Yu Hao had a vague sense that the atmosphere was a little off, as if Lin Ze and Huang Ting were competing in secret. Moreover, Lin Ze wasn’t in a good mood today either, so he had a much more serious and severe attitude than usual. Although his expression was as normal, he was frowning slightly. Situ Ye saw Yu Hao glance at Lin Ze, so he elbowed him lightly and said, “Go do your own thing.”
At 5:20, Yu Hao compressed the pictures and uploaded it onto the cloud account, kept his laptop, and left with Huang Ting after saying goodbye to the rest.
“Call me if anything comes up.” Before he left, Lin Ze made a gesture.
“Okay.” Yu Hao knew that Lin Ze had said that especially for Huang Ting.
There was a motorcycle outside the office. Huang Ting handed a helmet to Yu Hao.
“Call Zhou Sheng along?” Yu Hao asked.
“Zhou Sheng’s on a business trip,” Huang Ting answered, “He won’t be in Beijing for two days.”
Yu Hao, “……”
Yu Hao looked at Huang Ting, who motioned, “Let’s go?”
Yu Hao looked down at his phone. Zhou Sheng had sent him a message:【Wife, I’m going on a business trip to Baoding for two days to investigate an economic dispute. I’ll be back on the night of the 9th.】
“What day is it today?” Yu Hao asked.
“The 7th. Why?” Huang Ting saw that Yu Hao didn’t get on, so he just waited.
Yu Hao asked doubtfully, “Where do you want to take me?”
Yu Hao couldn’t see Huang Ting’s expression behind the helmet, but he could see a hint of a smile in his eyes. Huang Ting said, “Are you afraid that I’ll lock you up?”
Yu Hao knew that he probably wouldn’t go that far, unless the central authorities issued a direct order. Otherwise, Lin Ze would really fear nothing. If they really locked him up, Qinghua Times wouldn’t let Huang Ting off so easily. Shortly afterwards, Yu Hao remembered Zhou Sheng’s words, about how there was a part in his plans where Yu Hao had to cooperate with him on the premise of his ignorance before he could deceive the entire gang.
“Okay then.” Yu Hao answered. He put on the helmet and sat on the back seat of Huang Ting’s motorcycle.
“When will Liqun come to Beijing?” Huang Ting drove in a very stable manner as he turned his head sideways to ask.
Yu Hao answered, “Tomorrow night.”
Huang Ting said, “Pay attention to safety.”
“I’m paying a lot of attention.” Yu Hao said.
“I’m hinting to you to hold me tight.” Huang Ting said, “Afraid that Zhou Sheng will get jealous? It’s okay, he can’t see through the surveillance camera at the intersection.”
Yu Hao had wanted to sit upright, but Huang Ting had to bend slightly on his motorcycle. If Yu Hao sat upright, he would have to withstand the strong wind blowing in his face, so he could only bend over slightly as well and temporarily hug Huang Ting by his waist. Huang Ting made several turns, chose a more spacious road, and increased his speed. From the looks of it, he was planning to leave Beijing.
“Nicky didn’t look for you?” Huang Ting asked.
Huang Ting’s windbreaker was buttoned up tightly, revealing his slim waistline, and he had very straight legs as well. When they met in the South before the New Year, they were in a rush, so Yu Hao hadn’t taken a close look at him. He felt like Huang Ting had slimmed down considerably after coming to Beijing, and after sitting in the office for a long time, he was much fairer now as well.
“We arranged to have dinner together in a few days.” Yu Hao said.
“Xiao Ou will be there too?” Huang Ting casually asked, “When will your parties take care of civil servants who have to work early until late at night?”
Yu Hao, “We invited you out a few times, you’re the one who didn’t want to come.”
Huang Ting said, “So you don’t invite me anymore? I’m upset.”
Yu Hao sighed, “Usually after scratching out the words ‘Thank You’, one wouldn’t continue scratching anymore. That’s just common sense ba.”
Yu Hao kept looking at the road, while Huang Ting drove his motorcycle and turned into an alley. He stopped outside a three-storey building, took off his gloves, and parked his motorcycle. They entered the building; there was heating inside, and Yu Hao saw several well-built men walking around the corridor half naked dressed in trousers. They would even greet Huang Ting from time to time.
“My younger brother.” Huang Ting introduced Yu Hao to them.
“Yo, your younger brother’s a reporter?”
“How many younger brothers do you have?”
Huang Ting, “All men on earth are my younger brothers.”
Huang Ting fished his keys out to open the door. Yu Hao said, “Yo, Qihang has been here too ba, and probably more than once?”
“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re thinking, Xiao Yu Didi. Do I look like a bad guy to you?”
The place where Huang Ting stayed wasn’t as big as Yu Hao’s living room. The living room was very tidy, and it looked like an employee dormitory where several people lived together. Huang Ting said, “Don’t touch their stuff, everyone who stays here is specially appointed.”
In the living room of this three-bedroom apartment, there was barely anything. Only a coffee table and sofa could be seen. Poker cards were kept in a transparent box, and several police uniforms were hanging on the balcony to dry.
Huang Ting fished out another bunch of keys and opened a door to a room. He said to Yu Hao, “Go into my room.”
“Get on the bed, quick.”
“You can lie down if you want.”
Yu Hao followed Huang Ting into his bedroom, and his bedroom was even smaller. There was only a bed and fridge inside. There were no windows, and there were posters pasted on the walls. Huang Ting got Yu Hao to take off his shoes and sit on his bed, while he went out to change his clothes. Yu Hao looked at the bookshelf. There were many photos on it: a photo he took with his leader, and there was also one of him with Shi Ni, with Liang Jinmin, Chen Yekai, with Ou Qihang outside the Forbidden City…that should have been taken when Ou Qihang had just came to Beijing for university, and Huang Ting had taken him out to play.
