Lu Ye had heard Qi Yanbai mention his past before, but that time, he only lightly touched upon it and was more focused on consoling the sad Qi Yanbai.
He didn’t pay much attention to delving into the finer details.
Now that Qi Yanbai himself brought up this matter again, Lu Ye suddenly realized that the gentle “teacher Qi” in front of him and the “illegitimate child” from an artistic family background were actually the same person.
For the first time, Lu Ye seemed to connect these two concepts, but the contrast between these two images was too great, making it difficult for him to fully reconcile them.
The former was mature, steady, considerate, tactful in social interactions, whereas the latter seemed much more vulnerable, passive, and seeking approval, like a little unfortunate child.
Lu Ye’s gaze unconsciously fell back on the painting in front of him, and suddenly the evaluation Qi Yanbai had just given it flashed through his mind.
“bad, rigid, lifeless, rubbish.”
This definitely wasn’t Qi Yanbai’s own evaluation.
Lu Ye finally realized that no creator would willingly create something trash; this must be the evaluation of others that Qi Yanbai had deeply ingrained over the years.
Perhaps it was from his “father,” Lu Ye thought.
“…So, this is actually your father’s art exhibition?” Lu Ye’s mind quickly spun, “Then how did your painting end up here?”
“I’m also wondering about that,” Qi Yanbai said with a puzzled expression, “In theory, my father wouldn’t let any unsatisfactory paintings appear in the exhibition.”
“However, he includes all of his children’s works in the exhibition for everyone to see,” Qi Yanbai said, “If any child’s work is appreciated or recognized by art critics, he rewards that child.
If not, he ignores it.”
Isn’t this like treating them as commodities, Lu Ye thought.
Valuable “commodities” need proper maintenance, while valueless ones can be ignored.
Lu Ye subconsciously wanted to ask which of the two categories Qi Yanbai belonged to, but before he could utter the words, he already knew the answer.
—If it were the former, Qi Yanbai wouldn’t be working as a teacher in an ordinary educational institution.
It was hard for Lu Ye to imagine how Qi Yanbai had grown into his current self in such a neglectful and distorted environment—two identities that were worlds apart, but at this moment merged into the same shadow, leaving a vivid color and contour on Qi Yanbai.
Suddenly, Lu Ye felt a sharp pang in his chest.
This pain spread in an instant, carrying an indescribable sourness, like a large net that tightened around Lu Ye’s heart.
Due to his job as an officer, Lu Ye had seen much more of the world than his peers.
He believed he had an iron heart that was resistant to the winds of emotion, yet thinking of those scenes of sibling rivalry, unloving parents, occurring in Qi Yanbai’s vulnerable youth, he felt an indescribable ache.
Lu Ye took a deep breath and suddenly reached out, holding Qi Yanbai’s hand.
Qi Yanbai was taken aback for a moment, seemingly not expecting such a reaction from Lu Ye.
He blinked in confusion, subconsciously looked down at their joined hands, and in that moment of eye contact, he heard Lu Ye call his name.
He pronounced his name with a tender and gentle tone, far from the usual teasing tone.
Qi Yanbai’s heart skipped a beat, and a tingling sensation spread from his ears, leaving him feeling a bit itchy.
“Let’s go.” Lu Ye said.
Lu Ye didn’t want to leave Qi Yanbai here to face his own self as a “commodity.” So, he tightened his grip on Qi Yanbai’s hand and led him forward, turning into the exit path.
“I may not have much artistic talent,…..” The corridor was quiet and any movement would cause an echo.
So, Lu Ye deliberately lowered his voice, sounding particularly serious, “but no matter what you paint, in my eyes, it’s definitely the best.”
Lu Ye added, “No matter how it actually is, if you think it’s good, then I also think it’s good.”
Qi Yanbai had never heard such “illogical” words before, nor had he received such baseless affirmation.
He should have denied this meaningless gesture, but there was something naturally convincing about Lu Ye’s demeanor.
In just a few words, Lu Ye had melted away the sadness that had been present in Qi Yanbai’s heart.
Qi Yanbai almost helplessly tightened his grip on Lu Ye’s hand, feeling like he had damp cotton stuck in his throat, making his eyes heat up and his heart ache.
Lu Ye seemed to sense his restless emotions and gently rubbed Qi Yanbai’s knuckles with his thumb.
Then, he shifted his hand slightly to fit their palms together perfectly, creating a seamless grip.
The sign for the exit was right in front of them, and the painting that had stirred up Qi Yanbai’s emotions was now far behind them.
Rain had started to fall outside the exhibition hall at some point, and Lu Ye bought a transparent umbrella from a mobile vendor near the exit.
He held it up with one hand, covering both of them under its canopy.
Fine raindrops landed on the umbrella’s surface, forming streaks of water that rolled down the edges.
Lu Ye’s palm was warm throughout, and he never let go of Qi Yanbai’s hand.
“Lu Ye.” The sensation of that warmth was so intense, as if it could penetrate their skin and flow into their veins in the next second.
Qi Yanbai stared at their clasped hands, his expression changing, and after a moment, he let out a soft sigh, barely audible, “You can’t always be like this.”
“Being like this… will make me more greedy and want more,” he whispered.
Qi Yanbai’s murmured words were almost inaudible, drowned out by the pure music playing at the exit.
Lu Ye couldn’t quite catch what he said and instinctively asked, “What?”
“Nothing.” Qi Yanbai smiled slightly again, saying, “I mean, you seem to be more helpful than the psychologists and therapists at university.”
“Aah it’s nothing……” Lu Ye chuckled and said, “Actually, I left home very early, and didn’t receive much emotional education.
I learned all of this through trial and error later.”
“My parents are very traditional, believing that boys should carry on the family line and continue the family name.” Lu Ye tilted the umbrella slightly toward Qi Yanbai, his tone sounding relaxed and casual, “After I came out, they couldn’t accept it in any way.
So, after they realized I wouldn’t turn back no matter what, they simply gave up on me and had another son the following year.”
Qi Yanbai: “…”
“Gave up?” A flawless expression of disbelief flashed across Qi Yanbai’s face for a moment, and he asked incredulously.
“Kind of.” Lu Ye raised his hand to stop Qi Yanbai, then naturally switched the umbrella to his other hand and walked toward the direction of the cars.
He shielded Qi Yanbai from the constant stream of passing cars.
“Later, they refused to acknowledge me and cut me off.
I grew up pulling through with my older sister.” Lu Ye paused for a moment, sensing that this topic might be a bit heavy for Qi Yanbai right now.
So, he naturally changed the subject, jokingly saying, “By the way, you don’t discriminate against gays, do you?”
Of course, Qi Yanbai didn’t discriminate against homosexuals.
After all, he was currently nursing feelings for Lu Ye himself—yet he was perplexed.
Although both of them had grown up in such distorted and abnormal family environments, and both of them were only seen as symbols by their parents, Lu Ye seemed to be unaffected by such an environment, growing into an upright and independent personality.
“…No.” Qi Yanbai said, “What’s there to discriminate against love?”
“Love itself knows no boundaries.” He said, “If two people love each other, it must be their souls that they’re in love with, not their genders.”
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