MINT-STAINED SHIRT

Chapter 47

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Xia Zhong's hospital room and Ming Shu's hospital room weren't on the same floor. Xia Zhong had sustained a cut on his arm when he fell, which required two stitches, and he'd bruised his leg. His treatment was already complete, and he was simply being kept under observation while hooked up to an IV to replenish his fluids.

He occupied a private room, which had been filled up with flowers. The Xia family had lots of relatives, and they came to visit one after another. Besides fruit and restorative medicines, flowers were the most common gift Xia Zhong received.

When Xiao Yu'an entered the room, Cheng Yue was sitting next to Xia Zhong's hospital bed and peeling an orange. He'd been in the middle of telling Xia Zhong some joke, but his expression darkened as soon as he saw Xiao Yu'an.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

Xiao Yu'an and Cheng Yue had fought and parted on bad terms not that long ago. It was inevitable that there would be some awkwardness now. But Xia Zhong had been hit, and he'd been hit by Ming Shu of all people, so Xiao Yu'an had had no choice but to visit.

And besides simply visiting, Xiao Yu'an needed to hear some things from Xia Zhong.

Xia Zhong seemed like he was thrilled to see Xiao Yu'an. He smiled warmly and greeted, "Xiao-ge."

But someone who had just been hurt could only muster up so much energy. It was obvious Xia Zhong was forcing himself to keep his spirits up, and one couldn't help but feel sorry for him.

"You still call him that?" Cheng Yue grumbled.

"Leave it alone, Cheng-ge. We're all friends here. There's no need to be like that." Xia Zhong lifted one of his hands, the one that wasn't hooked up to the IV, and tugged on the side of Cheng Yue's jacket. "What's past is past. Why are you still thinking about it?"

"Past?" Cheng Yue scoffed. "You're the one who's still thinking about it. Why else would you be making excuses for him?"

Xia Zhong's face reddened. He whispered, "Just cut it out."

Of course, Xiao Yu'an knew what they were talking about—Xia Zhong had confessed to him, and he'd rejected Xia Zhong.

Regardless of whether or not Xia Zhong had 'snitched' to Ming Haofeng, Xiao Yu'an couldn't possibly have accepted Xia Zhong's feelings. Xia Zhong wasn't his type. They'd been friends all these years, but that was mostly because Cheng Yue brought Xia Zhong everywhere with him.

And Xiao Yu'an had always been clear on the sort of life he wanted to lead. For the foreseeable future, he didn't need or want a love life.

Xia Zhong did his best to gently urge Cheng Yue to step out for a while. When Cheng Yue brushed past Xiao Yu'an at the hospital room door, he shot Xiao Yu'an a dark look.

In that moment, Xiao Yu'an understood how Cheng Yue felt. It seemed this childhood friend of his liked Xia Zhong. So when Xiao Yu'an turned down Xia Zhong's advances, Cheng Yue had developed some feelings of hostility towards Xiao Yu'an. But it was a contradictory sort of hostility. Cheng Yue was actually relieved that Xiao Yu'an and Xia Zhong hadn't gotten together, but he was also saddened by Xia Zhong's heartbreak.

Adolescent crushes were often bittersweet. Xiao Yu'an didn't have any interest in experiencing that sort of thing for himself.

"Ge." Xia Zhong changed his way of addressing Xiao Yu'an once they were the only two people left in the room. "Thank you for coming to see me."

Xiao Yu'an had brought a gift basket of freshly harvested strawberries. He didn't sit down right away, instead standing by the bed and apologizing on Ming Shu's behalf.

When Xia Zhong heard Ming Shu's name, his expression stiffened. "He's just a little kid. Maybe he didn't know what he was doing, suddenly rushing down like that."

"I'm sorry," Xiao Yu'an repeated.

Xia Zhong hurriedly shook his head. After thinking for a moment, he said, "Maybe I did something to make him hate me. Ge, you should take him to see a doctor. There's something wrong with him. It could be a psychological problem. He could hurt someone else in the future."

