Tong Qiu couldn’t help but feel it was a real pity that Huo Zhixing hadn’t gone into trade. Given how good he was at scheming, he definitely would have made a fortune.
He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and said, “So what you’re saying is, whether or not you can get it, there’s still a kiss at the end.”
“That’s right, a kiss is a must, but it’s not quite the same,” Huo Zhixing. “One possibility is that I kiss you, and another possibility is that you kiss me. How is that the same?”
Tong Qiu wanted to say ‘how is it not the same?’ It’s the same no matter how you spin it!
If two people’s lips touch then it doesn’t matter who’s the one kissing whom!
That being said, if Tong Qiu weren’t a firm believer in logical reasoning, he probably would have wondered if the real Huo Zhixing had been kidnapped.
Before, when the two of them had been together, their lives had been devoid of romance. He wasn’t kidding when he had said that they had basically treated each other like honoured guests. Tong Qiu has always thought that Huo Zhixing was the kind of strict and proper person who didn’t casually joke around. As a result, it made him even more worried about letting himself go in front of Huo Zhixing.
“You scared?” Huo Zhixing smiled at him. “If you’re scared then we’ll leave it.”
“I’m not scared.” Tong Qiu didn’t really think Huo Zhixing could grab it on the first try. What’s more, he didn’t think Huo Zhixing would kiss him in a public place with so many people around. “Let’s make a bet. Tong-laoshi hasn’t met anything he’s afraid of.”
Tong-laoshi had always been a careful and prudent sort of person. Even until now, he’s never actually bought a lottery ticket because from a probability perspective, the odds of winning were far too low and the investment risk was too high. He was the type who was rather conservative and guarded, and never made high risk investments or involved himself in things like betting. If they were placing bets on anything else, he might not have gone along. However, given the current stakes, he wouldn’t be in the hole whether or not he wins. What was there to lose!
Huo Zhixing wanted to laugh and had the urge to say: ‘the first time we did something like that, you sure seemed pretty scared’.
However, he couldn’t say it now – that night when Tong Qiu got drunk, he seemed very eager to take the lead.
“I’m going to start, then.” Huo Zhixing took a token from the palm of Tong Qiu’s hand and fed the machine five tokens. He then turned all his focus on the little kitten with its butt sticking up. “Watch!”
He shook the handle and pressed the button, the corner of his mouth lifting in a ‘I gotta have it’ expression.
Tong Qiu didn’t look at the machine and watched Huo Zhixing instead. He suddenly realized that he honestly didn’t understand his ex-husband at all. He’s never seen Huo Zhixing with such an expression. It was actually pretty attractive.
He had thought that Huo Zhixing was handsome ever since the first time they met. After seeing him in his police uniform, he seemed so handsome that Tong Qiu’s very knees felt weak. He most definitely had a uniform fetish and a handsome man plus a uniform was absolutely irresistible.
After seeing how confident Huo Zhixing was, Tong Qiu almost believed that the man was ranked ‘challenger’ when it came to claw machines. Half a minute later, however, he smiled.
“You’ve been at it for a long time already but you’re still ‘bronze’.”
Officer Huo had taken aim at the little kitten but in the end, the claw took an odd turn and he began having doubts about his aim.
“You didn’t manage to get it.” Tong Qiu held the small plastic box of tokens and stood there, delighted, as he watched Huo Zhixing. “Officer Huo, you’ve let me down.”
Huo Zhixing rolled up his leaves: “Three chances. If I can get it in three tries, we’ll count that as a win. Give me a chance, Tong-laoshi.”
Tong Qiu was already getting ready to lean in and kiss Huo Zhixing but somehow, the guy seemed to have let the game get to his head. Once again, he let out a mental sigh at the fact that Huo Zhixing had very straight-like tendencies for a gay guy. Tong Qiu was all but spoon-feeding Huo Zhixing the prize he had wanted, yet he had his heart set on getting the toy. Was it because Tong-laoshi wasn’t up to par or because Tong-laoshi wasn’t as coy as an inanimate little kitten?
Tong Qiu had to hold in his annoyance and almost wished he could roll his eyes. However, he could only grind his teeth and plaster on a small smile as he mentally grumbled about Officer Huo’s damn competitive spirit. In the end, he simply said, “Alright then, that’s not a problem.”
Huo Zhixing beamed at him and causally nudged his hand. “I’ll definitely help you get Xiao-Qiu.”
Tong Qiu wanted to say, ‘doesn’t matter to me, it’s not as if I’m in desperate need of a stuffed kitten.’
He watched helplessly as Huo Zhixing maneuvered the claw. Huo Zhixing, it seemed, was in high spirits.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
Fine then, Tong Qiu thought. Huo Zhixing was in his thirties and yet Tong Qiu almost felt as if he was dealing with one of the students in his class. Indulge him, then – what else could he do? Hit him? It was illegal to hit police officers.
