Chapter 24: My heart! It aches! (5)
The boss of the restaurant was a lady from the south.1 She looked pretty and charming, and there was a cleverness to her. She exhibited a Jiangnan2 person’s liveliness. Though these officers’ ranks weren’t considered very high in the Special Armed Forces, Armed Police Force, or criminal investigation squad, as a business owner, she knew that building relationships with them wasn’t a bad thing. Moreover, Guanzhong 3 people tended to be fierce. Under the dirts of these lands lay sovereigns and emperors. Hence, Guanzhong people tended to be more robust and fiery than most.
If some hoodlums broke out into a fight in her restaurant, she just needed to mention that their shop was familiar with the uniformed and they’d quiet down one way or another. Thus Su Huixian, the boss, personally went out to greet Chen Mo and his party.
She was warm and attentive. Ol’ Cheng didn’t even open his mouth and she had already taken the initiative to give them a 30% discount. She said she had already reminded the kitchen to pick a fish head on the larger side and to serve up the best meat.
While speaking, Su Huixian raised a glass and meticulously went around, individually paying respects to everyone at the table. When she got to Chen Mo, she laughed. “Captain Chen, are you substituting wine with tea?”
The table of men jumped to their feets immediately. “Hey hey hey, we had thought that guy was silent because he was hiding white wine in his cup. But lo and behold it’s water!”
Immediately, someone became pushy and wanted to swap his water for wine.
Chen Mo’s expression didn’t change. “I won’t drink!”
Qin Yue boldly yelled, “Waiter, bring the whole bottle of red wine over.”
Chen Mo turned to restrain the waiter, “Red wine also isn’t okay.”
“If you say so!” Across the table, the Captain Niu of the criminal investigation squad laughed and said, “I finally met someone who is worse at holding their liquor than I am. Very well, we won’t pressure you. We’ll just give you beer. No matter what, us men can’t deny a pretty lady’s offer of alcohol, can we? Guys, am I right?”
Agreement resounded all around.
Chen Mo tried to present a smiling face. “I also can’t do beer. Really. Not even a little.”
Su Huixian discerned Chen Mo’s reluctant expression and quickly interrupted to smooth things over. She found an empty cup, poured a little less than half a cup of beer into it, and handed it to Chen Mo. “Think of it as a gesture of goodwill. Just this once Captain Chen.”
Chen Mo silently calculated the alcohol content and shook his head. “That’s too much.”
With this, everyone could not let him off. No matter what sort of favourable words Cheng Hui would say, no one would believe him. Su Huixian said, “If even this is too much, you have the lowest alcohol tolerance of anyone I’ve ever met.”
“I’m allergic to alcohol. My dad’s even worse than me. If you gave him a cup of white wine, even a whiff would make him drunk.”
Su Huixian was taken aback. “Really?”
Chen Mo nodded and said it was true. The men all slapped the table and said, “Chen Mo stop bullshitting. If you’re a man, gun it down in one shot. Is this much gonna kill you? Don’t cause our Public Security branch to lose face.”
Qin Yue interrupted. “He isn’t even part of your Public Security branch. If he’s making anyone lose face, it’d be the Central Military Commission’s face…”
Of course, this much alcohol wouldn’t kill anyone. But why did he have to drink it? Just because they wanted to see? For what?
Chen Mo was in a bad mood. He couldn’t bother to manage the others, and even more so, couldn’t be bothered to care about what others wanted out of him. Miao Yuan coquettishly coaxed him so many times, yet he said he wouldn’t drink and still hadn’t. But now this sort of situation…
Chen Mo lowered his head and went silent for a few seconds. In a heavy voice, he said, “Forget it, seems like if I don’t blackout once today, you guys won’t believe me. When I’m drunk my temper isn’t good. Don’t take it to heart.” With that, he threw his head back and drained the half cup of beer.
“Bravo! Getting right to it!”
The table of men burst into a rowdy applause.
Su Huixian saw that Chen Mo’s gaze didn’t look right and was suddenly filled with regret.
What am I doing, poking the hornet’s nest?
With a lowered voice, she asked Chen Mo, “Captain Chen, why don’t I go brew some hangover soup for you?”
Chen Mo nodded. “Okay.”
Naturally, no one would believe that Chen Mo would succumb to half a cup of beer. After the commotion died down, they all went back to chatting, drinking, and eating. Only Cheng Hui carefully looked over at Chen Mo. Chen Mo’s face slowly reddened. When even his ears started to turn red, he bitterly laughed and stood up. “I’m not doing well. Everyone, please enjoy. I’ll be taking my leave first.”
In a second, the whole room erupted. “It can’t be?”
Chen Mo went to the clothes rack to get his jacket. Qin Yue walked over and stopped him. “Captain Chen, what sort of joke are you making?”
With a flip of the wrist, Chen Mo grabbed him. He looked into Qin Yue’s eyes while tightening his grip. “Don’t block me.”
Qin Yue was taken aback. His trained mind was pierced with a cold feeling. Shortly after, unbearable pain hit his hand.
Cheng Hui immediately went to support Qin Yue. “Don’t block him. Really. Don’t. He’s really not okay. Chen Mo, do I need to see you off?”
Chen Mo waved his hand as if saying no. “I’ll call a ride. I can still hold on.”
The whole table of drinking men were shocked. They had never heard of such a thing. They had never heard of a host being the first to leave in the middle while everyone was still drinking, or getting drunk because of half a cup of beer.
