Chapter 1: Crushing on the Mensao1 Man (1)
Chen Mo was a soldier, a sniper who held the rank of Major. The squad he was stationed in was obscure and hidden from the public eye, not even marked on any non-military maps. When checking mission files, one would need the appropriate security clearance. The unit had an unusual troop number and reported to a special military district. They were a group of soldiers who, even in times of peace, were required to face the threat of death…
Chen Mo2, true to his name, was not a man of expression. In that backwater place, he felt comfortable.
He liked that place.
At 18, he enrolled at the military academy and graduated after turning 22. At 23, he won the opportunity to join his current squad. Now, he was 31 and in his prime as the vice-leader of his squad. In both experience and abilities, he was at the pinnacle, yet even still, he was considering retirement. Even if a person could isolate themselves from the world, they can’t totally remove who they were. Chen Mo was forced to face this reality when he learned of his father’s terminal illness. He wasn’t just a soldier, he was a certain couple’s son.
And now, a certain couple wanted him to return home.
In fact, when his squad leader, Xia Minglang, received Chen Mo’s transfer request, he was caught-off guard. That summer, the 34-year-old Xia Minglang held the post of Vice Commander and was preparing to officially hand his authority over to Chen Mo at the end of the year. Xia Minglang shut himself inside his office and smoked all night as he looked at the transfer request. The next day, when another vice-captain, Lu Zhen, came to work, the room looked as if it had caught on fire. That same morning, Chen Mo’s roommate, Fang Jin, reported that Chen Mo had gone missing. Xia Minglang waved his hand and ordered a search!
It was a very large base. Around the large, ash-gray toned building were large swathes of training sites, all with different purposes: pursuits in the forest, anti-terrorism in an urban setting, 400 m cross-country obstacles, long-depth mobile target shooting range, an ultra long-distance sniping field, etc….
Xia Minglang found Chen Mo in the sniping field. He followed the sound of gunshots to locate him. As the supersonic bullet cut through the air, it emitted a sharp whistle, as if the Grim Reaper himself were sighing. Lying on the ground, Chen Mo looked up at his captain. The sunlight shone directly from behind Xia Minglang’s body and his eyes began to sting. After a very long time, Chen Mo finally understood that his stinging eyes were not because of the sun, but was due to the feeling of wanting to cry.
Xia Minglang gave him a kick, “Do you know that you messed up my entire f***ing plan!?! I thought you could stay for at least another five years!!”
Chen Mo laid down for a while before saying: “I’m worried my dad won’t be able to live for another five years.”
Xia Minglang stood by him for a long time before he slowly sat down, Chen Mo sitting up to join him. On the desolate mountain hills, two greyish-yellow silhouettes sat shoulder-to-shoulder.
A long time passed before Xia Minglang spoke: “When I was young, I once read in the newspaper about a singer. It praised her as a model worker, or something. Anyways, there was a time she had to go to some evening program. Before going on stage, her family called to tell her that her son was sick and in a critical condition. They wanted her to go back and be with him. She apparently hesitated and agonized over what she should do…. finally, she firmly decided to go on stage, saying that she can’t disappoint her audience.”
Chen Mo was quiet, as he listened to the story seriously. At that moment, even though Xia Minglang’s face still seemed vivid, Chen Mo couldn’t feel any anger from his commander. Chen Mo didn’t understand why.
“I’ve remembered this story for a long time, and will always remember it. At the time, I thought: ‘If I was her son, I would never forgive her. Not for the rest of my life.’ What would you call that? A perfect example of a failure who can’t even be considered human anymore.”
Xia Minglang smiled and grabbed Chen Mo’s shoulder: “Anyways, in my opinion, standing up a hundred thousand audience members can’t compare to the importance of going home to see your dying son. Isn’t it just singing? Who would die from missing out on a concert? So, go…. I approve. Leave!”
“Captain?!” Chen Mo was dumbstruck.
“Don’t worry, we’re not so short-staffed. This is a huge country; we’re not so desperate for help that we’d miss your presence… But your dad only has one son. I’m letting you go.”
