Actually, Zhao is feeling a rather unique sensation.
He really drank too much, and can’t really walk straight. But he already threw up and took a nap, so he isn’t as drunken by now.
It’s just that Chu exaggerated on how drunk he is, and so he just decides to play along. Pretending that he is utterly disoriented, he lays in the seat next to the driver like a dead corpse, feigning unconsciousness.
Shen went upstairs to pick him up, but left the car engine on to keep the air con running. Zhao feels it as soon as he gets inside.
Shen sits down and pushes him lightly, “Wake up, you can sleep when you’re back at home, it’s easy to catch a cold outside.”
He hears the man beside him sighing. Shen sees that he can’t wake him up, so he leans forward to pull his seat belt for him. The two men are so incredibly close that Zhao can smell Shen’s scent, it’s different from when he’s the Ghost Slayer. He has the scent of soap from the clothes that probably just came out of the laundry… when the Ghost Slayer sheds his feared black cloak, what’s underneath is actually such a clean and soft man.
Then, Shen takes out a bottle of mineral water, and pours some into a little cup. He shakes the cup a bit, and the cold water warms up with white mist. He holds the cup beside Zhao’s mouth, “Drink some.”
Zhao opens his eyes slightly, and inside of the car is pitch black, with only the light shining from Shen’s eyes. They are just the right amount of light, not murky but not glaring either.
Zhao’s heart suddenly stomps heavily. He leans forward, and guzzles down the cup of water in Shen’s hand. Then, Shen takes out a blanket from underneath the seat and wraps him tightly in it. He turns up the temperature of the air con, and drives away steadily.
Zhao leans against the seat with his eyes close, but he is awake… it’s been a long time since he felt so warm in a cold winter’s night.
It’s been half a month since they came back from the snowy mountains, and Zhao never contacted Shen.
But constantly annoying and worrying about the thing he likes has become a bit of a habit, and it’s always painful to change ones habits. Zhao has therefore been living quite messily. And although humans are social animals, too much socialising can wear anyone out.
If you don’t take care of your appearance meticulously, it’s perhaps to make you appear less alone.
Men and women go after him, it has always been like that. When he is in a good mood, he likes engaging in a bit of an ambiguous love affair, just to make himself feel better. But ever since he stopped contacting Shen, he began comparing everyone with him. And the more he did, the more disappointed he was… among all those people, none of them has the same charisma of a well- educated scholar, none of them has the same features that look as though they come from a famous portrait.
Zhao feels like he turned into an old monk void of desires in just one night. One time during a dinner gathering, someone hired a young model that he always liked, but he was utterly uninterested… Da Qing can testify, there was a time when Zhao very pervertedly set a swimsuit picture of that model as his desktop background.
And whenever he is so drunken that he forgets what year it is, he thinks about the day when he shamelessly coerced Shen to stay at his place till night time because of his stomachache.
They watched movies together, and talked occasionally. When he got bored of the old movies he picked up some files that he was reading. They would do their own thing and not disturb one another. And then, Shen would place a pillow behind him.
It’s a lifestyle that Zhao has always dreamt of… two people who don’t always have to talk, who won’t annoy each other or demand a lot all day like going on movie dates and giving flowers. They live their own lives, but they’re not distant… it’s like they are meant to live together, just the two of them.
At this age, Zhao is smart enough and experienced enough to realise that when a man looks at someone he likes, and doesn’t see tiny waist long legs big butt, but sees home, that’s definitely not lust.
If it weren’t like that, perhaps he would have treated it as a joke, and ended it with the Ghost Slayer openly.
Whenever Zhao thinks of the pair of eyes he saw when he woke up at midnight in the shabby house in the snowy mountains, he can’t help but feel that if he ended things just like that, he would regret it for the rest of his life.
Zhao’s dog lair isn’t far away from No. 4 Bright Avenue. He has yet to retrieve himself from his convoluted thoughts, and they’ve already arrived. Shen helps him get upstairs, takes off his jacket and hangs it aside nicely, and then puts him on the bed. He heads to the washroom for a wet towel.
Though Zhao seems to be drunk as mud, Shen is incredibly well-behaved. He only wipes his face and limbs, and avoids touching all other places, not even one millimetre. He wraps him in a blanket, sets the towel aside, and helps him tidy up the trash habitually. He sets it beside the door and plans to bring it out as he leaves. Then, he begins picking up clothes that are scattered everywhere, and gathers them into a laundry bag. He sticks a memo note reminding Zhao to send the clothes for washing the next day.
Attentive to every detail, he takes away the cup of water on the bedside cupboard so that Zhao wouldn’t knock it off when he’s sleeping.
Zhao listens to the rustling noise of the man tiptoeing around, tidying up the room, and not only does the knot in his heart not loosen up, it just gets messier inside.
Shen puts him in his heart, and Zhao can feel it. All his life, besides his parents, other people always seem to want something from him, or want to rely on him. Never has anyone cared so deeply for him.
Well, Da Qing isn’t a person, it’s just a bad-tempered fat cat.
When Shen finishes, he then realises that Zhao, who was still half-consciously peeking a moment ago, now seems to be in deep slumber, laying there restfully.
He seems so tranquil. Shen hesitates shortly, but doesn’t want to leave. He stands beside the bed, staring at him lustfully.
“Fuck,” Zhao thinks, while pretending to be asleep. The blood in his heart pour out like streams, “please stop looking, just go. This is killing me.”
The Ghost Slayer doesn’t hear his thoughts, the god above doesn’t hear his thoughts. After a while, Shen seems to be hypnotised, and slowly bends down, leaning closer and closer to Zhao, till he can feel his breath on his face.
Zhao holds his corpse-like pretense with the strongest will possible. And yet, he can clearly feel that he is about to collapse.
