Day: February 25, 2024

Chapter 14

       If the female voice hadn’t coldly announced Zhan Weiyang’s today’s score every night, Zhan Weiyang would have thought his System was dead. But his score hadn’t changed for a long time either, and he wished it was dead.

       After suffering knee pain for two or three days, Zhan Weiyang basically stopped limping when walking. It was no longer painful to stand up and sit down in class every day.

       Moreover, it had been raining at night for the past few days, and the hot temperature that had lasted all summer had finally begun to slowly drop. Grandma took out her dark red patterned jacket and put it on, always telling Zhan Weiyang that he was underdressed and that he should be careful of catching a cold.

       Zhan Weiyang went to the bathroom with Chen Youyou after class. When he came back, he saw a girl sitting in his seat, chatting animatedly with her deskmate, Zhou Hanyi.

       The girl’s name was Xu Yuxuan. She was a good friend of Zhou Hanyi. She had a lively personality and a hot temper. Zhan Weiyang was a little afraid of her. He stood at the back door of the classroom and looked at her silently, not daring to go back to his seat.

       Chen Youyou pulled his arm and told him to sit down in his row first. Chen Youyou’s deskmate was their class monitor. After class, she went to find her boyfriend whom she was secretly in a relationship.

       Zhan Weiyang sat down next to Chen Youyou and heard Xu Yuxuan say to Zhou Hanyi, “Do you know that Xie Ling in the first year of high school?”

       Chen Youyou glanced at Zhan Weiyang.

       Zhan Weiyang heard Zhou Hanyi say, “Of course I know, that’s the one who is very handsome.”

       Xu Yuxuan said, “I heard that his family is quite poor.”

       “Oh,” Zhou Hanyi’s tone was not very enthusiastic.

       Xu Yuxuan was obviously very interested in Xie Ling, “Someone saw him working at night.”

       Zhou Hanyi said, “Does he have a girlfriend?”

       Xu Yuxuan became cold and indifferent, “Isn’t there a girl in his class who eats with him every day?”

       Zhou Hanyi smiled and said, “There must be many people chasing him.”

       The two of them changed the topic at this point, and Xu Yuxuan started talking about a novel she had read recently.

       Zhan Weiyang kept listening to them talking and felt that he was very nervous. After a long time, he mustered up the courage to turn his head and shouted, “Xu Yuxuan.”

       Xu Yuxuan was stunned for a moment, realising that this was the first time Zhan Weiyang took the initiative to talk to her and asked curiously, “What is it?”

       Zhan Weiyang said, “Do you know where Xie Ling works?”

       Instead of answering, Xu Yuxuan asked back, “Why are you asking that?”

       Zhan Weiyang didn’t know how to answer this question.

       Chen Youyou turned around and said, “He also, wants to find a place to work, so he just a-ask.”

       Xu Yuxuan smiled and said, “O-okay. I heard he’s at the Food Joy Fast Food on Jinfeng Road. There are also girls who go there to eat just to see him.”

       Chen Youyou was not happy that Xu Yuxuan imitated him, but since the other party returned to his question, he could only say ‘thank you’ reluctantly.

       The two people turned back, and Zhan Weiyang grabbed Chen Youyou’s sleeve and said, “Let’s go check it out tonight.”

       Chen Youyou asked him, “Eating dinner?”

       Zhan Weiyang nodded, “Let’s eat.”

       Chen Youyou said, “Then, I’ll call, my mother in the, afternoon.”

       In the afternoon, Zhan Weiyang also called home. He used a landline and squatted behind the teaching building to make the call secretly. Because the head teacher did not allow them to bring mobile phones to school, he usually turned off the sound and hid them in his school bag.

       The phone rang several times before it was connected. The person who answered the phone was Auntie Luo.

       Zhan Weiyang said, “Auntie Luo, I won’t be back for dinner tonight.”

       Auntie Luo asked him, “Then where are you going to eat?”

       Zhan Weiyang lied, “My classmate invited me to dinner.”

       At this time, Grandma’s voice came from the other side of the phone, “Who is it?”

       Auntie Luo answered Grandma, “Yangyang, he said that his classmates would treat him to dinner tonight, and he wouldn’t be back.”

       Grandma said, “Why isn’t Yangyang back either? No one has come back today at all.”

