“I’ve never heard of a housewarming dinner being done twice,” YiHan laughed.
“Tomorrow’s not a housewarming dinner,” said Yan. “It’s just a gathering of friends. Well? We can ask Pei-Pei to join us too. If she knew we’ve met Nan Shan and had dinner with him but didn’t invite her, she’d kick up a fuss so huge that we’ll never know peace again.”
YiHan tilted his head and thought about it. “True. If Pei-Pei finds out we had a grand feast and didn’t bring her along, she’d definitely be furious.”
The two men then turned simultaneously to look at YouRan. Those four eyes glimmered as the mouths spoke in unison, “Nan Shan, are you busy tomorrow night? How about we finish the leftover food together?”
YouRan was speechless at the sight of the two men teaming up. Still, he couldn’t deny the fact that he somewhat yearned for the warmth he felt now. Without a thought, YouRan nodded.
“It’s settled then!” YiHan cheered. “Tomorrow, JingYuan and I will be arriving at the same time. Yan, you’re in charge of calling Pei-Pei. The rest of us are in charge of eating!”
The sight of an ecstatic YiHan made JingYuan subconsciously cheered along with his lover.
During the drive back to the Mu family home, YiHan let out a little yawn.
“Tired?” JingYuan softly asked. “Can you hold on just a little longer? Let’s sleep after we’re home. If you fall asleep now, you’ll suffer when you have to wake up to get out of the car later.”
“I’m fine. I’m not that tired,” YiHan replied, fists rubbing at his eyes. He then patted his belly and chuckled, “I’m stuffed.”
JingYuan turned and smiled at YiHan. “You had a lot of fun today.”
“Yes. Everything went so well today. I was worried one of us might slip up when we’re with Nan Shan. I didn’t think Yan acted so well with us. We sounded like friends who’d known each other for a long time. Nan Shan didn’t notice a thing. Now that we have Yan as our eyes by Nan Shan’s side, there’s no need to worry.”
“Once He Yuan knows of Yan, he absolutely will not dare to disturb Nan Shan for fear of his cheating being known,” YiHan continued after a pause for thought. “That’s good because it means Nan Shan can have some time to calm down. The only thing I’m afraid of is if He Yuan would feel cornered because there’s no hope for the relationship and decide to drag everyone down with him.”
“Drag everyone down with him?” JingYuan coldly harrumphed. “I’m afraid he doesn’t have the guts or charm for that. He might be enthralled by Nan Shan but in his heart, the man cannot be compared with He Yuan’s current wealth and power. When it comes to matters like this, he’s very unwavering. Just like in your dream, he won’t hesitate at all.”
YiHan nodded. “It’d be for the best if he could be so sensible. And if he dares bother Nan Shan, well, we’re not afraid of him either. If we weren’t worried about Nan Shan’s reputation, we wouldn’t need to try and keep this a secret!”
“Relax,” said JingYuan. “With us as Nan Shan’s protectors, a mere He Yuan is no threat. We’d best help Nan Shan get over this hump in life before the man realises anything. That’ll be a worry out of your mind then, HanHan.”
YiHan turned and smiled at JingYuan. “Mu-Mu, there’s no one else in the world who treats me as well as you do.”
“You are my husband-to-be, the only love of my life.” JingYuan’s low voice resonated around them. “If I don’t treat you well, then who will I treat well?”
YiHan felt a chill run through his body. He turned to look at JingYuan with bright, green eyes. How he wanted to pounce on the older man and kiss him right then and there. However, JingYuan was driving. Out of consideration for the couple’s lives, YiHan held back the urge. Throughout the journey, he stared at JingYuan. Finally, they’ve arrived back at the Mu family home. The moment the car was parked, before JingYuan even had time to undo his seatbelt, YiHan pounced over to the driver’s seat. The lips JingYuan had tasted countless times before passionately met his. JingYuan tilted his head up and wrapped his arms around YiHan’s back and shoulders. The older man was pressed back so hard against his seat that he couldn’t move at all. Of course, he didn’t want to move anyway.
The next day, YiHan started a group chat and added JingYuan, Yan and Pei into the group. JingYuan didn’t speak much but YiHan and the Yan family duo talked about the dinner for an entire day. When night fell, the group of friends who’d gotten their stories straight arrived at the same time at Yan’s home.
Yan had asked YouRan over earlier that afternoon. When YiHan and the rest arrived, the table was all set.
When Pei met YouRan, she was so excited that she bounced around laughing. She nearly pounced on the man but Yan grabbed her by the shirt collar. Pei was so angry at being humiliated before her idol that her face and neck were stained red.
The mere addition of Pei at dinner felt like they’d invited several more people to the apartment instead. That evening was filled to the brim with laughter. Affected by the joyful atmosphere, a smile hung on YouRan’s lips for the entire night.
From then on, YiHan and Pei had Yan as an excuse to drop by and talk to YouRan. Gradually, they became friends with YouRan. Every so often, they’d be allowed into YouRan’s apartment for a short visit. Pei is a lively girl. She was good at livening up the mood. As long as she’s around, there’d be no lack of jokes and laughs. The melancholic mood YouRan found himself in was soon tempered by their chatter.
