After Shen Juan spoke out, everyone paused. Jiang Han’s arm remained still mid-air, He Songnan raised his head, and Wang Yiyang was in the middle of stuffing a piece of fish tofu in his mouth, which dropped off and landed back in his bowl with a thunk.
He Songnan was the first to react, putting his chopsticks down and asking knowingly, “Come on, why won’t it be appropriate? Little sister came here to have hotpot and drinking a cup would liven the atmosphere. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Shen Juan cast him a glance. “She’s a minor.”
He Songnan choked and pointed to Wang Yiyang at the side. “This guy is also a minor.”
The minor Wang Yiyang was munching on fish tofu and raising the bottle of beer and guzzling down a third of the contents. He then let out a refreshed exhale.
He Songnan leaned closer and knocked on the bottle, “So why can’t your little desk mate?”
Shen Juan could see that he was doing it on purpose.
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The sky had already turned dark and several lights were hung in the courtyard. The doorway lights were also lit up, the ray of bulbs both dim and bright.
In the alley tattoo studio, the palm-sized courtyard emitted sounds of bubbling mala hotpot, young and enthusiastic youths were vividly spread out in front of her in this unfamiliar city, a bizarre feeling burning in her.
Wang Yiyang and the gang chatted with gusto and upon seeing that it was only 8pm, decided to go buy some alcohol back. He Songnan didn’t say another word and pulled Wang Yiyang and Jiang Han outside. “Let’s go, brothers. Time to go buy alcohol.”
When he stepped through the doors, he even looked back at Shen Juan with a meaningful gaze. “Boss Juan, make sure to look after the house properly.”
Lin Yujing was still chewing on a piece of cabbage in her mouth. When she raised her head, the clamorous youths were nowhere to be found, the courtyard overcome with silence.
Shen Juan quietly sat at the side and leaned back on the chair, playing with Lin Yujing’s empty cup.
Sensing her gaze, he raised his head. “Are you full?”
He hadn’t talked at all this whole time and now that he did, his voice was slightly hoarse. As his voice brushed through the night and the lights, it carried an odd texture.
Lin Yujing nodded, her gaze falling on the cup in his hand. His hand was very good looking, his fingers long. The tips held the mouth of the cup, the knuckles slightly raised, appearing thin yet strong.
She suddenly recalled how the youth looked when he held her cup moments ago, pulling the tab of the coke can open and placing it in front of her.
“Do you have a curfew?” Shen Juan suddenly asked.
“Huh?” Lin Yujing was taken aback for a moment and shook her head.
Shen Juan shifted his chair back. “I’m not sure how long it’ll take them to come back. If you’re in a hurry, I can send you back first.”
Lin Yujing wasn’t sure if this was his way of telling her to leave.
If you’re full, then go be on your way. What are you still doing here? Are we close?
Was it this kind of meaning?
She looked at the time which read 8:30 and slowly nodded. “I’ll wait for them to come back and let them know. It’s not that late yet and I can walk myself home.”
Shen Juan gave her a glance and hummed in acknowledgement, no longer saying anything.
She had eaten and drank to her fill and though she didn’t consume alcohol, Lin Yujing ate dinner together with Fu Mingxiu every day which was an extremely painful experience. She felt that if she were to continue to eat, she would probably get indigestion.
It had certainly been a long time since she had a comfortable dinner so now, she was feeling a bit drowsy.
She raised a hand and turned off the bubbling stove while her other hand held her head, lazily looking at the totem-engraved wooden sign hanging on the studio entrance. “Is this your shop?”
Shen Juan looked up. “Ah.” The look in his eyes was profound, his voice hoarse. “More or less. It’s my uncle.”
Lin Yujing noticed it and glanced at him, changing the topic. “Mm. Is tattooing a lucrative job?”
“It’s alright. I don’t earn a lot, just enough to pay off my living expenses.” He looked at her. “Do you want to get it done?”
Lin Yujing was stunned for a while, shaking her head. “It looks painful.”
Shen Juan looked at her with an ambiguous smile. “It won’t hurt if you get it done in the area you chose.”
