Edited by Planetes
Driving along the road, Li Shuo thought that appearing empty-handed was not a very nice gesture. He should buy a gift for Zhao Jinxin, but momentarily, he did not know what he should get for him.
He just happened to drive down a street and see an exhibition about cloud brocade. Outside hung a large poster, and the exhibition seemed to be for a young cloud brocade artist. Darting a glance over, he saw an embroidery of the twelve Chinese zodiacs. A thought popped up in his head, and he drove over to the building.
There were not many visitors in the exhibition, probably because it was the last day the exhibition would be held. Randomly, he picked up a thin pamphlet, flipping through it. Then, looking for a staff member, he asked where he could find the embroidery of a sheep. The staff member led him into the biggest hall of the exhibition.
Across the walls and display counters were thirty-odd cloud brocade items. Their stitches were exquisite, the lines distinct, the colours magnificent, and no matter how many words were used to compliment the works, they would still conclude with a final word, “beautiful”. A few foreigners were looking at them with magnifying glasses, all exclaiming in wonder.
The works of the twelve Chinese zodiacs were on the largest wall, and the round brocade were inlaid within square mahogany frames. The frames were even carved with delicate designs of flowers.
Almost immediately, Li Shuo saw the cloud brocade with the sheep. It was really a stylish piece of art. Li Shuo told the staff member, “Hello, I’d like to buy this work with the sheep zodiac.”
“Please give us a moment.”
After a few minutes, the staff member returned. “Sir, the price of this art piece by itself is forty thousand USD.”
“Ok, I’ll like it gift wrapped.”
“Not a problem.”
As he carried the gift box into the car, Li Shuo smiled as he shook his head. He had really been influenced by his mother. In the past, he had never paid attention to Chinese zodiacs before.
Arriving at Zhao Jinxin’s place, Li Shuo pressed the doorbell. Today was a weekend, and he wasn’t sure if Zhao Jinxin was at home… The bell rang for a long time before Zhao Jinxin’s face finally appeared on the screen. It looked as though he had just woken up, sleepiness still in his eyes, and startled, he said, “Li-shushu?”
Li Shuo gave him a gentlemanly smile. “May I?”
“Come on up.” The burglar-proof door clicked open.
Li Shuo entered, taking the lift. Glancing at the gift in his hands, his eyes were filled with anticipation. He was eager to see Zhao Jinxin’s expression of delight.
The door to the apartment opened, and Li Shuo walked in. He heard the sound of running water from the bathroom, and the ceiling-to-floor windows in the living room were open. The cool breeze blowing in was a little uncomfortable, but wafting in the air was still a faint whiff of alcohol. Li Shuo’s eyes swept through the living room, speculating that the smell of alcohol might have come from the clothes thrown on the ground.
After a while, Zhao Jinxin came out. Barefooted, he was wearing only a pair of jeans, his muscular chest bare. His face was dripping with water, and while drying his hair, he asked, “Why didn’t you call me before dropping by? I’m a mess.” He lowered his head, not looking at Li Shuo.
Sighing inside him, Li Shuo went over to close the window, then pointed at the slippers on the floor. “Put the slippers on. The weather’s getting colder, aren’t you afraid of catching a chill?”
“I won’t,” Zhao Jinxin said moodily.
It seemed like the incident of that day was not over yet. Looking at how it was clear that Zhao Jinxin had just woken up with a hangover, the guilt inside Li Shuo deepened, and that didn’t feel pleasant. He said, “Today, I came to apologise to you, and I bought you a gift as well.” Li Shuo raised the box in his hand.
Zhao Jinxin finally lifted his head, his black eyes looking at Li Shuo. Not blinking at all, he said pitifully, “You don’t have to apologise, this sort of things don’t need an apology at all.”
“It’s needed.” Li Shuo walked over, caressing Zhao Jinxin’s wet hair. Gently, he kissed him. “I’ve made you sad, I’m sorry.”
Zhao Jinxin paused, then wrapped his arms around Li Shuo, saying aggrievedly, “It’s alright, I’m a willing participant.”
