TLDP Ch. 88: Why Does a Loser Feel Embarrassed by a Loser?
As I ran inside the dark woods, I saw He Xue right away. It’s obvious she’s still not caught up to Ma Xiujun yet. When she saw me, she was surprised. “What happened to the paper puppet?”
I said without much drama. “I cracked its power. It’s actually afraid of fire so it lit up with just a tiny flame and fizzled out.” I told her the truth since it’s not exactly a secret.
“I lost Ma Xiujun again.” She sighed. “Don’t know when I can get him again.”
You really thought you could take him? I tried to convince her. “Officer He, if I could be honest here, you aren’t ever going to get him! He could conjure up anything and you won’t be able to handle it! If I didn’t give you the antidote for that poison, you’d be sick in the hospital by now!”
“You couldn’t have beaten the skeleton puppet either without my help. And the paper puppet today was as strong as a robot. If we didn’t find its weakness, it would have beaten us to death sooner or later. I can tell that if you came alone tonight, it wouldn’t have ended well.”
“I have to catch him!” He Xue said with conviction.
“It’s your choice. But I’m heading back.” I started walking out of the woods.
As I walked, my phone rang. It’s Jiannan who called me. “Jiannan, what’s up?”
He spoke in a low voice. “Bro, there’s a thief in our store! I’m hiding outside, the minute he comes out the door, I’ll slam a brick on him! Let him know why the brick is red!”
His words freaked me out. Why is he back so early? He had a few more days off. He must have taken Chen Haotian for a thief. If he tried fighting Haotian, it’d be brutal for him. “Listen, Jiannan, please don’t–”
Before I finished talking, I heard a couple yelps from the other side of the line. I quickly called Haotian to explain. But poor Jiannan was already kicked so hard by Haotian that he needs a lot of recovery.
Since Jiannan is pretty hurt, I have to go home to check on him. I decided to go home tomorrow afternoon, and spend the morning checking on the house construction.
When I returned to the hotel, it was already past 9 PM. I showered and passed out.
Noon the next day.
I brought Big Sis’ parents a lot of fruit as gifts and checked on progress of the reconstruction. The project is going well, with most of the debris had been cleaned up, and rows of bricks were stacked in orderly rows. The construction guy said it’d be done in about 20 days.
Big Sis’ parents looked in good spirits too, they’re obviously overjoyed to be able to move into a brand-new home soon.
I didn’t visit for long. And after three hours on the commuter bus, I was back at the copy shop. Before I even got upstairs, I could hear the ghost couple arguing. The woman was shouting. “If you piss me off again, I’ll make your life as pathetic as Jiannan’s!”
Jiannan was moaning. “Please… stop fighting already.”
“Who are you to tell me to stop fighting?! Hey hubby, the boss is back, let’s get out of here!” The ghost couple floated out of the wall.
Jiannan lay in bed as fatigue etched on his face. He almost cried when he saw me. “Brother! I have no regrets before I die! Now that I see you!”
I took his hand in mine and comforted him, “Jiannan, you’re not that sick, you’ll be fine!”
He looked desperate though, and kept complaining. “Brother, don’t try to cheer me up! I know myself! Chen Haotian broke my back last night with his kick! Now I can’t pee, and I can’t poo, my metabolism is out of whack–”
You can’t pee? You’re making a show out of this? But heck, now I knew he was actually okay. “Jiannan, get some rest. I’ll always be here for you! What do you want for lunch?”
He was very touched and uttered weakly. “I, I want to have persimmon with jumbo shrimp–”
Persimmon with shrimp? Does he want to die? (TLN: the two foods are supposedly toxic when consumed together.) I replied, “You can’t have these two together or you’ll be hurt. I’ll get you some braised pork. Rest up now.” Then I walked down to the store level.
Haotian was holding down the fort downstairs. When a customer walked in, he stood up and said, “Copies are fifty cents, prints are one yuan each. Shoe repair is one-fifty, and keys are two yuan each!”
I was surprised by how easily the sales pitch rolled off Haotian’s tongue, he learned Jiannan’s spiel really fast.
Today is Saturday, Xiaoling’s day off. When she heard I was back in town, she rushed over to see me.
