Happy New Year!! Many thanks to the readers who have been with me from the first chapter, basically commenting on every chapter religiously hahaha Ill be in your care this year as well
On the black walnut table before him were plates of fragrant homemade dishes, still steaming.
Also steaming was the rice in the bowl. Each rice grain was round and full and when clustered into a bunch, it appeared extra warm.
It was the sense of home that he hadnt felt in a long time.
It was the feeling of being cared for that he hadnt felt in a long time.
And seated opposite him was a man who once told him that he should find someone to take care of him.
If all of this was not considered taking care of him, then what was
If... the person in front of him was not the one, then who was
A white pendant lamp hanging above the dining table emitted a faint warm light that shone down the tabletop, reflecting off the black wood to give a white halo that softly encircled the two people sitting together on either end of the table. The old wall clock ticked, measuring the silence that elapsed between them.
Quite some time had passed and no one spoke.
Because he still didnt get a reply after so long, Shen Yan slowly lifted his downcast eyes back up to look at Qi Jing. But what he saw next, stunned him.
Qi Jing was still holding the chopsticks in his hand with the tip resting on the fragrant rice in the bowl. However, it was just placed there, he wasnt picking up any rice.
His hand remained in this position for a long time, unmoving, while something dripped onto the rice. One drop, two drops... He didnt make a sound at all, they just gradually rolled down his cheeks, quietly seeping into the rice grains.
It was like the raindrops falling from the eaves were in sync with him, pattering against the windowpane, one after another. The warmth of the room left the window panes thinly covered with a fine, yet dense layer of mist, blurring the light emanated from the lamp.
Qi Jing lowered his eyes onto his bowl and saw that things were falling from his eyes, one by one. In that instant, he also saw a flash of light that soon disappeared into the soft, fluffy rice. Then, his fingers made a move, picking up a small ball of rice with his chopsticks and slowly sending it into his mouth.
It was indeed fragrant and sweet.
Although there was a slight bitterness added by him, the soft, warm taste overpowered everything.
It was completely different from the rice he had eaten in the hospital room that day—it tasted of happiness. This was something he once thought was out of his reach, but now he was savouring it in his mouth.
He knew his current appearance must have given that man a scare, but he didnt want to hide it as there was no way to hide it. The things spilling out from his eyes were already beyond his control. There was no point wiping them away, so he could only gulp down the rice in the bowl, leaving the two faint streaks on his face be. Every time they dried, a new wave would come again.
Qi Jing moved slowly, his hands shaking all the while, but he still remained committed to bringing the rice into his mouth. Then, he picked up some vegetables to go with his rice.
“Its delicious.” The same words, the same slow chewing.
“Qi Jing...” Not too far away, in front of him, Shen Yan finally spoke in slightly husky voice.
“Im alright.” Qi Jing tried to plaster a smile on his face.
He didnt know if he eventually managed to form a smile, but it didnt matter. The tears wouldnt stop. The worst state hed ever been in his entire life was now entirely on display with no holds barred. However, he didnt feel embarrassed at all, because his heart was already filled to the brim by those large grains of rice; there was no room left for any other emotions.
“Im alright.” He repeated those words once more, but the trembling of his shoulders grew stronger. He choked back on tears, still trying his very best to hold back.
He didnt want to make it too awkward for Shen Yan.
He didnt want to make Shen Yan worry, because his current reaction was not out of pain, but because his words had touched the weakest corner of his heart. And in that instant, his emotions just overflowed, flowing out of his eyes.
But unfortunately, the sound of him choking back his sobs was becoming increasingly clearer and could be heard again and again in the silence.
The sound of the rain settling down accompanied his sobs.
At that moment, Shen Yan lightly got up from his seat and only after a long while, said a few words, “Im going downstairs to get the mail.”
Qi Jing did not reply, instead nodded his head as a response.
Shen Yan stood rooted to the ground for a moment before finally leaving the dining table, slowly moving past Qi Jing to go out the door.
After he heard the sound of the door closing gently, the house fell completely silent, leaving some space for Qi Jing to compose himself and sort out his emotions.
Only after Shen Yan left did Qi Jing lift his head that was lowered this whole time and put down his chopsticks to briefly wipe his eyes with his sleeves. As he awkwardly sniffed through his panting, the vigorous rise and fall of his chest finally eased a little. He was really grateful to Shen Yan for giving him some time to himself.
When he looked down at the table, Qi Jing saw that he actually finished half his bowl of rice during that short period of time.
Then, his line of sight was soon directed to the other side of the table, the rice and dishes placed in front of Shen Yan were all untouched. Wow, he really was a bad guest, eating faster than the host. His reddened eyes couldnt help but curve into little crescent moons as a faint smile found its way onto his face.
