Striving for ScienceChapters List
Chapter 17: Friends
In the early morning, Shen Changan got up and tidied his home. He prepared the dishes he needed to stew and chopped what was necessary. While he was still busy, he heard a knock on the door.
Wiping his hands, he opened the door and was surprised to find Dao Nian there, sitting in a wheelchair. He was accompanied by two young men who bore a resemblance to each other.
"Dao Nian?" Shen Changan hadn't expected Dao Nian to arrive so early. He hesitated for a moment and then quickly opened the door wide. "Come in. There's no elevator in this building, and I'm sorry for the inconvenience."
"No inconvenience," Dao Nian said. He noticed that Shen Changan had unconsciously checked the time when he saw him. However, Shen Changan refrained from mentioning it. "Did I come too early?"
"Not at all. It's just the right time." Shen Changan turned on the TV and placed a clean blanket over Dao Nian's lap. "It's getting cooler these days, and I don't have the air conditioning here."
Dao Nian's nose twitched as he caught a whiff of a meaty aroma in the room.
"The meat you gave me was very tender, so I made some crispy fried meat. I just fried a plate, you can taste the flavor." Shen Changan brought out some fresh fruits and crispy fried meat from the kitchen. He noticed the two young men who had accompanied Dao Nian were still standing by the door. "Please, both of you, have a seat. Don't be shy."
The young men smiled at Shen Changan and turned their heads to look at Dao Nian. then turned their attention to Dao Nian.
"They will be leaving later," Dao Nian said, picking up a piece of crispy fried meat with his chopsticks and placing it in his mouth. He didn't look like he was eating but rather savoring something that he had never tried before.
"Yes." One of the young men immediately said, "We are dropping off our master and will be leaving soon."
Shen Changan inquired, "When you're done with your work, why don't you come for lunch today? I've cooked a bit too much, and Dao Nian and I can't finish it all. Why don't you join us."
The two young men shook their heads in unison and said that they were too busy with their work, so they would not come over.
Seeing that they had made up their minds to leave, Shen Changan couldn't continue to retain them, so he could only stuff them with a box of small cookies that he had made himself.
"Don't eat too much crispy fried meat; it can make your mouth dry. Have some fruit to balance it," Shen Changan suggested. He didn't sit on the sofa but took a small stool to sit next to Dao Nian's wheelchair, making him about half a head shorter than Dao Nian. He didn't know if Dao Nian cared about the leg problem, but the way he sat like this might be conducive to increasing Dao Nian's sense of security.
A box, roughly the size of a palm, was placed in front of Shen Changan. The box was intricately decorated with beautiful cloud patterns and embedded with what appeared to be gemstones. Shen Changan had reason to suspect that these beads might indeed be precious stones.
"What's this?" Shen Changan took the box and turned his head to look at Dao Nian, who was still enjoying the crispy meat.
Is the fried crispy meat so delicious? Last time the hotpot at Dao Nian's home was so delicious, yet he saw Dao Nian barely touched his chopsticks, yet now, he had nearly finished half a bowl of crispy meat cooked by him.
Reaching into the bowl and picking up a piece of crispy meat to taste it, Shen Changan found it to be exquisitely tender, crispy, and delicious—better than ever.
Not expecting Shen Changan to take some from his bowl, Dao Nian paused for a few seconds. "First visit gift."
"Cough cough cough." Shen Changan patted his chest, choking so much that even tears came out of his eyes. "Dao Nian, do you usually not visit your friends much?"
Dao Nian gazed at him quietly and lazily raised his hand to give Shen Changan a light pat on the back.
Feeling much better in the throat, Shen Changan held the box and explained, "A gift for your first visit is typically called a 'Souvenir or Keepsake gift'. If it's a gift for when someone introduces their partner to their parents for the first time, it's called 'First visit gift'."
"Oh." Dao Nian continued to lower his head and eat crispy meat thinking any gift is the same.
Shen Changan noticed that Dao Nian had fallen silent again, so he found a comedy show on the TV and said, "You can watch some TV for a while. I'll check on the stove in the kitchen."
Dao Nian blinked at him, indicating that he heard him.
Walking into the kitchen, Shen Changan looked at the beautiful gift box in his hand and stuck his head out: "Dao Nian, can I open the gift now?"
"Mm." Dao Nian ate the last piece of crispy meat, holding the empty bowl he stared blankly at the TV screen as if he wasn't watching a comedy show but a boring lecture program.
The box was incredibly exquisite, and it made Shen Changan handle it with great care when he opened the lid. However, as soon as he saw what was inside, he felt his legs go weak.
Inside was a golden ingot about the size of a fist. It was perfectly round and adorable, radiating an alluring golden glow.
This ingot was exactly like the ones carried by the Wealth God statues that Shen Changan had seen before.
Trembling, he closed the box. His heart was pounding wildly. He had never seen so much gold in his life.
Holding the box, Shen Changan found his voice trembling as he spoke dazedly, "Dao Nian, isn't this 'Souvenir' you gave me too precious?"
"Is it not good?" Dao Nian furrowed his brows. Many humans liked to paste images of ingots during the New Year, after all.
"It's not that it's not good; it's just too good," Shen Changan swallowed hard. "Are you...?"
"Good is fine," Dao Nian handed the empty bowl of crispy meat to Shen Changan. "Want."
"It's too precious," Shen Changan shook his head. "I can't accept it."
Dao Nian withdrew the empty bowl. "Are we not friends anymore?"
"It's because I consider you a friend that I can't accept such a valuable gift," Shen Changan explained when he saw Dao Nian was unhappy, Shen Changan explained gently but firmly. "Friendship between friends should not be measured in terms of money."
