Edited by AlexPT
“Did you do something bad?”
He asked as he stared at his friend out of the corner of his eye. After devouring the new matcha pudding he ordered from the menu, the pretty youth bit on the spoon, still feeling pretty hungry.
“What?” Annoyed, Jiang Pozhen looked away.
“Then mind explaining why is your face so dark? Are you feigning depression?” Xu Zhexi commented, shrugging his shoulders.
Jiang Pozhen threw him a vicious glare.
“Hmph.” Xu Zhexi kept targeting him bluntly. “This is precisely what flying into a rage from feeling humiliated means.”
“It’s none of your business.” answered Jiang Pozhen coldly.
“I’ve already installed the program so I figured it’ll be better if I quickly return it to you. If you’re upset, I could always bring it back and leave it at home to collect dust.” Unaffected in the least by Jiang Pozhen’s mood, Xu Zhexi ordered a cream puff, and went on to savor his meal in delight by himself.
Jiang Pozhen ignored Xu Zhexi and did not say another word. Sitting on the second floor of the open-air cafe, the hot coffee on the table had already cooled, but he didn’t even take a single sip.
It had been raining for the past few days. As the weather cleared, the gentle breeze blowing by was enough to make one feel at ease.
However, Jiang Pozhen could only knead his temples moodily. It was as though traces of someone’s warmth were still left on his fingertips. He forcefully put down his hand, clenching it into a fist.
Blinking his eyes, he raised his gaze towards Xu Zhexi’s pretty face.
This male friend who could be described as “pretty”, did not make him feel any urge of wanting to touch him at all.
Then why, at that time, would he do that to Guo Jinshan?
As long as he thought about his out of character behaviour that night, Jiang Pozhen’s heart would race at a rate until his chest burned. He never thought that he would have developed a desire for men, and furthermore, this feeling he harboured was only towards Guo Jinshan .
…It shouldn’t be like this.
Originally, he only planned on pretending to go out with Guo Jinshan.
Because Guo Jinshan really liked him a lot. Jiang Pozhen admitted to himself that he was a bit moved by those gentle feelings. However, he still felt that he could never be in a relationship with a man.
On the other hand, he could still agree to be in a relationship with Guo Jinshan, date him, then break up with him later to end this farce. This way, the man would give up on him entirely. Whatever he gained during the process, the conclusion would not be as vacuous as being rejected completely.
All Jiang Pozhen needed to do was to accompany Guo Jinshan for a period of time. This could be considered as a repayment for when Guo Jinshan had kindly took care of him. In any case, he, himself, would not suffer any loss, and Guo Jinshan should be satisfied like this, right?
This was how Jiang Pozhen convinced himself when he impulsively asked him to be together.
He wasn’t some benevolent person, but he did not have a heart of stone either. Anyone’s heart could soften, just like how each and every time, Guo Jinshan was always so gentle to him, making him feel as if he could not face him, nor continue as if nothing had happened.
It was just that his initial reluctance started to change to anticipation, and this change made him feel like a jumbled mess.
He did not have the slightest intention to toy with him, but he too was unable to explain why he caressed Guo Jinshan.
Noon, the next day.
It was the usual time to find Guo Jinshan for lunch together.
Because he felt that he could not face him, to the point that even talking to him was difficult, Jiang Pozhen hesitated for a long time. Finally, he thought that not eating together for once wouldn’t be an issue. If Guo Jinshan had any problems, he could come look for him himself, and so he didn’t go find Guo Jinshan.
As a result, for the entire day till he reached home, and was about to fall asleep, the man did not try to contact him at all.
It was clearly he himself who was the one avoiding Guo Jinshan, but he felt that he was once again the one waiting now. This situation was just like the one during during winter break. If he didn’t make a move, Guo Jinshan too would not come and find him.
This compliance did not in any way make him relax. Instead, it did the opposite and now, Jiang Pozhen constantly thought about him.
Eating together and going out together had now become a routine. Although Guo Jinshan would never reject the invite, he was never very proactive about this relationship, and this was the only thing Jiang Pozhen could feel.
Just what more could he want?
On the Thursday when he started to feel annoyed, Jiang Pozhen finally invited Guo Jinshan out for lunch again.
They arranged to meet at a cheap restaurant near school. As he didn’t want to create a silent, awkward atmosphere, Jiang Pozhen ordered and ate very quickly. When his plate was empty, Guo Jinshan was only halfway through.
It would be perfect if the surroundings were a little noisier, and he would later find a reason to leave first… Looking at the man quietly eating, he felt that his schemes were laughable.
