Chapter 4: N.
A Birthday Present

Summer was long gone.

Ning Yixiao stood up and paced a few steps in the hotel room before returning to the table.
In the end, he picked up his phone and dialed Elvis’s number to indirectly inquire about Liang Wen’s matters.

This was a very enthusiastic and energetic researcher.
He very passionately introduced his junior to Ning Yixiao.
For example, he used a pile of pretty little phrases like “clever-minded”, “friendly”, “has a sense of humor”, which unintentionally added oil to the fire.

“Shaw, don’t tell me you want me to poach him over? Let me warn you first.
This junior of mine was born in a middle-class family with estates in California, New York and Seattle, so he’s not in need of money.
And he loves being a clinician.  He enjoys this particular aspect of servicing patients, so he’s not interested in research.
He probably won’t say yes.”

Ning Yixiao chuckled as if he didn’t mind it.
“Then do you have his contact?”

Elvis very quickly sent it to him.
“Did you receive it? But he very rarely accepts calls from unknown numbers on his private phone.
You can call his outpatient number.”

But he quickly corrected himself.
“Oh, no, I just remembered he’s not at the department recently.
It’s kinda coincidental, but he’s at Seattle for these couple of days too.
Apparently, to attend an art exhibition…”

As if a peculiar calculation system had caught a keyword, Ning Yixiao immediately asked, “What exhibition?”

The words that Su Hui said surfaced in his mind.
He said something about “exhibit”, and then corrected himself.

“It’s an installation art exhibition.” Elvis still thought he was seeking for talent urgently, so he very magnanimously told this to him.
Even if he did not hold hope, he still wished for his success.

After receiving the information about the exhibition, Ning Yixiao sat there for a whole minute.
In the end, he still made a call to Carl, telling him to cancel the flight the next day, help him book a ticket for the exhibition and reschedule all of his plans for tomorrow that can be pushed back.

He could hear Carl’s confusion and doubt in the call.
This was not a strange reaction at all.
After all, even he himself didn’t know what he was doing.

Ning Yixiao realized that he could not stop plowing through work.

The moment he stopped, the very moment some space was freed up in his mind, he would think in spite of himself.
He would wonder what Su Hui was doing now, who he was talking to, who he was dining with, and who he was spending this pleasant evening with.

Like a program trapped in an endless loop, it continuously showed error messages as it continuously ran.
The errors continued throughout the entire process with no end in sight.

He hoped someone could terminate this program for him, but no one seemed to be able to.
Even when asleep, he could not escape it.

Having slept only three hours, Ning Yixiao made his way to the art exhibition at 8 in the morning the next day.

This place was bigger than his initial expectations.
When he walked inside, he could see spectators of all sorts.
Everyone had an appreciative attitude to the exhibited pieces.
All except the most insincere one—himself.
Ning Yixiao suddenly thought all these were hilarious.
He actually came here to try his luck just because of a something someone said offhandedly.

But the contradictory part was that although he wholeheartedly hoped for them to truly meet, he didn’t want them to really meet, for him to see him through a third person.

This meant that there truly existed a connection between the third person and him — while for him and Su Hui, there was no link anymore.

This was not a solo exhibition.
On both floors of the exhibition hall, many artists’ installation art pieces were arranged.
The theme was “your birth”.

Ning Yixiao spent all of his time on work.
After coming to America, he practically never came to such a place.
He had no time to appreciate art — and was afraid of doing so.

He avoided everything he could that could remind him of Su Hui.
But even he hadn’t expected that the moment this person showed up, all his efforts would fail.
He would even use such underhanded tactics for a chance to get closer.

While referring to the photograph Elvis sent, Ning Yixiao searched all around for traces of Liang Wen.
It looked like he was unlucky.
He seemed to have searched the entire first floor of the exhibit, but he still couldn’t find him.

While heading up to the second floor, he was just contemplating if he made an error in judgment when, right there, between the crowd of spectators and the art pieces, Ning Yixiao instantly caught sight of Su Hui.

At this very moment, he did feel happy for Su Hui.
Because Su Hui’s dream certainly came true.

But he didn’t look like himself from yesterday.

Ning Yixiao stood rooted to the spot, not taking another step further.

Su Hui was just in the corner of the second floor.
He had a small area of white space to install his art, and blue light was shining through.

Broken butterflies hung in place with numerous thin strings.
They were folded with white paper with faint words.

Yet, the name of the art piece had no relation to butterflies.
It was called “Web”.

Many installation arts were prominent because of their suspended pieces.
So, many would often use light to turn those thin strings used for suspension invisible.
But this piece was different.
It was even the complete opposite, as it showcased all of the strings.

Should you only observe the thousands of suspended butterflies, what you would see were just butterflies.
But if you shifted your sight to the wall, you’d notice the lights hitting on the meticulously designed “web”.
Looking at the shadows on the walls, you’d find every single butterfly trapped by a complete thread, unable to achieve freedom.

Ning Yixiao could understand.
No matter if it was six years ago or six years later, he could understand Su Hui’s art pieces.

Butterflies were not just ‘butterflies’, but freedom.

Facing the topic of “your birth”, the answer that Su Hui gave was: freedom born within a prison.

Backed by his gigantic and beautiful installation art, he donned a fluffy gray buttonless cardigan, with a very long and big colorful checkered scarf.
As his face was very small and his jaw was completely covered by the scarf, he looked just like a student.
But how pretty he was could still be seen at a glance.

