No Money to Divorce
First Published on Chaleuria
Chapter 33: Compromise
Adrian would never expect that, on the second day, he would receive a call from the internal communicator.
“Commander, someone is calling and they said they have something to talk to you about…”
At first, Adrian did not realize who it was who called, so he thought the reason why the receptionist sounded so hesitant was because some other bigshot had called and was seeking him out, so the reception desk could not decide what to do.
“Who is it? Didn’t I say I was busy this month, and to respond to all of them by saying I’m not around?” Adrian casually said, “Transfer it to the adjutant.”
“Uh, but he said he was…was…um…”
Hearing the receptionist stutter to such an extent, Adrian finally realized that something was wrong. Then, he finally reacted, “Is it Zhong Yan?”
“Yes, yes, it’s him.” When the receptionist heard that Adrian did not get angry, it almost felt to her like she had received the emperor’s pardon. “So, should we transfer it to the adjutant, or?”
“Why should you transfer his call to the adjutant? Transfer him to me. Did he say anything?”
“He said it’s urgent, but he didn’t tell me the details. I’ll transfer him to you now.”
After the notification bell, the voice on the call was replaced with Zhong Yan’s.
“What is it?” Adrian asked. “Did something happen at the capital?”
“Zhong Yan said, “No…I just wanted to ask, where did you leave the knives in the kitchen? I clearly saw them just a few days ago.”
As if he was facing a great enemy, Adrian asked vigilantly, “What are you looking for the knives for?”
Zhong Yan had been down in the dumps lately and looked out of sorts. Even though he wasn’t the liveliest person in general, he simply appeared sullen these days. Adrian had constantly been worried about things like him jumping into a pond happening again, so just in case, he had been bringing the knives and kitchen tools to work with him in his car for the past two days.
“What else would I need a knife for? To cut vegetables.” Zhong Yan said, “I went through all the cabinets in the kitchen but I can’t find them. Where did you keep them? I’m in a hurry to use them.”
Why would he be so urgent about cutting vegetables? Adrian was very suspicious that Zhong Yan had finally broken down and was prepared to end himself with a knife. He quickly stood up and turned off the virtual screen in his office before walking out and said, “The knives were getting rusty so I chucked them. I’ll buy a new set on the way home.”
“Oh, that’s alright then. I can just buy them now on the virtual community. I think I saw quite a few stores nearby that support drones. It’ll still be a while before work is over for you.”
“No!” Adrian replied. “Don’t buy and leave random stuff in my house. I’m coming back right now. I’ll buy it.”
“What? You’re coming back now?” Zhong Yan’s voice sounded a little panicked. “How come you’re so early today?”
Hearing that, Adrian was even more convinced about his own conjecture. He decided that Zhong Yan must have been prepared to do terrible things to himself with those knives. While rejoicing about having kept away the knives, he responded firmly, “Yes, and I will be home very soon, so just stay there and don’t move.”
Adrian quickly drove himself home and rushed directly through the door without even parking his car properly.
Then, he was shocked by the scene before him.
All he saw was that the previously beautifully furnished open kitchen was now heating up with activity. There were now two pots on the induction stovetops that had never been turned on before, and some unknown food was cooking in the pressure cooker. Steam was constantly blowing out of the ventilation hole.
Zhong Yan was holding a pan with a variety of colorful vegetables sizzling inside, and some spare ingredients had been neatly prepared next to the console, ready for use, with the seasonings and condiments at Zhong Yan’s right.
The delicious smell of food was floating in the air, and for the first time, life could be felt in the usually empty house.
“You’re back? That was quick.” Zhong Yan was bustling around. It could be seen that he was cooking two things at once and had already tried his best to speed up. “Wait just a little while longer, I’ll be done soon. Where’s the knife?”
Adrian was speechless for a moment.
As he tossed up the food in the frying pan, he peered over to him—both his hands were empty.
“You didn’t get the knife?” he asked uncertainly.
“…I bought them,” said Adrian. “I left them in the car. I’ll go grab them now.”
He took the set of tools he had taken out from the house back in again. Zhong Yan accepted them and washed them, but suddenly paused. He brought the knives closer and observed them, then looked at the whole set of tools.
“This kitchen knife…looks a lot like the one before,” he stated in confusion.
He did not want to admit that he was worried Zhong Yan would commit suicide with a knife, so he had been going to headquarters with a bunch of kitchen knives for two days. He could only grit his teeth and say, “That’s just the style I like.”
Zhong Yan looked puzzlingly at the set of mass-produced kitchen tools and tried to figure out what Adrian liked about them.
“What’s in here?” Adrian approached the kitchen and looked at the pressure cooker.
Zhong Yan let the tools go and responded, “It’s a vegetable broth, I had to tear the vegetables by hand so they may not look too good, but they won’t be fresh anymore if I don’t use them, that’s why I was in such a hurry earlier. You should go sit down, we can start our meal after I’m done with this—”
Zhong Yan.” Adrian cut him off. “What are you trying to do?”
Zhong Yan’s hand paused on the meat. He raised his head to look at Adrian and noticed the displeasure on his face. For a moment, he felt uneasy. “I’m…cooking? You said I could buy food from the virtual community…”
“I’m telling you to buy what you want to eat, I didn’t tell you to buy ingredients to cook for me.”
Saying that, Adrian pressed on the stop button of the pressure cooker. Zhong Yan screamed out for him to stop. “No! You can’t open the pot while it’s cooking!” But Adrian turned a deaf ear to him and opened the lid of the pressure cooker after the green light was on.