Glumly furrowing his eyebrows, he raised his drink and gulped down a mouthful.
“Ah, hold on…” Guo Jinshan looked up, wanting to stop him but he was too late. “That’s… my drink.”
Jiang Pozhen paused. He glanced at the table, and again at the glass in his hand. It was indeed his mistake caused by his inattention.
Actually, it was no big deal., However, noticing how that Guo Jinshan’s cheeks reddened, Jiang Pozhen suspected that he was thinking about an indirect kiss…
Jiang Pozhen’s gaze stopped unconsciously at his lips. This man’s lips, how would it feel like to kiss them? Would they be as soft as him?
…That night, when he touched him, did Jiang Pozhen himself think about kissing him? Once this thought crossed his mind, Jiang Pozhen was instantly astonished and alarmed.
He felt as though there was a tight pressure upon his heart. , He placed the glass heavily upon the table, and spoke rudely.
“Why didn’t you say so!” It was the peak of lunch hour. Even though the surroundings were noisy, but an overly loud voice could still earn glances from nearby tables.
“Uh…” Guo Jinshan did not know how to react, and could only glance at his ugly expression uncertainly.
“I don’t want to share a drink with you!” He angrily rebuked once more.
Jiang Pozhen knew very well that he was throwing an unreasonable tantrum, but he couldn’t stop himself.
After a few seconds of silence, a soothing and low voice flowed past his ears.
Jiang Pozhen looked up and saw Guo Jinshan smiling faintly
“Sorry, it was my fault for not paying attention. I’ll buy you another drink, alright?”
The gentle voice carried with it an appeasing note.
“No…” After he calmed down, Jiang Pozhen truly didn’t understand what he himself was trying to do. “I just… I just don’t like green tea, and that’s why I said that.” He softened his tone, giving a somewhat far-fetched explanation.
“Ah… is that so?” Guo Jinshan stared at his unfinished food for a moment, then put down his cutlery.
Noticing the other’s gaze drifting to another place, Jiang Pozhen followed his line of sight as well. He only saw a few tables occupied by students. No one was standing up, waving, or looking over here. There was nothing special.
He turned his gaze back, and discovered that Guo Jinshan was now looking at the glass on the table.
…It was best that he left first.
Right as Jiang Pozhen was about to come up with excuses to leave so as not to prolong the awkardness, Guo Jinshan suddenly uttered, “Umm… you don’t have to come look for me anymore.”
Jiang Pozhen froze halfway as he reached for his wallet to settle the bill. He could not help asking, “What?”
Guo Jinshan smiled at him.
“Aren’t finals starting soon? It’s time to start studying harder, and I also need to prepare for my thesis defense. I think… since both of us don’t have much free time, you don’t have to invite me out for meals or outings anymore.”
As Jiang Pozhen listened to Guo Jinshan, he realised that he was too nervous. He had thought that Guo Jinshan would say so because he was angry or because he felt upset for getting scolded for no reason at all. Peculiarly, the man’s gentle smile made his heart skipped a beat. He avoided his gaze, stating, “I understand.”
Standing up to leave, Guo Jinshan gently said again, “Thank you.”
The well-mannered man always thanked him, and he often apologised as well, so much so that these phrases were almost equal to mundane greetings, and did not contain any particular meaning.
Scrutinizing Guo Jinshan’s slightly smiling face, he could only give such an inept answer.
The following days were filled with reports and exams that needed to be done. The time leading to finals always felt like he was preparing for war.
As he had been contemplating over the situation with Guo Jinshan, it seemed like he had let his studies slide a bit. Jiang Pozhen was glad that Guo Jinshan was considerate and had suggested that there was no need for them to meet up.
Only, while studying late at night, he would sometimes wonder accidentally. Was Guo Jinshan as busy as him? But since he said that he wouldn’t be free, Jiang Pozhen felt that there was no need to ask after him.
The graduation ceremony and final examinations were held almost at the same time. When Jiang Pozhen went to school during the weekend to study, he saw that the campus was filled with graduating students wearing their robes with various coloured shawls. Then he remembered and wondered if Guo Jinshan’s thesis and defense went well.
…He would wait a while more.. There would be a lot more time after his finals, and they could talk then.
Thus, once his last exam successfully ended, the first thing Jiang Pozhen did was to look for Guo Jinshan.
Standing in front of the impressive Science Department, Jiang Pozhen looked up at the side most window on the third floor. He had once spent nearly half a semester there.
Before he entered, someone bumped into his shoulder.
