Chapter 121: Shen Yan’s Side Story (Part 3)
Translated by Karcessel of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Shen Yan thought that he had been clear enough. Even if Jiang Cheng was different from seven years ago, he still should have understood Shen Yan’s intentions and stayed away.
In the morning, Shen Yan heard about Shen Fu and Lin ShuYi’s plan to take their little family over to S City. Considering the irritated mood he’d been in the past few days because of Jiang Cheng, Shen Yan decided to go along with them, celebrate New Year’s with Old Man Yang and destress a bit.
Shen Fu’s family consisted of four people, and with Chen Fang in addition, their car was completely full. With a quiet glance at Chen Fang, Shen Yan decided to let him have the seat, and headed to the garage to get his own car.
Shen Yan left two of his Lotuses* at Old Man Yang’s place, and a third was out for maintenance, so he had no choice but to start up his long neglected SUV. Shen Fu’s car was parked in the yard waiting for him, and when Shen Yan drove up, Shen Fu shot his car a once over from his car window before rolling it up wordlessly and driving ahead to lead.
*A brand of sports cars apparently?
Halfway there, a call came on his phone.
Shen Yan was in the middle of driving, so he pressed a button on his earpiece, picking up without even checking who was calling.
“Where are you?” Jiang Cheng’s tone was clear, and he didn’t seem to be in a bad mood.
Shen Yan, “…”
Lifting his hand up again, Shen Yan tugged the Bluetooth earpiece off his ear and threw it on the passenger seat, gritting his teeth. It seemed that he had really underestimated Jiang Cheng’s shamelessness. It almost seemed like this wasn’t the Jiang Cheng he used to know at all, more like someone in a disguise trying to play a trick on him.
The call was still active, and it seemed that Jiang Cheng was still talking, but with how muffled it was, Shen Yan couldn’t understand a single word. In that single moment, Shen Yan’s entire mood sunk and his face turned dark. With one glance at Shen Yan the moment Shen Fu got out of his car, his mood became a little more cautious.
Shen Yan didn’t know where Jiang Cheng got his number, but in order to avoid any more calls from him, Shen Yan decided to turn off his phone before he got off his car. Straightening out his expression, he followed Shen Fu as he went into Old Man Yang’s house to wish him a happy new year.
Old Man Yang’s home welcomed warmly, and Shen Yan didn’t express any unhappiness, but Shen Fu still shot him a glance now and then as if he had something he wanted to say.
The year Jiang Cheng left, Shen Fu was still in highschool. It was a busy time of the year at his private school so he didn’t get many chances to visit home. Because of this, and because his family was trying to hide it from him, Shen Fu only know that Jiang Cheng went abroad but didn’t know what had happened between them. Shen Fu didn’t have that strong an opinion of Jiang Cheng, and Jiang Cheng never came back, so other than a few questions the first year after he left, Shen Fu never brought Jiang Cheng up in front of Shen Yan again. The Shen family never brought anything up, much less Shen Yan. Thus, now that Shen Yan actually wanted to talk to someone, he didn’t even know where to start.
However, Shen Fu must have noticed how out of sorts he’d been lately. If Shen Fu brought it up, should he tell him? Shen Yan was thinking about it when Xiao Wan’s grandma came out of the kitchen, carrying several plates of delicious looking side dishes.
Shen Yan, “…”
Forget Jiang Cheng, that could wait until later.
Just before bedtime that night, as expected, everyone made some room for Shen Yan and Shen Fu to talk alone. Shen Fu looked at him, and though he knew what Shen Fu wanted to say, he still asked, “What are you still doing here?”
Shen Fu looked at him with a rare serious expression. “Is there something on your mind?”
“Is it that obvious?”
Shen Fu’s expression fell just short of rolling his eyes. “You drove out that Range Rover you’d rather die than be seen in, what do you think?”
Shen Yan, “…”
Sure, he didn’t like SUVs, but was it really that obvious? He did still take that car out for maintenance every month.
