Chapter 22 – A Place to Retire
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Mi Li rolled around on the bed while hugging a pillow, her mouth letting out cries and groans like a crazy person. She wondered if Old Bai could solve his food problem and whether he could take care of Little Bai.
Her experiences after crossing over had become clearer and clearer; her memory was no longer as vague as before. However, what followed was endless worry and shame. The worry was Old Bai’s healthy diet, and the shame was the play where she threw away her moral integrity.
Hold it! Mi Li paused her actions. She followed a strict sleeping schedule everyday, but that didn’t mean that she couldn’t go straight back to sleep after waking up! She thought of Old and Little Bai not having settled their dinner yet, how they were staying miserably in a dark and damp house, and haphazardly solving the problems of food and clothing. Her mind helplessly conjured the picture of a person and a cat squatting together for instant noodles. The sight was unbearable!
Mi Li got up and went to the kitchen for a glass of milk, drank it and rinsed her mouth afterwards. Then she laid back on her bed, closed her eyes and went to sleep.
Meanwhile, Xi Baichen sat at the side of the stove, slowly adding firewood and boiling water. Next to him was a box of instant noodles and a bowl of cat food. Little Bai was burying its head in the bowl, eating happily.
The water in the pot slowly boiled, giving off steam. He picked up the instant noodles and tore the package open. Taking out the seasoning packet, he was about to add it in, when suddenly, he heard a voice that had earlier disappeared transmitting through the air: [ Sure enough, you are eating instant noodles again! ]
Xi Baichen’s empty eyes suddenly brightened, and the shadows left by the drooping bangs on his face lightened considerably.
“You didn’t leave?” He looked at the milk bottle on the stove.
[ I was worried that you might not eat well, so I came back again. ]
Xi Baichen silently remembered this sentence in his heart. Worried that he would not eat well, so she came back, hmmm…
[ What ingredients did you bring? ] Mi Li asked.
Xi Baichen pointed to the chopping board, “Just these.”
[ You’ve already dealt with them? Let’s get started then. ] Mi Li said happily, [ Although there aren’t many ingredients, it’s enough to cook dinner. You can buy some fresh ingredients from the villagers tomorrow. ]
“Yeah.” Xi Baichen stood up, set the instant noodles aside, rolled up his sleeves and prepared to cook.
There was no rice nor oil in the kitchen. The main ingredients were pork, toast, ham, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, fresh vegetables and some condiments.
Mi Li had Xi Baichen first lightly fry the pork to extract the oil before removing the meat. The pork oil was then used to fry slices of ham. After frying, he spread the ham evenly on the toast, then put tomato slices and green leaves on top.
Using the excess oil, he stir-fried pork with potatoes. Adding corn and water, he heated everything to a boil, removed the foam, covered the wok, and simmered for 25 minutes. Then he stirred in the milk with a spatula and did his best to mash the potatoes. He added salt and chicken bouillon for seasoning, simmered for a few more minutes, then finally put out the fire. Thus a bowl of improved potato soup was made.
Mi Li had Xi Baichen specially set aside some potatoes and corn, which were later simmered with tomato juice in the wok as an after dinner snack.
Ham and vegetable toast, potato soup, and an original flavored potato with corn dish were Xi Baichen’s dinner today.
The woodsmoke permeated into the food, and although no fancy cooking methods were used, the taste was unique. Western-style dishes paired with countryside style techniques created unexpected harmony.
Xi Baichen sat on the wood pile, eating the ham and vegetable toast while sipping the potato soup. The wok was still simmering with potatoes and corn and the fragrance filled the kitchen. Even Little Bai who had just eaten couldn’t help sniffing its nose. With watery eyes, it stared at Xi Baichen who was enjoying dinner.
[ Old Bai, how many days do you plan to stay? ] Mi Li asked.
“It depends on the situation.” Xi Baichen thought for a while, “I plan to stay in seclusion and write until my current work is completed.”
[ Is it the gourmet novel you mentioned before? ]
“Yes, that’s right.” Xi Baichen looked at the milk bottle, “I already finished the outline. You can take a look if you are interested.”
Mi Li immediately said: [ Interested! I am extremely interested! ]
After Xi Baichen finished the toast, he went to the wok and took out the potato and corn dish, sprinkled it with salt and tomato juice, and ate it with the rest of the potato soup. He inhaled it, eating everything clean in a couple of bites.
[ Are you full? ]
“Eighty percent full.” Xi Baichen’s eyes glanced at the instant noodles on the table, planning to eat it as a midnight snack.
[ Don’t even think about the instant noodles. ] Mi Li coolly said, [ Unless you want to eat me. ]
“Huh? Aren’t you the milk?”
[ Can’t I become instant noodles? ] Mi Li said awe-inspiringly, [ In order to prevent you from eating instant noodles, my sacrifice is great. ]
Xi Baichen: “……” What did you sacrifice?