That person turned around and exclaimed, “Oh! You are?”
Jiang Pozhen stopped and looked at him, recalling that this person was Guo Jinshan’s lab classmate or senior.
Sure enough, that person exclaimed, “Ah, thanks for the previous time!”
He was referring to that matter of Jiang Pozhen sending Guo Jinshan home after their gathering.
“It’s nothing.” Jiang Pozhen merely nodded and continued onwards.
“Wait! Are you looking for Jinshan? He’s not upstairs.” Out of goodwill, that person wanted to prevent him from wasting his time climbing up the stairs.
“What?” Jiang Pozhen turned around.
That person laughed. “Jinshan has already graduated. He has also handed his space over to his junior, and he won’t be coming back anymore if there’s nothing on.”
Jiang Pozhen was stunned! After informing him, that person walked away, leaving him standing there alone.
So Guo Jinshan had already left the school. But why didn’t he tell him about it? At school, the only way Jiang Pozhen was able to find Guo Jinshan was by coming straight to the department building. Now that he had graduated, how was he to contact him?
He could not help but take out his phone and search for Guo Jinshan’s number. He hesitated slightly. Although Guo Jinshan might not be able to answer, he still ended up making the call.
“Hello, this is the telecom service. The number you’ve dialed has been terminated…”
The call connected, but the response was unexpected. Jiang Pozhen thought he had dialed the wrong number, so he re-entered the number.
“The number you’ve dialed has been terminated…”
Jiang Pozhen glared at his phone for a moment, then went to his contacts list to find the number and dial again. However, no matter how many times he tried, the response would always be the same female robotic voice repeating the same message.
It wasn’t a busy tone nor a missed call, but ‘terminated’!
Why was the number terminated? Despite knowing that his hearing aid would be disrupted, Guo Jinshan had purchased a new phone after a sentence from him. Would such a Guo Jinshan who had always placed such importance on him change his number with no rhyme or reason?
“Damn it!” No matter how much he tried, he was unable to get through. Jiang Pozhen nearly threw his phone onto the ground.
A complex mixture of anxiousness and vexation made him leave the campus in a hurry. He rode his motorcycle to Guo Jinshan’s apartment. Upon arriving on the second floor, he angrily pressed on the doorbell, but there was no response.
“What the hell!” He used all his strength to kick the unresponsive door, causing an ear-piercing crash.
Failing to see that person caused him to be unusually violent.
This was the only place left where he could find Guo Jinshan.. Jiang Pozhen paced back and forth, and he finally just sat down at the entrance of the staircase.
Time ticked from near evening till night, it was a long and unbearable wait that Jiang Pozhen did not know when it would end. He did not think about any reason why he was anxiously waiting over here.. Finally, when he saw the man walking up the stairs with his head bowed, he immediately stood up.
“…Eh?” Guo Jinshan had a plastic bag in his hand. He sported an extremely astonished look when he saw Jiang Pozhen standing in front of his door, but it quickly faded away. “Ah… What’s wrong?”
“I came to find you!” Jiang Pozhen said angrily, but his tone sounded more relieved.
“… Find me?” Guo Jinshan hesitantly looked around him. As if sensing that the corridor was not a good place to have a talk, he took out his keys and opened the door. “Do you… want to come in?”
It was clear that this was not a welcoming invitation. Jiang Pozhen became angrier, rudely pushing the door open and going in. When he saw the view inside, his eyes widened in shock.
In the living room, white sheets were draped all over the furniture. A few boxes that were already sealed were placed in the corner, and the place looked as if it was –
“Sorry, as I’m preparing to move, it’s a bit messy,” Guo Jinshan murmured.
“Why are you moving?” Jiang Pozhen immediately asked.
Guo Jinshan walked past him, explaining slowly. “This is my uncle’s house. I originally only planned on living here until graduation.”
Jiang Pozhen asked again, “Where are you moving to?”
Guo Jinshan didn’t respond. Jiang Pozhen impatiently continued asking, “Why didn’t you tell me that you left school already? Also, why was your number terminated?”
Guo Jinshan looked down for a moment. “Take a seat first, I’ll get a glass of water for you.”
Leading Jiang Pozhen to the dining table in the kitchen to take a seat, Guo Jinshan first placed the plastic bag down by the side. It looked like it contained a bento box purchased from a convenience store. He then poured two glasses of water before sitting down across Jiang Pozhen.
Guo Jinshan turned his head away slightly as he spoke. “Umm… I have some things I need to tell you.”
Clueless, Jiang Pozhen could only sit there quietly waiting for Guo Jinshan to continue.