       Zhan Weiyang heard this and asked Auntie Luo, “Qing ge also not coming back?”

       Auntie Luo responded, “Well, Pei Qing won’t come back either.”

       Zhan Weiyang said ‘Oh’ and then said, “Then I won’t be back either. Goodbye, Auntie Luo.” After saying that, he hung up the phone and still squatted on the ground against the wall. He picked up a fallen leaf from the tree with his fingers. He pinched the leaf stalk and turned it in two circles, thinking that he wondered where Pei Qing would go for dinner in the evening.

       After school in the afternoon, neither Zhan Weiyang nor Chen Youyou wanted to ride a bicycle, so they waited for the bus at the bus stop in front of the school and squeezed in with other students after school.

       At this time every day, the bus would be packed with students leaving school. It was so packed that there was no gap left between people. Even those of shorter stature found it difficult to breathe.

       A short girl stood between Zhan Weiyang and Chen Youyou like a piece of Oreo. The three of them were close together. Neither of them could see her face and could only chat above her head.

       Chen Youyou said, “My mother, scolded me.”

       Zhan Weiyang said, “It’s all my fault.”

       Chen Youyou shook his head, “You, are my brother.”

       Zhan Weiyang said, “You are so nice.” He suddenly thought that everyone was nice to him, including Chen Youyou, his older cousin, Auntie Luo, and his father and grandma. Only Zhan Weiguang was not too nice, but Zhan Weiguang did not bully him; he just did not pay much attention to him.

       After getting off the bus, the two of them walked for seven or eight minutes to find the fast food restaurant, walked in, found an empty table and sat down.

       The fast food restaurant was busy at this time, and although there wasn’t a queue yet, there were almost no empty tables.

       Chen Youyou raised his hand to call the waiter, and Zhan Weiyang was in charge of ordering. After ordering and waiting, the two of them looked together, hoping to find Xie Ling, but unfortunately, they did not see him.

       Zhan Weiyang couldn’t help but ask, “Is this the place?”

       Chen Youyou frowned, “Unless, Xu Yuxuan lied, to us.”

       Both of them felt that Xu Yuxuan would not make up a fast food restaurant to deceive them. Either that or Xie Ling wasn’t coming to work tonight.

       The food came, and when Zhan Weiyang picked up his chopsticks and was about to pick up a sweet and sour pork loin, Chen Youyou suddenly knocked Zhan Weiyang’s chopsticks with his own chopsticks, “Look, Xie Ling is here!”

       Zhan Weiyang quickly raised his head, and sure enough, he saw Xie Ling walking in from the outside. He had changed out of his school uniform, wearing a T-shirt and jeans, with headphones in his ears, and his head was slightly lowered when walking.

       He walked through the lobby of the fast food restaurant and went directly into the kitchen. After a while, he came out with a plastic bag containing a disposable lunch box and left the fast food restaurant in a hurry.

       On the way out, Xie Ling passed by two girls in school uniforms. The two girls looked excited. It seemed like what Xu Yuxuan said; there were girls from their school who came here to eat just to see Xie Ling.

       Zhan Weiyang and Chen Youyou’s seats were close to the window. His eyes followed Xie Ling as he blended into the crowd on the street and hurried forward.

       Chen Youyou said, “He must be, delivering takeout.”

       Zhan Weiyang did not answer.

       Chen Youyou said again, “I wonder if he, will come back after, we finish eating?”

       Zhan Weiyang stared outside blankly, still not answering.

       Chen Youyou said, “Will you, wait for him later? Do you, still want to say, something to him?”

       Zhan Weiyang suddenly stood up.

       Chen Youyou looked at him in surprise, then turned to look outside the window but didn’t see anything.

       Zhan Weiyang looked anxious, couldn’t control himself, and wanted to run outside. He said, “Wait for me. I have something to do.”

       Chen Youyou opened his eyes wide and looked confused, “Where are you going?”

       Zhan Weiyang had already walked outside. He said, “Keep an eye on Xie Ling for me. I’ll be back in a moment.” After saying that, he dodged the two female classmates who were looking for seats and ran out in a hurry.

       It was evening, and there was no sun today. The sky in the distance was simply white amid the hazy grey, and the street lamps on the roadside had already lit up at some point. Their warm orange light illuminated the surroundings.

