When Guo Changcheng gets home, his first priority is sleep. Once he gets his sleep, and starts looking more like a human, he tidies up his place, and heads out to visit relatives, not forgetting to pick up a few gifts on the way. First, he arrives at his second uncle’s place… he has to hand uncle the red packet as per Chief’s instruction; Guo has this problem, if he has “someone else’s stuff” on his person it gives him the heebie-jeebies… despite the fact that he knows uncle will probably just hand the red packet back to him anyway.
When he enters his uncle’s place, after a greeting, the first thing he takes out is the red packet. Like giving a police report, he recites everything verbatim, “Uncle, our Chief said it’s the New Years, so this is for aunt and sister to buy some new clothes.”
Guo’s sister is a spoilt brat: spends money like water and brings back none. This is his uncle’s very first time receiving a red packet from one of his nephews. Greatly surprised, he takes the packet after a while, and peeks inside with disbelief, then returns it to Guo, “Wow, that’s quite a lot, you can use it to buy something for yourself… that’s strange, isn’t that Old Yang a total scrooge, why did he think of giving out red packets all of a sudden?”
Guo is confused, “Who is Old Yang?”
Uncle stands up to take a tray of dumplings, and says, “Isn’t the head of the Residence Registry Old Yang? His name’s got three words, what was it again?”
Guo says, “Our Chief is Chief Zhao.”
Uncle seems nonchalant, as he places pairs of chopsticks on the table, and says, “Whatever it is, I remember hearing that this guy is as thrifty as one can get. But then again, everyone’s got a family to feed, so it’s understandable. You need to work hard,
especially if your boss likes you, you’re not a kid anymore, don’t spend all your money, save some for emergencies and what not, you’ve got to learn how to take care of yourself…”
Guo is more and more bewildered, “Uncle, our Chief isn’t even married.”
“How is that possible? Isn’t his daughter going to university soon? I was telling everyone to go easy on him, that things are not easy for him.” Uncle finally feels like something is wrong, “Hold on, who gave you the red packet?”
Guo replies, “Our Chief Zhao.”
“Chief Zhao? Which Chief Zhao?”
“Chief Zhao…. of the Special Investigations Unit?”
“SIU? Bright Avenue? Chief Zhao? Zhao Yunlan?” His uncle fires a flurry of questions, and stares at Guo intently. He puts a dumpling in his mouth, and starts chewing distractedly. Still, he finds this all too incredible, and says with a mouthful, “That makes no sense, how do I have the influence to recommend someone to the SIU?”
“What influence?” Aunt sits down at the table as well, “Aren’t you at the Residence Registry?”
Guo replies candidly, “I’m working for the Special Investigations Unit now.”
“The what now? Crime investigations?” Aunt knows this embarrassing kid all too well, and immediately begins to worry, “What’s with your uncle’s recommendation, how can our boy work for crime investigations? It’s dangerous, and unstable; what if he gets given a deadly case…. say, what kind of cases do you work on?”
Guo’s mouth is agape, but uncle slams his chopsticks on the bowl and says, “Don’t ask, SIU cases are all classified, I won’t have him breaking the rules… just say, is your work dangerous? Do you get tired all the time? How about I help you put a word out, maybe you could switch to a safer position, albeit less well-paid.”
At this point, the slow-witted Guo finally realises… from the very beginning, his being assigned to the SIU was a mistake. Considering his brain-power, he knows well enough that he is not qualified for this position.
Of course, Guo no longer remembers how he passed out from fear on his first day.
Guo has always been the unsociable kind. He had barely gotten used to the atmosphere at No. 4 Bright Avenue, but he has already became strongly fond of that place, especially Chu Shuzhi and others.
As for Zhao, Guo basically treats him like half a dad… although this “half-dad” suddenly found him a stepfather unannounced.
And yet, this stepfather is the kindest, and easiest to talk to, so Guo very adamantly says to his uncle, “I don’t wanna leave.”
Guo has always been indecisive, and would jump at any chance to agree with everyone else. Uncle and aunt are both taken aback by his new-found decisiveness.
After a good while, aunt asks, “Is that place…. really that good?”
Guo nods his head very forcefully.
“You really want to work there?” Uncle is still worried, “Is it really not dangerous?”
In order to stay, Guo very decisively lies, “Not dangerous at all.”
