Note: This chapter has not been edited yet.
Yuan Yuan was about to get off work when his colleague Yu Lin called out, “You haven’t forgotten tonight’s dinner gathering right?”
Yuan Yuan’s table was a bit messy and he was busily tidying it. Without lifting his head, he answered, “I remember.”
Yu Lin was speechless. This clearly showed that he had forgotten. He didn’t intend to let Yuan Yuan off, “Tonight at seven, same old place. It was agreed when that case was concluded yesterday, not a single person can miss it.”
Yuan Yuan lifted his hand to look at his watch and frowned, “I have something on. Why don’t we do this, you tell them that I’ll be slightly late. Then, when everyone is in high spirits, no one will remember.”
Yu Lin found it strange, “Who are you meeting, your girlfriend or your parents?” As far as he remembered, Yuan Yuan never hurried just because he was meeting someone.
“It’s my birthday today. Chen Dong Lan said that he would prepare a meal for me at home. He got home but forgot to buy leek and wants me to get some for him on the way home.” Saying that, he hastily put on his coat. “I have to go. Any later and I might not be able to buy it.”
Yu Lin stared blankly, then immediately smacked himself on the head, “I was so busy I forgot that it’s your birthday today!”
He had a “Brother, I’ve let you down” expression on his face.
Yuan Yuan laughed, “I don’t lack your blessing.”
From the car park driving away in his own car, Yuan Yuan made a beeline for the supermarket to buy leek.
Chen Dong Lan, the one who wanted to prepare a meal for him in celebration of his birthday, was his roommate.
Speaking of which, Chen Dong Lan and his fate was quite deep. The two of them were college friends and both had joined the school debate team. Before that, they were from the same city, the same high school, and were even junior high school classmates.
Before college, Yuan Yuan did not know Chen Dong Lan very well and had just a vague impression, not even able to match his name to his face. He only got well acquainted with this taciturn and introverted old classmate after interactions within the debate team.
Because Chen Dong Lan had to repeat his studies, he was a year below Yuan Yuan. When Chen Dong Lan graduated and was looking for a place to rent, the person who had been co-renting with Yuan Yuan was coincidentally moving away. He then automatically invited Chen Dong Lan to stay with him.
Very naturally, they had become roommates for three years.
Carrying the leek home, Chen Dong Lan was in the kitchen chopping vegetables, the sound very crisp.
Outside, every breath became a fog but the air-conditioner (referring to a unit with a heating mode) was turned on in the house, and it was very warm. Yuan Yuan’s cotton slippers had earlier been retrieved from the shoe rack by someone and placed at the door, for him to conveniently slip his feet into.
Yuan Yuan walked into the kitchen and Chen Dong Lan happened to turn around. He didn’t put down the knife and with both hands wet, said, “You bought too much leek.”
“Ah?” Yuan Yuan lifted up the bag for a look, “I was afraid it would be too little.”
Chen Dong Lan nodded, put down the knife and took the leek with both hands.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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“Can I help with anything?” Although Yuan Yuan’s cooking was a disaster, a huge disaster, his principle was that household chores must be carried out together.
Upon walking in, Chen Dong Lan said, “It’s your birthday today, just leave everything to me.”
But Yuan Yuan was in high spirits, “It’s also great to taste my own skill on my birthday!”
Chen Dong Lan looked at him. His eyes were always quiet, as quiet as him. Those who didn’t know him well would feel that he was cold, but actually this was just his style of treating people and handling matters—keeping all his feelings understated and in his heart.
Although there was no basis for this, Yuan Yuan believed that this was the case, he was certain of it.
“Since it’s your birthday, we need to eat something better. If I let you do it, the taste wouldn’t be that good. Is that really okay?”
Yuan Yuan: …
Was saying this any different from “You’ll only make me busier if you help, go stand aside”? Yuan Yuan grudgingly left the kitchen.
While waiting to eat, Yuan Yuan originally wanted to rest for a while. But once he sat down, he could not help taking out the work he brought back. He studied law and before graduating, had already decided to set up an office with his faculty seniors. From then on, each day was busier than the day before.
After an unknown amount of time, Chen Dong Lan came over and knocked on the door.
Yuan Yuan did not pay particular attention to this as he normally didn’t close his room door. Not receiving a positive response, Chen Dong Lan didn’t enter, standing strictly outside the door knocking.
He always had some persistence, which was strange after thinking about it for a while.
Chen Dong Lan himself had said that he was only good at small daily dishes. But the table of food he prepared was definitely not just of a daily grade.
Radish duck soup had to be slowly stewed in a clay pot over a small fire, clear soup with the excess oil skimmed away, sprinkled with chopped leek. No matter how you looked at, it was restaurant standard.
In addition to this, there were still three stir-fried dishes, namely, seasoned pork strips, eggplant with long beans and bean curd mixed with shallots.
“If I can’t finish it, will you blame me?” Yuan Yuan asked.
Actually, it was also Chen Dong Lan who would usually cook, but only one or two dishes, sometimes even making do with fried rice. Having lived together for three years, neither of them ever minded about celebrating their birthdays. This year was the first time one of them celebrated a birthday for the other.
Chen Dong Lan helped him to get some rice, and even arranged the chopsticks nicely for him, “I wouldn’t.”
