Chapter 1: N.
An Unexpected Reunion


It had been six years of separation.
Their reunion should have been a more presentable one.

“Are you truly not going to reconsider?”

The man’s voice through the phone call sounded very young.
His tone was terribly sincere.

“Miss Jones adores your works very much.
She started to take note of you even when you had just begun creating.
To be honest, there’s not much of a difference between this and your works being hosted for an exhibition.
As collectors, we will similarly take precious care of them.
Even putting aside the considerable remuneration, her engagement party will attract great levels of media attention.
We’ve invited many media outlets.
This would also be beneficial for you…”

Su Hui’s head was spinning, the seriousness on his face was making him look particularly patient.
He poured his pills on his palm, and after taking a gulp of cold water, he raised his head and swallowed the pills down.

Sensing that the speaker seemed to have finished, Su Hui rejected his offer softly, “I’m deeply sorry.
I haven’t been… in a great state recently.
I believe you all will be able to find someone more suitable.”

The call ended, and the dim room suddenly quietened to a level that gave Su Hui’s heart palpitations.

The metallic taste on the tip of his tongue had yet to completely dissipate before the side effects had already arrived.
He sat on the bed, hands trembling uncontrollably.
These were all things Su Hui was long used to, so he did not think much of it.
He only quietly looked outside the window, gazing into the ashen gray of gloom.

[Seattle is really dull.
Look at this weather, yet it’s still not snowing.]

He remembered these words Liang Wen said before he left earlier.

At that time, he couldn’t respond with a single word.
And this was still true.
Being unable to give a response was incredibly impolite, but Liang Wen did not criticize him for that.
Su Hui was always very grateful for his understanding.

Once his depression set in, he would turn very slow.
His thoughts would freeze, mind becoming muddled as his emotions plummet into the very bottom.
As if he was a worm that suffered a blow to its spine, he could only lie on the floor without moving, no different from a lifeless piece of waste paper.

In his mind, a voice that seemed both alike and yet unlike his own was repeating every flaw he had, every seemingly reprehensible mistake he ever made.
The soil under his feet crumbled inch by inch — as if in a split-second, he would be forced to approach the window, jump off and plummet straight into this frigid world.

Su Hui turned his head very sluggishly, reaching for the eye mask on the bedside table.

Next to it, he noticed Liang Wen’s forgotten sunglasses.

Liang Wen had snow blindness.
He always wore glasses in such weather just in case.
Su Hui knew that he should get up right now and return it to him — after all, this was not a small trifle; it involved his driving safety.

But he could not move an inch at all whatsoever.
His body was being controlled by boundless despair.

Escaping was his habit.

It was a very long time later when Su Hui dialed Liang Wen’s number and put his phone on speaker.
Then he put on the eye mask, lying back down in difficulty with knitted brows.


Even though this place was clearly not as cold as New York, he seemed to be frozen from head to toe.
The hotel blanket seemed to weigh down on him like a heavy layer of ice, preventing him from breathing easily.

With a frosty phone ring followed by another, Su Hui shut his eyes.
The effects of the medication were surfacing little by little.
The sensation of being held down became increasingly heavy, and his eardrums, too, were turning swollen and painful; he could not hear anything clearly.

Liang Wen did not pick up.

It was like he was forcibly compressed into a terrifying dream.
In the distorted space was a myriad of tangled black lines that impeded his vision.
Su Hui kept running, and kept running.
Suddenly, he fell into a deep hole.
Looking miserable and in pain, he dragged himself to his feet and discovered there was a blue firefly emitting a faint fluorescent light.
Su Hui moved closer to it little by little, perceiving the person hiding inside.

It has been a long while since he last dreamed of him.

As if under a spell, he carefully reached out.

In the instant before he touched it, the person turned into countless butterflies that flew away.

.

Ning Yixiao was listening to his assistant reminding him about his schedule and agenda tomorrow, head lowered to look at his watch.

Assistant Carl was a very clever person.
He immediately inquired, “Would you need me to book a return ticket for you tomorrow? I had a look.
There are still business class tickets available for a few though rather early flights.”

“Sure.” Ning Yixiao took the room card from the lady at the counter and slightly nodded his head in response.

Carl glanced at the room card in his hand and said again, “I apologize.
This is the best business hotel I could book at the last minute.
It’s almost Christmas, so it’s a bit tricky to book a room.”

“Don’t worry.
You can go eat.” Ning Yixiao didn’t have much of an expression, walking to the elevator alone.

