Seeing how ZhouXiang’s eyes turned red from rage yet still maintain that calm look made YanMingXiu's heart ache so much.
YanMingXiu thought that this would be the opportunity for him to prove himself but he didn't expect to shoot himself in the foot with his sister humiliating ZhouXiang. He thought that his sister, who is already wife and soon to become a mother would be more mature. He didn't expect her to still be so overbearing. He wasn't afraid of YanMingMei telling their parents. He would have to confront them sooner or later, but right now is not a good time. He's afraid that ZhouXiang will be hurt.
What he least wanted to see in his entire life is ZhouXiang suffering any grievances. He had already made ZhouXiang lose too many things; so much that he had no way to make it all up to him. Even if he were to do his best to make amends, it is too late… all this really made the crack between them wider and wider.
He regretted allowing ZhouXiang meet YanMingMei. Sooner or later they would meet, but right now is definitely not the right time.
ZhouXiang rubbed his face, “I'm going back. I really have things to do. No time to really just be with you every day.” He turned toward the exit after saying that.
YanMingXiu softly uttered, “Do you need to go with auntie to the hospital? I'll go with you.”
“Don't have to. YanMingXiu, give me some breathing space.” He opened the door and left.
YanMingXiu watched as ZhouXiang's somewhat disheartened back silhouette gradually got further and further away. A huge panic suddenly rose in his heart. He is terrified that ZhouXiang would just walk away…out of his sight… out of his life, just like he did three years ago.
He quickly chased behind ZhouXiang to stop him. He panted and very nervously asked, “Xiang Ge, are you coming home tonight? When are we going to see each other again?”
ZhouXiang looked at him with a bit of astonishment.
“You are coming back home tonight right? If not tonight…then tomorrow? Tell me when you'll come back.”
YanMingXiu looked at him deeply, “Don’t just leave without a word. Tell me when you'll come back.”
Right now, YanMingXiu is like a little women worried about her spouse walking out on her, but he can't control himself from this thought. At the moment, his heart is still hanging in suspense, afraid that ZhouXiang will disappear and he will be shattered once again. Every minute and every second in the past three years is a torment that he can’t forget for a lifetime. Only when this person is around him can he be free from that hopelessness. So he will never let ZhouXiang go. He even wanted to lock ZhouXiang away so nobody can see him.
ZhouXiang wanted to free himself from YanMingXiu's arm, “I don’t know.”
“You cannot not know.” YanMingXiu’s voice sounded a bit piercing, “Xiang Ge, when are you coming home? I'll go pick you up. Tell me."
ZhouXiang gnawed his teeth, “Three days, three days later.”
YanMingXiu loosen his hand and disappointedly uttered, "Okay, I'll pick you up then……"
ZhouXiang took a step back but YanMingXiu took a step closer and simply pressed ZhouXiang to the wall and kissed him fiercely. Someone may come to the corridor at any time but YanMingXiu didn't care the slightest bit as he continued to forcefully kiss him for a while before letting him go unwillingly.
ZhouXiang quickly glanced at him, then turned and left.
Until ZhouXiang's figure disappeared is when YanMingXiu regained his gaze. He took out his cellphone and called home, “Hello, Aunt Xue. I'll be home for dinner tonight, prepare for it." There is no need to hide any further. YanMingXiu dazedly look at the cellphone screen; he had already made up his mind.
ZhouXiang bought fruits lasting for an entire week home.
Aunt Wang was in the midst of teaching ChenYing how to knit a sweater. The two are sitting on the sofa talking and laughing. The scene is simple and warm.
“Mom, I'm back.”
“Oh, you're home." ChenYing glanced at her watch, “You haven't eaten yet right? Perfect time for lunch.”
“Yeah, I want to eat the hot and sour soup you make.”
“Aiyah, we don't have bamboo shoots at home. Let me go buy some. We still have time.” Aunt Wang changed into an outfit, wore her shoes and went out.
ZhouXiang sat next to ChenYing and smiled softly, “I'll go with you to the hospital later this afternoon.”
“Okay.” ChenYing put down her knitting and asked probingly, “Ah Xiang, can we change it to once a week? I'm feeling a lot better now. Doing dialysis twice a week is time-consuming and a waste of money."
