An Oath Before His Tombstone
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The black motorcycle stops by the side of a the road after a beautiful drift. Du Yixin takes off his helmet, and looks up at the imposing entrance to his school campus. It almost felt like an eternity has passed.
After his older brother arranged for him to defer his studies, it’s almost been a year. Today is the day for orientation, and because he deferred in the middle of his term, he is still just a year two university student today.
After the Final Selection ended, and after dealing with much of the things left behind afterwards, they have disbanded.
Liu Hong-ge turned the little café into his own bar.
Ruri herself should have been a student at her age as well, until her parents perished in an Instance, when Du Heng took her in. Now, after he has passed away as well, Liu Hong adopted her.
Du Yixin takes a few steps forward, and realises that Ying Sheng isn’t following. He looks back to see him putting away his keys while saying, “I’ll wait outside. Come back here when you’re done.”
Du Yixin asks, “you don’t want to come with me?”
“You’re attending. What’ll I even do inside?”
“But I want you to come with me,” Du Yixin takes his hand and adds, “please?”
Ying Sheng pauses, and then looks away while saying, “since you asked so nicely…”
The moment he said that, Du Yixin drags him right off the motorcycle. He almost tripped and fell and reflexively wanted to cuss, but looking at the hand dragging his own, he decides to rein his temper in.
Two grown men holding hands does draw the usual gazes, but Ying Sheng would give anyone a death glare after noticing, and those gazes would immediately disappear.
Du Yixin doesn’t even care at all, instead he says, “I wanted to show you where I’m studying.”
Ying Sheng looks like he recalls something from that, and his brows furrow.
The sky is blue, the clouds are white, the sun is shining. The warm rays cast paint the entire campus in a dazzling light, and highlights the prominent smiles on all the new students.
It is lively. A breeze rolls by and takes the scattered fallen leaves with it. The two of them are walking in tow. Despite the crowd, it feels almost like there’s only the two of them.
Ying Sheng isn’t really unfamiliar with this campus either, since it is where they first met in reality.
In order to locate Du Yixin, he combed through all the nearby campuses (TL: I thought Ying Sheng knew basically where he was all along, given Ai Le’s level I Key was so limited in range it could only pull Du Yixin and that couple from the other nearby university inside).
He only felt the crowds were annoying eyesores back then, though.
The parasol trees lining the streets cast shadows on the roads. Through the forested path, they pass by the basketball court. Du Yixin suddenly stops, and looks inside through the fencing.
Several boys are playing a match inside.
Once, he was one of them. He was such a simpleminded dunderhead, and often ditched his classes even. Even to the very end, he never did manage to show a side of himself his older brother could be proud of. It is certainly regretful now that he thinks about it.
Ying Sheng asks, seeing him suddenly stop, “what is it?”
“Never mind,” Du Yixin says, shaking his head.
He’s about to continue when someone else is walking their way in front of them. They see each other, and both stop.
“Holy shit?!” The boy opposite them exclaims and rushes over, saying, “you’re finally back!”
It’s Lu Yao, his ex-roommate plus bro. Since his older brother took him back to base, though, they’ve completely cut off contact with each other now.
“You suddenly deferred and I couldn’t contact you at all. I was really worried and thought you’d gone missing too,” Lu Yao blabbers for a long while before finally asking, “where were you the whole time?”
Du Yixin can’t help but feel distant looking at Lu Yao and recalling how they used to hang out and mingle and tease each other. Lu Yao looks completely unchanged; it’s nostalgic.
“Sorry, it was a family emergency.”
Lu Yao doesn’t know much about Du Yixin’s family, but since he said so and was gone for so long, it must have been something really important.
He is also considerate as well, so he doesn’t push the issue, instead he lightly wraps his arm around his bro’s shoulders to say, “uh, you know you can always count on me when something happens. Hey I know, we should eat out tonight and hang out…”
Then his speech is cut off by someone swiping his arm away from Du Yixin’s shoulder.
It’s a young man he doesn’t know. He’s handsome fore sure, with a tall nose and prominent features, though his eyes look a little vicious. They make him think of delinquents he could see in movies.
His tone really plays the part, too.
Lu Yao can’t help but shrink a little, saying, “uh, hello, I’m not sure I know you…”
Did he do something? He spoke so deferentially too! Lu Yao gives Du Yixin a helpless gaze.
Du Yixin clears his throat and instead says, “uh, sorry, he’s just a little… bad with strangers.”
Ying Sheng gives Du Yixin a side glance, but doesn’t retort.
Lu Yao doesn’t believe it one bit. If this extremely aggressive-looking guy is ‘bad with strangers,’ then he himself could with diagnosed with social phobia for sure.
He is also curious about the relationship between Du Yixin and the guy. His eyes dart between the two, when suddenly, a spark flies across his mind.
It can’t be that Du Yixin’s family borrowed from a loan shark, and so now people from the underworld are out here for him?!
He can’t help but associate that more and more with that young man.
“I might not have a lot of money, but I can definitely help with a few thousand,” Lu Yao has been convinced by his own delusions, looking at his good bro with pity and anguish, trying to ‘pull him back to the good side,’ saying, “don’t stray into the wrong path.”
Du Yixin has no idea what Lu Yao is going on about, but he knows instinctively it’s nothing good.
He sighs with his hand on his forehead and explains, “you’re misunderstanding. He’s my friend.”
Lu Yao nods with an expression of understanding, “of course. The very useful moniker ‘friend,’ is it?”
Ying Sheng furrows his brows, though, repeating, “friend?”
