He Gu stumbled his way to his car, his whole body trembling weakly down to every fingertip. Even after trying quite a few times, he still couldn’t get the key in the ignition to start it. In the end, he angrily threw the keys aside and collapsed in his seat.
His eyes were sore from rubbing them vigorously to force himself from shedding any more embarrassing tears.
His brain seemed to have stopped working completely. There were a million thoughts running through his mind, but at the same time the thoughts seemed empty and inconsequential.
All his chaotic thoughts eventually faded into two piercingly painful words—Song Juhan.
He Gu remembered how Vanessa once told him about the origin of Song Juhan’s name. Song He had always been a very arrogant individual. When choosing his son’s name, he used the implied meaning behind the phrase, “It’s lonely living at the top.1居高处而不胜寒 – The name ‘Juhan’ (居寒) takes the first and last characters from this phrase. The character ‘居/Ju’ means ‘to live’ and ‘寒/Han’ means cold, which in this case can mean lonely.” Although the phrase didn’t sound quite auspicious, Song He didn’t seem to care about Song Juhan being “lonely.” All that mattered from that phrase was the second half—he only cared about his son living a life at the top.
Song He’s high hopes and ambitions for his son had all been realized. As his name suggested, Song Juhan lived at the top with an invisible sword in hand that could seemingly kill anyone without ever touching a drop of blood.
In the end, more than six years of constant struggles and persistence turned out to be a passing joke. He Gu couldn’t even find a shred of energy to hate Song Juhan or Feng Zheng. Even He Gu, himself, felt like he deserved it.
He deserved it all, for willingly giving up his heart for anyone to trample on. There was no one he could blame for that.
Song Juhan. Just repeating those three simple syllables in his head made He Gu feel like even his breathing was excruciatingly painful.
The fuse finally burnt to the end.
That day, He Gu was sent home by Peng Fang’s driver.
After he got home, he lay in bed without moving an inch. Although he couldn’t fall asleep, he simply lay there.
To say He Gu had been depressed for the last three days would have been nothing compared to how he felt right now. It was like he was alive but dead at the same time, drained of every drop of blood from the inside out.
In the middle of the night, the piercing sound of the doorbell broke through the chilling silence.
He Gu didn’t react as the doorbell continued to ring endlessly. Eventually, it changed to violent banging on the door and He Gu could dazedly make out the sound of Zhuang Jieyu’s voice.
Tired, He Gu didn’t even want to lift a finger, but in the end he forced himself to get out of bed to open the door.
Zhuang Jieyu looked at him all over before letting out a sigh of relief. “You scared me half to death.”
He Gu looked at him expressionlessly, and said in an eerily vacant voice, “Why? Were you afraid I would kill myself?”
“No, no.” Zhuang Jieyu clutched his hair for a moment, and added, “It’s good that you’re fine.”
He Gu turned to walk back into the apartment, and Zhuang Jieyu immediately followed behind him, trying to explain himself. “Song Juhan called me out today. He said that as long as I went with him, he would let everything go. I really didn’t know you would be there as well!”
He Gu turned a deaf ear to Zhuang Jieyu’s explanation, since he no longer cared. After all these years, Song Juhan still enjoyed using the same tactics to provoke others. His immaturity and viciousness were utterly incomparable.
A sad look crossed Zhuang Jieyu’s eyes when he noticed He Gu not reacting at all to his explanation. “Stop being like this, okay? Song Juhan is a bastard. You… you should stop loving him. He’s not worth it.”
Even an outsider could see it clearly… He Gu really wanted to laugh out loud, but his chest was hurting so much. He turned his back to Zhuang Jieyu and squeezed his chest with his fist, trying to disperse that suffocating feeling.
Zhuang Jieyu moved around He Gu to stand in front of him again. With a bitter smile, he said, “To be honest, who hasn’t experienced a broken heart once in their life? But don’t worry, time will heal everything. I know you’re feeling horrible right now, and since I have nothing better to do, I’ll stay by your side until you feel better. You know I’m a very cheerful person to be around, so I’m sure you’ll feel better really soon.”
He Gu wanted to decline his offer, but he was too lazy to open his mouth. He didn’t have the energy to deal with him because he knew Zhuang Jieyu was someone that could easily wear down those around him. Perhaps having a talkative person like him around would really help him feel better.
