101. I’m Going up in Smoke!
One by one, days flew past YiHan. The longer he went without a plan, the more panicked he was over the upcoming tragedy. In the end, he just gave up on planning and went with the most ham-fisted method possible: investigate every single one of XueQing’s suitors. Anyone who had ever felt anything for her must go through a thorough background check. With such a big net cast, there’s no way that rotten fish would be missed!
It’s such a pity, aggravatingly so, that TianYang died not long after JingYuan left. Back then, YiHan drifted around all day long in a dazed state. Once he confirmed his sister was safe and the culprit was arrested, he paid no heed to everything that happened after, like the culprit’s identity. He didn’t even bother remembering what that crazy man’s name was. All he remembered was his family procuring evidence of the culprit’s insanity and the man being sent to a mental asylum. Not long after, the man committed suicide.
He didn’t think too much about it but now that he thought back to it, it was strange. How could the culprit have escaped punishment with just a piece of paper stating he was mentally ill after having killed off the Chen family’s heir? With how powerful the Chen family was, it’s improbable. Did the man really commit suicide? He can’t say for sure. However, murderers must pay one way or another. The Chen family had the right and strength to avenge their family member. He can’t judge them for that. Perhaps the man did not fully comprehend what he was doing but there was no way he’d lost all control over himself. He drove off with the aim to kill someone. His death wasn’t wrongful no matter what.
If only he remembered that crazy man’s name. He’d only need to track the guy down, keep an eye on the man and nip the danger in the bud. Now, he had to search for any signs of the man amidst a sea of humans. Thankfully while XueQing had a lot of suitors, they always fit a certain criteria. Soon, he will find that unstable man!
Having settled on a plan, YiHan picked up his phone and dialled in a number. After three rings, a man’s voice warmly answered, “YiHan? You’ve not called me for a long time. Do you need something?”
Nostalgia rose in YiHan. It’s been so long since he’d heard this man’s voice.
“How’ve you been doing, Jiang-ge?” YiHan replied with a smile.
“It’s the same old thing with me. Go to work and earn money for my eventual retirement.” Jiang Hua’s voice was as soothing as the spring showers.
“Stop pulling my leg, Jiang-ge. You’re thinking of retirement now?” YiHan chuckled.
Jiang Hua chuckled too. “You know my secret,” he sighed. “Someone like me is destined to never have a family. I’ll die alone. Of course I must prepare earlier. I wouldn’t want to be a penniless and homeless old man.”
YiHan was reminded of what happened in his last life and heaved a heavy sigh internally.
Jiang Hua was an orphan. He was only able to afford university with financial assistance from the Bai Group. He’s smart. He’d always been the best of his peers. After graduation, he joined the Bai Group. With his capabilities, he could be the executive manager of a department. However, he chose to be Bai Yan’s secretary. He’d been working with Yan for years and was now Yan’s right-hand man in everything. When the Bai family fell into troubled times, he didn’t abandon them. He did everything and pulled all the strings he could to help the company, yet he wasn’t able to save the Bai Group. After the family went bankrupt, he would always think up of ways to help Yan rise again. To raise the money needed, he accepted the invitation of the company that’d been eyeing him up forever. He fervently worked and worked and was known as the most handsome bachelor in the industry who’s the least marriageable due to his frugal nature. He wouldn’t attend parties. He didn’t smoke. He didn’t drink. He wouldn’t go out and play with the other men. He was even stingy when it came to how much he spent on food and drink. Every cent possibly saved would be saved. He was infamous for someone who only cared for money. Human relations were nothing to him. As long as there was money to be earned and it wasn’t illegal, he would do it no matter how tiring it’d be. He even secretly sold off the apartment and car he’d bought after years of savings. When he went to Yan with the money, Yan rejected the money. They got into such a big argument that they nearly fought. YiHan was hiding around the corner then. It was the first time he’d seen the eyes of this gentle and kind man go red in rage. That was the last time YiHan ever saw him.
Jiang Hua said he was destined to die alone because he’s gay. He knew he was gay from the start. He’d had a tough childhood. He loved to have a family and he’d always been serious about relationships. He thought that if he were to date someone, then they must be loyal to each other for life. But then the messy and superficial nature of high society let him down while he fell in love with Bai Yan, a straight man. Jiang Hua’s like a swan. Once he’s decided on someone, it’d be for life. His feelings can’t be changed. All he could do was stay by the other’s side, forever alone.
YiHan didn’t know what happened to the man after YiHan died, but he really hoped the man could live a good life. Jiang Hua had always treated him well and it wasn’t just because he was Yan’s younger brother. It was why after having discovered Jiang Hua’s secret, YiHan said nothing and didn’t treat the man any differently. Same-sex marriage might be legal but it still wasn’t widely accepted. There were way too many people who can’t bear the thought of it.
Jiang Hua’s a gentle and kind man. Calling a man “gentle and kind” always made one think the man was a “sissy”, but Jiang Hua somehow embodied a mysteriously perfect combination of masculinity and gentleness that made him so uniquely mesmerising. If Jiang Hua hadn’t been so insistent, who knew how many would be trailing behind his every move.
Unfortunately, YiHan had been too self-centred in his last life. He was too busy drowning himself in his sorrows that he didn’t listen to a single word of Jiang Hua’s advice. Slowly, the two drifted apart. That really felt like an entire lifetime ago.
Someone who’d sell off the apartment and car he’d work so hard for, take out the savings he’d been preparing for his retirement and give everything he had to Yan just so he could regain his glory…Jiang Hua must’ve been absolutely in love with Yan, right?
It’s a pity Yan was an old-schooled and solemn straight man. All of Jiang Hua’s passion was wasted.
