“Bro, I’m so sorry.” Wei Zhounan explained hurriedly as soon as He Congsheng left, “I only found out that Old Lin got He Congsheng to come after I had called you. That’s why I called you afterwards…”
“Then you dragged me through all these corridors. Couldn’t you just have told me to go while we were at the door?” Ning Yan snarked.
“I was afraid I couldn’t explain everything in a few seconds and you’d have made too big of a target just standing there at the door!” Wei Zhounan despaired.
Though he didn’t know how to respond, Ning Yan didn’t want to scold his buddy any longer. After all, Wei Zhounan had been trying to be considerate.
Wei Zhounan sighed. As long as things got resolved, everything was fine. He Congsheng was less insistent than he had first imagined.
Now that things were safe, he was finally back in the party mood. He wiped away the sweat on his forehead and asked, “So bro, now that things are solved, let’s go and grab crayfish?”
Ning Yan heard the question and his gaze wandered around the hallway before landing on the man next to him, who was looking at him quietly.
Jiang Mo glanced between Ning Yan and Lin Rong and felt his interest rise.
Suddenly, Wei Zhounan, too, felt the strange charge in the air. He stared at the three of them in confusion—What’s going on? Why’s no one talking?
After just a few minutes, the four of them arrived on the second floor.
Wei Zhounan was still in a state of confusion.
Jiang Xiaoning had arrived earlier and was already playing pool. His jaw dropped when he saw them.
Yes, he is surprised too.
Wei Zhounan turned around in a daze and looked at the two men cuddled up together in the corner.
—After all, he still doesn’t understand why his buddy declined to go eat crayfish with him and instead chose to have a whispered conversation with his number one rival tucked away in the corner.
Jiang Mo sat down next to Wei Zhounan and handed over a bottle of beer. He, too, looked over at the corner and asked Wei Zhounan in a lowered voice, “What’s up… with Ning Yan today?”
Because of Lin Rong, he and Jiang Xiaoning had always been nice to Ning Yan whenever they ran into him. He could tell that not only was Ning Yan awkward and proud, but also that he didn’t know how he felt about Lin Rong. Sometimes, Jiang Mo thought Lin Rong actually had a chance.
Of course, Lin Rong himself had told them that Ning Yan rejected him. So what’s going on now?
Both he and Jiang Xiaoning had found out before this day that Ning Yue had declined He Congsheng’s birthday party invitation for Ning Yan. But they hadn’t known the exact details. Solely based on what had just happened, Ning Yan’s attitude was worth examining —not his attitude towards He Congsheng, but his attitude towards Lin Rong.
When Wei Zhounan brought up going out to eat crayfish, Jiang Mo had only thought of trying to extend an invitation. He hadn’t thought that Ning Yan would agree so easily and follow them upstairs.
A thought formed in Jiang Mo’s mind.
Wei Zhounan shook his head in puzzlement. But then he suddenly remembered… when he had called before, it felt like his Ning Bro immediately demanded the number to their private room after he had said Lin Rong was also at Riverside.
Wei Zhounan’s expression changed and a thought, strange enough to make him question his worldview, arose in his mind.
Due to that scene with He Congshen, the limited time Ning Yan had was further decreased.
Ning Yan had woken up at 8pm, gotten out the door at 8:30pm, and arrived at Riverside just past 9pm.
After that whole experience, it was already 10pm and it would take him 30 minutes to get home.
Ning Yan estimated that he couldn’t stay for much longer and felt a bit upset, but that unhappiness didn’t linger too long in his heart.
He sat next to Lin Rong and after a while, the man became stiff as a wooden statue. Lin Rong had placed both hands on his knees and sat as straight as a board.
Ning Yan cupped a glass of juice and tried to ease the tension. “Thank you for earlier.”
Lin Rong had stood in front of him without hesitation. Even though he is a guy, he still feels happy being cared for and protected.
The other man answered quietly, “As long as you’re okay.”
And they are out of things to say.
Ning Yan lowered his gaze and took a few sips of fruit juice. He asked softly, “Do you… have anything you want to ask?”
The man hesitated and then turned to look at him.
Ning Yan shot glance after glance at Lin Rong. Even though he felt guilty about the entire He Congsheng matter, he was also worried that Lin Rong wasn’t asking any questions.
But Lin Rong merely looked at him steadily for a bit. Just when Ning Yan was mumbling to himself about how the man kept looking and not saying anything, the other man lowered his gaze and asked, “He Congsheng said he’s liked you for many years.”
Ning Yan stilled and answered helplessly, “Ah, I, this is the first time I’m hearing about it… I didn’t know before…”
Why couldn’t you ask about something else—
Ning Yan was just thinking that when the man’s eyes rose to meet his. All thought immediately terminated in Ning Yan’s mind.
The man’s black eyes were filled with scattered light and him.
It was a gaze that was silent in its tenderness, flowing with gentle warmth. That gaze seemed to say, I, too, have liked you for many years.
