CHAPTER 1 A Blind Date

It was hot in early May. Under the scorching sun, pedestrians on the road have shed thin coats and switched to their summer clothes.

Today was the first day of the Labor Day holiday. Vendors lined the plaza outside the shopping mall, most of them selling various street food. The elaborate food exudes an attractive fragrance, attracting pedestrians to stop by. With above average height, Jiang Lan had no trouble getting a look above the crowd. He had his eyes on a stall selling roasted pig feet.

This stall attracted the biggest crowd. Jiang Lan smelled the scent that came in bursts and knew that the roasted pig feet must be fantastic.

“It smells so good.” Hidden inside Jiang Lan’s chest pocket, Suan Ni raised his head to look greedily at the roast pig feet. Jiang Lan looked down at him and saw the appetite written all over his face. He wanted to eat.

“I don’t have this month’s wage yet.”

Jiang Lan also wanted to eat, but there was not much left in this month’s living expenses. They really didn’t have any extra money to buy snacks. Pushing back the younger brother who was holding the edge of his pocket, Jiang Lan withdrew his gaze from the roasted pig’s feet and resolutely turned and left. He didn’t know whether he was comforting his younger brother or himself: “When I go to the restaurant, there will be delicious food.”

Suan Ni let out a faint “oh” and dropped his small ears in disappointment. After all, the fifth brother[1]Referring to Jiang Lan, who is the Dragon’s fifth son had just moved out of the house. It was already very difficult to feed themselves with a monthly salary. He could not make the overwhelmed family worse. 

Trying their best to get the pig’s feet out of their mind, they entered the shopping mall and took an elevator to the fifth floor.

Jiang Lan had come here for a blind date.

Jiang Lan had actually refused this sudden blind date. As an ancient monster who had just moved out of the home to live on his own, had a huge appetite and was living out of poverty, Jiang Lan felt that one more person in the family would mean an extra mouth to feed, and he really couldn’t afford it.

However, after several rounds of meetings, the Director of the Family Planning Office believed that there are too many single monsters, which is not conducive to the reproduction of the monster race. It is not conducive to social stability and the harmonious development of the two races. Therefore, a new rule was formulated on Director Hu’s initiative: Monsters are not allowed to be single.

To that end, Director Hu went out of his way to invite a professional match-maker to organize the effort to make matches among single monsters.

This excessive regulation met unanimous resistance from all single monsters. Efforts to make matches ground to a halt. In the end, Director Hu asked Jiang Lan to take the lead.

As a dragon son, Jiang Lan is very prestigious in the eyes of ordinary monsters. Only a select few knew the real reason for the fifth son of Dragon to leave the dragon palace, to seek a living among humans. The Family Planning Office where Director Hu works and the special service branch where Jiang Lan works are both under the jurisdiction of the Jiang City Monster Bureau. As a colleague, Director Hu knew that Jiang Lan was almost penniless despite his glamorous appearance and sometimes couldn’t even afford a meal. Worried about Jiang Lan, his brothers in the Dragon Palace secretly reached out to Director Hu to ask him to take care of Jiang Lan.

Now Director Hu believed that an opportunity to take care of Jiang Lan had presented itself. To implement the new regulations smoothly, he created a ten thousand yuan[2]Chinese Currency allowance for those who were successful at leaving single life. As a member of the oldest monster family, Jiang Lan, as long as he played a leading role and set an example for all the monster races, he would be rewarded ten thousand yuan. If the blind date was successful, an additional 10,000 would be added.

Of course, the additional ten thousand was to come out of Director Hu’s own pocket. As expected, Jiang Lan was tempted.

As a member of the special service branch, Jiang Lan was greatly compensated financially for joining many high-risk missions assigned to him. The financial reward was enough for a monster to live luxuriously. But Jiang Lan was no ordinary monster. A Tao Tie was born with the ability to devour everything. The ability makes him powerful but leaves him with an insatiable appetite. In the eyes of a Tao Tie, everything is edible. Tao Tie was classified as an evil beast in ancient times, who together with Chaos, Qiong Qi, and Tao Wu, were known as”Four Devils” because he was known to devour everything when mad with hunger.

