Chapter 7: P.
Two-Way Chance Encounter
His name had a sort of romantic tragic tint.
The day that he met Ning Yixiao was Su Hui’s worst day in the recent year.
In the middle of his depressive episode, in the early hours a day before, the thought of suicide seized him.
So, he made many decisions, burning midnight oil to finish the books he had put aside, watering every plant in the garden, returning to school upon dawn to submit his completed homework and returning all the books he owed.
He suffered bipolar disorder for many years now.
During his manic episodes, it did not affect his life generally.
He was even happier and more motivated than usual.
He could make up for all of his studies that he had fallen behind on within a single breath.
But during his depressive episodes, he was practically unable to do a single thing; he couldn’t go to school either.
That led to yet another two months of not attending school.
In the past, his classmates would still ask him what illness he had gotten this time.
But now, they had gotten used to it.
Only one girl expressed surprise at his abrupt return and even asked a few questions in concern.
In response, Su Hui gave her some candies that he had brought, leaving only one for himself.
Since he was young, Su Hui’s family told him not to tell others about having bipolar disorder so easily.
No one would like you like that.
Everyone would be prejudiced against you, and be wary of you. They said this, so Su Hui had never explained himself.
His maternal grandfather had more than simple connections with this university’s heads.
But this relationship was only utilized to apply for his absences, find excuses for the occasional deference of his studies and cycle through all sorts and types of illnesses without any repetition.
In the eyes of outsiders, he was just an utterly weak person riddled with illnesses and whose whole existence was a burden.
That was true though, Su Hui thought.
He ticked off each item in his plan and finally walked towards the second gate, constructed from green bricks with white pillars.
He leaned against the sign and finished a cigarette.
Then he used a bike rental service and left without another thought.
Whenever it was such times, Su Hui would be shrouded in shadows.
Even if the weather was so ridiculously pleasant, sunny and adorned with white clouds, if he recalled the day, he could only remember the dull gray roads and the sun that sought to melt everyone.
His limbs were numb.
And he was well aware that his current state was not suitable for cycling.
But he still stubbornly rode the bike.
He believed this to be the terminal lucidity before death.
The stiff wheels rolled bit by bit.
Traces of wind had finally started up.
Without a goal in mind, Su Hui found himself like a damaged airplane without a chance of self-recovery, relentlessly plummeting towards the surging crowd on the roads.
So, unsurprisingly, he fiercely slammed into the lush and verdant construct, and fell off the bike.
Wounded, Su Hui curled up on the ground for a long while.
His wrists and knees were scraped, but he could not feel the pain.
When his consciousness slowly converged back together, he pushed himself up from the ground, picking up his baseball cap, and very stubbornly propped up the bicycle and pushed it aside.
For no reason at all, he felt thirsty.
The feeling was practically intolerable, made even more so by the endless honking coming from the road.
So, he leaned the bicycle against a tree, gazing at some shops by the road, feeling at a loss.
During periods of depression, he had apparent reading impairment, reinforced after being medicated.
The words would look enlarged, and he’d need a very long time to read very ordinary words.
He even spent the entire night just reading the conclusion of a book.
After choosing a cafe, Su Hui made his way there, back straight but pace slow.
Air-conditioning welcomed him through the gap left by the glass door, awakening some vitality in his stiff limbs.
He did not wait for too long in the order queue before it was his turn.
Su Hui pushed down his cap quite low and wore a mask, not looking up at the cashier.
He very quietly said he wanted a latte.
But remembering that he had taken his medication, he added that he wanted it made with plant-based milk.
The good thing was that the cashier did not mind his slow-paced speech and asked very kindly, “Plant-based milk, right? May I ask if you need ice?”
The employee’s voice was very pleasant to the ear.
Su Hui had spaced out for a moment and did not reply.
It was when the employee had quietly repeated himself that he nodded.
Please have a seat while waiting.
I’ll bring your order to you in a moment.”
Forgetting to take the receipt and the order number plate extended to him, Su Hui turned and sluggishly found a corner window seat.
From start to end, he did not notice his wounds were bleeding.
He gazed outside the window without a thought, eyes staring at the hurrying passersby.
Under the glaring sun, there were few who donned happy smiles.
To be honest, Su Hui didn’t want to see these.
In his final moments, he wanted to see thriving, flourishing grass under the wind, or stand at a cliff, watching waterfalls that came from the sky and have water that surged far more than rain splashing on his skin.
Or perhaps, the sea.
The sea, boundless in his eyes.
But he contemplated again.
Even if he saw them right now, he probably could not feel the beauty of vitality.
That would be a complete waste.
As he spaced out, Su Hui heard the sound of a food plate placed gently on the table.
But he did not look back in time.
“This is your latte made with plant-based milk.
It was this voice again.
Su Hui was sure it was the same person, but he had looked back half a beat slower and only caught sight of his back.
He just stared like this the whole time until he saw the owner of the voice stand at the cashier.
He turned and revealed a handsome face.
This was a face that fitted that voice extremely well.
It would give one privy to many warm daydreams.
