When Xiao Li arrived downstairs, he began to regret it. He actually left Qi Xiu Yuan—who was in an erect state—alone in the room and walked away without giving him a reason.
But his mind was in a mess and he couldn’t stay in that room full of the smell of their passion.
He had only taken two steps, and his heart was already irritated to the extreme. He wished he could walk to the end of the world, but he was worried that Qi Xiu Yuan would become anxious upon not being able to find him. He took several deep breaths and walked down toward the flower bed in front of the building and sat down.
If he chases after me, how should I explain it? He sacrificed so many things for me, done so many things…I haven’t done anything for him but made him homeless, made him break the law with me, and now I couldn’t even get in bed with him?
‘I am sorry‘, those three words are not enough.
Xiao Li painfully closed his eyes with his elbows resting on his lap and his hands covering his eyes.
Since it was autumn, the night breeze was cool; cool enough to wear Xiao Li down as he sighed from the bottom of my heart, thinking that he was also awakened from his dream on such a night. The young Xiao Yang was already asleep, and he could hear some sounds coming from his mother’s room. He thought she had returned and ran to the kitchen with the intention of giving her dinner.
The sight that he saw that day was honestly horrific for a seven-year-old kid. He was frightened yet still rushed over to save his mother.
When his mother pushed away from the stranger that made him scared, then kneeled before him and apologized, and promised to never bring those kinds of men home anymore, he discovered that his face was somehow covered in tears.
However, his mother broke her promise. She still brought people home because the guest would not pay extra to go to the hotel and she, herself, was not willing to spend more money on her own. She tried to be careful, but those guests sometimes would act out deliberately…
Those memories were so dark and painful, Xiao Li couldn’t think again. He sat still for a long while before his thoughts leaped to the shameful things that he had seen after being at Jin Ting. There were Han Jia’s men snuggling up to those women and those eyes burning with desires, then the thought of Li Shi Qing’s eyes on him…
Those were things that he could not talk about to anyone else…he couldn’t even open his mouth to speak of it with Qi Xiu Yuan. What can he say? Qi Xiu Yuan, when I was a child, I saw those kinds of things and thought that it was really shameful and dirty. I don’t want to do anything like that in my entire. But I, myself, also have needs. I went to look for those women…what difference were there between myself and those men that went to look for my mother? When Li Shi Qing looked for me, and I for those women, isn’t it the same thing?
He couldn’t speak at all.
A person enters another person’s body and gets pleasure from that person’s most intimate place…For Xiao Li, it is the most despicable and least dignified thing in the world.
When he and Qi Xiu Yuan were affectionate with each other, whether it was using their hands or mouths, he could deceive himself, but the last step was always a crucial threshold he could not cross. Qi Xiu Yuan is different from everyone. He could not do something like to Qi Xiu Yuan and he could not endure to let him do it to him.
He knew that it was wrong, and he knew that it would hurt Qi Xiu Yuan…he had tried to persuade himself, but in the end, he still pushed Qi Xiu Yuan away and left him alone…
Light footsteps slowly approached him; it was a familiar rhythm. Someone came over and kneeled in front of him and rested his hand on one of his knees.
Xiao Li could feel himself freezing up. Then, as if waiting for a verdict, he waited for Qi Xiu to speak.
“It’s cold here.” Qi Xiu Yuan’s voice sounded normal like nothing had happened. “Let’s go home, okay?”
Home. Xiao Li thought in a daze, and then silently shook his head.
“Then I will accompany you.” Qi Xiu Yuan said but he thought for a moment and added, “If you want to be alone, I can go first.”
The silence that overtook Xiao Li remained even longer before he took his hand away from his eyes and reach out to Qi Xiu Yuan and whispered: “Don’t go.”
Qi Xiu Yuan gently kissed his knees, got up, held his hand and sat down beside him.
In this district, when the night sky rolled in, the street lamps on either side would lit up in a yellow light and form a circle on the ground. And soon, some unknown insects would swarm about it, flying high and low in admiration of the light.
Xiao Li looked at those small insects while Qi Xiu Yuan looked at him and slowly leaned over and embrace him.
“You can tell me, Xiao Li.” He whispered, burying his face in Xiao Li’s neck. “You can tell me anything.”
