PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION. THIS CHAPTER IS VERY HEAVY AND MENTIONS THE FOLLOWING THEMES: SUBSTANCE ABUSE, OVERDOSING (CAUSING DEATH), SUICIDE
Despite being in the same police car, the two did not speak much. On one hand, it was because Roman was also in the car—he’d been directly stuffed into the trunk by the Moscow police and was deathly still.
On the other hand, it was due to Liang Xiao’s current state. The skin on his hands were all torn and his nose was bleeding non-stop.
An immensely displeased look sat on his face—it was as if he’d eaten three large plates of bitter gourd. Ye Ji’an thought that some peace and silence would be for the best and that chit chat wasn’t very appropriate here.
Of course, Ye Ji’an was not in the mood to talk nonsense either. Two people fighting against a group—there was no way they’d get out without receiving multiple injuries.
Apart from a little skin trauma, Ye Ji’an felt that his jaw was also hurting rather badly. That old waist of his didn’t seem to be in good shape either. Perhaps he would have to seek treatment from that old chiropractor master from the Naval General Hospital after returning to China.
He’d have to start queueing before the crack of dawn to get an appointment with the specialist. Each consultation was incredibly expensive as well. Besides, it was hard to say whether Ye Ji’an would have any free days before the Chinese New Year—yet the old specialist would not be working during that period either. Thinking about all these, Ye Ji’an felt anxiety kick in once more.
All Ye Ji’an wanted was to quickly fly back, hole up in his house for a few days, make some frozen dumplings and have them with sweet and sour soy sauce.
The police came up and quickly led them along. In this short period, Ye Ji’an had already finished his daily suicide contemplation routine. He passed his coat to Liang Xiao. It had dropped on the ground previously and had some snow on it. While they were in the car, the snow had melted, leaving the coat a little damp.
Liang Xiao was taken aback for a moment. His previously unfocused gaze sharpened as if he’d come back to reality. Liang Xiao did not make any movement to take the coat. “No need, Senior.”
Ye Ji’an directly placed the coat over his shoulders with an expression that screamed “don’t act coy in front of me”.
“Your shirt is already all torn up. Why aren’t you wearing a layer of thermal wear and a cashmere sweater on top this time?”
“Did Senior wear those?”
“I wore three layers,” Ye Ji’an seemed a little embarrassed, and followed the police to the station without turning back. “Didn’t I learn this from you?!”
Ye Ji’an thought that Liang Xiao was ultimately not an awkward person, so there was no way he’d hold the coat in his hands the whole time without putting it on. Though the coat was possibly one size too small, its ability to keep Liang Xiao warm would not be affected.
Ye Ji’an thought that it wouldn’t take long before they met again—two or three hours, perhaps? By then, their colleagues would be more or less sober as well and would be able to pick them up from the police station together.
However, their next meeting was delayed until the morning of the following day. Regarding the fight, Liang Xiao and Ye Ji’an both expressed that they did not want to bring it to court, nor did they want to alarm the embassy.
Their only request was to return to China as soon as possible. Roman also had someone bail him out. However, despite that, the local police still took his statements in detail.
The three of them were separated into different rooms. All the people negotiating were Slavic men, and only a small number of them could speak English. Ye Ji’an was a little worried.
Though he’d caused no small amount of trouble in his younger days, they were all minor infractions and none of them held serious consequences. This was still the first time he’d ever entered a police station—and a foreign one at that. Ye Ji’an had no idea when they’d be released.
He even began to feel that he was helpless. A sense of utter desolation—as if he’d die in this foreign land—surfaced in his heart.
Fortunately, after more than 30 hours without seeing the light of day, Ye Ji’an regained his freedom. It seemed that Roman was still in temporary custody.
Liang Xiao, on the other hand, settled things a few minutes faster and was waiting for him in the lobby of the police station, his bags already packed. The first thing he did upon seeing Ye Ji’an was to return the coat.
Their four colleagues had also come. Crowding around him, the group brought Ye Ji’an into the car. Old Chen was especially enthusiastic—it was as if he’d completely forgotten about the saga of love and hate he had heard in that alley while he was drunk.
He held on to Ye Ji’an in one hand and Liang Xiao in the other and silently shed a few tears, unable to say a single word. A long time later, he finally spoke, saying that he had to invite these pair of kind young lads to dinner after they returned to China.
