After leaving the psychological therapy room, Lu Jing Shen stopped in a shaded area of the garden, wanting to smoke.
However, he realized that he had already finished his last cigarette the previous day.

Feeling somewhat exhausted, he sat down by the flowerbed, and the experiences of the past replayed in his mind during the deep hypnosis session just now.
It was still very difficult to endure, and his back was covered in cold sweat.

After sitting quietly for a moment, his emotions gradually settled, and he picked up his phone and checked it.
The WeChat interface was still on the chat with Feng Si, the message he had sent earlier.

He didn’t know whether Feng Si hadn’t seen it yet or simply didn’t want to reply.
Lu Jing Shen let out a sigh and turned off the phone screen; there was nothing he could do.

These past few days, Feng Si would occasionally respond to his messages, chatting about random things.
Perhaps he wasn’t good at such conversations, and most of the things he said didn’t have much meaning.
Sometimes, the atmosphere would become inexplicably awkward.

That made Lu Jing Shen feel frustrated, but he didn’t want to give up either.

As he was lost in thought, the phone screen lit up again, indicating a new message.

Feng Si: “Have you finished with the doctor? Come out quickly.
I’m waiting for you at the hospital’s parking lot exit.”

Lu Jing Shen was taken aback, immediately getting up, and without thinking about why Feng Si suddenly came back, he quickly walked towards the parking lot.

As the car left the parking lot, Lu Jing Shen’s gaze scanned the surroundings, and sure enough, he saw Feng Si standing on the side of the street.

He was still the same, wearing a gray jacket and work pants, holding a cigarette in his hand.

Seeing Lu Jing Shen’s car come out, Feng Si put out the cigarette and threw it into the trash can before walking over and opening the passenger seat door.

He brought in a chill with him, along with the familiar smell of cigarette.

Lu Jing Shen’s heart rate quickened as he tightly gripped the steering wheel, turning to ask him, “Why are you here?”

Someone who was abroad suddenly returned, casually waiting for him at the hospital entrance, getting in his car.
Everything was beyond his expectations, leaving him pleasantly surprised, but also finding it hard to believe his own eyes.

“I just arrived at noon,” Feng Si said casually, “You probably haven’t had dinner yet.
Let’s go eat something.”

Seeing Lu Jing Shen still looking dazed, Feng Si smiled and gestured ahead, urging him, “Drive.”

Lu Jing Shen finally came back to his senses and felt a bit awkward.
He shifted his gaze back and stepped on the gas pedal.

They chose a restaurant with few people, and several times during the meal, Lu Jing Shen wanted to ask, but Feng Si interrupted him each time.

“After eating, we’ll talk.
I haven’t eaten much on the plane, so let me fill my stomach first,” Feng Si said.

Seeing the exhaustion on Feng Si’s face, the words that were about to reach Lu Jing Shen’s mouth were swallowed back, and he quieted down.

After dinner, Feng Si drove, taking Lu Jing Shen through the streets where the city lights were starting to come on.
Finally, he parked the car by a quiet lake in the city and suggested going for a walk.

“It’s still early.
Let’s take a walk outside,” he said.

After speaking, Feng Si opened the car door and got out, and Lu Jing Shen followed him.

The lake’s surface reflected the night colors, with scattered light dots between them.
Feeling the damp wind brushing against his face, Lu Jing Shen’s mood gradually calmed down, and he finally asked, “Why did you come back?”

He thought Feng Si would casually say something like, “Can’t I come back?” or “I wanted to go somewhere, so I came back.” But no, Feng Si even retracted the usual smile on his face and simply said, “I found a job here.”

“Here?” Lu Jing Shen asked in surprise.

Feng Si explained, “I’m going to be a flight instructor at Jinghang University, training aviation students.
I’ve signed a contract with them to work as an external hire, and I’ll start next week.
I thought about it and decided to come back to work.
My mom is getting older, and she always talks about how fallen leaves return to their roots.
Sooner or later, I had to come back here.
Even Tingting is planning to come here after graduating from university.”

He however didn’t mention that that job wasn’t decided on a whim.
He had already decided to come back for work even before the New Year.
After going back to England for the New Year, he would officially come back to start work when the new semester began.

From the beginning, he never thought about leaving.

Lu Jing Shen didn’t expect to hear that answer.
Feng Si actually chose to teach at a university.

But at least, he came back, that’s what Lu Jinsgshen thought to himself.
In the future, they would have more opportunities to meet.

“Being a teacher at a university doesn’t pay much,” he blurted out, but as soon as he said it, Lu Jing Shen felt embarrassed.
However, Feng Si responded, “It’s true; the pay isn’t much, but it’s not bad either.
It’s stable, less demanding, and doesn’t require flying everywhere.”

Lu Jing Shen inexplicably thought of the sentence Feng Si wrote on the postcard, feeling a bit bitter, “It’s not bad and a bit easier.”

