Chapter 30: Drinks for Today + mini side story
At the Hot Pot restaurant.
It’s full of steam and the savory smell of food permeates the air.
The five members of the Black Shield Team sit in a table together with individual pots in front of each of them. Han Chen is chatting softly with Cold Face regarding investigating the surveillance videos, Jin Xi is browsing Taobao (Chinese eBay), and Xiao Zhuan is immersed in reading up on the internet about the latest movements of the serial shooter on his tablet. Chatterbox is listening to Han Chen and Cold Face’s conversation while using his chopsticks to stir his hot pot every now then, murmuring, “Why isn’t it boiling yet?”
Following the event of two new victims, the case has moved onto the next phase. On one hand, the police have figured out T’s pattern, so the remainder of the targets are now under protection and there will be no more new victims; on the other hand, they can only wait to see what T will do next. Therefore, after Qin Wen Long finished listening to their reports at night today, he announced, “Everyone, go home and sleep! There will be another hard battle to fight starting tomorrow!”
“It’s boiling, it’s boiling! It’s all boiling! Hurry and eat! It smells delicious,” Chatterbox picks up a roll of lamb meat with his chopsticks and drops it in. The other four also stop what they were doing and pick up their chopsticks.
Come to think of it, it’s actually the Black Shield Team’s first time eating together.
Chatterbox raises his glass of tea, “Leader, why don’t you say a few things.” The others also raise their glasses and look over to Han Chen. Jin Xi is also looking at him, while her free hand is stroking the table lightly.
Han Chen leans forward and picks up his glass. Instead of looking back at them, he stares at the orange coloured liquid in the glass.
“Safety and happiness, and get what you wish for.” He raises his glass and drinks to the bottom of it.
Everyone is silent for a few seconds.
Chatterbox is the first to speak, in his usual fawning tone, “Leader is a true leader!” He pats Xiao Zhuan’s back, who’s beside him, and continues, “Simple, clear, and to the point, yet with so much depth!” He also drinks to the bottom of his cup. He puts it down and says, “That’s right. Us criminal investigators have low wages and very little chances of getting raises or promotions. What else can we hope for besides safety and happiness?! As for my wish……wife and kids, and a home. Holy! I’ve got a long way to go, don’t I?!”
Everyone starts laughing; even Cold Face is revealing his right dimple.
Chatterbox is actually refined looking; thin eyebrows, long and narrow eyes, straight-edged nose, thin lips, and a very skinny body. If he dresses well, he can be considered as handsome. But he’s too talkative and very crude. A refined and handsome man with a talkative and crude personality really makes it hard for one to explain how he/she feels about him.
The group starts eating.
Jin Xi throws a couple slices of lamb meat and wood ear (fungus) and puts down her chopsticks. Han Chen’s words resonate in her mind again.
Safety and happiness, and get what you wish for.
She shifts her gaze at him. She watches him finish cooking the lamb meat on his chopsticks, put it into his bowl and dip it into the sesame sauce. He suddenly lifts his head and looks back at her.
Even with the steam hovering the table, his eyes look rich brown and beautiful.
Jin Xi looks away. She picks up the lamb meat and starts eating with her head down.
Get what you wish for.
These are very simple words. But reciting them more carefully seems to bring a mix of warmth and sourness to them.
With Xiao Zhuan and Chatterbox around, it’s never quiet at the table. The two go back and forth while Jin Xi adds her input every now and then, and even Han Chen laughs out loud a few times. The atmosphere at the table is getting better and better.
Chatterbox becomes even more daring after a while. A daring man will start to tease other women at the table. Of course, this kind of teasing could be out of good nature, pretending to be oblivious and cute at the same time.
“Oh, Jin Xi!” Chatterbox taps his plate with his chopsticks, “The legendary Xiao Bai Mei (little sister Bai). I need to represent all the guys of the police force to ask you this question. Do you have a boyfriend? Is that well-known and talented forensic investigator at Jiangcheng your man?”
Jin Xi smiles, picks up one of her chopsticks and also taps her plate with it a few times, “Of course not. I am enjoying my singles life——I’m not as desperate as you!”
Her witty reply causes everyone to look and laugh at Chatterbox. Cold Face even reaches out his hand and gives Chatterbox a pat on the back to console him. Chatterbox says feeling annoyed, “Even you are laughing at me?! I won’t tolerate this! Waiter, give me some beer! The 3 dollar a bottle one! The 2 dollar a bottle is not good enough for me!” He then stretches out his head and looks at Han Chen full of smiles, “Leader, is it okay to have a few drinks? Since you’re driving, you shouldn’t drink any. We’re just going to drink a little bit to relax ourselves.”
“Mm,” Han Chen takes a sip of his tea and then lifts his eyes to look at Bai Jin Xi.
Jin Xi’s eyes meet with his; she quickly looks away.
When the beer comes, Chatterbox takes one and puts it in front of Han Chen. He says in full of seriously, “Leader, we’re going to play a game, and you have to participate since you’re our leader. But if you lose, you can appoint someone else at the table to drink on your behalf, okay?”
