The car stopped at the entrance of Yue Manor when the pointer of the pocket watch pointed exactly to midnight.
The driver walked up, opened the door.
Suddenly, his right cheek felt a chill, and Yue Dingtang reached out to feel it, it was snow water.
Under the illumination of the car's headlights, the tiny snowflakes were clearly visible, and occasionally there was a bit of wind, blowing the snowflakes into his neck. Unconsciously, the driver shrank back and muttered, "How could it still be snowing?"
But when he entered the gate, it felt warm.
Warm air came towards him, intertwined with a faint scent. The sudden change from cold to hot made his nose itchy and the driver couldn't help but sneeze.
A graceful figure walked down from the second floor. It was impressive that she was wearing thin high heels and a qipao, yet she rushed over like a whirlwind.
Without having to look at the other person's face, Yue Dingtang could immediately say: "Third Sister, why have you come back?"
Yue Chunxiao smiled faintly: "What? You don't want to see me? Your brother-in-law has returned to the country with the imperial envoy. I didn't want to go to Nanjing, so I decided to come back home to take a look."
Yue Dingtang said: "Mrs. Jiang is in Nanjing, there are dances and banquets every day, isn't that what you like most?"
Yue Chunxiao puckered his lips: “I like to stand out. I don’t like to go around lowering myself, not knowing about all the officials in Nanjing. Those courtiers and imperial relatives are everywhere, I just don’t feel like catering to them, isn't it more comfortable to just go back home? Besides, people that think going abroad is a great thing would surely ask around, thinking your brother-in-law had earned a lot of money!”
Yue Dingtang nodded: “Still the same temper.”
Yue Chunxiao acted as if he was about to hit him, but Yue Dingtang was quick and dodged, so Yue Chunxiao's hand stopped halfway, she changed it to a fist and pinched his ear.
Yue Dingtang yelled: “Gently!”
Yue Chunxiao: “Will you obey?”
Yue Dingtang: “I surrender.”
Yue Chunxiao felt satisfied and let go: “I’ve packed some dumplings and made noodles. What do you want to eat, dumpling soup? Scallion oil noodles?”
Yue Dingtang: “Scallion oil noodles.”
Yue Chunxiao snappily said: “Still the same thing since you were a kid, nothing has changed.”
Having said that, he happily went to prepare it.
Making scallion oil noodles was quick. She heated the oil in a wok until the scallions changed color, then boiled the noodles and scooped them up, before pouring the hot, sizzling scallion oil over them.
A bowl of scallion oil noodles became the dream of most of the people in this city, regardless of their status.
Yue Chunxiao had not only made scallion oil noodles.
The table was also filled with braised mushrooms and soup dumplings.
"These two things can't be made in just a while," Yue Dingtang said, curling his lips. "The late-night snack we talked about, aren't you afraid I'll get stuffed?"
Yue Chunxiao did not get help from a hired hand and personally brought the scallion oil noodles to him, placing them in front of him.
"I originally thought your second brother would come back for dinner, but who knew he had something come up and had to go to Beijing," Yue Chunxiao sat down opposite him and sighed. "Home is still the best. Whatever I see here looks pleasing to the eye. Even that cabinet with the broken door in the room looks better than those outside."
Yue Dingtang lowered his head to eat a few mouthfuls of noodles before smiling. "What kind of crime have you committed to be saying such things? Weren't you always saying how much better the foreign countries were than places here, that they were more advanced and prettier, with tall buildings and civilized etiquette?"
Yue Chunxiao shot him a glance. "When I went abroad before, it was for study. How is that the same as being stationed there? All you do is talk nonsense here. You should really go see for yourself and find out that what you thought were embassies were actually dilapidated haunted houses!"
Yue Dingtang was surprised. "You're representing a country after all, didn't the Nanjing government allocate funds?"
