Chapter 34 – Clean place

My expression began to look unnatural, and Mi Cai, who was sitting across from me, noticed something was wrong. She glanced at me and then turned her head, and our gazes met with Jian Wei’s.

Mi Cai had a cold personality, while Jian Wei was naturally proud. Despite this unexpected encounter, neither of them greeted each other. Instead, Xiang Chen waved at me and said, “Zhao Yang, having a meal with your girlfriend?”

“Yeah, since you’re here, let’s share a table.” Despite my reluctance to meet them, I politely invited them. This politeness made me feel uncomfortable, but I had no choice.

Jian Wei held onto Xiang Chen’s arm and shook her head, saying, “No need, we’ll sit over there to avoid the crowd.”

Xiang Chen obediently followed her. After smiling at me, he led Jian Wei to another table. Watching their backs, I believed that after this unexpected encounter, Jian Wei and Xiang Chen would definitely believe that Mi Cai and I were in a romantic relationship. Today, Mi Cai and I were on a date, enjoying a dinner that belonged only to the two of us.

This was probably the first time Jian Wei had come to “Sky in the Clouds” to eat since returning to the country. CC was surprised to see Jian Wei and also gave her and Xiang Chen a beer and a cola. However, she didn’t mention the past because in her eyes, Jian Wei and I had already moved on. Bringing up the past would be inappropriate and ruin the atmosphere.

During the meal, Xiang Chen and I exchanged a few words from several tables away. I asked Xiang Chen why he and Jian Wei were still in Suzhou. Xiang Chen said that Suzhou was where we went to university, but we rarely came back in recent years. Since both he and Jian Wei had time, they decided to stay here for a few more days. However, in a few days, Jian Wei would accompany him to Nanjing.

Xiang Chen’s answer struck a nerve. I knew that Jian Wei was going to Nanjing to meet Xiang Chen’s family. Perhaps it wouldn’t be long before I received their wedding invitation, tearing me apart once again.

During the meal, I remained restless, never looking towards Jian Wei’s direction and refraining from drinking too much. I repeatedly reminded myself that our past had already been diluted by the passage of time. No matter how reluctant or self-torturing I was, it wouldn’t change anything.

I knew deep down that when Jian Wei put on the crystal diamond necklace given to her by Xiang Chen, I had already been living in a separate world, building the strongest wall around myself, shutting out any sight, thought, or pain…

I didn’t know when, but Xiang Chen and Jian Wei had finished their dinner before us. They simply greeted us and left in a hurry. I watched them walk into a small alley, but I couldn’t see the scenery of the corner where we used to buy roasted sweet potatoes on winter nights.

It was a chilly night.

Mi Cai waved her hand in front of my eyes, bringing me back from my daze. It was then that I realized this was a dinner that was supposed to be just for Mi Cai and me. I smiled apologetically, raised my glass to Mi Cai, and finished the remaining beer in one gulp, still sober.

The dinner continued. It wasn’t that Mi Cai and I were eating slowly, but rather that Jian Wei and Xiang Chen had left in a hurry. I ordered another beer, not to get drunk, as this beer couldn’t get me drunk, but to clear my mind with its cold liquid.

Half an hour later, Mi Cai and I finished the dinner. After saying goodbye to CC, I left with Mi Cai.

“Zhao Yang, haven’t you paid the bill yet?” Mi Cai said, grabbing my arm.

“We’re such good friends, why bother with the bill?” I continued walking forward, joking with Mi Cai. In reality, we were mostly silent during the meal and didn’t communicate much. Teasing her before leaving at least made the night feel less heavy.

Mi Cai exerted more force and stopped me. Her calm face was filled with anger. “You have no integrity! If everyone were like you, how could your friend’s restaurant stay in business?”

“You’ve had too much to drink! It’s surprising that even cola can get someone drunk,” I said, looking at Mi Cai with a half-smile. Her current state of agitation was completely different from her usual self.

Mi Cai realized she had lost control and stopped arguing with me. She took out her wallet and walked towards the counter. At this moment, I understood even more how much Mi Cai despised my bad behavior, to the point where she disregarded her own appearance and argued with me in public.

I quickly caught up and held onto Mi Cai, saying, “We agreed that I would treat you. How can I let you pay?”

“I don’t want to associate with scum like you. Don’t talk to me.”

“Heh, I was just joking with you. The place to pay is not at the counter, but in that corner.” I turned Mi Cai’s body around so she could see the box in the corner.

Mi Cai looked at me with confusion. During her meal, she had been facing away from the box and didn’t know what was going on.

