On the road, Jian Suiying called for someone to tidy up his place and have lunch ready. Once the four entered the place, there were no strangers inside beside the fragrant of the steaming food wafting.
Whenever Jian Suiying was in a good mood, there was something that he did that resembled his father: he liked to open a bottle of good wine; the first time he met Li Yu, even he himself did not like that bottle of sweet wine. But this time, since the two younger ones couldn’t drink, Li Xuan who was mingled in the officialdom, should at the very least have a finely-honed kidney.1
He didn’t expect Li Xuan to smile and wave his hand repeatedly the moment he took out the wine. He was even calling his name with much familiarity while employing a skillful tone. “Suiying, it’s okay. I still have to go handle some financial businesses this afternoon. It’s a very serious matter, so I really can’t drink.”
Jian Suiying’s disappointment crept up a bit, “It’s only one glass. With four guys eating around the table and not drinking at all, how is that proper? Tell me.”
Li Xuan still abided by a scrupulous etiquette but maintained a resolute bearing. “We can drink to our heart’s content next time. I really can’t today. I do have a serious matter this afternoon.”
With that, Jian Suiying had no choice and placed the wine bottle back into the liquor cabinet and tell them to sit down and eat.
The two college entrance examination students remembered what their teachers had warned them repeatedly, ‘once the exam is over, don’t look for the answer’. But after saying a few words, they couldn’t help but say some more until the topic went back to the aforementioned.
“Hey,” Li Xuan said. “Don’t talk about it, it will influence your development.” As he said that, the topic shifted, “It was extremely hot today. Just standing outside was enough to make anyone sweat all over.”
“Exactly… but Li Xuan ah, how long will you be staying this time?”
“Initially, it’s been set for one week. There was an important meeting, so I took the chance to come see Lao-Er.”2
“When are you free in the next two days then? Once they are done with their exam, I want to take you guys out for dinner.”
“I don’t want to trouble you. Today’s meal is already more than enough.”
“Today is a special occasion. How can my small place hold Li-chuzhang?3 This won’t do. Before you leave, you have to give me an opportunity. Recently, a new Cantonese restaurant opened on the side of the Liangma River, and they’re known for the Alaskan King Crabs which are as big as our heads. I have to take you guys there to try them out.”
Li Xuan tried to squeeze out a few excuses but ended up agreeing to it.
Jian Suiying thought that his luck for that day was exceptionally good. Not only was he not held up in appreciating the beautiful boy Li Yu, but he also took the chance to draw a close relationship with Li Xuan which could be described as a great harvest in the heart of the marketplace. He keenly felt that he had a spate of good luck during this time. He had to utilize this luck to his advantage and spring to the top, otherwise, he would miss out on the opportunities as time passed by. That was what Jian Suiying had always believed and abided by.
The four ate politely and amiably. Once the meal was over, Jian Suiying sent the younger boys away to take a nap. He steeped a pot of tea and chatted with Li Xuan in the living room for a while.
Aside from the pleasure of finding many common topics to talk about, chatting with someone that was young and who possessed an abundance of experience and powerful background was also very enriching.
Every few days or so, the princelings4 in Beijing would gather to hang out with each other, besides from staying connected, the most important thing was to obtain a lot of useful information.
It was during this small talk that Li Xuan casually mentioned several potential projects in Guangxi that were attracting investments.
A young official like him had to accumulate experiences and qualifications, therefore, for every place he stayed, he needed to leave behind a good impression as to let others think of his achievements. That, in turn, would help his future development greatly.
Jian Suiying was quite willing to collaborate with him. Since Li Xuan was still young, it was uncertain which position he would take later on, furthermore, the projects that he mentioned sounded pretty good. Jian Suiying believed that Li Xuan had great foresight and a large gutsy appetite that was not really obvious from his calm and meticulous appearance in Shanghai.
In short, the two chatted for the entire noontime, which pulled their relationship closer. Jian Suiying felt as though they had known each other all along, and even regretted not having met sooner.
No matter how much he favored beauty, in the end, there were still ambitious men. At that moment, his interest in Li Xuan was already greater than in Li Yu. If his reason for approaching Li Yu before was purely because he fancied him, now he had another important reason: he had to establish his relationship with Li Xuan through Li Yu.
Soon, Jian Suilin and Li Yu both woke up.
Li Xuan said a few words to Li Yu and took his leave.
Jian Suiying then asked the chauffeur to take the two boys back to the school for the next examination.
