Rose’s objections towards her new nickname were left unattended to. Yang Chen on the other hand seemed to be addicted to it. He had repeatedly teased her with it until they reached the restaurant.
Rose eventually exploded, with her cheeks all red. “For the last time, that’s a puppy name. If you call me that one more time I’m really going to get mad at you!”
Yang Chen then realized that ‘dummy’ really didn’t sound like a person’s name, and gave an awkward smile. He then promised that he would never call her that again.
Rose was quite indifferent about what they were going to eat, so the decision fell on Yang Chen. He casually chose a spot that was visually clean and tidy before ordering four dishes and a soup. They sat at a table by the window where they happily chatted and dined.
Yang Chen finally talked to Rose about the incident involving Green Dragon Society, hoping that she didn’t collaborate with his father-in-law Liu Qingshan, even more so to limit the freedom given to the Zhonghai division of Green Dragon Society.
Rose, however, upon hearing that Gao Yue exploited female university students into prostitution, was stunned. And with that shocking reveal, she then started to contemplate some things.
Yang Chen then commented, “I knew this would make you uncomfortable, and that’s why I kept it from you during the day. Now that you know, I’ll support whatever your next decision is.”
That comment prompted Rose to crack a smile. She then replied, “I’ll do whatever my dear hubby wants me to do. You just said that what’s mine is yours; Red Thorns Society is mine, which means that it’s also yours. If you don’t like me collaborating with Green Dragon society then I completely understand your decision. Besides, I’m a woman too. It pains me to the core to see men manipulate women into betraying their self-worth. Gao Yue deserves to be imprisoned.”
Just like that the conversation came to a close, and Yang Chen had no reason to continue talking about that subject. It wasn’t the time or place to be talking about metters like those anyway.
He then asked if Rose found it uncomfortable that his mother-in-law Ma Guifang was staying at her place. She was an unfamiliar elder to Rose after all.
Rose reactively shook her head. “Not really, since it’s Qianni’s mom and not just any random person. Besides, after she arrived she has been really caring towards me. She even made me tons of good food, and taught me how to cook! She’s a really nice lady.”
“Well I guess that’s true. Two people staying in such a large house is not ideal,” Yang Chen said before he revealed a look of gloominess. “Pity, the next time I want to come over to your place for a sleepover I’d need to sneak in like a crook.”
Rose chuckled and said, “Oh, so you have yet to confessed your relationship with Qianni to Aunt Ma? I actually thought she had already approved of it!”
Yang Chen gave a bitter smile. “I was planning to. I managed to get my mom to agree to meet up with Mother-In-Law, and we’ll talk things through when the time comes. But I’m actually quite worried. Although my mother-in-law appears calm and collected, she is definitely the no-nonsense type. I believe it won’t be easy, but it’s definitely not impossible.”
Rose pouted her mouth and said, "Humph! Told you not to flirt with girls everywhere you go. Back then when you had just returned, you acted all cold and confusing no matter how hard I tried to approach you. One hug was all it took for me to regret my decisions. If I knew being your woman would be such a burden, I’d rather stay single and enjoy peace.”
“Hehe. Babe, let’s agree to disagree,” Yang Chen continued with a smile. “Let’s look at Qianni for a moment. She keeps pushing through amidst the stress, but you’re free like a bird, with full control over your life. You need not worry about elders’ involvements. You definitely have it much better than she does.”
Rose’s face went gloom as she prompted an immediate response. “Yeah, I don’t have any elders. Nobody cares who I am...”
Yang Chen was stunned. He then called himself an idiot in his mind. Rose had sent her own father abroad and stayed back in China alone. He had effectively reminded her that she was all alone. He himself was the real ‘dummy’!
“Lin Ruoxi might have lost her mother and grandmother, but at least there’s Wang Ma who still cares for her. Similarly, Qianni has her mother Aunt Ma around, while Hubby, you were once an orphan but you’ve reunited with your mother… I guess I’m really the only one alone,” Rose muttered, dejected.
Yang Chen stretched his hand out and waved it ever so slightly in front of Rose’s eyes, just enough to catch her attention. Softly, he said, “I was wrong. It was wrong of me to say that. Babe, there might not be an elder looking after you, but there’s a man that loves you.”
Rose replied, “I’m not that weak and feeble, so don’t treat me like a child. Let’s eat.”
Yang Chen felt better after that. He stared at the dishes which had gotten cold before gobbling away.
After dinner, they paid the bill and left. They soon walked outside on the street filled with neon lights. Hardly any stars could be seen. Just the crescent moon hung in the sky.
“Since it’s still early, let’s take a walk, shall we?” Yang Chen suggested, since he rarely had free time like this. He wanted to spend more time with Rose.
Rose immediately accepted his request. For her to be able to spend time with Yang Chen alone was rare. Even if it was just a casual stroll.
