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    “Hey, Shen Xiaoli!”

    A deep and husky voice came from the other end of the phone. Shen Li responded with a bit of grogginess, still half-asleep from his nap. He glanced at the caller ID and chuckled before answering, “Du Heng, what’s up? Surprised you’re calling me today.”

    “I’ll be back in S City soon, just calling to catch up before I end up homeless on the streets.”

    “Back to S City?” Shen Li’s expression brightened at first, then he furrowed his brow lightly. “For a business trip?”

    “What business trip? Just the usual 996 work schedule for me,” he chuckled, “I got fired by the boss, cool, right?”

    Du Heng worked for a gaming company in B City, a well-known name in the industry. Although the overtime was hefty, the pay was good. Du Heng had joined the company after graduation and had worked his way up from a junior technician to a team leader. His sudden resignation seemed to have reasons behind it.

    Sensing that Du Heng might not want to elaborate, Shen Li didn’t press further. He just chuckled and said, “That’s you, always cool.”

    “Which day did you book your ticket? I’ll come pick you up,” he asked, “And where are you planning to stay?”

    Du Heng’s family lived in the surrounding counties, which wouldn’t be convenient for him to stay. Besides, his relationship with his father wasn’t great, and his mother had passed away early. He wouldn’t be staying with them.

    “Got a ticket for the 5th of next month,” Du Heng replied, “I’ve found a few places to stay, but since I’m still in B City, I want you to check them out for me. Let me know which one you think is suitable, and I’ll book a short-term rental. That way, I won’t end up homeless when I get back.”

    Having just quit his job and wanting to take a break before finding a new one, Du Heng’s own house was still under renovation. So, he needed a short-term rental for the time being.

    Shen Li readily agreed, “Send me the addresses and contact information of the landlords. I’ll go check them out for you.”

    “I’ll send it to you on WeChat,” Du Heng said, “And also, I’ve been living in B City for the past few years, so I have quite a bit of luggage. I’ve sorted out what I can, but there are a few things I want to bring back. Can I have them delivered to your place and keep them there for a couple of days?”

    “I’ll give you my address later,” Shen Li explained, “I’m currently staying at my boyfriend’s place.”

    Du Heng laughed, “I was just about to ask. Seeing your posts on social media made me think you’re in a relationship.”

    Shen Li’s recent social media posts indeed contained a lot of daily updates related to Lu Changting, but they rarely featured frontal or group photos. Besides, over the years, the changes between the teenage Lu Changting and the present one were quite significant. Du Heng didn’t associate the person in the photos with Lu Changting at all. Instead, he felt genuinely happy for Shen Li for being able to let go of the past and start a new relationship.

    “Yeah,” Shen Li smiled, “I’m in a relationship.”

    Du Heng’s laughter was hearty as he congratulated him, “Congratulations! When I come back, we must meet up, and I’ll treat you guys to dinner!”

    Shen Li felt a bit resigned to his friend’s protective attitude but also thought about how amusing Du Heng’s reaction would be if he knew about his relationship with Lu Changting. He was actually looking forward to seeing his surprised expression.

    “Sure,” Shen Li agreed with a smile, “We’ll wait for you to come back.”

    Later that evening, Shen Li mentioned Du Heng’s resignation and return to S City to Lu Changting, who was a bit surprised.

    Despite the air conditioning running in the room, the two of them were out on the balcony, enjoying the cool breeze under the sparse moonlight. The chilly moonlight and the cool night air alleviated some of the oppressive summer heat.

    Lu Changting had finished dealing with his day’s work and was finally relaxing. He lit a cigarette, and as the sparks scattered between his fingers, the smell of tobacco wafted on the breeze.

    “Is Du Heng not doing well in B City?” he asked.

    “He was doing pretty well before,” Shen Li pondered for a moment before replying, “But he always planned to work in B City for another year or two before coming back to develop here. It’s just that he’s coming back earlier than expected now.”

    Otherwise, he wouldn’t have bought property in S City at the end of last year. In the end, he still wanted to come back.

    Lu Changting didn’t inquire further. “When are you planning to help him check out the apartments? Do you want me to accompany you?”

    “Let’s do it this weekend,” Shen Li suggested, “I’m free anyway. I’ll check them out for him first. If they’re not good, there’s still time to find other places.”

    He added, “No need to accompany me. You rarely get to rest.”

    Lu Changting glanced at him and remarked with a hint of jealousy in his tone, “You seem to care a lot about him.”

    Shen Li caught the hint of jealousy in his words and chuckled suddenly, “He used to take care of me a lot back in high school.”

