First Published on Chaleuria
10.1 – Yao Yuan, Join The Su Group And Help Me
That evening, Yao Yuan drank with Su Mu in a little pub until early morning. He listened to Su Mu tell stories of his childhood and talk about Su Yan’s gentleness and strength. Su Mu never mentioned what had happened between Su Yan and Lu Yunbo, but Yao Yuan could imagine how terrible the blow must have been. Otherwise, someone as accustomed to putting on a front for others would not have lost control so thoroughly that night.
“Yao Yuan, I’ll never have my brother back again.” Su Mu held his head in his hands, his eyes clouded with drunkenness and tears, his expression desolate. He still remembered, two years ago, when he ran into his brother by chance at the pub named ‘Despedida.’ His first reaction had been to throw a brutal punch.
“For him, you threw away your family, and all you got in return was loneliness and isolation. Is your love worth it?”
“Xiao-Mu.” His brother’s expression was as languid as ever, but there was an additional deep-set gentleness. “Don’t ask me whether it’s worth it. When you meet someone of your own, you’ll understand.”
No. Su Mu shook his head. I won’t. That person will never exist. I’ll never be as silly as you. No one can control my feelings and no one can change me.
Remembering that day, Su Mu’s tears finally flowed. He thought that if his brother had never left the Su family, he would not be the Su Mu he was today. If the spark was there, a person could change in a flash.
Seeing Su Mu’s tears, Yao Yuan was shocked, but more than that, he felt sad. For someone like Su Mu to cry in front of him meant that he trusted him completely. Eventually Yao Yuan reached out to wipe the tears from his face and gave him a consoling hug. Su Mu’s tears soaked into his suit.
After that day, Su Mu returned to school. He was still the prince charming of the girls’ hearts, and the most hated individual of the boys. He still intercepted Yao Yuan at all corners of the school and smiled in greeting before following Yao Yuan back to Yao Qian’s shop for free food. Neither of them mentioned that night again, but both of them understood clearly that something had changed. To Su Mu, having let Yao Yuan see him in a moment of weakness made him realize that he had revealed too many emotions in front of Yao Yuan, and so he felt the need to obtain a similar trust from Yao Yuan in return. But to Yao Yuan it was a different matter altogether. Su Mu’s trust eliminated the last worry he had had: this man was his friend, a lifelong friend.
In the blink of an eye, the weekend arrived. Yao Yuan had an end-of-term paper to finish for Professor Ji Zhen’s class so he went to the school’s intranet¹ to look up Professor Ji’s papers. After he had found enough information and was about to leave, he discovered a new message in his inbox. He opened it to see a web address; it looked like the address to a forum on the network. He clicked on it and, as expected, it was a link to a thread on a forum titled, ‘Young Master Su and People’s Hero Yao’s Happy Life.’ He suddenly had a bad premonition. He scrolled and saw, as he suspected, photos of him and Su Mu together. Walking shoulder to shoulder under the trees, exchanging glances and smiles during self-study period, high-fiving on the basketball court, snatching food from each other’s bowls in the cafeteria, lighting cigarettes together in the corridor. There was even one of Su Mu leaning close by his ear to say something while wearing a radiant smile. There was nothing unusual about the photos, but alongside the words these fangirls had clearly written with great care, there was plenty for the imagination.
Yao Yuan could only grimace. No wonder people said fangirls were the most terrifying beings in the world. They couldn’t look at two good-looking men and leave them as friends. He kept scrolling and found many replies, some of which even claimed the posters were people close to them, come to tell the inside story. He scrolled further and saw a photograph: the poster was skilled in Photoshop and one had to look closely to notice that the picture had been doctored. It showed the two of them kissing. Yao Yuan frowned: this was going a little too far. But he could do nothing except close out of the website. Out of sight, out of mind.
Just as he was deep in thought planning his essay, his phone rang. It was a message from Su Mu. He opened it to see the photoshopped picture. Su Mu had added a caption: People’s Hero Yao, shall we play along? followed by a string of smiley faces.
