Each of them knew the other existed, but they never were interested in talking.
For Ye Baiyi Xie Wang was another sophomore from a rich family. For Xie Wang Ye Baiyi was another teacher and he really didn’t care what he did.
Xie Wang was pretty happy with his position: he worked hard when it was needed – so his step-father was proud of him and every other professor was mildly frightened of him. After all, his father was the honorary donor at Jianhu University. Talented politician, smart strategist and clever with money – Xie Wang dreamed to be his right hand or, at least, be as half as good as his step-father at making money.
That’s why he attentively listened to everything Zhao Jing had to say: where to study, what to learn, who to please among different public. Professors knew whose son he was and didn’t create much trouble. He could skip lectures, do less than everyone and get a credit anyway. He visited the most important lectures and was known for his public debates. Moreover, if it was any group project, he had a bunch of friends who were willing to help him – because of his father, of course. His life was meaningful and careless.
Until everything went to shit because of one stubborn man.
The semester was coming to the end and his university buddies did most of the job for a final project. Of course, he was the one to speak for it and check it for mistakes. Everything was going smooth, the sun was shining and then the course curator asked him into his office.
One stubborn professor, who, apparently, didn’t care about his origins and connections, didn’t give him any credit for his meaningless subject. Who even needs public relations in politics, when you have money and power? Very politely, Xie Wang said thanks and went to search for someone named Ye Baiyi – he was trying to destroy his reputation.
He didn’t find him in his marketing department, but others told him he’s likely having lunch. Xie Wang decided to do the same – who was he, to skip lunch for some irrelevant professor. Unfortunately, his father wasn’t available to have lunch with him that day, so he had to sit with his university pals. Of course they all laughed together, of course they smiled and he knew – as long as he holds his position, everything will be okay. He surely can persuade the marketing department to correct his mid-term grades.
The plan to buy off was perfect, until he learned that the elusive man who threatened his scores was the head department. He tried to find Ye Baiyi twice without luck. His office was always closed, other teachers couldn’t do much – he appeared and left as he pleased. Nobody in a long time has stressed out Xie Wang so much. He even complained to his buddies:
“This Ye Baiyi is such a prick. I bet he just learned about my background and wants money. He never taught us anything!”
“Uh… Wang-Ge, he was the head of commission last semester. We presented our projects to him.”
“You told me the presentation went fine. And now I learn you all got credited and I got shit. Thanks for nothing!”
“Don’t! Don’t ever call me this again. You’re not my family!”
He was furious and he dreaded the talk with his father. He knew the other must’ve known about it already. Every time he disappointed his father, the other was ignoring him for at least a week, didn’t bring him to governor’s parties, didn’t let him to sit rare long evenings with him in his study. Xie Wang barely could live through it, everything that really mattered – his father’s endorsement.
Finally, he decided to skip one of his lectures just to crash on the Ye Baiyi’s lecture.
First thing first, the asshole was late to his own lecture. Nobody even minded. Second: his face was in a permanent scowl, like he ate a lemon. Even his manner of speaking was infuriating – it’s like he never respected anyone in his life. How he even managed to work in marketing with this kind of attitude. Surely, someone vouched for him. Xie Wang attentively sat through the whole thing, listening to about a half of everything. After all, it was last year’s course for freshmen, he didn’t need that.
Or so he thought. Ye Baiyi outright refused to listen:
“Don’t think I don’t know who you are, little Scorpion boy. You’re very famous among students and staff alike. I also know your father bought half of them, but you should know better than to try and buy me.”
“And what’s so special about you?”, Xie Wang said.
“Oh, if you don’t know you don’t even stand a chance to get a credit in PPR. Try harder.”
“PPR...what? PR of what?”
Ye Baiyi stopped smirking and gazed coldly:
“Political public relations. You know, forget it. You’ll never get that credit.”
“You can’t do that!” Xie Wang felt uneasy, but still bold enough to counter and threaten if needed.
“Oh, yes, I can!”, the smug bastard said. “But just for fun: make a presentation with today's lecture materials. You had this last year, but I’ll give you a hint: crisis and scandals. You have two days, till Friday.”
