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On The Run

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Prologue

Wang Yibo was only thirteen when he was sent to Private Guard Military School – a school that created bodyguards with frontline-soldiers skills. Not only taught basic lessons, but this school had its physic training and combat lessons.

At first, he didn’t have any idea what kind of school that is. He found some flyers at his school and the brief introduction took his interest so he asked his father when he got home. His father only told him that once he attended the school, he was going to be the gentleman who protects country and important people, and seriously it sounded cool. And he liked it.

First Level took three years to finish. Woke up at five, morning workout before lessons started and another physic training after school until eight – tiring like hell, but he didn’t complain. When he first left home, he was determined that he wanted to be someone, not just an ordinary person.

Three years passed and Yibo attended Second Level for another three years and nothing changed. Things even got tougher with stricter teachers. He focused on his study well without fail, missed his teenager phases where he was supposed to date and make a mess with friends and had his first kiss, instead replaced by the strict of psychology and emotion controlling lesson. And this went on until his three years of Third Level.

Yibo continued his Elite Level for another one year and during this level, he was the best student with first rank for all subjects, gained perfect marks from academic to physical training, from strategy to combat, from handling weapons to heavy-duty vehicles.

Receiving his certificate qualification in his twenty-three years old, Wang Yibo was ready to be deployed.

 

~…**

 

          It was a fine Monday morning when Yibo arrived at the Headquarter by request from his Head Chief Wang Han. His secretary brought him into Wang Han’s office where he saw that Qian Feng.

          Qian Feng was his mentor when he was in Elite Level. He was in charge in wires equipment such as cameras surveillance, sound recording, body heat tracking devices, hacking stuff and many more wires stuff. From all mentors, Qiang Feng was the closest beside Da Zhang Wei who was the master of vehicles. He knew what kind of vehicles for what kind of situation and was expert in remote-controlled-vehicles including drones.

          Wang Han is the head principle of the Private Guard Military School. On the first day Yibo got there, he had his eyes on him. During his school, Wang Han really took care of Yibo. People might see him strict, but deep down he was very soft when it came to Yibo. He once said that Yibo reminded himself of younger Wang Han back then. During Yibo’s Elite Level, Wang Han was always supportive and Yibo was never hesitated to ask for his guidance.

            Yibo nodded at both of them and sat beside Qian Feng as told by Wang Han.

            Wang Han grabbed some files and sat across them.

            “You look good today!” Wang Han said to Yibo, gained a small nod from him. “Good sleep?”

            “Very good,” Yibo answered.

            “You always look good,” Qian Feng snorted.

            Yibo grinned shyly. Qian Feng loved to tease him.

            “Well, I’m just gonna straight to the point,” Wang Han said, handing Yibo and Qian Feng the files.

            Yibo took the files and opened it.

            “His name is Xiao Zhan,” Wang Han said when Yibo took a look at a photo of a close-up young man.

            Handsome, Yibo thought.

            “Xiao Zhan… you mean Xiao Zhan the only son of He Jiong?” Qian Feng cut in.

            “Yes.”

            “Different surname…” Yibo mumbled.

            “It’s a complicated story. You’ll learn it slowly though,” Wang Han replied.

            Yibo nodded and locked his eyes with the files.

            “So, He Jiong and I are good friends, since our senior high school back then,” Wang Han continued. He took out a cigarette and lit it. “Some things happened and he retreated from school, went abroad to USA with his family. Five years later he came back, jumped into entertainment business, and owns his TV station as you’ve already known.”

            Both Qian Feng and Yibo nodded, listening attentively.

            Wang Han let out a long smoke. “In short, there has been chaos happening. Some competitors bought haters to slander him and his family in social media. He went through, sued them but this didn’t stop them. They started to receive letters of threat sent by post said that they would kill Xiao Zhan.”

            “Are they really competitors? Not psychopath?” Qian Feng asked.

            “That’s what he’s trying to find out. Turns out this isn’t a simple case.” Wang Han put down his cigarette and leaned back. “They called Xiao Zhan to his personal number and threatened him. The worst happened two days ago, Xiao Zhan was attacked physically when he was in public.”

            “Psychopath then…” Qian Feng nodded in assurance.

            “He doesn’t have bodyguards?” Yibo blurted out.

            “Nope. He Jiong never thought about being attacked physically. It was always slandering on social medias,” Wang Han replied.

            Yibo nodded, bit his bottom lip while listening. “How serious?”

            “Very serious. So, yesterday He Jiong called me and asked for my suggestion on how to keep Xiao Zhan from them,” Wang Han said.

            “And you suggested…?” Qian Feng raised his eyebrows in curiosity.

            “We’ll hide Xiao Zhan in a village, hidden and far from the city. In a rural area while He Jiong and I investigate this case deeply,” Wang Han answered. “Something is fishy and he’s trying to get to the bottom of it.”

            The talk was interrupted when Wang Han’s secretary came in with three glasses of warm tea and some snacks which Yibo and Qiang Feng gladly accepted.

            They both took a sip in a silence before Qian Feng broke it. “So you want me and Yibo keep him safe until the case is clear.”

            Wang Han nodded firmly. “Yes. The house where Xiao Zhan is living is the property of my wife’s family. You and Yibo will be going undercover as the housekeeper. Your mission is only one – keep Xiao Zhan alive. No matter what. In any way”

            “Undercover?” Yibo knitted his eyebrows. “Why? I think Xiao Zhan is old enough to understand the situation without us having to go undercover?”

            “Sounds fair…” Qian Feng nodded.

             “That is definitely right, but we don’t want to make any tension for Xiao Zhan. We don’t tell doesn’t mean we lie. He Jiong only told him to take some time for himself in rural area with some companies, to cool down, get away from the chaos…”

            “But Xiao Zhan isn’t a kid…” Yibo murmured. “This doesn’t make any sense why you guys have to lie just to make him feel at ease.”

            “Yibo!” Qian Feng patted his shoulder. “There are simply some things that a father always wants to protect his son no matter how old he is. He Jiong isn’t an exception. For him, Xiao Zhan will always be his precious little boy.”

            Yibo snorted as if ridiculously, but Qian Feng simply grinned wider, making a dumb expression.

            “You will be the big brother,” Wang Han said to Qian Feng and then to Yibo, “and you will be his little brother.”

            Qian Feng turned to Yibo, “Call me Feng-ge!”

            Yibo grinned. He always called him Feng-ge though. “Yes, Feng-ge.”

            “Good boy!” Qian Feng grinned back while patting Yibo’s shoulder.

            “So, when do we start?” Qian Feng asked.

            “Technically you and Yibo start tomorrow. Check on location, basic observations and surveillance installations,” Wang Han said. “But sending Xiao Zhan, we have to find the right time.”

            “Understood,” Yibo replied.

            “Yibo, you go to the Equipment Storage to get some stuff needed. I’ll have a minute with Han-ge,” Qian Feng said.

            Yibo nodded and excused himself to the Equipment Storage.

 

***

           

            Reaching home, it was already dark. After a short shower and light dinner, Yibo took Xiao Zhan files and read it once again more attentive.

            So, this Xiao Zhan guy was six years older than him, 183 cm tall, with a mole at the left under his lips, 65 kg, black hair, white pale skin. Physically, he had similar appearance with Yibo.

            Xiao Zhan loves animals especially cats. He also loves black coffee, spicy food, Lays potato chips seaweed flavor, reading books, listening to classic music and watching opera.

            Xiao Zhan was good at singing, cooking, drawing and designing, art and literature.

            Xiao Zhan’s favorite painter was Van Gogh. His favorite singer was Stefanie Sun. His favorite brand was Gucci. His favorite color was red. His favorite character was Spongebob Squarepants.

            Yibo raised his face and sighed. Somehow, Yibo didn’t understand, why He Jiong had to make this like a big deal while Xiao Zhan himself was already twenty-nine years old where he was more than old to get involved in self-protecting. The way He Jiong treated Xiao Zhan was out of his logic. Xiao Zhan himself seemed like a smart guy and making him understand the situation he was facing wouldn’t be that hard. But maybe, Qian Feng was right. A father will always be a father, even his father treated him like a five years old kid sometimes.

Putting the files aside, Yibo got up at checked on the equipment he got from the Equipment Storage and packed it neatly.

            Morning came. Qian Feng came to pick him at seven. They traveled south to Shanxi province, about six hours driving. Shanxi means “West of the Mountains”, a reference to the province’s location west of the Taihang Mountains. Shanxi is terrain characterized by a plateau bounded partly by mountain ranges, a series of valleys in the center through which the Fen River runs. With its continental monsoon climate, Shanxi is warm and humid at summer like this. Mountains are lined up one after another with rivers sneaking out of the hills, giving beautiful sparks of silver from the sunlight.

            Qian Feng drove through the cities to a secluded area on a hill where the houses located. It was surrounded by a flower field from any kind in any colors making a giant colorful carpet under the bright summer sun. As soon as Qian Feng pulled the car into the garage, Yibo jumped out to have a better look at the scenery. If only he wasn’t on a mission, he would have dragged Qian Feng to take a walk.

            “It’s actually safer to leave us with no wires at all,” Yibo said when they were observing the house.

            “You think?” Qian Feng asked without taking his eyes from assembling a surveillance camera.

            “Wires can be tracked,” Yibo replied.

            “Make sense. But Han-ge wants to get all the updates about things around here. Wires devices are the available ones.”

            Yibo’s eyebrows twitched. He had assisted Qian Feng in some cases and from his experience, even though wired-devices were the major problem of being detected easily, but it was also the only way of communicating.

            “Actually, Han-ge said that Gao Tianhe would join us,” Qian Feng said again, went on to the next surveillance camera.

            Yibo raised his eyebrows. “Tianhe? As in He-ge my senior?”

            “Yep. He will be in charge in monitoring the cameras for us.”

            “Oh. Why doesn’t he come with us now?”

            “He has things to do in Shanghai and will join us tonight.”

            Yibo nodded.

            “He leaves the installation to us,” Qian Feng added.

            Yibo nodded again.

            “Done…” Qian Feng said finally. “Let’s install these cute toys.”

            Yibo stood up, rolling his eyes to the ‘cute toys’.          

          The house was a nice two-stair wooden house with all beige-gray Scandinavian interiors. Downstairs, there was the living room connected to the dining room, a kitchen, the master bedroom for Qian Feng and Tianhe. At the kitchen, there was a connecting door to the basement where they put all the monitors and hardware.

          “What if Xiao Zhan was curious to see inside?” Yibo asked when they were loading the hardware.

          “Actually, Han-ge didn’t say that it was forbidden to tell Xiao Zhan who we are, but he also didn’t want us to directly say who we are,” said Qian Feng. He unloaded the monitors from the boxes and put them in a line, connected them with a single parallel cable.

          “Why does this sound complicated?” Yibo brushed his hair back and stared at Qian Feng. The heat temperature inside the basement made him sweat and his shirt was soaked at the back, so he grabbed something he could use to fan himself.

          “Well, actually, this is my first case guarding someone. Usually I spy on someone and so it was definitely forbidden to let others know our identity. But in this case, Xiao Zhan himself is aware of his situation and bodyguards needed, so… yeah… fine, I guess,” Qian Feng said again, making Yibo curve his lips in confusion. He wiped the beads of sweat around his forehead with the back of his palm and cringed from the heat.

          “Whatever, Feng-ge. Stop explaining.”

          Qian Feng chuckled, patted Yibo’s back. “Relax. Just enjoy the mission.”

          “Mmn.”

          The second floor had two rooms for him and Xiao Zhan and a book corner connected to balcony. The rooms were across each other – only one with balcony. At first, Yibo was intended to give Xiao Zhan the room with balcony because he remembered that Xiao Zhan loved drawing and a balcony was the perfect place for drawing. But he changed his mind because the balcony could also be the most delicious entry for the intruders to barge inside and this was the most deadly situation for Xiao Zhan.  

            The room where Xiao Zhan would be staying was wider and cozy, with a queen size bed in the middle, a couch and a table at its corner by the window, TV and a bathroom, even a fireplace for winter. With the crème and light brown Scandinavian design, it made the room really soothing and warm.

            Yibo’s room was actually smaller but looked spacious, because of its balcony and grey beige and white interior. But it didn’t matter actually because he wouldn’t spend much time in this room. He might just wander around, checking this and that, and might fall asleep technically everywhere.

          Yibo started to work, put some surveillance cameras in Xiao Zhan’s room that connected to his cellphone. He was in debate with Qian Feng whether it was necessary to install a camera in the bathroom.

          “Xiao Zhan is a civilian,” Yibo snorted, “not a criminal. We don’t need to keep an eye on him doing his private routine though.”

          “Xiao Zhan is indeed a civilian. But do you have any idea that it would be the perfect place for the killer to hide if they knew there’s no camera in there?” Qian Feng argued. “Or the worst would be, they drag Xiao Zhan to the bathroom and kill him there without you knowing.”

          Yibo cringed. “You have fabulous imagination.”

          “Unless you are some kind of pervert.”

          Yibo was taken aback. “What pervert?”

          Qian Feng grinned goofily. “That you get hard by seeing Xiao Zhan naked.”

          Yibo shot an annoyance look, gained a laugh from Qian Feng.

          “Then install it. Won’t do any harm, right?” Qian Feng said while shoving the surveillance camera against Yibo’s chest, smiled amusingly.

          “Intruding privacy…” Yibo murmured as he installed the camera.

          “It’s our job, Yibo. Our job.”

          “Mmn.”

          Installation took almost all day long and it was dark when they finished. Yibo and Qian Feng were lounging at the living room when Tianhe arrived, was welcomed excitedly for bringing three glasses of Starbuck black coffee. Too lazy to move, they decided to just crash there and scattered on the couch.

 

***

             

          In the morning of the fourth day, Wang Han called Qian Feng that he was on his way with Xiao Zhan. During those four days, Yibo, Qian Feng and Tianhe kept testing the camera angles in order to get best visual, inside and outside the house, including the night-vision surveillance cameras that worked only for body-heat.

            “My last day seeing the sun,” Tianhe grinned.

            “Naaahh… you won’t be stuck there all the time…” Qian Feng cheered him.

            “But most of the time,” Tianhe replied.

            “I can provide you good meal…” Qian Feng said.

            “Wooahh… that would be my guilty pleasure…”

            “Feng-ge only looks for someone to satisfy his own guilty pleasure…” Yibo cut in, grinning mischievously. “And happens that you have the same guilty pleasure.” Qian Feng was a foodie and that made him a good cook. Even though Yibo teased him a lot, but he had to admit that he could never reject his cooking. Too delicious.

            Tianhe laughed.

            “Yibo! Take your words back!” Qian Feng glared.

            “Why?” Yibo snorted.

            “Because you’re just the same. We’re all the same!” Qian Feng said.

            “It’s not a guilty pleasure for me,” YIbo defended himself. “I do like eating and I won’t get fat.”

            “Stop! No talking about body size here!” Qian Feng said, pretending to get offended.

            Yibo grinned sheepishly.

            “So, are we going to keep arguing?” Tianhe shot a look.

            “This brat is annoying!” Qian Feng said while walking away to the kitchen with Tianhe following, leaving Yibo with his smug grin teasing his gege.

            By lunch, Xiao Zhan arrived. It was Wang Han himself who drove him.

            “Xiao Zhan, let me introduce you to the housekeeper,” Wang Han gesturing Qian Feng who open took his luggage. “This is Qian Feng. He’s in charge in taking care of the house.”

            Xiao Zhan bowed. “Qian-laoshi.”

            “Eh, why do I feel old in a sudden…?” Qian Feng frowned, then laughed.

            “Ah, sorry, sorry…” Xiao Zhan blurted. “What should I call you, then?”

            “Just call him Feng-ge,” Wang Han added.

            “Ah, okay…”

            “Let’s come inside…” Wang Han guided Xiao Zhan inside, just right in time Yibo coming downstairs.

            “Yibo!” Wang Han called him.

            “Hello, I’m Wang Yibo…” Yibo came to greet Xiao Zhan, smiled a bit when he realized that this Xiao Zhan was even more handsome than the Xiao Zhan in the photos.

            “Hello…” Xiao Zhan greeted back.

            “Yibo is Qian Feng’s little brother, and he’s in charge in taking care of you,” Wang Han said.

            Xiao Zhan chuckled. “Don’t spoil me that much!”

            “Too bad that wasn’t what your father said to me…” Wang Han laughed. “Yibo will accompany you twenty-four seven, whenever you want him, wherever you want to go.”

            Yibo bowed his head.

            Xiao Zhan laughed excitedly. “I love that.”

            The talk went on and on about this and that while having lunch and Yibo found out that Xiao Zhan was actually a cheerful person and fun to talk to.         

            After lunch, the talk went on for another hour until it was late in the afternoon and Wang Han excused himself.

            Yibo took the luggage upstairs followed by Xiao Zhan and showed him his room.

            “My room is across yours so it would be easy for you to call me in case you need anything.” Yibo put down the luggage. “You want me to help unpacking?”

            Xiao Zhan didn’t answer. Instead, he roamed the room and from his expression, Yibo could tell that he liked it.

            “This is so nice…” Xiao Zhan muttered.

            Yibo nodded.

            Xiao Zhan looked at Yibo and realized that he was waiting for unpacking the luggage. “Just let the luggage. I’ll unpack later.”

            Yibo nodded again. “I’ll be outside if you need me.”

            “Okay. Thank you…”

            Xiao Zhan spent his time in his room until it was dinner time. Yibo, Xiao Zhan and Qian Feng had a little chat at the terrace    

The rest of the day Yibo didn’t talk to Xiao Zhan except at dinnertime because Xiao Zhan himself spent his day in his room. After a short chat with him and Qian Feng, Xiao Zhan excused himself to his room.

            Yibo turned on the mobile-cam and Xiao Zhan was seen unpacking. After taking his night-routine, he crawled into the sheet and turned the TV on. Either he was tired or the show wasn’t that good, it only took about thirty minutes before he fell asleep.

            Yibo got into Xiao Zhan room, only to turn the TV off and pulled the sheet higher to his shoulder and patted his back gently.

 

***

 

            Yibo was serving breakfast when Xiao Zhan came down the next morning. Judging from his fresh look, he must have taken his shower.

            “Good morning, Zhan-ge!” Yibo greeted him.

            Xiao Zhan chuckled. “Zhan-ge?”

            Yibo looked at him. “I can’t call you Zhan-ge?”

            Xiao Zhan took a seat and shook his head. “It’s okay. You can call me Zhan-ge.”

            “Good morning, Xiao Zhan…” Qian Feng greeted him, serving him breakfast. “Salty bread? With omelette…?”

            Xiao Zhan hissed, eyes lit in excitement. “Smells good.”

            “Enjoy your breakfast…” Qian Feng said.

            Yibo pour a cup of black coffee for him.

            “Thank you…” Xiao Zhan took the coffee, looked up at him. “Why doesn’t Qian Feng have breakfast with us?”

            Yibo took his seat in front Xiao Zhan, grabbing a bun of salty bread and the omelet, and served him. “He has his own breakfast-time.”

            Xiao Zhan took a bit of the salty bread. “Mmm… so fluffy. Did Feng-ge make this on his own?”

            “Mmn.”

            “So, Yibo, how long have you been working here?” Xiao Zhan asked.

            YIbo raised his eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

            “Work here? Taking care Wang-laoshi’s house?” Xiao Zhan looked at him. He sliced the bun and shoved the omelet in between the slices.

            Yibo chewed slowly. See? This was what Yibo called complicated. Not saying it clearly, but not denying it either. So, what now? Confessing that he was a bodyguard or… what?

            “About a week.” He wasn’t lying though. He has been here since around a week. Either guarding Xiao Zhan or taking care the house, both were his job.

            “Wang-laoshi is the friend of my dad. They get along really well. But I don’t know that Wang-laoshi has this family residence,” Xiao Zhan said again.

            “So, why are you here?” Suddenly Yibo curious about what He Jiong has said to him.

            “Family matter…” Xiao Zhan answered. He cut the bun into halves and took a bite. “Some bad things happened and my dad wants me to take a holiday. Just have me-time and spoil myself.”

            Yibo nodded. Just like what Wang Han has said; holiday as the excuse.   

            During breakfast, Xiao Zhan mostly did the talk excitedly. Yibo himself preferred listening, commented a bit.

            “Actually, I always want to open a bakery,” Xiao Zhan said. His breakfast was long way gone and he was enjoying his half-cup-left coffee.

            “Really…?” Yibo took the empty plates and stacked them.

            “Yes. The feeling when you see their satisfied expression while eating your food…” Xiao Zhan trailed off.

            “Mmn.”

            “But after graduating college, without even realizing what I was doing, suddenly I found myself assisting my dad at the TV station.”

            “You didn’t tell him what you want?”

            “Not really, but my dad always knows that I like cooking.”

            “Tell him then.”

            Xiao Zhan grinned. “Yeah, maybe.”

            “Why maybe? Don’t just give up the things you like,” Yibo blurted out, made Xiao Zhan laughed.

            “Yibo, are you always this savage?” Xiao Zhan asked.

            Realizing what he had just said, Yibo smiled a little before getting up and put the plates into the sink.

          “Let it, I’ll wash later…” said Qian Feng from behind.

          Yibo turned around and gave him a questioning look. “Why? I can do that.”

          “I’m the housekeeper,” Qian Feng insisted.

          “Cool. My mentor is my housekeeper,” Yibo said with a smug.

          Qian Feng involuntary glared. “Watch your mouth, kid!”

          Yibo chuckled and got back to find Xiao Zhan who was standing in the living room, looking at drawings of sceneries against the wall. “You want to look around the house?”

          Xiao Zhan turned his head an nodded excitedly. “Sure. You free now?”

          Yibo nodded. “Whenever you want.”

          “I saw a book corner upstairs. Can we check it out?”

          “Sure.”

            Yibo followed Xiao Zhan upstairs and opened the glass-door to the balcony so there was more light into the book corner and fresh air.  

            “Who came up with this idea?” Xiao Zhan asked. He couldn’t stop smiling while roaming the bookshelf. His doe eyes widened brightly when he found the books he liked.

            Yibo took a seat on the couch. “Your dad.”

