Chapter 4 — Bitterness
Edited by Tin
In the evening, Zhou Hao called Yan Ming out for a barbeque dinner. Yan Ming was his high school classmate, as well as his only friend. From their county, the two of them had both managed to get accepted into a university in the capital, and they could be considered buddies who would share woe and weal.
After a few drinks, there was enough bitterness in his stomach. It was evident that Zhou Hao was drunk, and his face was flushed from the alcohol. “Boss, another five sticks of kidney, they need to be a little rare.”
Yan Ming said, “Your taste is so heavy.”
Zhou Hao replied, “What do you know? It’s to improve virility.”
With the air of a refined scholar and his black-framed glasses, one only needed a glance to see that Yan Ming was a cultured person. He did not want to continue that topic with his friend, and so changed the topic to persuade Zhou Hao instead.
“You should let Jiang Yuqian go. His heart is not even with you, why do you want to go through such suffering?”
“Then what about you? Why aren’t you letting go yet?” Zhou Hao countered.
Yan Ming fell silent. From a certain angle, the two of them were very similar. They both suffered from a certain sort of stubbornness.
When Zhou Hao discovered that Yan Ming liked a teacher from the history department, they had just finished their fourth year of studies.
During that time, Zhou Hao was in the midst of a cold war with Jiang Yuqian. He was not in a good mood, and so he invited Yan Ming for a graduation trip to a nearby city. However, Yan Ming had rejected the invitation, saying that he wanted to help his teacher collate some data. Zhou Hao took it as him being a bookworm who had studied till his brain rotted, and did not press on.
Some time later, Yan Ming told him that he would never again write poetry.
A little confused, Zhou Hao chimed in, “It’s good that you’re no longer writing poetry. You literary youths are too scary.”
However, Yan Ming responded. “He said, after Auschwitz, all poetry is uncivilised.”
“…” Zhou Hao held back his words, then asked, “Who is he?”
What happened next was an entire year of admiring him secretly. Zhou Hao did not like the sort of feelings that dragged on and on. He had told Yan Ming countless times to just confess his feelings directly, as there was no point in hiding it away. However, Yan Ming disagreed, saying that this was a sort of philosophical love, and there only needed to be a spiritual exchange. He only needed the person he liked to stand in front of him, and he would already be happy enough.
Finally came a day when Zhou Hao saw that legendary history teacher. His name was Jiang Weiyang, thirty-odd years of age. His hair was soft and smooth, lying obediently on his head, and neither too short nor too long. Just like Yan Ming, he wore a pair of glasses, and his appearance was very elegant and good looking. He could be considered a popular teacher in the history department. Girls liked to crowd around him, asking him questions, and Yan Ming as well.
Honestly speaking, when one liked a person, their eyes would reveal everything. Zhou Hao thought that it was possible the teacher might already know of Yan Ming’s feelings. However, that Jiang-laoshi was a divorcee, and so he probably was heterosexual.
This was not something that would result in fruitfulness.
Zhou Hao lifted up his beer bottle, gulping its contents down before slamming the bottle down. “I saw him and that sissy yesterday.”
“What were they doing?”
“Nothing much, he was sending the sissy home.”
Yan Ming raised his glass, taking a drink. “Zhou Hao, are you tired?”
“I’m not,” Zhou Hao opened another bottle, finishing half of it. “At the most, we’ll just torture each other, and we won’t let each other off.”
Yan Ming was completely unable to understand his friend’s way of thinking. However, the matter of Zhou Hao liking Jiang Yuqian in the first place was incomprehensible as well.
Love needed to be mutual and consensual to be considered love. The other party had no such intentions at all, but Zhou Hao, after liking him, decided to force his way in.
So, despite all these years and how badly Jiang Yuqian had treated Zhou Hao, Yan Ming had never felt that the man was a very bad person.
“Has a diuretic been added to this? Why do I keep wanting to pee?!” Zhou Hao had already drank four bottles. Standing up, he grabbed a skewer of mutton and called out, “I’m going to go pee now.”
The barbecue stall was boisterous, and filled with all sorts of people all mixed within. There were hooligans from various gangs, older people dripping with wealth, as well as scholarly students like the two of them.
After doing his business, Zhou Hao stood in front of the mirror in the restroom, straightening his fringe. His eyes and nose were well defined, and he could not understand in which way he was lacking compared to that sissy.
Bolstered by alcohol, he gave Jiang Yuqian a call.
“Hello? Is this Jiang Yuqian?” Feeling giddy, Zhou Hao did not think before he spoke.
The person on the phone did not speak.
“Jiang Yuqian, I miss you…”
Finally, something was heard. It was an indifferent, mocking tone. “What sort of tricks are you up to this time?”
