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    Fu Luoyin leaned against the sofa, almost sinking into it. The living room was dark, but the light from the small balcony illuminated his somber profile with a warm glow.

    Su Yu cautiously stepped around the scattered pieces of the shattered phone and mustered all his courage to say, "Minus... Minus Two."

    Finally, Fu Luoyin stirred, casting a glance in his direction before averting his gaze again.

    Su Yu had never seen Fu Luoyin in such a haggard state. His eyes were red-rimmed, filled with bloodshot veins, and an indescribable weariness seemed to permeate his entire being.

    Surveying Fu Luoyin, then glancing back at the remains of the phone and the giant pink plush pillow in his arms, Su Yu weighed his options. He placed the pillow beside Fu Luoyin and, out of kindness, gently lifted his arm to rest it on top of the pillow as a gesture of comfort.

    Su Yu sat like a well-behaved schoolboy, straightening himself on the adjacent sofa. Swallowing hard, he ventured, "So... your wife... does that mean you two are..."

    It was clear they hadn't reconciled; if anything, things might have escalated further.

    Before Su Yu could finish his question, he wished he could slap himself—what was the point of asking?

    Fu Luoyin remained silent.

    With the pink girly pillow in his arms, arranged by Su Yu, he looked somewhat comical. Su Yu felt a twinge of amusement but also sympathy for him.

    After a long while, Fu Luoyin murmured, "Su Yu, Little Fish, I don't know why. Why did Xia Ran treat me like this, just like Lin Shuicheng?"

    Su Yu was taken aback. "Huh?"

    Back then, Xia Ran had still liked him. When he returned from the military academy, their first encounter, Xia Ran had quietly held hands with him and strolled on the streets for an entire day and night. He shared his experiences in the military, talking until his voice became hoarse. Xia Ran listened happily, refusing to let go of his hand.

    He'd thought it was the dawn after his struggles, a visible light that he had fought tirelessly to protect. He believed they still had a long journey ahead, walking side by side. But in the end, Xia Ran left him without a word.

    Those bitter, gloomy, and abandoned times, he had already locked away in his heart.

    Lin Shuicheng was an unexpected intrusion into his life, a speck of dust that hadn't mattered to him. Yet, he gradually realized that this person by his side was actually a dazzling diamond. He admired Lin Shuicheng's calmness and composure during debates, the shining, gentle gaze he cast upon him, and the slender figure busily working in the kitchen. Lin Shuicheng embodied all the traits he cherished. He would call him husband, pout, and flirt, being both playful and sulky. In public, he appeared cool and detached, but with him, he burned with passion.

    Just as he wanted to start something real with him, Lin Shuicheng vanished, just like Xia Ran did back then, without saying a word.

    Fu Luoyin fished out a mint cigarette, lit it while lowering his head, and asked softly, "Did I do something wrong?"

    "Minus Two, be honest. Although this is what Dong Hei and I guessed, did you initially see Sister-in-law as a substitute?" Su Yu inquired. Dong Shuoye had a nickname here, Dong Hei, derived from "Shuoye." However, Dong Shuoye disliked this nickname, so Su Yu usually whispered it secretly.

    Fu Luoyin fell silent for a moment.

    "Yes."

    Then he added, "Lin Shuicheng doesn't know."

    Lin Shuicheng couldn't possibly know how much his gestures resembled Xia Ran's. Fu Luoyin had seen many people with similar temperaments and expressions, but none were as alike as Lin Shuicheng and Xia Ran. The way they tilted their heads to look at others, the slight squint of their eyes when being playful, and the habit of sitting cross-legged on the sofa while engrossed in something...

    These were the things that made him decide the first time he met Lin Shuicheng: He wanted him.

    "Even if your wife doesn't know, because she hasn't met Xia Ran, and he doesn't resemble Xia Ran, ordinary people wouldn't think in that direction," Su Yu said. "But lovers have keen intuition. Even if she doesn't know, she can tell whether you're sincere or not, whether you're treating him well or not. Let alone now, just think back to before. How many times did you meet your wife in those two years? Could that be called dating?"

    Fu Luoyin fell silent again.

    "But he likes me," Fu Luoyin said after a moment, then repeated it, his voice calm and steady yet hinting at a kind of impending hysteria, revealing an obsessive madness. "He likes me."