Ye Ji’an smiled and politely replied, “There’s no need, there’s no need.”
Liang Xiao also smiled: “Thank you, Deputy Director Chen.”
Ye Ji’an glanced at him out of the corner of the eye, suspecting that this person had already decided on which restaurant he’d beat up Old Chen in.
Xiao Li had already booked their plane tickets. Their departure was slated to be in the afternoon. There were two things they needed to do. Firstly, they had to rush straight to their hotel to pack up, and secondly, they had to rush to the airport.
Neither of these two trips was short. Like he’d done many days before, Ye Ji’an sat in the last row, right next to Liang Xiao.
The two were still not talking much.
To be precise, it was Liang Xiao who did not speak. Without Liang Xiao’s customary wild imagination and the strange topics of focus, Ye Ji’an was at a loss for words.
Only now did he realize that during this period of—how should he say it—friendship, all these little things were like lubrication on a piece of machinery—and they had all come from Liang Xiao.
Now, that lubrication was no longer applied. If the days passed just like that, would there come a day where the machine would fall apart?
Ye Ji’an struggled to glean a sincere emotion from Liang Xiao’s face. All he could see was a serious look interspersed with a few smiles. Apart from the fact that he talked a little less, everything else was as before.
Ye Ji’an could almost use this as an excuse for slacking off—wasn’t there a saying that the greatest of news was news of an ex’s death? After all, not every couple would be able to separate as peacefully as his ex-girlfriend and he.
It was normal for Liang Xiao to be in a bad mood—his business trip had been interrupted by a stalkerish ex and a rather large conflict had occurred, causing great disruptions to both his colleagues’ schedule and his own. Things would be back to normal as long as he was given some time to relax…right?
The time that originally should’ve been used to figure out how to report to the president of the company was used by Ye Ji’an to ponder over this matter.
He realized that whether there was lubrication for the gears of their friendship or not was of low importance. What Ye Ji’an was more concerned about was Liang Xiao’s mental state.
As someone striving to be a good boss, Ye Ji’an felt that this issue was part of his responsibility. And as a friend—one that was relatively close—Ye Ji’an felt even more strongly that he could not just ignore this matter.
The first-class cabin on the flight back home was sold out. Ye Ji’an and his colleagues were crammed into business seats. Liang Xiao was seated just across the aisle.
Ye Ji’an paid special attention to his side and was still very much awake even after the main lights in the cabin had been switched off in exchange for night lights and the passengers around him had all fallen asleep.
Ye Ji’an saw from the corner of his eye that Liang Xiao had put down his laptop and left his seat, heading for the back of the plane. In his heart, Ye Ji’an made one final perfunctory struggle.
His dilemma did not last long. Only a minute or two passed before Ye Ji’an got up and headed to the seats at the back. At the bridge between business class and economy class, besides the emergency exit in front of the washroom, Ye Ji’an bumped into Liang Xiao.
“Senior.” Liang Xiao nodded at him, squeezed past Ye Ji’an and headed back to his seat.
“Hold on,” Ye Ji’an grabbed his wrist. Liang Xiao had not yet dried his hands after washing, and those water droplets now dampened Ye Ji’an’s palm. “There’s more than two hours left to this flight.”
“Mm,” Liang Xiao turned his head to look at Ye Ji’an. “Senior should hurry up and get some sleep.”
Ye Ji’an immediately came back to his senses. Letting go of Liang Xiao’s hand, he fidgeted with the seam of his trousers, looking a little embarrassed. “I didn’t come over to use the washroom.”
“Oh.” Liang Xiao raised his eyebrows.
“Do you…do you have anything you want to tell me?” Ye Ji’an took a deep breath. “If you have any troubles, worries, or thoughts that you feel trapped by, feel free to confide in me.”
“Isn’t Senior tired?”
“I’m not sleepy.” Ye Ji’an could even be said to be full of energy.
Liang Xiao turned around completely. He leaned against the wall, slightly retracted his chin, and looked at Ye Ji’an attentively.
“I do want to have a chat with Senior. I’ve been thinking about many things these days, but I didn’t know if I had sorted out all my thoughts. I didn’t know if I’d blurt out some stupid words.”
“So you decided to remain silent?”
“More or less,” Liang Xiao’s lips curved into a shallow smile. “Am I still allowed to say something now?”
