Chapter 30: Being loved is a huge blessing (5)
“Actually, it’s pretty simple. Just like how you came to find me right now, you’d only come to find me if you truly hated to part with me and missed me, right?”
Miao Yuan looked at Chen Mo while trying her best to squeeze out a slight smile, but the tears inevitably flowed down.
“Be honest. It’s because you weren’t willing to resign yourself to what had happened and wanted an explanation, right? If I told you, ‘I don’t like you. I’ve fallen in love with someone else,’ then you would have definitely turned and left.”
Chen Mo opened his mouth, but his tongue was tied into a messy knot. He had no way of responding to her question, mostly because he didn’t know which was the true reason for his coming: anger, or longing. But did it matter which was more important? Did there have to be a clear difference?
Chen Mo felt like a mess. This was all a new field which he didn’t have experience in, didn’t know the rules, and didn’t know how to handle it. Thus, he thought that whatever Miao Yuan said was reasonable but, somehow he felt like something was off, as if it wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Miao Yuan wiped her tears and her words slowed. Precisely because her speech slowed, did her solemness peek through, “So let’s not waste each other’s time. You see, I’ve nearly crawled out of your hole. So don’t drag me back in.”
“I…I don’t know what to say.” Chen Mo’s voice was at a low and steady level. “…I probably need some time to think…about how to reply to what you just said…because some things are truly…my fault…I hadn’t thought things through.”
Miao Yuan nodded her head lightly.
“Give me your new cell phone number. Once I’ve thought it through, I’ll contact you.” In a rare move, Chen Mo looked into Miao Yuan’s eyes.
Miao Yuan inwardly let out a weak sigh. Why is it always you that’s the one bossing people around? Why is it that you always feel like you have the power to determine whether I stay or leave? Why is it…that I can never say no to you?
This man was too frightening.
She mumbled a string of numbers. Chen Mo concentrated and silently repeated it in his head, making absolutely sure that he remembered them.
Then… Miao Yuan silently looked at Chen Mo. Out of habit, he pressed her forehead with his hand and helped her turn off the night lamp. In a gentle voice, he said, “Go sleep. It’s late. You’re barely keeping your eyes open. I’ll sit here for a bit. When the break of day arrives, I’ll go.”
Miao Yuan succumbed to the pressure he put on her forehead and lay down. She suddenly felt absent-minded. It was so strange! Fate somehow looped around. At first, it was also like this: Chen Mo sat on the bed watching her. Now, in her last moments of consciousness, he still sat on the bed and watched her.
You want me to sleep when I haven’t even changed out of my clothes…To be honest, you’ve never been concerned about whether I’m comfortable like this, or not. She blinked a few times, before slowly shutting her eyes. Alcohol. Bitter crying. Heartache. Even though she didn’t think about those things, she was still overcome by drowsiness and fell asleep.
Chen Mo heard the change in her breathing. He withdrew his gaze and directed it towards her face. She had a peaceful, slumbering expression, but her eyebrows were furrowed slightly. It was as if she was bickering with someone in her sleep. I’ve never discovered that she was this tired. Of course, he had never closely observed Miao Yuan to see what she looked like when she slept.
If one described his feelings as he thought on the what’s and how’s, as lofty and bold, then right now he had no thoughts at all. A calm and tepid lake of emotions showed, the turmoil of the currents hidden deep within the depths, not yet ready to come to the surface. Miao Yuan really hadn’t said anything wrong: he had a brain, but no heart.
Chen Mo reached out his fingers to carefully trace Miao Yuan’s facial features. She was such a beautiful girl, so young, so full of energy. She loved to smile and was amiable.
Yet, he had made her cry to this degree?
At that instant, Chen Mo remembered many things. He recalled Miao Yuan proudly hugging the bunny as she marched in front of him. He recounted how on the winter days, when drops of water froze into ice, Miao Yuan had hugged a cake box as she paced in circles in front of his police station. When she had handed it over, the box still felt warm. His memory of Miao Yuan pouncing on him in a hug resurfaced. He used his two hands which had just killed a person to rub her head. Yet she asked, “Chen Mo, are you scared?”
