Lin ChengYu had seen Jiang Xiao’s biographical data.
An ordinary junior high school student, he’d lived in Houlin county all his life.
He might have traveled with his father or uncle a few times, just like he followed Ye Bing to Liujiang, but he would have been away from home a few days at most.

Huaihai province, which was far distant from Houlin, had a unique dialect.
It was so distinct from Mandarin that people who were new to the region couldn’t even understand it.
The version used in Liujiang was based on Huaihai dialect, but some words had different pronunciations.
In fact, Liujiangese was even more difficult than Huaihai dialect because it had a more complicated grammar.
It was absolutely impossible for the current Jiang Xiao to know it.

But Jiang Xiao in his last life did.

In his last life, Jiang Xiao came to Liujiang at the age of eighteen and lived there fifteen years.
Many of his friends and factory employees were from the area.
If Jiang Xiao didn’t speak the local dialect, it would be difficult to do business, so Jiang Xiao worked extremely hard to become fluent.
In the end he spoke Liujiang dialect better than some locals.

Lin ChengYu was by his side, and he personally witnessed Jiang Xiao at his studies.
Jiang Xiao liked to pester him back then.
He would take a small quilt and nestle up next to Lin ChengYu with a book titled 《Liujiang Dialect Quick Start Guide》, practicing the cadence and stumbling over the words.

In those days everything was full of noise and bustle, but they were two people climbing the ladder of success together.
When the memories from these two lifetimes intersected, Lin ChengYu couldn’t smile.

He instantly understood why Jiang Xiao rejected him so firmly.

With the memory of his previous life, how could Jiang Xiao have a good impression of him?

The stall owner sat at the counter, eating his breakfast and watching TV.
He quoted several prices for Jiang Xiao.
When Jiang Xiao turned around, he saw Lin ChengYu standing there.
His expression didn’t change.
It was just like seeing a stranger.
Jiang Xiao took all the goods he liked from the box, calmly walked past him, and went over to bargain with the boss.

The whole time, he was using Liujiang dialect.
He didn’t try to hide anything from Lin ChengYu.

The two of them had lived together for so long.
If Lin ChengYu kept following him, he was bound to find out sooner or later.

Let him.


When it came to Lin ChengYu, Jiang Xiao’s mood was unperturbed.

The stall owner wasn’t his match.
Every time he faced Jiang Xiao, he kept repeating “I can’t can’t say anything to you, pretty boy” and “I’ll lose money if I go any lower”.
Finally he sighed and accepted Jiang Xiao’s price.

Jiang Xiao paid the money and packed the items carefully one at a time.
When he ran out of room in his school bag or duffel bag, he would sort his purchases into different categories.
Things that were more expensive or fragile went into the bags he carried with him.
Things that were sturdier went into a snakeskin bag he would stuff into the trailer of Ye Bing’s truck.
He had to limit the number of things in his snakeskin bags.
If his purchases didn’t fit in the spare space, Ye Bing would be in a dilemma.

He also had to consider the reality of the situation.
Some goods, like the plush toys that girls liked, took up more space and earned less money.
Even if there was a request, Jiang Xiao wouldn’t consider it.
The price his customer was paying for the school bag was high because she wanted a better model than her cousin.
That was why he agreed to look.

As he accumulated more capital, with each trip he bought back more goods than the time before.
Jiang Xiao was busy packing up his purchases.
He didn’t have time for Lin ChengYu.

The schedule was tight.
In the afternoon, after the truck was loaded, Ye Bing would have rested enough.
They’d leave for Houlin in the evening.
This shop didn’t sell stationery, so he had to go around to other stalls to find more inventory.
After that was done, he’d stop at the video store to pick up his items.
He had a strict itinerary and no time to spare.

He knew that Lin ChengYu had realized something.
The man was stunned for a while, then came up to him again like a wandering soul, set the insulated thermos down beside him, and lowered his head to help take inventory.


