Three days later.
“Which one do you want, Emily?” Xiao You asked as they looked at the varieties of packed sandwiches in 7-Eleven in the Taipei Main Station.
“Hmmm… that one is chicken meat?” Emily pointed to one of the sandwiches.
“Yes, sweetie, it is chicken meat,” Xiao You said.
Xiao You dives her hand into her handbag and took out a phone.
Emily looked at Xiao You.
“It is Uncle Xi Men,” Xiao You said, and then she picked up the call.
Xiao You: Hello, Xi Men?
Xi Men: I am here in Taipei Main Station, where exactly are you?
Xiao You: I am inside 7-Eleven… but I know that statement alone wouldn’t help since there are a lot of them here…
Xi Men: …
Xiao You: Hahahahahaha. Well, let me see… if you follow the sign that says TRA ticketing counter, you will end up at ticketing place, which is a huge place.
Xi Men: And then?
Xiao You: Xi Men, why don’t you just go to the TRA platform area? I’ll go there later anyway…
Xi Men: Xiao You, I don’t have the tickets with me. So how can I enter the platforms?
Xiao You: EH!! Oh yeah! It is with me!
Xi Men: So, which part of the TRA ticketing counter’s huge place is 7-Eleven, please?
Xiao You: Ummm… I am buying some sandwiches, maybe I…
Xi Men: Wait, I am seeing THSR signboard. Am I at the right place?
Xiao You: THSR is a different train. It is the high speed rail train and we are not taking that. We are taking TRA. TRA is the normal train.
Xi Men: High speed rail train? Ahhh, the one that travels up to 300km/h? Why aren’t we taking that? Since it is traveling at 300km/h we will reach Hualien faster too, right?
Xiao You: THSR goes to the west and to the south of Taiwan. Hualien is in the East.
Xi Men: Oh.
Xiao You: Tell me about it, Xi Men. You should probably be good to stay traveling with cars and planes.
Xi Men: At least I tried! These signboards are really messy.
Xiao You: Taipei Main Station is huge. You will be lost without the signboards.
Xi Men: I am lost even with the signboards!
Xiao You: They will lead you to somewhere, trust me. Just follow the TRA signs.
Xi Men: Ah, TRA ticketing signboard.
Xiao You: I am buying some sandwiches, do you need any? Have you taken any breakfast?
Xi Men: Sandwiches?
Xiao You: Yeah. Any preference on which one you want? And what about coffee?
Xi Men: Just buy me something to munch on. How long is the ride to Hualien?
Xiao You: About 3 hours. But they will sell bento in the train so you don’t have to worry that you’ll starve.
Xi Men: Bento? In the train?
Xiao You: It is their best seller. And you should try it. It is that good. Anyhow I’ll get you something from here.
Xi Men: And you haven’t told me where is 7-Eleven. Or rather, the 7-Eleven outlet that you are in now.
Xiao You: I have only been here in Taipei Main Station twice; first is to buy tickets, and this is my 2nd time. I don’t really know and I am only following the signboards too. And I have no idea which direction you are coming from. But if you see the ticketing counter in front… 7-Eleven is somewhere there, probably on the left. Like I know that will help…
Xi Men: I will find you. Just don’t leave 7-Eleven without informing me. I will head to that direction now.
Xiao You: Alright. Hey, any coffee?
Xi Men: Do they sell the black one?
Xiao You: I’ll buy you the canned one.
Xi Men: Canned?!
Xiao You: I’ll get the famous one in Taiwan lah. Why are you freaking out?
Xi Men: Famous?
Xiao You: Definitely not ‘Xi Men’ brand. I’ll see you soon. Emily is staring at me in boredom now.
Xiao You hangs up the call. “Your Uncle Xi Men is super long-winded,” she stuffed the phone back into her handbag. “So, which sandwich do you want?”
“The chicken one,” Emily pointed.
“Alright, what drinks do you want?” Xiao You asked as she took three of them and passing one of it to Emily.
