After Xia Xingcheng put away his phone, the car fell silent for a moment. He turned to Yang Youming and said, “Xiao Xuan said that she’s a long-time fan of mine.” He sounded a little pleased with himself.
Dai Xiaoxuan heard Yang Youming let out a soft laugh before replying, “Really?”
“I like Ming ge too,” Dai Xiaoxuan promptly responded, “I like ‘Gradual Distance’, and I also really like both of you.”
Yang Youming inclined his head to the side and nodded, saying, “Thank you.”
Dai Xiaoxuan mustered a little bit of courage to say, “Seeing you two so close now makes me really happy.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she noticed Xia Xingcheng and Yang Youming glancing at each other.
Then, Xia Xingcheng turned to Dai Xiaoxuan and said, “Don’t worry, we’ve always been close.”
Dai Xiaoxuan couldn’t help but laugh. Immediately after, she felt embarrassed at her overly open delight. As she rubbed her face with her hands, a phrase came to mind: From here on out, my life is complete.
Silence fell in the car once more. Dai Xiaoxuan felt guilty about showing her excitement. She took several deep breaths and sat quietly in her seat as she stared at the backs of the two men.
Neither Xia Xingcheng nor Yang Youming spoke much either. She wasn’t sure if it was because they found it troublesome to talk with her there. Hence, the two men remained silent for the majority of the time.
Dai Xiaoxuan’s imagination couldn’t stop running wild.
The car travelled down the mountain at a moderate speed. When they turned around a bend in the road, they were suddenly met with blinding headlights; a large truck, driving as fast as lightning, brushed against their car, and the driver hit the emergency brakes.
Dai Xiaoxuan nearly collided with the seat in front of her. She heard Yang Youming exclaim, “Careful!” in that deep voice of his, then caught sight of Yang Youming placing a steadying hand on Xia Xingcheng’s shoulder.
The hand he used was his left hand. Dai Xiaoxuan could distinctly make out a ring he wore on his ring finger.
Yang Youming quickly withdrew his hand, turning to ask Dong Dong, “Are you okay?”
Dong Dong, who was securely strapped to his seat by the seat belt, nodded and said, “I’m okay.”
The driver apologised and explained that the car in front of them had appeared out of nowhere. He only hit the brakes because he was afraid they were going to crash.
Yang Youming said, “It’s fine. We’re not in a hurry. You can slow down a little.”
Xia Xingcheng patted his chest. He turned to ask Dai Xiaoxuan, “Xiao Xuan, you didn’t hit anything, right?”
Dai Xiaoxuan’s thoughts were still drawn to the ring adorning Yang Youming’s left hand. “I’m fine,” she said as her attention snapped back to the present.
Afterwards, the car drove at a much smoother pace. Dai Xiaoxuan didn’t get a chance to take a closer look at the style of the ring on Yang Youming’s finger. By the time the car stopped in front of her residential area, it was already quite late. Xia Xingcheng accompanied her out. “Go back and get some rest,” he said as he stood in front of the car. “Try not to overthink things.”
Throughout the entire drive home, Xia Xingcheng never asked her about her earlier fight; this was the first time he brought it up. Dai Xiaoxuan had long since calmed down. “It’s all right,” she said. “I’ve gotten over it. Our breakup is long-overdue, I think.”
Xia Xingcheng smiled at her and patted her shoulder comfortingly.
Dai Xiaoxuan looked at Xia Xingcheng’s hand. The same platinum gold men’s ring was on the same left ring finger. She had no way to ascertain if they were of the same style, but her heart began to race faster and faster—she had no control over it at all.
A thought flashed across Dai Xiaoxuan’s mind at that precise moment. She was overwhelmed by her need to know the answer. She stared at Xia Xingcheng and inquired, “Xing ge, are you—” married? The final word was on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t voice it out.
In fact, what difference did it make if they were? Or weren’t? Whether they were together, whether they got married, whether they had their own families—whatever the reality turned out to be, this was a person she had genuinely liked and invested an awful lot of time and energy on. It was as if she had fallen in love along with them. At this point, it didn’t matter what the end result was, as long as they were both happy.
Xia Xingcheng was still looking at her, awaiting her question.