            “He’s the best!”

            Yibo didn’t consider himself not liking reading; it was about the book itself. He needed to be interested into the story itself to read instead of solely admiring the author. His limited knowing about great authors made Xiao Zhan talk endlessly about some and even recommended him some interesting books. Xiao Zhan’s choices mostly about tales, either children tales or bedtime stories, and all of them had the same genre; fantasy.

            “My favorite story of all times is The Little Prince,” Xiao Zhan said, took the seat on the couch across Yibo. “Originally written in French by the title Le Petit Prince.”

            Yibo nodded.

            “It was written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a French aristocrat, writer and aviator. First English publication was in 1943,” Xiao Zhan said again.

            Yibo nodded again. “What is it all about?”

            “The plot is about a young prince who visits various planets in spaces, including Earth, and addresses themes of loneliness, friendship, love and loss.”

            “Sounds deep.”

            “Yes. Even though we have a little kid as the lead, but the book itself makes poignant observations about life and human nature. I think Antoine wanted us to see life from a boy’s pure and innocent point of view.”

            “Mmn.”

            “The most beautiful scene is where the little prince meets a fox.”

            “A fox?”

            Xiao Zhan nodded. A bright smile appeared as he began to tell. “It’s naturally a wild fox and the little prince wishes to be friends. The fox says that if he wishes to be friends, then he needs to tame him first. The fox itself desires to be tamed, and so he teaches the little prince how. By being tamed, something goes from being ordinary and just like all the others, to be special and unique. There drawbacks since the connection can lead to sadness and longing when apart.”

            Yibo straightened his sit and listened to Xiao Zhan intensely. “A deep message, indeed.”

            “Yes. So, Yibo, when you wished on something to be yours, tame it patiently, then it will be your and yours only,” Xiao Zhan said, stared at him intensely.

            Yibo knitted his eyebrows, was kinda confused on what Xiao Zhan was trying to say. But Yibo nodded eventually. No need to argue such personal point of view.

            Xiao Zhan finally found a book and decided to read it. During that time, Yibo sat quietly playing games on his phone, and when Xiao Zhan started blabbering about books, Yibo put down his phone and listened carefully. Xiao Zhan even had his dinner at the book corner that night.

            Yibo sighed when Xiao Zhan yawned for the third time. “Go to bed, Zhan-ge, you’re sleepy.”

            Xiao Zhan lifted his face from the book and rubbed his watery eyes. “But this is so good.”

            Yibo got up and walked towards him, fingers touched the book slightly. “You can continue tomorrow. The book won’t go anywhere.”

            Xiao Zhan yawned again and didn’t complain when Yibo took the book gently and put it on the table after sliding a bookmark. Xiao Zhan then got up from the seat and walked into his bedroom.

            Yibo was about to enter the room when Xiao Zhan blocked his way. “What are you doing?”

            It took a moment for Yibo to find the answer. He realized that it must be awkward for Xiao Zhan to have him inside his bedroom. “I was about to check your window-lock.” It was true though. He wanted to make sure that everything was under control.

            Xiao Zhan smiled. “It’s okay. I’ll do it.”

            Yibo nodded. “Goodnight, Zhan-ge.”

            Xiao Zhan smiled back. “Thank’s for today.”

            “No problem.”

            Xiao Zhan closed the door and Yibo headed downstairs to meet Qian Feng and Tianhe who were lounging in the kitchen.

            Yibo sat on the stool and opened his mobile-cam.

            Xiao Zhan was seen having his night routine. Yibo had to look away for a few seconds when Xiao Zhan took off his clothes and when he brought his eyes back to his phone, Xiao Zhan was already beneath the comforter.

          Around midnight, Qian Feng dismissed the chitchat. Yibo dropped by into Xiao Zhan’s room and was glad when he found that the door was unlocked. He went to check on the window-lock himself, taking some times to roam the field outside before closing the curtain.

 

***

 

            A week has passed and no single intrusion happened. However, neither one of Yibo, Qian Feng and Tianhe let their guard down.

            Yibo stuck with Xiao Zhan just like Wang Han asked, and that made Yibo went anywhere Xiao Zhan went. It was awkward at first but as time went by he found his rhythm with Xiao Zhan.

            Being with Xiao Zhan all the time, Yibo found out that he was really a nice, kind and warm person. Eventhough he talked a lot, but Yibo didn’t find him noisy and annoying, instead Yibo found him endearing. It was also comfortable when silence fell between them everytime Xiao Zhan read and he played mobile game.  

            Xiao Zhan’s cute face misled people thinking that he was a college boy, but once Yibo talked to him, Xiao Zhan was actually very mature and stubborn, and he really thought that it was unnecessary for He Jiong to hide all this hiding thing.

            Xiao Zhan might looked feminine and elegant but that was just sides of him. He was actually an active guy who was enthusiast to try new activities especially sports.

            Yibo’s eyes were snapped opened when he heard knockings against his door in the morning. He frowned in confusion if he overslept. He slid the comforter aside and swung opened the door, tilted his head in confusion when he saw Xiao Zhan. “What’s up?”

            Xiao Zhan smiled amusingly. “Accompany me jogging?”

            Yibo froze a moment before finally answer. “It’s still dark outside.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded. “I know. I just thought you might need some time to get ready.”

            “Uh, sure,” Yibo replied awkwardly. He opened the door wider and let Xiao Zhan wait in his bedroom while he washed his face and brushed his teeth.

            “You have balcony,” Xiao Zhan said when Yibo was out of the bathroom, dressed up in plain t-shirt and cotton pants.

            Yibo dried his face. “Oh, yeah.”

            “You’re ready…?” Xiao Zhan asked when Yibo was done wearing his hoodie.

            “Mmn.”

            “Okay, let’s go!”

            After drinking a glass of plain milk, Yibo and Xiao Zhan had their jog under the warm morning sun. Yibo took his place behind Xiao Zhan, letting him decide the route. The flowers were damped from the dew and somehow it made such pleasant smell, fresh and sweet.

            Yibo was still running when suddenly Xiao Zhan stopped and turned around, made him stopped abruptly. “What?”

            “I…” Xiao Zhan panted, tried to catch his breath. “It’s been long… since… my last run.”

            Yibo nodded. Obviously. “You wanna rest?”

            Xiao Zhan threw his head back, hands on both his hips. “Sounds good.”

            “Let’s rest there,” Yibo said, gesturing a small wooden hut at the top of the hill.

            Xiao Zhan stretched forward his hand.

            “What?” Yibo looked at him in confusion.

            “Carry me.”

            “Are you a kid?” Yibo mumbled, walked passed Xiao Zhan, ignoring him.

            “Yibo…” Xiao Zhan mumbled back, grabbed Yibo by his wrist.

            Yibo rolled his eyes, let Xiao Zhan held his hand for support. Even though it was summer, but the weather wasn’t that hot because the area was surrounded by hills. Yibo found it warm and nice actually.  

            As soon as they reached the hut, Xiao Zhan slumped on the bench.

            Yibo pulled out the tumbler from his shoulder-bag and handed Xiao Zhan.

            “You have great stamina, Yibo…” Xiao Zhan said, handing back the tumbler after taking a few gulps.

            Yibo drank a gulp and shoved it into his shoulder-bag. “I jog every day.”

            “Wow…” Xiao Zhan widened his eyes. “No wonder.”

            “Mmn.”

            “You… don’t wanna sit?” Xiao Zhan gestured the empty space beside him.

            “It’s okay…”

            “I don’t bite…” Xiao Zhan smiled cutely.

            Yibo’s eye twitched. “I know,” he replied.

            Xiao Zhan laughed. “What else do you like to do?”

            “Skateboarding.”

            “Wow. That’s cool! Do you bring your board?” Xiao Zhan asked excitedly.

            “Mmn.”

            “Then you have to show me sometimes.”

            “Mmn.”

            “How about snowboarding?”

            “Sometimes. Single board, double board.”

            Xiao Zhan whistled, impressed. “I wish I could do many things.”

            “You can.”

            Xiao Zhan sighed. “Maybe yes, maybe no.”

            “Maybe not now,” Yibo added.

            “You think?”

            Yibo nodded.

            Xiao Zhan laughed softly. “Thank’s.”

            “For what?’

            Xiao Zhan tilted his head and shrugged.

            Yibo walked towards a wooden pole and leaned, had his eyes roam the colorful flowers. Flower pickers were starting to harvest perfectly bloom flowers and put them into buckets according to the type and color.

            It was a comfortable silence between them and when Yibo stole a glance at his watch it was already pass breakfast time. “We should get going home.”

            “Oh, okay…” Xiao Zhan got up and walked down the hill. Half-ran actually.

            Yibo ran closed behind him.

 

***

 

          It’s a hot summer morning after breakfast, Xiao Zhan challenged Yibo to play chess, and somehow always won. Yibo didn’t like chess that much so he didn’t mind loosing. His job was to make Xiao Zhan feel safe and secure, and that include him making Xiao Zhan happy by letting him win. 

          Later in the afternoon, Xiao Zhan challenged him to play PS4. Seemed like he was in the mood of playing, Yibo thought. After so much choosing, they finally decided to play car-racing.

            “Come and get me!” Xiao Zhan exclaimed happily when he managed to lap Yibo.

            Yibo smiled silently. He could lap Xiao Zhan if he wanted to, but he didn’t. It wasn’t the matter winning or losing. He just wanted to make Xiao Zhan smile in his chaotic life.

            “What? Don’t you wanna lap me and win?” Xiao Zhan asked teasingly.

            “Don’t you… want to win?” Yibo asked back.

            Xiao Zhan pouted. “I do want to win. But it doesn’t mean that you have to let me win without fighting.”

            “You want me to fight back?” Yibo smirked.

            “Yeah!”

            “Okay.”

            Well, if this made Xiao Zhan happy, then Yibo would go for it. So he sped up, released his nitro when he was closed enough with Xiao Zhan. His car raced in a flash, leaving Xiao Zhan far behind.

            Xiao Zhan yelped in surprised and tried to get his position back, but Yibo was already far ahead and it was useless for him to even use the nitro.

            Yibo finished first. “I win.”

            Xiao Zhan shot him a glare. “You really fight.”

            “You told me to fight back.”

            “I did…” Xiao Zhan looked at the TV and sighed. The scene of Yibo’s car lapping his was being replayed.

            “You… want to race again?” Yibo asked.

            Xiao Zhan nodded. “You want to?”

            “Sure.”

            “I won’t let you win this time.”

            “Okay…” Yibo smirked

            Although playing games and reality were two different skills, but Yibo raced a lot in the track with his motorbike and so his track analyze and strategy was better than Xiao Zhan.

            This time Yibo didn’t fight hard. He sped up but avoided to use the nitro. Xiao Zhan flashed ahead and finished first, Yibo followed a few seconds later.

            Xiao Zhan laughed happily.

           

***

 

          Wang Han called Qian Feng almost every day during that one week, checking the situation. Those intense calls made Yibo really curious on what was actually happening.

It was another peaceful night when Wang Han called. Luckily Xiao Zhan was already in his bedroom so Yibo could join the video call.

            “He sounded so worry…” Qian Feng said after hanging up. As usual, Wang Han’s first question was ‘was Xiao Zhan okay’.

            Yibo sighed. He was with Qian Feng and Tianhe receiving video call from Wang Han in the basement. “Of course he was okay. Why wouldn’t he be?”

            Qian Feng shook his head slowly. “I don’t have any idea.”

            “Didn’t Han-ge tell you something? Anything?” Yibo kept asking.

            “Yibo, seriously,” Qian Feng said firmly, “If Han-ge said something, I would have told you. We’re in this together, right?”

            Yibo nodded and gave Qian Feng an apologetic look. “What is the situation actually?” he muttered. He hated being clueless.

            “Maybe, the situation is indeed worse that we thought,” Tianhe finally butted in.

            “Are we allowed to dig for Xian Zhan background deeper?” Yibo asked Qian Feng again.

            Qian Feng tilted his head, thinking. “Xiao Zhan’s case isn’t classified and He Jiong is a celebrity. I don’t think there would be any classified information about them. But yeah, I feel something fishy about this.”

            Yibo turned to look at Tianhe. “Can you find something for me?”

            “Sure. But, like… what?” Tianhe looked confused.

            Yibo bit his bottom lip. “Start with that different surnames.”

            “Okay, I’ll try,” Tianhe nodded.

            “Now I’m wondering why Han-ge didn’t tell us the truth,” QIan Feng frowned.

            “Okay, I’m off…” Yibo said while walking out of the basement.

            He turned on his phone and checked on Xiao Zhan, turned it off again when he spotted him in the bathroom.

            Yibo sat on the couch at the book corner, noticed The Little Prince novel was on the table. He picked it up and opened it where Xiao Zhan stopped reading.

            What is it about him so that He Jiong had to send him here? To protect him in all cost despite his age? And why Han-ge prioritized him so much?

            Actually, this was out of Yibo’s concern. His mission was clear, to protect Xiao Zhan in any cost no matter what happened. When it came to ‘protect’ it was always obvious to ‘protect physically’. Not any single scratch on his skin. Not any single strand of hair cut.

            But he couldn’t stop wondering about Xiao Zhan’s background. He Jiong wasn’t just anyone in the entertainment industry. Everybody knew He Jiong and his attitude in hiding Xiao Zhan far away from Beijing and Shanghai meant that he was trying to get Xiao Zhan out of people’s sight. And, why? Was there something he didn’t want public to notice?

            Yibo wasn’t supposed to think. He supposed to protect Xiao Zhan. Period. With a long sigh, he positioned himself lying on the couch while looking at the night sky through the glass-door. Once in a while, he checked on Xiao Zhan through his mobile cam.

            It was past midnight, and he was still wide awake. He finally got up to reach for his hoodie before going downstairs and made himself a cup of coffee. He needed caffeine.

            Yibo got back to crash on the couch at the book corner, after opening the glas-door. The night breeze at summer time really was the best he didn’t even need his blanket.

 

            Yibo stirred when he felt something brushing his hair lightly. His reflex made him abruptly snap open his eyes and grabbed whatever it is, but even before he managed to pin it down, his eyes met a pair of painfully winced eyes.

            It was Xiao Zhan. “Ouch, Yibo, that hurts! Ow, ow, ow…!”

            Yibo immediately let go of his grip around Xiao Zhan’s wrist. “Oh… I-I’m sorry…” he gapped while getting out of the couch.

            “Why so panic?” Xiao Zhan rubbed his wrist gently, looked at Yibo worriedly.

            Yibo involuntary reached for Xiao Zhan’s wrists to check if there were bruises but Xiao Zhan concerned eyes stopped him.

“You okay?” Xiao Zhan asked him instead.

            Yibo was taken aback but nodded. “I’m fine. You?”

            Xiao Zhan also nodded. “Fine,” then he gestured a cup of coffee on the table while taking his seat on the couch across. “Have some coffee?”

            Yibo looked at the hot coffee and sat down. “You brought this for me?”

            Xiao Zhan smiled. “Yes. You looked so tired so I made you coffee. Why?”

            Yibo shook his head. “Nothing. Thank you.” He took the coffee and sipped it slowly. Xiao Zhan was very nice.

            “So, why did you sleep here? Had nightmares?” Xiao Zhan asked. His big eyes fixed on Yibo, genuinely concerned.

            “Kinda,” Yibo answered shortly, took another sip.

            Xiao Zhan nodded but his hesitant gestures made Yibo think that Xiao Zhan had something else to say.

            “Do you need anything from me?” Yibo asked.

            Xiao Zhan threw his gaze outside through the balcony. “Actually, I wanted you to accompany me for a walk.”

            “A walk? Sure. Why not?”

            Xiao Zhan turned to see him and smiled. “You sure? You don’t look good.”

            “No, no,” Yibo said while putting the cup down on the table. “I’ll get change.”

            Xiao Zhan looked up at him excitedly. “Sure.”

            Fifteen minutes later, they were already at the flower fields, with a backpack full of snack and drinks. Turned out, Xiao Zhan wanted to have a picnic. Not just a simple walk..

            Yibo was actually hesitated because there were already dark clouds in the sky even though the wind was not that heavy. He was about to get back into the house to grab the umbrella when he noticed that Xiao Zhan had half-ran along the dirt-path to the field. Catching up, he slid the hood over his head.

            “Help me to snap some photos…” Xiao Zhan nudged Yibo’s elbow, when they were already at the flower field.  

            “Mmn.” Yibo nodded. “Give me your phone.”

            “Use your phone.”

            “Huh?”

            Xiao Zhan turned to face him, giggling. “Use your phone to take photos.”

            “Why?”

            “Because I want you to have my pics.”

            Yibo frowned, but took his phone obediently and snapped some photos along the way.

            “I take photos sometimes,” Xiao Zhan said. He tilted his head and smiled at Yibo who was snapping a photo of him. “I learned photography once.”

            “That’s cool,” Yibo commented shortly. “So you’re good in taking photos.”

            “A bit.” Xiao Zhan chuckled and kept walking.

            Yibo didn’t reply. He kept Xiao Zhan in his frame and snapped some photos.

“Carnation…” Xiao Zhan trailed off while touching the flowers nearby. “Often used in weddings, symbolize love and affection.”

            Yibo brought down his phone and stared at him.

            “Red carnation is for deep love and admiration. White carnation is for pure love and good luck. Yellow is for disappointment or rejection. Striped carnation is for rejection or regret.”

            Yibo raised his phone and took some snaps. Xiao Zhan looked so soft and dreamy, contrast with his bright doe eyes.

            “So, Yibo…” Xiao Zhan said while looking at him gently through the lens, a soft smile appeared on his face, made Yibo lower his phone again, “Think carefully before you give someone a flower. Every color has its own meaning.”

            “Mmn…” Yibo nodded. Good tips, even though Yibo was sure that he wouldn’t give anyone flowers. Well, except his parents.

            Xiao Zhan winked, gave him a sweet giggle and then continued walking. “Or, you can give them peony…” Xiao Zhan added.

            “Peony?”

            “Well, peony also symbolize romance and romantic love, with a particular focus on love between two strangers.”

            Yibo raised his eyebrows silently. Love between two strangers? Was that even possible? Sounds stupid to him.

            “Actually the peony is most important in our culture, it’s our official emblem.”

            “Mmn.” This, Yibo knew. He learnt about it at school. It’s tied in deeply with loyalty and honor.

            “You know,” Xiao Zhan took his time to smell a peony before continue walking. “The peonies are a fantastic flower to give a Libra. They represent the very peak of nature’s beauty and romance, making them ideal for the aesthetically and socially appreciative.”

            “Mmn.” Yibo nodded again. Who was a Libra anyway? He didn’t know any Libra.

            “Have you ever felt so lonely, Yibo?” Xiao Zhan asked suddenly.

            Yibo threw his gaze to the flower field, thinking. Actually he didn’t remember ever feeling lonely. He was always alone and being lonely never bothered him.

            Xiao Zhan turned around to look at him, waiting for some answers.

            Yibo looked back at him, suddenly realized that Xiao Zhan might be talking about himself. Did Xiao Zhan often felt lonely?

            Xiao Zhan walked towards him and stopped a foot away. He gave Yibo a demanding look, for the answer.

            “No,” Yibo finally replied.

            Xiao Zhan curved his lips and nodded. “Is that so?”

            “Have you?” Yibo asked back, couldn’t stop his curiosity. And he cursed on that.

            Xiao Zhan smiled and turned around, continued walking with both hands hooked against his back.

            Yibo followed him, realizing that Xiao Zhan was refusing to answer him, but Xiao Zhan’s silent attitude confirmed Yibo instead that the answer was yes.

            They climbed up the hill until they reached a landscape. Xiao Zhan roamed fast and dragged Yibo by his wrist when he found a nice spot.

            Yibo spread the blanket on the ground while Xiao Zhan unloading their backpack. Soon, they were munching the food.

            “It’s windy here. Not good for you. You might get cold after this,” Yibo said, looking up and watch the sky. He cursed at himself for not noticing earlier that Xiao Zhan was only wearing one layer of shirt.

            “How do you know?” Xiao Zhan looked at him while chewing his caramel-rice-biscuits.

            “The wind is humid and moves fast. You won’t feel it now. Usually, rain will follow.”

            “I won’t get sick…”

            Yibo didn’t reply.

            “You think I’ll get sick?”

            “I hope you won’t.”

            “Right, now taste this,” Xiao Zhan said while giving him a doughnut. “I made this with Feng-ge this morning.”

            “You did?” Yibo knitted his eyebrows, took the doughnut and ate it. “Delicious.”

            “So you like it?”

            “Mmn.”

            “Good. If you like it, I can make some for you. Maybe muffins or pies. Which one do you like better?”

            “I like them all.”

            “Okay, then. I’m just gonna make you lots of bakery, and you have to eat them all.”

            “Mmn.”

            “Have you ever had a picnic before?” Xiao Zhan asked again.

            “No.” Yibo pour hot tea into the two cups, handed Xiao Zhan one.

            “No…?” Xiao Zhan looked surprised. He took the tea and had a sip.

            “No.”

            “Did you have friends back then?”

            Yibo wasn’t sure though that his classmates during training could be categorized as friends. “Yes.”

            “Didn’t you guys go on a picnic before?”

            “No.” They even barely had times to hang around and chat back then.

            “Geezzee… what did you do then during your teenagers…?” Xiao Zhan shook his head in confusion before munching a pie.

            Yibo shrugged his shoulder. Training obviously.

            “What’s your job besides taking care of the house? I mean, taking care of the house doesn’t take much time, does it? And you might have something else to do…” Xiao Zhan grabbed another doughnut and munched it slowly. He looked at Yibo attentively as if Yibo was an interesting book to read.

            “I do some sport.”

            “It’s not a job, Yibo! A job requires earning money,” Xiao Zhan said ridiculously.

            Yibo grinned. “Then no.”

            “What?” Xiao Zhan widened his eyes. “Why…? You’re still young. You just can’t waste your time!”

            Yibo didn’t answer. Instead, he looked up to the sky and curved his lips. The clouds were starting to get darker. “Like I said before, rain follows.”

            Xiao Zhan also looked up. “Let it rain.”