“Can I have the bottled milk tea, mommy?” Emily pointed.
“Alright,” Xiao You said.
“What did Uncle Xi Men wants, mommy?” Emily grabbed a bottle of the milk tea.
“I’ll get him coffee. You know most adults survived on coffee,” Xiao You smiled, as she turned and looked at the corner where the famous Mr. Brown coffee is placed at. She took two cans; one normal and one black.
“Mommy, normal coffee for Uncle Xi Men?”
“No, normal coffee for me and black one for Uncle Xi Men. I like this one…” Xiao You smiled looking at the coffee. “Haven’t had this since I favored black coffee 10 years ago,”
“Oh,” Emily said.
“Do you want anything else?” Xiao You asked.
“Hate to say, mommy. I want everything here,” Emily pouted, to which Xiao You laughed. “They all look so good and delicious. I even want to take the rice or the stuffs on that hot area… but you mentioned the bento rice set they are selling on train… I also want to eat that!”
“We will eat that in the train. You can buy 7-Eleven stuffs some other days too since we will still be here for the next 5 weeks,” Xiao You smiled. “Let’s pay, and then we will wait for Uncle Xi Men,”
“Alright,” Emily carried the food, and then she queued up to pay at the cash register.
“Next customer please,”
Emily headed forward and puts down the bottled drink and sandwich, and then Xiao You puts down the other two sandwiches and the coffees. Xiao You dives her hand into her handbag to retrieve her wallet.
“Total is TWD$250,” the girl at the cashier said.
Xiao You opens up the wallet and was about to take out the money when suddenly,
“Just in time,” someone suddenly said and extends a TWD$500 note to the girl at the register. Even the girl is surprised that someone seemingly cuts the queue, but actually to pay for the food.
“Uncle Xi Men!” Emily called.
“Hi Emily, how have you been? Didn’t see you for few days already,” Xi Men smiled.
“I am fine Uncle Xi Men,” Emily smiled.
Xiao You looked at him. “That was fast,”
Xi Men turned his gaze from Emily to Xiao You and smiled. The deep penetrating brown eyes and the killer smile are not left unnoticed. His charisma has never changed even after 9 years.
“Of course. I wouldn’t let someone else to pay for the food,” Xi Men smiled.
“Wow, Uncle Xi Men, this is the first time I see you without your working clothes. A bit not… familiar,” Emily scratched her head, seeing Xi Men in tee and jeans.
Xiao You and Xi Men laughed.
“Uncle Xi Men is going for vacation, of course he had to shed that image. He can’t be wearing a tie to Hualien if it is not for work, right?” Xiao You said, as Xi Men is retrieving his change from the food he had just pay for.
“Of course I know, mommy. But I have been seeing Uncle Xi Men wearing the business suit with tie and formal… I am just slightly not used to what I see now,” Emily smiled, and both the adults smiled.
“I thought you said you are pretty lost in this place?” Xiao You asked.
“I had to follow the signboards,” Xi Men smiled. “I didn’t know this place is so huge. And luckily you said the 7-Eleven you are in is near this huge ticketing area. I saw so many along the way, I could have gone into them,”
“Means I wasn’t that bad in giving you directions,” she smirked.
“Not really. You have mentioned when I called you just now that there are so many 7-Evelens so it is not a good landmark; and you have said too that you know you won’t be able to help just by saying 7-Eleven. So, there is no ‘giving directions’ in that phrase,” Xi Men laughed at her.
“Hey!” Xiao You said.
Emily smiled while Xi Men continued laughing.
Xiao You looked at the trolley bag of Xi Men’s. “You have a huge luggage, you are bringing all the items in your house over?” she laughed.
“Well you have a big bag too,” he said.
“Both Emily and my stuffs are inside, we share a luggage,” Xiao You said. “We leave the other bags in the studio apartment,” she added. “And you alone… have a huge luggage,”
“I think only slightly bigger than yours…” he placed the trolley bag next to Xiao You’s.
He is right. Only by slight.
