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    For two days in a row, once it was past ten o’clock, Tang Junhe would gently knock on Yang Xuan’s door and then listen to the sound of his brother’s footsteps ringing out inside the room.

    When he eats cake, Yang Xuan is usually reading a book. Sometimes he would try to talk to Yang Xuan, but he seemed to be somewhat indifferent to him. Later, Tang Junhe took his English textbook and ate the cake while memorizing the words in the list, occasionally looking at Yang Xuan a few more times.

    At the same time, he also began to gradually test the scale of Yang Xuan’s tolerance for him. On the way to school in the morning, he reached out and grabbed Yang Xuan’s school uniform at first and then halfway through the ride to an uneven road, he seized the opportunity to extend his arms around Yang Xuan’s waist, but Yang Xuan did not say anything.

    Through a layer of white shirt, his arm touched his brother’s well-muscled abdomen. “Ge, you have abs, huh?” Tang Junhe asked, looking up at Yang Xuan.

    Yang Xuan naturally ignored this question.

    Tang Junhe stretched out his other hand and touched his own abdomen— it’s soft there and feels very different to his brother’s. 

    The first person to notice the shift in the relationship between Yang Xuan and Tang Junhe was Tang Xiaonian.

    Tang Xiaonian went to the mall after work and saw a new fall and winter coat, tried it on in the mirror left and right, but eventually decided not to buy it. Although her life now is not like the old days, she really can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on a coat, no matter what.

    “Maybe there will be a discount when I visit there next month”, Tang Xiaonian thought in her heart, and when she raised her eyes, she saw two figures flashing by at the entrance of the neighborhood.

    Although she only caught a glimpse of it, Tang Xiaonian felt that she would never mistake her son. She quickened her pace and stretched her neck to look ahead, but the bike had already turned the corner and was out of sight.

    Is it the two of them? Tang Xiaonian felt a little uneasy, it is not difficult to see that Yang Xuan has a lot of animosity toward her, but towards her son, Tang Junhe, he seems to be more or less hot and cold, good or bad, making it a little difficult to understand.

    But no matter what, it is better to stay away from him, right? Tang Xiaonian thought with some concern. If Tang Junhe was the same size and mind as Yang Xuan, she would have nothing to worry about, but according to the current situation, her son would not be able to deal with Yang Xuan.

    That night, Yang Chengchuan went away on a business trip, leaving only three people at home. When she passed Yang Xuan’s room, she paused in her steps, hesitated, but took two steps closer and knocked on the door: “Xiao Xuan, come out to eat.”

    There was no response inside, only the faint sound of music. Tang Xiaonian also did not expect him to respond, and only asked this sentence, then turned her head and walked away. The slight goodwill that was easily saved was ignored, and Tang Xiaonian, who had lost face, could not help but start speculating maliciously again: “With this attitude, it is strange that he could have good intentions!”

    Tang Junhe finished a problem at hand, put aside his pen, went out of the room, and walked to the dining table. When he saw that Yang Xuan was not there, he said, “I’ll go get my brother to eat.”

    Tang Xiaonian reached out and took his arm, yanked it downward, and said with no good grace: “You think I didn’t call him? He doesn’t want to eat with us. Hurry up and sit down and eat your food. I’ve saved some for him in the kitchen.”

    Tang Junhe looked back at Yang Xuan’s room and was forced to sit at the dining table.

    “You don’t take the bus to and from school now?” Tang Xiaonian asked as they ate their meals.

    “Yes.” Tang Junhe answered truthfully, “My brother took me on his bike.”

    Tang Xiaonian’s gaze swept to him, “Why did he take you?”

    “He’s always been pretty good to me.”

    Tang Xiaonian was not impressed: “Good for you, then tell me how you ended up with these injuries.”

    Tang Junhe felt a little tired. For several consecutive days, Tang Xiaonian pestered him about this matter, and with some impatience he muttered, “If my brother hadn’t gone to the mountains to look for me, I might have fallen to my death.”

    “Go to the mountain to find you? Heh, what he didn’t expect was that you would be so stupid,” Tang Xiaonian knocked the rim of the bowl with her chopsticks and sneered, “He’s also afraid of actually playing with a human life.”