I smiled and explained, “Didn’t you notice that there were no prices listed on the menu? Eating here relies on your own conscience. When you leave, you just throw the money into that box.”

“Can I put in any amount?” Mi Cai asked, surprised.

“Yes, no one will supervise you here.”


I pulled Mi Cai to the corner where the box was placed and took out 300 yuan from my wallet, putting it into the box. Then I said to Mi Cai, “People who come here to consume have all had a pure empty city in their hearts. No one will defile this empty city with worldly materials. That’s why this restaurant has been in business for many years and is not losing money… If there is still a clean place in this world, it must be here!”

On the way back, Mi Cai drove her compact Alto through the real city, but she still seemed interested in the “Empty City Music-themed Restaurant.” She asked me, “Zhao Yang, have all the people who have come to this restaurant over the years followed this rule?”

“Of course not. When this restaurant first opened, there were many people who came to eat without paying or tried to escape the bill.”Mi Cai was not surprised by my answer, because the world is never short of those who love to take advantage of others, the petty people who want to gain without working. She asked again, “So why has it become like this now, where everyone abides by this rule?”

I recalled and answered, “At that time, we all advised CC to give up this idealistic way of operation, because it was too unrealistic. But CC insisted on doing so. Eventually, the income couldn’t cover the expenses, and it was difficult to continue the business. Finally, one day, a notice of closure was posted on the bulletin board of the restaurant.”

“And then?”

“On the last night before the closure, there were still many people who brought their families to have a free dinner. We were all disheartened, blaming CC for being too naive. This idealistic way of operation only revealed the ugliness of human nature in the end.”

Mi Cai nodded thoughtfully.

I rolled down the car window, lit a cigarette, and continued, “After closing that night, we were really down. A few friends and I closed the door and drank a lot of alcohol, because after this night, there would be no more restaurant in the empty city!”

I exhaled a long puff of smoke, smiled, and said, “Perhaps there really is a saying about life from desperation. When we and CC opened the box to settle the day’s business income, we found a full 100,000 yuan in cash… We were surprised, but no one knew which customer had put it in.”

“So the restaurant continued to operate because of this 100,000 yuan?”

I nodded and said, “Yes, this 100,000 yuan gave CC the motivation to continue operating, to be precise, a spiritual motivation. For the sake of that unknown customer, we couldn’t close the restaurant in the empty city. Later, we replaced the box with a transparent one. Everyone could clearly see how much money was given after eating. Those petty people who only threw a few coins in, my friends and I would block them in the alley and beat them up… Over time, those who loved to take advantage of others stopped coming. But CC never knew about this. If she knew, she wouldn’t agree with us doing this… After a long time, CC replaced the transparent box with an opaque one again, but there was basically no loss, of course, it doesn’t rule out that there are still people who are muddling through!”

After listening to my narration, the usually indifferent Mi Cai actually said indignantly, “Good for you, those shameless people deserve to be beaten… But won’t those who were beaten call the police for your abuse of private punishment?”

“Of course they would call the police, but one of the guys who beat people with us was a local police officer, so he turned a blind eye. Besides, we didn’t extort money, and we knew how to control our strength. It was mainly a warning. As long as those scumbags didn’t come, the restaurant could maintain normal operation.”

Mi Cai looked at me and suddenly laughed…

I looked at her in surprise, not understanding why.

“I just find it funny to hear you calling others scumbags…!” Mi Cai explained with a laugh.

“…Who says a scumbag can’t call others scumbags?”

“I didn’t say you were a scumbag this time.”

“You mean that, do you think I’m stupid and can’t hear it?”

Mi Cai laughed out loud. In all the days we’ve been together, this was the first time I saw her laugh so openly. At this moment, her cheerful demeanor made her even more beautiful and captivating. So, the little Alto car moved more briskly through the city’s lights and shadows, less burdened by reality, and filled with a string of beautiful laughter.


This is a 3000-word chapter, so there will be two updates today. We’ll have a big update tomorrow, and we’ll set a new goal. This time, both the mobile site and the computer site will participate.

If the mobile site gets over 140 recommendation votes, there will be an extra chapter (this is not a high goal for the mobile site users, even though it’s been raised)

If the computer site gets over 8000 flowers, there will be an extra chapter (this number is quite reasonable, not high or low)

There will be at least 3 chapters tomorrow, and if both goals are met, there will be 5 chapters. It’s up to the users of the computer site and the mobile site. The new book is currently fifth on the list, neither rising nor falling. I hope to get into the top three tomorrow, so let’s complete the task quickly.

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