“I usually carry this bag to wherever I travel. Maybe I should buy a smaller one,” he said. “And besides… I don’t know what to pack… for a week… so…”
“So pretty much you packed everything?” Xiao You laughed.
“Eh, stop laughing…” he mumbled.
“Alright… I’ll call that… ‘more options to select’,” she laughed softly this time.
“Hey,” he glared at her.
“Alright, alright… come, let’s go to the platforms,” she smiled and they walked.
“So how is your trip for the last three days?” Xi Men asked.
“It was great, can barely feel my legs,” Xiao You replied. “You must have been really busy these three days,”
Xi Men laughed. “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. So busy until I can’t take dinner with you and Emily,”
“Must be spending time with fiancée,” she smiled.
The laughter fades almost immediately. “No. Because I am clearing my schedule this week, my secretary managed to postpone some meetings to next week and some of them could now so I have to arrange to have the meeting earlier,” he said. “Some even extended until dinner time,”
“Ahh, that is why you didn’t ‘stalk’ me anymore,” Xiao You said.
“You could have used a better word, right? I just wanted to spend some time with you and Emily since you are here the least compared to the rests,” Xi Men smiled.
Xiao You just smirked. “Very good words there, Mr. Xi Men,”
Xi Men laughed. “I thought that is the truth,”
She just smiled as she headed to the platform. “Your ticket,” she passed him his train ticket.
“Thanks,” Xi Men smiled.
“Train looks nice,” Xi Men said, as he pulled the luggage and entered the train. “Like a bus,”
“Seriously… you have to say that? Trains do look like bus. Two seats on each side,” Xiao You said. “You haven’t really taken a train in your life?”
“Well, can’t I make a comment…?” Xi Men asked.
“Wait, I don’t think you have taken a bus in your life too…” she said.
“Ah! You really haven’t!” she said.
“I took cars and planes… alright?” he rolled his eyes.
“Mommy, this is our seat,” Emily said as she immediately sits down after inspecting the number of the seats is the same as the one in their hands. “But only two seats, where is Uncle Xi Men going to sit?”
“Behind you,” Xi Men smiled as he placed his luggage down.
“Remember to buy bento when they serve it,” Xiao You said, making herself comfortable on the seat.
“What’s inside the bento that makes it so special?” Xi Men asked as he sits down.
“Actually it is just ordinary bento. Only eating it in the train makes it special,” she laughed.
“What?” Xi Men asked. “That is all?”
“I am going to try it. So… it is up to you,” she said.
“In case I missed… just get me one too,” Xi Men said.
“Why are you laughing again?” Xi Men asked.
“You are a Taiwanese, but you are also like… not a Taiwanese, at the same time,”
“Then treat it that I am learning to be a better Taiwanese with you,” he sits back on his seat.
And that leads to silence from Xiao You.
Xi Men lowered his head for a while, and then instantly remember he needs to do something extremely important.
He dives his hand into his pants and takes out his smartphone.
Xiao You suddenly turned around and passed a pack of sandwich and a can of Mr. Brown coffee to Xi Men.
Xi Men lifted his head up and looked at Xiao You.
“This is your sandwich and coffee,” Xiao You said.
“Mr. Brown?” Xi Men asked as he stuffs his phone back into his pants and with the free hands, he took the items from her hand.
“Yes. One of the famous brands in Taiwan, though I am not sure if you knew,” Xiao You smirked, turning around again back to her normal position on the seat.
Xi Men stared at the can in his hand, and then he opens it and takes a sip.
“Hmmm, not bad,” he mumbled.
And Xiao You heard it. She smiled.
3 hours later. Hualien Train Station.
Xi Men exits the train and he follows Xiao You and Emily as they headed to the entrance.
And when they exit the station, there is a huge board at the entrance stating MISS YANG XIAO YOU and MR. XI.
“Ah, that’s my name. He must be our homestay’s owner,” Xiao You said.
“Cool,” Xi Men said, following her directions.
