Edited by Planetes
Squash and tennis shared a lot of similarities in the way they were played, but when one actually started playing, the differences were still quite many. However, for Li Shuo, who used to play at a nearly professional level, playing squash like how he played tennis was like playing an electric keyboard after playing a piano. As such, he was very confident.
Li Shuo tossed the ball to Zhao Jinxin. “How about you serve?”
Zhao Jinxin caught the ball. Throwing it up and catching it a couple of times, he finally started the game. The ball landed accurately within the serve line, before swiftly bouncing back.
With just this serve, Li Shuo was able to confirm that Zhao Jinxin’s skills were very ordinary. The angle of his serve was very textbook, and to him, it was very easy to hit it back. This was Li Shuo’s observation about Zhao Jinxin’s skills, unless the younger man was holding something back. However, for the first ball, one would often try to mentally intimidate their opponents, so this was likely to be Zhao Jinxin’s true ability.
Li Shuo lunged forward, smacking the ball back. After bouncing off the floor once, the ball hit the zone near the corner of the wall by him. Zhao Jinxin reacted very quickly, moving to the most optimum spot to receive the ball in a few steps. However, this shot from Li Shuo was very sneaky. It was too close to the wall, and when it bounced against the wall, it naturally did not travel too far from it. Zhao Jinxin could barely hold his racquet out, and furthermore, he was playing on the right side of the court, when he was a left-hander. Although he managed to return the ball, the ball ended up scraping against the wall before falling to the ground.
Puffing his cheeks out, Zhao Jinxin eyed Li Shuo.
Li Shuo gave a gleeful smile.
For the rest of the time, Li Shuo was basically torturing Zhao Jinxin. Zhao Jinxin’s speed, reaction time and strength all left Li Shuo very surprised, but playing squash was not poker, and what it required was skills and techniques. After hitting the ball a couple of times, Li Shuo no longer struck the ball at tricky angles. However Zhao Jinxin still did not catch up in points, and in the end, Li Shuo felt that he was bullying him.
At the end of one game, Zhao Jinxin lost miserably. He threw his racquet onto the ground, sitting on the ground resting with his back facing Li Shuo.
Li Shuo served another ball, playing by himself. While hitting the ball, he asked, “So? Do you admit defeat?”
Zhao Jinxin did not answer.
Li Shuo sneaked a glance at Zhao Jinxin, thinking, it couldn’t be that he got angry, right? Laughing, he said, “What’s wrong? Are you tired? One has to be willing to admit their losses. Or, let’s have another round, and I’ll play with my other hand?”
Zhao Jinxin said dully, “I’m not playing anymore.” He jumped up from the ground, heading to the exit.
Li Shuo was a little surprised. Zhao Jinxin was normally not such a petty person, but he would get angry after losing a match? Even if the stake of the bet was… that, he was making a little mountain out of a molehill, wasn’t he?
Li Shuo put his racquet down, chasing after him. “Jinxin.” He followed him outside the squash court and grabbed hold of his arm, turning him around. “You’re not…”
Li Shuo froze.
Zhao Jinxin’s eyes were red and his lips were in a pout, looking as though his tears would fall any moment.
Li Shuo was completely stunned. “You… you’re…” He could not stop himself from laughing. “Darling, why are you crying over losing a game?” Ruffling Zhao Jinxin’s hair, he said dotingly, “Ok, your Li-shushu was wrong, alright? But what’s there to cry about?” Did he really go overboard in bullying him? Were the pride of young people so important these days?
Zhao Jinxin’s lips trembled as he said softly, “Have you always been just playing around with me?”
Li Shuo froze, his smile disappearing momentarily. The expression on Zhao Jinxin’s face was too serious, and it didn’t look like he was shamelessly avoiding admitting his defeat. Assuming a serious countenance, Li Shuo asked, “Why do you think so?”
Zhao Jinxin exhaled slowly, choking on his words. “Looking at me running after you all the time, thinking of ways to please you, do you find it very fun? The way I like you, yet I’m unable to get you, is it very foolish looking? Each time you give me a little bit of hope, only to dash it, are you really not just playing with me?”
Li Shuo wrapped his arms around Zhao Jinxin, saying remorsefully, “I’m sorry, I really never thought that you would think this way. I swear, I am not playing with you at all, but I also did not consider your feelings properly, and I’m sorry.”
The way Zhao Jinxin looked with reddened eyes made Li Shuo’s heart hurt.
He swiftly went through all his memories of their time spent together ever since they met, and it really seemed to be as what Zhao Jinxin had said, with one chasing and the other leisurely going about his things. In his eyes, Zhao Jinxin had always been someone who could afford to “play the game”. During this period when he had just ended a relationship, and his mood was unable to regain its usual calmness, he was happy to have a “partner” like this, enjoying this sort of relationship that required no responsibility and promises. However, he was increasingly unable to avoid the possibility that Zhao Jinxin truly liked him, and if that was really the case, what he was doing was too much.
Whether he liked Zhao Jinxin or not, whether he was willing to officially date him, he shouldn’t be baiting him along like this. Just because he felt that Zhao Jinxin was a playboy and was able to play along, it didn’t mean that he could behave how he had.
Li Shuo was truly both regretful and self-reproachful. He had hurt the heart of someone who liked him. What had been wrong with him recently…
Zhao Jinxin sniffled. “Do you even like me a little?”
Li Shuo inhaled deeply as he spoke in a sincere tone, “Yes.” Of course he did like Zhao Jinxin, and it was only that he currently was in no state to be in a serious relationship. Also, Zhao Jinxin’s background, age, and character all left him with many things to consider, but he knew he liked this boyish man.