Feng Si looked into his eyes and changed the topic, “Did the visit to the psychologist today have any effect?”

Lu Jing Shen’s expression changed slightly, but Feng Si didn’t give him a chance to evade.
“You haven’t told me why you went to see a psychologist.”

Indeed, he hadn’t.
Feng Si had asked him several times before, but every time the words reached his mouth, he didn’t know how to say it.
He didn’t have the courage to reveal those painful memories, and if he hadn’t walked into the psychological therapy room today, he wouldn’t want to recall those things from the past.

Seeing cold sweat on Lu Jing Shen’s forehead, Feng Si lifted his hand and patted his shoulder, speaking gently, “Relax.”

Lu Jing Shen slowly relaxed his breathing, and Feng Si withdrew his hand, saying, “When your sister came to London, I met her, and she told me everything.”

Lu Jing Shen looked surprised and looked at Feng Si.
Feng Si said, “Can you tell me now about how you are feeling?”

In Lu Jing Shen’s expression, there was a struggle, but under Feng Si’s gentle gaze, he slowly nodded.

Feng Si: “You were scared, fearful, and disgusted by the gay community.
Is that why you had such a strong reaction when I first took you to a gay bar?”

Lu Jing Shen’s hand rested on the railing by the lake, and he subconsciously tightened his grip, as he struggled to speak, “Yes.”

Feng Si: “At that time, you said you weren’t one of us because of the psychological rejection and hatred you felt, so you didn’t want to acknowledge your own orientation as well?”

Lu Jing Shen hesitated before saying, “Yes.”

“Then, before you met me, did you have any understanding of your sexuality?” Feng Si continued to ask.

Lu Jing Shen fell into silence, and Feng Si didn’t rush him, patiently waiting for his answer.

After a while, he spoke again, “I don’t know.
I never had feelings for anyone, neither men nor women.”

Feng Si asked, “Not understanding your own sexuality and fearing and hating the community, why did you still get in my car alone on the day we first met in Africa?”

To this question, Lu Jing Shen indeed couldn’t give a clear answer.

He went to Africa with the intention of finding a place far away from his familiar world, where no one knew him, to catch his breath.
He maintained a high level of vigilance towards everyone he didn’t know and avoided unnecessary conversations.
But fate had other plans; he met Feng Si.

Even though his instinctive self-preservation made him pretend not to understand Chinese, when caught by Feng Si’s smiling eyes, he faintly heard another voice deep within himself, telling him that he wanted to get to know this person.

Perhaps it was just that split second of decision, and his defense line had a tiny crack.
He chose to follow the thoughts deep inside him and got into Feng Si’s car.

“If I must say,” Lu Jing Shen struggled to organize his words, “I think when I first saw you, I felt that you were different from others, at least for me… I wanted to get to know you.”

Feng Si asked, “So can I understand this as you being infatuated with me at first sight?”

Though it sounded like flirting, his tone was unusually serious.

Lu Jing Shen thought about it and nodded again.

If, under extreme self-closure, one could still be attracted to someone and feel waves of emotions, perhaps it was indeed infatuation at first sight.

He couldn’t deny it.

Feng Si continued, “The group you used to despise and fear, you suddenly realized that you might also be a part of it.
Is that distressing?”

Lu Jing Shen clenched his hands tightly, and his jaw tensed.
Seeing him like this, Feng Si remembered the night he first kissed him, and how nervous Lu Jing Shen was, trembling all over.

At that time, he felt that Lu Jing Shen couldn’t let go, and now he finally knew why.

Lu Jing Shen said, “…I can’t accept it, but I don’t want to push you away.”

What he couldn’t accept was his own sexuality, and what he didn’t want to push away was Feng Si as a person.

He knew that his emotions were conflicting, but it was precisely that contradictory feeling that kept pulling him back and forth, making him hesitant, indecisive, and eventually self-loathing.

“Your heart desires me, but you can’t face the fact that you’re gay.
In your subconscious, these three words are linked to filth, decay, madness, and fear.
So you reject accepting it, refuse to admit it, and fear others finding out, right?”

Feng Si asked straightforwardly, and Lu Jing Shen felt embarrassed but could only nod.

“In that case, can you listen to what I have to say now?” Feng Si said.

Lu Jing Shen looked up at him, and Feng Si’s expression was unusually serious.
“Alex, indeed, there are many filthy, decayed, and shameful things within the gay community, but it’s the people who are wrong, not the identity.
Your classmate had a bad encounter, contracted a disease, and was abandoned, which led him to choose self-destruction and madness, using your kindness as a means to hurt you.
The wrong was him, not his gay identity.”

“No group can be generalized.
The friends of mine you’ve met, some of them indeed lead wild lives, have messy personal lives, and low morals.
You can despise such people if you want, but there are others who are not like that.
They have stable partners, work hard in their lives, and occasionally go to those places to relax.
They are just ordinary people and not something to be feared.”