With that, Ye Baiyi left in a hurry. Humiliated and dumbfounded, Xie Wang stayed in the classroom until the other group of students started to swarm the room. The talk with his step-father was inevitable. His day was ruined with studying for god-knows-what. Irritation grew exponentially. Maybe gods were merciful, because that evening his step-father wasn’t home when he came back from the university.
The next morning started like any other, except after the first lecture, his buddies disappeared right under his nose. Everyone at the halls were eyeing him. Of course, as
any young adult, at some point he dreamed to wake up famous, but not like this. He felt heavy and intrusive gazes on his back. Too distracted, he almost bumped into a random teacher and learned from her that the headmaster was looking for him.
The headmaster spoke about a lot of things: his father's arrest, his possible suspension while ongoing investigation, financial support and other stuff that he heard as a background noise after the first part. His step-father was arrested. Nobody said why, it’s like they were walking on eggshells. He grabbed the phone from the pocket and heard someone trying to stop him from checking out the news – considering the public reaction, it had to be something big.
Ye Baiyi broken in the headmaster’s office right that moment, when Xie Wang finally had found an article about his step-father alleged sex-scandal, involving underage girls and boys. He dumbly scrolled through the article: there were photos of their house in a state of disarray – police, likely, searched for evidence. He heard shouting, but was too distracted to react properly. Finally, he tore his eyes out of the phone screen and met heavy looks – the room fell silent. He felt nauseous just thinking about the article again.
He needed to get away, he wanted to go home, but he couldn’t go home. All his buddies, his gang of mean children – they all left. Probably, it’s for the better – they’d just sell him out to officials. How long, he wondered, till they find him? How long, till they bring him for interrogation?
Finally, it was Ye Baiyi who spoke:
“I’m talking him to my office.” To everyone else.
“You. Come with me.” He said to the boy. When Xie Wang stayed on the chair looking at the floor, Ye Baiyi yanked him up and took him outside. Xie Wang didn’t even protest, he just followed and tried not to look at people around.
“Now is not the time, Baiyi Laoshi...”, the headmaster tried to reason him, but even he was powerless against him. Right when he finished saying his name, they both were out of the office.
TW: panic attack. Not beta'd.
Ye Baiyi brought him to his department, opened the door to his office that was always closed and shoved him in. Then he closed it again from inside. He took a chair and made Xie Wang sit. The other didn’t resist, only asked:
“Why did you bring me here? What do you need from me now? Want to make fun of me? Or want to hear the presentation?”
“Yes, in fact, I’d like to hear a presentation on my...”, he didn’t finish, because Xie Wang laughed. It started quietly, but in a couple of seconds got louder. Except this laugh wasn’t happy. There were tears on his cheeks. Ye Baiyi stood up to snatch a glass of water from a bottle he had nearby. He put it on a table near Xie Wang.
“Listen, kid. What happened today is really shitty, but there’s a thing I need to ask you,” carefully started Ye Baiyi. He took another chair and sat across.
Xie Wang spat into his face:
“What the hell do you want from me now? What else? I don’t have money anymore! What else do you want?”
“Hey, stop. I need you to answer one simple question.” Ye Baiyi made a pause. “Did he touch you?”
Xie Wang didn’t react immediately, only continued to weep silently.
Ye Baiyi breathed out and tried again:
“Did you ever had sex with your adoptive father?”
Xie Wang breathed in, choked, couldn’t breath out:
“I can repeat if you don’t understand. Did you ever...”
“No! I understood! I… I never!... I...”
He breathed faster, his face was in tears and snot. He tried to get up from the chair, but fell on the ass again. There was something sluggish in his movement. He was pale, he felt a bile coming up his throat. Next thing Ye Baiyi knew, Xie Wang was puking on the floor of his office. Xie Wang didn’t have much for breakfast, so there wasn’t much.
“Fuck! Xie Wang! You could warn me, at least!”
“Fuck you, old geezer...”
“Fuck you back! I’m only thirty!”
