Chapter 40: After I Leave
Li Zhao placed the bought lunch on the bedside table and turned to Tan’s mother, saying, “Auntie, you and Uncle can go home and rest. I’ll take care of Xilu.”
Tan’s mother felt a bit embarrassed and politely replied, “Li, isn’t this too much trouble for you?”
“It’s no trouble. Besides, the store is closed for the New Year, so I have nothing else to do,” Li Zhao said with a smile.
“Well, thank you then,” Tan’s mother said. “Don’t leave later. I’ll come in the afternoon with some stew for you to eat.”
“I’ll be looking forward to Auntie’s cooking,” Li Zhao rubbed his hands together and said.
“You’re such a sweet talker,” Tan’s mother said with a smile. She patted Tan’s father on the shoulder and said, “Let’s go.”
“Okay, okay,” Tan’s father mumbled. “What’s the rush?”
Tan’s mother gave him a playful look and said, “No foresight at all.”
After leaving the ward, Tan’s mother sighed and said to Tan’s father, “I can see that Li Zhao really cares about Xilu. I’d be happy if these two could be together. But Xilu’s condition is worrying, and there’s also that child…”
Tan’s father looked back at the still pale Xilu in the ward. “Xilu has really suffered.”
Tan’s mother shook her head helplessly, patted her husband’s shoulder, and was about to enter the elevator. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a figure not far away. She hesitated and looked in that direction, but there was nothing there. She thought she might have been mistaken and then entered the elevator with her husband.
In the hospital room, Li Zhao helped Xilu set up the table on the bed and placed the bought lunch on it one by one.
He had put thought into it, asking Tan’s mother in advance about Xilu’s preferences, and he chose things Xilu liked to ensure that he would eat. However, it could also be because Xilu had no appetite due to being ill; he showed no reaction when he saw the food.
Li Zhao lifted the lid of the millet porridge, and the food container had good heat preservation; it was still steaming. He placed a spoon inside and said, “Try to eat a bit more.”
Xilu moved slightly, his eyes somewhat vacant. He stared at the lunch for a moment before finally looking up at Li Zhao. “I’m not hungry.”
“You should eat even if you’re not hungry,” Li Zhao said. “You haven’t had a proper meal in a long time.”
Li Zhao spoke somewhat bluntly and harshly, “Look at yourself. Have you even looked in the mirror? You’ve become so thin and ugly.”
Upon hearing this, Xilu’s eyes showed a momentary confusion. Then, he sat up straight, took the disposable chopsticks, and started eating.
The doctor said there were psychological factors at play, which was why Xilu kept getting feverish for no apparent reason. With the New Year approaching, Xilu had been in the hospital for a week, and a minor fever just wouldn’t go away. He couldn’t even be left alone at night.
“Take your time,” Li Zhao said. “No one’s going to take it from you.”
As if he remembered something, Li Zhao sat on Xilu’s bedside and smiled. “You’re not afraid that Xu Huaiming will come and see you looking ugly, are you?”
Xilu paused for a moment, didn’t look at Li Zhao, and took another bite of shredded potatoes. He said with his head down, “No.”
Xilu seemed to say those two words in a calm tone, as if he genuinely didn’t care anymore. But from the slight trembling in his hand as he picked up the food, it was evident that he wasn’t as strong as he had imagined. It made Li Zhao feel a pang of sympathy.
Over the past few days, as he watched Xilu suffer, Li Zhao couldn’t help but wonder if he had made a mistake by calling Xilu and telling him about Xu Huaiming. He admitted he was a selfish person. Perhaps it was for the sake of his damned competitive spirit, or maybe he really had some interest in Xilu. When he found out that Xu Huaiming was an AI, he was mostly relieved, thinking that at least Xu Huaiming was an AI and he still had a chance to compete. But now, he realized that as long as Xilu didn’t love him, he could never catch Xilu’s eye.
He had underestimated Xilu’s feelings for Xu Huaiming.
“Never mind then,” Li Zhao moved the bowl of corn soup towards Xilu. “Auntie said you really like this soup. Taste it and see how it is.”
Xilu looked at the bowl of soup and suddenly felt a bit dizzy. Then, he felt nauseous and realized something was wrong. He quickly covered his mouth and rushed to the bathroom, opening the toilet and vomiting.
Xilu had a stress reaction. Before Xu Huaiming came back, he couldn’t stand to see corn soup. At the beginning, when it was at its worst, he would feel nauseous at the sight of corn in the kitchen. Later, after Xu Huaiming came back, for some inexplicable reason, he got better. But now, it was happening again.
Xilu had barely eaten anything, and now he had vomited it all out. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he took a while to recover before slowly standing up and flushing the toilet.
“You…” Li Zhao’s face looked a bit unpleasant. “I didn’t know you couldn’t have that soup. I’m sorry.”
