Song Juhan’s news spread faster than anyone imagined. Within a few days, the internet began to run wild with rumors of his previous misdemeanours. From how he arrogantly ditched a live reality event last-minute, fought with a photographer on set, and to the promiscuous partying in Saipan—everything was getting leaked online, as if someone was sabotaging him on purpose.
He Gu didn’t understand how things were done within the entertainment circle, but he did know that wherever the money was, there would always be infighting1明争暗斗 – means to fight in the open and also attack covertly at the same time.
For a while, Song Juhan’s name was splattered across every newspaper front page. Even someone like Sun Qing, who never paid attention to the entertainment industry, saw the articles and noticed the familiar side profile that looked awfully like He Gu. She picked up her phone and gave He Gu a call.
He Gu calmly said, “A lot of people have already called to ask, but it’s not me. It just looks a little similar, that’s all.”
Sun Qing laughed as she said, “That’s good. I also thought it couldn’t possibly be you. Son, why does your voice sound so exhausted?”
“I’ve just been busy with work, it’s nothing serious. After the New Year, I’ll be taking a long vacation anyway. What about you, how have you been feeling recently?”
“It’s alright, I just get tired easily. But I’ve been training quite a few people under me in the last few years, so I’ve been slowly handing over the work to them lately.”
“En, you should focus on your treatment right now. What has the doctor suggested?”
“I’ve been doing some mild treatment for the time being, and will continue to monitor my condition. If it doesn’t work, we’ll have to try chemotherapy. But that won’t happen until the next summer holidays.”
“Why does it have to be next summer holidays?”
“I don’t want Susu to find out. If it’s during the summer holidays, then I can send her to summer school in France. I’ve already bought a house there, so if you’re free then, you should come along and spend some time with her. I know I’m saying it’s for summer school, but I just want her to have some fun abroad.”
“En, sounds good. But how long are you planning to keep it a secret from her?”
Sun Qing sighed. “She’s still so young… I know I gave birth to her when I was quite old, but I just don’t want her to go through all this. How is she supposed to accept such news? I want to keep it from her for as long as I can.” She opened the door and called out, “Susu, do you want to talk to your gege?”
From over the phone, He Gu could hear the pitter-patter of footsteps as Susu rushed over and took the phone. With an energetic voice, she said happily, “Gege! Was the person who was fighting with Song Juhan you? Was it? Was it?!”
He Gu chuckled lightly and answered, “No, it’s not me.”
“Oh, that’s a pity.”
“Why is it a pity?” said Sun Qing in the background.
With a wide smile on her face, Susu said, “ I really, really like Song Juhan. He’s my male god. Have you seen him in real life before? Is he good-looking in person?”
“I haven’t seen him before.”
“I really wanted to go to his concert this year, but mama wouldn’t let me go. I dunno when his next concert will be, but when he does have one, will gege go with me?”
“Of course.” He Gu couldn’t help but smile bitterly. Why couldn’t he avoid those two2Liz: In the raws, it says three, referring to the three characters that make up Song Juhan’s name. words, Song Juhan, no matter what he did? Was he cursed?
“Gege, I really miss you. I sent you photos of my ‘Inter-School Singing Competition’ on WeChat, why haven’t you replied yet?”
“Sorry, I must’ve been too busy and didn’t see it.”
“Oh, how could you do that…” Susu said disappointedly.
“I’m sorry. I’ll definitely reply next time.”
Sun Qing’s voice cut in, “Stop pestering your gege. He’s very busy with work. He’s very hard-working, unlike you who gets lazy doing homework.”
“I’m not lazy…” Susu muttered.
Sun Qing took the phone back and said with a smile, “Son, why don’t I bring Susu over to Beijing this year for Chinese New Year?”
“Sounds great,” said He Gu as he felt his frozen heart finally warm up a little.
“All these years… did you have anyone to spend the New Year with?”
“… No.” He Gu could no longer remember how many New Years he had spent alone. It had gotten to a point where he had already gotten used to it, and no longer felt disappointed anymore.
Sun Qing sighed. “This year, mama will spend it with you. It’ll be great if we can spend every New Year together from now on.
No matter how hot the topic was, the hype would eventually die down. Likewise, by the time Song Juhan’s headlines faded into the background for another celebrity scandal, He Gu was no longer subjected to seeing Song Juhan’s face at every turn. Bit by bit, his life was finally able to return to its rightful path.
He Gu resumed his routine lifestyle, circling between his home, office, and construction sites. It was as if his life had returned to a scheduled and mechanical state.
Zhuang Jieyu would come over occasionally, but lately his schedule had started to pick up again. He said it was because of the incident with Song Juhan that he had suddenly become quite popular and was getting called for a lot of jobs.
