First Published on Chaleuria
06.1 – A Curious Photograph
Even after the unhappy interlude, winning the league championship was still something to be happy about. Besides, after that confrontation, Vice Principal Hu did not take any steps toward getting revenge. So, Zhang Chen suggested that the Media department soccer team go to Yao Qian’s restaurant to celebrate. Someone mentioned inviting Su Mu: after all, Yao Yuan had emerged uninjured from the skirmish in a big part thanks to him. The suggestion immediately received majority support. It was only on very rare occasion that one got to drink with a personage like Su Mu.
Yao Yuan couldn’t out-argue his brothers and had no choice but to call Su Mu. After they parted ways at the admin office, Su Mu had come looking for him many times and had even forced Yao Yuan to take his phone number, but Yao Yuan had never used it.
“Yao Yuan, it’s rare that you call.” The voice on the other end was clearly happily surprised.
“I’m going drinking with the bros. If Young Master Su isn’t afraid of being plied with alcohol, then we’ll wait for you at my sister’s place.”
“Right now?” Su Mu was clearly hesitant.
“If you’re not free, then forget it.” Yao Yuan knew that the young master of a prominent family would often have to deal with family business matters even before he graduated. Even outside of school hours, Su Mu was not often free: he frequently had to entertain clients and attend networking events. He and Su Mu belonged to different worlds, after all.
“No, Yao Yuan, wait a moment.” The voice on the other end grew quieter. “Dad, I won’t go to Executive Li’s dinner after all. Please give my regards to Miss Li.”
“Su Mu, forget it. You don’t have to…”
“Yao Yuan, it’s fine. Give me half an hour.”
Yao Yuan was about to say more but Su Mu had already hung up. Yao Yuan put away his phone, and as he looked back at the faces of his friends full of anticipation—even Zhang Chen was watching him, wide-eyed—he couldn’t help but to laugh out loud. “Don’t each and every one of you hate his guts and want to give him a good beating? Especially you, Zhang Chen. Who was it that said that he was too arrogant? Now you can’t wait to call him brother?”
“Boss!” Zhang Chen smiled in embarrassment. “Don’t air my dirty laundry. Before, I didn’t understand him. Really, chief, Su Mu was loyal to you that day.”
“Yeah, Yuan-ge, we really didn’t expect that guy to lend a hand.”
“And Su Mu is actually pretty good in a fight!”
Most of the people here had been present at that time, and their impressions of Su Mu had also drastically changed as a result.
“All of you.” Yao Yuan patted the shoulder of the one next to him. “It won’t do to be so easily bought.”
They laughed and chatted and quickly arrived at Yao Qian’s restaurant. Although it was dinner time and the shop was packed, Yao Qian had known they were coming and kept a private room free for them. The food quickly arrived. Everyone wanted to wait for Su Mu before starting, but Yao Yuan stopped them. Standing guard over a table full of exquisite dishes but not being able to enjoy any of it was something Yao Yuan could not do. Besides, he didn’t think they needed to be so courteous to Su Mu. At Yao Yuan’s words, everyone no longer refused.
By the time Su Mu arrived, Yao Yuan and the others had finished a bottle of white wine. When they saw Su Mu come in, they all stood up and Zhang Chen immediately moved to welcome him, showing him to the seat at Yao Yuan’s side. Su Mu placed the two bottles of Moutai¹ he had brought on the table, looked around, and did not see a certain someone. He was a little uncertain: he shouldn’t be working today.
“Where is Jiang Luo?” he asked the person next to him.
“He’s visiting the Hai Tian team. He said he was going to teach them English,” Yao Yuan explained. He was under the impression that Su Mu had a strange relationship with Jiang Luo: they seemed to know each other well yet disagree with each other.
“Ah.” Su Mu smiled. As expected, Su Qianping was still not willing to let go. But what caught Su Mu’s interest was how Jiang Luo was going to settle his relationship with Lei Che. He was very sure their relationship was not as the papers made it out to be: he would bet on his lifenot believe on pain of death that Jiang Luo was a fan of Lei Che’s. As these thoughts were going through his mind, his expression remained calm. “Yao Yuan, aren’t you going to introduce us?”
Before Yao Yuan could say anything, Zhang Chen stood up and introduced himself, and the others quickly followed suit. Su Mu stood there and listened attentively throughout, the smile on his face gentle and elegant as always. Yao Yuan, standing to one side and watching, inwardly called him fake.
That night, Su Mu’s demeanor was as gentle as always, but he was also two parts familiar and one part rough. He quickly integrated with the group and accepted every offer of wine. After some time passed, Zhang Chen and the others forgot that he was Su Mu of the impressive Su family; they called him brother and chatted with him without reservation. Yao Yuan did not get involved and only watched. He had to admit that Su Mu was good at capturing people’s hearts. When someone like Su Mu was willing to set aside his status, he easily gained the goodwill of others. In a single night, with several cups of wine, he had won Zhang Chen and the others over. Jiang Luo was right: it would be best not to get too involved with such a person.
The group drank until 11 o’clock at night before dispersing. More than half the group was already in a drunken haze, their steps unsteady. Su Mu had slumped over the table and gone to sleep, not waking up no matter how loudly they called.
“Chief, might as well let him stay.” Zhang Chen was still somewhat clearheaded.
Yao Yuan frowned. He walked to Su Mu’s side, lifted his head, and gave his face a few gentle slaps. Seeing Su Mu drowsily answer, he couldn’t bear to send him away. He turned and told Zhang Chen, “You go, then. Take care of those drunkards.”
Zhang Chen agreed. He and some of the others who weren’t as far gone helped their friends up and left.
Yao Yuan watched them go, then turned and called to the person still sleeping deeply. “Su Mu…”
Su Mu shifted, then went right back to sleep.
Helpless, Yao Yuan could only wrap his right arm around Su Mu’s waist and help him up from the chair. Su Mu shifted and draped his whole body over Yao Yuan, who thought about just leaving him there. But in the end, Yao Yuan still half-carried, half-dragged him from the room. Yao Qian was standing in the doorway.
“Sis, get some sleep. After I get him settled, I’ll come back here and clean up.”
“It’s fine. Take care of him and leave this place to me.” Yao Qian walked into the room without giving him a chance to say anything else.
 Moutai: A brand of wine.