       This street had many restaurants and shops selling marinated and cooked food. Many young people who had just finished work were searching for restaurants, while middle-aged people were buying dishes from the cooked food shops to take home for their families.

       Zhan Weiyang ran through the crowd, always looking at the slender figure in front of him until, at an intersection, the person in front stopped and waited for a red light. He ran up, stood in front of him, panting heavily, and grabbed the person’s wrist, blurting out, “Gege.”

       Pei Qing was obviously a little surprised and raised his eyebrows.

       Before he could speak, a young woman next to him looked at Zhan Weiyang, smiled and said, “Your little brother?”

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Chapter 19 – Getting Along

       Fang Mingyan stepped in at mealtime, and Zhuo Yue happened to come down from upstairs. He was wearing a clean light yellow housecoat with the neckline specially raised to cover up the embarrassing marks on his neck.

       Their eyes met, and the person on the stairs was the first to greet, “You’re back.”

       “Are you asleep?” The man took off his coat and handed it to Zhou Chi.

       “Well, I just woke up.” Zhuo Yue answered naturally.

       Fang Mingyan’s eyes paused on his energetic face, then he moved away quietly and said, “Come over and have a meal.”

       When Zhuo Yue saw the food, his stomach was churning. He managed to take two bites, put down his chopsticks and stood up, “My stomach doesn’t feel good. I’ll be going upstairs first…”

       “Sit down and eat some more with me.” The man spoke with a gentle tone but exuded an undeniable air of insistence.

       Zhuo Yue sat down at the dining table again. Zhou Chi filled another bowl of hot chicken soup and placed it in front of him. He took a symbolic sip and never touched it again.

       Fang Mingyan knew very well that his stomach discomfort was largely due to psychological factors, so he did not force him. He ate slowly, picked up a napkin, wiped his mouth, and said, “Go wash the dishes.”

       Zhuo Yue was a little surprised. Although he had done dishwashing and other chores in Hanguan, he did those things on his own initiative. This was the first time the man asked him to do this. He finished washing absently, and the other party asked him to watch TV together. The NBA basketball game on the screen was exciting, but Zhuo Yue kept finding himself lost in thought, staring blankly at one spot. It wasn’t until 10 o’clock at night that Fang Mingyan allowed him to return to his room to sleep.

       He said he was going to sleep, but in fact, Zhuo Yue couldn’t sleep at all. When the person calmed down, memories of Huang Renbiao’s nauseating face would surface. It felt as if the sensation of his touch still lingered on his body, making him uncomfortable. The bed beneath him seemed to overlap with the dirty mattress in the hotel. Everything he had experienced became torture, like a pair of hands strangling his neck, leaving him breathless. After tossing and turning for who knows how long, he finally drifted off to sleep, only to wake up drenched in cold sweat a few minutes later. He rolled out of bed and abruptly opened the window—the cool breeze that rushed in helped calm his heart. Without turning on the lights, he sat on the couch by the window, staring blankly under the moonlight.

       When Fang Mingyan pushed the door open, what he saw was such a scene. Under the pale moonlight, the windows were wide open, and the night breeze was cold. Zhuo Yue was curled up on the single sofa in thin pyjamas, like a small animal hiding to lick its wounds, looking at him with frightened eyes.

       He turned on the light, walked over and closed the window, put his hands on the armrests of the sofa, and said, “Can’t sleep?”

       Zhuo Yue didn’t expect that he would come to his room at this time. At this moment, he was imprisoned between the man’s body and the sofa. He said awkwardly, “I just… got up to go to the bathroom and saw that the moon is quite bright tonight, so…”

       “So you’re admiring the moon with the windows open at two o’clock in the middle of the night?” Fang Mingyan narrowed his eyes slightly, “You do have a refined taste.”

       This random excuse was simply ridiculous. Zhuo Yue searched in his head for a long time but couldn’t think of a reasonable cover-up, so he had to remain silent.

       “I remember telling you to call me when you can’t sleep or wake up from nightmares.” The man looked at him with his dark eyes.

       He lowered his head and said softly, “I don’t want to disturb your rest.”

       Fang Mingyan sighed helplessly, carried him back to the bed with his long arms, and then lay down next to him. Seeing Zhuo Yue propping himself up with his elbows, staring at him wide-eyed, Fang Mingyan couldn’t help but chuckle. “That expression… Are you afraid I might take the opportunity to do something to you?”

