Chapter 14 — Falling Ill
Edited by Tin
The weather was turning colder. Every household had their doors and windows tightly shut and the heating turned on. After taking a trip outside then returning home, the drastic difference in temperature truly made one drowsy.
It was as though Zhou Hao was going into hibernation as well. He kept feeling very sleepy, and that he could not get enough sleep. After taking his temperature, he finally realised that he had a fever.
Requesting for two days off from his teacher, he rested at home, relying on takeout for meals. Jiang Yuqian pretty much never came over, and Zhou Hao also would no longer call him to ask why, as he knew that he would gain nothing out of it.
However, when one was feeling ill and weak, they would always wish that there was someone next to them, taking care of them.
In the end, he still ended up calling Jiang Yuqian. It took him three tries before someone picked up.
“I’m sick, come see me.” Zhou Hao had always been very direct, and never hid his intentions.
“Just drop by after work, you don’t even have to bring any fruit along with you.”
Jiang Yuqian did not like to engage in such meaningless talk with this person, and straight away hung up.
When the sound of the call being disconnected came over the line, Zhou Hao knew that he had once again failed in obtaining the occasional warmth he desired.
However, it did not matter. He could walk, he could eat, he could take care of himself.
In the evening, his food delivery arrived. Zhou Hao placed the takeout box on the table, planning on smoking a cigarette at the balcony. Just as he took a stick out, he saw Cheng Zixu getting out from a car. Right after that, a hand stretched out from within, handing him a scarf.
Actually, Zhou Hao did not see who was in the vehicle. However, he recognised that it was Jiang Yuqian’s car.
No longer in the mood for a smoke, Zhou Hao returned to the dining room, opening the takeout box. In it was thick, sweet corn porridge. He tried a spoonful, but it was too sweet and cloying. Zhou Hao felt that his throat was filled entirely with it, to the point where it felt suffocating.
The porridge was poured into the trash. It was abandoned, steam still wafting off it pitifully.
Leisurely, Zhou Hao crouched down, staring at the congealed porridge in the trash. He still could not suppress his cravings, taking out a cigarette and smoking it.
“Huu—” A stream of smoke was expelled, but the agitation in his heart could not be dissipated so easily. Instead, it became even more intense, and in that moment, he only felt a stifling in his chest that could neither be exhaled nor suppressed.
When Jiang Yuqian entered, dressed in a black jacket, he saw Zhou Hao crouching by the bin. Between his fingers was a cigarette, but he was not smoking it, only staring blankly at it.
The cherry of the cigarette burnt brighter and brighter, the cigarette shorter and shorter, and it seemed like it was about to burn his fingers—
“What are you doing?!”
Zhou Hao lifted his head. Upon realising who it was, the corners of his lips tugged up in a smile. Just now, he had been too focused, and he did not hear the door opening. Stubbing out what was left of the cigarette, he tossed it in the bin.
“Didn’t you say you were busy?” Zhou Hao’s voice was very nasally, along with a creaky hoarseness.
Jiang Yuqian could hear the stress in his throat, and casually asked, “Are you feeling better?”
“I won’t die.”
There was nothing wrong with the sentence, but for some reason, it reeked of jealousy. Zhou Hao naturally would not admit to it, he was the sort who insisted on holding onto his pride, even if he had to suffer.
It did not matter whether he admitted to it or not. In any case, Jiang Yuqian had noticed it, that this person was not very happy.
Jiang Yuqian no longer looked at him, averting his eyes. He happened to see the takeout box on the dining table, as well as the thick, congealed porridge in the bin. Removing his jacket, he tossed it onto the couch in the living room, before entering the kitchen, rolling his sleeves up and taking out some rice to make porridge.
Zhou Hao was in disbelief. What he was seeing was too strange. Jiang Yuqian was cooking? And it was actually for him, an invalid? He really felt as though he were in a dream, and he did not dare say even a word, afraid that any sudden speech would disrupt this dream.
Zhou Hao completely forgot about the tiny speck of jealousy he was feeling just now. He was a little surprised by Jiang Yuqian’s abnormal behaviour, but he too was basking in this gentleness that was out of the ordinary.
Moving his feet, Zhou Hao went to the living room. Remnants of the outside chill were still coming off that person’s jacket. Zhou Hao straightened out the jacket, cautiously sitting down next to it. To hide his internal restlessness, he deliberately turned the television on.
A variety program happened to be playing on the television, and the exaggerated tone of the host pierced through his ears. Zhou Hao felt the wave of excitement within him gradually calm down. Periodically, he would look in the direction of the kitchen, seeing when the person inside would walk out.
He looked and looked, each glance lingering for quite some time.
After about twenty minutes, the eyes of the two people met casually. He, who was usually unabashed and brazen, was now like a kid who was experiencing his first brush with love. Zhou Hao hurriedly bowed his head, waiting for that person to speak.
“The porridge is ready.”
“Oh, it’s ready.” It was a calm and placid tone. Probably only Zhou Hao himself knew about the fluctuation he had experienced in his emotions just now.
Zhou Hao finished two bowls one after the other, completely unlike an ill person with no appetite.
The entire time, Jiang Yuqian did not speak, only fiddling with his phone. When Zhou Hao was done, he finally spoke.
“I have something to say to you.”
His delighted heart suddenly became nervous.
“What?” Zhou Hao said unconcernedly.
The two people happened to be seated on the two ends of the table, across each other. Every change in expression on their faces could be seen clearly.
“I like Cheng Zixu.”
Badump — A beating heart suddenly fell from the softest part within one’s chest, shattering into pieces, into fragments.
“I know.” Zhou Hao forcefully controlled his expression, as though he was a soldier standing at attention. At that moment, he was very calm.
“After so many years, I am still unable to like you.”
