Ashley once said that men are composed of stimulation, impulsiveness, desire for control, and the urge to conquer.
Therefore, love between men is inherently a game of evenly matched forces.
Lu Ye was naturally gay, so it was almost natural for him to have a favorable impression of young men he found attractive.
But Qi Yanbai seemed too “normal” to Lu Ye.
He couldn’t detect any signals of shared orientation from him, so he couldn’t determine his sexual orientation.
He also couldn’t judge whether, in that fleeting moment, Qi Yanbai felt something beyond ordinary friendship for him, similar to Lu Ye’s feelings.
In that quick passing glance, Lu Ye vaguely perceived a certain tender attachment in Qi Yanbai’s gaze.
However, that look was concealed too quickly and urgently.
Before Lu Ye could savor it carefully, it vanished without a trace.
Even someone as perceptive as Lu Ye found it difficult to ascertain whether he had truly captured that fleeting emotion from Qi Yanbai or if he had misconstrued it as a result of some illusion born from this ambiguous and intimate proximity.
Moreover, Qi Yanbai was naturally a gentle person, Lu Ye thought.
He always seemed to have a spring of emotions in his eyes, overflowing with tenderness for everything he saw.
The bright sunlight outside the window cast a warm glow on Qi Yanbai’s reddened earlobes, and Lu Ye’s gaze lingered on that hint of red for a moment.
Then, he gently redirected his attention to the drawing.
A tense and sticky atmosphere seemed to silently permeate the small space.
However, before it could ferment into something stronger, a gentle breeze came and swept it away.
Lu Ye and Qi Yanbai unspokenly agreed not to let this atmosphere continue.
They both put on the brakes before any emotions could turn into something more pronounced.
Neither of them made it explicit.
Yet, the probing look from that single glance had indeed sown a seed, quietly landing in both their hearts and slowly taking root in the absence of others.
The drawing that Qi Yanbai had corrected looked much better than before.
While the underlying lines still seemed extremely stiff, at least there were light and shadows, making it barely presentable.
Although Qi Yanbai did feel a lingering attachment to keeping Lu Ye within his embrace, he didn’t indulge in that momentary pleasure for too long.
After he finished correcting the drawing, he released Lu Ye’s hand and gently straightened up, supporting himself against Lu Ye’s shoulder.
“Not bad,” Teacher Qi lied with his eyes open.
“You have a lot of talent.”
Lu Ye looked at the finished drawing and said half jokingly, “After the corrections, it could score a hundred –.”
Qi Yanbai chuckled softly, patted his shoulder gently, and finally took a natural step back.
He praised, “indeed.”
The slight commotion in the corner quickly caught the attention of the little kids.
Qi Yanbai couldn’t stay by Lu Ye’s side waiting for them to make comments, so he simply walked back to the classroom to help each student with their drawings.
Twirling the pencil between his fingertips, Lu Ye contemplated sketching a few more strokes on the paper.
However, after looking around, he couldn’t find a suitable spot to continue, so he simply took the “masterpiece” down from the drawing stand.
He folded it a few times, turning it into a small square, and slipped it into the inner pocket of his jacket.
The class for the junior students was not long, and the children were young.
As it came to a close, they all started packing up.
Once Qi Yanbai returned the little kids to their parents, he could finish the class and head home.
Although Lu Mingming knew they were going to the teacher’s house for a visit, she had been excited for a good two hours.
The moment the class ended, she leaped around like an excited little monkey, tugging at Lu Ye’s hand incessantly.
“Is Teacher Qi’s new house ready?” Lu Mingming rattled off, “I’m going to explore at Teacher Qi’s house! Clear out any threats for him! Ensure the teacher’s safety!”
“Thank you, Little Special Forces,” Lu Ye pried her hand away from his clothes and said sincerely, “Teacher Qi’s house is not in danger.
You just need to be calm and quiet.”