Drop of spit fell from Xie Wang’s lips to his chin. Ye Baiyi blinked and started rummaging for a pack of paper napkins in his trousers. He found it, took one from a package and wiped the tears and snot from Xie Wang’s face. Xie Wang sat stunned for a moment, then captured his hand and looked at him. Ye Baiyi didn’t make a move to get his hand back, only asked him:
“Do you feel better after trashing my office?”
Finally, Xie Wang let go of his hand and took a napkin from him.
“Should I repeat my question?”
“No. No, we didn’t… And I didn’t know about others.”
Ye Baiyi looked at a puddle of vomit between them, took out a few napkins and covered it trying not to touch anything. He really needed to open the window and to call for a janitor.
“Good. Very good. I’ll call my friend, he has a lawyer so good that the moment someone tries to publish a fabricated intel on him, they get summoned into court. He’ll help you. In the meantime, I suggest you not to watch the news, not to answer the calls and messages in social nets...”
Slightly trembling, Xie Wang has found some powers for the question:
“Because you’re obviously stressed and people on the internet are fast to make assumptions. Did you even try to make a presentation for PPR?”
“No. Why are you helping me?”
“I’m your supervisor, it’s my duty. You didn’t make me a presentation? You still want to get this credit?”
Xie Wang covered his face with his hands and wailed:
“Why do you keep asking me about this fucking presentation? I don’t know where to stay for a night today and you only interested in your fucking work!”
Ye Baiyi moved to open the window, the vomit on the floor started to smell really nasty and he was human after all. While Xie Wang was trashing on the chair, Ye Baiyi was a bit distracted: he checked if the police came yet. He still needed the time to prepare the boy for questioning, but more importantly – he needed to call Zhou Zishu. The guy had a menace of a lawyer. Everybody, who even tried to gossip about his private life got an injunction within a day. Because Zhou Zishu’s private life was his lawyer. Turning back to Xie Wang, he announced:
“You’re staying with me. I’m taking you home.”
Xie Wang stopped rubbing his face and looked at him incredulously:
“I can’t go to your house...”
Ye Baiyi saw that life was coming back into Xie Wang's eyes. He didn’t look so pale anymore. He was distracted, even if for a moment.
“Yes, you can. You don’t have anywhere to go and you owe me...”
“No! Just mention this fucking presentation again!”
“Yes!” Ye Baiyi laughed and Xie Wang groaned. The silence fell and Ye Baiyi used it to call for a janitor. Xie Wang still sat in the chair, face hidden under his hands.
Wild Wen Kexing appears.
Ye Baiyi was the authority in the room, he had to project confidence and discipline. Even if he was trembling inside. He was familiar with the situation. At least Xie Wang was an adult, he was less lucky in his own time.
Xie Wang drinks water from the glass, then looks around for more. They’re both quiet while the cleaner is dealing with the vomit on the floor. Ye Baiyi contemplates if he should call Zhou Zishu or his boyfriend directly. He really doesn't want to beg Wen Kexing for anything, but he has no choice. Xie Wang sits for a while, not looking at the cleaner out of shame. The cleaner is mercifully quiet and fast. The second she leaves, Ye Baiyi hits the ‘call’ button. Wen Kexing picks up immediately:
“Hello to you too, Didi! Listen, I’d love to chat, but we really need help.”
“You motherf… It’s better be something worth my time.”
“Have you seen today’s news?”
Still sitting nearby, Xie Wang shudders when the news is mentioned. He’s still parched after his random panic attack. His phone vibrated at least five times, but he listens to Ye Baiyi and turns it off. He’s not even sure if he should call his mother – he’s not entirely sure if she’s still interested at all. He’s aware that Ye Baiyi is on the phone with somebody, but he barely hears him talking. All he can think of – more water.
Ye Baiyi finishes the call to find Xie Wang standing in the middle of the office with an empty glass. He was spacing out again, so Ye Baiyi took a glass from his hand and poured more water. He then gave it back, took Xie Wang’s hand and tightened them around the glass. His hands were icy, he was still shaken, so Ye Baiyi tried to talk to him:
“Hey, Little Scorpion. Don’t drop it.”
