Huan Min slowly walked over to their usual place at the riverside, brushed back his robe, and sat down next to Bing Chen who seemed to have come quite a while ago.
He didn’t say anything and just quietly looked at the other side of the river, listening to the water rushing past them. The sounds from the city could be heard from far away, the yelling of the vendors from the market square had turned into indistinct noise instead of the well-known slogans they heard every day, the sound of hooves and cartwheels from the path leading to the city gate a constant melody.
Familiar, yet foreign.
He had never felt this way before but today, the muted version of those sounds that had otherwise brought him peace suddenly made his heart thunder in his ears and he had to forcibly suppress his breathing to not give his agitation away.
Bing Chen hooked up the corners of his lips and nodded over to the other side of the river. “Somehow, the grass looks a lot greener over there, doesn’t it?”
Huan Min turned to look at him but still didn’t say anything.
Bing Chen shook his head. “Zheng family called off the engagement.”
Bing Chen gave a humorless laugh in response. “I bet you did. It’s probably the talk of the town already. I wouldn’t be surprised if what uncle Ren yelled today wasn’t the usual ‘Come have a look at our hairpins! Beautiful hairpins!’ but instead ‘We’re raising money for Bing family’s third son, Bing Chen. Come and donate now for his fiance has withdrawn the marriage agreement!'”
Huan Min almost burst out laughing at that but he forced the corners of his lips down again. While what he had said might sound funny, Bing Chen obviously wasn’t in a happy mood. The withdrawal of the marriage agreement had to sting.
He wondered what to say to comfort him but couldn’t think of anything. Whatever he said, it would likely sound like empty words in Bing Chen’s ears. Maybe he should just let him vent his feelings.
Huan Min didn’t even need to prompt Bing Chen to do so. The longer Bing Chen thought about it, the angrier he got. His brows scrunched up and he finally couldn’t hold back, the words just bursting out of him.
“Really, I don’t even know what to think! He was the one who wanted to marry me. Now, he’s the one who doesn’t want to marry me. What am I supposed to think?! Is it that he found out that there’s something wrong with me? Or is he just indecisive? Did he fall in love with somebody else?”
Thinking of that, Bing Chen fell quiet for a moment. If it was that, he could even understand it somehow. After all, feelings could change. There was nothing wrong with that. Since they weren’t married yet, he wouldn’t have made a fuss about it. He would have nodded and accepted it and wished him good luck with the other person. Then he could have turned around and looked for another suitable spouse himself.
Bing Chen shook his head again. “He just had to do it in such a high-profile way as well. As if he couldn’t have just visited and then gone to my father to talk about it. At the very least, it would have spared my Bing family from embarrassment. Now, what are we going to do? We’ll be the laughingstock of the whole town!”
Huan Min flicked a glance at him, but once again kept quiet. What they could do … It certainly was limited. The engagement was lost and there was no way to win it back. Even if there was, could they really do that? After all, a man who called off the engagement that he himself had asked for probably couldn’t be trusted if he asked another time. He would be indecisive at best or malicious at worst. That was just was how things were.
Bing Chen looked down, tugging at the grass next to him. “I really thought he loved me.”
This time, Huan Min had something to add: “I always thought he is an asshole.”
Bing Chen laughed and glanced over, shaking his head at his friend. “You’re just saying that. You never mentioned it before.”
Huan Min also looked over, a faint smile on his lips. While he couldn’t give any advice on how to go about this situation, he could at least help to bash the guy. Maybe then Bing Chen would feel better. “No? And here I thought it was obvious that I didn’t like him. He’s way too pretentious. And anyway, he doesn’t even dress very well. If you married him and went outside, he’d always be an embarrassment to you. Looking at it that way, isn’t it better that you have been able to get rid of him before that can happen?”
“What’s so bad about the way he dresses?” Bing Chen propped up his leg and rested his elbow on top, holding up his head while he gave his friend a questioning look. In his opinion, his fiance … No, his ex-fiance, had actually dressed quite well.
Huan Min looked back at him with righteous indignation though. “It’s so … over the top. He only ever uses the best of everything. It has to be the most expensive fabric with the most noticeable embroidery, the most intricately-carved jade talisman hanging from his belt, matching with the most interestingly-shaped crown … Don’t you think it’s pretentious?”
Bing Chen puckered his lips. “Well, I guess it is somewhat true.” Although … He did have to admit that even if all of it was the best, the Zheng family was able to afford that. What was wrong with doing so then? “If you’re rich, then nothing speaks against being like that, does it?” After all, he wasn’t taking from anyone but his own family and he wasn’t making them lose too much money either.
