The night Jiang Pozhen received the call, it was already the third day of finals. He had just finished writing the most difficult paper, and he still had two more subjects left to go. The exam on the last day was an easy and simple written test on experiments, and after that was the arrival of the joyous winter vacation which every student was eagerly anticipating.
Jiang Pozhen was thinking about taking a study break at the end of the chapter when the phone rang. After a brief hesitation, he picked it up despite the unknown caller ID.
It sounded noisy on the other end of the call. An unfamiliar man’s voice came over the line over. “Hello, are you a friend of Guo Jinshan?”
Upon hearing the familiar name, Jiang Pozhen unconsciously put down his pen and asked, “What’s up?”
The man attempted to try his best to explain amidst the blaring noise in the background. “Sorry for the inconvenience. There’s a situation here… Do you know where Guo Jinshan’s place is? Or maybe can you come and pick him up? He’s dead drunk. The people who are sober over here have no idea what his actual home address is…” He even laughed a little after he finished, probably thinking that the whole thing was hilarious.
Jiang Pozhen didn’t think it was funny. Before the man could finish, he was ready to cuss the caller out on what the heck he was doing for his frivolous tone.
The guy had called out of the blue and hadn’t even introduce himself. It was true, he was friends with Guo Jinshan, but who was this guy on the phone?
“How did you find my number?” he said in annoyance.
Puzzled, the man replied, “Huh? This is Guo Jinshan’s phone. It’s because there’s only one number listed… It’s strange though. He shouldn’t be able to use it… We had no idea he had one. We only discovered it after rummaging through his pockets…”
“He can’t use one?” repeated Jiang Pozhen in confusion.
“Yeah. The radio waves coming from a cell phone will interfere…urk, with his hearing aid.” The man said after a burp.
Jiang Pozhen could only stare at the textbook on the table in silent surprise at the unexpected reply.
“Where is he?”
“That guy…Guo Jinshan, where is he now?” asked Jiang Pozhen in a deep voice.
“Great! Are you coming to pick him up? We’re at ….” he then read the address aloud.
Jiang Pozhen ended the call after jotting down the address. He switched off the table lamp, grabbed his keys and wallet from a drawer and left after telling his parents he was going out.
His exam tomorrow was on an easy subject, so he knew he would do well. The place wasn’t too far and he could use the opportunity to return Guo Jinshan’s car. He’d had it for a while and it would’ve been rude to keep it any longer.
“Why did you buy the damn phone if you couldn’t use it?!” he muttered angrily, unable to control his temper any longer. Did that guy spend good money on a piece of junk because of what I said? The only number saved was mine too…
Pulling a long face, Jiang Pozhen quickly walked towards the car parked near the corner of his house, firing the engine the instant he got in through the door. He sped onto the main road, taking only half an hour to reach the restaurant downtown.
He caught sight of several people crowding around at the entrance.
Guo Jinshan, with his head hung low, was supported on both sides by two men. It was obvious he could barely stand on his own.
Jiang Pozhen slammed on the brakes and explained why he was there. Those hanging around the front told him what had happened. Clearly tipsy themselves, they explained how everyone at the lab came together for dinner. Who knew Guo Jinshan had such a low tolerance for alcohol? He got drunk with just two cups of Taiwan beer.
“Hmm? I think I’ve seen you in our department before. Are you a junior of ours?” somebody spoke out all of a sudden.
“No,” answered Jiang Pozhen coldly.
“But you really do look awfully familiar. I don’t think I would mistake someone as hot as you.”
Unable to stand their incessant lispy chattering, Jiang Pozhen grabbed hold of the drunk Guo Jinshan and supported him to the car in silence. He buckled his seat belt forcefully and sped away instantly without saying a word to them.
Anger bubbled up inside Jiang Pozhen as he looked at Guo Jinshan’s flushed cheeks and closed eyes.
He drove for another twenty minutes or so before he arriving at Guo Jinshan’s apartment. He helped the guy out of the car. Luckily, the other person was slim, but it still took a lot of effort to reach the second floor.
Jiang Pozhen reached his hand into Guo Jinshan’s pocket and retrieved a set of keys. After a few tries, he finally managed to unlock the door. He groped along the wall for the light switch, only kicking the door closed after flipping it on.
The excessive motion made Guo Jinshan let out an “Uh,” in surprise.
