Tong Yang’s car waited at the next intersection. Zhuo Xiang Ming drove over and sent out two double headlight blinks from a distance. Tong Yang slowly pulled out, this time driving ahead of Zhuo Xiang Ming.
After school dismissal at 5:20, Tong Yan had been outside for four hours, at this time, he felt exhausted. After apologizing to Zhuo Xiang Ming, he tilted his head and leaned on the window. Disliking the sudden jolts, he could only use his hands as a pillow.
Zhuo Xiang Ming slowed down and turned around, taking his coat from the back seat, he handed it to him: “Rest your head on this.”
“No need …”
“The glass is icy.”
He insisted, so Tong Yan had no choice but to take it, he folded it neatly, then used it to cushion his face against the car window-he was immediately surrounded by the smell of alpha.
He was already long familiar with Zhuo Xiang Ming’s scent, and the amount that permeated the coat was just right, perfect for soothing.
However, Tong Yan believed that Zhuo Xiang Ming was the one who needed to be soothed at this moment, not himself.
In that hug just now, he’d felt Zhuo Xiang Ming’s worry very clearly, so he blamed himself for it even more. Zhuo Xiang Ming wasn’t the type of person who could easily show his mood swings. This was known to Tong Yan in the months they’d lived together, but now, that man was worried about him, he even had a taut face, as if to warn Tong Yan “There can’t be a next time.”
While his tone was harsh, it felt like he was begging Tong Yan for a guarantee.
Tong Yan glanced at Zhuo Xiang Ming out of the corner of his eye. He was driving fast, the lights and shadows flashing across his face. The eye sockets under his brow bridge were deep, and his straight nose bridge, smooth jaw line, and half of his shapely lips were completely visible from the profile. Tong Yan remembered the two photos that Chai ManMan had sent to him. Comparing them, he decided that real-life Zhuo Xiang Ming was much more handsome than in the photos.
Tong Yan said: “Brother, you’re so handsome.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “Huh?”
“No, I’m just complimenting you.” Tong Yan kissed-up.
“…” Zhuo Xiang Ming said, “You’re also very handsome.”
Tong Yan was elated: “I know.”
After driving for a little while, Zhuo Xiang Ming asked: “We came to pick you up so abruptly, did you eat enough?”
Tong Yan honestly said, “I haven’t eaten yet. The dishes had just been set, and the pot had not been opened.”
There was the smell of hot pot on his body, so Zhuo Xiang Ming naturally thought that he had eaten, after hearing this, he immediately frowned: “You haven’t eaten since you left school?”
Tong Yan: “I bought some cream puffs while I was out playing, and I drank some sparkling water.”
“That’s not a meal.” Zhuo Xiang Ming easily loosened his tie, but glancing at Tong Yan, he tied it back again and said, “When we reach home, I’ll make some … fried rice is quick and easy, can you eat fried rice?”
Tong Yan asked hesitantly, “Aren’t I going back to my house?”
Zhuo Xiang Ming also paused, but his expression remained unchanged: “Make your brother cook it for you.”
Tong Yan laughed: “My brother can’t cook.”
Tong Yan didn’t want to sleep anymore, he just sat straight, hugging Zhuo Xiang Ming’s clothes. Looking at Tong Yang’s tail lights through the windshield, he said: “It’d be rather strange if he was able to cook. At university, the people he dated always brought him a loving breakfast. I’ve never seen him cook for them.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming focused on a completely different point. How old was Tong Yan when Tong Yang was in college? If he could ignore his family for a whole day, just what kind of drivel has he put in Tong Yan’s head?
In his heart, Tong Yang was becoming increasingly unreliable.
“He told you about his partners?”
Tong Yan was still looking forward: “Yeah, Tong Yang is especially cocky.”
After saying this, he got Zhuo Xiang Ming’s meaning and smiled, saying, “He didn’t tell me anything I already didn’t know. You don’t think that I don’t even know how dating works, right?”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “Oh? Then tell me, what does it mean to date.”
In fact, what he wanted to ask was, has anyone ever wanted to date you?
This wasn’t an incomprehensible thing. Tong Yan was beautiful, smart, and had a good personality. His mind was delicate but not petty, he wasn’t easily angered, and he could also joke around. This kind of student was always popular. Moreover, high schoolers were at an age where those kinds of inclinations started stirring. It’s normal that the alphas in Tong Yan’s class would pursue him.
He was a little edgy, but he and Tong Yan both didn’t notice it.