In fact, presenting himself like that might even win his family some opportunities. After all, it could lead to him and, in extension, the Zheng family becoming more well-known and seem dependable in the eyes of outsiders. If he was dressed as if they had to pinch their pennies, wouldn’t people assume that joining up with them would be a money-losing business? Thus Bing Chen couldn’t help but feel that it was appropriate.
Huan Min huffed though. “I’m rich as well. Do you see me running around like a peacock?”
Bing Chen gave him a long look, not quite sure what to say. Even today, Huan Min was dressed in a dark robe, the sleeves slightly wider at the top but bound around his lower arms so they wouldn’t get into the way when doing things. They had spoken about it once and Huan Min had confessed to not having the patience to first grab his sleeve before writing something. He was just … incredibly lazy and he used this style of clothing to enable his lazy attitude.
Furthermore … His gaze shifted down to the hem of Huan Min’s robe that was stained with dust just from the way from the town to this spot at the river. He obviously didn’t pay attention to how he looked and what kind of impression he gave other people at all!
If this was somebody of his family … Bing Chen’s brows twitched. It’d be so infuriating. Even if he didn’t care at all that he was throwing his face away, he should at least take his relatives into consideration! And this kind of person wanted to bash Zheng Mu Jian?
He snorted at that thought and then raised his brows at Huan Min, expressing his doubt. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were some homeless wanderer. Actually, maybe you and he should have a talk. He could dress down slightly and you could dress up a lot. You might both become normal members of society then.”
Huan Min also raised brows. “You mean like you?”
Bing Chen smiled at that. “Sure. I’m the most normal of normal people. Aren’t you able to see that?”
Huan Min gave him a long look as if he was really searching for the normalcy Bing Chen had mentioned. In the end, he should his head. “Absolutely not normal. In fact, I think you’re completely abnormal.”
“Oh? I actually think that you don’t sound normal. Are you asking for a beating right now? How am I not normal?”
Huan Min looked back at him and then reached out, nudging his forehead. “You have eyes but you can’t see. How is that normal?”
Bing Chen furrowed his brows in confusion. “What are you talking about? You wouldn’t want to say that I should’ve known better, would you? When Zheng family came to propose, it did seem like a good deal. Anyway, my father was ecstatic.”
Huan Min nodded gravely as if they had finally touched on the truth of the matter. “Precisely. When has your father been good at judging people? How often has he lost money because of this? Can you still say that you shouldn’t have been worried when you saw him be happy about it?”
Bing Chen raised his chin, obviously not willing to admit to it. “How often has he won money because of something like this? You’re being terribly one-sided, my friend.”
Huan Min gave a hum in return, his gaze growing thoughtful. “Fair enough.”
Bing Chen narrowed his eyes. “What? You still want to say I’m not normal?” At the very least, that was how Huan Min currently looked at him.
Huan Ming turned away and instead looked at the river. “Anyway, that Zheng Jian is no good. Just forget about him.”
Bing Chen scoffed. “As if it was so easy!”
Huan Min’s gaze flicked over but he turned back to the river just as fast, not seeming to care much. Inwardly, he thought differently though. What was so good about that Zheng Jian? Just thinking about him, he couldn’t help but snap back. “Well, what do you want me to say? You have two options: You can fight for it and try to get him back or you can forget about him and find somebody else to marry. It’s your decision.”
Bing Chen gaped at him. This definitely wasn’t the kind of comfort he had expected from his best friend! In fact, thinking about it, he kind of got angry. “What the fuck do you mean?! My fiance canceled our engagement just today. Do you really expect me to move on just like that? Even if I could, where do you expect me to find somebody to marry? Especially somebody as good as Zheng Jian. There isn’t any family around here that has a status as high as his. Regardless of who I’d choose, I’d still be downgrading in the end. I don’t want that. If I did, wouldn’t that guy laugh at me? I won’t give him that pleasure!”
He clenched his fists. Yes, he definitely wouldn’t let that happen. Zheng Jian had humiliated him enough with what he had done. Proposing, making sure that he wouldn’t have the option to look for somebody else for all these years, and now, that the wedding wasn’t for off anymore, he suddenly came to cancel the engagement? And he couldn’t even give a valid reason? It was as if he had done all of this on purpose just to spite him!