Xilu shook his head. His throat felt uncomfortable from vomiting. “It’s okay. I didn’t know I would react like this.”
“I’ll go find a nurse to get you some medication,” Li Zhao said.
“No need. I’m not that delicate,” Xilu shook his head and said. “It was just a little bit of vomiting.”
Li Zhao looked at him with some concern.
After vomiting, Xilu didn’t have the appetite to continue eating. He said he was feeling a bit tired and wanted to take a nap, so Li Zhao cleared away the food. After Xilu lay down, Li Zhao sat by his side and watched him fall asleep.
Xilu felt a bit embarrassed being watched as he slept. Finally, he said, “Can you go buy the cake we had together last time?”
Li Zhao knew he was referring to the restaurant they had been to before. However, the restaurant had been closed for renovation these past few days. Li Zhao thought for a moment and said, “I can, but it might take a while.”
“That’s okay,” Xilu said.
Li Zhao replied, “Then you rest. Maybe I’ll bring it back by the time you wake up.”
Xilu rarely smiled after falling ill, but this time, he smiled and said, “Okay, I’ll wait for you.”
Perhaps Xilu had never genuinely smiled at Li Zhao all this time, so Li Zhao didn’t realize that Xilu was trying to get him to leave. He tucked in the blanket for Xilu, watched him close his eyes, and then left the room, closing the door behind him.
After a while, the door to the ward opened again, and the person who entered walked softly, as if afraid of being noticed. Upon seeing that Xilu was asleep, he sat down on the chair next to the bed and reached out to touch Xilu’s hand, which was outside the blanket.
The room was a bit cold, and the person went to close the window. Just as he was about to close it, he heard Xilu’s voice from behind, “You’ve been coming to the hospital every day, and you’re afraid to see me directly. Aren’t you tired, Xu Huaiming?”
Xu Huaiming’s hand paused, and he turned around.
Xilu was already sitting up, wearing a patient’s gown, looking pale and much thinner.
Xu Huaiming felt a pang of sadness. He had finally managed to put some weight on Xilu, and now he had lost it again. “I was afraid you wouldn’t want to see me.”
“Then why sneak in? Aren’t you afraid I’ll find you disgusting?” Xilu looked at him.
“I am,” Xu Huaiming admitted. He walked over but didn’t dare to touch Xilu’s hand like before. His voice was very soft. “But I’m more worried about you.”
“When I had a fever that night, did you come?” Xilu suddenly asked. “There was no record of your call. Was it my imagination?”
“I did go, but maybe my phone malfunctioned,” Xu Huaiming explained. “When I got there, I saw your parents had already taken you out.”
At that time, it was late at night, and Xu Huaiming had wasted a lot of time rushing over from the research institute. When he arrived at the entrance of the residential area, he saw Xilu’s parents taking him out. Xu Huaiming couldn’t hail a taxi on his phone, so he had to search for the nearest hospital and run there. When he got to the hospital, he also saw Li Zhao, who seemed to be very familiar with Xilu’s parents. Later, he saw them all enter the hospital together.
After Xu Huaiming finished speaking, he saw that Xilu’s complexion had improved, indicating that he wasn’t as angry anymore. Xu Huaiming breathed a sigh of relief but then heard Xilu say, “I know you care about me because of your program settings. It’s really not interesting. These few days lying in the hospital bed, I’ve thought a lot. It’s been almost ten years. Maybe I loved Xu Huaiming so much because I got used to it, but it’s not like I can’t live without him. Look, I lived just fine during those seven years without him. As for you, tell that professor to help you change your program. You don’t really love me. You keep coming to see me, and it’s annoying.”
“I’m also trying to move on. After all, you and Xu Huaiming have taken up too much of my time. I need to find someone who can truly be with me. You’ve seen it too. Li Zhao has been with me all this time, and he’s been good to me. Maybe his personality is a bit mixed, but he’s human, not like you robots who are so rigid in your actions. He can change, and besides, his desserts are delicious. I just sent him away to make a cake for me.”
“I don’t have to eat only the cakes you make.”
After Xilu finished speaking, there was a few seconds of silence in the air. Xilu looked at Xu Huaiming, whose face had clearly changed color, waiting for his response.
Perhaps Xilu’s gaze was too intense, forcing Xu Huaiming not to evade and to answer. Xu Huaiming looked hurt and said, “Alu, please don’t do this.”
“I’ve thought it over. This is the best way,” Xilu smiled. He curled his lips, but his eyes were filled with endless sadness. “I will slowly forget you and him. You need to forget me too.”
What was sad was that in this relationship, Xilu needed to forget two people at the same time. What had started as pure love had become a web of lies, like a farce that had shattered Xilu’s heart.
T/N: Wishing you all a good September and welcome to Bad End month! There is plenty more where that came from, so stay tuned! And stay healthy! Straighten your posture, so some stretches and drink some water before continuing hehe~
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