Chapter 52: Mermaid Princess’s Wish
Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
“Soften the butter, add the flour and sugar, then beat continuously; next, add the egg mixture, and beat continuously again…” Qiao Xi read from the recipe, his mouth mumbling, his hands cautious.
He was making cookies.
These were important cookies! They have to be really good!
Han Tian preheated the oven for him and asked, “Are you sure you don’t need my help?”
Qiao Xi didn’t even look up. “No, no! I can do it!”
This statement was not a show of confidence.
For some reason, after getting out of the hospital this time, Qiao Xi felt that his ability to make desserts had skyrocketed.
Basically, as long as he followed the recipe to the letter, he was able to make a decent tasting dessert, and there were no more tragic accidents like baking a big ball of unidentified black garbage.
So, this time, as a gift to Han Tian’s “grandfather”, Qiao Xi chose to bake a box of cookies by himself.
As for why he prepared the “meet and greet” gift, it started two days ago.
When Han Tian told him that the “parents” of his family wanted to meet him, Qiao Xi’s jaw dropped and he didn’t understand why or what he needed to do.
During the meal, he looked at Han Tian’s calm and relaxed demeanor, organized his words for a day, and finally found a topic that could be used as a pretext. “Han Tian, I heard from Luo Lin that you haven’t contacted your family for a long time, why did your parents contact you again?”
“Hmm?” Han Tian, while helping Qiao Xi to serve the porridge, said unconcernedly, “It’s not my parents, it’s my grandfather. He and I have been in touch.”
But that’s not the point!
Qiao Xi looked at the congee Han Tian handed over, took two deep breaths, and finally asked what he wanted to ask, “Uh, why would your grandfather want to see me?”
Han Tian said as if nothing had happened, “Why do you need this? I told him that I’ve been living with you for almost a month now, so it’s normal for him to want to see this cohabitant, right?”
“Co… Cohabitant…?” Before the congee reached his mouth, Qiao Xi’s face was red from the heat first.
He bit his lip and carefully prompted, “Uh, the word ‘cohabitant’ can’t be used casually, right?”
Han Tian looked up at him, his clear eyes full of doubts. “Oh? But aren’t we cohabitating? You don’t like this word? Then change it to ‘people living together’?”
Qiao Xi lowered his eyes and whispered, “It’s not the wording that’s the problem…”
“Then what is it?” Han Tian humbly asked for advice.
Feeling completely speechless, Qiao Xi dropped a shrimp dumpling into his mouth and muttered, “Forget it, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
After he was discharged from the hospital, he took advantage of Han Tian’s break to take a shower and surreptitiously dialed the only human he could ask for advice, Sang Sang.
“Qiao Xi?” Sang Sang’s voice sounded happy, except for a little noise in the background. “What’s wrong? I’m at the hot spring hotel with my friend. Let me tell you, hot spring inns are really comfortable, and a hot spring bath and a hot seafood hot pot is just wonderful. You and Dr. Han must come and try it out when you have time…”
Qiao Xi, who had something on his mind, was a bit embarrassed to interrupt Sang Sang’s sharing of her travel experience. “Ahem, actually, Sang Sang, I have something to ask you again…”
“Huh…? Hey, hey, hey, it’s about that friend of yours again, huh?” Sang Sang lowered her voice and smiled mysteriously.
“Mmm…” Qiao Xi honestly admitted and said, “Just two days ago, this friend’s friend suddenly proposed that his parents want to meet this friend…”
Before Qiao Xi could finish his sentence, he heard Sang Sang scream “Aaaaaaaaaa” on the other end of the phone, which made him move the phone further away.
When the screaming was over, Qiao Xi moved the phone back to his ear and asked, confused, “What just happened to you?”
“Oh,” Sang Sang said, trying to hold in her laughter, “I just saw a frog pop out of the hot spring and I was so surprised.”
Ha? Inside the hot spring, a frog popped out? How dumb must this frog be? That was indeed surprising enough.
Qiao Xi continued while expressing understanding, “I just want to ask, is it common for parents to want to see their friends who are close and live together?”
“Yes, yes! It’s very common!” Sang Sang said categorically, and gave him several examples. “I, when I first graduated, I shared a room with someone, and my mom and dad invited that young lady to eat with them, and asked her to take care of me; also, my classmate, my classmate’s classmate…”
Oh, so that’s how it is.