Dai Xiaoxuan shook her head. “It’s nothing,” she said, but in that instant, she couldn’t stop her tears from streaming down her face. There was a saying she remembered but didn’t know where from, that what you miss isn’t only the person you once loved, but also your youth. In life, there were no do-overs. Those years were probably the most passionate years of your life. From then on, it was unlikely that you’d ever be able to encounter that same degree of passion.
Xia Xingcheng suffered a fright at the sight of Dai Xiaoxuan crying. He thought she was crying over her breakup. He had no idea how to console her, so he ended up only saying, “He left you alone on the mountain. A guy like that isn’t worth crying over.”
Dai Xiaoxuan nodded. “I know it’s not worth it.” It’s not like she wanted to cry over Qin Chi.
Xia Xingcheng hesitated for a beat before lifting his hand and weakly embracing her shoulders, patting her on the back.
Yet Dai Xiaoxuan hugged Xia Xingcheng tightly, letting him go just as quick. “I love you,” she said, then retreated and headed to the entrance of her residence as she waved at Xia Xingcheng. Although her eyes were filled with tears, she was actually smiling.
Xia Xingcheng waved back, keeping his eyes on Dai Xiaoxuan, and only got back to the car once she entered her residence.
“What’s the matter?” Yang Youming asked.
Xia Xingcheng sat back down next to Yang Youming and said, “She had a fight with her boyfriend earlier. She’s probably heartbroken.”
The driver sent them home.
Xia Xingcheng looked at Dong Dong and discovered that he was already asleep, head drooping. He then lowered his voice and said, “Her boyfriend is useless. He left a girl all alone on the mountain and drove off by himself.”
Yang Youming didn’t speak, only stroking Xia Xingcheng’s hair gently.
After muttering to himself for a while, he looked up at Yang Youming. “Why are you ignoring me?”
Yang Youming nodded. “I think he’s useless too.”
A laugh escaped Xia Xingcheng’s lips.
When they got home, Xia Xingcheng jostled a bleary eyed Dong Dong to the bathroom for a shower. Dong Dong was old enough that he didn’t need anyone to watch over him anymore, so after showering, he’d go back to his room on his own to go to bed.
The suitcases they’d be taking on their holiday the next day were already packed and stacked against the living room wall quietly.
After taking a bath and changing into his pajamas, Xia Xingcheng returned to find Yang Youming missing from their bedroom. Hearing movement from the kitchen, he opened the door and walked out. He padded over, trying not to startle Yang Youming, and stepped in to see Yang Youming standing by the sink with a cup of water in his hands, his back to the door.
When he almost reached Yang Youming’s back, he heard Yang Youming’s deep voice speak, “What are you doing?”
Xia Xingcheng grabbed the hem of his shirt and rested his cheek on Yang Youming’s shoulder, saying, “My brother heard that we’re taking Dong Dong on a trip and wants to send Ding Ding over too.”
Yang Youming chuckled at that. “All right.”
Xia Xingcheng grumbled, “Must be nice to be at home and not have to care for his own children.”
Yang Youming said, “It’s only once in a while. Ding Ding and Dong Dong don’t come over very often.”
Xia Xingcheng was quiet for a moment. He suddenly extended a hand in front of Yang Youming and cupped his jaw, asking, “Do you want kids?”
Yang Youming answered, “I don’t.”
Xia Xingcheng stepped in front of him so that they faced each other. He took Yang Youming’s face into his hands. “Look at me and give me a serious answer.”
Yang Youming sounded somewhat helpless. “I am answering you seriously. I don’t want one.”
Xia Xingcheng let go and leaned in to kiss Yang Youming’s lips. “You can’t have one,” he said. “Having me is enough.”
Yang Youming laughed and nodded, saying, “Okay.”
They set out the next day and spent nearly a week in the mountains. When they returned, they sent Dong Dong and Ding Ding back and then went home alone.
Xia Xingcheng had less than a week of holiday remaining before he had to start making preparations to join the film crew.
He and Yang Youming spent the whole week at home, barely venturing out. He had to stay at Yang Youming’s side to feel at ease. Even if they were doing their own thing, he insisted on being in the same room as Yang Youming.
One night, Xia Xingcheng wanted to watch a movie with Yang Youming. He rummaged through the tall stack of DVD cases for half a day before he finally found ‘Gradual Distance’.
They had always kept this movie’s DVD in their possession, but they’d both never seen the movie before.