[ Since you are not full, you might as well stop by the villagers’ homes to buy some rice noodles, meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables. That way you won’t have to find something tomorrow morning. ] The rural areas generally raised poultry and grew vegetables, so one didn’t have to worry about lack of food at all.
“Okay.” Xi Baichen easily agreed, putting Little Bai into a bag and stuffing the instant noodles into another. He walked out of the house and went straight to Uncle Niu’s house. He smoothly bought the ingredients that Mi Li had requested. He also brought back half a barrel of oil, costing only 50 yuan, which he forcefully squeezed in.
The nearby villagers were familiar with Baichen. Upon hearing that he planned to stay for a while, they brought him a lot of food and warmly invited him to visit them at their home.
[ You are right, the folk customs here are really simple. ] Mi Li sighed.
“Yes, this is where I will retire.” Xi Baichen sat in the courtyard, quietly watching the sunset in the distance. Little Bai spun around his feet, sometimes leaping on the nearby weeds, having a great time.
[ Are you thinking about retirement already? ] Mi Li asked incredulously.
Xi Baichen quietly said, “Someone who doesn’t plan for the future will definitely have to worry everyday.”
That was f*cking far-sighted!
[ If you really want to retire here, at least take care of it properly, okay? ] Mi Li spat out, [ Look at the weeds in the yard, the cobwebs in the house, the drafty windows; is this suitable for a retirement home? This is more suited to be a haunted house! ]
“Oh? Do you have any suggestions?” Xi Baichen asked casually.
[ First renovate the house, then grow flowers and plants in the yard. I personally recommend planting grapes, wisteria or other flowers and trees. ] Mi Li enthusiastically pointed around the property, [ Install all kinds of electrical appliances, and the home decor must be comfortable and elegant. Smelling the fragrance outside, resting on the couch, cooking with a wood stove, brewing wine with green plums… That is real retirement life. ]
Xi Baichen raised his eyes, whispering, “That sounds pretty good.”
[ Of course. With me here, I’ll ensure that your last years won’t be as bleak as they are now. ]
Xi Baichen: “……” Was his life very bleak right now?
“So, you will accompany me in retirement?”
Mi Li thought for a while then said: [ I can’t guarantee that, but as long as I still exist in your world, I will stay by your side. ]
The only connection between her and this world was Xi Baichen. Although she didn’t know why, she cherished this wonderful experience very much.
Xi Baichen’s finger brushed across the top of the instant noodles, slowly tracing out the word “Good.”
[ By the way, didn’t you say you wanted to show me your novel outline? ] Mi Li urged, [ Hurry up, I can’t wait. ]
Xi Baichen got up and went into the bedroom to take out his laptop. He opened the document and set the instant noodles in front of the screen, giving her a slightly better view.
After Mi Li finished reading, she asked: [ The male and female leads haven’t been named yet? ]
“No.” Xi Baichen looked at her, “Why don’t you do it?”
[ Sure. ] Mi Li did not shirk the responsibility and accepted, [ The male lead can use your surname. The more proper choices include Xi Ming, Xi Wenyan, and Xi Jincheng. The funnier choices include Xi Tiancai, Xi Zhuoyue, Xi Jingren. ]
A hint of humour appeared in Xi Baichen’s eyes: “And the female lead?”
[ The female lead… ] The voice gradually drifted away.
“Little Mi?” Xi Baichen waited for a long time without a response. He looked down, but the instant noodles in his hand was silent.
He was silent for a moment, then he set the instant noodles aside and typed the words, “Xi Jingren” on the document. He paused and then typed in another name, “Mi Li.”
Mi Li had never told him her full name, but there seemed to be a feeling in the darkness that made him think of these two words.
Mi Li, having no idea that she had become the female lead of the gourmet novel, was lying in bed planning out the next day’s recipes. Today she slept for more than four hours and was in high spirits. After deciding on the recipes, she decided to do a late-night livestream.
Late night was most suitable for livestreaming about poisoning of course.
Due to Xi Baichen, Mi Li’s passion for food had recently increased by several levels. Adhering to the principle of the more the merrier, she did not hesitate to share her cooking process and strove to be a young expert in late night poisoning.
After provoking a group of foodies, Mi Li felt amazingly refreshed. She put on sportswear and went downstairs to take a walk in the local park.
Halfway there, she suddenly heard a noise coming from the side of the road. A man pointed at an elderly man and scolded, “I’ve seen a lot of scammers like you. Get out of the way, or I will call the police.”
The old man had his back hunched. Leaning against the street light, he had a pained look on his face. The onlookers kept chattering, some suspecting the old man and the others accusing the owner of the car.
In today’s era of moral bankruptcy, it was difficult to distinguish between true and false for many things. Some shameless villains used the kindness of others to deceive and blackmail, causing people to be suspicious of each other, becoming alienated and indifferent. As for those who really needed help, they instead would not get helped.
Mi Li recognized the old man as a tenant of Qingwei Homes. He was honest and humble, and it was absolutely impossible for him to carry out such a scam.