He remained in his seat for a little longer before going to the tap to wash his face, rinsing away the leftover traces of his tears.
The phone in his pocket suddenly rang just as he wiped off the water droplets on his face.
It was a message.
The contact of the sender was a single character “Yan”. Initially, the contact was saved as Geese Fly North and after learning that persons real identity, he did consider changing it to Shen Yan, but in the end, he decided to only keep “Yan”, the same character for Geese, shared by both names.
That message only contained one short line.
【Tell me to come up when you feel that youre ready.】
Hes really so... considerate.
Qi Jing felt the areas just beneath his eyes heat up as he took a deep breath, suppressing the pain in his throat that had just barely subsided. In order to collect himself more thoroughly, he returned a simple reply: 【I still need some time.】
After sending the message, Shen Yan did not respond for a long time.
About five minutes had passed and Qi Jing was daydreaming to the autumn rain falling outside the window when his phone beeped again. A second text message from Shen Yan had come:【I wont go up, but can I call you】
When Qi Jing saw that text, he didnt type a reply but instead just proceeded to dial the other partys number.
“Hello” After calming himself down for so long, his voice had already stabilised and he was no longer choking back his tears. In fact, it even had the same trickle of warmth emanating from the food on the table. “Where are you”
“Just downstairs at the place where we entered from.”
Which meant that Shen Yan was currently situated very close to the eaves as he could hear the pleasant, clear, and crisp sound of the rain in the background.
Hearing Shen Yans words, Qi Jing stood up and walked to the living room window, looking in the direction of the entrance to the ground floor landing.
And just as expected, there Shen Yan was, leaning against the wall alone, quietly waiting under the eaves. From his angle, Qi Jing could vaguely make out the other partys body movements. If not for the layer of fog over the glass, he might even be able to clearly see Shen Yans expression.
However, Qi Jing did not do anything to wipe away the fog.
This wasnt too bad either; there wasnt a need for him to see it clearly. This way, he could concentrate more on the other partys voice.
“Sorry, I gave you a scare just now, didnt I” Qi Jing said with an apologetic smile.
“No... I was just slightly at a loss for what to do.” Shen Yans reply was as he had expected.
“Actually, I gave myself a scare as well.” Qi Jing found a comfortable standing position, similarly with his back against the wall, his head leaning on the window as he looked sideways at the person downstairs who he was talking to. “Out of nowhere, it just naturally became like that without any warning at all and I couldnt even begin to contain it.”
Shen Yan said in a low voice, “You dont have to suppress it. Its best to let it out.”
Qi Jing replied with an “Mhm” and the two of them kept quiet for a little while as they would when they chatted online, letting the sound of the rain fill the gaps.
The source of this content is n/ov//el/bin[./]net'
After quite some time, Qi Jing restarted the conversation. “Why did you think of calling”
“Because Im a little worried.” When he said those words, the person downstairs seemed to have lowered his head with his back to the light coming from the entrance to the building. As the sound of the rain accompanied his low breaths, there was also the electric current that made everything slightly distorted, giving Qi Jing the feeling like he was in another world. “And... somehow, I felt that itll be easier for you to speak truthfully when were not face-to-face.”
Qi Jing was slightly stunned at first before that expression blossomed into a melancholic smile. “What do you want to hear me speak truthfully about”
Shen Yans deep breaths could be heard from the microphone as he said, “Do you remember what I said in the kitchen”
”I always thought you hated me”—was what Shen Yan said and he didnt reply.
“I...” How could I hate you. Even if there was no way to prove it, Qi Jing couldnt help but want to clarify.
However, Shen Yan gently interrupted him—very lightly, yet very insistently.
“May I say a few words before you answer”
“Mhm, go ahead.”
Upon receiving permission, Shen Yan remained silent for a short while as usual before actually starting. “Because I had a speech impediment, Ive never been very good at communicating with people since before. There are few willing to speak to me and even fewer who are willing to listen to me.”
Qi Jing had heard him mention this before, just that this time, it was more emotional.
Shen Yan softened his voice. “Even in my occupation... although the symptoms are almost completely gone, I am still subconsciously unable to get used to communicating with strangers. But when Im interacting with small animals, Id feel a lot more relaxed and there isnt any pressure. This is why I enjoy spending time with the little ones and wish to share stories about them with others, but... I dont know how to do that.”
Hearing this, Qi Jing was a little taken aback. He seemed to understand at once the reason Shen Yan said those words. Sure enough, that man mentioned him. “Back then, when you got me to write a diary, it was the first time anyone had told me that they wanted to see me write about this stuff.”