Zhao Jinxin hugged Li Shuo tightly, whispering, “That’s good, then.” He then let go, pushing Li Shuo away gently. “I’ll head back first.”
Li Shuo wanted to stop him, but when he opened his mouth, no sound came out. Pressing his hand to his forehead, he leant against the glass wall of the squash court, slowly shutting his eyes. Within his heart was chaos, and it was good that they did not remain together for now. He needed to calmly think things over by himself, thinking about their relationship.
Should he give Zhao Jinxin a call? But what should he say? He should have sent Zhao Jinxin home just now, but the car ride was bound to be awkward.
Li Shuo sighed. Thinking about Zhao Jinxin’s red eyes, he still felt pangs in his chest. He was a person with a very strong sense of morals, and his principles were to not do anything against his conscience. If he did something wrong, or hurt someone, he would brood over it the whole time. That soft “complaint” from Zhao Jinxin had left him extremely self-reproachful.
Perhaps it was time to let things go, and to have a new start. He knew that Li Chengxiu had never liked him right from the start, and he had also requested to break up. Now, a Zhao Jinxin had appeared next to him, and if he kept on thinking about Li Chengxiu, it was unfair to Zhao Jinxin. It was not possible for him to control other people’s feelings, and it was also impossible for him to keep on remaining entangled in it. He should treasure the people in front of him.
He did have concerns. Zhao Jinxin was eleven years younger than him, and he was currently in a playful age. He was also the frivolous sort, and did not seem to be someone who would remain steadfast in his feelings. Furthermore, both their fathers were friends, and if something happened in their relationship, any unhappiness might turn things ugly. Any single one of his concerns was enough to leave him hesitant. However, he, Li Shuo, wasn’t a person who would compromise towards earthbound rules and regulations. Zhao Jinxin was young, but Li Shuo had more than enough charm. Zhao Jinxin liked to play, but Li Shuo also had the confidence to put it to a stop. As for their fathers, them having feelings for each other was never wrong. Since they did not do anything wrong, there was no reason for him to be afraid. He would never start thinking about whether they were compatible or not and whether there were any hurdles for them to cross before the start of a relationship. The only thing that would decide whether two people were “compatible” or not, whether their relationship would last, was not their backgrounds, their appearance, not these things that could be quantified, but only their personality and love.
As for whether they would break up or not in the future, why did he have to consider it now? What was the point? He did not even know when he would die.
When he wanted to be in a relationship with someone, he would just be in a relationship.
The more Li Shuo thought about it, the more he was more receptive towards it, and he became more open-minded. It was time to let go of the past, and he should look at Zhao Jinxin properly, look at this relationship properly.
At this moment, he heard someone call him from downstairs. Opening the door, he heard his mother’s voice. “Ma, you’re back.”
“Quick, come down.” Mrs. Li’s voice was a little excited.
Li Shuo headed downstairs, and Mrs. Li said happily, “Xiao-Shuo, the master has read your fortune already. He’s so accurate, there’s so many things that I didn’t tell him, but he knew it all.”
Li Shuo had nearly forgotten about this matter, and laughter spilt out of him. “Alright then, what did he say?”
“He said that your life is filled with luck and fortune.”
“Oh.” Li Shuo looked at the jade on his mother’s neck and the bag hanging off her arm. As long as one was not blind, they should be able to see it.
“The key point is about your marriage.” Mrs. Li took a piece of paper out from her bag. “I’ve noted it all down. The master said, you will find someone born in the year of the sheep, and there will be some issues in your relationship, but a happily ever after will be the result. A person born in the year of a sheep, that means he’ll be a year older than you.”
“Or he might be eleven years younger,” Mr. Li interjected. “He’s not young anymore, he should find someone younger.”
“You men all like finding younger ones, don’t you?” Mrs. Li rebuked him.
Mr. Li chortled. “Aren’t we talking about our son?”
“I think being of similar ages is good, they’ll have common topics to talk about.” Mrs. Li smiled. “But it’s still up to you, and that’s the most important.”
Li Shuo blinked. “Eleven years?”
“Yes, it’s either one year older, or eleven years younger.”
“Uhh… this sort of thing, we’ll just go along with fate.” Eleven years… it couldn’t be about Zhao Jinxin, right? When this thought popped into his head, Li Shuo immediately laughed mockingly at himself silently. How did he end up becoming so superstitious as well?
“Of course, relationships are all up to fate. However, you have to work at it as well. If you were to meet anyone born in the year of the sheep, you should pay more attention.”
Li Shuo gave a perfunctory “mn”, his thoughts already drifting off.
Could it be somewhere out there, fate was working its hands?
Li Shuo again laughed mockingly at himself, but the idea of “someone born in the year of the sheep” could no longer fade away from his mind.
Even during the next day, Zhao Jinxin did not contact Li Shuo.
Li Shuo waited for a day, and he started to feel a little anxious. Ever since the two people got to know each other, Zhao Jinxin had never stopped contacting him in all sorts of ways. It was very normal for him to call Li Shuo three times a day, the content of his calls sexually suggestive, or even send him a dozen texts. He thought that once Zhao Jinxin calmed down, things would go back to how it was, and as though nothing had happened, he would continue calling him “Li-shushu” and whine cutely at him. However, it had already been more than twenty-four hours since he had contacted him, and Li Shuo truly felt unused to it. Now that the person that had been spinning around him all the time was gone, he felt rather empty.
It looked like what happened that day had truly hurt Zhao Jinxin.
Li Shuo felt both self-reproachful and bad. He thought about it, and he didn’t give Zhao Jinxin a call, but picked up his keys and headed out. It would be much more sincere to go up directly to him and apologise.