After Chen Dong Lan moved back, their lives returned to how it was before.
Chen Dong Lan was already satisfied with this.
Early this morning, Chen Dong Lan received a call from his brother, Xiao De. Afraid to wake Yuan Yuan, he walked to the balcony and closed the door completely before answering the call.
The sun had not risen and the wind on the balcony was very cold.
“Ge?” Xiao De’s voice hadn’t changed. It was as candid and brisk as when he was in junior high. “Ge, my friend and I will arrive around ten tonight. Mom insisted that I gave you a call before I boarded the plane, so that you could come pick me up.”
“Okay.” Chen Dong Lan hugged his arms due to the cold. “I’ll go wait for the both of you at nine.”
Xiao De mumbled, “Actually, I don’t feel that you need to pick…”
“I have to. This is your first time coming to T city, plus you haven’t been back in the country for so long. If anything unexpected happens, it wouldn’t be easy for me to explain to Mom and Uncle Xu.” Chen Dong Lan usually spoke very few words, but with Xiao De, he would keep nagging.
Xiao De absolutely could not meet with a mishap when he was here.
“Okay okay. Then thanks, Ge.” Xiao De seemed to have been made fun of by his friends and his thanks sounded careless.
Chen Dong Lan hung up the phone. They didn’t have any common topics and were not very close growing up. After not seeing each other for so long, they understood each other even less and simply did not have anything to talk about.
Returning to the room, Chen Dong Lan couldn’t sleep and stared at the ceiling, lost in thought.
That night, when it was time, Chen Dong Lan put on his clothes ahead of schedule and left his room. Taking the taxi to the airport needed quite some time, and it wouldn’t be good to be late.
Although Yuan Yuan might not care about his movement, he went to Yuan Yuan’s room and knocked on the door. “Yuan Yuan, I’m going out for a while.”
“Okay…” Yuan Yuan took some effort to tear his eyes away from the document. “Where are you going?”
Chen Dong Lan didn’t want to tell him about Xiao De, but since Yuan Yuan had asked, he didn’t want to lie and tried to be as vague as he could. “There’s a relative returning to the country. I need to pick them up.”
This aroused Yuan Yuan’s attention. “Pick them up? You don’t have a car. Why would they want you to?”
Chen Dong Lan had no choice but to clarify. “It’s my younger brother.”
Yuan Yuan stared blankly. It was the first time he heard Chen Dong Lan saying he had a younger brother. “Then take my car.”
Chen Dong Lan was embarrassed. “I don’t have a driving licence.”
He was ashamed to say it. As a man, Chen Dong Lan had never had any interests in cars. He felt fine taking the metro and public transportation. If that wasn’t possible, walking was fine as well. If it was really inconvenient, then he would take a taxi. He had never considered getting a driving licence.
Maybe it was time to get a driving licence. That way, he wouldn't need to trouble Yuan Yuan to drive him around every time.
Yuan Yuan closed the document folder. “Then I’ll go with you.”
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.
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Yuan Yuan saw his expression and knew that he wanted to refuse. To him, since it was Chen Dong Lan, this small favour was nothing.
“I’ll just take a taxi over,” Chen Dong Lan refused. “Plus, my brother brought a few friends. They wouldn’t be able to fit in one car.”
Yuan Yuan didn’t insist. After all, it was someone else’s family gathering. If they didn’t want outsiders joining in, then he would be the rude one.
Chen Dong Lan took a taxi over. In the airport arrival hall, he held up a board with “Xu Ming De” written on it. While waiting, he was a little nervous as they had not met in over eight years.
Xiao De’s flight was slightly late. Chen Dong Lan waited from nine till eleven before his brother finally arrived.
Rather than the group of young teenagers that he was expecting, walking towards Chen Dong Lan was a young couple. The girl was wearing a pair of pink heels and holding the boy’s hand intimately.
“Ge?” Xiao De was slightly hesitant.
The girl, however, was warm and easy-mannered. She greeted Chen Dong Lan with a playful smile, “Hello, Gege.” It ended on an overly sweet note.
Xiao De was a bit shy and made introductions. “Olivia, my girlfriend.”
Chen Dong Lan could more or less sense it. Xiao De had probably lied to their parents and came to the country with his girlfriend to play. He wasn’t qualified to comment on Xiao De’s actions, so all he did was ask, “Has the hotel been booked?”
Olivia shook her head. This couple had obviously not planned anything and looked at Chen Dong Lan innocently.
Calling for a taxi, Chen Dong Lan planned to arrange for a hotel in the city. But Olivia whined, “Gege, why can’t we stay in your home?”
Xiao De was also curious. “Ge, you haven’t bought a house and a car? At home, I drive to school every day.”
Before he could finish, Olivia embraced him and praised him in English, “Driving is super sexy”.
Chen Dong Lan didn’t feel there was anything to hide and said, “I didn’t buy a car and I’m now renting a place with a friend, so it’s not convenient for you to stay there.”
Olivia pouted. “It doesn’t matter. We’ll be good.”
Chen Dong Lan was slightly annoyed. “My friend doesn’t like outsiders disturbing.”
Olivia wasn’t too happy and wanted to say something else, but Xiao De pinched her face lovingly and managed to comfort her.
After arranging for the hotel, it was already past midnight. Xiao De said that they had not eaten, so Chen Dong Lan brought them to a western cuisine restaurant to eat.
Xiao De and Olivia immediately ordered imported liquor. Chen Dong Lan wasn’t sure so he didn’t stop them. But he asked, “Does Mom and Uncle Xu allow you to drink?”
Olivia pouted. “I thought Gege was young and wouldn’t control us.”
Xiao De laughed. “Mom doesn’t allow it. Dad does. But, it wasn’t easy for me to get here. Ge, just pretend you didn’t see it.”