The two-day college entrance exams finally came to an end. When Jian Suiying went to pick them up at the school on the afternoon of the last day, he was completely taken aback by the grandeur of the crowd that gathered.
With much difficulty, he managed to get his brother out of the crowd, only to learn that Li Yu had already been picked up by a chauffeur that the Li family sent.
He was somewhat disappointed, but he also knew which student wouldn’t return home to celebrate with their family first after exams ended? Summer vacation was long – he wasn’t worried.
Jian Suiying took Jian Suilin to a restaurant where two others were waiting for them. For that meal, there were four people. When the two entered the private room, they saw his father and Jian Suilin’s mother, Zhao Yan, at their seats talking about something. Zhao Yan had on a slight frown, appearing reluctant.
When Jian Dongyuan saw his two sons walking in, one in front of the other, with a remarkably talented presence and attractive looks, he was extremely proud as a father. He didn’t know how to express his feelings, so he simply sighed. “Ay, little miss.” He called for the restaurant manager at the side and smiled brightly. “Look at my two sons, okay?!”
Of course, the manager would go over. Her sweet little mouth then opened and spoke some words. “Just like father, like son!4 With just one glance, the two sons of Jian-zongcai5 were certainly everyone’s princes. Even the way they walked was grand and out of the ordinary.”
Jian Dongyuan laughed cheerfully, “What a pity, what a pity. It would be nice as well if there was a daughter.”
The manager quickly said, “Then have Jian-gongzi5 quickly give you a daughter-in-law, but don’t randomly pick just anyone.”
Hearing that, Jian Dongyuan feigned a smile that was not exactly a smile and glanced at Jian Suiying. Then he sighed as though he was resentful toward someone for failing to improve or meet his expectations and pointed at Jian Suiying. “Your gongzi, I don’t even know if I can count on him or not.”
Jian Suiying pretended not to hear that.
Usually, if his father mentioned his sexuality, he would always turn a cold eye to him even if he didn’t go as far as to become hostile toward him. Today, he probably didn’t want to feel disappointed, so he didn’t say much more.
“Suilin, go sit beside your mother. Suiying sit here.”
Jian Dongyuan personally poured a glass of wine for Jian Suilin. “Come, your father will pour a glass for you to congratulate the ending of your twelve years of hard work. I know that it is not easy to be a student. You have always performed well and made me and your mother really proud. No matter what the outcome is, I have seen your hard work. Your mother and I are both happy.”
Jian Suilin quickly stood up, “Thanks, dad. Thanks, mom.”
In the beginning, the three said many sweet words to each other, and aside from Jian Dongyuan saying only a few words to Jian Suiying as to bring him into the conversation, there was practically no need for a fourth person. In truth, none of it mattered to him.
As he swayed the wine glass, bored to death, his gaze inadvertently met Zhao Yan’s but Zhao Yan quickly averted her eyes.
He sneered coldly to himself, knowing full well that that woman feared him.
If he, Jian-dashao, couldn’t even control this witch then there was no need for him to mix in this kind of society. He was very satisfied with her fear; it was best for her to spend the rest of her life trembling in it each day so that she and her son could stay securely in the Jian family – she should never dare to say a word in front of him.
Even if it was like that, Jian Suiying still thought that it was too easy for her.
After all, she could still be dressed in gold and silver with the title of Jian Dongyuan’s legal wife. His own mother, however, died in illness while suffering from anger, unable to see her son grow up.
Once the meal was coming to an end, Jian Dongyuan asked his second son, “Suilin, what are your plans for summer vacation?”
Jian Suilin took a sip of his tea and took a particularly meaningful glance, “Dad, do you have any arrangements?”
Jian Dongyuan, “It was not easy for you to finish the exam. I’m not against you relaxing for a few days, but you can’t waste your two months of summer vacation playing around. You know that, right?”
“Since you were young, you have always been obedient, your brother, on the other hand, I can’t control. I remember when he finished his college entrance examination that year… Suiying, tell your brother what you did yourself.”
Jian Suiying laughed lazily, “I stole your car and went to Dalian with some friends to buy and sell seafood for more than two months. I made some money and then returned the car to you.”
Jian Dongyuan snorted, “This stupid boy has been leaving home to make his way in the world since he was a kid. There was never a day when I was worry-free because of him. Suilin, you are a child who doesn’t make adults worry. Your brother… although he often messes around, he is truly capable. I don’t want you to learn how to make me angry with him, however, I hope that you will learn how your brother does business, how to conduct yourself, and how to make people mention him in a few short years without mentioning who his father is.”