It was not fully cooked, but the aroma of the vegetable broth was already wafting over. After carefully distinguishing the smell, he knew that this was the vegetable broth he had greatly praised many years ago, and the one that Zhong Yan would simmer from those few vegetables he usually cooked.
“It’s still exactly the same,” said Adrian. He casually tossed the lid of the pressure cooker aside, breaking up the prepared ingredients with the impact, and scattering them around the console. “What are you trying to do? Are you trying to relive your old dreams with me?”
“No…” Zhong Yan put the knife down helplessly and said, “I just wanted to…if the ordered meals weren’t to your taste, I was at home anyway, so…”
“And how would you know they’re not to my taste?”
“There was fish in yesterday’s dinner, I thought you didn’t like fish…”
“Well, I love it now.” Adrian said, “It’s been seven years. My tastes have changed.”
Zhong Yan stood quietly. Seeing the mess on the stove, he tried to save the meal. “I…what do you like to eat now? I can learn now, I…”
“You don’t have to. Zhong Yan, do you think that by doing this—cleaning my house every day, and cooking, that I’d fall in love with you again like in the past?” Speaking up to this point, a faint frown had formed between Adrian’s brow; because there was a weak voice in his heart, and it was saying: Yeah, wouldn’t it? Weren’t you moved? Wasn’t your gaze attracted to him again?
He felt a burst of anger rising up, anger that was directed towards himself. No way! He could not let things go on this way.
Just like that, he pushed that voice down, and at the same time, he spoke, “Never. If you have any such thoughts, then forget it. I told you, my tastes changed, and it’s not just for food.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. I just…wanted to do what I can…” Zhong Yan tried to argue in a quiet murmur.
“To compensate me?” Adrian asked. After seeing Zhong Yan nod hesitantly, he went on, “I don’t need your pity. The last thing I need is your sympathy.”
Zhong Yan said anxiously, “I’m not trying to pity you! I just wanted to—” He suddenly stopped.
What did he want to do? Naturally, he felt remorseful after knowing the truth; he wanted to treat Adrian a little better, but if he asked himself, he really had to admit that he was indeed hiding such selfish wishes. He hoped that he could reproduce that scene from that year, then perhaps he would find another chance for a miracle to happen.
But miracles were only called miracles because they were so rare in this world. Sure enough…Zhong Yan looked motionlessly at the pressure cooker that had been opened. Without a knife, the vegetable leaves that had been torn by hand were already unsightly, but now that the pot had been opened before the time was up, the taste was also ruined. It was destined to be a failed dish.
“I’m sorry.” Zhong Yan no longer tried to explain himself. Silently, he picked up the lid that had been thrown aside by Adrian. “I won’t do it again next time.”
Adrian’s brows were knitted into a tight frown. “You don’t have to be so…subservient. I’m just saying that you don’t have to do those things, you just have to stay here.”
“I won’t be staying for long, A—” After thinking about it, he swallowed his name right back down his throat. Adrian would get angry, and he had agreed not to call him by that name. He would not pull on his clothes anymore, nor would he clean up the house and cook. The things Adrian once enjoyed were disgusting to him now. But that was a matter of course, as Adrian was no longer in love with him after all.
“I’ve just confirmed it with the Capital today. Intron will be leading the team to Navi after the New Year to take me and Bayer back.”
The New Year, it was only a week until then.
Hearing that, Adrian could feel his throat constricting. It was clearly he who told Zhong Yan to inform the Capital to pick him up, but when he was finally informed of the time, a gush of remorse started pooling up within his heart. So fast? Their days of getting along together like this will come to an end. In a week, they will be departing; and perhaps he, Zhong Yan, would only be able to stay with him for less than ten days while they were on the way.
Then when will be the next time they meet again? Another seven years? Perhaps they may not have to wait that long. With how things were going right now, it might be next year, or at most, the year after that; the conflict between Navi and the Capital will be completely blown up. When that time comes, regardless of what way it would be, they will definitely meet each other.
Why did he have to throw off that lid today? It was only ten days, he had seven years to feel hate and regret. Was his willpower so weak that he could not even stand ten days?
“The New Year’s…Will you be at home on New Year’s Eve?” Zhong Yan asked cautiously.
“There’s a celebration at headquarters on that night,” Adrian responded.
“…Oh.” Zhong Yan lowered his gaze to cover the disappointment in his eyes. He picked up the rag and wiped the console that had been splashed by the lid of the pressure cooker earlier.
Go back to your room now, Adrian told himself. Don’t be soft, you can’t show vulnerability to him. Was that lesson not painful enough for you??
But it was as if his feet had taken root to the ground. He could not move. He watched Zhong Yan clean up the messy kitchen on his own, and though it was still full of food, with the same man busying about, he could not feel the same bustle he had felt when he entered through that door. Only desolation.
“What’s wrong?” Zhong Yan did not hear him walking away, so he raised his head and tried his best to put on a smile. “Is there anything else?”
Yes. He was supposed to ask Zhong Yan today why he was with Pearson, and why he stepped out. But… Adrian saw the faint red circle around his beautiful phoenix eyes, and it was not difficult for him to imagine how those eyes would quickly fill with tears as soon as he turned around.
Don’t be soft on him…You can’t…
At the moment, the owner of those eyes were still trying their best to remain smiling, but perhaps he was just afraid that he would get upset.
“Yes,” Adrian spoke up. He sighed in his heart. “I’ll…try my best to get home before midnight that day.”