“Call the police.” Mi Li walked over to support the old man, and said to the car owner, “There is a surveillance camera nearby. Whether or not this is a scam, we can find out once we check.”
The car owner said angrily, “I was driving just fine, then he suddenly rushed out from the side and hit my car on his own. Isn’t this the very definition of the scam?”
Mi Li did not continue speaking nonsense with him and directly called the police.
When the car owner saw this, his face faintly revealed his anger, and he reached out to push Mi Li.
Mi Li was unguarded so she was pushed against the pillar, and the elder was almost knocked over.
“Hey, what’s the matter with you?” Many onlookers knew Mi Li. Seeing that she was being pushed around, they couldn’t help but say, “Can’t we discuss this peacefully? Why are you being so physical?”
“I just can’t stand these scammers.” The car owner looked fierce, “If you scam then you’re a scammer, why the act? Do you think I will be afraid if you call the police?”
“You aren’t afraid?” Mi Li rubbed her hurt shoulder, her expression calm. “Drunk driving, how do you think the police would judge that?”
“Who is driving while drunk?” the owner yelled roughly.
“Who do you think?”
“Get lost, I don’t have the time to deal with you.” The owner pushed away the crowd and walked towards his car.
“You can’t go.” Mi Li blocked him, “This uncle was injured by you, you must be held responsible.”
The car owner rudely knocked her aside, opened the door and sat in. Mi Li grabbed the car handle to prevent him from leaving, insisting: “You can’t go, wait for the police to come.”
There were also other people nearby, but no one dared to block the car like Mi Li.
The owner spat at Mi Li, and when she subconsciously dodged, he started the engine and rushed away.
Mi Li didn’t have time to let go of the handle. She fell to the ground and almost got caught in the wheels.
Exclamations sounded all around. No one expected that the owner of the car would really dare to drive away without paying any attention to the safety of others.
Mi Li raised her head, her eyes focused, and she memorized the person’s license plate number.
“Little Mi!” The old man walked over quickly, struggling to lift her up.
“Uncle Zhao, are you okay?”
“I’m okay, you are the one who got in trouble.” Uncle Zhao looked at her injured arm sadly, “Speak, kid. Why would you block a car? Don’t you know it’s dangerous? “
Mi Li indignantly said, “You are my tenant, I am responsible for you. “
Uncle Zhao was both angry and amused.
At this time, the police rushed to the scene. Mi Li explained the situation to them and informed them of the car’s license plate number. Even if she couldn’t get compensation for Uncle Zhao, at least she could get the car owner in trouble.
After the matter was resolved, Mi Li accompanied Uncle Zhao to the hospital. He suffered a slight bruise on the side of his waist. It would have been no big deal if not for the fact that he was so old. It was estimated that this collision would take several months to heal.
Mi Li had the hospital issue a list of injuries. Although they might not utilize it, it couldn’t be neglected.
Back home, Mi Li had a bath, took some medicine, and then went to bed.
After a busy night, Mi Li steadily slept for four hours. When her consciousness “woke up”, it was already early morning of the next day.
It was foggy outside the window, cold and quiet. Xi Baichen got up early to wash, and stretched his limbs in the yard.
Little Bai was still sleeping in the cat bed, curled up like a small fur ball.
Without disturbing it, Xi Baichen turned and walked into the kitchen. Looking at the ingredients in the basket, he muttered, “What should I eat this morning?”
[ A bowl of hot noodle soup, warming the heart and the stomach. ] A familiar voice came from an unknown corner.
Xi Baichen looked around.
[ I am in the paper bag. ]
Xi Baichen’s eyes fell on the paper bag in the basket. He crouched down, opened the paper bag, and a strange odor entered his nostrils.
Looking intently, he found that it was a piece of cured meat.
Xi Baichen lifted the string tying the cured meat and called out uncertainly, “Little Mi?”
[ That’s right, do I look lean and thin today, with an unstoppable charm? ]
Xi Baichen held his breath and did not correct her misconception of herself.
[ How about making a bowl of hot cured meat noodles this morning? ]
“You are cured meat.” Xi Baichen reminded her.
[ Uh… alright. ] Mi Li checked the ingredients in the basket and said, [ Then eat somen noodles. ]
- The funny names (析天才、析卓越、析惊人) mean Genius Xi, Excellent Xi, Amazing Xi.
- Posting FOMO-inducing photos of food on social media, especially during late night.
- In this chapter, scammers are actually referring to a specific type of scammer. They might only exist in China and I don’t know if there’s an English term for the scam they perpetuate. Basically, the scammer bumps into someone or something and then demands payment for “medical fees” or else they threaten to call the police. The perpetrator for this type of scam is typically portrayed by an old person. The scam succeeds because nobody saw the incident clearly and the victim doesn’t want to go through the hassle of police questioning where it devolves into “he said, she said” and might still end up being held responsible.