“I’m the same.
I never told you before, but before I met you, I rarely went to those places.
I had to study and work, and I had no spare energy.
Because of my Asian appearance, whether at school or after joining the Air Force, there would always be people looking down on me openly or secretly.
I wanted to prove myself, aiming for first place and excellence in everything.
Heavy academics and various tasks burdened me, leaving me no time to play.”

“Later, to find you, I traveled all over the world.
Every expectation ended in disappointment.
I’m just an ordinary person who can feel disappointed, sad, and lonely.
Going back home alone without knowing where I’d be the next day, that feeling is indeed unpleasant and led me to want to exile myself.
But I have my limits.
I just wanted to feel lively; I wouldn’t use it as an excuse to fall into party life and promiscuity.
When you said you didn’t want me to be promiscuous or have casual encounters with others, I can tell you clearly that there’s no one else, only you.”

“I wanted to find you again  because I like you.
If I were like other people, always in bed with different partners every night due to loneliness, then my feelings for you wouldn’t be worth mentioning, and my seven years of relentless search for one person would become a joke.
I wouldn’t do that.”

“So, you don’t need to worry or be indecisive, nor feel that our relationship is dirty and disgraceful.
You’re not wrong, and I’m not wrong.
There’s no need to put ourselves in chains and punish ourselves with the mistakes of others.”

Lu Jing Shen slowly absorbed Feng Si’s words, and various complex emotions intertwined, leaving him in a tangle of thoughts.


Feng Si stared into his flickering eyes.
“No need to rush to give an answer.
I know that psychological barriers cannot be easily eliminated with just a few words of comfort.
You still need to see a doctor, and I’ll go with you.
No matter how difficult or painful it is, we’ll get through it, not for my sake, but for your own.”

“As for what happened between us, I feel that every time, whether in the past or now, we started too fast.
It’s like the only thing between us is getting into bed together.
I don’t want it to be like this, and I believe you don’t want that either.
So, this time, let’s try a different approach.
It’s not a game; it’s about genuinely understanding and getting to know each other.
Maybe we can start as friends.
You don’t have friends you can confide in and share your true feelings with, I’m willing to be that person for you.
You can tell me anything that makes you happy or unhappy, and I’ll do the same.
Let’s be completely open with each other.
Can we do that?”

Lu Jing Shen’s eyes gradually brightened, and each word of Feng Si struck his heart.

Once again, he nodded, but this time it felt like a huge burden had been lifted off his shoulders.

Feng Si was willing to give him time, and that was already enough.
He wouldn’t let Feng Si down again.

Feng Si said, “Then there’s the contract we signed.
I’ll continue to fulfill it, but I just want to do my job as your assistant.
When you go on business trips, I’ll accompany you.
But for other times when you need a bodyguard, let’s hire someone else.
I think we both need some private space.
Being together 24/7 isn’t necessarily a good thing.”

“Okay.” Lu Jing Shen agreed quickly this time.

Feng Si adjusted his collar and relaxed.
“Let’s go.
I’ll drive you back.”

As they drove back, perhaps having said too much earlier, they didn’t speak along the way.
Lu Jing Shen leaned back in the seat, looking at the city night view outside the window, which now seemed to have warmth.
He suddenly felt that the emptiness in the deepest part of his heart was gradually being filled, and a sense of relief was on the horizon.

He slowly closed his eyes and relaxed, falling asleep.

Although the drive to Mingyue Bay took less than an hour, Lu Jing Shen had a rare good sleep.

When he woke up, Feng Si was waiting for him as usual, smoking with the window down.
Seeing him open his eyes, Feng Si raised his hand and pointed at his wristwatch.
“It’s almost ten.
Go up, take a quick shower, and then get some rest.
Don’t overthink things.
Clear your mind, and you’ll fall asleep quickly.”

Lu Jing Shen hesitated for a moment and asked, “Where are you staying?”

“At a hotel.
The school arranged a room for me, so I’ll check it out tomorrow.
If the conditions are good, I’ll stay there.
It’ll be more convenient.” Feng Si explained casually.

Lu Jing Shen wanted to ask him to stay, but then he felt it wasn’t appropriate, as they had agreed not to start things in bed this time.

Feng Si seemed amused by his conflicted expression and took out the car keys, throwing them to him.
“Go upstairs.
I’m going back to the hotel too.”

He got out of the car, and Lu Jing Shen followed suit, now fully awake.
He called after him, and Feng Si turned around.

“About being friends… Can I still pursue you? You don’t have to accept it .” Lu Jing Shen asked seriously.

Feng Si inserted his hands into his pockets and put on that slightly mischievous expression again.
“I must say, Alex, you’re really giving me a hard time.”

Lu Jing Shen asked earnestly, “Is it possible?”

“It is,” Feng Si laughed, and his smile blended into the warm night and he stepped forward to give him a goodnight hug.

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