Author: 长洱 / Chang’er
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Compared with Hongjing, Yongchuan, which was hundreds of kilometers away, was truly an international metropolis. There were many high-rise buildings, with traffic weaving around them, and pedestrians all walked in a rush.
Lin Chen walked out of Yongchuan Station and saw Fu Hao standing on tiptoe, nervously guarding the exit, carefully screening passengers for fear of missing someone.
Separated by many people, when Lin Chen saw this he felt it was like a scene before Chinese New Year.
He put his hands in his pockets and walked up to Fu Hao, startling him. “Shixiong, you didn’t wave or anything. Are you not excited to see me?”
“Then should I do it and follow Professor Fu’s script?” Lin Chen smiled as he asked rhetorically.
Fu Hao snorted softly, didn’t say anything, and circled around Lin Chen. He opened his eyes wide and said incredulously, “Shixiong, why didn’t you bring anything?”
Before Lin Chen could react, he was grabbed by his shidi and dragged out of the station. His nagging shidi had started to yammer again. “Don’t you know, Zheng Dongdong and his gang have been showing off their gifts they’re going to give to the old man to the group chat. I’ve already seen Ganoderma, ginseng, Shoushan stone seals…”
Lin Chen was surprised by Fu Hao’s information. He smiled and said, “At this rate, this will be equivalent to paying tribute to the emperor.”
“What is this?! Zheng Dongdong himself has prepared a set of 8 Chinese rosewood* longevity folding screens.”
*Furniture made from wood from this tree is highly sought after as luxury and prestige items.
“Shixiong, you should have a sense of crisis. Look at all these people. They’re spending money on a luxurious birthday banquet for the old man and giving him all these gifts. Won’t this be embarrassing for us?”
“Luxurious birthday banquet?”
“At the Intercontinental Hotel, owned by Cohen May, which is regarded as the best hotel in Yongchuan. Zheng Dongdong is now the general manager of Cohen May Hotel. People like him will die if they don’t show off, so he directly books the banquet hall for the old man.” Fu Hao walked away as he kept talking.
Hearing this, Lin Chen felt it was inappropriate. “Does the old man know about this?” he asked.
“I don’t think so?” For a moment, Fu Hao was taken aback. “They said in the group chat that they wanted to surprise the old man.”
“That’s too presumptuous.”
“Then what can be done? I think they already pinpointed that our old man is a good old man. Even if he doesn’t like it, how can he reprimand a student’s kind intentions to their face?”
Professor Fu couldn’t drive, and the place to hail taxis was always overcrowded. When Lin Chen came back to his senses, he had already subconsciously walked to the side of the bus stop with Fu Hao. The habit he developed in college was still as stubborn a few years later.
There were many students waiting for the bus on the platform. Various stalls were set up on the sidewalk on one side. The fumes and aromas diffused onto the platform, causing Lin Chen to turn his head and walk to the sidewalk.
When he came back, he had an extra plastic bag in his hand, which contained freshly bought fruit.
“Shixiong, what are you doing?!” Fu Hao looked at the red plastic bag in Lin Chen’s hand and was stunned.
“Didn’t you ask me to buy a birthday gift?”
“This is too random. Can’t you buy something expensive.”
“But I really don’t have any money.”
If you had no money, you had a mind without it. If you had money, then you would find ways to live with it.
Even in Yongchuan, where every inch of land was like gold, the Cohen May Intercontinental Hotel was the first choice of the rich.
It was located on the banks of Lake Honghu, with a panoramic view of 12 square kilometers of water. Although it was on the outskirts, it was adjacent to the CBD*, so the location land-wise couldn’t be better.
*Central business district.
But for Lin Chen and Fu Hao, such a geographical location required them to take the bus for more than half an hour, and walk for more than ten minutes before they reached the door to the hotel.
It was getting dark, and the sunset had dyed the sky on the upper half of the lake red.
Lin Chen was carrying a plastic bag. As soon as he stepped into the hotel, an attendant came up.
Fu Hao stood aside and mentioned the birthday banquet. The resourceful attendant bowed and whispered, “It’s Mr. Su’s 60th birthday. It’s on the third floor. Please follow me.”
The elevator of a five-star hotel was filled with an elegant fragrance.
Previously, from Hongjing to Yongchuan, and another half-hour bus ride, Lin Chen didn’t feel too much, but when he really thought that he would see his teacher in a minute or two, he suddenly felt nervous.
The attendant put his hand on the door of the banquet hall, bowed, and pushed the door open.
The banquet hall was filled with people chattering. The bright lights were so dazzling that they stung their eyes.
