"Yundong... I wanna cook for you! Let me cook for you! Please?"
Li Yundong's brows shot to his hairline.
"You wanna cook for me?" Li Yundong asked quizzically. "But why?"
"I just feel like it! Please let me do it! Pleeeeaaasee?"
Boy if his knees didn't go weak a little when he heard her voice.
Suddenly, Li Yundong smiled. "Ah... I know what this is about," Li Yundong said, nodding at her. "Aww. You poor thing. You feel guilty, don't you?"
Su Chan went into a panic in an instant.
Guilty? Oh, no! He knows! He knows all about my plans to perform Yang Feeding! He—
I mean, I'm in here working hard, but you're out there lazing off. So you feel bad?" Li Yundong said.
Oh. Okay. So he doesn't know yet. Phew...
Su Chan hid her relief and nodded her head like a chicken searching for food.
Once again, Li Yundong found himself drawn to Su Chan's irresistible eyes, which were large, watery, and filled with so much anticipation that he could drown in it.
So she feels bad, huh? She really didn't have to... Cooking for her actually makes me happy, Li Yundong thought. Then again... there is one way she could make it up to me...
Li Yundong smirked, then bent down slightly so that his face was level with Su Chan's.
"You could always reward me with a kiss if you feel bad," Li Yundong said. "Besides, I don't think it's a good idea for you to be hanging around the kitchen too much. I mean, it's gonna be so greasy and smoky in here once the cooking starts. Don't want to ruin your perfect skin now, do we?"
"Noooo... I don't wanna kiss you, I wanna cook!" Su Chan said, swinging his arm from side to side.
Her voice actually sounded whiny.
"Alright, alright. Hey, hey, stop. Stop! You're gonna dislocate my shoulder! Geez!" Li Yundong said, pulling his arm free. "Fine then. What do you have in mind O great chef Su Chan? Egg fried rice? Omelettes?" Li Yundong smirked. "Oh, wait. Don't tell me you're planning to make... plain rice?"
Su Chan blushed and slapped Li Yundong on the arm. "Oh, shut up! Plain rice doesn't even count as a dish!"
Li Yundong laughed. "Why not? Plain rice is extremely important! You can't have a good meal without plain rice. Besides..." Li Yundong poked at Su Chan's cheek teasingly. "It doesn't require any skill at all."
Su Chan slapped his hand away.
"I can cook!" Su Chan snapped. "Don't you dare underestimate me!"
"Okay, okay, my dear princess. I'm sure you can cook," Li Yundong backtracked. "So. Tell me. What are you planning to make?"
Su Chan's displeasure turned into delight in an instant.
"I'm going to make... braised fish!"
"Braised fish?" Li Yundong said, leaning back slightly. "You know how to make braised fish? Ooh. Okay... Seems like I've really underestimated you."
"Of course! This is me we're talking about," Su Chan said, nodding with pride.
One would think she'd just been awarded a Michelin Star.
Li Yundong stared at Su Chan in amusement.
"Very well," he said. "Show me what you've got, master chef."
He headed towards the fridge and took out a gutted whole fish, then placed the fish onto the chopping board.
He smiled at her and said, "Go ahead."
Su Chan began rolling up her sleeves.
"Prepare to be amazed!"
Once her sleeves were rolled up, Su Chan picked up the knife and stared at the fish intently. Li Yundong honestly thought she might start shooting lazer beams from her eyes to roast the fish on the chopping board. Then...
Li Yundong actually felt sorry for the poor fish, which had instantly been cleaved into two halves when Su Chan brought the knife down onto the chopping board as though she was cutting down her sworn enemy.
Li Yundong did a face palm. That's not how you slice a fish, missy... What are you making? Minced fish?
"Hm... That's... an interesting way to slice a whole fish, my dear princess."
Su Chan turned around and made a face at him. "Hush! My hand slipped, that's all!"
"Right. Your hand slipped," he said dryly. "Well, try not to let your hand slip again."
Su Chan turned around and brandished the knife.
"Go on then! Keep talking and I'll show you how slippery this knife is!" she said menacingly.
Li Yundong raised his palms in surrender.
"Alright, alright. I'll shut up now."
"Hmph!" Su Chan said, grinning in satisfaction. "Now that's better."
She turned back to the chopping board, then stared at the fish which had been sliced width-wise into two halves.
Su Chan's knife hand hovered above the fish, moving back and forth a few times.
It took him a while, but Li Yundong eventually figured out that she was tracing the fish's body (bodies, really) with the tip of the knife.
The poor fish was cleaved again, lengthwise this time.
Yep. Master Chef over there had just quartered the fish.
