First Published on Chaleuria
089 – Show that idiot surnamed Zhong the huge gap between you two
“How much did you drink?”
“Five or six bottles?”
“…You can hold your liquor quite well.” Xie Yu frowned. He waited for the people to leave before letting go. “I told you not to smoke, so you drank instead? Thinking outside the box?”
He Zhao looked at him and said nothing.
Xie Yu saw the bruise at the corner of his mouth and was about to say, “And you fought somebody, too?” when He Zhao reached out and pulled him into a hug.
“Don’t move.” He Zhao pressed his forehead to the crook of Xie Yu’s neck and whispered, “I won’t smoke. I just want to hold you for a while.”
The street was empty and silent, and the cold wind had mostly woken him from his drunken haze. His little friend was wearing a puffy jacket, loose-fitting and thick, and it felt soft under He Zhao’s hands. It was the complete opposite of the annoyed expression on his face.
On both sides of the road, the streetlamps stretched into the horizon like pinpricks of starlight that had shattered and dissolved into the night.
After a while, He Zhao asked, “Why did you come?”
Xie Yu said, “I came to claim my boyfriend’s corpse.”
He Zhao had recovered from his drunken haze, and now his bullshit flowed smoothly, again. “Your boyfriend is so good at holding his liquor that another ten bottles wouldn’t be a problem.”
“…You’re asking to get hit.”
He Zhao went on teasing for a while, then fell silent. He shut his eyes and only now did he feel it sink in—it was over.
It was all over.
Was this finally an escape? He Zhao thought about it and decided it probably wasn’t.
But he gradually came to understand why his father had not stopped him, at the start. He had left He Zhao to do as he wanted. He had watched He Zhao stuck to the spot, without a plan, using the most extreme of methods to solve his problems.
Someone picking him up and him getting up on his own were two completely different matters.
“Shall we go back?” The night was very cold, and if they kept standing here they might catch a cold the next day. He Zhao let go and said, “We can’t get a cab here. Let’s go to the intersection up ahead.”
Xie Yu hesitated for a second.
When he left the house, Madam Gu had already gone to bed and he had not told her he was going out. It would be past midnight by the time he got home if he left now, and he wouldn’t be able to explain himself easily.
He Zhao tilted his head and looked at him. “My place, then?”
He Zhao’s house was empty.
His dad had left several days ago. He was in the midst of a multi-country trip and had only returned to rest for less than a week. He had looked at He Zhao’s end-of-term grades, said nothing, tossed the grade sheet on the table, and invited He Zhao to play a game of chess.
“No matter what path you take and how you walk it,” Old He had said, his voice dropping low on the last word. “I believe in you.”
Xie Yu napped in the cab and He Zhao woke him up when they reached their destination.
He Zhao got out, paid the fare, then circled around to the back seat and rested his hand on the door. He couldn’t bear to wake Xie Yu. Eventually, he bent down and kissed the corner of Xie Yu’s mouth, and said, “We’re here.”
He Zhao’s house was neat and tidy—the sort of neat where it didn’t feel lived-in. Aside from a housekeeper who came once a week to tidy up, nobody came and went in this house.
Xie Yu sat on the sofa, eyes half-closed as he watched He Zhao tidy the guest room. After a while, his patience had run dry. Without even wearing slippers, he stepped barefoot on the ground and walked over, asking, “Which is your room?”
He Zhao had drunk a lot and was worried he couldn’t control himself. Never had he imagined that his little friend would be even more daring. “You’re not worried I’ll take advantage of you tonight?”
Xie Yu leaned against the doorframe and watched him, showing no trace of self-awareness that he was a guest in this house. “I mean, you sleep in the guest room.”
Xie Yu had told He Zhao to sleep in the guest room, but he glanced at the time and saw it was nearly 2 a.m. and didn’t make He Zhao spend even more time cleaning up the room.
It was so late at night he didn’t have the energy to think of anything else.
He Zhao took a quick shower. By the time he pulled the shower door open and walked out, Xie Yu had already shut his eyes and fallen asleep. His hair covered half his face and his breathing was light.
His little friend was lying on his bed, looking especially cute now that his usual dismissive air was all tucked away.
He Zhao forced himself to look away and thought: the shower he had just taken was pointless.
Xie Yu slept very lightly. The moment the running water from the bathroom shut off, he moved a finger and subconsciously realized he had forgotten to do something.
…He had not sent Madam Gu a text telling her he was all right.
But then he thought: it was the middle of the night and the Zhong household was all asleep. Likely, no one would notice.
Xie Yu had not made much noise when he left. But he had left in a hurry and A-Fang who had gotten up to drink water had bumped into him.
The moment he set one foot out the door, several maids gathered behind him. A-Fang had not seen his face clearly and thought it was Zhong Jie having a tantrum in the middle of the night. “Eldest young master Zhong?”
“Surely not. The eldest young master hasn’t come back yet. It’s probably the second young master. Ah yoh, going out at this hour—”
The Zhong household affairs were messy but Xie Yu had never gone out in the middle of the night before. The maids all guessed that he had quarrelled with someone. “They were all right at dinner. They quarrelled again?”
“Recently, Madam wanted to get Second Young Master a home tutor. Second Young Master didn’t want to do it, right?”
“Second Young Master’s end-of-term grades…”
Several lights were on in the Zhong family’s living room. On redwood shelves all around the living room stood antiques from various places.
