Chapter 26 – Face Off

“Okay, the ones who were there for our guy talk on Tuesday, stand to the left,” Ehlo commanded. “The rest of you, right.”

Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face. “What are you talking about?”

“Obviously you’re standing to the right.”

Qiao Qiao gave him a look.

“What guy talk?” Chen Yi asked.

“Kid, you weren’t there either, right,” Ehlo ordered.

“Quit it already, man,” Jacky interfered, seeing Chen Yi’s expression. “Let’s get going with this game.”

“This is a good chance to know, okay?”

“Fine. Do it, but hurry.”

“What is he talking about?” Xiao Qiao asked Jacky.

Jacky clapped his hands together. “Everyone, Ehlo and I had a little bet so could you please cooperate a bit and excuse Ehlo’s poor communication skills and public relations?”

“Hey!” Ehlo protested. “Are you trying to help me or insult me?”

The others laughed.

“As long as I get them together for you, what’s the difference?” Jacky returned.

Somehow, the others were standing in two groups at that time as was instructed by Ehlo earlier.

“They’re all yours, Mr. Huang.”

The others were laughing again, except some were forcing themselves to stop upon seeing Ehlo’s annoyed look.

“All right, before we start the game, I want to ask you guys something,” Ehlo continued.

“Get with it already,” Qiao Qiao urged. “We have a game to win.”

“Patient, girl, patient.”

Chen Yi poked Qiao Qiao on the shoulder and whispered, “At least he’s calling you a girl and not…”

Before Chen Yi could finish, Qiao Qiao already shoved her right elbow to his stomach. But that didn’t stop Chen Yi from getting down on his back and laughing it off. He ended up in a coughing fit that Achel had to come to his rescue with her water bottle.

“Oh…so this is all so funny,” Ehlo commented sarcastically.

When Chen Yi regained himself again, he put on his smile again. “Not really, but it was…”  He straightened up again when he saw Qiao Qiao staring at him with threatening eyes.

“Since we’re all here again, I’ll continue,” Ehlo snapped, still dripping of annoyance.

“Try to speed it up a bit, will you please, Mr. Huang?” Jacky urged.

Ehlo turned to give Jacky a glare before turning back to the others. “Okay. Who listened to Jacky’s segment on Tuesday?”

Half of them raised their hands.

Ehlo turned to Jacky. “You’re losing your fans.”

“I was rushing around to find Sonia and missed it,” Angela said.

“No need to explain, dear…”

Wei Ru gave Ehlo a sharp look before he could say ‘fiancée.’

Ehlo cleared his throat. “Anyway, those who heard the segment must have heard the song, right?”

“You mean ‘Enchantment’?” Qiao Qiao asked.

Ehlo nodded. “Yes. That’s right.”

“And?”

“I’m getting to the point, Missy.”

“So get there already.”

“Qiao, the faster he talks, the faster we get to play,” Jacky reminded her.

“Thank you for the support, Young Master Chu,” Ehlo said passively before clearing his throat again. “Okay, who could guess who he wrote it for?”

“He wrote it?” Chen Yi asked, surprised.

“He said it before the song came on.”

“Oh. I just turned it on like around the time the song came on and heard something about him signing off.”

“Okay. So who can answer my question?”

Xiao Jie had her hand raised up high while the others were still pondering things over.

Ehlo pointed at Xiao Jie. “He didn’t tell you, did he?”

“No, but I think I know what Jacky ge’s thinking about!”

“Good for you then.” He turned to the others. “Anyone else wants to take a shot?”

Wei Ru hesitated and then put up her hand also. Qiao Qiao followed suit.

Ehlo turned to Jacky. “So not everyone knows.”

“I still can wait for the fan mail,” Jacky said.

“You’re sure to be my slave for a day, so no point in stalling for time. So far, only about 10% of your fans know.”

“All right, guys,” Xiao Qiao said, attempting to break them up again. “What’s the big deal?”

Ehlo turned back to the others again. “Last chance. If he loses, he will have to be my slave for one day.”

Chen Yi raised his hand up also, poking Achel in the process. Achel nodded before raising her hand up as well. Bianca did the same.

