First Published on Chaleuria
06.2 – A Curious Photograph
Yao Yuan glanced at his sister, then helped the person draped over him up the stairs. Yao Yuan initially thought of tossing him on the bed, but the smell of alcohol was unacceptable, so Yao Yuan had to carry him into the bathroom and run the water for him. He removed Su Mu’s clothes and tossed him into the water, then turned and left to find a towel and bathrobe. When Yao Yuan returned, he swiftly caught sight of the smile Su Mu had failed to hide in time.
Something shifted in Yao Yuan’s heart and he walked calmly to the side of the tub, drained the warm water, then filled it again with cold water. He watched with satisfaction as Su Mu’s frown grew deeper and deeper, then turned and left, satisfied. All right, Su Mu. Trying to deceive me? See how I deal with you. He walked on, smiling, but before he had taken more than a few steps someone caught hold of his hand.
“Why, you finally decided to stop acting, young master?” Yao Yuan teased the person behind him without turning back.
“Yao Yuan, you’re ruthless. If I didn’t pretend to be drunk, how would I handle your brothers? You didn’t have to give me such a hard time.” Su Mu got out of the water, took the towel Yao Yuan was still holding, and began to wipe himself off. He sneezed twice.
“Do you think I’ll be ordered around?” Yao Yuan turned and observed Su Mu with a teasing gaze, a smile slowly spreading across his face.
Su Mu let him look. After several seconds he asked, “So, are you satisfied?”
Yao Yuan lightly punched him twice, then said, “Not bad. You’re tougher than the other rich young masters. We should square off someday.”
Su Mu turned and refilled the bath, carefully adjusting the water temperature, then got back into the bathtub and made a satisfied expression. Then he replied to Yao Yuan’s earlier question: “Sure. I’ll respectfully welcome Yuan-ge’s instruction any time.”
Yao Yuan tossed him the bathrobe in his hand. “That’s mine. If it’s not beneath you, you can borrow it.”
Su Mu reached out and caught it, then gave him a suggestive smile. “Since you’re willing to lend it, why wouldn’t I use it?”
Yao Yuan left in a good mood. Su Mu, comfortably immersed in the hot water, was similarly smiling. Tonight’s excursion had not been in vain.
Su Mu finished his bath, then thoughtfully went to Yao Yuan’s room. To his surprise, there was no one in the room. He remembered Yao Yuan’s conversation with Yao Qian before they came upstairs, and knew that Yao Yuan was probably helping out downstairs. He decided to wait for Yao Yuan to come back. He found a photo album on the bookshelf at the head of the bed and grabbed it as he lay down on the bed to casually flip through.
Of course, the photo album was Yao Yuan’s. Su Mu perused the album, page by page, from the 100-day old baby, to mischievous little boy, to the tall and handsome man Yao Yuan was now that he had grown up. Yao Yuan’s face had not changed much, but the photo album which chronicled his growth was missing the important stage of adolescence. Su Mu had looked into Yao Yuan, of course, and knew that was when Yao Yuan’s parents had just passed away, and he and his sister had been leading very difficult lives. When they could not even fill their stomachs, of course they would be in no mood to take photos. Su Mu suddenly very much wanted to know how they had passed that period of their lives.
When Su Mu got to the last page, he discovered with some surprise that the photo had clearly been torn up and then put back together again. The family of four in the photo was smiling happily, and Su Mu couldn’t help but wonder about the circumstances under which Yao Yuan had torn up this photo, and what he had been feeling then, and how he had put it back together again. He realized that he was thinking too much and laughed in self-mockery. He was about to shut the album and look for another book when a photo fell from the pages. When he picked it up and looked at it, he smiled, though he was unaware of it.
Just then, Yao Yuan pushed open the door and entered. When he saw the smile on Su Mu’s face, he suddenly realized something, rushed up and pounced onto the bed to snatch the photo, but Su Mu was already clutching his stomach and laughing.
The photo was indeed the one that had come to mind and Yao Yuan was so embarrassed it turned to anger. He threw a punch at Su Mu’s stomach and Su Mu wasn’t able to dodge this time and took the punch in full.
“It’s worth it, to see such a delicate side to Yuan-ge.” Su Mu still could not hold back his smile. Yao Yuan in the photo was maybe two or three years old at most, and he wore a floral print dress and a long braided wig. He looked just like a little girl.
Yao Yuan’s fists were merciless, and Su Mu had to counter them while still laughing. They fell into a heap as they tussled and knocked all the blankets and pillows on the bed to the floor.
“You two brats stop right there! What time is it? You’re still making such a racket.” Yao Qian’s voice came through the door.
On hearing his sister’s voice, Yao Yuan immediately stopped, but not before shooting Su Mu a vicious glare. He straightened the bathrobe he wore, then picked up all the bedding on the floor.
“But really, why do you have a photo like that?” Su Mu leaned close to him and asked, still grinning.
Yao Yuan lay back on the bed, pillowing his head on his hands, and recalled what had happened. “My mother made me take it. That year, she had a fit of inspiration and dressed me like that, dressed my sis like a boy, and took the photo. I didn’t see it again until I was older. I found it among my mother’s things after she died, but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it, so I kept it.”
Su Mu turned to look at him. The youth with the sorrowful expression was not the person Su Mu was familiar with. He didn’t want to see Yao Yuan like that, so he changed the subject. “Yao Yuan, why study media?”
“To bring out into the open all the darkness people don’t know about. In the business world, and in the government. My parents died for this.”
“Yao Yuan…” Su Mu had changed the subject in order not to make him sad, but he had not expected to make him even more upset. At this moment, Su Mu didn’t know what to say. Of course, he knew how Yao Yuan’s parents had passed away; there was nothing in the world Young Master Su could not find out. He also knew that Yao Yuan hated businessmen because of this matter. In that case, it would not be easy to get him to enter the Su Group. But when Su Mu had his eye on someone, he would not easily let go.
“What’s the matter?” Yao Yuan realized he had revealed too much in front of Su Mu, and smiled slightly. “Are you pitying me?”
Su Mu smiled, too. “Pity? Do you need it? And would I dare?”
Yao Yuan turned to look at him. Their gazes met and they smiled. At least in this moment, both their smiles were sincere, without any other intent.