Pangs of pain shot through Li Shuo’s heart. Man was really an animal that could not be easily satisfied. Everything about Zhao Jinxin was good, so why was he hesitating? It was because of the hundreds of consideration he had inside him, and that was why this child-like man was hurt. Starting from now, he decided that he would take his relationship with Zhao Jinxin seriously.
Taking the towel over, Li Shuo dried Zhao Jinxin’s hair for him. “Go and blow dry your hair, then put on some clothes, otherwise you’ll catch a cold.”
“No, I want to see the present first.” A grin spread across Zhao Jinxin’s face, revealing an adorable row of small white teeth.
“Then go put on a shirt first, and after looking at the gift, go blow dry your hair.”
Zhao Jinxin swiftly pressed a kiss onto Li Shuo, and he basically ran into the bedroom. A gentle smile floated up onto Li Shuo’s face, his heart feeling warm and toasty.
Running to the door of his bedroom, Zhao Jinxin suddenly grabbed hold of the doorframe, turning his head. “If you’d like to see my muscles, I can take off my clothes anytime for you.” He then winked, before blowing Li Shuo a kiss.
Li Shuo laughed, “Go, quickly get a shirt.”
In less than half a minute, Zhao Jinxin came out in a long-sleeved knitted sweater. The style of the sweater was very simple, its colour bland, but its material and cutting were both very particular. Its fit was perfect, bringing out the lines of Zhao Jinxin’s clavicles, broad shoulders, muscular pecs and narrow waist very well.
Full of excitement, Zhao Jinxin said, “What did Li-shushu buy for me?”
Li Shuo chuckled. “Open it yourself and see.”
Undoing the ribbon, Zhao Jinxin opened the box as he said in a mysterious tone, “Don’t tell me it’s a mermaid costume.”
Li Shuo did not know whether to laugh or cry. “What are you thinking? Look at the box, does it look like it contains something like that?” Covering the box was a cloth with embroidery on it. Although it was obvious that it had been done by a machine, it was still very elegant.
“I’m only joking.” Zhao Jinxin licked his lips, opening the box with a jerk. “Wow!” He lifted the cloud brocade depicting a sheep. “It’s so pretty.”
Seeing how happiness suffused his face, Li Shuo too cheered up. “I drove past an exhibition on my way here, and I immediately picked it out the moment I saw it. The character of your name can mean brocade, and you’re also born in the year of the sheep. It’s a very suitable gift for you.”
Zhao Jinxin looked at Li Shuo, his eyes bright and shiny, glimmering with a soulful light. Earnestly, he said, “This gift is very thoughtful. I like it very much. Thank you.”
“As long as you like it.” The uneasiness in Li Shuo’s heart finally settled.
Lifting the cloud brocade, Zhao Jinxin held it out everywhere in his living room. “Where should I hang it? No, if I hang it up it’ll collect dust…”
“Blow your hair dry first.” Li Shuo put the cloud brocade back into the box. “You have more than enough time to think about where you want to place it.”
Bonelessly, Zhao Jinxin hung off Li Shuo. “Li-shushu, help me dry my hair.”
“Sure. Come here.”
Zhao Jinxin sat on his bed, and Li Shuo stood in front of him, helping him blow his wet hair dry.
With a wicked smile, Zhao Jinxin raised his hands, sneaking his fingers between the gaps of Li Shuo’s shirt buttons as he touched his skin teasingly.
“Don’t play around.” Li Shuo ruffled through his hair.
How could Zhao Jinxin listen obediently? He started undoing Li Shuo’s buttons, and when Li Shuo removed his hands, he moved onto undoing his belt buckle.
Li Shuo scolded him laughingly, ‘You little incubus, can’t you behave a little more appropriately?”
“You’ve already called me an incubus. If I behave appropriately, won’t I be letting you down?”
“What logic is that?” Li Shuo asked. “Put your hands behind your back.”
“What’s the benefit in me putting my hands behind my back?”
“Be good, and I’ll make you something delicious.”
Zhao Jinxin deftly placed his hands behind his back. Tilting his head back, he gave Li Shuo a smile, and that cheeky and sly look of his was extremely attractive.
Unable to stop himself, Li Shuo smiled along as well. He was in an extremely good mood, and as he fiddled with Zhao Jinxin’s hair, he hummed a song.