Yue Chunxiao sighed with bitterness: "Dignity? Nanjing should have paid salaries to your brother-in-law and the rest of them, but they are still not paid from the first half of the year. Those with some family background can still make ends meet, but those from poor families cannot even afford winter clothes! Furthermore, the embassy needs repairs, and every time it rains, the ceiling will leak. That office of your brother-in-law is even worse; the windows are broken and cannot be closed, and rain will pour in, soaking the walls and floors around it. If it stays wet for long, it will start to mildew. Even if they want to move somewhere else, they still haven't received their salaries, so where can they get the money from?"
Her hands that were folding the dumpling wrapper had not stopped, but gradually, the movement slowed down.
Silence flowed between the two of them.
"What did Nanjing say after Ambassador Chen sent the telegram?"
"They sent it, every few days, urging for salary and funds, but Nanjing just keeps saying that it is difficult and that they have to figure out how to get it themselves. If you ask me, these damn diplomats don't do their job!"
"Dignity comes from what you earn, not what others give. If even their own country does not treat them with dignity, why should your brother-in-law and the rest suffer overseas?"
"You don't know, before we returned to China, there was a dance party at the British embassy. Your brother-in-law took me there too. At that time, the French chargé d'affaires, even in front of other chargés d'affaires and secretaries, asked your brother-in-law if it was true that it had stopped raining outside but was still raining inside the Chinese embassy—it was quite a scene!"
She was filled with complaints and did not have the ambition she had before going abroad.
Yue Dingtang asked: "How did your brother-in-law reply?"
Yue Chunxiao: "Your brother-in-law said, the world is still not peaceful. We Chinese like to be prepared for danger and always remind ourselves not to forget the suffering, so we can do more practical things for the people."
Yue Dingtang smiled: "This answer is not bad."
Yue Chunxiao said angrily: "You are still laughing! If your brother-in-law was a diplomat from the United States or the United Kingdom, would they dare to make such a joke?!"
Yue Dingtang: "This was just an informal joke. In times of internal distress and external dangers, we can't blame others for looking down on us."
Yue Chunxiao: "So I'm definitely not going to Nanjing. Your brother-in-law and them are facing wind and rain outside, eating little and wearing less. But those people in Nanjing are indulged in luxury and pleasure all day. I'm afraid that if I go there, I won't be able to help myself and start blaming people and scolding, which would affect your brother-in-law's career. It's better to stay at home comfortably, go out for a walk, and visit old friends."
She complained a lot and Yue Dingtang listened patiently. After all, if they had to go abroad again, the whole family didn't know when they could meet again.
"By the way," Yue Chunxiao used chopsticks to poke a soup dumpling and the juice flowed out with a fragrant smell. "When I went out for afternoon tea today, I ran into Ling Yao. You remember, your old classmate Ling Shu's sister."
Yue Dingtang's hand, which was holding a bowl of soup, froze.
"What's wrong with her?"
Yue Chunxiao: "Nothing, I only found out when I returned this time. She married a small clerk in the city government. She hasn't changed, but her situation has. Sigh, thinking of the glory and prestige of the Ling family back then, now it's gone. She still tried to maintain her appearance as a rich lady in front of me, but I pierced through her without mercy."
Yue Dingtang: "I remember you two were quite friendly before, weren't you?"
Yue Chunxiao chuckled: "You don't understand women. She wants to suppress me, and I want to suppress her. Do you get it?"
Yue Dingtang concluded: "Superficial, phony friendship."
He then quickly stepped aside, dodging the grab from his sister.
Yue Chunxiao continued wistfully: "I still remember when we were in school, Ling Yao changed clothes every day, never a piece worn twice, and the handbags and perfumes that weren't available in China yet, she already had someone bring them back from the West. But now, look at the checkered qipao she's still wearing, it's so worn out you can see the fuzz. You can imagine what kind of life Ling Yao's living now! That said, how is your old classmate Ling Shu? Have you kept in touch with him?"
Yue Dingtang: "Not often."