            Yibo cleaned up, ignoring Xiao Zhan’s words and slid the backpack against his torso. “Let’s go home.”

            “Oi. Are you serious?” Xiao Zhan gapped.

            “Yes.”

            Xiao Zhan didn’t reply but was obviously looked really annoyed.

            “Zhan-ge…” Yibo called his name.

            Xiao Zhan turned away, avoided his eyes.

            Yibo was confused this time. He didn’t understand the sudden change of Xiao Zhan’s mood. “Zhan-ge, please…” Yibo said again, softer and firmer this time.

            “I said I don’t want to go back now.” Xiao Zhan’s tone was sharp.

            Yibo froze for a moment.

            Xiao Zhan’s expression was different. His jaw tightened and he looked really tensed. There must be something had happened to him earlier that pissed him off, Yibo thought.

            “We’re going to stuck in the rain.” Yibo didn’t give up.

            “I don’t care.”

            Yibo sighed. It’s not that he was afraid of the rain, but he didn’t want to risk Xiao Zhan sick because of the rain. He was in charge of Xiao Zhan’s condition. “Zhan-ge, stop being childish,” he blurted.

            Xiao Zhan turned to look at Yibo, glaring. “Childish? You think I’m childish?”

            Yibo frowned, realizing that his words might have offended Xiao Zhan, but he has his priority. “I’m sorry...” he muttered, before slipping both his hands around Xiao Zhan’s waist and boldly carried him on his right shoulder like a big sack while having his left hand grabbed the blanket.

            Xiao Zhan yelped. “Yibo!”

            Yibo held him tight and started walking.

            “Wang Yibo, put me down!” Xiao Zhan shouted. His feet kicked here and there randomly while his hands hit the backpack on Yibo’s back.

            Yibo ignored his action and kept walking.

            “WANG. YI. BO!” Xiao Zhan shouted louder. “PUT ME DOWN! YOU STUPID BRAT!”

            The sound of thunder blared, made Yibo walk faster.

            “Yibo! Okay! I give up! I’ll walk!” Xiao Zhan shouted. “I’m dizzy with my head down like this!”

            But Yido didn’t stop. Instead he half-ran as the rain started to pour and Xiao Zhan bounced hard. He could just put Xiao Zhan down and used the blanket to cover them, but he wasn’t sure that Xiao Zhan would act calm and cooperate. So he ignored his idea.

            Xiao Zhan stopped shouted. Instead, he sync his body with Yibo’s when Yibo walked even faster because the rain started to pour.

            They couldn’t make it. Just a few more meters to the house, the rain gushed down, making them soaked. By the front door Yibo let Xiao Zhan down who rushed into the house in annoyance.

            “Wow, guys…” Qian Feng welcomed them in surprising look.

            Yibo was about to say something when he noticed that Xiao Zhan’s face was stiff and his jaw tensed, abruptly half-ran upstairs.

            Qian Feng’s jaw dropped open, stared at Yibo in confusion. “What happened to him?”

            Yibo shook his head. “I don’t know. He’s really in a bad mood,” he replied while taking off his shoes.

            “What? I thought he was in a good mood. That’s why he asked to have a picnic, right?” Qian Feng helped Yibo with his backpack and rushed into the kitchen.

            Without waiting for Qian Feng, Yibo dashed to his room and after a fast shower, Yibo went to the basement to find Tianhe.

            “What did you get?” Yibo asked while taking his seat next to Tianhe. He turned on his mobile-cam and saw Xiao Zhan coming out of the bathroom.

            “So hurry, Yibo!” Tianhe teased him, making Yibo gave him a look.

            Tianhe chuckled. “Okay. So, where do we start…” he trailed off, opening his notebook. “As suspected, Xiao Zhan isn’t He Jiong son by blood.”

            Yibo was about to say something when Qian Feng jumped in.

            “You really have to thank me, Yibo. I worked hard on this,” said Tianhe.

            Yibo nodded. “I will, He-ge.”

            “What, what?” Qian Feng asked excitedly. “Did I miss something?”

            “I found this on classified information from a demographic database, that, actually, Xiao Zhan is the only son of a member of the Standing Committee of the National People Congress Xiao Ping.”

            “What?” Qian Feng squealed.

            Tianhe nodded. “That is exactly my reaction.”

            “And?” Yibo couldn’t help his curiosity.

            “Back when he was still young, Xiao Ping played around with a woman and things happened. Guess who’s the woman!” Tianhe said teasingly.

            “Oh, come on, no guessing!” Qian Feng replied in annoyance.

            Tianhe frowned, but continued telling. “She is He Biyu, He Jiong aunt!”

            “Wow!” Yibo widened his eyes involuntary.

            “Remember when Han-ge said that He Jiong went to America and then got back here?” Tianhe’s eyes widened in excitement.

            Qian Feng and Yibo nodded in unison.

            “That was because He Biyu parents were incapable in handling this matter and He Jiong and his parents had to go back to China and take care of this mess.”

            “And what happened next?” Qian Feng asked impatiently.

            “Xiao Ping gave He Biyu a lot of money to do the abortion but she refused. Instead, she and her parents hid until Biyu gave birth to the baby. He Jiong parents took the baby, later we know him as He Jiong’s son. I don’t know what was really happening but Biyu registered the baby under the surname Xiao. Xiao Zhan.”

            “But what about the birth certificate?” Yibo’s turn to ask.

            “Registered as He Jiong and his wife’s son,” Tianhe answered.

            “You’re not making up a story, right?” Qian Feng shot Tianhe a questioning look.

            Tianhe frowned. “You know well my skill in hacking stuff, though?”

            “I don’t know,” Qian Feng hissed. “This sounds… unbelievable.”

            “Then, what about the threat?” Yibo cued Tianhe to continue.

            “According to a trusted source, they are Xiao Ping’s men,” Tianhe replied.

            “What?” Qian Feng widened his eyes.

            “Looks like Xiao Ping has acknowledged Xiao Zhan’s presence,” Yibo muttered.

            “From my point of view,” Tianhe closed his notebook, “Xiao Ping didn’t want Xiao Zhan’s presence.”

            “And so he hunts him down…” Qian Feng stated.

            “Yes. The hunt begins. He really takes all efforts to send Xiao Zhan far away from the cities, from the country...”

            “…from this world if possible,” Yibo cut Tianhe.

            “From this world if possible,” Tianhe repeated.

            Yibo slumped against the backrest while looking at his mobile-cam. Xiao Zhan was seeing watching TV now.

            Yibo let out a long breath. He didn’t know what to think, but he was feeling pity for Xiao Zhan. No wonder Han-ge and He Jiong were very worried. They were having a mess with a member of congress.

            “Why didn’t Han-ge tell us who’s we’re dealing with actually? Yibo asked, giving Qian Feng a questioning look.

            Qian Feng curved his lips. “That… I don’t know. Maybe Han-ge is protecting some important and classified information to leak?”

            “If this is classified top rank, how could you hack it?” Yibo asked Tianhe. Curiosity played in his eyes.

            “That’s not important. The most important is, how could be this information existed!” Tianhe exclaimed.

            “Right! How?” Qian Feng added.

            “Yes, I found this interesting because some of the data was stored in government files. Do you ever wonder why such dirty affair being stored there?” Tianhe raised his eyebrows. A smile curved on his face.

            “And how do you find the information about He Biyu going in hiding?” Yibo asked.

            “Oh, I got from a trusted source. Really a right-hand man,” Tianhe grinned.

            “So, we’re actually dealing with no ordinary people…” Qian Feng said.

            “Yes.” Tianhe then looked at Yibo. “Yibo, be careful.”

            Yibo looked at his watch. It was nearly midnight. “Tell me if there’s anything else.” He got up and walked out, yawning.

            Yibo involuntary looked at the fridge when he walked through the kitchen and remembered that Xiao Zhan didn’t take his dinner because of his anger. He checked on the mobile-cam, and when he found out that Xiao Zhan was still reading a book, he checked the fridge and found a carton of milk. After heating a glass, Yibo brought it to Xiao Zhan’s room.

            “Zhan-ge!” Yibo called, knocking the door.

            No answer.

            “Zhan-ge…” Yibo knocked again. He tried to open the door and relieved when it was unlocked, again. Slowly he sneaked his head inside.

            Xiao Zhan was lying with the comforter over his shoulder, eyes closed.

            Yibo bit his bottom lip and sighed. “Ge, I know you’re not sleeping.”

            Xiao Zhan didn’t reply. Instead, he turned around, had his back facing Yibo.

            So, Xiao Zhan was still angry. Fine, Yibo wouldn’t bother him.

            “Ge, I bring you a glass of milk,” Yibo stepped inside, put the glass on the bedside table, and then patted Xiao Zhan’s back gently, “Drink it, okay. Don’t let your stomach empty, especially after you were soaked in the rain.”

            Xiao Zhan didn’t reply, so Yibo decided to just leave him alone.

            “Goodnight, Zhan-ge,” Yibo said, closing the door. He walked to the book corner and turned on his mobile-cam, smirked a little when he spotted Xiao Zhan got up and drank the milk. He hoped Xiao Zhan would get his mood back tomorrow.

But when morning came, Xiao Zhan didn’t come down. Yibo checked on his mobile-cam many times and spotted Xiao Zhan sleeping.

            “It was already nine,” Qian Feng said, chewing his breakfast slowly. “What has actually happened yesterday?”

            “I’m not sure. He was fine in the morning, and suddenly got furious when I asked him to get back home.”

            “Did you say something that offended him?” Qian Feng looked at him.

            Yibo tilted his head. “I don’t think so. I didn’t talk that much.”

            “Of course you didn’t. You just never talk much, and maybe that was what made him furious.”

            “Why should he get furious by me not much talking?” Yibo was taken aback.

            “I don’t know. Maybe he wanted to have conversation with you…”

            “But we did talk…”

            “Which didn’t count as conversation when you just answered him with ‘mmn’…” Qian Feng rolled his eyes.

            YIbo knitted his eyebrows. “How come…”

            “Okay, okay… just forget it!” Qian Feng cut Yibo. “You won’t get it anyway…”

            Yibo snorted. “Fine. I’ll check on him then.”

            “Take these with you. He might wanna have breakfast in his room,” Qian Feng said, giving him a plate of salty potato wedges and honey tea.

            “Okay…”

            Yibo knocked on Xiao Zhan’s door. “Zhan-ge…?”

            No answer.

            “Zhan-ge…?”

            Still no answer.

            Yibo pushed the door open slowly. “Zhan-ge?”

            Xiao Zhan was still curling on his side.

            Yibo put the breakfast on the bedside table and brought himself hovering above Xiao Zhan to take a look closer, and he bit his bottom lip.

            Xiao Zhan was indeed sleeping, but his breath was fast and shallow, most likely panting. His hair was damped from the sweat, even Yibo could see buds of sweat on his forehead.

Yibo gently put his hand on Xiao Zhan’s forehead and then gasped; Xiao Zhan was so hot. “Zhan-ge…?”

            “Mmm…?” Xiao Zhan finally hummed weakly.

            “Zhan-ge, you’re having fever…” Yibo whispered.

            “Mmm…” Xiao Zhan hummed again.

            Yibo got back downstairs to get some medicine from his medic-box. “Zhan-ge is having fever,” he said to Qian Feng.

            “What! It must be the rain yesterday,” Qian Feng replied. “You’re taking some medicine?”

            “Yes. Call Han-ge,” Yibo said while walking upstairs.

            “Okay!”

            Reaching Xiao Zhan’s room, Yibo slowly sat next to Xiao Zhan on the bed and rubbed his back gently. “Ge, you have to eat a bit, and take this medicine…”

            Xiao Zhan didn’t move.

            “Zhan-ge…”

            “No…” Xiao Zhan finally replied.

            “You’re having fever.”

            Nothing from Xiao Zhan.

            “Ge…”

            “…”

            “If you’re angry with me, then just hit me. Don’t hurt yourself,” Yibo said with a firm tone.

            “…”

            “Everybody is worrying about you. Don’t just do anything as you pleased.”

            “Then let me die, and all will settle,” suddenly came Xiao Zhan’s voice.

            Yibo froze. “What?”

            Xiao Zhan didn’t answer.

            “When everybody is trying to keep you alive, but you yourself want to die. Are you an idiot?” Yibo asked savagely.

            “Fuck off, Yibo!” Xiao Zhan replied. Although his tone was weak, but Yibo could sense the anger.

            Again, Xiao Zhan didn’t want to listen. Fine. Then Yibo just had to force him again like yesterday.

            Yibo got up, grabbed Xiao Zhan’s shoulder and yanked him, only to make Xiao Zhan lying flat against his back before Yibo straddled him, held both Xiao Zhan’s wrist with his left hand above his head and had his right hand cup his face.

            Xiao Zhan widened his eyes in shock, involuntary fought back. A normal and fine Xiao Zhan was no match to Yibo’s strength, let alone this weak and sick Xiao Zhan. Yibo pinned him down effortless, locked Xiao Zhan’s red watery eyes coldly and fiercely.

Xiao Zhan didn’t fight back.

            “I don’t care what is going on in that stupid brain of yours. But if you have problems with me, then drink the medicine and once you get better, let’s settle this shit,” Yibo said in a menacing low tone.

            Xiao Zhan gulped nervously before averting his eyes from Yibo’s.

            But Yibo tilted his head and found Xiao Zhan’s eyes. “You’re not a fucking little boy needs babysitting.”

            “…”

            Yibo was aware that Xiao Zhan might get suffocated because he was technically caging him. So he raised his eyebrows, asked for a confirmation.

Xiao Zhan licked his lips and nodded hopelessly.

            “Good.” Yibo then climbed down.

            It took a moment for Xiao Zhan to catch his breath and finally sat up. Yibo helped him to put some pillows against the headboard and then sat on the bed, helped him eating.

            Xiao Zhan ate in silence with his eyes locked on the food.

Yibo honestly felt so much pain for Xiao Zhan. This wasn’t a life that he was living now. It was a confinement.

          “You wanna get change?” Yibo asked when Xiao Zhan was done eating and taking his medicine. Xiao Zhan’s weak and defeated eyes were so unbelievably beautiful and Yibo couldn’t stop giving him affection.

            “Yes, please…” Xiao Zhan mumbled.

            Yibo nodded and helped him to the bathroom and while Xiao Zhan had his morning routine, he made up the bed.

            Xiao Zhan got out of the bathroom and laid back on the bed.

            Yibo took the comforter to his chin and rubbed the top of his Xiao Zhan gently. “Get some rest, and we’ll talk.”

            Xiao Zhan didn’t reply.

            Yibo got down and handed Qian Feng the laundry. During the day, he stayed downstairs with Qian Geng and Tianhe, checked on Xiao Zhan once in a while through his mobile-cam.

Xiao Zhan slept through the day. Maybe it was the effect of the medicine and Yibo decided to wait. But when Xiao Zhan was getting even hotter by the evening, Yibo couldn’t stay calm anymore.

            “We need to call a doctor,” Yibo said to Qian Feng.

            “I called Han-ge, but Han-ge insisted that we can’t call any doctor,” Qian Feng replied in concerned.

            “Why?” Yibo looked at Qian Feng in frustration. “This doesn’t make any sense…”

            “First, it’s the situation itself,” Tianhe cut in. “We’re in secluded area. Second, which doctor? We can’t just bring any doctor here.”

            Yibo gapped. “This is ridiculous…”

            “As sound as ridiculous it is, but that’s the fact…” Qian Feng added.

            Yibo shook his head in disbelieved while climbing the stairs. How dare Wang Han and He Jiong said that they cared about Xiao Zhan safety but they couldn’t even call a doctor to take care of him. Bullshit, he cursed inside.

Yibo stepped inside Xiao Zhan’s room and sat on the bed, watching him. His face was red and his breath was short and fast. His hair was again damped from the sweat and Yibo was sure that Xiao Zhan’s back was also soaked. Once in a while, Xiao Zhan shook his head and writhed softly, looked like having a nightmare.

            “Ge…” Yibo whispered softly while brushing his wet bangs from his forehead.

            Yibo got up to the bathroom to get a wet towel and put it gently against Xiao Zhan’s forehead.

            Xiao Zhan suddenly opened his mouth. “Yibo…”

            “Ge…?”

            “I know that you’re a person who was hired by my dad to protect me, to keep me alive from those people…”

            Yibo looked down at Xiao Zhan, speechless. Did Xiao Zhan really noticed or was he having sleep-talking?

            A few minutes have passed and the towel started to lose its coldness so Yibo had to soak it again into the water.

            “Yibo…” Xiao Zhan muttered again softly in his sleep when Yibo put the towel against his forehead.

            Yibo didn’t answer. He locked his gaze with Xiao Zhan’s vulnerable face.

            Xiao Zhan put his hand above Yibo’s that was holding the wet towel on his forehead. “Yibo… I like your hand. It’s warm…”

            “…”

            “Yibo…” Xiao Zhan whispered his name again, so low. “Yibo… like…”

            Yibo gulped. What? He untangled their hands and put Xiao Zhan’s under the sheet.

            “Yibo…” Xiao Zhan called his name again. “Yibo…” lower this time, barely a whisper before finally he succumbed in a deep sleep.

            “Zhan-ge, please be fine…” Yibo whispered back, taking the wet towel and held it.

            Yibo watched Xiao Zhan in silent until it was nearly midnight when he decided to drag the couch and put it next to Xiao Zhan’s bed.

            Before dawn, Xiao Zhan was awakened and asked Yibo to help him to go to the bathroom. After changing his clothes that was soaked from the sweat and took the medicine, Xiao Zhan got back to sleep again.

            Between his consciousness, Xiao Zhan took Yibo’s hand and held it. Eventhough it felt awkward but Yibo couldn’t refuse. He just wanted Xiao Zhan to get better.

With Xiao Ping as his father and He Biyu as his mother, Xiao Zhan should have had a luxurious and glorious life. But instead, he ended up hiding in a rural because his own father wanted him dead, suffering in sickness that no doctor could see him to cure him.  

            What was the meaning of life?

            Was this even fair for Xiao Zhan?

            Almost thirty years old, but couldn’t determine his own life. Was that even worth living for?

            Yibo let out a long breath, trying to loosen up his tensed body and mind by closing his eyes.

 

            A sound of soft friction stirred him up. He snapped open his eyes and turned to look at Xiao Zhan who was sleeping a little bit calmer and wasn’t holding Yibo’s hand any longer. When Yibo checked up his temperature, he seemed not as hot as last night.

            Yibo slumped back onto the couch just when his phone buzzed. It was Qian Feng telling him that breakfast was ready.

            “I made porridge for Xiao Zhan and hot honey-tea. I hope he’s getting better,” said Qian Feng while handing Yibo the tray.

            “Han-ge just called asking for him…” Tianhe said.

            “He’s better…” Yibo replied.

            “Good…” Qian Feng nodded.

            Yibo got back to Xiao Zhan’s room, brushed his forehead gently after putting the tray on the bedside table. “Zhan-ge?”

            Xiao Zhan stirred and opened his eyes, winced from the morning light that was sprouting through the window.

            “Zhan-ge…?”

            “…”

            “You need to get up. You need to eat something…”

            Xiao Zhan only nodded.

            Yibo helped him to sit, leaning back to the headboard and fed him the porridge after helping him taking his morning routine.

            “Better?” Yibo asked.

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            Yibo didn’t reply. He fed Xiao Zhan in silence. Yibo watched his expression intensely. Xiao Zhan’s face wasn’t as red as last night, just a brush of pink around his cheeks. His lips were also starting to turn from pale to pink. Although he looked weak but he was calmer.

            “Do you want to stay here? Or you want to move to the book corner?” Yibo asked when Xiao Zhan was done.

            “I’ll stay here…” Xiao Zhan muttered. He brought himself to lay down with his back facing Yibo.

            Yibo nodded. Maybe Xiao Zhan still needed more time.

            Having nothing much to do, Yibo spent his day at the book corner playing mobile games. At lunchtime, he brought the food to the bedroom. This time, Xiao Zhan was able to eat by himself.

           Xiao Zhan really didn’t talk. As if this Xiao Zhan was a different one with the previous. Yibo never thought that he would miss the cheerful and smiley Xiao Zhan. It suited him the best.

            Xiao Zhan didn’t come down for dinner either, so Yibo had to take the dinner to the bedroom, again. And again, Xiao Zhan ate in silence. Not even a word ‘thank you’.

            Yibo was escorting Xiao Zhan to bed when his phone buzzed. Xiao Zhan picked the phone but didn’t answer it either.

            Yibo thought Xiao Zhan needed privacy, so he nodded. “I’m leaving, Zhan-ge…”

            “Wait…” Xiao Zhan said.

             Yibo abruptly stopped and looked down at Xiao Zhan’s confused look.

             Xiao Zhan said nothing but gave Yibo his phone.

            Yibo took the phone and after taking a quick look at the words ‘unknown number’ that was flashing, he slid and put it against his ear.

            Yibo breathed steadily while sharpened his hearing, trying to catch any single sound on the other side, but nothing. Seemed llike the guy was also inspecting Yibo because he didn’t say anything either.

            Both kept silent.

            No sound. No clue.

            A few seconds and the line was cut.

           Yibo looked down at Xiao Zhan who was silently looking at him, curious, and it hit Yibo when he realized that Xiao Zhan gave him the phone as soon as he noticed that it was an unknown number. Recalling Xiao Zhan’s sleep-talking, has he really found out that Yibo was actually his bodyguard?

           Yibo would like to ask, honestly, but he had priority now. “I’ll be taking your phone tonight,” he said gently.

           Xiao Zhan nodded obediently, made Yibo felt at ease.  

           Yibo helped him pull the comforter and rubbed his back gently, involuntary. “Rest well, Zhan-ge.”  

 

          “Anythig?” Yibo asked Tianhe. He went to the basement as soon as he got out of Xiao Zhan’s room and gave Tianhe the phone.  

          Tianhe puckered his lips while tracking down the number.

          Realizing that Tianhe was doing his best, Yibo finally sat down and gave him as much time as needed. Qian Feng walked back and forth impatiently while snacking potato chips.

