Zhao Chen dropped the topic and the two of them silently made their way over to the restaurant. When they walked up to the door, Zhao Chen couldn’t help but raise his brows. “This place? I was actually here before!”
Li Ming looked at him and smiled. “Well, I’m not that surprised. I think it’s a popular spot for the queer youth in the city. Si Tao doesn’t seem like the type of guy who makes a secret out of his own orientation and if our ex and I are anything to go by, his circle of friends should be queer too. It’s probably no wonder that people like us flocked here after a while.”
Zhao Chen’s eyes suddenly widened. “Eh? Is that why the hotel …”
Li Ming nodded with a smile. “From what I know, yes. Back then, when I started there, I had no idea it was his chain. I just applied there because some friends mentioned the company was supposedly good at dealing with discrimination.
“I coincidentally ran into Si Tao and his girlfriend in the lobby on the day of my interview. That’s when I found out it was his business. Later on, I asked him privately if there was any relationship between the treatment there and his own past.”
Zhao Chen sighed. “Ah, I’m not sure if I should be happy or sad about that.”
Li Ming raised his brows. “How so?”
Zhao Chen rubbed his neck again. “Well, it is absolutely awesome that there are establishments out there that won’t discriminate based on sexuality no matter what the current laws are. I’ll always be thankful for each and every one of them. I mean, that’s giving us one more place in life where we can be ourselves and don’t have to be careful about what we say or do.
“But, at the same time, it speaks leagues about the current situation that the only reason those businesses aren’t tolerating discrimination is that the big boss is queer as well. It just … makes me feel a bit helpless.”
Li Ming sighed as well when Zhao Chen put it this way. “Yes, I guess this shouldn’t be necessary but what can you do? I’ll take every bit of help we can get whether it’s from inside the community or from outside. Anyway, there more places like this there are, the easier it’ll be for others to do the same. Who knows? One of our unsuspecting coworkers or the people frequenting this restaurant might take some inspiration even if it’s just for their everyday life. Well, at least that’s what I like to tell myself when I have these kinds of doubts.”
Zhao Chen nodded. “Yeah, I know, there’s no use making a big deal out of it. Anyway, it’s nice that he is doing this despite being bi. I mean, he could just pretend to be straight. Especially if he currently has a girlfriend.”
Li Ming gave a hum. “I guess he could but from the little that I know about his past, he’s also faced quite a bit of backlash about his boyfriends before. That’s something you don’t just forget about. But yes, it’s good he’s doing this. He wouldn’t have to.”
The two of them had stopped outside for a moment but Li Ming finally motioned at the door. “Well, we’re here now. There’s still some time but I guess we might as well go in already?”
Zhao Chen nodded and then followed him inside. He hadn’t been at this place for a while but looking around, it was exactly as he remembered it. After a quick glance through the room, he started to look at the people, trying to see if one of them screamed ‘big boss of several companies’. He couldn’t see anyone though so, most likely, Si Tao wasn’t in yet.
Li Ming also looked around but couldn’t spot him so he waved Zhao Chen along and went up to the bar. “Brother Yao, we’re meeting up with brother Si and his girlfriend. Are they in yet?”
Yao Chen flashed him a smile and took a quick glance at Zhao Chen while he was at it before he shook his head. “Nope. He did tell me to make sure the four of you had a table though.” He inclined his head toward a table in the corner where they would be a little further away from anyone coming and going. “You can go over there already if you want. Knowing the boss, he might be running late.”
Li Ming nodded, having experienced that once in the past. He also didn’t think it was strange. Anyway, while he might have said that Si Tao probably didn’t have to take care of too much anymore, he was still an important person. As somebody who clearly had a sense of responsibility, he would regularly check in with everyone. Those kinds of meetings could take longer than expected for sure.
Turning to the side, Li Ming raised his brows at his boyfriend. “Do you want to go over already?”
Zhao Chen looked at Yao Chen, wondering if the alternative would be to stay here and chat with him. Considering how he seemed to get along with Li Ming, he was actually quite curious. Those two might be friends as well. But then, this guy was clearly working so they probably shouldn’t disturb him. Thinking of that, he finally nodded. “Sure, why not?”
Li Ming nodded and then said goodbye to Yao Chen before going over to the table with Zhao Chen. He leaned back after sitting down, his gaze brushing through the room. “Well, I guess it’s almost time. Still nervous?”
Zhao Chen shook his head. “No, just … curious. Anyway, it’s not like he’s your best friend so even if I can’t impress him, I guess it’s not going to ruin our relationship.”
Li Ming chuckled. “Even if he was my best friend, I wouldn’t stake everything on a single meeting so you don’t have to be afraid of that.” He wanted to say more but just then, the door opened and a couple walked in, immediately turning to look in their direction.
Well, seemed like the other half of their double-date had already arrived.