No Money to Divorce
First Published on Chaleuria
Chapter 40: Black Pepper Sauce
“Why?” asked Fayn.
Adrian told him, “I don’t like sitting on the inside.”
“How come I’ve never heard you say anything like that in the past?” Fayn said. “Dr. Wei’s food is already here. We should just stay put.”
Adrian had already gotten out of his seat and helped Wei Lan move his dish to Zhong Yan’s spot. Wei Lan had no comments on the issue, and Zhong Yan had only casually sat down there; since Adrian wanted to change, the two of them didn’t mind doing so.
Seeing that Wei Lan had already moved over, Fayn followed him over despite having nary an idea on what Adrian was trying to do. The table was very wide, so those sitting next to each other were much closer than the people sitting across from them.
Not long after changing their seats, their food was served.
Adrian took away the decorative flower on his dish and passed it to Zhong Yan.
First, Zhong Yan carefully observed his steak for a few moments before he began to cut into it. With his eyes alone, he could see a small amount of tendon that was hard to chew on the steak he ordered, but they were quite thankfully gathered mostly on one half of the steak. Zhong Yan carefully planned out the line he was going to cut and sliced out the half of the steak that was pure meat.
Just as he was done, Adrian suddenly reached over and snagged away the tough half with his fork.
Before Zhong Yan could react to what had happened, Adrian had already put that half of the steak on his own plate and pushed it back in front of him.
“Wait!” Zhong Yan quickly spoke, “You got the wrong one, that one’s not for you.”
“You really think you can cut or chew this half with your strength? You’re slow enough as you are,” Adrian said impatiently. “Stop bullsh*tting and start eating.”
Helpless, Zhong Yan could only eat his meal.
Fayn tried a few bites and said, “No wonder this place is so highly praised in the virtual community. I thought the shop hired people to write reviews but the black pepper sauce is actually really good.”
“Yeah,” Adrian echoed his sentiments. “The taste is not bad.”
Zhong Yan paused in his movements for a second and looked pensively at Adrian’s plate.
Near the end of the meal, the waitress who had brought Wei Lan’s meal came over again. This time, she brought Adrian a caramel pudding in a tall crystal glass.
Adrian was doubtful. “Did we order this?”
“Commander Yate, our boss says this is a gift for you,” the girl explained. “This is to thank you for your contributions to the Navi System. It’s just a simple dessert. We hope you enjoy it.”
Adrian nodded. “In that case, please help me thank your boss for his sincerity.”
The girl thanked him again and took another look at Zhong Yan, then turning back to look at Adrian. A dreamlike look appeared on her face, and she left again.
She thought she wasn’t being too obvious, but Adrian still noticed it. He couldn’t help but find the waitress a bit strange, but he did not think much of it.
He pushed the pudding towards Zhong Yan’s side and said, “You eat it.”
“They gave it to you, it wouldn’t be nice if you didn’t eat it,” Zhong Yan refused.
“I’ve already thanked them” Adrian grimaced at the layer of caramel on top. “It’s too sweet. We have our backs against the restaurant, nobody’s gonna see.”
Adrian did not enjoy eating sweets, and would only barely accept matcha flavored cakes; Zhong Yan knew this. With some awkwardness, he offered, “Why don’t I eat the caramel layer for you?”
Fayn poked his nose in on purpose. “I can eat it for you, boss. I’m not afraid of sweets, bring it over.”
Adrian glared at him and pushed the cup in front of Zhong Yan. “Hurry up, stop dallying. I’m going to go wash my hands. I want to see you done with that when I’m back.”
The washroom was close to the back kitchen of the steakhouse. When he passed by the kitchen after washing his hands, Adrian caught sight of the waitress crouched into a corner with her head down, looking at something.
After some hesitation, he sneaked up to her.
He wasn’t trying to do anything bad. Adrian was really only doing this because he found her earlier expression strange and it made him suspicious, especially with how she was secretly squatting here and all, and so he quietly sneaked up behind her.
When he realized that the girl was only checking some messages in a small chat group on her terminal, he immediately wanted to retreat and avoid intruding on the privacy of others, but it was already too late.
Being rather short, Adrian was much taller than the girl, which made it easy for him to see the contents of her screen from behind her. Thanks to his good dynamic vision, Adrian was able to see at one glance the name of that chat group—Silver Eyes Giant Space Rabbit Frontline Discussion Squad (Navi Platoon).
What the hell does that mean?
Don’t all rabbits have red eyes?
And what’s that Navi Platoon thing in the parenthesis? Did they have other platoons elsewhere as well?
Adrian was completely puzzled, and at the same time, he felt that those stupid creatures, the giant space rabbits, had been coming up in his life way too much recently. Ever since he graduated and no longer had to stare at Zhong Yan’s giant space rabbit bed sheets, it had been many long years since he had heard the name of that creature.
But actually, he did have a conjecture in his heart; he felt that those two words seemed to have something to do with both him and Zhong Yan, but he really couldn’t bring himself to peek at the contents of another person’s messages again, so he could only leave in confusion. He decided to wait till he returned home to investigate what that chat group was all about.
The four of them said their farewells at the entrance of the restaurant.
