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Parental Guidance

Parental Guidance: Chapter 19

Chapter 19

Ji Bie’s flight was booked and rescheduled.

He only managed to book a ticket for the next afternoon, but in the early hours, Mr. Duan’s assistant called again to say that Duan Zhu’s fever had subsided, and he didn’t need to come.

Before Ji Bie could ask further questions, the assistant recited like reading from a script again, saying that Ji Bie’s necklace had been returned to Duan Zhu and hinted that since he was leaving, he should just go straightforwardly without any lingering attachments.

Ji Bie’s school started in September. He thought for a long time while sitting in front of his computer and changed his return ticket to Boston to mid-August. On the second day after the expiration of his lease in A city, he started looking for rental information in Boston.

Mr. Duan did not call again. Ji Bie picked up his phone to contact Duan Zhu, intending to ask if he was feeling better. However, every time he thought about how he returned the necklace, he couldn’t bring himself to press the button.

A week later, when he was buying daily necessities, he unexpectedly ran into someone at the supermarket entrance.

As he was pushing the shopping cart to go in, someone called out to him. He turned around and saw Duan Weiran holding hands with a girl, looking surprised to see him, and asked him, “What are you doing here?”

Duan Weiran and her friend came to visit the Provincial Museum in A city for three days. Their hotel was just next to the supermarket, so they came to buy some food. Since Duan Weiran’s friend had another appointment that evening, she asked Ji Bie if he was free for dinner.

The two of them found a nearby restaurant. While waiting for their food, Duan Weiran leaned on her hand, looking at Ji Bie as if she wanted to say something, but hesitated.

Seeing this, Ji Bie drank some water and asked her, “What do you want to say?”

“Nothing.” After thinking for a while, Duan Weiran shook her head and talked about the people from Ji Bie’s debate club she had met before.

Their conversation shifted from club members to school and finally back to the Duan family. Duan Weiran told Ji Bie, “We’re going to the estate again for Chinese New Year this year, did you know?”

Ji Bie shook his head, so Duan Weiran continued, “This year, Young Master Duan will definitely be surrounded by people again. My mom keeps urging me to curry favor with him, and I’m so tired of it.”

“Really?” Ji Bie took a sip of water and asked along with her words.

“Faced with that expressionless face, how can you stand it for so long?” Duan Weiran complained, “I really admire you.”

Ji Bie glanced at Duan Weiran and defended Duan Zhu, “He’s fine. You’re exaggerating.”

“Exaggerating? No way,” Duan Weiran waved her hand, then asked him seriously, “Does Duan Zhu really smile?”

“He—” Ji Bie paused for a few seconds before saying, “Of course, he does.”

Duan Zhu did smile. How could he not? His smile was gentle, although he didn’t smile often.

“Maybe you’re not familiar enough,” Ji Bie added, “You can get to know him during the New Year.”

“No, no, no, no need,” Duan Weiran showed a look of horror, “By the way, don’t talk to me during the New Year.”

Ji Bie was going to ask why, but before the words came out, he changed his tone and said, “I’m not going this year.”

“Huh?” Duan Weiran was a little surprised.

“I’m eighteen now,” Ji Bie explained, “and my last name isn’t Duan.”

Duan Weiran’s doubts grew.

She heard from Zhu Yin that Ji Bie gave up D University and stayed in Boston. She thought Ji Bie stayed for Duan Zhu, but now he was alone in China without any sign of Duan Zhu’s presence. She couldn’t help but be curious, but if she asked too much, it seemed too gossipy. After thinking about it, she gave up asking and instead said to him, “I have a classmate who went to the same university as you. Do you want to meet?”

Ji Bie was absent-minded that day.

Every time he looked at Duan Weiran, he would think of those days during Chinese New Year two years ago.

At that time, he and Duan Zhu were different from now. Their relationship seemed veiled, not having experienced real battles, not being so inseparable and chaotic.

Duan Wei Ran had also asked Ji Bie if Duan Zhu had forced him, if he liked Duan Zhu.

Like or not. Like or not.

Ji Bie thought, what’s the use of just liking him? Besides liking, he couldn’t bring anything else.

After dinner, he escorted Duan Weiran back to the hotel and then walked towards the short-term rental house.

After he finished washing up and came out, he saw a missed call from an unknown number on his phone. Ji Bie had received many harassing calls recently and hesitated whether to call back. Before he could decide, the caller dialed again.

