As the weather grew colder, Xie Meng came out to train one morning and was surprised to not be exchanging any blows with Zhang Xiujuan. The old lady was basking under the sun in the courtyard, nodding off in sleep.
“Grandma.” Xie Meng wiped his sweat, “Go in to sleep, it’s cold outside.”
Zhang Xiujuan’s eyes squinted in a smile. After November, she would be turning 70. Recently, she had not been as energetic as before.
“Suddenly, I really do feel my age,” Zhang Xiujuan tucked in her white hair behind her ear. She patted the seat next to her, “Come sit down with your grandmother.”
Xie Meng sat down next to her and rubbed at her hands, “Now, the ones who call themselves old are actually not old at all.”
“That’s different,” Zhang Xiujuan said lightly. “When I say I’m old, I’m really old. I know it myself.”
It was rare that Mo Suyuan would wake up early on Saturday to go fishing with Ji Shanrong in Xishan. She had already been used to her son running and training in the morning.
“Would you like me to prepare anything when you bring your friend over to play?” Mo Suyuan yawned as she rummaged through the refrigeration, mumbling, “There’s not enough snacks…”
Ji Qinyang wore his shoes, pulling his headphones on. “He can do it himself, don’t worry.”
Mo Suyuan gave him a look. “How can you let the guest do it themselves?”
Then, she was a little uncertain, “Is it really not a girl?”
“It’s my boyfriend.” Ji Qinyang raised his brow, speaking in a manner where it was not certain if he was lying or not. “His name is Xie Meng, I’ll introduce him to you next time.”
Mo Suyuan thought he was joking. She waved at him, preparing to wait for her son to leave before taking the strawberries from the fridge into the kitchen to wash them.
Xie Meng opened the gate to the courtyard, waiting for Ji Qinyang to stop his bicycle. When the boy was locking his bike, he suddenly asked, “Hey, why doesn’t the key fit?”
“Let me take a look.” Xie Meng did not doubt him. When he bent over, Ji Qinyang suddenly turned his head and planted a light, butterfly kiss on his lips.
Xie Meng, “…”
Zhang Xiujuan called out from inside the house, “Xiao-Ji, come and try the red bean soup I made.”
“Coming,” Ji Qinyang wrapped an arm around Xie Meng’s shoulders.
Xie Meng sighed, “… Don’t always do this sort of sneak attacks.”
Ji Qinyang, “?
Xie Meng, “I’m about to get a heart attack from fright.”
Ji Qinyang laughed. Taking advantage of Zhang Xiujuan not paying attention to them, he leaned into Xie Meng’s ear and whispered, “I can’t help myself.”
Xie Meng looked at him.
Ji Qinyang’s expression was very serious. “It’s torturous to not kiss you.”
Zhang Xiujuan’s radio broke down last week. At that time, Xie Meng was just done with the mid-term exams, and he inadvertently mentioned it to Ji Qinyang. The boy then volunteered to come over and repair it.
Xie Meng had originally only thought that he was looking for an excuse to come to his home. In the end, Ji Qinyang really took Zhang Xiujuan’s radio apart and fixed it back. After testing it out for a little while, a voice singing and telling the story of <The New Ballad of Mulan> in a Suzhou dialect drifted out from the radio.
Zhang Xiujuan exclaimed in delight.
Ji Qinyang turned up the volume a little. Although some static could still be heard, it was much clearer than before.
Zhang Xiujuan said joyfully, “… I can finally hear it clearly.” She could not help scoffing at her own little grandson, “Look at how competent Xiao-Ji is!”
Ji Qinyang too did not stand on courtesy, speaking in a Suzhou dialect, “I want to be Grandma’s grandchild too.”
“You’re all my grandchildren, you’re all my darlings.” Zhang Xiujuan’s smile was like a blossom. “Quick, quickly go have some red bean soup.”
Zhang Xiujuan’s radio was finally repaired, and so she was reluctant to part with it. Xie Meng then just left the old lady alone to quietly listen to the play, and pulled Ji Qinyang out to have some red bean soup. He gave him a bowl that was filled to the brim, while he only took a piece of chinese pancake.
“You don’t like sweet things?” Ji Qinyang did not pick up a spoon, but drank most of it directly from the bowl.
Xie Meng shook his head. “You like sweet things?”
“I do.” Ji Qinyang smiled. He finished up the rest of the soup, and placed the bowl in the sink.
“You should buy Grandma a new radio.” Ji Qinyang poured out some detergent. “My repair can only fix it for so long. It’s too old, it has to be replaced.”
Xie Meng reached out and pulled up his sleeves for him, his head lowered. “She’s used to using it, and is unwilling to change it. It’s fine as long as she likes it.”
Ji Qinyang did not speak. His eyes fell on Xie Meng’s attentive profile, and suddenly said, You’re also my darling.”
