Day 09 22:39
He Zhiyuan lifted up his shirt and neatly put it on; he held the lapels and shook out the shoulders, straightened the hem, and buttoned it one button at a time, starting from the collar. Just then, Song Ran’s faltering voice came from the cell phone. “Mr He, I think that between lovers, they should… should be honest with each other and not keep hidden secrets.”
The movements of He Zhiyuan’s hands didn’t stop at all. “What secret do you have hidden?”
Song Ran was caught off-guard. “Huh?”
He Zhiyuan let out a low laugh. “I can tell you’re hiding something from your tone of voice, and it may even be something big. It’s fine, say it. Confess and I shall be lenient. I won’t take off impression points from you.”
“Oh, then I… then I’ll organise my words.”
Song Ran was so anxious that his ten fingers curled into fists. He lowered his head, held his breath, and processed his own mood for a while, then plucked up his courage, lifted his head back up, and said, “Mr He, I don’t make a lot of money, and originally I lived in that kind of super cheap old place where utilities are shared equally. I moved in recently because I… I wanted to find someone here.”
When He Zhiyuan heard those words, that carefree smile on his lips froze in an instant, and his fingers that were buttoning buttons likewise froze at the front of his chest.
Song Ran nodded. “Mm-hm.”
The volume was reduced to a very low level, as if he had done something wrong.
He Zhiyuan suddenly recalled that when Lin Hui previously was pressing Song Ran to agree to see each other, Song Ran had once brought up that he had someone he liked and was currently trying hard to pursue him. At the time, he assumed that Song Ran had just been speaking casually and had made something up to block Lin Hui’s peach blossoms; he didn’t think that there really was such a person.
Only after a while had passed did He Zhiyuan’s expression and body slowly defrost.
He expressionlessly continued to button downwards, with only the muscles beneath his shirt noticeably tensed. “What’s his name, and which building does he live in?”
“He… He lives in our building. I don’t know which floor.” Song Ran hurriedly shook his head. “I’ve only seen him once. When I was looking at places, I caught a glimpse of him from afar, but I haven’t seen him again since…”
Only seen once—that was love at first sight.
He Zhiyuan tightly furrowed his brows, and his complexion turned bad—it sounded like the other party had a good appearance; some renowned film stars lived in this community, and he didn’t know if it was any of them that Song Ran had run into. If this was the case, he might really not be able to win.
He kept steady, feigning calm as he asked, “What about now? Do you still like him?”
“Now… now, of course I like you more!”
Song Ran hurriedly answered, blurting out the words.
The original intention of these words was to comfort He Zhiyuan, but he was not good at lying and thus hadn’t plugged up the leak—since there was a ‘like you more’, naturally there was also an ‘average like’, and an average like was still ‘like’.
He Zhiyuan felt jealous.
To him, having a love rival wasn’t an issue; the issue was that the love rival lived in the same building as them. The future was so long, there would always be a possibility that Song Ran would encounter that man. He believed in Song Ran’s moral character, so he wasn’t afraid of being cucked, but the budding feelings really couldn’t be suppressed by reason. Merely one second of imagining Song Ran’s eyes lighting up for someone else made him feel like a fish bone was lodged in his throat.
He Zhiyuan was a person with a strong awareness of territory; if it didn’t belong to him, he wouldn’t give it an extra look even if it was right before his eyes, but if it belonged to him, it would all count as provocation if other people took extra looks.
And Song Ran belonged to him.
Just as the protective instinct and possessiveness that had been held back for five years had been aroused, a very close-by love rival appeared right away; this was no different from an unfamiliar male lion rashly intruding upon his territory, roaring at him and brazenly picking a fight.
Rather than making his wrath known, he had a greater desire to win the confrontation.
Feeling a tightness in his chest, He Zhiyuan opened the shirt collar with one hand and breathed freely for a while, then pressed his cold lips together and asked, “What does he look like?”
Song Ran said in a small voice, “Um… pretty handsome.”
“Be a bit more specific.”