He Gu didn’t say anything, but Zhuang Jieyu didn’t find it awkward as he minded his own business and said, “You must be hungry. I brought some groceries with me. You should know my culinary skills are quite good. Just wait over there and I’ll make you something good.”
He Gu sat on the sofa aimlessly. Although his mind was clearer now, his body was still low on energy, and he didn’t want to do anything. He stared blankly ahead. Only after a long while did he realize he had been staring at the television. The same television he spent two months of his wages on in hopes that Song Juhan would come over more often to play video games.
Song Juhan once used this television to sing for him—singing only for him alone.
He Gu’s body trembled so hard, he struggled to breathe as he tried desperately to resist the building feeling of despair. Taking deep breaths, he closed his eyes and clenched his fists tightly.
After making the food, Zhuang Jieyu led He Gu over to the dining table and urged him to eat. He Gu really had no appetite, so he put down his chopsticks after two tiny bites.
Zhuang Jieyu helplessly said, “Is it not tasty? I think it tastes quite good, you should have a bit more.”
He Gu lifted his head. It was the first time he had looked Zhuang Jieyu in the eyes since the younger man had barged into his home. “I’m just not hungry.”
“How are you not hungry? I don’t think you’ve had any food since… since this afternoon.”
He Gu shook his head and stood up. He decided to go back to bed and try to sleep.
Zhuang Jieyu followed him into his bedroom and watched as He Gu curled up under the blanket. Then he walked over to the edge of the bed and gently touched He Gu’s forehead as he said softly, “You’ll get better soon, I promise.”
“It doesn’t matter to me whether I get better or not,” said He Gu quietly.
Seeing He Gu’s desperate and distressed expression, Zhuang Jieyu’s heart clenched. He couldn’t help but lean down and kiss the corner of He Gu’s eyebrow. “Whether you get better or not, I’ll be here with you.”
The next day, Chen Shan came to visit. She said He Gu was often sick lately, and that their boss was worried He Gu was overworking himself to the point something serious could happen to his health. He had especially asked her to come check on his condition and see whether he needed to take a long vacation.
Chen Shan was shocked when she saw Zhuang Jieyu opening the door, but immediately changed to an expression of understanding.
Zhuang Jieyu frowned, then turned to look at her. “You are…”
“I am Chief He’s assistant.”
“Oh, of course. We met last time,” Zhuang Jieyu greeted her naturally. “Jie, please don’t mention this outside…” Even though Zhuang Jieyu was just an up-and-coming actor, he still had to consider his public image.
An expression of understanding flashed across Chen Shan’s face again as she quickly said, “Don’t worry, I won’t. I understand. Where is Chief He? What happened to him?”
Zhuang Jieyu didn’t want to let her in, but he couldn’t seem to find an excuse to refuse her, so he helplessly said, “He’s not feeling very well right now, and needs plenty of rest. So don’t talk for too long.”
“Okay, no problem.”
The instant He Gu saw Chen Shan, he snapped out of his daze momentarily as if waking from a confusing dream. “Why are you here?
“Director Sun told me to come.” Chen Shan frowned, and felt a feeling of unease. “Chief He, it’s just been a few days since we last saw each other, why have you gotten so skinny? Have you been to the hospital yet? What is going on with you?”
“My stomach is acting up again.” He Gu made up a random lie.
“Oh, you must be overworking yourself and forgetting to eat your meals properly.” Chen Shan sighed. “Director Sun wanted me to ask you whether you wanted to take a long vacation.”
He Gu took quite a while to react to that sentence. Eventually, he shook his head and said, “If I take a long vacation now, what would happen to the two projects I’m managing at the moment?”
“I don’t know. But last month, a company in Shanghai had an incident where an engineer died from overwork, so Director Sun has been on edge. He’s afraid something will happen to you.”
“It’s not that serious,” He Gu said calmly. “I’ll rest for… one more day, then I’ll come back to work.”
Standing on the side, Zhuang Jieyu exclaimed, “You’re already like this and you’re still thinking of going back to work?!”
Chen Shan also added, “Yes Chief He, you should take it easy. The boss has already said you could take a long vacation.”