“But that won’t do.” Lu Mingming looked at him with a very disapproving expression and said earnestly, “The new house is very dangerous.
What if there are ghosts in the closet and skeletons under the bed?”
Lu Ye: “…”
What kind of upbringing did Lu Wenyu give his child? Lu Ye wondered, did she tell her urban legends of supernatural stories every day?
“Well then.” Qi Yanbai didn’t believe in realistic education as much as Lu Ye.
He nodded in agreement, playing along, “Let’s leave the safety of my house to you, Mingming.”
Lu Ye: “…”
“But before that, we should get something delicious to eat.” Qi Yanbai said, “To reward Mingming for her hard work – right?”
His second sentence was directed at Lu Ye.
Lu Ye snapped back to attention and gave an affirmative sound, indicating he agreed.
Perhaps the subtle test in the classroom had worked, as Qi Yanbai noticed on their way home that Lu Ye was maintaining a certain distance from him.
This distance didn’t seem like avoidance due to unfamiliarity.
Instead, it carried a touch of absent-mindedness, as if he had something on his mind and was lost in thought.
Qi Yanbai understood that the social environment in their country was far less open than abroad.
Therefore, he gave Lu Ye some space to think, without pushing further in case it aroused suspicion or resistance.
However, Lu Mingming was completely unaware of the undercurrents between the two adults.
She was like a carefree little bean, wholeheartedly immersed in the joy of playing.
She said she was going to “visit Uncle’s house,” but she didn’t even set foot in Lu Ye’s house.
She skipped straight into Qi Yanbai’s house.
After a night, Qi Yanbai’s home had been tidied up quite a bit.
Various decorations and small appliances had found their places.
The camera at the entrance glowed with a faint red light.
The home had also acquired a few more art-related objects and picture frames, adding a touch of liveliness to the otherwise plain rental apartment.
Qi Yanbai was about to go to the kitchen to prepare the ingredients when Lu Ye gave a few instructions to Lu Mingming, asking her not to mess things up in Qi Yanbai’s house.
Then he turned and went to his room to change clothes.
Children are naturally curious about everything new.
After sitting properly in the living room for a while, Lu Mingming couldn’t resist hopping off the couch.
She started wandering around Qi Yanbai’s house.
“Teacher Qi,” Lu Mingming stood in the living room and called out, “Can I take a tour of your house?”
“Of course,” Qi Yanbai’s head peeked out from the kitchen.
He spoke gently, “You can explore freely.”
Qi Yanbai’s home was neat and tidy.
The doors to each room were wide open, allowing a full view of the interior from the doorway.
But strangely, in this open and inviting environment, there was one small door near the balcony that was firmly shut.
That door was plain, narrower than an ordinary door by about a third, and its wooden surface had faded from exposure to sunlight.
Only the doorknob was newly replaced, stainless steel with a protective film still clinging to it.
Compared to the other rooms, Lu Mingming felt an air of mystery about this tightly shut door.
She looked up at it for a while, feeling like the door that wasn’t allowed to be opened might be a portal to Harry Potter’s world.
Lu Mingming had good manners and wouldn’t deliberately pry into Qi Yanbai’s privacy.
However, curiosity drove her, and her heart felt like a small cat scratching incessantly.
She bit her lip, recalled Qi Yanbai’s words “explore freely,” and finally couldn’t resist raising on her toes to try and turn the doorknob.
Just as her hand reached halfway, another hand came from the side and gently held hers.
Qi Yanbai didn’t know when he had come out of the kitchen.
He knelt on one knee, crouching beside Lu Mingming.
He met her gaze at eye level, smiling gently as he took her hand and guided her away from the mysterious door.
“Teacher forgot to mention,” Qi Yanbai said with a smile, “This room is off-limits.”
“Why?” Lu Mingming asked carefreely.
“Because…” Qi Yanbai smiled and whispered, “This room holds the teacher’s secret.”
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