“It wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t listen, right?” Angela remarked.

“All right, those who missed the song, step to the farthest right,” Ehlo said.

Angela stepped in that direction at that time.

“Okay, here comes Mr. Sleepy Head now. Let’s see if he can…never mind, he can’t save you. He was there too.”

Upon seeing Wallace, Cyndi walked over to him.

“Hey. How’s it going?” Wallace mumbled.

“I swear you make it sound like she lives the next town over, which she does but don’t you guys work together?” Ehlo teased.

“It doesn’t mean we talk much. I’ve been busy lately.”

“Okay, left, Mr. Huo.”

“Why?”

“Remember Tuesday night?”

“Oh….all right.”

Wallace stepped left while Cyndi went back to the supposed right group–which now turned into the middle group.

“And were you guys…” He pointed at Bianca, Chen Yi, and Achel. “…just worried about his well-being instead of knowing for real?” He pointed at Achel. “Xiao Yu, who is it?”

“Uh…” Achel managed.

“She doesn’t know.”

“It’s for Xiao…”

“Go on.”

“Hey!” Chen Yi yelled out. “Stop bullying her.”

“Coming from your mouth?” Qiao Qiao snapped.

Chen Yi sneered at Qiao Qiao before turning back to Ehlo.

“Xiao Yu, say it,” Ehlo urged.

“It’s Xiao…” Achel tried again.

“Xiao Yue Lan,” Qiao Qiao finished.

Ehlo turned to Qiao Qiao. “I wasn’t asking you!”

“Why are you yelling at Qiao?!” Wei Ru exclaimed.

Ehlo turned on Wei Ru. “Why are you yelling at me then?!”

“Idiot.”

“Like I want to be one.”

Jacky stepped up from behind Ehlo at that time. “All right, guys. Knock it off. I still lose, okay? Let’s get the game going.”

“How in the world is the song related to me though?” Xiao Qiao pondered, confused.

“He’s trying to get clever,” Ehlo explained. “Replace ‘lan’ with ‘lin’ and you’ll know why.” He turned to the others again. “All right, everyone. Game time!”

“You’re the one saying everything,” Qiao Qiao mumbled, annoyed.

“Problem?”

Qiao Qiao just gave Ehlo a look and walked over to Jacky. “You all right?”

“Yeah, sure,” Jacky said quickly. “Why?”

“I heard Orchids talking about your parents giving you a hard time the other day when you were home.”

“It’s fine now. I told them many times already. I won’t change my mind just ‘cause they like Jo.”

“If she needs some fixing, I can take care of it.”

Jacky shook his head. “No need.” He patted Qiao Qiao on the head. “Thanks, sis. But I got it.”

Ehlo walked toward them. “I thought you said I was wasting time. Why are you two loitering here?”

Qiao Qiao turned to Ehlo. “None of your business. And could you take the time used to court girls and invest it more into caring for your buddy?”

“I do care for him. It’s just that he kept backstabbing me.”

“He’s irritated about life, okay?”

Jacky put a hand on Qiao Qiao’s shoulder. “Qiao, it’s all right. It’s not his fault.”

Wei Ru walked over to them. “Qiao, are you all right?”

“He started it,” Qiao Qiao said reluctantly.

“Qiao…” Jacky called out again.

Qiao Qiao could see Jacky’s look so she shrugged her shoulders and walked away from them.

Wei Ru turned to Jacky. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Jacky said–still in that scripted tone.

“Here we go again with nothing going on around here.”

She said that, but stepped back with the rest of the girls as the guys got ready to start the game. That was aside from some of the girls that were actually involved in the game.

As Jacky and Sam were getting together with their teammates, Jacky recounted the team members again. Then he turned to the group watching. “Wallace, get with them. We’re short one.”

“Playing opposite Chen Yi?” Wallace asked.

“Scared?”

“No. But people don’t just play against Chen Yi like that.”

“You guys got Qiao and Johnny.”

“They also got you.”

“Come on now,” Bianca urged. “Where’s your sportsmanship?”