He Gu took a deep breath. His brain felt extremely sluggish, and every response took him a long while to think through before he could even open his mouth to speak. Never in his life had He Gu ever felt his brain being uncooperative before. After finally clarifying his thoughts, he replied, “Chen Shan, you’ve been assisting me for so long now, you should clearly know the situation at hand. I’ve been handling these two projects from beginning to end, there’s no way we can just hand them over to anyone right now. If the construction period is delayed, then not only the company’s money will be lost, but also our reputation. Chinese New Year is less than a month away. I can hold out and just take a long vacation then.”
Chen Shan really admired He Gu’s work ethic as she said, “Chief He, you really are very dedicated to your work.”
He Gu replied, “You should go back now, and please tell Director Sun I’m fine.”
“Okay. Oh yes, I forgot to mention these are the health supplements Director Sun told me to bring for you. He said they’re caterpillar fungus2 冬虫夏草 – Cordyceps sinensis is an exotic medicinal mushroom often used in traditional Chinese medicine. The hand-collected, fungus-caterpillar body is valued by herbalists as medicine, and because of its cost, its use is also a status symbol. (Wikipedia) worth over thirty thousand per 50 grams.” Chen Shan handed over the bag to Zhuang Jieyu, and unable to hold back a slight smile, she added, “Chief He, you two look great together.”
Zhuang Jieyu proudly announced, “See, those with pretty eyes also have a great way of looking at things.”
Chen Shan smiled happily at the compliment.
After she left, Zhuang Jieyu tried his best to distract He Gu by teasing him, “Shushu, didn’t you hear what your assistant said? She said we’re a great-looking couple.”
He Gu ignored him as he reached for the laptop sitting on the bedside table. He needed to check his emails.
“Hey, hey, hey, you’re not allowed to work right now. Hurry up and finish your food first.”
“Didn’t I already finish eating?”
“What you had was breakfast, look at the time now!” Without another word, Zhuang Jieyu reached over and shut the laptop screen with a slap. “Come on, let’s go eat.”
Unable to fight back, He Gu had no other choice but to follow the other man out of the room to eat.
Zhuang Jieyu had many common traits of a modern youth, such as his phone never leaving his hands. Even as he ate, he continued to scroll through his phone. Suddenly, a WeChat notification popped up. It was a message from the boss of his agency. When he tapped open the message, an angry voice message said, “Zhuang Jieyu! What’s the matter between you and Song Juhan?!”
Zhuang Jieyu was surprised as he didn’t expect such an aggressive message. Although he wanted to quickly mute the audio, it was already too late. Very carefully, he lifted his eyes to observe He Gu’s expression, worried that the audio message might have upset him again.
He Gu’s hands paused for a brief second before he recovered and continued to eat with his head down.
To be honest, Zhuang Jieyu didn’t have to worry about triggering He Gu because he had never actually stopped thinking about the events of that day. Every thought in his mind was occupied by it as He Gu thought back to everything that happened between them in the last few years. He couldn’t get the thoughts out of his head. At the very least, at the moment, he wasn’t able to move on.
Zhuang Jieyu nervously picked up his phone and said, “It’s… it’s my boss. I’m gonna go make a call.”
Still with his head down, He Gu didn’t respond as he continued to eat.
With his phone in hand, Zhuang Jieyu walked to the balcony to make his call.
After a good five minutes, He Gu realized that Zhuang Jieyu was only wearing a thin set of home clothes. It must have been freezing him to death standing out on the balcony for so long, so he went to get a coat for him.
Just as he approached the balcony, He Gu happened to overhear Zhuang Jieyu say with a lowered voice, “Chief Cai, of course I wouldn’t dare fight with him. It really wasn’t me, it was someone else. I just happened to be there at the time.”
He Gu was stunned. The events of that day had been leaked to the public?
He watched as Zhuang Jieyu hugged himself and rubbed his arms, shivering from the cold. He Gu snapped out of his daze and pushed open the door. Zhuang Jieyu jumped in surprise and quickly slammed his lips together without saying another word.
He Gu handed the coat over as Zhuang Jieyu hurriedly draped it over his shoulders. After He Gu closed the balcony door, he turned around and pulled out his phone to search: Song Juhan.
The search brought up numerous articles, all related to the latest gossip of Song Juhan fighting at a restaurant. Every article hinted at Zhuang Jieyu’s involvement, and even included a few blurry photos. He Gu enlarged the images and could clearly make out Song Juhan and Zhuang Jieyu. Amongst the photos, he was only captured with a vague side profile.