Feeling the body in his arms go limp, Jiang Pozhen hurriedly moved to support his waist, only to discover that the clothes under his palm were wet and cold. His brow creased, and he headed to what seemed to be the bedroom.
By the time he successfully lay the person in bed, Jiang Pozhen was already sweating profusely.
His mission was complete so he was supposed to leave, but when he looked at Guo Jinshan who was curled up in the bed, he started to care about the wet clothes that he had just touched.
This fellow once mentioned that his trachea was not too healthy… How was it not healthy? Could he catch a cold easily? Shouldn’t a person not drink if he’s not well? Why didn’t his classmates think about this? Or was it that Guo Jinshan never mentioned it to them? Jiang Pozhen angrily reproached in his heart. Sighing, he reached out to pull up the half-conscious Guo Jinshan so he could sit at the edge of the bed and not collapse backwards.
Jiang Pozhen removed the glasses on his face, causing the slightly messy bangs to fall and cover his forehead as a result. Guo Jinshan always wore his shirt with a knitted vest on top.It was getting colder so he had swapped it out for a long-sleeved knitted cardigan which he buttoned all the way to the top. Jiang Pozhen once asked him if he felt uncomfortable. His answer was that it was better to keep the shirt buttoned if there were any buttons around.
He wasn’t sure if it was because the man before him always looked very prim and proper, but when Jiang Pozhen went to take the shirt off, he suddenly had no idea where to start.
God knows why was he thinking about how he should strip a man. Jiang Pozhen reached out to hug him around his back to prevent him from falling backwards. Then, he roughly pulled up the slightly wet garment by removing the outer sweater first, revealing the white shirt underneath. At the lower left abdomen area was an obvious stain, which he probably got from accidentally toppling something over.
With this, he wouldn’t be able to sleep with his shirt on either. Jiang Pozhen started off unbuttoning the shirt from the very top. Since they were so small and tightly buttoned, he had to use both hands to unbutton them; because of this he didn’t have a free hand to support Guo Jinshan, causing the befuddled man to slowly lean forward.
In the end, his lowered head propped itself on Jiang Pozhen’s shoulder.
The feeling of a body temperature that didn’t belong to him against his skin made him feel slightly hot. The other man’s messy hair was nuzzling about at his neck, itching and prickling him a little. Even if he berated the man to sober up and sit still, it would most probably be done in vain, so he could only quicken his movements and completely unbutton the shirt in one go.
He did this only to discover a cotton singlet underneath Guo Jinshan’s shirt. Jiang Pozhen couldn’t help but wonder that the man was too incredibly prudish as he was wearing an undergarment underneath… After he removed the shirt completely, the neckline of Guo Jinshan’s singlet dropped because of his leaning posture. This gave Jiang Pozhen a good clear view of the slender chest revealed below the collarbone.
His skin was rather fair, probably because he seldom got sunshine as he was always dressed conservatively. Two reddish scars were visible on the right side of his chest. Perhaps they were left behind by the surgery he mentioned earlier. Compared to those, Jiang Pozhen realized he was more interested in the pink nipples on the flat chest.
Although they were both men, Jiang Pozhen couldn’t put a finger on why he felt like he had seen something he shouldn’t have in that split second. He quickly turned away and was stunned by his own peculiar actions.
…It had to be because Guo Jinshan always wrapped himself tight like a glutinous rice ball. So when greeted by the sight of his naked body, of course he would find it rude and inappropriate to look. Jiang Pozhen shifted his gaze to the lanky arm dangling at the edge of the bed. Although this man was already twenty-six years old, his physique was similar to that of a young man who had yet to fully develop. Perhaps it was because he didn’t have the physical capability, so he couldn’t work out…
All of a sudden, the finger that was calm, stirred. Jiang Pozhen turned around instinctively, only to see the supposedly disoriented Guo Jinshan. He wasn’t sure when the man woke up, but his eyes were open and staring directly at him.
Within the dimly-lit room, no sound could be heard. Their faces were so close to each other that Jiang Pozhen could breathe in the other’s slightly hot breath.
The strap of the man’s singlet on one side rolled down, revealing a smooth and naked shoulder. His bangs gracefully scattered near his eyes. Underneath his soft hair, his eyes looked exceptionally misty without the protection of his glasses. He was gazing at Jiang Pozhen deeply with devoted sincerity, similar to the time in the car that day.
