Li Ming quietly told him about his time at the railroad station, from how he had gotten there, how he had met Su Yan, and also how he had never dared to speak up until the day Zhi Bao Yu told him that his feelings were requited and how he then overstepped.
“I had this discussion with Mo Fang already. It was one of those moments where I felt incredibly close to him. Anyway, yes, I never would’ve done it if not for what she said but, at the end of the day, that doesn’t absolve me of guilt. It’s difficult to live with that. I wouldn’t have thought myself to be this kind of person.”
By now, Duan Zhi Hao was holding his forehead, not sure what to say. “You … Seriously, brother Li, it was one kiss! You made me think you did who-knows-what. It’s not that bad.”
Li Ming looked up, clearly not thinking the same. “How is it not that bad? We weren’t in a relationship, he didn’t want to, and he told me so. I went ahead anyway.”
“Well, and his boyfriend punched you in the face in return. I think you are more than even after that. I mean, I’d rather be kissed by a rando than be punched in the face. One thing doesn’t cause any hurt while the other does. You can judge for yourself what’s worse.”
Li Ming looked at him but shook his head nonetheless. “I’m not sure if you can say it like this. Sure, a kiss doesn’t physically hurt but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an effect on a person. I mean, if I came onto you, insisted that you like me, and then kissed you to prove my point, wouldn’t you be … disgusted? Wouldn’t you … wish it didn’t happen?”
Duan Zhi Hao raised his brows, not even sure how to argue that. “I mean, it’s not something I’d want but I still wouldn’t go so far as to hold a grudge for the rest of my life. Especially not if it’s clear that you just misunderstood. And I mean you told him that your coworker put you up to this. He should have the smarts to understand that, right?” Really, he just couldn’t get why Li Ming was so worked up over this. It was just a kiss! What did that really mean?
Li Ming still wasn’t of the same opinion though. To be honest, he was dealing with this a bit better than at the time when he had talked it through with Mo Fang but that didn’t mean that he felt absolved of his guilt. No, in his eyes, that would never happen. “Well, maybe you’re just … not too bothered by this kind of thing. You might be somebody who can … get past such things easily or maybe it’s just easy to say if you’re not in the situation. But no matter how it is for you, I’m sure others are different.” He frowned, trying to think of a good example. “Say, don’t you have a sister?”
Duan Zhi Hao had no idea where that was coming from but nodded. “Yes, she’s about sister Yao’s age. Why do you suddenly ask?” Actually, he had a bit of an ominous feeling about this …
Li Ming leaned forward, grabbing onto the rim of the wineglass and then turning it on the table. He just needed to do something with his hands because he really didn’t know what else to do. He felt so awkward saying this. “Don’t get me wrong. But … let’s just use this as an example to illustrate my point. Only hypothetically. I mean, you think you wouldn’t mind if it happened to you but think about if some random guy went up to your sister and did what I did to Su Yan. Would you still be so relaxed then?” He looked up at him, his gaze inquisitive.
Duan Zhi Hao stared at him, suddenly sputtering. Well … Yes, if it was his little sister, he might indeed see this differently. “That … But you wouldn’t have done that! It’s also different. I mean she’s a girl.”
Li Ming could only smile and shake his head. “Maybe it’s because I’m gay but don’t you think that men deserve the same respect as women? I think that it shouldn’t matter whether it is a girl. You can’t just kiss somebody if they don’t want you to. That’s … I mean you might not agree but that still is assault in my book.”
Duan Zhi Hao really would’ve liked to argue that point but with the example that Li Ming had just brought up, he suddenly couldn’t. He sighed, and then rubbed his forehead again, feeling a bit vexed. Maybe he shouldn’t have been so curious last week. Now, he was having this kind of conversation with Li Ming but he wasn’t prepared at all.
He wanted to talk him out of feeling guilty but he had no arguments while Li Ming had dwelt on this for so long that he was probably able to give a dozen examples and a multitude of arguments. There was no way he’d be able to get past that. No, Li Ming already had his opinion.
In the end, Duan Zhi Hao leaned forward, patting the table in front of him. “Alright. Let’s assume for a moment that what you did was assault. Then what? For the rest of your life, you’re going to feel guilty? Where’s the sense in that? If you commit a crime, you get taken in by the police, get a trial, then either pay a fine or go to prison or whatever they sentence you to. Then after that, you’re done. You can put that behind you and get a second chance.”
“Do you really though? I mean, yes, you have gotten your punishment but that doesn’t absolve you of the guilt, does it? I mean, the crime doesn’t vanish. If you kill somebody, even if you spend the rest of your life in prison, the person doesn’t come back. If you rob a store and they go bankrupt, you will still have destroyed the owner’s livelihood. I think that even if we make up for something, it doesn’t change the problem at the core of it and that is the harm that you caused.
“Personally, I’m not even sure if I believe in second chances. I always thought that there is no reason to ever commit a crime. Maybe I’d see it differently if somebody didn’t know about something and it was an obscure law they broke. But when it comes to harming other people … is there something like this?
“No, I thought committing a crime was … well, I thought it said something about your character. And now, the one who did it is me. I can’t just change my stance now, can I? If I did, that would just be finding a bunch of excuses because I don’t want to face my own actions and their repercussions on me and the other person. But I should. As the perpetrator, I should.”
Duan Zhi Hao gave a hum, understanding that no matter what he said, he wouldn’t be able to convince Li Ming. Still, something about this didn’t sit right with him. “Well, you faced it. You admit that you committed a crime, you aren’t making excuses for yourself, you accept it.
“So now, what do you want to do with that knowledge? With this situation? You could have gone up to him and apologized when you saw them. You didn’t though and you also didn’t try to do anything else to … I don’t know, make up for it. You did nothing. That can’t be the end goal of this, can it?”
Li Ming nodded and leaned back, sighing deeply. “Yes, and that is precisely the point I’m currently at. Everything else is falling into place but this is something that is still haunting me. I don’t know what to do. I really don’t.”