When Tiny Garden was about to close, Lu Lingxi received a call from Yan Yue. This was already the third time Yan Yue had called Lu Lingxi. Yan Yue didn’t have anything important to say, he just told Lu Lingxi to be safe on his way home. As the New Year was approaching, the security in Fengcheng was a bit chaotic recently, and there were a lot more petty thieves. Near the community where Lu Lingxi lived, there had been three robberies in just one week.
Lu Lingxi obediently listened to Yan Yue’s instructions and said, “I know, Big Brother Yan, I have Dahei and Xiaohei, it’s fine.”
Hearing his name, Dahei gave a low bark into the phone. Xiaohei lazily poked his head out of Lu Lingxi’s pocket and hissed, but Lu Lingxi didn’t know what he said.
Yan Yue laughed across the phone. This time when he returned to Zhongjing, he left Xiaohei at Lu Lingxi’s side. Although Xiaohei couldn’t do anything but eat, he could still show up and scare people at critical times. “Go home early, there’s no need to stay if the shop is empty.” He admonished about a few more things, and finally thought of something, “Don’t give Xiaohei any sweets for the next few days, his teeth are really about to fall out.” Yan Yue was a bit helpless when he said that. A snake that ate sweets until its teeth ached; Xiaohei really couldn’t go on like this.
Lu Lingxi gave an “en” and agreed with a smile.
After hanging up the phone, Lu Lingxi poked Xiaohei who was biting his sleeve. Xiaohei slowly wrapped himself around Lu Lingxi’s wrist and rubbed affectionately.
Lu Lingxi smiled, knowing that Xiaohei had heard Big Brother Yan’s words and was deliberately being coquettish. But Big Brother Yan was right, Xiaohei had a tendency to have caries now, and if he continued to eat sweets, Lu Lingxi was afraid that Xiaohei would become the first snake known to have lost its teeth from eating sweets. “Pouting doesn’t work either.” Lu Lingxi whispered, “From today onwards, Xiaohei, you can only drink sugar-free milk.”
Xiaohei showed his tongue, aggrieved, but unfortunately his protests were not effective at all.
After six o’clock, Lu Lingxi packed up and prepared to close the store. Wang Shuxiu called him and asked him to go home directly instead of going to the restaurant. Xiao Hong and Zhou Xiaoman were coming today, and Wang Shuxiu was going home to cook. “What do you want to eat?” Wang Shuxiu asked on the phone. The small restaurant had an abundance of ingredients, so Wang Shuxiu could prepare whatever they wanted to eat in advance.
“Cola chicken legs.” Lu Lingxi said, looking at Dahei.
Wang Shuxiu knew what was going on as soon as she heard it, “Okay, Dahei’s chicken legs are indispensable.”
Dahei’s ears swished up, but his face still looked calm. Lu Lingxi stroked Dahei’s head, put on his coat and locked the door, then trotted all the way back to the community. It was the time of the day when office workers were leaving work, and there were quite a few people on the street. Although it was a little dark, the street lights on both sides of the road were lit up, so it wasn’t as unsafe as Yan Yue had said. Besides, with Dahei by his side, Lu Lingxi felt very secure. He always felt that the people around him still treated him like a child; Yan Yue did, so did Wang Shuxiu, and even Dahei felt this way.
When he got home, Xiao Hong and Zhou Xiaoman had already arrived, and with Xiao Baiwan making trouble, the house was very lively. As soon as Lu Lingxi entered the door with Dahei, Xiao Baiwan rushed over. He felt a bit aggrieved. Ever since Xiao Hong came back, Xiao Baiwan had started eating vegetables again, and the double chin that Lu Lingxi had raised him to have feeding him several times a day was gone again.
“Our Xiao Baiwan is now so sticky to Xiao Xi that he’s about to change his name to Lu Baiwan.” Xiao Hong harrumphed.
Lu Lingxi knew the reason for this and smiled a little sheepishly. He didn’t dare to tell Uncle Xiao the truth about Xiao Baiwan’s hair loss, so of course Xiao Hong didn’t know that Xiao Baiwan had a happy life with Lu Lingxi during those few days, not only getting meat every day, but also having a snack at night.
“Xiao Xi, go wash your hands.” Wang Shuxiu poked her head out of the kitchen and shouted, “Are you hungry? There’s a cake on the table that your uncle brought, so if you’re hungry, eat a piece.”
Lu Lingxi agreed, took off his coat and went to wash his hands. In the pocket of his coat, Xiaohei poked his head out, staring unblinkingly at the cake on the table, drops of his saliva falling down and wetting Lu Lingxi’s clothes. When the people weren’t paying attention, Xiaohei slithered against the wall in the direction of the table.
