Chapter 1: Happy birthday, may you always be as charming and naive as you once were.


Xiao Ke looked at the short sentence email on his screen, then looked at the two words “Lin An” at the end.
He couldn’t tell how he felt.
He took a sip of his freshly brewed coffee which slightly burned his mouth.
He put down the cup and exhaled.
He then put his hand on the keyboard and typed out a reply.

–Thank you.

Only one phrase was typed out, and Xiao Ke clicked send.
It wasn’t his style to say much, and there wasn’t really any need to mention anything about their relationship.

Whether it was his former lover or ex-lover, it felt awkward to say anything since the relationship was over.

Xiao Ke looked at the time.
It was a little past 8:50 p.m., almost nine o’clock.
He lived in an apartment near the street, and the floor was not very high up, and the street lights outside at that time were so bright that they were a little dazzling.

He kept receiving messages from his work group.
An experiment he had been working on had recently reached the final stage, and the whole group was in a state of excitement while waiting for the final data results.
It had almost taken a long time to complete, and they all wanted to split the project bonus.

Someone in the group asked him, [Professor Xiao, were you the last one that left tonight? Has the lab been locked? I left my phone there.]

Xiao Ke replied, [Locked it already.
Do you want to go get it?]

The other person replied, [Yes, I want to go get it.
Are you home? Is it convenient for me to stop by your place to get the key?]

Xiao Ke replied, [Wait for me at North Gate.
I’m leaving anyway and it’s on the way.
I’ll be there in about 15 minutes.]

The other side immediately sent a large slurry of kneeling crying emojis.
Xiao Ke laughed and turned off the computer.

For the very first time, he wore a short leather jacket that still had the stench of suede.
His black pants beautifully outlined his legs, with the very bottom showing a tiny sliver of ankle.
Whichever angle one looked from, this man was eye-catching.
The only thing wrong was that there was a scar on his ankle, a light white raised bump.
This was a bit incongruous, but it also added a bit of sexiness.

When Xiao Ke looked at himself in the mirror, he scratched his head and thought to himself, This body is really a bit sultry.

After he changed his clothes and scrunched his hair, he picked up a black mask and put it on before he left the house.
This outfit was so different from how he usually dressed up at work that his colleague didn’t recognize him even though he was standing across from him.

Xiao Ke reached up to take off the mask and smiled, “Good evening, young man.”

“Motherfucker! You scared me!” His colleague took a small step to the side.
He laughed it off once he calmed down, then stared at him before saying, “I didn’t recognize you! Your hair is styled differently, so I didn’t think it was you.”

“What do I usually look like?” Xiao Ke handed him the keys.
“Just keep the keys in your pocket after you use them, and give them to me tomorrow.”

“Okay.” His colleague remained smiling, as he looked at him and said, “Usually you’re quite handsome, but still following the norm.
Today, you’re really hip.
What are you planning on doing like this?”

Xiao Ke laughed, “Usually I’m simple, today I’m non-mainstream.
Anyway, it’s all the same.”

“I’m annoyed with you capitalist pigs who boast shamelessly.” The colleague accused him before he waved his hand.
“Don’t waste your time.
Hurry up for that date or whatever it is that you are doing.
Don’t worry.
I will definitely keep it a secret, and not tell the others that you also have such…a look.”

Xiao Ke asked, “What look?”

His co-worker lifted his eyelids and laughed, “I have to be direct, huh? What kind is something you should know in your own heart? Handsome Xiao, it’s slutty!”

Xiao Ke laughed and talked to his colleague for several more minutes before the car he called arrived.
The colleague waved his hand to him and ran to the laboratory building.

Xiao Ke got into the car and the driver asked him, “Chufeng Road, right?”

Xiao Ke answered with a “yes.”

After that, no one spoke in the car again.

The driver glanced at him through the rearview mirror a few times.
Xiao Ke kept his head lowered to look at his phone, pulled out his mask from his pocket, and fastened it onto his face.

As a teacher, he required his students to look at him during class.
Even though he was in a classroom where many people focused on him, and he communicated with students through sight every day, strangely enough, he didn’t actually like people looking at him when he was not in his work clothes.

Other people’s attention didn’t make him uncomfortable, but invariably he doesn’t feel well and wanted to cringe.

The driver couldn’t be blamed for sizing him up since Chufeng Road was a bar street.
Xiao Ke positioned the location for Su Chi which was considered chaotic even though it was on Chufeng Road.
The drivers who frequently drove around the area were all aware that the people who went there to have fun weren’t considered normal.

There were girls who looked like men and men who looked like women, which was sort of the most common thing there, plus there were all sorts of oddballs.
It was like a gathering place for all sorts of weirdos.

Later on, the driver couldn’t hold himself back, as he looked into the rearview mirror and asked, “Young man, did you spray on perfume? It smells good.”

“I did.” Xiao Ke replied.

The driver asked more questions, “Are you a student at X University? How old are you?”

The driver’s probing eyes were clearly sizing him up.
Xiao Ke slightly smiled behind his mask.
“How old do you think I look?”

“A junior or a senior, right?” The driver looked at him two more times.
“I can’t tell.”

Xiao Ke hummed in response.
Since he was about to arrive at his destination, he tucked his phone away and nodded his head, “If you think so, then that’s right.”

