Chapter 6 — The Clown
Edited by Tin
Zhou Hao staggered as he stood up, his face scarily dark. Pressing onto his swollen face, he headed straight east. He must have had too much time on his hands, and that was why he decided to play the hero.
That boy had just finished giving his thanks to his classmates who came to help. Turning around, he saw that Zhou Hao was leaving, and so hurried after him. Sounding both nervous and apologetic, he spoke, “Thank you very much for just now.”
Zhou Hao ignored him, walking towards the direction of the school gates. Under the streetlights were two shadows, one tall, one short; one in front, and one behind. The school grounds were covered in an oppressive aura of the examination week, and these two people, walking on the cement path as though they were bounding away, were like the solitary light in a pitch Black Forest.
“Stop bothering me!” Zhou Hao’s footsteps paused, and the pain of his forehead made him suck in a breath of cool air.
“I’m sorry.” The boy’s pretty eyelashes fluttered down, two even shadows reflected in his eyes. “My name is Sun Yiwen, and again, thank you very much.”
According to Zhou Hao’s usual character, he had completely no intentions of responding to this person, and would not even say a single, extraneous word. However, the image Sun Yiwen portrayed, silently standing there with his head bowed and looking apologetic, it made him recall Cheng Zixu, whom he just saw in the library half an hour ago, his head buried in his books.
This moment, the expressions in these two people’s eyes entangled tightly in Zhou Hao’s head.
Zhou Hao glanced at him a couple of times dazedly, and casually asked, “What year are you in?”
Sun Yiwen was a little surprised, quickly answering, “I’m in my second year. What about you?”
Zhou Hao did not reply, and continued heading east.
The dancing tree shadows under the streetlights were like thick, black ink whirling across the ground. Zhou Hao stepped on these shadows, a sense of resignation exuding from his footsteps. He too did not know where he was going.
Home? It was empty and lonely, without a single person there.
What about returning to the library and again seeking out his own suffering? He did not want to do so, he was truly exhausted today.
Zhou Hao reached the bend, then wrenched his head around. That person was still standing like a fool there.
“Oi! Come here!”
Sun Yiwen immediately ran over. Stopping right in front of Zhou Hao, his chest was heaving as he caught his breath. Zhou Hao watched the person in front of him, and after a pause, he asked him, “Can you drink?”
Sun Yiwen froze for a moment, then quickly nodded his head.
“Been to a bar?”
“Come with me, and try it out!”
The two went to the one closest to their school, Bar Sakura. Apparently, the boss was Japanese, and the bar was furnished in a Japanese style as well. The long and narrow bar counter made of brick and wood looked very solemn and stately, but the lighting within was very soft and gentle. The two clashing styles mixed together, compensating for each other’s weakness, and so the entire bar felt very elegant. It was like a young Japanese girl in a kimono and clogs, walking daintily.
The bartender was a middle-aged man dressed smartly in a suit. This was Zhou Hao’s first time here as well. Studying the menu, they both ordered a Long Island iced tea. The ingredients and ice cubes rattled loudly in the shaker, and each motion of the bartender dazzled Zhou Hao’s eyes. Even without drinking, he felt as though he was in a dream already.
After the cocktails were mixed and poured into Collins glasses, a decorative lemon slice and crushed iced were added, and the drinks were finally adorned with a straw.
Zhou Hao did not normally drink. Although this cocktail was not very alcoholic, the way he chugged it all down in one shot, the alcohol immediately rushed through his body.
Sun Yiwen drank refinedly, unhurriedly, and so did not feel a single bit drunk.
“Are you ok?”
Zhou Hao waved him off, and spoke to the bartender. “Another glass.”
The bartender again performed the same actions, preparing another glass for him, only for Zhou Hao to drink it all in one go again. Now, he was not only a little drunk, but completely drunk. His head spun, and his cheeks were flushed a drunken red. He sprawled on the bar counter, feeling that the lights, the music, and the people around him were spinning.
Over there, Zheng Shichu and a few other players noticed what was going on here.
“Shall we call Yuqian over? His wife’s about to run off with another,” Zheng Shichu jeered with narrowed eyes.
Gu Lin, “What has he been doing these past few days? He keeps disappearing.”
Tian Bin said, “Probably accompanying his little lover. Look, the official wife feels abandoned, and so ran over here to drink.”
Zheng Shichu laughed loudly, his index finger wagging as he pointed at Tian Bin, seemingly agreeing with what he said. After that, Zheng Shichu texted Jiang Yuqian on WeChat—
“Bar Sakura, we’re all here. There’s a good show playing.”
Sun Yiwen saw Zhou Hao dozing off, completely not sober, and supported him out of the bar.
“The two of them have left. Let’s follow the show.”
Gu Lin did not like such fuss. “Can’t be bothered.”
“Don’t be like this, I’ve already told Yuqian already, and asked him to come over to watch a show. If this person disappears, Yuqian will probably think that I’m playing him for a fool.”
As such, the three people left the bar as well. At the door, Zheng Shichu obstructed Sun Yiwen, blocking his way. Sun Yiwen thought that he had once again bumped into hooligans, and reflexively retreated.