It was as though he was the only person left in the entire world. The gaze was so bold that even Jiang Pozhen momentarily forgot how to react.
To Jiang Pozhen, the bewildered expression on Guo Jinshan’s face was rather seductive, surprising since he could hardly be called ‘handsome’ or ‘pretty.’ The introverted Guo Jinshan would never gaze at him with such an expression when he was clear-headed, right? Although his eyes had fluttered open, he probably wasn’t fully awake yet…
Jiang Pozhen wanted to explain the current predicament to him, but the dazed Guo Jinshan suddenly gave him a faint and extremely gentle smile. His eyes were filled to the brim with unmistakable tenderness
Just as Jiang Pozhen thought he was being mistaken for someone else, Guo Jinshan unmistakably called out his name, despite being disoriented
Guo Jinshan had never addressed him that intimately before, so Jiang Pozhen felt even more perplexed than ever.
Yet, Guo Jinshan still said the words in an unimaginably soft and tender voice.
“I…I like you…”
When the words rang in his ears, Jiang Pozhen’s body stiffened entirely, losing all ability to think and react. He watched on as Guo Jinshan’s face approached his. Everything happened in a flash. He couldn’t pinpoint the man’s intention for coming close, so he couldn’t dodge in time. The instant their lips finally brushed lightly against each other, only then did he react as though he had been shocked by electricity, instantly raising his arm to shove the man’s shoulder away.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” he cried out in astonishment.
At that moment, the air thickened
Guo Jinshan’s body trembled violently for a little while after being stopped.
“…Huh?” Pausing briefly, his eyes abruptly widened in shock. He was so terrified that he backed away forcefully in order to widen the distance between them. Confused and at wit’s end, he covered his own mouth, muttering, “How…How…S-so…it’s…not a dream…”
His face turned ghastly pale when he realized he wasn’t dreaming. The only thing he could do was hang his head low in panic.
A thin layer of sweat formed on Jiang Pozhen’s forehead as he glared at the pair of trembling shoulders in front of him. The other man was so terrified he didn’t dare lift his head.
His mind was thrown into a state of chaos.
The exam was at 2:20 p.m. in the afternoon.
Out of consideration for potential class conflicts, the written examination for the Tuesday lab session was shifted to the last Friday. The most important aspect of the lab sessions was the experiments done every week and the reports that followed. Every lecturer had their own habits, but generally speaking, so long as everyone attended class, finished their experiments properly, and submitted their reports on time, the results of the final exam wouldn’t matter that much.
Although it was just an easy exam, it was a great opportunity for those students who hadn’t taken the lessons seriously to score in some points.
Right before the bell was about to ring, Jiang Pozhen finally arrived at a snail’s pace. At the doorway, he noticed Guo Jinshan, the proctor for the exam, already standing there.
Guo Jinshan, who was obviously waiting for all the students to arrive, noticed his arrival. He hesitated for a while before approaching and quietly saying, “Jiang…”
Jiang Pozhen knew very well deep down that the man was looking for him, yet he forcibly looked the other way, pretending that he hadn’t heard. He headed directly into the classroom through the rear door. After finding his seat, he threw his bag hard by the desk, listening to the bell ring with a dark expression on his face.
Guo Jinshan could only stop in his tracks as he bowed his head and headed back towards the front door. He then headed over to the teacher’s desk, trying his best to maintain an indescribable and ever-gentle smile on his face.
“Students…please put your books away. Cheating is not allowed. Thank you,” he said softly, his voice sounding inexplicably hoarse.
When the person in front passed him the exam paper and answer booklet, Jiang Pozhen quickly wrote down his own name and started answering the questions without a moment of hesitation.
The surrounding was filled with the rustling sound of papers as Guo Jinshan slowly patrolled around the classroom. However, he didn’t walk past Jiang Pozhen’s row at all.
The exam paper only had ten short-answer questions. Most students finished quickly and submitted their papers.
Unable to concentrate on his studies since the night before last, Jiang Pozhen’s attempt at the exam didn’t go smoothly when he reached the middle section. He could only rely on his fragmented memories to answer them. There were only a few people left in the classroom. He couldn’t understand why he was having such a difficult time with such an easy exam. He was in complete shambles during yesterday’s exam too. Since he did excellently during the mid-terms and other exams, even if he did poorly on his finals, it was unlikely that he would fail. The only problem would be his lowered GPA.
