Chapter 15 — Making A Fool of Oneself Through Imitation
Edited by Tin
Drawing closer to the end of the year, the branches of the trees in the community were decorated, and little red lanterns were hung all over. On every security gate of each family, the word “fortune” was pasted on them. These days, it was as though everything in the market was free. The crowds were insane, and many items had run out of stock. There was a clear decrease in the number of people walking on the streets. The students, on school break, had all returned home, along with the adults who had come up north for work.
This was already Zhou Hao’s sixth year in A city. For him, the spring festival was just an ordinary day out of the three hundred and sixty-five in a year, and there was nothing special to it.
The apartment of over a hundred square metres was empty, and very cheerless. There was no atmosphere of festivity at all.
Their previous conversation that had come to no conclusion seemed to have given Jiang Yuqian the courage to resist no matter what. He seemed to have hardened his heart, wanting to draw a clear boundary with Zhou Hao. Other than some clothes, he had moved out all his documents he needed for work. Furthermore, this was done when Zhou Hao was not at home.
A while ago, Zhou Hao had gone to a jewellery store and bought a pair of rings, one for each of them. However, he did not manage to bump into Jiang Yuqian, and he had no opportunity to gift it to him.
It was a rehash of their past. Just like three years ago, Zhou Hao stood outside Jiang Yuqian’s mansion to wait for him.
The weather in the north was particularly cold. As the cold wind rustled through, it was just like needles piercing through the flesh, the cold seeping in through the clothes into the skin.
Zhou Hao was dressed in a down jacket, a scarf covering his nose and mouth. Despite this, he still felt freezing. Stamping on the ground, he rubbed his hands, trying to use the warm air from his mouth to chase away the chill on his body.
He stood there foolishly for an hour, until Jiang Yuqian’s mother discovered his presence. She asked kindly, was he looking for anyone?
Zhou Hao was feeling way too cold. His nose was red, and his teeth were chattering. “Hi, Auntie. I’m Jiang Yuqian’s classmate, and I have to find him for something.”
Just a few words, and Zhou Hao felt as though all the warmth in his body had dissipated entirely.
“Why didn’t you knock? I saw that you’ve been standing out there for a while already. Quick, come in, it’s really too cold outside.”
The mansion’s floors were heated. Upon entering, Zhou Hao slowly recovered from his frozen state. Removing his thick down jacket, he hung it in the wardrobe next to the front door.
Mrs. Jiang received Zhou Hao warmly, pouring him a glass of water and handing him a plate of fruit.
“Yuqian will be coming back in a bit. I’ve asked our housekeeper to prepare a few more dishes, you should just stay for dinner.”
Zhou Hao wrapped his hands around the warm ceramic glass, smiling politely. “Thank you, Auntie.”
“How do I address you?”
“I’m Zhou Hao.”
Mrs. Jiang smiled kindly, her eyes about seventy to eighty percent similar to Jiang Yuqian’s. As expected, sons did take after their mothers.
“Just remain seated, I’ll go to the kitchen to take a look.”
This was the first time Zhou Hao had been inside Jiang Yuqian’s home. He surveyed his surroundings. There were three floors in this mansion, and it had a European style. It was clean and neat, and there was a spiral staircase in the center. Upstairs should be the study and the bedrooms.
At around 7pm, Jiang Yuqian returned. Zhou Hao turned his head, looking at the man changing his shoes at the door, watching his every action.
Jiang Yuqian first removed his coat. Underneath it, he was smartly dressed in a suit. He then casually yanked his firmly knotted tie loose, his actions loose and lazy. However, the moment he saw Zhou Hao, his hands paused.
His gaze, from an unhurried calmness, transformed into guarded hostility. It was as though all his hair on his body had all puffed up, as he faced an enemy.
In the spacious living room, there were only the two of them.
“Why did you come here?” Jiang Yuqian put his guardedness away, and he was now interrogating.
“You didn’t look for me, so I have no choice but to come here and look for you,” Zhou Hao said casually.
Jiang Yuqian placed a foot next to Zhou Hao, and the seat of the sofa immediately sank in.
“Your mother invited me to stay for dinner.”
Jiang Yuqian dragged at him with great force, but Zhou Hao was like a mountain. He remained seated on the couch firmly, not moving an inch.
As the two were in a stalemate, Mrs. Jiang happened across them.
“Go wash your hands and get ready for dinner.”
This meal, Jiang Yuqian found it completely tasteless, while Zhou Hao was quite happy, even chatting with Mrs. Jiang.
“This is the first time we have a classmate over. Yuqian is very unsociable, so Xiao Zhou, you have to bring him out more often.”
Zhou Hao gave Jiang Yuqian a glance, a smile on his face as he agreed. “Of course, I do like going out with Yuqian.”
After dinner, Mrs. Jiang insisted that Jiang Yuqian walk with his classmate out. Jiang Yuqian only walked Zhou Hao to the door, and wanted to close it after him.
Mrs. Jiang walked over. She first reproached her son for being inconsiderate, then instructed him, “Drive Xiao Zhou home.”
With no other choice, Jiang Yuqian had to pick up the car key. The journey was not long, so the drive was short.