At the main table at the end of the hall sat an old man with glasses. The old man had just passed the age of obedient ears*, and he was full of gray hair.
*(耳顺之年) Idiom referring to when you’re 60 years old, you can judge whether other people’s words are true or false. It refers to being 60, basically.
The old man was surrounded by many people who were chattering with him. Among those people, many were wearing elite suits and shoes, as well as young people who were simply dressed, having just stepped into society. Without exception, the old man was very patient with everyone who talked to him. His face was full of smiles. He always used both hands when shaking hands and would bow his head slightly when listening to others.
Lin Chen walked over the plush carpet printed with the hotel’s iconic canary and rose logo and stood on the edge of the crowd, waiting.
At this moment, the old man patted the arm of the student in front of him lightly, as if to signal to wait a moment, and then raised his head.
Lin Chen had just met his gaze.
The old man pushed up his glasses, smiled, and said, “A’Chen, you’re here.”
His gaze was gentle and peaceful. At that moment, all the hustle and bustle in the hall seemed to retreat like the tide. For an old man who had always been self-disciplined and respectful, it was already a great preference for him to interrupt a conversation with a student only to greet him. Lin Chen took a few steps forward, squatted down in front of the old man, and said softly, “Teacher Su.”
“You’ve returned?” The old man’s palm patted his head, and his voice sounded a little hoarse.
“You’re back. It’s good you’re back,” the old man said while patting him on the head.
Lin Chen immediately handed over the bag in his hand and said, “Happy birthday. It’s vitamin supplements.”
The old man took the simple bag, opened it, and saw that there were six peaches inside, so he laughed out loud with joy.
The atmosphere between a master and his disciple was truly warm. Someone who was greeting his classmates in the middle of the hall saw this scene and walked to the main table, extremely displeased.
“Isn’t this Lin Chen? Long time no see!”
A loud voice sounded in his ear. Lin Chen got up and turned his head. Standing in front of him was a man in the uniform of a hotel executive.
He was taken aback for a moment and subconsciously looked at Fu Hao. Professor Fu thoughtfully mouthed the words silently, “Zheng Dongdong.”
When Lin Chen received the signal, he naturally stretched out his hand and said, “Long time no see.”
Although Fu Hao had repeatedly mentioned the name Zheng Dongdong to him, he really didn’t have much impression of this person. In his memory, Zheng Dongdong seemed to be the president of their student council. Other than that, he didn’t really remember much of him, so he simply said what he said as purely a theoretical courtesy.
“That’s right. How can a busy person like you think of coming to visit an old classmate?” Zheng Dongdong joked.
Lin Chen thought for a while, but didn’t know what to say, so he remained silent, which made the scene quite awkward.
Zheng Dongdong’s face darkened. He squinted and caught a glimpse of the plastic bag in the old man’s hand, then happily said, “Lin Chen, what good things did you gift our teacher? Let us take a look as well?”
“It’s teacher’s birthday banquet, and you give him a bag of peaches?” Zheng Dongdong fiercely raised his voice, pretending to be shocked, which garnered many eyes to follow the sound.
“Well, I just bought them.”
Lin Chen’s voice was very calm, without the slightest bit of shame. Zheng Dongdong’s countless taunts seemed to be held back by just these words.
Just then, the old man clapped his hands and inserted himself into their conversation. He glanced back and said, “A’Hao, don’t you always shout when you see your shixiong Lin Chen? Come here.”
At this time, Lin Chen noticed there was a half-a-person tall pile of birthday gifts piled up behind the old man, and a slim and beautiful girl was beside the birthday gifts, registering something.
Hearing her teacher’s call, the girl hurriedly turned her hair, causing her long hair to slide down smoothly.
Her face was extremely beautiful, with eyebrows like distant mountains and sharp eyes. The girl was wearing a maroon short-sleeve knitted cardigan, and a knee-length black pleated skirt. Her soft hair draped over her shoulders, covering her pearl earrings. She put away her notebook and walked over with a smile and stretched out a hand towards Lin Chen. “Shixiong, hello.”
Lin Chen looked at the girl in front of him, and his gaze finally fell on her rather uncoordinated pink nails. Xu Haozhen gently retracted her fingertips but didn’t shirk her hands away. In the end, Lin Chen stretched out his hand and gave her a handshake. “Hello.”
After speaking, he leaned over to the old man and asked in a low voice, “What is she doing?”
“I have to say, they gave me all these useless things, so I’m registering the price. Then I’m having them return it and give me cash instead so I can donate it,” the old man whispered back.
