Prologue: Reason and Emotion
“In me the tiger sniffs the rose.”
In their hearts, everyone has both a tiger and a rose.
A tiger has its claws; a rose, its fragrance.
All the stories in this world happened on that one day. That day was nothing out of the ordinary, but looking back, it encapsulated the beauty of spring and the tranquility of autumn. At the same time, however, that day would fade just like any other, forgotten and lost in the passing of time.
Sometimes, the beauty of a memory lies not in the memory itself, but in the subject of your thoughts. At that time, Miao Yuan felt that just a smile from Chen Mo would make her whole universe blossom.
That day, before ‘he’ appeared, everything was as always. The dull blue sky of the old city was clear and sunny. Miao Yuan worked at the cafe in the southeast corner of the city, just across the street from the Armed Police Detachment Station. Every morning, the first thing she saw were the fresh-faced new recruits leaving to run laps. She and Momo once teased their boss, asking if the reason he’d opened up shop here was for a greater peace of mind.
The boss had inhaled the coffee’s aroma and responded with a delighted look, “Of course! The best way to prevent trouble is to be near the solution!”
Both Miao Yuan and Momo gave wry smiles. What trouble? He’d opened a cafe, not a bar.
On Saturday afternoon, when the sunshine was bright and warm, it was the cafe’s busiest hours. The smell of honey cakes filled the air and gentle, golden rays of light filtered through the large glass window. The cafe’s interior was different from the typical dimly lit and gloomy atmosphere that cafe-goers seemed to love. Rather, it was cool, sunny and breezy; an appearance that suited its simple name: Earth.
“Because,” the boss said, “Heaven is too far, ‘Earth’ is just perfect.”
Miao Yuan stood behind the counter, melting chocolate. The bubbles that emerged from the hot water bath gently rocked the transparent glass bowl. She used the stainless steel spoon in her hand to stir the rich brown liquid and the intoxicating smell of sweet chocolate soon burst into the air.
Momo walked in with a menu and began making an espresso, casually scooping a bit of the cream from the mixer and tasting it. “Oh?” Her eyebrows wrinkled in surprise.
“Is it tasty?” Miao Yuan beamed with joy.
“Just like ice cream.” Momo put down her coffee cup, looked for a spoon, then scooped herself a dollop of cream.
“We normally use soy cream but this was made using dairy cream instead.”
“Ah! Dairy? It won’t make me fat…will it?” Momo nervously responded.
“Did you think soy cream wouldn’t make you fat? Here, try this.” Miao Yuan handed her an unlabeled bottle. Momo gave it a sniff and detected the sweet fragrance of wine.
“Plum wine, my dad’s masterpiece brew.”
Miao Yuan smiled, then poured a little into a small bowl, giving it a taste. Sour, sweet, a little spicy, slightly intoxicating and rich. The numerous complex flavors danced on the tongue; it truly was exquisite. It was an ambrosia that could make alcoholics out of innocents.
“What are you up to this time?” Momo asked, bringing out a plate of food.
“Wait a little while and you’ll see.” Miao Yuan smugly winked.
The chocolate in the water bath flowed like a pool of silk. Miao Yuan added a bit of butter and sour cream, and the rich brown color broke apart. She then stirred it until the marbled pattern merged together. Next, she raised the bowl of wine and slowly poured its contents into the mixing bowl. The smell drifting out became layered and complex. Miao Yuan felt a rush of excitement, like stepping into a carnival.
The liquid, satin chocolate mixture was pulled into thin threads and combined with whipped cream. The electric mixer steadily buzzed. She then added a few more ice cubes to the ice bath the batter sat in. She always enjoyed this moment. Her hands were very steady as she tilted the bowl at just the right angle.
Miao Yuan took on a reverent air. She anticipated the completion of her masterpiece like how one eagerly watches a baby grow into an upstanding adult. The cake would be one that makes people happy.
Miao Yuan gave Momo a nervous look and asked, “How does it look?” The cream appeared fragile and weak, like a delicate cloud. Momo put on a poker face and fidgeted, trying to set the mood. Miao Yuan’s nervously flitting lashes amused Momo, and she was really tempted to tease her. However, at that moment, the door’s old wind chimes sounded. Miao Yuan instinctively peeked her head out from behind Momo to greet the guest.
It was as if the whole world changed in that instant.
Do you know what love at first sight is?
This was the most fitting question for Miao Yuan. During primary school, love at first sight was the deskmate who lent her half his eraser. In middle school, it was the math class representative who wrote beautiful characters on the blackboard. In high school, it was the tall senior who always wore a white shirt and red jacket.
Earth is constantly brimming with miracles. In some instant, your heart suddenly decides to race for a certain person, because of a tiny smile, a nod, or perhaps the raise of an eyebrow. Completely without reason, a certain area of your brain begins to madly release neurotransmitters, raising the concentration of dopamine in your blood past its threshold. This change causes the body to feel comfortably warm and light as a feather, as if treading high in the clouds.
Reason was puzzled and asked Emotion, “Why am I like this?”
Emotion bashfully answered, “You are in love.”
Yes, Miao Yuan thought to herself, I’m in love!