Dao Nian nodded. "Yeah, I don't mind if you're poor."
Shen Changan: "......"
Thank you for your understanding.
"But, if I do this then my behavior like this is called taking advantage." Shen Changan chuckled wryly. "Dao Nian, perhaps you've grown up in a simple and privileged environment since you were young and don't know how dangerous the power of money can be. Countless people in this world have changed their faces because of their interests."
Shen Changan pointed at himself and patted Dao Nian's hand. "I just want to be your friend, and that's all. I hope you can understand my feelings."
Dao Nian gazed into the young man's eyes, which were stark black and white, with a hint of seriousness in his otherwise placid eyes: "I have seen all the darkness and evil in this world."
"Yeah, okay, I know you've seen a lot," Shen Changan tried to appease Dao Nian after realizing that his earlier comment about not knowing the dangers of money had struck a nerve. "So, please take this gift back."
"No," Dao Nian lowered his eyelids. "Friend, just accept it."
As their eyes met, Shen Changan looked into Dao Nian's beautiful, starry eyes. Shen Changan's mind went fuzzy, in a moment of surrender, his words came out, "All right, I'll accept it."
Dao Nian continued to watch him.
Shen Changan noticed his unwavering gaze and hastily added, "Thank you for the gift. I really like it." After all, who could dislike a golden ingot in this world? He hugged the wooden box, thinking secretly that when Dao Nian gets married, he would use this gold ingot to make a gold doll and give it to him.
After hearing Shen Changan say that he liked the gift, Dao Nian returned to his expressionless state and resumed watching the comedy show on TV, only glancing a few more times with his eyes at the empty bowl that had previously held crispy meat.
Shen Changan instantly understood the meaning behind his gaze. "You shouldn't eat too much crispy meat. We'll have lunch soon. The cake is almost ready. I'll bring you a slice."
Dao Nian lowered his eyelids and remained silent.
"Alright, alright," Shen Changan decided to comply. Even though Dao Nian's expression remained unchanged, Shen Changan could tell that he was a little unhappy, and slightly moody. "You can only have a small portion. After that, we'll eat some fruit, okay?"
Dao Nian turned his head to continue watching the TV, looking as if he was saying, "I didn't say anything. This is all your idea."
Shen Changan headed to the kitchen to dish up the crispy meat and brought it to Dao Nian, staying with him to watch TV for a bit before starting to cook lunch.
At noon, all the dishes were on the table. Shen Changan saw Dao Nian leaning against the wheelchair with his eyes closed, and called him in a low voice: "Dao Nian, it's time to eat."
Dao Nian opened his eyes, and Shen Changan realized that there was no sleepiness in his eyes.
"The dining table is a bit high, would you mind going to the dining chair to eat?"
Dao Nian shook his head slightly, his hands resting on the armrests of his chair. In that very moment, Shen Changan suddenly bent down, lifted him up by the waist, and walked directly toward the dining table.
Dao Nian: "......"
Dao Nian: ?
As Shen Changan lifted Dao Nian, he noticed that Dao Nian's legs weren't deformed as he had imagined. To avoid unsettling Dao Nian emotionally, he didn't look at his legs suspiciously. After placing him in the dining chair, he even thoughtfully covered his legs with a blanket.
Having done all this, he found Dao Nian looking at him with a very strange gaze.
"I'm strong, don't worry." Handing the chopsticks to Dao Nian while wanting him to forget about his legs as much as possible, Shen Changan said, "Try out my cooking."
After having a few bites of the food, Dao Nian remarked: "Good."
"You probably won't believe it, but I've been able to cook since I was very young," seeing that Dao Nian liked it, Shen Changan worried that his waist strength wouldn't be enough to pick up food, so he kept using communal chopsticks to put food on Dao Nian's plate, "After I turned eight, I lived in a large courtyard where there was an old man with a family history of royal chefs. I learned many cooking skills from him. My dream back then was to become a great chef, but unfortunately he disdained my cooking as being too artisanal, so he rejected my request to be his apprentice."
"Delicious," Dao Nian emphasized again.
"Thank you," Shen Changan beamed. "If you like it, please come over to my place more often in the future. I'll cook for you." Remembering the inconvenience of climbing the stairs for Dao Nian, he added, "Of course, I can also come to your place and cook."
"In college, every time I made spicy chicken claws and brought them to the dormitory, my roommates would snatch them clean." Speaking of this, the smile on Shen Changan's face faded, as from now on it would probably be difficult for him to meet those friends scattered across the land.
He also didn't know how they were doing now, whether their careers were going well, or if they were still single.
"Where are we going tomorrow?" Dao Nian looked up at him.
"Tomorrow?" Shen Changan snapped out of his thoughts and remembered that he had invited Dao Nian to go out together. Since Dao Nian had taken the initiative to bring it up, afraid he might change his mind, Shen Changan hurriedly said, "We'll go to Mountain Spring Valley nearby. The transportation there is more convenient, we can drive in and out." Originally, he had planned to take Dao Nian to a local folk village, but it had many narrow village roads which might be inconvenient for Dao Nian.
Not long after finishing lunch, the person to pick up Dao Nian arrived. Shen Changan packed all the crispy meat, small pastries and cake he had made for Dao Nian for Dao Nian, scheduling the time to meet in the morning tomorrow.
Holding the large package of things Shen Changan gave him as he sat in the car waiting, Liu Mao, who had come to pick Dao Nian up, was just about to reach out and take it when he met Dao Nian's deep gaze.
As Dao Nian boarded the car with a large bag of items given by Shen Changan, Liu Mao, who had come to pick Dao Nian up, was just about to reach out and take it when he met Dao Nian's profound gaze.
He silently and tacitly withdrew his paws.
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