As Huo Qiudong guided Yang Ruqin to her spot as the maid-of-honor, his eyes caught sight of a man he didn't think he would recognize. He had never met him, but he could tell by the way that man stared at Yang Ruqin that there was a history between them.
Huo Qiudong glanced at his fiancée whose large diamond ring caught the light, dazzling and blinding anyone who admired it for too long. Yang Ruqin seemed completely oblivious to the staring and he was surprised to see she was watching him the entire time with that goofy smile on her face.
"What are you thinking about?"
Huo Qiudong briefly glanced at the man but was too slow for Yang Ruqin to not have missed the gaze. She turned her head in the direction he was originally looking at. Her smile slipped a bit before it settled into a gentle smile. Her eyes flickered with recognition.
"Yu Pingluo." She spoke a name, confusing him before realization settled in. In the past four years, they have told each other everything there was to know about each other. The name Yu Pingluo was brought up only three times and each time, she had voluntarily did it.
Huo Qiudong was not angered or bothered whenever she spoke of her past. Instead, he welcomed every little piece of knowledge he could gain about her. His mellow nature caused him to never lash out for the things she did in the past. He wasn't even irritated upon realizing she had lived in the same house as that man. In the end, she was with him and no one else. That was all that mattered. The past was unchangeable, but their future most certainly was.
The wedding was going to start in ten minutes and Huo Qiudong could see Yu Pingluo was a groomsman.
Yu Pingluo stared at Yang Ruqin, unable to tear his eyes away from her. Even with the four years that had passed, she looked as beautiful as ever. However, his heart didn't skip a beat as it used to. He seized the courage to approach her, whether it was with good or bad intentions, he didn't know.
"Young Miss." His address towards her was familiar but distant. His feet never even went over the boundary line. In fact, it was at least two steps before it. "It has been a while."
Yang Ruqin paused as she took her position before slowly nodding her head. She saw him briefly glancing at the hand that was folded in Huo Qiudong's bent arm.
Yu Pingluo most definitely did not miss the diamond ring on her left hand or the way her eyes were calm and serene — content with her life. He didn't think he would see her this happy in a long time and when she glanced at her lover, nothing could match the affection tucked within her eyes. She was happy. It wasn't the bipolar happiness she had experienced during their relationship. She was happy and her emotions were stable.
Pain prickled his chest. It felt like thousands of little needles were taking turns pricking him. His heartfelt heavy and he didn't know what else to say. The thought that she had truly moved on had always passed through his mind, but it was a simple thought.
"Yes, it has been a while." Yang Ruqin amicably said while keeping her distance from him through a slight smile that was no different from the one she showed to an acquaintance.
"I'm sorry." Yu Pingluo whispered. His words causing her brows to etch together in confusion.
"For cheating." Yu Pingluo finally admitted where he had gone wrong. Yes, he was drunk that night. Yes, it was a mission. No, it was not a staged photo. He had truly engaged himself with someone he shouldn't have and he regretted nothing more than letting a woman like Yang Ruqin slip from his hands.
Had she been the naive and weak woman she was four years ago, perhaps Yang Ruqin would've cried. Her entire world would have crumbled at the truth and she would've completely shut down. But this was the present and she was not as feeble as before. The smallest twinge of pain struck her heart, but it was temporary and fleeting like light. It wasn't because she still loved him, but because the betrayal was something she had never expected from him.
"Is that so?" Yang Ruqin responded, her words revealing nothing of how she felt. "Thank you for telling me."
"You've grown." Yu Pingluo blurted out. He thought she would violently react or shed a tear because of his words, but she didn't. She stood her ground and didn't even seem affected by his words.
"Have I?" she mused, "I guess I did change, but for the better." Her eyes trailed to the patient man beside her who had taught her to let go of the past instead of continuously holding onto it. She didn't realize how much her hands were being cut by the rope she had desperately clung onto until Huo Qiudong came into her life and taught her how to willingly do so.
"It's all because of him," Yang Ruqin declared, gesturing towards Huo Qiudong, "My fiancé."
Yu Pingluo smiled. Indeed, she had moved on. And indeed, she was happy. Even if her happiness was not with him, he still accepted it because, in the end, he had loved her enough to let her go. He didn't necessarily accept their relationship, but he had accepted the consequences of his actions.
"I would say it's a pleasure to meet your acquaintance but this is too awkward of a setting to say such a thing." Yu Pingluo chuckled as he stuck a hand out to Huo Qiudong.
"I'm glad to see the feeling is mutual." Huo Qiudong gave him a firm handshake before the two released hands. There was a slight tension in the air, but that much was expected.
"Do you drink?"
"What do you suppose we drink and talk it out after this wedding?" Yu Pingluo joked, but it was a real offer. He wanted to get to know the man that Yang Ruqin was going to spend her life with. "Of course, it is with respect and dignity that all gentlemen should possess."
Huo Qiudong revealed an amused smile before nodding, "I suppose I wouldn't mind that."
Yang Ruqin thought about intervening, but then stopped herself when she realized there wasn't any malice between the two of them. It was simple male dominance, except both of them were doing exceedingly well at masking it. She had always known Huo Qiudong as someone who was calm and rarely lashed out. It wasn't easy to anger him and he was always the type to soothe the unhappy emotions of others.
"I hope I find neither of you men drunk in a corner and mistaking a phone pole to be a person." Yang Ruqin commented with a smile.
Huo Qiudong and Yu Pingluo shared a glance before both of them laughed.
"Perhaps not a person, but most likely, it will be mistaken to be something." Yu Pingluo offered another joke, finally cracking a smile. The air between the three of them had lessened and there was less hostility in the air now that they had exchanged pleasantries.
Yang Ruqin was glad that at least, these two men were both responsible enough to not get into a brawl. She had known them well enough to believe their conversation would be respectful.
It was going to be hard for Yu Pingluo to move on, but he had already taken the first few steps of acceptance.