“…I can’t believe it.”

He Xiangyin was dumbfounded, almost dropping the wine glass in his hand.

“So, you’re telling me that someone actually wanted to date you, but you went ahead and got engaged quietly to deal with your family’s pressure?” He Xiangyin winced as if in pain: “and what about, your fiance did you dump her after that”

Ji Yao didn’t want to talk about it, as just mentioning it made him uneasy.
He furrowed his brow and mumbled an acknowledgment.

He initially responded out of habit and only realized afterward that something was wrong.
He retorted, “What do you mean I dumped them?”

“So, you really got married?!” He Xiangyin stood up abruptly, his gaze shifting between Ji Yao’s face and his left hand.
His voice trembled slightly: “So, you… your wife is in Beijing? Does she know you’re in Shanghai?”

As He Xiangyin spoke, he seemed like he wanted to jump three feet high.
He stepped back a few steps while holding the wine glass, but the table stopped him, preventing him from almost falling over.

“Let me tell you, I have a strong sense of being a gay man with principles.” He Xiangyin crossed his arms, almost spilling his drink on his front, looking like he had turned into a righteous and chaste husband on the spot.
He said with conviction, “I don’t hang out with fake-marriage gays!”

Ji Yao: “…”

His ability to focus on the key points was truly remarkable.

“This is all so messy,” Ji Yao grumbled irritably, glaring at him, “I didn’t get married.”

On that evening, after Jiang Heng left after saying those words to him, he changed clothes and walked out without a word, leaving Ji Yao alone to face the shattered strawberry cake.


Some things, when forgotten, seem like they’ve faded away, but once a thread is pulled, one realizes that the memories are fresh, as if it happened yesterday.

Ji Yao still remembered that evening vividly.
Jiang Heng seemed to have had a drink, and when he stood in front of Ji Yao, he could distinctly smell a faint scent of alcohol.

Whether it was anger or something else, Jiang Heng’s eyes were slightly bloodshot, accompanied by a cold and disappointed look that felt piercing.

Ji Yao was stung by that gaze, and he didn’t fully recover even as Jiang Heng slammed the door and left.

He stood in the empty bedroom, the lights in the bathroom, living room, and bedroom all on.
Nothing was hidden in the room; a glance revealed countless traces of their time together.

His study materials were spread out on the desk, and Jiang Heng’s practice case files were hidden beneath a book titled “Appointment with Death,” with just a thin corner exposed.

The bathroom door was wide open, and most of the warm steam had dissipated.
Two sets of identical toothbrushes were arranged side by side in the mirror cabinet, the toothpaste left in the rinse cup, and the toothbrush all disorganized, not following the prescribed angle.

Ji Yao slowly surveyed the surroundings, and he felt that these factors that once made him anxious had suddenly settled.
They weighed heavily on his heart, creating an indescribable feeling.


Ji Yao knew that he was a pessimist when it came to love.
He instinctively felt that all family environments were oppressive and heavy, like soaking wet water that shouldn’t have any weight, yet could easily suffocate someone.

So, when Jiang Heng was around, these factors made him nervous, making him feel unsafe.
But now that Jiang Heng was gone, Ji Yao realized that after their relationship ended, these things actually made him feel a sense of attachment.

Jiang Heng’s parting words had struck a chord with Ji Yao, to the point where everything in the house, from the bedding they had picked together to the smashed strawberry cake, felt like reminders.
They were reminders of Ji Yao’s absurd decision.

Was life meant to be spent in constant compromise? Ji Yao suddenly wondered, How far do I need to step back?

Compromises had no end.
As long as he refused to submit to societal norms and his parents, he would always suffer due to lack of freedom.

Ironically, it was only after Jiang Heng left that Ji Yao found the courage to resist the constraints.

So Ji Yao slowly bent down, picked up the wine banquet reservation form from the ground, and tore it into pieces.

With newfound courage, he called his parents on a video call, enduring their angry scolding and tears, then hung up, turned off his phone, and removed the SIM card.

Ji Yao didn’t run off to get married, nor did he return home.
After graduating, he declined the job recommended by his advisor, packed a moderate-sized suitcase, and came to Shanghai on his own, where he stayed until now.

“Ah…” He Xiangyin sighed deeply, sliding off the table like a flexible bone, returning to the sofa.
He used his elbow to nudge Ji Yao as he held his empty wine glass.


“But seriously, if you decided not to get married anymore, why didn’t you go find him afterward?” He Xiangyin wondered, “Is it fair that it just ended like that?”

“It had to,” Ji Yao said.
“… It’s a logical progression of things.
Sooner or later, a day like this would have come.”

Even though he had broken the iron chain, the rusty ankle shackles were still fastened to the small elephant.

Years of suppressed family environment had made it impossible for Ji Yao to trust any intimate relationship.
So he wouldn’t stay with anyone for long.
Once someone showed signs of wanting a long-term commitment, he would instinctively want to escape from it all – Jiang Heng was no exception.

Jiang Heng had been the closest person to this limit.
He had almost broken his boundaries for Jiang Heng, but unfortunately, it hadn’t worked out in the end.

Perhaps it was fate, Ji Yao thought.

“I don’t know what to say anymore.” He Xiangyin looked like his teeth were hurting even more, his features contorted.
“You two are like a comet crashing into the Earth.”

Ji Yao felt annoyed listening to this.
He shifted his position a little and signaled a waiter, asking for another glass of brandy.

“But seriously, now what do you do?” He Xiangyin wanted to offer advice to Ji Yao but found himself burdened with the weight of this major gossip.
He could almost foresee Ji Yao’s miserable future: “Could he hold a grudge and seek revenge on you?”

Ji Yao instinctively wanted to say it wouldn’t happen, but he felt he had no grounds to say so.
Three years had passed, and he no longer felt he truly understood Jiang Heng.

He downed the rest of his drink and followed it by quickly finishing the newly poured brandy.
The clear ice cubes clinked against the glass, leaving a cool trail of droplets.

Ji Yao was about to say something, but his phone’s new message notification interrupted him.

He unlocked his screen and realized he had received a reply to a friend request he had sent out earlier.

The profile picture of that middle-aged lawyer appeared at the top of his contacts list.
The person had sent a friendly handshake emoji.

Ji Yao opened the conversation briefly, then closed it.
He stood up, picked up his jacket from the sofa, and put it on.


“Forget it.” Thousands of words distilled into a single sentence.
Ji Yao put the glass back on the table and said lightly, “When the enemy comes, we’ll deal with them.
When trouble comes, we’ll eventually find a solution.”

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