The person that had secretly taken the photos obviously didn’t know what had actually happened. So they took the only two familiar faces at the scene and ambiguously suggested their own story: Song Juhan and Zhuang Jieyu had started a fight at a restaurant. The reason was suspected to be due to a jealous rivalry in a love affair.
Previously, rumors of Song Juhan’s bisexuality had already spread everywhere. The entertainment industry’s attitude towards this was that as long as it wasn’t flaunted in everyone’s faces, it could be used for hype, but it must never be laid out bare for everyone to know.
Because Song Juhan had always been protected by Song He and Vanessa, there was rarely any negative news about him within the entertainment circle. Things like last minute no-showing for a live reality event, or fighting with a photographer on set, all these were covered up by Song He’s influence. However, photos leaked online by an unknown outsider were out of Song He’s control. By the time he found out, it had spread everywhere, and it was already too late for him to suppress them.
He Gu scrolled through the articles as a sudden realization crossed his mind—his attention had somehow drifted back to Song Juhan again. Frustratedly, he threw his phone onto the sofa as if it was a hot potato.
At that moment, Zhuang Jieyu came back in holding his frozen and reddened nose. With a gloomy expression on his face, he let out a deep sigh.
“Is it because of what happened yesterday?” He Gu asked.
Zhuang Jieyu nodded his head. “I haven’t been online today, so I didn’t know the issue has already caused such a huge ruckus.” He sighed deeply then said, “So I guess I’m famous now? But my boss is saying that I must be messed up in the head to dare and provoke the Song father and son duo. I spent ages explaining it to him, and only then did he finally believe me when I said I wasn’t the one that was fighting with Song Juhan.”
He Gu lowered his head and didn’t say anything again.
Zhuang Jieyu quickly added, “Don’t worry about it, you aren’t even captured in the pictures. The heat of this gossip will pass after a few days, and no one will care about it then. It’s always like that in the entertainment industry.”
Suddenly, He Gu’s phone that had been left on the sofa started to ring. Like an obedient lackey, Zhuang Jieyu rushed over to get He Gu’s phone for him, and even read out the name displayed on the caller ID, “Feng… Zheng?!”
He Gu lifted his head abruptly.
Zhuang Jieyu clutched the phone tightly in his hands, unsure whether he should hand the phone over or not. Just like everyone else present during the confrontation, Zhuang Jieyu wasn’t sure what happened between He Gu and Song Juhan to cause their grievances and conflict. The only thing to be sure about was that it had something to do with a person named “Feng Zheng.”
He Gu felt a shiver run through his entire body, goosebumps prickling his skin. The thought of Feng Zheng brought forth a deep sense of humiliation within him.
Zhuang Jieyu swallowed visibly then said, “Let’s not answer the phone, yeah?”
He Gu was silent for a moment before he stretched out his hand and calmly said, “Give me the phone.”
Zhuang Jieyu let out a deep sigh, and ended up handing over the phone unwillingly. “So umm… I’m gonna go to the bedroom to warm up a little. You guys talk.” Without making a fuss, he went to the bedroom and closed the door behind him.
He Gu stared at the name displayed on his phone screen. With a steady sense of determination, he answered the call, “Hello.”
“He Gu.” Feng Zheng’s voice sounded very anxious over the phone. “I saw the news on the internet. Were you the person Song Juhan was fighting with at the restaurant?!”
He Gu calmly replied, “Yes, it was me.”
“What happened? What did Song Juhan do to you?”
“What Song Juhan did to me doesn’t matter anymore. But there is a question I’d like to ask you.” He Gu clenched his fists in a deathly grip as if he was holding onto the last thread of his self-esteem.
Although Feng Zheng had a faint bad feeling about this, he lowered his voice and said, “Go on.”
“Why?” He Gu breathed out, his eyes turning red almost instantly. That one simple word triggered a turmoil of emotions within him, and only then did He Gu realize just how much he wanted to throw his clenched fist into Feng Zheng’s face. He could barely restrain this growing violent anger as he gritted his teeth and said, “Why! Why didn’t you tell me you and Song Juhan used to be together?!”
Proofread by Lizonka and Ess