“… Don’t believe a single word out of Duan Xingye’s mouth. To me… that’s not necessarily unacceptable.”
Duan Mingyang has stayed silent for so long, yet this is what he says. Li Luo almost wants to laugh.
“Can I believe what you say, then?”
If he could, he wouldn’t have ended up where he is now.
He was recorded at a most humiliating time by someone he was least wary of. The recording was then given as a present to his nemesis — in fact, maybe every soul in the Duan family owns a copy of it, as material for both blackmail and after-dinner conversations. Every one of them can do what Duan Xingye did yesterday, stepping on him and looking down on him however they please.
After all, what even are you, Li Luo? Nothing more than a plaything for the Duan family’s illegitimate son, of course.
The rage and hatred he felt then are still unforgettable, while yesterday’s humiliation is still fresh in his memory. Yet, Duan Mingyang still dares to think that he’d fall into the same trap again.
What a joke.
“See if the one you’ve already tossed away wants to have you back again. How cheap do you think I am? You think I would really climb into your bed a second time, after all those things you’ve done to me?
Li Luo’s smile ices over.
“And I’ve told you, haven’t I? I was drunk that time. I wasn’t conscious at all; it wasn’t consensual at all. Do you want me to say it more bluntly? Duan Mingyang?”
He tries his best to maintain control over his voice and make himself sound calm. Still, a piercing glare shoots from his eyes.
“It was practically rape.”
Duan Mingyang’s pupils contract.
Perhaps nobody has ever dared say such a thing to him. His gaze shudders as though he’s experienced an earthquake.
The atmosphere remains frozen for a long time.
“… You called my name.”
When he parts his lips again, his voice is somewhat hoarse. “You said you wanted me, you loved me… you wanted to spend your entire life with me.”
Li Luo absolutely hates listening to these things he once said.
They’re held like a keen sword in Duan Mingyang’s hand, used at times to prod his spine, reminding him how laughably ironic his love and infatuation were.
What Duan Mingyang leaves unspoken must be something along the lines of: Back then, you were clearly right in the palm of my hand. You were head over heels for me. You were more than willing to have me fuck you. Why are you pretending so stubbornly now?
But apart from being stubborn and denying it in every manner, he can’t think of another way to protect what’s left of his pride in front of Duan Mingyang.
Even if it’s a lie that his sincerity was involuntary, it’s better than having his sincerity be trampled over.
“How could you trust the words of someone who was drunk? There’s not much use in bringing up the matter over and over again just to laugh at me, is there? I’d suggest you save your energy.” Li Luo lifts the corners of his lips. “All right. We’ll deal with this later. As of now, I don’t want to argue about this with you every time we meet. I find it tiring, even if you don’t.”
Duan Mingyang keeps reminding him of it time and again, but he’s decided to ignore it no matter what. If they’re really going to dig up the past, apart from seeking revenge, he can only cut off Duan Mingyang again.
Revenge is never sought too late. Back then, he could pursue Duan Mingyang in spite of his own status; now, he can also tolerate the methods Duan Mingyang uses to sound him out.
As long as Duan Mingyang doesn’t touch his bottom line, everything is within the realm of a peaceful collaboration.
Duan Mingyang stands where he is in silence. The emotions in his eyes gradually return to their usual calmness and coldness, almost forming a pool of stagnant water.
Only after some time passes does he suddenly ask, “Do you have any plan for the next few days?”
The subject is changed too quickly. Li Luo is momentarily surprised, “Huh? No. What is it?”
“Then stay here for a few days. I’ll get the doctor to treat your injuries, and then we’ll discuss our future plans.”
Li Luo is speechless. “Duan Mingyang, did you hear a single word I said? I said I was going back. I won’t sleep with you!”
Duan Mingyang seems as though he did not hear a thing. “Do you want to sleep in my room or the guest room?”
“… Is this how shameless you are?”
“The bathroom is in my room. I’ll bring you spare pajamas later.”
“It’s too late today. I’ll call the doctor tomorrow.”
Li Luo rolls his eyes with exaggeration and turns in the direction of the front door. Right after he takes a single stride, his arms are drawn back by force. He can’t help but step backwards. With a push at his shoulders, he falls face-up onto the large bed.
Duan Mingyang leans in and grasps his neck from above. It’s not a strong hold, but it fetters him to the bed like an indestructible iron collar.
“How many times do I have to explain it to you? Mr. Li, please be obedient.”
Li Luo is on the verge of cursing in rage. “You’re gonna do it by force?”
“According to what you said, it’s not the first time I’m doing it with you by force anyway. Why the surprise?”
“Who was the one that said he wouldn’t force himself onto others? What happened to mutual consent?”
“That’s how I treat everyone else. But when it comes to you, I think being forceful is a better idea.”
Duan Mingyang bends down. They’re so close that the tips of their noses are almost touching. The dominance in Duan Mingyang’s eyes is apparent to Li Luo.
“If you keep on being so disrespectful towards me, Mr. Li, I will no longer help with your dad’s case.”
Li Luo narrows his eyes, grinding his molars harshly. He repeats “better bend than break” ten times in silence before he’s finally able to swallow his frustration.
“… Fine. I’ll stay.”
The fortunate thing is that Duan Mingyang only forces Li Luo to stay. He doesn’t force Li Luo to do it with him.
Even after Li Luo lies down on the guest room’s bed, he’s still wondering just what was wrong with Duan Mingyang today.
Back then, Duan Mingyang was the one who played with his feelings. After having extracted confidential information about his dad’s company, Duan Mingyang kicked him away and sent his dad to prison. Duan Mingyang did quite a favor for the Duan family, having removed such a formidable enemy for them.
The head of the Duan family was ecstatic. Seeing him in a new light, the old man paid for his mom’s operation. The other members of the Duan family could no longer object either. They could only suppress their indignation as they watched him be taken back to the family.
Finally, Duan Mingyang got what he wanted. The almost luxurious wishes he’d once desired were finally fulfilled: he’s wealthy and powerful; his father loves him; his mother is healthy.
But all this is built atop the torment of others.
How does he have the audacity to invite Li Luo to his bed again? Isn’t he worried that Li Luo would bite him in bed?
Li Luo stares at the ceiling gloomily. He’s pulled the blanket all the way to his nose, revealing only a pair of eyes that’s reflecting the dim moonlight from outside the window amid the night.
In truth… if back then Duan Mingyang really had no choice but to surrender to the Duan family, even if he and Duan Mingyang couldn’t be lovers, perhaps they could still be strangers who went their separate ways. At least they wouldn’t have turned against each other and fallen out so completely.
Besides, everything the Duan family could give him — couldn’t Li Luo give him too?
Li Luo could give him even more. Then, he could offer everything he owned to Duan Mingyang.
There was clearly another option, yet Duan Mingyang chose to rise up by using Li Luo as a stepping-stone.
Amid the silent darkness, Li Luo frowns ever so slightly. With a whoosh, he pulls the blanket over his entire head, trying to expel the memories that visit him one after another.
But one person can never win against thousands of thoughts. Even when fatigue finally surges forth and he drifts to sleep, the shadow-like memories still refuse to dissipate.
In half consciousness, he seems to have returned to that sultry summer once more, so as to retrieve the heart he’d given to the wrong person that year.