After Li Luo’s afternoon class, the sun had just begun to fall, and Li Luo’s night-owl friends popped up one by one. New messages flooded the group chat.
He was one of the wealthiest young masters of these international students. Their tones toward him could be described as polite or, in other words, obsequious.
In truth, he didn’t like how much they fawned over him, but he hated Duan Mingyang’s complete apathy even more.
Humans were social creatures. They all wished to gain the approval of others.
As Li Luo packed up his things and left the classroom, he sent a casual message in the group chat, ‘Where are you guys going tonight?’ At once, a string of replies came in.
‘You’re free too, Li-shao? We haven’t decided yet. How about racing on the mountain?’
‘We just raced a few days ago, didn’t we? Let’s do something else. Have you guys been to the new club on Ferald Boulevard yet? Heard the white girls there are pretty hot.’
‘Not yet. It’s new? How’s the confidentiality there? Wouldn’t want ‘em to sell me out with just a call from my dad.’
‘Not sure about that. We could look into it tonight. Li-shao, you coming?’
‘Luo-ge, you’re not coming, are you? Aren’t you busy chasing after that waiter? Hahaha.’
‘What? You haven’t landed him yet? I thought you would’ve gotten tired of him by now, Luo-ge.’
Li Luo was walking toward the parking lot, absent-mindedly swinging a key chain around his finger. He replied with a voice message, ‘Yeah, I’ve gotten tired of him. You guys can discuss first and let me know. I have something tonight, but I’ll join you after I’m done.’
The bar didn’t open until seven in the evening. There was still three more hours to go. With nothing to do, Li Luo intended to waste some time driving around aimlessly, but when he got to the parking lot, he stopped for a few moments in front of his Ferrari. He had changed his mind.
He’d be bored either way, so he might as well walk around. It’d count as exercise too. He often went out for fun, but he was always quite strict with maintaining his physique.
There were only a few miles between his college and the bar. Hands in his pockets, Li Luo walked out of the campus and strolled in the direction of the bar.
The area surrounding the campus was mostly full of students who had gotten off class. They gathered in twos and threes, chattering and laughing, giving a high-five as they passed anyone they knew.
Li Luo was quite well-known in his college. This year, he even ranked top-ten in the student-run election of the hottest guys on campus. He was the only Asian who made it, so many of the other students knew him. In the mere five minutes of walking, he had already said hi to seven or eight people, some of whom he knew and others he didn’t. A little overwhelmed by their enthusiasm, he decided to sneak into a jewelry shop at the side of the road.
The shop had quite a comfortable atmosphere. Only two young saleswomen were chatting with each other. When they saw a customer come in, they only smiled in welcome, and did not approach him to promote their jewelry.
Li Luo came in only wanting to look around. However, as he walked around the showcase, he realized that the shop had many fine designs; the materials excellent as well. Thus, he walked around again, this time seriously, choosing a few delicate bracelets and necklaces. He planned to give them to his mom when we went back home for the break, a few months later.
The saleswomen neatly packed them up in velvet jewelry cases before putting them into a gift bag. Li Luo didn’t take note of the shop’s sign when he came in. Now that he looked at the logo on the bag, he realized that it was called “Dawning.” It seemed to be an independent designer brand that happened to be quite famous on Instagram.
Casually, he asked why it was called such a name. After one of the saleswomen explained the designer’s inspiration, she joked, “And it sounds like ‘darling,’ doesn’t it?”
“It does.” He said goodbye with a smile, then flipped through the complimentary brand brochure on his own.
There were shops of all kinds along the street. Li Luo went into a few more shops, but he didn’t buy much. There was only an hour left, so he went to get dinner first. After he finished, he took a stroll to assist digestion. He got to the bar just as it opened.
He was quite diligent in visiting a while ago, and his looks were rather unforgettable too. The bartender recognized him the moment he saw him, grinning, “Hey, A-Luo, you haven’t been here in a few days. Came here for Duan Mingyang again?”
Looks like Duan Mingyang isn’t too familiar with these colleagues of his, Li Luo thought. They called Li Luo by his nickname even though he was a customer who had just visited a couple of times, yet they still called Duan Mingyang by his full name.
Well, that wasn’t a surprise. With Duan Mingyang’s personality, he wouldn’t be able to get familiar with anyone. He was always alone at school too. He probably didn’t have a single friend.
“Yeah, I’m here to pick up something. Is he here?”
“He just got here a second ago. Went to the staff room to change into his uniform.” The bartender’s eyes landed on the gift bag he was holding. “Wow, what’s this? A present for him?”
Li Luo glanced at the bag. Duan Mingyang’s name wasn’t written on it, was it? He asked, “Why do you think it’s for him?”
“Huh? It’s not? It’s his birthday today, after all. I thought it was your birthday present for him.” The bartender winked. “You gotta be sincere when you’re after someone, don’t you?”
Li Luo was surprised. “Really? His birthday?”
“Why would I lie to you? Our boss wanted to give him a break for the day, but he insisted on coming. Maybe he has a surprise for you.”
“Then I’ll be sure to look forward to it,” Li Luo said with a smile, although he was sneering deep down.
Would that even be possible? For Duan Mingyang to give him a surprise, it would be even more impossible than the sun rising from the West.
But… today was really that guy’s birthday, huh? Why didn’t he say anything? Was he just going to spend it working? Did this even count as a birthday?
Li Luo had some mixed feelings.
Every time it was his birthday, he’d have it be an extravagant deal, no matter how big its scale. His dad was never miserly when it came to this. As long as he didn’t go overboard, he could do whatever he wanted. In fact, he really didn’t know how ordinary or even poor people like Duan Mingyang celebrated their birthdays.