As Song Juhan faded further and further away from him, He Gu finally started to see his life in the past few years with a sense of reality. Did that nationally-adored celebrity, that proud and arrogant man, really sleep with him for the last six years? Or was it all just his hopeless, romantic dream?
But dreams couldn’t possibly feel so real, or leave such deep and excruciating pain. He Gu tried desperately to use his work to numb himself and to occupy his mind at all times. Only then could he stop himself from thinking about Song Juhan.
He Gu knew they would eventually separate one day, but he didn’t expect the pain to be several times more bitter than he had ever imagined.
How long would it take for him to truly forget about Song Juhan?
That day, He Gu received another phone call from Xiao Song. When he saw the name displayed on the caller ID, his hand started to tremble. After hesitating for a moment, he answered the call.
“He Gu-ge,” said Xiao Song cautiously, his voice sounding very awkward.
“Talk,” said He Gu coldly.
“Han-ge… Han-ge wanted me to ask you…” Xiao Song took a deep breath before he continued, “Ask you if you’ve cooled down…”
Song Juhan’s angry shouting could be heard over the phone, “Who told you to ask like that?!”
Xiao Song quivered, his words coming out as a quick slur of joined syllables, “Askyouifyou’vegottenoverityet.”
He Gu’s entire body shivered when he heard Song Juhan’s voice. The chaos in his heart that he had worked desperately to control started to stir up again. He took a deep breath, then forced himself to ask calmly, “What do you mean?”
“Just…” Xiao Song reluctantly stuttered, “Just if you’ve… you’ve figured things out, then you… can come see Han-ge. Han-ge said he… he won’t hold it against you for punching him.”
He Gu felt a scorching flame burn through his chest. He clenched his fist and said in a low voice, “Please tell him I’m thankful for his ‘generosity.’ And Xiao Song, from now on, don’t call me anymore.” He Gu quickly hung up the phone.
His whole body trembled from the inside out as he leaned against the wall powerlessly.
Song Juhan, I thank you for your ‘generosity.’
In the blink of an eye, New Year’s was approaching. One of He Gu’s projects had come to an end, but the other had been delayed due to a problem with the construction team. At this point there was nothing he could do, so he could only wait until after the New Year holiday to deal with it. Other than that, most of the other issues had been resolved.
Finally, He Gu could feel himself starting to relax again. In addition, his boss had also personally assured him that this year’s bonus would definitely satisfy him.
That day, Gu Qingpei called to ask him out for drinks again. He Gu hesitated for a while, but in the end, couldn’t find an excuse to refuse him.
Gu Qingpei was silent for a moment. “He Gu, are you afraid I’d ask about your situation with Song Juhan?”
He Gu was stunned. Deep down, he knew Gu Qingpei was a smart man. What he feared most was that Gu Qingpei’s curiosity, or perhaps genuine care, would unintentionally make him bring up Song Juhan—the name he was trying so desperately to forget.
The silence hung in the air. He Gu’s non-answer spoke volumes. Gu Qingpei chuckled and said, “I promise you. Unless you bring him up yourself, I won’t mention him at all.”
“Thank you, Chief Gu,” said He Gu sincerely.
In response, Gu Qingpei teased, “Haha, you don’t have to be scared. Come on out, it’s unhealthy to stay bottled up all the time.”
With a light chuckle, He Gu said, “Alright, I’ll see you tonight.”
That evening, He Gu expected that he would be drinking, so he took a taxi to the bar instead.
Sure enough, when he got there, the table was already lined with rows and rows of various wines. Gu Qingpei sat comfortably on the sofa with his legs crossed as he casually swept his arms out as if to say “please, help yourself.” Then, with a smile on his face, he said, “Alcohol really isn’t a good thing, but sometimes, we really need it.”
“Yes, that’s why I didn’t drive here tonight. Regardless, you can’t drink too much,” said He Gu solemnly.
Gu Qingpei smiled and said, “I didn’t drive here either. My driver dropped me off, and he’ll pick me up later.”
“Driver? Yuan Yang?”
Gu Qingpei revealed a resentful expression as he said, “Oh, yeah.”
The thought of seeing Yuan Yang made He Gu uncomfortable. Right now, he wanted to avoid anyone that was present that day.
Gu Qingpei immediately saw through He Gu’s thoughts. “Don’t worry, I told him to wait in the car.”
He Gu was stunned, “You told him to… to wait in the car?” He Gu was confused. Were they talking about the same man? The same insufferably arrogant Yuan Yang, whom no one dared to provoke, was waiting in the car while he drank away his problems?
“En.” Gu Qingpei nodded as if nothing was amiss. “He was a soldier. Once you train them a little, they are very obedient.”
“… I guess so.”
“Hey, I’ve actually had quite a rough time for the past six months. But at least, the company looks like it’s finally back on the right track now.”