Tong Qiu didn’t get his hopes up over Huo Zhixing’s mission and figured ‘close enough’ was just fine. To his surprise, the ‘blind’ cat really did encounter a dead rat and on his second try, Huo Zhixing managed to grab ‘Tong Xiao-Qiu’.
“Is Tong-laoshi ready?”
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“Ktf yfa kf wjvf pera cbk,” Leb Itlzlcu rjlv, “P’w mbwlcu obg la.”
Tong Qiu licked his lips, his cheeks becoming stained with pink. He closed his eyes and waited for Huo Zhixing to kiss him.
Huo Zhixing however, liked to tease Tong Qiu the same way one would tease a little kitten.
Tong-laoshi had shut his eyes which meant the kiss should have been a kiss on the mouth. However, Huo Zhixing, in a fit of excitement, dug out the gentlemanly grace he hadn’t yet used and with a ‘plop’, he pressed a kiss on Tong Qiu’s cheek.
Tong Qiu started and when he opened his eyes to look at Huo Zhixing, his gaze was full of question marks.
Huo Zhixing grinned. “It’s the first time I kissed your face.”
It really was the first time.
Tong Qiu used to think that when feelings had reached a certain depth, kisses that were exchanged would be the lingering kind. However, for some strange reason, the pure and innocent kiss on his face just now was somehow more touching.
There was a bit of youthful inexperience to it that was both sour and sweet. It was like being eighteen on a summer day and pulling out the lemonade from the fridge. For a split second, he felt almost rejuvenated.
He lifted his hand and patted the place his face where he had been kissed, a silly smile on his face.
Tong Qiu thought: This is going to be the death of me.
Now that the kiss was done and Tong Xiao-Qiu was in his hands, the nine or ten game tokens left over were all used by Tong Qiu.
Tong-laoshi lived up to expectations and using those nine or ten tokens, he managed to get a palm-sized toy that was a small, gray wolf.
“This one looks like you.” Tong Qiu pressed the toy into Huo Zhixing’s hand. “It’s my gift to you, Wolf Zhixing.”
Huo Zhixing burst into laughter at his teasing and felt that being with Tong Qiu would probably rapidly increase his chances of developing smile lines.
“I don’t think that’s right.” Huo Zhixing gave the little wolf to Tong Qiu and then took Tong Xiao-Qiu. “Wolf Zhixing is yours, Tong Xiao-Qiu is mine.”
This kind of behaviour was so childish that Tong Qiu sucked in a breath.
This really was as if they were dating.
This really was a date.
Tong Qiu had no choice to accept it – normal people’s relationships with their ex-husband’s weren’t this ambiguous.
The staff from the Japanese restaurant gave them a call and the two headed over to eat, the stuffed animals and the items they had bought for Huo Jiao in their hands. On their way up, they passed by the underwear store again and Huo Zhixing once again joked, “Next time, I’ll buy you a pair to wear.”
After playing around and eating their fill, they went to the movie theatre to retrieve tickets. It was then that Tong Qiu began to feel dejected again.
It was because there weren’t any couple’s seats to sit in.
Without a couple’s seat, a horror film lost all its meaning and was reduced to a typical trash movie that you’re too lazy to even poke fun at.
“I forgot to mention it to you,” Huo Zhixing said as he scanned the QR code and fetched the tickets, “when I was buying tickets, the only one left was the couple’s seat in the last row of the auditorium. Is that okay with you?”
The little deer in Tong Qiu’s heart that was on the brink of death sprung to its feet. Tong Qiu took the tickets that Huo Zhixing handed him and when he glanced down and saw the worlds ‘couple’s seat’, he just barely held back a laugh.
“I don’t mind,” Tong Qiu’s face was extremely serene but on the inside, he was already setting off fireworks. “All the seats are the same to me.”
However, once the two of them entered the auditorium and the film had started, Tong Qiu realized that Huo Zhixing had an equally glib tongue. What was all that about there being ‘only one seat left’? In the entire auditorium, there were only five people in the audience, including the two of them.
The general public had sharp eyes and just by looking at the title, they could tell it was a trash movie – which was why no one would come here to waste their time and money.
Tong Qiu grinned at Huo Zhixing. “Didn’t you say there was only the last row left?”
Huo Zhixing was extremely unruffled and answered casually, “I guess something came up at the last minute for everyone.”
There was no way Tong Qiu would believe this kind of nonsense but it’s not like he was going to bicker about it with Huo Zhixing. Not only did he ignore it, he actually felt rather pleased on the inside.
The couple’s seat was a spacious, comfortable sofa that was partitioned on either side, which made it convenient for cuddling without being seen by people sitting nearby.
Of course, even if the seats were like that, Tong Qiu wasn’t going to cuddle and act all lovey-dovey with Huo Zhixing. Even if other people weren’t looking, there were still security cameras watching them.
