Author: 长洱 / Chang’er
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
In the half-deep night, the streetlights lengthened the shadows of people. The sound of water on the street was clearly audible in the quiet night.
Lin Chen and Xing Conglian walked on the stone road. It was only after seven in the evening, yet most of the small shops on the street were already closed. In a sense, Hongjing was really an unproductive city.
Yanjia Lane was still narrow and a bit long, and the only thing that had changed was the shops on either side.
According to Xing Conglian, during the period when he was missing, the municipal government transformed Yanjia Lane. The houses on either side were repaired and rented out to students. They wanted to start a business catered to the literary and art circles so some of the old houses were converted into coffee shops and teahouses, while others became art studios.
The original yellowed walls were now covered with fences and flowers. Cats could be seen napping on the floor-to-ceiling windows. Overall, the old street had become much warmer and had a more human touch.
The yellowish light reflected the old house number and two people who were squatted pitifully in front of the old wooden door.
Lin Chen followed Xing Conglian, who came to a stop.
Xing Conglian said to the two squatters in a helpless tone, “If you’re like this, the neighbor will call the police when they see you.”
A certain young comrade who was addicted to online games raised his head. His eyes were glistening. “Ah, what kind of police are you calling? Captain, why is your wifi turned off? I had to crack the password of your next and the next next door neighbor. Can you let me in for a bite to eat?”
The other person who was squatting alongside didn’t speak.
Lin Chen looked down at the other party only to see that the man’s eyes were slightly red and his gaze stunned, as if he couldn’t believe what he saw in front of him.
Lin Chen’s softened his tone and said helplessly, “Hey, didn’t we already talk on the phone two days ago?”
Before his voice fell, the man jumped up and hugged Lin Chen tightly. “Shixiong, I’m timid. Don’t scare me like that again!”
After reuniting with him, Fu Hao took his arm and wouldn’t let go.
As soon as they entered, Lin Chen’s ears were full of Professor Fu’s endless nagging. He was silently thinking, ‘Is this the legendary coquetry?’
Xing Conglian stood by the door and turned on the door light. The moment the light came on, Professor Fu’s nagging abruptly stopped.
In front of him, there was a classical courtyard with lush plants and trees. The ground lamps glistened brightly as they lit up. There was a cobblestone path that connected the front door to the main hall. On the left side of the courtyard, there was a turquoise pond whose surface was shimmering with a cold floating light.
Fu Hao was completely stunned and could only spit out, “What the fuck?” After he finished, he took two steps back, like a ghost, and walked out the door and looked at the number plate, then rushed back in and grabbed Xing Conglian. “You have nothing better to do than break into other people’s homes? As a public official, you should know the law and you’re breaking it!”
Hearing what Fu Hao said, Xing Conglian remained silent.
Lin Chen had no choice but to explain it to him. “The municipal government renovated the entire old street as part of a project.”
“For such a project, they change his house?”
“The house he used to live in was next door and it’s rented to a gallery, so he moved here.”
Professor Fu was in disbelief. “Based on how old his house was, why would the government give him a place like this? Isn’t this a garden?” As he spoke, he walked to the edge of the pond. There were several elegant rockeries stacked on the edge. A stone arch bridge spanned the water, and he saw bright red koi swimming around, creating ripples on the pond’s surface. “Shixiong, look. There are koi!”
“Well, do you want to pay your respects*?” Xing Conglian asked with a smile.
*Clarity: Koi is symbol of wealth and luck so often times people pay respects in hopes of getting good luck.
“Lao Xing, let me tell you, you can’t touch money that shouldn’t be touched.” Professor Fu suddenly turned his head with an awe-inspiring expression. “You must always remember your identity and don’t be knocked down by the sugar-coated bullets of capitalism.”
Xing Conglian couldn’t laugh or cry. He asked Lin Chen, “Did your shidi switch to teaching political science?”
“Lao Xing, be serious. You’re a criminal police officer. If you live in such a house, it must not be known by Inspector Huang. Otherwise, he’ll take off three layers of skin, provided you don’t die first!” Fu Hao admonished harshly.
Although Fu Hao was rambling, his words were full of concern. Sensing this, Xing Conglian said sincerely, “Professor Fu, don’t worry.”
The three of them were talking by the pond; though mostly it was just Fu Hao nagging while Lin Chen and Xing Conglian would tease him from time to time.
Suddenly, there came a wailing in the main hall. “Captain, I’m hungry!” Wang Chao, who had long ago rushed into the house to play games shouted out to them.
Xing Conglian raised his voice and told the young comrade in the house, “Instant noodles are in the first cabinet on the left side of the kitchen.”
“But I don’t want to eat noodles anymore,” Wang Chao continued to shout back.
“I’m tired of eating all the takeout in this neighborhood.”
They walked into the main hall.
The little comrade Wang Chao was weakly lying on the table, as if he had just lost a game and had no love for life.
“What do you want?” Xing Conglian asked.
Hearing this, Wang Chao’s eyes lit up, and Lin Chen saw his gaze floating over.
“A’Chen, will you cook for me, yeah?” After he finished speaking, he licked his lips and said, “I really want to eat home-cooked food.”
Lin Chen found this funny. “Why did you pick me?”
