"ZhouXiang, who is it?" ChenYing asked as she walked from the living room. When she saw the person at the door, she was shocked.


YanMingSu and YanMingXiu look very much alike, but their ages and expressions are vastly different.


ChenYing immediately understood, “ZhouXiang, let him in, why stand at the door?”


ZhouXiang regained his senses, "Please…please come in."


He welcomed YanMingSu into the house. After YanMingSu entered the home, he glanced around the small temporarily rented apartment, all his emotions hidden so deep that people could not see what he is thinking.


ZhouXiang pointed to his room, “Let's talk in there.”


“Not yet. I have something to say to your mother first.” YanMingSu turned his eyes toward ChenYing, smiling, “Auntie…hello.”


ChenYing looked at ZhouXiang with a baffling expression. In her eyes, the sons of the Yan family are people that are specially privileged. She is just an ordinary person so it is inevitable that she will be nervous facing YanMingSu.


“Ah, he-hello, you should be Mr. Yan's older brother? You two look very much alike.”


YanMingSu nodded, “Auntie, you've seen MingXiu many times?”


“I've seen him… seen him a few times. He is a good boy. He even helped me cook.” ChenYing pointed to the sofa, “Have a seat. I'll get you a glass of water.”


“Auntie, don’t bother. Have a seat. I have something to say to you.”


ChenYing turned her attention to ZhouXiang. ZhouXiang pulled her and sat down. He resisted the urge to ask about YanMingXiu's current condition and decided to hear what YanMingSu wanted to say first.


After YanMingSu sat down, he looked at ChenYing with sincerity, “Auntie, this time I came here to specifically apologize to you.”


ChenYing's eyes widened.


“It was my dad’s lackey who came to see you that day. My mother sent him. It's very wrong for my mother to do that but you are also a mother, I believe that you could understand her. I hope you won't take it to heart.”


ChenYing opened her mouth but didn't know what to say for a moment. Instead, she merely moved her hands, “It's really nothing…”


“What the lackey said is also not exactly the truth. Although ZhouXiang did accept my brother’s money, it was for your illness. Moreover, they do have feelings for each other. It's not how the lackey put it… that it's just a simple money transaction. I believe that you could also see the affections between them. Do you really believe that it's just what the lackey said?”


ChenYing’s breathing followed by a little trembling. She glanced at ZhouXiang painfully. In fact, she knew in her heart that the two young people must have feelings for each other. She could clearly see how much affections YanMingXiu have for her son. And she could also see why her son was looking so depressed and lost the past several days.


ZhouXiang stared at YanMingSu the entire time, not knowing what his purpose is in telling ChenYing this.


ChenYing lowered her head awkwardly, “Mr. Yan, I understand what you mean. I was too impulsive that day. I've never encountered such a thing, it's just…what is your intention in telling me all this?”


ZhouXiang also wanted to ask the same question.


YanMingSu smiled lightly, “This, I'll have to talk to ZhouXiang alone.”


ChenYing heaved a sighed, “You guys go in the room to talk then. Ah Xiang, your own matters, you should make your own decisions. I'm old, sometimes I get too confused. You don't have to take it to heart.”


ZhouXiang lowered his head and comforted her with a few words, then led YanMingSu into his room.


After closing the door, he pointed to the bed, "The room is small, just sit on the bed."


YanMingSu didn't sit down. Instead, he picked up the tie clip from the desk and fiddled with it.


YanMingXiu left it at ZhouXiang’s home the night he stayed over and ZhouXiang had been too busy to remember to give it back to him so it's just been kept on his desk.


"This is MingXiu's right?"


"Yes."


“Before he came to see you that night, he came to see me. He asked me to help him find the best kidney disease experts.”


ZhouXiang still remembered that day. YanMingXiu took ChenYing out without informing him. They had an unhappy discussion. That night, YanMingXiu drove to his home to see him. It was probably the most warmly compassionate night the two have had since his rebirth. There was no resentment, no hatred or mockery as they took possession of each other in the most primitive ways, drawing warmth from each other’s bodies.


If time could have stopped on that night, it would have been good.


YanMingSu continued, “He really cares about you. At that time, I still didn’t know that you are that (older) ZhouXiang. I just felt that he was being even more foolish. After all, you are only a substitute. He wanted to find the thing he lost from a substitute. Is that even possible? But I have no choice but to watch my brother's life destroyed by a relationship… completely losing himself. The more successful he is in his career, in other peoples' eyes, he is a fitting member of the Yan family. Only I know that his heart is like a barren desert, sooner or later, his soul will follow along this barren desert and drift away.”


ZhouXiang couldn't imagine that such a serious and stern person like YanMingSu would say such emotional words. Moreover, every single word pierced his heart.


"There are many things that I can help him with, such as getting connections to people. But there are also many things that I can't help him with, such as getting him to forget about you and becoming normal again. The reason I told you stay away from him before was because I knew that he was treating you as substitute. It's no particular meaning. A substitute is a substitute. When he awakens, he will regret the stupid things he has done. I don't want to him to be so shameful in front of the family. But what I didn't realize was that you are him, you are that (older) ZhouXiang."