Xia Minglang used Chen Mo’s shoulder as support and pushed himself up. Then, with his hands folded behind his back, he walked down the ridge of the mountain, step by step. No one saw the tears shine in Xia Minglang’s eyes at that moment, yet those tears weren’t all ones of sadness.
Eight years was enough time for even two complete strangers to form an intimate bond, not to mention that they were comrades-in-arms who had walked along the line that separates life and death.
Xia Minglang still distinctly remembered Chen Mo’s first time taking part in a live combat mission. There were only 10 bullets in a magazine. Chen Mo’s luck wasn’t good; he had ended up blocking the escape route of the fleeing bandits. In the end, he shot them in their hearts and foreheads until his magazine was nearly depleted. The QBU-88 was not a very good gun. Even a sniper as remarkable as Chen Mo would need to be within a distance of 400 m to shoot with such precision. Xia Minglang could only imagine what Chen Mo had seen at that time.
After the troop returned, the whole team of psychologists felt like they were confronted with a monumental task, but Chen Mo never paid them a visit. For the few psychological evaluations Chen Mo did take, they all came back with normal results… normal to the point where it became abnormal.
Since that time, Xia Minglang firmly believed that Chen Mo this brat should have entered this profession from birth. Silent3 and reserved, restrained and unperturbed, goal-oriented: a natural-born weapon. And now, this weapon said that he wanted to go back home. His father’s serious illness had Chen Mo worried about missing his last moments. Even while feeling heartache, Xia Minglang breathed out an indescribable sigh of relief.
Although no one had expressed similar sentiments to his face, Chen Mo insisted on considering this a type of betrayal. At first, he tried to allow himself to suffer a great loss, but Xia Minglang and Lu Zhen pulled some strings and ensured a smooth transfer.
Several months later, Chen Mo had successfully enrolled in a military academy to take self-study courses towards a Master’s degree in Military Historiology, and transferred to the Armed Police Force. Chen Mo’s parents still held influence in his hometown of Xi’an. Not only that, but he was from the Special Armed Forces and studying for a Master’s degree. Chen Mo became a delicious cake that the entire Armed Police Force wanted a piece of. Thus, in the end, both his treatment and his position were very favourable. So much so, that he soon began to feel guilty about it.
Back in his hometown, back to being near his parents, back to an ordinary life. Chen Mo fell from Heaven to Earth, to start a new life.
That day, when Chen Mo walked into the Earth café, he felt apathetic. Even though this place was his hometown, even if only half a year had passed since he last came back, he still felt very unfamiliar with this piece of land. Living as a long-term Special Armed Forces member already changed him at his core. His mother said he should live like ordinary people do as quickly as possible. He didn’t like the idea, but he didn’t have a suitable argument to rebut her.
At 32 years old, frankly speaking, he wasn’t young anymore. Speaking harshly, of the three unfilial acts, having no descendants was the most prominent. And, if he wanted to be completely blunt, that noon, the police instructor he had started working with, Cheng Hui, hooked his arm around his neck and said to him: “Brother, go find a bar. You’re still single at this age. Looking at you always makes people feel a little worried.”
“What are you worried about?” Chen Mo calmly turned his head over to look at Cheng Hui; tightly pursing his lips, the calm, unperturbed look in his eyes made him somewhat difficult to read.
Cheng Hui gave a dry laugh and said no more.
Chen Mo thought Old Cheng’s lonely figure carried a desolate air as he walked away. He silently bowed his head, trying to recall if he was unclear in his meaning just now.
Nothing… Chen Mo innocently listed off the steps.
First, he answered.
Second, he looked into the other’s eyes and spoke.
Third, he also used the modal particle4.
So, what did he f***ing want? Chen Mo turned away in frustration, but as he did, the past came rushing back. In the dead of winter, while lying low in the snow, Lu Zhen wailed: “For heaven’s sake, why did I have to be partnered with Chen Mo? The sky is already cold enough. Looking at Chen Mo, the temperature would drop another three degrees!”
