Chapter 35: Humbert Humbert Two

TL: QuantumC, Editor: IsaLee

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The overworked service crew had finally arrived. It would probably take them a while to get the elevator going again. Those who were waiting gradually lost their patience and started leaving one by one.

The coffee machine weighed about twelve kilos. That, plus the packaging, made it quite a heavy load — it was almost 30 pounds in total.

Although Fei Du hadn’t been working out regularly, he was, after all, a fit and healthy young man who had no problem climbing up the stairs with a load of 30-ish pounds. The problem was: how.

Rectangular boxes were probably the most anti-human inventions ever created. No matter how you carry it, whether if it was with the arms or on the back, you would end up in a very awkward pose. Mr. Fei thought of many positions, none of which made past his own censorship for elegance. Nevertheless, it was the fruit from his tree, and he had to swallow it no matter how many wrinkles on the shirt it would take. “The hell with face and grace,” he thought, flinging the box onto his speckless shoulder. “Thank God there are only some grumbling old men and balding old dogs around.”

The moment he gave into his luck and stepped up the first flight of stairs, a voice from behind uttered, “Which floor are you going to? Need any help?”

Fei Du turned around and saw two beautiful ladies, a tall one and a little one.

The tall lady looked like she was in her early 20s and resembled some female celebrities. She was holding the hand of a teenage girl who looked to be a little over ten. The girl was wearing a princess bun and a lovely floral dress, holding an ice-cream in her other hand. As she licked the ice-cream, the little girl stared at Fei Du with curiosity.

It only took Fei Du half a second to decide on tossing the box. Then he put on the charm that could pass for a runway model, and smiled, “Am I blocking the way? Sorry about that.”

“Oh no no, I wasn’t coming this way. I just saw you with that big box and… I thought it looked quite heavy.” The tall belle hesitated and turned to the elevator, “It’s steaming hot today, and the elevator isn’t working… Maybe you could wait for a little while here. Perhaps it will be fixed shortly.”

The experienced playboy Mr. Fei was more than willing. Obviously losing track of time, he let the little girl sit on his box and stood by the two. Before long he got a nice conversation going in the shabby elevator room.

“It’s been more than five minutes…anyone would’ve made it already.” Tao Ran watched Luo Wenzhou plate the mouth-watering curry chicken and glanced at his watch, “How come Fei Du’s still not here?”

Luo Wenzhou calmly directed his underlings to plate the other dishes and uncovered the pot for the braised pork shank: “Dunno. Maybe he planted himself downstairs and started budding there.”

As he spoke, he tasted the sauce with a soup spoon. It was good, but something seemed to be missing. “Do you have rock sugar?”

“Nope.” Tao Ran answered as he was changing his shoes, “I’ll go down and check on him. I can get some for you. What kind do you want?”

Luo Wenzhou frowned: “I don’t think he needs picking up…You spoil him too much.”

Tao Ran grinned agreeably. Then, to his surprise, Luo Wenzhou came over and started changing shoes too.

“…” Tao Ran was clueless, “What are you doing?”

“I’m getting the rock sugar,” said Luo Wenzhou. “You don’t know the kind that I need.”

Tao Ran read his face and thought that this strangely sounded like a cover story.

Luo Wenzhou replied: “What?”

Tao Ran pondered, then spoke: “You two seem to be in truce lately. Are you friendlier towards him now?”

Luo Wenzhou paused. Then he waved one hand as if brushing off the ridiculous question, “Nonsense. Friendly? I just didn’t want to lower myself to fight with that little shithead anymore.”

At the same time, “that little shithead” Mr. Fei was flaunting his full set of well-rehearsed suave manners with the pretty ladies amid the clattering ensemble of elevator-repairing tools.

Luo Wenzhou, shrouded in the smell of curry, felt that he was almost blinded by this rotting bourgeoisie-style extravagance from miles away. He never saw eye to eye with Fei Du’s conduct or demeanor: “If not born with a silver spoon, this good-for-nothing Romeo probably couldn’t even pass for a successful beggar,” he thought.

Luo Wenzhou approached them sullenly and was just about to vent with something along the lines of, “Are those legs of yours for breathing?” or “Would you die from climbing the stairs?” But all of a sudden, he heard Tao Ran gasp behind him. Shakily, Tao Ran said: “Chang… ahem… Chang Ning?”

The lady turned around. Astonished by the happy coincidence, she chuckled, “Hah, Tao Ran? What are you doing here?”

Fei Du and Luo Wenzhou both froze for a second. The two enemies shared a rare tacit understanding at that moment. Sizing up the situation, both of them smelled something out of the ordinary from how those two had greeted each other.

Tao Ran blushed from ear to ear and had completely forgotten where he was, or who (else) he was with.

He moved closer to the lady clumsily and stuttered: “I… I’ve been living here since yesterday. I just moved. You… How come…”

“Seriously? I live here too!” Chang Ning grinned to him with a pair of cute dimples, “What are the odds! It must be destiny haha. See? I didn’t fool you: my apartment is very close to the subway, really convenient.”

Tao Ran was first buzzed by the word “destiny”, and then reminded of that disastrous date night. Embarrassed, he rambled: “Ah… that time… yeah, I mean… I’m really sorry for the accide… incident. Sorry that I didn’t accompany you home…”

The forgotten Cap Luo and Mr. Fei both grasped the gist and realized who the lady was.

Knowing it was one thing, but witnessing it was something on a whole new level. The two rivals glanced at each other, both feeling very …complicated.

The target of their heated rivalry was in fact as straight as the Monkey King’s Sea-quenching Magic Needle.