Reaching No. 1 Binjiang, Jiang Yuqian stopped at the gates of the community and dropped Zhou Hao there. The two of them looked out of the car windows, neither of them moving.
“You’re still shamelessly remaining here?”
Zhou Hao undid his seat belt. From the pocket of his down jacket, he took a box out, and from the box, he carefully picked out a small ring made of pure silver, his expression very serious.
“This is for you.”
Jiang Yuqian gave it a quick look, but did not reach out for it. “Do you know what’s making a fool of yourself through imitation?”
Zhou Hao’s heart turned cold. Suppressing his anger, he asked, “What do you mean by that?”
“You don’t understand? If you don’t, you can just go home and search on Baidu.”
Zhou Hao grabbed hold of Jiang Yuqian’s hand, forcing the ring onto his ring finger with all his might. After some time, he finally managed to put it on. Before the ring could even warm up to his body temperature, Jiang Yuqian immediately yanked it off, throwing it out of the window.
“I thought I had already made it clear enough to you the last time!”
Zhou Hao’s eyes followed the directory of the ring, to where it fell on the ground. He then opened the car door, going out to look for that ring.
The way he looked, bent and bowed, was very debasing. Jiang Yuqian felt inexplicably frustrated looking at him, and drove off.
Unable to find the ring, Zhou Hao could only head back home in desolation. Mercilessly, he removed the ring on the ring finger of his left hand, throwing it into the grass within the community.
Three days later, on the night of the New Year’s eve, Zhou Hao was alone at home. He had bought all the groceries already, and they were ready to be cooked.
Just like previous years, other than a blessing from Yan Ming, his phone never lit up at all. As for his family, he had no hope for them. Despite having been out here by himself for so many years, his mother had never given him a single call.
Zhou Hao plugged in the induction cooker. He had prepared a pot of soup, and was going to just have hotpot.
Suddenly, his phone chimed. Zhou Hao picked it up, and saw a message from Sun Yiwen—
“Happy Year of the Chicken!”
Zhou Hao recalled that this kid had said that he would not be going home this New Year, but staying in A City.
“Let’s spend the New Year together then. Come to No. 1 Binjiang, Block 5, 2nd floor, Unit 501.”
Sun Yiwen quickly tidied up everything, hurrying over.
During the night of the New Year’s eve, the streets were abnormally quiet, and the usual sounds of traffic had vanished completely. Getting onto a taxi, it took him less than half an hour to reach Zhou Hao’s place.
A little reserved, Sun Yiwen stood in front of Zhou Hao. His cheeks, having been freezing out in the cold winter, were finally warming up in the heated environment, and his face flushed adorably.
“Don’t block my way.” Zhou Hao walked around him, going to the kitchen to get a bowl and chopsticks.
The television in the living room was still showing the New Year Gala, and sounds of festivity pricked at Zhou Hao’s eardrums.
“Come, move the pot over to the coffee table. I’ll go plug it in.”
As such, the two of them sat on the carpet around the pot, watching the Gala show.
“Why didn’t you go back for the New Year?”
Sun Yiwen hemmed and hawed, not wanting to say the reason.
Zhou Hao could see through him, and so changed the topic. “How’s the sauce I made? It’s fine, right?”
Sun Yiwen was very obedient, answering accordingly, “It’s quite tasty.”
Looking at Sun Yiwen, Zhou Hao stared at him as though in a trance for a long time.
“What… what’s wrong?” Sun Yiwen wiped at his mouth, afraid that there were remnants of sauce or something.
“Have you ever dated before?”
Again, his previous mumbling repeated. Sun Yiwen seemed to have said, “No…”
Zhou Hao did not hear it too clearly, actually.
“You should be quite popular amongst girls.”
Sun Yiwen bowed his head, looking a little embarrassed.
“You get embarrassed so easily.”
“What about you? Have you dated before?”
Zhou Hao froze, then raised a brow and asked in response, “What do you think?”
“I can’t tell.”
“I have, I’m dating them right now. However… it’s a boyfriend.”
Sun Yiwen’s mouth was wide open from shoving a meatball in, and he swallowed it right down. The piping hot meatball slid down his oesophagus, and he felt as though he had been branded by hot iron. It was very painful, so painful that his face all scrunched up.
“You don’t believe me?”
“N-no.” Sun Yiwen shook his head like a rattle.
With how challenging Zhou Hao looked, he seemed just like a narrow-eyed fox. Waving the phone in his hand, he said, “If you don’t believe me, I’ll make a call for you to see.”
The moment his call connected, Zhou Hao teared up. How pitiful, that he was just like a clown bouncing up and down. He was desperately trying to prove it to others, but what was he proving?
That he had a boyfriend.
“Laogong, happy new year.” Zhou Hao immediately hung up straight after that.
He again waved his phone at Sun Yiwen. “See, I do have a boyfriend.”
Sun Yiwen did not say anything, only looking down and eating the food in his bowl. An odd atmosphere surrounded and influenced the two of them, and they had nothing to say.
Sounds of firecrackers came non-stop from outside, bursting and banging continuously. The soup in the pot bubbled away, along with the celebratory sounds from the television. They all came together, lingering in the living room that should have been quiet…