How bare, how exposed. There was clearly not a single word of mockery in that statement, but why was it so hurtful!
“Let’s just end it here, and stop any further losses,” Jiang Yuqian said collectedly.
Zhou Hao’s expressionless face gradually twisted, revealing a mocking smile. On his face was all jeers and ridicule. With regards to pride, he had won, but his heart had long rotted, turning into mud, and he had lost thoroughly.
“Stop our losses? I don’t want to.”
Zhou Hao lit his second cigarette of the night, inhaling deeply. “Jiang Yuqian, I remember saying this before. If you dare be together with him, I’ll destroy him. Let’s just wait and see.”
“Then you can go ahead and try. I guarantee that you won’t even be able to attend school.”
Jiang Yuqian stood up slowly, leaning forward with his palms against the table. “It’s not easy for your parents to support you to go to university, don’t make them regret it. If you’re not able to graduate, dropping out halfway, you’ll have wasted the past few years of studying.”
Zhou Hao blinked forcefully, but his eyelids lowered uncontrollably. Feebly, he mumbled quietly, “I’m already trapped in the abyss, what else am I still afraid of…”
To say such babble from the bottom of his heart, Zhou Hao was probably feeling utterly helpless.
“If you say so.” Jiang Yuqian went to the living room, collecting his jacket and leaving.
As he bent down in the foyer, changing his shoes, Zhou Hao too walked over, looking like a ghost.
“Jiang Yuqian.” Zhou Hao abruptly hugged Jiang Yuqian from behind, pressing his lips to his ear. “To let you go, only if I’m dead…”
“You really should see a doctor!” Jiang Yuqian opened the door and left.
There was still a little bit of porridge cooked by that person left inside the pot in the kitchen. Zhou Hao poured it all into the sink. Water rushed out from the tap, and the viscous porridge gurgled down the drain, slowly disappearing.
The two days of sick leave quickly ended, and Zhou Hao tidied up, preparing to go back to work. There was a change in assignments, and Zhou Hao moved from the general ward to the outpatient clinic. Now, he had to wake up earlier, but on the bright side, there was no more night shift.
In the crowded outpatient lounge, one glance was enough to see that it was completely packed with people. Zhou Hao happened to go to the pharmacy to help his teacher settle a matter, and he saw someone queuing outside the window, looking very familiar. Thinking over it carefully, he realised it was the boy he had rescued previously.
That boy was very bored as he queued, and so he glanced all over the place. As such, he saw Zhou Hao, and waved at him excitedly. Zhou Hao did not wish to be friendly at all, and he pretended that he did not see him. Done with his matter, he left.
Who would have guessed that the boy gave up his spot in the queue, running over. “Zhou Hao!”
Sun Yiwen glanced at this person’s white coat, and he smiled shyly. “So it turns out you’re a doctor.”
“How did you know my name?”
“The last time, there was another man calling out to you.”
“You have quite a good memory.”
With his hands in his pockets, Zhou Hao strode off.
“Hey.” Sun Yiwen again chased after him. “You’ve helped me out once, and I have yet to treat you to a meal. How about this afternoon, I’ll treat you to lunch.”
Zhou Hao ignored him, taking the lift and leaving. Sun Yiwen was very happy. After enjoying a moment of foolish pleasure, he joined the queue again.
Ever since then, periodically, Zhou Hao would be able to bump into that pretty boy hanging around at the first floor of the outpatient clinic. As long as Zhou Hao were to appear in his sight, the boy would immediately run over, shoving a pile of food at him before running away.
Just like today. Zhou Hao looked at the burger and coke in his hands, then glanced over at Sun Yiwen who was sneaking behind the crowd not too far away. He no longer threw the food away, but walked over.
“You don’t have anywhere to spend your money?” Zhou Hao raised a brow, before returning the plastic bag in his hand to Sun Yiwen. “I don’t eat junk food.”
Sun Yiwen’s eyes instantly dimmed. He then lifted his head, asking innocently, “Then what do you like to eat?”
Zhou Hao did not like following such routine scripts, and he went straight to the point. “Are you trying to woo me?”
“N-no.” Sun Yiwen lowered his head, the corner of his mouth twitching a little. “You’re a good person.”
A good person? This was truly the first time he heard someone describing him like this. Zhou Hao lifted his arm and looked at his watch. It was already 11.20am.
“Let’s go, treat me to lunch.”
Sun Yiwen burst into joy, nodding forcefully. “Sure, sure.”
There was a decent hotpot restaurant near the hospital, the flavours authentic. However, when the two people arrived, there were at least a dozen groups ahead of them. Alright, they would not be able to have hotpot. Sun Yiwen made a suggestion, saying that he knew there was quite a good Japanese restaurant nearby, and so the two went there instead.
They ordered enough food to cover the table. Zhou Hao said that it was enough, but Sun Yiwen still foolishly pointed at the menu, saying that he wanted this and that.
“Does your money fall from the sky?”
Sun Yiwen was a little shy, and his face reddened. “It’s my first time treating you, so…”
In his eyes was a bashfulness that could not be hidden. That should mean that he liked him, or at least, he was interested in him. Zhou Hao could see it.
“Give me your phone.” Zhou Hao held his hand out to Sun Yiwen.
Uncomprehending, Sun Yiwen passed his phone over. Zhou Hao took it, entering a series of numbers inside, then slid it back across the smooth table.
“This is my number.”
On the screen was a line of digits. Sun Yiwen dialled the number, and very quickly, Zhou Hao’s phone rang.
“Hello? Is that Zhou Hao?” Sun Yiwen asked, his heart full of delight.
Playing along with the childish game, Zhou Hao held his phone to his ear, looking straight at the person across the table. “Yes.”
“My name is Sun Yiwen.”