Since Zhen Zhu and Zhu Hong had slept for quite some time, they had enough energy to stay for a few more hours. Only when it had gotten late did Zhu Hong finally look over to the window. “I guess it’s about time to return home.”
Before he even finished speaking, he already saw Elder Bi’s expression turn unhappy.
“What returning home? Can’t you just stay here?”
Zhu Hong smiled faintly. Clearly, that chapter still hadn’t been closed for him. He would probably try and convince them until they had a child of their own. No, actually, he might try to convince them to stay with his family even more after they had one. In Elder Bi’s eyes, there probably wasn’t a reason not to live them.
Zhen Zhu looked up at his husband. Seeing the faint smile on his lips, he couldn’t help but wonder how he would react. Originally, they had talked about how it would be best to stay in their own house. Living together and shaping their own place was his vision of their future and from what Zhu Hong had said back then, it had been his as well.
But now, Zhu Hong was reconsidering his status in Elder Bi’s family. So most likely, it was safe to say that he might also change his opinion on where to live. Zhen Zhu wasn’t quite sure what to make of that.
On the one hand, he naturally believed that his husband would have his reasons for everything. And it wouldn’t be wrong to want to stay with Elder Bi’s family. In any case, he also liked all of them so it wasn’t like it would be bad.
But on the other hand, he was already quite invested in that little house on the other side of the valley. He had looked at those rooms with Zhu Hong and tried to imagine what to do with them and he was reluctant to give up on that dream. Just thinking of it brought him some heartache.
Maybe it would still happen though. Maybe it would be better anyway. After all, he didn’t want to stand between Zhu Hong and the family he could finally have just because of a selfish reason like that. That would be too mean. No, for the sake of his husband, he could probably give up on that dream. Anyway, even in this house, they would likely be able to at least shape their own room how they wanted, right?
While Zhen Zhu was trying to come to grips with this new situation, Zhu Hong already shook his head. “I know that you want us to move in but the answer is still no. We just got married, we want to plan a life of our own.
“And that is my parents’ house after all. I know you have taken care of me all these years and you’re not any less of a family to me than they were but you are still around. I can come and see you every day to spend time with you.
“But as for them, this house is the last thing that they left me so I want to hold onto that. I want my spouse and the children we’ll have someday in the future to live there, to have some part in the memories I still have left of them.
“That doesn’t mean that we won’t be close or that I’m cutting our connection. I promise we will come here regularly and you are always welcome over at our house. All of you. So don’t worry about it. It’s not like you will see less of me or of Zhen Zhu because of this decision to stay there.”
For a moment, Elder Bi was too stunned to say anything. In all these years, he had never heard Zhu Hong call him family. That just … well, he had always thought that this brat didn’t even see him his family even though he had taken him in without question back then. But now, he suddenly said something like this. What was he supposed to think? He didn’t know and for a moment, he was at a loss for words.
The others were also stunned. While they definitely regarded Zhu Hong as their family member, they also knew that he himself had some trouble accepting that role. He had always been very polite but also seemed a little distant. It was really difficult to get closer to him.
Hui Se had had a bit more luck in that regard than the others since she had also married into the family. Her relationship with Elder Bi was a bit similar to Zhu Hong’s if you wanted to look at it that way. But even she hadn’t been able to ever make Zhu Hong feel like an actual family.
Now though, it seemed that things were different. They didn’t know if they had just gotten it all wrong all these years or if the marriage with Zhen Zhu had changed something but this revelation certainly caused some excitement.
They all tried to hide it though. After all, maybe saying they were family as well had just been a slip of the tongue. They didn’t want to pressure Zhu Hong too much. If he finally accepted them as his family, that would be great but if they put too much pressure on him, he might pull back further. They didn’t want to let that happen.
Zhu Hong almost wanted to laugh out loud when he saw their expressions of wanting to celebrate but not daring to say a single word. Finally, he still chuckled before he reached over to Zhen Zhu and rubbed his neck. “Well, we’re definitely not moving here but maybe you would like to stay over at least one night? In any case, it’s pretty late and you seemed to have quite a bit of fun.”
Zhen Zhu didn’t understand the current mood in the room but since Zhu Hong made this kind of suggestion as a compromise, he naturally didn’t want to be difficult. “Sure! As long as we can stay together.” He hugged his husband’s arm, looking up at him with a smile.
Zhu Hong smiled back and leaned down, pecking him on the lips. “Alright, it’s decided then.” He looked up at Elder Bi who really didn’t know what to say anymore and raised his brows. “Don’t tell me you’re not prepared for that.”
Elder Bi immediately shot to his feet, rushing up to the staircase. “No, we’re definitely prepared. Just give me a second!” With that, he was already out of sight and only his rushed steps could be heard.
Chengse glanced up at the ceiling, her gaze a bit worried. “I hope he doesn’t injure himself up there with how excited he is.”
Li Se chuckled at that. “Father has tough bones. Rather than worrying about him, you should worry that he’ll break something up there.”
The others chuckled as well but nobody went up there to go and check on Elder Bi. In any case, they still trusted that he would be able to do it. And he probably needed a moment to himself. They didn’t want to disturb him at that time.
Hui Se used the opportunity to lean over. “So, what happened in the city that made you change your stance?”
Even though Zhu Hong had never directly said that he didn’t regard them as family, it had still been obvious to everyone that he was keeping them at arm’s length.
Zhu Hong smiled wryly when she asked outright. To be honest, he wasn’t quite sure if he was ready for this conversation but now was probably the best moment to get it over with. After all, everything was still fresh in his mind, and letting it fester might cause new problems. Since it had happened just now, the opportunity was there. Why not talk about it immediately?