Xie Wang shuddered – at this point, any kind of reaction was good. He furrowed his brows and looked at the glass in his hands, then at Ye Baiyi’s hands that covered his. Ye Baiyi hurried to take his hands away. The moment was a bit awkward, he even thought to mention the homework once again – just to get some kind of reaction. He panicked when people were closing off, he barely could read any emotions as it was.
“I’m not a scorpion. You called someone?” Xie Wang was struggling with words.
“Alright, Xie Wang. Yes, I’ve called that lawyer I’ve told you before. He’ll be here in half an hour. Meanwhile, we need to discuss what to tell the police before he gets here.”
“There’s nothing to tell. I didn’t know about anything.”
“And your mother?”
Xie Wang made a sip of water from the glass, taking it with both hands.
“I’m not sure. She might’ve known, but she had money and that’s what really interested her. I’ve turned off the phone just like you’ve told me, so I don’t know if she called me.”
Xie Wang sounded raspy, sipped water slowly and avoided looking at Ye Baiyi’s face. The other wanted to shake him a bit, but that’d be too cruel even for him. He rushed to the window – to check if the Police was coming – the headmaster must’ve already called them. They couldn’t escape too; it was too risky both for the boy and him. Moreover, Wen Kexing was on his way here.
“We should wait here,” he said. “For whoever comes faster: the Police or Wen Kexing. But if he’ll be late, you shouldn't talk about anything. He said no statements without him.”
Ye Baiyi was losing all his bravado, his anxiety was going up. He really didn’t know what else he could talk about, but he didn’t want to be silent – it was deafening.
“Hey, did you bring your homework?”
Xie Wang only sighed this time. Then took out of the bag a file with papers and put it on the table. Ye Baiyi took the papers from the file, scanned it with his gaze. Then opened the laptop and got distracted with it. Xie Wang blinked a couple of times, then asked:
“Should I start?”
“Start what?” Ye Baiyi didn’t even take his gaze from the screen.
“No. You got a credit. I just filled in your score.”
Xie Wang didn’t feel accomplished or happy, just quietly mumbled “thanks” and again put his eyes on the floor. Ye Baiyi closed the laptop with a click, but the other didn’t even react. He thought he’ll fight for a bit, shout at him for mentioning the presentation again or accuse him of wasted time – anything, really. But Xie Wang closed off again.
The more time they spent in silence, the antsier he felt. Rules were looking good on paper, but it was always harder to implement them in real life. He was an excellent theorist, he spent lots of time on conferences and master-classes, but he was not ready to use his own advice. He had to find courage for the both of them, he should protect the boy, because no one protected him when he needed it the most.
Suddenly, out of the opened windows he heard a car rolling in the parking lot. It must’ve been someone from the police. They still had about five minutes together, so he instructed Xie Wang again:
“I bet it’s the police, just without cavalry yet. Likely a detective has come to snatch you. You’re an adult, you can talk their ear off, just say about the lawyer. Talk as long as you can. I’m not your legal guardian, they won’t listen to me.”
Ye Baiyi was right: no more than twelve minutes later, there were voices and knocks at the door. The headmaster and two strangers were at looking at him expectantly. The detectives were quite pushy, but Xie Wang listened to Ye Baiyi well – the role of spoiled rich heir suited him so well. Policemen were quite irritated and started pushing him with dangerous questions about parties at his place, about his father’s mistresses. At some point, Ye Baiyi sees red-rimmed eyes on Xie Wang’s face. He wants to intervene, to snatch him away from these vultures. But all he can really do: stand between him and policemen. It’s enough: he’s taller and can make a scary scowl. After twenty more minutes of bickering, the door opened almost hitting the headmaster in the face. The tall smiling man in red suit stepped in and started to talk very fast:
“Good day, gentlemen! Wen Kexing, lawyer. Further interrogation won’t happen without me in the room. You can file your complaints later, here’s my card,” he showed his card into one of the detective’s pockets. “I see you don’t have any documents in your hands, so we will come to the police first thing in the morning. We’re leaving!”