The words Xiao Yu'an had prepared in advance were lost. He suddenly couldn't force them out.

He and Xiao Mu'ting had gone to the bottom of the slope where the collision had happened. The tracks left behind by the bicycle tires weren't pointed straight at Xia Zhong. Near the bottom of the slope, the brakes had been abruptly applied; that was Ming Shu's attempt to avoid the crash.

The tire tracks on the ground also swerved sharply. When Ming Shu realized he couldn't stop the bike in time, he'd flung himself to the side and wound up being thrown off the bike as well.

If Xiao Yu'an hadn't personally heard Ming Shu say 'I hate him', he would have been convinced that this was an accident. He would've been certain that Ming Shu hadn't meant to hit Xia Zhong, that there was some reason Ming Shu had come down the slope, and that Ming Shu had done everything he could to change his course, even hurting himself in the process.

In that case, what Xia Zhong said would have been false.

However, Ming Shu had clearly admitted this was intentional. So when Xiao Yu'an faced Xia Zhong, he had no way to contradict Xia Zhong's words.

No matter what, Xia Zhong was the obvious victim of this collision. Whether Ming Shu had done it on purpose or not, whether Ming Shu had been hurt or not, Xia Zhong was unquestionably innocent.

Ming Shu was the guilty party.

Xiao Yu'an couldn't lay any blame on the innocent victim just because Ming Shu was his own didi.

"Rest well," Xiao Yu'an said in the end. "I'll go talk to Ming Shu again."

A miserable expression came over Xia Zhong's face. "Ge, you won't hate me because of this, will you?"

Xiao Yu'an furrowed his brow. "Hate?"

"Because I didn't say it was an accident." Xia Zhong clutched the covers. "If I said it was an accident, then all this would be resolved more easily, right?"

Xiao Yu'an shook his head. "It is what it is. If he hit you on purpose, then he needs to take responsibility. You don't need to lie for him."

Xia Zhong pursed his lips. "Ge, I know. Ming Shu… I know Ming Shu hit me on purpose. He saw me, and he didn't brake."

"I got it," Xiao Yu'an said.

 

Ming Haofeng blamed Ming Shu's violent tendencies on the Xiao family. Every time Xiao Yu'an tried to see Ming Shu, he was turned away.

Xiao Yu'an knew now that Ming Shu had tried to hit Xia Zhong on purpose, and he knew Ming Shu had tried to prevent the crash at the last minute. Ming Shu had done his best to minimize the harm done to Xia Zhong.

Xiao Yu'an could even guess why Ming Shu hated Xia Zhong.

But he wanted Ming Shu to look him in the eye and tell him what happened.

He knew Ming Shu hadn't tried to hit Xia Zhong because of some psychological problem, and he knew Ming Shu didn't have any violent tendencies. Xia Zhong and Ming Haofeng were both wrong. All this had happened because of Xiao Yu'an.

Ming Shu was still brooding over what had happened at the coffee shop.

It was Xiao Yu'an's responsibility to guide him back onto the right path.

As soon as he called himself Ming Shu's gege for the first time, Ming Shu had become his responsibility.

While Ming Haofeng and Wen Yue were with Ming Shu, Xiao Yu'an had no way of getting into his hospital room. Ming Haofeng was furious. Even if Xiao Lanyue had been there, he wouldn't have been able to make a difference. Not that it mattered, anyway; Xiao Lanyue had already been deployed.

In the end, it was Ming Han who let Xiao Yu'an in.

Ming Shu had lost a ton of weight. His head, arms, and legs were all wrapped up in gauze. He'd grown so gaunt that his eyes seemed even bigger. When he saw his gege, a strong wave of conflicting emotions swelled in those eyes.

"Gege…"

Xiao Yu'an sat down next to the hospital bed and looked at him for a while. He didn't speak right away.