He was not like other artists who would passionately explain the core of their art pieces.
Instead, he stood at the side quietly, hands lowered as his eyes gazed at the people who came to look at his piece.

At this moment, Ning Yixiao’s normal eyesight suddenly heightened to excellent degrees.
He could see the tiniest expression on Su Hui’s face.
His nervousness and worry, the small satisfaction he had upon receiving approval.
He could also see the gray green fountain pen in his hand as well as the number “21” pasted on the wall behind him.
Even though all these details were previously unnoticeable.

But he could just perceive them so clearly.

Ning Yixiao held back the thoughts in his mind, but he still couldn’t help himself from taking another step forward to better see the artwork a little more clearly.

Suddenly, he saw Su Hui turn his head.
Like a frightened small animal, he took a small step back.
But upon seeing who the visitor was, an unobvious smile appeared on his face.

That was Liang Wen.

When Ning Yixiao looked at his information, he also had the wishful thinking that perhaps he was just Su Hui’s doctor.
But this person in front of him—this young and promising doctor whose entire life had been smooth-sailing—even accompanied his patient to his private  work, and was bringing him hot tea, offering him gloves and even helping him straighten his scarf.
Perhaps he would even drive Su Hui back home or to a hotel, or even let him stay the night at his own apartment.

He was very curious whether a doctor needed to go this far.

Ning Yixiao’s legs seemed to be frozen on the original spot, as if they had suddenly turned into an exhibit for others to appreciate.
If they did, he didn’t have the qualifications to be one at all.
He was not truly worth being placed here.
It would only make people find it unbelievable and make them snicker.

Realizing this, Ning Yixao turned around and walked down the stairs without another thought.

Halfway through, he bumped into a boy who was dressed in a very heavy style of Christmas.
The red and green checkered top reminded Ning Yixiao that it was Christmas Eve tonight.

December 24th. 

It was his birthday.

Upon discovering this, Ning Yixiao stopped in his tracks on the steps.
Then he continued on his way down slowly, weaving through the many art pieces on the first floor.
His composure and calmness were slowly repairing bit by bit in the depths of his heart until he walked out of the art exhibition center.

When he seated himself in the car, Carl who had been waiting at the front passenger’s seat turned his head, bringing up how a florist company was asking earlier if he had any flowers he preferred or was allergic to.
Such client information would help them to tailor their service to their needs.

Ning Yixiao’s expression was very cold, and he was not speaking.
This terrified Carl into not continuing.

After a while longer, Carl attempted to put forth a suggestion.
“White roses should work… Or daffodils.
What do you think?”

Ning Yixiao felt as though he couldn’t breathe.
He unbuttoned the top button on his shirt and rolled down the window.

“Anything works so long as it’s not Chinese peonies.”

Carl let out a sigh of relief.
The flower his superior detested was not even in the options for consideration, so he happily said “OK”, and reminded him, “Shaw, it’s not the season for Chinese peonies anymore.”

Ning Yixiao looked at the white snow outside the window.

That was right.
Summer was long gone.

“Let’s go.”

That afternoon, at the same time Ning Yixiao waited for his return flight to California at the VIP seating, he dialed a number based on information provided on a website.

May I ask if you’re the person in charge of the ‘Your Birth’ installation art exhibit?”

“Yes, I am.
Is there anything I can help you with?”

Ning Yixiao looked at the waiting airlines outside the full-length window and calmly responded, “I want to purchase an art piece, the 21th one.
There’s no problem for me if you need me to go through an auction or if I can purchase it directly.”

“Oh, really? No auction process is required for this artwork.
Are you a collector or…”

“Just a normal person.
I happened to see it and like it very much.”

I’ll let you know the exact details of the transaction process.
This is the first artwork to be purchased in this exhibition.” Their tone had a smile.
“If the artist knows that someone likes his artwork so much, he will most definitely be elated.”

Ning Yixiao did not laugh.

“I would like to be anonymous.”

“Anonymous?” This demand was not that rare, so they accepted it very quickly.
“Of course.
There’s no problem with that.
We will keep your personal information private.
I look forward to you receiving the art piece that you adore.”

“Thank you.”

On his return flight to California, Ning Yixiao thought, this was because his 27th birthday was about to be over, so he purchased a birthday present for himself.
This was not too much.

This present was made by Su Hui.
It made him remember Su Hui’s smile earlier.
It was not much different from that summer when they first met.

As such, in the sky thirty thousand feet off the ground, for Ning Yixiao to dream of Su Hui from six years ago was not too foolish of him.

The author has something to say:

We’re starting the flashback from the next chapter onwards (not the entire flashback.
It’ll be done in small sections.
For example, we’ll have 10-something chapters of flashbacks and then 10-something chapters of the present time) Thanks for everyone’s support and comments~!

Also, the reason why I labeled this novel as having an unclear main character [1] is because the point of view switches for this novel.
In the first half, there’ll be more from the POV of the top.
And then more from the POV of the bottom.
To be honest, the amount will be pretty equal, so I labeled it as unclear.


Translator Note:

[1] JJWXC has a function where authors have to label their novels based on the main character.
Some examples are “the main character is the top”, “the main character is the bottom”, “main couple are switches”  and “unclear main character”.

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