He waited for the phone to ring twice before answering. He said “hello” twice, but there was no response from the other end. Just as he was about to hang up, he suddenly felt a sense of panic. He paused and asked softly, “Duan Zhu?”

There was still no response from the other end. Ji Bie thought for a moment and asked, “Are you feeling better now?”

“The fever really subsided, right?” Ji Bie continued, “Your dad didn’t lie to me, did he?”

“Or did you dial the wrong number?” Ji Bie waited for a while, and when there was no response, he couldn’t help but say, “Are you looking for me?”

“Are you still in the hospital?” Ji Bie waited for a while, and when there was no response, he couldn’t help but say, “Is your throat hoarse? Can’t speak?”

“Not hoarse.” Duan Zhu said.

Ji Bie’s heart skipped a beat heavily, and his head seemed to be blocked by rubber bands, halting his entire train of thought.

It had been a long time since he last talked to Duan Zhu.

When he was living alone, he didn’t even dare to think about Duan Zhu, afraid that he couldn’t hold on and would go back to muddle through, returning their relationship to what it was before, with the same problems still there, unresolved.

Duan Zhu’s voice was no different from before, very cold and low, without any emotion, but it seemed somewhat tired.

Ji Bie remained silent for almost half a minute before asking Duan Zhu softly, “So, have you been discharged from the hospital?”

“Yeah,” Duan Zhu replied.

Ji Bie made several affirmative sounds, but for a while, he didn’t know what other topic to bring up.

“I got the things you asked my dad to pass on to me,” Duan Zhu said, “and I understand what you meant.”

“Oh,” Ji Bie replied.

He wasn’t usually at a loss for words, but today, it seemed like his throat was blocked by a wet towel, and he couldn’t ask Duan Zhu what he meant.

“Ji Bie,” Duan Zhu called him, speaking calmly, “you’re really heartless.”

“Where did you put the photo on my desk?” Ji Bie didn’t say anything, so Duan Zhu continued, “And the things you left in the house, do you think I’m a garbage dump that you can leave them here?”

“I’ll take them when I go back to Boston,” Ji Bie said.

“Still planning to go back to Boston? Can you stay there?” Duan Zhu’s voice couldn’t help but show some anger. He said word by word, “Were you disgusted when you were in bed with me, Ji Bie?”

Ji Bie’s eyes were so sore that they blurred. He thought he had prepared well, that he could withstand whatever anger Duan Zhu threw at him. But as soon as Duan Zhu said something harsh, he couldn’t bear it, as if he had never been so sad before, feeling both despicable and powerless.

“I—” Ji Bie only said one word and dared not speak again.

After a moment of silence on the other end, Duan Zhu said, “When are you going back to Boston?”

“In August,” Ji Bie said.

“…” Duan Zhu paused again before asking, “Are you not eager to return?”

Ji Bie struggled to explain, “My lease runs until August.”

Duan Zhu clearly didn’t accept Ji Bie’s excuse, but he also seemed reluctant to say more to him. He only said, “Let me know when you come back. I’ve changed the door lock. I’ll have the cleaner open the door for you when the time comes.”

Ji Bie acknowledged and there was nothing more to say between them. However, Duan Zhu didn’t hang up the phone, and Ji Bie didn’t dare to hang up either. They remained in this tense silence for a while. Ji Bie tried to find a topic and asked Duan Zhu, “Did you just wake up?”

He waited for Duan Zhu to answer for a minute, and Duan Zhu finally spoke a single “Mm.” Ji Bie’s neighbor’s electric bike alarm went off downstairs.

That electric bike belonged to the tenant upstairs from him. The alarm was very sensitive, and it would start beeping continuously if a stray cat jumped on it.

Ji Bie was startled at first, then felt that something was wrong. Before he could speak, Duan Zhu hung up the phone.

In the few seconds when the alarm downstairs was beeping, Ji Bie suddenly realized that the background noise from Duan Zhu’s end and his end was clearly the same.

He was stunned for a moment, then rushed to the dark balcony and looked down. There was indeed a person standing under the streetlight. Ji Bie’s heart softened, and he called Duan Zhu back. Even though Duan Zhu’s phone screen was so bright, he still persisted until the alarm stopped before answering the call.

“Come up,” he said when Duan Zhu picked up the phone, not saying anything else. “I’ve already seen you.”

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