170. New Neighbour
When their chests were pressed together, YiHan could easily feel the tremors of JingYuan’s chest when the man laughs. He liked the sensation. Subconsciously, he rubbed his cheek against JingYuan’s.
“Then, I’ll seduce you when we get home,” said YiHan.
JingYuan’s breathing hitched. “Mean little thing,” he said, gently biting the tip of YiHan’s nose. “You are seducing me right now.”
Through great will power, JingYuan forced himself to let go of YiHan and walk back to his desk. He was so afraid that something might happen if they cuddled any longer.
Silently, JingYuan looked down at his little JingYuan and said, My HanHan is hurting already. We absolutely cannot do it again. Stop, you.
YiHan leaned back against the couch with a slight smile. Looking back down at his phone, he frowned.
“Nan Shan still hasn’t replied to me.” YiHan sighed. “It’s so worrying.”
“Don’t appear too hasty,” JingYuan said. “Nan Shan is detail-oriented. You can’t let him find hints of intentional care. There is no use worrying now. He must not feel like talking at the moment.”
YiHan nodded and placed his phone down.
That evening, when the couple returned to the Mu family home, YiHan called Yan once more. The two men spent a long time discussing their upcoming plan of action.
Yan moved fast. The evening Yan obtained Nan Shan’s address, he contacted all of the apartment owners on the other man’s floor, except for Nan Shan. He then insisted on buying their homes at a high price. The contract was signed and filed overnight. His one request was for them to move immediately.
Nan Shan’s apartment building wasn’t old but it wasn’t new. There were four apartments to a floor, accessibly by two lifts situated at opposite ends of the hallway. They weren’t big either. The two corner apartments were about a hundred square feet. The two middle apartments were smaller at around eighty to ninety square feet. Nan Shan lived in the left corner apartment, right next to the lift. Overnight, Yan Yan’s resolute actions emptied the entire floor. He then moved into the apartment closest to Nan Shan.
The past two days flew by in a blur for YouRan. He knew his relationship was through. The meeting that day confirmed it further for him. The other man’s hesitant and shifty behaviour said it all. After a series of forceful and insistent questions, the man finally admitted to being married. Yet, that man dared to proclaim there was no love in his relationship with his wife. He liked men in the first place. He loved YouRan. He even asked YouRan wouldn’t it be nice for them to continue on as usual! He’s just so sly! How could it be nice?
Frankly, YouRan had known his lover was hiding something from him early on in their relationship. However, he was too afraid of losing his lover. He suppressed those thoughts in self-denial. He didn’t dare to even ask. The man never mentioned his family and he would never stay the night. YouRan thought it was because the man’s family couldn’t accept their son for being gay and he didn’t have the courage to fight back. YouRan was even ready for the day his lover would cave in and marry a woman. They would just break up amicably and live on with their separate lives. The mere thought of the arrival of such a day already made him uneasy.
Never could YouRan have imagined the man, who claimed he wasn’t married because of his sexual orientation and inability to find the right person, would already have his own family. What was YouRan then? A “mistress”? A homewrecker? No matter way, there was no way YouRan can accept that. Regardless of how much he’d miss the man, he still couldn’t accept it.
YouRan’s heart was filled with rage and agony over being lied to and betrayed by his lover. He had no friends. He didn’t even have anyone to vent his emotions to. All he could do was pace around in his home like a caged beast.
As night fell, loud noises and chattering rang out from the hallway outside YouRan’s home. He didn’t have the heart to be curious at all. The fan he met not long ago kept trying to contact him but he didn’t know what to say. This whole matter started because that fan named Bai YiHan popped his bubble. While his dream and fantasy for years have been broken, YouRan whole-heartedly thanked YiHan. The other’s reminder was what woke him up and saved him from deceived into being a homewrecker. When faced with his fan’s concern, all YouRan felt at the moment was an immense shame.
YouRan didn’t sleep the entire night. The noises outside had continued into the morning, although they were much softer now. He had no heart for breakfast nor was he in the mood to write. He sat in his living room, spacing out. Suddenly, he heard a knock on his door. YouRan clenched his hands into fists. Normally, no one would knock on his door unless they were his lover or real estate agents. Agents rarely ever knocked on his door, so it was undoubtedly that man. After all, the man said he wouldn’t give up during their fight yesterday.
YouRan remained sitting on the couch. He didn’t want to open the door but the person outside was persistent. They kept knocking and knocking. YouRan could feel his frustration growing with every knock. It’d be good for him to lay things out in black and white to that man. He stood up and opened the door. To his surprise, the person standing outside of his home was a young man he’d never met before.
The young man wore a black, high-collared wool coat, a slim pair of jeans and black, high-top sneakers. The hems of his jeans were tucked into his shoes. He was a handsome man with fair skin. The only flaw to his beauty was his rather dead eyes. There was a stern look to his face. He seemed very much like someone who rarely smiled. Standing there at the doorway, the young man was still raised in a knocking gesture. Upon noticing the door was open, nervousness flashed in his eyes.
YouRan wasn’t used to speaking with strangers. “Is there something you need?” he asked in a somewhat awkward manner.
The young man’s lips raised in a stiff smile as he held out a hand. “Hello. I’m Yan Yan. I just moved in. We’ll be neighbours from today on. I’m here to say hi.”