It was Guo Jinshan’s fault for making a move on him!
The night Guo Jinshan confessed and kissed him really rattled him. He hadn’t known how to react so he got up and left, slamming the door behind him. The memory of it made him angry, frustrating him every time it came to mind, like right now for example!
He threw his pen into his backpack, grabbed his incomplete exam and stomped to the lecture desk. He was the last one to hand in his paper so it was just the two of them in the classroom.
He carelessly tossed the papers, not caring if they fell to the floor, before turning around to leave. He avoided Guo Jinshan’s eyes, not meeting the other man’s gaze at all.
“Jiang…Please wait a moment!” Guo Jinshan gripped the entire set of papers and reached out with his hand to stop him in a moment of panic.
The moment their skin made contact Jiang Pozhen yelled, “Let go!” He shook off Guo Jinshan’s hand so forcefully it surprised the other man,
“Ahh!” The soft exclamation was accompanied by the sound of papers rustling as the orderly stack of exams scattered in the air
One by one, they drifted down near his shoes. His fists tightly clenched, Jiang Pozhen made no move to stoop down to pick them up. He didn’t even plan on apologizing for his actions either. Instead, he stared coldly at the evidently wounded expression on the other man’s face.
Guo Jinshan was frozen stiff with his head hung low. It was only after some time that he slowly stooped down to pick up the papers.
Jiang Pozhen’s expression grew even more unsightly. He was about to leave when Guo Jinshan called out to stop him.
“…Please don’t leave yet. Please…hear me out.”
Jiang Pozhen didn’t know what Guo Jinshan wanted to say, but he wasn’t interested. Despite his intentions to leave, his footsteps faltered as he walked away.
If Guo Jinshan could give him a believable reason for their lips touching, that it wasn’t a purposeful kiss, that the words “I like you,” were a misunderstanding, then maybe, just maybe he would treat it as a bad joke and they could continue to be friends.
Tension hung in the air, as if they were treading on the thinnest of ice. The mood was so fragile that it would shatter at a single breath.
Guo Jinshan slowly spoke out, “To do that to you…last night…I’m really sorry.” The ever-so-soft tone he used carried a slight quiver. After pausing for a while, he held his breath and continued, “I..I don’t know how I should start… I-I’m just… I…I like you.” His voice was so feeble that it sounded like it was going to disappear at any minute.
Hearing that only made Jiang Pozhen feel incredibly frustrated.
Why? Why not just laugh it off and blame it on the alcohol? Wouldn’t that solve everything? He had no interest in listening to a second love confession!
“Did you make a mistake? I’m a guy! Why’re you telling me you like me?! This is so weird. What’s wrong with you?!” he scolded mercilessly, turning around to glare at the incredibly rigidly honest man.
Guo Jinshan became quiet with his head bowed down. After a while, his lips seemed to have slightly curled into a meaningless, thin smile.
“…Ye-Yeah. I’m too weird…” He looked down at the exam papers in his grasp. It was as though he was focusing his gaze on the words written on them. His shoulders trembled slightly as he breathed in slowly to begin in a gentle voice. “You hated me…from the start, right? Honestly, I could tell…even though I really wanted to get to know you, you always looked like you really despised having me near you… In the beginning, I seriously thought that I only craved to know you as a friend…But after spending time with you, I realized you’re a very gentle and kind kid. Although you act a bit cold, you don’t mean anything by it. Instead, you always tend to think of others first. And you didn’t change your attitude towards me because of my hearing impairment. You made me feel so at ease… You are without a doubt…a very nice person.”
In this entire world, there probably would not be another person, other than Guo Jinshan, who would describe him like this. Jiang Pozhen looked at him quietly.
Guo Jinshan continued, “I personally don’t understand it as well…whenever I see you, my mood becomes better or happier, and I start to anticipate the moments you come to find me, even if we’re just sitting together to sort out data. It was fortunate that I was able to meet you. The very thought of it plagued me day by day. When I found out that you had a girlfriend, only then did I realize that I…I’d already fallen for you.”
Jiang Pozhen remembered the incident that happened on his birthday. Eyes all red and swollen, Guo Jinshan had clumsily explained that he cried because he was saddened and jilted by the movie’s lovelorn plotline.