After a little more of hesitation, Wallace finally took his hand out of his shorts pockets and joined Sam’s team.

Contradicting to his reluctant words, Wallace played hard and rough during the game. He showed no mercy toward anyone of the other team, except for maybe Achel but it didn’t help as much since Achel wasn’t as strong as them. And it could possibly be Achel just wanting to play for fun since Chen Yi scolded at her many times for “letting the enemy pass” and how “she could have done better than that.” It was until Chen Yi made the fifth basket that they decided to take a break.

Qiao Qiao sighed out in relief finally.

Ming Dao looked over at her. “You all right?”

“Yeah. If we kept at it, I already strangled Chen Yi.”

Chen Yi walked by them at that time. “You can’t hate me ‘cause I’m good.”

Qiao Qiao gave him an annoyed look. “What are you talking about? I was talking about how you kept bullying Xiao Yu.”

“What’s it got to do with you anyway? Could you stop being nosy? She doesn’t mind getting yelled at, you know.”

Angela walked up to them at that time. “Can it be my business then? She’s my sister after all.”

Chen Yi turned to see Angela crossing her hands and standing there with a frown on her face. He softened and smiled at her. “Angela jie, I was just making a point that Qiao’s just too nosy.”

Achel walked over to them at that time also. “How about we go inside and take a break instead of standing here?” She tugged on Angela’s arm. “Come on, jie.”

Jacky walked over to them at that time also. “Hey, sis, stop getting mad at Chen Yi. It’s not healthy, come on.”

Jacky hauled Qiao Qiao away from the scene before she and Chen Yi could find anything else to argue about. Wei Ru didn’t know what was going on, but she followed them also. Apparently, the others had already been leaving the backyard of Ming Dao and Sam’s place and were heading over to Jacky’s place already. Only some were left behind. But now that they were leaving one by one, Chen Yi realized that he was the only one left. He stared around a bit more before heading back also.

*****

When Chen Yi passed through the door, he could see an interesting scene unfolding. He closed and locked the door quickly before taking several steps forward to stand between Angela and Achel.

“Psst…what are they doing?” Chen Yi asked, whispering to Achel.

Achel leaned over to Chen Yi. “Ehlo ge’s making Jacky ge carry out his requests right now ‘cause Jacky ge lost.”

“That’s outrageous! He can’t be serious. I thought they were kidding.”

“It doesn’t look like it.”

Chen Yi was about to step forward and defend Jacky when Angela extended her hand out to stop him.

Chen Yi turned to Angela. “What?”

“Jacky won’t like it if you’re standing up for him like that,” Angela whispered to him.

“And Qiao can?”

“He treats her like a sister and she’s a girl after all. If he needs another guy to stand up for him, it’ll be a bit…”

“So?”

“At least watch first.”

Bianca leaned into Angela’s left. “Why do you seem to understand him more lately?”

Angela saw Bianca’s teasing expression. “It’s not what you think. I just seem to know him better after working at the station with him.”

“Is that so?”

“What else do you want it to be?”

After that, they continued to watch the scene unfold between Jacky and Ehlo.

“Okay, since that’s set, how about getting me some tea now?” Ehlo rattled out.

“You drink tea?” Jacky asked, putting on his amused look.

“No questions from servants. You will do as you’re told.”

Qiao Qiao stepped forward from her spot between Ming Dao and Wei Ru at that time. “Knock it off already. It’s not funny. Let’s go find something to eat and go back outside to finish our game.”

“He did promise, you know. He said ‘deal’ like he was going to win the other night. You weren’t there.”

“Did we agree to witness?” Wallace jumped in.

Ehlo turned to Wallace. “But you knew it happened…if not, how would you know what I’m talking about now?”

“Forget it,” Jacky interfered. “Let’s get this over with. I’ll get you the tea.”

Jacky went into the kitchen and prepared tea for Ehlo while Ehlo was lying back on the sofa to rest.

“How come Wallace can defend him?” Chen Yi asked Angela.

“They’re always at odd,” Angela said. “It’s not strange for him to go against Ehlo.”