And this Jingu-Bang was currently acting like any freshman in Romantic Relationships 101 in front of his dream girl.

The two leading rivals-in-love silently watched the show from the side bench with a bulky home appliance in between them.

Out there, the trees flaunted their vigor in the hot steamy summer with crickets and birds chirping in the fifty-shades of green. To summarize it in a verse— 

Roses are red.

Violets are blue.

Someone as straight as a gun barrel,

got two peacocks battling like fools.

The little girl on the box sensed none of the awkwardness in the air. She finished nibbling the crispy ice-cream cone and reached one hand out to Fei Du: “Brother, do you have a napkin please?”

Three minutes later, Tao Ran finally managed to successfully extend the party invitation to his femme de rêve. Chang Ning hesitated for a second, then nodded “yes”. The exuberant Cap Tao then completed ignored his other two brothers and courteously led the ladies upstairs…

The other two were left speechless in the elevator room, stunned by the unexpected slap on the face — a gift from reality.

Luo Wenzhou commented: “I’m getting some mixed feelings right now.”

Fei Du retracted his eyes from Tao Ran and signaled to the big box with his chin like a boss. Before the late-coming “rookie” could respond, he tucked hands into his pockets and waltzed away upstairs.

Luo Wenzhou: “…”

Maybe he was imagining it, but it felt as if Fei Du was getting more and more brazen with him lately.

At last, Luo Wenzhou acted like the bigger person and took on the coffee machine. Despite the gesture, he didn’t want to let Fei Du have it so easily. He sneered to the man’s back: “C’mon, it’s not even heavy. Didn’t know that you were so impotent.”

Fei Du turned to him from a couple stairs above, looking down: “You wanna try it?”

Luo Wenzhou: “……”

Perhaps Fei Du simply was bugged by what just happened and needed some place to vent. Whatever the reason was, he suddenly felt amused by Luo Wenzhou’s speechless expression. He sized Luo Wenzhou up as his eyes twinkled with mischief. Without warning, Fei Du closed in on Luo Wenzhou from above until he could see his own face filling Luo’s light colored irises. 

Luo Wenzhou was into men by design. Taken aback, he instinctively took a step back down. 

Fei Du dropped a silent smile and lightly knocked on the side of the box with one of his slender fingers —”Rat-a-tat” — so ambivalent and suggestive, as if it was a knock on the heart. Luo Wenzhou instantly felt a shiver up his spine. Before he knew it, his shirt was sweaty. 

However, at that time, the starter of it all considered it to be a “mission accomplished” and continued with his waltz up the stairs. 

Luo Wenzhou: “……”

Son of a !@#$

Tao Ran and Luo Wenzhou went down for rock sugar and came back with a goddess and an “impotent” Mr. Grey. 

After all, they forgot to get the rock sugar and had to go with regular sugar instead.

“Goddess” Chang Ning was an office lady who had just transferred to the Yancheng City branch of her company. She was single, and she temporarily lived with her aunt. The little girl she was with was her little cousin, Chen-chen, whom Chang Ning was baby-sitting at the time.

With the arrival of the new guests, Tao Ran’s living room became even more bubbly. Some went to play with the kid, and the rest were booing Tao Ran, demanding the full story. Tao Ran blushed and stuttered and finally resorted to the strategy of “Change of Subject”. He pointed at Fei Du and asked Lang Qiao: “Hey, didn’t you bring the silk banner here? Now’s the time…”

Lang Qiao received his SOS and hurried to the entrance to get the beaming red banner of honor. As it unfolded, the whole living room shined with a virtuous halo. 

Fei Du: “……”

There was more. Lang Qiao handed him the banner in all seriousness and then took out a golden-red certificate of merit: “Comrade Fei Du, our Chief Lu asked me to give these to you and asked Cap Luo to speak on his behalf today. After he finishes up Wang Hongliang’s case, he will organize an honorary ceremony for you — Cap Luo, will you give the speech now or would you like me to do it?”

Luo Wenzhou was quite occupied by the butter and soy sauce at the moment. He yelled back from the noisy kitchen: “What? Tao Ran, your range hood stopped working… Did the apartment lose power?”

Fei Du wanted to avoid the speech on “promoting core socialist values” at all costs, so he volunteered, “I’ll go check on the electricity box.” 

Lang Qiao blinked with disbelief: “Do all big bosses know what an electricity box looks like?”

When Fei Du was younger, he spent a lot of time hanging out in Tao Ran’s rented apartment, which mostly had second-hand furniture and appliances. Tao Ran, then and now, lived a frugal life and seldom spent money buying new stuff if the old one could still be repaired. Obviously, he wouldn’t let Fei Du “waste” money either. Consequently, Fei Du had learned to repair many things. 

The electricity circuit of this old building hasn’t been upgraded for a long time, and it still used an old-style fuse wire. Upon opening the box, a slight burning scent wafted out — the fuse was blown.

Tao Ran obviously hadn’t stocked up any fuses on his move-in day. Fei Du had to go find a hardware store.

On his way out, he was stopped by Chang Ning’s little cousin, Chen-chen: “Brother, I forgot to buy craft paper for my homework just now. Can I go with you?”

Fei Du took the little girl with him, away from the rowdy crowd. They quickly found what they needed from the convenience store. Afterwards, Fei Du bought two cream puffs from the bakery and handed one to Chen-chen. The two sat on the bench in the neighborhood garden. 

“The grown-ups can be so loud,” Chen-chen commented, pretending to be more mature than she was. “Let’s stay here for a bit longer.”

Fei Du was just about to tease her a little when he suddenly had a strange feeling. Someone, or something, was watching them. 

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