Shen Yan suddenly wanted to laugh. Shen Fu really knew him best, but all the words he wanted to say before, he didn’t want to say anymore. In the end, he just asked vaguely, “Is it possible for someone who liked women to like men too?”
As soon as those words left Shen Yan’s mouth, Shen Fu looked as if he had been struck by lightning. “Bro, don’t scare me, you like men now?!!”
Embarrassed, Shen Yan replied, “Not me.”
In his heart, he thought, he didn’t like men now, he always had.
Shen Fu looked at him suspiciously, but decided to believe him in the end, and started trying to help. “…Someone set their eyes on you?”
Shen Yan suddenly turned his face away, Jiang Cheng’s face unexpectedly flashed in his mind. “I’m just asking a question, it’s not like that.”
“Brother, the important part isn’t gender, but whether you like him or not. Mom and dad shouldn’t mind that much.”
Shen Fu rarely called him ‘brother’ so seriously, and even more rarely tried to offer him genuine advice, not to mention his lack of concern about the possibility that Shen Yan might like men. To say that Shen Yan wasn’t touched would be lying. But even so, Shen Yan had long passed the age where he wore his heart on his sleeve, so he just got up and said, “Mn, okay. You should get some rest.”
Shen Yan thought that it would take him a while to fall asleep, but who would have expected that he was out almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. And then he started to dream.
He dreamt about the first time he met Jiang Cheng, in the Wen family’s courtyard. A younger Jiang Cheng stood straight under the light of the sunset, looking over his shoulder towards Shen Yan, and Shen Yan’s heart began to speed up.
And then the scene changed. It changed to that year, by the riverside, when Jiang Cheng told him he liked him. He remained calm on the surface, but underneath, hsi heart was about to jump out of his throat. They kissed deeply, and when they parted, Jiang Cheng kept repeating, “A-Yan, A-Yan…” by his ear, as if afraid of speaking too loudly, lest it shatter the dreamscape.
The last scene was the last time they saw each other, just before Jiang Cheng left the country. Jiang Cheng’s back was towards him, saying quietly but coldly, “Shen Yan, you should go back.”
And then there was seven years of silence.
Shen Yan suddenly woke up, and took a deep breath. He shook his head, trying to clear the feeling of a nightmare from his mind. He really hadn’t dreamed in a long time. The first few years after Jiang Cheng left, he pretty much never got a restful night of sleep.
Shen Yan reached out and turned the light on, his fingertips still shaking a bit, but he’d calmed down. Throwing on a bathrobe, he went downstairs and poured himself a glass of water, drinking it all down as he sat on the side of his bed. Then he turned his phone back on.
His phone was silent. No calls and no messages.
Shen Yan sighed in relief and lay back.
The phone started to ring.
Shen Yan, “…”
He stared at the phone for a long while, as if trying to look through it. As he was finally prepared to pick up the phone, the ringing suddenly stopped. Shen Yan’s breath caught in his throat, and then he laughed. This, this was fine. This was better.
He reached out and took his phone, and the ringing suddenly started again. He didn’t look at it for a moment, but finally he pressed the call button, and the line was quiet. Then, Jiang Cheng’s low, quiet voice spoke. “A-Yan, why haven’t you slept yet?”
Shen Yan, “…”
If he knew it was clearly time for bed, then why was he still calling.
He didn’t respond, and the other end of the line spoke again. “I know it’s impossible, but I still have to ask. Are you thinking about me too?”
As soon as Jiang Cheng used that word, Shen Yan no longer wanted to say anything.
The two didn’t speak, so Shen Yan turned his head to look out the window. The sky was starting to get a little lighter. After a long while, he said quietly towards the phone, “Jiang Cheng, when I met you, I was eighteen. When we got together, I was twenty. The year you left, I was twenty-two…” Shen Yan paused, took a breath, and continued, “Now I’m almost thirty. We were only together for four years, and separate for seven. Jiang Cheng, tell me, how could we possibly go back?”
