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A bout of heavy rainfall came and went, and the weather quickly cooled down in its wake.
Zhou Luoyang pulled on a hooded sports jacket and ran out of the neighborhood. He headed along the street, jogging past traffic lights. On the roadside, he caught sight of aunties walking their dogs, as well as the dogs, with their wagging tails and shaking heads. I really need to get a pet, he thought, that can keep Leyao company in my stead.
Sometimes, greater joy came from interacting with animals than with other people.
After his ten kilometer run, Zhou Luoyang bought breakfast. When he got home and opened the door, he was greeted with his little brother’s laughter.
He pushed open the door and went inside. What he saw was Du Jing, sitting on the couch, facing Zhou Leyao and chatting with him.
Zhou Luoyang: "………………"
“You’re back.” Leyao, dressed in pajamas, glanced at his older brother.
Du Jing glanced at him too. “Went out for a run? Since when did you have such healthy habits?”
Zhou Luoyang set down the breakfast. He had not expected this at all. “You…”
“You gave me your address yesterday when I called the taxi,” Du Jing said casually.
Leyao looked at his brother, smiling. Zhou Luoyang didn’t want to act too obvious in front of his little brother, so he explained, “This was my roommate when we were undergrads, and we happened to run into each other yesterday. I didn’t realize he would swing by without a heads up today.”
Leyao said with a grin, “He already told me. God really brought you guys together.”
“What do you mean without a heads up? You clearly invited me for tea last night,” Du Jing said seriously.
“Who’s ‘You Clearly’?” Zhou Luoyang asked. “I’m not ‘You Clearly’. If they invited you, you ought to go to their house.”
Leyao cracked another smile. Zhou Luoyang asked, “Have you washed up yet?”
Leyao wheeled himself to the bathroom. Zhou Luoyang wanted to follow, but Leyao said, “I can do it myself.”
Zhou Luoyang knew that he didn’t want to seem like a burden to him in front of others, so he let him go.
At that moment, when he and Du Jing looked into each other’s eyes, the complex and subtle emotions that they shared so many years ago suddenly surged before them.
“You have a brother?” Du Jing had taken off his sunglasses and was fiddling with them now. The light reflected off the sunglasses and onto his face, illuminating his features and the scar across his nose.
Zhou Luoyang’s lips quirked into a smile. “He doesn’t like to meet people and doesn’t like to make friends—just like you—so I don’t talk about him often.”
Du Jing looked at Zhou Luoyang, his eyes tinged with guilt. Zhou Luoyang suddenly felt sorry for him.
“You didn’t sleep last night? Insomnia again?” Zhou Luoyang looked Du Jing up and down, noticing that he was wearing the same suit from when they saw each other last night. It seemed that he hadn’t changed clothes at all.
Du Jing put his sunglasses away, uncomfortable. “You still know me so well.”
The two fell into silence.
Suddenly, Du Jing said, “Don’t get involved with Yu Jianqiang. That man is dangerous.”
Zhou Luoyang blanked for a moment, trying to recall who Yu Jianqiang was. He had forgotten their brief meeting soon after returning home the day before. To be honest, Zhou Luoyang considered it quite trivial.
At first he wanted to explain what that meeting was about, but after considering it, he decided he was too lazy to and instead hummed lightly in agreement.
But Du Jing didn’t take his eyes off him. He raising his eyebrows slightly, inviting him to explain in more detail.
Zhou Luoyang figured that Du Jing wasn't aware of his original intentions behind meeting with Yu Jianqiang and said irritably, “It was initially just a business meeting to discuss a partnership.”
“Do you need money? How much?”
“I don’t need your help.”
“I don’t have any money either. I’m just asking.”
Zhou Luoyang sucked in a deep breath. “It’s been three years since we’ve last seen each other. Do we have to talk like this?”
Du Jing’s expression immediately changed, along with his tone. “I’m sorry, I was just too excited and couldn’t control my emotions.”
“Excited?” Zhou Luoyang goaded him, feeling aggravated. “Excited to see me hit rock bottom?”
“How much money do you need? I have some on hand.”
Zhou Luoyang stayed silent, and Du Jing explained, “I’m excited to see you again.”
“Last night you didn’t even want to say another word to me, yet you’re excited today?”
The sound of rushing water emerged from the bathroom, and Zhou Luoyang had a fleeting desire to beat him up.
But he always tried not to hold people’s natures against them, and when he saw that familiar look in Du Jing’s eyes, his heart softened.
“Let’s eat breakfast,” Zhou Luoyang suggested. “Have you eaten?”
“You guys eat. Don’t worry about me.”
Zhou Luoyang hadn’t expected Du Jing’s arrival and had only bought breakfast for two people. Still, he said, “I already ate while I was out. Eat.”
He lowered his voice and added anxiously, “Don’t say anything inappropriate in front of Leyao.”
Du Jing sat down wordlessly at the dining table, opening the paper bag and taking a sip of the coffee inside. Zhou Luoyang wheeled his little brother to the table and then went into the bathroom to wash up.
“You want to reopen your grandpa’s shop?” Du Jing asked once he came back out.
Zhou Luoyang wrinkled his eyebrows, glancing at his brother. Leyao must have mentioned something to him.
Leyao tried to focus on eating his breakfast. Upon hearing the question, he smiled at his brother.
“I can come to the storehouse with you later,” Du Jing offered. “I drove today.”
“I’m not going.” Zhou Luoyang said, drying his hair. He was wearing a basketball jersey and shorts. His slippers slapped against the floor. “I have plans today.”
His partially exposed shoulders were still pale, just like when they were in college, as if nothing had changed.
“Gege, I wanted to take a nap anyway,” Leyao said. “I woke up too early. You should go, work is important.”