Su Hui lowered his face, wanting to take a sip.
But only then did he notice a few plasters placed on the food plate.
They had cartoon rabbits on them—very incongruous to that person’s appearance.
He turned his wrists over, gazing at his bleeding wounds and the beating veins in silence.
Half an hour later, Su Hui changed his mind.
Like how he had delayed his reading of books, he very simply readjusted his plans.
He put his remaining piece of candy on the food plate and left the cafe.
But the appearance of such a person—this minute piece of kindness—was only a slight ripple that occasionally appeared in a swamp of dead waters.
It could not save a decaying life.
Upon reaching home, Su Hui placed all the plasters in his drawer and never opened it again.
Such drawn-out suffering was slowly eating away at Su Hui’s desires.
He lay on his bed for a full day, not even drinking a drop of water.
Even getting up was difficult.
But at midnight, through the full-length glass window, Su Hui suddenly noticed a rope left behind in the garden.
As if something had prickled him hard, he ferociously pulled himself to his feet.
Once he was back in his room, Su Hui tied the rope around his neck and tightened it unfeelingly.
The most alarming part was that he even turned on a camera to record the whole process, including the one where he was interrupted by his family’s housekeeper.
After the incident, Su Hui played the video and saw his bleary-eyed mother, who had also hurried over, embracing him, sobbing while hitting and yelling at him.
He did not feel much.
He believed he was entrapped.
But Su Hui did not carry out a second attempt of such a decisive suicide.
Because he would always recall those rabbit plasters.
This extended time-frame of a cruelly low period ended abruptly as well.
Lacking any transitional period, any turning point, nor the slightest chance to buffer.
Su Hui simply entered the stage of light hypomania directly.
The excitement brought by his illness was akin to shoving him into a roller-coaster through the clouds, sharply hurtling up towards the skies, but it was as if his feet never reached the ground and could float endlessly in the sea of clouds.
Every time, during this period, Su Hui would always experience the most immense positive feelings about himself.
He was always excitable, believing he was invincible.
The pride from being raised in an excellent family was magnified, impossible to be hidden.
Even if the time he attended school may not even add up to a semester’s worth, the spread of numerous rumors reached his ears too.
The only person he could confide in was his own housekeeper.
When she heard that, she was greatly saddened.
She hugged Su Hui and gently soothed his back, asking if he felt upset.
“They exaggerated it too much.
Auntie Chen, no one in school has even hugged me like you’re doing right now.”
He hadn’t even been like the other normal boys—slinging an arm around another’s shoulders at the fields, holding hands with someone, or hugging someone.
How could he have even done so much more?
But there was no way to trace the origins of the rumors.
Perhaps it was a suitor whom he had rejected, or perhaps it was someone else.
Whoever it was, Su Hui didn’t mind either.
When he was browsing through the school website, he found a video by chance.
It was last year’s top scholarship speech debate.
The first person who appeared happened to be that boy who gave him the plasters in that cafe.
He had a very pleasant-sounding name — Ning Yixiao (宁一宵).
This name had a sort of romantic and tragic tint.
It was like he was someone who would give up everything for their love, one who would rather (宁) have just one night (一宵).
But in this debate, what he demonstrated was bright like the sun, exuding confidence and astounding intelligence.
Even if he wore nondescript clothes, he could still grab everyone’s attention.
The data on his preparation papers that signified his success, as well as his patents and dissertations and such, all further proved his excellence.
This intelligent man had a name that was completely unbefitting of this.
During hypomania episodes, it was rare for Su Hui to be so focused on this.
He gazed at the smile on his face and listened attentively to his speech, contradictory emotions swelling up in him.
Both “meetings” seemed to be one-sided.
Ning Yixiao did not seem to know of his existence.
This looked coincidental, yet it was nothing too special either.
Su Hui closed the video and opened the drawer to gaze at the plasters.
But he didn’t do anything.
But perhaps it was the furor of his mania, but something seemed to be faintly thumping in his heart.
He heard that the school had recently formed a Book-and-Movie club.
Su Hui was deeply interested but discovered it rather late.
And it was not easy to find the multimedia classrooms too, so he did not arrive on time.
But with rainfall came a sort of romantic air, so even if he was drenched and late, he did not feel awkward and instead brimmed with anticipation.
The mysterious thing was that in the instant he entered the room, Su Hui could sense Ning Yixiao’s presence with certainty.
In the dim area, he managed to find his target without any deterrents and noticed that he was being stared at too.
The film was already playing.
The room was as quiet as a lake, but what played on the screen was the stirrings of very strong winds.
It looked very free.
If three coincidences happened within a short two weeks, what would happen?
As he watched the film, Su Hui was a little distracted.
He could not stop thinking about this question.
Formlessly, it seemed like a gale of wind pushed Ning Yixiao to his side little by little, to stir some ripples on Su Hui — a person who was like dead water.
In the changing lights and shadows, Su Hui could clearly see Ning Yixiao’s non-avoidant gaze while hearing his own heartbeat.
He noticed that the girl in the row in front of him was writing something and observed that everyone around him had a card while he didn’t.
