158. Nan Shan
Yan Hui didn’t think a simple sentence spoken to fill the void would lead his lover’s anger to him. His demure and scholarly lover was now so furious that he could swear at Yan Hui. The man instantly knew his lover was serious in his rebuke.
“No, no,” Hui hurriedly pleaded for forgiveness. “I didn’t mean to say anything bad about him. I was merely commenting on how he’d matured. As for reputations, I just listen and forget about it. To properly know someone is to judge the other’s behaviours with our own eyes and not base our judgement solely on reputation. He’s actually not bad. Pei-Pei wouldn’t lose anything by being friends with him. Just as you said, he’s a pure young man. The social circles we move in may seem glamorous but it’s murky and dark. Such a man is more precious than gold. He’s an extremely rare find.”
“So Pei-Pei can be friends with him,” Zhang Su languidly said, “but I can’t?”
Hui gave a grovelling smile. “Of course you can. It’s your freedom who you befriend. How can I interfere with that? I know you think of him as a friend already and he seems to respect you a lot. It’s common knowledge among our circles that Little Master Bai despises waking up early. It’s such an honour and grand gesture for him to wake up bright and early just to attend your reopening party.”
The other man glanced at the flower bouquet placed beside them. It had a card with the words “A Gift From Bai YiHan” written on it.
“You wouldn’t interfere?” Zhang Su said with a chuckle. “Don’t think I don’t know how you secretly stopped Pei-Pei from getting close to me. What? Are you afraid I’ll teach your little sister bad behaviour?”
“Oh, you,” Hui softly said in exasperation. “I was afraid she’d teach you bad things. My dearest, I know. I was wrong. I went overboard last night. I’ve apologised already. Please calm down?”
The other man’s face flushed red as he coldly retorted, “We are in public! What are you rambling about?”
“Look at you,” Yan Hui whimpered. “From the moment we woke up, you’ve been barking back at me for every word I utter. You’re so angry and you’re filled to the brim with contempt for me. I feel so sad.”
At that, Zhang Su didn’t care if they were in public. “You’re sad?” he harshly whispered through gritted teeth. “Can you be any more shameless? You knew my shop had an opening party today yet you kept on until late into the night. No matter how much I begged, you just wouldn’t stop…” He paused. “Have you ever considered my feelings?”
Hui looked at his lover. The other man’s face was a sickly pale white. Hui’s heart ached as regret crept into his mind.
“Uncle,” Hui cried, face twisted in sorrow. “I was wrong. I had a few drinks last night. I wasn’t fully there, that’s why I lost control. I promise I’ll never touch alcohol again.”
“Never?” the unamused man coldly huffed. “Do you think I’m a fool?”
Hui tapped himself on the head. “That wasn’t right. It is rather hard for me to never drink again. After all, there are some business meetings I can’t refuse. However, I can promise that I’ll never enter your room again if I even take a sip of alcohol. Then, even if I go to you, I won’t touch you! How about it? See, the greatest punishment to me is being unable to see you. Forgive me this time?”
The furious man let out another cold huff and kept quiet. Hui wiped the beads of sweat off his brow.
“I know you don’t feel well,” Hui whispered. “Why don’t you head inside first and take a seat? I’ll help you welcome your customers.”
“How rare for you to know that I’m not feeling well,” Zhang Su finally replied. “But it’s fine. This shop is mine. It’s not right for me to slack off today. If you’re tired, you can head in.”
“I didn’t say I’m tired,” Hui said with a slight whine. “I’m just scared you’re hurting. I’m really sorry. I truly understand it’s my fault. I regret it too. It hurts more for me to see you hurt than for me to be hurt.”
The other man gave Hui the side-eye. “Are you trying to create a poem with that repetition?”
“Why wouldn’t you trust me?” Hui worriedly said. “I’m your lover. Would my heart not ache for you? If you’re truly angry, I’ll let you do the same to me!”
Zhang Su’s eyes shone bright. “For real?” he asked, head snapping to look at the other man.
“What did I say?” Hui asked, confused.
By now, there was a green gleam hiding in Zhang Su’s eyes. “Don’t think you can pull the wool over my eyes. I heard it loud and clear. Remember your words! I despise people who don’t keep their words the most!”
Hui’s mouth gaped wide open. His tongue was tied. What was said couldn’t be taken back again, just like spilled milk. He can’t be the kind of person his lover “hated the most”. Hui’s mouth opened and closed for a long time. In the end, all he could do was sigh. He was visibly wilted.
In contrast, his lover’s begrudging aura had disappeared into thin air. Zhang Su was as cheerful as a lark. Hui watched Su for a few moments before finally letting out a defeated smile. Forget it, he thought to himself. Look at how happy the other man was. Even if it was just for these few moments of joy, it would be worth it.
Meanwhile, Yan Pei had led YiHan around, showing him everything there was to see in the shop.
“Look, YiHan,” said Pei. She had been chattering non-stop since their tour started. “This section is mainly for educational materials. Here is where the books on finance are kept. This section is for books on healthy living and hobbies. Now, this is my favourite part of the shop. It’s mainly a section for stories and comics. Zhang-ge’s bookshop has everything you could ever need. He has most of the popular books. There are tables and chairs by the window for those who are here to read. Drinks and snacks would be provided to those who ask for it.”
“Are the books free to read?” YiHan asked.
