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    Lu Changting came downstairs with two empty bowls and handed them to the servant to take to the kitchen.

    Seeing him, Liu Xiezhi put down the book she hadn’t flipped through and breathed a sigh of relief. “It seems like you had a good chat?”

    “Mom, thank you.” Lu Changting knew that for Lu Shiyuan to make such a big concession, Liu Xiezhi must have persuaded him many times during this period…

    Liu Xiezhi smiled. “Although your father may not say it, he cares about you and can’t bear to see you in a difficult situation.”

    She pulled him to sit down and chatted with him about trivial matters at home.

    She asked about work, life, and also about Shen Li.

    Whenever Lu Changting mentioned Shen Li, there was a gentle smile in his eyes. Seeing him like this, Liu Xiezhi felt as if she were looking at a younger Lu Shiyuan.

    When you like someone, just thinking of them fills your eyes with love and joy.

    Time passed slowly, and it was already close to ten o’clock. Liu Xiezhi felt a bit sleepy and said, “The room is ready for you. You can stay if you want, or you can go back.”

    She patted his head like she used to when he was a child. “Although you have someone taking care of you, you still need to take care of yourself and those around you.”

    Lu Changting murmured softly, “I know.”

    “I’m going back to the villa tonight.” Lu Changting touched his nose, feeling a bit embarrassed for once. “He’s waiting for me at home.”

    “Then go back.” When a son grows up, he will have his own loved one and family. Although Liu Xiezhi felt sentimental, she was also very open-minded and happy that Lu Changting cared so much about someone. “Drive safely.”

    “Bring a cup of sugar water back with you.” Liu Xiezhi said, “Give him a taste.”

    Lu Changting escorted Liu Xiezhi upstairs to her room, then went to the kitchen to prepare the sugar water before leaving the Lu family’s residence and driving back to the villa.

    By the time he arrived at the villa, it was almost midnight. The night wind carried a cool breeze, dissipating some of the summer heat. The entrance light was left on for him in the living room. Lu Changting changed his shoes and saw the light coming from the room, a faint smile spreading across his lips.

    The room was cool with the air conditioning set to a low temperature. The young man sat cross-legged on the soft carpet, holding a watermelon. He was watching a movie and scooping out the watermelon with a spoon.

    On the projection screen, a scene played of a tall boy crouching down to fix the chain on a bicycle, with a young man standing beside him, looking at him with gentle eyes.

    Lu Changting pushed open the door. The young man sitting on the floor turned at the sound, his eyes crinkling with a smile. “You’re back.”

    “Still up?” Lu Changting handed him a container, glancing at the projection screen. “Why are you watching this again?”

    Shen Li was watching “Yun Hu Bu Xi” again.

    Not long ago, they had watched this movie together, and now Shen Li was watching it again. It seemed he really liked it.

    Lu Changting glanced at the sunny boy on the screen in the blue and white school uniform, thinking he must have looked better than that boy back in the day.

    He was also good at school, played basketball well, and could play the piano. He excelled in all areas—academics, sports, arts, and moral character. Why didn’t Shen Li pay more attention to him?

    “Killing time.” Shen Li didn’t notice Lu Changting’s hint of jealousy as he took the container, surprised. “Sweet soup?”

    The sweet soup brought from home was no longer cold. In the transparent container, he could see the soft red dates and white fungus. Shen Li wondered, at this hour, where could he have bought sweet soup?

    “Yes, the housekeeper made it,” Lu Changting said, sitting beside him and taking a bite of the watermelon Shen Li had just scooped. He felt a bit more at ease.

    Shen Li placed the sweet soup on the coffee table and said, “I left half of the watermelon for you in the fridge.” Yet, his actions contradicted his words as he scooped another piece of watermelon and fed it to Lu Changting.

    Lu Changting smiled, took a bite of the watermelon, and kissed him. “I’ll go take a shower first.”

    Shen Li finished the remaining half of the watermelon, patted his stomach, and turned off the half-watched movie. He went downstairs to put the sweet soup in the fridge, cleaned the spoon, and threw away the food waste before returning to the room.

    Lu Changting had finished his shower and was now wearing only loose pajama pants. He was drying his hair in the bathroom. Shen Li entered to wash up and inadvertently glanced at Lu Changting, who had been watching him the entire time.

    The mirror, fogged with moisture, faintly reflected the handsome features of the man standing a few steps away. Shen Li’s heart started to race under Lu Changting’s gaze, and he instinctively looked away.