“Bastard,” Yao Yuan cursed, then couldn’t help laughing. He dialed the number and several seconds later Su Mu’s laughter came through the phone. “What, you miss me?”
“Bastard, don’t be so full of yourself,” Yao Yuan cursed. “Did you also find that photo on the forums?”
“Yeah. A girl in my class made me look at it.” Su Mu didn’t sound annoyed or angry, which surprised Yao Yuan somewhat. He had thought that after the matter with Su Yan, Su Mu would be very opposed to such things.
“So you’ll let them carry on with this nonsense?”
“Is People’s Hero Yao afraid?”
Yao Yuan scoffed. “Young Master Su, you’re rich and knowledgeable and you have such a beautiful girlfriend. If you’re not scared, why should I, a single dog, be?”
“Since neither of us care, then let’s go on a date. How about a movie? Let me think. Shall we see Lan Yu² or Brokeback Mountain?”
“Get lost. As far as possible. Don’t interrupt my essay writing.” If Su Mu had been next to him, Yao Yuan really would have kicked him as far away as possible.
“Tomorrow I’ll go find you after class. Wait for me, darling.” At the end, Su Mu couldn’t hold back his laughter any more.
“You goddamn stop right there.” Yao Yuan forcefully ended the call, but he was still smiling. The bastard. If the girls could see how shameless he was right now, they might break their glasses from tripping. The elegant and perfect Young Master Su in their eyes was actually a scoundrel.
The next day, at noon, Yao Yuan left the classroom and saw Su Mu waiting at the door. At some point the guy had memorized his class schedule and knew when and where to find him.
Seeing Yao Yuan come out, Su Mu immediately went up to him, his elegant smile already making all the girls in the crowd swoon.
“What’s the matter now?” Yao Yuan impatiently glanced at him. Su Mu knew that rumors were spreading and he still didn’t rein it in at all.
“Can’t I come find you unless something’s the matter? I miss you.” Su Mu deliberately leaned in close to Yao Yuan’s ear, and heard with satisfaction the sharp intakes of breath from all the excited girls. Of course, there was also the sound of a camera shutter clicking.
Yao Yuan hadn’t overlooked the strange sounds either. He pushed Su Mu away and located the sound, then walked up to the girl, held out his hand and ordered, “Hand it over.”
“Yuan-ge…” The girl looked pitifully up at him.
“Hand it over!” Yao Yuan raised his voice. Seeing that the girl still did nothing, he snatched her bag, found the camera, and deleted the photos she had just taken.
The girl was too terrified to say anything but her eyes filled with tears.
Su Mu walked up to her and consoled her gently. “Don’t be scared. It’s all right.”
The upset girl finally started crying, and Su Mu attentively wiped her tears away. The onlookers immediately showed envious and jealous expressions.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take him away right now.” Su Mu’s voice was still gentle. He turned around, caught hold of Yao Yuan, and walked outside. The sunlight outside was bright and warm where it shone on them. They walked until they were sure there was no one around anymore, then Su Mu finally laughed out loud.
“Bastard. Is it that fun to you?” Yao Yuan shook off Su Mu’s hand. What ideas was this guy getting now?
“You’re angry?” Su Mu went up to him and grinned. “It’s fun to play along with them once in a while.”
“If you want to play, find someone else. I’m not interested.” Yao Yuan angrily pulled out a cigarette and lit it, but before it even touched his mouth Su Mu snatched it away. After that dinner party, Su Mu seemed to have gotten into the habit of snatching his cigarettes. Before, he hadn’t thought much of it, but now, seeing the cigarette in Su Mu’s mouth, Yao Yuan couldn’t help but think of the photos posted to the forums. If those girls caught this on camera, they would call it an indirect… Yao Yuan came back to his senses, tossed his hair in annoyance, and stopped his ridiculous train of thought.
“I have something serious to discuss with you. Let’s go to Zero Point.”
 Intranet: A set of websites only accessible by people inside the school.
 Lan Yu: A 2001 Chinese indie LGBT film, directed by Stanley Kwan.