But that was a long time ago. Now was a modern socialism era. The monster race had become a civilized race, receiving nine years of compulsory education and socialism indoctrination. After choosing to live among humans, Jiang Lan had become a law-abiding monster citizen. However, his special service branch wages and bonus were not enough, and he could barely afford his insatiable appetite. To make matters worse, those high-risk assignments were not always available, leaving him to struggle with a meagre wage.

The reward promised by Director Hu was a hefty sum for Jiang Lan. All that took was to show up on a blind date. Why not?

Once he was paid, he could afford as many roasted pig’s feet as his little brother wanted.

So here they came, who cares about leaving single life? What mattered was money.

The elevator stopped on the fifth floor, and Jiang Lan went straight to the agreed-upon place, a very stylish western restaurant. The restaurant was quiet, and the staff were warm and polite. Jiang Lan had visited this restaurant before when he was flushed with money. He knew the high price was directly proportional to the environment and service. After thinking about the balance in his bank account, Jiang Lan felt a little uneasy.

The waitress led him to the table where a young man was waiting for him. It should be Ying Qiao, his blind date. According to Director Hu, she pulled in a favour from Ying Qiao to get him to come. Jiang Lan was advised to value a rare opportunity to meet a handsome and rich young man.

Jiang Lan politely greeted him: “Hello, I’m Jiang Lan.”

Ying Qiao looked at his watch, precisely eleven o’clock. He was very punctual. His barely concealed impatience eased a little. Nodding at Jiang Lan, he said. “I am Ying Qiao, have a seat. The food has already been ordered.”

While scanning his date without reservation, Jiang Lan took a seat.

Director Hu didn’t lie to him. Ying Qiao could be described as very good-looking, even compared with his princely brothers. Although his thin lips and raised eyes were an indication that Ying Qiao was not an easy person to please. However, Jiang Lan had always had a good temper. His Special Service colleagues had even worse tempers than this, so he cared very little about his cold face. Withdrawing his gaze, he sat like a good boy and waited for the food.

Ying Qiao reciprocated the stare.

He was forced to come on this date since he owed Director Hu a big favour. Director Hu had begged him to lend a hand to his weird scheme. He had to come here to return the favour. Even so, he didn’t take this blind date seriously, that is, he just went through the motions. He didn’t even bother to read the information about the blind date that Director Hu had sent him.

He started to scrutinize Jiang Lan sitting upright facing him. This boy didn’t even bother to get his hair combed. The yellow sweater and black overalls, which Ying Qiao found to his surprise to be certain luxury brand’s new seasonal products, was crumpled and not even ironed. Not to mention carrying a backpack on his back, with an immature air all to him.

In Ying Qiao’s eyes, Jiang Lan looks the part of a young man just entering the workforce. Maybe his family had a little money, but he obviously lacked taste. Still, he had a pretty face to make up for it.

As picky as Ying Qiao was, he found his impatience melting a little at the face before him.

Waiters began to bring dishes to the table. Ying Qiao wasn’t a chatty fellow, and Jiang Lan had difficulty finding the right topic. So they ate in silence.

This restaurant served tasty food, and Jiang Lan really enjoyed it. When he thought Ying Qiao wasn’t looking, he snuck a few bits of steak into his chest pocket. Suan Ni was the eighth child in the family, the second youngest child next to Jiao Tu. After he was found, he could no longer transform into a human form. Instead, he regressed into a weak cub who needed someone to take care of him. He always clung to Jiang Lan and followed along after Jiang Lan left Dragon Palace. When Jiang Lan took him to the Monster Bureau to register his information, he deliberately used the same surname as Jiang Lan, named him Jiang Ni[3]In China, the surname was the first from left, and this is Suan Ni’s official name.

The steak was tender and juicy. Jiang Lan fed Suan Ni happily. He thought that Ying Qiao hadn’t noticed, and even the corners of his mouth curled up with joy.

But Ying Qiao took in all this with a glance into his pocket. It was a fist-sized lion cub with yellow-brown fur, semi-round ears, and golden almond-shaped eyes. In human form, he probably looked exactly like his brother. He couldn’t help but re-evaluate Jiang Lan.

Before he came, he took it for granted that the date Director Hu set him up with wouldn’t be too bad. But now it appeared that Jiang Lan was just an ordinary little lion monster living in poverty. He let his little brother tag along to share the food. Looking at Jiang Lan’s creased luxurious brand outwear, Ying Qiao thought he was way off the mark a few moments ago. In his mind, he mocked himself that perhaps Jiang Lan’s good looks obscure the fact that he wears a fake luxurious brand to a date.