When he found out Duan Mingyang was working even on his birthday, having to tolerate the rowdy crowd as well as the stench of the alcohol and tobacco, he couldn’t help but feel a little sympathetic.
He suffered quite a bit in the past few days, but from another perspective, Duan Mingyang was quite unfortunate too, to be tricked and harassed by him…
And Duan Mingyang didn’t even have anyone to spend his birthday with. What a pity.
Li Luo slapped his thigh and decided — he was going to plan a surprise for Duan Mingyang!
Let it be compensation, an apology, and a farewell gift. After all, this meeting between each other, one could say it was some kind of fate.
At once, he took out his phone and started picking a cake online. He didn’t know what flavors Duan Mingyang liked, so he went with his favorite, chocolate mousse.
Even if Duan Mingyang didn’t like it, Li Luo really went out of his way to prepare it. Duan Mingyang would take a few bites out of courtesy, wouldn’t he?
The ordered cake had quite a few decorative pieces on it. It was difficult to make — it wouldn’t be here until four hours later. Li Luo calculated the time. Duan Mingyang’s shift should end by then, so he filled in the address of Duan Mingyang’s rental.
This way, Duan Mingyang had to invite him inside and let him have some tea and cake, didn’t he? And if it was too late, Duan Mingyang had to let him stay the night, didn’t he? And then, wouldn’t he be able to get his hands on the photo?
Two birds with one stone. He was such a genius.
Li Luo put down his phone. Full of confidence, he even started humming. Taking a sip of his juice, he saw Duan Mingyang come out of the staff room. It was still the same monochromatic uniform, but his complexion looked a lot worse than when Li Luo saw him during the day.
“What’s wrong, Mingyang?” Li Luo tilted his head. “Aren’t you happy to see me?”
Duan Mingyang ignored his feigned meekness. “I forgot I took your wallet home for safekeeping. I’ll bring it to you tomorrow. You can go back.”
“That’s okay. I can wait for your shift to end and go to your place to pick it up.”
“I’ll be working the whole night.”
Li Luo’s smile froze. “… The whole night?”
Who the fuck would work on their birthday? Was he mad?
Yet, Duan Mingyang didn’t seem like he was going to listen to Li Luo’s opinion at all. He grabbed the drinks menu and went out to serve the first group of customers that came in.
Li Luo, “…”
The bartender couldn’t help but to laugh. “I think he’s angry. A-Luo, you gotta go make him feel better.”
Li Luo widened his eyes. “I gotta make him feel better? Why?”
“I don’t think you know, but last week, when you didn’t visit, Duan Mingyang stayed up late almost every day. I think he’d been waiting for you.”
Li Luo silently mocked. “You’re thinking too much. He probably just wants to earn more money.”
“Hm… That’s possible too. I heard his mom is having an operation soon. He’s really in need of money.”
Li Luo shrugged. “You see? It’s what I said. How could he wait for me? I’m always the one waiting for him.”
After the bartender finished chatting with Li Luo, he wiped the glass and poured the cocktail he’d just mixed inside. The liquid was clear and bright. Li Luo felt an itch at his throat, but he was worried that Duan Mingyang would see him drinking when coming to pick up the drinks. Just as he debated whether or not to order something, the glass was taken by another hand.
“Hey! Andy! That one’s for Duan Mingyang.” The bartender stopped him.
“So what? Can’t I help him serve it?” The person called Andy had on a scornful expression.
Li Luo knew what the bartender was going to say. In most overseas bars, customers tipped the waiters who served them the drinks. Even though Andy said he was helping Duan Mingyang, he was stealing Duan Mingyang’s tips, really. Colleagues usually didn’t treat each other like this. This guy probably didn’t like Duan Mingyang, for whatever reason.
The bartender seemed uncertain. As the drink was about to be taken away, he opened his mouth, but he didn’t end up raising any objections. It seemed like he didn’t want to be involved.
Andy snorted and placed the glass on his tray arrogantly. As he took the first step—
“Wait. I’ll take this drink.”
Hearing this, Andy turned around. The youth who spoke up was a customer who had been visiting frequently. With long legs, beautiful features, and a face fair as bone china, he sat on a bar stool at the counter, dressed entirely in expensive designer brands — obviously a rich young master. Andy didn’t dare neglect him. Even his voice grew humbler. “Sir, this drink is for another table.”
“I said I’ll take it. Don’t you understand?” Li Luo frowned. His slender eyes melded into the dark, casting a fierce look. “So what if they waited a bit longer? Can’t you tell who should be attended to first?”
Andy was startled by the youth’s menacing tone. He hesitated. He’d been working part-time at this bar for almost two years now, and he’d seen many old guys with grim expressions and showy tattoos. They were frightening for sure, but even when they were irritated, they’d at most beat someone up. The young man before Andy was different. It seemed that if he were angered, Andy would immediately be dragged out, chopped up, and fed to the dogs — it was that terrifying.
This was also the first time the bartender saw the youth, who usually looked meek and gentle, reveal such an expression. The bartender was astounded as well.
“What? Do I have to call in the bodyguards and have a nice ‘chat’ with you, for you to let me have it?” Li Luo narrowed his eyes.
“No, no! Here you go, here you go.” Andy hurried to give him the drink before quickly running off.
“Tsk, scared him just like that. What a coward.” Li Luo snorted in disdain and reached out to pick up the drink. Halfway through, he thought about it some more, and retracted his arm. “I’d better save it for Mingyang.”
The bartender was still in shock. “A-Luo… Never judge a book by its cover, huh…”
Li Luo innocently sipped his juice, blinking a pair of guileless eyes. “What did you say? I don’t think I understand.”