    Tang Junhe stifled a few bites of rice, raised his head to look at Tang Xiaonian and said, “Mom, Yang Xuan is really not what you think.”

    Tang Xiaonian ignored the seriousness in his expression and glared at him, “You can see what kind of person he is? Back then, you also said to me that that teacher Zhou was good to you and later, wasn’t he a pervert?!”

    These words immediately angered Tang Junhe, who squeezed the chopsticks in his hand and said in a cold tone, “He is my brother, how can he be the same as Zhou Lin.”

    “What kind of brother is he! Don’t you know that already?!” Tang Xiaonian raised her tone and deliberately rushed in the direction of Yang Xuan’s room and said, “He’s only been a brother to you for a month. Don’t tell me you’ve been bribed with the gift of two Transformers that time? It’s said that you forget the pain when you’re well, but you haven’t healed from those injuries yet, so why are you rushing to say something on his behalf and throwing shade at me?” The more she said, the more agitated she became, and she stopped eating, “You…you are really worthy of having Yang Chengchuan’s blood in your body. You’re just like him, a white-eyed wolf. I raised you for nothing.”  

    Tang Junhe completely lost his appetite for food, put down his chopsticks and turned around towards his room.

    “Whether you eat or not, I don’t care!” As soon as the words came out of her mouth, Tang Xiaonian began throwing out harsh words, “Go ahead and starve yourself to death!”

    ***

    The sound insulation in the bedroom was poor, and even with the stereo on, all of Tang Xiaonian’s words at the dinner table reached Yang Xuan’s room. Halfway through their conversation, Yang Xuan turned over and found soundproof headphones from the drawer and put them on his ears, completely isolating the shrill voice of Tang Xiaonian from the outside.

    Because of the “appetizing” words, Yang Xuan did not have much appetite for the night, and after reading for a while, sleepiness came up, so he leaned on the bed and slept for a while.

    When he woke up, it was already after nine o’clock. He decided to go downstairs for a half-hour walk, but before he left the door, he suddenly remembered that there was still a box of cake in the fridge. “It’s been a few days, it should be expired, right?” He turned back, opened the fridge and took the cake out, carried it downstairs and threw it in the trash.

    After running around the green belt of the neighborhood for half an hour, Yang Xuan went upstairs and came home, and found the living room silent. In the past, Tang Xiaonian would ask Tang Junhe to come out to eat fruit at this time, yet today there was no sound at all. He went to the bathroom and took a shower, and when he came out, Tang Junhe was waiting at the door of his room, holding his English textbook.

    Yang Xuan did not say anything. Holding the door handle and pushing open the door, Tang Junhe followed him and also walked in. Just like the other days, he went straight to the door of the fridge.

    But once the fridge door was opened, he found that the cake was missing, and he carefully searched the upper and lower layers of the fridge before turning to Yang Xuan to ask, “Ge, where is the cake?”

    Yang Xuan succinctly said, “I threw it away.”

    Tang Junhe was a little stunned. For a moment, he thought his brother had heard that conversation at night and didn’t want to care about him again, so he said with some panic, “But it hasn’t spoiled yet…”

    “It’s past its shelf life.” Yang Xuan said.

    Without the cake, could it be that he had to fight his way back to his room again? Tang Junhe continued to struggle, “Actually, it says that the shelf life is just the best before date, as long as it has not spoiled yet, it is all edible…” Before moving here, one of Tang Xiaonian’s major ways of holding a home was to buy reduced-priced milk and bread back from the supermarket. Although the shelf life would soon expire, in fact, even after a few days, the taste would not change and it would not be bad for the stomach.

    Yang Xuan saw his frustration, and said in a moment of weakness: “The cake is thrown, but I never said I’d kick you out.”

    Hearing this, the frustration on Tang Junhe’s face dissipated without a trace within a few seconds at a speed visible to the naked eye. Yang Xuan looked at him and took in all the changes in his expression.

    In any case, it’s not a bad feeling to be able to control all of another person’s emotional changes with just a few words.

    “If you want to stay here, just stay.” Yang Xuan put the bath towel to dry on the balcony, and fished out a T-shirt from the closet and put it on, “Sit down, what are you doing standing up.”

