Edited by: Planetes
Fang Zhaomu’s good luck did not complete its journey.
It was Restaurant Week. With a heavy workload, he had stayed in the lab for an entire day. Completing his tasks for the day early, he left alone to have dinner. The soup had only just arrived, and Song Yuanxun, who had not been the lab the whole day, entered the restaurant.
Mercifully, Song Yuanxun did not come here with Zhang Ranyu and Zhou Meng. The two people next to him were people that Fang Zhaomu did not recognise. They were probably Song Yuanxun’s business major classmates, as the way they dressed were more formal than the students who often spent their time in the lab, and their behaviour was high-spirited.
Just like normal, Song Yuanxun’s expression was indifferent. Bringing along with him a cold wind as he stepped inside, he even glanced at Fang Zhaomu. Fang Zhaomu had originally felt much more relaxed as he had not seen Song Yuanxun that day, but who would have thought that he would bump into him outside school. Next time he stepped out of the door, he would not be lazy, and must flip through the almanac to take a look at his luck for the day.
Fang Zhaomu looked down and perked his ears up. The host asked them if they made any reservations, and one of the two he did not recognise stated his name. A server then led them upstairs.
This restaurant had a difference between its upper and lower floors, and even the chefs and menus were different.
Fang Zhaomu thought that business students were truly extravagant. The next time he brought Andrew here, as ordinary people, it would be very nice for them to share a meal downstairs, sitting at this table next to the window.
Misfortune came in threes. Fang Zhaomu had just finished his soup, and a classmate from his group who was in charge of collecting the data gave him a call, saying that there were issues with all the data he had analysed this week, they could not be matched to the results another person did. The professor was now waiting in the lab and wanted Fang Zhaomu to quickly return.
Fang Zhaomu was extremely helpless. He did not wait for the rest of his food to come, but settled the bill, called for a taxi and rushed back to school.
Panting, he ran into the lab. Two classmates were waiting for him, while the professor had already left as he could wait no longer. He scrutinised his results from top to bottom with his classmates, and finally sighed in relief when they found out that the issue lay with the other person.
It was 9.30pm when Fang Zhaomu left the lab. The weather was very cold, and the wind blew strongly. Fang Zhaomu’s scarf was not thick, and the cold air squirreled into his body through the gap between his scarf and coat, freezing him.
He was in a hurry when he headed back to the lab, so he did not feel that it was cold. Now that things were settled, walking alone in the dark campus, he realised that it was really bitingly cold.
About to reach the school gate, Fang Zhaomu’s phone in his pocket vibrated. Now, hearing the vibration, he would be scared. Hesitating for a few moments, the vibration did not stop, and he finally took his phone out to take a look.
Andrew was calling him, and there were also a few notifications showing that he had messages that were unread. In his nervous state just now, Fang Zhaomu did not register that he had received any texts.
He answered the phone, greeting him. Andrew’s deep and steady voice could be heard, and Fang Zhaomu felt a slight twist in his heart.
What lovers’ set, what dessert, sharing a meal downstairs. Fang Zhaomu had imagined so much, but in the end, he did not even get to finish eating his meal.
He did not have anyone to talk to, and could only listen to Andrew’s voice. He ran through the miseries he wanted to tell others in his mind, and treated it as though he had already talked to someone about it.
“Were you busy just now?” Andrew asked him casually.
“Yes,” Fang Zhaomu pressed his phone against his ear as he walked, the back of his hand already numb with the cold wind brushing against it. Pretending that everything was fine, he spoke to Andrew, “Something came up at the lab, so I was busy until now.”
“There were mistakes in my classmate’s data, so we spent the whole evening verifying it.”
Andrew paused and asked Fang Zhaomu, “You’re still in the lab?”
“No, I’m not. I’m going home now. What about you, have you reached your hotel yet?”
“Have you had dinner?”
“I’ve eaten. How was the restaurant?”
Fang Zhaomu was dejected. “I’m not sure. Just as I finished the soup, I was called out. The mistake really gave me a scare, and I still don’t feel hungry now. If the professor comes tomorrow, I still need to explain it to him.”
Andrew’s voice sounded a little disapproving. “You have to eat.”
“I don’t feel like eating.” A strong gust of wind blew past. Fang Zhaomu hugged himself tightly and complained to Andrew, “Andrew, I’m very cold.”