The group shot of their three-men basketball team, a photo with Chen Yekai during their junior high’s spring excursion…
As well as the photo that each of them had——the group photo taken backstage during their college’s celebration.
Yu Hao had folded it and placed it in the music box that Zhou Sheng gave him, while Zhou Sheng’s was stuffed into his wallet. Fu Liqun’s photo hung on a rope at home. He didn’t know how Ou Qihang and Chen Yekai kept it, but Huang Ting had placed it in a photo frame that he put on the bookshelf.
Yu Hao opened the door of the bookshelf and saw the corner of a photo hidden in a row of books, then pulled it out. It was a picture of Xiao Yujun taking a photo by the river. Huang Ting had sneaked a shot of her from the side.
Yu Hao heard Huang Ting coughing in the living room, so he quickly stuffed the photo back in and closed the bookshelf door.
Huang Ting brought in several containers from the outside for Yu Hao to see. “Hot pot? I’ll wash the vegetables.”
Yu Hao had always liked hot pot very much. He said, “I’ll do it.”
“I heard that Zhou Sheng’s cooking is really good.” Huang Ting followed Yu Hao into the kitchen. “You should have been taught well too.”
“The kitchen is a sacred place for Zhou Sheng.” Yu Hao laughed, “I always avoid causing trouble for him, but I’m okay with prepping vegetables. According to his evaluation, they could sort of be used ba.”
Yu Hao took the vegetables over to go and wash them. Huang Ting’s hot pot was very simple; there was just a lot of beef and mutton rolls, as well as fresh chrysanthemum greens. However, only the simplest ingredients can reconstruct the deepest, most basic experience of just ‘eating’. Of course, the ingredients themselves must be fresh. Yu Hao looked at the vegetables Huang Ting had bought in the afternoon. The ingredients weren’t bad; the layers of fat and lean meat on the beef and mutton were distinct, while the chrysanthemum greens were freshly picked this morning.
Meanwhile, Zhou Sheng sent him a message, and Yu Hao answered truthfully. He began mixing pickled tofu, sesame paste, and chilli together to form a dipping sauce. Zhou Sheng didn’t ask another question for a long time. He and Yu Hao verified an obscure secret signal; this was what they had agreed on, while Zhou Sheng’s reply proved that everything was perfectly normal.
Huang Ting put the ingredients on the table, turned on the induction cooker, and went over to tidy up and clean his hands, then began coughing violently again.
Yu Hao patted his back and had a persistent nagging sensation that something was wrong. He asked, “You’re sick? Go see a doctor?”
“Civil servants have regular check-ups.” After Huang Ting finished coughing, he resumed his serious appearance and said, “I caught a cold a while back, but I’ll still cough now and then after recovering. It’s not viral, so it’s not contagious.”
Huang Ting took out two bottles of Arctic Ocean from the fridge outside. Yu Hao’s gaze swept over the living room, and his instinct reminded him -- why was there a small fridge in his room? What’s inside?
A small table was set up on the bed. Huang Ting arranged the ingredients on it, and Yu Hao handed him the sauce that he had mixed. After eating a bit, Huang Ting put his chopsticks down and sighed a little.
“This hot pot is of a pretty good standard.” Huang Ting nodded as he praised.
“All I did was mix the condiments and wash vegetables!” Yu Hao didn’t know if he should laugh or cry, “You guys usually don’t cook ba?”
Huang Ting said, “Condiments is the soul of hot pot. Although my colleagues and I all live together, we’re always busy with our matters. We have different tasks.”
Yu Hao asked, “What kind of organisation is this?”
“Special Investigation Center.” Huang Ting answered, “It’s not a public organisation. It’s a great pity that there’s no big news for you here. We only obey certain designated leaders, and everything else is kept secret.”
Yu Hao finished blanching the meat and put it in Huang Ting’s bowl. Huang Ting said, “Doing well with Zhou Sheng?”
“He’s always the one taking care of me at home.” Yu Hao said, “The only thing he’s not doing is feeding me.”
“There are fewer worries when living with a guy.” Huang Ting said, “Sexual orientation is difficult to change by nature, otherwise, it would be really good for you two to start a family like this.”
Yu Hao answered, “You can’t start a family not because there’s a problem with you being with either a man or a woman.”
“Then, little fellow, what problem do you think I have?” Huang Ting said seriously.
“You’re a great person, you don’t really have a problem.” Yu Hao thought, I was a little fellow last time, but not anymore. I’m not afraid to fight you.
Yu Hao studied him and said, “You’re like a serious big brother of ours who’s not very approachable.”
“Compared to the intelligent, sexy, and elegant Nicky Chan,” Huang Ting said, “I’d think it’s natural that I’m not as likeable.”
Yu Hao said, “However, I can still sense how gentle you are once in awhile.”
“For example?” Huang Ting got some beef for Yu Hao and looked at him.
Yu Hao answered, “For example, what you said just now when you asked how I was doing with Zhou Sheng. Can I understand it as your concern as to whether or not I am being bullied by him?”
“He often bullies you?” Huang Ting continued eating his food.
“Of course not.” Yu Hao felt like it was a little difficult to deal with Huang Ting right now. He always had to be on guard against whether Huang Ting would suddenly catch a hold of one of his words by surprise and start his questioning.
“You’re chatting with me with an investigation mindset, so I won’t talk anymore.” Yu Hao said, “What I said was clearly about you.”
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro.