Editor(s): PM87, Mariabel, marshmallow
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Early morning the next day.
Jiang Zijian, whose hair was a complete mess, pushed open Wen Tianhe’s bedroom door and walked towards the bed. He climbed in, burrowed himself close to Tianhe like a dog, and adjusted the quilt a few times as his buttocks were still exposed.
Tianhe woke up bewildered. He painstakingly opened his eyes and looked at the alarm clock on the bedside table. “Isn’t it just six o’clock? What are you doing?!”
Tianhe pushed Jiang Zijian’s head away and the latter turned over and lay prone.
“I’m dying,” Jiang Zijian groaned.
Tianhe ignored him and continued to sleep. Jiang Zijian turned over again and flung his hand and foot over Tianhe’s body.
The half-asleep Tianhe let him toss about. Jiang Zijian was wearing shorts and a white T-shirt, and his hair was disheveled. From time to time, he pushed Tianhe and then heaved deep sighs. For the life of him, he tried—and failed—to make Tianhe get up.
Ten minutes had passed when Jiang Zijian settled down. With his head resting against the headboard, he finally fell asleep despite half of his body slightly dangling off the bed.
Two hours later, at eight o’clock in the morning, Tianhe finally woke up. Glancing sideways, he saw Jiang Zijian seated on the ground, absently swiping through his phone while looking at the photos in his photo library.
Pro, “There are two lovelorn individuals here.”
Jiang Zijian was startled. “Who? Who’s talking?”
“Pro,” Tianhe said. “Pro, don’t make any sudden noises, you’ll scare him.”
Jiang Zijian replied, “Oh! Your artificial intelligence… Is that intelligent?”
Tianhe, “There’s a slight problem. It is still in the development process.”
Pro, “I don’t think there’s any problem with me.”
Tianhe, “As an AI, you should learn to be self-effacing.”
As a liberal arts student, Jiang Zijian didn’t know much about AI. In his mind, he had the impression that Prometheus was most likely a small program similar to a close assistant. After hearing Pro’s voice, he didn’t ask much but still wondered for a good while, “Why does it sound like Guan Yue?”
Tianhe, “I just chose a nice voice sample from the synthetic sound database. It has nothing to do with Guan Yue.”
Zijian, “His voice is also good though.”
Tianhe didn’t want to discuss Pro any further. He looked sideways at Jiang Zijian’s phone and asked, “Who’s this?”
Jiang Zijian’s thumb swiped back and forth over the photos on the screen. He would take one glance and consciously slide over to the next one. He placed his phone in front of Tianhe so both of them could see the screen.
“How about this one? How do you think he looks here?” Jiang Zijian asked as he paused at a photo of a young boy.
“Not bad,” Tianhe said. “Your next target?”
Jiang Zijian didn’t answer as he continued to flip through his photos. When he came across one very sunny-looking boy, he paused and asked again, “What about this one?”
Tianhe, “He’s sporty, a bit like you.”
Jiang Zijian dragged a group of twenty-four photos into his phone’s trash bin, deleting them, and opened another album.
“How about this baby face?” Jiang Zijian asked once again.
Tianhe, “He looks like that one who massages feet at the foot bath center.”
Jiang Zijian threw his phone. He turned around and lay down, groaning. “What should I do ah?! I have already fallen in love with him.”
“Pro, don’t interrupt,” Tianhe immediately warned so that Pro would not poke around about what happened last night.
In the background, Pro discreetly played Bach. Jiang Zijian said, “I haven’t slept a wink all night.”
Tianhe, “Didn’t it go well? Did it fail?”
Jiang Zijian then explained. This time, Tianhe knew Tong Kai hadn’t told lies—at least not about the matter of their preferred sexual positions.
Tianhe was very hesitant to tell Jiang Zijian the truth. He couldn’t predict whether the latter would make his love better or worse once he knew this absurd truth. Sometimes, knowing less was perhaps better for Jiang Zijian.
However, these two seemed to be quite a good match, except when it came to their uncompromising sexual preferences, which was a big problem.
“...Why should he be a top too? It’s not scientific!” Jiang Zijian exclaimed sorrowfully. “Why does he still insist on this matter?”