Fine. Du Yixin clarifies, “boyfriend.”
Ying Sheng goes ‘hmph’ at that.
Lu Yao looks like he’s losing his calm entirely, looking at Du Yixin and then at Ying Sheng again, and stutters, “a, a sugar daddy?”
Veins are popping up Ying Sheng’s forehead as he retorts, “are you ears fucking working properly?”
Du Yixin glances at his watch and it’s almost noon already, so he says, “I have to go register now. Call you later.”
Lu Yao nods in a daze and exchanges the new contacts with Du Yixin.
When they’re already out of sight of him, Du Yixin’s phone rings up with a message from Lu Yao.
[Even if you did go astray, we’re still bros forever!]
The corners of Du Yixin’s lips twitch a little, and he decides rightfully against letting Ying Sheng see it.
A few days later. In a certain graveyard.
This is where his parents are interred. After his older brother has passed away, he bought another grave next to it.
Tombstone after tombstone are arranged neatly in rows. Some are certainly lacking maintenance and full of piles of dust already. Some are immaculate, with fruit and flowers dedicated to those down under placed in front of them. Under the tombstone are fresh growing grass.
Du Yixin has placed and burned incense in front of the grave, and then takes a bundle of yellow and white chrysanthemums from Ying Sheng, putting it gently in front of the grave.
The petals flutter slightly in the wind and bring with it a slight, cold scent.
After his parents have passed away, his older brother was the one maintaining and cleaning it. He only comes to pay his respects once a year. And now, this mission has been passed onto him.
Graveyards are seldom visited in general. The mood is sombre and quiet.
He does not speak; he is spending a long time watching the names on the grave in silence.
That is when he notices Ying Sheng also kneeling down on one knee, to also burn a stick of incense.
Then he claps his hands together and closes his eyes to pray.
Du Yixin looks on in silence. At this moment, time feels like it has been frozen. It is peaceful and calm.
“I have no parents.”
A long while later, Ying Sheng has opened his eyes, only to tell such a story, “those two pricks gave birth to me, but they never did see me as a human.”
It’s the first time Du Yixin has ever heard Ying Sheng talk about his past. He holds his hand lightly.
“After I got dragged into Instances, life took a turn for even more fuckery. Every day was blood and murder. I always thought that, one day, my whole life will just end like that.”
Ying Sheng holds Du Yixin’s hand even more tightly now. His silver earring reflects sunlight, in much the same way as his dark pupils are doing now.
The young man is looking at him straight in the eye, his expression is unreadable. He continues, “you will definitely go astray being together with me. I have no goals, no dreams. My life ended the year I turned eighteen.”
The rustling wind is now making a mess of their outerwear. The incense has gone out.
They turn to look at the stick, and Du Yixin leans in to relight it. A streak of white smoke slowly rises again.
After the little interlude, they speak no more. After the ceremony, they both stand up.
Du Yixin is looking at the tombstones when he suddenly speaks up, “now, this counts as seeing parents, right.”
Ying Sheng almost tumbles hearing that and immediately cocks his head in Du Yixin’s direction.
“Ying Sheng, I know what you are worried about. But nobody is unchanging forever,” Du Yixin turns around and meets Ying Sheng’s gaze. He promises him, “we have a long way ahead of us. We have enough time to find ourselves.”
He says, with a serious expression, “your life starts now. And I will be there with you. And you will also be there for me, won’t you.”
Ying Sheng’s expression seems to have changed slightly.
After the Final Selection is over, he realised his drive to live was gone. He didn’t know what he should do. And in response, his possessiveness over Du Yixin strengthened more and more.
He is afraid of this change. He feels like he is slowly losing his sense of self.
Du Yixin is still waiting for his response.
Ying Sheng looks like he wants to say something again, but when he sees Du Yixin’s face like that, instead, he decides to pull the young man over into his embrace in frustration.
“You said it yourself,” Ying Sheng says ferociously, with reddened earlobes, “so even if you decided you didn’t want to be astray anymore in the future, I’m never gonna let you go.”
Du Yixin embraces him in turn, and whispers next to his ears, “me too.”
It makes Ying Sheng’s body shudder. The paralysing itchiness makes him push Du Yixin away forcefully and cover his ears in disbelief.
Du Yixin looks confused, asking, “what’s wrong?”
Ying Sheng examines his expression, and he doesn’t look like he’s teasing him on purpose. He doesn’t know exactly what he was feeling either, so he could only reply with a muffled, “never mind.”
Then Du Yixin holds his hands again to say, “let’s go, back to our home.”
They leave the graveyard together.
Under the warm orange glow that has even warmed the cold, damp graveyard, their shadows are cast especially long.
The bundle of flowers in front of the grave was blown off the small platform in front of the tombstone. The petals dance in the wind, and fly off into the distance towards the setting sun.
The future is a long way ahead. There is still a long time to go.
They have walked here together after all the obstacles and challenges. And it is a guarantee that they will definitely continue the rest of the way with the other person in tow.
Author’s notes: It’s over!!!
Although they had it really difficult the whole time, but their future will finally be together and at peace. They will certainly begin their sweet slice of daily lives afterwards.
I’d like to apologise (dogeza) for the two times I stopped updating entirely. Thanks everyone that sticked through with me!
In the end, at least for me, I did finally finish writing this without regret.
I hope you’re happy with the story!
TL: There’s still an extra with two parts coming, I hope you look forward to it. Unfortunately neither are more than just PG level descriptions, which is regretful, hehe.