His lips touched Xiao Li’s ears and the skin at his neck. There were no desires in it, but just the mere thought to comfort him, to tell him that he was here.
Under his simple touch, Xiao Li slowly relaxed his body. Qi Xiu Yuan then rubbed his chin on his shoulder. “You should rely on me. You are Xiao Yang’s big brother and Lin Zi’s leader. You’ve handled many things and taken care of many people. But you, yourself, also need to be taken care of.” He began to kiss his shoulder. “Since you won’t take care of yourself then let me take care of you. Xiao Li, let me take care of you. ”
Xiao Li opened his mouth but remained silent, unable to say anything.
Eventually, Qi Xiu Yuan finally could not help but to hug him tighter and ask, “Was it Li Shi Qing? When you and he… you … did that… did he not treat you well?”
Xiao Li thought about it for a moment before he understood what he meant. “No,” he replied, and he didn’t know why but he wanted to laugh. Then he muttered, “You can really think.”
Qi Xiu Yuan, however, appeared to be even more worried, “Then, why are you so afraid to be with me…”
“I’m not afraid.” Xiao Li whispered and paused, dropping his gaze. “I know I have problems, I’m sor—”
He did not get to finish his words when Qi Xiu Yuan kissed him, giving extreme care and adoration before he whispered near the side of his lips. “Don’t say I’m sorry, Xiao Li. I’m most afraid of you feeling sorry for me.” He gently stroked his back. “I’m not Xiao Yang or your subordinate. I don’t need you to stand up to resolve every problem for me. I just want to face the problems with you. I was the one that chased you first. Did you forget that?”
Xiao Li looked at him with a bit of shock. No one had ever told him those kinds of words before. He had no choice but to grow up when he was still very young. For all the days that have passed by, his responsibilities, his sins, and the power that he held to carefully manage each operation reminded him every day, every moment: You must not make any mistakes, you must not be willful, and you must solve everything.
“I can wait until you are willing to tell me, until you accept me, and until you think I am qualified to know…”
Qi Xiu Yuan murmured in his ear, Xiao Li suddenly couldn’t help but think that Qi Xiu Yuan must be an extremely patient teacher.
He still couldn’t open his mouth. His past was too dark, too embarrassing that it made him felt he was utterly despicable. He has yet to prepare well enough to tell anyone of those wretched things that weighted him down. But Qi Xiu Yuan is here. Qi Xiu Yuan was willing to face the difficulties with him. Qi Xiu Yuan tolerated his stubbornness. Qi Xiu Yuan cared about his feelings…and with only a few words, Qi Xiu Yuan was able to ease the pressure in mind and heart.
In the cold and deserted night, Qi Xiu Yuan gave him a home.
When Qi Xiu Yuan had gone downstairs to find Xiao Li, he was sweating profusely from having been too anxious, so the moment his skin made contact with the cold breeze, a sudden chill swiftly ran down his spine, refusing to dwindle. As they walked back, the sneeze that tickled his nasal broke free in three to four consecutive sessions. Quick to note that, Xiao Li immediately pushed him into the bathroom to take a hot bath the second they arrived home.
Qi Xiu Yuan was wiping his hair as he watched out only to find Xiao Li standing by the bedroom window.
Since Qi Xiu Yuan played that perverted joke with such an expressive meaning, he seldom approached this window. But, now he was standing there with one hand gently on the window sill, looking something while deep in thoughts.
He has already changed into a light comfy outfit, that is, Qi Xiu Yuan’s old shirt and casual pant. His silent silhouette was akin to that of a melancholy hero.
Qi Xiu Yuan silently smiled and reached out to close the lights in the room off.
In the darkness, only the hazy light from outside came through the window.
Xiao Li’s dark silhouette turned to look at him. He knew that Xiao Li could not see it, but he still smiled, threw the towel in his hand to the side and simply jumped on the bed.
“It’ll be clearer if we look outside this way,” he said, patting the space to his side, “Come here.”
Xiao Li walked over and lied down beside him.
When they were recuperating from their injuries in ‘A province’, they like to take advantage of Han Jia’s absence and lie side by side on the small bed. There were no intimate behaviors then, but just by chatting or simply lying there together filled them with sheer happiness. And although the bed is bigger now, they are still as close as they were before at that one simple moment, and the feeling of peace and fulfillment has once again lingered around them.