“Did you guys check-in... last night?” Tianhe got up and took his clothes out from the wardrobe.
Jiang Zijian also got up to follow behind Tianhe and went to the washroom. He then picked up the toothpaste, squeezed some onto Tianhe’s toothbrush, and said, “Of course not. We just talked a lot. But, Xiao Kai is completely different from what I imagined.”
Tianhe took the brush and began to brush his teeth while making an ambiguous sound. Jiang Zijian continued, “Right! At first, I thought he possessed a bit of a dominant trait, but now I don’t think so.”
After brushing his teeth, Tianhe began to wash his face and looked at himself in the mirror. “You can also choose to do 69 or perhaps use your hands to solve the problem.”
Zijian, “Then it’s not real sex.”
Science and Technology were the primary productive forces of society, while sex was Jiang Zijian’s primary engine.
Tianhe pressed a warm towel on his face and said, “Conquer him with your skills and keep him hooked.”
“Ai—” Jiang Zijian said. “Darling, have you ever thought of changing your preference and once in a while want to be top?”
Tianhe was puzzled as he thought about it and then replied, “I was eighteen when Guan Yue and I got together. I didn’t understand anything. I totally didn’t know the positions, I just listened to what he said. But I asked…”
Pro, “I think so… Yes, that’s right. He sort of pampers you and is willing to meet all your requests.”
“That won’t do,” Jiang Zijian said. “If he’s not willing to accept it, then I can’t force him. Unless he wholeheartedly believes in me and gives me his body, he won’t be able to carry the flow smoothly like plain white silk.”
Tianhe, “What if it helps him to open the door to a whole new world?”
Jiang Zijian, “He’s very reluctant. With my countless experiences of reading people, in the end, we still have to separate! It’s better to keep our good times together in our memory than to ruin such ardent love!”
“At least on this point, I very much admire Jiang Zijian,” Pro interjected.
Tianhe, “He has always been very ‘Quixotic’ in his feelings.”
Tianhe suddenly felt a sense of peril. Staring at Jiang Zijian in the mirror, he asked, “How long have you been celibate?”
Jiang Zijian, “Twenty-one days, seven hours, twenty-five minutes, and thirty...three seconds.”
Tianhe immediately exclaimed, “Get away from me!”
A little haggard, Jiang Zijian looked at himself in the mirror and said, “Celibate for almost a month. I waited to sleep with him to this day. How beautiful it is to have two souls and flesh unite! My soul was born to wait for this moment, but in the end, it was rejected by him.”
“How did he refuse?”
“I don’t bottom, I never have.” Jiang Zijian imitated Tong Kai’s voice and expression. With a solemn face, he added, “There was no pleasure. There really wasn’t any. It’s like I was born as a top, I can’t change it. Sorry.”
“It’s a paradox when one says they can’t have pleasure if they haven’t tried it.”
Tianhe went into the living room and fed Xiao Jin.
Jiang Zijian followed Tianhe like a dejected animal that had been rejected by its mate. He complained, “Do you know how I felt then?! It can only be described as despair!”
Tianhe, “You’ve been celibate for such a long time… You can’t judge a book by its cover indeed.”
Jiang Zijian, “It was a perfect night. Now it’s all over, over! Hopeless! There’s nothing left! A-Shares crashed! Guan Yue is dead! Guan Yue is cold!” He emotionally shouted to Xiao Jin, “My heart is broken too!”
Tianhe touched the dazed cat squatting on the sofa. Then he went to the dining table, filled and placed two cups of hot water on the table, and drank them one after the other.
Jiang Zijian, “All I can think of right now is… is, you know, my whole body is brimming with unreleased frustration! My blood is roaring turbulently, and I can’t find a way to release this tension! This morning on my way here, I saw the word ‘chrysanthemum’ in the ‘Workers’ Road Chrysanthemum Exhibition.’ I couldn’t stand it!”
Tianhe almost spat the water out but fortunately managed to control himself.
Aunt Fang served breakfast and said, “It just so happens that it’s now autumn. Let’s go for a walk.”
Jiang Zijian made an “en” sound and once again said, “Thanks, Aunt Fang. But I can’t see any autumn flowers now, not even on the concrete pipes under the eaves…” Then he lowered his head and opened the third album of photos on his phone.