       “…I can sleep alone.” He said embarrassedly.

       “From the time I left at noon to just now, did you sleep alone for more than half an hour?” The man choked him with one sentence, and he grabbed Zhuo Yue’s arm that supported his body and yanked him. Zhuo Yue, who had lost his support, lay down on his side and gave way to the other party a little awkwardly.

       This was originally just a single bed, and it was a bit crowded with two men lying on it. Zhuo Yue almost rolled off the bed as he leaned out like this. Fang Mingyan quickly grabbed his waist and pushed him inward, causing his body to press closer to him, and Zhuo Yue’s face suddenly turned red. He didn’t know what to say, so he just lowered his head and shrank into the quilt.

       “Zhuo Yue.”

       Hearing the man calling him, Zhuo Yue raised his face slightly, and their lips almost touched each other at that moment. Their breathing mingled, and his handsome face was close at hand. Their eyes met each other, and those eyes were staring at him like stars scattered with soft light on a dark night, making him unable to take his gaze away.

       In the quiet room, there was only the slight sound of the clock on the wall. Minute by minute, this ambiguity crossed my mind.

       This closeness, so close that they could see themselves reflected in each other’s pupils, so close that they could feel the slightest breeze when blinking, so close that even without doing anything, their heartbeats would become erratic due to the gaze.

       At that moment, in Fang Mingyan’s dark eyes, some suppressed emotions seemed to be breaking out of the cocoon.

       Little by little, closer.

       Zhuo Yue’s eyes trembled, and he slowly closed them.

       He thought it would be a kiss.

       However, the kiss did not fall after all.

       Zhuo Yue heard a chuckle. He opened his eyes, looked at the smiling man in front of him, and turned away awkwardly.

       The lights went out, and the room became dark again. Fang Mingyan stretched out his hand to hug him from behind, and his voice behind his ear was gentle and pleasant, “Sleep at ease. I’m here to accompany you.”

       “I won’t be able to sleep like this…” he said, his cheeks burning.

       “Close your eyes.” The man behind him held his waist and let him lean against him. His voice became softer and softer. “Do you know the legend of the Knight Doll? For children who often have nightmares, they can place a doll at the head of their bed. Every night, it will transform into a knight while you’re asleep, fighting off the nightmares for you.” He paused and said softly, “I can be your Knight Doll.”

       His heart skipped a beat. Zhuo Yue moved his lips but made no sound.

       The long eyelashes covered his eyes, and the warm breath fell on his neck, making him calm down. As if he had been enchanted, his heartbeat began to slowly sync up, and his chest rose and fell with the rhythm of the man’s breathing. Time and space have become a blurred background, as if floating in the boundless universe, with only the person hugging him behind him, accompanying, tolerating and protecting him. He finally relaxed completely and allowed himself to sink into the warm chest behind him.

       When Zhuo Yue woke up the next morning, the man had left. He sat on the bed for a moment, then got up and went downstairs.

       For several nights, Fang Mingyan slept with him like this and then left quietly. His company seemed to have some magic power, allowing Zhuo Yue to sleep peacefully. The scars on his body slowly disappeared, and he began to stop thinking about that incident, trying to put it behind him.

       At dinner on Monday, Fang Mingyan cut the steak and handed the plate to Zhuo Yue, saying, “Nick will be here tonight. His training will last two hours and end at eleven o’clock.”

       Zhuo Yue paused, raised his face and smiled, “Actually, Chairman Fang doesn’t have to spend time with me. I can already sleep peacefully.” He looked directly at the other person and said calmly, “It’s not appropriate for me to stay here all the time. I can already go back to work. Plus, delaying the signed contract job will also bring negative impacts to the company.”

       Their gazes met, and the man fell silent for a moment before saying, “Okay, I’ll have Shen Luo arrange your schedule.”

       “Thank you.” Zhuo Yue put the beef into his mouth.

       It was a tender and juicy steak, but it didn’t taste very good.

       He didn’t sleep at all that night, watching the dark sky light up little by little.

       Zhuo Yue started working after moving back.

