Chapter 22: The Sophisticated Me
Han Chen takes Jin Xi to a family restaurant.
The restaurant is relaxing. The cherry-brown wooden windows separate the private dining rooms from the general dining area. Lamps with lotus leaf shaped shades hang from the ceiling. And the river is just outside the window.
Jin Xi sits down across from him and thinks to herself: he sure seems to like these old fashion decorations.
The server hands the menu to Han Chen. He flips through it and asks, “What do you want to eat?”
Jin Xi answers, “I’ve never been here. You pick.”
Jin Xi rests her chin on her palm and looks around until her gaze falls onto him.
Whenever she goes out to eat, she’s usually with Xu Si Bai or Zhou Xiao Zhuan. There’s no need to compare him to Xiao Zhuan, but comparing him to Xu Si Bai, she realizes that Han Chen is very different.
Xu Si Bai is always elegant, gentle, and has great demeanor every time he orders. Even the servers don’t dare to speak to him in a loud voice.
And as for Han Chen?
He has taken off his jacket and placed it on top of the couch, and his car keys have been thrown onto the table. The top button of his Polo shirt his open. One of his arms are resting casually on the armrest as he flips through the menu with the other hand without much expression on his face.
He does really seem like a wealthy young master……yet he’s a criminal investigator.
He orders a few dishes before raising his head and asking the server, “Do you have any cooled watermelon red bird’s nest soup today?”
The server smiles, “Yes.”
“We’ll have one for her.”
The server leaves. Jin Xi is stunned.
She can’t understand why Han Chen has ordered bird’s nest soup for her. It’s not because of how expensive it is, but rather, does she really look like she needs nutrition?
“Why did you order bird’s nest soup?” she asks, “It’s so expensive. How much do you make?” She’s asking honestly. Nonetheless, it’s his money that he’s spending. There’s no need to order such prestigious food.
He tilts his head, lights up a cigarette, leans back, and answers, “Mm. After treating you to this meal, I’ll be eating instant noodles for a week.”
Bai Jin Xi can’t tell whether he’s talking for real or joking. She lets out a “hmph!” but feels bad about it inside.
She doesn’t know why she feels bad.
He inhales two breaths of cigarette, and asks, “When did you arrive?”
Bai Jin Xi thinks for a second before responding, “The Sunday of last week.”
He releases white smoke as he exhales. He doesn’t comment. It’s afterwards that Bai Jin Xi realizes that he probably knows now that that was the day she texted him.
They’re both silent.
Han Chen takes a sip from his tea and asks, “Are you also participating in the post-training recruiting process tomorrow?”
Bai Jin Xi is baffled, “Of course.” Is this not obvious enough? Tomorrow is the last day.
Under the dim lighting, his eyes look darker than usual, making them hard to read.
She rotates her cup and says, “Did you find whom you were looking for last time?”
He drinks his tea slowly, “No.”
After a while, he asks, “How has the training been for the last few days?”
Speaking of the training, Bai Jin Xi has gained quite a lot of experiences. Therefore, she starts telling him about them one by one. He listens quietly from start to finish with his eyes fixed on her the whole time. His dark and rich brown eyes make Bai Jin Xi’s heart beat unsteadily.
When she gets to talking about her achievements, she says proudly, “Xiao Zhuan and I are first and second in the training class. He’s number one, and I’m number two.”
“Zhou Xiao Zhuan?” he repeats in a low voice, clearly a bit surprised.
Jin Xi nods, “Yeah. You didn’t know, did you? He’s an ace. He’s not good at anything else, but he is exceptional when it comes to exams. He’s the King of Exams. I can only be second to him.”
He takes a look at her. His gaze is deep; they seem like they’re smiling, yet they seem like they aren’t at the same time.
The server brings them their dishes. Jin Xi grabs her chopsticks, picks up some food from a dish, and then another……
They’re all super delicious……
She glances at him.
No wonder he’s so picky. His taste buds have been spoiled.
Han Chen picks up his chopsticks and starts eating as well. His aura is different when he eats; the way he holds his chopsticks in his hand is beautiful, and he eats rather slow. Furthermore, he only eats what he likes; from the table of savory dishes, she only sees him pick up a slice of lotus root after another. He doesn’t touch any of the mushrooms, broccolis, or wood ear (fungus). He also doesn’t pick up anything from the two spicy dishes.
For some reason, Jin Xi gradually feels delighted while eating quietly together.
They leave the restaurant after finishing their meals. It’s already dark outside and spots of light can be seen on both sides of the shore. Jin Xi rubs her stomach and suggests, “Let’s take a walk to digest the food.”
“Mm.” He hangs his jacket over his shoulder and walks alongside her.
The river shore is where grass and weeds grow prosperously; a path runs down the middle due to people walking on it repeatedly over time. They follow along the path, walking slowly with the wind blowing across the water surface. There are children playing and running around in the area. They keep their silence.