Tianhe drank his coffee, watched the other party’s phone screen, and said, “Are these the next choices?”
Jiang Zijian looked blankly at Tianhe and replied, “No, they’re all ducks.”
“How much is it for one night?” After breakfast, Tianhe tidied himself up, went downstairs with his computer, and decided to spend the day with Zijian to kill some time. It was already the last day of the National Day holiday.
Zijian, “I don’t know. I haven’t asked for the price. Maybe tens of thousands yuan, or hundreds of thousands.”
Tianhe, “Some of them don’t look like… people who engage in this kind of service. Their descriptions don't match too.”
Zijian, “Do you think someone will approach you and introduce himself as ‘I am a duck’? I still want to find a boyfriend, even if it means supporting him! I can take care of him, cheer him up, and let him raise capital into the group… Ai!”
In the morning, Jiang Zijian first took Tianhe to another family’s clubhouse that was located within a sunny garden, but Tianhe was still occupied with thoughts about his code. The latter decided to upgrade the information gathering module for Pro today so that Pro could help a lot in the subsequent development and analysis of system functions.
Jiang Zijian was drinking coffee and didn’t say a word. Half an hour later, a manager brought in a host, followed by six young men, all around the age of twenty. Some wore suits, while the others wore casual clothes. All of them looked neatly dressed.
Zijian, “Next batch.”
Tianhe had just looked up from his laptop. They hadn’t even seen the faces of those people clearly and yet, they were already driven away by Jiang Zijian.
“Isn’t this similar to an Emperor choosing his concubines? Do we have to use this method?” Tianhe couldn’t stand Jiang Zijian’s intolerable behavior sometimes. It truly was too vulgar.
“This could save time,” Jiang Zijian said blankly. “Isn’t it good to save time for both parties?”
Tianhe, “The least you can do is invite them in one by one and chat for ten minutes over a glass of water or whatever. This is rude. You can’t even do that in an interview.”
Zijian, “Being considerate of others is the best behavior. You know, there are more than sixty people. Ten minutes chatting with each person means we would be here until the end of the night. Besides, what can we talk about in ten minutes? There are many couples who have gotten along with each other for a lifetime even though they didn’t know much about each other when they started.”
Jiang Zijian’s logic was simply… impeccable. Tianhe had to say, “Then others who came here from far away…”
Zijian, “Believe me, I know about their eight thousand yuan vehicle fare very well. However, I can’t say for sure whether some of them are straight men who won’t want to sleep with me, who will just take the red envelope, go home, and save their chrysanthemums in the end. That’s exactly what most of them are seeking.”
Tianhe, “Do you really have to do whatever you please by using money?”
“Yes,” Jiang Zijian politely replied.
The second batch of young men entered the room. Jiang Zijian only glanced at them and once again had them leave.
Only Zijian and Tianhe, who was patiently working on his code, remained inside the clubhouse garden.
“I kind of oppose rewriting my core module,” Pro suddenly said.
“Just a small portion,” Tianhe replied. “Your information system will enormously improve after upgrading.”
Pro, “Sure enough, you still detest me.”
Tianhe, “And since you love me, please accept my alterations to your code.”
The third batch of men arrived. All of a sudden, Tianhe got surprised as he noticed that the tallest male standing on the far side looked a bit like Guan Yue.
“Hey.” Jiang Zijian also thought the same and said, “You…”
Tianhe stopped him from saying anything further. As if a string had been plucked from his heart, he felt his pent-up emotions pouring forth in a spectacular mess.
The young man, who was dressed in a suit, looked up and smiled.
That smile wasn’t like Guan Yue’s. Guan Yue never smiled like that. The dikes in Tianhe’s heart instantly rose, firmly blocking the tsunami-like feelings inside him.
Hence, Tianhe lowered his head again.
Jiang Zijian made an impatient gesture and dismissed the group as he no longer wanted to see the rest.
Tianhe, “What about the next six contestants? Late?”