Zhao Jinxin sat there for a little while before becoming naughty again. He curled his legs around Li Shuo’s calves, rubbing at them.
Fortunately, Zhao Jinxin’s hair was dry by then. Li Shuo put aside the hairdryer, then pushed Zhao Jinxin onto the bed, feigning a threatening aura as he said, “If you continue being naughty, you’re looking for a beating.”
Zhao Jinxin laughed merrily. “This is domestic violence. I’m going to call the police.”
“Go ahead. We’ll see who comes to your rescue.” Li Shuo ruffled through Zhao Jinxin’s hair.
Yanking strongly, Zhao Jinxin dragged Li Shuo onto the bed as well. He flipped around, wanting to be above Li Shuo. However, Li Shuo refused to be outdone, and the two men started rolling across the bed, both desperately trying to be on top, and in the end, they could not help but burst out laughing.
Zhao Jinxin hugged Li Shuo, kissing him a few times. Right into Li Shuo’s ear, he said, “Li-shushu, I really like you.”
Li Shuo’s emotions rippled. Cupping Zhao Jinxin’s face, he solemnly kissed him on the lips, nibbling at them passionately.
The kiss was gentle and cloying, as though after the matter that happened a few days ago, their hearts were even closer together now.
Li Shuo’s hand reached into Zhao Jinxin’s clothes, caressing that smooth, firm back. Placing his hand on his shoulder blade, he felt how the bones rose and fell powerfully along with Zhao Jinxin’s motions. Zhao Jinxin was also flirting with Li Shuo’s desire, starting to grind against Li Shuo’s thigh.
As the atmosphere between them speedily heated up, Zhao Jinxin suddenly pushed Li Shuo away and sat up. He looked down, pulling at his hair with some frustration.
Li Shuo pushed himself up, asking in surprise, “What’s wrong?”
Zhao Jinxin smiled wryly. “Let’s forget it. Doing this, I feel even worse.”
“We can just not go all the way.” Li Shuo recalled the previous experience. Even though they did not go all the way, it still felt very good.
Zhao Jinxin jumped out of the bed, tossing his head around. With his back towards Li Shuo, he said, “You can, but I can’t.” He then headed out of the room.
Frozen, Li Shuo watched as Zhao Jinxin’s figure vanished. He collapsed onto the bed, staring at the ceiling with a listless gaze. A moment later, he smiled helplessly.
Sitting up, he straightened his clothes and walked out of the bedroom to see Zhao Jinxin drinking water.
Li Shuo leant against the wall, watching him, watching this young man with an utterly gorgeous appearance and perfect build. Thinking about his affections for him, and how he chased after him, Li Shuo could not help but feel a little pleased, as well as a great warmth suffusing through him.
Zhao Jinxin put the glass down. “Li-shushu, how about cooking for me?”
Chuckling, Li Shuo said, “What would you like to eat?”
“As long as you’re the one who made it, I guarantee I’ll clean up the plate.”
Li Shuo walked over, pinching his chin lightly. “What did you grow up eating? Your tongue is so sweet.”
“It’s only sweet for you.” Zhao Jinxin kissed his temple. “I want to see you in an apron.”
“Sure, but I won’t be naked under it.”
Feigning astonishment, Zhao Jinxin said, “How did you know that was what I was going to say?”
Li Shuo gave him a knock on his head. “Come over and help me.”
Zhao Jinxin said disappointedly, “One day, you’ll definitely be naked under an apron for me.”
Unable to stop himself from imagining that scene, Li Shuo was momentarily embarrassed. He was not a conservative person, and if he was around Zhao Jinxin’s age, he would definitely be willing to play along as well. However, right now, to let him fool around like this with someone so much younger than him, just thinking about it left him feeling bashful.
“You’re feeling shy?” Zhao Jinxin laughed amorously. “If you’re with me, I guarantee that everyday will feel new to you.”
Li Shuo smiled. “This, I believe.” Zhao Jinxin truly did have that ability, and so he was exceptionally tempting.
From the kitchen cupboard, Zhao Jinxin took out an apron. He shook it out, then tied it around himself.
Li Shuo did not understand. “You’re cooking?”