This time, Song Ran smartened up and gave a watertight reply. “It’s already been a really long time, so I truly can’t remember what he looked like very well! Truly!”
You see, I can’t even remember well anymore, which indicates that the impression wasn’t deep. He wasn’t very handsome at all, so I beg you to hurry up and move on! Please don’t keep thinking about it!
He silently prayed.
But He Zhiyuan didn’t plan to drop it at this point. He pressed for details, asking, “Height?”
With no way out, Song Ran obediently stated, “Around 186 centimetres or so.”
He Zhiyuan adjusted his posture, then turned towards the closet. In the full-length mirror was reflected a tall and straight figure with long legs and wide shoulders, harmonious upper and lower body proportions, and no visual flaws to speak of.
188 centimetres. He could win.
He continued asking.
Song Ran hastily thought back to it, then said with some embarrassment, “His physique… was also pretty good. It’s the kind that looks thin when clothed and muscular when unclothed. Uh, I haven’t seen him take his clothes off before! It’s just… it’s just a casual description…”
With a few deft movements, He Zhiyuan undid all of the buttons that he had just buttoned, pulled on the lapels, and opened them to either side—firm pectorals, distinct abs, V-shaped mermaid lines disappearing beneath the waistband, and even a very large bulge in the crotch area.
All right, he could win this too.
He couldn’t help letting out a derisive laugh. “What about the rest?”
“The rest…” Song Ran almost was embarrassed to keep talking; he felt that he was practically being unfaithful, and his cheeks were burning hot. “He… looked very nice when he smiled.”
He Zhiyuan looked at his own face in the mirror and gave it a score of ninety-nine points.
“And, uh… he seems to also have a child.” Song Ran said, “About the same age as Bubu, but I only saw a side view of the face, so I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or girl.”
With a relaxed shrug of his shoulders, He Zhiyuan once again buttoned up his shirt buttons one by one and began to pick out a tie.
Even less need to be afraid.
Bubu was so cute, of course he would surely win.
After Song Ran finished praising the Infiniti god, he didn’t receive a reply for a long time, so he assumed that He Zhiyuan had gotten angry—the impression that he had of He Zhiyuan had always been that of a mature and dignified elite, so how could he have imagined that Mr Elite would be fussing over every little detail as he faced the mirror and compared to see who would win and who would lose?
Thus he uneasily cleared his throat and said, “Mr He, please believe me. I voluntarily confessed to you because there’s no dishonesty in my heart. If there was, I definitely would hide it and not let you know. What’s more, I don’t know how to read minds, so when I meet someone I don’t know, of course my first impression would be of their face. I’m not blind. How could I not feel tempted by a handsome guy… If you blame me for this, I won’t acknowledge it.”
He Zhiyuan couldn’t hold back a smile. “Relax, the law does not apply retroactively. You used to be free to like whomever you wanted, so I won’t blame you. But starting from today, for my sake, you have to set him aside.”
“Of course, of course!” Song Ran enthusiastically replied, “If I see him in the future, I’ll definitely act as though I don’t know him, and I guarantee I won’t say a single word to him in conversation!”
These words were very heartening; He Zhiyuan’s mood became quite a bit more comforted.
He plucked out a dark striped tie, stood up his shirt collar, and tied the tie with deft movements. In the process, he looked at himself in the mirror, and his movements stopped; he couldn’t help shaking his head and smiling.
No matter if it was according to Asian or European and American beauty standards, he had always been full of self-confidence about his own facial features and figure, so why was it that when Song Ran off-handedly spoke of someone to compare to, he was on guard as if confronted by a formidable enemy?
He had only known this ordinary little neighbour for fewer than ten days, but after a few phone calls, the neighbour had unexpectedly made a mark on his heart without leaving any traces.
He probably really had lost a bit of control.
“Song Ran, I’m very curious. In your eyes, what impression do I give off?”
He Zhiyuan casually asked as he lowered his head and straightened his shirt cuffs.
Song Ran gave a start. “Uh, this…”
At this moment, the image of a 175-centimetre-tall, slightly chubby, gentle and kindly IT uncle in a plaid shirt with hair that wasn’t too thick appeared right before his eyes.