Under the influence of alcohol, Zhou Hao became somewhat petulant. He was not prickly like usual, and even sounded a little aggrieved, “I’m not up to any tricks, I just miss you…”
Jiang Yuqian knew that he was drunk, and hung up immediately.
“Beep beep beep—” Zhou Hao was not very sober, and he continued standing in front of the mirror, repeating, “I just miss you…”
“Bro, could you please give way?” A hooligan covered with tattoos walked towards Zhou Hao impatiently, scorning him for obstructing the entrance to the restroom.
Zhou Hao hurriedly moved away from the mirror, and stumbled back to his seat.
“Why did you take so long?” Yan Ming asked.
Zhou Hao seemed to be possessed. With two reddened cheeks, he smiled foolishly, “I miss Jiang Yuqian…”
Yan Ming sighed, pushing the plate of meat skewers in front of the drunkard. “Hurry up and eat.”
Zhou Hao stopped drinking the beer, having some cool water instead. By the time the two of them finished the remaining skewers, it was already 8.30pm. The time to ruminate over their feelings had yet to arrive, while sobriety was upon them. Zhou Hao dragged Yan Ming to the nearby mall to walk around.
It was quite a strange matter for two lads to be window shopping. They might as well just head back home to sleep, but Zhou Hao felt that he should spend some of the money in his wallet.
The air-conditioning in the mall was very sufficient. The moment they stepped in, it was as though they had entered heaven. Zhou Hao did not have anything he wanted to buy, and so bought Yan Ming two sets of clothes, spending nearly ten thousand RMB. When making the payment, he did not even blink at the amount.
“Is this Jiang Yuqian’s money?” Yan Ming did not even need to wonder.
“Let’s return these clothes. I don’t want them, they’re too expensive.”
“Why don’t you want them? It’s his card, we might as well just spend it.”
Jiang Yuqian was a son from a rich family. During his first year in university, his father had handed over a subsidiary company in his group over to him for management, making him a partner in the company. In his third year, with Jiang Yuqian’s unique vision, he purchased a development studio. Later on, this studio developed a new game and became listed, earning him a pile of money.
Jiang Yuqian had no lack of money, and he was also willing to spend it. All these years, Zhou Hao had gained quite a lot of benefits, at least in the matter of food and clothing. Other than the daily necessities, each time Zhou Hao was unhappy, he would take Jiang Yuqian’s card and go on a shopping spree. It did not matter what he bought, only that he would only buy expensive items.
“Thank you, Sugar Daddy Jiang.” Just like usual, Zhou Hao sent a message to the rich man.
Only at this point did his morning’s frustration started fading away.
At home, Jiang Yuqian first received a notification from the bank, and then that derisive message from that person. Thinking about how gleeful Zhou Hao would be shopping, Jiang Yuqian massaged his temples, tossing his phone aside.
Someone knocked on his door.
“Come on in.”
Jiang Yuqian’s mother came in with a glass of milk, placing it on the bedside table. “Finish the milk and head to bed early.”
His mother, nearly fifty years of age, yet looked just like a woman around thirty. Although there were a few wrinkles around her eyes, it could be seen that she was a great beauty with a gentle temperament when she was younger. His mother too usually spoke in a very warm, kind manner.
Influenced by his mother, Jiang Yuqian was brought up well and very polite. No matter how angry he was, he would never say anything too vulgar.
Being with Zhou Hao, he had already used up all the vulgarities he knew.
“I met your Auntie Zhang today.”
Sitting on the bed, Jiang Yuqian’s mother started chatting with her son. “Do you still remember her? Her son, Xuxu, sat next to you at school.”
Jiang Yuqian’s heart settled. He was normally not talkative, but he now wanted to chat a little while longer with his mother. “I remember.”
“It’s such a coincidence. When I was packing your old things a few days ago, I found a few photos of you and that child together. Xuxu looked just like a little girl.”
He knew those photos. After graduating from high school, their class had arranged a trip to Linyi to play, and he had taken those photos with Cheng Zixu by the beach. There was once when he was upset, and handed those photos to the auntie in his house to be thrown away. When his anger abated, and he went to ask the photos from the auntie back, the auntie had only said that she had thrown the photos away. Who would have thought that the photos were still at home?
“Ma, where are they? I’ll like to take a look at them.”
“I’ll pass them to you tomorrow. It’s quite late now, you should hurry up and head to bed.”
“I want to see them now.”
“Hey, how old are you already? You’re still acting spoilt with your mother?” It was rare that her son would act spoilt with her. She sounded scornful, but was internally delighted. “I’ll bring them to you now.”
Their backs against the sea, Jiang Yuqian had one arm around Cheng Zixu, and both of them were smiling radiantly.
Jiang Yuqian caressed those photos, his thumb on Cheng Zixu’s smiling face, and stroked it gently…
Finally, from amongst the photos, he selected a smaller sized one that fit perfectly in his wallet.