Cheng Hui bitterly laughed. “Take the chance while he can still walk in a straight line to let him go. Back then, our squad’s welcoming dinner was also like this. He said, ‘You guys won’t believe me till you see me get drunk once.’ That time was brutal. He drank two glasses of white wine and immediately toppled over. The third squadron leader didn’t believe it. They provoked him, and it nearly got to the point where he had to be hospitalized. I just knew you men wouldn’t believe it until you saw it at least once. Now look what you’ve done. The person footing our bill has run off.”
“Who knew it would turn out like this!” Qin Yue said embarrassed.
Su Huixian carried the hangover soup out only to see Chen Mo at the door hailing a cab. She immediately went over to ask. Apparently, he really was drunk. Heavy remorse immediately washed over her.
Under shining lights, all beautiful women look similar. Chen Mo saw her reddish fingertips and the faint curls of steam that hovered over the bowl of hangover soup in her hands. Through the curtain of vapor, it was as though he could see Miao Yuan’s bright eyes lighting up. His heart softened.
“For me?” Chen Mo asked.
“Yes, yes… Want to drink some?” Su Huixian felt extremely awkward. Instead of leaving a good impression, she ending up doing the exact opposite..
Chen Mo took the bowl and drank it clean.
Su Huixian was pleasantly surprised. She took the opportunity to immediately apologize. “Captain Chen, I’m really sorry about today.”
“No worries,” Chen Mo said lightly, and then turned to wait for the car.
It was strange. He wasn’t the least bit angry toward this sort of gentle girl. It was as if she was part of this group that he sectioned off from the rest of humanity. Chen Mo was puzzled over why this was. He wasn’t like this before. He had treated everyone the same—elders, children, men, women. There were only three types of people in his world: his enemies, people who weren’t enemies, and his brothers.
Su Huixian asked someone to go to the intersection to call a cab. When Chen Mo sat in it, she lowered her head to apologize once more. He looked up at her and felt that her eyes were bright and her smile was radiant. But it seemed too bright. Mhm, it was too bright indeed.
Though he was drunk, he wasn’t drunk to the point where he lost his mental capacities.
When Chen Mo walked through the station’s gates, he returned the greeting of the sentinel as usual. Then he directly went back to his dorn and threw himself on the bed.
This seemed to be an instinct. He didn’t like feeling dizzy. Once he started losing his depth perception, he felt frightened. So once the tiniest of that feeling started to sprout, he would leave the crowd and isolate himself in a place, silently waiting till that feeling passed.
Chen Mo stared with eyes wide open. The ceiling was a haze, lights from the streets and stars trickled in from outside the window, and the room was an impure darkness.
A body affected by alcohol is hot and sensitive. Chen Mo touched his face and noticed the temperature. He suddenly thought to that day when he succumbed to half a cake. He had laid in Miao Yuan’s bed. That girl carefully got close to him with delicate licks and kisses and the sweet fragrance of the tongue.
The memories stirred his blood. The rowdy alcohol molecules bounced around in his body. What was that saying again?
Alcohol can make you lose your senses!
Chen Mo mentally snorted. He rolled over, pulled the blankets, and bundled himself into a roll.
When the peak hit, it was dizzying yet sharp pain. Chen Mo inhaled and exhaled in a low sound. He didn’t know if his abnormal excitement was from the alcohol or from the sweet smile he had fantasized.
Chen Mo felt that recently, he wasn’t quite normal. Sometimes Miao Yuan would thoughtlessly say some silly thing and make him feel that women were quite dangerous. Now, he was even hesitant to make out with her in secret. Girls seem to always be ignorant. Sometimes she would look at him with those large, innocent eyes and make him lose confidence. But he was also perplexed as to why, for all these years, he never felt that he was lacking anything. Why did he suddenly become someone without self-control? Could it be because he didn’t have a girlfriend before?
He liked hugging, kissing, and seeing her eyes turn hazy in bewilderment.
He wanted to get closer to her, a little more closer. He wanted to consume her, hug her, tousle her hair, and then be perfectly content while saying, “Mhm, this is mine.”
These feelings made Chen Mo jump. But Lu Zhen told him this was normal. He said those in love will always anticipate possessing the other person and being possessed. They will yearn to put an end to an ordinary relation, to experience that abnormal intimacy, and to be unrivaled.
“I don’t feel that way. I never thought of having her possess me.”
Lu Zhen then laughed. “That’s because you haven’t loved deeply enough.”
Is it? Chen Mo doubted.Then what’s it like to love deep enough? Chen Mo couldn’t imagine letting a woman possess him. Especially such a gentle girl.
“Then just wait some more.”
Chen Mo felt that indeed, he should wait some more. Some things developed too quickly. It had only been a few months, yet it was as though they would get married anytime now.
Shouldn’t marriage be for life?
And with someone closer than a brother!
“Chen Mo, you’re too lonely. You should find yourself a lover, and let her care for you and share the meaning of life with you.”
“I’ve already said I’ll give it a try.”
- Just a bit of cultural background, but in China there’s this North-South divide where people will categorize themselves as a northerner or a southerner. They eat different food, speak different dialects, carry different stereotypes, and look a bit different. This is a really good article that explains it pretty well. Also this is a pretty good graphical representation.
- Jiangnan is the Southeast region in China. It encompasses cities like Shanghai and Nanjing.
- Guanzhong is a region that has cities like Xi’an, which is where our story is set.