Yue Chunxiao: "As the saying goes, friendships from school days are the most precious. If you ever have time, why don't you invite him to our home for a chat, and reminisce about the old days. I've always liked that child since he was small, so smart and pretty. If it weren't for his family's financial difficulties, who knows, he might be doing better than you!"
Yue Dingtang: "What's wrong with you? On one hand you hate his sister, and on the other you want me to invite him home."
Yue Chunxiao laughed: "How is that contradictory? Hating his sister doesn't mean hating him."
Yue Dingtang put down the bowl of soup.
"I'm afraid that might disappoint you."
Yue Chunxiao was puzzled.
Yue Dingtang: "Ling Shu has been dragged into a murder case, he is the biggest suspect."
Yue Chunxiao was shocked: "Then Ling Yao..."
Yue Dingtang: "She should not know about this yet, the news has been suppressed by us, newspapers are also temporarily forbidden to publish the news, otherwise, with the identity of the deceased, it is likely to cause a stir."
Yue Chunxiao: "Impossible, Ling Shu was such a well-behaved child when he was in school, I still remember..."
Yue Dingtang: "The deceased was Du Yunning, you also know her, an old classmate of Ling Shu."
Yue Chunxiao was speechless.
"I have finished eating."
Yue Dingtang stood up, ready to go upstairs to his room.
Yue Chunxiao stopped him.
"Ling Yao, I don't like her, but I don't have any deep grudges, after all, we are old classmates, now that Ling's family is like this, Ling Shu is the only male in Ling's family, what if this matter turns out to be wrong?"
Yue Dingtang: "The case happened in a public concessionary area, I will help Smith follow up, now we are still in the stage of evidence collection."
Yue Chunxiao was silent, and sighed again.
"What kind of thing is this? It's almost the new year, if Ling Yao finds out, I'm afraid the sky will collapse."
Yue Dingtang walked up the stairs and glanced back one last time at the table full of steaming home-cooked dishes and Yue Chunxiao who was frowning at the table.
Back in his room, after washing up, he should have gone to bed for a rest since he had to go to school to mark papers tomorrow. But Yue Dingtang was tossing and turning without any signs of sleep.
The phrase “Ling Shu is the only male heir of the Ling family” kept running through his mind.
He grabbed the pocket watch from the bedside table and it showed it was already midnight.
Yue Dingtang rubbed his nose, sat up and took off his wrinkled silk pajamas, slowly changing into a suit. He then called for a servant.
“Fourth Young Master, do you have any orders?”
“Go and call the driver, I’m going out.”
“At this hour?”
Just as he entered the guardhouse, Shen Renjie rushed up.
Yue Dingtang already had an impression of this slightly plump Chinese guard.
"Mr. Yue, it's so late, why are you still here?"
Shen Renjie's face was devoid of the pleasure of sucking up from last time, and his lips barely managed to stretch into a forced smile.
Yue Dingtang was filled with suspicions.
"The case of Du Yunning, I have come up with some details, and I want to ask the suspect, can you help me bring out Ling Shu?"
"This..." Shen Renjie looked embarrassed.
Yue Dingtang: "What, not possible?"
Shen Renjie: "No no, you see, it's so late already, it's almost midnight. Why don't we do it tomorrow? At least let the suspect have a good sleep, and it will be clearer when they remember it tomorrow, right?"
Yue Dingtang had heard many stories about the methods used by the guardhouse against suspects.
Although he had never seen it with his own eyes, Yue Dingtang knew that most of them were true.
There are countless ways to make someone submit—Make people want to die, make people want to live, and make people unable to seek life and unable to seek death.
"I don't know when the police officers became so lenient towards suspects, they even make a distinction between day and night to investigate cases."
Under his sharp gaze, even the tip of Shen Renjie's nose was sweating in the cold winter.
"Uh, then you wait a bit. I will go and have them bring the person here!"
He stepped past Shen Renjie and walked towards the prison in the back.
"I'll go and get him myself!"
Author says: "Here it comes, the scallion oil noodles are here!"