       The shoot was for a series of high-end fashion brand advertisements. However, Zhuo Yue had been off his game the entire time. They shot for a full hour, but not a single photo satisfied the photographer, Liu Hua. They had worked together before, so Liu Hua was well aware of Zhuo Yue’s capabilities. Today’s situation surprised him, so he decided to stop and pulled Zhuo Yue aside, asking, “What’s going on? You seem tense today.”

       Zhuo Yue glanced at the dark camera in his hand and lowered his eyes, “I haven’t been feeling well lately.”

       “Drink some water and take a rest.”

       He nodded and entered the bathroom. He closed the compartment door, frowned tightly, leaned against the door panel, pulled off his tie, and raised his face in pain and helplessness. Every time he looked at the camera, that nightmare seemed to come back. He told himself over and over again that everything was over, but it was all in vain. In front of the camera, he felt uncontrollable panic.

       This panic made him stiff and trembled uncontrollably, his heartbeats seeming irregular, making it impossible for him to focus and complete the expressions and movements required.

       He tried his best to control himself.

       However, this forced effort led to even more serious consequences. During the afternoon TV drama shoot, as the camera approached, his mind went blank, and a nauseating feeling arose in his throat. He dry heaved and pushed away the person beside him, almost causing the actress he was acting with to fall down the stairs. He apologised repeatedly, but after the shoot, he couldn’t hold it in anymore and vomited. Lin Hui watched with concern, patting his back while saying, “Ge, you’re still not well. Let’s take another break…”

       “No need.” He said in a low voice with a face full of exhaustion, “It’s okay, let’s go.”

       Lin Hui had no choice but to send him back to his apartment.

       After a few days, Zhuo Yue’s condition seemed to improve. Although he still appeared somewhat stiff during filming, his overall mental state seemed to have improved, and there was a sparkle back in his eyes. Lin Hui breathed a sigh of relief; he had been tasked by the big boss Fang to report on Zhuo Yue’s condition regularly. Upon hearing that Zhuo Yue had returned to normal, the boss didn’t intervene further.

       It wasn’t until a month later, when Auntie Yang secretly called Lin Hui to the corner and handed him a crumpled piece of paper, that he realised that things were not as simple as he imagined.

       Aunt Yang was a part-time worker hired by the company for Zhuo Yue. She came here at the same time every day to cook and clean. This paper ball containing two small medicine bottles was found in the trash can. One of them was a sleeping pill; the other was a psychotropic drug, all of which were empty.

       Lin Hui’s eyes felt dark, and he was thinking about how to speak when he heard Zhuo Yue’s voice coming from behind him.

       “Ah Hui.”

       “Yue ge.” He turned around, spread his hands and asked, “What’s with these two bottles of medicine?”

       Zhuo Yue did not answer the question but spoke slowly, “You are the person closest to me. I have always treated you as a younger brother, and I hope you can treat me as an older brother and stand by my side.”

       “Of course, I will stand on your side, but I can’t ignore your health. I must tell Chairman Fang about your medication.”

       “Lin Hui!” Zhuo Yue grabbed his arm as he reached for his phone and said urgently, “Have you ever thought about what will happen if he finds out? I have just gained a little popularity now. If he decides to stop me, I will never have a chance again. You’re my assistant, and if I get sidelined again, there’s a good chance you’ll be reassigned to work with other artists.”

       He stood there, hesitated for a moment, then put the phone back into his pocket and said worriedly, “But where did these medicines come from? Have you seen a doctor?”

       “I know my body very well.” Zhuo Yue lowered his eyes and said, “You have also seen that the medicine is very effective, and my condition has recovered.”

       Lin Hui sighed, “Ge, if you feel unwell, you must tell me as soon as possible. Don’t keep it by yourself.”

       “Yeah.” Zhuo Yue responded.

       However, these medicines could not fundamentally solve the problem. Zhuo Yue’s weight began to decline, and he became increasingly silent, irritable, and dizzy. He spent long periods alone in corners, finding it harder and harder to concentrate. Dialogues he could usually remember in one go now required repeated rehearsal. He needed medication every day to maintain sleep, and on nights with night shoots, he often didn’t sleep for several consecutive nights

I hope I can still keep up a 2x/week update (੭ ˊ^ˋ)੭
Things have been kinda crazy the past few weeks, so I need to lessen my time to translate… I hope things are more stable this week

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