Xiao Ke was familiar with the place called Su Chi.
He came here for the first time in his early twenties and since he was thirty years old today, that meant that it had been almost ten years since he came here.
Since he hadn’t been there in a while, when he walked through the long corridor, he found that the interior design had been changed.
He was still in a trance and thought that he had walked through the wrong entrance.

“My God, who is this?” Not far from the door, there was a man leaning against a pillar while looking at his phone.
Xiao Ke looked up and saw the man hurrying over.
The man stared at Xiao Ke’s exposed eyes for a while, and his hand that was holding onto the phone pointed towards Xiao Ke.
“Am I blind?”

“You are if you say so,” Xiao Ke swept away his hand before he put his own hand into his pocket and asked, “Redecorated?”

“I couldn’t survive without it.
This type of business has become so fucking trendy that I can’t compete with others while having outdated decorations.”

The person who spoke was the owner of the place whose surname was Su, but he wanted to be called Su Chi.
However, he was definitely not called by this name.
One time when he drank too much, he said his name was too plain and not as nice as Su Chi.
At that time, he was just over thirty with a handsome and elegant appearance, so he did not feel any shame in giving himself such a name.
When he turned forty, later on, this name seemed unsightly and did not match him.
Therefore, Xiao Ke and others started calling him Old Su.

He looked behind Xiao Ke and asked, “Did you come here by yourself? Or is Xiao Lin parked outside?”

Xiao Ke took off his mask and wrapped it around his finger.
He smiled as he said, “We broke up a while ago.”

Old Su looked at him with dramatically raised eyebrows.
“Just for fun? Or is it for real?”

Xiao Ke raised his eyes and said, “It’s been more than a year since the separation.
Do you think it’s for real?”

Old Su opened his mouth and did not say anything.
His brain was so active that he couldn’t think of anything to say, so he could only laugh in the end.
“I was wondering why you did not come for more than a year.
Are you afraid of getting sentimental? Forget about it, brother.
Separation is part of destiny, and being separated is the end of that life.
Do not think about it.”

Xiao Ke nodded, “I really don’t miss him.”

“That’s fine, then you can play around.
Come to my place to find fun while you’re single and fucking happy, don’t you think?” Old Su had other things to do, so he only talked to Xiao Ke for a little while longer before he left.

Xiao Ke found a small round table meant for two people that was not far from the bar.
The singer on the stage was tearing his heart out while singing a rock and roll song.
It had really been too long since he had last been here, and Xiao Ke felt like his head was going to explode while listening to the music.

The waiter came over and asked him what kind of liquor he wanted, and Xiao Ke said, “Just beer, stout.”

“Okay, how many bottles?”

“Two bottles.”

The waiter continued, “Is there anything else you want?”

Xiao Ke shook his head and said, “There’s a spending fee for whoever occupies the table, right? You can just serve me whatever you want to.”

Xiao Ke didn’t listen to whatever the waiter said after that because the singer was shouting too hard.
It was a bit hard to listen to someone carefully, and that caused Xiao Ke to not bother listening.

As a result, the waiter ended up bringing him a fruit platter with nuts and shredded squid.
Xiao Ke was a bit speechless and said, “You can just serve me a more expensive liquor, you are too honest.”

The waiter bent down and said something though Xiao Ke was still unable to hear, so he waved his hand and let him go back.

In fact, Xiao Ke didn’t come to drink but since he had asked for two bottles of stout, he had to drink it.
He was not sure whether he originally wanted to say goodbye to the past or revel in the nostalgia, but a person guarding an empty table looked completely stupid.
Xiao Ke frowned, feeling a little distracted.
Once all the other emotions were gone, he ended up feeling a little embarrassed.

Later on, Xiao Ke drank the two bottles of stout while munching on pistachio pine nuts.
Then he asked for another dozen beers and drank until there were only two bottles left.

When he got a little drunk, his mind started to flash with scenes from when he and Lin An were still together.
At that time, Lin An was in the design institute while he was studying, and the two of them often came over to drink.
Lin An could drink quite well, but he liked pretending to be drunk to use the strength of alcohol to say what he wanted to say, and then he could blame it on the alcohol when he said too much.

Xiao Ke shook his head.
After splitting up with Lin An, this was his first time coming back so he didn’t think too much about it before he changed his clothes and came here.
This was the last time he would come back, and he was drinking alone here.
It was a foolish type of sadness which was especially heartbreaking.

–“There aren’t any more tables, are there?”

In between the music, a voice sounded from the side, the voice sounded a bit husky like a very low male voice.

The waiter asked, “How many?”

The man said, “Just me.”

The waiter looked around the room and apologized, “I don’t think there are any empty tables left, so why don’t you just take a seat anywhere?”

Xiao Ke’s eyes were on the man’s hand, and he narrowed his eyes.
The man’s fingers were long, and his hand was not small.
He glanced up, and since the light was too dark, Xiao Ke wasn’t able to see his face.
Xiao Ke was very drunk so his mind was foggy and he wasn’t sober.
That’s why he grabbed onto that man’s hand as he was taking a step to leave, before he raised his eyes and said, “Dude, let’s share a table.”


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