Chen Mo earnestly tried to understand. He sincerely believed that his level of friendliness, when interacting with others, was already countless times greater now than it was in the past. However, while contrasting his current self with his past self, he unconsciously thought of Fang Jin, Lu Zhen, Xu Zhizhe, and all of the brothers with whom he went through fire and water5 with. He thought of what Xia Minglang said to him right before he boarded the car. Xia Mingling had patted his shoulder and said to him: “There’s both good and bad to going back, but in case it doesn’t work out, you will always have a home here.”
A soldier just off his patrol noticed Chen Mo and went over to greet him. Chen Mo gave a casual salute back. Only when the soldier had lowered his hand did he notice that the cold-faced, death-god of a commander was actually smiling! Startled, he turned around to look at the departing Chen Mo, but in his distraction, he stumbled headfirst into a flowerpot.
Walking into the Earth café, a tender smile had formed on Chen Mo’s face as he reminisced about the past. Miao Yuan stood behind the counter, staring blankly at him. The new uniform of the Armed Police Force perfectly sculpted his body. The dark green fabric was trimmed neatly at the edges and corners, making him look tall and powerful. He satisfied all of the girl’s maidenly fantasies of the word ‘handsome’.
During Miao Yuan’s dazed state, Momo bravely straightened her back and moved forward to guide Chen Mo towards a sofa near a window. She left the menu and poured a cup of lemon water for the man. After returning to the counter, Miao Yuan finally snapped out of her daze and grabbed Momo’s arm, rubbing her head on the girl’s chest.
“So handsome, so handsome, so handsome… You’ve never seen someone so truly, truly handsome…” Miao Yuan did a chaotic Tuzki flop.
Momo closed her eyes and recalled Chen Mo’s face… She had to admit, uhh he was pretty handsome, umm… but to go so far…?
“Don’t you think he’s super-duper handsome?” Miao Yuan squealed excitedly.
Oh… sure, why not? Momo nodded: “Not bad!”
“Bad taste!” Miao Yuan gave her a disdainful look, took the menu, and walked towards Chen Mo using her most graceful steps.
Ah, it’s not bad…
Momo massaged her temples. Young lady, are you sure you don’t need to tone down your X-ray vision? Why do I feel like this man gives me goosebumps? Like I just encountered some kind of dangerous, radioactive substance.
♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥
She was very nervous!
That was Chen Mo’s first thought when Miao Yuan walked up to him; she was very nervous.
She wore an unnatural smile, her eyes were quivering, her fingers trembling, and she over-enunciated her greeting. Chen Mo’s conditioned reflex was to carefully analyse her. In an instant, his line of sight was enveloped with Miao Yuan’s body, and simultaneously, it made his body enter into a state that was ready-to-attack at any moment.
Miao Yuan stammered over in a hideous mess and asked: “Mi-mister, what… what do you… want to drink?”
Chen Mo froze for a moment, before breaking out into laughter. Because she was just a small, young lady, or maybe because she was a new hand who hadn’t gotten used to the customers yet, all we could see from her was nervousness and terror. Chen Mo accepted that he could put pressure on the people around him. He probably had some careless expression in his eyes again that made her feel afraid. He tried his best to mobilize his most gentle smile, and with his most gentle voice, he slowly said: “Let me have a look.”
Miao Yuan quietly stood beside him, motionless.
Chen Mo swept a small glance at her and saw her eyes instantly frighten like a bunny’s. Chen Mo sighed in the bottom of his heart; he found it a little bit embarrassing to explain: “I don’t drink coffee…”
“Ah…” Miao Yuan blurted out.
Her disappointment was a bit too exaggerated. It could almost make someone feel guilty. Chen Mo thought, could she truly be a new hire, or is she scared of being scolded by the boss?
“I don’t drink coffee. Are there any other drinks you can recommend?” Chen Mo clasped his palms together, trying to show his teeth as much as possible. Bear with it, bear with it…
“Hot chocolate? We have a combo.” Miao Yuan suggested in a very quiet voice.
“Alright!” Chen Mo resolutely slapped his hand down on the table. If you don’t leave now, I’ll really lose control, he thought to himself. .