    Lu Changting turned off the hair dryer and hung it on a wall hook. He walked over and hugged Shen Li from behind. His freshly dried hair felt soft and dry, tickling Shen Li’s neck.

    Shen Li put down his mouthwash cup and turned around. Before he could speak, Lu Changting kissed him, the fresh taste of mint toothpaste on his lips.

    Lu Changting carried Shen Li to the bed, their bodies sinking into the soft mattress. Shen Li’s chest heaved, his lips red and his face flushed.

    Lu Changting caressed his waist, kissed his earlobe, and asked in a husky voice, “Let’s find a time for you to meet my parents, okay?”

    Shen Li was a beat slow to react, which allowed Lu Changting to catch the flicker of panic and uncertainty in his eyes.

    “They… found out?”

    Lu Changting rarely saw him flustered and couldn’t help teasing him, “You’ve already taken their son completely; shouldn’t they meet you?”

    “Who took who completely?” Shen Li glared at him, his shoulders and collarbones still marked with love bites, all courtesy of Lu Changting.

    Lu Changting laughed. “Okay, I took you completely.”

    He then asked, “So when will you take me to meet my mom?”

    Shen Li pulled the blanket over his head, not wanting to engage.

    Lu Changting patted him through the blanket. When Shen Li still didn’t emerge, he sighed and slipped under the blanket with him.

    “What are you afraid of?” Lu Changting asked.

    Shen Li didn’t respond, just moved closer and wrapped his arms around Lu Changting’s neck, seeking comfort.

    Lu Changting stroked his head and said seriously, “They’re actually quite open-minded.”

    Shen Li calmed down a bit, his panic subsiding. He asked quietly, “Can you tell me about your parents?”

    “My mom’s name is Liu Xiezhi,” Lu Changting said, adjusting their positions for more comfort. “She’s a famous Pingtan artist.”

    “Xijing, she usually spends most of her time at home reading and practicing the piano,” Lu Changting said. “She’s a very gentle person.”

    “As for my dad, he used to manage the overseas market business at home, but now he’s retired early and spends every day at home with my mom, enjoying their time together. Occasionally, he goes out to have tea and play chess with friends.”

    “He’s more casual about things, so if he offends you in any way, I’ll apologize on his behalf first.”

    “You can’t put it like that,” Shen Li said softly. “No matter what they do, their intentions are always for your own good.”

    Thinking about meeting Lu Changting’s parents, Shen Li felt like a weight was pressing down on him, making him worry about what would happen if he didn’t win the affection of his lover’s parents first, before feeling happy about introducing him to them.

    He sighed and lightly bit Lu Changting, “When did you come out to your family?”

    “Last time I came back from a business trip,” Lu Changting lowered his head and also bit him. He lightly nibbled on his earlobe and teased, “You drugged me with that cocktail, and the next day I came out to my mom.”

    “What cocktail…” Shen Li’s earlobes turned red, unsure if it was from embarrassment or being bitten.

    “That Last Kiss cocktail,” Lu Changting whispered in his ear, with a husky voice, “What did you put in it, hmm?”

    “Rum, brandy…” Shen Li hadn’t thought about it for so long, and Lu Changting was still holding it against him. Then he realized that Lu Changting had come out to his family after clarifying things with Xiang Wan. The answer was obvious. He suddenly closed his eyes, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he softly uttered the last three words, “Lemon juice.”

    Lu Changting chuckled, “I thought you only put lemon juice in it.”

    Shen Li buried his head in his embrace, steering the conversation back, “Whenever you think it’s appropriate, just take me home.”

    He added, “Find another time to take me home.”

    Lu Changting chuckled softly, “Okay.”

    When would be appropriate?

    Lu Changting thought to himself. There was no need to pick a specific date. The end of the month, when Chu Jinghong’s engagement banquet was scheduled, would be a suitable occasion – auspicious for marriage and meeting the parents.


    Author’s Note:

    Did Lu Changting get jealous today?

    He did!

    Translator’s Note:

    (Suzhou Pingtan is a traditional folk art story- telling drama form that uses Wu dialect to speak and perform. Suzhou Pingtan includes speaking and singing, and can be roughly divided into three performance methods. That is, a single performance for one person , the content is mostly about historical romances of fighting and iron horses and all-powerful chivalrous heroes; a double performance for two people , two people rap , holding a three-stringed pipa in the upper hand and a pipa in the lower hand , playing and singing by themselves, and the content is mostly about the love between children. Romance novels and folk tales; three profiles of three persons. The actors all played and sang by themselves, and the accompaniment instruments were small sanxian and pipa (Baidu))

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