The apartment has been sold off already? Yan lowered his eyes.
JingYuan nodded to what YiHan said and replied, “Yes. Jiang Hua dotes on you so. What else are you afraid of?”
“But if that’s the case, he’ll have to buy a bigger house,” YiHan grumbled in seeming frustration. “I’m afraid he won’t have enough money. He won’t even let me pay for the room.”
“Why would he need to buy a big house?” JingYuan questioned in bemusement.
“Think about it,” YiHan said, looking at JingYuan as if he’d asked a foolish question. “Lu FengYu is following Jiang-ge to ChangCheng this time.”
JingYuan was really confused. “What does Jiang Hua’s home have to do with Lu FengYu? He wouldn’t be staying in the same place anyway.”
Yan’s heart skipped. His right hand shifted off the couch arm and onto his knee.
“Have you forgotten?” YiHan answered. “When Jiang-ge got drunk, Lu FengYu protected him and stalled for time. It was because of him that we could arrive on time. Without the man’s protection, who knows what would’ve happened. Zhu Xun alone couldn’t have stopped those scum. Zhu Xun even told me it was just to men. Thank goodness I was cautious and called for more men to come with us. Only then did we win. There were about eight buff men there, right? That was so dangerous.”
“I know that,” JingYuan responded. “But what does it have to do with Jiang Hua’s house?”
YiHan patted his lover on the arm and explained, “Are you an idiot? Lu FengYu risked his life to protect Jiang-ge and now he’s leaving the city he’d grown up in just to follow Jiang-ge. He’s deeply in love with Jiang-ge. I’m sure of it. You know how much Jiang-ge yearns for a family. He’ll be all alone in unfamiliar surroundings. How could he not be touched by a man who’d so lovestruck and persistent in sticking by his side? Once he’s been touched, he’s likely to date the man. Once they’re dating, Lu FengYu would move into Jiang-ge’s home, right? Think. Jiang-ge’s place had one master bedroom, one study room, one room for me, a kitchen and a bathroom. If Lu FengYu moves in, he’d need another room, right? Then the original place would be too small.”
JingYuan glanced Yan who’d grown considerably paler from the moment YiHan started mentioning Lu FengYu’s name.
“You’re the one who’s stupid here,” JingYuan said in a monotone voice. “If Lu FengYu moves in with Jiang Hua, they’d be dating already. Can’t they just sleep in the same room?”
A loud sploosh rang out. The orange Yan had been holding in his left hand had been squashed into a ball of pulp. The man looked down at his hand and tossed the ragged remains of the orange into the bin. He then stood up.
“Where are you going, brother?” YiHan hurriedly asked.
“Getting changed. Sleep,” Yan growled out.
YiHan was so angry at that response that his eyes bulged out as he glared at the man. Then, he seized the moment Yan was still at the bottom of the stairs to turn to JingYuan and said, “Aah, you’re so smart, JingYuan. Of course, Lu FengYu would be staying with Jiang-ge then. Why didn’t I think of it? I’d better not visit so often and disturb their lovers’ world!”
Yan’s feet paused for a moment before he stomped right up the staircase.
YiHan watched as Yan disappeared from their sight. “He wouldn’t react even to that,” YiHan sighed in despair. “Looks like Jiang-ge really stands no chance. I just don’t know how to give up. He’s the one who ordered Jiang-ge’s transfer. He’s eagerly waiting for Jiang-ge to leave. They have been working together for so many years. Jiang-ge had always gone with whatever work my brother threw at him. Even if Jiang-ge likes him, the man never planned on making a move. Can’t he just pretend as if he doesn’t know anything? But then he chased Jiang-ge away. Just like that. He’s so heartless! Jiang-ge is only in love with him. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Is there a need?”
JingYuan held onto YiHan’s hands and blinked at his younger lover. “That might not be it. Some people would think they’re straight but they might already be as bent as a mosquito coil.”
YiHan’s head shot up to look at the staircase in shock. “You mean he’s already gay?” he whispered. “There’s hope for Jiang-ge then? Wait, no. We’ve turned my brother into a homosexual. I feel so bad for our parents! I’m sorry, Ma, Pa!”
JingYuan chuckled, “Just what do you think about in that little head of yours? It’s not up to us to decide or change Yan’s sexual orientation. We just never realised it before. It has nothing to do with us. It has nothing to do with Jiang Hua. Sexual orientation is mostly decided from birth. However, some people discover theirs and face it head-on. Some people never realise it and would be depressed over why their marriage to the opposite sex didn’t make them happy. Perhaps they’d think all married life is boring and monotone. Some people might realise it but would never admit it. They’d just find another person to have a heterosexual marriage with to disguise themselves.”
“Won’t that be a sham marriage?” YiHan said with disgust.
“You’re right,” JingYuan replied. “This kind of behaviour is a sham, a lie. It’s more vile and evil than cheating someone out of their money.”
YiHan nodded hard to that statement. Then, hand on his chin, he mused, “Would my brother be the kind that has never realised it? True. He’s always slow when it comes to love. There’s not a single news of him dating or anything. We all thought it was because he likes to keep himself clean of vices. Now that I look at it, maybe it’s because he can’t feel anything for women?”
YiHan had never considered this before. Yan had always been a strict and disciplined man. He’d never flirt around, or hint at flirting, with anyone. He hasn’t dated once despite his age and no one suspected a thing. However, since JingYuan mentioned it, YiHan recalled how Yan would be single even by the time YiHan died. In the story Tao Qi narrated, Yan would remain alone even at the end of the book. No dating, no marriage. How many years would that be? His brother was nearly thirty this year. How old would he be by the end of the novel? No matter how solemn, he can’t delay marriage for too long. The more YiHan thought about it, the more suspicious he was.