“Don’t be scared,” YiHan said into the phone, laughing. “You can depend on me in the future.”
Jiang Hua paused. “Okay,” he replied with a smile. “My future will depend on you now. Alright. Tell me. What did you call me for?”
“Can’t I call you if I don’t need anything?” YiHan asked, a hand scratching at his cheek in embarrassment.
Hua remained silent. He merely let out a low chuckle. YiHan cleared his throat.
“Well, there is a little something,” YiHan said.
“Tell me,” Hua slowly replied.
“I was hoping you could help me look into my sister’s suitors,” YiHan said. “All of them. Secretly or publicly. I want their names, their history, their details. Everything.”
“What did you want that for?” Hua curiously asked.
“I can’t tell you yet,” YiHan stammered. “Once I find him, I’ll definitely tell you.”
Hua decided not to pursue it any further. “Fine,” he said. “Give me two weeks. I’ll have the information for you by then. Don’t go fooling around with the information. I don’t want to be the accomplice to a crime.”
“Would I ever fool around?” YiHan said with a dry laugh. “I’m the most obedient kid…”
“Okay, okay,” Hua guffawed. How rare it was for him to laugh in such a carefree style. “You’re the nicest kid around. I know. Be patient.”
Even YiHan found what he said to be rather embarrassing. “Okay,” he replied, his finger scraped at his desk. “See you later, Jiang-ge.”
Jiang Hua hung up and walked back to his desk in a great mood. While he can’t have a family, it wasn’t that bad to have such a little brother.
Then, Bai Yan appeared and walked by him.
“Send me the meeting notes,” Yan rumbled.
Smile still on his lips, Jiang Hua replied in affirmative. His slender fingers danced across his keyboard, as lithe as a pianist playing a quick and light melody on the piano.
By now, Yan had walked past Hua. He turned around to look at Hua, mystified.
“You’re happy? What happened?” Yan asked.
This secretary of his was a very smart and capable man. He also had a great temper. He was the best secretary Yan could’ve ever found. While the man always had a warm smile on, Yan knew it was just a facial expression. When necessary, it could turn into the man’s weapon. He knew the other was rarely ever genuinely happy. What could’ve gotten the man in such a good mood? Still, this smile made him glow.
Hua looked up. His almond-shaped eyes gleamed and glistened with laughter as he looked at Yan. His fair and smooth skin shone under the bright white light. Those elegant lips parted, “Nothing much, Mr Bai.”
Yan blanked out for a second. For a moment, he felt as if he was just shocked by electricity. The urge to shiver hard was strong. He cleared his throat and regained his composure.
“That’s good then,” he solemnly said. Then, he turned and strode off.
Hua looked back down to his monitor and clicked “send”. He lifted a hand to his cheeks. Was he happy? He was. After all, someone said they’d financially support him when he grew old and wrinkly. Even if it’s just talk, he was ecstatic at it.
On the other side of the room, the beautiful assistants all clutched at their hearts. My idol, Jiang Hua, please smile once more!
When JingYuan pushed through the door, YiHan was still stuck in his memories of the past. Everyone all said that disasters would show one’s true face. They weren’t wrong. When the Bai family was at its strongest, there was no lack of people yearning to offer up their help. When the Bai family fell from grace, how many came to help them in their time of need?
The Chen and Qi families split the Bai family’s assets for themselves. It was good enough that the Yan family just stood back, watched, and didn’t involve themselves. The “best bros” that followed him around and kept going on about how they’d take a knife for him, they all scattered like the wind. The companies that competed with each other to gain Yan’s favour were all too afraid to accept his application. It was only once he’d personally experienced it all did he understand just how rare and precious were those who would never abandon them, like Jiang Hua. YiHan truly planned on supporting him until his death. He didn’t say all that as a joke.
Just as YiHan was sighing over his thoughts, JingYuan hugged him across the shoulders from behind. The older man lightly kissed him on the cheek and the deep voice that was uniquely JingYuan’s rang from beside his ear, “What are you thinking about? What’s made you blank out?”
As the man spoke, JingYuan’s breath gently blew across YiHan’s ear. Combined with the voice so smooth and sensual that it could make anyone pregnant just by listening to it, YiHan’s whole body turned numb. The cheek JingYuan’s breath blew on was swiftly covered in a heavy blush. Logically, YiHan should’ve gotten used to being so intimate with JingYuan. They’d been dating for some time already. But for some reason, every time JingYuan leaned in close and did something so very affectionate, YiHan’s skin couldn’t help heating up. His heart would race. His breathing would turn into heavy pants.
“It’s nothing,” YiHan said, awkwardly pulling away and clearing his throat.
JingYuan walked around to look at YiHan head-on. He reached out and trapped the younger man between his arms and the chair, then slowly leaned in until their noses gently touched. JingYuan gave an inquisitive low nasally hum. That short hum felt like it rang for miles and echoed in YiHan’s ears.
All YiHan could see was JingYuan’s handsome face, enlarged. Every breath he took was filled with JingYuan’s scent. His ears were filled with the hum that made his insides quiver. His heart thumped hard and loud. His body was unable to sustain itself merely on the oxygen provided through his nose. Unknown to him, his lips had parted.
JingYuan let out a soft chuckle. His tip of his tongue reached out and licked at YiHan’s gaping lips. His nose rubbed against YiHan’s.
YiHan: …crap. I’m going up in smoke!
Ge: suffix used for older males, usually as a sign of affection or respect. It’s used for brothers, cousins, friends and even lovers. Because it’s a little weird for YiHan to refer to Jiang Hua by his first name, as the use of the suffix by YiHan is mean to show just how much he likes Jiang Hua as a brother figure instead of as just his brother’s