“It makes my heart swell with happiness to have lunch with you or go on a drive to go stargazing, as initially, you really disliked me… To be able to be friends with you, even if that meant greeting each other in the hallway was enough to satisfy me… So, at the start…I decided to never tell you about it…” His eyes fixated on the ground, he bit his lips before he proceeded to speak again, feeling rather ashamed of himself. “You…You already have a girlfriend… I’m so much older than you and a man at that, yet I harbor abnormal feelings towards you… You must feel very disgusted and uncomfortable, right? I’m sorry.”
His was an unrequited love, one where he only dared act out his fantasies in his dreams. That night he’d been so drunk he thought it was just another dream. Everything ended when he came to his senses.
Only him would think of this so pessimistically. Jiang Pozhen’s face was devoid of all emotions.
“I kept getting your help…Thank you for that.” Guo Jinshan was evidently trying to restrain the quiver in his voice. Gripping the papers tightly, he lowered his head even more. “I’m truly sorry…to have caused you such unhappiness and inconvenience.” He didn’t expect forgiveness, but he apologized repeatedly nonetheless.
Jiang Pozhen stared at Guo Jinshan’s downturned head, the head that hadn’t raised even once throughout the entire explanation, thinking that if the other man had lied and treated it as a drunken joke, he would have been fine with it. Instead the fool opted to tell the truth. Guo Jinshan was the one destroying their friendship.
Apart from lashing out at the man for his abnormal feelings towards him earlier, he did not speak another word.
He was nearly finished with his horrible sophomore year when he encountered an assistant teacher that liked him.
Before this, Jiang Pozhen didn’t think of himself as a person who would discriminate against others for their sexual orientation. The school was even accepting of homosexuals. The most he would do was shrug it off since it didn’t concern him, but he never imagined that someone of the same-sex would like him. So when it finally happened, he was absolutely at a loss on how to react.
He didn’t understand why he was so angry. He could have just rejected him if he hated it so much. Everything would be fine as long as they didn’t come into contact with each other again!
Jiang Pozhen went on to accept the private home tutor job Xu Zhexi mentioned last time. He would spend four days per week teaching junior high students mathematical sciences. Once back home, he would tutor his brother for the general entrance exams and spend the remainder of his free time hanging out with his friends. In this way he was able to properly repay the debt he owed his mother.
He avoided campus for almost two weeks into the winter vacation.
School resumed in mid-February.
It was still the same routine with choosing and sorting his classes. Nothing had changed.
The lab session this semester was still scheduled on Tuesdays. The lecturers didn’t teach in the first week. Instead, they gave out a piece of paper, detailing the class schedule and groupings. The class was dismissed thirty minutes after the explanation.
The second week was when they needed to start submitting their pre-lab reports. This signaled the appearance of the teaching assistant who’d lead their experiments and collect their assignments.
While standing at the doorway to the lab, Jiang Pozhen hesitated for a while before heading in.
The students were chattering away about interesting things that happened during winter vacation. He wasn’t really paying attention to them as he pinned his eyesight on the compiled reports placed on the lecturer’s desk. Soon, the bell rang, yet everyone was still bustling about, only quieting down once the lecturer arrived.
Since they had already completed the pre-lab write-up beforehand, the lecturer would only roughly explain the experiment work flow. Once the experiment began, the lecturer would patrol two or three times before going off to rest.
Then, a person walked in through the door.
“Huh? Teaching assistant, it’s been a while!” a student cried out.
Jiang Pozhen felt a sudden quake in his chest for a moment. He instinctively looked up and saw teaching assistant Liao, the assistant who had taken half a semester’s worth of leave to attend to family matters.
A student who was doing preparations for the experiment asked when he noticed Jiang Pozhen not moving an inch.
“…Nothing,” answered Jiang Pozhen in a low voice before shifting his gaze back.
It was only then that he realized Guo Jinshan was a substitute. Teaching assistant Liao’s return meant Guo Jinshan would no longer appear in class. He wasn’t looking forward to seeing him, but… he would be lying if he said he didn’t care.