Jin Xi has already taken a look at the Yangtze river during the day; it’s vast yet turbid like the sea. However, it’s a different kind of view now that they’re at the edge of it: the water is dark, almost black and overwhelming; the water constantly hits against the shore as boats sail across. Listening to the movements of high and low tides at night opens up one’s heart.
“Let’s go over,” she suggests.
Han Chen doesn’t object.
The wind is stronger now that they’re at the edge of the water standing on the sand. Jin Xi watches the water advance and retreat in enjoyment. She puts her hands up to the sides of her mouth and shouts a few times, “Ahh——”
Once she turns her head around, she sees Han Chen lowering his head and lighting up a cigarette. The fire on the matchstick lights up his face; he’s smiling.
A certain kind of emotion that Jin Xi can’t explain instantly spreads inside her heart. She turns back around to look at the river, not letting the emotion show on her face.
A thought springs into her mind with a hint of mischievousness. She opens her mouth and shouts again, “You……Damn……Bastard……Han……” she drags out the end of each word with vibrato. It doesn’t sound like she’s calling for someone, but rather she sounds like a stinky tofu stall owner shouting on the street every day to sell food. She immediately feels the inspiration and continues shouting out the next phrase, “Oh……Stin~ky……To~fu……”
“(Cough, Cough)……”Han Chen actually chokes from smoking. He grabs her hand, “You sure shout a lot.”
Bai Jin Xi turns around to smile at him, but she is immediately stunned. His face is blurry under the moonlight; she can just make out his shimmering eyes; they’re sophisticated like the body of water behind her.
He’s still holding on to her fingers. Jin Xi’s heart is thumping faster and faster.
“Let’s go,” he lets go of her hand. He takes a breath of smoke as he turns around, and then starts making his way back himself.
Bai Jin Xi answers, “……Oh, okay,” and follows after him.
It’s already past 9pm when Han Chen drives her back to the hotel.
There are constantly people going in and coming out of the hotel entrance. Jin Xi is afraid of bumping into someone she knows, so she hops out of the car quickly, “I’m leaving then. Goodbye.”
He rests one of his arms on the steering wheel, “Mm, goodbye.”
Jin Xi walks a few steps before turning around again and smiling at him politely, “When will you come to Jiangcheng again? Remember to call me if you do. I’ll treat you to dinner.” After all, she will be riding the train and leaving the day after tomorrow.
Han Chen stares at her through the car window, and then smiles slowly, “Okay.”
Jin Xi can’t seem to look him straight in the eye. She turns around and goes into the hotel.
Just when she unlocks her room with the card, the door beside hers opens. Zhou Xiao Zhuan jumps out and looks at her in excitement. Jin Xi doesn’t bother entertaining him. She walks into her room and lies down on the bed.
Xiao Zhuan goes over and stares at her face, but doesn’t say anything.
Bai Jin Xi asks with her eyes closed, “Did you help me ask for leave?”
“Yes, yes.” He tries probing, “Did I see wrong? The person who drove you back just now was Han……”
Jin Xi opens her eyes and smiles at him. She then gets up and pushes him out of the room, “It’s already very late, so what are you doing in a girl’s room? Don’t you know you should avoid these situations (that causes others to misunderstand them)?!”
“Holy! Leader, you’ve changed……” Under Xiao Zhuan’s voice of protest, Jin Xi closes the door without hesitation.
She lies down on the bed again after taking a shower. When she lifts her head, she sees the bright moon.
The same bright shining moon at the shore.
She looks at the time; Han Chen should be by home now.
Her heart seems to itch as if it’s being tickled by a small hand. She feels a bit helpless at the same time. She fetches her phone and scrolls until she reaches his number.
Should she send him a text?
But the image of what happened just now flashes across her mind——
He turns around and lets go of her hand.
And she coincidently recalls the night from many days ago when they rode the motorcycle back to the station together, and the way he stood below the building while smoking by himself.
And she also remembers the video conference from last week where he left the room without hesitation.
Somewhere in her heart seems to feel a tinge of pain. She stares at her phone’s screen for a long time before letting out a sigh and tossing it to the side again.
When Han Chen returns home, his room is dead silent as usual.
It’s already 10pm when he finishes taking a shower. He sits on the couch, lights up a cigarette, and holds up his phone.
There are two text messages from Xin Jia. He deletes them without reading.
The newest text message after those is from Jin Xi. It’s from Sunday of last week when she had just arrived to City Lan.
He holds the cigarette in his mouth as he stares at her name. His fingers pause on the keyboard after a few attempts of typing a message. In the end, he throws the phone back onto the table.
In the long and lonely night, he places his arm across his forehead to cover his eyes while leaning on the couch. After being deep in his thoughts for a while, he smiles.
Chapter 22: The Sophisticated Me