The moment he heard these words, Chi Xueyan thought that this seemed to be the most ordinary Christmas Eve in his memory, but also the most bizarre and special.
He got out of the car in front of his house. There were no snowflakes outside or a pre-decorated Christmas tree. There was only a cold wind.
However, he received a Christmas present beyond imagination.
An unsolved mystery stood by his side at this moment, handing him a key that could be used to verify all the answers.
This was a gift that Chi Xueyan could never refuse—as long as he was still him.
He loved this birthday photo story, the secret details that came with the reciprocal exchange.
In the novel, there were black and white protagonists, villains, passersby, the perspective of an all-knowing and all-powerful god and tragic or happy endings marked in advance.
But real life was never so simple. It was impossible to clarify the thoughts hidden in the hearts of others, nor could they predict where the future led.
People could only live in the present moment with their own perspective.
In the landscape that stretched out as far as he could see, the only certainty was uncertainty itself.
For example, the current He Qiao.
He was an uncertain mystery, but there was a transparency that was only for him.
Chi Xueyan was fascinated by the contradiction.
From now on, he no longer had to spend extra energy thinking about whether the mysterious book transmigrator He Qiao was hiding from him.
The scale was tilted from the very beginning. If it tilted and shook again, everything had returned to the fairest square one.
It was a new origin.
The key fell into the lock cylinder and turned slightly.
In the long winter night, he stared at the side of He Qiao’s face as He Qiao lowered his head and opened the door.
This person’s posture showed a good upbringing, but didn’t appear expensive. He gave people the impression of being handsome, gentle, innocent and friendly.
The first impression he got when they met still seemed to be relevant at this moment.
However, it was no longer complete enough to encapsulate all of the person beside him.
The door opened. The house was as beautiful as ever but didn’t have the slightest air of celebration.
Chi Xueyan had no interest in following the rules of birthdays, so he didn’t prepare the most necessary links such as: cake, candles, wishes, gifts.
It was just that most people cared about these ordinary rituals.
In particular, the first birthday spent in a strange world.
So Chi Xueyan’s first words after walking into the house were to ask He Qiao, “Do you need to eat a birthday cake? We just passed by several cake stores but I forgot to stop and buy one.”
Buying the cake was originally intended to tactfully reject He Qiao’s words.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t exactly an excuse. He had thought about it and treated He Qiao as a friend.
“No need.” He Qiao shook his head. “I don’t like to eat cream very much. A cake is too big and it will be wasted if bought.”
Unlike Chi Xueyan, who carried candy with him, He Qiao had no particular preference for sweets, especially cream.
Moreover, for He Qiao, this was already the best birthday he could imagine.
The next second, he saw a smile flashing in the other person’s eyes.
Chi Xueyan took off his coat and threw it on the sofa casually. There was a hint of teasing in his tone. “I originally wanted to make you a cake.”
Chi Xueyan said he would make him a cake.
…He Qiao suddenly didn’t know how to answer.
It was the end of his birthday that he couldn’t have imagined.
The most unexpected birthday ending.
But the last ‘no need’ still rang in his ears.
At the sight of the hesitant repentance in his expression, the dissatisfaction on Chi Xueyan’s face became more and more obvious. He no longer asked the birthday star about this obvious answer and walked straight to the kitchen.
“There is no cream and the size is small. It can be finished in half an hour.” He told the truth, “It is a lazy cake. Don’t expect too much.”
For the person who was busy in the kitchen, it was a long half an hour.
For the person who accompanied him in the kitchen, half an hour was too short.
It was rare for Chi Xueyan not to look at the balloon man outside the window to relieve his boredom. Instead, he lowered his head and carefully separated the egg whites and egg yolk.
Eggs, butter, low gluten flour, baking powder, matcha powder… they were all things that were prepared in the kitchen in advance before moving into the marriage house.
He Qiao could cook but he had never been exposed to baking. Therefore, he once wondered why his mother prepared so many raw materials commonly used in baking.