He had wondered what he would do if Guo Jinshan called him during the break. Should he pick up or ignore the call? He played all kinds of scenes in his mind, however the call never came. Perhaps it was because Guo Jinshan couldn’t use the phone, but the only time Guo Jinshan showed up on his caller ID was that one drunken night. Eventually new calls pushed the number out of his recent calls list.
He couldn’t keep from thinking how things would go if they ran into each other again. Should he offer a greeting or ignore him? What should he do if Guo Jinshan used his authority as an assistant teacher to force a conversation? Should he ignore him?
All his debating was for naught as they didn’t cross paths at all, especially so since he didn’t have to help Guo Jinshan with data tabulation anymore. He suddenly realized that without the other man’s initiative they would be like two parallel lines, traveling the same path but never crossing.
Since this was the case, it meant his life now was no different than before they met. He would still attend class, submit his reports, pass time on his own, and hang out with friends like usual. He was now back to leading the most relaxed and ordinary college life…
He could gloss it up as prettily as he wanted to, but the truth remained: he couldn’t get Guo Jinshan out of his mind even if he didn’t see him in person.
Aware he was too preoccupied with Guo Jinshan, Jiang Pozhen rationalized it away using the excuse that he’d never had a guy confess to him before. After another ordinary two weeks passed by, he was positive that the man would not wait for him outside the classroom or ask another student to pass him a message. He would never stand in the laboratory in his a white coat anymore either, so Jiang Pozhen told himself that there was no need to think deeply about it.
But… the more he tried to remind himself not to think about him, the more his mind would wander, proving that all his thoughts were filled with that person.
“Hey, this is your treat right?”
A fair hand waved in front of his eyes. Jiang Pozhen came back to his senses and looked at Xu Zhexi who was sitting across him. Unbeknownst to him, the pretty youth had already devoured the meal that was meant for three. Entering the busy lunch hour, the servers were bustling back and forth to collect the empty dishes on the dining table.
Xu Zhexi had helped him find the tutoring job. Since he had happened to call again asking to borrow a computer program meant for playing movies, Jiang Pozhen used this opportunity to treat him to a meal as thanks. But…
Jiang Pozhen eyed him coldly.
“Are you satisfied yet?” Xu Zhexi had been eating non-stop for the past two hours without any signs of stopping.
“Almost.” Looking at his watch, he said, “I still have something to do so I don’t have time to eat more.”
“You’re such a busy man.” His friend always seemed to have a busy schedule every time they met. Jiang Pozhen picked up the bill and walked towards cashier counter.
Xu Zhexi threw him an ambiguous smile. “I have a date every day after all.”
Jiang Pozhen was aware that Xu Zhexi had a lover who he had been dating for many years since high school. Personally, Jiang Pozhen had never seen the guy before. That was purely because he would never pry into other people’s private affairs.
Xu Zhexi’s gaze landed on the cakes inside the glass cabinet. He abruptly said, “I’ll take away two cakes when you pay later. I want to give it to someone who hates having desserts.”
Was the person he mentioned the lover he was meeting later? Jiang Pozhen took out money from his wallet. He had no intention of paying attention to Xu Zhexi’s abnormal way of declaring his love in deliberately bullying the person he liked.
As he walked out of the restaurant, happily carrying the cake boxes in hand, Xu Zhexi suddenly seemed to have thought of something and turned to ask, “By the way, are you still working for that teaching assistant?”
Jiang Pozhen knitted his brows and answered, “No.”
“Oh really? Didn’t I tell you it was a little strange before? The teaching assistants in our department would always enslave the juniors to do work for them. They would never hire anyone, let alone pay them for it. Moreover, as a graduate student who’s working as a teaching assistant, he can only help out during the lab sessions. He would be paid a few thousand dollars at most. I wonder whether the guy you mentioned gave all his pay to you? If that’s the case, how selfless of him to do that.”
After saying those words, Xu Zhexi left.
“Selfless…” mumbled Jiang Pozhen as he stood rooted to the spot.
Of course, that was for sure. Guo Jinshan liked him, so he probably wanted to please him badly.
Before the man had blurted out the truth when he was drunk, was Jiang Pozhen ever angry with the man’s unusual feelings towards him? Jiang Pozhen remembered how things went when they met for the first time. It was only filled with his one-sided rudeness and bad attitude. Even so, Guo Jinshan still believed he was a good man.