He didn’t expect that ordinary monsters would have such a hard life. Stone-hearted Ying Qiao couldn’t help but feel sympathy for them. He pretended not to notice and waited for them to finish eating a whole steak. After the waiter delivered desserts, he cleared his throat and talked about business. His original plan was to show his identity to intimidate him, letting him realize how ill-matched they are. But after witnessing their plight, he didn’t want to embarrass him and changed his plan.

“Ok, the meals over. Let’s introduce ourselves.” He stretched out his limbs and sat up straight with his long legs folded. He leaned slightly to stare at Jiang Lan and said, “I’m an orphan of the snake clan. Work for a private company and go to work without a house or car. The salary is three thousand yuan a month. Medical insurance is too expensive. What about you?”

Looking at Jiang Lan’s stunned expression, he felt a little satisfied. What he just said wasn’t going to embarrass Jiang Lan and would spare his self-esteem. Jiang Lan wound give up on any thoughts of future dates. He could give a full report to the noisy Hu Clan. Three birds with one stone.

However, Jiang Lan was stunned for an entirely different reason. Why did Ying Qiao pick such an expensive restaurant if he couldn’t afford it? How could he live beyond his means? Nothing is going to happen between us!

Jiang Lan had been struggling to support himself. Ying Qiao’s wages were so low, and his consumption was so extravagant. Even the twenty thousand yuan allowance can’t bridge the gap between them. Jiang Lan thought hard to come up with an answer. He was not good at lying, so he lowered his eyes, and a half-truth followed Ying Qiao’s words: “I have a temporary position in the Hanyang Street Administration Office with a daily salary of eighty yuan. I have eight brothers who live off my salary.”

Looking at Jiang Lan, Ying Qiao thought Jiang Lan was perhaps the poorest monster he knew. Earn only eighty yuan a day. Was it enough for two brothers, let alone eight? No wonder he brought a little brother to share the food.

If not for the lie he just said, Ying Qiao almost wanted to offer him a job in his company. Even an ordinary office job in his company was better than an eighty yuan job like his. But he couldn’t withdraw his lie, so he pretended to be troubled. “I am looking for someone with a stable job. You…I am afraid we are not a good fit.”

Jiang Lan didn’t expect a three thousand monthly salary office slave would look down on someone with a temporary job. But this was what he wanted. He pursed his lips and said, “Yes, you are right.”

The two looked at each other with relief, “let’s forget it then?”

After reaching a consensus, they prepared to leave. Before leaving, Ying Qiao unexpectedly offered to foot the bill and ask waiters to prepare a takeout dessert for Jiang Lan to take home. Jiang Lan took over the packaged dessert and thanked him while taking a look at the bill, then he said a little embarrassingly.” Please add me as a friend in WeChat[4]Chinese Equivalent of Facebook with a eWallet, so we can split the bill.”

While trying to look nonchalant, his heart was bleeding. This dinner just cost him ten days worth of wage. But mindful of Ying Qiao’s meagre salary, he just couldn’t bring himself to ask Ying Qiao to foot the bill alone.

“Oh, no…” Ying Qiao almost turned down his offer to split the bill before recalling the lie he just told. He stopped in mid-sentence and exchanged friend requests on WeChat without saying anything.

Jiang Lan added him as a friend in WeChat and transferred his portion of the bill to him. Waving goodbye, he left.

Ying Qiao’s WeChat sent him a notification showing the funds Jiang Lan had just sent to him. A cute cat emoji was attached. Ying Qiao was about to delete him from his friend list, then he changed his mind. Pocketing his phone, he took another elevator connected with the car park.

Jiang Ran went out of the mall and went to take the subway across the road. When waiting for the traffic lights, a silver-grey Aston Martin drove by quickly. The young man in the driving seat looked like Ying Qiao. When he tried to have a second look, the car had already driven away. He thought he must be mistaken. How could a poor fellow like Ying Qiao afford a luxury sports car?

References

References
1 Referring to Jiang Lan, who is the Dragon’s fifth son
2 Chinese Currency
3 In China, the surname was the first from left, and this is Suan Ni’s official name
4 Chinese Equivalent of Facebook with a eWallet

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