“Mom, we've already agreed to do it a few times a week. It's what the doctor said. Now, YanMingXiu is trying to get you transferred to a different hospital. We can do another checkup at the new hospital. We have to follow the doctor's advice, don't think too much."
“Aigh, it's not easy for you to make money……" ChenYing suddenly thought of something and said seriously, “Ah Xiang, although our family is not rich, we can live comfortably. Listen carefully, although Xiao Yan's family is rich, you can't depend on him. You can't take his money. We need to have our pride and not allow anyone to look down on us."
ZhouXiang nodded guiltily, “Mom, I understand.”
“I know that you'll know what is appropriate. By the way, when is your movie going to be out in the theater? Let's go and watch it. Oh and also bring Aunt Wang too."
ZhouXiang can only half-heartedly respond, "It seems to have been postponed. I'm not sure yet. There are many movies out during the end of the year. Sometimes it can be pushed out to next year.”
“Oh, that's true. No hurry. You are still young. There are people who get popular in their 40s or 50s. As long as you have a steady income, there's no need to hurry."
ZhouXiang chatted with ChenYing for a while. When Aunt Wang came back, they had lunch, took a nap, and then ZhouXiang went with ChenYing to the hospital for dialysis.
YanMingXiu didn’t call him all day. ZhouXiang felt a lot more relaxed.
The next day, ZhouXiang went to the company. He had not been to the company for almost a week, which is not good. He had to discuss with CaiWei on the few extra jobs he told him about last time.
After arriving at the company, CaiWei’s looked very dispirited. He did not look like his usual energetic self.
“Wei Ge, what’s wrong?”
CaiWei looked at him tiredly, “My dad may not be able to make it to the New Year's.”
When ZhouXiang thought of the old man who couldn't move in bed, his heart also felt pained. He comforted, “Wei Ge, don't dwell on it. In fact, lying immobile like that, your dad is suffering too.”
“I know. He's been sick for so long, the entire family is mentally prepared for it. It's just that when thinking he's really going to die…. I…" CaiWei shook his head, “To be born, grow old, get sick, and die, the fate of humankind is something that nobody can avoid. Anyway, let's not talk about this. Let's talk about your work."
“Here is what's owed to you for your last few jobs, review it. If you don't have any problems, sign it and I'll approve it for you. The company had set aside a lot of funds for XiRong's MV so you'll get ¥80,000. This price for a new person is very good."
ZhouXiang is shocked, “That much?”
“Yeah, do you know who approved it?”
“Yes, President Wang specially approved it, saying that you did very well.”
ZhouXiang remembered how President Wang pushed him into YanMingXiu's car that day. Although he has other intentions but to spend tens of thousands just to get closer to YanMingXiu, it is a very profitable thing. Unfortunately, President Wang's intention is a bit off. Even ZhouXiang himself is unclear of his relationship with YanMingXiu.
CaiWei looked at ZhouXiang again and again and sighed, “Lately, how've you been with YanMingXiu?”
ZhouXiang looked away awkwardly, “Ahh, like usual."
"I can also guess why you are still with him. But ZhouXiang, I can only warn you that a person who has been stumbled twice by a stone is most stupid. Have you thought about it clearly?”
“Wei Ge…” ZhouXiang wanted to say “You can be rest assured, I know what I'm doing," but he's guilty and can't say anything. It's not that he doesn't know that the time being with YanMingXiu would carry the risk of repeating the same mistakes of the past, but he is powerless to break free from the net that YanMingXiu had set for him.
YanMingXiu didn't give him a choice; he really had no choice at all. Although there is still half-year remaining on their contract, specifically, five months, but after the five months is over, will YanMingXiu be able to naturally and unrestrainedly say goodbye to him?
He is more perplexed than anyone else, more at loss than anyone else. He can’t see how he should move forward in the future nor does he know who is waiting for him at the end of the fog.
CaiWei, “I can’t control your matters but you hurt XiRong very much.”
ZhouXiang slowly lowered his head, speechless.
After that time, LanXiRong called him two times but he didn’t pick up. What is he going to say if he picked up the phone? The questions LanXiRong would ask, he won't be able to answer any. Instead it will make him feel extremely awkward and miserable.
