Perhaps it was because he mentioned the past, Qi Yanbai unusually suffered from insomnia that night.
He tossed and turned on the bed for half an hour, restless and sleepless.
His thoughts were a jumble, sometimes of Lu Ye and sometimes of Qi Zhe.
But in the end, these chaotic fragments would always merge into one, turning into the words Lu Ye had said at the hospital entrance.
Qi Yanbai had long passed the age when he would be moved by motivational phrases, but perhaps because it was Lu Ye who said those words, they carried an unusual weight.
Qi Yanbai really wanted to remain indifferent, but those words were like a 3D sound, echoing endlessly in his mind.
It was like the cool breeze of the late night wind, continuously blowing and sobbing in his ears.
He restlessly turned over on the bed for quite a while, and finally, unable to endure any longer, he rolled off the bed, turned on the bedside lamp, and retrieved his phone from under the pillow.
Qi Yanbai didn’t have many close friends, so he scrolled down his contact list a couple of pages and quickly found a name he hadn’t contacted in a long time.
He tapped on the video call option.
The screen soon displayed a connecting message, and the profile picture in the dialogue box looked quite elegant.
It was vaguely discernible as a silhouette of a woman, graceful and with a wonderful figure.
Now it was almost one in the morning, even the cats outside were asleep.
The video call automatically hung up due to no one answering for a long time.
However, Qi Yanbai seemed certain that the other person was awake, as he immediately initiated another video call.
The rigid and stiff ringtone started again, and Qi Yanbai placed the phone on the stand by the bed.
He leaned against the headboard, tapping his fingers on the bedstead with great patience.
After almost a minute, just as the call was about to be automatically disconnected again, the other end finally picked up.
A beep indicating the connection sounded from the speaker, and in the next second, a delicately made-up Eastern woman appeared on the screen.
The woman’s appearance bore about 70-80% resemblance to Qi Yanbai, but she was much more beautiful than him.
With fine, elongated features, she was dressed in a fitted, crimson strapless mermaid gown, exuding a mature yet decadent aura.
She looked extremely enchanting.
“How’s it going, little darling?” The woman’s nail color matched her lipstick, lounging on a large leather sofa.
She held a long cigarette between her fingertips and beckoned at Qi Yanbai with a tipsy smile.
Her voice was slightly slurred, “Long time no see, do you miss me?”
Through the shiny screen, a subtle change could be sensed in Qi Yanbai’s demeanor between his brows and eyes, faintly overlapping with the woman on the screen.
He looked sharp, with a hint of mockery.
He looked her up and down, then said coolly, “Drinking in broad daylight, Ashley.
Be careful not to get drunk and pass out in the bathroom sink.”
“So fierce.” Ashley smiled, putting out the burning cigarette in the ashtray.
Then, she leaned slightly forward, tilting her head and peering at the camera.
“It’s late at night in China, right? You’re not sleeping at this time.
Are you secretly crying in your bed again?”
The woman on the other side of the screen was one of Qi Zhe’s most favored among his “true loves.” She was Qi Yanbai’s mother, but she never let him call her “mom,” nor had she ever taken care of Qi Yanbai for a day like a typical mother would.
Her life was simple yet complex.
Apart from indulging in a life of debauchery and squandering money, she was entangled with Qi Zhe in a complicated way.
As a “mother,” Ashley was undeniably negligent in her duty, yet Qi Yanbai didn’t resent her.
Their relationship was decent, even though, compared to a “mother-son relationship,” Qi Yanbai felt that he and Ashley were more like partners in a closely connected business venture.
“But it’s alright.
Your father is about to hold a large-scale exhibition for half a year.” Ashley said, “He’ll hang your paintings in the exhibition hall.
You can surprise him and prove your ability again.”
“I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.” Qi Yanbai said, “I still can’t create anything.”
“And there’s no need to.” Qi Yanbai paused for a moment, saying lightly, “I don’t care about his approval anymore.”
Qi Yanbai used to care a lot about Qi Zhe’s fleeting attention, and when he couldn’t get his approval after trying time and time again, he felt like the sky was falling.
But when he truly left that world and started a different life, besides a sense of desolation, he also felt an imperceptible ease.
“Well, that’s a shame.” Ashley said, “I was hoping for a reunion soon.”
She expressed regret, yet her expression showed no signs of regret.
She lazily changed her posture, picked up the wine glass beside her, took a sip, and continued, “So, since you’re calling me suddenly, what do you want?”
“I have something important to ask you.” Qi Yanbai hesitated briefly, as if struggling to speak, yet also unsure how to start.
After weighing his options, he ultimately chose the most concise way to put it.
“I want to know how you pursued Qi Zhe.” Qi Yanbai said, “Or rather, how do you ensnare a man?”
“Oh,” Ashley let out a wavering sigh, laughing lightly.
She leaned in closer to the camera, pointed at Qi Yanbai with a finger, and said with a cryptic smile, “I thought you went back to China to practice painting in a quiet environment.
It turns out you’re trying to seduce a little sweetheart.”
Ashley, being a mother, usually lacked the self-awareness of one.
Qi Yanbai wrinkled his brows in disgust as she used sweet and excessive terms, and he couldn’t help but interrupt her.
“Don’t call him that, it’s creepy.” Qi Yanbai said.
Qi Yanbai did want to gain some relationship advice from Ashley, but he didn’t want to treat Lu Ye as a symbol to be toyed with, to be casually discussed and joked about by Ashley.
“So serious, I can’t even use a few words.” Ashley pouted her lips, picked up the cup next to her, and took another sip.
She continued, “Okay, spill the beans then.
Let’s see what kind of help I can provide.”
This kind of attitude where they solved each other’s troubles without interfering was their usual way of interacting.
Qi Yanbai thought for a moment and briefly mentioned Lu Ye.
Qi Yanbai didn’t reveal too many of Lu Ye’s private matters.
He just talked about how they met, the events leading up to it, a few small incidents between them, and his possessiveness that was almost love at first sight.
“He sounds like a good person.” Ashley said.
“He is.” Qi Yanbai admitted openly, “Perhaps it’s because he treats me well.”
In fact, before Lu Ye, there were people who expressed their interests towards Qi Yanbai, but Lu Ye’s appearance was timely and miraculous.
It coincided with Qi Yanbai taking off his mask, on the edge of agitation and collapse.
He seemed like a coincidence deliberately arranged by fate, penetrating into Qi Yanbai’s heart with precision.
“That’s great.” Ashley said, “But I have a piece of advice for you, darling.”
“You can like him, be infatuated with him, but you can’t fall in love with him.” Ashley said with an air of mystery, “If you ever truly fall in love with him, you’ll lose him completely.”
“The face distorted by love is the ugliest.” Ashley said, “No man would like that.”
“Then how can I truly have him?” Qi Yanbai humbly asked for guidance.
“You need to let him know you like him.” Ashley said enigmatically, “But also keep him uncertain.”
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