YiHan continued with a frown, “So what if he’s gay? Jiang-ge still has no hope. He’s so heartless to Jiang-ge that anyone could tell Yan didn’t care for him. If Yan really cared for Jiang-ge, how could he bear to treat Jiang-ge this way? Plus, he kept making things hard for Jiang-ge before.”
“Hm,” JingYuan hummed. “Love and feelings are things that no one can predict if their owner won’t say it out? Still, you are right about one thing. Yan is a log head. When it comes to other people’s business, if he really puts some effort into it, he could be as observant as a bystander. When it comes to his own matters however, that may not be the case. Don’t forget. He still thinks he’s straight. This means we can’t help with this issue no matter how much we want to. He has to think it through for himself or the more we help, the worse things will be.”
“What if he never thinks things through,” YiHan asked.
“There’s nothing we can do about that,” JingYuan answered with a shrug. “Don’t worry. If things start getting into ridiculous territory, it’s not too late for us to act then. Anyway, all we have now are our hypothesis. We still can’t be sure if Yan is straight or gay. If we act out of the blue, it might worsen things. We can only sit back and wait.”
“You’re right.” YiHan nodded. “Actually, it doesn’t matter if Big Bro doesn’t feel any love for Jiang-ge. I think that Lu FengYu is quite smitten with Jiang-ge. If he can truly move Jiang-ge’s heart and they can get together, it might not be a bad ending. I’m just afraid Jiang-ge would be too stubborn for it.”
“Alright,” JingYuan soothed. “Stop wrecking your head over it. Jiang Hua is a smart man. He’s also a logical man. He will choose the path most suitable for himself. All we can do is be by his side through it all. Love is like the water we drink. It knows its past. It knows what path it’ll take. We can’t force Yan to make a move. Similarly, we can’t force Jiang Hua to do anything. We might think it’s for the better, but he might not be happy. He might be dragging Lu FengYu into the deep end then. Why not just let him choose the way he’ll live?”
“Mn,” YiHan responded. “That’s all we can do. We’re only outsiders in this. There’s only so much we can help with.”
JingYuan stared at that soft bed of hair. He tried resisting the urge but he still gave in to it and caressed it. Instantly, his life felt complete. He then seized the chance to put his hand down while YiHan had yet to react, stuck in his thoughts about Jiang Hua.
“Okay, it’s late,” JingYuan warmly said. “Let’s go to sleep. We must get a good night’s rest so we can properly send Jiang Hua off tomorrow morning.”
YiHan nodded in reply and followed JingYuan up to their room.
This was a night destined to be restless. Jiang Hua tossed and turned. Yan was kept up by his own aggravation and uneasiness. YiHan sighed through the night. In the end, he only dropped off into sleep from exhaustion after JingYuan grabbed him for some night-time exercise.
The next morning, YiHan woke up bright and early with JingYuan. The two cleaned up and descended down the stairs to their car. At their departure time, YiHan still, in a stubborn spree, dashed to the door to Yan’s room and sprawled over it, listening for something, anything. It was as silent as the grave in there. No movement could be heard.
YiHan was so angry he walked back downstairs with gritted teeth.
When the pair arrived at Jiang Hua’s home, the man was already packed and ready to go. He looked as he always did, except for the two dark circles framing his eyes. There was breakfast on the table for YiHan and JingYuan, prepared by Jiang Hua. YiHan pulled his lover down to sit by the table.
“Have you eaten, Jiang-ge?” YiHan asked as he slurped a spoonful of congee.
“I’ve eaten long ago,” Jiang Hua replied with a smile. “Eat up.”
“Your congee tastes the best,” YiHan gleefully praised.
The smile on Jiang Hua’s face deepened. “If that’s the case, hurry up. I know there’s no way you could’ve had breakfast by this hour.”
YiHan nodded with a happy grin as he grabbed some vegetables with his chopsticks.
On the journey to the airport, YiHan chattered on and on about something or other. He didn’t remember what he said but all he knew was that he couldn’t relax at all. He wanted to sigh but he was afraid it’d bring down Jiang Hua’s mood. The urge pricked and prodded at his heart. The man merely smiled and nodded along to YiHan’s ramblings. He acted so calm that one could mistake this trip to be one of his usual business trips out of the city.
JingYuan was driving but he’d occasionally glance at the two in the back through the rear-view mirror. A smile hung on his lips during the whole drive.
When the trio walked into the waiting area of the airport, Lu FengYu could be spotted from afar, waving as hard as he could. Jiang Hua sighed at the sight of the man and shuffled over to him.
The perky man greeted JingYuan and YiHan before warmly looking at Jiang Hua and greeting, “You’re here, Jiang-ge.”
“Mn,” Jiang Hua replied, a smile on his face. “You’re here early.”
“Yes,” said Feng Yu. “I came early in the morning.”
“Then why didn’t you find a place to sit and wait?” Hua asked.
A faint blush took over FengYu’s handsome face. “I was afraid I’d miss you when you arrive,” he said, embarrassed. “Standing here, I can keep an eye on the entrance.”
YiHan could feel an itch tickling the back of his throat. He wanted to cough but he held it in. This didn’t feel like a good time to be clearing his throat. He could only raise a hand to scratch at his neck.
JingYuan silently laughed at his lover. His eyes shimmered as bright as two pools of water. His gaze so warm that they were visibly overflowing with warmth.
FengYu’s eyes were darting all over the place in anxiety. There was a moment when they drifted over to JingYuan’s face. The man was stunned at what he saw before he snapped his eyes away. For the past two years, Mu JingYuan had turned colder and colder until he seemed heartless. Now, he’s met the right man. Even the strongest steel rod could be as soft and malleable.
Jiang Hua lifted a hand to look at the time. “There’s still some time before we have to board,” Jian Hua said. “Let’s sit over there for now.”