Feeling the cool wind blowing across his face, Zhou Hao sobered up slightly. He lifted his head, only to see three people standing in front of them. Stumbling, he openly embraced Sun Yiwen’s slender body, turning away and leaving.
The scene was already set, how could they let the main character leave even before the play started?
“Zhou Hao!” Zheng Shichu shouted. However, Zhou Hao did not pay him any attention, he continued walking.
“Yuqian says, he’ll come pick you up in a bit.”
This name was like a tonic that washed away all his drunkenness. It entered his ears once, and Zhou Hao immediately sobered up. His stiff arm slid down from delicate shoulders, and then he slowly turned around. Standing on the brightly lit street, he really seemed as though he was a part of a play, and the figures around him had all become his foil.
He only had to stand in the centre of the street. Whether it was a heartrending hopelessness, or an isolated, lonely emptiness, he only had to put his “acting” on display, his acting that came straight from his heart.
Amongst the four of them, Zheng Shichu was the one with the trashiest mouth. When it involved matters to do with the relationships of others, most people would not interfere. However, Zheng Shichu would, and he loved getting involved in the matters between these two, and stirring up the water, making it even muddier.
Completely out of the loop, Sun Yiwen watched Zhou Hao, a little worried. Those people did not seem to be anyone good. However, he too had an unexpected gain, he now knew this person’s name.
Zhou Hao tried his best to control the giddiness in his head, cautiously feigning composedness as he walked over. A somewhat pitiful hope even welled up within him. He thought, was that person also slightly worried about him?
Not long later, Jiang Yuqian arrived. However, he too brought along Cheng Zixu.
This situation would definitely always be quite awkward. Cheng Zixu too recognised the three people, greeting them one by one. When he reached Zhou Hao, just like usual, he politely greeted him, “Shixiong!”
Zhou Hao knew that he had been made a fool, and there was nowhere for him to vent this anger. Finally, his rage gathered in his palm, and he pushed Cheng Zixu violently. Cheng Zixu was not standing firmly, and fell back a few steps. However, Zhou Hao’s anger did not lessen. Desperately, he grabbed Jiang Yuqian’s hand. “Let’s go home!”
Jiang Yuqian too struggled desperately out of his hold, then with an unbothered, mocking tone, he spoke to Zheng Shichu, “This is the show you mentioned? It’s not good at all.”
The little street resounded with Zheng Shichu’s exaggerated, deliberate laughter. As though possessed, his laughter was sharp and piercing. Zhou Hao’s hands sank listlessly down. In front of others, he again turned into a clown meant to amuse others. Everyone was watching coldly, including his husband of his fantasy.
All this while, Sun Yiwen had remained silently next to Zhou Hao. By now, he too registered the wicked intentions of these people. Patting Zhou Hao’s shoulder, he quietly said, “Let’s go.”
Zhou Hao swiftly caught hold of Sun Yiwen’s collar, planting a kiss on him. Although it was only superficial, with just lips pressing against each other, in the eyes of others, they would definitely think that it was a passionate french kiss. In his heart, Zhou Hao silently counted. One second, two second, three second… thirty second. He turned his head around abruptly to see what Jiang Yuqian’s reaction would be like.
That person had his neck bent, quietly conversing with Cheng Zixu. The amusement curling around his lips could not be concealed, and in his eyes was a touching gentleness.
The clown, unable to gain any attention, could only flee. Zhou Hao gave Zheng Shichu a kick, then walked away resolutely. He no longer cared about what the others thought about him, no longer cared about Sun Yiwen who was following him closely…
Showering after returning home, Zhou Hao scooted into his room. He felt that his entire body was immersed in an aura of debasement that could not be washed away, and no matter how well he pretended, in the middle of the night, it would still be revealed.
He selected a porn video on his computer, putting his earphones on, and adjusting the volume to the loudest his ears could accept. In the video was the low moaning and lewd gasping of two male actors. Faced with this visual impact of nudity, he was already no longer in the mood to watch.
Closing his eyes, he let loose his imagination. There were two people in his fantasy, it was him and his husband. They were intertwined intimately, coming together, rubbing themselves against each other… In the hopeless pleasure, Zhou Hao sank into the anguish of life.
“Papa, Papa…” He murmured, pained.
Papa? That was something too distant, and only existed in the memories of the first seven years of his life. Whenever Zhou Hao was unable to distract himself from the loneliness, in his heart, he would recall the vague memory of that man. Just like now, it was as though everyone in the world was happy, and he was the only one curling up in the dark, decaying day by day.
Jiang Yuqian clearly could have saved him! He clearly could have rescued him from the darkness! Why did he not save him?! Why was he not saving him?!
These thoughts often appeared in his brain in fragments. Zhou Hao knew that he was already sick. Finally, he had succeeded in torturing himself, to the point where his sickness was beyond cure.
The lack of love in his childhood had turned him into a stubborn and apathetic person. All these years, he had been giving his all into finding a hope for his soul. In the end, however, the hope he thought he found had instead pushed him further into hell.
He could not get rid of the paranoia in his mind, the same things kept repeating non-stop —
Why did you not save me?!
Why did you not reach out to me?!
Why did you not… like me…
There were so many people in this world. How did Zhou Hao ended fixating on Jiang Yuqiang like a psycho, was a very long, very long story…