Goodbye

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When Hooney found us the next day, he was more than livid. I left the manor without his knowledge, I was bitten by a dog, and I had been high on drugs with my bother.

Hooney snarled as he cast his exasperated glare on me and my brother. He slid his arms on my back and legs picking me up. Hooney got me out of the hut and had me transported back to the manor for immediate care. He took his attention on my sedated brother next. Hooney dragged Li He out of the hut and gave him the rudest awakening of his life.

Hooney is bigger, stronger and older than Li He. When he kicked my brother's ass, we knew he's doing him a favor. Li He is in no shape to fight back, letting Hooney punch and kick him as he lay gasping for breaths on the ground. 

Hooney had Li He arrested for dereliction and abandonment of duty, he was taken to the capital with us where he spent a month in jail before obligated to return to his pose as Hooney's adviser at the manor. 

Hooney made sure Li He was clean from drugs from the time he came back to his first day of work. He kept an eye on Li He and he made sure he had no access to any form or type of drugs even if that meant putting him on strict restriction. Li He's his brother in law, even though no one is aware of it. Hooney treated him like one and took care of my brother the way any family would have. 

"You still have a lot to lose, Li He," Hooney told my brother. "Don't waste away your life because of what happened."

Li He never gave an answer, only nodding his head, he obeyed and agreed with whatever his lord muttered to him. He showed up for work and did what he's supposed to do. He stayed away from drugs and kept himself clean. It was hard watching him struggle at first, Li He battled with his constant withdrawals, and the pain in him was evident. Li He acted like he needed the drugs to survive, to keep living, but Hooney was adamant upon waning him off his dependency, and after about a year, Li He no longer had cravings and lost his reliance on drugs - or - he made us believe he no longer needed it. 

Li He became good at hiding his feelings, hiding what's on his mind. 

His marriage to Jiaying was mended as soon as he got his job back. Li He's political status was important to his wife as well as the amount of money he brought home from his job. But Li He was never the same person ever since. No matter how much I tried to help, no matter how much Hooney tried putting him back on the right track, and no matter how much we showed we cared, nothing made any difference.

What happened changed Li He forever, it left him damaged, and there was no looking back. No one accused Li He of Niang's murder, while he never admitted to anything. No one said a thing and I realized it was a burden all three of us will carry for the rest of our lives.  

Li He's relationship with Hooney never warmed back to the way it was. The same could be said with me. Li He grew distant, and I understood why he became that way, so I never bothered him, I left him alone to his solitude. It's what he wanted. Li He became cold, recluse, and emotionless. We knew it was just a matter of time before he cracks and loses it to the demons inside his mind.

I found him outside my door one night, he waited there by the corridor, just sat there without announcing himself. He had my favorite rice cake with him.

"Li He! What're you doing just sitting there?" I asked softly, walking out the corridor, joining him in his serene repose. Li He looked like he'd been in deep thoughts. 

"I came to say goodbye." He said, his voice quiet. 

"Goodbye?" I parroted, confused. I knew Li He hadn't been himself, but this scared me. "You act like we're never going to see each other again."

He smiled, it was a genuine smile I haven't seen in a while. He looked like the same Li He I knew, the one I love and grew up with. 

He smiled with heartbreaking tenderness, the warmth in his eyes made me crack the sweetest smile.

"I've missed you, Li He. I wish you were still like this all the time."

"I'm sorry, Hui. I know I failed you too many times."

"No, you didn't fail me. You helped me get the life I otherwise wouldn't have. Thanks to you, I'm where I am right now. I owe you a lot."

Li He smiled again, and this time, I saw the sadness in those charming brown eyes. 

"You really are saying goodbye, aren't you?" My voice broke, and my chest ached at what's coming next. I knew he's serious, but I'm not willing to let my brother go - not yet. "I wish things could have been better, I wish you don't have to leave me."

"You have your husband now, Hui." He murmured tenderly, his eyes glided to my stomach. It's still flat but there's another life growing inside me, Hooney and I got pregnant only a few weeks earlier. "You have a new family now. It's time for me to let you go."

"You didn't have to. What's Jiaying going to say if she finds out you quit your job again? She'll kick you out of the house again." I tried sounding comical, but it didn't work, Li He didn't laugh.

Li He's soft gaze poured on mine, "Jiaying will survive." He said plainly then lost his smile.

I knew right then his destination was not home. It was somewhere far away, away from here, away from everyone where he could be at peace, and he could finally run away from his demons. 

"I'll be thinking of you a lot." I murmured, my tears streamed and ran down my cheeks. 

"Me too, Hui. I'll be thinking of you too." He pressed his forehead on mine and held it there for a second or two, then wrapped his arms around me one last time.

He let go. 

Li He didn't stay long. He only stopped by to say goodbye and I didn't hold him back anymore. I watched him walk out of the manor with nothing but the clothes on his back. I made sure I remember this memory of him because I knew deep in my heart, this will be the last time I'll ever see him. 

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