Qin He never asked why Xia Yuan cried that day.
He had a feeling that something truly terrible had happened, which was why he didn't dare to ask even now.
Luckily, Xia Yuan gradually recovered.
Actually, Xia Yuan concealed his emotions quite well.
He only slept over at Qin He's for a night. The next day he headed back to his own place.
School began a week later.
Xia Yuan was now no different than he had ever been.
Xia Yuan asked him questions, talked to other people, and even played along with their jokes.
But Qin He could sense that Xia Yuan wasn't truly happy.
In fact, he hadn't smiled genuinely even once.
Xia Yuan often drifted off into a daze. His eyes would suddenly redden all of a sudden.
Every time he took a nap on his desk during lunch break, Xia Yuan's practice workbook would be stained with tears when he woke up.
One time, Qin He was explaining math problems in the practice workbook to Xia Yuan after the noon break. As he brushed his fingers over the words blurred by tears, he finally asked, "Xia Yuan, you can tell me. What exactly happened to you?"
Xia Yuan: "...Nothing, ah."
Qin He pointed to the tear stains on the practice workbook. "Then why are you always crying?"
Xia Yuan was taken aback. "I..."
Xia Yuan licked his dry, somewhat cracked lips. "I...I'm frustrated because I never get how to do math problems."
Yet the practice workbook stained with tears wasn't the math one.
Xia Yuan was lying again.
Qin He was silent for a beat. He didn't expose Xia Yuan.
Qin He took out a piece of candy from his pocket and handed it to Xia Yuan. Then he picked up the nearby pen and said, "Which of the other problems are you having trouble with? I'll explain it to you."
After school, Qin He didn't go home straight away. Instead, he got on his newly bought bike and rang the bell in Xia Yuan's direction. "Come here, Xia Yuan. I'll take you home."
Xia Yuan was walking in front of him while carrying his backpack. He drawled, "Do you know how to ride that thing?"
"Of course!" Qin He raised his chin and confidently said, "Even though I just bought it, how can I not know how to do such a simple thing?"
Xia Yuan: "Then let me see you ride it."
Qin He's eyes widened. He seemed to feeling somewhat wronged. "Don't you want to ride my bike?"
Xia Yuan: "I'm worried you'll take me down with you."
Qin He sat straight on the bike with both hands on the handlebars. He seem completely sure of himself. "Then take a good look! I'll definitely..."
Before he could even finish, the bike started wobbling about like it had scabies. A moment of inattention sent him crashing to the ground.
Xia Yuan couldn't help but laugh.
Qin He looked very wronged. "You're laughing at me, Xia Yuan.
Xia Yuan's eyebrows were curved, and his lips were tinged with unconcealed humour. "You're the one who said everything would be fine!"
Seeing the dejected look on Qin He's face, Xia Yuan went over to help him up. He smiled and said, "Why don't you just push it home for today?"
"But I want to take you home."
"Then I'll pedal for you, okay? You can push it along after you take me home."
It just so happened that they lived down the road from each other and not far apart at that.
"Okay!" Qin He perked up.
Xia Yuan righted the bicycle on the ground and sat down with practised motions.
Qin He sat on the back seat and asked him, "Are you sure you can take me?"
"At least I'll fare better than you." Xia Yuan smiled with curved eyes. "Did you know, Little Trash? I used to ride the old fashioned kind of bike with horizontal bars at my old house when I was little."
Qin He felt wind passing by his ears after Xia Yuan's words.
The bicycle moved forward.
Qin He took this chance to hug Xia Yuan's waist. His heart was thumping and his ears reddened. "...Cough cough. I heard that kind's really hard to ride."
"Yep. It was our grandpa neighbour's bike. I wasn't even as tall as the bike the first time I rode it!"
Xia Yuan's clear voice scattered to the wind, finally containing a long-absent hint of humour.
Qin He also quirked his lips when he heard Xia Yuan laugh. He thought the fall he had just taken was more than worth it.