“…I’ve already found a job, it’s located in Hsinchu. My hometown is also at Hsinchu, so I’ll move back there.” Guo Jinshan said.
That meant that he would soon leave this place. Jiang Pozhen froze instantly.
Guo Jinshan continued, “Also, I think there’s no need for us to be in a relationship anymore.”
Jiang Pozhen was stunned, staring blankly at Guo Jinshan.
Guo Jinshan only faintly smiled. He held his cup in front of him, speaking softly.
“I feel that we’re not compatible. After being together with you, only then did I realise that we are completely unsuitable for each other. My feelings for you might have been a misconception of some sort… Because you were so smart and clever, and you were the ideal I was longing for, , so I made a mistake. After going out with you, I came to a realisation… A man being together with another man is really very strange, right? I’m sorry.” Guo Jinshan laughed, feeling a little embarrassed. Raising his hand to rub his neck, he said, apologetic, “I… How embarrassing.”
Jiang Pozhen glared at the glass on the table. As it had been gripped by Guo Jinshan and let go, there was a ring of white fingerprints slowly fading away. Even until after they completely disappeared, Jiang Pozhen still could not come up with any words that could form his response.
“I rarely use my phone. As expected, not many would contact me, so I terminated my number.” Guo Jinshan gently said aas he smiled faintly.
In the end, till now, Guo Jinshan still did not explain to him that his hearing aids would be disrupted. Jiang Pozhen could only stare at him. Other than that, he did now know what else he could say or do.
Guo Jinshan glanced at the clock, apologising. “Sorry, I have an appointment later… Do you still need anything else?”
“No.” Jiang Pozhen stiffly said.
It was as if he was being treated like an unwelcome guest, his existence becoming meaningless. His heart sinking, he stood up and walked to the door, about to leave.
At the door, right as Guo Jinshan was about to help open the door for him, Jiang Pozhen reached out as well.
Their fingertips accidentally bumped together. Guo Jinshan pulled his hand and took a step back, unexpectedly panicking. “S-sorry!”
Jiang Pozhen was unwilling to be bothered. As he opened the door left, he slammed the door close with an anger he could not explain.
His mood reached its lowest point.
Guo Jinshan was moving out, and his workplace and hometown were in another place., He probably would never have an opportunity to return. If Jiang Pozhen had not come looking for him, he would have just left without a word, right? He even went so far to say things like he made a mistake, coming to a realisation—
… Wait, no! In any case, being in a relationship with Guo Jinshan was only an inexplicable and unfathomable impulse. He no longer needed to find an excuse about having incompatible personalities. Now, Guo Jinshan had graduated and was going to leave, and he even took the initiative to say that they were not suitable for each other. This was basically going perfectly according to his script. For Jiang Pozhen, this should be the best outcome.
Jiang Pozhen’s footsteps slowed as he walked down the stairs.
Guo Jinshan’s things were all sealed in boxes already. It was likely that he would be leaving within the next two days.
Their school, his phone number, his address, and even their relationship, everything had already been cut off by Guo Jinshan. As long as Jiang Pozhen left right now, they would become two people who would have completely no relationship with each other.
They would no longer see each other again. This would be their last time.
Everything had ended. Everything.
Finally, he realised this point. Jiang Pozhen stopped in front of the apartment building, unconsciously glaring at the ground.
Traces of Guo Jinshan’s warmth were still left on his fingers… how warm! But it was had only been a moment of contact.
When Guo Jinshan was talking just now, he was had been gripping that glass of cold water until his fingertips turned white. Why was he gripping itso hard? Who did he have an appointment with? Didn’t the plastic bag only contain one person’s bento?
Jiang Pozhen clenched his fists, unable to leave just like this.
Sweat dripped down his face, as though it was an omen. He turned around abruptly, running back up the stairs. Standing in front of the door, he panted harshly, unhesitatingly twisted the doorknob. As it had not been locked due to him slamming it close just now, the door opened.
Hearing a loud crash, he rushed to the kitchen only to see Guo Jinshan standing before the sink trembling violently.
With his back facing Jiang Pozhen, Guo Jinshan cleaned up the glass shards and place them in the sink. He quietly asked, “Why are you… back again… Uhh, do… you still need anything?”
His voice was wavering, as though he was suppressing something and trying his best to cover it up.
By the time Jiang Pozhen realised it, he had already moved towards Guo Jinshan.
“Don’t… don’t come closer.” Guo Jinshan was gripping the sides of the counter with his head lowered, his voice already hoarse. “P-please… Please don’t come closer…”
He was shuddering fiercely, his back looking so frail as if it would soon shatter.