He was used to being praised for his good looks, but this was the first time someone praised him for his personality, describing him as a kind and gentle person. Had there been an ulterior motive for the compliments, he would not have bothered with Guo Jinshan, but the compliments were given despite the cruel rejection he’d given the other man.
What exactly did Guo Jinshan see in him? How different was he in the eyes of Guo Jinshan’s compared to others?
Three months had passed since that fateful incident, yet Jiang Pozhen was still haunted repeatedly by the moment Guo Jinshan, his head hung low, had thanked and apologized to him. His memories were so vivid, as though it had only happened yesterday. Guo Jinshan’s slender shoulders kept trembling incessantly. Since he was looking down, it was hard for Jiang Pozhen to tell whether the man was crying. Yet, he was once again plagued by the memories of the heartbroken man weeping, his eyes swollen and red, in the reference room that night.
…Even if Guo Jinshan always smiled so gently at him, what remained in his mind was the last image of the fragile and crestfallen man.
There was a midterm report due for one of his gen ed classes. Jiang Pozhen took the time between his classes and went to the main library to do research.
After flipping through the relevant books, he randomly selected a few of them to make copies. For some reason, he had been feeling quite unsettled recently. Perhaps it was because of the rain. The endless rain during the monsoon seasons always frustrated people to no end.
He walked into the copy room, and there were already a few people in there. He stopped in front of the only copy machine available and with his back toward the door inserted his copy card into the machine.
He flipped to the chapters he needed, pressed a few buttons, and started copying.
The endless clacks from the machine filled the tiny space. Jiang Pozhen unexpectedly caught sight of a pile of copied materials on the machine to the left of him. Pressed on the top of the pile was an imported hardcover textbook. The cover looked familiar, with the words “ATMOSPHERIC THERMODYNAMICS” printed on it. He knew the book. He had seen and read it because Guo Jinshan had one too.
The person using the machine on his left suddenly looked back, calling to someone by the doorway. Jiang Pozhen’s eyes followed his gaze unconsciously —
The man wearing a pair of plastic-framed glasses was standing right there, in his dress shirt and vest as usual, so prim that he even buttoned the first button on his shirt.
Ever since the moment their eyes met, Jiang Pozhen had been glaring at the other man fixedly without moving. But the other person’s eyes widened in surprise as he noticed Jiang Pozhen’s presence. The next second, he lowered his head and avoided him.
Jiang Pozhen suddenly froze.
“Senior, are these enough?” asked the person on his left.
“Ah, yes… It-It’s enough.” Guo Jinshan answered, his voice shaking. Not long afterwards, he quickly walked out with that junior of his.
Jiang Pozhen was stiff on the spot. He stopped what he was doing, yanked the card out of the machine, and for no reason followed them unconsciously. Guo Jinshan walked next to the window. His books and notes were still on the desk. After he returned to his seat with the junior, he smiled and said a few things to the junior, then he immediately started to pack up his stuff. There was a nervous expression on his face as he got ready to leave.
He was trying to avoid him! Jiang Pozhen was greatly enraged by this fact.
For someone who confessed his love, Gou Jinshan behaved very strangely, even going to great lengths to avoid him, even when they crossed paths. There were no calls or attempts to reach out to him and repair their broken relationship at all! Even if hope was bleak, he shouldn’t have given up.
He couldn’t figure out where this surge of frustration was coming from. Instead, he stuck a foot out uncontrollably, clueless to the significance of his behavior.
Both the elevator and stairs were located in the direction where he was standing. If Guo Jinshan wanted to leave, he would have to pass by him. Jiang Pozhen looked on as Guo Jinshan walked briskly towards him with his head lowered. For the past few months, the unresolved unknown feelings he held deep within could no longer be oppressed, finally churning violently outward. He was overcome with a strong impulse to pull the man to a stop, not allowing him any room to escape.
But…what about after?
“Teaching assistant!” When they were only a few steps apart, someone suddenly called out from behind Guo Jinshan. It was the PR student who had come to research data for the report.
“Huh?” Guo Jinshan turned around, stopping in his tracks.
The PR student noticed Jiang Pozhen, but he didn’t greet him. Instead, he said to Guo Jinshan, “It’s been a while. I’ve always wanted to go see you, but it kept slipping my mind. Thank you for your help last semester. I kept handing in reports late and yet you still let me pass.” Although he just managed to scrape through with a narrow pass, it was better than actually failing.