“I’m always at odd with Mr. Pervert too.”

“You’re younger than him. Even if he’s the most popular among us all, he also has dignity, so please don’t rob him of it.”

Chen Yi knew he couldn’t win with Angela so he walked into the kitchen and got himself a drink instead.

Somehow, Chen Yi’s action had unfroze the others from their spots–at least most of them. Wallace walked down the hallway to turn the AC higher while the others scattered apart, sitting at different places or finding something to drink instead of watching the scene between Jacky and Ehlo. Chen Yi was glad that the spell had been broken upon seeing activities happening again as he returned with two soda cans in his hands. He settled down at a chair and tried to enjoy himself when he saw Jacky coming back out. Achel took the chance to step over to Chen Yi and took the other soda from him before stepping back to stand next to Angela. Angela was one of the ones still standing at their original spots. They continued to watch Ehlo as he drank his tea.

“Ah…not bad at all,” Ehlo complimented. “I just got to thinking.”

“You can think?” Chen Yi said through his gritted teeth.

“Stop snapping at me,” Ehlo said to Chen Yi.

“It just seems someone gone too far already.”

“He was the one who made the deal. Why is it my fault when I win? Does it make him right if he wins?”

“If he wins, he would just shake his head and say forget it…unlike someone.”

“Hey!”

“Guys, stop arguing,” Jacky interfered for the umpteenth time. He turned to Chen Yi. “He’s right. I have to carry out my sentence now.” Then he turned to Ehlo with a smile. “What next, Your Highness?”

“Oh yeah, that reminds me,” Ehlo continued in his dominant tone–like nothing happened.

“Yes?”

“Since everyone’s making me the bad guy ‘cause you lost, how about a bargain?”

Jacky sat down next to Ehlo on the sofa before he died trying to wait for Ehlo to get to the point. “What?”

“Two options. One, tell me all your secrets that I don’t already know. Or two, be my slave for the rest of the day.”

“That isn’t fair!” Qiao Qiao exclaimed.

“Life isn’t fair.”

“Qiao, calm down,” Jakcy said before turning to Ehlo. “I’ll take number two. Let’s go. Shout out your commands.”

“But…he…” Qiao Qiao protested again. She finally couldn’t take it anymore so she took another step forward to face Ehlo. Her expression was so stern the rest of the people in the room seemed to be silenced by it. “You want to know some secrets that you don’t know? I’ll tell you one right now!”

Jacky jumped up from his place faster than anyone in the room could react and hauled Qiao Qiao out of the scene. He dragged her to his room and shut the door behind him before speaking up. She yanked her arm away from him.

“What are you doing?! He said he wants to know.”

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about and besides, he’s just teasing me. He won’t go to the extreme of making me give him foot message or do heavy labor or…”

“It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t know what you’re going through right now and he still dares to call himself your best buddy.”

“Are you mad at Wei Ru for match-making you both?”

“Huh?”

“Are you trying to take your aggressiveness to the max so he wouldn’t like you anymore so Wei Ru could pull out? ‘Cause you can take jokes better than this.”

“I just…I…” Qiao Qiao sighed out, frustrated.

Jacky felt that he needed to do it so he took Qiao Qiao into his arms and patted her shoulder gently. “Go ahead and cry. I know you’re frustrated for both of us so you can cry for the both of us too. Getting mad at everyone won’t solve anything.”

Qiao Qiao stayed still at first but then Jacky could feel her shaking because she was starting to cry at last. “I don’t know…why things…has turned out…this way. I don’t want…things to turn out…this way. But…I…”

Jacky patted on Qiao Qiao’s shoulder. “It’s okay.”

“It’s just so hard to…to hold everything inside. I don’t want to hurt everyone…if that’s even true. But I can’t force myself to…like…anyone either.”

“Stop beating yourself up already. It’s not your fault. You’re just being yourself. It was my fault for creating chances for you and Ehlo to get together ‘cause I know Ehlo likes you. And ‘cause he’s my friend so I want to help him have a fair chance. It’s my fault for misleading Chen Yi too since I thought you like Chen Yi but now that I know you more, I know that you’re just naturally friendly toward everyone and likes to hit them, but it’s not ‘cause you like that person.”

