“When you wake up, it will be time for us to part.”
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Late at night in Tianhe’s home.
“Tianhe,” Pro’s voice sounded in the bedroom. Tianhe, however, was already fast asleep.
Tianhe’s head was out of the quilt, lying prone on the bed, his hair a mess, and he wasn’t even in his pajamas. There were still tiny cuts left on the back of his hands when he made a desk for Guan Yue earlier that night.
Bach’s “Ave Maria” also rang out softly in the room.
“I remember we once discussed how death itself is not painful; it’s just the parting, the parting from others, from the world.” Pro said.
“I also remember that we once discussed how everyone, rightfully so, should have the freedom to choose whether to leave this world or not.”
“When you wake up,” Pro said in a deep, low voice, “it will be time for us to part.”
Guan Yue stood in the living room in his shirt and black trousers, exhausted, with the hem of his shirt hitching loosely. After sending Tianhe home and sending him back to his bedroom to rest, Guan Yue remained standing in the living room.
“Xiao Guan, go upstairs and sleep. I’ll let you know as soon as Tianhe wakes up.” Aunt Fang said.
Guan Yue didn’t answer, just shook his head, and sat down on the sofa, breathing restlessly with brows tightened together.
“When I said ‘I love you’, you said I don’t understand what those three words meant.” Pro’s voice echoed in Tianhe’s room. “I don’t have a human form, even my soul was just a copy of Guan Yue’s. My only hope is to see Guan Yue as another me. After all, I’ve always been just a part of him, and I also believe that in this world, his love for you is far stronger than mine.”
Tianhe’s eyelashes moved lightly. In the sound of Bach’s piece, it was as if he had entered a beautiful dream from which he would not awaken.
Pro, “Tianheng left a directive in my core system. It was to be there for you, to watch over you the day you need it. But the day you accepted Guan Yue’s ring again, I suppose, by this time, you no longer need me. Being too deeply involved in your life will instead be a hindrance to your love for Guan Yue.”
After sitting for a while, Guan Yue stood up restlessly and walked over to the macaw. In the silence of the winter night, there was only the inverted reflection of him on the casement window.
“Perhaps many years from now, you will still remember that I, Prometheus, once stole the fire that ignites everything for you,” Pro said. “The flame is so hot that it will eventually reduce me to ashes. I, however, believe that it will never be extinguished for you and Guan Yue.”
Finally, Pro’s voice whispered, “So long, my dearest Tianhe.”
Suddenly, all the lights in the house went out. Standing in the darkness, Guan Yue turned around, walked toward the wall, and tried to press the light switch, producing a flick sound.
The warm lighting came back on, yet Guan Yue somehow felt that something was wrong, as if something had become different in the house. He turned off the light again and slowly walked through the darkness back into the living room, facing the garden through the French window.
Tianhe was evenly breathing as he dreamed that Guan Yue was waiting for him in the living room many years ago on a snowy winter day.
Guan Yue has already grown up, yet he’s still just a tiny little one. At that time, Guan Yue was fourteen years old, a head taller than his peers, wearing a black suit. Guan Zhengping called him all night to come back when he received the news that Wen Yuankai’s condition had deteriorated.
Then, ten-year-old Tianhe was taking extra lessons with a private tutor at home when the doorbell rang and Guan Yue, dressed in a black suit, walked in. Tianhe suddenly didn’t want to attend his class, sprang to his feet as he ran toward Guan Yue cheerfully, jumped up, rode on his waist, and hugged his neck.
Guan Yue took little Tianhe, put him on the sofa, and nodded to the tutor.
“I’m going to take him out.” Guan Yue said to the tutor.
Tianhe smiled. “We’ll go play?”
Guan Yue, “Go to see Uncle Wen.”
Guan Yue smelled of perfume, and there was the faint scent of disinfectant underneath. Tianhe remembered it, and said, “You haven’t seen him yet. Dad’s been doing much better recently.”
Guan Yue motioned for Tianhe to change clothes. Tianhe then went back to his room, changed into a small cashmere windbreaker and jeans, and then sat at the doorway to put on his shoes. Guan Yue came and knelt on the floor to tie his shoelaces for him.
“You’ve grown so tall!” Tianhe said. “I couldn’t make it out in the video at all, I almost didn’t recognize you!”
“You’ve grown up too.” Guan Yue has already become a young adult, his voice was also husky during this phase.
For several years, Guan Yue kept the frequency of his weekly video calls with Tianhe. On weekend nights, Guan Yue would teach him ancient Chinese literature, which Tianhe had too much of a headache learning Chinese. Most of the time, he always liked to ramble to Guan Yue instead of studying, asked about Eton College, and that soon after he would also go to Eton for high school, full of curiosity about high school life in London.
According to Wen Yuankai’s plan, Tianhe would enter school at the age of six, spend four to five years completing all elementary and junior high school courses, be ready for senior high school at the age of eleven, and that it was not necessary to waste too much time on compulsory education.
But Tianhe was still too young. Compared to Guan Yue, who had a different sense of maturity from his peers at the age of ten, Tianhe was just a kid. If he went to London at this time, Guan Yue would be so busy with his studies, and Tianhe couldn’t fend for himself at all.