“Ah…Well, you did submit every overdue report in the end,” said Guo Jinshan softly at an unhurried pace.
“That’s all because you accepted my pleas. If it were teaching assistant Liao, he would fail me without hesitating! So it’s all thanks to you.” The PR student patted his shoulder, waved, and left.
“You’re welcome.” Guo Jinshan’s eyes trailed after his retreating figure. By the time he turned to look, Jiang Pozhen was already standing in front of him.The close distance obviously gave him quite a fright. Turning his head away, he pursed his lips and began to briskly walked away.
When the man fled past him, the expression on Jiang Pozhen’s face twisted in anger.
He had no idea why he was so angry.
But why? Why was Guo Jinshan being so nice to everyone, yet he couldn’t even bear to look at him?
Something inexplicable burned deep within him. Jiang Pozhen turned around, rushed to the elevator Guo Jinshan was in and used his body to forcibly hold the doors open.
“Wait!” he shouted loudly.
Guo Jinshan was startled and astonished by the rough way Jiang Pozhen blocked the elevator doors from closing. He could only stare dazedly as the man walked towards him in large strides.
The door slid shut. There was nobody else in the enclosed rectangular space except for them. It was only a few stories high, but the air around them felt particularly suffocating.
Jiang Pozhen couldn’t comprehend his own inexplicable actions either. He was not in debt and he didn’t have to work. His life had returned to how it was before. He no longer had anything to do with the man cowering in the corner behind him. What was he trying to achieve with this impulsive chase?
His mind was in a state of disarray, and the flashing indicator made him all the more frustrated. Before they reached the first floor, it was impossible for him to make things clear to the man in such a short amount of time.
With a ‘Ding!’, the elevator door looked like it was about to slide open. He noticed that Guo Jinshan had moved a little, so he reflexively reached out and instantly pressed the ‘close’ button.
A “Huh?” escaped Guo Jinshan’s lips as he had intended to leave the elevator. He finally said, “…Sorry. Um. I want to leave…” His tone sounded rather feeble.
Jiang Pozhen’s tightly clenched fists were so warm that they were practically breaking out in sweat. In a state of emotional chaos, his mind was invaded and occupied thoroughly by the expanding realization of the fact that he mustn’t allow this man to leave.
He abruptly turned around and pressed his hands on the wall on either side of Guo Jinshan, staring at the the man trapped between his arms.
Guo Jinshan, who couldn’t understand his actions and was unable to react, could only shift his own eyes away in a state of panic.
“…I…I’m…sorry…” he parted his lips to say timidly.
The man couldn’t figure out anything and just kept apologizing.
Was it because he condemned him for being a freak previously? The reason why Guo Jinshan was so concerned about Jiang Pozhen’s feelings was because the man liked him, going through great lengths for Jiang Pozhen’s sake in silence. There were people out there who would pretend to like you on the surface, but they were only doing so for selfish reasons.
He hadn’t seen Guo Jinshan for several months and had missed his thoughtfulness and gentle heartwarming smile. The sense of loss made him feel incomplete and left him with a vague sense of worry and the inability to control himself. The reason why he didn’t go out of his way to seek out Guo Jinshan was because he was waiting for the man to approach him. However, this man was in a hurry to avoid him.
As he gazed at the pitiful way Guo Jinshan’s lowered eyelashes were trembling, Jiang Pozhen felt his chest tightening at a rapid rate as though it was being pulled taut.
Why was he feeling so distracted and vexed?
Unable to resist any longer, Jiang Pozhen grasped Guo Jinshan’s arm with his hand and growled, “Look up!”
Guo Jinshan could only frantically raise his head in pain.
Jiang Pozhen stared at his bewildered expression that was on the brink of tears. All of a sudden, he was hit with a deep realization that this man before him liked him so much that it brought tears to his eyes. Their surroundings froze. His heart was beating so hard, it was all he could hear. It felt like it would explode out of his chest at any moment.
It really was just an impulsive act.
Gasping for breath, Jiang Pozhen parted his lips. “I accept. You like me right? I agree…to go out with you.”
He had abandoned his thoughts altogether. He was only aware that those words had to be said no matter what.
Notes: This chapter is re-edited and re-translated again by Yudun and otwentyfirst. Thank you so much for the help. 🙂