Ming Shu's nostrils flared with constrained emotion. He reached out for his gege and mumbled, "Gege, I was wrong."

He had been locked up like a prisoner these past few days. He'd had a lot of time to think. And the more he thought, the more afraid he became.

He knew he'd definitely been wrong to hit Xia Zhong. He'd told his grandfather a few days ago that he hated Xia Zhong, and that was still true—he still hated him. Xia Zhong wanted to steal away his gege. But that hatred didn't change the fact that he shouldn't have hurt Xia Zhong.

Ming Shu knew that.

Everyone who visited him gave him strange, guarded looks. Wen Yue only ever sighed. Ming Haofeng still yelled at him every day, demanding to know whether he'd learned these violent habits from the Xiao family.

Ming Shu didn't care that Ming Haofeng yelled at him. Even if Ming Haofeng hit him, he would have withstood it. Because he'd hurt someone.

But his gege didn't visit. Neither did Mu'ting-gege. Neither did Xiao Jincheng. That was what scared Ming Shu. That was what made him panic.

His gege was definitely mad at him. His gege was definitely disappointed.

In his heart, Ming Shu said, over and over again, Gege, I was wrong.

But his gege couldn't hear.

When his gege really did show up, Ming Shu's mind went blank. His head felt almost bloated, and it took him a long moment to remember what he was supposed to say. He was supposed to apologize and plead with his gege to not hate him.

"Gege, I was wrong," he repeated.

The little kid in front of Xiao Yu'an had made a mistake, and a big one at that. The only thing they could be thankful for was that Xia Zhong had only sustained light injuries.

But even knowing all that, Xiao Yu'an still couldn't help but feel bad for Ming Shu. His heart was soft.

Ming Shu wore a pleading, remorseful expression. He was obviously feeling down and depressed, like he would fall apart at the slightest provocation.

Xiao Yu'an subconsciously raised his hand to pat Ming Shu's head, but suddenly remembered Ming Shu's head was wrapped in gauze.

In the end, Xiao Yu'an only rested his fingers lightly against the gauze, softly tapping twice.

Ming Shu lifted his head just a bit. His eyes seemed a little brighter. They shone with restrained tears, glistening in the light.

"What happened?" Xiao Yu'an asked, gently. It was the most gentle tone a boy his age could have adopted.

Ming Shu focused all his attention on breathing and holding back his tears. "I just hate him, I hate him…"

Xiao Yu'an already knew the reason. But if they were going to have a heart-to-heart conversation, he needed to hear it from Ming Shu.

"Because he wants to date you," Ming Shu said through gritted teeth. "He wants to take you away from me!"

"How could he?" Xiao Yu'an asked.

"He could!" Ming Shu was getting more worked up, more agitated. The corners of his eyes and the tip of his nose turned red. "Gege, I only have you. If you start dating, you won't want me anymore!"

There was just no way to explain love and dating to a fifth grader. It was too early. Xiao Yu'an could only hug Ming Shu and soothingly pat his back. He explained as much as he could, simply saying, "That won't happen. Even if your gege starts dating, you'll still be his di."

This wasn't something that would actually come to pass. The first part of this supposition, that Xiao Yu'an would start dating, simply wasn't going to happen. But if he didn't put it like that, there was no other way to console Ming Shu.

Ming Shu trembled faintly and lifted his head to look at Xiao Yu'an. It was a long moment later that he finally reacted. "Really?"

Xiao Yu'an sighed internally. "Really."

Light flashed through Ming Shu's pupils, like sparks from distant stars. But after a moment, Ming Shu lowered his gaze again. The corners of his lips tipped downwards, and he asked, "Then, can you not start dating while you're still in school?"

Ming Shu knew he was asking for a lot. Xiao Yu'an had given an inch, and he was trying to take a mile.

His gege had already promised that he would still be Ming Shu's gege even if he started dating. He wouldn't throw Ming Shu away.

But that only made Ming Shu think… wouldn't it be better if his gege didn't date so early at all?

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