So it was a normal operation in the human world.
Qiao Xi was somewhat relieved.
“Then… I have one more question. What about my friend who doesn’t want to leave any bad impression on his parents, is there anything I need to remind him?” Qiao Xi then asked.
“Well… Well…” Sang Sang pondered for a moment and said, “Have your friend prepare a very thoughtful gift. I guess this parent must be a rich family too, the kind that has everything at home?”
Qiao Xi took the phone and nodded. “Uh-huh, yes.”
“Well, you can try hand-made crafts, or small cookies, cupcakes or something, this kind of thing, for the first time daughter-in-law… It’s the best way to show your heart for a first-time daughter-in-law…” Sang Sang said with certainty.
“Oh…” Qiao Xi thought for a moment and agreed, “Mn, that makes sense!”
Sang Sang then rambled on and on about the dos and don’ts of meeting a “friend’s parents” before hanging up the phone in satisfaction.
However, the moment he hung up the phone, Qiao Xi thought he heard Sang Sang screaming again.
Did the frog come out again? What kind of hot spring is this!
So, Qiao Xi accepted Sang Sang’s suggestion and seriously baked cookies, which were then packed in a delicate box as a gift for Grandpa.
On Wednesday morning, the two of them took the cookies and set off for Yuncheng, where Grandpa Han Tian lived.
Yuncheng was not too far from Haicheng and was also on the beach, about a 5 hours drive.
Originally Qiao Xi proposed that the two of them take turns driving, but Han Tian said he was worried that he would fall asleep again while driving. So the only driver for the whole trip was Han Tian.
At first, the large golden wheat fields along the highway, the shimmering ponds and the big white geese swimming around were all new to Qiao Xi, and he was very impressed.
But after driving halfway, he was already a little tired of watching.
He turned his head to look at Han Tian, who had been concentrating on driving, and wanted to talk to him, but was worried that he would be distracted.
After swiping his phone for a while and wriggling around in his seat, he leaned his head against the window.
“Bored? Take a nap?” Han Tian spoke first.
“No, I’m not sleepy.” Qiao Xi shook his head.
“Well, what do you want to listen to?” Han Tian asked, while tapping the radio on the car screen with his free hand.
The program on the radio should be a dialogue program. First, a beautiful and cheerful tune was played, and then it turned into a male and female host chatting.
For this kind of program, Qiao Xi used to treat it as “study material”.
But now, he no longer feels that he needs to study so hard, so he just tilts his head and listens to it.
The theme of this dialogue program seems to be discussing the dos and don’ts of lovers going to each other’s homes for the first time. The male host in it, vividly recalled how nervous he was when he went to his girlfriend’s house for the first time. He had to think for a long time about what gifts to bring, how to say hello at the door, and whether he should help his aunt put away the table or chat with his uncle after the meal.
Hearing this, Qiao Xi couldn’t help but frown and said, “Why is it so troublesome?”
“Huh?” Han Tian replied casually, “It’s normal, right? Generally speaking, lovers will visit their parents only when their relationship is very stable and they want to spend the rest of their lives together, hoping to get the approval and blessing of their elders. So, it’s quite common to be a little nervous and a little more prepared.”
Qiao Xi sighed in disbelief and was glad that it was only because Han Tian’s grandfather was so concerned about Han Tian and wanted to meet him, otherwise he would have been so nervous.
It’s just that… How come these notes are more or less the same as what Sang Sang had told him?
Thinking about this, he hesitated for a few more days and finally stammered out, “Well… So, if it’s just two people who are ready to start a relationship, you don’t usually need to meet both elders in advance, right?”
“Hmm?” Han Tian laughed. “No need. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you don’t see them at all. Relationships are supposed to be about two people, and it has nothing to do with what other people think.”
Oh, that’s good.
Qiao Xi was relieved.
After all, for demons, if they are interested in another demon and want to do such and such things together, they just go up and ask for each other’s consent, where is the need for so much trouble and etiquette?
However, according to human rules, if Han Tian was willing to fall in love with me, and also willing to be with me all the time, then I would still go to ask his parents again, and ask them to give Han Tian to me with confidence… Qiao Xi watched the trees along the road, the grass flying backwards, secretly determined.