In that instant, Qi Jing had mixed emotions and he couldnt help but emphasise in a hoarse voice, “Shen Yan, I want you know that while my initial suggestion was indeed for the news report, but after seeing the diary entries, I truly, from the bottom of my heart, liked what you wrote. It wasnt just for the job.”
The man on the other end of the line seemed to chuckle a bit. “I know, because you replied to every paragraph in your reply; I know you read it very carefully.”
Not only did you reply to every paragraph, you didnt leave out any details. And you always did that for every return mail.
It was the joy of the words I said being met with a 100% response.
“Although Im in contact with sick animals every day and write medical records for them every day, it was the first time to write them in the form of a diary.”
Medical reports were objective descriptions whereas one could input their own personal thoughts into diaries; it was basically equivalent to baring his heart.
“I didnt know how to go about writing it, so I just wrote whatever came to mind. When I sent out the first email, the truth was... I was actually really worried, worried that youd be averse to these personal descriptions.”
But Qi Jing did not.
And not only did he not, but he also said that he really liked it with a smile and even gave voice to those words so that more people could hear it...
“And then I... I might have been a little... reluctant... to let it just end like this.” At this point, Shen Yans voice had faded until it was rather hard to hear. The way he spoke—it was almost as if he was struggling to breathe. “I might have... overstepped the boundaries... when I wrote that last email to you, saying things that were probably too personal...”
Qi Jing held his breath.
When Shen Yan said those words, he paused several times and in those little bouts of silence, every patter of the rain was like a needle pricking into Qi Jings heart.
After a long while, Shen Yan finally finished his words, “I waited for a long time but you didnt reply. I... I really regretted it; I was so scared...”
Actually, there was more he didnt bring up.
For example, the fact that he once gave up hiding his identity as Geese Fly North and called the TV station to inquire when Qi Jing was out of town on a business trip.
For example, the fact that when he saw the news of Qi Jings car accident on the post thread, he was so shocked that he did something completely unexpected for him—he asked for Qi Jings QQ number from Puppet.
For example, the fact that he had the impulse to visit Qi Jing despite the rain last night, but that rationality ultimately won and he gave up that thought.
Shen Yans voice had completely disappeared and so did his breaths.
Qi Jing realised the heavy breathing he heard was actually his own. When he returned to his senses, he felt a little light-headed and couldnt help but knit his brows together as he pressed his forehead against the windowpane.
“Shen Yan,” he called out through his soft panting, “Shen Yan, Im so sorry, it definitely wasnt because I hated it... that I didnt reply to that last email from you.”
His tone was careful like he was coaxing a child—afraid that one wrong word and it would be an irreversible mistake.
“Im speaking the truth from the bottom of my heart,” Qi Jing swore.
“Mhm,” Shen Yan answered softly.
After that, neither of them continued to speak for some time. Qi Jing closed his eyes tightly and listened to the patter of the rain from the end of the line while Shen Yan remained right where he was, quietly standing in the shadows, as he adjusted his emotions. From time to time, they would hear the sound of the electric current running through the handset and it was a clear indication that they were still on the phone with one another.
In the end, it was Shen Yan who went back to the beginning first. “Qi Jing, for what Im about to say to you next... could you temporarily treat me as Geese Fly North”
His sudden request elicited a chuckle from Qi Jing. “But you are Geese Fly North to begin with.”
“What I mean is, can you just think of me as Geese Fly North and forget about the fact that Im Shen Yan” Through the window covered in a layer of fog, Qi Jing saw Shen Yan take two steps closer to the wall under the eaves. As the sound of rain grew louder, Shen Yan said, “That way... you will be more objective in answering my following question.”
A small smile appeared on Qi Jings face.
Although it was only a psychological comfort, there was no harm in promising him. “Alright, Ill definitely say what I really mean. Go ahead and ask.”
Shen Yan took a deep breath as he would be asking the most ridiculous question that he had ever asked in his life; one could hear the unease in his voice.
“If... you could rate your impression of a person from zero to ten, with ten being full marks and zero being no comment or even dislike, what would you giveShen Yan”
“Pfft.” Qi Jing lowered his head as a chuckle escaped his lips, but he was all warm inside as a sense of tenderness subconsciously overflowed. “That question of yours sounded like those questionnaires we used to fill out as students.”
“Dont laugh, Im asking this earnestly.” Hearing Qi Jings laughter, the voice of the person who was downstairs lowered even more, but he didnt give up because of it.
Qi Jings laughter did not stop. He continued laughing very, very softly, to the point his eyes became slightly moist as he watched that figure.
Then, the laughter stopped and he gave a genuine answer,” Eleven.”