Xiao You was about to head to the guy holding the signboard that bears her name, but seeing the other signboard with a MR.XI slows down her movement and creates a frown on her face.
Xi Men was about to head to the same direction until he realizes Xiao You has slowed down. He turned to look at her, instantly caught her frown. “What’s up?”
She then turned and looked at Xi Men. “He must have gotten your name wrong,” she said.
“My name?” Xi Men asked, as he turned to look at the guy again.
“The signboard he is holding states MR. XI,” Xiao You said. “Not MR. XI MEN,”
“Oh, he didn’t get my name wrong. I told him my name is Xi,” Xi Men said.
“Huh?” Xiao You surprised.
“I’ll explain to you in a bit. My name is Mr. Xi in Hualien now,” Xi Men said, as he walked towards the signboard.
Xiao You quickly followed suit.
The guy who is holding the signboard looked at Xi Men and Xiao You heading to him, and he quickly smiled.
“Mr. Chen, right?” Xiao You said, extending her hand.
“Yes, Miss Yang, welcome to Hualien,” the guy said. “And Mr. Xi, welcome to Hualien,”
“Thank you Mr. Chen,” Xi Men smiled.
Utmost hospitality already!
“And this is my daughter, Emily,” Xiao You said.
“Hi, Mr. Chen,” Emily smiled.
“Hi Emily,” Mr. Chen smiled, and then he looked at Xiao You and Xi Men, “May I ask, are both of you husband and wife?” he extends his hand to take the luggage from their hands.
“No, no, no,” Xiao You and Xi Men reacted at the same time.
“Just friends,” Xiao You added as she passed her luggage to Mr. Chen.
“Ah, sorry for that. Anyway, since you guys didn’t book any tour for today, we will head back to B&B to check in, rest, freshen up, and then for dinner, I will fetch you out to eat, alright?”
“Sure, Mr. Chen,” Xiao You smiled.
“Have you eaten lunch?” Mr. Chen asked.
“Oh yes, the ordinary-looking bento on the train is very filling!” Xi Men said.
Xiao You, Emily and Mr. Chen turned to look at Xi Men, and then they laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Xi Men asked.
“It is just your reaction,” Xiao You said, and then turned to look at Mr. Chen. “Mr. Chen, I heard about the fried onion cake which is really famous in Hualien,”
“Ah, yes, fried onion cake. Indeed very famous here. Do you want to buy them? I can drive you over,” Mr. Chen smiled.
“Sure, thanks. Since we heard it was that good, I want to buy maybe a few,” Xiao You smiled.
“Is it really that nice?” Xi Men asked.
“You can always buy one,” Xiao You smiled. “But we also need to buy some food from 7-Eleven just in case we needed to snack during our stay in B&B,”
“Sure, no problem. I will stop at 7-Eleven along the way so you can buy what you need,” Mr. Chen smiled.
After buying tons of fried onion cake and also topping up on snacks from 7-Eleven, they finally headed to the B&B for check in. The B&B is located about 10 minutes drive away from the train station.
Xiao You and Emily one room; Xi Men one room.
The B&B is a bungalow unit facing the beach; it is not located on the beach, but one just need to cross the road from the B&B entrance and it is already the beach; around 5 minutes walk from the entrance of the B&B. It has an awesome view.
The B&B is manned by Mr. and Mrs. Chen and a helper; and perhaps slightly rundown from the outside because it has been in service for years, but when one goes in, it feels like home.
Xi Men wasn’t pleased at first when he sees the bungalow from the outside because he felt that his parents’ mansion is definitely bigger and nicer than that. But when he enters the B&B, he is astounded by what he sees and feels: which is something his parents’ mansion doesn’t have.
Mr. and Mrs. Chen treated them as though they have been friends for years but they have actually just met for about an hour.
Xi Men immediately felt that whatever the B&B looks like externally is not important. Most important is what he felt inside, and that he is going to spend the whole week in this place.
After all, they only needed a fresh coat of paint on the outside which is not important compared to what he sees and feels inside the B&B.