"In the second year after you were gone, XiRong had a girlfriend, but they broke up very quickly. He told me that he really doesn't like men, but he liked only you. Who can be blamed on this? You treated him so good back then but he didn't appreciate you; instead, treated you as though you had offended him. It wasn't till he went abroad and having gone through pain and suffering that he remembered how great you were to him. If he were to be with you back then, there would be no YanMingXiu later and won't be so many……Aigh, frankly speaking, it's fate."
ZhouXiang smiled forcefully, “If you didn't mentioned this, I wouldn't have even remembered. That was so many years ago. At that time, I really did admire him but who knew in the end, that would happen. Wei Ge, your memories are too good. This is not a good thing."
CaiWei smiled and shook his head.
Right when the two were talking, CaiWei's secretary knocked the door, "Manager Cai, LanXiRong is here."
CaiWei smiled helplessly, “I don’t know if he has a spy in the company. Once you came, he also appeared. This is all because of you.”
ZhouXiang really didn’t want to see LanXiRong, but he also knew that he couldn’t hide so he simply stayed in CaiWei’s office to avoid meeting LanXiRong alone. It's just too awkward.
After LanXiRong came in, he swept the two of them a glance. He seemed different from what ZhouXiang imagined, looking very calm as he sat down next to ZhouXiang.
“Xiang Ge. Long time no see."
ZhouXiang smiled, “It's only been a week.”
"Have you been with YanMingXiu these days?” LanXiRong’s bright eyes looked at ZhouXiang without blinking. ZhouXiang felt flustered under such sharp gaze.
ZhouXiang nodded, “Yeah.”
LanXiRong blinked, his lips trembled. He thought about it and said, “Xiang Ge, are you still going to be spending the New Year with us?"
ZhouXiang is silent. Before he didn't have his parents, so ever since he met CaiWei, he would go with CaiWei to TongZhou to spend the New Year almost every year. Otherwise, he'd be spending New Years quietly by himself. That is too pitiful.
LanXiRong explained, “I have very important social events this year so I can't go home. I have to stay in Beijing so I planned to spend it with Wei Ge. You and your mom come too, okay? Just like before, we can spend the New Year together."
ZhouXiang looked at CaiWei who nodded, “Before the year end, I have to take my dad back to my old home in TongZhou. I don’t want him to suffer any more. When he was still able to talk before, he had mentioned that he didn’t want to die in the hospital. He wanted to pass (die) in his own home. If you don't have any plans, you can come with me to TongZhou for the New Years. I have a lot of relatives there. It's very lively.”
ZhouXiang thought of a big family like YanMingXiu's. In the New Year, he must be staying at home. Before the year ends, Aunt Wang certainly will return to her hometown in Sichuan. There's no point for him and ChenYing to spend it quietly by themselves. But to be safe, it's best that they stay in Beijing, "I also want to spend the New Year with you guys. Let me go home and discuss it with my mom and let you know later.”
LanXiRong looked at him with bit of sorrow. He was about to speak but said nothing.
ZhouXiang couldn't stand that kind of expression from LanXiRong. He was initially a soft-hearted person and felt a little apologetic toward LanXiRong. He quickly stood up, “Wei Ge, I'm going to the finance department to confirm the payment records. I'll treat you guys out for lunch at noon."
At noon, CaiWei introduced several jobs to ZhouXiang, letting him to pick which ones he wanted to accept.
At this time, ZhouXiang didn't tell CaiWei about what happened at the premiere nor did he tell him that YanMingXiu brought him to the movie studio. The former was because he was embarrassed to mention it and the latter is because nothing was confirmed. As for the jobs that CaiWei got him, they are all simple and are fast money-making jobs. He liked it very much so immediately selected a few.
He stayed with ChenYing for two days. During this time, YanMingXiu unexpectedly didn't even give him a phone call or a single text message, making him quite surprised.
On the third night, he returned to his home according to his promise. He gave YanMingXiu a call to see whether or not he would be coming back for dinner.
But his phone was turned off.
ZhouXiang was very confused but he didn't take this to heart. He had already eaten anyway so he went to take a shower and then went to the study to go on the internet.