Ning Yan immediately averted his gaze. He felt like bursting.
Lin Rong didn’t say anything else; neither did Ning Yan. Their conversation ended abruptly but nobody thought it was odd. Even the air between them was filled with the zap-zap-zap of electricity.
Ning Yan’s heart beat rapidly and he felt like smoke was rising from his ears. He took several big gulps of juice in an effort to calm down.
Ning Yan felt the man next to him stare at him for a while before his gaze wandered off. He really wanted to put his hand over his chest to feel if his heart was beating too fast. He also felt addicted to this sensation and there was a dangerous impulse coming over him.
Lin Rong suddenly moved and asked hoarsely, “… What would you like to eat?”
Ning Yan hesitated. “Anything works.”
Lin Rong replied in a low voice, “I’ll call the server over.”
As the man was about to get up, Ning Yan couldn’t help it any longer—he actually wasn’t that hungry and he might be leaving soon—so he scooted closer and found it impossible to push down his impulse to quietly ask, “Hey, why don’t you call my name?”
Lin Rong stiffened again.
Ning Yan stared at him unblinkingly.
Whether it was before or now, Lin Rong rarely called him by his name. Before, Ning Yan had assumed that it was because Lin Rong looked down at him, so he peevishly had pretended to not notice it. Now that he knows why, he absolutely will not let it go without commenting on it!
Lin Rong sat back down, as proper as a student, and opened his lips. A pleasant baritone spilled out from between them, “… Ning Yan.”
Such a proper way of calling his name.
Ning Yan curled his index finger and scratched at the smooth surface of his glass.
Hmph, that’s not how this guy refers to him in private!
Ning Yan refused to give up and quietly pressed, “I, I heard from my cousin… that’s not how you call me?”
As soon as he had said those words, Lin Rong stiffened even more.
Ning Yan’s eyes glinted as they looked at Lin Rong.
In the dark, something was brewing as the temperature rose and it felt like the very air was boiling.
Ning Yan heard the rapid beating of his heart. Amidst its shuddering, he also caught the other man’s hoarse murmur.
The other man averted his gaze and his ears turned bright red.
Ning Yan’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed.
Somehow it feels like he had been teasing this guy.
Regardless, excitement flooded his veins and the moment Ning Yan heard the man personally call him “Yanyan,” Ning Yan thought fireworks exploded in his brain.
The very rhythm of his breathing changed and he had a hard time sitting still, though he didn’t know what else he wanted to do.
The man waited for several moments without hearing a response. He shyly turned his gaze back and paused in surprise at the sight in front of him.
The young man’s eyes sparkled and there was a blush dusting his cheeks. He looked like he was about to say something but also like he just wanted to keep staring at Lin Rong.
This is different.
In fact, from the moment they had run into each other today, everything was different from how it had been before.
Lin Rong gave in to the temptation and called again in a hoarse voice, “Yanyan.”
Ning Yan began to look everywhere but at him.
He couldn’t resist curving the corners of his lips upwards, but he quickly flattened them again. Ning Yan coughed lightly and proclaimed, “Hmph, so that’s how you refer to me in private!”
If he was in his puppy shape right now, his tail would be pointed skyward.
“…” Lin Rong asked with reddened ears, “What else did your cousin tell you?”
“…” Ning Yan’s eyes wandered aimlessly around the room and he pretended not to understand. “Was there something he didn’t tell me?”
Lin Rong, “…”
Ning Yan, “…”
Hey, this atmosphere, so tense!
Ning Yan was so nervous that his palms were sweating and an inexplicable sense of anticipation surged through him.
Even he himself didn’t know what he was doing. He felt like he was standing at a dangerous precipice but this feeling was too addictive and he couldn’t stop.
Ning Yan was debating whether or not to continue the “interrogation” when he was interrupted by his phone vibrating.
Ning Yan subconsciously glanced down at the screen and saw that it was a warning WeChat message from his cousin. “Don’t forget to come home by 11pm.”
Ning Yan immediately felt more awake. His shoulders drooped a little from the disappointment.
His emotions were always on full display and Lin Rong’s thoughts were pulled away from the original discussion. He asked worriedly, “What happened?”
“I can’t stay for too long. I’ll have to go in a bit.” Ning Yan answered unhappily.
Time is really too short.
Lin Rong was mildly surprised, “… This soon?”
Ning Yan pursed his lips and calmed himself down. He looked up and changed the topic to something serious, “That’s right, I should thank you for taking care of Sese for me. I’m sorry but there are certain things that I can’t tell you right now.”
“No problem, as long as I can help you.” Lin Rong’s voice was soothing and the gaze he gave Ning Yan was also soothing.
He was like warm water, comfy and pleasantly tolerant.
Ning Yan didn’t know why but his nose tickled like he wanted to cry.
“When everything is over, I’ll tell you all of it,” he promised seriously—when they were both out of danger.