Just as he stepped foot into the elevator, he received the company’s call regarding an investor who suddenly wanted him to attend a personal banquet.
It involved the company’s upcoming financial plans and was set to start at 7 pm that day.

The work partner in the call repeatedly emphasized the importance of their finances this time around.
It was currently their most crucial juncture.

“I understand.
I will be there on time.” The elevator door opened.
Ning Yixiao walked out of the elevator, and the choppy phone signal was gradually recovering.
He listened to his business partner’s secretary introduce the banquet tonight as he walked further into the hallway.

There were not many rooms on this level.
He very quickly found the matching room of the room card on him — 2208.

These few digits strangely made him feel a slight sense of agitation.
So, Ning Yixiao stopped in his steps, quietly gazing at the number for a few seconds.
It was when he came back to himself that he swiped the card and opened the door.

The air-conditioning in the room was very cold, and the air faintly emanated a very mild wood fragrance.
Ning Yixiao gently closed the door and walked inside.
He suddenly discovered a faint light coming from the room.

Likely, due to the accumulation of work stress which left his entire body tensed — and not to mention, there was his fastidiousness with cleanliness too — he found this type of mistake quite unacceptable.


The caller sensed something was wrong, and asked, “Shaw, are you still listening?”

“Give me a moment.
I need to do something, so let’s end the call first.” Ning Yixiao dialed for the front desk according to the information on the room card.

“Hello.
Have you cleaned the room?”

Suddenly, a voice came from inside the room.

“Liang Wen, you’re back?”

It was a voice that he would never, ever forget.

There was this one moment where Ning Yixiao’s heart practically stopped, collapsing on the spot.
Blood that was originally flowing throughout his body seemed to have frozen in an instant.
Turned into a sticky, swollen, congealed liquid that almost wanted to burst free of his skin and blood vessels.

That voice was still resounding in his head.

You’re back…

Ning Yixiao pushed himself to take a step forward.
After his first step, his subsequent ones became so fast that he tripped over himself, as if he was chasing anxiously for an answer.

Su Hui found it quite strange.
He didn’t think he gave the room card to Liang Wen.
Even if his memory was bad, it shouldn’t be to the extent where he would even forget this.

Or was it that Liang Wen didn’t close the door properly? That seemed even less likely.

Just as he was questioning this — very abruptly — an icy-cold hand grabbed his eye mask and somewhat violently pulled it off.

His murky vision gradually turned clear.

This person who stood in front of him was very clearly the Ning Yixiao who vanished in his dreams.

Su Hui did not know if this was a hallucination or reality.
He could not discern the boundaries separating the two.
Just like this, he quietly gazed at Ning Yixiao’s face — until the corners of his eyes reddened.

Ning Yixiao’s hand gripped the eye mask deathly tight.
Even the skin at his knuckles blanched from the intense force.

What made Su Hui afraid was that he could not speak up at all.
Millions of words were trapped in his chest, but yet, he could not even make a single sound akin to an intelligible word.

Just like this, the two painfully and very silently looked at each other.
Until a hotel staff came in, apologies pouring out of his mouth, as he squeezed himself between them, breaking this awkward situation.

“We’re truly sorry.
We apologize profusely.” When they reached the front counter, the lobby manager of the hotel bowed apologetically.


“You see, Mr.
Ning, we’re really very sorry.
There was an issue in the systems, and it mixed up the high-ranking customers’ channels with the massive business pre-booking channel.
That caused this situation where the same room was booked twice.
I apologize.
We will swiftly deal with this problem and upgrade your room into a presidential suite.
Please wait for a moment.”

Ning Yixiao did not hear a single word, the corner of his gaze remaining on Su Hui who was not far away.

When he came out, he only hastily put on a large coat, his other hand gripping the handle of his suitcase.
Head turned aside, he was looking at the lady at the front desk who was explaining the situation to him.

Su Hui’s back looked very thin, and very fragile too.
It lacked a sense of security and looked just like a plant that was about to wither and die.

For a moment, a wave of many memories that Ning Yixiao thought he had almost forgotten slammed him, swallowing him up and suffocating him.

He couldn’t help but look at Su Hui, gaze tracing his thin shoulders and arms, and catching sight of Su Hui’s trembling hands.

“Go settle it first.” Ning Yixiao then asked gravely, “Is there a coffee shop here?”

Hearing these words, a burden seemed to be lifted off the manager’s shoulders.
He nodded numerous times.
“Yes, there is.
It’s right next to the hall on the first floor.
I’ll show you the way.”

Ning Yixiao swept a look around.
“Thank you.
I see it.”