“Congratulations, Chief Gu. So will the company start bringing in profits by next year?”
“If everything goes well, next year we’ll be able to acquire a piece of land reclaimed through the government act to balance market value. We also have a few other projects coming in. To be honest, Yuan Lijiang’s ultimate goal is to relist the company, so he’s quite satisfied with the company’s progress right now.”
“As long as Chief Gu is there, I’m sure there won’t be an issue.”
Gu Qingpei smiled as he poured He Gu a glass of wine, then raised his own glass. “I heard you’ve just wrapped up one of your projects. This year, Director Sun will definitely be giving you a big bonus. Here, a toast to our successful careers.”
The two exchanged a friendly glance and clinked their glasses together.
As promised, Gu Qingpei really did avoid talking about He Gu’s sensitive topic. Instead, they chatted about Nanchuang’s latest news and the current real estate situation, as well as casual things that ordinary friends would talk about. The atmosphere was very comfortable and harmonious.
He Gu’s tolerance had always been quite good. Although he drank quite a bit tonight, he wasn’t completely drunk yet. Despite everything, he didn’t want to rely on alcohol to numb his sorrows. Not only was that a pointless endeavour, but it would also leave him with a splitting headache the next day.
The two drank until just past eleven before Gu Qingpei decided to call it a night. Looking at the time, Gu Qingpei insisted on sending He Gu off in a taxi. He only stopped after repeatedly confirming that He Gu was sober enough to make it home himself.
He Gu waved his hands in dismissal as he said, “Don’t worry, this amount of alcohol won’t do anything to me.”
“If you put it like that, I’ll really need to find a chance to sit you down and discuss your version of reality.”
He Gu chuckled, “Definitely, if I find the time…”
After the taxi drove off, He Gu massaged his temples, feeling a little sleepy. Eventually he dozed off until they arrived and the taxi driver had to call out a few times to wake him up.
He Gu paid and got off.
Although he didn’t drink a lot, he was still a little tipsy, so his steps were especially slow as he walked to his apartment block. The streets were particularly quiet that evening as there weren’t many people out and about due to the cold weather. He Gu decided to take a walk to sober up, and made his way toward the small communal park in his neighborhood. Surrounded by the lush trees, his mood felt exceptionally calm.
All of a sudden, he stopped and raised his head to look at the full moon shining brightly in the night sky. Almost instantly, his head started to turn as if everything was spinning around him.
It turned out today was the fifteenth, the fifteenth of the twelfth lunar month. There were only a few days until the New Year.
Unlike previous New Years, this year would be quite different. He no longer had Song Juhan, but he did gain back his freedom—the freedom of his heart.
He Gu stood in the park for a while, feeling the cool breeze against his skin. After feeling more refreshed, he made his way to his apartment.
The moment the elevator doors opened, He Gu felt as if he was struck by lightning.
That man leaning against the wall—with his arms crossed and angrily glaring at him—was none other than Song Juhan.
Song Juhan actually came looking for him?! He Gu had never imagined that. His first reaction was to run away, but he firmly held back his instinct and stood very still. Slowly, he forced himself to move, and stepped out of the elevator.
Song Juhan asked bluntly, “Where have you been? It’s so late already, and you smell like booze.”
He Gu stood at the elevator doors, keeping his distance from the other man. “What are you doing here?”
“I bought this apartment. Do I have to inform you when I want to stop by?”
He Gu was suddenly reminded that this apartment was gifted to him by Song Juhan. It was time to give it back. Otherwise, he would forever be tied to Song Juhan and be unable to make a clean break. After the New Year, he would find a decorator to renovate the apartment his parents left him. It was time for him to move back. In time, he would buy another car too.
Song Juhan saw that He Gu seemed to be deep in his thoughts, and he said angrily, “Where the hell have you been? Who did you go drinking with?”
He Gu tried his best to ignore the tight feeling in his chest due to Song Juhan’s impromptu appearance. With a blank expression, he said, “It doesn’t matter who I go drinking with. It’s not like I need to inform you.”
“He Gu, you’re getting more and more ballsy. You dare talk back to me?!” Song Juhan lunged forward and grabbed He Gu’s arm. “Get in.”
The moment Song Juhan touched his arm, He Gu felt like he had been struck by lightning. He immediately jerked it away and took a giant step back.
Song Juhan froze as he stared at his empty hand. It was as if he could still feel He Gu’s warmth from their brief touch a second ago. Slowly, he raised his head, and with a look of incredulity on his face, he said, “It’s already been a month and a half. Are you still not over it yet? How long are you going to continue this tantrum?”
“Song Juhan, I’m not throwing a tantrum. I already said it loud and clear that day—We are over.”