Pei blinked back at him before slyly replying, “It’s free to read here but you must be careful. The book must be returned in perfect condition and they can’t be brought out of the shop. However, we do charge for drinks and snacks.”
“Oh, I see,” YiHan said with a nod.
He walked over to the section for novels and began to browse the shelves. His slender finger drifted past rows of book spines before finally stopping at a novel. It was titled “The Blue Night”. His finger stroked down the book’s spine as his eyes registered the name. Then, he carefully plucked it out from its place on the shelf.
Pei craned her neck to see what book YiHan had picked out. “YiHan,” she excitedly cried out, “you like Nan Shan’s books too? I’m also his fan!”
YiHan looked down at the name “Nan Shan” printed on the book’s cover as its author and let out a little sigh. He knew this “Nan Shan”. In his last life, that is.
Nan Shan, Southern Mountain, is just the author’s pen name. His real name was Xu YouRan. He’s a well-known author who gained his fame mostly from writing detective stories. He might be extremely famous but he didn’t write a lot. Even so, every one of his books sold like hotcakes. Unfortunately, he died at a very young age. He died about 6 months before YiHan did. Perhaps the gods were jealous of his genius. The man was only 28 years old when he passed away and the man died in quite a horrible manner. One could say he died humiliated without an ounce of dignity. He had committed suicide. He jumped from the 24th floor of a tall building. When his corpse was found, nothing was left whole. The photo of his body was just a bloody red block of mosaic. What a shame no one pitied him. His die-hard fans had secretly organised a simple remembrance ceremony for him. When it was discovered, people rabidly trashed the whole place. The entire ceremony devolved into chaos while photos of Xu YouRan before his death were thrown on the ground and stomped on. Marked by countless footprints and glass shards, the once-handsome face was rendered ragged.
YiHan really liked his books. Despite being in a rather tough situation himself, YiHan was still dejected when he heard about the other’s death. As for why Xu YouRan was held in such contempt, that was because he’d been found out to be a homosexual. Not only that, he had seduced a married man. He was considered a homewrecker. Many people were disgusted. As he was somewhat of a public figure, the situation escalated. At first, it was just verbal harassment. The keyboard warriors’ fingers flew across their keyboards. Then, somehow, he was doxed. Someone leaked his real identity. Images of the man were plastered all over the internet. Things turned into physical harassment. Someone was fanning the flames, constantly agitating the masses. It had gotten so bad that whenever Xu YouRan stepped out of his apartment, he’d be beaten up. His front door was always covered in degrading graffiti. The married man’s wife even barged into his home with a few of her men. No one knew what happened that day. All anyone knew was that Xu YouRan decided to jump from his balcony three days later. He didn’t have to deal with the humiliation and pointing. As for the “lover”, the man had never once shown his face. No one knew who the man was.
YiHan spaced out, staring down at the familiar book in his hands. It was a book he’d reread multiple times. Pei called out to him several times but his mind didn’t react to it.
“Hey, YiHan,” Pei said, nudging him in bemusement. “Earth to YiHan! What is it?”
Snapping back to his sense, YiHan’s fingers slowly stroked the book in his hands as he smiled at Pei and said, “I’m also his…his fan. What a pity we don’t know anything about him in real life. I really want to know the true him.”
Pei dropped her chin into her open hands. “Who doesn’t? What you just said is what every fan of his wishes. Unfortunately, no one knows his real identity.”
“Perhaps it’s better we don’t know,” YiHan softly sighed. “It is a type of protection for him.”
“True,” Pei said, nodding. “As his fan, we just need to support his works. He is a writer, after all. He’s not an idol. Haha.”
YiHan nodded. His fingers continued stroking the book’s cover. He actually knew Xu YouRan’s address. After all, it was all leaked online. While he couldn’t do anything back then, he remembered the man’s address. From the start of everything until now, he still believed Xu YouRan wasn’t the kind of man they say he was. YiHan could tell from the man’s writing. Anyone who can write such beautiful and intricate stories would never be a homewrecker. Maybe there was another story hiding deeper within. Anyway, when everything escalated then, it wasn’t that hard to find out the source of all the hatred. Many people hypothesised it was the man’s wife behind it all. However, since she had the moral high ground, no one said anything bad about her actions.
When it was time to leave, YiHan took the book with him. Sitting in his car, his fingers continued their slow strokes across the book’s cover.
“Pan Wen,” YiHan said, “please take me to ‘Elegant Gardens’ first.” Xu YouRan’s home address was in a place called Elegant Gardens. It’s an average and average district of the city that wasn’t freshly built nor was it an old residential area.
Pan Wen hummed in response. With practised hands, the car was smoothly turned towards the new destination. When they arrived, YiHan got out with the book still in his hands while Pan Wen waited in the car. YiHan then slipped past the guards by following a middle-aged woman with a big basket full of her groceries. He didn’t know what he could be doing here or what he can do for Xu YouRan. Did he want to befriend the man and get close to him? Then, find out the true story? He didn’t even know who’s right and who’s wrong. What does the truth matter? All YiHan knew was that YouRan must not be forced to death, even if his crime was real. The man was still young. He was so talented. He shouldn’t die in what should’ve been the prime of his life, just like…YiHan.
One by one, YiHan searched through the rows of towers until he found the building Xu YouRan lived in. Perhaps the man was writing down a draft of his next book. Perhaps he was sleeping after staying up late last night from writing. No matter what the man was doing, it was good. The man was still alive and not just a censored, bloody blob.