It took three seconds for Lin Yujing to recall the area he was referring to and she expressionlessly looked back at him. “Classmate Shen, it’s not funny when you talk like that.”
Shen Juan smirked. “Fine.”
“Then, do you usually live here?” Lin Yujing asked.
“Yeah.” Shen Juan paused before continuing. “This is my home.”
Lin Yujing no longer spoke.
Shen Juan spoke very persuasively which certainly carried some profound meaning, making the listener unable to help but ponder some more.
Aside from being located in the city center, there was nothing else that was remarkable about this place. The old house in the alley had wooden floors that looked like they were about to rot. Every step on it made it creak. There were 7 to 8 units on one floor, the area of each unit very small and the soundproofing was horrible.
Moreover, his uncle’s shop was his home.
For an instant, Lin Yujing’s imagination ran wild. A cool, explosive tyrant like Shen Juan suddenly had a backstory, tattooing to earn a living to support his pitiful self.
Lin Yujing dragged her head and blinked slowly. A five thousand character story was created in her head and she couldn’t help letting out a yawn.
The little lady looked tired, tears squeezing out of her eyes when she yawned. Her eyes looked a bit red, the tail of her eyes wide and the corner hooked slightly, the lashes drooping.
She was a bit cold, her neck shrinking in slightly and her fingers unconsciously rubbing her arms.
Shen Juan looked at her for a while and put down the cup in his hand. “Let’s go and wait inside.”
Lin Yujing’s fingertips had already turned to ice and she quickly nodded her head, standing up and following him inside.
She sat down on the sofa while Shen Juan took a blanket from the side and gave it to her. She thanked him and unfolded it open.
The dark gray blanket was very thick, feeling very soft and warm in the hands.
Lin Yujing raised it high for a couple of seconds and reverently mouthed to herself on the inside.
This was boss’s blanket.
The blanket boss used to cover his head was actually given to her to cover herself.
She carefully pulled the corner and laid it on top of her.
The room was very warm. Lin Yujing sank into the sofa, a pillow in hand. She raised her head and yawned again.
She then realized that the ceiling was also drawn on.
The winged angel in front of the shrine held a handful of bright flowers in hand and the devil stood on the top of a pile of human bones with bright red lava flowing beneath his feet.
Half of it was heaven, the other half was hell.
Lin Yujing originally wanted to ask who drew it. She raised her head and didn’t see Sheng Juan.
He might’ve gone out to continue eating since he hadn’t eaten his fill yet.
She tilted her head and rubbed her eyes.
Shen Juan went inside to find an empty cup. The water dispenser wasn’t on and there wasn’t any hot water inside. He found a kettle and turned it on.
Leaning against the fridge, he waited for a while, rummaging for the cigarette box in his pocket. He popped out a stick and put it in his mouth, looking for a lighter.
Halfway, he shot a glance outside.
The person on the sofa was largely concealed, leaving only a hand to hang from the side.
Shen Juan put the lighter back in his pocket and threw the cigarette stick to the side.
He poured himself a cup of water from the kettle. Lin Yujing had already fallen asleep.
She laid down on the side, sinking between the soft sofa and a pile of cushions, tugging only at one edge of the blanket slightly, covering half of her arm and looking strangely pitiful.
Shen Juan put down the cup he was holding onto the coffee table and stood beside the sofa, looking down at her for a while.
After hesitating for a long time, he raised a hand and pulled the blanket, reaching it over her chest, then shoulders–
The sound of merriment and laughter sounded aside the door and in the next second, the door was pushed open. “Boss Juan—Juan ah—”
Shen Juan’s hand shook and the blanket dropped down, just about covering Lin Yujing’s head.
He Songnan entered and looked around, his gaze eventually landing on the person on the sofa.
Shen Juan stood at the side, one hand paused mid-air, his head turning to look at him.
On the sofa was a big bulge, covered securely with a dark gray blanket starting from the head and only revealing small white fingertips.
He Songnan was confused. “What are you guys doing? Why did you cover up the queen? Is this a new kink?”
Shen Juan pressed down his voice. “Shut up.”
He Songnan did as he was told and looked at Shen Juan then at the bulge and paused for two seconds. He raised a hand and pulled down the blanket a bit.