With this, Wen Kexing stretched his lips in a threatening smile. Both policemen scowled, and then one of them said:
“You surely know, this is a sensitive matter, Mr. Kexing. We didn’t want to make a fuss.”
“It’s on the news already: the mayor involved in relationship with underage. It’s a miracle the journalists aren’t here already. So, please, don’t waste our time.” Wen Kexing had iron in his voice. He wasn’t as scary as Ye Baiyi for his students, but he surely had laws on his side. “Now, as I said, we’re leaving. Mr. Wang, please, follow me.”
Xie Wang visibly shuddered and Ye Baiyi hugged his shoulders with one hand – he wasn’t as heartless as everybody thought. Wen Kexing was already outside, the corridor. Ye Baiyi got Xie Wang out of the room and said to the policemen inside:
“Get out of my office. I need to close the door.”
The term 'pro bono' is used primarily in the legal profession. Lawyers who serve the public interest by providing free legal services to those in need do so on a pro bono basis.
They lurked in the corridors like journalists had already found them. Wen Kexing came by the taxi to save time. So Ye Baiyi had to take his car to the backdoor, where he picked up ruffled Xie Wang and Wen Kexing. The lawyer was on the phone with somebody and for a moment Ye Baiyi thought it’s about work, but then he heard a low ‘A-Xuuuuu’ and tried not to say anything. He glanced at the backseat, where Xie Wang hid. But the boy was still too distracted with his own thoughts.
The ride to Ye Baiyi’s house was uneventful. Wen Kexing was engrossed with the phone, Xie Wang didn’t make a sound from the back. Ye Baiyi concentrated on the road. He had several thoughts at once: he didn’t plan to bring somebody in, he wasn’t sure he had anything to eat. He didn’t like guests, it’s just that Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing invited themselves and he really didn’t know how to throw them out. Well, at least they brought food.
Food delivery services worked fast, but sometimes there was a time when only home-cooked meals could heal and help. That was a difficult quest for Ye Baiyi and he will not, under any circumstances will ask Wen Kexing to cook. Otherwise, he will never repay him back. Also he really didn’t want to deal with his boyfriend’s jealousy.
Xie Wang didn’t remember how he walked out of the university, how he got in the car, what color the car was. Wen Kexing was guiding him the whole way out of the building. Xie Wang heard voices, some other sounds, but everything felt so distant: it’s like he was under the glass dome. Ride in the car was peaceful; he rested his eyes for a bit. Next thing he knew, Ye Baiyi’s voice was calling him, he lightly touched his shoulder.
“Hey, Xie Wang, we’ve arrived. Get up.”
Xie Wang didn’t find anything to answer, only got out of the car. He looked around: the parking lot was quite big; it must be some kind of apartment lot. The corridors were white, there was a lot of light. Xie Wang never could’ve imagined Ye Baiyi could’ve lived there. He imagined him living in a small apartment somewhere in the suburbs, not in a big loft near the center of the city.
The apartment looked like it’s from a Pinterest board under section ‘modern apartment design’. Like everywhere, there was a lot of light around, maybe even too bright. Xie Wang squinted, he wanted to hide somewhere. For the first time since his childhood he feels out of place. True, he doesn’t know what man Ye Baiyi was and why would he want to know him? Look how it played out, in the end.
As much as he wanted to hide, his newfound lawyer – Wen Kexing – hasn't got all the time in the world. Wen Kexing shooed Ye Baiyi out of the room to maintain a vision of private talk. He also made a comment about biased opinion, but Xie Wang didn’t understand what he was referring to. Xie Wang only got a few minutes to wash his face and have a glass of water, before the other bombarded him with questions.
Talking about his step-father was both hard and relieving. He remembered, but never quite thought about how his father treated his friends: how he touched the girls a little too long, how he was offering them help and presents. He never saw the double bottom of it. It never occurred to him that the whole talks were not just talks, but some kind of secret code he wasn’t supposed to know.
The question that came from Ye Baiyi earlier honestly startled him, he always thought that his step-father was just a very tactile man and that was it. Still, at least he never crossed the line with his step-son. He couldn’t even imagine something like this, as soon as he tried, he felt nauseous. That man was his role model for so long, at the end of his conversation with Wen Kexing he started to wonder if there was something similar in his behaviour. And if there is something, how should he correct it?
