Xie Min woke up after a nap and found himself in the familiar hospital room once again. However, he didn’t feel as lonely as before because Sui Yang had already arrived at Renshan Hospital at some point without his knowledge.
It was still dark outside, and a layer of dust covered the room, making it dim and quiet. The nurse sat quietly across from Xie Min, barely audible in her breathing.
Sui Yang stood in the shadow of the corridor that led from the ward to the living area. He looked like a tall sculpture, and the distance between them felt strangely far. Xie Min didn’t even notice him at first.
Xie Min woke up with a throbbing headache, blurry vision, and a noticeable burning sensation in his stomach and throat. Frowning, he tried to prop himself up with his elbow, and that’s when Sui Yang moved, stepping out of the shadow. Only then did Xie Min realize there was someone else in the room.
“Let me help you,” Sui Yang said simply.
Sui Yang placed his right hand on Xie Min’s back and lightly held his wrist with his left hand, separated by the hospital gown. Xie Min once again felt Sui Yang’s human warmth, which was hot and comforting for his uncomfortable body.
The nurse also approached, raising the bed and asking him, “Mr. Xie, would you like the lights on?”
Xie Min agreed, and the nurse turned on the ceiling light. But even that kind of light seemed too bright to Xie Min. His eyes stung, so he immediately closed them. Behind his closed eyelids, he saw a bright red glow. Without thinking much, he buried his face in Sui Yang’s embrace.
“Let’s turn it off,” Sui Yang said, holding him.
Sui Yang’s voice came from above Xie Min, not far away. Xie Min was still recovering from a serious illness, feeling extremely uncomfortable and fragile. Because he was used to the warmth of Sui Yang, he momentarily lost the ability to maintain distance and proper behavior.
After spending two days in the hospital, Xie Min’s body had slightly recovered.
Xie Min’s father visited him once when Sui Yang wasn’t in the ward. His father informed him that the police had targeted one of the hospital’s food delivery workers as the suspect. After delivering the order to Xie Min, that worker had quit and his whereabouts were still unknown. The identity information he had provided at the hospital was all fake but incredibly convincing, raising suspicions.
“I heard you’ve been getting along well with Sui Yang these past few days,” his father raised an eyebrow and lectured him, “You’ve finally made some useful friends. Things are different now. He has been quite active in Yuhai recently. Nurture your friendship with him. It will surely bring benefits in the future.”
Xie Min listened passively while drinking water. He asked the nurse and staff to leave the ward first and briefly informed his father about the engineering issues he had noticed. His father furrowed his brow and promised to investigate when he returned to the company.
In the afternoon, Sui Yang came to pick him up from the hospital.
The sun had disappeared in Yuhai again. As Xie Min stepped out of the hospital building, he recalled the last time he had exposed himself to the cold wind, which had given him a headache.
Looking at the gloomy weather outside through the car window, Xie Min clasped his hands together, using his palms to warm his fingers.
Sui Yang glanced at him a few times and said, “Xie Min, if you don’t mind.” His tone and actions were hesitant. He reached out and lightly touched Xie Min’s fingertips before enclosing both of Xie Min’s hands with his own.
Sui Yang’s hand was genuinely warm, a rare and naturally limited warmth between friends. Still groggy, Xie Min couldn’t find the words to refuse. His hand was already warmed by Sui Yang’s touch.
Sui Yang stayed in a hotel apartment very close to Xie Min’s company, a two-story suite. Xie Min’s room was upstairs, while Sui Yang’s was downstairs. Sui Yang arranged for a moving company to bring the necessary items into the house through a video call with Xie Min.
Chi Yuan received a message from Xie Min and came to see him. When Chi Yuan saw Sui Yang, there was a momentary look of surprise on his face.
Xie Min didn’t know how to explain, so he simply didn’t explain. He asked Chi Yuan to come upstairs and discuss work matters.
After moving in with Sui Yang, Xie Min realized that life was not as uncomfortable as he had imagined.