At that moment, Li Yundong looked as though he'd just spent an hour in a torture chamber thanks to Su Chan's terrific "knife skills." After a while, when he saw Su Chan rearranging the fish on the chopping board, he decided it was time for him to intervene; otherwise they might be having fish chunks for dinner.
"Hey, I think you should let me—"
The chopping board fell to the floor.
Correction: pieces of the chopping board fell to the floor.
As it turned out, the fish wasn't the only thing that had been quartered.
"Holy shit!" Li Yundong exclaimed, gaping at the broken pieces on the floor. A moment later, he bent down and picked up the pieces, then gave Su Chan a huge thumbs up. "Well done, samurai."
Su Chan colored slightly.
"I- I was a little nervous with you standing so close. I guess I used too much strength..."
You guess? You just broke the chopping board! Li Yundong thought. Great, now I have to get a new one.
He retreated all the way to the entryway and stood beside the kitchen door.
"Is this far enough?"
"Hush, hush!" Su Chan said. Admittedly, she was panicking a little because of the chopping board's demise. She had no idea that the thing was so soft! How embarrassing! But no matter, she had to focus on the task! Yes, the task! Braised fish! Good thing she was there when her master prepared it last time. What's the next step... what's the next step...? Right! The condiments!
Li Yundong leaned against the kitchen door, watching her work. He kept his mouth shut this time lest he ended up having to dodge flying knives. What on earth is she looking for? Li Yundong thought after about a minute of watching Su Chan bustling about in front of the stove like a headless fly.
"Stop moving around so much, will you?" he said. "You're making me dizzy!"
"Where did you put the salt!"
"Seriously?" Li Yundong said exasperatedly. "It's on the shelf on your right!"
Su Chan moved to the shelf, then grabbed a bottle of something.
"Come on, not that one," Li Yundong said. "That's pepper!" Su Chan put the bottle back.
"No..." Li Yundong sighed. "That's the chilli powder. Geez, can't you tell the difference between white and red? Are you color blind?"
"Oh for f*ck's sake..." Li Yundong walked over and grabbed the salt shaker himself after Su Chan's nth failed "attempt" to find it.
"There," he said, waving the salt shaker in front of Su Chan's face. "Seriously, it's just salt. Is it so hard to find?"
Su Chan snatched the salt shaker, then went back to work. Minutes passed with Su Chan fumbling around the kitchen and Li Yundong nagging her ears off from the door. At one point, Su Chan turned around abruptly with her cheeks puffed out, then pushed Li Yundong out the kitchen door. She positioned him against the outer wall of the kitchen.
"Stay there!!" she said.
Then, she stormed into the kitchen. A second later, she ran out of the kitchen and stood in front of the entryway with her arms akimbo.
"You're not allowed to speak either!"
Li Yundong shook his head and laughed wryly.
Girl's got some pride, that's for sure.
Li Yundong leaned his chest against the wall, then peered into the kitchen from the edge of the wall. More fumbling and moving around ensued, after which Su Chan began scratching her head with a puzzled look on her face. He had no idea what the problem was, though he kept his mouth shut.
After a long while, Su Chan burst out of the kitchen.
"Hey! Can't you see that I'm in trouble?" She stomped her feet. "You won't even try to help me?"
Li Yundong wanted to pull his hair out and go bald, honest to God.
"You're the one who told me not to speak!"
"Fine! You can speak now!"
Li Yundong tamped down the urge to laugh.
"Fine. What's troubling you?"
Su Chan blushed and looked down, fiddling with her sleeves.
"H- how do you start a... a fire?"
Li Yundong burst into laughter, then reached out to ruffle Su Chan's hair.
Su Chan shrieked and leaped away with her hands covering her head.
Li Yundong stepped forward and held Su Chan's hand, then led her into the kitchen. They stopped in front of the gas stove.
"This is a gas stove," Li Yundong said. "We don't have to burn stuff to start a fire anymore. This thing runs on gas." Li Yundong positioned Su Chan's hand on top of the knob, then covered her hand with his own. "First, you press down. Then you turn."
Tiny dots of blue flames circled the rims of the burner.
"See that?” Li Yundong said, looking at Su Chan. “Do you understand how to operate it now?"
Su Chan was too awestruck to respond. She stared at the blue flames with wide and curious eyes. What sorcery was powerful enough to pull fire out of thin air! This was even more interesting than talking boxes!
When Su Chan recovered from her stupor, she turned to the side and saw Li Yundong grinning at her with a teasing glint in his eyes. She blushed and pushed Li Yundong out of the kitchen again. This time, she pushed him all the way to the living room.