Hand in hand the two of them were just like every other couple, strolling on the wide street, occasionally walking into tiny groceries, sometimes even into boutiques of the latest fashion brands.
While they were walking towards a junction with a street filled with food, Yang Chen abruptly halted his steps, and stared right at a chargrilled meat stand by the corner of the street…
Rose who was excited noticed something odd about Yang Chen, and stared to the direction he was focusing at. She saw him staring at a middle-aged man working at a store selling chargrilled meat.
“Hubby, who’s that? Do you know him? Are you guys friends?” Rose asked.
Yang Chen nodded. “I guess you could say that. You remember back then when I was selling mutton skewers, there was this Old Li that I mentioned all the time when I stopped by at your bar? That man is Old Li.”
“Ah, so it’s him.” Rose got the gist of it. “He’s the father of Li Jingjing right? How did he end up here? It’s pretty far from where he lives, isn’t it?”
Yang Chen lightly shook his head, for he was also wondering. Moreover, Old Li was busy grilling all kinds of skewer, with his body covered in sweat. He had clearly seen better days than this one judging by the exhaustion on his face.
As far as Yang Chen knew, Li Jingjing went to America, and it was funded by the government. Old Li and his wife shouldn’t be so tired, unlike when they used to pay for their daughter’s education.
Yang Chen signalled Rose before approaching Old Li’s stall. With a complexity-filled gaze, he stared upon his old friend who was busy.
Old Li had just finished grilling a few octopus skewers. He topped them off with some spices and habitually lifted his head. “Good day Sir, what would you like to order?”
Soon, Old Li quickly realized that the man standing in front was none other than Yang Chen whom he had not seen in a long while. He was shocked into speechlessness.
Yang Chen used to be his best friend back then, but since the incident concerning his daughter Li Jingjing took place, Old Li knew for a fact that he would never be close to Yang Chen again.
“Oh, it’s Yang Chen. Long time no see. What brought you over?” Old Li gave Yang Chen an awkward smile, and a simple nod to Rose who stood next to him.
Yang Chen felt a little overwhelmed—they were once brothers that had babbled and gagged together in the market. Now that they were finally face to face again, they both felt distant and awkward. And it was all because of a love without fruition, how ironic.
“Old Li, why did you come all the way here, it’s a little far from your place isn’t it?” Yang Chen asked out of concern.
Old Li on one hand continued grilling his skewers, and on the other replied Yang Chen with a bitter smile, “The market for my food there have really saturated over the years. I heard of a larger market down here so I moved my stall just recently. Just a few blocks away, it’s not really that tiresome.”
Yang Chen had long left the days as a mutton skewer chef, and had little knowledge of the business nowadays, so he nodded, but soon hesitantly continued with a question for him. “So… does Jingjing still keep in touch with everyone back home? I haven’t heard from her ever since she left to America. Is she enjoying her life there?”
Deep down in his heart Yang Chen missed the girl he had always treated as a sister, even if she had done some foolish acts years ago. How could he forget her? She had confessed to him so earnestly right after returning from abroad.
On the mention of his daughter, Old Li proudly boasted, “That girl? She does call back saying that she’s starting to get used to the life over there; nowadays she speaks pretty good English too. I heard her lecturers had been praising her for that, and were planning to take her in as an associate professor! With the way things are shaping up to be, she might be there a few more years.”
Yang Chen gave a smile and commented, “That’s great. If she really gets to be an associate professor there I bet the lives of you and your significant other would move up a notch.”
“I know right, glad that she still knows what she’s doing,” Old Li replied with contentment, but instantly had something else in mind. “Oh yeah Yang Chen, about the hundred thousand that I loaned back then for my wife’s medical expenses, I’m sorry that I’ve been constantly delaying the repayment. We don’t have any money to spare at the moment. But I promise I will surely pay you back in full one day.”
The memories of that finally came back to Yang Chen. Old Li once borrowed some money from him years ago. And because he had willingly given all the money in his savings, he had to start selling mutton skewers for a living.
But a hundred thousand yuan was nothing in his eyes. He casually replied, “Don’t worry about it. Take your time with it. I believe however that it’s Mrs Li that you should care a little more about. Take care of both of your health, you would want to be ready when Jingjing comes back right?”
Old Li burst into laughter as he replied, “Don’t worry about it. My bones are just as tough as they were years ago! Since it’s been so long since we last met, why don’t I get you and the lovely lady here some octopus skewers. It’s my treat!”
Through the conversations the both of them seemed to have rediscovered the bond they had, and Yang Chen made himself at home as he lifted his hands to grab the octopus tentacle skewer.
Right at that moment however, Old Li who was previously excited and jovial turned solemn and pale. With panic in his eyes, he stared at the direction behind Yang Chen, while the octopus skewers in his hands fell straight to the ground.