Such a lovely girl was this considerate to him. Yet, he never knew how to cherish her feelings. He let her worry all by herself in the middle of the night. He slowly broke her heart, and gradually made her lose hope. She cried alone with no one by her side. Chen Mo felt aching pangs wash over him. It was as if something had pierced through him and inside him, an important part of him truly broke and was bleeding. Or perhaps it was ripped apart. He realized that he had no right to rebuke her. No right to ask her of anything. He didn’t deserve it.
Miao Yuan slowly turned her head and furrowed her brows. Subconsciously, she licked her lower lip in the darkness and made her soft lips glisten.
Chen Mo automatically lowered his head, but ceased his action a centimetre above her lips.
No. He no longer had this right. She was no longer his and had already taken back everything. Every single tiny thing. She had walked away and let him go. Chen Mo couldn’t degrade himself any further, yet he didn’t want to leave. Miao Yuan’s gentle breathing blew on his face. His hand beside her pillow, that was supporting him, balled into a fist. In the end, he desperately squeezed his eyes shut and stood up.
Forget it. I’ll leave.
Chen Mo silently opened the door. When he vacated the home, he woke no one.
Miao Yuan was aroused from a dream and sat up. It was still dark outside, yet Chen Mo had already left. It was if he had never appeared in the first place. Miao Yuan’s mind turned absent, as she removed her jacket and crawled back into bed.
My love is like wearing clothes to sleep. Though I can fall asleep if there’s too much, it still isn’t a comfortable night’s rest.
Miao Yuan flipped over, hugged the blanket, and closed her eyes.
Let’s sleep, let’s sleep. The sky is still dark, but it’ll always brighten.
♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥
Cheng Hui felt that, if he could call Chen Mo quiet when he left, it would be one of a whispering wind and rippling water; a quietness that carried the resoluteness of a warrior. But, the Chen Mo now was complete silence. A silence of shrouded darkness from which no light seeped through. Upon seeing his colleagues face, he knew it was over. Chen Mo had been thoroughly dumped.
Cheng Hui adopted the aura of a big brother, “Bro, there are plenty more fish in the sea.”
Chen Mo nodded. “…Yeah.”
Cheng Hui was at loss for words.
Based on personality, Chen Mo was a man who separated his private life from his professional one. However, the matter of the fact was that the whole fifth squadron had suffered due to this breakup. Originally, people felt that when Chen Mo miraculously got a girlfriend, his expressions softened and he spoke in a kinder manner. For no reason at all, he would smile at people. It was such a mysterious change. Their death god captain had returned to the mortal world. But now? The situation took a drastic turn, and had plummeted to the 18th level of hell.1
Though Chen Mo hadn’t taken his negative emotions out on the troop, a sweeping glance of his sharp, icy gaze—that lacked any hint of warmth—was enough to cause pain and evoke tears. The third platoon leader, Yuan Jie, had pulled Cheng Hui over to complain. Every time he spoke with Chen Mo, it was like experiencing death. Cheng Hui grasped Yuan Jie’s shoulder and said, “Bro, bear with it.”
Originally, Chen Mo would wait for Miao Yuan’s call every night at 9:30pm. Thus, any punishments would promptly end at 9:20pm. Originally, Chen Mo would take leave one day a week to go on a date with Miao Yuan. Now he stayed with the troops twenty-four seven. He was a permanent existence who could appear at any time, anywhere. Though he wouldn’t say much, the fifth troop would all keep their guards up. Originally, Chen Mo didn’t need to train with the troops, but something had to stave off his boredom. The five kilometre morning run turned into ten kilometres with Chen Mo at the head, and if he didn’t stop, no one else dared stop. From henceforth, the fifth troop’s morning routine began with a run that became ten kilometres.
These days are insufferable like this! Unrest boiled among the masses.
But, the leaders thought otherwise and were very happy. Lately, the fifth troop was doing exceptionally well!