On the other end of the phone, Jiang Cheng suddenly raised his head from his chest, struck by a sudden ache in his heart that made his lip tremble. “I know. So we don’t go back, we start again.”
Shen Yan laughed. “I have not been eighteen for a long time. I don’t have the time or energy to start something with you again…”
Jiang Cheng suddenly interrupted his words, speaking for himself, his tone urgent and rushed, “The year you were eighteen, I was twenty-one. The moment I saw you at my uncle’s house, I fell in love with you. When you were twenty, I was twenty-three, studying frantically while desperately trying to figure out how to tell you I had already planned all our possible futures.”
Shen Yan didn’t say anything. Not only was the only chance Jiang Cheng had to explain himself, Jiang Cheng owed him an explanation. It wasn’t just Jiang Cheng who couldn’t drop the matter, Shen Yan found it hard to let go too.
“And then came the year you were twenty-two. A call arrived from my mother. She was so angry that her heart disease was exacerbated and she was hospitalized, but even hooked to an oxygen mask, she didn’t forget to warn me that if I wanted to be with a man, then she would go die. She’d always been stubborn all her life, so she didn’t think before saying anything. But even then, I never thought of leaving you.”
Jiang Cheng’s tone seemed to have calmed down a bit, but Shen Yan’s breathing became shallow.
“I thought that there was still time. If we stayed together, then there would come the day where she would see reason. But then she realised the person I liked… was you. I never thought that she would come knocking on your door, much less that she would tell your parents I had a fiancee. It was the first time I saw Uncle Shen so angry. Grandfather Shen was so enraged that with how bad his hands were shaking, he almost couldn’t get a grip on his cane. I couldn’t get a single word in. I thought of how much he used to like me, and how much he must have hated me in that moment. I knelt on the ground, I tried to explain myself, but then my mother held a knife to her own neck.
“She said, Jiang Cheng, if you dare say a single word, then you won’t have a mother anymore.
That time when you wanted to see me but I didn’t see you, my mother had already prepared all my documents to send me abroad. I didn’t want to go. She broke three of my ribs, but I still didn’t want to go.
“If I couldn’t be with you in this lifetime, then I might as well as just get beaten to death by her.” Jiang Cheng smiled, so soft and light it was as if he wasn’t talking about his own situation. If it was Shen Yan in his place, he would have felt like the sky was crashing down.
“My mother understood me well. From that moment on, she quieted down. I thought… I thought I had finally moved her.” Jiang Cheng laughed at himself, and his voice started to shake.
“She took… a picture of us, blurred out my face, and threw the picture at me. She said that if I didn’t leave the country, she would send that picture to everyone. The Shen family ruined her son, so she would ruin the Shen family. Sometimes, I think that my mother must have gone insane.
“It was only then that I started to regret. I regretted how simple I thought our future was going to be, when really I had nothing, no power, I couldn’t protect you at all. In the end, I agreed to go abroad. I agreed to never contact you again under the condition that she left H City, so she could never threaten you again. After I arrived in England, I escaped her grasp. All by myself, I threw myself into studying. I needed power, I needed money, I needed the ability to stand at your side without fearing for our safety.
“And then seven years passed.”
Jiang Cheng finally stopped talking. He sighed, and asked, “A-Yan, do you believe me?”
Shen Yan couldn’t speak. He didn’t know what to say.
Jiang Cheng’s explanation came too late. So late that although a sorrow started to bloom in the bottom of his heart, there were no words of comfort he could say. “I believe you.”
Other than that, there was nothing else for him to say.
He needed an explanation from Jiang Cheng, Jiang Cheng gave him an explanation. But in the end, those words couldn’t solve anything. Words couldn’t bring back seven years.
“The sky is already light.” Shen Yan said quietly. “I think you should hang up.”
Jiang Cheng was silent for a moment, and then complied. He never intended to use this explanation to trade for Shen Yan’s forgiveness. The mistakes he made were his to own, and what he owed Shen Yan couldn’t be paid back with words alone.
Even if the events of those years were much heavier than just a few light words.