“Come, come, eat first, there are a few more dishes that will be ready soon.”
As soon as Lu Lingxi washed his hands, Zhou Xiaoman brought out a pot of chicken drumsticks from the kitchen and placed them in the centre of the table. In a moment’s time, she and Wang Shuxiu had almost finished serving the dishes. The two sisters-in-law had prepared a very rich dinner. Wang Shuxiu was a good cook, and all the ingredients used were provided by Xiao Feng’s vegetable greenhouse, so the food was even more delicious, with an endless aftertaste.
Speaking of Yongchun vegetable greenhouse, it had only been one month since it opened, and it had already occupied a quarter of the sales share of Fengcheng vegetable wholesale market as a dark horse. Even though the supply price of Yongchun vegetables was a few points higher than other vegetable greenhouses’, their vegetables were still snapped up every day as soon as they were delivered. Xiao Feng was preparing to cooperate with several large supermarkets in the city these days, supplying vegetables to these supermarkets on a long-term and stable basis. The problem he’d encountered now was that the scale of his vegetable greenhouse was a bit small and there weren’t many different kinds of vegetables.
Talking at the dinner table, Xiao Feng wanted to persuade Xiao Hong to simply sell the little coal mine in his hometown and settle in Fengcheng in the future, with the two brothers working together. Xiao Feng didn’t think about it before, but now that he had a family of his own, he felt more and more that there were only a few family members around, so It was best to live together. Besides, Xiao Hong’s coal mine was too laborious, and he had to deal with many people every day and had to take care of every aspect. He also had to worry about the safety of the mine all the time, and if anything happened, it would be a big deal.
Xiao Feng said it earnestly and Xiao Hong’s heart moved. “I’ll think about it.” He didn’t say yes; after all, it was years of hard work and he couldn’t just give up everything. But Xiao Feng was right, there were only two brothers left in the old Xiao family, and it wasn’t a good idea to be apart all year round; it was better to be together.
“But,” Xiao Hong took advantage of Wang Shuxiu’s lack of attention to ask Xiao Feng in a low voice, “if your elder brother sells the mine, what about a certain someone in the mine?” He spoke vaguely, but both brothers knew he was referring to Lu Yishui.
Xiao Feng smiled carelessly, “Xiaohua and I are married, and Xiao Xi is now my son, so if he dares to come back and cause trouble, I’ll break his legs. As for the rest, forget it, consider it accumulating virtue for Xiaohua.”
“Good.” Xiao Hong was satisfied, “If you are a man, you have to protect your wife and family. Our old Xiao family doesn’t have a tradition of letting their wives suffer.”
“Good what?” Zhou Xiaoman glared at him, “What are you two brothers muttering about? Have you eaten enough?”
Xiao Hong immediately turned from tempered steel into soft fingers to Zhou Xiaoman and said patiently, “I didn’t say anything, and I’m almost full. By the way, bring the cake over and share some with everyone, it won’t taste good tomorrow.”
The cake had been placed on the windowsill by Xiao Feng during the meal, so he stood up and went to bring it. As soon as he took it, he felt that something was wrong; the cake felt a little too light. When Xiao Feng took a look, Xiaohei, wrapped in whipped cream, was eating happily inside the cake. The whole cake was turned with an empty shell on the outside and the inside was basically hollowed out by Xiaohei.
Xiao Feng speechlessly grabbed Xiaohei’s tail and pulled him out of the cake. Xiaohei struggled with his head covered with whipped cream.
Xiao Hong laughed out loud, “It was a bargain for the little snake cub, it knows what a good thing is!”
This cake wasn’t cheap, it was said to be some kind of pure organic cream. A ten inch cake cost Xiao Hong a little over a thousand yuan.
Lu Lingxi took Xiaohei from Xiao Feng with a headache, carried him to the bathroom and washed him for a long time before washing off all the cream on his body. Then he opened Xiaohei’s mouth and looked at it, moving Xiaohei’s teeth. “Just eat it, I won’t care about you if you have a toothache.” Lu Lingxi threatened. He was a little curious where Xiaohei had put everything he’d eaten. Although that cake was not large, it was enough for four or five people to eat. Xiaohei hollowed out the cake into an empty shell by himself, but Lu LIngxi didn’t see any bulging belly at all.
Xiaohei hissed and showed his tongue, ingratiatingly swaying left and right around Lu Lingxi. Lu Lingxi said seriously, “It doesn’t matter if you wag your tail like Dahei, you must tell Big Brother Yan about this.”
Yan Yue was much more authoritative than Lu Lingxi in Xiaohei’s eyes. As soon as Lu Lingxi finished speaking, Xiaohei’s body stiffened and he quickly coiled his tail up, burying his entire head under it.