YanMingSu sighed deeply, full of helplessness, “MingXiu's heart has never changed. The person in his heart has always been you. I really don’t know how I could stop him. He has shown me with his actions that he has never forgotten about you in more than three years. Even when he didn't know whether you were dead or alive, he continued to persist. Now that you are alive and in front of him, he would definitely not give up even if someone was to kill him."


ZhouXiang grabbed his other hand with his trembling hand.


From the beginning till now, what he thought of most was his own pain and suffering, his own gains and losses. He never seemed to have ever paid attention to what YanMingXiu went through and did… because he didn't see it, because he wanted to evade it. He wanted to hide very far away from YanMingXiu so he refused to see… refused to think… refused to feel.


If it was him and YanMingXiu's death was uncertain for three years, how would he be? Just thinking of this, a huge panic and desperation instantly enveloped ZhouXiang.


Who is in more pain compared to the other is not a competition. But if it was to be compared, he and YanMingXiu, how would the winner be determined?


ZhouXiang covered his eyes with his hand. The light in the room is not bright but it is so piercing that he wanted to cry.


“The days since your accident, my brother’s appearance is something you can’t imagine. To put it harshly, after your death, he is also like a dead person. I remembered rushing back to Beijing from abroad specifically for him. When he saw me, he hugged me and cried, saying that he regretted. He said… it was only after your death that he's come to realize that he loves you. He didn’t even get to tell you that. He said it was too late. My brother never cried even when he was young because my father would not allow us to cry. I've never seen him so devastated."


ZhouXiang's heart gripped with pain, his eyes feverish as he forcibly tried to suppress his tears from falling.


YanMingSu lowered his eyes, “Those days were particularly chaotic. For a period of three to four months, I had to run back at forth between two places. I was so busy with work but also had to take care of him and hide this from my parents. In fact, at the time, my parents knew a bit but they didn't know how grave the situation was. Later on, I invited my master, wanting him to enlighten MingXiu. Unexpectedly, after they chatted just once, he really got better. But he entered into a phase that was even more terrifying. He started to insist that you are not dead. He said that you must be too disappointed in him so you left. He wanted to become a star so that everyone could see him. One day when you see him, maybe you'll forgive him, maybe you'll come back. ZhouXiang ah, my brother has hurt you and you have also hurt him. The destiny between the both of you are really ill-fated, so much that it can't even be clarified.”


ZhouXiang took a deep breath; the wet crevices between his fingers are all tears. He could hardly breathe.


Right… in this life they are ill-fated. No… to him, it has been two lifetimes. In both of his lifetimes, their relationship had been utterly nebulous, making them suffer immensely. But as of yet, there is still no good ending, still not knowing whether there would be that day of happiness after going through all this immense pain and suffering.


He has never done anything malicious or evil, why is God making his life so difficult?


“At the time, I did say that if you really came back alive, I definitely won't prevent you guys from being together. Seeing how much he has persisted, I certainly won't be able to stop it anyway. But I really didn't think that you would come back."


YanMingSu puts the tie clip that he was fiddling with on the desk. Smacking his lips with this voice sharp and clear, “I talked to my master on the phone last night. He gave me a lesson. ZhouXiang, the fate between you and MingXiu can't be severed. Even after you died, the King of Hell still kicked you back from diyu and also mingled back with MingXiu. Why do you think this is? Do you really think that you could escape from this? You two have long been tied together.”


ZhouXiang tightened the grip on his hair, his voice hoarse, “I don’t know… I don’t know…”


“ZhouXiang, everything that I've said is mainly just to hope that my brother will live well. If he lives well, then I don't have to worry. It's not like I have nothing better to do than to help him clean up his messes. Initially, I was very opposed to his involvement with a man. But seeing how it is at the moment, if I was to really separate the both of you, something bad might happen. So I'll persuade my parents, but what about you? You should also make your position clear, right?”


ZhouXiang raised his head. It is really hard for a 1.8M tall man like him to look so pitiful. He vigorously wiped his face, his voice trembling, “I want to ask you a question.”


"Ask."


"If you are me, what would you do?"


YanMingSu touched the desk with his finger, “I will have nothing to do with the other person. No matter how you I look at it, it's not a good thing. The risk assessment is too high. It is far higher than my ability can withstand. The world is so vast. There are so many choices out there, why waste time on one that brings pain and grief?"


YanMingSu glanced at ZhouXiang, “But this answer does not pertain to you, because I can do it, you can’t. You love my brother. There is only a fine line between love and hate. Even if this is an ill-fated relationship between the two of you, you can't hide from it. He also won't let you hide from it.”


ZhouXiang let out a laughter that is harder to hear than actual crying. He laughed a few times and looked at YanMingSu with bloodshot eyes.


YanMingSu smiled, “If you really don’t care, this wouldn't have affected you.”


ZhouXiang swung his head and uttered with his voice hoarse, “Take me to see him.”


YanMingSu looked heedlessly out the windows and responded softly, “He's just downstairs.”


End of the Chapter