“Taiyu, I’m a guy,” Jingxiang reminded.
Taiyu drove out of the parking lot. “What does that have to do with whether you have feelings for me or not?”
“What kind of feelings?”
“The kind of feelings that I have for you,” Taiyu confessed.
Jingxiang glanced over at the man. “You…?”
“I like you…a lot. Do you like me?”
“I…” Jingxiang looked down at the messenger bag that was on his lap. “I don’t know.”
“It’s alright. I’ll give you some time to think.”
“Why are you doing this? I’m just a poor student who works a bunch of jobs to make ends meet. There are better matches for you.”
“What do you mean by better matches?”
“Someone with the same status as you,” Jingxiang responded.
“I like a person because of the person; not his status. Money isn’t important to me. What I feel in my heart is what matters.”
“You’re saying that, because you’ve never had to worry about money. I have. I have a younger brother to take care of.”
Taiyu reached over to grasp Jingxiang’s hand. “I’ll take care of you, if you let me.”
Jingxiang pulled loose from Taiyu’s grip and furrowed his brows. “I can’t let you do that.”
“We don’t know each other that well.”
“We could get to know each other,” Taiyu stated.
“Taiyu, I need some time.”
“Is there someone else?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Oh.” Taiyu sounded very disappointed. “You do have someone.”
“I really don’t know,” Jingxiang admitted. “We’ve never met and the person doesn’t know my true identity.”
“You don’t know each other’s true identity?”
Taiyu was about to ask why, but the sight of fire trucks and ambulances surrounding Jingxiang’s neighborhood interrupted him.
“What’s going on?” Jingxiang opened his window for a clearer view.
Noticing the smoke and flames coming from an unknown spot, Taiyu answered. “I think something is on fire.”
“Wait. That’s the apartment building that I’m renting.”
“Are you sure?”
“I can’t see from here. I need to get out of the car.”
Taiyu found a vacant spot and parked. Unbuckling his seatbelt, Jingxiang got out of the vehicle, leaving his bag behind. Taiyu followed suit and locked the doors with his remote.
“It’s burning on the side that I live in.” Jingxiang panicked. “Yecheng. I have to find Yecheng.” Searching his pocket for his cell phone, Jingxiang dialed his brother’s number once he pulled it out. “He’s not answering. What if he’s inside?”
“Calm down. You can’t think straight when you panic.”
“Okay.” Noticing the time on his phone, Jingxiang remembered. “Yecheng went to watch a movie with Binbin. He should still be at the theater.”
“Try texting him,” Taiyu suggested.
Jingxiang nodded and texted Yecheng immediately. When his brother replied to his text, Jingxiang gave out a sigh of relief. “He’s okay. They just finished the movie.”
“That’s good to hear.”
The fire had burned three fourth of the building and it was becoming too dangerous for bystanders. They were all told to leave the area within a block’s radius, for fear of explosions. Jingxiang looked up at the window for his unit and saw that it was pretty much engulfed by reddish-orange flames. The thought of retrieving any of their belongings all went to ashes. Yecheng and Binbin arrived at the scene and found them where the yellow tape had blocked them out.
“Ge!” Yecheng called out. “Are you okay? You’re not hurt, right?”
“I’m fine,” Jingxiang reassured. “Sadly, all of our things are gone, including our family photos with mom and dad.”
“No worries,” Yecheng informed. “I have scanned copies of them on my laptop and my laptop is in my backpack. I know you bring your laptop to class for taking notes, so you should still have it.”
“Our laptops are probably the most expensive things that we own, and they aren’t destroyed in the fire. It’s not a total lost.”
“You’re right,” Jingxiang concurred.
“Of course, I’m right. I’m the younger brother of a genius. Smarts run in our blood.” Yecheng smiled.
“I’m not smart.”
“Your nickname is Xiao Cai, which means little genius.”
“D-Don’t say that out loud.”
“Ge, please play along. We’re on the same boat, so don’t take me down with you with your denial.”
“How would you like it, if I called you by your nickname, Meiren?”
“I don’t mind, since Meiren means pretty person. I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Aiyoh. I could never win you in an argument.”
“That’s why you should never argue with me.”
“Yup.” Jingxiang extended his free hand over to ruffle Yecheng’s hair.
“Stop that, ge! You’re messing up my hair.”
Jingxiang chuckled, trying to hide the worry he had of their current situation. “What are we going to do for the night?”
“You could stay at my place,” Taiyu and Binbin offered in unison.
“I have three guestrooms in my house,” Taiyu declared. “There’s more than enough room for both of you.”
“I live alone in a two-bedroom apartment,” Binbin uttered. “You and your brother could share the extra room.”
“Are you certain it’s alright for me to stay with you?” Yecheng inquired. “You might be stuck with me for a while.”
“It gets rather lonely living there alone, so your company is very welcomed,” Binbin affirmed.
“Alright.” Yecheng smiled. “Ge, let’s go.”
Just when Jingxiang was about to go with them, Taiyu grabbed a hold of his wrist and pulled him closer. “He’ll be staying with me.”
Attempting to free himself from Taiyu’s grip, Jingxiang pleaded. “Let go.”
Taiyu leaned over and whispered into Jingxiang’s ear. “Your brother probably wants to spend some time with his friend. It’s not good for you to be the third wheel.”
Jingxiang realized that Taiyu had a point. “I’ll go to Taiyu’s place.”
“Ge, are you sure?” Yecheng queried.
“Y-Yes.” Jingxiang nodded.
“Alright. Call or text me if you change your mind.”
“Don’t forget to eat.”
“I already ate,” Jingxiang assured.
“Really?” Yecheng looked surprised.
“Yes. I ate with Taiyu. You could ask him, if you don’t believe me.”
“Yes, he ate,” Taiyu confirmed when Yecheng glanced over at him.
“May I ask who you are?”
“I’m Jingxiang’s classmate. You could call me Taiyu ge, since you’re a lot younger than Jingxiang.”
“Taiyu ge. Take care of ge. He tends to overwork and forget that he needs to eat, in order to survive as a human.”
“Hey, I eat,” Jingxiang complained.
“A cracker and a bottle of water aren’t considered as eating,” Yecheng retorted.
“I don’t do that every day.”
“I’ll make sure that he’s well fed.” Taiyu gave Yecheng his word.
“I trust you.”
“I’ll go to our apartment tomorrow morning to see if any of our things could be retrieved,” Jingxiang muttered. “By the look of that fire, I doubt that there’s anything left.”
“It is okay, ge. As long as we’re both unharmed, material things could be replaced.”
Jingxiang nodded in agreement. “I don’t have classes tomorrow. I’ll go find you at the coffee shop after I check out our apartment.”
“If you wait for me to get off work, we could go together,” Yecheng suggested.
“There’s no need for you to busy yourself. I could go alone,” Jingxiang insisted.
“Don’t worry,” Taiyu cut in. “I’ll go with Jingxiang.”
“Okay.” Yecheng approved.
“It’s getting late,” Binbin notified. “Yecheng has class before work tomorrow.”
Noticing that his brother was staring at Binbin with a questioning look, Yecheng quickly explained. “Binbin buys coffee daily, so he knows when I’m not there.”
“I see. You two should get going.”
“Bye.” Yecheng waved cutely at Jingxiang and Taiyu.
“Good night,” Taiyu greeted.
“Get home safely,” Jingxiang advised.
Binbin gave them a nod of the head and left with Yecheng.
Jingxiang watched them leave and averted his attention to Taiyu. “Could you let go of me now? I promise not to run.”
Taiyu smirked and released Jingxiang’s wrist.