Lin Chen was dumbfounded. “Isn’t that not good?”
“You don’t feel bad about coming to my birthday and bringing me a bag of peaches?”
“But at least you can take that home,” Lin Chen whispered.
After he finished speaking, the old man laughed. The laughter was a bit loud, and it fell into Zheng Dongdong’s eyes, which was particularly dazzling.
With his gift delivered, Lin Chen consciously stepped back as there were many students around the old man.
At 6, the birthday banquet started.
The seating arrangement of the table was very particular. Lin Chen and Fu Hao were arranged at a corner table, while some celebrities and elite sat at the main table. The old man was surrounded by stars like he was the moon, and from time to time, students would give a toast. Lin Chen didn’t join the fun and instead sat quietly eating his food.
The seating order was messy. Lin Chen and Fu Hao didn’t even get to sit with their previous classmates but were driven to the corner with the people who weren’t very gregarious. Everyone at the table was busy burying their heads in the food, and there was a strange silence at the table.
The dishes of the five-star hotel were, of course, good. In addition, perhaps the chef knew that it was the general manager’s treat this time, so he was more attentive when cooking. Lin Chen scooped up half a spoonful of shrimp and heard Zheng Dongdong’s haunting voice again.
“Lin Chen, how could you be here? I was really busy and forgot. This won’t do. Do you want to sit at the main table?” Zheng Dongdong walked towards him with a glass of wine. The hotel manager’s face was flushed, as if he had just finished a round of wine.
His tone was haughty, and his voice was loud, half mocking, half polite. A person like Zheng Dongdong, who was scornful and vindictive, had lost face just now, so of course he had to get back on his feet. If Lin Chen were to answer yes to such a question, it would be catering to him*, but answering no would make him look shameless. No matter what he answered, it would make everyone uncomfortable.
*Climb up the pole (顺杆爬) Metaphor referring to catering to a master’s will.
Several tables around them had already noticed the commotion.
Lin Chen didn’t feel the slightest bit of embarrassment. He picked up his teacup, calmly clinked it against the glass of red wine, and then said, “Yes.”
The more magnanimous he was, the uglier Zheng Dongdong’s face became.
Lin Chen walked to the main table.
Upon seeing this, the old man passionately patted the empty position beside him and said, “A’Chen, come, sit here.”
The seats at the main table were full, with only one vacant seat, which belonged to Zheng Dongdong. For a person like the old man, this was an obvious statement. The people who were present were the old man’s most successful proteges. When they looked at Zheng Dongdong’s eyes, they couldn’t help but feel something strange.
The old man didn’t say anything more, but asked the waiter to add another seat to the table. Zheng Dongdong toasted a round of wine, as if nothing had happened, and sat down in his new position.
After he sat down, he gave a wink to another person at the table. The other person understood and put down his glass. “Lin Chen, I’ve heard of this famous name for a long time now. You were always at the top of our class and overshadowed us all. What have you been up to since graduating?”
Naturally, the main table was abuzz with conversation. If questions were asked, answers needed to be said. “I used to be a dorm manager at Hongjing Experimental Primary School…” Lin Chen replied.
“Pfft.” A sneer sounded on the table before his voice fell. “Then why did Lao Fu say that you’re a consultant for the Hongjing Police Criminal Division?”
“Well, I just took over that position.”
“Isn’t that too big of a leap?” the man said with a smile.
Lin Chen didn’t answer and heard Zheng Dongdong say sarcastically, “That small police department in Hongjing? Truly an overkill.”
“Hey, not everyone can be like you, a general manager of Cohen May at such a young age!” The man sang praises to Zheng Dongdong. “Cohen May is a multinational consortium. If you become the president one day, don’t forget us old classmates!”
“It’s not that easy. Us psychology graduates aren’t as popular as orthodox finance students. Moreover, Cohen May is an overseas industry owned by the Xing family. Of course, the president of the group can only be a direct descendent of the Xing family. I have no hope!”
What Zheng Dongdong said was half true.
The surrounding classmates were a little shocked.
After all, everyone knew that Cohen May was the best five-star hotel in Yongchuan, but few knew that on top of this hotel was a multinational consortium, and behind it was the towering Xing family. Zheng Dongdong, who hoped to go further in that family’s business, was truly amazing. Everyone looked at Zheng Dongdong with a little more envy, and soon someone praised him again. “No matter, if you really become president, like today, you’ll have to treat us. One for all and all for one, like they say!”
“It’s hard to say in the future, but tonight, I can still invite everyone for drinks.”
“If you’re inviting, then it must be a good place!”