Xiao You selects the right B&B to spend the week at. It is completely a different view and feeling from what one can feel in Taipei.
Xi Men is glad he dumped his work to follow Xiao You here.
After checked in, Xiao You and Emily decided to go to the beach for a walk.
And Xi Men tag along… definitely.
At the windy and beautiful beach,
“Don’t run too far or to the wave, alright. The waves are strong here. And you can’t swim here too,” Xiao You smiled, gently running her fingers thru Emily’s hair but the wind by the sea is blowing so harshly that whatever she did to Emily’s hair is futile.
“Alright mommy,” Emily said, herself also trying to control her hair. “You don’t wanna walk, mommy?”
“I’ll stand right here to enjoy the breeze,” Xiao You smiled, having trouble keeping her hair nice too.
“What about you, Uncle Xi Men?” Emily asked.
“I can stay here and accompany your mom,” Xi Men smiled; squinting his eyes as his hairs are flying all over the place and some strands even constantly poked his eye.
“Alright. I won’t be far,” Emily smiled and then she walked along the beach, jumping and hopping as she favors.
Xi Men and Xiao You stared at Emily enjoying herself before squatting down at the beach stacking up stones.
“I have to say your choice in picking the top notch B&B is great,” Xi Men smiled, as he turned to look at Xiao You.
Xiao You turned and looked at him, and smiled, while the rough wind blows to her hair and creating a massive mess… which is about the same for Xi Men. “Thank you for the compliment,”
“No problem. I guess this is one of the best places I have stayed,”
“I am sure you have stayed at a lot of 5 stars hotels,” Xiao You smiled, before she turned to look at Emily. “So I would say the other hotels would have been better for you,”
“I don’t think it is fair to compare like this since this is called B&B. And this B&B is only a fraction of the cost I usually pay for my hotel rooms. I should say, definitely worth it. The hospitality is at its best. I am really happy,”
“So I think you are glad you came,” she crossed her hands on her chest after giving up controlling her hair.
“Yes I am. Trust me I won’t be able to experience this if I had never followed you,” Xi Men said. “They do need to paint their bungalow though,”
Xiao You laughed. “I know. But what matters most is what they offer you inside that bungalow and not outside because you are not staying at the outside. I am sure you are happy with your room,”
“I do. And you?”
“Yes, I like my room very much. The balcony of my room faces the sea. So nice,” Xiao You smiled. “And Mrs. Chen told me my room is the nicest room of all because of the view,”
“Really?” Xi Men smiled.
“Yes. She said if I wake up early, I can see sunrise from the room,” she smiled. “You can see it from this beach too,”
“Sounds great. Then I will wake up earlier one of these days to catch the sunrise from the beach,”
Both of them smiled as their gaze are fixed at Emily.
Xiao You then turned and looked at Xi Men. “Hey, you haven’t told me why you are being called Mr. Xi here,”
“Oh, that,” Xi Men smiled. “Well, I just want to hide my identity. People will know who I am and treat me differently the moment they found out my surname is Xi Men. You know how notable the name ‘Xi Men’ is in Taiwan. So I said my name is Xi. And I just want to enjoy my vacation like a normal people do; not wanting to involve my status,”
“Why, you have been abnormal all along?”
Xi Men laughed. “I don’t mean in that way,”
“I know what you mean, just teasing you,” she smiled.
He just smiled.
“So should I ask Emily to call you Uncle Xi here in Hualien?” Xiao You asked.
He laughed. “No need. It is okay. Let’s not mess with a child’s calling. ‘Uncle Xi Men’ will do,”
No words are exchanged between both of them.
“Xi Men, can I ask you something?” Xiao You asked, breaking the silence between them.
“Does your fiancée know about all of these?”
Xi Men looked at Xiao You for the longest time, “About?”
Xiao You smiled lightly. “About me,”
*The B&B as mentioned indeed exists. It is the B&B that I stayed when I went to Hualien, Taiwan.