More importantly, Qi Xiu Yuan was correct. Looking outside in this way, the night sky was crystal clear, and the stars were resplendent. Since the windows are large, it almost looked like the two was being enveloped by the stars.
After looking for a long while, Qi Xiu faintly smiled then reached for Xiao Li’s hand first before holding it in his. Xiao Li hesitated for a moment but in seconds, he held his hand back.
The two quietly lied side to side and after a long time, Xiao Li’s breathing became smooth and drawn out. Qi Xiu Yuan softly whispered, “Asleep?”
“No.” Xiao Li also lightly whispered.
Qi Xiu Yuan looked at the sky outside the window and slowly said, “I didn’t expect this city, with such a messy ground, to have such a clear sky.”
Xiao Li smiled softly and held his hand tighter.
“Honestly, I haven’t looked at the stars like this in a long time.” Qi Xiu Yuan took the opportunity to move in just a bit closer. “When I was a child, we lived in the countryside, so I was able to see it every day. After that, I rarely saw such a clean and clear sky.”
There was a moment of silence before Xiao Li finally asked, “Qi Xiu Yuan, what did you look like as a child?”
“Me?” Qi Xiu Yuan turned to his side in order to face him; his voice was soft with a teasing tone. “Take a guess.”
Xiao Li was still lying on his back. From that angle, Qi Xiu Yuan could see the long shadow of his lashes, and not being able to control himself, he reached out to touch it.
Xiao Li evaded, caught his hand and turned to face him, “I guess it’s the same as now.”
“Oh?” Qi Xiu Yuan smiled, “How am I now?”
“Very smart,” Xiao Li answered intuitively then thought for a moment and said, “Very…very good.”
Qi Xiu held back his smile so that it was not too appearance then moved even closer and placed his hand on Xiao Li’s chest.
In that split second, Xiao Li held his breath, but Qi Xiu Yuan only left his hand there with no attempt to caress him. That kind of physical contact provided him a peace of mind. In order to express his fondness of that simplicity, Xiao Li also placed his hand on Qi Xiu Yuan’s body. The lied beneath the stars and embrace each other without any desire.
“I was not a good kid,” Qi Xiu Yuan said after a while. He lowered his voice, sounding as though he was immersed in the past. “You know my family’s situation. Both my grandfather and parents were good, and even though they were in the underworld scenery, in the end, they were all severely affected by it. They didn’t want me to participate in any of it. After thinking about it for a while, they felt that teaching was the safest route since the environment was simple yet stable. So, when I was still very young, they decided to let me become a teacher.”
Xiao Li slightly frowned, “You didn’t wish for that yourself?”
“Since I was still very young back at the time, they didn’t think about discussing any of it with me at all. They had incessantly told me that doing business is too much trouble, being a politician is too dangerous. Doing this was bad and doing that was bad…” Qi Xiu Yuan’s tone became complicated. “As a result, I was very rebellious when I was younger. I hated them for deciding my future and I always thought of every possible way to make them uneasy.” He paused for a few seconds and smiled mockingly at himself. “I cut classes, had weird hairstyles, fought and even left home. ……have I told you yet that when Susu was still a kid, she was very afraid of me?” When Xiao Li nodded, he continued. “I hated them all… then one day, my grandpa took me out of school and said …”
He could not go on and simply hugged Xiao Li tightly. Xiao Li couldn’t see his face or hear his voice. He only felt his body slowly shook like a leaf in the wind.
Sighing, Xiao Li also hugged him firmly and gently kissed his neck.
Qi Xiu Yuan did not speak as his hold Xiao Li intensified. Although they were lying face to face, and Xiao Li was being tightly bound to him until he felt uncomfortable, he did not mind at all that Qi Xiu Yuan made him felt pain. His hands that were tightly plastered to his back, moved up and down to comfort him.
After just a moment, Qi Xiu Yuan suddenly relaxed his hug, but his voice still sounded hoard. He tried to cover up that embarrassing moment by coming up with an excuse. “I said that I would take care of you, but you ended up taking care of me instead. I-”
He pushed Xiao Li away a bit and got up, wanted to get off the bed but Xiao Li grabbed his arm, causing him to fall back on to the bed. He was met with a familiar warmth as Xiao Li embraced him and held the back of his neck so that he was able to rest his forehead in the crook of his head.