“Okay, okay.” Zheng Dongdong sipped his wine. He shifted his gaze to Lin Chen and said mysteriously, “Lin Chen, you’re coming along too, right?”
“Yes, shixiong, let’s go together.” For some reason, the shimei* besides Lin Chen chimed in.
*Basically like shidi but used for girls who are younger than you/beneath rank.
Lin Chen looked at Xu Hao’s strange pink nail polish and finally nodded.
Knowing that the students still had activities in the evening, the old man found a reason and slipped away in advance. Before leaving, the old man patted Lin Chen on the shoulder and told him to come visit him for dinner when he had time.
As the old man left, many people followed along with him. Seeing that everyone was almost scattered, someone said to Zheng Dongdong, “Dongdong, it’s fine that you’re treating us for drinks, but we’re still going to pay for our hotel reservation.”
As the man spoke, many people at the table nodded in agreement.
“Why are you all being so polite?” Zheng Dongdong seemed quite dignified. He shifted his eyes slightly, looked over, and asked, “By the way, where are you staying for the night, Lin Chen?”
Lin Chen hadn’t spoken yet, but Professor Fu, who had sneaked up to the table, answered for him, “Shixiong is staying with me tonight.”
“Don’t joke. Who doesn’t know that the teacher’s dorm in Yongchuan University is a single room. How can you let your shixiong lay on the floor!” The man then said what Zheng Dongdong wanted to hear most, “Dongdong, see if there’s still any special rooms left at the hotel and book one for Lin Chen. It’ll be livelier with all our classmates being together.”
Zheng Dongdong nodded and called the main office without saying a word.
Lin Chen didn’t know what was said on the other end, but Zheng Dongdong held down the microphone and made a face of false apology. “I’m sorry. Our hotel’s special rooms have all been booked by these guys. Only the lake view executive suite is left. The original price is 6,000, but I can give you a 40% discount. How about 3,600?”
Zheng Dongdong raised the corner of his mouth. His eyes were full of pride, as if he was waiting for Lin Chen to come up with an excuse to refuse so he could laugh again.
Fu Hao couldn’t help but clench his fists as he listened.
Lin Chen didn’t seem bothered. His face still had that plain and calm expression. He gently pressed down on his shidi’s fists and said, “No thank you.”
When the banquet was over, Zheng Dongdong led the group of students downstairs for drinks. They walked in front as a group, while Lin Chen and Fu Hao lagged behind. Fu Hao deliberately grabbed Lin Chen and complained fiercely, “Shixiong, damn that Zheng Dongdong. He’s really making it clear that he’s trying to embarrass you. 3,600 a night after the discount? If it’s so great, why doesn’t he go there and live by himself!”
“I can’t afford to stay in a luxury hotel, so I should be embarrassed?” Lin Chen asked rhetorically.
Hearing this, Fu Hao glared at him and then changed the subject. “Why did you promise to go drinking with him!”
“Because I found a very strange thing,” Lin Chen whispered. As he walked around the corner of the hall, he suddenly raised his head, as if he had sensed something.
The large group in front of them had already reached the hotel lobby. More than a dozen people surrounded Zheng Dongdong, as if they were allocating vehicles waiting to travel. Since they all had drinks, it was somewhat noisy, but all of a sudden, Lin Chen couldn’t hear any sound.
Under the bright crystal lights in the hotel lobby, there was a person with long legs crossed leaning on a sofa reading documents. His police uniform was resting on the armrest on the side, and behind him was the dark and quiet water surface of Lake Honghu.
From Lin Chen’s perspective, he could only see the other party’s hand resting lightly on the countertop, and his side profile was extremely handsome.
Then, the other party turned his head towards him, still with a loose demeanor and a quiet, far-reaching gaze.
The soft piano in the hall suddenly sounded.
Lin Chen walked over slowly. “Why are you here?”
Xing Conglian smiled. “Didn’t you say you didn’t want to call?”
Lin Chen shook his head helplessly. At this moment. Mr. Zheng Dongdong, who was greeting the rest of his classmates, walked up to Lin Chen and put his hand on his shoulder. Lin Chen frowned, thinking that Zheng Dongdong was going to say something nasty again, but all Zheng Dongdong’s words stopped when he looked at the table.
Lin Chen followed his gaze.
On the coffee table was a black room card painted with the Cohen May signature canary and rose symbol.
Xing Conglian’s finger tapped lightly on the card, then moved it from the table.
Lin Chen was still stunned as the other party’s always low and pleasant voice sounded in his ears.
“Sir, please take your room card.”
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