Jiang Pozhen felt as if his chest was suffocating making him feel very uncomfortable. He couldn’t help but to walk towards the man’s side, extending his hand slowly.
Just as he touched his elbow lightly, Guo Jinshan spoke.
“I… I look very pitiful, don’t I? Is it because of this… so, you pitied me?”
Jiang Pozhen froze instantly. His arm, unable to get any closer, hovered in mid-air.
“…That day on your birthday… when you had accompanied me up the mountain… and also being together with me… You’re a really nice person, really!” Guo Jinshan gasped, continuing softly, “I already knew … knew that you felt that being with me was very boring, yet I still greedily to want to see you… Sorry, making you feel forced into doing this.”
The man, though slow, wasn’t oblivious. He could still tell if they were in a relationship because they truly liked each other. Jiang Pozhen didn’t understand why Guo Jinshan would say this. He was the one who initiated the relationship, as well as to suggest meeting up. Guo Jinshan only assumed the passive role, yet he placed all the blame on himself. To wrong himself like this, was it to make him leave, as he did not want to keep hold of anything?
Jiang Pozhen had actually been thoroughly cut off by Guo Jinshan already, right?
Whether it was his graduation or him moving away, the fact that he never said anything to him was proof. If Jiang Pozhen had not looked for him today, Guo Jinshan would have planned to disappear like this without a word.
If Jiang Pozhen had been late by one or two days, or even a few hours, this apartment might have already become a place devoid of people. The panic and fear from the near miss rushed up within him!
Jiang Pozhen suddenly shouted angrily.
“I did feel bored and impatient when I was with you! Truthfully, after agreeing to go out with you, I was already finding excuses to break up. Even until just now I was still thinking this way You’re truly very self-aware! Are you satisfied that I’m this frank now?” He did not mean to hurt the other, but because he cared too much, he couldn’t help but blurt it all out.
Guo Jinshan lowered his head in silence. After a long while, with a distorted voice, he spoke, extremely guiltily, “The matter about liking you… It would be nice if I never said it out… “
Guo Jinshan regarded his love for him as an unforgivable, serious mistake. Jiang Pozhen glowered at him.
Tiny little drops fell onto the steel surface of the sink, their splashes creating dysrhythmic soft sounds. , Those were the tears from Guo Jinshan who was unable to lift his head.
It was as if he had been slapped ruthlessly.
It was at that instant that Jiang Pozhen finally understood. What he thought of as ‘charity’, was actually in very, very, hurtful.
His heart felt like a wide gaping chunk had been scooped out of it. He gasped laboriously, but the unbearable pain only deepened as he breathed.
Closing his eyes and then opening them, Jiang Pozhen’s gaze burned. He lifted his arms and embraced Guo Jinshan from behind.
“You don’t have… to do this.” Guo Jinshan said softly, wanting to free himself.
Yet Jiang Pozhen tightened his embrace, pulling his entire body closer.
This was already his limit. Guo Jinshan lowered his head and clutched the counter, finally crying out, “Please… let go…”
The warm body within his arms turned Jiang Pozhen’s head into a mess. He didn’t know anything, only that he was very clear that his actions were not out of pity or sympathy.
He suppressed his emotions, roaring, “I’m not consoling you!”
Grabbing Guo Jinshan’s quaking shoulders, he forcibly turned him around. Jiang Pozhen cupped his cheeks smeared with tears, and felt an unbearable pain ripping through his body.
In this lifetime, he never wanted to see this person looking this hopelessly hurt ever again.
Removing away Guo Jinshan’s glasses that were wet from his tears, Jiang Pozhen turned his head and kissed his lips that carried a saltiness to them.
It was only a touch, and Jiang Pozhen could already feel his organs twisting. This was his first time knowing that kissing a person could be this painful.
Even if Guo Jinshan pushed his chest as a protest, Jiang Pozhen did not care. He held the back of Guo Jinshan’s head and pressed him closer, kissing those trembling lips, and seizing the opportunity to slide his tongue into his open, panting mouth.
Even if he would become strange… he could no longer turn back.
Finally, the other person could not stand properly. Jiang Pozhen clasped his waist, then closed his eyes tight, huskily speaking into Guo Jinshan’s left ear that could barely hear.
“Don’t leave me. Stay, stay beside me.”
His heated feelings, almost scorching him, made him feel as though he was drifting about in the ocean. Jiang Pozhen could only sincerely plead with Guo Jinshan.