Before, Chen Mo always felt that he was busy with one matter after another. Every day, he would work until nine and pour himself one last cup of tea while waiting for Miao Yuan’s call. How did he develop these habits? He couldn’t exactly remember. It just seemed to smoothly progress into this state. He had never thought that, on the other side, Miao Yuan was actually anticipating him to take the initiative to contact her. However, his world had become one person less. When she was there, he didn’t feel her presence. But when she left, he saw what seemed like large, empty, and shocking voids that stretched out to envelop space and time.
Chen Mo discovered that he had been subconsciously thinking of things lately. Her last words appeared in his mind endlessly.
‘When you’re nervous, who do you look for?’
‘When you’re happy, who do you want to share your joy with?’
‘When you’re in danger, who do you first think of?’
In his most dangerous moments, he would first think of Xia Minglang. If Chen Mo himself found the situation to be dire, then the only who could most probably save him would be his captain, Xia Minglang.
In his most nervous moments, he would want to be by himself, because being nervous was not welcome. He had to quickly rush over. What a sniper needed most was to be cool-headed and unhurried.
When he was happy and sad, he had his brothers. Of course, there was also Miao Yuan who walked by his side in that brief period of time. Chen Mo thought, It’s not that you don’t exist in my heart…It’s just that I’m probably not up to your standards. But…you left me because of that? I don’t exist solely for you though.
What is love? How do people mutually love one another?
He had never thought of those questions in depth before. Love… It was a word that made people unreasonable. It was a word that made idiots out of people. It was a fluffy word that emitted pink light. It was the sort of thing that young girls played with, and that young boys grumbled about.
Love encompassed the sorrows of spring, and tragedies of autumn. It was fragility and sensitivity combined. Chen Mo had always felt that only a useless man would concern himself with these questions, would cry and laugh over ‘love’, would ruin himself over it, and live and die for it.
It was too ugly of a sight!
Don’t tell me I also need to become like that?
Chen Mo shook his head. His phone flipped and turned in slender fingers. He finally stopped and searched for a certain person in his address book.
Lu Zhen shifted his gaze away from the computer and gave a slight smile when he saw the caller ID.
He picked up and smiled, “Hey, personal or professional matter?
“Okay! We’re in a state of confidentiality. Go ahead~!” Lu Zhen said smiling like a little rascal who was up to no good.
Chen Mo fell into silence for a while. He then said, “I want to ask something.”
“Sure, ask away~”
“What do you think love is?”
Lu Zhen was taken aback. After a while, he burst into laughter, “You’d have to let me think about this for a moment.”
“Take your time. I’m not in a hurry.” Chen Mo leaned back against the seat and looked up. A sliver of moon hung from the window frame.
“…How did you come to ask me this?”
“If I don’t ask you, do you really think I could ask Fang Jin?” Chen Mo thought, Of all the people I know, you’re the one with a mind most like a woman.
“This… Well, it’s not that I can’t answer. This is what’s called a ‘There are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes.’ sort of thing. As for this philosophical question, Fang Jin would have his own take on it. Though he might say that love is one house, a few acres of lands, a wife and three kids, his definition of love still is representative of many honest people of the working class… “
“Don’t be nervous.” Chen Mo said.
“Hey hey, did you first go and ask Captain Xia Minglang yet? What did he say~?” Lu Zhen said laughing.
“I didn’t ask. I felt like you were the most appropriate.”
“That’s true. That fella’s notion of romantic development is abnormal. It’s best you don’t ask him. Don’t be led astray by him…”
“What are you saying?” Chen Mo was finally losing his patience.
“I was saying…saying…Didn’t I say I need to think? These sort of critical life questions…”
Chen Mo heard a sound of a match striking from the other side. Lu Zhen was a devilishly charming guy. Even the striking of a match would capture one’s attention. He liked using only one hand. The dim red flame flickered, then extinguished. The cigarette had been lit. Chen Mo saw the clear night sky that shimmered with stars. Lu Zhen’s image somehow appeared on the glass, and it too lit a cigarette.
“It’s like this Chen Mo,” Lu Zhen said, his voice unhurried in the silence of the night. His words were like a sigh. “I feel that if you peel all of the gorgeous layers off, love is simply one person longing for another.”