“I’ll eat as much as I can, you see if it’s okay?” Yuan Yuan tasted a mouthful of duck soup. The duck was completely well-cooked after stewing, and it felt soft in his mouth.
Not sure if it was due to the warm colour accent of the light above the dining table, Chen Dong Lan’s face had a faint redness, “This…of course, eat as much as you can.”
He picked up a piece of eggplant and placed it in his bowl, but did not eat it, instead kept pushing it around. After a long time, he said quietly, “Happy Birthday…”
His voice was too soft and Yuan Yuan couldn’t hear it clearly. But knowing that he was wishing him well, he laughed, “Thank you. Today’s food is really especially tasty.”
Quietly finishing half a bowl of rice, Yuan Yuan’s phone suddenly sounded.
Glancing at the incoming call, it was Yu Lin and he hung up directly. But Yu Lin was not someone who knew how to let the matter rest. The second call that came in was again hung up, then there was the third, fourth…
“An urgent matter?” Chen Dong Lan could not stand it.
“Let me take the call.” Yuan Yuan didn’t know what to do with this brother, and not having anything to hide, he answered in front of Chen Dong Lan.
It was noisy on the phone and someone was howling. There was also the tinkling sound of something colliding, likely people knocking glasses together. Yu Lin said at the top of his voice, “Still not coming?!”
All this was heard by Chen Dong Lan even without using the speaker.
With no trace of politeness, Yuan Yuan replied, “I’m hanging up.”
“You brat!” Yu Lin bellowed, “You told me to tell everyone you would be late. Now everyone is asking for you, you’re still not coming over?”
Yuan Yuan supported his forehead helplessly. Yu Lin had clearly drank till he was high, and was basing on this to act willfully.
“Call me again when you’re more sober.” Yuan Yuan hung up firmly, then quickly turned off the phone.
“Your office is having a gathering?” Chen Dong Lan asked without lifting his head.
Yuan Yuan felt slightly annoyed. Chen Dong Lan had already told him about this a week ago. At that time, he had agreed without even thinking about it. After all, it was a token of goodwill, how could he let him down? After Yu Lin’s interruption, it still seemed more or less like a let down.
“Yeah.” The chopsticks he put down when he answered the phone, had not been picked up again. He said, “Recently, there was a big case that had been concluded and yesterday, they said there would be a gathering. At their prompting, looks like I still need to drop by.”
Chen Dong Lan was quiet, but when he spoke, there seemed to be no difference (in tone/attitude), “You’re driving there? You might drink, so it’s better to get a ride.”
Yuan Yuan nodded and stood up, “After you finish eating, just leave it. I will clear it when I’m back.” Between them, it had always been Chen Dong Lan who cooked and he who washed the dishes.
The dining table had one person less, but Chen Dong Lan was not affected and very naturally continued eating, “Doesn’t matter, you should go quickly. It’s better to wash the dishes immediately after using them.”
This was probably the strong point that Chen Dong Lan had that others lacked. Precisely because he was quiet and didn’t like to chat, his life had less ups and downs, hence he didn’t impose excessive restrictions on the people around him.
Once he wasn’t needed, he was able to disappear cleanly.
Yuan Yuan thought, this was the reason they were able to be co-renters for so many years.
The night was very cold and Yuan Yuan bundled himself in an overcoat and a scarf before leaving.
Getting into a taxi, his mind began to wander.
Eating at home with Chen Dong Lan, in fact only became frequent this year.
Living together during the first and second year, they only ate together occasionally. Most of the time, Yuan Yuan would stay in his law office to work overtime and would eat there directly.
Yuan Yuan all along thought that if he didn’t return home to eat, Chen Dong Lan would still cook for himself, just something simpler. All the way until once during meal time, he rushed home to take a document and discovered Chen Dong Lan sitting alone at the dining table nibbling on bread.
Eating the bread dry, not even with a glass of milk.
His back was very straight, the light projecting a shadow and it seemed indescribably lonely.
Yuan Yuan thought this was an accident and it was just Chen Dong Lan in a bad mood therefore unwilling to cook.
But after a few times, he discovered that when Chen Dong Lan was alone, he would not have a proper meal.
Not that he wouldn’t eat, just that he wouldn’t eat regularly and he would eat blindly, eating bread and instant noodles. Nibbling on two dry biscuits just to go through the motion was normal behaviour.
Yuan Yuan suddenly felt a sense of responsibility, a sense of responsibility completely lacking in reason. Similar to the feeling of “Children are disobedient because I didn’t teach them well”, he started to return home to eat every day.
This was really strange. As long as Yuan Yuan indicated that he wanted to eat with Chen Dong Lan, no matter how busy or tired, he would surely cook a proper meal every time.
Arriving at the destination, the driver called out a few times, but Yuan Yuan was still deep in thought. He apologised and paid. After getting out of the car, the cold wind was biting and he tightened his scarf.
Chen Dong Lan didn’t want him to go right?
His mouth said “You should go quickly”, but his straight back seemed to be on the verge of crumbling and the moment he left, it seemed like he would be struck by various moods.
Yuan Yuan breathed, looking at the fog condensing and dissipating.
It must be a misperception.