Off to the side, Cao Yuan was secretly playing on his phone while hiding his face. He wanted to laugh so bad and could barely hold it in. He was being forced to listen in on their gossip, forced to witness the conflict between Xiao Ke’s ex-boyfriend and current boyfriend. It was pretty satisfying.
He secretly sent a message to their group chat from underneath the table: Our Old Zhou drank a vat of vinegar. The old cucumber has been soaked into a sour cucumber!
The chat immediately became populated, full of people waiting to hear more. The three individuals across from him had no idea. Lin An slightly raised his chin and stared at Zhou Zui. Then, he looked over at Cao Yuan who appeared completely unconcerned. He finally realized that he had paired them up wrong.
Zhou Zui was gazing at him too. He had a death grip on Xiao Ke’s cup. He wasn’t planning on letting him drink that glass. He brushed Xiao Ke’s hand off, then moved the cup closer to himself. He lightly asked, “How do you want to drink?”
Lin An shook his head. A practically unnoticeable smile appeared on his face. He stated, “I won’t drink with you.”
Zhou Zui directly said, “If you won’t drink with me, then please leave. Teacher Xiao has a sensitive stomach. It’s not right for you to want him to suffer through the pain and be unbridled with you. I don’t know who you are; you can let your judgment go and make him feel pain just to drink a glass with you, but I can’t. I can’t make myself do that. I’m not willing to make myself do that.”
Zhou Zui’s voice was very low. Each word seemed to pound on one’s nerves. Lin An was still holding his own glass in his hand. He trembled slightly and refused to speak with Zhou Zui again. He only turned his gaze onto Xiao Ke. His gaze was heavy, filled with pain and sorrow. A person he had once been so intimate and familiar with was now somebody else’s. He felt like someone was using a knife to stab into his heart. Each stab revealed a bloody hole.
Xiao Ke sat in the middle. He didn’t look at either of them, but he gently shook Zhou Zui’s leg under the table with his hand. He secretly completed this small action, silently placating the person next to him first.
Ultimately, Xiao Ke wasn’t such a harsh individual. In front of others, he wouldn’t force anyone into embarrassing situations. He always tried to save a bit of courtesy for the other. Not to mention that this person was Lin An. Though they had broken up because of the other, in the end, he hadn’t done anything to truly hurt their relationship. Xiao Ke was very thankful that he had spoken up about his thoughts as soon as he had them instead of asking for forgiveness after everything was set in stone. He had only been unable to withstand the pressure and given up. But from start to finish, he had at least been honest.
Xiao Ke wouldn’t humiliate or force him. That wasn’t who he was as a person. There also was no need to do so.
Thus, in the end, Xiao Ke still smiled and stood up. He picked up an empty glass and used Zhou Zui’s alcohol to fill it up. He turned around to tell Lin An, “Worker Lin, you know I never owe people anything. You say I owe you a glass. We can consider it to contain all the things still not clearly separated between the two of us. Today, let’s finish this last glass.”
The corners of Xiao Ke’s lips tugged up. He continued, “You’re older than me. You took care of me. Sometimes I was unruly. Thank you Worker Lin for those years of generosity. After this drink, there will be nothing left between the two of us. I won’t owe you anything anymore, you won’t owe me anything anymore.”
Xiao Ke clinked his glass with Lin An’s. It was filled to the brim, so some spilled out with this clink. Xiao Ke pursed his lips, countenance serious and strict. He spoke in a volume that only the two of them could hear. “Still the same things. I hope Worker Lin’s future is exquisite and each step only takes you higher. From now on, we really won’t be related to each other anymore——You are you, and I am me.”
When he downed this glass, he pushed down Lin An’s hand to prevent him from drinking any more. If he did, they would only keep owing each other until they could never repay each other completely.
Lin An’s pain was written on his face. His gaze while he looked at Xiao Ke was filled with too many emotions. His eyes were red and made people feel pity. Something stirred in Xiao Ke’s heart. Any human would have failed to remain emotionless upon seeing this. Xiao Ke put down his cup and patted Lin An’s shoulder. He smiled and said, “Since you’ve had alcohol, don’t drive. Get a substitute driver to take you home.”
This was very clearly a dismissal. How could Lin An not understand? He nodded, then took one last good look at Xiao Ke before turning around to leave. He didn’t walk away very quickly, but neither did he walk away very slowly. He was still so elegant.
Xiao Ke heaved out a long sigh and sat down. Things had ended a long time ago for him. After today, they would probably finally be over for Worker Lin too.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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When Xiao Ke looked up, he saw Old Cao smiling at him like a pleased cat. All he was missing was a box of popcorn. Xiao Ke had no time to bother with him. He poured another cup of alcohol for himself and told Zhou Zui, “This glass is my apology to Teacher Zhou. Don’t be mad at me. I’m covered in wrongdoings.”