Not knowing how the topic developed to this point, Tong Yan offhandedly said: “It’s just two people getting together.”
“What are they doing together?”
Tong Yan had no words. He’d seen the couples in his class. They’d sit together after class, hold hands at the end of the school day, the boy walked the girl back to her dormitory, and bought food for her at noon. The small garden behind the library was a hotspot for couples. Night and day, you could pass by and see a couple making out by the small table. But how could he say so much? He could only say dryly: “I’ve never discussed it, um … s-studying?”
For some mysterious reason, Zhuo Xiang Ming replied: “Don’t you study in my study-room every night?”
It was too late to regret, immediately after hearing this, Tong Yan grinned: “You’re my brother!”
After arriving, Tong Yan got out, followed by Zhuo Xiang Ming. Tong Yang walked over and looked at Tong Yan, then earnestly said to Zhuo Xiang Ming: “I really troubled you today.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “It was nothing.”
Tong Yan, putting on his school bag and standing next to Tong Yang, also said: “Thank you, brother.”
The night was very dark, the light of the porch behind them illuminated a small area, in addition to the crescent moon illuminating from above. Facing Tong Yan, Zhuo Xiang Ming really wanted to reach out and rub his head.
Tong Yan’s hair was soft, and when Zhuo Xiang Ming spoke, he often looked up at him respectfully. Because of their height difference, Zhuo Xiang Ming usually just needed to raise his hand to rub it naturally. But now, they were a little distance apart, and Tong Yang was present. Doing that would inevitably seem abrupt, so Zhuo Xiang Ming reluctantly held back his wants, merely saying, “Go back and eat, but don’t eat too much, or you won’t have a peaceful rest.”
Tong Yang hurriedly asked, “You haven’t eaten yet?”
Tong Yan: “Yeah.”
Tong Yang: “Say that earlier, the housekeepers have all left by now … forget it, just heat up a bowl of noodles, I’ll give you a good meal tomorrow.”
Tong Yan didn’t mind, casually saying: “Okay.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming sucked in a deep breath, then slowly let it out, telling himself that Tong Yan wasn’t so fragile, and instant noodles weren’t toxic.
Finally, Tong Yan stood beside the car and said goodbye to him again as he slowly left the Tong family house. He watched the two brothers walk towards the house in the rearview mirror. Before entering the door, Tong Yang playfully flicked up Tong Yan’s collar.
Zhuo Xiang Ming’s family was still waiting for him. The dishes were all heated up in the kitchen, and were carried out when Zhuo Xiang Ming entered.
Zhuo Jia Shuo was absent, who knew where he’d run off to, Zhuo Xiang Ming heard that he didn’t come home last night. Lin Yue Hua had him call Zhuo ZhengDe down, and the three started dinner.
“Where did you find him?” Lin Yue Hua asked.
“21st district.” Zhuo Xiang Ming said, “Tomorrow’s the weekend, he and his classmates went out to play. He’d texted Tong Yang about it, but Tong Yang didn’t bring his cell phone.”
“Not bringing a phone when it’s your turn to pick up a child ……” Lin Yue Hua also clicked her tongue. “Men really are careless, it’s not wise to leave them in charge of children.”
“So, why are you only coming back now?”
Zhuo Xiang Ming said, “I had to drop him off … didn’t I say you could eat without me? You need to eat on time. Don’t wait for me next time, I can eat the leftovers.”
Lin Yue Hua bypassed this topic, only asking: “Wasn’t Tong Yang there? Why must you still drop him off?”
Yes, it was enough that Tong Yang was there, Zhuo Xiang Ming was superfluous. This way of thinking was very childish, but he still couldn’t help thinking it. Forgetting to pick up Tong Yan wasn’t the end of the world, and casually feeding Tong Yan a bowl of instant noodles was also okay. Tong Yang was his older brother, these sorts of things were trivial, and Zhuo Xiang Ming wasn’t qualified to say anything.
Zhuo Xiang Ming passed a dish to her: “Eat some more.”
After returning, Zhuo Xiang Ming looked quite normal, but evidently, a mother knew her child, because Lin Yue Hua still saw some signs. But she didn’t know if he had fallen for Tong Yan, or if he just felt that Tong Yan was not being raised well, and unreasonably wanted to monopolize him.
But she just thought that he was worried about something, she didn’t pry, handing him a bowl of soup: “This ginseng was a gift to your dad. It’s good, but it’s too strong. I added a little extra chunk to the meal the day before yesterday, and your dad got a nosebleed that night. Drink a little bit.”