The one week of leave Yan applied for was soon over. He had to go to work. Pei had to go to school so she could only visit in between classes. As for YiHan, JingYuan hated how he couldn’t just always have the younger man in his pocket. Those two men basically never left each other’s sides. Anyway, YiHan can’t lounge about in YouRan’s home all day long. Afraid that He Yuan would harass YouRan while they weren’t around, the four discussed a plan and decided to introduce YouRan to Zhang Su’s bookshop.
Again and again, YiHan, Yan and Pei lured YouRan out of his home to hang out at Zhang Su’s store during the day. YouRan couldn’t fight them at all. Furthermore, he’d gotten greedy for a life of bustling liveliness after having experienced it for a few days. He tentatively agreed to their suggestion.
When Yan went to work in the morning, he’d drive YouRan to the bookshop before heading to the office. The trio had told Zhang Su beforehand, plus they had accompanied YouRan to the shop before. Zhang Su specifically left a seat that’s just for YouRan. The books in the shop could be read as and when YouRan pleased. YouRan took to the store like a fish to water. He was often so lost in his reading that he’d forgotten about the time. Zhang Su was a man that radiated the aura of a scholar. The two men got along well. After a few days, those two were so close that it’s such a pity they met this late in life. Hence, Zhang Su also placed YouRan in the box of “family and friends”.
Yan Hui did whatever his spouse said. Zhang Su never ordered him around in business and merely focused on his own shop. Still, in everyday life, Yan Hui followed Zhang Su’s orders as if his life depended on it. Wherever his love’s fingers pointed to, Hui would hop to it. Generally, what Zhang Su thought was what Yan Hui thought. Zhang Su might be a pacifist but his slightly exaggerated retelling of YouRan’s story had a flair of his personal emotions. It made Hui feel even more furious and upset. The man didn’t question a thing and resolutely decided to follow in his lover’s footsteps and launch an attack on that scumbag!
When YiHan and Pei had some free time, they’d gather by YouRan’s side. Now, it wasn’t just Yan’s home that had a lively atmosphere but Zhang Su’s shop did too. As Pei said, they had to keep YouRan busy. Occupying his mind with other matters would prevent him from ruminating on nonsensical trains of thought.
YouRan did better than they’d imagined. Perhaps it was because they were in his life. Perhaps it was because of his current situation being better than the one in YiHan’s past life. The man might be melancholic but he was never depressed or overly downhearted. This made YiHan worry slightly less.
As per the group’s expectations, He Yuan didn’t have the courage to appear again. YouRan thought it was because the other man knew shame. Having been exposed as a married man, the guy decided to agree to the breakup. The man’s insistence on not giving up was just an impulse born from rage. YouRan was upset but he also let out a small sigh of relief. He did his best to distract himself and tried his best to let go of the other man, to let go of the sinful relationship that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.
YouRan was grateful that YiHan never mentioned anything of YouRan’s ex-lover. The younger man woke him up from his denial but YiHan never questioned him on it again. When they met, YiHan didn’t act weirdly or anything. There was once when YouRan couldn’t resist but ask YiHan about it. YiHan’s reply was a smile. The younger man then said it was because he had read all of YouRan’s books. YiHan could read between the lines and tell what kind of personality YouRan had. YiHan had unconditional trust in YouRan’s character. There was no need for the younger man to ask about anything. Then, YiHan confidently stated: you’ve already left that man, haven’t you?
“Of course.” That was YouRan’s answer.
A month soon passed. It was time for YiHan and JingYuan’s engagement party.
YiHan personally handed the invitation card to YouRan.
“Congratulations,” YouRan sincerely said, looking down at the inconspicuous yet luxurious invitation in his hands.
“Thank you,” said YiHan, smiling.
YouRan glanced at the card’s text and the location of the party. “The Bai family? That Bai family?”
YiHan blinked. “Yeah. I’m the youngest son.”
The five great families of the city. YouRan had heard about them when he was in university but he didn’t know much about them nor was he interested in knowing more. It was even more impossible for him to know the names of the members of five families. No matter how famous YiHan and JingYuan were in their social circle, their names would never reach YouRan’s ears. At that very moment, having just found out the youngest son of the Bai family, one of the high and mighty great families of the city, was standing before him, YouRan was stunned.
YiHan waved a hand before the other man’s blank eyes. “Nan Shan? What is it?”
YouRan looked down at the invitation card again. “I’ve never heard you mention it before. I’m a little shocked.”
YiHan accepted the orange slice JingYuan handed over and smiled. “You never asked. Let me make things clear first. I never once intended to keep you in the dark!”
YouRan looked up at YiHan to find the younger man’s cheeks bulging as he stuffed his mouth full of orange. “My bad. I was acting weird,” YouRan said as he burst out in a chuckle. “What does it matter which family you’re from? You’re you either way.”
YouRan had known the group of friends for a month. YiHan and the others’ emotions, their laughs and their anger, all of that came from their hearts. None of it was acting. YiHan would fight with Pei over an orange until his ears turned red. YiHan would be so into eating during their hotpot dinners that the man was drenched in sweat. When YiHan was happy, he’d laugh in big guffaws. There was not an ounce of caution given to portraying an elegant front. He was exceptionally down-to-earth. With a roar, YiHan snapped up the orange slice in JingYuan’s hand. He nearly bit the other man while doing so. YouRan couldn’t help but let out another chuckle. With how YiHan acted, who would think the man came from an aristocratic, rich family if he didn’t mention it?