Ming Luchuan thrust it into Xia Wennan’s arms and addressed the shop owner to ask about the price. 

Xia Wennan stood aside with the flowers as Ming Luchuan paid for them, then said, “Thank you.”

Ming Luchuan said nothing, turning around to make his way out.

Xia Wennan could only resume following him. 

It was apparent that this wasn’t Ming Luchuan’s first visit.
He stepped onto a small uphill path with the ease of familiarity, his black leather shoes clattering as they came into contact with the stone steps.

As Xia Wennan descended the flight of steps, he inquired, “You’ve been here before?”

Ming Luchuan’s reply was detached and succinct: “Mm.”

“What did you come here for? Have you ever met my grandpa?” Xia Wennan asked.

“I have.”

Xia Wennan paused briefly before deciding to trudge on, “What for?”

“You proposed to me.
Don’t I need to go see your family?”

Inwardly, Xia Wennan vehemently denied that he’d ever propose to Ming Luchuan.
Because the man’s words on the subject were untrustworthy, he lost all desire to pursue it.

And very quickly, as he stood in front of the tombstone, his mood to ask questions waned.  

The name and photograph on the tombstone were undoubtedly his grandpa’s.
He wasn’t alone though, as it was a joint tombstone.
Apart from the ashes of the grandpa who’d raised him, the grave contained anothers—the Beta grandpa he’d never got to meet. 

His grandpa was an Omega.
Back then, his family had set up an arranged marriage for him, and his fiance was an Alpha.
And yet he’d ended up falling in love with a young Beta man, with whom he eloped after fleeing his arrangement.  

“Back in my day, things were different.
How could an Omega possibly marry a Beta? We had to stick to Alphas and Alphas only.” Xia Wennan’s grandpa used to say this to him all the time, always sounding faintly proud of himself. 

It was as though that smidgeon of pride washed away all his woes.
Despite the fact that his Beta husband died young and his only son and daughter-in-law were killed in a car accident, he still had a clever grandson.
Even though his life had been battered with hardships, he’d never once regretted it—because it was a life borne out of his own choices.
He was a fearless and incredible Omega.  

In front of the tombstone, Xia Wennan’s knees buckled as if they could no longer support his body.
He didn’t embrace the tombstone and cry then and there, instead lowering his head till no one could see his silent flowing tears.

When he went home to celebrate the Chinese New Year with his grandfather in his second year of university, he vowed to take his grandfather on a trip when he graduated, but he had no idea if he’d followed through on that promise.
All their lives, they’d only had each other, relied on each other; his grandpa hadn’t even gotten to live a comfortable life yet, and now he was already gone. 

There were two black-and-white photos on the tombstone: Xia Wennan’s Beta grandpa, an upright youth with thick brows and big eyes, remaining forever young, and his Omega grandpa, with white hair and fine wrinkles on his temple and the corner of his eyes.
His eyes were gentle and kind, with no trace of sadness or bitterness in them.
Perhaps he had known that someone was waiting for him and that they would always be able to reunite someday.

The two photographs were placed side by side, in sickness and in health. 

Xia Wennan lightly pressed his forehead against the cold tombstone and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

☆ ☆ ☆

[1] Tomb Sweeping Day, or if you’re familiar with the term: Qingming Festival.
It’s when Chinese people traditionally visit ancestral tombs to sweep them, so… pretty self-explanatory.

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