“Xie Wang!” Wen Kexing sounded a bit impatient, the boy spaced out again.
“Ah, yes. I’m sorry, Mr. Wen...”
“I understand it’s hard, but you need to try and think about everything I’ve told you. The basics are: no comments to the press, no talks to anyone except old… I mean, Ye Baiyi and me. Not even your mother, especially if you’re not sure if she knew.”
“But what if she can’t find me? She might go to the police.”
“I’ll tell my secretary to call her.” Wen Kexing got up from the chair and was already texting someone. “You’re under my protection. If you remember something else, just ask Ye Baiyi for his phone.”
With this the was out of the room.
Xie Wang sit a bit more, looking around to distract himself. He saw a big TV and console near it. He had tons of games on his account back at his home. His house was now in ruins, his stuff was all over the floor now, his laptop probably broken or taken away. What would they find here? Yesterday’s research on PR, what an absolute joke. He mind was back into the present time when he heard Ye Baiyi calling him several times:
“Xie Wang, hey. I… um… cooked some pasta if you want.”
“Yes? Do you eat this or should I just order pizza?”
“No. I will have pasta, thank you.”
Ye Baiyi felt as if his heart would burst out any minute now. He hasn't cooked for anyone except himself for a long time now. This way was absolute madness: he took in a student, he cooked for him. Should he tuck him in to sleep? Xie Wang continued to took at him with those big brown eyes. He wasn’t completely sure what to do next: the living human being wasn’t just a stray puppy he once brought from the street.
Dinner was silent. While Xie Wang was still engrossed in his thoughts and Ye Baiyi couldn't come up with anything to talk about. His own traumatic experience with his parents wasn’t probably the best theme for a table conversation.
After Xie Wang got out of the shower in borrowed clothes, he saw Ye Baiyi was fussing in his own bedroom and changing the whole bedding. Xie Wand was still puzzled: why would someone like Ye Baiyi help him? He gave him food and shelter, he’s changing covers on his bed:
“What are you doing?”
Ye Baiyi almost jumped, looks like he wasn’t the one who often spaced out today.
“I’m changing the covers. It’s just a common courtesy.”
Somehow Xie Wang felt a bit disappointed. Maybe he wasn’t worthy of someone’s care after all. It was just a charity project, a pro-bono case for that lawyer. His lip quivered. Ye Baiyi doesn’t seem to notice this, so he continued:
“I just thought you could feel uncomfortable sleeping on the covers that smell of someone. I would’ve.” He put the last pillow into the pillowcase and moved around Xie Wang out of the room. The other hadn’t moved, only quietly asked:
“Could you stay with me until I fall asleep?”
TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of abusive relationship and suicide.
The story in this chapter is fantasy for fictional purposes, but if you ever see someone who is distressed and might in need of help - don't hesitate to intervene. Don't be afraid. At most, someone think you're dumb. At least you can help someone.
I had to think hard on this chapter and then there was some stuff at work that took all my time and tbh I was angry and sleepy all the time. At first, I planned it a bit different, but in the end this idea won - it's a no brainer and it's still a solid background story.
My mistakes are my own.
“Wait. Don’t turn the lights out.”
Ye Baiyi’s hand froze on the light switch. His gaze was somewhere on the wall and he gathered all his courage to ask Xie Wang one single question. It’s just a confirmation.
“Do you want me to stay with you?”
“Yes. I’m… I don’t feel comfortable alone in the stranger’s room.”
Oh. Yes. They were strangers, weren’t they? It’s something Ye Baiyi should remember – don’t cross the line. Change the covers, leave him alone. Except, he doesn’t want to be alone. Well, who needs sleep anyway, it’s not like he has to be ready for tomorrow’s lectures.
They move around the room quietly, without uttering any other word. Ye Baiyi sits on the one side of the bed, Xie Wang lays on the other. For a moment, Ye Baiyi feels out of place in his own room - probably he shouldn't put his legs on the covers. It’s faster to leave the room if needed.