And unsurprisingly, the other party was stunned.
“What do you mean by eleven” The deep voice on the other end of the call mumbled like the microphone was placed right on the mouth.
“That one more beyond the range given is an additional point,” Qi Jing said with a soft chuckle.
At this point, there was a brief silence.
However, Shen Yan was still bent on getting a complete answer. “What does the additional point... mean”
Qi Jing was still looking down, his eyes centred on the figure standing under the eaves. The moment that man finished his words, Qi Jing put down the phone in his hand for a while and outstretched a finger to draw two arcs, with the help of the thin layer of fog on the window, on either side of that figure.
When the two arcs came together, they formed a heart, framing that man in the middle.
He smiled and picked up the phone again.
“The extra point means that... its more than like.”
What else could it be...
He couldnt think of another answer.
“Qi Jing.” At this moment, he was caught completely off guard by the words that sounded in the receiver. “Im coming up.”
It took him several whole seconds before he finally registered what they meant and he gasped while exclaiming, “Wait! Shen Yan, wait a minute! Im not—” ready yet.
When he noticed that the call had already been disconnected and looked downstairs, the man was no longer there anymore.
It instantly put Qi Jing in a panic.
His first reaction after putting the phone down was to hastily wipe off what he had just drawn on the windowpane; he even wiped it several times to be sure. However, even after all the fog on the windowpane had been wiped away without a trace, the violent pounding of his heart did not slow down.
He regretted wasting time being so invested in cleaning the window because before he could get to the front door, he could already hear the sound of the keys turning as it opened a peep. Flustered, he forcefully pushed against the door, firmly preventing the person outside from entering.
“Wait, dont come in yet!”
“Qi Jing.” Even if he couldnt see the face, he could hear the voice of the person outside—more than ever, the emotions in that voice were so strong it left Qi Jing in a daze. “Let me see you.”
“You just... give me a minute first...”
Qi Jing was gasping for air so heavily that he couldnt even say a simple sentence like that in one go. His mind was completely blank and the only conscious part was all directed at his right hand, pushing against the door with all his might to stop it from opening another inch.
He could only use one hand at the moment, and to be honest, because of the extreme nervousness, he barely had any strength in his body; doing this was nothing more than a futile struggle. If Shen Yan so wished, he could totally push the door open, but he deliberately used just enough force to reach this balance—enough to keep the door open, but not so much as to force his way in.
Qi Jing noticed that when he slowly came back to his senses.
He barely managed to take in a breath as he panted weakly. However, in the next moment, his breath was caught, because his hand on the door was gently covered by that mans before being grasped—a very firm and desperate grip.
The door remained at a standstill.
The opening of the door was less than twenty centimetres wide and a faint light leaked inside the room through the gap.
When Qi Jing lowered his head, he could see that Shen Yans shadow had occupied part of the light, but right now, Shen Yan had occupied the entirety of his heart.
The place where their ten fingers touched felt like it was burning.
“Wai...” His intake of air was too hurried, to the point it almost sounded sharp whenever air flowed in and out of his throat—he couldnt even finish his sentence.
Shen Yan was indeed waiting.
But although he was waiting, he never let go of Qi Jings hand and neither did the latter.
Qi Jing felt like his heart was about to leap out of his chest. As his heart pounded violently, the deafening sound of the “drums” was starting to make his head spin. Thump, thump, thump—his heart was palpitating at extreme speeds. The louder the sound got, the more his vision became blinded by patches of white. He felt like he was standing in a pile of cotton as his knees went weak.
“Qi Jing.” More than any of these, the soft whisper calling out to him was the hardest for him to resist. “I can wait for you until you feel that youre ready.”
“Mhm...” He answered through trembling lips.
“But... can you let me wait beside you” Shen Yan asked in a husky voice.
Ah, its against the rules to say such pleading words so meekly. He easily pushed the right buttons which caused Qi Jings heart to soften and remove all its defences, rendering any struggle useless.
He only lightened the force he placed on the door a little and the door was immediately pushed open inwards. Right then, Qi Jing instinctively bowed his head, because he couldnt look directly into Shen Yans eyes at the moment. Even though Qi Jings hand had already been removed from the door, the hand holding his still didnt let go and came off the door with him.
Then, with a gentle pull, he fell into the warm embrace in front of him.
A/N: Dr. Shen, I give you 12, quick come into my bowl! TAT (gets forcefully picked up and removed by Little Return Date)
Lilies: Shen Yan is so pure I gib 100
whiteflare: AHHHHHHHHHHH. The heart in the foggy window, the text “when youre ready”, the embrace! How are they so cute How is Shen Yan so perfectly patient and present!