Lu Lingxi: “……”
At night before going to bed, Yan Yue received a call from Lu Lingxi. On the phone, Lu Lingxi ruthlessly revealed Xiaohei’s disobedient behaviour. Yan Yue chuckled as he listened amusedly to Xiaohei hiding on the windowsill and emptying the cake and then pretending to be dead.
“Wait for me to go back and punish him.” Yan Yue’s treatment was simple and brutal.
Lu Lingxi heard that and spoke in Xiaohei’s defence, “Punishment won’t be necessary, he will know how bad it is when he has a toothache.”
Yan Yue guessed that Lu Lingxi would be soft-hearted, a smile appeared in his eyes and he said softly, “Good boy! Now enough about Xiaohei, did you miss Big Brother Yan, Xiao Xi?”
Lu Lingxi paused and said honestly, “Yes.”
He was used to being with Yan Yue every day, and when Yan Yue left, Lu Lingxi felt like there was emptiness next to him. Although Dahei and Xiaohei were there, as well as Wang Shuxiu and Xiao Feng, they were not Yan Yue and couldn’t replace his existence.
Yan Yue’s heart suddenly softened. He held the phone and walked to the window, where the red lanterns under the eaves had been lit and the courtyard was overflowing with light. Yan Yue imagined the person on the other end of the phone, as if holding Lu Lingxi in his arms through the void. He softened his tone and coaxed in a low voice, “Big Brother Yan misses you too. In a few days Big Brother Yan will go back.”
Lu Lingxi hesitated for a few seconds and whispered, “There’s no rush, Big Brother Yan, you have things to do first, there’s no need to rush back.”
It wasn’t that he didn’t understand anything. When he was in the Lu family in the past, every New Year the Lu family was the busiest. He remembered very clearly that year after year, his grandfather would take them to pay respects to their ancestors, to greet the families they knew and to attend one banquet after another to socialise. Except for the ancestral rituals, of course, nothing else required Lu Lingxi’s presence. But when he stayed in the ancestral home, he could see his cousins bustling around every day, without any of the leisurely atmosphere of the New Year. He thought that the Yan family in Zhongjing was similar to the Lu family, so he guessed that Big Brother Yan would have to do all these things.
“Don’t worry, Big Brother Yan is fine.”
Hearing the worry in Lu Lingxi’s words, Yan Yue smiled, comforting him. The Yan family was sparse, and he never acknowledged the existence of Yan Hai and Yin Ya, so apart from the necessary visits from the first to the third day of the year, there really wasn’t much going on.
“Oh.” Lu Lingxi agreed; he would be quite happy to see Yan Yue earlier.
Yan Yue smiled faintly, glancing at the time; although he couldn’t bear to hang up the phone, it was already the point where Lu Lingxi usually went to bed. Yan Yue resisted the urge to continue the conversation and said, “Xiao Xi should go to bed.”
“Mm, I’m going to bed then, Big Brother Yan, you go to bed early too.”
Listening to the sound of the phone hanging up on the other side, Yan Yue put his phone away, but he didn’t feel like sleeping at all. After half a year, he once again tasted the taste of insomnia. Tossing and turning, unable to sleep, Yan Yue lit a cigarette and stood in front of the window. It had been a long time since he had smoked, and with Lu Lingxi in charge of him in Fengcheng, he had almost given up the habit. If the young man knew that he was smoking behind his back, he would probably give him another solemn lecture on the dangers of cigarettes. Yan Yue thought of the young man’s serious expression and smiled silently, simply stubbing the cigarette he was holding.
Outside, the wind blew and whistled. Yan Yue’s mind flashed back to what Ye Kang had said this afternoon. Yan Yue didn’t care about the Lu family’s illegitimate son or whatever; he was focused on his grandfather’s wish for him to marry the Lu family. Yan Yue understood what Grandpa meant, wanting to use the Lu family’s strength to consolidate Yan Yue’s position as heir. Not to mention that he didn’t need to rely on any marriage to consolidate his position at all, he had Xiao Xi and he would never marry any woman. Besides, the Lu family… Yan Yue sneered. Although the Lu family split up long ago and Lu Guangjing’s family did not live in the Lu family ancestral home, he didn’t believe that the Lu family didn’t know about Xiao Xi’s situation. Perhaps because Elder Lu had many grandchildren, one more or one less didn’t matter.
Yan Yue gently tapped on the windowsill. Refusing this marriage wasn’t a problem for him, but if he simply refused, things would be a bit boring. Yin Ya had been jumping up and down trying to catch a golden husband, hadn’t she? He thought Lu Wei’an would be a good match. Imagining his father’s headache after the marriage between the Yin and the Lu families, Yan Yue hooked the corner of his mouth and had an idea.