At this instant, Shen can’t hold it anymore. With his arms placed on either side of Zhao on the bed, he nudges on to Zhao’s lips gently. Like a dragonfly dipping its tail in water, touching for just a split second. Shen closes his eyes, just one short-lived touch has given him immense satisfaction. Thundering thumps thrust through his body of flesh. For one instant, Shen feels like a human. Under dim lights, stealing a kiss from someone you love, and joy and sweetness swell up in your heart. Even if he died right now, he would have no objection.
All of a sudden, Zhao’s mind goes completely blank.
A strand of hair holding up countless tonnes of weight breaks in his heart, in just a flashing moment, and without a sound. Zhao’s slightly intoxicated brain is incredibly awake, “Ghost Slayer? So what if he’s the Ghost Slayer? If I like him he’s mine, to hell with everyone else!”
And so Zhao who was “sound asleep” just a moment ago suddenly wraps his arms around Shen. Shen has yet to realise what’s happening, and in great shock, Zhao flips him over and weighs down on top of him.
In his breath, a tinge of alcohol remains. And yet, his eyes are crystal clear, staring into Shen’s eyes. He asks softly, “What are you doing, Your Honour?”
Shen opens his mouth, in great embarrassment, there is nothing he can say.
Zhao stares at him with complex expressions for a while. Suddenly, he pinches Shen’s chin lightly, “I always thought you were a gentleman, Your
Honour, but who knew you’re the kind who kisses someone else secretly in the middle of the night. And it was such an unprofessional kiss as well.”
Then Shen hears his muffled laughter.
Until Zhao’s kisses come raining down, Shen is still stupefied. As though he were in an absurdly splendid dream, he can’t help but embrace Zhao’s body, pulling him in tighter.
This man is incredibly adept at kissing. Frisky, and flirtatious. As though only carelessly, Shen is already stripped of his helmet and armour, utterly vanquished.
And then, Zhao holds his body up a little. The two men are almost touching noses, and Shen hears him whisper, “This is called professional level.”
Shen is lost for words.
Two buttons are undone on Zhao’s shirt, and his slender and refined collar bones are unveiled. A faint aftertaste of cologne comes pouring out, and with just a soft stream, Shen is sealed in silence. He can no longer tell who is really drunk now.
Zhao sighs. He gently brushes away Shen’s messy fringe, “Let me ask you, for such a long time, you’ve always hid from me, but never too far apart, is it because a long time ago we knew each other and you did something terrible to me, or are you afraid that human and ghost aren’t meant to be together?”
Shen is stunned. His eyes become clearer, and he pushes Zhao away and sits up. The tinge of flowing blood wears away from his body, and his hands quickly retract.
Zhao sits facing him sideways, half his body on the bed, and pulls his hand in. He slowly opens Shen’s clenched fist, “Look at you, why do you give yourself such a hard time. If it’s the first reason, I’m telling you now, from now on, whatever happened in the past is completely written off. You won’t mention it, and I won’t even remember. As for the second reason… isn’t that bullshit? Humans die and become ghosts too, maybe someday I’ll…”
Shen quickly covers his mouth.
Two men, four eyes, they stare at each other for long. Then, Shen finally shakes his head, very, very slowly.
Zhao sighs, and gets out of bed. From his words he seems very conscious, and yet he stumbles as soon as he touches the ground and falls bottoms first. He wraps his hands around his head and moans, “Fuck, I see dozens of bees flying around.”
Shen makes haste to help him get up, “I thought you weren’t drunk. Does it hurt?”
Zhao is now in a peculiar state where his logical mind remains, but he struggles to walk straight. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been so blunt and bold.
He shakes his head, kneels and opens the bedside cupboard. From the bottom he scoops out a plastic folder, and slaps it on to Shen, “Open it.”
Shen hesitates, but opens it soon. He finds a property contract, it’s for a house near University Road, Dragon City University… he spent such a tremendous amount, this explains why he has been so short of cash lately.
Zhao hides his teasing smirk, leans against the cupboard, and sits on the ground, legs straightened out. He looks up, and lights a cigarette.
He stays silent till almost the entire cigarette burns out, and says with a deep voice, “I bought it before we went to the mountains. I thought it’s a nice environment there, and it’s quite accessible. It’s just beside the University, so if you’re willing to move in with me, you wouldn’t have to drive to work, and you can even wake up later in the morning. Next year, I’ll move the SIU office to somewhere nearby. The house is quite big, more than enough for the two of us, you can have a huge working room, you can bring your students over, I can invite some friends over sometimes… and I also thought about having a big silly dog, I could provoke it to fight with Da Qing and we can watch Dog Versus Cat live, New Year Edition…”
Shen’s hands tremble out of control, the plastic folder crackles.
Zhao chuckles, “Who would have thought, that after going to the big Northwest, I’d find out it’s you, Your Honour… you can get from East City to West City in the blink of an eye, why would you have to drive? And waking
up in the morning? If I had known I wouldn’t have spent unnecessary money, now I don’t even have enough for New Year.”
Shen gradually lowers his head, and they lock eyes with each other. He finds this man’s gaze the same as ever. Without mischief, all that’s left is deeply, deeply hidden tenderness. Even just a minuscule fragment of it, like a tiny feather, grab it, and you shall drown within it
Shen is being split in halves: one half is over the moon with ecstasy, the other is sinking deep down into the abyssal depths of Hell. In just one moment, he finds himself on the verge of insanity.
Several thousand years of solitude, and yet he always remained sane. Just a few careless words from that man, and upheaval, havoc, tempest: unruly passion engulfs him.
No wonder the old saying goes like this: For love, the living can die, and the dead can once again live. The living who feareth death, and the dead who cannot again live, art those who love enow not.
Mind and soul in utter disarray, who would remember what day and what year it is?