Li Ming stared at him, completely dumbfounded. He had no idea what to say and, to be honest, even his expression had turned blank.
Seeing him like this, Zhao Chen felt anxious. He might not be laughing at him but this kind of reaction wasn’t much better. It suddenly gave him the desire to justify himself. “You know, it’s not like I don’t watch movies at all. It’s just that most of the time, they wouldn’t be my first choice.”
Li Ming rubbed his forehead and then shook his head. “You don’t have to explain. Really.” He needed a moment to pull himself together but then, he gave a faint smile. “You know, I was really wondering what you would say. I just couldn’t imagine anything you could bring up that would make me laugh at you.
“I expected that it would be some kind of niche genre. Something really … really rare, where you would need to spend an hour to even explain to me what the name meant. But even if that had been the case, I don’t think I would have laughed.
“And this …” Li Ming shook his head again, actually chuckling a bit this time around. “Are there actually people who think this is funny? I mean, you’re more interested in reading. What is the big deal about that?” He honestly couldn’t imagine why Zhao Chen was so anxious before he told him. He had made it sound like it was a huge secret that people judged him for. But it was just … books? That seemed odd.
Zhao Chen looked at him and then couldn’t help but laugh himself. “Well, I guess not everyone is this mature. Or maybe I just have some hang-ups leftover from the past.” His expression turned a bit more serious while his thoughts wandered back in time. “When I was younger, I went on a couple of casual dates where we would talk about surface-level stuff. Things like whether we were still studying or what we were doing for a living, what our hobbies were … those kinds of things. Whenever I brought up reading, there were actually quite a few who thought it was hilarious that I would rather spend my time with a book in my hands than in front of the screen. I’ve been laughed at quite a bit.”
Li Ming’s expression changed and he reached out, taking Zhao Chen’s hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to diminish your experiences. I guess it should have been obvious to me that if you had to ask me not to laugh before, that others haven’t reacted as well in the past.
“It’s just … well, to me, it isn’t an issue. In the end, doesn’t it all come down to taste? There’s something you like more than something else. I really don’t think it’s a big deal. But I can imagine how you feel. People sometimes look at me like that when I tell them that I like to cook.”
Zhao Chen squeezed his hand and nodded slowly. “Well, I’m glad that you’re not that kind of person.” He smiled faintly and after a moment, that smile became even bigger. “Maybe I should see this as the ultimate test of whether somebody is boyfriend material. If they laugh, they’re out, if they don’t think I’m weird for bringing it up, they’re meant to stay.”
Li Ming laughed again and shook his head at him, feeling that he was really taking things a bit too far. “If you want to make this a test, you can’t make a big deal out of it before the revelation though. You’re setting the wrong expectations there. It wouldn’t be strange for somebody to laugh just because they think you’re pulling their leg. Then they’d demand to know the truth.”
Zhao Chen clicked his tongue. “Actually, I can see that happening. Anyway, hopefully, I won’t have to revisit that particular topic anytime soon.”
Li Ming lowered his gaze, not sure what to do with that. Saying this meant that he wanted to stay with him for as long as possible. And even though he knew that that was the case, knowing it and hearing the other person say it were still two different things. It was … a careful love confession. Zhao Chen’s feelings were clearly starting to go beyond just interest by now.
He looked away and then finally turned back, feeling that he should just change the topic for now. Although he had been a little faster when it came to getting closer to Zhao Cheng, that still didn’t mean that he was comfortable to that degree yet. To him, they were only at the dating stage. In a few weeks or so, that might change but until then, he didn’t dare to enter this territory.
“So … since the big revelation is over now, you should talk business. What is it that you like about reading? And what’s your … favorite genre, I guess? Or do you not care about that?”
Zhao Chen watched Li Ming, his expression soft. He also knew that he was evading having a conversation about where they stood right now. Even if he had said it in a joking manner, Li Ming needed more time. That much was clear. He had noticed it in the past and just accepted it at face value for the time being, but earlier today, he had even gotten an explanation for it. So now, he minded even less.
Hearing him ask further questions, he was happy anyway. A lot of people who weren’t readers themselves would just stop the conversation at ‘oh, so you like to read more’ and then be done with it. They didn’t take any interest in what he liked.
That wasn’t necessarily a problem but it did speak to how a relationship with them would go. You could have different hobbies but if you always took interest in the things the other person liked while they never cared about yours, that could be taxing over time.
Li Ming wasn’t that type of person though. He really wanted to know so Zhao Chen was also looking forward to sharing more. It made him happy and it was a good sign for their relationship. Naturally, he wouldn’t hold back.
“Well, if you’re asking like this, I guess I should pour my heart out directly and tell you about all the details.” His lips curved up and his eyes were sparkling when he said so. Yes, he was very much looking forward to this.