Quality Check: Kittsune
First Published on Ainushi.
After spending a delightful weekend in Jiayi, we returned to Taipei. In the end, my mom never agreed to having the twins and I get engaged, mostly because they had not graduated from university yet. The twins did not insist any further either, and I left feeling like I had just barely escaped by the skin of my teeth.
On Monday I punctually went to campus for school, and as soon as I walked into class, the first thing I saw was Yan Shui Lin listlessly and gloomily sprawled out across her desk. As soon she saw me, her energy speedily rebounded in recovery and she darted over to me with a bright smile on her face. She was holding a meticulously handmade bento box in her hands. I had no idea why she wanted to be my friend so much and why she hovered around me constantly.
“Hiyo, Qing Xia, how come you’re so late? I waited for you for like ages! I brought some tasty pastries  for breakfast and thought we could eat it together,” she enthusiastically said to me.
“I ate breakfast already,” I denied her request indifferently.
Hearing my response, disappointment floated up her beautiful face.
Honestly, I didn’t really dislike her. There wasn’t anybody who could hate such a straightforward, affable, and absolutely beautiful girl like her. However, sometimes I got the sense that her feelings about me weren’t so pure. Sometimes the look in her eyes when she watched me seemed to hide something that wasn’t just mere friendship.
Her disappointed look made me feel slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps I was overthinking it. Maybe she just really wanted to find a legitimate friend. I knew at this point that within upper class society, there weren’t such things like sincere affection, love, or friendship.
“Well I might still be a little hungry, so can I try a little of the pastries?”
“Of course. Which one do you like? I brought seven different kinds of pastries. These ones are sweet, and those ones are salty.” Hearing my words, the smile once again returned to her face. She excitedly opened the bento box and started to show off some exquisite and mouth-watering pastries.
I picked up a rose-shaped yellow pastry from the wide selection and delicately placed it inside my mouth. A sweet and silky soft flavor immediately spread throughout my mouth. This pastry was amazingly good!
“It’s really good and it melts in my mouth. Where did you buy it?” The taste of the delicious food made me almost close my eyes in intoxication. I decided that once I got home, I’d tell Mama Yu, and then we could buy this kind in the future.
“It’s not store-bought, it’s homemade.” She picked up a red pastry with a sparkling smile on her face as she offered it to me to try.
“Really? The cook at your home has really great hands.” I exclaimed in admiration while I continued to eat. I was a little envious. Mama Yu’s cooking was indeed very good, but she wasn’t an expert at making sweets. Furthermore, both Mama Yu and the twins didn’t like tarty or sugary snacks. Even though my own cooking skills weren’t bad, I wasn’t any good at making elegant pastries. Furthermore, the sweets you could buy outside weren’t even as good as this.
“It wasn’t the cook who made them either. I made them myself.” Yan Shui Lin munched on the snacks as she corrected my statement.
I looked at her in shock. She made these these delicious and exquisite little pastries? That was practically unbelievable. Who could have imagined that a rich girl who looked so carefree and tomboyish as her could unexpectedly make such delectable things with her own hands?
“Wow! Your skills are incredible! Please teach me!” I pulled on her sleeves in excitement. I absolutely had to learn how to make such tasty sweets. Perhaps one day I’d even be able to open up a confectionary shop to support myself.
She smiled as she agreed. “Sure. When you’re free, you can come over to my house to play and I’ll teach you how to make these treats. I’ve always had a hobby of making sweets, so my family bought me a professional oven and a few other appliances.”
And thus the friendship between two women bloomed.
We didn’t have class Wednesday afternoon so Yan Shui Lin and I arranged to go to her house to learn how to make sweets. I told Zhao Yi Bo about my plans over the phone, and when he learned that the person whom I was spending time with was one of my female classmates, he agreed without delving deeply into the details.
We rode Yan Shui Lin’s private car to the Yan family home. That was when I suddenly realized that even though the twins and Yan Shui Lin had just come of age, and they in theory were only just recently able to test for their driver’s licenses, their driving skills were extremely smooth and proficient. It was nothing like somebody who had just earned their license.
“When did you start learning to drive?” I asked her strangely.
She answered me from behind the wheel. “Probably around ten years old. But back then it was only to play around here and there around the house. The first time I properly drove onto the streets was when I was fifteen.”
“You drove without a license? Weren’t you afraid of getting into an accident?” Or was it was no big deal if a rich person hit one or two “ordinary people” because they could be paid off with money? I felt a bad reaction rise up from inside of me.
Perhaps because she saw the displeasure and revulsion inside me, she hurriedly explained, “Not at all. When I was fifteen, I got my driver’s license overseas. Why else would I dare drive? I’ve always been a upstanding citizen who obeys the law.”
“Ah.” So that was the case after all. It must have been similar for the twins too. I had always assumed they were people who didn’t care an inkling about the law.
“Can you drive?” she asked.
“I can’t.” In a metropolis like Taipei, I was probably an anomaly for not being able to drive. “I don’t even have a car, so why would I learn to drive?”
“I can give you a car,” she zestfully spoke. “I have several cars under my name and I can’t drive them all, so afterwards we can go pick the one you like!”
To be so whimsical while making this kind of gift, I didn’t even know how to react.
“Young lady, do you even have common sense about money? Do you know how much a single car costs? If you go on like this, even if your family has a mountain of gold and silver, you’ll waste it all away one day. At that point you’ll be forced to sell sweets  to make a living,” I said in exasperation.
A Chinese-brand car was worth at least several hundred thousand , and for an ordinary salary worker with a monthly wage of a few ten thousand Taiwan dollars, it would take at least two to three years before they could buy one. Furthermore, the types of cars the rich drove were definitely not the economy-class Chinese cars, but rather limited edition sports cars that were worth several million . How could she randomly give such precious thing to a friend as a gift?
Does she have any sense about spending money?
“I definitely won’t spend away my family’s wealth. Besides, even if I actually managed to do such a thing, I can take care of myself. And I don’t need to sell pastries. I only make sweets for the people that I love, not because I want to sell them for money.” She unhappily pouted, and the peeved look she had made her look a little childish. It didn’t match very well with the easy-mannered and stylish appearance she normally had.
I thought this was rather humorous so I started laughing. Soon after, she started giggling along when she saw the smile on my face.
Hehe~~~ she really is such a cute girl. I think we’ll be able to become good friends.
- This term “pastry” — in Chinese here actually refers to a large array of different foods. It’s probably more accurate to call it “refreshments/snacks”, in the sense that they’re small portions of small amounts of foods. The difference between Chinese “snacks” and Western ones is that it’s not uncommon to have an entire meal of only “snacks” — typically breakfast or lunch (e.g. Dim Sum). “Snacks” consist of pastries, cookies, deserts, dumplings, little buns, etc. “Snacks” can be hot or cold, sweet or salty, meat-filled or vegetarian, so it’s probably more accurate to think of it as “refreshments/finger food” or “dessert”. One key feature about these “pastries/snacks” is that they’re usually made in an intricate way that is pleasing to the eye. [back]
- Selling sweets on the streets: In Chinatown, bakeries and that kind of thing are considered a low-end occupation for the poor. Generally speaking, I’d assume it’s similarly the case in China. [back]
- Hundred thousand for a car: Probably in the ten thousands in USD. [back]
- Limited edition sports cars worth several million: Probably in the hundreds of thousands in USD. [back]