Zhong Yan and Adrian were headed towards where they parked their car when the cold winter wind blew past. Zhong Yan rubbed his neck and stopped in his tracks. He turned to Adrian and said, “You should go ahead and start the car first. I seem to have forgotten my scarf at the steakhouse. I’ll go get it.”
“I’ll go with you,” said Adrian, and he casually added on, “I’ll wait at the entrance. Otherwise, what am I going to do if you ran off?”
When they went back to the steakhouse, someone had already occupied their corner. The staff at the front desk said, “Zhong…Ah, um…are you here for your scarf?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“It’s over here, the waiter who cleaned the table picked it up earlier.” The cashier handed the scarf to him. “Here.”
“Thank you.” Instead of receiving it, Zhong Yan paused for a moment before asking in a quiet voice, “Is your boss in the shop?”
“Huh?” The cashier was surprised. “Do you need our boss for something?”
“I’d like to speak with him.”
The cashier made a call, and a middle-aged man with a beer belly came out not long after. He looked puzzlingly at Zhong Yan and was just about to ask what he needed when he was stunned in place, unsure of what he should refer to him as.
But while he was still feeling troubled over what to call Zhong Yan, Zhong Yan began, “Hello, may I ask if you are willing to sell the formula to your black pepper sauce?” I can sign a confidentiality agreement, and I can guarantee you that it is only for personal use. I will not use it for profits and I will never make the formula public. If you’re willing to sell it to me, you can name me your price.”
The boss wiped his sweat and said, “Oh, so it’s about that! And here I was wondering what went wrong…Well, I don’t mind. The price can be flexible if you’re using it for yourself…but a breach of contract is going to cost you more, is that a deal?”
“Deal,” Zhong Yan easily agreed. Adrian was still standing outside so he was in a rush to go. He exchanged contact information with the boss and decided to wait till they were back before settling the contract.
But just as he was about to go, the cashier who was still holding onto Zhong Yan’s scarf quickly stopped him. “Oh wait, hold on, Zhong—”
“Don’t say it!” The boss was so shocked that he quickly interrupted the cashier.
“Oh no, I forgot!” The cashier was also sweating heavily in shock. She patted her chest and said, “Gosh, that scared me, I nearly blurted it out. Thank God Commander Yate isn’t here.”
“Blurted what out?” Zhong Yan, who had been called back, asked suspiciously, “And why are you thankful he’s not here?”
The cashier returned his scarf to him while the boss said in surprise, “Do you really not know? We can’t say your name in our star system. Otherwise, the Commander will get furious.”
“…Oh.” No wonder. Zhong Yan carefully recalled the people he had come in contact with in Navi System, and it was indeed true that he rarely heard anyone call him by name.
The cashier asked, “Sir, are you and the Commander getting married? Time is almost up to pay the fine.” But more importantly, the two of them did not seem to be at each other’s throats like the rumors said when they came to eat.
The boss waved his hands. “The Commander has his own plans, naturally. So don’t ask nonsense.”
Zhong Yan bid them farewell and left. After he did, the cashier said to her boss, “I wonder what he wants the formula for.”
“What else for? Didn’t he just eat dinner here? He liked it so he wants to cook it for himself when he returns to the Capital.”
The cashier was even more confused. She said, “But he didn’t order black pepper just now. He wrote it himself in the notes that he wanted tomato sauce. I don’t think he likes black pepper at all.”
“What took you so long?” Adrian asked just as Zhong Yan came out, “Was it that difficult to get your scarf?”
Without arguing, Zhong Yan said, “Come on, let’s go buy the blankets.”
The streets were bustling as it was the first day of the New Year’s, so there were quite a lot of people passing by them. Many people recognized the two who were walking side by side, and they were all watching them, even turning back to look after passing them by.
Adrian stopped in his steps. Before Zhong Yan could even ask what’s wrong, Adrian pulled the hood of his jacket over his head with one hand.
Zhong Yan was startled. Of course, he knew that many people were watching them, but he had already been long accustomed to drawing gazes after being the focus of attention for the last decade. It was reasonable to say that Adrian should be used to it as well. Maybe…Adrian just didn’t want to be seen walking next to him by too many people.
But that was only normal. Zhong Yan pulled up his scarf silently. After all, Adrian should scorn him for his current identity. Or perhaps, he did not hate it, but only did not wish to be seen with him. After all, the boss told him earlier that Adrian would get furious if he so much as heard his name.
“I would’ve brought a pair of sunglasses if I’d known earlier.” Zhong Yan’s voice was muffled by his scarf. “Why don’t we split up? I remember where the car is.”
Adrian could not understand his train of thought. “Split up? Why? Are you really trying to escape? But what you said makes sense, I’ll get you a pair of sunglasses later. It’s like these people have lived all their lives never seeing a…” a good looking person before.
He had swallowed down the last bit of his words back in time. But unfortunately, he had already said words like those many times seven years ago in the past, so it did not stop Zhong Yan from understanding what he meant at all.
In order not to make it awkward for Adrian, he tried his best to press down his urge to smile, and quickly pulled out a question, “Oh right, did we leash the rabbit before coming out?”
“It’s leashed,” Adrian responded, “Your memory’s terrible, you asked me that just before we came out.”
The two chatted idly about the rabbit while entering the car, and headed towards the shopping district.