For a moment, YouRan just stared at the clean, slender hand. Then, he hesitatingly shook it. “Hello. I’m Xu YouRan.”
YouRan glanced behind Yan to find groups of workers bustling in and out of the apartment next to his. There was a box or furniture in every workman’s arms. The hallway was also littered with furniture and boxes.
“Do you need help with anything?” YouRan politely asked after a pause for thought.
Yan followed YouRan’s gaze to look at the workers behind him before turning back to YouRan. For some reason, Yan felt shy in a way he’d never felt before.
“No. Thank you,” said Yan, lips pursed in a smile. “The workers will handle everything. Erm, if possible, can you let me in for a few hours? My home’s not ready yet and the hallway is a little chilly.”
YouRan was reluctant to do so. His home hadn’t seen any visitor but his lover since his mother passed away.
Noticing the hesitance in YouRan’s eyes, Yan smiled and said, “Oh, it’s fine if it’s not convenient. The workers will be done soon. My apologies for intruding.”
YouRan glanced again at the workers behind the other man. They were all busy, leaving messes everywhere. They didn’t look like they’d be done any time soon. This person was also not wearing much. He looked like he was cold. His face was pale. The hand YouRan shook was icy cold. In the end, YouRan couldn’t let the young man stand in the corridor for a few more hours.
“It’s fine,” YouRan sighed. “Come in.”
“It’s really alright,” Yan said, waving his hand before him. “If it’s not okay, then I won’t go in.”
“I live alone,” YouRan said with a smile. “There’s nothing inconvenient about it. Come in.”
“Thank you so much,” Yan replied with a grateful smile.
Excitement rose in Yan’s fanboy heart as he walked into the home of his idol. His eyes swiftly scanned the room he entered.
The décor of YouRan’s home was simple. All four walls were white. Minimalistic furniture filled the room with barely any decorative pieces. The place might appear neat and tidy, but it also felt monotonous. It was easy to tell material comfort wasn’t important at all to the home’s owner.
The only part of the room that felt different to its general vibe was a display shelf leaning against one of the walls. Yan couldn’t resist walking closer to it. Inside that beautiful shelf were trophies of various sizes for literary awards. Excited joy filled Yan’s body. These were Nan Shan’s awards. Oh, my god! How he wished he could take a picture of them!
When YouRan saw Yan charging straight for his display cabinet the moment the other man walked through the door, YouRan couldn’t help but feel some awkward embarrassment.
“Do you want some hot water to drink?” YouRan asked after a dry cough.
Yan snapped back from his daydreaming. “I’m sorry,” he said, mortified and annoyed at himself for his inappropriate behaviour. It was rude of him to just wander around and explore someone else’s home on the first visit.
When YouRan returned from the kitchen with a cup of warm water, Yan was politely sitting on the couch. The other man hurriedly stood up and accepted the mug. He then held it in his palms.
For a moment, no words were spoken and silence reigned.
“Erm.” Yan hesitated but pushed on anyway. “Excuse me, just now I…” He pointed to the display cabinet and continued, “Saw the name on some of your trophies there…you… Are you Nan Shan?”
While Yan knew the other was Nan Shan, he still felt nervous at blatantly asking the other man. His grip on the mug tightened with anxiety.
YouRan was stunned. He looked up to glance at the display cabinet. Some of the trophies had his pen name etched into them. Flustered, he drily cleared his throat.
“Ah, yes,” YouRan said. “You know of Nan Shan?”
Yan’s hands jittered with excitement. Hot water splashed out of the mug onto his hands but he didn’t care.
“Of course, I do!” he said in exhilaration. “I’m a fan of your books. No, wait. I’m your fan. No. I’m the head of your fan group! I gathered some of your fans into a group chat called ‘Book lovers of Nan Shan’. Have you heard of it?”
YouRan could never have imagined someone who looked so calm and serene could be so exuberant. He could see the blood rushing into the other man’s hands from the splashed water. YouRan could feel his hand aching on the other man’s behalf. However, faced with someone who loved his books to such extremes, YouRan’s heart was filled with unspeakable warmth.
YouRan didn’t know how to respond to Yan’s glimmering eyes, so he turned to grab the first-aid kit. As he looked for the burn ointment, he said, “Ah, I know of that group. I’m in it too.” Aah, what did he just say? Would the other man think he was a narcissist?
To YouRan’s surprise, Yan’s excitement only grew. “So you’re in the group chat too,” he said with a smile. “Why have I never seen you speak up before?”
Having found the burn ointment, YouRan read the instructions as he replied, “I only joined the group not long ago. It was by chance. It’s quite interesting to read the conversations in the chat.”
At the thought of Nan Shan lurking the entire time, Yan felt a little shy. He bit his lip as he tried to recall if there were any unseemly words spoken lately. Try as he might, he couldn’t think of anything. His anxiety lessened a little.
Cautiously, Yan asked, “Can you give me your contact number or something? Don’t worry. I won’t disturb you and I won’t leak it out to anyone else! I’m a die-hard fan!”
“I know,” YouRan said. He couldn’t help but smile. “Give me your hand.”
He Yuan: He Yuan’s name has been edited out as YouRan doesn’t know the guy’s real name yet.
Burn Ointment: Please do not apply burn ointments to burned skin until the skin has cooled down. This might make the burn worse as the heat will be trapped in the flesh. Burn ointments are optional (for minor burns like above) and are to be used after all the heat is gone.