Qi Xiu Yuan always seemed to find the most appropriate words to comfort others. But Xiao Li thought that he also needed to be comforted by others.
Whenever he faced Qi Xiu Yuan, he often felt protected. Yes, he was more vicious and powerful, but the gentle and harmless Qi Xiu Yuan has always found ways to protect him.
Now, Qi Xiu Yuan, who has always been calm, needed him. Seeing that he was saddened after revealing the sorrow that once slept deep within his heart, he unexpectedly wanted to hide away from him. That won’t do…now, he wanted to protect him.
That kind of thinking oddly lightened Xiao Li’s state of mind. At that moment, the dark mood that stemmed from his past was no longer important. The man who buried his head on his shoulder and put his hands around his waist, his past and his emotions were more important and occupied all his thoughts.
The two were close, so close there was no space that could break in between them. The fingers that Xiao Li had placed at the back of Qi Xiu Yuan’s neck gently shifted up into his hair. He is not like Qi Xiu Yuan who can use words to resolve problems and ease someone’s emotion. The methods of comfort that he was familiar with came from the tacit fists amongst his brothers of the underworld or a large sum of money as consolation or promises such as ‘I will get revenge for you’. He did not know how to comfort Qi Xiu Yuan. What’s strange was that he did not have to worry about it at all. He just quietly followed his instinct and hugged Qi Xiu Yuan, refusing to let him go.
Somewhere in his heart, he knew it would be useful.
After an unknown amount of time, Qi Xiu Yuan’s tensed back relaxed. He released Xiao Li just the slightest then lifted his head from his shoulder before allowing their foreheads to touch.
Neither of them spoke. Sometimes, silence possesses the power of comfort that language could never surpass. Even if they are so close, no one thought of anything or felt uncomfortable. They naturally embraced each other and knew clearly that such a sleeping posture would make their muscle ache when they wake up, but neither changed their posture to a more comfortable one.
Note: Qi Xiu Yuan’s grandfather took him out of school to tell him that his parents passed away.
Qi Xiu Yuan was sick.
Normally his health was exceptionally well…perhaps too well. Even when he was suffering from those injuries for over a hundred days, he was still able to eat deliciously and sleep soundly without any problems. However, when he went to look for Xiao Li yesterday, he caught a little cold, and adding on that emotional roller coaster, along with sleeping with the window open, he actually had a low fever the next morning.
Because of his work, it was customary to go to bed early and get up early. Xiao Li also wake up extra early with him every day. But seeing him in such a weak state, he suggested him to ask for a half a day of leave.
“I’m not that fragile. There shouldn’t be any problems going to work.” Qi Xiu Yuan said.
Xiao Li thought about it for a second and finally agreed then watched as he took some medicine before heading out, without taking the matter too seriously.
However, he returned home at noon, he saw Qi Xiu Yuan—who was waiting for him to cook—in an ever more sluggish state. Not only had the fever not gone down, he also began to feel dizzy.
“Go to the neighborhood clinic first.” Xiao Li said and reached out to pull him back.
“It’ll be fine if I just sleep a bit.” Qi Xiu Yuan was lying down on the sofa, refusing to get up then simply said a roguish sentence. “How about we do something…if I sweat, I’ll be all better.”
“Fuck, can you be a bit more serious?” Xiao Li didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It has truly been a long time since he had last sworn.
Since the two had only been in this province for a short while, they have yet to purchase a thick quilt. As a result, Xiao Li could only cover him with two thin bedsheets and a couple layers of clothes before entering the kitchen to cook.
When he came out, Qi Xiu Yuan was already asleep with his brows wrinkled together—and upon closer look—there was a faint shade of blue under his eyes.
Xiao Li quietly walked over and sat down beside him. After watching him for a moment, he reluctantly woke him up to eat.
In the afternoon, Qi Xiu Yuan insisted that his dizziness has reduced and refused to go to the clinic or stay home to and left to work without consulting anymore.
Xiao Li did not know why but the afternoon rolled by, a strange sense of worry struck him. When he looked at the time and saw that it was almost time for Qi Xiu Yuan to get out of work, he asked Zhang Jie to leave early and rushed to pick him up.
