Chapter 29: Prehistoric Night Sky
Translated by Fefe of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Tang Heng didn’t think of anything at that moment. He just felt black light flash before his eyes—this term was a bit strange. How could there be black light? But it was indeed a flash of black light, like the instant right after a movie finished playing and the screen turned black.
The boundless, endless darkness surged. It was the night sky of prehistoric times.
Two seconds, or maybe even longer. Tang Heng realized that what he saw were Li Yuechi’s eyes.
Li Yuechi let go. Tang Heng stumbled back. He moved his lips but couldn’t say anything. Those lips had just pressed against Li Yuechi’s. Tang Heng couldn’t process this. It was like his brain, vocal chords, and mouth were all separate from one another.
Li Yuechi looked at him calmly. “Satisfied?”
After a long while, Tang Heng finally mumbled, “What?”
“Isn’t this what you want in exchange for your money?” Li Yuechi spoke slowly, taking his time. “Is this enough?”
“There won’t be more.” Li Yuechi chuckled. “I can’t take it. This is my limit.”
So what he meant was—
Tang Heng lifted a hand and touched his lips in a daze. It was still his two thin lips and everything was normal, other than how they trembled. So what he meant was that this was his limit for satisfying him? Li Yuechi had given it, Tang Heng had accepted, it was over.
“That’s not what I meant,” Tang Heng whispered.
“Not what you meant?”
“I didn’t want to exchange money for… this.”
“This is all.” Li Yuechi turned his hands outward and repeated, “This is my limit.”
Tang Heng gaped. He still couldn’t process it, didn’t understand how things turned into this. His heart, beating sometimes fast and sometimes slow, seemed to have crashed into a dead end. With a loud boom, everything had shattered, turned cold.
But when his hand had pressed against his just then, the palm had been warm.
Tang Heng took another step backward and said, “I’m leaving.” His voice was soft and low, almost covered by the rising and falling river.
Li Yuechi was ever so calm. “Thanks to you all today.”
It wasn’t you. It was you all.
Tang Heng wanted to turn and run, but then Li Yuechi said, “You don’t have to come for the research anymore. We’ll add your name.”
With his back to Li Yuechi, Tang Heng’s body stiffened again.
By the Tang Heng came back to his senses, he was already in a taxi. The car had driven quite far. Through the window, he could vaguely still see the dazzling Yangtze River Bridge. Tang Heng took one glance and quickly looked away. In a daze, he wondered how his relationship with Li Yuechi had turned into this. He must admit that he regretted it. Even if they couldn’t be lovers, being friends or classmates was okay too. As long as he could still see him.
But now, they couldn’t be anything. No one in his lifetime had ever treated him like Li Yuechi—in order to clear things up with him, Li Yuechi, a straight guy, had even kissed him. What was this? It was like driving away a beggar by giving him a nice meal, then saying, Don’t beg here anymore. There won’t be more.
Even worse was that Tang Heng didn’t know what he’d done wrong. He hadn’t come out of the closet, he hadn’t confessed his feelings, he hadn’t even touched his hand before. He only wanted to lend him some money so he wouldn’t get beaten up again. Was it a sin to treat someone nicely in this world?
The taxi stopped, started again, turned, and drove onto the Wuhan Boulevard that crossed over the Yangtze River. He couldn’t see the river water under the night, only the specks of light from the freighters. Tang Heng didn’t know where Li Yuechi had gone. Maybe back to the hospital? He knew that he probably wouldn’t see Li Yuechi again after this. Actually, they’d only known each other for less than 10 days. Those days were like the hazy moonlight of Wuhan, scattering on the surface of the black river, shattering into pieces.
Tang Heng clutched his stomach as sweat beaded on his forehead. “Sir, stop the car,” he said to the driver.
“What’s wrong?” The driver immediately tensed up. “Did you drink too much?”
“No, I…” It was his carsickness.
“Wait a little. I can stop up front!”