“Tell me.” Ye Ji’an also smiled, inexplicably feeling more at ease.
“Senior, do you still remember my bad reaction to needles? Truthfully, I didn’t have this problem before.” Liang Xiao paused for a while before resuming his recount.
“When I was very young, my mother went abroad with my elder brother. She was there for treatment—oesophagus cancer—and my brother got his schooling there. When I graduated from junior high school at the age of 14, I went to find them by myself. Only then did I find out that my brother had been living in the school dorms and rarely came home.”
“My mother stayed alone. She would not let me stay with her either and quickly arranged some accommodation for me. It was a rental flat located beside my high school. She even hired a nanny to supervise me.”
After saying these words, Liang Xiao’s eyes gleamed and were soon tinged with a sense of uneasiness.
“Go on.” Ye Ji’an said.
Liang Xiao pinched the bridge of his nose. “It was less than a year later? I went home on one occasion to get something and saw her lying on the sofa looking as if she was drunk. There was a syringe stuck in her wrist.”
Ye Ji’an heart sank. Taking drugs? He truly hoped for his guess to be wrong.1Raws: 他真不愿意往这方面猜想 — He didn’t want to think in this direction (implies that he didn’t want this to be true). Adjusted for better flow.
Liang Xiao stared out the porthole into the darkness and continued his story.
“She said that it was too painful. She forbade me from telling my dad and naturally did not allow me to call the police either, threatening suicide if I did so. My brother had known this for a long time. I asked him what we should do. He shared my mother’s opinion—and said that the hospitals were using morphine for pain relief.”
“I knew that it was wrong, but I kept hesitating and hesitating. In the end, I did nothing. A few months later, my mother died of a drug overdose in her house. Only when her body started to smell did someone discover what had happened. A few weeks passed and my brother jumped off the building. The incident made its way to New York’s newspapers.”
Ye Ji’an was at a loss for words for a while. Liang Xiao’s indifferent tone—as if these matters were completely unrelated to him—was painful to listen to. However, with the last vestiges of calm in his heart, Ye Ji’an kept his silence; He felt that listening silently was the best form of respect he could give.
Liang Xiao’s gaze moved away from the porthole and landed on Ye Ji’an’s face once more. Softly, he continued.
“Truthfully speaking, there were many opportunities to avert this whole tragedy. I had assumed that my mother’s bad shape was due to cancer and didn’t notice those needle marks. I did not take any action even after discovering that my mother was taking drugs—I was too afraid to do anything. Then, they all died. Unexpectedly, my dad didn’t even blame me. He even went out of the way to stay by my side through two years of high school.”
“Do you think that he should blame you?” Ye Ji’an approached Liang Xiao and stood beside him. They were both facing the opposite wall—as if they were back in that smoking room.
“I don’t know. All I know is that I loathe needles now.” Liang Xiao shook his head. “The story’s not over yet. I haven’t explained Roman’s matters.”
Liang Xiao suddenly laughed. His hands hung by his sides and he looked as if he was without a care.
“Perhaps I’m destined to have troubles involving drugs? I first met Roman on a reptile forum, and we were both raising a lot of lizards. Later, we discovered that we were both in New York and that we were both gay. We got together after meeting only a couple of times.”
Ye Ji’an hummed and nodded lightly.
“I think it started when I was around eighteen. I was certain that I was gay. Roman was studying oil painting in an art academy while I had been studying finance. We didn’t have many common topics and often quarrelled—but ultimately, the relationship brought me more joy than pain.”
“Later on, there was an incident. It was the same as before—I’d forgotten to get something and went home at a time when I should not have been home.”
“I saw five or six people lying on my carpet—haha—in the same state as my mother had been back then.”
Ye Ji’an tried to squeeze Liang Xiao’s shoulder. “That happened when you were twenty-one or two.”
“Mm.” Liang Xiao kept his gaze down. His tense shoulders would not relax no matter what.
“At that time, I was busy with my studies. Roman is very smart as well—he knew that I would not be able to discover anything if the needle was inserted at an inconspicuous place. I left the room, locked the door from outside and called the police.”
“I could hear him and his friends slamming on the door from inside, sobbing and begging me. It was an apartment on the twentieth-something floor; they dared not jump. Not too long after, the police came to take them away.”
“Senior, I don’t think I repeated my past mistake. I don’t regret my actions,” Liang Xiao hastily concluded.