Zhao Jinxin blinked innocently. “I want to let you try my cooking. My hand was injured previously, and I didn’t have a chance to showcase my skills at all.”
Li Shuo was surprised. “I really never thought that you know how to cook.”
“Not only can I cook, it’s delicious as well.” Zhao Jinxin walked further into the kitchen, and when he went past Li Shuo, he bit his ear. “I’m giving you another reason to fall in love with me.”
Li Shuo’s heart thudded fiercely a couple of times. He had experienced something that was difficult to put into words. It carried with it some tingles, and he revelled in its aftertaste.
Since Zhao Jinxin was cooking, Li Shuo stayed next to him, becoming his assistant. Finally, Zhao Jinxin pan-fried two steaks, and there was also lobster bisque, two servings of mashed potato, a bowl of seafood salad, and fresh kiwi shakes.
Li Shuo never expected that Zhao Jinxin wasn’t bragging. He did look very adept in the kitchen, and so Li Shuo couldn’t help but ask, “Who did you learn from?”
“Does this even need to be taught? You can just look at a few cookbooks and you’ll get it.” Zhao Jinxin laughed. “I don’t like to live with my parents. They always treated me like a child, and so I deliberately lived a little further away from them. I would usually get food delivered, otherwise I would just casually prepare a meal myself. It’s quite easy.”
Slicing into the steak, Li Shuo placed a bite into his mouth and tasted it. The beef was tender and melted in his mouth, and the flavour was wonderful. He praised, “It’s delicious. What steak is this?”
“The housekeeper sent it over. It’s a very good quality wagyu steak, and he wanted me to eat it that very day when it was fresh. However, I wasn’t free that day, so I didn’t cook it, and it’s a bit of a waste to have it frozen. Next time, I’ll prepare the freshest cut for you.” He winked at Li Shuo. “Do you like me even more now?”
“A little.” Li Shuo smiled.
After the meal, Li Shuo helped Zhao Jinxin tidy up the place a little. He threw the clothes that stank of alcohol into the washing machine for a wash, and they laughed and chatted away, looking very much like a couple that had been together for a long time. This left Li Shuo an illusion that the two people had known and understood each other for a very, very long time, and they were living a very ordinary, yet joyful life of a family.
By the time the chores were done, the sky was dark. Zhao Jinxin turned on the projector, and next to each other, they lay on a sunken tatami mat and watched a movie. As the movie progressed, Zhao Jinxin started creeping into Li Shuo’s space. He would nudge his head into Li Shuo’s stomach, then stroke Li Shuo’s waist… In any case, his pawing hands never stopped.
At first, Li Shuo was still paying attention to the movie. He thought that by keeping Zhao Jinxin in his arms like a big puppy, petting him, it would be enough. However, Zhao Jinxin became naughtier and naughtier, and he stoked the fire inside Li Shuo, and so the older man “retaliated”.
Two tall and fit bodies twined together on the tatami mat. Very quickly, clothes started being stripped away from their owners, scattered everywhere. Like beasts, they kissed and caressed each other, feeling each other’s warmth and hardness. Desire blazed bright and brilliant, almost eradicating all their reason and logic.
Zhao Jinxin’s body was completely tense, like a bow stretched fully, ready to fire its arrow. Forcefully, he held Li Shuo under him, his eyes extremely hungry.
A wave of complicated emotions inside him, Li Shuo met his eyes. Just like Zhao Jinxin, desire had overtaken his body, and he felt as though even his brain was slowing down.
Zhao Jinxin ground at him continuously, saying huskily, “Can we? Li-shushu, please…”
Li Shuo’s rationality was wavering, and he could feel his heart trembling.
Zhao Jinxin could distinctly see the hesitancy in Li Shuo’s eyes. He lowered his lids, held his body up, and with a bowed head, he bit his lip, smiling wryly. “Forget it.” He then wanted to sit up.
Li Shuo inhaled deeply. Half of it was probably that he had thought things through already, and the other half was that he had been pushed to the brink of his desire. In short, he flipped around, throwing his arms around Zhao Jinxin’s waist and dragged him back onto the mat. Scorching lips pressed right against Zhao Jinxin’s ear, and in a low, husky voice, he said, “Don’t go.”