In reality, Sui Yang didn’t often meet him. Sui Yang was even busier than Xie Min, shuttling between Yuhai and Yuanguang. They mostly saw each other during breakfast time. Sui Yang often arrived in Yuhai late at night, after finishing work at Yuanguang, worked in Yuhai in the morning, and returned to Yuanguang in the afternoon.
The first time Xie Min went downstairs in the morning and saw Sui Yang, he was very surprised. He asked when Sui Yang had arrived, and Sui Yang mentioned a time that made Xie Min feel that he still wasn’t working hard enough.
Over time, Xie Min got used to seeing Sui Yang having breakfast downstairs. Sui Yang hired a chef who cooked delicious meals. After staying for half a month, Xie Min gained some weight back, finally looking less emaciated.
The issues Xie Min mentioned to his father were investigated. His father found out that the project’s financial manager was involved. During Xie Min’s hospitalization, when there was no one supervising the project, the manager forged engineering contracts and embezzled two project funds. However, the manager did not admit any connection with the hospital’s food delivery worker.
The investigation reached a dead end at this point.
On a mid-March evening, Jiang Ci invited Xie Min to have dinner and brought along a few other friends that Xie Min knew, both male and female.
Jiang Ci ordered dishes that were mindful of Xie Min’s health, while the other friends sipped ginseng soup and discussed how long it had been since they had attended such a health-focused gathering. One friend couldn’t resist and asked the server to open a few bottles of wine.
Before Jiang Ci could say anything, the server poured some wine for Xie Min as well.
Xie Min placed the wine glass aside without drinking and continued eating for a while. Then, he received a call from Sui Yang. Sui Yang asked where he was and mentioned that he could finally come to Yuhai earlier and had already arrived home. He could hear the lively atmosphere on Xie Min’s end, “Are you outside?”
Xie Min replied, “I’m having dinner with Jiang Ci.” Sui Yang then asked if he should come to pick him up.
Jiang Ci, with keen ears and eyes, leaned closer to Xie Min. Having consumed alcohol, he was in high spirits upon learning that Sui Yang was in Yuhai. He insisted that Sui Yang hurry over and asked the server to add a seat between him and Xie Min.
Most of the people present had heard of Sui Yang’s name, but they didn’t personally know him. They engaged in discussions about Sui Yang’s past, with each person sharing their own thoughts. Their discussions remained free of derogatory remarks, but Sui Yang’s past wasn’t exactly smooth. Xie Min silently listened to their comments about Sui Yang’s father, his high school days, when he had to borrow money from various people, and the hardships he faced when he first arrived in Yuanguang. While eating and drinking, Xie Min absentmindedly realized that he was drinking alcohol because he felt lightheaded and warmth in his stomach.
Xie Min had a decent alcohol tolerance and probably handled it better than Sui Yang, who tended to get drunk quickly. However, perhaps due to his ongoing recovery, Xie Min only drank half a glass before feeling slightly dizzy.
Setting down his wine glass, Xie Min coincidentally saw Sui Yang entering the room. He handed his coat to the waiter, revealing a shirt that he probably wore during the day, with the tie possibly removed at home. He appeared tall, composed, and incredibly handsome.
Sui Yang greeted a few friends and, amidst Jiang Ci’s lively atmosphere, introduced himself to everyone, sitting beside Xie Min. He glanced at the table, moved closer to Xie Min, and asked softly, “Are you drinking?”
“I drank the wrong thing,” Xie Min said.
“…… ” Sui Yang didn’t say anything. The other friends found topics to chat with Sui Yang, and he patiently responded, exchanging contact information with them.
For a brief moment, Xie Min felt like he had suddenly returned to high school, around his freshman year, watching Sui Yang from a distance. Sui Yang wore his usual refined and considerate mask, effortlessly accepting all the praises from the friends surrounding him, as if he were born to be a social star.
Sui Yang was on Xie Min’s left, and there was a girl named Shi Shan on his right, whom Xie Min had a good relationship with. They were college alumni, and Shi Shan studied art. She was a year younger than Xie Min and they had known each other for years.