Chen Mo was silent for a while. “…Oh…”
A string of incredibly familiar numbers flashed in his mind. Chen Mo tenderly keyed in some numbers, but a sweet, friendly voice sounded from the speaker to tell him, “Sorry, the number you’ve entered has not been activated.” From the start it was like this. Ever since he had returned to the station, charged his phone, and tried to return the call that first time, it was like this. Chen Mo couldn’t confirm whether it was Miao Yuan purposefully deceiving him, or her changing her mind later. But no matter what, one thing was clear
♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥.
As the saying goes, losing love is a small matter, but losing your job is a big one. Though losing a job isn’t as painful as losing a love, they were two different matters. When one lost a job, they would have sympathy and support. Plus, Miao Yuan felt like she needed to find something to do. It was an important part of rebuilding after the catastrophe. Or else, her life everyday would revolve around heartbreak, which would be counterproductive to the policies of her current plan: “Love life. Keep away from Chen Mo.”
Also, Chen Mo had too big of an influence on her. That morning when she woke up, she got a first-hand experience as to how big his influence was. Miao Yuan discovered that she couldn’t do anything the whole day. Within a three minute timespan, there would always be one second where her gaze would always fall on her phone. Within a day, she had inspected every corner of her house for where her phone signal would be the strongest. In the end, Miao Yuan was exhausted and made a vow before falling asleep: Tomorrow, I’ll cancel my phone service.
This man is too scary. Too scary like this. As long as he still has a string in hand, I won’t be able to escape.
Miao Yuan’s hometown was a mid-sized city. Within two days, she had visited all of the city’s Western pastry shops. A pity that the big stores had no intentions of recruiting lately. The shops that were recruiting were too small and the quality was too low by Miao Yuan’s standards.
Her mom and dad’s recommendation was: “Don’t go running about. What’s wrong with here? And whatever you want, we have. Just get a decent job and find a nice guy to pass your time. Life is but this.”
In the end, locals are well rooted. Her parents utilized their connections. Within a few days, there would be news. Though the Western pastry shops didn’t need people, there was this new Hong Kong restaurant that needed extra hands to make their Hong Kong specialty pastries. The head chef was a famous chef recruited from a well-known hotel’s restaurant. Though their specialties didn’t line up, Miao Yuan’s interest was piqued. The most important culinary task was to appease the taste buds. There was no need to draw the line between the two.
Miao Yuan was dragged by her relatives to go test for the position. She had some training in Western pastries. She had skilled hands and a perceptive tongue. She was also cute and possessed a honeyed tongue. The old chef spoke in a heavy Guangzhou accent, and smiled with his soft brows and kind eyes. He was very satisfied with Miao Yuan. Just like that, Miao Yuan was hired and became an intern. Her hands that used to make countless cakes, mousses, and steaks now started to make shaomai, shrimp dumplings, barbequed pork buns, and turnip cakes… 2
Miao Yuan was very satisfied with this sort of life. Every day she would learn new things, devote herself to her work. It was like another sort of love.
The flour starch felt smooth under her hand. Fresh green vegetables and minced shrimp were mixed with chicken stock and ham, and then seasoned to perfection. Food was filled with emotion. They had a life to them, a conscience, a breath. If you gave it love, it would return your love with a mouth-watering taste. Chinese kitchens were rowdier than Western pastry kitchens. The chopping sound of knives and the glaze of permeating vapour filled the kitchen. Miao Yuan stood in front of the steamer with a watch, calculating when to take it out.
Chen Mo, if I put chili in the shrimp dumplings, will you like it?
Momo would still frequently call and talk about the happenings in Xi’an. Their cafe boss had empathized with her romantic fleeing, and still constantly thought of her cakes. Momo said that management added two more stores, and that their management was lax. Their boss was now promoted to store manager and had two young women under her. Milu had left for a traditional Western-style restaurant, and started walking the path of a chef.
So nice. Everyone’s working so hard to become better. But why is it just me that feels stuck? It’s like I have one foot in the past and I’m unable to move forward.