Zijian, “They’re all waiting in the lounge. I don’t want to see them anymore. This is boring. They are plain-looking. You said they look handsome, how come…”
Tianhe, “Beauty does not affect spectators equally; some are delightful to the eye, but fail to captivate the heart.”
Jiang Zijian laughed. This phrase came from his favorite literary work “Don Quixote.” He looked down at his phone and scrolled through his chat records with Tong Kai over the past fifteen days, and finally deleted all of them.
Zijian, “He doesn’t seem to have any feelings for me. Forget it, I don’t want to think about it.”
Tianhe tweaked the code a few times and absent-mindedly said, “Sure, I think he was very touched yesterday afternoon though.”
Jiang Zijian threw his phone on the tea table. He raised his head and looked outside towards the bright autumn sunshine. As he closed his eyes, he got a whiff of the sweet scent of osmanthus faintly coming from the vase on the table. Broken osmanthus petals floated onto Tianhe’s keyboard which he then swept aside. Both were silent for a moment.
“It’s so hard to find a place where I can lay my soul when there is nowhere to go.”
Fingers resting on the keyboard, Tianhe looked sideways at Jiang Zijian.
Zijian, “What? Do you want a relationship too, darling?”
Tianhe, “I was just thinking about an algorithmic problem! Don’t give me any drama.”
A bright idea suddenly emerged in Jiang Zijian's mind. “Come, let me introduce you to someone! Darling, pack up now and come with your brother!”
Tianhe suddenly had an ominous premonition.
In the fencing arena, Tianhe’s one-step lunge forced the opponent away. Both parties then retreated and saluted at each other.
Wu Shun took off his helmet and said, “You’re more impressive than I thought.”
Tianhe really wanted to hit Jiang Zijian. While he was wondering whom Zijian would introduce him to, he found himself facing a pair of bushy eyebrows and large eyes一 it was Wu Shun. It seemed Wu Shun also had nothing to do. He had been idle this whole time, waiting for them to call. When he received Zijian’s call, he got to the intended destination faster than them.
“How was it?” Wu Shun laughed. “Was I good enough to be your sparring partner?”
“Just enough for parries, you have no ability to strike back.”
Both of them laughed. After their fencing match, they sat down on the sidelines. Their instructor was correcting the posture of the young man Jiang Zijian had invited, while Zijian himself was languidly waiting on the side. Upon the arrival of the young man, Jiang Zijian took on the role of his nanny and attended to him carefully as if afraid to make him cry.
Wu Shun was actually outstanding too. He knew everything and played very well. Tianhe had heard from Jiang Zijian that he finished runner-up in the snooker amateur team division when he was studying in Boston.
On the other hand, Tianhe’s fencing was taught by Guan Yue.
Tianhe and Wu Shun watched Zijian and the young man compete against each other. The scene was such a tragic sight. Tianhe could see from the man’s movements that he attached great importance to Jiang Zijian and cooperated with him diligently albeit awkwardly. Wu Shun looked sideways and said, “Xiao Jiang seems to be trapped by his feelings recently.”
Tianhe was surprised. “He told you?”
Wu Shun, “I can see it. In fact, I don’t think I can pretend to be as happy as he is right now.”
Tianhe didn’t know how to answer that. A thought suddenly jumped into his mind. Damn Zijian! He hadn’t told Wu Shun about him and Guan Yue, right?
“You should answer him or else the atmosphere’s going to be awkward,” Pro said in his earphone.
“Why?” Tianhe answered naturally. Thinking about the AI’s meddling every time... he felt it was too nosy.
He used an equivocal question to continue the topic but Wu Shun said with a smile, “Xiao Jiang is a romanticist. I, on the other hand, ever since I was young, I don’t know why... once I was tempted by them, I would persistently pursue them. But up until the confession day, we still have been piercing through the window paper that all of a sudden, we’ve eventually lost all interest.”
Tianhe recognized some kind of information hidden behind Wu Shun’s words. He used “them” to blur the boundaries of gender concepts.
“It seems like a lot of people have such problems.” Tianhe slightly frowned. “I have seen many.”
Wu Shun smiled. “They say marriage is the grave of love, but as far as I’m concerned, a ‘two of a kind’ is the grave of love.”