         “Sooo…” Tianhe finally said after some time hacking, “the number was registered in the name of He Biyu.”

         “His mother…?” Qian Feng raised his eyebrows. He put down the potato chips and stood behind Tianhe. “Do you think his mother is trying to track him?”

        “Maybe yes… maybe no…” Tianhe replied. “It’s just her name, but it doesn’t guarantee that the one called was his mother, right?”

        “This is getting serious…” Qian Feng muttered.

        “You keep the phone,” Yibo said to Tianhe. “Track all unknown numbers from now on.”

        “No problem.” Tianhe raised his three fingers.

         Yibo went upstairs and sat on the couch at the book corner. Should he call Han-ge and asked for the truth?

         Yibo noticed that The Little Prince book was still on the table. It’s been a few days since the last time Xiao Zhan sat here and read before that incident.

         Yibo took the book and opened it, as expected that the last page read was still the same. The night was still young and because he had nothing else to do, Yibo decided to read from the resumed page.

 

But it happened that after walking for a long time through sand, and rocks, and snow, the little prince at last came upon a road. And all roads lead to the abodes of men.

“Good morning,” he said.

He was standing before a garden, all a-bloom with roses.

“Good morning,” said the roses.

The little prince gazed at them. They all looked like his flower.

“Who are you?” he demanded, thunderstruck.

“We are roses,” the roses said.

And he was overcome with sadness. His flower had told him that she was the only one of her kind in all the universe. And here were five thousand of them, all alike, in one single garden!

“She would be very much annoyed,” he said to himself, “if she should see that… she would cough most dreadfully, and she would pretend that she was dying, to avoid being laughed at. And I should be obliged to pretend that I was nursing her back to life—for if I did not do that, to humble myself also, she would really allow herself to die…”

Then he went on with his reflection: “I thought that I was rich, with a flower that was unique in all the world; and all I had was a common rose. A common rose, and three volcanoes that come up to my knees—and one of them perhaps extinct forever… that doesn’t make me a very great prince…”

And he lay down in the grass and cried.

It was then that the fox appeared.

“Good morning,” said the fox.

“Good morning,” the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing.

“I am right here,” the voice said, “under the apple tree.”

“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”

“I am a fox,” said the fox.

“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”

“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”

“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.

But, after some thought, he added:

“What does that mean – ‘tame’?”

“You do not live here,” said the fox. “What is it that you are looking for?”

“I am looking for men,” said the little prince. “What does that mean – ‘tame’?”

“Men,” said the fox. “They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”

“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean – ‘tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”

“To establish ties?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more that a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”

“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower… I think that she has tamed me…”

“It is possible,” said the fox. “On the Earth one sees all sorts of things.”

“Oh, but this is not on the Earth!” said the little prince.

The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.

“On another planet?”

‘Yes.”

“Are there hunters on this planet?”

“No.”

“Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?”

“No.”

“Nothing is perfect,” sighed the fox.

But he came back to his idea.

“My life is very monotonous,” said the fox. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look; you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But have hair that is the colour of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. and I shall love to listen to the win in the wheat…”

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.

“Please—tame me!” he said.

“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”

“One only understand the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shop. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends anymore. If you want a friend, tame me…”

“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me – like that – in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eyes, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day…”

The next day the little prince came back.

“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you came at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you… One must observe the proper rites…”

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.

“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, and I should never have any vacation at all.”

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near—

“Ah,” said the fox. “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” And then he added:

“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you present of a secret.”

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarrassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you— the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses; because I is she that I have watered, because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.”

And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“it is the time I have for my rose—,” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what have have tamed. You are responsible for your rose…”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

 

          Then Yibo closed the book, smiled gently.  

          It was Xiao Zhan’s most favorite chapters from the book.

 

***

 

          Once again, Yibo fell asleep on the couch. When he woke up in the morning, he found himself covered in blanket. He sat up and winced his eyes from the blinded sunlight that came from the glass door. Somebody has opened the curtain.

          Yibo looked around but saw no one. The Little Prince book was still on his lap, along with his phone. He took the phone and turned on the mobile-cam to check on Xiao Zhan and abruptly got up when he couldn’t find him.

          Yibo folded the blanket and headed to Xiao Zhan’s room, not bothering to knock.

          The room was empty. The bed was already made neatly. The windows were opened. The bathroom door was half-opened, indicated that Xiao Zhan wasn’t in there.

           Yibo then walked downstairs and was about to ask Qian Feng when he noticed that Xiao Zhan was with him making breakfast.

           Yibo let out a long relieved while shoving his hands into his pocket-pants.

          “Oi, Yibo!” Qian Feng greeted him when he saw him

          “Mmn.” Yibo leaned against the frame and watched them cooking.

          “Xiao Zhan was feeling good today so he wants to make breakfast.”

          “I can see that,” Yibo replied shortly. He looked at Xiao Zhan who was serious with his cooking. Well, Yibo actually didn’t see him serious. Ignoring was the more proper word. Xiao Zhan was pretending to be serious to avoid talking to him.

          “Why don’t you wash your face and then join us?” Qian Feng asked, gesturing that breakfast was almost ready.

          “Sure.”

          Yibo hit the bathroom and shortly joined them at the table.

          This morning Xiao Zhan cooked sweet potatoes with bacon in mayonnaise and sauté vegetable. Simple and delicious.

          Qian Feng grabbed a plate and served it for Yibo who took the seat next to Qian Feng, across Xiao Zhan.

         “How was it?” Qian Feng asked.

         “Good,” Yibo said. He raised his face to take a look at Xiao Zhan whose expression was flat and seemed like enjoying his food solemnly.

         “Xiao Zhan is really good, don’t you think?” Qian Feng asked again.

         Yibo nodded.

         “Do you cook a lot when you’re at home?” Qian Feng asked Xiao Zhan this time.

         “Sometimes,” Xiao Zhan replied without taking his eyes off of the food.

         “Ayyy… you should cook more,” Qian Feng said, grinning.

         It was so obvious that Qian Feng was trying too hard to make Yibo and Xiao Zhan talked to each other, to live up the atmosphere but neither Xiao Zhan or Yibo talked.

         “Yibo, he is our client. You can’t just make him feel bad for our service,” Qian Feng said when they were washing the dishes.

         “I didn’t make any mistake. I don’t have anything to apologize for,” Yibo frowned.

         “Whatever it is, just try to talk. Especially you are his bodyguard by his side twenty-four-seven.”

         Yibo didn’t reply. Actually, he also wanted to get the cheerful and smiley Xiao Zhan back, but he didn’t know how. Heck, he didn’t know what has caused the change of his behavior.

         But still he looked for Xiao Zhan and found him sitting at the balcony, reading. He might not be responsible for his mood change but protecting Xiao Zhan physically was his job.

         Yibo took the seat on the bench next to him.

         The morning sun was so warm and nice. Yibo never really looked at the scenery below. The balcony was facing the flower field directly that was fortified by hills where he and Xiao Zhan used to walk. The sky was bright blue after the rain last night, with buns of white cloud here and there like cotton candies.

          Xiao Zhan’s expression was… normal. No tensed jaw like yesterday, or glaring eyes, or pouted lips. Sometimes he smiled a little, curved his lips in confusion, or knitted his eyebrows and widened his eyes in surprise – he seemed like being absorbed into the story.

           Yibo didn’t dare to disturb him. He was enjoying his me-time and after being stuck in his room covered in sweat, it was good for Xiao Zhan to warm up under the sun.

           So Yibo decided to just accompany him in silence.

 

            “I need a walk,” Xiao Zhan said at the evening. He was just out of the shower and Yibo could smell his jasmine scent shower gel.

            “It’s too risky, Zhan-ge. We still don’t know who called you,” Yibo said. “Just… stay inside, okay?”

            Xiao Zhan sighed, but nodded. “I’m just gonna watch TV in my room then.”

            “Okay. You want me to accompany you?” Yibo couldn’t help the wanting to comfort Xiao Zhan.

            Xiao Zhan shook his head and walked away.

            Yibo bit his bottom lip while staring at his back silently. He opened the mobile-cam when Xiao Zhan was out of his sight and went to the basement for a little chat on random things with Qian Feng and Tianhe. Wang Han called again to discuss about the unknown number.

            “It’s best that we keep the phone for a while,” Qian Feng said, copying Wang Han’s line.

            Yibo nodded. “I agree.”

            “I’m gonna make some coffee,” Tianhe got up, “anyone?”

            “No…” Qian Feng and Yibo answered in unison.

            Tianhe got up, but as soon as he took the first step, the room was suddenly trapped in pitch black.

            Xiao Zhan was the first thing that came into Yibo’s mind and his reflex was to get up to find the exit in a rush. His memory played the scenery of the house and his outstanding competence of identifying objects in the dark made Yibo reach Xiao Zhan room in a minute.

            Yibo didn’t bother to knock. His first object was to identify Xiao Zhan, so his eyes moves fast right and left roaming the room to find Xiao Zhan.

            The room was empty.

            Yibo winced and sharpen his eyes before walking slowly into the bathroom after closing the door behind him.

            The bathroom was empty.

            Yibo started to get panic. He turned on the flashlight on his phone and checked on the room once again.

            No Xiao Zhan.

            Yibo rushed outside while moving the flashlight here and there. Suddenly the flashlight caught a figure sitting on the couch at the book corner, with legs against his chest and head hung down against his knees.

            Yibo let the breath he was holding involuntary, walking towards him.

            “What are you doing here?” Yibo asked firmly.

            Xiao Zhan didn’t answer.

            “Ge, get in the room.”

            But Xiao Zhan still didn’t move.

            “Stop making this harder for me,” Yibo said in a low, impatience tone.

            Xiao Zhan raised his head and looked up at him. Being in the dark was kinda hard for Yibo to see his expression.

            “If this is hard for you, then quit it. Don’t danger yourself, Yibo,” Xiao Zhan said, getting up and headed to his room.

            “What do you mean?” Yibo asked, following him to the bedroom.

            “Nothing. Forget it,” Xiao Zhan said, crawling into the bed and curled.

            No time for this shit, Yibo thought. As soon as Xiao Zhan got into the bed, Yibo locked the door behind him and stood beside the window, checking outside. With such slow motion, Yibo took a peak by sliding the curtain a little.

            The tress and flowers were waving because of the wind, but nothing suspicious. Maybe this was simply a black out. Either what, Yibo didn’t want to take any risk by letting his guard down.

            Time was ticking and the light was still off.

            Then his phone buzzed. A message form Qian Feng – The wires have been cut. All clear now.

            Yibo bit his bottom lip. They have reached here. He then got back to Xiao Zhan’s side. “It’s fine now.”

             Xiao Zhan didn’t reply.

           “For the time being, we rely on the rechargeable lamp,” Yibo said again.

            Yibo got down to get the rechargeable lamp and put in on the bedside table. He walked closer towards Xiao Zhan who was curling, thought that he was sleeping until he noticed Xiao Zhan’s slightly shaking shoulder.

            Xiao Zhan was crying.

            “Ge…?” Yibo called him softly.

            Xiao Zhan didn’t move.

           “Zhan-ge?”

           Xiao Zhan wiped the tears. “Fuck off, Yibo. Stay away from me.”

           “Ge…?” Yibo knitted his eyebrows, thinking if he might have done something that offended him just like Qian Feng had said.

           “I said get the hell out of here!” Xiao Zhan said harshly.

            Yibo straightened up his body and turned on his heel out of the room, didn’t bother to say goodnight this time. Putting aside his thought of Xiao Zhan, Yibo met Qian Feng downstairs to find out about the wires.

            “The wires were obviously cut,” Qian Feng said.

            “Did you see anyone?” Yibo asked.

            “Nope. Too dark. But I didn’t see any suspicious movement,” Qian Feng replied.

            “Luckily the cameras were fine,” said Tianhe who came up with another rechargeable lamp so now Yibo and Qian Feng could turn off their phones.

            “Of course. I made different circuit-breaker for the cams,” Qian Feng grinned.

           “How was Xiao Zhan?” Qian Feng asked.

           “He’s fine, in his bedroom,” Yibo replied shortly.

           “Good. Stay close, Yibo!”

           “Mmn.”

           “So, what are we going to do now?” Tianhe asked.

           “I can fix it now but it takes time. This is the main wire…” Qian Feng said.

           “I don’t mind if you want to fix it tomorrow, as long as the cameras on,” Yibo shrugged. “I think it would be too risky to fix it in the dark.”

           “Yibo, you underestimate me!” Qian Feng frowned. “I’m your mentor, kid!”

            Yibo grinned.

            “I can even fix this wire with eyes closed!” Qian Feng added.

            “Okay, okay, let’s fix it now. I can help you,” said Tianhe, pushing Qian Feng outside.

            “I’ll be upstairs…” Yibo said.

 

***

 

            Yibo was sitting by the dining table, playing with the spoons and the forks with Qian Feng beside him.

            Xiao Zhan wake up early in the morning and barged into the kitchen, again, only to shove Qian Feng out and got in charge of making today’s breakfast.

            “What’s gotten into him?” Qian Feng asked.

            Yibo shrugged. “Maybe he was bored.” Maybe he needed distraction, Yibo thought. He seemed so fucked up last night.

            “Well, I’m not complaining though since I can sit here nicely but this feels wrong…” Qian Feng said. His eyes didn’t leave Xiao Zhan who was moving here and there in the kitchen.

            “Then enjoy it while you can.”

            “You’re right. This kid…” Qian Feng let out a long breath while pointing at Xiao Zhan.

            “What about him?”

            Qian Feng scratched his head and gave Yibo a hopeless look. “He’s so unpredictable. Moody. ”

            “Mmn. You tell me about that.”

            “But I don’t think it’s his nature.”

            “As if you knew…”

            “Han-ge used to say that Xiao Zhan is kind and warm guy.”

            “Tch!” Yibo snorted. “He always glares at me.”

            “Really?”

            “Always says fuck off.”

            Qian Feng chuckled and gave Yibo a look. “Maybe…”

            “Maybe what…?

            “Maybe he likes you…”

            “Feng-ge, you wish to die?” Yibo shot a glare.

            “Yibo… easy, boy!” Qian Feng still chuckling. “But seriously, I think he likes you.”

            “What makes you say that?”

            “Because every time he cooked, he asked me ‘do you think Yibo will like this’…”

            Yibo raised his eyebrows.

            “I’m serious. Just like the other day, he asked me your favorite dish…”

            “Why would he ask that?”

            “Because he wants to cook for you…?” Qian Feng asked back. “What else?”

            Yibo shook his head in disbelieve. “Feng-ge, stop this bullshit.”

            “And by the way, I called Han-ge last night…” Qian Feng whispered.

            “And?”
            “He was furious.”

            “Mmn.”

            “He wanted to come and check but he was busy.”

            “Mmn.”

            “Actually he and He Jiong are collecting evidence that Xiao Ping is behind all these.”

            “Oh…? Finally he mentioned Xiao Ping!” Yibo gave Qian Feng an unimpressed look.

            Qian Feng nodded. “I confronted him last night.”

            “And?”

            “Han-ge needs more evidence. Not enough now. Whatever happens, he wants us to hang on.”

            “Got it.”

            “He told us to be more alert.”

            “Mmn.”

            “I’m gonna put some cams on wider range outside.”

            Yibo was about to say something more when Xiao Zhan came in with the food.

            “Smells good…” Qian Feng smiled. “What is this?”

            “Pumpkin soup,” Xiao Zhan answered shortly. “Salty toast bread with baked onion.”

            “Xiao Zhan… you are the best…” Qian Feng said in flattery tone.

            “Enjoy your breakfast, Feng-ge…”

            The way Xiao Zhan intentionally didn’t mention Yibo’s name was no surprise for him, especially after last night incident.

            “Yes, yes… let’s have breakfast, three of us…” Qian Feng said, nudging Yibo to grab the cutleries.

            Yibo had to admit that this dish was really delicious. Really, when everything was over, Xiao Zhan had to take his time talking to He Jiong to let him open a restaurant, or a bakery just like he always wanted.

            Xiao Zhan chatted most of the time with Qian Feng. They talked random stuff about Qian Feng’s interest in paintings that match with Xiao Zhan’s.

            Also, Yibo silently watched Xiao Zhan. He looked fine, as if the last night incident didn’t happen.  

            Xiao Zhan laughed. His eyes were so bright and the sound of his laughter was so endearing.

            Yibo didn’t mind if Xiao Zhan ignored him if that would bring the cheerful and smiley Xiao Zhan back. He just wanted the best for him and protect that.

            The rest of the day was fortunately smooth. Xiao Zhan spent his day painting at the balcony and Yibo was sitting nicely on the couch behind him and played games, welcome the comfortable silence that fell between them.

            Xiao Zhan also didn’t reject when Yibo escorted him to sleep. He silently crawled into the bed and laid down on his back.

            Yibo gently pull the comforter. “Goodnight, Zhan-ge.”

            “Goodnight…” Xiao Zhan replied shortly.

 

***

 

            Xiao Zhan painted again today. At the balcony again.

            Yibo sat on the bench while having a cup of coffee, watching him.

            A voice message came from Tianhe. Yibo grabbed his earphone and plugged it into his ears.

            Someone called again last night, came Tianhe voice.

            And? Qian Feng’s voice came.

            The same. He didn’t say anything.

            Did you get his location?

            It was from around. He was close.

            Yibo couldn’t talk and let Xiao Zhan hear, so he wrote. Finally.

            Came Qian Feng’s voice. What? You miss him, Yibo?

            As if! Yibo wrote.

            I’m nervous, came Tianhe’s voice.

            Don’t be, Qian Feng comforted him.

            Did you tell Han-ge? Yibo wrote.

            I did, came Qian Feng voice. He felt sorry for not telling us the whole story. And Yibo, he asked me to tell you that if anything happens, just go to Changsa.

            Yibo paused a minute before writing. What are we dealing with exactly?

            It’s obvious, Yibo. Killers!, came Qian Feng voice.

            U sure? Yibo wrote.

            You wanna bet on it? Qian Feng asked.

            Yibo rolled his eyes.

            These guys are really something. They even can find Xiao Zhan here, came Tianhe voice.

            They? How many are they? Yibo wrote.

            Came Tianhe’s voice, I don’t know. Could be one. Maybe two. Or five. Or an array?

            Wonderful! Yibo wrote.

            Did you notice anything different lately? Qian Feng asked.

            Not today. Still the same as yesterday. Tianhe answered.

            Stay alert tonight! Qian Feng’s voice was firm.

            Yes, Sir. Yibo wrote.

            Understood! Came Tianhe voice.

            Yibo inhaled deeply. It was going to be a long night, and by Wang Han prepared the back-up plan for him to go to Changsa, something must have happened in Beijing.

            Yibo looked at Xiao Zhan who was nearly done with the painting. He needs to get calm so Xiao Zhan won’t feel the tense.

            When the sun down, Yibo and Qian Feng wore their earpieces connected to Tianhe so he can warn them easily.

            After dinner, Xiao Zhan silently went upstairs and read at the book corner, Yibo joined him later. Yibo was aware that Xiao Zhan noticed him wearing earpiece but didn’t ask questions which made Yibo at ease.

            Yibo looked at Xiao Zhan. He seemed read a different book this time. But still, The Little Prince book was still on the table. Somehow.

            “Guys, alert. Movements,” suddenly came Tianhe’s voice from his earpiece.

            Yibo involuntary threw his gaze at the balcony next to them. He stood up calmly and closed the curtain. “Zhan-ge, are you done?”

            “Level one stand by.” Tianhe warned Qian Feng.

            Xiao Zhan looked up at him.

            “Can you continue reading in my room?” Yibo asked bluntly. He was sure that the killers knew which one was Xiao Zhan’s room and so it was better to not put him there.

            Xiao Zhan narrowed his eyes, looked at him fiercely. “I have my own room. I don’t think I need to read in your room.” Then he stood up and headed to his room.

            “Ge!” Yibo tried to stop him. “My bedroom, please.”

            Xiao Zhan stopped and turned around. “Why do I have to listen to you every time?”

            Yibo tilted his head. This was really a bad time to argue.

            “Two movements at ten o’clock.” The backdoor to the kitchen.  

            “Zhan-ge, please!” Yibo said.

            But Xiao Zhan refused to obey. He stepped into his bedroom.

            Yibo caught him by the wrist and tugged him, dragging him into his bedroom.

            “Yibo!” Xiao Zhan said in annoyance tugged back his hand, trying to escape.

            “Ge!”

            Xiao Zhan pulled his hand when it was free, took steps back until his back hit the wall. “Don’t try me, Wang Yibo!”

            “Two coming, four o’clock!”

            Yibo frowned – they were now aiming second floor balcony. Involuntary, he threw his gaze at the balcony, then at Xiao Zhan.         

            Protect Xiao Zhan at any cost, no matter what happened, no matter how.

            “Aproaching ten o’clock. Stand by,” Tianhe warned Qian Feng that the killers were on their back door.

            “Aproaching four o’clock,” Tianhe said again, warned Yibo that the killers were on their second balcony near the book corner.

            With a fast move, Yibo bent his body and in an instant, he grabbed Xiao Zhan by the waist and slumped him against his shoulder, again.

            Xiao Zhan fought back, kicked his feet against the wall, making Yibo wobble.

            “Targets armed,” Tianhe warned them that the killers had weapons.

            “Fuck!” Yibo mumbled.

            “WANG. YI. BO!” Xiao Zhan shouted, “You are so fucking dead!”

            Yibo managed to get into his room, closed the door and then put Xiao Zhan down, pinned him against the door, one hand covering his mouth and the other hand grasped both Xiao Zhan wrist above his head.

            “Shut the fuck up, Zhan-ge, or we’ll die!” Yibo whispered sharply and impatiently. His cold and fierce eyes locked Xiao Zhan’s in the darkness of his room, asking no disobeys.

            Suddenly a loud bump was heard from downstairs. Qian Feng was fighting.

            Xiao Zhan’s eyes widened in fear.

            “Fast movement twelve o’clock. Armed,” Tianhe said in a rush. They were coming from the front door.

            Yibo heard another click. They must be opening Xiao Zhan bedroom door.

            Another loud bump heard.