He spoke in a trembling voice with a trace of a choked-back sob.

“There’s something you like to eat in the thermos.
Open it and have a look.
Did I remember wrong?”

Lin ChengYu’s help with the inventory was free labor.
Jiang Xiao didn’t stop him.
When he heard the question, he looked up.

“You finally realized it? I thought it wouldn’t be until later.”

Jiang Xiao spoke these words, stuffed the last package of hairpins into his bag, and zipped it up tight.
He’d borrowed a small cart with wheels from the hotel.
He tied the bag to the top, ready to go on to the next booth.

He didn’t touch the thermos.
Lin ChengYu picked it up and followed step by step.

It was then that Lin ChengYu realized Jiang Xiao knew about his rebirth, too.
He must have found out long ago.

When did he discover it? At that first meeting in Houlin?

Jiang Xiao dragged the small cart, walking in front of him with the wheels clattering along, and found another stall with stationery items.

He picked out several good-looking school bags and dozens of various types of stationery.
Notebooks occupied too much space so he decided not to buy too many.
At the same time, he saw an alumni book to one side.
He picked it up and flipped through the pages.
He thought the layout and design were good.
Unfortunately it wasn’t graduation season yet.
Something like this would probably be quite popular and profitable next June.

He was doing business and forgot Lin ChengYu was standing to one side.

As Jiang Xiao said about himself before, he wasn’t a very smart person.
He had to concentrate on whatever he was doing without trying to split his attention, so he put aside unimportant things.

Lin ChengYu looked at him—one might say he even stared.
They were standing close together, but there seemed to be a barrier between them.
Lin ChengYu didn’t dare to reach out and touch him.

The world had started over, but they could not.
They were each too aware of what had gone before, and those things would never disappear.
For good or ill, they couldn’t be undone.

If he hadn’t heard the dialect, Lin ChengYu wouldn’t have been certain Jiang Xiao was reborn.

There were a lot of struggles and strong emotions between the two of them.
He used to think that if they met again, Jiang Xiao would hate him and make a scene.
But after being reborn, Jiang Xiao wasn’t like that at all.
He was calm, too calm.
Most of the time he behaved like they were strangers with no history at all.

“XiaoXiao,” he said with difficulty.
His mouth was dry.
“I’m sorry.
I’m really sorry.”

After he confirmed the truth, Lin ChengYu’s first words were an apology.
He had too many things to apologize for, so many that a “sorry” couldn’t represent a millionth of the guilt he felt inside.
He didn’t want to make excuses for the mistakes he’d made in his last life.

He wanted to reach out and hold Jiang Xiao.
His hands lifted slightly, but he didn’t dare to stretch forward without the other party’s consent.
Lin ChengYu wanted to touch him, but he was afraid Jiang Xiao would feel offended.

Jiang Xiao finished making his selections and calculated the quantity and price.
Only then did he take a look at Lin ChengYu and ask, “What did you say?”

He really wasn’t listening. 

Lin ChengYu wanted to say something more, but Jiang Xiao interrupted.
“I’m busy.
If you have something to say, talk about it later.”

Then Jiang Xiao picked up his things and checked out.
Lin ChengYu didn’t dare disturb him any more, so he could only help him to pack up.
He also wanted to help pull Jiang Xiao’s cart, but he refused.

“No need, I’ll do it myself.” Jiang Xiao casually wiped the sweat from his forehead without even glancing his way.
“You can go and do your own things.”

He said this lightly, politely reciting a formula, without thinking about it much.
What he really meant was that he didn’t want Lin ChengYu to wander around in front of him, and he didn’t want him touching his merchandise.
After the stationery store, he had to go to the video shop to get the latest tapes and discs.
He was really pressed for time.

But as soon as Lin ChengYu heard those words, it was like he’d been slapped.
His hand drew back at once.

In his last life, he’d heard that phrase too many times.