She didn’t know about Zhuo ZhengDe’s call to Zhuo Xiang Ming a few days ago, also saying to Zhuo ZhengDe: “Your son came over but you still don’t know how to show interest. All you know is how to eat.”
Zhuo ZhengDe propped up his pair of gold rimmed spectacles and sat there with a very harmless appearance. Hearing this, he said helplessly: “You called me down for dinner, but now you dislike me enjoying the food?”
Lin Yue Hua: “What do you mean? If I don’t let you eat, you won’t eat?”
“Isn’t that right?” Zhuo ZhengDe said kindly to her, “Haven’t I always obeyed you?”
After saying that, according to Lin Yue Hua’s wish, he showed concern for Zhuo Xiang Ming: “How have you been?”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “Very good, dad.”
“And your young wife?”
“……” Zhuo Xiang Ming said, “Also good.”
“That’s great.” He lowered his head to drink the soup, then said a moment later, “Come to my study after dinner.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming nodded, and Lin Yue Hua hurriedly said, “Then don’t go back tonight. Talk to your father, mom will make up your bed in a moment.”
For a long time, Lin Yue Hua’s biggest gripe has been Zhuo Xiang Ming’s lack of closeness with them. She knew that it was all the fault of her and Zhuo ZhengDe’s decisions when they were young. At that time, she was confident that things would eventually get better, but even now, her own biological son was as unfamiliar as a stranger.
Although she’d looked for opportunities to make it up to him these past few years, Zhuo Xiang Ming was an adult after all, he no longer needed them like he did when he was a kid. Sometimes, too much intervention was a burden to him.
Therefore, she wasn’t very good at walking the fine line. Fortunately, Zhuo Xiang Ming has always been very patient. He visited whenever she asked him to, and he cared about her. Even if he wasn’t very close to the family, he didn’t treat them coldly.
After dinner, Zhuo Xiang Ming followed Zhuo ZhengDe to the study.
As soon as the door closed, Zhuo ZhengDe’s face dropped, glaring at Zhuo Xiang Ming: “I see you want to drive me mad.”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “I wouldn’t dare.”
“Then why do you not listen when I tell you to come home to manage the business?”
Zhuo Xiang Ming: “I told you, if you lack managers, I can help find …”
“Will your mother be assured?” Zhuo ZhengDe said pressingly, “I also explained it to her like you said. She felt uneasy, and thinks that she still has enough strength, but I’m afraid that her body can’t take it. Didn’t the doctor say that there wasn’t a guarantee that she’ll beat it? If….”
Even when he spoke so eloquently, he still looked like a whiny child who couldn’t get candy. The Zhuo family elders and Lin Yue Hua had spoiled him all his life. Zhuo Xiang Ming felt that Zhuo ZhengDe had never really grown up, even until now.
“I’ll help her during the busy year end season.” Finally, Zhuo Xiang Ming placated, “Don’t be too anxious, mother’s health still hasn’t reached that stage.”
The one thing the Zhuo family didn’t lack was money, as soon as they received the results, they invited the best doctors to come examine her. The medicine she took was also the latest in the industry, and they even sponsored three laboratories. With the support of this money, if no one told you, you wouldn’t be able to guess that Lin Yue Hua was a cancer patient from her appearance alone.
When Zhuo ZhengDe’s temper was exhausted, Zhuo Xiang Ming was allowed to leave. After searching for Lin Yue Hua to remind her to take her medicine, he went to the bedroom.
Before going to bed, Zhuo Xiang Ming glanced at his cell phone. There were two messages from Tong Yan. The first one was a picture with the caption: Dinner. The second was a text: Good night, brother.
Zhuo Xiang Ming opened the picture, it was food delivery from a highly rated restaurant. There were a large variety of dishes, including clear congee and meats.
How was Tong Yang an older brother again? Satisfied yet dissatisfied, he returned a text to Tong Yan: Good night, Tong Tong.
Tong Yang: In the end, is everything I do wrong?
For some mysterious reason- demons and gods at work (idiom); unexplained event crying out for a supernatural explanation; curious coincidence
Eloquently- to look fierce and talk boisterously
Screen’s fixed, but I somehow managed to break my touchpad in the process. It doesn’t matter since I use a Bluetooth mouse, but it still sucks.
Congratulations on getting your laptop back (somehow I never grew comfortable with using the touchpad – a mouse is so much more convenient…)
Thank you for the chapter!
This is beautiful. Welcome back, Kez!
Stuck in the brother zone. Good luck escaping that.