Before he could pick up the cup, Zhou Zui had already pressed it down. His chin was set in a sexy angle. He lowly said, “You don’t need to be like this with me.”
Xiao Ke’s heart felt soft. He knew that Zhou Zui truly cared for him, and also knew that Teacher Zhou felt wronged. This was his fault. But he really had no other option. Xiao Ke very sincerely stated, “Of course I do. It’s all the same. If my Teacher Zhou is angry, I need to placate him even more.”
“I’m not angry.” Zhou Zui first said this with a cold expression. Then, he stopped talking. Perhaps a dozen seconds later, he suddenly furrowed his brows and asked, “Who’s the same as who? I’m the same as him?”
Before Xiao Ke could react, Old Cao burst into laughter across from them. Xiao Ke hurriedly shook his head and said, “You’re not, you’re not the same. I didn’t mean it like that.”
Cao Yuan lowered his head and changed the name of their group chat to “You Guys Aren’t the Same”.
The two of them hadn’t gotten into a fight yet in the time that they had been together. Zhou Zui had also never been mad at him. Xiao Ke didn’t want to cause him to feel upset because of Lin An. That wouldn’t be right. But the dog blood had already landed on his head. He could only take it. Xiao Ke felt truly apologetic towards Zhou Zui. Originally, the atmosphere today had been nice, but because of this, Zhou Zui was very obviously in a bad mood.
Xiao Ke wanted to say something, but Zhou Zui picked up Xiao Ke’s glass and downed the contents. He drank the cup he had stolen from Xiao Ke earlier too, then lowered his head and said, “I told you. You can toast whoever you want. I’ll take it and drink it for you.”
In that moment, Xiao Ke truly felt a twinge in his heart. Fierce emotions soared to the surface, forcing him to turn his head to the side to try and calm the intense feelings and urge to cry.
Old Cao very opportunely started joking. He asked Xiao Ke, “So all you higher education folks need to recite a poem before you drink anything, huh? What was that, gone with the clouds and never looking back? I almost started singing.”
Xiao Ke sniffled. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse. He made a noise of acknowledgment. “That’s how we PhD’s drink alcohol.”
After watching the entire scene unfold and getting enough gossip, Old Cao naturally knew how to act in this situation. Shortly after, he said that he was full and wanted to head back. All three of them had consumed alcohol, so they called a substitute driver to first drop Cao Yuan off, then return to Zhou Zui’s place. Zhou Zui didn’t make a sound after getting into the car. He only silently stared out the window, not even changing postures.
After getting out of the car, Xiao Ke directly held onto his hand and swung it from side to side while smiling. “Teacher Zhou, thaw out that cold expression on your face.”
Zhou Zui shook his head and said, “I don’t have a cold expression on my face.”
Though Zhou Zui had said he wasn’t angry, the fact remained that he truly did stop talking. And he was pretty expressionless. After removing his clothes, he went to take a shower. In the time before walking into the bathroom, he hadn’t said anything to Xiao Ke; he hadn’t even looked at the other. Xiao Ke felt a bit upset in his heart, but also a bit helpless. Even if he always knew what to say, he was at a loss in regards to how to make the current atmosphere less melancholic.
This shower took Zhou Zui quite a long time. He stood in the shower stall and leaned against the wall. The hot water caused fog to rise on the glass. The fog condensed into water droplets and slid down the clear surface. Zhou Zui stared at the droplets and blanked out. It was hard to tell what he was thinking.
When he got out, he changed into black shorts and a black t-shirt. Xiao Ke normally loved seeing him dress this way. The apartment was a little overly quiet. Zhou Zui felt like something was off. He looked around in a circle, but didn’t find Xiao Ke. Now, he was truly bewildered. He hurriedly pulled out his phone, wanting to call and ask. But when he did, he saw a message from Xiao Ke.
——Precious, I won’t stay over tonight and make you feel worse. When you’re not angry anymore, I’ll come apologize again. Sorry.
Zhou Zui instantly became lost. He was agitated. He directly picked up his phone and dialled the other’s number, but the call wouldn’t go through. Zhou Zui furrowed his brows. Without thinking, he pushed open the front door. He hadn’t even thought to put on his shoes.
He had opened the door too quickly, so his abrupt halt was very stuttered too. He didn’t even have time to erase the panic from his face.
A cigarette dangled from Xiao Ke’s mouth. With his back leaning against the side of the elevator door, he stared at him. His shoulders were drooped, his entire being looked very sorrowful. In the time that they had known each other, aside from the first time in the bar, Zhou Zui had never seen Xiao Ke in such a state. Teacher Xiao was always full of energy. His eyes were always filled with laughter. He was always very carefree.
Zhou Zui closed his eyes. He walked over and took the cigarette out of Xiao Ke’s mouth, then roughly pulled him into his embrace. Xiao Ke took in the smell emanating from his body. It carried a hint of his laundry detergent.