The maids kept discussing it in low voices. As they were about to return to their rooms, they suddenly noticed Gu Xuelan and jumped from fright.
Gu Xuelan wore a jacket around her shoulders and she looked tired. She stood at the base of the stairs and tugged at the jacket, which was sliding downward. She asked, “What happened?”
Gu Xuelan had not slept well over the last few nights. After hearing what had happened, she suddenly felt a headache. She pressed at her temple with a hand and processed the information for a while before saying, “All right. You all go and rest.”
Over the last few years, Xie Yu had done a lot of things to make her worry. But even though he had a mind of his own now, he still was considerate of her when he talked or did things. Even though he was frustrated when she kept asking him about things, he would always inform her before he left the house.
This warm obedience, which showed itself subconsciously in the little things and was hard to believe was true, sometimes made her imagine… that the person standing in front of her was still the little Xie Yu who clung to her.
After returning to her room, Gu Xuelan could not sleep at all. Wild thoughts kept running through her head. Suppressing her anger, she placed a call to Xie Yu, but even after dialing several times, no one picked up.
The fiery ball of anger in her heart was quenched by the sound of, ‘The number you have dialed is currently unavailable.’
“What’s the matter?” Zhong Guofei, still half-asleep, realized the space beside him was empty. He opened his eyes and saw Gu Xuelan, dressed lightly, sitting on the side of the bed staring at her phone. “…It’s late. Come to bed?”
Gu Xuelan lay on the bed for a while and still could not fall asleep. She got up quietly, and without being quite aware where she was going, walked to Xie Yu’s room.
As she pushed open that bedroom door, even she was stunned by her own actions.
She never went through Xie Yu’s things.
Their living situation in Black Water Street wasn’t good and the locks on the drawers of the second-hand desk might as well have not been there. One need only pull the drawer open to see the diary placed inside. Even so, she had never considered reading it.
She had been educated since a young age to be calm and self-controlled about such matters.
Madam Gu thought to herself that she might do something out of line in order to understand what Xie Yu was thinking.
Xie Yu’s room was very tidy. Gu Xuelan walked in and her glance swept over the desk and chair, the computer, and finally landed on the slightly messy blankets on the bed.
Xie Yu’s phone was next to the bed.
Gu Xuelan hesitated. She reached out, then stopped.
Gu Xuelan tiredly sighed. She was about to retract her hand when the screen on the phone suddenly lit up.
Boss Xie, I’ve thought about it a lot over the last few days. I think I have to tell your mom about this. You can’t go on pretending like this. What are you going to do at the college exams?
Zhou Dalei sat cross-legged on the sofa and sent a heartfelt text. Then, thinking he had not yet finished saying his piece, glanced down at his phone screen and kept typing.
—-Lei-zai, who has always hated essay writing, has now written eight hundred goddamn words to his best bro.
Even he was touched by his own gesture!
The last few days had been torturous for Zhou Dalei. With such a big secret weighing on his heart, he couldn’t even concentrate on video games.
The day before yesterday, he had gone to Guang Mao to help Aunt Mei move things. He had heard her complaining, “What happened to Xiao Yu’s grades? He even fell one place in the rankings. The person who always scores last in the year should just stay where he is. Why would he move up in the ranks…”
As Aunt Mei kept talking, Dalei almost lost his grip on the box of goods in his hands.
Zhou Dalei finished typing the message, then hit send.
You get good grades! Why would you hide it? Don’t hide shit! Show that idiot surnamed Zhong the huge gap between you two! Show him what it means to get into Tsinghua or Peking U with your eyes closed!
Xie Yu had no idea what had happened at home since his departure.
When he woke up that morning, He Zhao had pushed him down and had his way with him. He had escaped a hangover but not morning wood. Xie Yu’s mind was completely blank and after he climaxed, He Zhao bit down on his lips and asked, “You’ve had your fun so it’s my turn, right? Use your thighs?”
Xie Yu suspected He Zhao had been planning to try this for a long time.
He Zhao wasn’t controlling his actions and Xie Yu’s eyes went red as he hissed in pain from being bitten. He clutched onto the sheets under him and faintly tasted blood in his mouth.
As He Zhao reached downward with one hand, he whispered, “How are you going to explain this to your mom? Have you thought about it?”
Xie Yu licked the wound at the corner of his mouth and said, “A fight.”
“A fight in bed?”
Xie Yu did not think any further about spending the night away from home. When he got back to the Zhong household, before he could change his shoes, he saw that A-Fang’s expression was not quite right.
A-Fang opened her mouth, about to say something, but in the end she only shook her head and remained silent.
Xie Yu followed her gaze to the living room. Madam Gu sat on the sofa. It was close to noon, but she still wore her nightgown from last night.
Madam Gu took care of herself. Even if she was not going out, she would not still be wearing the previous night’s clothes around the house at midday.
Before Xie Yu could call out, “Mom,” Gu Xuelan had already stood up.
Gu Xuelan was very pale and her eyes were bloodshot. When she stood up she did so stiffly, and could not even keep her balance without holding on to the back of the sofa. Xie Yu’s gaze landed on the phone she gripped tightly. Although he did not know what had just happened, his heart still suddenly skipped a beat.
The phone screen lit up.
In the notifications section were several previews of texts Zhou Dalei had sent.
Gu Xuelan asked him, her voice low and hoarse and angry, one word at a time, “What is this? —Say something! What is this?”