Qiao Qiao hit Jacky on the shoulder. “Are you saying I’m naturally violent?”

“Whatever you want to do, go ahead and beat me up. I deserve it.”

Qiao Qiao finally stopped shaking so Jacky let go of her.

Jacky smiled. “Ming Dao really missed his chance to reassure you, huh?”

Qiao Qiao hit Jacky on the shoulder again, trying to wipe away her tears at the same time. “It’s not funny.”

Jacky still had on that teasing smile. “Whatever you say, sis.”

Qiao Qiao noticed the wet spot on Jacky’s shirt. “Sorry.”

“Used to it.”

“Many girls fall into your arms and cry their hearts out?”

“Hey!”

“Just kidding!” Qiao Qiao suddenly hugged Jacky again. He didn’t expect that so he didn’t know how to react. “Thanks. You’re not my brother for nothing after all.”

Jacky patted Qiao Qiao’s shoulder. “That’s what I’m here for.”

Qiao Qiao smiled but then she felt foolish since Jacky couldn’t see it anyway.

“So are we ready to head out?”

Qiao Qiao nodded into Jacky’s shoulder.

*****

At about the same time as Jacky pulled Qiao Qiao into his room, Wei Ru also took the chance to pull Ehlo aside to a corner of the living room.

“What?!” Ehlo asked impatiently.

“Did you do that on purpose or were you just taking advantage of the situation?” Wei Ru demanded.

“What are you talking about?”

“Arguing with Qiao and going overboard with Jacky.”

“If you don’t trust me, you can ask Johnny. He’ll tell you that I’m just teasing Jacky. I’ll knock it off in no time. Don’t worry.”

“Johnny isn’t around anymore. So much for a witness.”

Ehlo looked around the room and realized Wei Ru was right. He turned back to Wei Ru. “Where did he go? When did he leave?”

“Like around the same time we got back. He said he’ll be back after lunch.”

“Okay then.”

“Answer my second question.”

“What?”

“Did you try to aggravate Qiao on purpose? In case you need any reminding, you’re supposed to impress her, not aggravate her. There’s a big difference.”

“So what if I’m trying to push her buttons? I’m doing a test right now. If she can’t take it, then I’ll improvise my plan.”

“Easy for you to say. Improvise? By the time you do that, she’s already so mad at you that she’ll…”

“Will you calm down? I know what I’m doing, okay?”

“All right then, but I’m just worried for you.”

Ehlo smiled. “Relax.”

Wei Ru turned on her warning look. “This next week is the last week we’re staying here so I think you better hurry up with your decision. ‘Cause I can’t help you anymore.”

“Like I need help.”

“If you keep it up with your mouth running, yes, you do need help. You need someone to shut you up and keep you in line.”

“I did it on purpose, okay? Stop nagging, okay?”

“Okay then.”

Ehlo and Wei Ru went back to join the group after that. They saw Chen Yi coming from the hallway that led to Jacky and the other guys’ room. They guessed that the others must have sent Chen Yi to investigate.

“Well?” Angela asked Chen Yi. “What are they doing?”

“Can’t hear clearly but doesn’t matter,” Chen Yi said. “I don’t think he’ll eat her alive in there.” He saw Ehlo coming back with Wei Ru. “Unlike someone…”

“Hey!” Ehlo shouted, pointing his finger at Chen Yi.

“I’m not going to be bothered with you anymore.”

As Ehlo was about to strike back, they heard the door to Jacky’s room being opened. All of them turned to take a look.

Jacky smiled. “Sorry about that. Need to negotiate something with her.”

“Whatever,” Qiao Qiao muttered.

After that, Qiao Qiao headed down the hall to the restroom and Jacky joined them in the living room again.

“So…Your Highness, what should I get you now?” Jacky asked Ehlo.

Ehlo shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll think up of something later.”

“Okay then.” He looked around. “What happened to Johnny?”

As if by magic, Johnny opened the front door and entered at that time.