            “Fast movement four o’clock. Coming up armed,” Tianhe warned Yibo. The killers were climbing his bedroom balcony.

            Yibo held his breath – he was stuck in the middle! He looked up at Xiao Zhan who was staring back at him.

            “Zhan-ge, I don’t have much time right now to listen to your bullshit. Just stay still and don’t you dare making any fucking noise, understand?” Yibo whispered sharply.

            Xiao Zhan glared, but Yibo took it as a yes.

            Yibo slowly pull his hands off of Xiao Zhan’s mouth and when he was sure that Xiao Zhan wouldn’t make a mess, he reached his bedside table and took his gun out and fast and smoothly stacked the silencer against it.

            “Fast movements. Backing up. Out,” Tianhe said. He was out of the basement to help Qian Feng because more killers were coming.

            Yibo heard a friction from his balcony. He dragged Xiao Zhan by the wrist and gestured him to lie down by the bed. Xiao Zhan did what Yibo told obediently and Yibo covered him with the blanket.

            Impatient footsteps were heard from Xiao Zhan’s bedroom. Seemed like the killer noticed that Xiao Zhan wasn’t there.

            Loud bumps heard again from downstairs. And then gun shots.

            Yibo moved silently and hid by the glass door. Waiting.

            Two shadows spotted. Yibo down on his knee.

            A click and the glass door opened slowly. Two shadows stepped in.

            Yibo moved fast, pointed the gun at their heads and pulled the trigger.

            Two down.

            Loud kicking banged his door and it slammed opened, two shadows coming in fast.

            The darkness helped him locked the target. Two shots, all down.

            Gun shots still heard from downstairs. Yibo snorted. How many were there exactly?

            “Yibo…?” Suddenly a voice appeared through his earpiece. Not Tianhe’s.

            “Yibo…?” It was Wang Han. Was he even here?

            Yibo couldn’t answer him because he didn’t wear the mic.

            “If you hear me, plan B.”

            Plan B? Yibo knitted his forehead. Went to Changsa?

            Yibo didn’t think much. He moved towards Xiao Zhan and slid the blanket that revealed a shock Xiao Zhan. “Come on. Stay behind me.” Yibo took his hand and held it, led him through the hallway when some men barged into the house through the balcony.

            Yibo pulled the trigger. All down. Reload.

            When Yibo reached downstairs, it was messy there. Yibo spotted Qian Feng behind the couch while Tianhe behind the cupboard. All the furniture seemed had holes from the shots. Yibo led Xiao Zhan to slip under the dining table and turned it on its side to cover them when some shots came.

            Qian Feng shot back, covering Yibo.

            “Feng-ge, plan B…” Yibo said.

            Qian Feng looked at him in surprised but nodded eventually. After giving a code to Tianhe, they began to shoot, covering Yibo so he could slide into the basement.

            Yibo put his arm hovering Xiao Zhan’s head, gesturing him to bend down while running into the basement. He grabbed some hardware and stuffed them into the backpack before handing Xiao Zhan a jacket and a pair of sneakers. “Wear those.”

            Xiao Zhan took and wore them obediently.

            “Let’s go.” Yibo gestured him to go after reloading his gun. They stood by the door, and Yibo took a peak at the kitchen, noticing that they could use the kitchen counters to cover them.

            The shots stopped but Yibo was sure that this was only the first wave. Yibo gestured Xiao Zhan to crawl between dead bodies until they reach the counters where he saw Qian Feng waved at him signaling to go.

            Yibo nodded at them both and when Tianhe shot, he tugged Xiao Zhan by the wrist and run into the garage.

            “Where are we going?” Xiao Zhan asked when Yibo handed him a helmet.

            “Changsa.”

            “Why? What?”

            “Hop up!” Instead Yibo told Xiao Zhan.

            Xiao Zhan looked hesitated. He looked at Yibo as if asking explanation.

            “I don’t have time for this, Ge!” Yibo said, and suddenly shots were heard from the house. “Fuck! Ge, hop up!”

            Xiao Zhan abruptly jumped onto the bike and as soon as Yibo felt his hands around his waist, he rode it out of the garage like a mad man.

            Yibo winced his eyes and put his focus on the street. Whatever happened to Qian Feng and Tianhe, Yibo believed that they would be okay. They were his mentors. They would be fine.

Chapter Text

            Shanxi at night on the upper terrain was definitely a pitch black. Maneuvering his bikes on the road at high speed hill after hill and in between mountains with his only light was from his bike really needed both skill and confident. Not to mentions rivers and loess. Although Yibo really liked racing, but this was definitely not his favorite moment due to the safety; especially Xiao Zhan’s. He was at the high terrain and down below, he could see the city of lights. The scenery of mountains and hills was starting to change into city view but Yibo didn’t stop even though when he passed through the city. He didn’t want to risk being caught up by the killers. He wanted to get out of Shanxi first.

            Yibo was crossing the border of the southern Shanxi when he felt Xiao Zhan’s grasp around his waist was starting to get loosened and Xiao Zhan’s body shifted uncomfortably. “Zhan-ge…?” he called Xiao Zhan. “You okay?”

            Xiao Zhan didn’t reply.

           Was Xiao Zhan sleepy? This wasn’t good. Xiao Zhan might not have stamina as tough as he did, not to mention his after-shock state after the gun shots. “Ge…?” Yibo called him again.

            And still Xiao Zhan didn’t reply.

            Yibo slowed down his bike, straightened his body while looking at Xiao Zhan over his shoulder.

            Unexpected, Xiao Zhan climbed down abruptly as soon as the bike stopped. He took off his helmet and tossed it onto the ground, walked to the direction they had come.

            “Zhan-ge…?” Yibo called Xiao Zhan in surprised. He abruptly stepped down and caught him by his wrist.

            But Xiao Zhan didn’t stop walking. Instead, he tugged free his wrist.

            “Zhan-ge!” Yibo called his name, in higher tone, once again caught his wrist.

            “Let go…” Xiao Zhan tugged free his wrist again but Yibo held tighter

            “Ge!”

            “Let me go, you fucking brat!” Xiao Zhan suddenly shouted.

            Yibo was taken aback but didn’t let go, until he saw beads of tears streaming down Xiao Zhan’s face. 

            “Why don’t you just let me die back there?” Xiao Zhan shouted again. He stopped walking this time. His hand hung loosely in Yibo’s grasp.

            “What? What the fuck, Zhan-ge!” Yibo looked at him in confusion.

            “Stop pretending! Stop protecting me! I know who you are!” Xiao Zhan turned around. Even in the darkness, Yibo could see Xiao Zhan’s eyes flaring up in anger.

            “…”

            “You guys are all the same…” Xiao Zhan said between his gritted teeth. “Protecting me without even asking what I want with my life. Suddenly everybody decided what’s best for me.”

            “…”

            “You. Ordering me around as you pleased.”

            “…”

            “What if I decided to just give up and die…?”

            “Bullshit…” Yibo finally found his voice.

            “Try me, Wang Yibo! Just try me and let’s see if I dare to kill myself right now!”

            Yibo tilted his head in annoyance. “Go on!” He pulled out the gun from his backpack, handed Xiao Zhan. “Let me see!”

            Xiao Zhan looked at him in disbelieved for a moment before finally took the gun and pointed at his head. “Do you think I don’t?”

            “Go on! Do you think I care?” Yibo shouted. Oh, fuck! He did care! How could not he didn’t care about him? He was supposed to protect him with all he had.

            Xiao Zhan lowered his hand that was holding the gun. “Of course you wouldn’t care. How could I be so stupid.” Then Xiao Zhan tossed the gun onto the ground and turned around to continue walking.

            “What? How could I not care? I was ordered to protect you, Zhan-ge,” Yibo said, grabbed the gun then followed him.

            Xiao Zhan stopped. “Right. You do care. Because of the job. I am your job.”

            “This is bullshit,” Yibo said, starting to lose his patience. “I don’t have time to argue right now because those guys might be on their way here.”

            Xiao Zhan didn’t say a word.

            “Stop talking bullshit and get back on the bike. We need to get out of here!” Yibo said impatiently. He ran past Xiao Zhan and stopped him, hands both on Xiao Zhan’s shoulders. “Zhan-ge, please. Your safety is my priority now.”

            It was a moment of staring into each other’s eyes. Yibo could see that Xiao Zhan was thinking hard before finally turning around without saying a word and picked his helmet.

            Yibo let a long breath. He ran towards his bike and hopped on after wearing his helmet. Xiao Zhan followed.

“Hold onto me, Ge!” Yibo looked at his over his shoulder.

            Xiao Zhan wrapped his arms around Yibo waist obediently.

            Yibo patted Xiao Zhan’s hand and squeezed them gently, giving him assurance.

            It was sunrise when they reached ZhengZhou. It’s the capital and largest city of Henan province, making it metropolitan city that serves political, economic, technological and educational center of the province and as expected from a metropolitan city, it was already crowded even when the sun was still peeking.

            Yibo avoided the main street and chose the suburb. He stopped at a small noodle house and took Xiao Zhan to have breakfast.

            Yibo looked at the messy Xiao Zhan. He had his chin against his hands on the table. His hair was disheveled and there were eye-bags right below his tired beautiful doe eyes which he rubbed softly once in a while.

            A waiter came to serve them hot tea. Yibo quickly poured into the cup and put it in front of Xiao Zhan. “Warm yourself up, Ge.”

            Xiao Zhan cupped the mug with his two palms and sipped it silently.

            “Laoban, do you know a guest house or hotel where we can rest for short time?” Yibo asked the owner when he came to serve the noodle.

            The owner looked at him and Xiao Zhan in curiosity while serving the noodles. It was understandable for the owner for being so suspicious because both of them looked like shit after six hours riding. But Yibo didn’t seem care.

           “What kind of hotel?” the laoban asked.

            “Me and my friend are heading out of town and just need a place to sleep for a couple of hours before continuing,” Yibo replied.

            “Oh… where are you heading?”

            Yibo smiled. Too much asking, he thought. “Beijing.”

            “Beijing is still long way to go,” the owner said again.

            “I’m aware.” Yibo stared at him.

            The owner nodded, realized that Yibo was kinda impatient. He then showed Yibo some places where he could go.

            Yibo and Xiao Zhan ate fast and checked in. The inn owner wasn’t even better that the noodle-house owner. He looked at Yibo with a mischievous smile before checking on Xiao Zhan from head to toe, thinking that they were a pair of twinks who needed place to fuck.

            Yibo smirked, grabbing Xiao Zhan by his waist after snatching the key from the owner while putting his pointer against his lips, shushing.

            Xiao Zhan untangled himself as soon as they were in the room and sat down on the bed.

            Yibo realized that he was crossing the line by wrapping his arm around Xiao Zhan’s waist intimately. He shouldn’t have done that. So he poured a glass of hot tea and got down on his knee in front of Xiao Zhan. “I’m sorry if I offended you.”

            Xiao Zhan stared at him and without a word, he took the tea and sipped it.

           Yibo smiled a little. He then got up, only to reach for his backpack before sitting on the floor to check on his phone. No message. He reached for his earpiece and looked at it carefully. How could Wang Han contact him? Logically it was out of reach. Had Wang Han hacked the frequency?

            Yibo then checked on the maps. Changsa was almost eight hours driving away from here, ten hours top. It was still long way to go. Didn’t Wang Han have closer place for them to go instead of his residence in Changsa?

            Honestly, he had never done this before; transporting a package from the start to the finish line. Usually he assisted Qian Feng on spying someone or Da Zhang Wei on transporting vehicles. This was harder than what he had imagined.

            Yibo turned his head to look at Xiao Zhan who curled on the bed, eyes closed. He didn’t even take his shoes off. Yibo took a deep breath and stuffed all the devices into his backpack before taking his own jacket and shoes off. He then took Xiao Zhan’s shoes off gently and grabbed Xiao Zhan’s jacket that was lying next to him, hung it. He pulled the converter to his waist and rubbed Xiao Zhan’s upper arm gently. “Sleep well, Zhan-ge.”

            Yibo then lied down next to Xiao Zhan. He took a glance at Xiao Zhan’s back that was facing him, and slowly turned to his side, silently watching that back until he drifted to sleep.

 

            Yibo woke up around midday. He propped onto both his elbows and turned to look at Xiao Zhan who was still curling. Part of him wanted to wake him up to continue their ride, while the other part wanted Xiao Zhan to sleep some more.

            Yibo brought himself hovering above Xiao Zhan to look at his face, to check if he was still sleeping.

            “Zhan-ge…” Yibo rubbed Xiao Zhan gently by his upper arm. “Zhan-ge.”

            Xiao Zhan stirred and opened his eyes. He blinked a few times before turning around to look at Yibo with his hazy eyes.

            “Time to wake up,” Yibo said gently.

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            Yibo once again checked for any messages when Xiao Zhan was taking his shower and when he was sure that it was safe for them to go, he checked out of the inn.

            Before getting out of the city, Yibo took Xiao Zhan for lunch. He bought energy bars, vitamin C and two bottles of Xiao Zhan’s favorite green tea to maintain Xiao Zhan’s condition along the way, and filled the tank of his bike.

            Like mostly country side’s views, the views to Changsa were dominated by rice fields. Summer time was usually harvest time, therefore the view was kinda boring with yellow-gold ripe-rice. In some areas, farmers were harvesting and left the brown-crème view.

            Once a while Yibo could feel Xiao Zhan’s head bumping against him and his body wobbling due to drowsiness. Feeling worried of falling down, Yibo decided to stop when he found a shady and flat terrain so Xiao Zhan could rest.

            Yibo handed Xiao Zhan the green tea and energy bar when he slumped against the ground, legs sprawled. Yibo then took his helmet off and sat next to Xiao Zhan, munching his own candy bar.

            The silence fell between them. It was comfortable. Quite and peaceful. Content and heartwarming. Relaxing, as if the time stopped ticking. At least to Yibo and he hoped Xiao Zhan felt the same.

            After seemed like forever, Yibo finally glanced at his watch. “We gotta go now, Ge.”

            Xiao Zhan only nodded and got up.

            Yibo grabbed the empty bottles and shoved them into his backpack. He squeezed Xiao Zhan’s hands that were wrapping around his waist gently when they were already on the bike. “Just a couple more hours, okay?”

           

            It was dark when they entered Wuhan.

            Yibo had heard a few times from his friends about that famous street market in Wuhan and as a foodie, he didn’t want to miss this chance even though he was in duty. At least he experienced it.

            Okay, this street market of Wuhan was really something. This street market was actually a market where food stalls were lined up in his right and left, selling any kinds of foods from snacks, appetizers, heavy meals, drinks, and many more. Maybe, if he hadn’t been in duty, he would have strolled along the street and bought all these foods. 

            After a quick confusing random look, Yibo finally decided to buy Bang Bang Chicken while Xiao Zhan bought Fishball Kway Teow Soup.

            “Zhan-ge…” Yibo put down the soup in front of Xiao Zhan and handed him the chopsticks and spoon.

            “Thank’s…” Xiao Zhan took it obediently and ate silently.

            Yibo stole a glance at Xiao Zhan. He wasn’t better than this morning. The exhaustion was still there, even worse. His eyes were half-opened and Yibo was afraid that Xiao Zhan could fall asleep in his eating.

            Yibo bit his bottom lip. Their ride was still three to four hours long and if Xiao Zhan couldn’t maintain his condition, he would break down before they reached Changsa.

            Or maybe Xiao Zhan was actually hopeless about his situation? Maybe this was more about psychologically rather than physically.

            “We’ll spend the night here, Zhan-ge…” Yibo decided after a long monolog in his head.

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            “Don’t worry, everything is going to be okay.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded again.

            Yibo also nodded. He had ridden constantly far away from Shanxi and was sure that the killers were left behind. At least that was what he had thought, until his phone buzzed from a message from Tianhe. So Tianhe was alive.

            Delete Changsa. Change number. Hide.

            Yibo blinked. What did Tianhe mean? To avoid Changsa and hide? Did things get worse in Beijing? Qian Feng, was he okay?

            This was bad. Yibo looked at Xiao Zhan quietly. He didn’t have any choice but to get out of Wuhan but Xiao Zhan’s condition really worried him. The monologue appeared in his head again, more intense, whether to continue or not.

            Xiao Zhan froze, and then looked at him. “Just leave me here, Yibo,” he said weakly, suddenly.

            “What?” Yibo looked at him in disbelieved. Did Xiao Zhan notice his trouble?

            “They are close, right?”

            “No.” Did Yibo just lie?

            “Leave me here. Let them get me.”

            “Ge!”

            “I’m tired, Yibo!” Xiao Zhan replied in frustration.

            Yibo sighed. He understood Xiao Zhan’s exhaustion and frustration but leaving him alone was never an option. “And I’m not leaving you.”

            Xiao Zhan stopped eating. He shoved the bowl, brushed his hair in frustration.

            Yibo bit his bottom lip. Technically speaking, they were far away from Zhanxi, even further from Beijing. Spending a night here might not cause any trouble as long as he chose low key hotel. Or maybe the one at the suburb. If Xiao Zhan was incapable to go on, Yibo couldn’t push him.

            “Okay,” Yibo said finally. “We’ll stay here.”

            Xiao Zhan looked at him for a moment before abruptly shaking his head. “No. We’ll continue. I can manage.”

           “No. You’re exhausted, Zhan-ge. We’ll stay.”

            Xiao Zhan got up abruptly and walked away.

           “Ge…?” Yibo was surprised, followed him involuntary. “Ge, where are you going?”

           “We’ll continue, right?” Xiao Zhan didn’t stop walking.

           “Zhan-ge!” Yibo grabbed his wrist, made Xiao Zhan face him.

           “Yibo! If we stay here, they will get you,” Xiao Zhan said in concerned.

           Yibo gapped. Did Xiao Zhan just concern about his safety instead? He looked left and right and then dragged Xiao Zhan to an alley nearby. “Okay, talk.”

           Xiao Zhan looked at him. “Talk about what?”

          “This starting to get my nerve, Ge. We still have long way to go and this won’t do if we keep arguing. What is it that you want from me?” Yibo blurted out.

           Xiao Zhan let out a long breath, leaned backwards against the wall. “I want you to leave me.”

          “Are you out of your mind?” Yibo snapped harshly.

           Xiao Zhan closed his eyes, threw his head back against the wall. “I am tired, Yibo. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been in this situation?”

           “…”

           “Of all people doing this to me, it has to be my father. My own father. My father by blood!”

           “…”

          “I should have died long time ago.”

          “Ge…”

          Xiao Zhan brought his head to look at Yibo and his defeated watery eyes made Yibo’s heart clenched. “If I died, everybody would live in peace. He Jiong-laoshi would live his life peacefully. Everybody. Even you. You wouldn’t have to risk your life to protect me, Yibo!”

          “It’s my job…”

          Xiao Zhan laughed bitterly. “Yes. I’m nothing more than a job for you.”

         “Stop it!” Yibo said firmly.

         “I’m tired of everybody treat me as if I didn’t know anythng. Have they ever asked me what I was feeling? What I wanted? Discuss what I’m supposed to do?”

         “…”

         “And you. Treat me as if I’m dead. Thinking that I’m nothing more than a job to be done.”

         “What is it that you want from me?” Yibo asked in frustration. He tried to cope with whatever Xiao Zhan was trying to say, but he failed. He didn’t understand.

         “I want you. Just you. You!” Xiao Zhan shouted hoarsely.

         “What…”

         “I like you, Yibo. I care for you. Seeing you up all night just to make sure that I’m okay. Escorting me everywhere I go and keeping your eyes only on me as if I would vanish if you tear your eyes. Doing everything I told you despite you do not like it…”

         “Zhan-ge…” Yibo was struck. Speechless.

         “Do you think it’s okay to sit all day next to me and have your eyes on me?”

          “…”
          “Do you think it’s okay to have your hand rub my back every night?”

          “…”

          “I’m falling in love with you, Yibo. I couldn’t help myself from wanting to protect you too. To keep you away from those people so you’ll also be safe.”

          Yibo gapped. He thought he heard wrong.

          “So, stop protecting. Just stop. Just go. Leave me here alone!”

          Yibo winced. “I won’t.”

          It was Xiao Zhan turned to look at him.

          “I won’t stop protecting you,” Yibo said firmly.

          “What’s the point then? It’s not like that you’ll like me back, is it?” Xiao Zhan blurted sarcastically

          Yibo started to feel irritated. “What do you mean by that?”

          “It’s so clear! You just care about your job, and that job happens to be me!”

          “Isn’t that obvious,” Yibo said. What was so wrong with doing your job heart fully? Protecting Xiao Zhan with all his heart and soul? Where did he go wrong?

          “You’re right.” Xiao Zhan laughed.

          Yibo ruffled his hair. “Okay, first thing first, let me make this clear. Staying here for the night actually is the last option. I still suggest that we get out of here to the nearest city. And you’re going with me.”

          Xiao Zhan snorted annoyingly.

         “No matter what, I’m not leaving you.”

         “I’m flattered…” Xiao Zhan said, walking away.

         Yibo looked at Xiao Zhan. He needed to find a place where Xiao Zhan could rest properly. His mind was starting to break him apart from exhaustion that he didn’t know what he was saying.

          Yibo was afraid that Xiao Zhan would just runaway, so he grabbed his hand and held it tight and dragged him to his bike. He took the helmet and wore it on Xiao Zhan who was looking at him hopelessly.

          “Hang on, Zhan-ge,” Yibo said while rubbing Xiao Zhan’s upper arms up and down.

          Xiao Zhan didn’t reply

          As soon as Xiao Zhan hopped onto the bike, Yibo started the engine and headed Xinyang.

 

            All the way to Xinyang, Yibo was worried that Xiao Zhan wouldn’t make it. Once in a while Yibo held Xiao Zhan’s hands that were wrapping around his waist, hoping that it could give him some support.

            Reaching Xinyang, first thing he did was finding a small and lowkey inn. He parked the bike in the garage and covered it.

            “A room, please,” Yibo made the reservation.

            “One bed?” the owner asked.

            “Whatever.” He couldn’t be a picky in this situation.

            The owner tilted his head and looked at Xiao Zhan who was standing silently behind Yibo and then smiled. “One bed then.”