Xie Meng, “…”
Ji Qinyang laughed and kissed him on his temple, “You’re extremely sweet.”
The old lady went to the teahouse in the afternoon to listen to a storytelling session. Xie Meng locked the gate to the courtyard, and Ji Qinyang waited for him by his bicycle.
“What shall we eat tonight?” The boy confirmed again, a little unwilling to give up, “You’re really not going to spend the night over at my house?”
Xie Meng looked at him helplessly.
Ji Qinyang pouted, “Fine.”
Xie Meng laughed out loud. He reached out and ruffled the back of Ji Qinyang’s head. “You…”
It was deep autumn. Ji Qinyang had Xie Meng on the back of his bicycle as he rode past the little bridges and streams. Along the streets were gingko trees, the fan-like yellow leaves covering the ground. The wheels of the bicycle rolled on silently.
Ji Qinyang was humming a tune that he wrote. As they made a turn, Xie Meng listened to it for a bit then asked, “What about that song?”
Ji Qinyang’s voice drifted along with the wind, and his amusement could be heard. “Which song?”
Xie Meng tried to recall it, and hummed a few bars, a little unpracticed.
Ji Qinyang waited for him to stumble through those two lines before answering, “I haven’t finished writing it… Do you like it?”
Xie Meng nodded, “Yes.”
Ji Qinyang, “Then it’s all for you.”
“You’re serious?” Xie Meng smiled and asked.
“In the future, all the songs I write are yours.” Ji Qinyang turned his head, looking at Xie Meng, “They’ll all be written for you.”
When they arrived at Ji Qinyang’s home, Mo Suyuna had yet to return. On the table were the washed strawberries, and they were very appetizing-looking.
“You want something to eat?” Ji Qinyang held half a strawberry in his mouth, mumbling as he pointed at it. “Here.”
Xie Meng held his head and leaned over. Kissing each other over and over again, all they could taste was the sweet strawberry juices.
Ji Qinyang hugged him, refusing to let go. Their lower bodies were pressed against each other, and it was evident that they both had a reaction.
Xie Meng calmed himself down, speaking quietly, “I won’t eat anymore… What time are your parents coming back?”
“Probably later,” Ji Qinyang pulled back a little, but still held on to Xie Meng’s hand tightly. He led him to his music studio, and handwritten scores were scattered next to the piano.
Xie Meng picked up a few pieces and looked at them.
“They’re all tadpoles,” Xie Meng laughed. “I don’t understand any of it.”
Ji Qinyang pulled him on his lap as he sat on the piano bench, his fingers pointing on the score, “Dodo, miso, fafare~”
Xie Meng followed him earnestly, “Dodo…”
Ji Qinyang slid his hand into the boy’s clothes, his lips caressing his fair neck.
Xie Meng, “…”
Ji Qinyang mouthed at his earlobe, licking at it. Being ticklish, Xie Meng tried pulling away. “Don’t…”
Ji Qinyang turned him around. Xie Meng straddled his thighs, and they were in a face-to-face position. The boy hid his face behind a score, and the edges of the paper wrinkled with his grip.
“What are you doing.” Ji Qinyang laughed as he tried to pull the score away. “If it’s torn, who am I going to look for to get it back?”
“…” Xie Meng put his hands down. His face was a little read, but he looked composed. Ji Qinyang leaned forward to kiss the corner of his eyes and the center of his brows.
The heating was on. Ji Qinyang rolled up Xie Meng’s thin sweater, and he lowered his head to kiss his chest, his tongue teasing his nipples.
Xie Meng pushed at him, the feeling a little more than he could bear. “Don’t always touch there.”
“Why?” Ji Qinyang smiled. “Is it not comfortable?”
Xie Meng was embarrassed, and did not want to speak. Ji Qinyang then laughed and spoke deliberately, “Seems like it’s comfortable then.”
Behind them was the piano. Unable to dodge him, Xie Meng could only half-lean against it.
Ji Qinyang kissed him again for a while, and could not help but reach out and pull the zipper of Xie Meng’s pants down.
The boy’s half-hard member was trapped in his underwear, and the exposed shape and colour were very pretty. Xie Meng unconsciously lifted his hand up to cover it, but was lightly swatted away by Ji Qinyang.
Thinking about his own experiences in masturbation, Ji Qinyang gave Xie Meng a handjob. The latter clutched at his shoulders, the flush on his face deepening.
Ji Qinyang watched the boy’s expression intensely. His hand never stopped moving, and his voice was hoarse, “I want to use my mouth… Can I?”
Xie Meng shuddered. Before Ji Qinyang could react, he already orgasmed.
Ji Qinyang muttered, “What a pity…”
Towards Ji Qinyang’s regret, Xie Meng hardly knew how he should react to it. Flustered, he picked up some tissues and wiped himself clean. Only when he accidentally bumped into the area between Ji Qinyang’s legs did he discover that he was still hard.