Once on the phone, he casually mentioned it and Sheng Xiaoyue told him that this was what Han Zhenzhen had people buy. She said that Xiao Chi might be able to use it.
This actually surprised He Qiao even more.
From Chi Xueyan’s perfunctory sandwiches when he made breakfast and his repeated emphasis on not wanting to learn to cook, his resistance to cooking could be clearly seen.
It was hard to imagine him going to the kitchen to bake.
However, He Qiao did see that he had a group chat about making sweets on his phone.
It was on the wedding day.
He had seen Chi Xueyan’s illuminated phone screen. At the same time, he found the nicknames given to him and Ren Xuan.
As for the latter matter, now wasn’t the time to ask.
Then today, he solved the previous doubts.
“…Having lived together for over 20 years, it was inevitable that there would be quarrels and unpleasantness.” Chi Xueyan chatted with He Qiao to pass the time as he stirred the egg yolk paste. “Every time the two of them get angry with each other, I will go into the kitchen.”
What’s more, he always did things as he pleased. It was common for him to make his parents angry, even if they were already more tolerant than ordinary parents.
“My dad has a sweet tooth, so I learned a bit about the simplest desserts and cakes.” He laughed as he spoke. “I added a group dedicated to sharing lazy recipes. Do you know how lazy the owner of that group was?”
“She didn’t even bother to add the word lazy to the name of the group chat, but sometimes she is willing to overcome laziness and bake a small cake for herself.”
“Humans are such strange and contradictory animals, just like I hate cooking. Occasionally, I take the initiative to go into the kitchen to satisfy my sweet tooth.”
In front of the clear glass window on this winter night, Chi Xueyan lowered his head and smiled. He Qiao, who was waiting on the side, stared at this person’s back with a smile that he didn’t even notice.
“Doesn’t your mom have a sweet tooth?”
“Yes, she doesn’t like it. So I will just warm up a cup of milk for her.” Chi Xueyan continued, “My dad will temporarily forget to be angry with me when he eats something he likes. My mom will hold the warm milk and sees me reluctantly cleaning up the used utensils in the kitchen, as if she had forgiven me.”
“However, antibodies will be produced if the same tricks are used too much. Then I started working as a children’s dentist after graduating.”
“I had forgotten what the day was for. In any case, I started making a cake. They followed me to the kitchen to continue arguing. As a result, I suddenly started telling a fairy tale.”
Immersed in his relaxed and pleasant memories, Chi Xueyan poured the mixed batter into a paper cup and placed it in the oven.
The most troublesome step was finally completed. He sighed with relief and turned to look at He Qiao.
Under the warm yellow light of the kitchen, He Qiao behind him patiently waited for the suspense to be revealed about what happened after suddenly telling the fairy tale.
The oven made a running noise as Chi Xueyan leaned against the kitchen countertop, telling him the answer with a smile. “When my parents first listened to it, they were stunned. Then they asked me in an incredulous tone if I was treating them like children.”
“I said yes. I often tell this story to children lying in the dental chair. They usually like it because it is a new version they have never heard before.”
“I simply admitted that I was coaxing them like children. Suddenly, they couldn’t do anything. They could either listen to the story in the kitchen or go to the living room to wait for the dessert and hot milk.”
“So far, this trick hasn’t failed because I always have new stories.”
At the end of Chi Xueyan’s words, the memories bordered on reality. “Moreover, I don’t need it any longer. We don’t live together often and there is no reason to argue.”
He had a new home, although it wasn’t really a home.
He Qiao probably thought of the same thing.
In the kitchen of his new home, amidst the similar sweet aroma, he took the initiative to ask about the story that Chi Xueyan told a long time ago.
“What was the first fairy tale you told?”
“The story of the mermaid,” Chi Xueyan said. “But the plot is completely different. For example, she isn’t the one who turned into bubbles.”
In the original story, the prince had a beloved princess and was going to marry her. The little mermaid trembled and dropped the knife and turned into bubbles at dawn.
He felt that children shouldn’t listen to such fairy tales. They shouldn’t give up their fishtail for ethereal love, hand over their voice and finally lose their lives, no longer being the little mermaid who originally lived happily.