The girl’s little face was revealed. There were two lamps turned on in the room, the lights dim. The girl’s breathing was light and even her skin was very fair. Her long eyeshadows remained still, appearing dense and thick.
A shadow was cast beneath her eyes and she scrunched her brows. When she was awake, it wasn’t evident. Now that she was quiet, she gave off a faint exhausted air as though she hadn’t slept for a long time.
Shen Juan straightened up and took the remote from the other end of the sofa, turning the lights off, the room turning dark. He then walked to the entrance and raised his chin towards He Songnan. “Let’s go.”
He Songnan obediently went out, Shen Juan followed behind him and shut the door.
Outside, Jiang Han and Wang Yiyang were sitting with their backs to each other while chatting. Shen Juan and He Songnan sat down and the latter spoke up. “Old Shen…”
Shen Juan looked up. “Hm?”
Jian Han also looked up. “Did the little fairy leave?”
“No. She’s sleeping inside.”
Jianghan nodded, saying. “Boss Juan, I’ve heard about your matters.”
Shen Juan lowered his head, not knowing what matter he had.
Jiang Han wore a solemn face. “I was just blabbering before. If you truly like her, I won’t fight with you bro. But you have to put in some effort. Take today for example. Did you just let her sleep inside alone? If you like her, you should sleep together with her!”
Shen Juan looked at him in amusement and didn’t know what he was stuffing in his brain every day. “How did you come to that conclusion?”
Jiang Han: “If you don’t like her, why did you stop her from drinking alcohol?”
The night breeze was certainly cold. When Shen Juan came out, he wore a jacket. He took out his cigarette box and lighter from his pocket, eyes looking down at the stick in his mouth and lighting it up. “They’re two different things.”
“How are they two different things?” Jiang Han asked.
“She’s a little lady who isn’t familiar with us.” Shen Juan bit the cigarette and leaned back. “To drink alcohol with a bunch of guys she isn’t familiar with isn’t appropriate no matter how you look at it.”
“Oh—isn’t familiar–” He Songnan drawled and looked at him meaningfully, “If she isn’t familiar with us then she can just get to know us. After we get closer, would it become appropriate?”
Shen Juan narrowed his eyes and chuckled. “It’s not appropriate. Scram and don’t even think about it.”
Lin Yujing dreamt a very long dream.
It had been a long time since she could remember the contents of her dream. Ever since she moved, her quality of sleep hadn’t taken a turn for the better yet she kept having dreams. It was just that by the time she awoke, she couldn’t remember them.
The last dream she remembered clearly was back on the day she first met Shen Juan. The youth held a tattoo pen in hand, intending to tattoo a luminous watch on her.
This time, it was also him once again. His pretty fingers held a glass cup, the mouth of it on top of the table. His voice was fuzzy, as though it was coming from far away. “Drink coke.”
At that time, Lin Yujing actually wanted to say that she only drank pepsi and not coke.
But she couldn’t say such stupid words so she only said them in her dreams.
As expected, after she blurted this out, Shen Juan flew into a rage. Lin Yujing felt that she may be the second desk mate he would nearly beat up to death and just as she was about to lose her life on the spot, she woke up.
Just as she opened her eyes, there was a moment of blankness. Everything was so dark she couldn’t see anything clearly. Lin Yujing sat herself up and felt the soft blanket, assuming she was lying in her bedroom but it felt as though something wasn’t right.
Just as she was still in a daze, she heard someone say. “Are you awake?”
The voice belonged to a man which sounded as if he was just beside her ear. The low, smooth sound traveled into her ears, making her quiver.
She nearly yelled out from surprise, her head still in a muddle. She tensed up and unwittingly raised a hand to slap the source of the sound.
At the same time, Shen Juan fumbled for the remote control and turned the lights on. Under the dim lights, Lin Yujing looked at his expressionless face.
But she couldn’t take back the hand she had reached out. Lin Yujing’s eyes widened hearing a crisp sound ring out, her palm turning warm.
She had given him a solid slap on the face.
The author has something to say:
A scene of domestic violence.
Lin Yujing: I didn’t. It’s not on purpose. Don’t run your mouth off.
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