He lays down, puts his hands on his chest, looks at the ceiling and feels he needs to explain himself. The guy deserved it.
“When I was in my second year, I knew a girl,” Ye Baiyi starts. “We were in the same company. There was a party on campus, everyone was drinking like there’s no tomorrow, I’m not the exception. I went for a smoke and saw her with a man...”
Ye Baiyi doesn’t like to remember it. Long ago, he talked about it only with his therapist and casually talking about this now, it still felt wrong.
Maybe Xie Wang sees his trembling lips, maybe he’s just being polite. Hell, he might’ve fallen asleep already. Either way, he doesn’t speak, just listens.
“They… ah.” Ye Baiyi probably shouldn’t have sharted it, but he needs to finish now. “They argued. She caught him near his car in the parking lot. There wasn’t much light from the streetlamps, but I saw his face anyway. I swear I saw his face and it was one of our teachers.”
He takes a deep breath, it’s not very shattered and he’s proud of himself.
“I didn’t hear what they were talking about. She shoved him and he slapped her. I don’t know what happened after - the others came and I forgot about it in a moment. Only a couple of days ago, when he got missing, I realized I saw something I shouldn’t have seen.” Here goes everything. His sins laid bare for others to see and to judge. “The police… they didn’t do much. They started to search for her on the third day, because they were sure she just went partying somewhere. In the end, they found her body in the forest, said it was a suicide. After I came to the police to make a statement, they didn’t believe me. Said teacher, he had a perfect reputation and powerful backers. I’m sure he was very careful and… they just let him go. Just like that.”
Finally, Xie Wang asks:
“What happened then?”
“Nobody believed me. I dropped out of university. I left town and transferred here. It’s been…” Ye Baiyi covers his face with his hands. “It’s been ten years already. I haven't drank since then.”
He finally looks at Xie Wang, who looks at him and there’s a line between his brows. He’s far too young to have this kind of mark.
“That’s why I had to ask you about him. And you. And if he made any advances on you. I’m sorry if it made you uncomfortable.”
Good thing the lights are still on. Xie Wang shudders a bit, looks down:
“Thinking back, he was too close sometimes. But he likes girls more than me.”
This phrase sounds so wrong, Ye Baiyi thinks. He can’t understand why someone would want such attention. He can’t understand why a youngling like him would be sad because of some old creep who sleeps with his son’s friends. He doesn’t understand so much and he’s too afraid to ask, but he can’t be silent this time.
“You’re perfectly fine as you are.” Ye Baiyi turns to the side to face Xie Wang. “You’ll surely meet someone good. Don’t think less of yourself just because...”
“Because what?” Xie Wang suddenly looks at him with his eyes full of tears. “Because my step-father is an old creep and I thought he’s a saint? Well, you were right - I’m dumb.”
“No! I didn’t mean it that way!” Congratulations, Ye Baiyi, you have a level of empathy of a chair. “You’re not dumb, you were deceived by him.”
“But what...” Xie Wang's voice shivers, “what if they thought I’m the same as him? That’s why they didn’t tell me anything?”
Ye Baiyi knows just as much as everyone who reads the news regularly, but he’s stubborn:
“You’re not like him!”
“How do you know?”
“He doesn't cry, does he? He doesn’t look for you. He doesn’t care.”
If anything, this only makes things worse and Xie Wang starts crying for real. He looks so small and vulnerable on these white covers. Ye Baiyi doesn’t touch him - some other old creep touching is the last thing he needs now.
Ye Baiyi quietly rises, goes to the kitchen to get some water for himself and Xie Wang. When he comes back, the other is still sobbing. Scared to make things worse with his words, Ye Baiyi puts a glass of water on the bedside table, leaves the door open and goes to sleep in the living room.
I don't have a schedule, so I can't promise if there's going to be a chapter in a couple of days or in a couple of weeks. This story kinda went out of control and... I'm just going forward with it. Thank you so much for your support, I read every comment!
This night had no end.