“Captain pass! Professor Fu is used to eating in the cafeteria, so also pass! Therefore, you must be very good at cooking since you lived alone before!”
In fact, there was nothing wrong with Wang Chao’s analysis. The only problem was that a man who was only familiar with various instant noodle flavors wouldn’t have the necessary ingredients to show off his cooking skills.
Lin Chen stood in front of the sink, rinsing wilted vegetables. The instant noodles were boiling in a pot and, as usual, were beef flavored.
Xing Conglian leaned against the cooking table and said to the little comrade, who was checking the refrigerator, “Don’t look for it. You’ve eaten the last piece of ham the day before yesterday.”
“Why don’t you go grocery shopping!” Wang Chao looked back angrily.
“Because I work hard every day,” Xing Conglian replied naturally.
Wang Chao was choked speechless. He slammed the refrigerator door and ran back to the computer angrily, ready to continue two more rounds of his game.
The instant noodles with vegetables and eggs tasted like the usual beef flavor. There was nothing new that could be done.
After dinner, in order to avoid Fu Hao’s ideological and moral education for Xing Conglian, Lin Chen took them to the balcony for tea.
The spring breeze was semi-cool. The balcony faced the river. The lights along both sides of the river reflected the water, giving it a more sparkling hue.
Professor Fu was a worldly person, but when he was sitting in a comfortable armchair, holding a cup of hot tea, he felt so comfortable that he couldn’t help but want to let out a relaxed sigh.
“Shixiong, did you make up your mind to stay here?” Professor Fu half squinted as he asked Lin Chen.
There was the sound of running water all around and everything was quiet.
Fu Hao looked at him, stopped talking, and finally said, “Then you must never be as brave as before.”
“Regarding Feng Peilin, I understand that you wanted to cheat death so you could escape surveillance. Although hiding isn’t always a good solution, it’s still better than constantly being harassed. The highway robbery, I know you accidentally ran into it, but despite how unrealistic it was, this is just too dangerous. The drug cartels could murder an entire bus full of people at once and even dare to install sucker bombs under a police car. This is no longer something that even bold can accurately describe. If it weren’t for Huang Ze suppressing things, you would have become famous again. If you’re targeted by the drug cartels, what can you do?”
Professor Fu was worried. Lin Chen listened helplessly and had to comfort him. “It’s okay. The police have a witness protection program.”
“You’re not paying attention to this matter at all!” Professor Fu put down his teacup and raised his voice.
“But what do you want me to do?” Lin Chen asked depressingly.
As soon as Fu Hao heard him say that, he hurriedly comforted, “It’s okay. It’s fine just the way it is now. You just live with Lao Xing. In case there’s a robbery or attempted murder, he can protect you.”
The subject matter changed instantly. Lin Chen had to admit that, in terms of experience, his shidi definitely had the upper hand.
“When you put it like that, it gives me a bad feeling.”
“Hey, who told you life isn’t very good?”
“Then does Professor Fu have any transfer methods?” Lin Chen asked with a smile.
“I think Xing Conglian’s luck seems to be good. Looking at the government construction project, he was able to nab such a good place to live. I heard that some people are born with a difficult fate, but they have good luck. Hurry up and rub it all off of him.”
Lin Chen didn’t speak anymore. Except for the sound of water, there was no other noise.
Fu Hao seemed a bit uncomfortable. He scratched his hair and suddenly remembered something. “By the way, shixiong, the day after tomorrow is the old man’s 60th birthday. That…”
“What’s the matter?”
“Are you going to go?”
“Professor Fu’s meaning is, do you want me to go or don’t want me to go?” Lin Chen asked.
“No, of course I want you to go. Even if I don’t want you to, the old man does. It’s just that the old man has peaches and plums all over the world*, so there will be a lot of classmates there…”
*(桃李满天下) Idiom referring to many talents or students that are all over the world.
“So, let me just tell you, many of them want to take advantage of the old man’s birthday to have a class reunion. Hell, do you remember that bastard, Zheng Dongdong? He wants to recommend for you be the host for the reunion, saying that since you had good grades and abilities before, you must now be an elite in society, making you the most suitable host. I think he’s the villain in the group. He’s just trying to find an opportunity to mock and humiliate you…”
“I don’t remember,” Lin Chen interrupted Fu Hao.
“Don’t remember what?”
“I don’t remember who Zheng Dongdong is.”
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember or not. He’s just a small character. He used to be in the next class, and he makes me sick. To tell you the truth, it’s not bad if you don’t go to the old man’s birthday. We can just visit the old man’s place at night, and it’ll be more convenient to talk then.”
“No, that’s not what I meant.” Listening to what Fu Hao said, Lin Chen lifted the kettle on the coffee table and poured some hot water into his cup. “Since I don’t remember who he is, is it important to even consider what he thinks, says, or does?”
“It’s not… But the reunion will…”
“You’re trying to say that now our classmates are all successful in their careers, but I, who had the best grades, have only gotten worse. I can only be a small-time consultant for a city’s police force, and this will be uncomfortable when meeting with our old classmates again, right?”
Fu Hao thought for a while and held the words back in his throat. In the end, his face turned a little red, but under Lin Chen’s burning gaze, he could only nod.
“Since this job was chosen by me, I’m happy to do it. Why should I have low self-esteem?”
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