When I arrived at the entranceway, he saw an uncle standing at the side of the road, looking somewhere with an anxious expression.
Xiao Li called out to him and before he could even ask about Qi Xiu Yuan, the uncle quickly walked over. “Aren’t you Xiao Yuan Laoshi’s friend?” He said impatiently. “Xiao Yuan Laoshi may be in trouble!”
“What’s going on?” Xiao Li frowned.
“He dealt with a student who was fighting last time and just now, I saw him, and that student walks out together.” The uncle quickly said, “That student knows many higher-ups people in society. It was like that before too. You know, he even dared to fight with a teacher and pull a knife out. Xiao Yuan did not know that when he first arrived and not that he has been deceived by that student, nothing good will come of it. I have already called the police, but—”
“Where did they go?” Xiao Li interrupted him.
His temperament changed almost immediately, and the gentle expression he had also suddenly changed. The cruel look that appeared on his face made the uncle, who guarded the doorway, couldn’t help but tremble in fear as he stretched out his fingers toward a certain direction.
“They walked over there—”
Only when Xiao Li’s figure disappeared in the distance, did the uncle felt his own heart beating violently.
 Xiao Yuan Laoshi – young professor Yuan, the ‘xiao’ here means small or young (term of endearment) not Xiao Li’s ‘Xiao.’
The streets of the city were not so level north or south, and sadly enough, there were many half-sloped streets. Xiao Li had carefully remembered the roads while he anxiously looked for Qi Xiu Yuan.
A quarter of an hour later, he finally heard Qi Xiu Yuan’s voice outside a certain alleyway.
“Didn’t you say you want to take your Laoshi to go see a doctor? Come, take me.” He said calmly with a hint of provocation in his voice.
“Hey!” A young and tough voice followed, “Fucking come down and we will take you.”
“This wall is too high, I can’t get down.” Qi Xiu Yuan seemed to be laughing. “How about you come up and help me down?”
“Fuck, you think I’m an idiot? If you’re fucking capable, come down asshole!”
“If you’re capable, come up!”
“If you’re capable, come down!”
Xiao Li slowed down and slowly strolled into the alley.
The alley was very short; at the extreme end, Qi Xiu Yuan was leisurely sitting at the top of the wall…calmly looking at the seven or eight hooligans surrounding him in a semi-circle formation.
When Xiao Li went in, Qi Xiu Yuan was in the midst of easily and skillfully teasing a rather tall fellow. It seemed, the gang of hooligan has become furious at his nonchalant attitude and was jumping and cursing at him for having taken advantage of them. No one dared to go climb up the wall.
The moment Qi Xiu Yuan looked up and saw Xiao Li, there was a hint of laughter in his eyes. He slowly said, “You guys doing that won’t work. Come and let Laoshi teach you how to behave.” He smiled slightly at them. “Wouldn’t it work out if you guys just pick up some bricks and throw it at me until I fall down?”
There was a moment of quietness among the hollering hooligans before a voice said: “Xiao Hui, what he said is right.”
“That’s right. Then why aren’t you guys fucking getting the bricks?” The tall boy named Xiao Hui hit the person that called out with the back of his hand.
Soon, several of the hooligans lowered their heads and began to search around for bricks. But when they turned around and saw Xiao Li standing at the entrance of the alley, they were all taken aback.
Even though, the tall and slender young man—who was handsome in appearance but had a scar on his face—only wore common clothing, and was unarmed and defenseless, merely stood there casually and expressionlessly, it was more than enough to make several of the teenagers, tremble with fear.
“Who the hell are you?” Xiao Hui stepped forward and asked in a fierce manner.
Without saying a word, Xiao Li took one step forward and kicked him in the stomach, causing him to fall to the ground.
The others have yet to respond when a teenager that stood near Xiao Hui screamed, took out a fruit knife and charged toward Xiao Li.
Xiao Li easily dodged the knife and reached out to grab that teenager’s collar, lift him up and flung him on Xiao Hui who was struggling to get up.
Xiao Hui and that teenager let out a blood-curdling scream as they slammed into each other. It only then did the other teenagers put on a vicious expression, shout and surrounded Xiao Li, leaving him in the center of all of them.