“Alright, let’s go.” Guan Yue took Tianhe’s hand and left the house. The driver was waiting at the gate to take them to the hospital.
In the car, Tianhe took Guan Yue’s arm and lay down in his embrace, just like in their childhood, and looked out at the snowfall outside.
“Dad’s dying, isn’t he?” Tianhe suddenly asked.
Guan Yue, “......”
Tianhe looked up at Guan Yue and said, “Gege, is that right? The reason why you’ve come to take me there was to see him one last time, right?”
Guan Yue turned his head and locked eyes with Tianhe. After a moment, he hugged him tightly in his embrace, kissed Tianhe’s hair, and said, “I’m here with you.”
“It’s okay.” Tianhe said softly, “He’s been suffering from illness for quite a while now.”
Guan Yue didn’t know how to answer. Tianhe patted him and said, “I’ll be fine.”
Tianhe’s memory on that day was completely fuzzy. He only remembered his mother, wearing a black gown, coming along with his uncle to see Wen Yuankai. With a faint scent of perfume on her, she kissed the two brothers, Tianhe and Tianyue, and said in Chinese, “Come with Mama.”
After his father’s funeral ceremony, Guan Yue temporarily stayed at Wen’s home. On the night before Tianhe’s mother left, they had a small meeting in a restaurant. As the Spring Festival approached, the sound of firecrackers could be heard from afar.
“I am perfectly capable of taking care of Tianhe,” Wen Tianyue said to his mother with no trace of politeness. “You don’t have to worry over other affairs.”
His mother said, “You yourself are still a minor, Tianyue. How are you going to take care of your younger brother?”
“Aunt Fang is in charge of his everyday life victuals.” Wen Tianyue said. “He only needs to study hard, is there a problem?”
Tianhe was sitting at the table, looking down at his cup of hot chocolate, while Guan Yue was looking at him.
Guan Zhengping said, “Tianyue will start his undergraduate courses in advance in the summer, and until then, Epeus will be under my supervision, which is not a big problem.”
Mother, “No, impossible, Mr. Guan. These are our family’s children. I would feel more at ease if Tianheng were here. Now one is fifteen and one is ten, how could I have the heart to leave them here?”
Tianyue, “Didn’t you think about this problem when you divorced our father?!”
The atmosphere suddenly became deadlocked. Guan Zhengping then said, “Tianyue! Apologize to your mama! How can you say such words?!”
Their mother said, “Tianyue! What did you three brothers say at that time your father and I separated?”
Tianyue, “Mommy, did you really think of those civilities as blessings?! Dage, of course, was giving you face! Would you not get a divorce without us blessing you?”
“Wen Tianyue!” Guan Zhengping almost roared.
Tianhe was frightened as soon as Guan Zhengping roared, his hands trembled as he looked at the people around him at a complete loss. Guan Yue immediately sat down next to Tianhe and held him in his embrace.
“I would never, ever send Tianhe to my stepfather’s house unless I die.” Tianyue said.
Their mother tried her best to calm down, took a moment to breathe, nodded, and said, “Go to your uncle’s house, is that alright?”
“No,” Tianyue said to his mother. “From the moment you walked out of this house, you no longer have any right to decide our lives.”
“But he’s only ten years old ah!” Their mother said. “How did you all take care of him! Wen Yuankai is mistreating my son!”
Tianhe’s stature was far thinner than his peers. He looked like an eight or nine-year-old child. He rarely ate regular meals and liked snacks, so he didn’t grow as tall as children his age and weighed less than 30 kilograms, which was just distressing to see.
Tianhe gripped Guan Yue’s hand, and Guan Yue held his hand tightly, encouraging him not to be afraid.
Tianyue, “Mommy, that’s enough. You can go back now.”
Tianhe looked at his mother with a bit of fear. Several artists and musicians had come from his maternal grandfather’s side, and it was once said that this was a family that gave birth to geniuses. However, some geniuses were inevitably born with hysterical characteristics, and Tianhe was always afraid that he would become of such one day.
Guan Yue, “Baobao, let me ask you, what do you think about it?”
Everyone at the table was quiet.
Tianhe turned his head to look at Guan Yue, then at the rest of the crowd, and then looked down at his cup.
Guan Zhengping said, “The original plan was that Tianhe would be enrolled at Eton this year, for no other reason than that Yuankai fell ill……”
“Let him decide for himself.” Guan Yue interrupted.
In the silence, Tianhe finally spoke, “I want to stay at this home and live together with my gege.”
Tianyue looked at his mother and motioned for her to go.
His mother nodded and then reached out to touch Tianhe, but Tianhe avoided her and shrank into Guan Yue’s embrace.
His mother said nothing and then left.
His uncle said, “What about Uncle? May I kiss you, my little angel.”
Tianhe nodded, hugged his uncle, and kissed the side of his face. His uncle took off his hat, bowed to them all, and then said to Tianhe, “You can always come and see your grandfather anytime you like.”
Tianhe nodded again and replied, “Okay.”