            Yibo grinned.

            The owner grinned back. “Handsome.”

            Yibo snatched the key from his hand and handed him the money. “I need privacy.”

            “Sure. No problem.”

            “And gas for my tank.”

            The owner raised his thumb and nodded.

            Yibo took Xiao Zhan’s hand and brought him upstairs.

            Xiao Zhan plopped himself on the bed as soon as they reached the room and in seconds he was succumbed into a deep sleep.

            Yibo sat silently by the bed, gently brushed the bangs that fell on Xiao Zhan’s forehead. “Rest well, Ge. You did good.”

 

***

 

            Yibo entered the room silently not to wake Xiao Zhan up. He wake up early and went to the market to buy some food and spare clothes. He also got new numbers and an old-version phone with low wave transmitter to prevent the killers from tracking him down for a while.

            Waiting for Xiao Zhan to wake up, Yibo unpacked his backpack to find his hardware. He was thinking about assembling some communication devices with low wave to contact either Qian Feng or Tianhe. But he hesitated. He didn’t know if they were safe or not. Trying to reach them while they were on caught would be troublesome. He wrote down a copy of important numbers on his notebook before dismantling his phone. He was sure that Wang Han would find a way to contact him no matter what.

            Yibo made himself a cup of coffee after taking his shower and turned on the TV while lounging on the bed. Maybe he would find any news concerning He Jiong or Xiao Ping.

            It was around ten o’clock when finally Yibo noticed Xiao Zhan stirring and opening his eyes.

            “You’re awake…” Yibo said while turning his head to his right at Xiao Zhan.

            Xiao Zhan didn’t answer. He moved slightly and lied flat on his back.

            Yibo stayed still, gave Xiao Zhan some time to cope with his mind.

            Time was ticking and there was nothing but the low sound of the TV, soft friction of the sheet, and Xiao Zhan’s slight sigh as he sat up and leaned back against the headboard.

            “You want some coffee?” Yibo asked.

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            Yibo got up and made a cup of coffee, and then took his seat on Xiao Zhan’s side of the bed. “Here you go.”

            Xiao Zhan took the coffee and sipped it slowly. The exhaustion was almost gone. Even though his facial gestures showed him that the rest wasn’t enough, but his eyes were brighter and his jaw more relaxed. He inhaled the scent of fresh brewed coffee slowly while sipping it.

            “You okay?” Yibo asked again.

            Xiao Zhan sipped the coffee some more and then nodded.

            Yibo got up from his seat.

            “I hate you…” said Xiao Zhan suddenly. “As much as I love you.”

            Yibo froze, then turned around. “What?”

            “You heard me.”

            Yibo tilted his head, narrowed his eyes as he looked down at Xiao Zhan. This was the second time Xiao Zhan said that he loved him. So he didn’t say it because of exhaustion. He was sober enough this time.

            “When?” Yibo asked while taking his seat back on the edge of the bed.

            “When what?” Xiao Zhan lifted his eyes from the coffee at Yibo.

            Yibo stared back at those soft eyes. “First time you realized that you love me?”

            Xiao Zhan inhaled deeply, rested his head against the headboard and had his eyes back to his coffee. “During those days you took care of me.”

            Yibo nodded.

            “When you stayed up all night almost everyday just to make sure I was okay, until you fell asleep on the couch…”

            “…”

            “Or maybe the way you escort me every night and make sure that he cameras on and the window locked properly…”

            “…”

            “You never missed my mealtime, provided me with good meals along with Feng-ge…”

            “…”

            “Or how you always stay by my side while I was painting, how you keep me company even in the silence and while we had a walk at the flower field…”

            “That’s my job, Ge.”

            Xiao Zhan sighed. “From the very first time my father told me to have holiday in Shanxi, I knew what he was up to. It confirmed me when Wang Han-laoshi came to pick me up to take me there.”

            Yibo bit his bottom lip. He had known that Xiao Zhan wasn’t stupid and He Jiong should have told him.

            “I know my father is worried about me and wants the best for me, I just wish he talked instead of deciding this alone,” Xiao Zhan said again. “Discussed this with me properly and found the way out together.”

            “…”

            “And that’s why I also hate you.”

            “Ge…” Yibo was taken aback.

            “I hate seeing you risking your life. I hate you more because you see me nothing more than a job,” Xiao Zhan said hoarsely.

            “But…”

            “It’s okay, Yibo.” Xiao Zhan smiled weakly. Sweet but weak. “It was just so stupid of me. Despite realizing all those, I can’t stop myself. I let myself fall deeper each and every day.”

            Yibo inhaled deeply. He never had someone falling in love with him until now and therefore he was feeling so stupid for not knowing what to do.

            “Don’t worry. I’ll get over it…” Xiao Zhan said.

            Yibo said nothing. Honestly, he didn’t realize that he had done so much until Xiao Zhan mentioned it. He simply did what he needed to do.

            “I’m gonna take my bath…” Xiao Zhan said again, getting up.

            Yibo nodded and helped Xiao Zhan with the coffee cup. As soon as Xiao Zhan entered the bathroom, Yibo sat on the couch and sent message to Wang Han from his low-wave frequency phone.

            Xiao Zhan was done fifteen minutes later. Yibo handed him the spare clothes he bought in the morning, and then had lunch together.

            “When did you buy all these?” Xiao Zhan asked, scooping a full spoon of rice.

            “This morning,”  Yibo replied.

            “This curry is good…”

            “Mmn.”

            “So, are we going to stay here?”

            Yibo was hesitated for a moment.

            “Yibo…?”

            “Mmmn…?”

            “I know this is your job. But your job is concerning my life and I have the right to know.” Xiao Zhan stared at him seriously. “Don’t just act on your impulse. I’m tired. Talk to me, will you?”

            Yibo stared back at Xiao Zhan and nodded. “Do you have any idea what kind of situation we’re into now?”

            “Yes. We’re being hunted down by Xiao Ping.”

            “Han-ge and He-jiong are collecting the last evidence right now, and in the meantime, Han-ge asked me to go to his residence in Changsa, but seems like they got there before us. That’s why we canceled Changsa,” Yibo explained.

            “Then, where are we going now?”

            “I don’t know. I think they will contact me to tell me what to do.”

            “So we’re gotta have to wait.”

            “Mmn. He’ll contact me. Besides, I need cash, but I can’t withdraw from the machine. They can track us down.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            Suddenly Yibo’s phone buzzed. A message from Han-ge.

            Huaibian. Yamaha Auto Part. Cash.

            “It’s Han-ge. He wants us to go to Huaibian to get some cash,” Yibo said.

            Xiao Zhan nodded. “Okay. We go now?”

            “Yeah. The sooner, the better.”

            An hour later, they were already on the road to Huaibian. Huaibian is one of eight counties in Xinyang, located at the north, only took a half-hour from their inn. As soon as they entered Huaibian, Yibo slowed down.

            “What are we looking for?” asked Xiao Zhan, leaning forward.

            “Yamaha Auto-Part.” Yibo pulled out the paper from his chest-pocket where he wrote its address.

            Xiao Zhan took the paper and read it. “Can’t we use the GPS?”

            “No.”

            “Let’s ask someone, then.”

            Asking random people was actually risky. Yibo and Xiao Zhan were being picky on this because they were afraid if the person they asked turned out to be the killers.

            Luckily the third person they asked knew the address and gave them direction.

            “Wang Han asked me to come,” Yibo said to the customer service when they finally found it.

            The customer service nodded and took Yibo to the manager office while Xiao Zhan waiting at the guest room. The manager gave Yibo an envelope without saying anything. Yibo took it and left the building after saying thank you, also without saying a word.

            “How come this was so easy…” Xiao Zhan muttered while hopping onto the bike

            “It wasn’t easy. We just happen to have good network. Reliable and trusted.”

            Yibo rode his new bike out of Xinyang and by the border, he pulled away to buy some food while Xiao Zhan used the toilet.

            “Kaifeng…” Yibo muttered, reading a small paper he found out inside the envelope between the money. He sat on the bench in front of a convenient store, eating bread while waiting for Xiao Zhan.

            “What…?” Xiao Zhan asked. He took his seat next to Yibo, ruffled his hair that was wet from washing his face.

            Yibo shoved the bread wrapping into his backpack and gulped down some water. “Han-ge wants us to go to Kaifeng. But I know no one there.” Yibo knitted his eyebrows, thinking. “I think Han-ge had a plan B for us.”

            Xiao Zhan leaned against Yibo’s shoulder to peek on the paper. “Then let’s go to Kaifeng and let’s see…” Xiao Zhan took the bottle Yibo was holding and had a gulp.

            “Mmn…”

            Suddenly, Xiao Zhan rested his head on his shoulder.

            Yibo took a glance from the corner of his eyes and ruffle his hair slightly. “Tired?” he asked gently.

            Xiao Zhan abruptly pulled away. “Ah, sorry, I didn’t purposely do that.” He then turned away, avoiding Yibo’s look.

            “It’s okay,” Yibo replied. “We can rest a few more minutes if you’re tired.”

            Xiao Zhan got up and grabbed his helmet. “No. We go now. The sooner the better.”

            Yibo nodded. “Okay.”

 

            Xinfang to Kaifeng was around three hundreds kilometers to the north, three to four hours riding. Hills and vegetables fields dominated the road to Kaifeng and the sun wasn’t that hot. Passing through the road between the vegetables fields, Yibo slowed down the speed. Xiao Zhan unwrapped his arms around his waist when Yibo straightened up his body.

            Yibo felt Xiao Zhan relaxed behind him and that was a good sign; Xiao Zhan was in a good mood. “You want to stop?” he asked Xiao Zhan over his shoulder.

            Xiao Zhan leaned forward and slid up the glass-cover of his helmet. “No need.”

            Yibo nodded and got back on track. Half hour later, hills welcome Yibo. The road started to get windy and Yibo slowed down. He was on focus when suddenly he heard a bang and seconds later he felt like flying and bumped hard against the ground. It took him a while to realize that he fell of his bike.

            First thing that came to his mind was Xiao Zhan and without even checking on himself, Yibo rushed to get up and find Xiao Zhan who was lying not far from him. He took off his helmet and his backpack and ran towards him in horror.

            “Zhan-ge!” Yibo called him, panic in his eyes. “Zhan-ge, are you okay?”

            Xiao Zhan groaned. “Okay…”

            Yibo bit his bottom lip nervously, gently cupped Xiao Zhan’s neck. “Does it hurt here? Can you move your neck?”

            “Yeah…”

            “Okay, I’m gonna take the helmet off.”

            Yibo took the helmet gently off and was helping Xiao Zhan to sit when suddenly someone strangled him harsh and fast from behind.

            Yibo choked, but his reflect was fast. He threw his head backward as hard as he while bringing his foot upwards until he heard a crack. He could let himself free but then he heard another loud groan – two men were dragging Xiao Zhan away.

            “Ge...” he breathed, grabbing the helmet while taking his move towards them. He swung his hand and hit one man on the head with his helmet. He gotta save Xiao Zhan.

            The other man involuntary lost his balance and Xiao Zhan fell down onto the ground. Xiao Zhan fought hard to free himself from the him but he was stronger and Xiao Zhan’s effort was wasted.

            Yibo move forward to knock the other man down but suddenly he was strangled again from behind.

            The man who got hit at the head came towards Yibo and gave him some punches on the face, then a kick on his ribs, making him slumped onto the ground, spitting blood.

            In seconds, Yibo was fighting two men.

            “Yibo, run!” Xiao Zhan shouted, fought back by kicking and punching randomly at the man who was holding him. The man smacked Xiao Zhan on the stomach and made him slumped onto the ground.

            “Fuck…” Yibo hissed, eyeing Xiao Zhan from the corner of his eyes as he gave a man a kick on his stomach and another man a jab right on his nose. He then kicked low at their knees. Both sided fought well although Yibo was quite busy.

            Suddenly, a shot was heard and Yibo stopped fighting.

            A gun was pointed at Xiao Zhan’s head. “Stop, or I’ll kill him.”

            Yibo froze.

            “Yibo, run!” Xiao Zhan told him, pleading. “Please, save yourself.”

            “Ge…” Yibo tried to breathe, calmed himself down. Xiao Zhan’s watery eyes made his heart ache. He wasn’t leaving Xiao Zhan no matter what.

            Suddenly a roar of engine was heard and a car was coming in a high speed.

            The two men who fought with Yibo pulled away, equaled with Yibo move forward.

            The man put the gun against Xiao Zhan’s temple deeper until Xiao Zhan’s head was tilted aside. “Another move, then he dies.”

            Yibo stopped. His heart was beating was from the fear of Xiao Zhan being hurt.

            “Save yourself, Yibo. Don’t risk your life for me,” Xiao Zhan said, chuckled weakly. “Let me save you this time.”

            “Fuck!” Yibo graoned.

            They rushed into the car, dragging Xiao Zhan.

            Yibo stepped forward, brain worked hard to find any opening to attack.

            “Yibo, stop. Just go,” Xiao Zhan shouted from inside the car. “Go!”

            Yibo choked. “Ge…”

            The car roared and moved fast in full speed.

            Yibo abruptly ran into the higher terrain, along with the car, while grabbing his backpack. He then pulled his gun out of his bag and stacked a silencing and a high-focused telescope against it. He ran until he found an open higher ground where he could see the car in the right angle, then lied on his stomach, locked his target through the telescope. Gaining A+ certificate during his school wasn’t for nothing. He was the best survivor.

            Yibo aimed for the left-back tire and with a steady hold, he pulled the trigger. The bullet flew and hit the tire perfectly.

            The car lost its balance, moved in zigzag. Yibo got up and ran again, finding another angle to hit another tire. One bullet hit left-front tire, and the car was moving in a crazy route before it hit the trees.

            Yibo moved closer and hid himself behind a bush, spying on them through the telescope. He could see them getting out of the car while dragging Xiao Zhan out of the car who was struggling.

            Yibo narrowed his eyes, trying to find an opening at the bodies that were moving between trees. Once a man was out of the trees and locked inside the frame, Yibo held his breath and pulled the trigger.

            The crowd was furious when a man down. They looked around to find the source and the way they stood motionlessly gave Yibo another opening to shoot.

            Another one down.

            One man put the gun against Xiao Zhan temple and shouted, “Come out, or I’ll shoot him!”

            The other man pulled out his weapon and shot randomly.

            Yibo abruptly lied deeper flat into the ground but never leave his eyes from them through the telescope.

            “Yibo, don’t mind me! Just go!” Xiao Zhan shouted.

            “Bullshit…” Yibo whispered to himself, aiming the man who was holding Xiao Zhan.

            “I count to three!” the man shouted again.

            Yeah, just count, Yibo thought.

            “One!”

            “Yibo, run!”

            And Yibo pulled the trigger. A bullet flew and plugged right into his head. The man froze a moment before he bumped onto the ground.

            The last man was furious, pointing the gun at Xiao Zhan who was glaring back at him. Damn, that gege had no fear at all, Yibo thought. And then Yibo shot.

            Yibo jumped out of the bush when the man was down and ran towards Xiao Zhan who involuntary also ran towards him.

            “Yibo!” Xiao Zhan launched himself into Yibo’s arms as soon as he was in his reach.

            Yibo hugged him back with one hand, ruffled the back of Xiao Zhan’s head gently. “You okay, Ge…?” His other hand was still holding the gun.

            Xiao Zhan who has his face buried against Yibo’s neck nodded. “You stupid,” he mumbled against Yibo’s neck. “I told you to run.”

            “I’m not leaving you, Ge.”

            Xiao Zhan pulled away and pouted, landed a punch on Yibo’s chest. “What if they killed you?”

            “They won’t.”

            “Tch!” Xiao Zhan walking away.

            Yibo dismantled the gun and shoved it into his backpack before running after Xiao Zhan.

            Curiosity brought Yibo to find his bike and frowned when he saw the front tire was torn apart. So he fell from the bike because someone had shot the tire.

            “The bike was broken,” Yibo said after examining it. “We can’t ride it.”

            “Then what now?” Xiao Zhan looked at him in confusion.

            “We can’t go to Kaifeng either. They knew. They must be waiting for us.”

            “Okay… so… where are we going now?”

            Yibo bit his bottom lip, thinking. Suddenly he heard a sound of engine from afar. He stood up and brought Xiao Zhan behind him, alert. As the vehicle was getting closer, turned out it was a pick-up car carrying fruits and vegetables. Yibo stopped the car and bowed at the driver.

            “Excuse-me, laoban, is it possible for us to have a lift?” Yibo asked.

            “Where are you going?” the driver asked.

            “As far as you take us,” Yibo said again. Yep, definitely anywhere as long as not Kaifeng.

            “I’m going to Shangqiu,” said the driver.

            “Perfect.”

            “Okay, hop in!”

            Yibo and Xiao Zhan hopped in the back, sat on the vegetables, along with another farmer.

            “What are you doing here?” the farmer asked Yibo.

            “Oh… my bike was out of gas, so I left it here.”

            “Young man these days… why don’t you check on your gas before departing?” the farmer mumbled.

            Yibo smiled and decided to stay quite.

            But Xiao Zhan was different. With his full of curiosity character, he asked the farmer a lot about the fruits and vegetables they were taking and ended up with having conversation about farming.

            Yibo didn’t mind at all. This whole conversation only made Yibo know Xiao Zhan better. Also, the trip to Shanqiu turned interesting and lively.

 

            Shanqiu, a city border to Kaifeng, is an ancient city with a rich history, and was the first capital of the Shang dynasty. Shanqiu today has grown significantly in recent years, lies at a junction of several major railways making its train station a major regional transportation hub.

            Yibo got down in the city while the driver continued his trip more to the suburb. The day was already dark when they entered Shanqiu but being the junction of major railways, Shanqiu becomes the ‘pit-stop’ of the travelers and it was easy for Yibo to find a room.  

            Yibo sat on the floor, groaned a bit from the pain around his ribs, waiting for his turn to shower after Xiao Zhan. He felt like his bones were crushed. But a long hot shower made him feel better and relaxed. He sat on the floor topless, drying his wet hair with a towel.

            Xiao Zhan handed him a glass of warm tea. “Warm yourself up.”

            “Thank’s.” Yibo gave him a small smile, remembered clearly that it was his line for Xiao Zhan two days ago.

            Xiao Zhan nodded. “So many bruises. You okay?”

            “Mmn.”

            Xiao Zhan took a seat at the edge of the bed, looking down at Yibo awkwardly.

            “You want to sleep now?” Yibo asked, realizing Xiao Zhan’s discomfort.

            “Not really. You want to sleep now?” Xiao Zhan asked back. “I can sleep on the floor.”

            Yibo raised his eyebrows. “What?”

            “Well, there is only one bed. You can sleep on it. I’ll sleep on the floor,” Xiao Zhan said while grabbing the pillow.

            Yibo looked up at Xiao Zhan ridiculously. “We shared the same bed yesterday, Ge!”

            “That’s because I was exhausted and didn’t remember anything,” Xiao Zhan said.

            “Oh, come on! Just lay down and sleep. Is it that hard?” Yibo blurted out.

            Xiao Zhan shifted uncomfortably, squeezing the pillow. “I can’t.”

            “Why…?” Yibo got up and looked at Xiao Zhan, waiting for replies.

            Xiao Zhan let out a long breath, avoiding Yibo’s eyes. “Can you just… consider… my feeling?”

            The confession, Yibo thought.

            “I can’t be in the same room with you. Too suffocating…” Xiao Zhan mumbled.

            Yibo tilted his head. Suffocating, was it the same with the clenching heart he felt earlier? Yibo thought. If it was the same, then he had suffocated a lot.

            “You’re feeling just fine… for us… like… t-this… because you feel… nothing towards… m-me…” Xiao Zhan stuttered.

            “I don’t understand.”

            Xiao Zhan got up. He inhaled deeply before saying. “You feel nothing for me, so it’s understandable if you can just lie down beside me casually. But I can’t.”

            Yibo locked his gaze at Xiao Zhan, took his steps towards Xiao Zhan. “But I can’t get you out of my sight, Ge.”

            That was right. Letting Xiao Zhan out of his gaze would just make him restless. He wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about Xiao Zhan.  

            Xiao Zhan took steps backward, gasped silently when his back hit the wall. He abruptly raised his hand against Yibo’s chest to stop him from walking forward. “Stop.”

            Yibo looked down at Xiao Zhan’s hand against his chest and noticed that his jaw tensed. Xiao Zhan’s palm was warm against his heart. He really didn’t understand him. What was it that made Xiao Zhan felt uneasy being near him, while Yibo felt unbelievably comfortable around him? When Xiao Zhan hated him being around, while all Yibo wanted was Xiao Zhan being around? “Do you think that I am worrying you doesn’t count as feeling?”

            “Yibo, stop. Stop giving me hope. Stop caring for me. Just stop!” Xiao Zhan said nervously.

            “But I can’t stop caring for you.”

            Xiao Zhan turned his head to the left. He blinks fast and restless.

            “Do you think I did all those because you are my mission?” Yibo whispered sharply.

            “Isn’t it obvious?” Xiao Zhan choked.

            Yibo took Xiao Zhan’s hand that was on his chest, pinned it against the wall. “Can you not assuming everything by yourself?” Yibo didn’t know how to explain but he really cared about Xiao Zhan. Not only because Xiao Zhan was his mission, but Yibo really felt the affection towards him. Yibo genuinely wanted Xiao Zhan to be safe and have a better life. Yibo wanted Xiao Zhan to be able to decide what he wanted in life and fight for it, and happy for it. Yibo wanted Xiao Zhan to be alive and lively. Where did he get wrong? What was so wrong about it?

            Xiao Zhan knitted his eyebrow, seemed like thinking.

            Yibo brought himself closer, leaning in until his face was a breath away from Xiao Zhan’s, inspecting his facial expression. “Don’t you have any idea… just tiny idea… that I did all that because I truly wanted you to be safe?”

            Xiao Zhan swallowed hard.

            “I didn’t want you to get hurt,” Yibo whispered, concerned. “I didn’t want you to get hurt so I protect you with all I have. Every night I really wished that nothing bad happened to you…”

            “Stop!” Xiao Zhan whispered back. His voice was shaking.