Unfortunately for those teenagers, Xiao Li remained unfazed when confronting their angry screams. He looked like he was carefully seeking out a certain voice from the distant. The teenagers gestured to each other with their eyes and shouted at Xiao Li again before leaping toward him.
At the age of seventeen, Xiao Li was once blocked by five of Ma Que Zi’s men in an alley similar to this. His opponents had iron bars and machetes when he only had a wooden stick in his hand. The fight lasted for more than ten minutes and ended with only him walking out of the alley.
After that time, the name Daoba Xiao resounded in the underworld.
Therefore, the only problem Xiao Li needed to worry about now was to ensure he takes proper measure when he attacked.
However, Qi Xiu Yuan leaned stood up from atop wall and jumped down. By the time he reached Xiao Li’s side, every single teenager that had deliberately provoked the fight, all dropped to the ground. One after another, their voices—full of agonizing cries and pain—echoed in the alley.
“My parents have truly miscalculated. It seems it’s also rather risky to be a teacher nowadays.” Qi Xiu Yuan laughed mockingly at himself.
Xiao Li did not answer. He went over to grab Xiao Hui who was hiding behind his companions and whispered something in his ear. In just a split second, Xiao Hui’s complexion turned deathly pale as he stared at him in fright, looking as though he was going to burst out in tears.
Throwing him to the ground, Xiao Li then turned around to look at Qi Xiu Yuan. He was about to say something else when the loud screeching sound of a siren sounded from afar. And as it got closer, it was apparent that the sound was heading toward their direction.
Hearing that, Xiao Hui’s face revealed a pleasant surprise as he tore at his throat and screamed. “Help–Help—!!”
Giving each other a glance, Xiao Li and Qi Xiu Yuan couldn’t help it but laugh in unison. Xiao Li then walked to his side before the two then calmly rushed out of the alley shoulder to shoulder.
“If I didn’t go, how were you going to resolve it?” Xiao Li asked as he took out the clothes from the cabinet and handed it to Qi Xiu Yuan.
Qi Xiu Yuan took the clothes, folded it then placed it into the suitcase. “I was only teasing them for fun. After teasing them enough, take out my phone and call the police to scare them. I didn’t think that Uncle Niu would be more awesome than me and immediately report it…causing us to flee far away again…” He paused and laughed, “You’re more awesome than Uncle Niu, scaring those little kids like that. I think they’re all bruised this time. Xiao Li, weren’t you a bit harsh? They’re still kids.”
“Kids that play with knives are the most dangerous.” The cabinet was now empty, so Xiao Li and Qi Xiu Yuan folded the clothes together. “Gangs often hire kids like that. With just a bit of money, they’ll be able to make use of them and control them. They wouldn’t be afraid to do anything and can be ruthless and hurt others, like females or 60 to 70 years old elders…”
Qi Xiu Yuan reached out and hooked his arm around Xiao Li’s neck then kissed his lips. He laughed and said, “No wonder you revealed such a murderous look today. Were you afraid they were going to be ruthless and hurt me?” He couldn’t help but kissed Xiao Li again. “That kid wasn’t a gang member. He just thinks that fighting is cool.”
Hooking his arm around Qi Xiu Yuan’s neck as well, Xiao Li kissed him back. “You went to teach them when you’re sick. Since that kid wants to take that opportunity to take revenge on you then I had to teach him a lesson today.”
Qi Xiu Yuan froze and looked at Xiao Li for a moment. He then quickly pulled him into a tight hug and kissed him for a long time before he let him go and whispered: “Actually, I’m not that great. I went to work sick because I didn’t want you to think I’m useless.” He gently pressed his lips close to Xiao Li’s and quietly added, “But I’m happy to hear you say that… I’m really happy.”
By now, Xiao Li felt that he will never be able to get used to Qi Xiu Yuan’s emotional sweet talks. He casually pushed Qi Xiu Yuan and said, “Don’t be so corny,” then left the bedroom to collect their toiletries from the bathroom.
But as he went to grab the toothpaste, he saw his own expression in the mirror.
Bright eyes, curved lips, relaxed, free, contented…
Loving, being loved; needing and being needed— yes, that’s happiness.