Chen Dong Lan’s head ached slightly. But he had never looked after Xiao De and wasn’t sure what to do this time, so he decided to leave it alone.
After eating, Chen Dong Lan sent them back to the hotel, then went home. It was late at night so he had to stand by the road for a long time before he managed to get a taxi.
He was slightly worried about Xiao De. He had booked separate single rooms for them, but nobody was watching over the young couple. Whether anything would happen at night, it was difficult to say.
When he got home, Yuan Yuan was already asleep. He opened and closed the door as softly as he could. Not turning on the lights, he stood near the door for awhile getting used to the darkness before walking in.
Logically, he should have washed up immediately and gone to sleep as he needed to work tomorrow. After work, he still had to entertain Xiao De and the high-maintenance Olivia. But since Xiao De was here, it meant that the year was coming to an end and Yuan Yuan would be leaving for a period of time.
He was happy living with Yuan Yuan. Every morning, he was the first to see Yuan Yuan. Every night, he was the one saying good night to Yuan Yuan before he slept. These days, he wasn’t sure how many times they went to the supermarket or ate dinner together.
Chen Dong Lan walked past Yuan Yuan’s room and didn’t go in.
Lying on the bed, Chen Dong Lan scolded himself in his heart.
Why was there someone as useless as him?
He didn’t even dare to sneak a peek.
The next day, Chen Dong Lan finished work early and rushed to the hotel that Xiao De and Olivia were staying at, but they weren’t there. After a phone call, he found out that Olivia actually had a domestic driving licence. They rented a car, drove it around for sightseeing and forgot to inform Chen Dong Lan in their moment of enjoyment.
Chen Dong Lan thought that something had happened to Xiao De. Knowing that he was alright, he wasn’t angry, but asked in concern, “What about Olivia’s driving licence? Can she really drive?”
“Ge, don’t worry. We’re having a lot of fun now. I’m hanging up.”
“Xiao De, ” Chen Dong Lan hurriedly called out to him. “Don’t play too excessively. Whatever you do here must be allowed by Mom and Uncle Xu, okay?”
Xiao De’s tone wasn’t too happy. “Ge, you haven’t cared about Mom and Dad for even two days. You don’t even call for an entire year. How would you know they wouldn’t allow me to play?”
Chen Dong Lan was blank for two seconds and nearly didn’t make a sound. “I…”
He couldn’t continue.
Xiao De realised belatedly that he could have crossed the line. After all, he had not met Gege in so many years, and their relationship wasn’t close, unlike his parents who would spoil him unconditionally, so he adjusted his attitude. “Ge, just let us play freely. I’ll make sure nothing happens.”
Chen Dong Lan didn’t have anything else he could say. “Okay. As long as you can make your own decisions.”
He hung up the phone and didn’t regain his spirit for a long time.
He thought he would never be sad about his family again.
Leaving the hotel, Chen Dong Lan went to buy some vegetables. As he carried a few bags into the house, Yuan Yuan, who was just about to order food, was very surprised. “Didn’t you say you were eating with your brother?”
Chen Dong Lan carried the vegetables into the kitchen. “The young people want to eat by themselves.”
Yuan Yuan followed him into the kitchen. “How much younger is your brother?” He looked at the bags and took out two potatoes, placing them in the basin. “Potatoes and braised pork? Is this enough?”
“Yeah, just add another small one.” Chen Dong Lan helped him to turn on the tap and said, “About…slightly more than three years younger.”
Yuan Yuan rubbed the potato between his fingers. “Then there’s not much of a difference. Why are you being excluded from the ranks of the young people?”
Chen Dong Lan spoke without thinking, “Probably because I’m too boring.”
Yuan Yuan: …
Although he wasn’t wrong, who was so honest in admitting their shortcomings? And he wasn’t even a little ashamed of it.
But as far as Chen Dong Lan was concerned, there was nothing wrong with being boring.
Rubbing the potatoes, Yuan Yuan suddenly thought of something. “Oh right. I’ve brought forward the date that I’ll be returning to A city, so I’m leaving tomorrow.”
There was only the sound of water flowing from the tap in the room. Chen Dong Lan paused and didn’t reply for a long time.
“Chen Dong Lan?” Yuan Yuan looked at him curiously. “Did you hear me?”
“I heard you.” It was as if Chen Dong Lan had just woken up from a dream. “I heard you. You’re returning home tomorrow. Why did you suddenly bring it forward?”
“I managed to get two extra days off.” Letting the potatoes drip dry, Yuan Yuan asked, “Do you need me to peel them? I feel that not peeling them is fine as well.”
“Peel. I’ll do it. You just leave them there.” Chen Dong Lan snatched the potatoes from his hands and hurriedly took the peeler out from the cabinet. These actions looked agile, but it seemed more appropriate to describe them as hurried.
Yuan Yuan felt that something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong.
When they were eating, Chen Dong Lan had resumed his normal behaviour.
“After tomorrow, I won’t be at home. Do you want to entertain your brother and his friend with a meal here?” Yuan Yuan asked.
Chen Dong Lan nearly dropped his chopsticks in shock. “How could I?”
Yuan Yuan felt that his response was very strange.
“You cook for me every day, but your brother can’t eat a meal after coming all the way here. Is that how you are as a brother?” Yuan Yuan said jokingly.
Chen Dong Lan shook his head. “That’s not the same.”
What’s not the same?
“Your brother prefers eating out?” Yuan Yuan could only think of this reason.
Chen Dong Lan pinched his chopsticks tightly, and tacitly agreed with Yuan Yuan.
He just didn’t want anyone in the house besides them, even if it was Xiao De, his relative.
If there was, he would not be able to continue deluding himself into thinking that this was their home.
They were only co-renters.
Only friends living together coincidentally.