“Well alright then,” Uncle thinks, he is an adult now after all, though he has never had any achievement or ambition. Now that he has passion for his work, it wouldn’t be wise to extinguish that passion, so he hesitantly agrees, “Then give me your Chief’s number, I will find the time to meet with Zhao Yunlan. He is not much older than you, you need to learn from him.”
The ringing cell phone awakens Zhao. He feels as though his temples were punctured, pain radiates, and he seems even more exhausted despite having just woken up.
He doesn’t know for how long he had slept. Chaotic dreams drowned his mind in disorder, always revolving around stabbing the godly dragon blind, and then crashing into Mount Buzhou. The visions would never go away.
Zhao’s hand runs through the nightstand, and soon his phone is gently placed on to his hand. His eyes have yet to open as he is answering the phone. Once he realises who is calling, he enters the appropriate mode automatically. After some lengthy pleasantries, Zhao very carefully and arduously picks a few of Guo’s strengths, taking care not to exaggerate, so as to stealthily butter up the other. And so the two agrees to meet up.
Zhao hangs up, and buries his head in the pillow, “My head hurts.”
Shen immediately stops whatever he was doing, and holds him in his arms, endlessly caressing his forehead, “A bit hot, why do you have a fever all of a sudden?”
Zhao leans his feeble head on the other’s shoulder, and says with gritting teeth, “Why do you think? Get me some inflammation and fever medicine, you quack doctor.”
With immense regret, Shen silently abides.
Zhao swallows a few small pills in one gobble, then rolls up the sleeves on the pajamas that Shen somehow put on him. Suddenly, he pushes Shen on to the bed, a horrifying expression emerges on his face, “Mister, were my services last night satisfactory?”
Shen sees that he still very unstable, and makes haste to hold him by the waist, and buttons up his pajamas properly, “Don’t mess up the blanket, you will catch a cold.”
“That’s none of your business.” Zhao pushes down his shoulder with one hand, the other pulling up his collar, and says with a menacing voice, “If mister was satisfied, maybe you owe me my tip?”
Shen lets him do whatever he wants, and only looks up at him. To Zhao, that is blatantly an invitation to ravish him. His courage somehow skyrockets in his anger, and he begins ripping Shen’s clothes off, “If I don’t do you today, I will take your last name tomorrow… ow, fuck!”
Shen hurries and wraps his arm around him, “What’s wrong?”
“Ow… ow ow ow, leg cramp.”
Zhao probably always lacked iron, and on top of that last night was utter ravages, which only worsens his cramps… first his thighs, then his calves, then the feet. Shen can only stretch his legs amidst all the screaming and swearing, and gradually relieve his cramps.
Zhao’s pain worsens till he starts biting the blanket. Then, after a while, the pain subsides. Shen catches a glimpse of patches of olive and mauve bruises on Zhao’s body. He sits besides Zhao apologetically, and begins massaging his sore muscles. Zhao settles down, and lays on the bed to enjoy. He peeks at his phone on the nightstand, and suddenly says, “Guo’s second uncle is a higher-up, he only started his current position starting this year, and I don’t know him too well. Some say that he is not good at anything, but he knows how to please everyone.”
“His nephew has been working for me for over half a year, but he has never contacted me all this time. That is until just now, do you think that’s normal?”
Shen doesn’t understand the messy unspoken rules of the workplace, and asks, “How so?”
“I suspect that the old man only just found out that Guo is working for me, and that…” Zhao stops for a moment, and doesn’t continue. He peeks at Shen, and quickly changes the topic, “Did I really destroy the pathway to Heaven, Mount Buzhou?”
Shen hesitates, and then says, “Legends say Gonggong destroyed Mount Buzhou.”
“Uh.” Zhao closes his eyelids… if the Ghost Tribe was only released after Mount Buzhou collapsed, then Shen probably wouldn’t know who exactly destroyed Buzhou.
Shen hesitates, but he couldn’t help asking, “So when you were in the holy tree, what…”
“I saw things that happened five thousand years ago.” Zhao lays on the pillow, and turns towards him, “I saw you meeting me for the first time, when you fell from a big boulder into a pool of water. And so I thought, that must have been because I was too handsome, so handsome that you were blinded by the glimmer, and fell into the water out of shock… ah!”