Xiao Zhuan immediately complains, “Chatterbox, you sure are a suck-up!”
Chatterbox retorts, “So what? You want to bite me?”
Just as Jin Xi thought that Han Chen would disagree, she sees him pick up the bottle of beer, opens the cap with his mouth without much effort, and then places it down in front of Chatterbox. He then leans back in his chair and says, “Okay, you can drink on my behalf. Let’s start.”
Chatterbox is stunned, while the others laugh out loud, “……hahaha!”
Perhaps Chatterbox has been hurt deeply by Leader; his questions are all very sharp and hard to answer.
“The same question as Xiao Bai’s. Do you guys have a boy or girlfriend? Xiao Zhuan, you go first.”
Xiao Zhuan answers, “I……have never had one. There are so few female officers at the station, and Leader (Bai Jin Xi) is not my type.”
Xiao Bai pinches his waist without any hesitation. Xiao Zhuan lets out an “ow” and jumps up from his seat. Everyone laughs. Chatterbox pulls a glass of beer and puts it in front of him, “Drink up.”
Xiao Zhuan asks with a puzzled look, “Why do I have to drink for not having a girlfriend? I thought I only have to answer the question……” Before he could finish, Chatterbox has already poured the beer into his mouth, forcing him to gulp it down.
“Next: Cold Face,” Chatterbox calls out.
Cold Face stares at the table, “I had one.”
Everyone makes an “oh” sound and then sees him pick up his glass and drinks to the bottom of it without a word.
The mood at the table becomes a bit depressing all of a sudden.
Chatterbox immediately tries to lighten things up. He says standing up, “As for me? For someone who’s young, handsome and dashing like me, I of course——have never had a girlfriend.” He also picks up his glass and drinks up.
Everyone laughs and the mood at the table seems to have come back alive again.
Everyone starts to turn their gazes to Han Chen.
Han Chen obviously knows what they mean. He picks up his glass of tea, gestures a toast with Cold Face and says casually, “Same. Had one before.” He then drinks all of his tea.
Chatterbox and Xiao Zhuan both says, “Oh……”
Jin Xi stares at her glass of beer. She taps her fingers on the side of it lightly.
Chatterbox drinks up and then holds up and waves the empty glass towards Han Chen, “Leader, I’ve drunk on your behalf this round. I won’t be the one drinking next round!”
Han Chen unbuttons the top of his shirt, tilts his head, and lights up a cigarette.
“Second question——” Chatterbox smirks at Bai Jin Xi, “Do you have a crush right now?”
Bai Jin Xi is a little stunned. Everyone’s eyes are on her; Han Chen’s gaze makes her especially uncomfortable.
Xiao Zhuan glares at Chatterbox on her behalf and defends, “What kind of question is that? Why are they all about love? You’re just like what Xiao Bai says: you’re so desperate!”
Chatterbox fires back, “What do you know? Do you know how many people at the provincial station asked me to ask Bai Mei (little sister) this question? This affects many single men! Do you not know that Bai Mei is the new Goddess at the provincial station? There are many rumors outside that says she’s gentle, virtuous, refined, and intelligent!”
Bai Jin Xi giggles. She holds up her glass of beer and shakes her head, “I choose not to answer,” and then drinks to the bottom. She can sense Han Chen staring at her with the corner of her eye.
All five of them end up drinking this round.
Xiao Zhuan’s answer is no, so Chatterbox orders, “Drink!”
Cold Face’s answer is no, so he drinks.
Chatterbox’s answer is “yes, a few.” Xiao Zhuan and Cold Face say together, “Drink!”
When it’s Han Chen’s turn, Chatterbox smiles squinting his eyes, “Leader, I know you definitely don’t. You’ve kept yourself clean all these years and have never had any rumors. Only women chase after you, while you never proactively pursue anyone.”
Han Chen lowers his hand with the cigarette and picks up his glass of tea with the other. He says unconcernedly, “I also choose not to respond.”
Jin Xi feels her heart tremble slightly.
Xiao Zhuan puts on an “I don’t know anything” face, so Chatterbox doesn’t dare to press any further. Cold Face, on the other hand, picks up the glass of beer in front of Han Chen and drinks on his behalf.
The questions after that are of much more variety. Besides Chatterbox, the others also start to ask what they want.
Chatterbox asks Xiao Bai, “I heard that your memory is not good, so Bai Mei, do you remember what I wore yesterday?”
Bai Jin Xi thinks hard. She wants to faint……she doesn’t know if it’s because it’s her poor memory acting up or it’s the beer blurring up her mind. She really can’t remember. She picks up the glass and drinks. Chatterbox sniggers. Han Chen is also looking at her with a smile.
Xiao Zhuan asks Han Chen and Cold Face, “If you two have a fight, who’s better?”
Everyone is excited to hear the answer. Cold Face responds, “Don’t know.” Han Chen inhales his cigarette and then says, “You probably can’t beat me. Drink up.” Cold Face accepts and drinks. Xiao Zhuan and Chatterbox say at the same time, “That’s acceptable?!”