By the afternoon, Miss Jiang was at the copy shop too. She fell into Haotian’s arms as soon as she walked in, crying loudly. “Haotian, why would you fight your family for me?!”
“It’s alright, don’t feel guilty.” Haotian comforted her. “Leaving my family actually felt freeing. It’s just that I’m a regular person now. Would your parents still be okay with you marrying me?”
Miss Jiang hugged Haotian tightly. “You’re the only one for me.”
Xiaoling and I went upstairs to give them privacy, but we still eavesdropped by the stairs. When she heard this, Xiaoling said, “Aww, so romantic…”
“Hey, we’re romantic too. Remember? I was at your house messing up that wedding banquet–”
Before I finished, she stared at me. “Please, how dare you bring that up–”
“So what? You’re mine. When your father promised you to someone else, I had fought for you!”
“Cough! Cough, cough! Cough cough cough!”Jiannan started coughing. He must think I was being too mushy and couldn’t bear it anymore.
I was in no mood to cater to him. “You can take a hike if you don’t want to hear this!”
Jiannan muttered, “Why does a loser feel embarrassed by a loser…”
“What was that?!” I almost threw my shoe at him.
Jiannan covered his head with the blanket. “I’m asleep. I can’t see or hear anything. Please keep fighting.”
Now, I’ve lost my energy to fight since he had destroyed the mood.
Just then, the door downstairs opened. And apparently, Haitian gave his skillful sales pitch again, “Copies would be five yuans as well as also printings. Repairing shoes is also five and two yuans for making key!”
Xiaoling was as surprised as I was at Haotian’s words. She would have fallen but for my holding her up. After all, Haotian is the heir to the prestigious Chen dynasty, his family owned many major businesses and they were listed as one of 500 major company in the world, talking about shoe repair was totally out of character for him.
Downstairs, a middle-aged woman said, “I want to get my shoes fixed.”
Jiannan jumped up at her voice. He was ecstatic, “We have a paying customer!” He quickly put on shoes with none of the weakness earlier. Both Xiaoling and I were shocked at his change of demeanor.
Jiannan saw my shocked expression, so he said earnestly, “Bro and Sis-in-law, it’s hard making money these days. I need to make money so I can buy a house and find a wife. C’mon, let’s go make some money.”
I let Jiannan pass. After he went downstairs, I said to Xiaoling. “I like how he called you sister in law…” I bent down to kiss her lips, then ran downstairs too.
In the evening, Jiannan’s girlfriend also arrived, so he started to act weak again. He didn’t perk up until I mentioned going out to dinner.
I know Haotian didn’t really hit him that hard, so it was all an act…
At the restaurant, we got a private room, ordered dishes and chatted.
Suddenly, the door was kicked open, and a dozen or so burly men surged inside. One of them pointed at me. “Boss, that’s the little fucker!”
The man talking looked familiar, I realized he was one of the thugs manning the door at the dance club where I caught a ghost.
The “boss” looked even more familiar to me. He’s that Scarface Li whom I once met in jail.
He seemed to recognize me too. He started laughing. “Hey Little Bro, I should have known it was you!”
“Wow, it’s Brother Li! They let you out so soon? Congrats!”
Scarface Li scanned the room and turned to me. “Let’s talk outside.”
I wasn’t scared. Haotian is here with me, so even if the gang leader had more thugs with him, they couldn’t hurt me, plus I could take down quite a few people myself.
I followed Scarface Li out to the hallway. A restaurant staffer came over and asked, “Sir, is everything okay?”
“We’re fine. We were just hanging out.” I said.
“Sure you don’t want us to call the police? If anything happens, we’re not responsible.”
“No, we were just playing around.” I repeated.
When the restaurant employee left us alone, he said, “Little Bro, I realized there’s ghosts and stuff in the world after I met you. So after I got out, I spent a long time finding a ghost to help me. But he wanted something in return, this expensive preservative to keep his body from rotting. So I helped him and he helped me out one time, but then you killed him. So what do you say? How much do you think you owe me?” He lit up a cigarette and puffed out a swirl of smoke rings.