Qin Shaocheng stood, unmoving, at the spot. The knot between his brows made his entire being appear extremely intimidating.
“Don’t worry, I didn’t come here to borrow money from you, so please don’t look so scary.” Jiang Yishan flashed a smile, adding, “The pork ribs and chicken soup are all cooked and there are egg dumplings in the pot. I bought beef stew. What other vegetables you would like to have besides broccoli?”
He looked calm and gentle, acting as though they were still as close as when they were in love with each other.
All of a sudden, Qin Shaocheng was overcome with extreme nausea.
As he looked at Qin Shaocheng’s sickened expression, a laugh clearly etched with disappointment escaped Jiang Yishan’s lips. “Do you hate me so much that you can’t even share a table with me anymore?”
There he goes again, attempting to use weakness as a means to evoke an angry reaction from him yet again. Qin Shaocheng thought to himself. They were already separated for five years. Moving forward from the entanglement they had in the first year, they had not seen each other for four years. Yet, today on the fourth Lunar New Year’s Eve after their separation, Jiang Yishan deliberately showed up, cooked all his favorite meals, and naively and innocently announced that he was home.
Qin Shaocheng knew Jiang Yishan had done it on purpose, using the fact that he had not change the door lock to piss him off. After all, Qin Shaocheng did not bother to change the lock or move elsewhere during those four years of separation. The dreams he kept in vain where his lover would come back to his embrace were utterly seen through and this made him feel completely humiliated, burning in anger.
It was then followed by the usual feebleness Jiang Yishan feigned, again so very textbook of him.
Saying that that day was New Year’s Eve, saying that he was penniless, and lastly, affirming that he would leave the moment he was done with one last dinner together.
As for Qin Shaocheng, he was like a prey caught in a hunter’s trap, hooking himself the moment the bait appeared. He had gone to his study, looked up information on Jiang Yishan and seen his pictures, before heading back to the kitchen to listen to him go on about how miserable his life had been until now.
——He was utterly caught in Jiang Yishan’s grasp.
Qin Shaocheng looked towards Jiang Yishan. Realisation dawned on him that this garish but beautiful youth had not changed a bit. He was still ever so rational and bright, and that every slightest trace of his emotions could be calculated meticulously without fail.
Turning around to leave the kitchen, Qin Shaocheng finally knew how he should deal with Jiang Yishan. Be colder to him, because he could not afford to be strung along by the nose anymore. As these thoughts lingered in his mind, the sight of Jiang Yishan’s quivering frail shoulders and lashes flashed before his very eyes.
Qin Shaocheng immediately regretted his action.
He should have left the apartment the very moment his gaze first settled on Jiang Yishan.
Jiang Yishan was preparing New Year’s Eve dinner alone in the kitchen.
They had rented the place and decorated everything in there together. Every item, every nook and cranny within the apartment was an embodiment of the memories they shared together. As Qin Shaocheng sat back down on the living room sofa in such circumstances, all he felt was that the sound of preparation coming from the kitchen was more agonising than that of the television in front of him.
“Done! Come and get your rice.” Jiang Yishan appeared out of nowhere and served the dishes on the coffee table. Space was an issue back then so they had not bought a dining table. In those days, Jiang Yishan loved devouring his takeouts while seated on the carpet.
Qin Shaocheng went to the kitchen, washed his hands and carried out the bowls. By the time he returned, Jiang Yishan had opened a bottle of wine.
“Do you want any?” Jiang Yishan poured a small glass for Qin Shaocheng. “Here, drink it. Just one is enough.”
The hot dishes on the table was steaming while laughter filled the air from the television suspended on the wall. Jiang Yishan lifted his glass of wine and clinked it against the cup on the table, wishing, “Happy Lunar New Year’s Eve.”
Qin Shaocheng did not make any move to pick up the glass. Jiang Yishan did not seem to mind it either. He drank everything in his glass.
While eating, Jiang Yishan intentionally chewed a little longer before saying, “Doesn’t taste as good as before. I’m losing my touch.“
Qin Shaocheng buried his head in his meal.
“Would you like some fungus fried meat? It tastes the closest to the one I made before.”
Only silence answered him.
“Nevermind then.” He drank another glass of wine.
Fireworks were forbidden in the city this year. If it was not for the Spring Festival Gala showing on television, nobody would have known they were having a reunion dinner as they sat around the coffee table in silence. Qin Shaocheng was quick with his meal, and he soon put down his chopsticks.
While staring at his empty bowl, Jiang Yishan asked, “I’ll go serve you a bowl of meat porridge with century eggs?”
Qin Shaocheng got up to clear the table while Jiang Yishan lazily laid back against the base of the sofa. It was only after Qin Shaocheng disappeared into the kitchen that he withdrew his gaze, and quietly sighed to himself. “He’s ignoring me.”