Tianhe nodded. The two then looked at Jiang Zijian who had reached out his hand to pull up the young man. After taking off his helmet, the other party looked very handsome. Plus, he seemed to have a good personality.
Tianhe, “In that case, a lover who will never accept your confession will be more suitable for you.”
Wu Shun thought for a moment and said, “The best thing was that they still had their own—albeit small—means. They gave me some benefits from time to time. They neither accepted nor rejected my advances, keeping things between us vague. They frequently friend-zoned me, yet borrowed my shoulder to cry. I am absolutely fine with this arrangement; I am dead set on keeping things this way.”
Tianhe conscientiously said, “It takes great courage to analyze one’s heart. Wu Shun, I admire you very much.”
Wu Shun smiled as he looked at him. At this moment, Tianhe suddenly felt that they might already be good friends, hence he leaned over and hugged him in his fencing suit.
After the hug, Pro reminded him, “If you are just friends with him, such close exchanges between the both of you will make Jiang Zijian feel that Wu Shun has replaced him in your eyes. He will be jealous of him and the two of them will eventually fall out afterwards. It is also possible that he will chop off Wu Shun’s leg. After that, Wu Shun’s father will retaliate against Jiang Zijian. Regardless of everything, Jiang Chaosheng, Jiang Zijian’s father, will also retaliate against Wu Shun’s family. If this happens, you have a small probability of becoming like Helen of Troy, provoking everlasting hatred and irreparable trauma between the two families.”
Wu Shun, “Let’s play snooker tomorrow?”
Tianhe came out after changing his clothes and replied, “I can’t. I’m starting work tomorrow.”
Surprised, Wu Shun said, “Congratulations! The company intends to reopen?”
Tianhe, “No, I’m personally reporting for duty at Qingsong Capital. So far, it seems that… Mnn, I don’t think Chairman Guan would allow me to recruit people without his permission. He would worry whether they would harm his company.”
Wu Shun burst out laughing.
That very night, Jiang Zijian and Tianhe were sitting in the backseat of the car and were on their way home when Tianhe suddenly said, “I’ve decided not to get too close to Wu Shun. It’s not good for either of us.”
Jiang Zijian was sitting next to the young man. In front of him, Zijian was still selecting his target for tonight. Feeling terribly upset, he finally deleted all the photos in his phone. He then nodded and said, “Got it. Are you starting work tomorrow? You can use my car or I’ll send you to your office.”
Tianhe naturally refused. Jiang Zijian motioned for the car to stop and let the young man get off. He smiled at him as he said, “Thank you. I had a great time. Thank you for accompanying me, really.”
The other party also smiled. “Mr. Jiang, see you next time. Call me whenever you need me.”
Tianhe was utterly surprised. It seemed that Jiang Zijian had decided to be alone tonight.
Tianhe, “This young man is good. I suggest you try dating him. Don’t just rush to have sex.”
“That’s what I thought,” Jiang Zijian replied. “That’s why I didn’t take him to my house.”
Inside the car, the two were silent.
“Guan Yue is getting married. Do you know?” Jiang Zijian suddenly blurted out.
“Why are you all so well informed?” Tianhe asked. “You are all too quick.”
“Wu Shun told me. Gossip always travels fast in their circles,” Jiang Zijian said.
Tianhe, “I just learned about it yesterday.”
“Yesterday?” Jiang Zijian heedlessly asked as he scrolled through the chat records on his phone. “Guan Yue already met the girl twice last week. They had a meal together.”
“Oh.” Tianhe nodded and said, “So it turns out I was the last to know.”
Zijian, “Guan Yue truly knows you too well.”
Tianhe, “Have you mastered all the ways to infuriate me? I’m very much at peace now.”
Pro, “I don’t think it’s to retaliate. After all, he hasn't gotten any help from you. He just needed to find another way…”
Zijian, “No, it’s because you still love him.”
Tianhe calmly said, “Then he can only expect to be disappointed. Is it possible that he’s still hoping to find me in order to reconcile our relationship after his marriage?”
Pro, “...to deal with the family. If you’re not sure, you can ask him personally.”
Zijian, “If they get married, they can also get divorced.”
Tianhe, “Don’t speculate on him like this. His morals wouldn’t have lowered to such a degree.”