“You scared me to death.” Zhou Zui let him go, but his hands were still locked around Xiao Ke’s neck. He harshly rubbed the skin there a few times, voice hoarse. “Where were you going to go? And you’re smoking?”
“I was just going to stand here and wait a little,” Xiao Ke answered with his head lowered. “If you saw the message and came out to look for me, I couldn’t have you not find me. As long as you walked out, I would be here. If you didn’t walk out, I would’ve gone home and come back tomorrow with a bouquet of flowers to placate you. I grabbed the cigarette from your box earlier. Because I was in a bad mood.”
Zhou Zui squeezed his eyes shut. For the first time, he spoke harshly to Xiao Ke. “Why would you scare me like that? What would it be if you really left like that? Abandoning me? I’m old. Teacher Xiao, in the future, don’t scare me again.”
“Not at all. I was scared that you would feel upset upon seeing me……” Xiao Ke bit his lip. “I feel guilty.”
A hint of red threatened to creep into Zhou Zui’s eyes. He opened his mouth a few times, but ultimately didn’t say anything. In the end, he only tightly hugged Xiao Ke again. His voice was low as he said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t control my emotions well. I wasn’t really angry, I was just jealous. Then, I started thinking about other stuff. I’m sorry, Teacher Xiao. My expression was awful, which caused you to misunderstand.”
How could Xiao Ke leave now that Zhou Zui had already said this? He didn’t want to leave anyways. He hadn’t visited in a whole week. How could he bear to leave?
It was a good thing that there were only two apartments per floor. The apartment across from them was unoccupied. Otherwise, Xiao Ke truly would’ve been a bit embarrassed to cause such a fuss. When they walked back in, Zhou Zui told him, “Teacher Xiao, in the future, no matter what question you have, all you need to do is ask. Even if I’m angry about something, don’t leave. Besides, there’s nothing that could make me really angry at you.”
Zhou Zui was sweet talking so seriously again. Xiao Ke couldn’t take it. He laughed and rubbed Zhou Zui’s prickly hair. He said, “I know now, baobei’er. I guess you were truly scared. Let me rub your hair so you won’t feel scared.”
Zhou Zui held onto him, burying his face in the groove of Xiao Ke’s shoulder. His heart felt heavy. Just now, he honestly had been in a bad mood, but not because of Lin An. Such a trivial character couldn’t cause him to feel continuously down.
Zhou Zui had thought of how nonexistent Lin An normally felt to him. But when he saw the other, he still felt upset. What about Xiao Ke? Zhou Zui had such a memorable ex-boyfriend, so how did Xiao Ke feel?
He even thought of how he still couldn’t sleep in the same bed as Xiao Ke. He had kept this hidden until now. What would happen if Xiao Ke knew? Teacher Xiao was such a proud person. Zhou Zui felt like he had wronged the other’s pride.
So he hadn’t dared to look at him. He felt guilty.
He remained buried in Xiao Ke’s shoulder, not making a sound. Eventually, Xiao Ke couldn’t take it anymore and started laughing. He asked, “Acting cute?”
Zhou Zui closed his eyes, then paused for a while before saying, “I have some things I want to say.”
“Un?” Xiao Ke’s fingers gently played with his ears. “Speak.”
Keeping it a secret wasn’t his plan. Zhou Zui had never wanted to hide anything from Xiao Ke. He wanted to tell the other everything. Xiao Ke deserved this bit of honesty.
That night, Zhou Zui sat next to Xiao Ke and slowly explained his difficulties. Every sentence was a form of torture. He could barely get the words out, saying that when he closed his eyes, he would confuse the person by his side. Reality and fantasy would become intertwined. He said that he couldn’t close his eyes at all. When he did, he felt like he couldn’t breathe.
He knew that Xiao Ke minded these things, minded trauma left over from the past. It was difficult to get it out, but he finally did.
However, he hadn’t expected for Xiao Ke to be so calm after hearing all this. His expression didn’t even change. He only gently asked, “So why are you telling me now?”
Zhou Zui answered, “I didn’t want to, didn’t want to compare you to anyone else. I was scared that you would feel uncomfortable.”
“There’s nothing to be comfortable or uncomfortable about. Since I made my decision, I’ve already prepared myself to accept these things. You should’ve told me in the beginning.”
Zhou Zui made a noise of acknowledgment. A while later, he said, “I’ll find a doctor to get it checked out.”
“A psychologist?” Xiao Ke cocked an eyebrow. “You didn’t try to find one before?”
“I did,” Zhou Zui was very honest. He directly said, “It didn’t really help.”
Xiao Ke smiled. “Then we won’t look for one.”
Zhou Zui looked at him. Xiao Ke leaned closer to press a kiss onto his lips. He looked deep into the other’s eyes and said, “I told you before. As long as Teacher Xiao is here, there’s nothing you need to be afraid of.”
“Teacher Xiao will protect you.”
“Leave it to me.”