            Yibo brought his face a little further. “I ran after you, to get you back, because I was worried about you. Do you think I was fine when I saw a gun pointed at you?”

            Xiao Zhan clenched shut his eyes, refused to hear whatever Yibo was saying. He fisted his hand that was pinned by Yibo against the wall, hugged the pillow tighter with his other hand.

            Yibo grabbed the pillow and tossed it onto the ground before pulling Xiao Zhan for a hug. “I do care about you, Zhan-ge. How couldn’t I?”

            Yibo didn’t understand but this felt so right. Having Xiao Zhan in his arms made him sure that nothing could hurt Xiao Zhan and he wouldn’t let anything happen to him.

            Involuntary, Yibo buried his nose in the crook of Xiao Zhan neck and breathed him in. “I will never let you go, Gege. I will always protect you.”

            Xiao Zhan brought his hands to wrap around Yibo’s waist while resting his forehead on Yibo’s shoulder. “I hate you, Wang Yibo…” he whispered.

            “But I care about you,” Yibo whispered back.

            “Stupid…” Xiao Zhan pulled away, only to lock their gaze.

            Yibo brought his hand and ran his fingers along Xiao Zhan’s jaw. “You know, Gege, you are beautiful.”

            “Yibo…” Xiao Zhan whispered shakily.

            “Mmn…?”

            “Kiss me…”

            Yibo knitted his eyebrows; he thought he heard wrong. Being not sure, Yibo leaned in slowly and stopped a breath away from Xiao Zhan. But when Xiao Zhan casually rested his head against the wall and parted slightly his lips, inviting, Yibo realized that Xiao Zhan meant what he said.

            So Yibo leaned in and kiss those waiting lips.

            Xiao Zhan’s eyes fluttered closed, couldn’t help kissing Yibo back.  

            The kiss was hot and everywhere and when Xiao Zhan’s leg hooked around his waist, Yibo eagerly wrapped his hands around Xiao Zhan and brought him onto the bed before pinning him down and ravished him, leaving marks all over Xiao Zhan’s body.

            Xiao Zhan clung submissively onto him only made Yibo greedy for each and every touch. He loved how messy Xiao Zhan beneath him, releasing all his tension and frustration writhing and moaning to every Yibo’s thrust.

            Yibo drawn himself deeper into the pool of ecstasy called Xiao Zhan and never wished to be saved.

           

***

 

            “So, where are we going now?” Xiao Zhan asked, shoved the last piece of the pie into his mouth.

            “I don’t know. I sent message last night but Han-ge hasn’t replied yet,” Yibo collected all the wrapping bag of their breakfast and shoved it into a plastic bag.

            “Last night?” Xiao Zhan knitted his eyebrow. “But… we…”

            Yibo tilted his head, knitted his eyebrows. “When you were showering, Ge!”

            “Oh…” Xiao Zhan grinned dumbfoundly, blushed. “Okay.”

            Yibo smiled a little, handed Xiao Zhan a cup of coffee. “I think I’m just gonna call Da-laoshi. Maybe Han-ge’s situation doesn’t allow him to reply me.”

            “And, who is this Da-laoshi?”

            Yibo sipped his coffee. “He’s my mentor, the closest beside Feng-ge. I  have assisted him in some cases too.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded. “Okay…”

            Yibo grabbed his backpack and took out another different phone. He inserted a different SIM-card and dialed Da-laoshi’s number.

            “Who’s this?” came Da-laoshi’s voice.

            “Me.”

            “Yibo?”

            “Mmn. How’s there?”

            “Everybody’s hacked.”

            “Han-ge?”

            “The worst.”

            Yibo nodded. As expected, Xiao Ping did everything to get Xiao Zhan. “What am I gonna do now? I need a bike and amo.”

            “Where are you?”

            “Shanqiu.”

            “Shanqiu? I thought Han-ge told you to Kaifeng.”

            “I got attacked. They might be waiting for me in Kaifeng.”

            There was a moment of silence before Da-laoshi said, “Take train to Tai’an. Wait for my message.”

            “Okay.” Yibo hung up and dismantled the phone.

            “So, where are we going now?” Xiao Zhan asked.

            “Tai’an.”

            “How?”

            “By train.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded. “Okay.”

            After having breakfast, they went to Shangqiu Train Station. Even the building was in ancient architecture, making Xiao Zhan widened his eyes in amazed. They stood in front of the Train Departure board to check on the route to Tai’an.

            “Eleven forty-three,” Yibo muttered, looked at his watch.

            “Thirty minutes waiting,” Xiao Zhan said.

            “Mmn.”

            “Let’s buy the tickets.”

            Actually, Yibo didn’t mind waiting. But in his current situation, waiting in open air like this was risky. He silently raised Xiao Zhan’s hood over his head and patted his head gently as they took their seats, waiting for the train.

            “Cover yourself,” Yibo whispered. He had to lean against Xiao Zhan to hear him because he was wearing g a mask.

            Xiao Zhan nodded and smiled behind his mask.

            The train arrived. Yibo held Xiao Zhan’s hand, led him to slide among the crowded and got them the seat at the back, Xiao Zhan by the window.

            The trip to Tai’an took more than two hours. Yibo looked at Xiao Zhan who was watching the scenery outside. If only Xiao Zhan brought a book, it would be nice so that Xiao Zhan wouldn’t get bored, Yibo thought.

            “We’re leaving Henan…” Yibo said.

            “Oh…?” Xiao Zhan threw his gaze outside, looking at a signboard written Shandong.

            “My parents live in Henan…” Yibo said again. “In Luoyang exactly.”

            “What? Why didn’t we visit them?” Xiao Zhan asked, leaned backwards and had his shoulder flushed against Yibo’s.

            “Because we’re on the run…”

            “Oh, yeah…” Xiao Zhan nodded. “We might lead them to your parents’ house.”

            “Mmn.”

            “Do you miss them?” Xiao Zhan asked.

            Yibo curved his lips, thinking. “Now? No.”

            Xiao Zhan chuckled. “I didn’t mean now. Well… maybe once in a while you miss them.”

            “Yeah, sometimes. Been living alone since I was thirteen. Maybe I kinda forget how to miss them,” Yibo said again.

            Xiao Zhan smiled assuringly while lacing their fingers together. “Where have you gone during that long period? Twelve years?”

            “I was attending the bodyguard school…”

            “Oh. And never came home?”

            “Once in a year. But when I was attending the last level, I barely came home.”

            “Why?”

            “Extra classes…”

            “You know what, you were so cool out there, Yibo…” Xiao Zhan smiled. “No wonder you had such great fight, you studied hard.”

            Yibo raised his eyebrows. “Really? Never thought about that.”

            Xiao Zhan pouted. “Really. How could you be so calm in all situations.”

            Yibo bit his bottom lip. “Not all the time. There were times when I got panic.”

            “Oh… when?”

            “That night when the light was off, and I couldn’t find you…” Yibo said bluntly, involuntary brushed his thumb against the back of Xiao Zhan’s palm.

            Xiao Zhan bit his tongue to prevent him from smiling widely while turning his face to the scenery outside, avoiding Yibo’s eyes. Xiao Zhan cleared his throat. “So… back then, who is Feng-ge?”

            “He is my mentor, also the closest besides Da-laoshi. They both really helped me a lot during my last level. I’ve also assisted him before.”

            “And… that one guy, the one I saw with Feng-ge…?”

            “Oh… he’s Tianhe. He’s my senior. We assisted Feng-ge and Da-laoshi together.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded. “What’s the scariest case you’ve handled?”

            “Actually, this is my first full-time case. Before I used to assisted Da-laoshi or Feng-ge.”

            “So, what kind of person you guys protecting?”

            “Mostly the governments and authorities. Sometimes CEOs. Top rated celebrities. You are actually special case.”

            “Oh, really…? I’m flattered…!” Xiao Zhan chuckled.

            “Han-ge and He-laoshi are friends so when He-laoshi told him about you, Han-ge without hesitation offered him the service.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            Yibo threw the gaze outside, wondering when this was over, and he was deployed for another new mission, would he be able to do it heart fully? Who was gonna be his next person to protect? Would he be able to protect them as content as he protected Xiao Zhan? But whoever his client would be, missions have to be accomplished, flawless and zero mistakes. Would he be willing to sacrifice himself to protect them?

            Suddenly things became complicated for him.

            Yibo rested his head against the backseat. Now he realized what Xiao Zhan meant by caring because of the job. That he cared for Xiao Zhan because he was the mission and he had to do everything to keep him alive. When this was over, would he still care for Xiao Zhan as much as before?

            Yibo felt a gentle tug against his shoulder and when he turned his head, he noticed that Xiao Zhan had fallen asleep with his head on his shoulder. He slowly straightened up his seat to let Xiao Zhan get better position so he wouldn’t hurt his neck.

            Yibo then rest his cheek against Xiao Zhan’s hair, brushed it gently, breathed his scent in. Maybe he couldn’t figure it out now. Maybe as the time went by, Xiao Zhan might be able to help him to define his feelings. And Yibo was willing to try.

           

***

 

            The pitter-patter of the raindrops hit the windows like music to Yibo’s ear. He could smell the freshness of the wet city and imagine its beauty as it glowed from the city lights. Softly, he nuzzled his nose into Xiao Zhan’s nape and buried it in his half-damp hair, closing his eyes while breathing Xiao Zhan’s thick smell after a long and hot sex. Eventhough it was cold and wet outside, but Yibo felt warm and content.

            “Stop. It tickles…” Xiao Zhan whispered.

            Yibo hummed, tightening his hand around Xiao Zhan’s waist as he spooned him on the bed, felt the goosebump creeping up as their bare skin brushed each other.

            Xiao Zhan ran his fingers lightly on the back of Yibo’s hand. “What are you thinking?”

            “I’m thinking why Da-laoshi wanted me to go to Tai’an…” Yibo whispered against Xiao Zhan’s nape intentionally, making him giggle.

            “Yibo!” Xiao Zhan brought his head further away and took a peak at Yibo over his shoulder.

            Yibo pulled away and opened his eyes. “Zhan-ge is ticklish…”

            Xiao Zhan glared but the smile lingered, and then he turned around to face Yibo. “So what are you going to do?” Xiao Zhan asked after a moment.

            “Wait.”

            “Da-laoshi didn’t give any other clue?”

            “No…”

            Xiao Zhan nodded again. “Yibo… have you ever thought about what you want in life…?”

            Yibo looked at Xiao Zhan’s eyes and nodded.

            “What is it?”

            “First time I wanted something, was attending the bodyguard school. Then… wanted to be the best…”

            “They were short-time goal. I mean your real goal. Your future…”

            Yibo bit his bottom lip. “I… don’t know. I’m just living my life and doing the best of it. I don’t plan.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded, brushed lightly his fingers along Yibo’s jaw.

            “Something’s bothering your mind, Zhan-ge?” Yibo raised his eyebrows.

            “I’m just wondering, if… if I’m… somewhere… around there, in your future…”

            “I… don’t know…” Yibo took Xiao Zhan’s hand that lingered against his jaw, and held it.

            Xiao Zhan nodded again.

            “I’m never in a relationship before…” Yibo added bluntly. Or honestly. Or maybe stupidly. Making Xiao Zhan chuckled.

            “Why…?” Xiao Zhan asked.

            “I didn’t have time for that. Besides, having my job like this, I can’t have commitment yet…”

            “Yeah… I got it.” Xiao Zhan smiled.

            “Really?”

            “Yeah…” Xiao Zhan laced their fingers. “Actually me too. Ever since helping my father with this TV station, I was so busy. And without realizing, here I am becoming a fugitive.”

            Yibo smiled.

            “You know what,” Xiao Zhan chuckled softly, “I actually understand why nobody wants to be your lover.”

            Yibo knitted his eyebrows. “You do?”

            “Because they couldn’t handle the restless feeling when you’re far away. Doing your job, protecting someone else. Risking your life for… someone else…” Xiao Zhan giggled. “If I was your boyfriend might die from jealousy!”

            Yibo smirked.

            Xiao Zhan sighed and kissed his lips. “But I’m in love with you. How stupid…”

            Yibo reached for Xiao Zhan’s hand and kissed the fingers slowly. Honestly, he didn’t even understand what he was feeling. All he knew that everything with Xiao Zhan felt so right. “Let’s figure this out together, okay?” he whispered.

            Xiao Zhan nodded while leaning deeper into Yibo’s chest and curled.

 

            Yibo really had a great sleep. The sun was up when he opened his eyes. The body in his arms shifted and he tightened his hug.

            “I need to go to the bathroom, Yibo…” Xiao Zhan mumbled.

            But Yibo didn’t move any single muscle.

            Xiao Zhan took effort to untangle himself and went to the bathroom.

            Yibo rolled on his stomach and buried his face into the pillow, breathed in Xiao Zhan’s intoxicating smell.

            “Zhan-ge… get back here…” Yibo said, mumbling against the pillow when he heard the bathroom door swinging open.

            Xiao Zhan chuckled softly.

            Yibo took a peek from his half-open eyelid – Xiao Zhan was having himself a glass of water.

            Xiao Zhan crawled under the sheet, wrapping himself in Yibo’s arms. “Still no message from Da-laoshi?”

            Yibo kissed the top of Xiao Zhan’s head. “Good morning, Zhan-ge. Not yet.”

            “And if there was no message today?”   

            Yibo sat up, shoved away the sheet that was covering his body and stepped out of the bed to the counter, making two cups of coffee.

            “Here…” Yibo handed Xiao Zhan one.

            Xiao Zhan took it and sipped it slowly.

            “I don’t know…” Yibo said, sat on the edge of the bed. “But the first procedure is wait.”

            Xiao Zhan looked at him in silent.

            “I can try to call Da-laoshi…”

            Xiao Zhan looked at Yibo in confusion. “I really need to talk to father.”

            “Don’t. They are spying on your father.”

            “At least my dad knows that I’m alive. I don’t want to worry him so much.”

            “He knows. Don’t worry.”

            Xiao Zhan smiled weakly. “No secure line?”

            Yibo shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

            Xiao Zhan finally smiled. “Don’t worry, I understand.”

            Yibo took a deep breath, smiled back.

            Xiao Zhan, still smiling, stepped out of the bed. “I’m taking a bath.”

            Yibo nodded. He put the coffee on bedside table, grabbed his clothes before he retook it and stood by the window, checking outside while sipping the coffee slowly to the last drop.

            The street below was not that crowded. Yibo intentionally picked a room that was a little bit hidden from the main street but had many access in case the killers caught them. Too busy street was dangerous for him – he wouldn’t be able to tell between ordinary people and stalkers.

            Yibo brushed his hair back and sighed. There was obviously no other option except waiting.

            Xiao Zhan was out of the bathroom and while preparing breakfast, Yibo took his turn showering.

            “I think I need to buy a new phone,” Yibo said when they were having breakfast.

            “Oh… why?”

            “I need to find another phone that has difference wave transmission, low transmission if possible, to stay out of radar.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded, in confusion.

            “Smartphone today has high wave transmission that can be tracked down easily. I need to contact Da-laoshi but have to stay out of radar,” Yibo explained. “I can’t use my previous phone. Two wave transmissions in a row could bring suspicion.”

            “Ah… okay. I get it now.” Xiao Zhan this time really nodded.

            Two hours later, with hoodie covering their heads, they wandered around to find some low wave transmission phones.

            Then they went to buy some take-outs for lunch and dinner. Actually, it was nice to wander around the city like this with Xiao Zhan. Maybe, when this was all over, he could take Xiao Zhan to Shanghai to have a walk along the Riverside Promenade and took him to watch opera. Or maybe back to Wuhan and tasted all the food at Wuhan Street Food, Xiao Zhan loved spicy food. Shanqiu was also fine, Xiao Zhan liked the architectures of the city and he might snap some photos there. Or maybe…

            Yibo turned to look at Xiao Zhan who was looking at him. “What?”

            “You were smiling…” Xiao Zhan said.

            “No.”

            “Yes.”

            Yibo rolled his eyes.

            Xiao Zhan nudged him by the ribs, demanding some explanation. “You were smiling, Wang Yibo!”

            Yibo said nothing. Instead, he took Xiao Zhan’s hand and held it tight, making him blushed.

            “This is gonna be a long wait…” Yibo said when they reached the inn, plopped himself on the bed, lied flat on his stomach.

            Xiao Zhan took off his hoodie and made himself a warm tea. “You want some?” he asked Yibo.

            “No…”

            Xiao Zhan took the seat beside Yibo, legs folded.

            Yibo reached for the plastic bag and insert the SIM-card into the new phone, turned it on.

            It beeped. 7pm. Shang Book Store.

            “Is that it?” Xiao Zhan raised his eyebrows. “And where should we find this Shang Book Store?”

            Yibo bit his bottom lip, dismantling the phone. “We could ask the inn-owner.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            “I’ll ask him before going.”

            “I can do that for you…”

            “No, Zhan-ge, I’m going alone.” Yibo looked at him seriously.

            “Why?”

            “Vision is limited at night. It would be better for you to stay here.”

            Xiao Zhan pouted but nodded. He cupped the warm mug with his two hands, dozing off.

            Yibo propped on his elbow. “I’ll be okay, Ge…”

            “Huh…?” Xiao Zhan snapped.

            “Don’t worry. I’ll be okay.” YIbo gave him an assurance look.

            “I know.”

            Yibo nodded.

            “It’s just…”

            “What…?”

            “I hope Xiao Ping didn’t trouble my father.”

            “Xiao Ping is your father.”

            Xiao Zhan shot him an offended look. “He’s not.”

            Yibo grinned and nudged Xiao Zhan’s upper arm with his forehead.

            Xiao Zhan sighed. “I never consider him as my father.”

            Yibo gave Xiao Zhan an assuring look. “He Jiong-laoshi willl be fine. Han-ge is with him…”

            “You trust Wang-laoshi so much…”

            “Han-ge was like a father to me.”

            “I can see that.”

            “Being in this field, you really have to be picky about trusting someone,” Yibo continued. “Friends can be enemy, as easy as turning your hand upside down. Nothing is impossible.”

            “And what about this case? Why do you think they delete Changsa? You got spies inside the team?” Xiao Zhan blabbed.

            Yibo shook his head. “Impossible. This is limited case. Only few people involved and I can guarantee that everybody is trusted.”

            “What about people who accidentally knows this? And then sold information to Xiao Ping?” Xiao Zhan asked.

            “That’s one option to think about though…”

            Xiao Zhan sipped the tea and exhaled a long breath. “I… I feel really… uneasy, Yibo…”

            “Why?”

            “I don’t know…”

            “Don’t be. I’m gonna be okay.”

            “I hope so…”

            But still when it was time for Yibo to go, Xiao Zhan couldn’t help worrying.

            “I’ll be back, Ge…” Yibo whispered against Xiao Zhan’s lips as he kissed him.

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            Yibo nodded back before slipping out of the door. He had asked the inn-owner about that Shang Book Store and turned out that the store only about 2 kilometers from the inn, passed through an intersection.

            The night was still young. The street was still busy from the people who got back from work. The restaurants and the shops were still crowded.

            Yibo walked fast and smooth among the passerby, jumped into a bus that took him to Shang Book Store only in ten minutes.

            There was a ‘Closed’ sign against the door, but Yibo stepped in anyway. There was the sound of the wind chime when he opened the door and the owner immediately came out.

            “We’re closed, Sir…” the owner said.

            “I’m here for the package from Da Zhang Wei,” Yibo said firmly.

            The owner looked at Yibo for a moment before asking him to wait, and got back a minute later with a small box.

            Yibo said thank you after shoving the box into his shoulder bag and walked out of the store. He decided to take other route to get back to the inn, avoiding recognition. Actually the route back was longer, but he had no other choice. He also avoided crowded streets and chose to walk through alleys.  

            Yibo took different route of bus and got down at the intersection. He walked fast among the crowd and took the turn into an alley, knitted his eyebrows when he heard soft friction came from behind. He took a peak from the corner of his eyes and noticed that some men were walking after him.

            Yibo walked out of the empty alley and took the crowd to drown himself among the passerby. He half-ran and slipped smoothly between bodies and took an alley again.

            But the friction came again.

            Damn, they were good, Yibo thought. He was about to run when suddenly he heard a gun shot.

            Yibo froze.

           The men came towards him, and Yibo alerted. He ducked in a sudden to welcome one of them a low kick.

           In a sudden, they fought and Yibo fought back hard. He really wanted to end this fast because he couldn’t stand letting Xiao Zhan waiting alone in the inn. He didn’t know if these guys had some companion ambushed the inn and took Xiao Zhan.

            Two down, and one fell from receiving Yibo’s jab on the nose. He turned around to face the last man. He thought he was winning, until he heard a gunshot when he moved.

            Suddenly he felt hot and sting around his left waist, making him wobble. He reached for his waist and saw blood gushing down.

            Yibo got shot. Even though he was familiar with all kinds of weapons, but this was his first experience feeling the hot bullet digging in his flesh.

            Yibo turned around and saw the man on the ground was already on his feet and pointing a gun at him. He gulped, had nothing as weapon except ammos in his bag. The only gun he had was being left with Xiao Zhan in case something happened. He took a deep breath, trying to clear his mind and think, but immediately choked as soon as the other man behind strangled him.

            Yibo elbowed him hard, combined with a kick. At the same time he noticed that the other man aiming him with his gun. He tried to turn the table, tripped the man behind by his foot and turned them around. A shot heard behind him.

            Yibo let the limp body fell, winced because now the sting was started to creep up and down his left side. He got not much energy left. Fuck, this hurt, Yibo hissed.

            Yibo remembered Tianhe told him a trick. So he shot his luck; weakly fell down on his knee, bent down until his head touch the ground while grabbing his wounded waist.

            The man came closer, gun still pointed at Yibo.

             Yibo silently took a peek while maintaining steady breath and when the man was close enough, he abruptly grabbed the hem of his pants and tugged hard and fast in one sudden movement. The man fell down on his back. Yibo abruptly took his step forward to snatch the gun and pointed down at his chest.

            The man lied hopelessly on the ground, stared at him coldly and Yibo pulled the trigger without wasting any time. The man down.