“Don’t tell me you guys are finished eating,” Johnny said upon seeing them all gathered at the living room.

“We haven’t even started yet,” Jacky informed him.

“You’re kidding? What about our match?”

“Probably going to drag until later today. But I think we got time. Anyway, I have something else to tell you.”

“What?”

Jacky turned around to seek out a certain party before turning back to Johnny. “Meet you at Seahorse Café around 8 tomorrow.”

“For?”

“Nothing.”

“Hey, what are you guys talking about?” Ehlo asked, eyeing them suspiciously.

Jacky turned to Ehlo. “This doesn’t concern you.”

“Hey, you’re my slave for the day. You have to obey my commands.”

“Your Highness, in case you need any reminding, you said either secrets or commands. This falls under the ‘secret’ category. And if you dare to spy on us tomorrow, don’t expect me to tell you anything anymore.” Jacky went into the kitchen after that.

Ehlo turned to Johnny. “What’s with him?”

“How should I know?” Johnny asked back.

Qiao Qiao came out at that time and entered the kitchen also when she saw Jacky there.

A few seconds later, Bianca looked at Johnny. As if that was a hint, Johnny and Bianca got up at the same time to go as well.

“Unbelievable,” Ehlo mumbled. “And if they’re not sharing some sort of secretes, I’m going to…”

“Quit being nosy,” Chen Yi snapped–seeing that no one else was around to stop him.

“Hey, I wasn’t talking about you.”

“So?” He glanced at his watch. “Come on, Xiao Yu. We have to meet Tony and Yan at the shop later.”

“Eh…how come I don’t know about this?” Angela asked.

Chen Yi smiled. “Sorry, Angela jie, but we made some plans earlier. Didn’t know the game would drag this long.” Then he turned and yelled into the kitchen, “Guys, I’m out of here! I guess we have to postpone the game.”

“It’s all right,” Jacky said. “Looks like most of us needs some cool off time anyway.”

Chen Yi gave Jacky a “thumbs-up” sign before heading for the door with Achel.

The others looked after them, not knowing what to say.

“Great day, isn’t it?” Sam said casually.

“Thanks to someone,” Wei Ru continued.

“Hey!” Ehlo objected.

“Guys, please,” Angela interfered.

Ehlo turned to Angela. “I thought you love to argue, what happened? You’ve gone soft?”

“I learned my lesson cold and hard, okay?”

“Same here,” Sam agreed.

“What are we going to do now?” Xiao Qiao asked.

“Cards?” Ehlo suggested.

Sam wrinkled his face.

“Why not? Since the game’s out.”

“Fine then.”

Wei Ru looked around. “What happened to Wallace and Cyndi?”

“They left around the same time as Johnny.”

Ehlo looked around. “Johnny’s gone again?”

“Yeah,” Angela replied.

Ehlo scratched his head. “Oh.”

They had no other choice but to sit around and play cards with Ehlo while Jacky and the others were in the kitchen preparing the food. Later, Jacky called them in to eat. Everyone tried super hard not to drive the conversation into the danger zone. Even Ehlo didn’t feel like stirring up any trouble like before. He also forgot to yell out his commands to Jacky. In fact, he regretted of his action. He wished he hadn’t done the test. But then again, he had to, he reassured himself. If not, how would he be certain of things? He snapped out of his thoughts as Wei Ru turned to ask him something.

“What’s wrong?” She asked in a concerned tone.

“Nothing,” Ehlo muttered absentmindedly.

“Oh come on.”

“Do you want me to be loud and aggressive again?”

“No. What I mean is…”

“What?”

“I’m sorry I scolded at you earlier. I know I have no right to yell at you and…”

“It’s okay. I know you’re worried I lost my chance. But I thought it over.”

“What?”

“It doesn’t matter anymore.”

“Huh?”

“I’ll tell you one day.”

“Trying to act secretive again.”

Ehlo smiled. “I promise I’ll tell you before you go back home next weekend.”

“Huang Yu Rong, don’t you dare lie to me.”

“I wouldn’t dare to, Miss Lai.”

© Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Posted: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

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