Momo said that the boss had planned to open a specialty Western pastry shop in downtown and was searching for a store manager high and low. The person had to have experience and had to have the cooking skills. In the managerial aspect, the person had to at the very least, be able to take care of the bills and financial affairs.
“Oh.” Miao Yuan knew Momo was hinting at her, but at this point, she hadn’t thought whether or not to go back. Though there is the saying that working in a familiar environment is better, that city… It seemed like with a flash of time, it was already the end of summer. Xi’an’s unbearable peak of summer had passed already, but 40 degree temperatures still persisted. Harsh rays struck the ground in a vapour.
Chen Mo, who will make mung bean soup for you? Who will buy black plum tea for you? Has your tan grown darker?
Miao Yuan discovered that the days had passed quickly. The time they had spent apart was now longer than the time they had been together. It was as if that person in her memories had lost his colour and become pure and beautiful.
My memory is really bad. I’ve almost nearly forgotten about his flaws. Why do memories work backwards like this? Or is it that beautiful things will always carve a deeper impression in our memories?
Sometimes Miao Yuan would feel that Chen Mo was still by her side in that sort of quiet, peaceful way. His breathing seemed to coil around her. If she turned around, it was as if she might just see that forest green silhouette. She taught the head chef how to use Taobao to buy authentic ingredients from all corners of the world. A few shop apprentices banded together to buy Xinjiang raisins. It was long and skinny in shape, had pits, were deep red in colour, and tasted wondrously sweet. Miao Yuan had accidentally helped herself to too many. By night, her teeth started aching. She lay in bed yet flipped too and fro, unable to sleep. Neither reading, nor browsing the web alleviated her problem. At three am, she flipped through her favourited pictures on her phone, then stopped at a photograph.
The man in the picture was tall and handsome, and had a startled expression. Miao Yuan was tiptoeing and lightly planting a kiss at the corner of his mouth.
Chen Mo, do you still remember?
After the snow settled that winter day, you had once given a girl love’s most beautiful fantasy. Though it might have been nothing to you, it was a treasure of a lifetime to her. That photograph had once been lost, along with her phone. She had to go through many classmates to find it back. But by the time the photograph returned to her hands, it had been digitally compressed too much and was a blurry image, just like her memories.
Miao Yuan placed her phone next to her pillow.
Chen Mo, you’re really like a cavity. After the sweetness passes, you give me the sharpest pain.
At first, we don’t understand what love is. We don’t know what loving someone is like. We always thought that love was a very mysterious thing. We would each fantasize about how love would come to us, and presume that it would strike us like a lightning storm, and then persist as fiery as it had started. We’ve done many things and requested much more. We keep score. Our hearts can ache or palpitate in confusion. We experience happiness…and bitterness. At the end of it all, we realize that love isn’t what we had fantasized it to be.
♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥ ♡ ♥
In the Special Armed Forces’ semi-annual competition, the fifth squadron had achieved a blackout victory. The squadron lead couldn’t contain his happiness. He grabbed Chen Mo by the shoulder and enthusiastically asked, “Name what you want!” Chen Mo’s expression was cold and restrained.
“I currently don’t want anything.”
The squadron lead was unhappy.“Young people shouldn’t feel constrained. They should have the courage to pay the price and to demand their reward. They have to do things decisively, to trust in their leader.” Chen Mo bitterly laughed, but his expression was sincere. “I really don’t want anything.”
I want time to flow backwards. Could you help me?
Sorry, Miao Yuan.
This half year, Chen Mo ate alone, watched movies alone, walked the ancient city walls alone, and drank hot chocolate alone. It no longer tasted the same. It definitely wasn’t the original flavor. He had heard that making a sponge cake required eighteen steps. And that was just the tip of the iceberg of what Miao Yuan had given him. He had never known. With a bite, he had swallowed her laborious love made from her own blood and sweat.
Sorry. Really, I’m so sorry. He had never known that his happy, peaceful life needed another person supporting him in the shadows, quietly giving up so much and striving so hard.
Sorry Miao Yuan. Please forgive my arrogant ignorance.