    Su Yu asked cautiously, "Maybe it's just a casual liking, something that can be easily picked up and put down? Your wife has only been living with you for less than two months... In such a short time, it's hard to say that he's exceptionally, exceptionally fond of you. Ah, minus two, don't get mad, I'm just objectively analyzing the situation with you..."

    "He... fell for me at first sight," Fu Luoyin interrupted Su Yu, his voice dropping lower. "At first sight." This time, his tone was even softer, almost indistinct. For a moment, Fu Luoyin was stunned, realizing how ridiculous this sounded in the current context.

    —Love at first sight?

    How many people would believe that someone as calm and intelligent as Lin Shuicheng could fall in love at first sight?

    Fu Luoyin had never believed in such a thing. He thought those who did were fools – only fools would fall for an empty shell without knowing what lay beneath. Who knew if it was a human or a devil hiding under that skin?

    This time, Fu Luoyin paused even longer, as if trying to gather more evidence for his claim. Then he said, "He cooks for me, waits for me to come home. He... listens to me, behaves well, treats me differently from others. He must like me."

    His words rushed out faster and faster. Holding a cigarette, he didn't light it but instead crushed the menthol stick between his fingers.

    After hearing this, Su Yu sighed.

    Trying to follow Fu Luoyin's train of thought, he said, "Alright, let's say it's true, your sister-in-law fell in love with you at first sight and couldn't help himself for two months. But don't you have to accept that people might suddenly change their minds? Maybe they suddenly lose interest, or realize it's not right... Minus Two, have you asked your... Lin Shuicheng how he feels?"

    Fu Luoyin murmured, "He said he doesn't want to continue this relationship."

    "Well, there you go. He gave you a reason, didn't he? Your sister-in-law doesn't want to continue this relationship – what kind of relationship?" Su Yu asked. "What does your relationship mean to your sister-in-law?"

    Fu Luoyin felt a burning sensation in his stomach; he instinctively pressed against his abdomen.

    Today, the words Lin Shuicheng had spat out before slamming the door echoed in his mind.

    He had said, "Fu Luoyin, at the start, our relationship wasn't romantic."

    Seeing that Fu didn't respond, Su Yu softly added, "Minus Two, Lin Shuicheng might not like you as much as you think. Maybe it's best for both of you to part ways amicably. I've always found it hard to comprehend why you sought a substitute. In other words, if you still have feelings for Xia Ran, you shouldn't be entangled with others. I know you're still hurting from what happened before, but let me tell you, Xia Ran isn't worth your sacrifice. You can find someone better. Let's look forward, alright? I really like Lin Shuicheng; it's a pity he won't become my sister-in-law. But you're my best friend, and I hope things work out well for both of you."

    "Let's not talk about this," Fu Luoyin pushed away the cushion in his hand, his expression darkening. "Lin Shuicheng definitely likes me, and I'll find proof to show you."

    Su Yu asked, "Then, do you like him? Minus Two, do you actually have feelings for him?"

    "Bullshit." A tinge of red appeared in Fu's eyes, and his voice turned colder. "I'm just playing around. Why should he make me like him?"

    Su Yu: "..."

    He sighed. "Alright, alright. That's fine too. Have you eaten? We can put aside romance, but you need to eat, Brother Minus Two. Come on, let's grab a meal together. It's been a while since we last hung out."

    They went to the Starry Fantasy Night CLUB, where Dong Shuoye joined them. The three of them, as before, played poker, sang karaoke, grilled food, and drank beer.

    Fu Luoyin didn't eat much but inadvertently consumed a lot of alcohol. Beers, red wines, white wines – eventually, they mixed, and his consciousness began to blur.

    In the middle of the event, Su Yu went out to use the restroom. Upon emerging, he saw Dong Shuoye standing outside washing his hands.

    Su Yu approached and asked, "What should we do, Old Dong?"

    Dong Shuoye dried his hands slowly. "What should we do about what?"

    "Don't pretend you don't understand. Minus Two is probably suffering right now," Su Yu said.

    Dong Shuoye seemed lost in thought. "Is Minus Two truly smitten with Lin Shuicheng, or is it just because this is his first time being dumped by his little lover?"