Shen’s grip inadvertently tightens on Zhao’s hip.
“My… my old hip… are you trying to murder your husband?”
Shen gently massages him, staying silent for a while. But perhaps since they have already taken the most intimate step, he very surprisingly admits, “When I saw you for the first time, I was in huge panic. I will never forget that moment.”
Zhao’s smile is smug and lascivious, “Hehehe, hey, Professor Shen, take off your glasses, and show your husband your old long-haired look.”
Shen very obediently takes off his glasses, and returns to his original look. Jet black hair lengthens and spreads on the bed.
Perhaps these stupid men just somehow have a thing for long hair. Zhao finds that a soft spot in his heart is pierced precisely with an arrow. He stares at Shen intently for a long time, and then his dirty paws begin carefully caressing Shen’s hair, and he murmurs, “Super, super super super beauty. This life is definitely worth living.”
Shen massages his shoulders, and Zhao gradually hides away his obsessed, idiotic expression. He ponders in silence, frowns, and then continues, “But I think, since I grew up with dat fat fuq, even if he did anything wrong, like eloping with a cat mistress, I still wouldn’t do anything to him.”
Shen blinks in confusion, not quite sure why the topic has now turned to eloping cat.
“If I really promised Chiyou to take care of his descendants, and I watched generations of dragons grow up from small worms to several-million-mile-long beasts, I would have never stabbed the godly dragon in its eye and crashed it into Mount Buzhou. I would
have rather stabbed myself in the hand.” Zhao very adamantly announces, “I definitely didn’t stab the dragon in the eye, and Mount Buzhou was definitely not my doing either.”
“The judge very shamelessly spewed a bunch of bull crap, and none of it was true. How much of the things that I saw in the holy tree is true, do you think? And who showed it to me?” Zhao twirls Shen’s hair around his finger, with a smile on his face, but coldness in his eyes. After a while, he says gently, “Hey, baby, tell me more about when we met at the peach woods.”
Shen lets out a quiet chuckle, and says quietly, “There’s not much. I didn’t know anything at that time, and you treated me very well. You took me to see the mountains and streams of the Earth. But Nuwa had yet to repair the skies, and you would always say that even the most beautiful landscapes lose their charm when it’s raining perpetually. But I didn’t mind, it was the most beautiful landscape I have ever since.”
“Even the most beautiful landscapes lose their charm when it’s raining perpetually”. Perhaps that was only a casual complaint. Zhao frowns, and ponders that if he indeed planned to send the world into chaos, he would not have brought a beautiful stranger travelling.
“Then afterwards, I made you a god.” Zhao says.
Shen smiles, “Don’t feel sorry for it. I was born an abomination, and you rescued me from the depths of Hell. I will always be grateful.”
As he is saying this, he leans forward and gently places a kiss on Zhao’s beard. He grabs hold of Zhao’s hand, and says, “The days that we spent together are worth dying for.”
“Bullshit.” Zhao interrupts him, “After Nuwa repaired the Heaven, I sealed the sky pillars with the Mystical Artifacts, and then I left you behind and died… didn’t I?”
Shen’s hands freeze in place, and he embraces Zhao tightly.
“Why…” Zhao murmurs, “Was it because of Nuwa?”
A flash of discontent emerges on Shen’s face, and Zhao happens to catch a glimpse of it. This idiot immediately forgets all about what he was thinking about, and lifts up Shen’s chin with his finger, “Don’t be upset. I was just asking casually. You are way prettier than Nuwa of course. Come on, beautiful, tell your husband, how did you use your young, pretty face to seduce me all those years ago?”
Shen covers him with the blanket, and glares at him unnaturally, seemingly about to enter serious mode and chastise him for misbehaving. But then, he sees the marks of love left on Zhao’s collarbone, which reminds him of god-knows-what. He looks away, and his ears turn red. Finally, all he can say is, “I am going out.”
He speedily stands up, takes the laundry receipt on the table and heads out.
Zhao massages his hip, which is still very sore. A million feelings swell up that words can’t describe.
After a while, he crawls up and cleans himself. He eats a bowl of food Shen prepared for him, and starts talking on the phone, “Hey dad, you free tomorrow? I’m bringing Shen Wei to meet you.”
As he says this, there is no joy on his face, but only freezing coldness.