What work? Zhou Luoyang wanted to ask. The old storehouse didn’t hold anything of value anymore; the antiques had been divided between some relatives already, leaving behind only books and worthless papers. Besides a few calligraphy scrolls, everything else could only be sold by the pound to the recycling center. He had no idea where he would get next month’s living expenses, so he could only use credit cards to pay off one debt while incurring another.
He had gotten no responses to the resumes he sent out.
Du Jing raised an eyebrow at Zhou Luoyang. Are we leaving?
Finally, Zhou Luoyang gave a reluctant nod. He still had things he wanted to say to Du Jing, since he still meant something to him—no, at one point, he had even seen Du Jing as one of the most important people in his life.
If only things hadn’t changed so suddenly.
“Is he a close friend?” Leyao asked.
Zhou Luoyang was in the living room putting on his shoes; Du Jing had already gone down to fetch the car.
“Yes,” Zhou Luoyang said. “A very, very good friend.”
“But you’ve never brought him up before.”
“That's because some things happened between us...He reminds me of you, so I try not to think about it. If you really would like to know, I could...”
“No, I’m not curious…just...umm…Nothing, you should go.”
“Just what?” Zhou Luoyang wrinkled his eyebrows.
Leyao smiled sadly. “When he heard that you've never brought him up to me before, he seemed upset.”
“Because he’s a jerk,” Zhou Luoyang said seriously.
“How can you say that?”
“Some men are not only jerks in love, they also treat their friends like jerks. I’m leaving, I’ll call you later.” As he spoke, he patted Leyao’s head.
Zhou Luoyang grabbed his jacket and headed downstairs. The Audi parked in front of the building didn’t surprise him; he opened the car door and slid into the front seat in a practiced manner. “Where have you been all these years?”
“I already said it was to treat my illness.” Du Jing put on his sunglasses. “I didn’t want to come see you until it was treated.”
“Hey, Du Jing,” Zhou Luoyang finally said.
Du Jing looked at him quizzically, watching him from behind his sunglasses.
Suddenly, Zhou Luoyang swung his fist forcefully, striking Du Jing’s handsome side profile. The punch landed with a thud, knocking Du Jing’s sunglasses off his face. They smacked against the car window.
Silence filled the car. Zhou Luoyang shook out his wrist and thought, This guys’s bones are pretty sturdy.
“How refreshing,” he said. “Let’s go.”
The corner of Du Jing’s mouth was dotted with a little blood. Zhou Luoyang grabbed a tissue from within the car and said, “Clean yourself up.”
Du Jing slowly wiped his face and took a look at the blood on the tissue, nodding. He put his sunglasses back on, adjusted the steering wheel, and backed out of the neighborhood.
“Where were you all this time? This is my last time asking. My patience is limited.”
“I’m not lying to you, I really did try to go get treated. You...”
“Nothing, that was a nasty punch,” Du Jing answered while driving, the taste of blood still lingering in his mouth.
Zhou Luoyang watched the scenery outside the car window. Du Jing asked again, “How much do you need?”
“I don’t know,” Zhou Luoyang answered, sounding lost. “Leyao told you everything?”
Du Jing swiped at the phone that he had fixed next to the steering wheel and showed it to Zhou Luoyang. His bank account was open on the screen. “Just transfer yourself as much as you need.”
There was over six hundred thousand yuan in his account. Zhou Luoyang looked at it, took the phone, and transferred three thousand to himself. He made Du Jing turn to look at the screen for the facial recognition.
“Just take it all,” Du Jing said.
Zhou Luoyang thought for a moment. “When I need it, I’ll ask.”
He flipped through Du Jing’s personal banking app, taking a look at his purchase history. Du Jing didn’t look at his phone, as if this was perfectly natural.
“I’ll buy this back for you,” Zhou Luoyang said, “to exchange it for an investment fund.”
“Whatever,” Du Jing answered, unconcerned. “Money doesn’t mean too much to me.”
Zhou Luoyang suddenly stopped and said, “It’s impossible that you’re Yu Jianqiang’s assistant.”
“Still so clever. But why is it impossible?”
“You don’t need money. You don’t need to work for that kind of money.”
“Everyone needs a job. Those were your own words. Besides, how do you know I have money? I’ve already cut ties with my family and haven’t asked them for money in years.”
“Still, there’s no need for you to work as an assistant.” Du Jing’s words made Zhou Luoyang suddenly suspicious, and at that moment, the phone rang. He put the call on speaker.
“Du Jing?” It was a man’s voice. “I’ve been looking for you. Where did you run off to?”
“I don’t have time. I’m not going. Let them know I’m taking the day off.”
“He’ll be there soon,” Zhou Luoyang said.
When Zhou Luoyang opened his mouth, Du Jing’s expression changed ever so slightly. The person on the other end of the phone was surprised by the sound of Zhou Luoyang’s voice and asked, “Who are you?”
Du Jing said begrudgingly, “I’m on my way back. I’ll be there in twenty.”
After he finished speaking, he sped up and turned at the intersection, heading onto the highway, towards a different road.
“Drive slower,” Zhou Luoyang said.
Du Jing stayed silent as he parked his car in front of a building. He looked at Zhou Luoyang as if to say, Come up with me?
Zhou Luoyang dismissed the offer with a wave of his hand and played on his phone instead. Du Jing shut the car door but didn’t turn off the engine and left his phone inside. He walked briskly into the skyscraper.
Zhou Luoyang watched him go, thinking that it was a little strange—this building seemed relatively dated and was unlikely to be Yu Jianqiang’s company address.
He took a glimpse at their location on the GPS. There was nothing on the map, not even a building name.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cat.