Chapter 12: Clouds and Seas
The dimly lit hallway in the dark night was eerily quiet, and the sound of footsteps echoing in the serene space was rather unsettling. With a heavy heart, Xu Huaiming climbed to the second floor.
He had long memorized the password for the digital lock. A press of his fingers on the familiar numbers, and the door swung open.
Tan Xilu had told him the code shortly after he arrived here. It was during those days when Tan Xilu had gone missing, which was the source of his suffering.
Xu Huaiming had suggested changing the password, but Tan Xilu had refused, saying, “I’ve already gotten used to it.”
Xu Huaiming thought that was true. He had become accustomed to Tan Xilu’s absences, which is why he felt a surge of excitement when he returned. But once that excitement passed, everything would become calm again. Since he had grown accustomed to Tan Xilu’s departures, it meant that if he didn’t return someday, someone else would eventually fill the void beside Tan Xilu.
Xu Huaiming thought Professor Bowen was right. Human emotions were fickle. One moment, someone could say they loved you, and the next, they might be extremely annoyed with you. Therefore, he couldn’t allow himself to develop feelings for a human. He had never imagined that Tan Xilu would lie to him because of another man.
Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open.
The TV was on in the living room, playing a soap opera from several years ago. Tan Xilu was sitting on the couch, watching it attentively.
Hearing the door, he turned his attention away from the TV and asked Xu Huaiming, who was changing his shoes in the hallway, “Back so soon?”
“Yeah.” Xu Huaiming slipped on his slippers and entered the kitchen to put the bags of salt down. He then walked back and said, “There weren’t many people at the supermarket at this time of night.”
Tan Xilu nodded and made room for Xu Huaiming on the couch.
Xu Huaiming took the opportunity to sit down and reached out to pull Tan Xilu into his arms.
Tan Xilu had a faint scent of men’s cologne on him, a subtle fragrance that he probably couldn’t even smell himself, but Xu Huaiming could. It was exactly the same as the person he had encountered earlier that evening.
Xu Huaiming furrowed his brows and covered Tan Xilu with a blanket, attempting to mask the discomfort he felt from that familiar scent.
Originally, Tan Xilu had been leaning on his shoulder, and after the blanket was placed over him, he seemed to find it more comfortable. He even reached out and wrapped his arm around Xu Huaiming’s waist. Xu Huaiming always had a slightly lower body temperature, making him feel different from a regular person. Every time they kissed, Xu Huaiming felt that his lips were unusually cold, while the person he kissed was as cold as ice.
But people had different body temperatures, and Tan Xilu wouldn’t question it because of that.
However, Tan Xilu’s passiveness, or rather, his honesty after lying, made Xu Huaiming uncomfortable. His thoughts were entangled, and even though he knew his place as just a companion to Xu Huaiming, and that he wouldn’t be one for much longer, he couldn’t help but ask, “Was the parent who gave you a ride back a man or a woman?”
His hand, which was holding onto Xu Huaiming’s waist, tightened slightly, and he looked up at Xu Huaiming with a somewhat evasive gaze. “A woman.”
Xu Huaiming fell silent for a moment, then made a soft “Hmm” sound and didn’t ask any further questions. But Tan Xilu felt a heavy atmosphere emanating from Xu Huaiming.
He opened his mouth, wanting to confess, but Xu Huaiming suddenly hugged him tightly, pressing his lips against Tan Xilu’s collarbone and teasingly grazing his teeth along it. A tingling sensation spread through Tan Xilu.
Feeling Xu Huaiming’s movements pause for a moment, Tan Xilu looked up at him, but the next second, Xu Huaiming covered his lips with his own.
Xu Huaiming was aggressive, with a wolf-like hunger. Tan Xilu felt like his mouth was slightly bloody by the end, and he was almost out of breath.
When it was over, the soap opera on the TV had already finished, and Xu Huaiming carried him to the bathroom. Tan Xilu was on the verge of falling asleep, and in a half-dream, half-awake state, he thought he heard someone whispering in his ear, “Let me stay by your side a little longer.”
However, whether that was a dream or a fantasy, he didn’t remember the next morning.
Tan Xilu was awakened by a phone call from Qin Sizhe. He had originally had a day off after the open class, a precious opportunity to sleep in, but his sweet dreams were interrupted. Nobody would be pleased by such a disruption, so he reluctantly answered the phone.
To his surprise, it wasn’t Qin Sizhe on the other end but a stranger’s voice.
Two minutes later, Tan Xilu rushed out of his bedroom, wearing a serious expression. He grabbed his coat and said to Xu Huaiming, who was preparing breakfast, “There’s an urgent matter at school, I have to leave.”
“So suddenly?” Xu Huaiming had just picked up a sandwich he had made for Tan Xilu to eat on the way, but before he could turn around, he heard the sound of the door closing.