Jiang Xiao always wanted to do things with him.
Bigger things like a trip for two, or small things like a movie or a romantic dinner.
Lin ChengYu rarely agreed to these requests, no matter how trivial.

Lin ChengYu was always busy, and there were always countless reasons to put Jiang Xiao on the back burner.

“It’s okay.
You can go and do your own things.”

Jiang Xiao was always tolerant and understanding even when he said those words over and over again.
He was so patient that Lin ChengYu didn’t even need to come up with excuses.
Later, he became so accustomed to it that he didn’t notice the deep exhaustion behind the words.

“I’m not busy, XiaoXiao.
I… I won’t go.” Lin ChengYu’s voice was muffled.
He was on the verge of tears.
“What I mean is… You’re the most important person to me, XiaoXiao.
You are the most important person in my heart, always.
I’m sorry.”

But even as he spoke, Jiang Xiao was already a few steps away, dragging his cart behind him.
The path through the wholesale market was uneven and the cart was fully loaded.
As he walked, the cart clattered and clanked, making a lot of noise.
Lin ChengYu didn’t get a response.

Maybe Jiang Xiao didn’t hear him.

Lin ChengYu followed him the whole way.
The owner of the video store talked for a bit, then noticed Jiang Xiao’s new tail.
The person had such a strange look.
All he did was stare at Jiang Xiao, as if Jiang Xiao were a treasure that might be lost if he looked away.

“Who’s that?” the video store owner gossiped to Jiang Xiao.
“Your classmate?”

“No,” Jiang Xiao replied casually.
“Just a tedious person.”

He said this while checking the time.
Fortunately he was still on track.
Ye Bing had driven all night and needed to rest before he got back on the road.
He had until the afternoon.
A lot of his money would be spent here in the video store, so he had to choose carefully.

Lin ChengYu stood there and waited for him.
When Jiang Xiao selected goods, he looked at them and said a word or two.
Sometimes Jiang Xiao heard him, sometimes he didn’t, and he basically didn’t respond.
Most of the time he treated Lin ChengYu like he was invisible.

When Jiang Xiao came out of the video store and returned his baggage to the hotel, he really did take a break.
Ye Bing was still resting, and by now it was almost time for lunch.
Jiang Xiao was in a hurry in the morning, so he just ate a steamed bun at random.
Now that he was finished, he felt hungry.

The food in the lunch box that Lin ChengYu was carrying was already cold, so Jiang Xiao couldn’t eat it.

Lin ChengYu asked his people to find a better restaurant in the area.
When Jiang Xiao walked out of the hotel he greeted him.

“XiaoXiao,” he said.
“Can we have lunch together? We really need to talk.”

Jiang Xiao looked him straight in the eyes, thought for a while, and said, “Okay.”

When Lin ChengYu heard the answer, he sighed with relief.
His expression was suddenly happy.

Jiang Xiao’s face was still indifferent.
Anyway, Lin ChengYu had found out.
If Jiang Xiao didn’t make things clear, Lin ChengYu would repeatedly pester him, and that wasn’t a solution either.

He and Lin ChengYu walked together, but the two were some distance apart.
Jiang Xiao didn’t care where they ate.
Fortunately the restaurant wasn’t far.

Along the way, he suddenly stopped and bought two cups of soy milk from a breakfast place.
The two cups leftover from the morning were already cold.

The restaurant’s small private rooms were exquisitely decorated.
Jiang Xiao sat on the opposite side of the table.
He could see that Lin ChengYu was very nervous.

“I knew you had come back, too,” Jiang Xiao took the initiative to say.
He didn’t want to talk nonsense.
He slowly took a sip of soy milk, and then got straight to the point.
“I knew the first time we met.”


TL Notes:

alumni book – 同学录 – classmate book – It’s like a class yearbook but not officially put out by the school or an activities club.
It has blank spaces where you can add pictures or write down messages for friends to reminisce about the year.

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