"Stay here! Come in only when I'm done!" she said, then stormed off again.
Li Yundong shook his head and laughed, then jumped slightly when the kitchen door slammed shut.
With nothing else better to do, Li Yundong reached for the TV remote, only to be reminded that the TV was probably sitting at the back of some dumpster truck en route to a waste disposal site.
Worse, he hadn't replaced the TV yet.
Should really go look for a TV tonight... Can't drag this out any longer. My rent is due soon... I'm screwed if the landlady finds out...
Once she was sure that the door was closed, Su Chan returned to the stove where the magical blue flames were still steadily burning. She focused her gaze on the flames, then gave her hand a quick wave.
The flames flew from the stove to her palm.
Su Chan toyed with the blue flames, spinning it around on top of her palm. After a while, she got bored. What a disappointment, she thought, staring at the blue flames jiggling above her palm. I thought there's some powerful magic involved. But they're so weak compared to the Flames of Samadhi...
Su Chan formed a fist, crushing the blue flames.
Then, she went back to dealing with the fish, completely unaware of the disaster that awaited her...
In the living room, Li Yundong had just lain down on the carpet when he heard a knock on the door.
Who could it be?
Li Yundong sat up with a frown. He wasn't exactly a sociable person, so he didn't have a lot of friends from the university. A few acquaintances, sure, though none of them knew his address.
Who could be looking for me at this hour? Li Yundong thought, standing up and heading to the door.
When Li Yundong looked out through the peephole, he nearly passed out in shock.
The plump woman standing outside the door was none other than his landlady!
F*ck... Li Yundong thought, casting an anxious glance towards empty wall mount where the TV was supposed to be attached, then towards bowl-sized hole on the ceiling where the pendant light was supposed to hang from. Dammit! I'm screwed... Li Yundong thought, breaking out in cold sweat.
Li Yundong looked through the peephole once again.
Calm down, man. Just don't answer the door. Maybe she'll think I'm not home, then decide to come back another time, which leaves me with enough time to repla— Shit!
The landlady pulled out a key. Li Yundong stepped away from the peephole with a defeated sigh.
"Who are you?! How did you get in there?!" A woman's high-pitched shriek nearly blasted his ears off the moment he opened the door.
Li Yundong smiled.
"It's me, Madam He! Li Yundong!"
Apparently, that revelation surprised the landlady even more than finding out that there was a stranger inside her property. Her eyes, wide with shock, swept over Li Yundong's figure from head to toe, then back up again. Can't believe this kid looks so nice once he lost weight... But it won't make much of a difference if he still continues to dress like a bumpkin.
The landlady stood at the door, fanning herself with her hand.
"I thought you weren't home! I called you so many times, why didn't you pick up your phone?"
Li Yundong went back to the living room and retrieved his phone. There were about a dozen missed calls.
"Ah, well. Sorry ma'am. We had rehearsals this morning, so I didn't hear your calls."
Li Yundong didn't want the landlady to come in, so he didn't retrieve the home slippers from the shoe rack for her.
"How can I help you, ma'am?"
Alas, the landlady wasn't looking to be invited; she walked in on her own.
"Isn't your rent due in ten days? I have a potential tenant. I'm here to show them the place and collect your rent at the same time."
A feminine voice sounded from outside the door: "Sheesh... What's so nice about this place? Why do we have to stay here? It's not like you don't own any properties!"
Then there was a chuckle.
"It's more peaceful here," the man said. "Some peace and quiet would do us some good, don't you think?"
"You're lying! You're just afraid to get caught by your wife!"
"Hey, that's not it! Come on, I already told you that my wife and I are finalizing our divorce! You're the only one I love! You know that!"
The woman snorted.
"Men," she said in a contemptuous tone. "You're all liars. I know I'm just one of your many mistresses."
A woman dressed in a cream-colored minidress stepped through the door.
Nice legs, Li Yundong thought, then glanced at the woman's face. Quite pretty. Wonder what she looks like without the heavy makeup...
The woman strutted into the apartment, her heels clicking with every step. When she arrived at the living room, her eyes gleamed when she saw Li Yundong. Ooh... And who might you be, handsome? He's got a sunny look too. Not bad at all...
Behind the woman, a man walked in. This man was about half a head shorter than the woman and was dressed in a horrendous floral shirt. And seriously, who wears shades at night, not to mention inside a frigging building? The top three buttons of the shirt were unbuttoned, revealing his bare chest and a gold necklace which was as thick as a human thumb. Around his waist, he wore a fanny pack, which, judging from its size, was pretty stuffed.
Welcome to my humble abode, Mr. Nouveau Riche and his mistress.