The table has become rowdy. Chatterbox starts to give Xiao Zhuan a hard time again. Xiao Zhuan stares at him with his eyes wide open. Cold Face walks over and pours Xiao Zhuan a glass while smiling. Jin Xi smiles watching them before she unexpectedly hears Han Chen, who’s sitting two seats away, calls her, “Bai Jin Xi——”
She turns and looks at him.
He also looks at her from across the steaming pot.
“Question: why were you crying that day?”
Jin Xi keeps her silence for a moment, and smiles, “Question: what were you dreaming about last night?”
They stare at each other for a while and then smile. They pick up their glasses and drink up. They can feel their hearts twisting and turning with many emotions stirring inside when they put their glasses down.
Their dinner lasts until 10pm. Han Chen drives them back to the dormitory. They all have great self-control, so they haven’t drunk too much; only a little wobbly when walking.
Han Chen leans against the side of the car door, watching them support each other while walking. Bai Jin Xi, on the other hand, is walking slowly beside them like a cat, frowning her eyebrows.
“Jin Xi,” he calls out.
“Don’t bother about them. Take care of yourself.”
Jin Xi doesn’t answer, but the other three start to complain. Chatterbox says, “Leader, you’re too biased! You care about Bai Mei, but you don’t care about us!” Cold Face says, “It’s understandable.” Xiao Zhuan murmurs, “Chatterbox, you’re so dumb.”
Bai Jin Xi shouts, “Shut up, all of you!”
She turns around and looks at Han Chen.
“I, of course, will take good care of myself. You’re a man, so why are you worrying so much? Go, go, go.”
With her blurry vision, she seems to see Han Chen smile. He says with an especially gentle voice, “Alright. I won’t worry. I’ll see you go in first. Watch your footsteps.”
Jin Xi nods and continues walking like a cat. When she finds her place, she fetches her keys to open the door. Without caring about the other three behind her, she slams close the door and falls directly onto her bed.”
You’re a man, so why are you worrying so much? Go, go, go.
Alright, alright, alright. I won’t worry. But I have to see you go in first……
These two voices suddenly echo in her mind.
They keep repeating and echoing.
Jin Xi rubs her forehead. She must have drunk too much. Her mind has become a voice repeating machine.
Once they all make it to their places, Han Chen gets back into his car.
The night is already very dark. The city is like a sea of lights; sparkling yet quiet. He drives for a while before suddenly feeling shocked.
The image of just now seems so familiar to him.
Has he once driven that girl home on a quiet night like this? And like what happened just now, did he watch her back like a young fellow, thinking about whether or not she would turn around? But she is careless as always and never turns around once to look at him.
Han Chen lights up a cigarette with one hand. He inhales a few deep breaths from it as he turns the steering wheel and drives towards his home.
Mini Side Story: Han Chen’s Dream
Some people dream every night; some people almost never have dreams.
Back when Han Chen was a young lad, he was the latter type.
He was born from a family with a background in the security bureau, he was handsome, and didn’t have any obstacles in life. Han Chen was open-minded and did things the way he liked.
Only those who have many thoughts would have a bunch of messy dreams——this was what he thought.
Until the day he met her on his way back to the police academy from the station.
That night, Han Chen had a dream.
He dreamt that he was chasing after that proud and pretty girl. He grabbed her hand and didn’t let go. When he woke up, he rubbed his hair in satisfaction. After all, wasn’t this how you pursued a girl?
Later, he dreamt about her more and more.
After having coffee with her during the day, he would dream about kissing her lips at night; after following her at night, which could be considered as taking a walk together, he would dream about her lying in his embrace and chatting with him.
One of his buddies commented: Han Chen, those aren’t dreams. You’ve been suppressing yourself for too long. You’re feeling aroused.
Han Chen scolded back: Scram.
He knew very well that his feelings of love were out of impulse, but it wasn’t all out of impulse.
It seemed different from those other young masters of wealthy families; they would fall in love without any commitments; if this one didn’t work out, there would always be another one. But only the 20-year-old Han Chen knew how passionate his love was.
Of course, he later had one or two……more dreams. Therefore, he also had this kind of experience: after waking up in the morning, Young Master Han would be washing his bed’s fitted sheet expressionlessly at the laundry room in the dormitory of the police station.
In the years after losing her, Han Chen often had dreams.
There would always be a woman in his dreams; her face would be blurry accompanied with crisped sounds of laughter. He could never hear or see her clearly, and he couldn’t hold on to her.
Night after night; year after year.
Her face became more and more blurry. The feelings she brought him gradually drifted as time passed; they slowly seeped deeply into his bones and became hard to make out.
Only that dialogue he had with her became clearer and clearer, engraved into his mind.
“Let’s get married after you graduate,” he said, “I won’t marry anyone else but you in my life.”
And she looked at him with the gentlest expression while saying, “You wish! Have I agreed? Let’s see how you perform from now and onwards.”