After another three hours of driving, Han Tian went up the mountain road along the seaside road of Yuncheng. After passing through a courtyard gate with automatic license plate recognition, he drove around the mountain road for nearly ten minutes before finally reaching the top of the mountain and stopping in front of a white villa.
Qiao Xi jumped out of the car and couldn’t help but look into the distance: at the foot of the mountain, there was the turquoise blue sea, the end of which seemed to be connected to the sky, and there was a cruise ship slowly sailing over the horizon.
The temperature in Yuncheng was higher than Haicheng, but after all, it was already November, and the wind at the top of the mountain was still a bit cool. Qiao Xi looked at the big white ship for a while, and was surprised to sneeze from the wind.
Han Tian put his arm around his shoulders and said, “Let’s put on some clothes and look at it later. Let’s go in first.”
Qiao Xi hurriedly followed him up the steps and watched Han Tian push open the door.
He thought there would be several housekeepers and aunts in the house, but the hall was empty and very quiet, except for the crystal lights hanging from the ceiling, which tinkled every now and then.
Han Tian looked at his black wristwatch and, with a slightly embarrassed look on his face, said to Qiao Xi, “Grandpa says he’s waiting for us in the backyard for dinner.”
“Oh oh, okay.” Qiao Xi then followed Han Tian through the hall, then through a corridor, and pushed open a door to the backyard.
In Qiao Xi’s imagination, since Han Tian was the child of a “powerful family” and the house was elegant enough, the lunch would probably be served with knives and forks on a snow-white tablecloth, followed by a line of bow-tied maids serving dishes on warm plates…
He never thought that in this kind of courtyard, full of hanging bell flowers and vegetation flowers, was a large round table with a hot pot on top.
And, a half red and half white mandarin duck pot.
And next to the table, with his back to them stood a man with a straight back and white hair, who seemed to be studying when the water in the pot would boil.
After Han Tian saw the man’s back, he once again looked embarrassed and coughed gently.
Only then did the man turn around, smiling brightly, his voice a little older. “Hey, you guys are here! I wanted to pick you up at the door, but I wanted to set up the pot first, so you can eat when you arrive.”
Before Qiao Xi could say anything, Han Tian slyly said, “You can’t wait to eat…”
The other party laughed and did not take Han Tian’s words, but walked up to Qiao Xi and extended his hand to him. “Qiao Xi?
He looked a bit similar to Han Tian, aged around 60, with wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, but his eyes were very bright, with a smile under them.
Qiao Xi hurriedly extended her hand and greeted him as politely and elegantly as possible, “Hello, Grandpa.”
The man visibly froze for a moment, then laughed again, greeting Qiao Xi with a smile while sitting down.
Qiao Xi put the cookie box on the table and said nicely, “Grandpa, I baked these cookies myself, I want you to try them.”
Grandpa was stunned again and praised, “You know how to bake cookies now?” He opened the box without a second thought, picked up a piece and put it in his mouth.
After eating it, he sighed, “Not bad, it’s almost the same taste as Han Tian’s.”
When Qiao Xi heard this, he felt something strange—was this a compliment for my good work? It seemed to be, but it didn’t seem to be.
Han Tian stood up and helped them both set up the dishes.
Grandpa took a big roll of beef with his chopsticks and put it into the tumbling red soup, looking at Qiao Xi with a smile. “I heard Han Tian say that you don’t eat spicy food?”
Qiao Xi blinked in bewilderment, “Ah, no.”
Grandpa put another roll of beef into the broth, full of regret. “It’s good to eat spicy food, spicy is the most rich taste in this world. I usually don’t have much to eat, so when I come here once in a while, I have to eat a few hot pot meals, the spiciest kind, to get a little bit of enjoyment.”
“Oh…” Qiao Xi looked at the tumbling red liquid, and the large handful of peppers and chili peppers floating inside, and did not know how to answer.
“So, you really don’t want to try it?” Grandpa picked up a piece of hot beef from the red pot and looked at Qiao Xi almost eagerly.
Feeling that he could not refuse, Qiao Xi reluctantly said, “Then… Yes, okay…”
Grandpa was happy as he used his chopsticks to put the beef into Qiao Xi’s bowl.
Qiao Xi lowered his head, shivered, and took a small bite…
Wow, what is this! My mouth is about to burst into flames! My throat hurts too!