After rejecting the manager, he approached Su Hui.

As he came closer, he gradually heard Su Hui’s voice become clearer.
His tone sounded very drained, but with much politeness, he repeated his request to the front desk.
“You don’t have to apologize, and I don’t need remuneration.
Just quickly complete the check-out procedures for me.
Thank you.”

His words were very slow, and said with some difficulty, as if just saying these words required massive effort.

Just like how Su Hui packed his luggage earlier.
The white little luggage was lying on the floor then.
Even pulling it upright was difficult.

This reminded Ning Yixiao of Su Hui in the past.
He didn’t seem to have changed at all.

The lady at the desk spotted Ning Yixiao behind Su Hui, so she cut off the conversation with him.
Instead, she bowed her head and apologized.
But even so, Su Hui still did not look back.

“Let’s get a cup of coffee?”

Su Hui did hear Ning Yixiao’s voice.
It conveyed a sense of distance that it seemed to have drifted its way over from six years ago — yet, it also sounded like it came from right behind him.

“Checking out probably would need some time too.” Ning Yixiao’s cold voice had a hint of a smile too.
“It’s been a long time since we last met.
Let’s catch up.”

Su Hui knew himself that with his current state, it was not suitable for them to “catch up”.
His reactions were slow and he was passive, thoughts in a jumbled mess.
Even taking an extra step felt ten folds more difficult.

He wanted to reject him at first.
And he should reject him.

But his feet still uncontrollably moved forward, following behind Ning Yixiao.
It was just like how, even though he could not even get out of bed, he could still get down the instant he saw Ning Yixiao.


Su Hui was not sure at all how he walked into the coffee shop, or how he sat down across the table from him.
It seemed like a dream he could not wake from, where there was another version of himself in the third-person point of view, seeing this difficult reunion.

The scene outside the full-length window was frigid.
He could faintly hear the wind leaking in.
And the sky seemed much heavier than before too.

For some reason, Su Hui did not have the courage to face Ning Yixiao.
They were clearly just sitting face to face, but seemed to be separated by an insurmountable area of land.
The ground was littered with unavoidable shards of broken glass.

The waiter came to take their order.
Ning Yixiao was much more relaxed than before, very naturally making the order as if they were old friends who got along well.
“An espresso italiano, and a cup of latte with oat milk, more sweet.”

He believed he understood Su Hui, and he ordered it based on his past habits.
That was something that seemed so natural.

“I don’t want sugar.
No sugar, please.”

What he didn’t expect was that the silent Su Hui would speak up and interrupt him.

Ning Yixiao looked over, seeing him raise his head to repeat it once more to the waiter.
Then he said softly, “I’m sorry.
I avoid sugar now.”

This was said to him, but Su Hui did not look at him.

He was silent for two seconds before he laughed.
“I was in the wrong.
I should have asked you first.”

“I thought you were still the same as before.”

While they waited for the coffee, Ning Yixiao silently gazed at Su Hui sitting in front of him.
At this moment, he seemed to be denying his judgment from earlier.

Su Hui didn’t seem to have changed, but he also seemed to have changed a lot.

He still had the same beautiful appearance that allowed him to easily obtain anything.
He could still very easily hide his deficits and mania.
He was still very thin, much thinner than in the past.
His hair was longer than before, resting by his chest.
That should make him look languid, but because of his sickly demeanor and dazedness, even his beauty was forlorn.

That natural-born proudness that did not carry a speck of arrogance was now gone from his eyes.
Ning Yixiao thought it was ingrained in his blood and flesh, and that it would remain in him until the day he died.

Su Hui’s complexion was unnaturally pale.
Only his slightly pursed lips held a little redness.
He could not control the slight quivering in his hands.
So he put both of them under the table, leaving them to grip his knees instead.

The cups of coffee were served in front of them.
Ning Yixiao took a sip and smiled.
“Why are you not speaking?

“You don’t want to see me?”

The author has something to say:

Long time no see~ I miss everyone! If you like this, please bookmark this!

There might be some triggers in this novel, and I’ve basically written all of them in the synopsis.
You can take a look at it.
What’s most important is that this book uses “non-linear storytelling”.
I’ll mark the chapters with an “N” if it takes place in the present time.
If I mark it with a “P”, it takes place in the past.
The story will be told from both the gong and shou’s perspectives.
It’ll probably be half-half.
And also, there’ll be focus on Su Hui (the shou)’s mental illness, both before and after their reunion.
I’m about to start the days of needing to writing new chapters again.
Thank you, everyone, for reading.
I’m very thankful~

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