Lu Haochu entered the living room, where several delivery boxes were already placed, waiting to be unpacked.
He recognized them and realized that the two largest ones were probably the Christmas trees.
Lu Haochu opened them and examined them, saying, “Brother, two Christmas trees, one is a meter tall, and the other is 1.8 meters. Did you spare no expense?”
“It’s not too bad, a little over five hundred in total.” Lu Junchi directed him, “The smaller one is for the cats to play with, and the bigger one is for us. There are dozens of ornaments, so you need to hang them quickly.”
Su Hui wanted to help.
Lu Haochu waved his hand, “Teacher Su, I’ve got this. I helped assemble a few at school. These Christmas trees are all quite similar. I’m definitely a pro at this.”
Saying that, he spread a red carpet on the floor and skillfully started assembling and decorating.
Su Hui sat by the side, watching him work.
At the top of the Christmas tree was a big red star, and it was adorned with various decorations like hanging balls, red ribbons, hexagonal snowflakes, and deer ornaments.
After all the decorations were in place, the Christmas tree looked completely different from when it was bare.
Both cats were drawn to the scene, curiously tilting their heads to examine these peculiar trees.
Lu Haochu continued to blow up balloons in quick succession.
Finally, he wrapped the string lights around the Christmas tree and turned them on.
The colorful lights adorned the tree like a warm embrace of orange light, creating a truly festive atmosphere.
Lu Junchi handed him a few gift wrapping boxes and instructed him to fill them with candies and small gifts, tie them with red ribbons, and stack them under the Christmas tree for a later drawing.
Lu Haochu wrapped various gifts, including sparkling wine, teddy bears, power banks, mice, and plush blankets. He looked at each of them, liking them all, calculating which one he might end up drawing.
At the last one, Lu Haochu opened it and found a clock inside.
On the box was a motto.
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” – E.E. Cummings
Considering he had been gaming until late last night, he felt a bit guilty upon reading this. He wondered who would be unlucky enough to draw this.
With the living room fully decorated, the long dining table was set with a white tablecloth, two bottles of wine, and clean cutlery. To enhance the ambiance, candleholders were placed nearby.
Around 5:30 PM, Lu Junchi put the Beef Wellington into the oven, and the guests started arriving.
The first one to arrive was Yao Fei, followed by Xing Yunhai, and finally Tao Lizhi came a bit later. She removed her black coat to reveal a bright red dress, which was very fitting. Tao Lizhi had put on makeup today, her hair was pinned up, and her lipstick was a deep red color, making her look both elegant and powerful.
Lu Junchi pushed the dazed Lu Haochu, saying, “Help Chief Tao hang her coat.”
It was Lu Haochu’s first time meeting the tough lady chief from the central bureau. He quickly went to help.
As the time approached, the dishes started coming out.
Lu Junchi placed a large turkey in the center of the table and brought out the Beef Wellington as well. Then he gestured to Su Hui to take a seat and began pouring wine for the guests.
Yao Fei said, “This is probably the most formal Christmas I’ve ever had, from childhood to now.”
He hadn’t had the means to celebrate when he was young, and as an adult, he had mostly been alone.
Lu Junchi poured himself a glass of wine and Su Hui tugged at his sleeve. He poured a small amount for Su Hui, cautious not to let him drink too much.
Lu Junchi then got up to distribute the steak. The Beef Wellington had been in the oven for a while, and the meat had rested nicely.
With a skillful slice, the golden puff pastry split open, revealing the firm pink beef inside.
The juices from the beef were rich and fragrant, filling the entire room with a delightful aroma.
Lu Junchi cut the steak according to the number of guests and served each person a large piece.
Yao Fei took a bite and exclaimed, “Wow, delicious! This beef is so tender!”
Tao Lizhi, being careful to avoid smudging her lipstick, took a piece and also praised, “The pastry is so crispy.”
She then discreetly wiped her lipstick off her lips with a tissue. The steak was too delicious, and she had no idea how long she would be wearing lipstick while eating. Her image was less important than enjoying the food.
Su Hui also took a piece and tasted it. It was even more delicious than he had imagined. The crispy outer pastry was incredibly satisfying, with a hint of milk flavor, and a subtle aroma of thyme.
The steak was cooked to about medium-rare, without a trace of rawness. It carried the freshness of good beef, with the mustard and black pepper flavors fully integrated.
The foie gras melted in the mouth, carrying the special aroma of mushrooms, and the ham almost fused with the pastry.
The touch of black truffle was the perfect finishing touch, satisfying the palate without overpowering the other flavors.
The collision of top-quality ingredients was an incredibly satisfying experience.
The substantial piece of steak was enough to satisfy anyone’s appetite.
Lu Junchi whispered to Su Hui, “Do you like it?”
Su Hui nodded, “It’s fantastic.”
Lu Junchi smiled, “If you like it, I’ll make it for you again next time.”
Lu Haochu, sitting closest to him, was overwhelmed, “Brother, why didn’t you mention your cooking skills earlier? I’ve lived for so long, and I’ve never had such a delicious steak. I’m only eating it now thanks to my sister-in-law’s influence.”
Xing Yunhai also couldn’t stop praising, “Captain Lu, you’re really skilled. I’ve had Wellington at a nearby restaurant before, and it was just okay. But now that I’ve tasted this, I realize theirs wasn’t authentic.”
Yao Fei added, “Of course, how could the restaurant match this? The ingredients and quality are on a different level.”
The steak received unanimous praise from everyone. It was undoubtedly the highlight of the evening.