“I…” Xie Meng took in a breath. “I’ll help you…”
Ji Qinyang raised his brow. Pulling Xie Meng’s hand behind him, he wrapped his arms around him, “We’ll forget it this time.”
Xie Meng felt guilty. “But…”
Ji Qinyang kissed him on his lips. “Next time, can you blow me?”
Xie Meng, “…”
When Mo Suyuan returned, Ji Qinyang was teaching Xie Meng to recognise the notes on the score. She secretly opened the door, and the two boys never noticed her, huddling together as they whispered to each other.
Mo Suyuan walked lightly towards Ji Qinyang’s back, and Xie Meng saw her as soon as he looked up.
Mo Suyuan raised a finger, shushing him, then reached her hands out to cover her son’s eyes.
Xie Meng, “…”
Mo Suyuan pitched her voice up girlishly, “Guess what Mama is wearing today~”
Ji Qinyang laughed. He pulled Mo Suyuan’s hands down, “You look good no matter what you wear.”
Xie Meng stood aside, greeting her a little reservedly. “Hello Auntie.”
Mo Suyuan did not seem to have the temperament of an elder at all. She gave a friendly pat on Xie Meng’s shoulder, joking, “This is definitely my son’s ‘boyfriend’, so good looking~”
Xie Meng, “…”
It was rare that a friend of her son would stay for dinner. Mo Suyuan wished she could prepare a Manchu-Han Imperial Feast, and from start till end, Xie Meng’s bowl was never empty.
Halfway through the meal, Mo Suyuan remembered something. “Today, when I was fishing with your dad, we bumped into Teacher Wu. He asked if you’ve read the recommendation letter from Zhongyin.”
Xie Meng had never heard Ji Qinyang mention anything about Zhongyin. His hands paused, and he turned to look at Ji Qinyang.
“I’ve read it.” Ji Qinyang ladled a bowl of soup and passed it to Xie Meng. “I’m still considering it.”
“This is a good opportunity,” Ji Shanrong said. “Teacher Wu has already helped you sign up for this summer’s music theory exam. Work hard.”
Ji Qinyang had no objections about it. He picked more food for Xie Meng, only to find him holding his bowl in a daze.
“What’s wrong?” Ji Qinyang nudged him.
Xie Meng regained his senses, “You’re… planning on studying in Beijing?”
Ji Qinyang replied casually, “I haven’t decided yet, maybe.”
Xie Meng opened his mouth. He ate a mouthful of rice, not knowing what to say.
“What about you, Xie Meng?” Mo Suyuan asked in warm concern, “Where are you planning on studying?”
“Ma, you don’t even have to ask.” Ji Qinyang laughed, “Of course he’s coming with me to…”
“Shanghai.” Xie Meng calmly interrupted him. He averted his eyes, deliberately avoiding Ji Qinyang’s astonished expression, and spoke slowly, “I plan on studying in Shanghai.”
The street lights along Shantang Street were few and far. Ji Qinyang pushed his bicycle, walking silently next to Xie Meng. The light and shadows came and went, blurring their expressions like it was an old-fashioned movie.
“Are you angry with me for not telling you about Zhongyin?” In the dark, Ji Qinyang suddenly spoke up. Only when they were about to approach the next streetlight did he hear Xie Meng sigh.
“No.” Xie Meng stood under the streetlight, a glow cast upon his face. The boy’s face was gentle, “I’m only a little surprised…”
He deliberated, “I’m very happy for you that you are able to go to Zhongyin. Really, it’s terrific.”
Ji Qinyang frowned, “But you don’t want to go to Beijing.”
Xie Meng bit his lip. He avoided Ji Qinyang’s eyes, trying to speak as calmly as possible, “Even if I don’t go to Beijing, there wouldn’t be any changes…”
“You want to be in a long-distance relationship with me?” Ji Qinyang’s tone was a little rushed, icy and sharp. “Or, do you think that it’s fine if we break up because of the distance?”
Xie Meng’s eyes widened, his expression complicated and angry. He opened his mouth, refuting, “What are you saying…?!”
“You never tell me anything, and I also don’t know what you’re thinking.” Ji Qinyang stared at his face, “I’m just like a hot-headed fool.”
Xie Meng clenched his fist. He seemed to be holding himself back, and spoke coldly after a moment, “Then, did you tell me about going to Zhongyin? You would rather tell Qi Fei, then talk to me about it!”
The lane was empty and quiet, and the light from the streetlamp scattered across Ji Qinyang’s feet. He turned his face away, his voice stiff, “I don’t want to quarrel with you.”
Xie Meng was silent. He watched as Ji Qinyang swung his leg over his bicycle. Supporting himself on one foot, the boy leaned over slightly, and placed a somewhat forceful kiss on his brow bone.
“I’m going back,” Ji Qinyang said lowly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”