When we last saw the Liu family, we learned that I accidentally caused irreversible harm to one of my most treasured Sims, and started teetering on the verge of destroying two families at once.
All we can do at this point is damage control. That is, someone’s going to get hurt no matter what happens, but we can help Xiyuan do some soul-searching. Xiyuan has to figure out whether or not he wants to pursue Mike, whether or not he should divorce Aileen, and, if so, whether he should leave immediately or after Shu ages up, or suck it up and go back in the closet.
There’s no immediate reason to leave the house. Aileen and Xiyuan are both good-natured, extremely close, and agree on their priorities.
We have plenty of time to consider every possible situation and reflect on the merits of each. First, whether running off with Mike is worth it. Xiyuan calms his nerves as he visits the Jeong-Espinosas for the first time since they almost blew it, using Shu as an adorable distraction.
Claudia answers the door. Mike is in the kitchen baking cupcakes; would you two like some? Come in!
He was hardly a stranger to having Claudia shove food in his face. She always had to feed everyone, ever since she became the third roommate. Mike was a lot of fun, but Claudia always had this sweetness about her that put people at ease. Xiyuan briefly considered what would happen to her if Mike suddenly up and left, or she discovered he was having an affair—but the pain was enough to make him physically cringe.
He looked around at the house, with Mike’s comedy award next to Charlie’s frog in Claudia’s shiny kitchen, and finally felt like an outsider. Settling down had changed Mike, and he was no longer the unencumbered free spirit Xiyuan knew. There was no possibility of Xiyuan ever convincing Mike to leave or harm his family. He hated to acknowledge it, but pursuing the person he felt closest to in the world would likely alienate everyone else he cared about.
Xiyuan gave his best friend a parting hug, right before Claudia walked up to give Mike a hug in the same spot. That was it; he chose Claudia. Xiyuan was an afterthought. If anything could have happened, it was too late.
Xiyuan drew distant from Aileen as he tried to mourn his lost love in private. But both families were still best friends, so when Mike invited the Lius to Ghost Night at the bar, he shoved his feelings deeper into the closet, past the Halloween costumes and winter coats, and prepared for another unbearable night out.
That’s when he did The Thing.
The Thing that instantly shot him straight to the top of my list of best Sims of all time, beating out every colorful character, legacy founder, self-insert and local legend that I’ve made over decades of simming. The Thing that was an optimal combination of being a total fucking idiot, and, at the same time, so brilliant that he actually outdid the planning of a real human. The Thing that must be phrased as a multiple-choice question.
Imagine, for a moment, you recently discovered you’re gay and are handling the delicate situation of balancing self-actualization with the needs of your beloved family. You see a beautiful stranger while at the bar with your wife. Do you:
a) Trick question! I stayed home because going to the bar seems irresponsible.
b) Keep to yourself and have a talk with the wife when you get home.
c) Throw all caution to the wind and introduce yourself all sexy-like.
d) Option c but also the stranger is a 19th-century ghost.
(Let me clarify here that, unlike with Aileen, I had no part in establishing this relationship whatsoever. He just walked over to the ghost, showered him with rose petals, and then kept flirting. This screenshot was taken after the fact because I wasn’t even at the computer when it happened. This does explain why I had so much trouble finding him a romantic partner in the first place, because on top of being a deeply repressed gay man, Xiyuan is also apparently a massive freak.)
Nobody’s wife was happy.
This is the second time Aileen caught Xiyuan flirting with a guy. She managed to keep from slapping him, but was too angry to even look him in the eye.
She stormed off and tried to calm herself down in the mirror.
When that didn’t work, she dragged him out of the club, where they had a huge fight.
Nothing could save it.
The Hot Ghost Situation is what led to Xiyuan and Aileen sleeping in separate beds, Aileen keeping the master bedroom because she wasn’t an adulterous piece of shit and Xiyuan sleeping in the bed he got as a career reward (why?! What are the logistics of that?) in his old upstairs bedroom.
Shu has absolutely no idea what’s going on. He continues to play the perfect little angel, duct-taping the rapidly fraying string holding his parents together. He wants nothing more in life than to play with his friends, play with his toys, play the violin, and do homework. Oh, is his homework done? Can I do the extra credit, please? Just an all-around studious little scamp who lives to make his parents happy.
Xiyuan, having been banished to the upstairs portion of the house, spends most of his time hiding in the studio until Shu comes home. He waits until Aileen leaves for work to eat or shower.
At some point, he had to decide between staying long enough for Shu to grow up or leaving. Patching things up with Aileen was no longer an option—he didn’t so much come out of the closet as run out screaming, light the closet on fire and walk away in slow motion while it exploded. Perhaps he needed to know what he’s missing in order to make that choice. That’s how he ended up going out to meet some guys.
Unfortunately, he miscalculated: the ghosts must have been sleeping. But then!
Well, now, this is interesting.
At first, he’s put off by the man’s intensity, the culture shock, the size of the house. But the ghost recognizes Xiyuan! The ghost says to call him Bernard. Bernard asks, do you want to know how I died? He joyfully pantomimes himself being burnt to death, hamming up his own suffocation until he finally goes limp. “Eh?” he gestures, looking for a reaction. Xiyuan doesn’t have one at first, but then laughs nervously at the realization that this man has been dead for over a century and still gets a kick out of disturbing tourists. Fascinated and charmed, Xiyuan finds himself being drawn in—but the guilt drives him to leave. He walks back home feeling more alive than he’s felt in years.
The pain of staying in his house becomes unbearable, and Xiyuan starts to have nightmares about withering away in his second-story prison. His love for Shu is the one connection left he has with this place. But Shu is a fast learner, and needs his dad’s mentorship less every day.
This is when Xiyuan is convinced Shu will recover. They can spend weekends together in the city. They’ll go to the museum together, busk in the parks, and spend hours painting next to each other. The kid absolutely idolizes his dad, and one day he’ll understand why he had to leave.
Xiyuan leaves the house and all of the money with Aileen, taking only harvestables, masterpieces, and treasured items. He leaves a few things for his son: the Starry Night bed, the portraits of Aileen, the canvases. So with a goodbye sad painting,
and a goodbye hug,
Xiyuan prepares to actually move on.
Shu doesn’t know that when he comes home from school, his dad will be gone.
It’s going to take some time to get over the trauma, but this was the right decision for everybody. None of this was actually a mistake: Xiyuan needed a hard push to find himself, Aileen was removed from obscurity to live the life of her dreams, and Shu came into existence. Nobody had bad intentions. Nobody wanted to be mean.
All three members of the former Liu family are faced with individual challenges: to acclimate to life without Dad, to find an identity outside of “Xiyuan’s wife,” to possibly convince a century-old ghost with surprisingly nuanced views on gay interracial relationships to leave his wife and mansion to move to uptown San Myshuno. It’s not even clear whether we’ve figured Xiyuan out yet, or if he’s using his obsessive artistry to hide even deeper secrets.
But now, looking out of his penthouse window, Xiyuan’s life is actually beginning.
EPILOGUE: He’s ok, folks.