Because no more than half an hour later, Xie Wang gets out of the room and sits in the chair right beside Ye Baiyi. And Ye Baiyi really needs to sleep. He lays here with his eyes closed, pretending to sleep. Xie Wang is covered with a blanket, his legs tucked under himself. He was making huffs and puffs, but didn’t speak up first. Ye Baiyi gives up:
“Go to sleep.”
Xie Wang finally talks, but in a low hiss:
“I’ve asked you to stay in the room with me and you left. You could’ve stayed until I’d fallen asleep at least.”
“How old are you, twelve?”
“Twenty and that’s not the point. You brought me here, you’ve taken responsibility.”
Ye Baiyi wanted to say and I already regret this, but he doesn’t. He really doesn’t. He doesn’t regret it and he knows the guy is right. Quite honestly he was tired of being rude just for the sake of rudeness. He often was in the mood for scaring people off or for publicly humiliating them, but this day was too long. His own scars were torn open. He wanted a hug, maybe. But it’s too embarrassing. Instead, he asks:
“What do you want from me in the middle of the night?”
He lets Xie Wang decide what to do, he’s too tired to think by himself.
“Stay with me until I fall asleep.”
...and he’s too curious for his own good.
“Did he do it?”
Xie Wang understands and even answers such untactful questions.
“No. Never. Not even when I was a child.”
Ye Baiyi sighs, gets up and goes back to the bedroom. He flops on the bed and covers himself. He changed out of his usual work slacks and turtleneck when they arrived home, but when he’s alone he sleeps in his t-shirt and now he has another man in his house. He has to sleep in his trainers as uncomfortable as it might be.
The lights are still on. Xie Wang tiptoes in a moment later and lays down again. For the second time they are beside each other, trying to rest. There isn’t much to talk about: they have nothing in common, they barely know each other and yesterday they were at each other's necks. One old monster with hidden scars and one young adult with fresh wounds.
Ye Baiyi doesn’t remember how exhaustion takes him.
In the morning he opens his eyes with a panicked thought - he overslept. He sits up on the bed, the other side is empty and cold. He looks around, tries to remember if someone was there. Xie Wang woke up earlier.
Ye Baiyi shoots up and runs to the living room - there’s no one here. He stays on the porch looking at the empty armchair. The morning is dull and there isn’t much light in the room, shadows are crawling from every nook and corner. Darkness was consuming him. It feels like the first day in this house, when he just moved here all alone.
“I didn’t find coffee...”
The voice comes out of nowhere and Ye Baiyi leaps half a meter above ground.
Of course it’s Xie Wang, who slides out his back like another shadow in this room. He wears Ye Baiyi’s gown and drinks from his mug.
“...so I made tea.” He does something with his face, he scrunches his nose and asks Ye Baiyi.
“Are you okay?”
They move around the kitchen in silence. Ye Baiyi sits himself on a high stool and watches how Xie Wang takes rice from one cupboard, fishes a pan from the other. Seems like Xie Wang didn’t waste the time and checked all the cupboards for food. He’s chewing on something else and it’s probably some cookies Ye Baiyi bought it last week on a whim and put it somewhere in the kitchen. Even he forgot about it. He's quite content that Xie Wang looks lively, better than tomorrow.
Xie Wang turns on the lights, and the shadows that were crawling around the kitchen all evaporated in a moment. The light is so blinding, that Ye Baiyi’s eyes hurt and he has to cover them. Suddenly, he remembers about time:
“What time is it?”
Xie Wang takes a remote and turns on the TV. He switches the channels, finally finds a weather report - there's a time stamp in the corner that says 6:53. There is still enough time to take a shower and to grab a coffee. Ye Baiyi slips from the chair to find his phone, gets back to the bedroom to look around. Then he hears a rattle from somewhere. When he comes back, there’s a news release running on TV. Oh, yes, that news release that Wen Kexing mentioned not to watch.
“...there’s a link between Zhao Jing an ex-mayor, who now is under the investigation after the alleged sex-scandal and an ex-idol Luo Fumeng. Оur sources claim they have a child, who was hidden for more than twenty years. Tune in for our special report at 10 am.”