“I agree,” Ye Ji’an said.
“I don’t want anyone to overdose and die in my house again,” Liang Xiao continued.
“I understand.” Ye Ji’an turned to look at him, “What you did is right. I’m not sure if I could’ve been as decisive as you had been if I were in your shoes.”
Liang Xiao opened his mouth but did not make a sound.
Ye Ji’an did not move his gaze away.
“More importantly, you’ve been suffering due to this matter for a long time. The pain has built up and turned into something heavy and chronic. It may seem as if there’s nobody you can confide in. Feeling this way is normal. Nobody is allowed to say you’re wrong; nobody is allowed to call you vexatious or weak.”
Liang Xiao’s eyes suddenly turned red.
Ye Ji’an tried his best to appear calm and opened his arms. “Hug it out? That should be useful. You’ve been too depressed these days, I don’t think this can go on.”
Though he had said those words calmly, Ye Ji’an was feeling a little uneasy on the inside. He felt that his actions were bizarre—was he trying to take advantage of Liang Xiao or was he trying to assure him? Why did he want to hug Liang Xiao so much? Had he gotten addicted after hugging him in bed so often?
But Ye Ji’an’s doubts were quickly dispelled. Liang Xiao’s eyes were damp with unshed tears and he probably did not wish to be seen by anyone in this embarrassing state.
He forcefully hugged Ye Ji’an in his arms while Ye Ji’an placed his chin upon his shoulder and lightly wrapped his arms around his waist.
“Haha, the air stewardess will be reprimanding us later when she comes by.”2To be exact, the raws used 抓 (catch), but “air stewardess will catch us soon” sounds a little strange so I adjusted it slightly. Please take note that it was never explicitly stated that it would be a reprimand
“I don’t care.” Liang Xiao resolutely replied.
“I’m quite surprised that you told me these things,” Ye Ji’an stroked his back in comfort. “But it’s also…How should I put it…I’m a little happy that you’re placing trust in me.”
“Those matters are in the past; the pain will dull with time. But my personal affairs have indeed caused Senior a lot of trouble and I want to provide a clear explanation.”
Liang Xiao’s voice was muffled and came from behind Ye Ji’an’s ears. Ye Ji’an realized that nobody had talked to him from this angle in a long time. “There will be many things to settle after we return to the company.”
“It’s okay. All of us have signed up for insurance. Perhaps they’ll even have to pay us insurance money after we get back. Besides, the fundamental cause of this issue is not our problem. The higher-ups will not put us in a difficult spot due to this.”
“But it is my fault. I should have made things clear earlier and reminded all of you to take note.”
“Stop saying those things. Any more and I’ll get annoyed.”
Liang Xiao seemed to want to speak, but he stopped himself each time. In the end, he nuzzled at Ye Ji’an’s temple and finally let go. With red eyes, Liang Xiao said, “Let’s go back and sleep.”
Ye Ji’an looked at his bunny-like appearance and suddenly as if he was brimming with courage. “Wait a minute.”
“That poem, are you still planning to read it to me?”
Ye Ji’an did not move his gaze away. “You must recite it with as much emotion as you can.”
Liang Xiao’s face revealed a serious and thoughtful look. Not long after, he regained his composure. “Okay. Senior must listen carefully.”
Ye Ji’an deliberately pulled at his earlobes a few times3A gesture for ‘I’m all ears’ and smiled at Liang Xiao.
With a serious look on his face, Liang Xiao cleared his throat, straightened his collar and stood up straight. Like a high school student standing on stage for a poetry recitation competition, he spoke the first line of Russian with a deep voice.
Ye Ji’an followed along and recounted the translation of each line in his heart. If his words were not kept to himself but rather spoken out loud, one would be able to hear their intermingled voices:
“И сердце бьется в упоенье.” My heart is jumping in ecstasy.
“И для него воскресли вновь.” For its sake, everything rouses once more.
“И божество, и вдохновенье.” I now have one to dedicate my heart to and inspiration for poetry.
“И жизнь, и слезы, и любовь.”