When it was time to go to bed at 11pm, YanMingXiu still had not returned.
Since YanMingXiu told him to come back, he couldn't have forgotten right?
ZhouXiang thought again. This is his own home; why is he treating it as if he's a guest? It's up to YanMingXiu whether he comes or not.
He turned off the computer, washed up and went to bed.
Since he returned to his own home, this is the first time he spent the night alone. There is a strange feeling in his heart that can't be described. It seemed like it shouldn't be like this. It shouldn't just be him alone in this home. This thought shocked him. For more than two decades, he has been living alone in this home…that is until YanMingXiu appeared. Habit is a really scary thing. It can slowly and subtlely eat away a person's wisdom.
ZhouXiang unconsciously fell asleep. When he woke up the next day, he realized that YanMingXiu really didn’t come back. He called again but the phone was still turned off.
Since YanMingXiu turned off his phone, he would have no qualms in just going back to ChenYing's place. It's not that he doesn't want to stay in his own home but ChenYing needs care and companionship.
The next few days, YanMingXiu didn't contact him at all. This person seems to have suddenly disappeared from ZhouXiang's life.
Initially, ZhouXiang felt relaxed as he didn't have to be at someone's beck and call. But after a week, he began to worry as to whether YanMingXiu had an accident.
He couldn't stand it anymore so he called JiangYuan. He didn’t expect JiangYuan to not answer the phone. After his third call, JiangYuan simply turned off the phone.
It is obvious that JiangYuan didn't want to talk to him. The doubts and unease in ZhouXiang’s heart grew deeper.
What happened to YanMingXiu? What things can't be clearly explained? Why did he have to hide? Or did he really have an accident? When he thought of this possibility, ZhouXiang’s heart tightened.
After a while, his cell phone rang. A strange number sent him a text with the message, "Don’t ask me, I can’t say anything."
ZhouXiang guessed that JiangYuan was the one who sent him this message. He became even more worried. This kind of matters where he is totally clueless really makes a person feel most heart-wrenching.
He has no clue and does not know who he can ask. He could only wait.
When YanMingXiu isn't around, indeed, he felt a lot more relaxed. He didn’t have the anxiety of being watched but at the same time, he is worried and frightened not knowing what happened to YanMingXiu.
Day after day, ZhouXiang passed his days in suspense and on edge. In a blink of an eye, the Spring Festival had arrived.The Lunar New Year came early this year, in the middle of January.
YanMingXiu had been missing for half a month and ZhouXiang had no choice but to wait. If YanMingXiu bluntly told him, “Let's end it here,” then ZhouXiang would have felt relieved. But being ambiguous like this, ZhouXiang was worried that something might have happened to him, while at the same time having constant doubts. The more he thought, the more pessimistic he got. His entire mind is full of troubling matters.
He had decided to take ChenYing to CaiWei's hometown, TongZhou, to celebrate the New Years. CaiWei's family members are outspoken people. They are very welcoming toward them. Aunt Wang went home for the past few days so he took ChenYing to buy some New Year's items to get ready for the New Years. When he is busy, his mind is too distracted and he didn't think about where YanMingXiu could be or what he was doing.
On the 29th, ZhouXiang has already prepared everything in the morning and was just waiting for LanXiRong to pick both him and ChenYing up to go to CaiWei's hometown together.
He still had to go with ChenYing to do a dialysis in the afternoon. Since there wasn't anything to do in the morning, he took ChenYing to have Cantonese morning tea.
After they finished eating, the phone rang immediately when they entered the home. It was a call from an unfamiliar number. He doesn't know why but his heartbeat sped up. His instinct told him that it's probably YanMingXiu.
After he answered the phone, a very familiar voice came through but it is not YanMingXiu, but the eldest Yan grandson, YanMingSu.
“Is this ZhouXiang?” YanMingSu’s low voice came from the phone.
“I want to have a chat with you.”
“You can guess for what reason. Naturally it's related to MingXiu.”
ZhouXiang took a deep breath, “He……Where is he?”
“Let's meet. I'm waiting for you at XX Café on South LiShi Road. Come now.”
ZhouXiang thought for a moment, “Okay, I'm coming now."
End of the chapter