    Hearing him say this, Tang Junhe took two steps to the side and sat down on the edge of Yang Xuan’s bed. His hair was not yet dry and looked a bit disheveled, as if it had been ravaged unmercifully, and it was not difficult to imagine what kind of irritation he had just experienced in his own room.

    The new scab on his forehead was hidden under the messy hair, so Yang Xuan walked towards him, not knowing what mood he was in, reached out and wiped his forehead hair up and looked down at the scab that was the size of a fingernail. The scar was originally just the size of a small fingernail, but now it has become a little bit larger.

    Tang Junhe tilted his chin slightly, raised his eyes to look at him and asked, “Gege, are you afraid that I’ll have a scar?”

    Yang Xuan’s gaze moved from the corner of his forehead to his eyes.

    Tang Junhe went on to say, “That time in the hospital, you asked the doctor if it would leave a scar.”

    Yang Xuan let go of his forehead hair and said flatly, “It’s not good to have a scar.”

    “I think it’s good,” said Tang Junhe as he looked at him, “at least it means that we had a bond.”

    Yang Xuan, who was silent for a moment, suddenly asked, “You come over every day, what if your mother knows?” Naturally, this is a thoughtless question. Every day, Tang Junhe comes over gently after Tang Xiaonian falls asleep, and the sound of knocking on the door is extremely cautious, just to avoid waking up Tang Xiaonian.

    A trace of bewilderment flashed in Tang Junhe’s eyes, and then he withdrew his slightly tilted jaw and whispered, “She won’t know.”

    At that, Yang Xuan gave an uncertain laugh and just wanted to turn around and walk around him to the other side of the bed, but he didn’t expect Tang Junhe to suddenly reach out his arms and hug him first. Yang Xuan subconsciously looked down at him and saw his black hair in disarray on his white T-shirt, and at that moment, his first reaction was not to reach out and push him away, but to rub his hair.

    “Gege, what should I do ……” said Tang Junhe in a low voice.

    Faced with the weakness of his brother, Yang Xuan subconsciously searched his brain for an answer, but nothing good came out, only “nothing”, “It will pass” or “don’t think about it so much” came to his mind.

    None of them seemed appropriate, because they both know that this thing will always exist, on a daily basis and inevitable. It is not even a hurdle, but a stretch of road.

    What to do? Yang Xuan also wanted to ask this question. He then reached out his hand and put it at the back of Tang Junhe’s head and just placed it there quietly, without any movement.

    After a while, Tang Junhe’s emotions calmed down. He let go of Yang Xuan and stood up to make room for him.

    “You sit here, I’ll go to the balcony.” Yang Xuan leaned over and picked up the book from the side that he hadn’t finished reading, turned around and turned the balcony light on and sat on that single sofa.

    As usual, the two men did their own thing.

    When it was almost eleven o’clock, Yang Xuan looked up at Tang Junhe—at this time in the past, he would get up and go back to his room, but today there was no movement.

    When he looked up, Tang Junhe had already fallen asleep against the pillow.

    As he slept, his face showed a carefree and peaceful look. For some reason, when Yang Xuan looked at his brother at that moment, he suddenly felt he could be kinder to him.

    Perhaps Tang Junhe and Tang Xiaonian can be viewed separately. His thoughts have changed like never before at this very moment—hating Tang Xiaonian doesn’t mean he has to hate his brother, right? On the contrary, the better he treats Tang Junhe, the more he can control him, and the more likely it is that Tang Xiaonian will taste her own retribution, no? —This is simply a direct proportional function, the same as every regular function.

    Besides, it’s not hard to be nice to his brother; he doesn’t even have to do it deliberately.


Translator’s Note:

Tbh, I was surprised to find a mathematical metaphor here. I usually see it in my other work (RPSL) but in Theoretical Physics so this is surprising, Yang Xuan!

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Mei

A Japanese language student that decided to translate Chinese Novels during the pandemic. If you want to support us, you can buy us a ko-fi. To maintain the site and support the translators as well.

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nix

So he will try getting back with TXN thru TJH huh. That’s where it’ll go wrong.

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