“A new state of living, the ability to shed tears, and a love of my own.” This final statement was spoken out loud by Ye Ji’an.4Important note: SOME PARTS WERE ADJUSTED for better flow in English. The raws went like this — 我的心在狂喜中跳跃。为了它，一切又重新苏醒。有了倾心的人，有了诗的灵感。“有了生命，有了眼泪，也有了爱情。” Translated literally, you will get — My heart is jumping in ecstasy. For it, everything wakes once more. Have someone to love, have inspiration for poetry. “Have life, have tears, have love.” Another thing I’d like to point out is that these lines are translated from Chinese; the author included Chinese translations for those Russian lines.
Liang Xiao’s eyes widened instantly.
“I’m sorry,” Ye Ji’an raised his hand in surrender, “I thought you no longer intended to translate it for me, so I searched it up myself before we boarded the plane.”
Ye Ji’an smiled as if he was joking around. However, this was in actuality nothing more than a method to hide his awkwardness and nervousness. He could judge from the heat on his face that he was blushing bright red.
The translations of these four short sentences ran rampant in Ye Ji’an’s heart for several hours. He was so jittery that he almost couldn’t hold his boarding pass steadily while boarding the plane. Likewise, thoughts of Liang Xiao also wreaked havoc in his heart.
At this moment, what that jitteriness was did not matter—it was building up and gushing out of him without any preparation on Ye Ji’an’s side.
Ambiguity, ambiguity, ambiguity. Ye Ji’an thought to himself that ambiguity did exist between Liang Xiao and him—it was not something that he could turn a blind eye to; but rather something that could potentially be lethal.
Liang Xiao’s forthright and expressive gaze made Ye Ji’an’s heart beat faster than the days when he’d down five espressos.
“Hey, don’t stay silent…” Liang Xiao complained.
Ye Ji’an pressed himself against the wall, knowing that he was about to cowardly back out. “…Let’s go back to sleep?” he asked dryly.
However, he saw that Liang Xiao remained still—he did not say a word, nor did he make any moves to head back to sleep. It was almost as if he hadn’t heard anything Ye Ji’an had said.
All Liang Xiao did was push him yet another half-step towards the corner. Cupping his face in both hands, Liang Xiao stared unblinkingly at Ye Ji’an and slowly leaned forward.
Ye Ji’an was in a state of extreme concentration—it was as if he’d fallen under a spell that prevented him from telling Liang Xiao to stop. All that was left was the turbulence of dark tides surging underneath a still sea.
The next moment, a kiss landed on his lips. It was too soft and too fleeting—just a simple touch. Ye Ji’an was not even caught off guard. Liang Xiao had given him more than enough time to duck out of that kiss, yet Ye Ji’an had remained still and silent.
Ye Ji’an only felt that he was probably breathing very harshly right now.
“Did it feel bad?” Liang Xiao lowered his arms and took a half step back, the tips of his ears red. None of the confidence and smugness he showed at work could be seen.
“Senior?” Liang Xiao prompted again.
Ye Ji’an snapped out of his stunned state and touched his lips.
The light in Liang Xiao’s eyes dimmed. Even the scratch wounds on his cheeks seemed to turn listless. Liang Xiao looked ready to apologise.
However, Ye Ji’an stopped the apology before it happened. He felt as if he’d abruptly gained great strength, but also as if he’d suddenly turned stupid. Only by holding on with all his strength could he prevent everything from slipping through his grasp.
So Ye Ji’an took that step forward. A hand was pressed against Liang Xiao’s shoulder while the other grasped onto his collar. Tiptoeing, Ye Ji’an leaned in, opened his mouth, and caught those thin and chapped lips.
- 1Raws: 他真不愿意往这方面猜想 — He didn’t want to think in this direction (implies that he didn’t want this to be true). Adjusted for better flow.
- 2To be exact, the raws used 抓 (catch), but “air stewardess will catch us soon” sounds a little strange so I adjusted it slightly. Please take note that it was never explicitly stated that it would be a reprimand
- 3A gesture for ‘I’m all ears’
- 4Important note: SOME PARTS WERE ADJUSTED for better flow in English. The raws went like this — 我的心在狂喜中跳跃。为了它，一切又重新苏醒。有了倾心的人，有了诗的灵感。“有了生命，有了眼泪，也有了爱情。” Translated literally, you will get — My heart is jumping in ecstasy. For it, everything wakes once more. Have someone to love, have inspiration for poetry. “Have life, have tears, have love.” Another thing I’d like to point out is that these lines are translated from Chinese; the author included Chinese translations for those Russian lines.