    Su Yu glared at him. "So what? Even after all these years since Minus Two's breakup, he's only allowed to think about Xia Ran? From the looks of it, even if he wasn't serious before, he's likely developed feelings now. Sigh, why didn't he cherish his substitute when he had the chance, and now he's realizing his pain when she's gone?"

    Dong Shuoye chuckled. "You seem quite insightful in this aspect. You're an emotional expert."

    Lowering his head, he lit a cigarette and asked casually, "If you can read others so well, why not guess mine?"

    Su Yu was taken aback. "What? You old dog, do you already have someone you like?"

    Dong Shuoye glanced at him. "Forget it, you're just a fool."

    He averted his gaze and nodded in the direction of a shadowy corner of the hallway. "How about sending a few people to Level Minus Two? Out with the old, in with the new."

    Su Yu followed his gaze and saw a pair of figures entangled in an intimate embrace. One of them was likely the boy from Starry Night, with a slender and handsome figure.

    "Never mind, Level Minus Two won't be interested. Let's not cause any trouble now," Su Yu said, rubbing his eyes and yawning. "It's best for Level Minus Two to sort things out himself."

    When Fu Luoyin was drunk, he behaved differently from others. Su Yu hadn't seen Fu Luoyin drunk very often.

    When Fu Luoyin was inebriated, it wasn't easily noticeable. Apart from his unsteady gait, one might even think he appeared more composed and profound than usual. His gaze would become deeper and more enigmatic, though he occasionally did foolish things that were hard for ordinary people to understand.

    When Su Yu and Dong Shuoye supported him as they entered their home, they witnessed Fu Luoyin addressing a black and white plush slipper. "Why are you here?"

    After asking, he refused to move and insisted on crouching down to stroke the slipper. "Oh, he didn't take you away with him."

    Upon receiving no response, Fu Luoyin huffed and tilted his head, smiling as he asked, "Then why aren't you leaving? Do you want me to keep you?"

    "I won't be keeping you. You don't let me touch you, and you even bite me," Fu Luoyin said.

    "You just like kissing Lin Shuicheng, right? Who else feeds you and cleans up after you? You ungrateful little creature," Fu Luoyin continued.

    With his eyes covered, Su Yu struggled to resist the urge to record this scene and eventually managed to drag Fu Luoyin into the room.

    "I'm not drunk," Fu Luoyin declared. "You can go. I haven't had that much. I'll just call Zhou Heng in a bit."

    "Okay, okay, you're not drunk. Just take this hangover medicine first," Su Yu cajoled, offering the medicine while attempting to tuck Fu Luoyin into bed.

    But Fu Luoyin refused both the medicine and sleep. "The cat is still outside."

    Being a devoted cat person could really be troublesome, Su Yu thought to himself.

    Su Yu gestured for Dong Shuoye to restrain Fu Luoyin while he dashed out to retrieve the black and white plush slipper by the door. He then rushed to the faucet to scrub the sole clean before gently carrying it back into the bedroom.

    Dong Shuoye looked at him quizzically. "What are you doing?"

    Su Yu waved his hand dismissively and offered a kindly smile to Fu Luoyin. He carefully placed the plush slipper inside the bed, tucking it in with the covers.

    "There, there, the cat is sleeping now. You should accompany the cat to sleep as well. Lin Shuicheng is utterly despicable, leaving like that and abandoning this little kitten behind. It's inhumane."

    "inhumane," Fu Luoyin echoed. "Lin Shuicheng truly is despicable."

    "Indeed, that's it. Go to sleep now. You can stroke your little kitten too." After settling Fu Luoyin, Su Yu came out and asked Dong Shuoye, "If Negative Two wakes up tomorrow to find himself sharing a bed with a slipper, will he kill me?"

    Dong Shuoye glanced at him leisurely. "Probably."

    Su Yu pondered. "Then how can I survive?"

    "Figure it out yourself. We're leaving. Aren't you supposed to have an internship at the hospital tomorrow?" As Dong Shuoye pulled Su Yu out, he contacted Fu Luoyin's assistant. "Hello... Yes, yes, you can send someone over to look after him. He's drunk, and we don't know if he has any schedule for tomorrow."