The more he thought about it, the angrier Bing Chen became. He wanted to pay him back. If this guy could treat him like this, then he wanted to prove that he wouldn’t go down this easily. He would find somebody else. He would marry a better man and show him that he was worth more than Zheng Jian had ever been able to see him in. He would show him that he had made the wrong decision and missed out!
Huan Min’s brows wrinkled at his friend’s words, his own anger bubbling up very much in the same way. “My Huan family isn’t any worse than the Zheng family.”
Bing Chen gave him an annoyed look at that. “Yes, your family isn’t any lesser than theirs. My family isn’t either. What’s that got to do with anything? I’m looking for somebody that I can marry.”
Huan Min thoughtfully looked at him and finally couldn’t help but point it out directly: “You could always marry me.”
Unfortunately for him, Bing Chen burst out laughing. There even seemed to be a hint of tears in his eyes. “Marry you? That’s a good joke!” He shook his head, chuckling to himself. Yes, if he married Huan Min instead, Zheng Jian would definitely gnash his teeth in anger. He had always disliked how close the two of them were. In fact, hadn’t he complained about it just today when he came to call off the engagement?
Well, never mind that, he wasn’t that kind of asshole. Turning back to his friend, he gave him a faint smile. “Don’t worry. I would never marry you just to spite Zheng Jian. I’m not that type of person. You’re too important to me for that as well.” He could lose a fiance and he would get over it in a few months. But he couldn’t lose his best friend over this as well. If he did … How would he pick himself up then?
Huan Min stared at him as if trying to figure out something.
Bing Chen still wondered about what to do. After a while, he couldn’t help but notice though that his friend had gone awfully quiet. He turned around and raised his brows. “What?”
Huan Min kept quiet but finally couldn’t help but pose the question that was making him feel puzzled. “Why do you think it’s so bad to marry me?” Anyway, hadn’t they been friends since they were young? Hadn’t they always gotten along great? Their relationship was definitely much better than that between Bing Chen and Zheng Jian! Why did Bing Chen still think that marrying him wouldn’t be a good idea?
Bing Chen was at a loss of words. “What kind of question is that?”
“A serious one.” Huan Min really couldn’t understand. Comparing himself and Zheng Jian, he didn’t feel that he lost out either way. His own family was rich as well, their standing in the city wasn’t any worse and, in fact, it could even be said that their reputation was better than that of the Zhengs. On the other hand, he did feel that he was at least a comely-looking guy even if he might not be described as incredibly handsome. So really, what was so bad about the idea of marrying him?
Bing Chen looked at him as if he had lost his mind though. “Well …” He had no idea how to explain this and could finally only deflect the question. “Well, if Zheng Jian hadn’t asked me to marry him, would you have come forward and asked my father if he would let us marry?”
Huan Min was taken aback. “What kind of question is that? That was several years ago. Even if I wanted to, I would never have had the chance to do anything.”
Bing Chen scoffed and turned away. “Then why are you asking if I would marry you? You can go ask my father if he would let us marry. If he says yes, then you’ll see if I would marry you or not.”
Huan Min looked at him in a daze. “Are you … Are you being serious here?”
Bing Chen flicked him a glance before he went back to looking at the other side of the river, pretending to be nonchalant. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I?” Anyway, Huan Min would never go through with this. He definitely only cared for him as a friend.
Huan Min continued to look at him and then turned to the other side of the river as well. Looking at the grass it did indeed look much greener. Pondering for a moment, he finally got up.
Bing Chen was startled and glanced over. “Where are you going?”
“Back to the city.”
Bing Chen furrowed his brows. “Why are you going back already? You’re really not a good friend. I was hoping you’d be at least spending some time with me if you don’t have any empathy. But I guess you’re only thinking of yourself.”
Huan Min raised his brows and then shook his head. “I’m not. I’m thinking of you. Now, I’ll go ask your father. We’ll see what he says.” With that, he turned around and marched back to the city, not waiting for Bing Chen’s response.
His friend continued to sit at the river, tugging at the grass next to him, his brows furrowed. “He would never do that. I don’t believe it.” He shook his head and stared straight ahead. Huan Min had never insinuated that he liked him as more than a friend. If he did, shouldn’t he have said something back when Zheng Jian asked him to marry? But he hadn’t! He had even congratulated him with a smile. That asshole.
In the end, Bing Chen couldn’t help it and jumped to his feet, rushing after him. He’d really like to see if that guy dared to do it or not!
If he did … Well, he should write a thank you card to Zheng Jian for finally freeing him of that stupid engagement. Exchanging him for Huan Min wasn’t a loss at all. In fact, that would be an engagement worth fighting for.