A teacher and a police officer in a movie theatre acting in a way that was a stain on society simply wasn’t appropriate.
Before the movie began, Tong Qiu asked Huo Zhixing in a low voice, “Are you scared of ghosts?”
Huo Zhixing didn’t answer and actually asked him the same question. “You? Are you scared?”
“Of course I’m not scared,” Tong Qiu said, “I’m a non-believer; I don’t think there are ghosts in this world.”
“I’m scared,” Huo Zhixing leaned reclined on the sofa and said with a smile, “Then when I get scared later, Tong-laoshi should comfort me, right?”
Tong Qiu ate a piece of popcorn, took a sip of Coke and then smiled, “Sure. If you’re scared, Tong-laoshi’s shoulders are here for you to lean on.”
The truth was, Huo Zhixing wasn’t actually afraid of ghosts and was merely pretending to be weak in front of Tong-laoshi.
If the two of them came to watch a horror movie and neither of them was afraid – and simply sat there with a cool and detached expression on their face – it would be rather boring, wouldn’t it? The film was trash enough already so if they didn’t find a way to entertain themselves, wouldn’t they just be suffering until they were at death’s doorstep?
Huo Zhixing looked up the movie before it started and the online ratings were 2.8 points. It was low enough for one to click one’s tongue and he didn’t really know why Tong Qiu wanted to watch it.
It was probably to foster some romantic feelings, thought Huo Zhixing.
The trash movie was two hours and fifteen minutes long.
Within the first fifteen minutes, Tong Qiu already couldn’t hold back and began mentally dissing the movie. He munched loudly on his popcorn and snuck a few glances at Huo Zhixing
The movie truly was dull but Huo Zhixing put on a nervous expression, almost as if he would leap into Tong-laoshi’s arms at any second and collapse into a sobbing mess. The more Tong Qiu watched him, the more he felt that Huo Zhixing was more entertaining than the actual movie.
“Is the movie good?” Tong Qiu purposely tried to scare Huo Zhixing by suddenly leaning forward to whisper against his ear.
Huo Zhixing jumped in ‘surprise’ accordingly and nearly fell off the sofa while he kept up the act.
“It’s alright.” Honestly speaking though, it wasn’t very good.
Huo Zhixing said, “The lady in the qipao is actually pretty scary.”
Tong Qiu glanced at the movie screen and said, “I have a qipao at home too.”
After he spoke, he felt that there was something off about the mood and when he turned towards Huo Zhixing, he realized that Huo Zhixing was staring back at him in shock.
“No, what I meant was, it’s my mother’s,” Tong Qiu said. “Don’t overthink things, I’m not in the habit of crossdressing.”
Huo Zhixing flashed a smile and thought mentally, ‘Even if you did, that’d be fine’.
“You really aren’t scared, are you?” Huo Zhixing leaned a little closer and Tong-laoshi thoughtfully moved close as well.
“When I was little, I used to fall asleep listening to cassette tapes of ghost stories. A typical horror movie is pretty much like a comedy to me.”
Huo Zhixing was about to compliment Tong-laoshi but his phone suddenly began vibrating in his pants pocket.
He fished it out and realized it was a phone call from He Hongtao.
It was a bit unexpected. Huo Zhixing didn’t think that person would suddenly contact him.
He Hongtao was his closest friend back when he was part of the criminal investigations unit. They had joined the unit together and after Huo Zhixing had left, He Hongtao had been promoted to captain.
“Do you need to go out and take a call?” Tong Qiu asked.
Huo Zhixing pressed ‘decline’. “No need, I’ll just send him a message to ask what’s going on.”
Tong Qiu hadn’t seen the name of the caller and didn’t know who it was. He wanted to ask, but didn’t feel like he should.
Huo Zhixing sent a message to He Hongtao, who replied almost immediately.
Zhou Kai has been released. You should be careful.
“What’s wrong?” Tong Qiu realized that Huo Zhixing was frowning at his frown that had brushed away his good mood. “Did something happen?”
“It’s nothing.” Huo Zhixing sent He Hongtao a ‘okay’ and then put the phone back in his pocket. He reached out and took Tong Qiu’s hand.
Tong Qiu glanced down at the ring on Huo Zhixing’s finger and felt that in the darkened movie theatre, that ring seemed especially dazzling.
Thanks so much for reading and apologies for the delay. IRL has been a bit busy so no audio drama cuts this week, but if you want to be notified as soon as a new video is released, you can check out the Chrysanthemum Garden Discord channel, subscribe on YouTube, or follow me on Twitter!
Once again, I just want to stress that the police officers depicted in this novel are very idealized and shouldn’t be confused with the atrocities that IRL police officers have committed. I understand that novels are an escape for many people (myself included), but if you do find the time I encourage you to learn about BLM and racism/police brutality faced by black and POC communities.