Jian Suilin’s bright eyes fell on Jian Suiying.
Jian Suiying continued to sway the wine glass, “Dad, if you have something to say, don’t beat around the bush.”
“What I meant is to let him relax for two weeks, then go and intern at your work for the remaining of the time.”
Hearing those atrocious words, Jian Suiying sighed. “Dad, he’s a high school graduate. Intern at my work? Even if you give me money, I’ll still feel burdened.”
“It’s because he can’t that he should learn with you. If he knew everything, would he need you to teach him?”
Jian Suiying was not happy. “We don’t raise the child from a previous marriage there. If you really want to refine him, let him go wash dishes.”
All of a sudden, Zhao Yan straightened her back, practically crying for help from Jian Dongyuan with a glance.
Since he was young, Jian Suiying was raised to be regarded as the future head of the Jian family with an unyielding and haughty nature that few were able to control at home. When he was older, his voice was even more sonorous and powerful. If he really wanted Jian Suilin to wash dishes, he could certainly persuade Jian Dongyuan to agree to let his younger son wash those dishes no matter how unexpected the reason was.
That was Zhao Yan’s flesh and blood, how could she agree?
She had never agreed to let Jian Suilin intern at Jian Suiying’s company, but Jian Dongyuan insisted which made it impossible for her to refuse.
Now she was really worried that Jian Suiying’s anger had been provoked and Jian Suilin would really have to wash dishes for two whole months. In the Jian family, basically no woman could cut into the conversation when the men talked.
Fortunately, Jian Dongyuan was still relatively clear-headed this time. He frowned, “What you said is absolutely disgraceful. What can he learn from washing dishes? Letting him go to your company is for the sake of learning useful things.”
Jian Suiying was deadset on not complying— completely unwilling. He didn’t want to be forced to see Jian Suilin every day for two months. How much could he take? He was really afraid that he couldn’t control himself and have the idea to mistreat him severely again.
Just when Jian Dongyuan and his oldest son were in a deadlock, Jian Suilin leaned forward slightly with an impressively sincere attitude. “Ge, let me go intern at your company. It’s fine even if I start by cleaning.”
At those words, Jian Suiying flared up. “Who will use you to clean up? Our sanitation worker makes 2000 a month to raise her child and take care of her sick husband. She really needs the income and is great at it, yet you’re trying to steal her job.”
Jian Suilin and Zhao Yan’s complexion changed immediately.
Those words were clearly said to choke and scold the other person on purpose.
Although Jian Dongyuan had always known that Jian Suiying was not that great toward Jian Suilin, he couldn’t always protect his younger son. But wasn’t saying those words in front of him and Zhao Yan the same as making him lose face?
Jian Dongyuan slammed his hand on the table, “Suiying, how can you say that to your brother? What’s so bad about letting him go help you and learn a bit? What are you so unhappy about? Is that big of a hindrance to you?!”
Jian Suiying rolled his eyes repeatedly.
He really was not in the mood to quarrel with his old man. They had quarreled so many times in the past that just thinking about it now was tiring.
With that tiring mentality, he drank the remaining wine in one gulp and then stood up.
“If you’re dying to go there, then go. I don’t want to bother your family of three from eating any more. I’ll take my leave.” After saying that, he turned around and walked out.
Jian Dongyuan was so angry that his face became red.
As Jian Suilin’s eyes chased after his fading back, a glimmer of happiness gradually emerged in the center of his eyes.
Jian Suiying drove back home, feeling completely irritated. Just the thought of those three people sitting together made his chest tighten uncomfortably.
His expectations of Zhao Yan and Jian Suilin were already really simple: just look at him less. But his father insisted on not granting his wish and had always pushed Jian Suilin toward him instead just for the sake of awakening a ‘brotherly relationship’.
That was pure bullshit.
Jian Suiying parked the car on the side of the road and ruthlessly smashed the steering wheel.
Since he was feeling uneasy, he wanted to find someone to relax with. He took out his cellphone and browsed through his contact list, somewhat irascible.
Who should I look for? He saw the names that he was normally familiar with, but he somehow didn’t remember their faces.
When he reached Li Yu’s number, Jian Suiying’s hand paused.
Li Yu’s face appeared surprisingly clear in front of his eyes; it was as if the person himself was before him.