Xia Xingcheng rarely ever went back to watch his own movies. He found it embarrassing. His acting skills had improved with age, but whenever he watched his past films, he felt that there were many things he hadn’t done very well. He’d then consider how he could have done better if he had played those characters now.
But fussing about the particulars was pointless, because these works had long since taken shape, and the viewers had already seen it. Xia Xingcheng only felt even more humiliated watching them because there was nothing he could do about it.
He didn’t know if it was because he’d recently met Dai Xiaoxuan, who had kept mentioning Gradual Distance and how much she liked it, but he found himself suddenly compelled to watch the movie from the beginning to the end just this once.
He was crouching on the floor when he heard the sound of Yang Youming’s footsteps entering the room. He turned to him and said, “Ming ge, why don’t we watch this?”
Yang Youming approached him, slippers on his feet, and bent down to take the DVD case from his hands. He calmly said, “Why not.”
The two of them settled down on the sofa.
A sudden shyness bloomed across Xia Xingcheng’s heart. He took off his shoes and climbed onto the sofa with bare feet, curling up in Yang Youming’s embrace.
As he watched the opening credits, he leaned into Yang Youming’s ear and whispered, “You’re not allowed to laugh at me.”
Yang Youming hugged him and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Why would I laugh at you?”
Xia Xingcheng said, “My acting was terrible.”
Yang Youming lowered his head. “You’re already a Film Emperor but you’re still so insecure about your acting?”
“The person I was back then is different from who I am now,” Xia Xingcheng said softly.
“I think it’s great,” Yang Youming said. “I saw everything with my own two eyes. You did a great job.”
The movie began. The screen held Xia Xingcheng’s attention. He didn’t utter another word.
Six years had flown by in the blink of an eye. Xia Xingcheng stared at his younger self on the screen, dazed. His acting was completely unpolished, but it was incredibly earnest. Whether he was smiling or frowning sadly, all his reactions genuinely reflected his emotions at the time.
Yang Youming didn’t laugh. Xia Xingcheng himself didn’t find it funny. He seemed to have sunk into his memories. He didn’t dare to call them beautiful, but they were the most important memories of his life.
Out of all the scenes in the entire movie, what made him uncomfortable were the intimate scenes peppered throughout.
Xia Xingcheng flushed as he watched, because he knew that those reactions were his own. He watched the blush take over his entire face, in the shot, the hazy look in his eyes, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down.
He couldn’t help but turn to look at Yang Youming. Yang Youming noticed his gaze and lifted a hand to catch his jaw and kiss his lips. It wasn’t a mere, light, blink-and-you-miss-it peck, but an intense heated tangle of tongues. Xia Xingcheng felt Yang Youming’s faintly stirred up emotions. He was kissed so intensely that even breathing grew difficult.
When Yang Youming released him, he saw the man’s faintly red eyes. “Ming ge?” he called out dumbly.
Yang Youming wound his arms around Xia Xingcheng tightly, resting his jaw on Xia Xingcheng’s head, not speaking a word.
The movie continued.
Xia Xingcheng remembered that Yang Youming once said that, for him, filming was like experiencing many different lives. To the current Xia Xingcheng, watching Fang Jianyuan’s love in the movie was like he was living as Fang Jianyuan all over again.
Many of those feelings that he thought he’d long forgotten came flooding back. He remembered how Fang Jianyuan gradually fell in love with Yu Haiyang and how Yu Haiyang had broken his heart. The pain that Fang Jianyuan had endured had, in truth, also seeped into his own heart.
He watched Fang Jianyuan cry, and he couldn’t help but cry as well—couldn’t control his tears from escaping.
Then, he felt Yang Youming’s slightly coarse fingers gently and patiently wipe his eyes, wiping away a smidgeon of tears. “Don’t cry,” Yang Youming said. “I’m here.”
That’s right. Yang Youming was here. The pain he had suffered was ultimately eroded by Yang Youming’s presence little by little, eventually leaving no trace.
“You have me,” Yang Youming said. “You’re not Xiao Yuan.”
He would act in many more movies in the coming days. He would spend the rest of his life with Yang Youming, too. He was Fang Jianyuan, yet he wasn’t Fang Jianyuan. He was lucky. He was happy.
☆ ☆ ☆
t/n – time to say goodbye! this is the last mingxing extra :’)