Song Juhan gritted out sternly, “Over my ass. Get in here now. We’ll talk this through once and for all.”
He refused to accept that they were over. He grabbed He Gu by the shoulders and roughly pushed him toward the door. “Open the door.”
He Gu wanted to fight back, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he gritted his teeth and said, “Where are your keys?”
“I forgot to bring them.”
He Gu took a deep breath, then adjusted his breathing before he said, “Song Juhan, I will return your apartment to you, but you can’t come in right now.”
Song Juhan’s eyes bulged, and he gritted out, “Say that again.”
“I said, I will return your apartment to you…”
“Who the hell wants this bloody apartment?!” Song Juhan shouted as his temper started to rise. “He Gu, do you even know what’s good for you?!”
He Gu pressed against the door, trying to increase the distance between Song Juhan and himself as much as possible. Just the familiar smell and warmth from Song Juhan’s body was enough to make He Gu feel a pain similar to that of a knife being twisted in his heart. “I may not know what’s good for me, but I do have a sense of priorities.”
“That thing between Feng Zheng and I happened years ago. Are you going to hold that against me forever?!” Song Juhan moved closer and trapped He Gu between himself and the door. He looked straight into He Gu’s eyes and said, “Yes, I did have a thing with Feng Zheng before, but that was when we were fifteen, sixteen. I was so young back then. I didn’t know any better and only tried it with him because I was looking for something new. But then I met you, and yes… I admit that when I first approached you I was just looking to mess with you. But later on, it had nothing to do with Feng Zheng anymore. I simply… it was simply because it’s you…”
Song Juhan gritted his teeth. He had never lowered his head to anyone before, let alone spoken such endearing words, but during the month-long wait with no word from He Gu… he began to feel flustered.
Song Juhan wasn’t even sure what happened. He had simply gotten used to having this person around. No matter how far he went, or where he went, whenever he turned around, He Gu would always be standing right there waiting for him. It was like he always had somewhere to return to.
How could He Gu want to break up with him? How could he possibly ignore him? How could he…
Song Juhan couldn’t accept it. He simply couldn’t get used to that preposterous idea…
He Gu looked at Song Juhan unblinkingly. “How did you see me during these past six years?
Song Juhan was caught off guard, and he didn’t know what to say.
“You don’t have to say anything, I already know. From the beginning, you must’ve looked down on me. Later on, you must’ve gotten used to having me around—having this obedient and tight-lipped person that was always on call for you to fuck at any time.” He Gu’s words came out calmer than usual, as if those shameful remarks weren’t directed at himself but rather at someone else. “I really can’t imagine how you and Feng Zheng must’ve seen me all these years. I can’t even begin to imagine just how unbearably ridiculous I must’ve seemed in your eyes.”
Song Juhan sternly said, “Stop with that nonsense. I didn’t look down on you! The only reason I didn’t tell you about the thing between Feng Zheng and I is… I… I didn’t feel a need to tell you. It happened so long ago, why do I have to tell you about it?!”
He Gu showed a bitter smile that looked worse than if he had been crying as he said, “Indeed… there was no need for you to tell me.”
Song Juhan stared at He Gu’s pale face and couldn’t help but recall his tears from that day. His heart immediately softened at the memory. He approached He Gu and lowered his voice to gently say, “He Gu, can you stop being angry now? Why can’t we return to how things were before? Have I not been treating you well enough? Didn’t I already give you everything you wanted? How about I take you on a vacation this New Year holiday? Just the two of us. We can go wherever you like.” Song Juhan’s eyes shined brightly, to the point that there was even a hint of innocence in them—like a naive child swapping his lollipop for friendship.
He Gu’s heart ached uncontrollably. With all his remaining energy, he forced himself to stay standing and said in a quiet voice, “What you give to me insignificant to you.” But for me, I gave you my everything.
Song Juhan’s expression changed abruptly. He gritted his teeth and shouted, “Then what more do you want?!”
Song Juhan felt like he was on the verge of going insane. When had he ever lowered his head to anyone in his life? Even though he had repeatedly coaxed and sweet-talked He Gu, the man still failed to appreciate his efforts!
He Gu closed his eyes. “Just go.”
I’m afraid to ask anything of you anymore, He Gu thought to himself.
A fierce glint appeared in Song Juhan’s eyes, and he clenched his fists. With a loud bang, he punched the fire door right next to He Gu’s face.
He Gu trembled all over, but refused to open his eyes.
Song Juhan glared long and hard at He Gu. A tight feeling brewed in his chest, his breathing turning difficult as if something was stuck in his throat. He tightened his fists, then turned and left.
It wasn’t until he heard the sound of the elevator doors closing that He Gu slowly opened his bloodshot eyes again. His vision blurred and all he could see was a sea of red.
Proofread by Lizonka and Ess