Pro, “Tianhe, do you need me to recommend a few companies to you?”
Jiang Zijian and Tianhe exclaimed, “Pro!”
Zijian, “Adults are talking. Children must not interrupt.”
Tianhe thought about it and added, “Second male spouses don’t do well in either love or marriage. I will not be a neglected shou.”
Jiang Zijian couldn’t help but say, “If I were Guan Yue, I would know very well that no matter if I got married twice, thrice, or even four times… as long as you can be persuaded, I would still come back to find you, and you would still accept me regardless of past grudges.”
Tianhe took a deep breath, wishing to point out something, but he knew that it was not necessary to argue over such a meaningless point in front of Jiang Zijian.
“You’re right,” Tianhe finally conceded. “No one knows me better than you.”
Jiang Zijian leaned sideways and looked at Tianhe. He reached out his hand and held him by the nape of his neck, pulling him closer. Their foreheads touched slightly as they bid each other goodbye.
Before getting out of the car, Jiang Zijian said, “Call me anytime you need anything.”
Tianhe smiled and waved at Zijian.
Pro, “I suggest you talk about this issue with Guan Yue face-to-face.”
“I don’t love him anyway. He can do anything he pleases. Perhaps I might report him in case I catch him cheating in his marriage in the future.” Tianhe concluded, “This event has a small probability of occurring, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”
“Do you know what the warmest words in the world are?” Tianhe entered his house. He turned on the lights and saw some snacks on the table. Aunt Fang had gone to sleep.
Pro, “Is it ‘I love you’?”
Tianhe, “No, it’s ‘call me anytime you need me.’ This is another implicit way of saying ‘I love you’ between special friends.”
The morning after the National Day holiday.
Tianhe almost had a heart attack from the sudden sounds of Beethoven filling the room.
Tianhe got up from the bed angrily while still holding on to his quilt.
Pro, “I just want you to familiarize yourself with the environment in advance. Sorry!”
Tianhe washed up while Beethoven’s Minuet in G Major played in the background. Afterwards, he sat down in the dining room and started eating his breakfast.
Aunt Fang prepared him a crossbody business bag, put away his computer, and showed him the new stationeries she’d brought. “I don’t know if you need these at work. I went shopping a few days ago. The store manager heard that you were going to work soon and gave me these things.”
Tianhe knew that her announcement of him ‘going to work’ must have amused Aunt Fang’s old friends and so everyone wanted to encourage him. He casually said, “How come it feels like I am going to kindergarten? It’s like this is my first day attending school.”
Aunt Fang smiled. “What difference does it make? By the way, Xiao Jiang’s car came to pick you up, though he didn’t come. He called me this morning and said that the chauffeur will pick you up and drop you off every day so you don’t have to drive yourself to and from work, and to just rest while on the road… Here’s your lunch. Just use the microwave to heat it for three minutes. Don’t heat it for too long.”
Tianhe, “You are all too good at arranging things for me.”
“Guan Yue is dead!” the parrot suddenly cried.
“From today on, you say ‘The Boss is good.’” Aunt Fang said to the parrot while tidying up the stationeries on the table. “Xiao Tian, Lawyer Bai called this morning and said that he has already left for your company first. During the past few days, the other party’s legal officer had called him to communicate. He will check the new contract for you one last time in advance.”
Tianhe, “Thank you… Pro, one song from Beethoven is enough. Can you change it now? Play Ode To Joy one more time and I’ll beat you.”
Bach then sounded through the stereo and everything finally returned to normal.
Tianhe changed his clothes and kissed Aunt Fang before he went out. “I’m going.”
The Jiang family’s Rolls Royce was parked outside.
Tianhe originally wanted to go around the Rolls Royce from behind, but he was seen by the chauffeur who was waiting outside. The chauffeur immediately opened the car door for him.
Tianhe then got in the car and started his first day of working life. He was about to face Guan Yue, who was once supposed to be his fiancé but was now in talks of marriage with someone else, as well as an entire bustling, strange company.
Pro, “How do you feel?”
“Working for the first time in my life and having my ex as my new boss, are simply matters of great significance.”
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cat, Joyce and Caro.