Frankly speaking, he had also hoped for He Zhiyuan to be a stylish man, but he knew very well that in reality there were too few men who had a multitude of strengths. In his very small world, the Infiniti god already occupied one pit; if Mr He occupied another pit, then his peach blossoms would be too magnificent.
Song Ran didn’t want to offend He Zhiyuan, so he dodged the crucial point and said, “Mr He, I think you have a voice that is particularly pleasant to listen to, very magnetic, and worth trusting in, and your personality is very gentle… Mm, also steady, magnanimous, patient, and very good to me.”
He Zhiyuan’s eyebrows leaped up. “That’s it?”
“And… and very handsome.”
Noticing that he wasn’t satisfied, Song Ran reluctantly tacked on the statement right away. Because of his guilty conscience, his voice was very small.
At this, He Zhiyuan became genuinely delighted.
It looked like his Song Ran was a complete face-con. There was still a span of time before he returned to China, so he had to send a photograph at the earliest possible opportunity to shoo away evil, lest Song Ran be poached by a love rival who appeared out of who-knows-where while he was separated by the Pacific Ocean and couldn’t keep an eye on the other.
The clock hands pointed to eight o’clock exactly. He Zhiyuan had finished changing into a black suit, and after he reached up to tighten his tie, the appearance reflected in the mirror was strict and celibate. The intense scent of hormones emanated from him, covering up the fragrance of men’s perfume.
He picked up the cell phone and pushed the door open to go downstairs.
“Song Ran, although I really want to continue chatting with you for a while, I have to go to the office.” He lifted up the car keys that were on the coffee table; the leather charm swung left and right, and the black, red, and gold emblem flashed. “Can you fall asleep alone?”
Song Ran shyly nodded. “I can.”
He Zhiyuan then said, “You’ve just agreed to be my little boyfriend, so by rights, I should take some extra time to accompany you. But in the upcoming week, until I come back, the intensity of my work will be hellish. Every day, I can only keep you company by talking on the phone like this. Do you mind?”
“I don’t, I don’t!” Song Ran hurriedly said. “I’ve already been single for more than twenty years, so I don’t mind an extra day here and there. Feel free to go about your business. There’s no need to take me into account.”
He Zhiyuan paused, then said warmly, “I apologise. It is due to my negligence that your days will be the same as before. Once I come back, I’ll definitely compensate you double.”
Song Ran became even more bashful. “Mm.”
“Have Zhan Yuwen take your temperature. If you need to take medicine, then take it, and if you need to sleep, then sleep. Don’t stay up late.”
“If you dream at night, you can only dream of me. You can’t dream of other people.”
The final six words were spoken slowly yet heavily, thirty percent intimidating and seventy percent ambiguous, as if painstakingly emphasising something. Song Ran nestled in a corner of the bed, a blush spreading from his cheeks to his neck.
“Mm, I’ll… I’ll only dream of you, I promise.”
His voice was as soft as a gnat’s.
On the single-family home’s private driveway, the car that had been silent for a night let out a roar. After getting onto the leaf-strewn street, He Zhiyuan immediately stepped on the gas, leaving the residence where lingering warmth yet remained, then made a few turns and drove onto Highway 101 where traffic flowed in both directions.
The sun had risen long ago; the daylight passing through the car window swiftly flickered apace with the roadside trees that swept by.
He Zhiyuan felt blinded, so he reached out to open the glasses case on the ceiling of the car, took out a pair of sunglasses, and put them on his nose.
This was a wonderful morning.
At six o’clock, he was still a lone wolf with a cub but no partner. At eight o’clock, he had already pocketed the little cutie who spoke with a stammer on the other end of the phone—although it wasn’t perfect in every respect, since there was an extra little irritating setback. Henceforth, he had to securely cover his pocket and not let the little cutie out, so as to avoid him being discovered by the hungry wolf in the same building and get carried back to the wolf den.
What a joke.
He, a wolf who had been hungry for five full years, hadn’t yet taken a bite.