    In high school, Shen Li was rather introverted. While his peers were hanging out together, he often kept to himself, immersed in studying alone in the classroom. He was essentially isolated, especially considering his hidden feelings for Lu Changting… His feelings of inferiority and alienation were seen as aloofness in the eyes of his classmates. Only Du Heng, with his straightforward nature, would exchange a few words with him.

    During high school, Du Heng had a close relationship with Lu Changting. He noticed every casual encounter between them. Over time, as these encounters accumulated, Du Heng discovered the hidden feelings. But he never mentioned it, understanding that Shen Li’s feelings were secretive and complex. So he kept his silence… In the following years, Du Heng also advised him, and Shen Li felt the difficulty of love. However, that person had already taken root in his heart, making it hard to let go. To release it would require emptying his heart entirely, but love was bitter, and not loving was also bitter. All kinds of suffering and difficulties had to be borne alone.

    It seemed that Heaven had seen his many hardships in life, so it took pity on him and fulfilled his infatuation.

    Shen Li thought to himself that he should find a time to visit the Temple of the Matchmaker to offer thanks.

    While Shen Li was reminiscing about the past, Lu Changting was also lost in his own memories.

    Friendships formed during student days were always easy to establish. A game of basketball, a meal together—if conversations flowed, exchanging names and classes was all it took to become friends.

    He couldn’t remember how many basketball games he had played with Du Heng, but he remembered Du Heng always bringing him water. He also remembered a basketball that had been confiscated from him, so he gave Du Heng a basketball as a birthday present, but he never saw him use it.

    And those times when they gathered to chat, Du Heng said he wanted to study computers and make games in the future. He even joked that when he inherited the family business, he should remember to invest in him. What did he say back then? He said inheriting the family business was too tiresome; he just wanted to open a bar in the future, where he could gather with friends and enjoy drinks without restraint. It sounded wonderful.

    But now he had ended up inheriting the family business… Meanwhile, Du Heng had indeed studied computers and was making games.

    Lu Changting took a drag from his cigarette and exhaled heavily.

    But he found himself a boyfriend who owned a bar. Wanting to drink, he could drink; wanting to invite friends, he could invite friends. Thinking about it, he was living the life he had always wanted.

    Memories could easily touch the soft spot in one’s heart. Lu Changting sighed with a sense of relief and chuckled, “I’ll go with you to pick him up on the 5th.”

    During the weekend, Shen Li helped Du Heng conduct on-site inspections of the several short-term rental places he had selected. One of them had excellent environment and conditions. The landlady was a woman in her thirties, and from their brief conversation, Shen Li had a good impression of her. The house was neat and tidy, with complete furniture. There were also potted aloe vera and cacti on the balcony.

    It was a two-bedroom apartment near the university town, about a ten-minute walk to the subway station. There was a 24-hour fresh vegetable convenience store nearby, as well as a pharmacy. Since Du Heng wasn’t in a hurry to find a job, this place was suitable for him to rest for a while.

    After finishing his visit, Shen Li sent some photos to Du Heng, describing the surrounding environment, and then went to the university town to see Cheng Zhao, accompanying her for a meal.

    In the evening, Du Heng replied, saying he had rented the house near the university town and would need Shen Li to run an errand for him tomorrow to get the keys from the landlord.

    Shen Li agreed, thinking that once he got the keys, he would move Du Heng’s luggage over first and buy some daily necessities so that Du Heng wouldn’t be short of anything when he returned.

    That day, Jiang Chifeng happened to be at the bar, and Wei Wenxing was away on a business trip. Jiang Chifeng was bored at home alone, so he came to find Shen Li for a drink.

    But Shen Li kept replying to Du Heng’s messages from time to time, which made Jiang Chifeng feel neglected.

    Jiang Chifeng thought he was chatting with Lu Changting, so he jokingly teased him, “How come I didn’t realize you were so clingy, Shen Xiaolu?”

    Shen Li: “…I’m chatting with Du Heng. He’s coming back to S City.”

    Jiang Chifeng knew Du Heng because of Shen Li. They had met a few times, and although they weren’t close, he knew that Du Heng was a good friend of Shen Li for many years. So he stopped making jokes and just casually asked, “Business trip?”

    “No,” Shen Li said, “He resigned and is planning to work here.”

    “S City is great,” Jiang Chifeng responded, “Why bother going to B City?”

    Wei Wenxing was also on a business trip to B City, which made people miss him.

    Shen Li smiled and said, “The heart is here. No matter how far you go, you will always come back.”

    Translator’s Notes:

    996 Work Culture: The 996 working hour system (Chinese: 996工作制) is a work schedule practiced illegally by many companies in China. It derives its name from its requirement that employees work from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, 6 days per week.

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