“That’s fine.” Lin Rong paused and then said, “Don’t feel too pressured. The priority is to solve your problem. Everything else can wait.”
Since Ning Yan didn’t know what else to say, he nodded mutely.
Though time was almost up, he lingered, not wanting to leave.
He suddenly had a thought, If the big pervert had said something earlier, told him, then—then what?
This wasn’t the first time he had such a thought and Ning Rong’s fingers curled in nervousness.
Lin Rong looked at him and said gently, as if to soothe him, “What happened?”
Ning Yan was at a loss and his brain was a tangled mess.
Maybe because the young man had been so soft tonight, Lin Rong couldn’t help but to reach out and caress the young man’s head after having stared at him for a few seconds.
He had only caressed it once before he realized that this gesture was too intimate. He was about to pull his hand back.
But the young man subconsciously angled his head up and rubbed it against the palm of Lin Rong’s hand.
Lin Rong stiffened, but Ning Yan didn’t seem to realize anything as he immersed himself in his own complicated—but tender—emotions. In the dim lighting of the room, he stared up-close at the man. After a few seconds of silence, when Ning Yan next opened his mouth it was to softly request, “Lin Rong, smile at me more in the future.”
Lin Rong stared directly at him.
Ning Yan lowered his gaze and said quietly, “You look pretty when you smile. Why don’t you smile?”
“… Yanyan.” Lin Rong’s voice sounded even hoarser.
Ning Yan wrestled with himself for a second and then looked up again with a soft gaze.
There were definitely others around them but, for that instant, Lin Rong couldn’t hear anyone else.
His palm remained resting on the young man’s head. One subtle motion later and it fell to the side of Ning Yan’s head, as if he was lightly caressing the side of the young man’s face.
But the young man stayed still. He didn’t know whether that was because Ning Yan didn’t feel it or because he didn’t mind this kind of touching.
The man swallowed hard.
Ning Yan blinked and felt like he was a bit tipsy.
But he had only drunk juice.
Right, he drank juice; that’s why there is such a sweetness in his heart.
—In the dim lighting, the man watched him intently with his lips slightly curved and his eyes tenderly smiling. It was a subtle look, but it enveloped Ning Yan completely.
Ning Yan, “…”
He felt his face burning up and thought he saw stars falling.
His heart made a thump, thump sound, one beat after another, in a rapid rhythm.
Ning Yan subconsciously shaped his lips into a dazed smile.
They smiled at each other and neither noticed the bizarrely silent room around them…
Jiang Xiaoming was no longer in the mood for pool. He asked Jiang Mo with his eyes what was going on and why those two were both being idiots. Jiang Mo shrugged his shoulders and kept sneaking glances over as well.
Wei Zhounan remained in a daze, as though he had been hit by lightning.
The two in the corner smiled foolishly at each other for a while until Ning Yue sent another urgent text. Then Ning Yan came back to reality and focused on the matter at hand. He said, “Oh, I really have to go…”
His mind blanked, but he gathered up the energy to say, “Remember, smile more often!”
Though Lin Rong also didn’t want this to end, he smiled and promised, “Okay.”
Ning Yan smiled in satisfaction and then said, “… That’s right, we don’t even have each other’s WeChat contact information.”
Lin Rong cooperatively took out his phone.
After successfully getting the WeChat contact information, he continued sharing with Lin Rong, “I’ll have to turn my phone back off once I go home, so don’t contact me. If you need me, go find my cousin. There really is a special reason, you understand—”
“I know. It has to do with Sese, right?” Lin Rong asked with a smile.
“Mmm yes!” Ning Yan repeated the instructions, “If you need anything, find my cousin. He’ll let me know. When I can turn my phone back on, I’ll contact you!”
Lin Rong asked, “Shall I take you home?”
“No need, I’ll drive myself back.” Ning Yan stood up and said reluctantly, “Ummm… I’ll see you around!”
“Okay.” Lin Rong stood up as well, looked straight at Ning Yan, and said tenderly, “I’ll see you around.”
Ning Yan drove back home after saying good-bye to everyone, including a confused Wei Zhounan.
During the entire drive back, his mind was filled with images of Lin Rong and he was a bit distracted.
But he drove carefully. When he got home, Ning Yue was still working in the living room. As soon as Ning Yue caught sight of him, he asked, “Did you drink alcohol?”
Ning Yan walked distractedly over to the restroom and stopped in front of the bathroom sink. He pressed both hands on the sink counter and stared at himself in the mirror.
He was still the handsome guy who had left earlier that night, except his face was bright red and it certainly looked like he had been drinking alcohol.
But Ning Yan knew he hadn’t drunk anything that night.
His confused brain could only come up with one thought.
Great, he really is in love with men.
In love with a certain man.
In the next second, he heard a ripping sound and everything went dark for a second. When he could see again, his field of vision was much closer to the ground.
Ning Yue walked over, looked at his watch, and said calmly, “The transformation happened right on time. It’s 11pm.”
Ning Yan: ‘…”