Qiao Xi, who was choking and blushing, had to turn around and cover his mouth and cough to the ground.
“Don’t tease him so much.” Han Tian looked at his “grandfather” helplessly and kept smoothing Qiao Xi’s back. When Qiao Xi’s cough had subsided, he poured another glass of ice water and handed it over.
As for the remaining piece of beef in Qiao Xi’s bowl, Han Tian naturally chucked it into his own bowl and ate it without a frown.
For the rest of the meal, Qiao Xi ate vegetables and meat that Han Tian had prepared for him, but of course, they were not spicy.
When the hot pot was finished, or rather, when Grandpa finally put down his chopsticks, it was already an hour later.
Grandpa stretched out and said to Qiao Xi, “Come, I’ll show you my paintings.”
Although Qiao Xi did not know why, he still nodded obediently, but stole his eyes to look at Han Tian.
Han Tian didn’t avoid people and smiled directly at him, saying, “Go ahead, I’ll clean up here.”
Qiao Xi was a little embarrassed, so he could only follow the old man, thinking that he was lucky his grandfather couldn’t see his blush.
Qiao Xi thought that the two of them would go to the big house and enter a collection room or something, but instead, grandpa led him directly to another corner of the garden.
This corner was almost at the edge of the hilltop, another good place to see the sea horizon.
However, what attracted more attention than the sea horizon was an easel with a watercolor on it, which came out of the dark green grass.
Qiao Xi immediately saw that the watercolor was the sea looking out from here. Only the color of the sea was more transparent, probably painted when the weather was extremely clear.
Grandpa said he wanted to show him the painting, but he didn’t introduce it to him, only asked him, “You haven’t seen the sea before, have you?”
“Mn,” Qiao Xi answered honestly, “but I’ve been to the oceanarium, Han Tian took me there.”
Grandpa smiled and asked, “I heard Han Tian say that you go to the orphanage to tell stories to the children?”
“Mn,” Qiao Xi nodded again, “but I don’t go there much, and I’ve only read Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. By the way, Han Tian even bought a copy for me.”
Grandpa’s eyes passed over the painting in front of him and drifted to the sea in the distance, and continued to ask, “Then you must have read [Daughter of the Sea]?”
Qiao Xi said, “Yes, I have. But I don’t like the story very much.”
Grandpa’s eyes went back to Qiao Xi’s face.
This time, the old man’s gaze was severe and even his tone of voice changed. “Since you have read it, tell me, if you were the mermaid, would you choose to kill the prince in exchange for his soul?”
Qiao Xi shivered at the old man’s majestic voice, but still stood up straight and blurted out, “I wouldn’t—Huh?”
He clearly remembered that just a month or so ago, when he first read the story, he was asking Han Tian why the mermaid didn’t kill the prince and let himself live.
Why was his own first reaction now that the mermaid would not kill the prince?
The old man naturally noticed his hesitation and asked, “Why, does this answer surprise you?”
Qiao Xi was watched by the old man’s sharp, seemingly all-seeing gaze, and had a feeling of “completely unable to hide”, so he could only tell what he thought at that time.
After hearing Qiao Xi’s words, the old man’s gaze softened a little and said, “Now, why do you think that the mermaid princess will not kill the prince?”
Qiao Xi’s face showed a confused look, and his eyes were empty. “I also… I don’t know. But… I remember Han Tian saying that the mermaid princess chose love over life—so maybe, when faced with true love, one probably wants the other to live even at the cost of one’s own life? I don’t really get it, but… I think, if it were me, I would… I hope he can live…”
Qiao Xi did not notice that while he was saying these words, everything around him was still.
The insects and birds stopped chirping, the leaves stopped swirling. The sea stopped fluctuating. The wind stopped blowing.
The whole world, it seemed to pause for a second.
Only one “man” was an exception.
The old man in white in front of him walked up to Qiao Xi and gave him a gentle tap on his forehead.
Only, Qiao Xi knew nothing about it.
When Qiao Xi came back to his senses, he saw the old man holding a pen and sketching a cruise ship on the sea, while smilingly saying to Qiao Xi, “Tell Han Tian to make some black tea, and later, we will have afternoon tea here, just in time to eat your cookies.”
Qiao Xi answered cheerfully and turned to go.
The old man was left standing in front of the easel, looking solemn, painting heavily on the canvas.