    On the other side, Zhou Heng said, "I'll be there right away. Thank you so much!"

    The two of them left.

    Halfway through the night, Fu Luoyin woke up on his own.

    The hangover medicine didn't seem to work. He was awakened by a stomachache.

    When he woke up, he was drenched in cold sweat. His stomach felt like an alien part of his body, a torture device piercing into him, causing excruciating pain that made his entire body convulse.

    With great effort, Fu Luoyin got up and stumbled around to find some stomach medication.

    His hands trembled as he recognized the familiar medication for his stomach issues. He poured a handful into his palm and hastily swallowed a mouthful. This time, he had taken too much. The burning sensation in his stomach soon dissipated, replaced by an uncomfortable bloating that made him feel nauseous.

    Fu Luoyin vomited relentlessly in the bathroom.

    He hadn't eaten much to begin with, so there was little left to expel. Eventually, it felt like his stomach was being turned inside out, leaving him utterly drained.

    Dazed and dizzy, Fu Luoyin called out softly, "Lin Shuicheng."

    The house was empty and dark, devoid of any sound. The bathroom light illuminated the space, and the faucet trickled cold water onto the back of his hand.

    Fu Luoyin raised his voice slightly, "…Lin Shuicheng! My stomach hurts, get up and cook me some porridge, or even just soup."

    Silence still reigned both indoors and out.

    Growing impatient at the lack of response, Fu Luoyin hurried back to the bedroom, throwing aside the covers to pull Lin Shuicheng up.

    But the bed was empty, save for a single slipper.

    Lin Shuicheng was already gone.

    Fu Luoyin propped himself up on the bed, catching his breath for a moment before something suddenly came to mind. He noticed a mobile phone on the bedside table – it was his spare device at home – and reached out to grab it, dialing Lin Shuicheng's number.

    "Ringing... ringing... ringing..."

    "Hello, the number you have dialed is currently unavailable. Please try again later..."

    Taking a few more deep breaths, Fu Luoyin's gaze darkened, filled with confusion and a hazy fog. Almost overwhelmed by anxiety, he felt like tearing the entire roof off – how dare Lin Shuicheng not answer his call?

    He tried once more, but still, only the busy tone responded.

    Lin Shuicheng still didn't pick up his call.

    Suddenly, Fu Luoyin recalled that Lin Shuicheng didn't enjoy speaking on the phone with him; they usually communicated through text messages.

    What he wanted to eat, what dishes he hoped Lin Shuicheng would prepare – all these details were conveyed to Lin Shuicheng in advance via text. Sometimes, Fu Luoyin himself wasn't sure about the names or flavors of certain dishes, but upon hearing them, he'd ask Lin Shuicheng to make them, and somehow, Lin Shuicheng always managed to execute them perfectly.

    Blurred by intoxication, his vision doubled, making it difficult to locate punctuation marks on the screen, and he mistakenly tapped a few wrong words.

    "I want to drink Lin Shuicheng's chicken soup, porridge is fine too, my stomach feels full, my hands..."

    With the chaotic message sent, Fu Luoyin suddenly felt a moment of reassurance. Gripping his phone, he waited for Lin Shuicheng's response.

    The screen of his phone illuminated the room as Fu Luoyin lay on his side in bed, wrapped in blankets, his eyes fixed unblinkingly on the display.

    Despite the creeping drowsiness, Fu Luoyin dozed off without any reply having come.

    Author's Note:

    Behind-the-scenes Scene After the Performance:

    Little Lin: In the last chapter, you said you were lusting after my body.

    Little Fu: Isn't that so?? Lin Shuicheng, you have no heart!!! (yelling in despair)

    Little Lin: In this chapter, I've figured it out, you're actually lusting after my cat.

    Su Yu chimes in: To be more precise, it's the slippers.

    Little Fu: ...

    (No matter, let's howl on.) Lin Shuicheng, you have no heart!

    Little Lin: Actually...

    Little Fu: None!

    Little Lin: That...

    Little Fu: Heart! No heart at all!

    Little Lin: ...

    (The latter part is a short fan-written segment borrowed from the comments section. With numerous comments, I couldn't locate the specific one. Little treasure who wrote it, please come forward to claim your work.)

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