Realizing that he hadn’t received it because he arrived too late, Su Hui searched his entire body.
He only had a paper napkin.
He borrowed a pen and wrote a sentence on the napkin.
Likely the fault of his illness, or perhaps it was this romantic hue created from all these overlapping coincidences—something which Su Hui adored—he naturally wrote his contact number on another napkin.
This was the first time in his life that he did this.
Impulsively, yet unreasonably.
But at this time, he believed he would definitely succeed—so much so that afterwards in the reading room, Su Hui checked his messaging app again and again, hoping to see a “New Friend” added at the earliest possible time.
But after the fact, or rather after he had walked out of his mania episode, only then did he realize that this was an act of excessive overconfidence.
And so, he felt regretful and ashamed of it.
What was worse was that he actually called Ning Yixiao’s name before he even introduced himself.
And as expected, Su Hui did not see any new friend requests come in.
Normally, this would discourage people, but invalids were an exception.
Just like many others who had the same disorder, Su Hui felt an unprecedented pride and joy during hypomania.
A minor one-time discouragement would not affect anything.
Serendipitously, a week later, he met Ning Yixiao once again.
It rained that day too, but it was a far quieter rainy night.
When Su Hui walked into the classroom, he sensed someone looking at him and looked up to see that it was Ning Yixiao.
Their gazes met for a while.
He sensed that Ning Yixiao had something he wanted to say but did not.
Numerous days’ worth of insomnia as well as the gloomy rain had dampened much of Su Hui’s excitement.
Under the effects of medication, he was relatively composed.
He thought, this was likely the fourth time now.
After returning to the seat, Su Hui did not speak and focused on the studies that he had fallen back on.
His efficiency was high.
After a very, very long time, Su Hui looked up at the clock and found it strange.
Ning Yixiao didn’t seem to plan on returning to his dorm.
People who had bipolar disorder like him were grouped into people with severe mental disorders.
His maternal grandfather believed he was sufficiently a “terrorist” and did not allow him to stay in school, nor allow him time to be alone.
Even if he stayed in school for a whole night due to an excited mood, there would be a driver watching him from some proximity.
But Ning Yixiao was different.
He seemed to be mentally stable, mentally healthy.
He won’t have no place to go.
At approximately three in the morning, Su Hui felt exhaustion creep in.
When he turned, he found that Ning Yixiao had fallen asleep, his bent shoulders and back rising and falling quietly in a deep sleep.
Without much more of a reaction, Su Hui looked back, forcing down his thoughts to finish all of the questions.
He felt his chest fill with suffocation, heart beating very hard.
So, he took out a cigarette he had bought from a convenience store, planning to smoke by the window.
But Ning Yixiao seemed to always be capable of throwing his plans off.
Whether it was his plans to smoke, or something else.
They seemed to have a tacit understanding, both forgetting how he had given out his contact previously.
Ning Yixiao invited him for breakfast, and Su Hui didn’t reject it.
He checked his wallet in the restaurant and ordered something random.
He just happened to have spent the rest of his money.
But he did not feel awkward for not having the foresight of not having enough money.
He was already long used to it.
During hypomania, he always made many unreasonable purchases.
For example, buying all of the desserts in a cake shop — so much that a single car can’t contain them all.
Once when passing by a pet shop, Su Hui had bought all of the small animals in the glass display and brought them home.
Such situations were far too many.
Even now, Su Hui could still remember his grandfather’s enraged face upon seeing the electronic bill, remember how he had yelled “outrageous” and ordered his mother to only give him a fixed amount of bills and coins every day for the necessary expenditures.
Su Hui was a living person who could not be controlled, yearning for freedom.
But because he was not healthy enough, he had been trapped in a firm glass dome even until now.
The good thing was that Ning Yixiao was a very kind person.
He looked easy to get along with and very generous.
So when he said “the next time we meet”, Su Hui was elated.
This “next time” happened much earlier than he envisioned.
It was still when Su Hui was in the “good period”, as he called it, so he felt very grateful.
He had faintly discovered that he was quite reluctant to face Ning Yixiao in a bad state.
Even if that was how they began.
Even if he had crossed the boundaries since the very start, when he saw Ning Yixiao in the height of his mania and formed this sickly connection.
The author has something to say:
One of the reasons why there are fewer scenes from Su Hui’s POV at the start is because I feel that if it was written from Xiao Hui’s perspective, it would really sadden people.
But actually it’s not that different in Ning Yixiao’s perspective.
They’re both pitiful things.
Friends who have read this far, no matter if you are healthy or not, no matter what bad things you have experienced that you can’t recover from, or perhaps if you feel that you’ve experienced hardship and suffering in your life so far, you must remember to treasure yourself and love yourself.
What you should treasure is not just your life but also the countless overlapping possibilities in the future.
There will always exist, in some “possibilities” that you will become very happy and content.
Cai: Zhichu’s message makes me cry.
Happy birthday to Ning Yixiao! Wishing him a merry christmas with his kitten.
Happy holidays to everyone!
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