“Where are you now?”
“I’m walking home.” Fang Zhaomu shivered. “I won’t talk to you anymore. It’s really cold. I’ll talk to you again when I’m home.”
Fang Zhaomu hung up and made his way home, half-walking and half-running.
His lodging was not very far, nor very near the school compound. It would take about twenty minutes for him to walk back.
As he made his way round a corner, Fang Zhaomu discovered a car behind him. However, it never drove past him, but slowly followed him instead.
When the car was right behind him, Fang Zhaomu turned his head to take a look. Due to the intensity of the headlights, he was unable to distinguish what type of car it was, and continued walking ahead.
At the start, Fang Zhaomu did not think that the car was following him. However, after making two turns, the car was still the same distance behind, following him, and Fang Zhaomu became suspicious.
The dazzling lights and the sounds of the tires rolling across the road made Fang Zhaomu’s hair stand on end. In his head, many violent headlines flashed by. He kept closer to the wall, keeping as much a distance as possible from the car, and his footsteps sped up.
After half a street, the car was still sticking behind him. Fang Zhaomu was frightened to death. He wanted to dial 911, but after seeing those three digits, he hesitated, and instead gave a call to Andrew who was unable to do anything from Seattle.
Andrew answered very quickly. “What happened?”
“Andrew,” Fang Zhaomu paid attention to the car behind him, and spoke hurriedly to Andrew. “There seems to be a car following me, it has followed me for for awhile already. What to do, should I call the police?”
“…” Andrew was silent for a few seconds. “Don’t be afraid. Are you sure it’s following you? What car is it?”
“It’s driving very slowly, and keeps maintaining a distance of about 10m behind me. It’s been following me for 3 streets,” Fang Zhaomu mustered up his courage and turned to look at the car, in the end, he was so frightened that he started running. “I… I can’t see… what car… it is.”
At this moment, that car suddenly made a turn, and drove down that street at the same speed.
Fang Zhaomu came to a stop. He turned back to look, then started walking briskly ahead. He told Andrew, “It has turned onto another street.”
“How far away are you from your home?” Andrew asked.
“3 more minutes.” Fang Zhaomu could already see his place. “Can you continue talking to me? I’m very scared.”
“I can,” Andrew agreed instantly. “It’s fine, don’t be scared.”
Fang Zhaomu had been running about for the most part of today. His heart was beating rapidly, and he thanked Andrew with a small voice, continuing ahead. He was also not sure if Andrew might feel that he was paranoid, but he really got a fright, and could not think too much about it, only wanting to return home quickly.
When he reached the gate of the apartment building, Fang Zhaomu took his keys out with shaking hands and unlocked the gate. He ran in and closed it behind him, finally managing to relax a little. Slowly walking up the stairs, he told Andrew, “I’m home already.”
He was out of breath, holding on to the staircase railings, he stopped to rest. Andrew was also silent, before telling Fang Zhaomu, “Good.”
“Andrew,” Fang Zhaomu looked up at the dark and narrow stairway. He spoke softly, “Thank you for accompanying me.”
“It’s not very safe at night in C City,” Andrew said calmly. “Don’t walk alone next time.”
Fang Zhaomu felt that he was unable to keep this promise, so he did not say a word.
“I’ve ordered some food for you,” Andrew spoke up. “Where do you live? I’ll get them to deliver it to you.”
Fang Zhaomu was surprised. He headed up the stairs while refusing it, “There’s no need for that, it’s so late already. Anyway, I’m also not hungry.”
“I’ve ordered it half an hour ago. Give me your address.”
Andrew’s voice was very firm, and so Fang Zhaomu reported his address to him. “Is it near you? Are you going to find an opportunity to come peek at me?”
“I’m not even in the same city, how am I going to peek?” Andrew said. “Your place isn’t far from mine.”
Reaching his door, Fang Zhaomu heard a clear ticking noise coming from Andrew’s side. It stopped very quickly, and sounded like the signalling lights of a car. Fang Zhaomu asked him, “You’re in a car?”
“Yes, there’s something urgent. I have to head back to the office.”
Fang Zhaomu felt sympathy for Andrew. He also had something urgent just now, but at least he was home now. Andrew instead had to leave now, his work seeming much tougher than Fang Zhaomu’s. He did not want to disturb Andrew anymore, and so said his goodbyes and hung up.