Without even noticing, the two of them chatted the entire way back.
When they got to Xia Yuan's house, Qin He reluctantly got off from the rear seat.
Xia Yuan gave the bike back to Qin He. "This section of the road's rough so don't try to show off. Push the bike back and ride when you've practiced enough."
Qin He accepted the bike. "Okay. You hurry home."
Xia Yuan nodded before turning to leave.
Qin He stood there staring at his departing figure.
Xia Yuan had never taken Qin He to his house.
They always went their separate ways at this intersection.
To the left was a tarmac road, and to the right was an alleyway.
Qin He watched Xia Yuan disappear into the end of the alleyway. There stood clusters of short, old buildings backed by the rainbow-coloured sky. Walking on that road, Xia Yuan seemed to be traveling through time into old paintings.
Qin He stared at Xia Yuan until he disappeared from sight. Only then did he steadily take a seat on his bike.
He stepped on the pedal with practiced motions. The wheels crushed fallen leaves, gliding lightly through the air like a gust of wind.
A half-grown youth vigorously pedaled the bike, letting the wind graze his face without care.
Yet his mind was filled with unseemingly thoughts.
Xia Yuan's waist's so thin. Xia Yuan's back's so slim. The back of Xia Yuan's neck's so pale and lithe.
...Xia Yuan finally smiled.
Qin He was almost in shock when Xia Yuan pulled him out of the car.
Fresh blood mixed with rainwater ran down his face, muddling his entire world.
Qin He's whole world became silent at this moment.
Xia Yuan seemed to be calling out his name, but all he could see were Xia Yuan's lips opening and closing.
He seemed to be unconscious. The only thing he knew to do was tightly grab Xia Yuan's hand.
Like even a moment's separation was too much.
When he realized what happened to him, it was like being plunged into the depths of a nightmare.
Qin He almost didn't want to recall what happened back then. Every scene, every detail was as clear as day, but he wished there would only be blurred images left in his mind.
Xia Yuan called the police and an ambulance. Qin He was lifted onto a stretcher and sent to the hospital.
He sat dumbly on the hospital bed.
All the relatives from his father's side that he hadn't seen for so long came flocking over.
They helped him attend a sob-ridden funeral, only to gather around his hospital bed afterwards to talk about his custody, his parents' inheritance, insurance and the death compensation money.
He pushed his way through everyone and ran home.
Locking the door from within.
And refusing to let anyone in.
Yet one afternoon, Xia Yuan scaled a tree outside and showed up on his balcony.
He had warm hamburgers in his pockets, and all the homework the teachers assigned this weekend in his bag.
Xia Yuan gave the hamburger to Qin He before taking out the homework from his bag.
"Qin He, I came to do homework with you."
Qin He looked at Xia Yuan. Suddenly, he started to cry soundlessly.
Xia Yuan took a step forward and ever so lightly embraced Qin He.
Xia Yuan did many things for Qin He.
He cooked for Qin He, he tucked Qin he in, he brought Qin He to get regular check ups at the hospital...
He walked Qin He home from the hospital in the evenings, talking about his mother, who had jumped on that New Year's Eve.
Qin He dumbly turned to him.
Xia Yuan looked down and quietly said, "Zhao Feng was, what he said isn't true. My mother really wasn't… She didn't do that kind of work... She just liked to change boyfriends a lot."
But Qin He hadn't reacted yet.
Xia Yuan turned to look at the golden red sunset.
“"The sky's so beautiful." Xia Yuan wiped his tears and said, "I should've taken a picture with my phone."
The side of Xia Yuan's face was bathed in golden red flames. The afterglow of the sunset framed him in a way that you could even see the tiny peach fuzz on his face. His ears shone translucent red from the light.
Even his dark eyelashes were haloed in gold.
Qin He looked at Xia Yuan and thought:
I really should've taken a picture with my phone.