Zhen Zhu reached out and interlaced his fingers with his as if he could feel that his husband needed a bit of support. Zhu Hong looked over and then smiled, gently squeezing his hand. Finally, he looked at the others one by one and sighed.
“These years, I guess I have to apologize for how I behaved. For all this time, you … treated me just like a family would. You tried to include me as well as you could and never treated me any different than you would your children or your siblings. I just … I guess I wasn’t ready to accept it and maybe a little scared.” He wasn’t sure how to explain it. To be honest, he was still a little afraid of bringing up the matter with the bond.
For one, he didn’t want to give any kind of hint to Zhen Zhu that it didn’t exist from his side because he was sure that he would be devastated if he found out. And second, there was still this notion of not wanting to disappoint Elder Bi and his family. Even though he was starting to truly regard them as his family now, that still didn’t change.
He wanted them to think well of him. He knew that they had done so all the time but that made him even more afraid. He didn’t want to see that change, especially not now that he was ready to come around.
Chengse looked at him and then reached over, taking his other hand. “You don’t have to tell us anything if you’re not ready. If you are in the future, you always can. But until then, nobody’s going to force you. That’s also the privilege of being family. No matter what happens, we’ll be there for you in the way that you need us to. Just like you would be for us.”
Zhu Hong smiled, feeling touched on one hand while also feeling that he was really letting them down if he didn’t talk. “It’s not that I don’t want to tell you. I just … I can’t explain it well.”
Zhen Zhu looked up at his husband, feeling a bit confused. His husband had explained it to him just before they came over. But now, he actually said this? He didn’t understand at first but after taking a moment longer, he suddenly realized: It was different because they were different people.
Zhu Hong could explain this matter to him as his spouse but he couldn’t explain it to his family. Not just because he had been there when they had had that talk with Grandelder Lan Jing but also because their relationship was different. He didn’t fully understand it but it was the first time he felt like maybe this was his chance to help Zhu Hong.
He bit his lip, not wanting to make trouble for his husband. But in any case, there was just one explanation he could give that was close to the truth but not quite the truth, keeping hidden whatever it was that Zhu Hong didn’t want to say but still giving a bit of a reason that might make things easier for him.
He squeezed his hand, hoping that Zhu Hong would stop him if he said anything that he shouldn’t. “You know that before we went to the city, we were in the forest. I didn’t get to tell you about that yet. I guess it’s not that important either right now but, in any case, I asked Grandelder Lan Jing a lot about my family. We talked with her for a long time.” He didn’t say more than that, fearing that he might really reveal something.
Zhu Hong looked at him, his gaze softening. He nodded slowly and then took a deep breath before he sighed. “We did. And I guess even though this was about Zhen Zhu’s family, that talk also gave me a lot to think about. Then add onto that that I’ve been married for a bit now and got to make some experiences even outside of the valley with Zhen Zhu and there were just so many things going through my mind.
“I guess that is all that there is to it really: I realized some things I didn’t before. And that made me realize I couldn’t go on like before. That I had no reason to go on like before. So … here we are now.”
Hui Se reached out and patted his lower arm, giving him a smile. “Well, I guess we should thank Grandelder Lan Jing when she comes by the next time. She did a good deed there. I’m happy that you’ve finally come around. I’ve been married into this family for so long and I’ve always wondered if I would get to see this day. And now look at this! It actually happened before Yu Sui and I had our first child.”
Zhu Hong looked at her, faintly tilting his head. “Is this you speaking in hyperbole or do you want to announce something?” He glanced at Yu Sui at the last part who promptly went red in the face.
Zhu Hong’s brows shot up and suddenly, all the tension was gone and the family crowded around Yu Sui.
Zhu Hong stayed where he was, not quite sure how to deal with this at first. There was really one thing after the other today. Although … most likely, this wasn’t a coincidence. Most likely, these two had thought about telling the family soon but had wanted to wait for the right moment. Now, when he had made his confession and suddenly all the attention was on them, slowly starting to make him feel uncomfortable, Hui Se had just gone ahead. She really was like a sister.
Thinking of that, he smiled. He turned to look at his husband who still seemed confused and leaned down to kiss his cheek, mumbling a few words into his ear as an explanation. Then, he pulled him to his feet and over to the other couch so he could congratulate the other couple as well.
Just then, Elder Bi came back down from above but stopped in his tracks as soon as he saw the whole family huddled together like this. Seeing Zhu Hong stand at the front, he couldn’t help but rush over, giving him a puzzled look. “What’s the matter?”
“Oh, you’re getting another grandchild!”
Elder Bi’s eyes went wide and he turned back to Zhen Zhu, giving him a once over. “Already? But you’ve barely been married for two weeks!”
Zhu Hong turned away and laughed out loud while the others gave Elder Bi a pointed look as well.
“Wrong person, Bi!” Chengse went over and grabbed her husband by the shoulder, pulling him away from Zhen Zhu who was completely startled and couldn’t help but pat his body as if to see if he really was carrying an egg somewhere.
Zhu Hong looked at him, finding it quite endearing. He reached out and pulled him into his arms, shaking his head. “I don’t think it happened this fast. Don’t worry. Anyway, you should take a good look at how things go with your sister Yu Sui. You can already learn quite a bit for the future from her experience.”
Zhen Zhu nodded wildly and then rushed over to where Yu Sui and Hui Se were sitting, crouching down right on Yu Sui’s other side, looking at her intently.
Zhu Hong watched with a smile and then glanced at Hui Se. When it came to learning things in regard to this, he should also learn a bit more from her. Clearly, she knew exactly what she was doing. That was a good chance for him to learn something as well and make sure that Zhen Zhu would have an easier time when they got into this situation some years down the road.