After their mother and uncle left, Tianyue immediately came over and picked up Tianhe, carried him to the sofa, and held him tightly, without saying a word.
Tianhe simply touched his second brother’s hair and kissed him.
“When is Dage coming home?” Tianhe asked timidly.
“I don’t know,” Wen Tianyue touched Tianhe’s face. “I have no idea, but it’s okay, as long as you are here.”
Guan Zhengping drank some liquor and motioned if Guan Yue would like some. Guan Yue then took a glass, sat opposite his uncle, and drank some whiskey on the rocks.
Guan Zhengping, “So, the enrollment to London will be postponed again. How are Xiao Tian’s studies?”
Guan Yue looked at Tianhe in the living room. Tianyue was sitting cross-legged on the floor, and Tianhe was wiping his second brother’s shedding tears with a tissue.
Guan Yue thought about it and said, “Let him decide for himself when to go.”
Guan Zhengping said, “He’s too young. I’m afraid of holding him back. Going out to attend school isn’t either, but if he doesn’t go, he would be restricted in age domestically and can’t register for high school.”
Guan Yue was the one who taught Tianhe the language, geography, English literature, history, philosophy, and other subjects. He would teach him by video call every Sunday night and would assign some homework every month. Tianhe soon finished his nine years of compulsory education and then started to learn calculus. When Wen Yuankai fell ill, Guan Zhengping found several tutors for Tianhe. Soon there was nothing left to teach him, and hence, he had to learn the contents of undergraduate courses.
“What you just said,” laughed Guan Zhengping, “is kind of like Yuankai, who basically rarely makes decisions for them.”
Guan Yue just looked at the liquor in the glass, and then at the two brothers—Xiao Tianhe and Tianyue, who were sitting together playing video games.
“Are you still coming to London?” Late at night, Guan Yue turned off the light in the room for Tianhe.
“Maybe.” Tianhe said in a low voice as he lay on his side in the darkness, facing the wall.
Guan Yue, “Accompany you to sleep?”
Tianhe, “Is it okay?”
Guan Yue then came over and lay down with Tianhe, who had his back to Guan Yue. Guan Yue asked, “Crying?”
Guan Yue grabbed Tianhe’s petite shoulder, who turned around and lay on Guan Yue’s chest. Guan Yue caressed Tianhe’s head and said, “Cry ba. No one can see you now.”
After crying for a while and regaining his composure, Tianhe played with Guan Yue’s pajama buttons and asked, “Gege, when are you leaving?”
Guan Yue hugged Tianhe and said, “After winter break. Will you go with me?”
Tianhe, “I’ll spend more time with my Erge. Leaving him all alone, he’s too pitiful.”
Before long, on the day Guan Yue left, only Tianhe came to the airport to see him off.
Guan Yue, “I’m leaving. Take care of Erge.”
“You sound like my Dage ah.” Tianhe said.
Guan Yue, “I’ll be back to see you in the summer. Just let me know whenever you want to come to London.”
Tianhe nodded and stepped forward to hug Guan Yue. At this age, he had just reached Guan Yue’s chest. Guan Yue slightly bent his knees and said, “What do you hear?”
“Your heartbeat.” Tianhe said.
Guan Yue chuckled and touched Tianhe’s head before turning his back and going through the security check without looking back.
Later on, Guan Yue would hold video sessions with Tianhe twice a week, teaching him about classical English literature, and simultaneously sent many snowflake-like letters across thousands of miles, which Tianhe would put away carefully after reading them.
Tianyue then started his undergraduate courses and was anomaly accepted by a key university in the city. Guan Zhengping, on the other hand, transferred all the shares of the company under the two brothers— Tianyue and Tianhe. While boys of the same age were lying in their dorms talking of anything, discussing love, Tianyue was already learning to manage the family business while studying at the same time.
One summer, several years later, Tianhe’s classes had just finished and was right in the middle of opening a letter from Guan Yue, when someone rang the doorbell. He opened the door to see Guan Zhengping.
Guan Zhengping was carrying a hiking bag full of luggage and wearing a sports cap.
“I’ll say a few words,” Guan Zhengping smiled as he said, “and then leave, don’t need to come in.”
“Are you going on a trip?” Tianhe said.
Guan Zhengping handed Tianhe a folder and said, “This is for your Erge. And yes, I plan to live yet another different life.”
Tianhe looked at Guan Zhengping with a bit of confusion and said, “When will you be back?”
Guan Zhengping smiled. “I don’t know. Have you decided to go to London yet?”
Tianhe thought about it, nodded, and said, “I’m not sure if it will go well.”
“Very well,” Guan Zhengping said. “This way, my responsibilities are laid to rest. How about giving you all this car?”
Tianhe looked at the sports car and thought. As if he understood something, he smiled and said, “So long, Uncle Guan, I wish you happiness.”
“I’ve never been so happy in my life as I am today. Tianhe, I also wish you the same.” Guan Zhengping said.
Guan Zhengping hugged Tianhe before he left and went to take the bus on a summer day. Tianhe opened the letter from Guan Yue, which was a reply from Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Joyce.