The Spring Festival Gala shows were horrible to watch, the dance shows they put on were too tacky and behind the times. Jiang Yishan roasted the show as he drank. Drinking with the boss and the investors all these years had trained him to become more tolerant with alcohol. Honestly, he hated drinking with a passion because back then, a spiked, strong alcoholic drink was the reason why his voice was ruined.
He used to be excellent in singing, his voice pleasing to the ear. Unable to control himself, Jiang Yishan placed down the wine glass and hummed along to the music flowing from of the television, but by the time the chorus played, his voice no longer had the clean and pure tone like before. After singing two lines, Jiang Yishan laughed. “Pooh.”
He drank another glass, muttering to himself, “I sound like dumb cymbals, horrid to the core.”
It took Qin Shaocheng an hour to wash the dishes, similar to the time Jiang Yishan spent lazing around on the carpet.
Having finished the bottle of wine, Jiang Yishan rested at the corner of the sofa, waiting for Qin Shaocheng to unwarningly appear and drive him out of the apartment. How he yearned for Qin Shaocheng to talk to him, even if all he did was curse at him out of anger.
He missed him dearly and he admitted he was wrong.
Yet, Qin Shaocheng ignored him, pretending as though he was nothing but air. Once he was done washing the dishes, he came out of the kitchen, heading to the balcony to put away the laundry. He then went to shower. Clambering up onto his feet from the carpet, Jiang Yishan staggered towards the bathroom door and gave it a knock.
“I want to use the bathroom.”
This old place did not have a separate space for the shower, and even then, the bathroom was small and narrow. Back then, after installing the bathtub that Jiang Yishan had wanted, there was hardly any space left to place the toilet. The door soon opened and a steaming, misty and wet Qin Shaocheng stood at the door.
With a faint smile, Jiang Yishan lowered his head. “I lied. Honestly, I was bored to death because I couldn’t see you.”
Qin Shaocheng’s brows twisted into a knot again.
Finally, he reacted. Jiang Yishan threw his arms around Qin Shaocheng’s waist and held him close, feeling the warmth and inhaling the scent radiating and permeating off his body. He then softly said, “Can we watch TV together, please?”
Qin Shaocheng forcefully pulled Jiang Yishan’s hands away from his body. “Don’t pretend to be drunk.”
“I’m not drunk. I’m good at drinking now!” Even when Jiang Yishan straightened up, he was still shorter than Qin Shaocheng by ten centimetres. “Why don’t we spend all night together to see the new year in?”
Qin Shaocheng ignored him.
“Can you talk with me, please?” Jiang Yishan trailed after him. “Shaocheng, please don’t ignore me.”
A soft ‘Click!’ sounded out in the air and Jiang Yishan was left outside the bedroom door.
The world was quiet at last.
Qin Shaocheng sat at the edge of his bed, switched on his cell phone to reply all the New Year’s greetings he received one by one. His colleagues were all heckling him for a New Year’s red packet, which Qin Shaocheng gave generously. Wei Feng soon gave him a call not even a minute later, and the first thing that came spouting out of his mouth was to ask, “Jiang Yishan’s at your place?!”
“How did you find out?”
“He uploaded a photo on Weibo.” There was an uncontrollable anger surging in Wei Feng’s voice. “Are you insane? You still care about him?! Did you forget about all those things he did?”
Qin Shaocheng was suddenly overcome with a splitting headache. He rubbed his temples and said, “He came by himself.”
Wei Feng cursed, “What a fucking cockroach.”
“Let’s not talk about it during New Year’s.”
Since Qin Shaocheng had put it like that, Wei Feng did not dare to say anything else apart from mumbling how wretched it was under his breath. The two of them exchanged new year blessings over the phone before ending the call.
Leaning back against the bed, Qin Shaocheng pulled up Jiang Yishan’s Weibo account.
His newest post only contained a photo he shot of the reunion dinner they had on New Year’s Eve. Just one look at the background, the coffee table and the familiar man on the carpet, and he could tell it was his home. The comments were in an absolute mess and all sorts of messages could be seen. A message that said, “It’s New Year’s and you lot are still shitting on him so horridly, I finally laughed out loud in relief.” got honored as the top comment.
Was his reputation this horrible now?
Qin Shaocheng threw the phone away and plopped back on his bed. His mind wandering back to the time he had asked Jiang Yishan “Why?” when they broke up.
With a calm expression, Jiang Yishan explained that he wanted to become famous. He could not bear to part with the satisfaction of being loved and worshipped by an audience as a celebrity. He had explained that he loved the attention he was showered with and he could not stand being criticised and accused of being gay by the people. He had also said, he was willing to abandon everything for the time being to continue being a star.
And yeah, the words he said, “abandon everything for the time being”, was not enough to kill Qin Shaocheng’s hope entirely. Instead, he still recklessly went to hopelessly entangle himself with Jiang Yishan after the breakup, utterly bewitched into being his secret lover for an entire year.
Compliant and always at his beck and call.