He’s so fucking good-looking, especially with that nature of loving to ignore people that made his heart itch oddly.
For some inexplicable reason, he dialed the number.
The call connected to the other end, “Jian-ge?”
After two days of getting along, Li Yu’s attitude toward him was a lot better. They had even joked around at the dinner table for those days.
“Hey, Li Lao-Er,2 you haven’t slept yet.”
“It’s not even ten yet.”
“That’s true. How was it? Did they celebrate your heroic deed when you returned home?”
“It wouldn’t be considered a celebration. The scores aren’t out yet. The family just had a meal together and congratulated me for having escaped from the abyss of suffering.”
“Hahaha, that needs to be celebrated. It definitely needs to be celebrated!”
Li Yu asked, “Jian-ge, did something happen? Is Suilin with you?”
“Ah, no, it’s nothing. Haven’t I been looking after you these two days? Now that you’re suddenly not there, I’m not quite used to it yet.”
“Oh, is Suilin together with you?”
At first, Jian Suiying wanted to avoid that question, but when Li Yu asked him again, he felt a bit uncomfortable.
“No, I returned to my own place already.”
“Oh…” Li Yu’s voice sounded disappointed, “I gave him a call and sent him a message today, but he hasn’t responded yet. I wonder what happened to him.”
“Maybe he forgot his phone. We went out to eat today.”
Hearing that, Li Yu only let out a simple, ‘okay’.
After that, the two seemed to have nothing else to say. Jian Suiying adjusted his tone and tried not to sound as though he was full of expectations. He asked, “Are you still busy? Do you want to go out for a stroll?”
Li Yu did not expect that, “Ah? To where?”
“Nowhere in particular, just to drive around. I just have some things on my mind. Would you want to accompany Jian-ge?”
Li Yu was a bit hesitant, “Is Suilin going?”
Jian Suiying’s face darkened, “He’s not.”
There was silence on Li Yu’s end for a second, but that short second was more than enough to leave Jian Suiying feeling disappointed.
As expected, he answered: “Jian-ge, let’s change it to another day. I already washed up.”
Jian Suiying calmly said, “You’ve showered already ah, then I won’t talk for long. Hurry up and go to sleep.”
“I’ll hang up then.”
“Goodnight, Xiao Li-zi.”8
Jian Sui Ying added unwilling to give up, “Tell me, since I called to bother you before you went to sleep, will you end up dreaming of me?”
Li Yu forced a laughed and didn’t say anything else.
Hearing that, Jian Suiying hung up in disappointment.
1 finely honed kidney – referring to how since LX is in the officialdom, he must go out and drink a lot with his colleagues, therefore his kidney must be more than healthy enough to drink.
2 Lao-Er – second son of a family; Li Xuan is talking about Li Yu. If Jian Sui Ying wants to call Li Yu by that, he has to add the family surname, so Li Lao Er (the second son of the Li’s family.)
3 Li-chuzhang (处长) means department head/section chief, so it’s Department Head Li or Section Chief Li, but to short it, I’ll keep the Chinese for now.
4 princelings – also translated as the Party’s Crown Princes, are the descendants of prominent and influential senior communist officials in the People’s Republic of China. It is not a political party, but an informal, and often derogatory, categorization to signify those benefiting from nepotism and cronyism, by analogy with crown princes in hereditary monarchies. Many of its members hold high-level political and business positions in the upper echelons of power. However, there is no discernible political cohesion within the group, and as such they should not be compared to other informal groupings such as the Shanghai clique or the Tuanpai (“Youth League clique”), which resemble intra-party factions with some degree of affinity on policy issues.
4 like father, like son (虎父無犬子) – lit. if the father is a lion, the son cannot be a dog; with a distinguished father as you, the son is sure to do well.
5 Zongcai – chairman; Chairman Jian. I will keep it the Chinese title for now.
6 gongzi – son of duke or high ranking official, sometimes translate to Prince/mister/sir – keep this in mind as it will appear again, and I won’t note it again.
7 child from a previous marriage (拖油瓶) – child of a previous marriage living with the family of the second husband.
**OHHH, I got it now (I think). Jian Suiying’s father cheated on his mother with a married woman and had Jian Suilin when she was still married to her first husband… damn.
7 Xiao Li-zi – xiao (small) Li (surname) zi (boy); he’s calling him the way he called Jian Sui Lin, Xiao Lin Zi. It’s for familiarity and also cause he’s younger.