Even Su Hui, who didn’t usually eat much meat, and Tao Lizhi, who was trying to lose weight, finished their entire portions.
Afterward, the group shared the turkey, grilled prawns, and salmon. The final soup was heartwarming and satisfying.
After chatting for a while and having gone through several rounds of wine, Lu Junchi worried that Su Hui might have drunk too much and switched his wine to hot chocolate. He then served Christmas pudding and fruit as dessert.
In the bureau, almost everyone lowered their heads or looked away when encountering each other, except for Yao Fei who wasn’t there at the moment. It had been a while since they last met, so Xing Yunhai asked him, “How’s your investigation company doing lately?”
Yao Fei replied, “Business is pretty good. The most profitable service is marital investigation. There are so many cases of infidelity these days. Wives often come to us to check if their husbands have mistresses. There are also cases where husbands want us to investigate if their wives are having affairs. And believe it or not, there are even prospective fathers-in-law willing to pay to have someone play the role of a beautiful woman to tempt their future sons-in-law.”
Listening to this, Lu Haochu was surprised, “There are cases like that?”
Yao Fei nodded, “Yeah, think about it. If they’re about to get married, and they’re still pursuing other women, finding that out early on can prevent their daughters from getting hurt. And if they pass the test, they’re a safe choice. These cases bring in around a hundred thousand a month. And these people also refer others, so there’s a continuous flow of business.”
He collaborated with others, rented a small office space, and these earnings covered salaries and daily operations.
Lu Haochu found it amusing, “Yao Ge, how about you take me to your company during the holidays? Do you have any other services?”
Yao Fei considered, “We also handle divorce cases.”
“What? How do you handle that?” The group found this new piece of information quite intriguing.
Tao Lizhi pointed out directly, “You’re not a lawyer. How can you help with that?”
Yao Fei explained, “Because divorces are becoming more complicated these days, with the addition of cooling-off periods and various uncertainties. My job is to keep a close watch on the party that doesn’t want a divorce, ensuring they are present during the divorce proceedings. With all documents in order, things run smoothly, and the divorce happens without a hitch.”
Lu Haochu was curious, “How do you manage that?”
“Sometimes you need to employ some tricks,” Yao Fei gave an example, “Once, we had a case involving an abusive husband. His wife wanted a divorce, but he wouldn’t let it happen. After investigating, we discovered that his weakness was greed. So, we had someone impersonate a lawyer and inform him that a distant relative had passed away, leaving him a several-million-worth property. However, since he was still legally married, half of it had to be given to his wife. He fell for it happily and cooperated swiftly to get the divorce done. Of course, if he tried to find that lawyer again, he wouldn’t be able to.”
“Genius!” Lu Haochu couldn’t help but applaud.
Yao Fei continued, “And in some cases, we need to resort to other tactics.” He gave another example, “Once we had a case where the target was a woman in an abusive marriage. We managed to get her husband to agree to divorce by sending a threatening letter and including a severed pig’s head. He didn’t dare to continue resisting after that.”
Tao Lizhi was astonished, “You guys are like secret agents!”
Yao Fei laughed, “Well, we do what’s necessary to get the job done within legal limits. It’s a competitive business, you know.”
At this point, Yao Fei realized that he was bringing down the atmosphere and hurriedly changed the subject, “But enough about work, it’s Christmas after all. Ah, well, let’s move on to something more festive. How about we draw lots for gifts? My brother has prepared gifts for everyone.”
So they turned to the next page, and the lively gift-drawing session began.
Lu Haochu took out his phone, played a Christmas tune, and one by one, Yao Fei won a bottle of sparkling wine, Xing Yunhai got a computer mouse, Tao Lizhi received a small blanket, and Lu Junchi ended up with a portable charger. Su Hui even won a plush teddy bear.
Lu Haochu, clutching a small alarm clock, was moved to tears.
Lu Junchi patted his shoulder and said solemnly, “Little brother, always remember that every second of time is as precious as gold…”
During this moment, Lu Haochu wondered if his brother had manipulated the lots during the drawing.
After dinner and games, as the guests were leaving, Lu Junchi hurriedly ushered them out before coming back to the living room. There, he found Su Hui reclining on a lounge chair next to the Christmas tree.
With the radiant floor heating warming the room, Su Hui wore a fleece-lined shirt and didn’t feel cold at all. A slight blush colored his usually pale cheeks, possibly due to the bit of red wine he’d had.
Clutching a stuffed teddy bear in his arms, he held a cup of hot chocolate in both hands. His slender wrists were revealed, and his long lashes hung down as he blew on the steaming chocolate, creating a picture of delicate beauty.
Lu Junchi scooped some freeze-dried treats for the two cats, ensuring they were well-fed and not too clingy.
Then, he walked over to Su Hui and pulled him up, saying, “Come, let your husband give you a Christmas gift.”
Setting down the cup of hot chocolate, Su Hui looked a bit puzzled, “Didn’t you just buy me a phone? Why did you get something else?”
This year, they had agreed not to splurge on gifts, so he had only bought Lu Junchi a scarf.
“This thing isn’t expensive. Husband wants to give you a memorable Christmas,” Lu Junchi said, lighting up some scented candles and taking out an item, “Come, see if you like it.”
Su Hui, not having a clear view, reached out to take it and felt it. Fluffy, soft, and squishy…
Only then did he realize it was a cat ear headband, looking almost exactly like real cat ears.
Su Hui: “Meow?????”