Miao Yuan walked back in a trance, like she was sleepwalking. Chen Mo glanced at his watch, bored; his blind date still hadn’t shown up. He felt a slight headache and pressed between his eyebrows as he recalled his mom’s stack of photos that resembled a deck of cards. But in any case, he thought he ought to occasionally go on dates. At least that way, Cheng Hui wouldn’t look at him weirdly, but Chen Mo really felt that there was nothing weird about him in the first place. Really!
Miao Yuan nearly threw herself behind the counter.
“Hey, slow down there girl!” Momo said, as she grabbed the menus and helped Miao Yuan get back up.
“Help me!” Miao Yuan tossed chocolate pieces into the pot of water, all flustered.
Earth’s hot chocolate was ¥13 per cup.6 Such a price meant that the hot chocolate wouldn’t be made from scratch, but rather mixed from powder. But Miao Yuan firmly believed that in her hands, Chen Mo should drink the best hot chocolate. The randomly broken pieces of chocolate slowly melted in the glass bowl. Miao Yuan grabbed the entire honey cake and sliced it into smaller rectangles, cut open half of it with the knife, and filled the inside with the newly prepared chocolate cream. She smoothed out the parts that were sticking up before finally spreading some coarse chestnut powder on top. Momo clicked her tongue in amazement beside her. “How much would this one cost?”
Miao Yuan helplessly pleaded, “Don’t say it!”
“Wastrel!” Momo twisted her earlobes. Miao Yuan rubbed the tip of her reddish ears with a silly smile that was sweet and warm like chocolate.
Right now, there was no difference whatsoever between this piece of chocolate cake and the box of chocolate placed in the display case. Thus, no one would know what she put inside it. She cunningly melted the truffle chocolate to make the base, and added in the best cream and cheese, a bit of her dad’s masterpiece, and of course, her small, thumping maiden heart.
Using the knife, Miao Yuan transferred the cake onto a small, white porcelain plate. Her hands were very steady as she did so, without the slightest fluctuation. Doing these kinds of things made her feel calm. Once the hot chocolate reached the right temperature, she added in milk foam and used a toothpick to draw a tree leaf pattern.
There’s always room for improvement. When we do things for our favourite people, we always feel as though we didn’t put in enough of our utmost care.
“Drink while it’s hot.” Miao Yuan held the tray to her chest as she whispered this reminder.
Chen Mo nodded.
A minute later, Chen Mo keenly sensed that this young lady’s line of sight never left him. Bewildered, he looked for the girl from his distant corner. He saw Miao Yuan point at the cup and mouth out, “Drink while it’s hot!”
This young lady was simply a little too dedicated her job.
Chen Mo squeezed his eyes shut and picked up his cup to take a drink. It was very sweet and extremely creamy. It glided down the throat just like silk. Chen Mo was somewhat puzzled as he licked his upper lip. Miao Yuan nervously held onto the menu as she watched him, but then a tall, slender female figure took a seat in front of Chen Mo’s table and completely blocked her line of sight. Momo came over and tugged on the corner of Miao Yuan’s clothes, and whispered: “He had a girlfriend.”
Feeling as if she had suffered a great loss, Miao Yuan gave a deep frown as she said, in a disappointed tone: “It seems like it.”
From the beginning to the end, this love lasted for thirty minutes! Record-breaking misery! Miao Yuan leaned her head on Momo’s shoulder and said: “Darling, I’m heartbroken.”
Momo silently felt Miao Yuan’s forehead and thought to herself, ‘there’s no fever!’
Author’s note: Sniper Rifle gun model QBU88. The 88th version of a sniper rifle and the 95th of the gun family. Measuring at 920mm, it has a total weight of 4.1kg and has an effective range of 800m, firing 10 rounds before reloading.
- Mensao: Outwardly cold or retiring but deep and passionate inside
- 陈默 – Silent disposition
- Chen Mo – He uses Chen Mo’s name to describe Chen Mo’s personality
- Modal particle – 呢. Ne softens the tone of questions
- Fire and water – like saying thick and thin, life and death.
- RMB, Chinese Yuan. Conversion of Yuan/dollars/pounds: ¥13:$1.97:£1.49 so quite cheap.