Seeing Qi Yanbai holding the “takeout”, Lu Ye could only smile helplessly, lifting his chin towards the takeout behind him, trying to reason with him.
“Bought from a street food stall, twelve yuan for a portion.” Lu Ye said, “I couldn’t possibly treat you with this.”
“I think it’s great.” Qi Yanbai spoke falsely with his eyes wide open, then gently tightened his grip on the takeout bag, pursing his lips as he smiled and whispered, “Besides… I happen to be hungry.”
Lu Ye was the type to respond to softness rather than force.
If Qi Yanbai insisted on having dinner with him, he might not agree.
But if Qi Yanbai softly said that he was hungry from moving and wanted to share his dinner, it would be hard for Lu Ye to refuse.
Qi Yanbai seemed to have grasped this noticeable weakness of Lu Ye, and each time he managed to get what he wanted.
“Alright then.” As expected, Lu Ye took the bait.
Even though he felt that using takeout to reciprocate Qi Yanbai’s thoughtful lunch was a bit unequal, he still nodded reluctantly and added, “If you don’t mind.”
“Of course not.” Qi Yanbai smiled, his eyes bending as if afraid that Lu Ye would change his mind.
He quickly held onto the takeout bag and said, “I’ll go heat up the congee, wait a moment.”
Although the takeout had a substantial portion, it would still be a bit of a stretch for two grown men to share.
However, luckily, Lu Ye still had some simple vegetables at home, enough to make a couple of side dishes.
When Lu Ye returned with the items, Qi Yanbai had turned on the lights and entered the kitchen with the takeout bag.
One of the sealed boxes on the floor had been opened by Qi Yanbai; he had taken the pot, leaving only an obvious hollow in the box, surrounded by several white porcelain plates and bowls.
A pair of new cotton slippers were neatly placed in front of the doormat at the entrance, clearly prepared for Lu Ye.
He changed into the slippers and gave them a test step, surprisingly finding that they fit perfectly.
“You’re back,” Qi Yanbai seemed to have heard the movement at the door, peeking out half of his head from the kitchen, asking, “What did you go get?”
“Just two cucumbers and a tomato left in the fridge.” Lu Ye said, “Not sure if you eat them.”
With that said, he casually closed the door, shutting out the chilly autumn wind entirely.
Qi Yanbai wiped his hands and came out of the kitchen.
His gaze swept over the heavy security door behind Lu Ye, then he stretched out his hand, taking the items from Lu Ye’s hands.
“No worries, I’m not picky, I’ll eat anything.” Qi Yanbai said with a smile.
Lu Ye had tasted Qi Yanbai’s cooking at lunchtime, even though his cooking skills might not be those of a five-star chef, he was still among the better cooks among ordinary people.
Originally, Lu Ye didn’t dare to show off in front of him, just wanting to be a cheerleader on the side.
But after observing for a while, he realized that Qi Yanbai’s cooking style wasn’t quite what he had imagined.
He thought Qi Yanbai’s cooking skills would be proficient, but he observed that Qi Yanbai, who was detailed in his painting, was even more meticulous in his cooking.
Even chopping cucumbers required careful consideration before making a cut.
After watching for a while, Lu Ye felt that at this rate, their congee might dry out before they even got to dinner.
“Let me do it.” Lu Ye reached out and took the knife from Qi Yanbai.
He suggested, “You watch the congee, make sure it doesn’t burn.”
“You can cook?” Qi Yanbai asked.
“Of course, I can’t live alone without knowing how to cook.” Liu Ye laughed, truthfully admitting, “I can manage a little, but my skills are average at best.
I can just barely cook.”
He laughed and patted his chest, picked up the knife, tested its weight, and quickly chopped the cucumber.
“But I’m particularly good at being an assistant.” Lu Ye added.
Lu Ye’s sleeves were already rolled up, revealing a section of white bandages and a well-toned forearm.
Qi Yanbai stared at his exposed forearm for a while, tentatively asking, “Were you always helping at home?”
“Sort of.” Lu Ye chopped the cucumber into small pieces, put them into the bowl with a skilled blade, and casually said, “I often helped my sister when I was younger.”
“Is it Liu Mingming’s mom?” Qi Yanbai asked.
Perhaps because the topic involved “home,” a private area, Lu Ye almost effortlessly continued the conversation along Qi Yanbai’s line of questioning, revealing details he had never mentioned before.
“Yes, that’s her, you should have met her.” Lu Ye said, “She had it harder.
She was 18, and I was 15 at the time we started living alone.
She couldn’t go to college, so she worked outside.
After we left home, we stayed in a small rental, sleeping on bunk beds behind a curtain, cooking in the communal kitchen.”
“was it difficult for you back then?” Qi Yanbai’s voice softened, sounding particularly sticky in the night, “It must’ve been tough.”
“It was a bit, but it’s all in the past.” Lu Ye wiped his knife with a damp cloth and pushed the bowl towards Qi Yanbai, waiting for him to season it.
“My sister had it even harder.” Lu Ye said, “She didn’t have an easy time.”
Qi Yanbai didn’t know why these two siblings had to be self-reliant at such a young age, but he could tell that it must have been a difficult time for them.
The porridge in the pot was about to boil over, and Qi Yanbai turned off the heat, took out two rice bowls from the rack and asked casually, “So, once life got better, you stopped cooking?”
“Not exactly.” Lu Ye said, “Just felt that it was troublesome.”
Living alone, coming back exhausted from work and facing an empty home, it was more comfortable to order takeout than to pursue a “refined life.”
“And eating alone is so unappetizing.
Cooking too little is not enough, too much is wasteful.” Lu Ye said, “Just the thought of buying groceries, chopping, and cooking over a fire feels like too much trouble.”
Lu Ye wasn’t opposed to living alone, and he wasn’t urgently seeking romance either.
But every time he covered the leftovers with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge, he couldn’t help but think that “it would be nice to have someone else to share with.”
Unfortunately, he was too busy with work, so he let go of such thoughts easily.
“That’s true.” Qi Yanbai agreed and took the plate from his hand, moving past him.
He placed the hot steaming porridge on the dining table by the kitchen door.
“But that’s not a problem.” Qi Yanbai turned around to look at Lu Ye, smiling as he said, “After all, in the future, we can keep each other company.
You’re welcome to eat at my place anytime.”
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