             Leave no witness.

             Yibo shot the other two fainted men on the head and threw the gun away into the trash bin. Using one of their jacket, Yibo wiped the blood on his body and snatched the shirt for him to press the wound before hiding it beneath his jacket as he got into a convenient store to buy medical kit.

             The rest of the way back was a bliss – the sting poked him hard all over his left body, made him cold-sweated and hard to breath until he slumped on the ground.

             Yibo tried to keep his sanity. He couldn’t just get fainted here. Or die. Not now. He didn’t want to leave Xiao Zhan alone in the inn. He still wanted to see Xiao Zhan and do many wonderful things together that made him smile.

             Yibo groaned deep in this throat, trying to get up and move forward.

             Entering the inn, he noticed the owner was watching TV. He rushed upstairs and knocked the door, hoping that Xiao Zhan would open the door and nothing bad happened.

             The door swung opened. And it was Xiao Zhan who opened it.

             Yibo let out a breath, felt really relieved, before slumping down onto the floor.

             Xiao Zhan locked the door and looked at him in confusion.

             “W-what… happened…? Yibo…?” Xian Zhan was shaking, down on both his knee and patted Yibo’s cheek gently. His eyes widened in horror when noticed the gush of blood around his left waist.

             Yibo tried to sit up and rest his back against the bed, “They know we’re here…” he panted, trying to remove the shoulder bag from his torso. “Did someone come?”

             “No, no, no…” Xiao Zhan whispered hoarsely while helping him remove the shoulder bag, and then the shirt. Tears started to drip down his face when he saw Yibo’s waist. “Noone came.”

             “Good. Means they don’t know you’re here.”

             “What do you mean by good? Wang Yibo!” Xiao Zhan shouted in horror.

             Yibo gestured the plastic bag that he brought. “Help me out, okay?”

             Xiao Zhan took the plastic bag. “What should I do?”

             “Warm water and towel.”

             Xiao Zhan rushed to the bathroom and got back in a flash.

             “Wipe clean all the blood.”

             Xiao Zhan wiped the wound silently. His hands were shaking and Yibo could see how worried he was from the way he tightened his jaw. His face was wet from the tears.

             Yibo raised his hand and gently brushed Xiao Zhan’s cheek, leaving marks of blood. “Ge…?”

             Xiao Xhan raised his face. A pair of beautiful teary eyes pierced into Yibo’s soul.

             Yibo slowly leaned in and gave him a peck on the lips. “I’m okay. So you have to be okay too. Stay strong, okay?”

             Xiao Zhan swallowed hard and nodded. “Just tell me what to do.”

             Yibo smiled. “You can do it. I’ll guide you.”

             Xiao Zhan nodded again.

            After so much cold-sweating struggle not to scream by shoving the shirt into his mouth and bit it hard, and Xiao Zhan’s incredibly self-restrain, finally the bullet was out.

            “Ge… can you check the bag?” Yibo said slowly, gesturing his shoulder bag. He sat on the bed, leaning backwards against the headboard.

            Xiao Zhan who was done cleaning himself up nodded. He grabbed the bag and sat next to Yibo on the bed, took the box out. “You want me to open this?”

            Yibo nodded, straightened up his seat.

            Xiao Zhan opened the box – a plastic bag of ammos and a small envelope.

            Yibo took the envelope and opened it. A note – Bunk Garage.

            “Bunk Garage? Where is this Bunk Garage anyway?” Xiao Zhan asked. Annoyance was clearly seen on his face.

            “I don’t know…” Yibo mumbled. “It must be somewhere around here.”

            “And how are we going to find it?”

            “GPS might work, but the signal will make them easily track us.”

            Xiao Zhan put the ammos and the key into the bag. “Then what?”

            Yibo lied down on his back. Eventhough Xiao Zhan has poured some antiseptic and applied painkillers to stop the bleeding, Yibo could still feel the sting. “Let’s go to an internet café tomorrow morning.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded and lied down next to Yibo. “Do you think you’ll be okay tomorrow?” His tone was low and full of concern.

            Yibo looked at him and nodded. “Mmn.”

            “You scared me…” Xiao Zhan whispered, laced their fingers together.

            “I’m sorry…” Yibo reached for Xiao Zhan’s nape with his other hand, only to cup it and bring him closer to peck his forehead and nose.

            Xiao Zhan shook his head. “Just get some rest. We still have a long way to go tomorrow.”

            “Mmn.” Yibo took their entangled hands and put it on his chest while slowly drifting to sleep.

 

***

 

            After breakfast, Yibo and Xiao Zhan roamed around to find an internet café. Xiao Zhan changed the bandage and poured some more antiseptics to lessen the pain so Yibo could walk properly.

            Yibo typed ‘Bunk Garage’ and some Bunk Garages appeared with one of them located in Tai’an. He plotted the route – it was about one hour trip by bus. Without wasting any time, Yibo terminated his session.

            They got back to the inn and packed their stuff before going to the Bunk Garage. Yibo brought the medical garbage with him and tossed it into the trash bin by the bus stop before getting in.

            The bus wasn’t that crowded and they took the back seat.

            “You okay?” Xiao Zhan looked at him in worried.

            “Okay.”

            “Still hurt?”

            “No.” It really wasn’t hurt. After taking some painkillers and compressing the wound with many many many antiseptic, the first layer of the skin has dried and the blood has stopped.

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            “I don’t think this is a good idea, actually,” Yibo said.

            “Eh… why?”

            “Because I don’t know if those guys last night had companies or not. Even now, I’m feeling like they are spying on us,” Yibo whispered.

            Xiao Zhan gulped, involuntary threw his gaze to the passengers on the bus, watched them one by one.

            “We should have gone last night. Staying is a bad idea,” Yibo added.

            “But you’re wounded,” Xiao Zhan whispered back. “Besides, no matter where we are, they always manage to find us. It’s only a matter of place and time.”

            Yibo sighed. Xiao Zhan might be right. Even if they had gone last night, the killers might have been following him and attacked them somewhere else.

 

            Yibo got down at a bus stop and continued walking for about five hundred meters before seeing a three-floors building with ‘Bunk Garage’ was stuck against it.

            Yibo and Xiao Zhan had thought that Bunk Garage was some kind of workshop, a repair shop – a garage where you fixed or modified your cars and bikes. Turned out that Bunk Garage was a sport-cars showroom. Yibo noticed there were Jaguar, Porsche, Lamborghini and some other luxurious cars as he entered the building.

            A salesman welcomed him as they entered the building. “What can I do for you, Sir?”

            “I need to see the manager in charge, please…” Yibo replied.

            The salesman looked confused. “Manager in charge… as in…?”

            “Your manager.”

            The salesman was hesitated for a moment before he asked a customer service to make a call.

            A few minutes later, a middle age man came down and bowed at him. “How may I help you?”

            “Da Zhang Wei told me to come,” Yibo said shortly.

            The man looked at Yibo and nodded. “This way, please.”

            Yibo nodded and followed him to the 3rd floor, into his office.

            The manager gestured them to sit as he grabbed the phone on his desk. He dialed a number. “Sir, he’s here…” he said to the phone, then to Yibo, “He wants to talk to you.”

            Yibo took the phone and the manager walked out of the room to give him privacy. “Yes?”

            “Yibo!” came Da-laoshi’s voice.

            “Mmn.”

            “You okay?”

            “I got shot. They found me.”

            “What!”

            “Mmn. What’s the situation in Beijing now?”

            “The evidence is complete. We’re submitting the files today to the High Court.”

            “Glad to hear that.”

            “Yeah. You’re okay now. I’m coming to pick you up. Wait for me there.”

            “Mmn.” Yibo hung up.

            “Is he coming?” Xiao Zhan asked.

            Yibo came to sit next to Xiao Zhan at the couch. “Mmn.”

            “Oh… that’s good. Now we’re having a back-up.” Xiao Zhan said. His face slowly turned relaxed.

            “You don’t need to be that tensed.” Yibo rubbed Xiao Zhan’s back gently.

            Xiao Zhan glared. “How can I not?”

            “We’re safe now. We just have to wait here.”

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            The manager in charge came again and took them to the guest room. It was the room where they accepted guests and had casual meeting.

            Yibo plopped himself on the couch, laid flat on his back. Xiao Zhan rolled his eyes then paused for a bit before staring at Yibo’s waist in horror.

            “It’s bleeding again…” Xiao Zhan said while kneeling on the floor beside the couch by Yibo’s waist. “You walked too much today.”

            Yibo raise his head and looked down - red stain on his shirt.

            “I’ll ask for some medical kit from the staff,” Xiao Zhan said while getting up. “You wait here.”

            Yibo didn’t have time to stop him because Xiao Zhan rushed outside. Minutes later Xiao Zhan came back with a box of medical kit and work on Yibo’s waist.

            “You should get change…” Xiao Zhan said when he was done putting the bandage around Yibo’s waist.

            “No need. Da-laoshi is coming. I’ll get change later.”

            “Fine…” Xiao Zhan didn’t argue.

            Around evening, an office boy came with food and drinks along with the manager in charge, and told them that it was closing time.

            “Da-laoshi called that he’ll be here in around one hour. The employees are going home so there will be no one here, but technically there will be three security guards taking night shift,” he added.

            “Ah, okay. That’s a relieved,” Yibo replied. At least he had back up. “Thank you.”

            The manager in charge excused himself.

            Yibo turned to look at Xiao Zhan who was standing by the window, looking out.

            “Beautiful sunset…” Xiao Zhan said.

            Yibo had to agree. The orange ray of light flared up the sky and made it as if on fire. “When this is all over, Zhan-ge, I will take you to see the most beautiful sunset,” he whispered against Xiao Zhan’s ear as he hugged him from behind, put his arms around his waist.

            Xiao Zhan chuckled, put his arms above Yibo’s. “Keep your promise, Yibo!”

            “Mmn…”

            “You sure?”

            “Mmn.”

            The sunset only last for a minute, but the orange ray lingered.

            “When this is all over, will you still be with me?” Xiao Zhan whispered.

            Yibo bit his bottom lip, rest his chin on Xiao Zhan’s shoulder. “I’m willing to try, Ge, with you.”

            Xiao Zhan chuckled softly, turning his head to look at Yibo over his shoulder. “Me too. Let’s work this out.”

            “Mmn.” Yibo leaned in and caught Xiao Zhan’s lips gently.

            The orange ray slowly faded, leaving grey sky scenery followed by the lights that flicked one after another from the city below. A very romantic and overwhelmed atmosphere engulfed Yibo and he just wanted to enjoy this while lasted.

            “Yibo—“ Xiao Zhan didn’t continue his sentence because suddenly the light was out.

            Yibo froze; both he and Xiao Zhan didn’t dare to say a thing. Yibo turned his head outside the window and realized the lights outside were on. It meant that the blackout was only in this building.

            Yibo held Xiao Zhan’s hand and took him to stand by the door, grabbing their backpack along the way. He pulled out his silenced gun and put his ear against the door to check what was happening outside.

            Nothing.

            “Cling onto me. Don’t go far…” Yibo whispered.

            Xiao Zhan nodded.

            Yibo opened the door slowly and stepped outside, aiming for the stairs. He remembered that he manager in charge said that there were three security guards in shift, and he was going to find them.

            Finding the stairs, Yibo put his back against the wall as he walked down.

            A loud bump heard.

            Yibo froze and so did Xiao Zhan. He assumed someone down, either the one killer or one guard.

            The hallways were long and dim, with many rooms and that was a disadvantage. Those guys could hide anywhere to ambush him and Xiao Zhan. And more, just like the other office building, they had half-glass half-gypsum wall that made Yibo and Xiao Zhan had to crawl to find the stairs.

            Then shots were heard. Three shots. And then silence.

            Yibo turned to look at Xiao Zhan, smiled comfortingly at him when he noticed that Xiao Zhan’s face was turned pale.

            Xiao Zhan forced a smile back.

            They found the stairs to the first floor, but before Yibo even took his first step, a shot was aiming his feet. He backed away abruptly and pushed Xiao Zhan to the nearest room, led him to hide under a table.

            Xiao Zhan looked at Yibo in horror. “You got shot?” he mouthed.

            Yibo shook his head and put his pointer on his lips, gesturing him to shut up.

            Frictions of footsteps heard, and the door swung open.

            Yibo breathed slowly, keeping his eyes on the feet from under the table, locking the target. He shot.

            The man lost balance and fell. Yibo rolled out of the table, aiming the target. One more bullet straight to his head, and he was down. 

            Suddenly the door swung open and Yibo was showered with shots from an automatic weapon.

            Yibo groveled abruptly on the floor. With his arm on each side of his head, he crawled and hid under the table. But the shots didn’t stop, crashing all the furniture inside the room.

            What kind of killer who used an automatic weapon just to capture a civilian like Xiao Zhan? He wasn’t just a killer. He was a cold-blooded-professional killer.

            Suddenly Yibo heard a click, making him abruptly get out of the table and shot back.

            Two shots and the man down,

            Yibo turned to check on Xiao Zhan who was still hiding under the table, eyes clenched shut and curled. He looked fine, physically, but he couldn’t hide the shock on his face. He grabbed Xiao Zhan into his hug and rubbed his back. “You okay, Ge?”

            Xiao Zhan nodded but Yibo knew that he wasn’t. He needed to get Xiao Zhan out of here quickly. Where the hell was Da Zhang Wei?

            Yibo checked on the hallway and when he was sure it was safe, he gestured Xiao Zhan to follow. Reaching the first floor, they were welcomed with shots of gun.

            Yibo involuntary reached for Xiao Zhan’s wrist and dragged him as they run along the hallway under the showering bullets while bending their bodies, until they found another room and hid behind the couch.

            Yibo was trying to breath steadily when he realized that Xiao Zhan was shaking.

            “Ge…” Yibo whispered while put his arms around Xiaon Zhan’s shoulder and pull him for a hug. “We’ll gonna make it, okay?”

            Xiao Zhan buried his face in Yibo’s shoulder and nodded.   

            “Bear this with me a little bit more.”

            A shot was heard, followed by the sound of crashed glasses.

            Yibo hugged Xiao Zhan tighter when the shots started to shower them.

            Fuck! The killers didn’t joke. Xiao Ping really sent the bests to kill them. The couch wouldn’t stay long. Soon the bullet would breakthrough and poked their flesh. Damn it!

            The curled and shaking Xiao Zhan didn’t give him any choices. Without much thinking, Yibo let Xiao Zhan go, load his gun and from the side of the couch, he lied on his side and shot back. His eyes roamed fast and noticed that there were two men outside the room, each had two guns, one gun on each hand.

            They shot at each other until their guns were empty. Yibo tossed his gun when the men jumped through the window and a close fight was inevitable.

            Yibo fought hard and fast – he always knew that he was best at speed. But those men fought back equally, and with their higher bodies than Yibo’s, they really made Yibo very busy. Not to mention that the wound on his waist started to sting.

            And suddenly a side round-horse-kick poked into his wound hard.

            Yibo groaned and lost his balance, dropped down on his knee with one hand covering the start-bleeding-wound. He could feel the throb right to his head, made him dizzy.

            One man used this chance to kick Yibo’s rib, another kick from another man, another kick, one after another, and Yibo could do nothing but curled with hands covering his face and wound. He started to smell thick blood gushing out.

            “STOP!!!” A voice broke through.

            The kick stopped.

            It was Xiao Zhan, with a gun pointing at the men, glaring in anger. “If you don’t stop, I’ll shoot you.”

            Yibo stared sharply at the gun in Xiao Zhan’s hand; it was his, and it was empty. Didn’t Xiao Zhan know that? Or did Xiao Zhan only want to bluff them?

            With such effort, Yibo got up on his feet and came towards Xiao Zhan while the two men standing still, only to take over the gun. Xiao Zhan hurriedly support Yibo as soon as his hands were free. Yibo really felt like shit!

            Yibo locked the gun with the man forehead and with a smirk, he pulled the trigger, shooting his luck whether the gun was loaded or not. A bang was heard, followed by a man down.

            Ah… so it was loaded.

            The one standing man looked at Yibo. Tensed.

            Yibo curved his lips casually and shot. Again, luck was on his side; another bang was heard and the man slowly slumped onto the floor.

            “I thought this was empty?” Yibo stared at Xiao Zhan while slowly dropping himself onto the floor.

            For a moment, Xiao Zhan wasn’t able to comprehend Yibo’s question because he was too shock and too busy panicking at the bleeding wound. So Yibo cupped his face and brushes his thumbs against Xiao Zhan’s cheeks softly.

            “Zhan-ge?” Yibo called Xiao Zhan’s name gently.

            Xiao Zhan blinked, eyes on Yibo.

            Xiao Zhan watery eyes were really endearing and his genuine care for him sent him warmth. “Thank you,” Yibo said instead.

            Xiao Zhan nodded, then chuckled in relieved.

            “Let’s go…” Yibo said. With Xiao Zhan’s support, he tried to get up, wobbled when he felt the sting around his waist. “Fuck,” he muttered.

            Xiao Zhan caught him. “The wound is getting worse,” he choked.

            “Let’s get out first…” Yibo said weakly while putting his hand on his waist, trying to block the blood that kept gushing out.

            Xiao Zhan nodded and put Yibo’s arm around his shoulder and helped him walking.

            “Just a little bit more…” Xiao Zhan said as they reached the ground floor.

            Yibo winced, tried to endure the hurt and the pain, cold sweat all over his body. His feet started to feel numb and he could only lean on Xiao Zhan as support. The front door was a few more steps and he had to keep sane to bring Xiao Zhan out of this building.

            The sounds of siren was heard when Yibo was a few steps out of the building. He winced his eyes and tried to find out who it was.

            “Yibo! Yibo!”

            Ah, it was Da Zhang Wei.

            Between his sanity and the unconsciousness, he could hear Da Zhang Wei calling his name and slowly fade away.

 

***

 

           Epilogue

            Yibo entered Wang Han’s office.

            “Yibo…” Wang Han rose from his seat and welcome him in a warm hug. “Glad you okay.”

            “Mmn…” Yibo bowed his head, full of respect.
            “Come one, have a seat…” Wang Han took him to the couch. “It was chaotic, eh…?”

            “Very…” Yibo said, grinning.

            “But you did it.”

            “We did it,” Yibo corrected Wang Han’s line.

            “No, it was you.”

            “I mean, Xiao Zhan and I,” Yibo replied bluntly.

            Wang Han laughed to the joke. “Yes, yes… You and Xiao Zhan…”

            Yibo smiled amusingly. “Life imprisonment and dishonorable discharged.”

            Wnag Han nodded abruptly. “Yes. That Xiao Ping deserves that.”

            Yibo inhaled deeply. He remembered Xiao Zhan’s expression at the High Court when he heard this – sad. Yes, Xiao Zhan was actually sad because the father that should have guided him and loved him, wanted to kill him instead.

            Wang Han grabbed the file that was on the table and took a look. “So, you’re applying for Defense Department at the academy?”

            “Yes.”

            “And, where should I put you actually?”

            “Self-defense and combat training division,” Yibo answered firmly.

            “As expected.”

            Yibo nodded.

            “You sure you don’t want to involve in the adventures?” Wang Han teased him.

            Yibo grinned sheepishly. “No, Han-ge. I don’t want to make Zhan-ge worried about me all the time.”

            “Aaayyy…” Wang Han cringed. “I supposed you’ve talked about this slowly,” Wang Han added. “You’re still young, Yibo, with many potential you can apply at the field.”

            Yibo smiled and nodded. “We’ve talked it through, and this is my final decision.”

            Wang Han let out a breath and put the files down. “Fine. I can manage that.”

            “Thank you, Han-ge.”

            “So, how’s Xiao Zhan?”

            “He’s fine. He-laoshi gave him a reality show project about food and if this goes well, he would ran a division.”

            “Good to hear.”

            “Yes. We’re also planning on opening a bakery.”

            “A bakery? Ah… congratulations, Yibo! I’ll make sure to visit your bakery and eat them all!”

            Yibo smiled a little. Wang Han always treated him like a kid.

            “But…is he… having a therapy or something…?” Wang Han asked in concerned.

            “No. Zhan-ge overcame his shock very well. In fact, he’s never been so energetic nowadays…” Yibo replied.

            “And that energy boost mostly comes from you?” Wang Han teased again.

            Yibo didn’t reply. Instead, he smiled shyly.

            “I’ll take that as a yes.”

            “And, we’ll be moving to a larger apartment next week. I’ll give you the address when we settle.”

            “Oh…another good news...?! That’s really good, Yibo! So many good news today.”

            “Many good news indeed.”

            “Then we should have a hotpot!”

            “Sounds cool. You should take the others too.”

            “I will. I will take Qiang Feng, Da-laoshi and Tianhe along. The more the merrier.”

            Yibo nodded.

            Wang Han sighed. “You’re doing good, Yibo!” he said firmly and proudly.

            “Yeah.” There was a silence until Yibo said again, “Thank you for all your guidance, Han-ge.”

            “My pleasure, Yibo. My pleasure.”

            “Then I’ll get going, Han-ge. I’m just stopping by to sign some documents and say hi.”

            “So soon…?”

            “I still have… an errand to do,” Yibo said hesitantly.

            “Ah, okay then. I hope you two have a good day.”

            “Thank you, Han-ge.”

            Yibo bowed deeply before finally stepping out the office. He patted gently his shoulder bag that was slid against his chest. Then his phone buzzed.

            “Yes, Zhan-ge…?”

            “Are you done there?” came Xiao Zhan’s voice.

            “Done. I’m on my way home…” Yibo said while hopping on to his bike.

            “Oh… that’s good.”

            “Mmn.” Yibo started the engine.

            “How long are we going to stay in Shanghai…?”

            “However long you wish to. Why?”

            “I’m packing and I’m confused on how many clothes I should take.” Xiao Zhan giggled.

            Yibo laughed softly. “Zhan-ge, I’m riding. I’ll be home soon and we’ll pack together, okay?”

            “Oh, sorry, sorry! Okay then.”

            “Mmn.”

            Yibo shoved the phone into the bag and put on his helmet, riding the bike out of the parking lot. Riding home. Home.