He Qiao asked, “Who turned into a bubble? The prince?”
“It isn’t anyone. It is time that has become a bubble.”
“The little mermaid regretted it. So in the new story, she decides to swim to the deep sea where there are the corals and pearls that she prefers to the distant prince on the shore.”
Chi Xueyan had told different people about this newly made up fairly tale countless times. But tonight, he suddenly experienced a fable-like atmosphere.
Did he tell this fairy tale in the novel?
Probably not. It was because he soon gave up the profession he once liked and went to the family company to make a name for himself.
So at the beginning, He Qiao didn’t know that he was a dentist.
Chi Xueyan lowered his eyes. His eyes were smudged by the dim and silent light in the room. He Qiao listened to the fairy tale and didn’t speak. He just looked at Chi Xueyan with the same gentle gaze as always.
In the slight fluttering of his eyelashes, perhaps after a long time or perhaps it was only a moment later, there was a crisp ding from the oven.
The cake was ready.
He turned around and got busy again.
He went to the snack box, grabbed a pack of marshmallows and opened two cartons of milk.
The milk pan gradually boiled and the marshmallows were cut on a cutting board.
Then he put on his gloves and took the two small cupcakes out of the oven.
He Qiao had consciously sat down at the dining table and waited for him to appear with the cake.
It was the simplest and most special birthday cake he had ever seen.
The two matcha muffin cakes were particularly fluffy when first baked. The round top of the cake expanded outward and split, like a dark green branch that was layered. They were also dotted with a few marshmallows.
The pure white marshmallows were sliced. Each slice was specially cut with snowflake-like edges and corners. The edges and corners weren’t neat and symmetrical at all. It seemed random.
They looked like two Christmas trees covered in snowflakes.
There were also two glasses of hot milk next to it.
Chi Xueyan sat next to him and said softly, “There are no birthday candles at home but this cake looks a lot like a Christmas tree. It is more similar when putting marshmallows. Therefore, I think it can replace the function of candles.”
Candles, like Christmas trees, were used to make wishes.
Heating milk with sweets was the method he used to coax his parents, so he added another sentence.
“I’m not angry and you probably aren’t either. So I’m not coaxing you because of a fight.”
Chi Xueyan said, “Just because you are ushering in a new year in this world, you might need a cake with a sense of ceremony. Then I suddenly want to drink hot milk.”
Then he said again, “Happy birthday.”’
It was a blessing with diametrically opposite meanings.
A goodbye and a beginning.
The cold wind outside the window blew through the withered leaves.
The light in the window reflected two Christmas trees where wishes could be made.
He Qiao thought that simply saying thanks wasn’t expressive enough, but it was too early to say thanks in a more intimate manner.
Therefore, he just said, “The matcha muffin cake really resembles a Christmas tree.”
Making a birthday cake into a tree and cutting marshmallows into snowflakes was a strange idea that only the person in front of him could think of.
“Right?” Chi Xueyan was very satisfied with his approval. “It is especially so after adding the marshmallows. It is a pity that it is too troublesome to cut and it doesn’t look particularly like snowflakes.”
“I’ll cut it next time.”
“…Will you still eat this cake next year?”
He Qiao carefully listed three reasons in a serious tone, “There is no cream, the size is just right and I should be able to learn how to make it.”
Hearing this, Chi Xueyan glanced at him with a smile. Then Chi Xueyan stopped talking and picked up a glass.
The dark green glass was the cup that Chi Xueyan picked out to suit this dining table. The most sour lemonade had filled it four months ago.
Now he drank hot milk in it under the light.
Meanwhile, He Qiao started to taste his birthday cake.
The pine branches were once again covered with snow, but there was a warm and soft smell.
The author has something to say:
A kiss with the flavor of a Christmas tree =3=
Christmas trees are technically edible, but the flavor is a bit polarizing and the texture of the wood powder is even more off-putting. Matcha is a far more suitable alternative flavoring.