Tang Heng didn’t answer and pressed tightly against his stomach. Usually, he’d try to take the subway or call a taxi after putting on carsickness patches. He could’ve taken Line 2 back to school today, but it was too late now. The subways had stopped.
The taxi finally stopped. Tang Heng wrenched the door open and rushed out. He squatted by the grass and started dry heaving. His stomach was roiling, but nothing came out. Tears streamed down his face by natural reflex—he was beyond pathetic.
The driver waited for a few seconds before coming over and asking with concern, “Are you okay? Would you like me to take you to the hospital?”
“I’m fine,” Tang Hang rasped out. In the end, he didn’t vomit. He pulled out his wallet. “Let’s just stop here. I’ll walk back.”
“Huh?” the driver said. “It’s so far.”
Tang Heng shook his head, expressing that it’s okay.
That night, Tang Heng walked from Yuejiazui back to Hanyang Uni. He didn’t know how long he’d walked, just that there were fewer and fewer cars on the road and the shops were all closed, save for the 24-hour convenience stores. He bought a bottle of water from a 7-11. He drank half of it and poured the rest onto his face, making his t-shirt wet too. He continued walking—blisters formed on his feet, he was covered in sweat, and his entire shirt was soaked.
His phone had long died by the time he got home. Without looking at it, Tang Heng fell onto the sofa, completely spent, and fell into deep sleep.
He didn’t dream of anything, perhaps because he was too tired.
He slept until the bright, sunny afternoon. Tang Heng was woken up by the sound of his nanny knocking on the door.
He pressed on his phone. No reaction. That was when he remembered that he hadn’t charged it.
“Wang-ayi.” Tang Heng furrowed his brows. “What time is it?”
“Past four!” Wang-ayi hurriedly handed Tang Heng a cup of water. “What did you do? Your voice is all hoarse. Are you shanghuo?”
“Maybe…” His voice was indeed very hoarse, but it wasn’t just his voice. His entire being felt sluggish.
“How about I cook some mung bean porridge for? It’ll relieve the heat.”
“Okay, thank you.”
“You youngster, eating outside every other day. Of course you’ll shanghuo!” Wang-ayi scolded while cleaning up the house. “Eat at home today. I’ll cook something nice for you, okay?”
Tang Heng got up to shower in the bathroom. He made the water temperature very low and felt much more refreshed. Wang-ayi had finished cleaning up the house and was preparing dinner in the kitchen.
Tang Heng turned on his phone and immediately received a string of messages. Some were from his classmates, asking if he wanted to go on a trip to Changsha in a few days; some were friends from the rock band circle, inviting him to watch their performance. Of course, most of the messages were from An Yun and Jiang Ya. The two seemed to have planned it out. Starting at noon, one spammed his texts while the other spammed his calls.
Tang Heng dialed Jiang Ya’s number. “What’s wrong?”
“Fuck, you’re alive!” Jiang Ya cussed. “We’re about to call the cops!”
“Fuck off. You had the time to worry about me?”
“Hey, we’re the bros before hos kind.” Jiang Ya chuckled but then quickly asked, “You lost your voice?”
“Mn,” Tang Heng said. “It’s from the aircon.”
“Oh shit, no way!” An Yun’s voice streamed over. “We have a performance tomorrow night!”
“…Can we change it to the next day?”
“The day after tomorrow is Monday!”
“Does Monday not work?”
“I guess it could, but aren’t you going on visits with Xiaoqin?”
Tang Heng was silent for two seconds. “I’m not going,” he said in a low voice. “Won’t go again.”
“Huh?” An Yun uttered. “Why not?”
“Don’t want to.”
“Uh… Did Teacher Tang agree to it?”
“I’ll deal with it later.” Tang Heng changed the topic with some irritation, “Do you two have plans tonight?”
“We’re waiting for your orders,” Jiang Ya said.
“Come eat dinner at my place. After eating, we can watch a movie or play cards.”
“No problem!” Jiang Ya cheered. “I miss Wang-ayi’s steamed pork!”