He paused for a moment, standing still in silence. Ten minutes later, he turned around and put the sandwich into the refrigerator.
However, that momentary daze and desolation that passed through his heart suddenly caused him a sharp pang of pain.
Tan Xilu had stayed at his alma mater to teach two years ago. After graduating from graduate school, his advisor had a great opportunity for him to go abroad, but Tan Xilu had declined, saying he wanted to stay at the university.
His advisor knew that Tan Xilu had a boyfriend who had been missing for years. For the sake of that boyfriend, Tan Xilu gave up a guaranteed spot at a prestigious university and willingly settled for teaching at the local university. Now, he was even choosing to remain there.
His advisor shook his head, thinking this kid was really stubborn. However, he knew Tan Xilu’s temperament well. Once he made up his mind, it couldn’t be changed. Later on, his advisor’s nephew got into the same university, and his advisor sent him to Tan Xilu.
His nephew’s name was Qin Sizhe, the same student Xu Huaiming had seen holding hands with Tan Xilu when they came out of the closet.
Although the office wasn’t large, there were quite a few people inside, including teachers, students, and parents. Tan Xilu, facing the gaze of everyone, arrived late, panting as he entered the office. His rapid breathing had not yet settled when a hand forcefully grabbed his arm and pulled him aside. A sharp female voice said, “Teacher Tan, please help resolve this matter.”
Tan Xilu, sweating profusely, raised his head. The first thing he saw in his line of sight was a pair of legs wearing sneakers. As he looked up, he recognized Qin Sizhe’s familiar face. Qin Sizhe was tilting his head defiantly, as if he were dissatisfied. But behind him, a man grabbed his neck from behind, forcing him to lower his head.
Then Tan Xilu heard Qin Sizhe’s voice, loud enough to echo through the office, “I like men, what’s wrong with it? I’m gay!”
Five seconds later, the man behind him kicked his legs from behind, and Qin Sizhe knelt on the ground with a heavy thud. It was a hard landing, and the impact between his body and the hard floor sounded like bones breaking. However, Qin Sizhe bit his lip and didn’t make a sound.
Tan Xilu took a sharp breath, rushed over to help Qin Sizhe up, but was stopped by the woman who had spoken first. “Teacher Tan, although homosexuality is legal now, having Qin Sizhe and Teacher Tan engaging in inappropriate behavior in the school does affect the school’s image. You need to do something about it.”
“Where’s Professor Qin? Hasn’t he come?” Tan Xilu lifted his eyelids to look at the woman. “Ms. Zhang, I’m not Qin Sizhe’s advisor. If something has happened to him, you should first contact his advisor.”
Ms. Zhang choked, her voice faltering as she said, “But isn’t Qin Sizhe close to you, Teacher Tan?”
“They’re all my students; I treat everyone equally.” Tan Xilu removed Ms. Zhang’s hand from him and looked at the man behind Qin Sizhe. He frowned and asked, “Are you Qin Sizhe’s brother?”
“Sort of.” The man said, “My name is Chi Yexing. I’m Qin Sizhe’s apartment mate. His mother asked me to take care of him like a brother since I’m older.”
“Well, Mr. Chi, regardless of the child’s mistakes, resorting to violence is not the solution.” Tan Xilu looked at him. “Moreover, being gay is not a mistake.”
Chi Yexing made a cold snort from his nose, and he turned to look at Qin Sizhe, who was still struggling to stand up. He sneered, “Qin Sizhe’s family situation is special. In his family, no one is gay except him. Not to mention he brought someone to the school to mess around.”
“Just because I am Qin, does that mean I can’t control myself? Because of one woman’s one-sided words saying that I brought someone to the school to mess around, you’re going to believe it?” Qin Sizhe suddenly let out a furious roar, but his voice was hoarse. “Chi Yexing, when will you believe me? Will you ever stand by my side and speak up for me once?”
Qin Sizhe, who was a tall young man over 1.8 meters, whom Xu Huaiming often saw sprinting on the basketball court, when had he ever seen him looking so wronged, like a trapped, red-eyed little beast on the verge of tears?
Tan Xilu felt moved in his heart, wanting to help him up, but Chi Yexing suddenly kicked Qin Sizhe again before picking up his suit and dusting it off. He turned and walked away.
“Chi Yexing.” Qin Sizhe called out to him before he left.
But this time, Chi Yexing didn’t look back, and he left decisively.
“Chi Yexing.” Qin Sizhe called out to him once more.
But this time, Chi Yexing didn’t look back either, and he left without turning around.
T/N: Hey there! There is plenty more where that came from, so stay tuned! And stay healthy! Straighten your posture, so some stretches and drink some water before continuing hehe~
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