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At this time, most of the shops on the street had not opened their doors yet, so few people were sweeping the snow in front of their shops. He struggled to move forward in the deep snow, breathing in the bitter cold air, and watched the commuters rush to work with pity.
When he arrived at the pet clinic, he looked inside, and did not see Sun Xiaomeng. She was probably in the treatment room. Long Xian behind the duty counter saw him, poured a cup of hot cocoa, and came over to him.
"Manager Zhang." Long Xian gave him the cocoa, "I heard Sister Xiaomeng say that you were going to help us remove the snow! Please drink this cup of cocoa to warm up first."
"Thank you." Zhang Zian put the broom and shovel aside, and accepted the cup of hot cocoa to drink.
When the sweet, hot, viscous liquid flowed into his stomach from his esophagus, he instantly felt the chilled air being pushed out of his body.
"So sweet! So sweet!" He finished the drink, wiped his mouth, and handed the cup back to her.
"Hey! I have one thing in common with Sister Xiaomeng — we both have a sweet tooth! Manager Zhang, do you prefer salty or sweet food?" Long Xian asked curiously.
Zhang Zian answered earnestly, "To be honest, as long as it is free, I don’t really mind if it is sweet or salty."
Long Xian was speechless.
Since she wore very little, she couldn’t bear the chilliness outside anymore.
"I’m going inside now… Thank you, Manager Zhang." She trotted back into the clinic, but then stuck her head out again. "Manager Zhang, I also heard that you hired a new employee in your shop?"
"Yes, she is called Lu Yiyun, and her drawing skills are amazing, almost at a professional level. Whenever you are free, you can come and meet her. You two are similar in age, so you guys should have common topics to talk about," Zhang Zian said. "In this terrible weather, I see few clients are visiting the clinic, so I guess you’ve had some free time recently."
"Well, I would like to meet her." Long Xian smiled and headed back to the counter.
There was only a small area in front of the pet clinic, and Sun Xiaomeng’s car took up a lot of that s.p.a.ce, so Zhang Zian swept the snow to the driveway, and finished very quickly. He was leaving with his broom and shovel, and noticed that a straw mat was placed in front of the clinic, presumably to allow customers to rub their dirty shoes off before entering the gate, thus relieving the cleaning pressure on the clinic.
He kept this detail in his mind, planning to go back to his storeroom to see if there was a similar mat.
Uncle Li's small restaurant had no customers at all this morning. The interior of the store was lit with pale lights, and Aunt Li was sitting there playing a piece of wiping cloth, bored, with Zhang Zian’s foam insulated box beside her hand.
"It’s freaking cold outside," he pushed the door open.
"Master Zhang is here," said Aunt Li. She smiled and stood up. "It is cold and snowy, but the coldest time hasn’t arrived yet."
Zhang Zian came here several times a day, so he picked up the foam insulated box casually and comforted her euphemistically, "Business is rough everywhere in this terrible weather, I’m sure everything will get better when the weather becomes warmer… just stay warm and go home early today."
"Okay." Although Aunt Li promised him with a smile, Zhang Zian guessed that they would remain here till ten o'clock in the evening as usual.
Heading back to his pet shop, stepping on ice and snow along the way, he saw Lu Yiyun was standing outside the door waiting.
She trotted towards Zhang Zian, trying to take the foam insulated box from him, but because of her clumsiness, her feet stepped on a piece of ice and almost slipped. Zhang Zian threw away his broom and shovel to grab her.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I’m so stupid..." she repeatedly apologized.
"It’s all right. Please don’t run with ice and snow on the road. Why are you waiting outside?" he asked.
She said timidly, "The door is closed..."
"I pulled down the shutter door when I left but did not lock it. You are the only regular employee in the store right now, so don’t be so uptight," said Zhang Zian. Putting the foam insulated box in her hands, he pulled open the shutter door.
"Well... okay..." Lu Yiyun said nervously.
Zhang Zian estimated that with her character, next time if he was not inside, she would still be waiting outside.
"The Spirit Curing Pet Clinic has a new nurse called Long Xian, who is also the same age as you. You can hang out with her sometime and get to know each other."
"Okay... okay..." She became more nervous realizing that she would have to know and deal with strangers.
The two entered the store one by one, taking off their coats and hanging them on the rack. Zhang Zian noticed that she was carrying a waterproof bag similar to a laptop bag.
"What is that?" he asked curiously.
Still feeling embarra.s.sed about the incident where she almost fell down at the gate, Lu Yiyun was stunned for a moment before she understood what he was referring to.
"Oh, this? This is my digitizer for drawing..." She held the waterproof bag to her chest and carefully peered into Zhang Zian's face. "I feel like there might be few customers today and I would like to take some time to paint… May I?"
"Sure, I have already said this, but you can do whatever you want when you are free," Zhang Zian replied without hesitation.
Lu Yiyun relaxed a bit, and gratefully bowed, "Well, thank you, Mr. Manager..."
She continued, "Ah, I'll first update ill.u.s.trations for the pet shop’s public WeChat account, and then I’ll draw my personal pictures..." For fear that Zhang Zian might misunderstand her, she hastily added this last part.
"OK, no problem, feel free to do so, don’t be so nervous," he said.
Since he had created a public WeChat account for the pet shop, he had not yet published an article, and he knew he can’t just write something like "Today I caught an elfin, and I’m so happy" or "Yesterday I saw a beautiful woman but failed to hit on her".
Lu Yiyun put the waterproof bag on the checkout counter, and pulled out a blackboard the same size as a laptop screen along with an a.s.sorted pen.
"This is a digitizer tablet?" Zhang Zian had heard about this thing, but it was the first time he’d ever seen a real one.
"Yeah." Lu Yiyun skillfully connected the digitizer tablet to her desktop computer.
"Can I watch you draw?"
Zhang Zian was very interested in this professional artist's painting process. There might be no customers today anyway, and he had plenty of free time.
Since becoming a professional painter, Lu Yiyun had never let others watch her while she was painting, except her cat Jasmine. She was very nervous, but she did not dare to say "no", so she bit the bullet and agreed.
Zhang Zian first gave the BBQ skewers to the elves, then ran to the storage room to find a worn mat. He put it at the doorway, and then moved a chair to sit next to the cashier to watch Lu Yiyun paint.
She picked up the drawing pen, but did not start drawing.
"Mr. Manager, what do you want me to draw?" she asked for instructions.
Zhang Zian also had no idea, so he said jokingly, "Draw me?! I want to look handsome!"
Lu Yiyun was holding the pen, the tip slightly shivering due to her tension. She previously had painted all kinds of anime characters, and she hadn’t sketched real-life figures for a long time, not to mention that she was facing an adult man that she was not particularly familiar with… Suffering from an extreme mental burden, she did not dare to look directly at him, and this made it even more impossible for her to draw...
As time went by, Zhang Zian's patience wore down gradually.
When he felt bored, in the blizzard, a taxi stopped slowly by the roadside.