Shi Shan didn’t engage much in the conversation with Sui Yang. Instead, she leaned slightly toward Xie Min and chatted with him. She mentioned that a friend of hers would be holding an art exhibition in the near future, and the style might be something Xie Min would like. She showed Xie Min some photos and asked if he would be interested in visiting before the official opening to make reservations if he liked any of the pieces.
Xie Min flipped through several photos and found them quite intriguing. He glanced at his schedule and agreed to meet Shi Shan at a specific time.
Just as they settled on meeting the day after tomorrow at noon, Xie Min offered to pick her up, and unexpectedly, Sui Yang joined their conversation. He said to Shi Shan, “I also have free time the day after tomorrow. Can I join you?”
Xie Min hadn’t anticipated Sui Yang simultaneously engaging in his conversation while listening. Shi Shan hesitated for a moment but replied, “Of course.”
Somehow, Xie Min felt a bit strange. He picked up his glass to drink water, but Sui Yang raised his hand and gently pressed down on the hand holding the glass. “You’ve picked up the wrong one again.”
“Oh,” Xie Min realized that he had once again grabbed a wine glass instead of a water glass. He quickly switched to the water glass.
The gathering came to an end at past nine-thirty. Jiang Ci suggested continuing the fun, but Xie Min felt tired and couldn’t continue. So, he left with Sui Yang.
Sui Yang drove the car himself. Xie Min sat in the passenger seat, fastening his seatbelt. Unable to resist a yawn, Xie Min said, “I’m so sleepy” and asked Sui Yang, “Why did you come so early today?”
“My work at Yuanguang ended earlier than usual, so I came over,” Sui Yang said, starting the car.
His voice was somewhat low, and Xie Min couldn’t tell if he was in a low mood or just tired. He casually engaged in conversation with him, “How long will you stay in Yuhai this time? Will you come to see the art exhibition the day after tomorrow?”
“No, I’ll leave tomorrow at noon and come back the day after tomorrow,” Sui Yang replied.
Xie Min was amazed, “Are you purposely tiring yourself out? How about I go and see the exhibition on your behalf? You don’t need to come if there’s nothing important.”
Sui Yang glanced at him and smiled, “So, I can’t even browse an art exhibition without permission from General Xie?”
“Is that what I meant?” Xie Min scolded him. He felt that Sui Yang interacted normally with everyone else, with enough politeness bordering on insincerity, but when it came to him, he never spoke properly. He tapped his nose and ignored him.
Upon reaching home, Xie Min and Sui Yang entered the elevator, and Sui Yang received a message.
Sui Yang took out his phone and saw that it was an audio message from the girl he had met at the gathering, expressing her concern. It said, “I’ve already reached home. How about you?”
Xie Min listened, momentarily stunned. He lifted his head slightly and glanced at Sui Yang.
“So, you’ve already started chatting with her so quickly.” Xie Min’s tone sounded a bit sour, secretly hoping that Sui Yang wouldn’t notice.
Sui Yang put away his phone, and Xie Min couldn’t help but say, “Why didn’t you reply in front of me? Is it something I’m not supposed to hear?”
The elevator reached their floor, and as they entered the house, Sui Yang held his phone and smiled, asking, “So, what should I reply then?”
Still influenced by alcohol, Xie Min’s words didn’t go through his brain before coming out. Seeing Sui Yang’s half-smiling expression, for some unknown reason, he felt a bit angry and said, “Of course, you should reply, ‘I’ve also arrived. It was nice seeing you today. I wish we could meet again sooner.'”
“Oh,” Sui Yang replied, “So, General Xie replies to others like that? I’ll send you a message next time too,” he said wkth his head lowered, looking at Xie Min. “Can I reply to you like that too?”
Xie Min said, “Get lost.”
They stood in the dim foyer, neither too close nor too far, definitely not the distance between a couple. This time, it was Sui Yang’s turn to call him an “idiot.”
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