It was past ten o’clock when Tang Yi returned to the hotel room.
Most of his colleagues had started their real nightlife at this time. Especially after Shen Fan left the table midway, the cold air that had enveloped the entire banquet hall suddenly disappeared as if swept away by a typhoon. For this group of socially slippery people, Shen Fan’s demonstration tonight at best showed that his temper was not as soft and easy to bully as his father’s. But how much he could hold his own still needed to be proved in the future.
As soon as Shen Fan left, the three palaces and six courtyards (emperor’s harem) of the board of directors all started dispatching their troops.
One was the new boss who held great power and didn’t know the details; and the other was Zhou Hao, the second-in-command who quietly killed in all four directions. Right and left, both of them gave Tang Yi enough face.
Although these people couldn’t figure out Tang Yi’s background, in line with the principle of better more than less, they very politely and humbly came over to drink with Tang Yi.
These people toasted, and Tang Yi didn’t dare not drink.
There was his own status in the company. Neither Shen Fan nor Zhou Hao were familiar with him. Now without any reason they elevated him to a high position. If he were careless to occupy this position and these two people decided to drop him in the future coldly, what Tang Yi did today, even if it was the right thing to do, would be broken down and picked out, and then slowly counted on his head.
In the workplace he was used to leaving himself a way out. Even if it was obvious that Shen Fan and Zhou Hao were showing sincere feelings, Tang Yi didn’t forget to put up a “Stop here” sign in his heart.
Tang Yi sighed and could only drink another glass without hesitation.
The smoothness and sophistication cultivated in the past three years had been fully utilised at this moment. For senior leaders he was familiar or unfamiliar with, he quickly dug up a few bits of information from his mind, while desperately seeking the highlights and tickles of the other party from the person’s speech and behaviour.
Every time he did so, he did it in the right way and with the right amount of weight.
Once the drinks had started, it was really about not leaving until getting drunk.
Under the accompaniment of the elegant orchestra and in the glittering lights, Tang Yi’s face gradually turned white and his stomach that had just settled down a few days ago started acting up again at a critical moment. This time, the pain was even worse than after Lin Rui’s welcome-back party. Tang Yi frowned slightly and was looking for a chance to get away when he came face to face with a grey-haired old director opposite him.
This was one of the old men who didn’t take Shen Fan seriously. At this moment, he was sitting calmly in his seat like an old deity and waited until everyone else had finished drinking before raising his eyes and asking solemnly, “Nowadays, young people are really becoming more and more open-minded. The old rules are not so much observed anymore. Manager Tang, it is the turn for us, old people, to toast you, ah?”
This “ah” was long and meaningful, clearly expressing his wish to rely on the old and sell the old. Tang Yi felt bored and was about to smile and deal with the situation, when he saw Zhou Hao suddenly raise his hand and take the glass away from him.
Zhou Weiwei had already been carried off by the secretary to the hotel room to sleep. The chair between Zhou Hao and Tang Yi was left empty. At this moment, Zhou Hao naturally sat down on the empty chair, his right arm resting leisurely on the back of Tang Yi’s chair, while his left hand was holding the wine glass carelessly.
“He’s had a bit too much to drink, I’ll take over this glass.”
The old director stared straight at Zhou Hao, and the latter lightly raised the glass again, “Mr. Luo, you are in a high position, of course it is right for Manager Tang to toast you. Why don’t you drink this glass first, and then Manager Tang will toast you back?”
Zhou Hao’s eyes were cold. He tilted his head and finished the wine in his glass, looked at the man opposite him and said with a smile, “Manager Tang would like to toast you three times. I’ll take his place, Mr. Luo, don’t be discouraged.”
Everyone was taken aback. Zhou Hao rarely drank and when the original boss was around before would at most take a sip from his glass. But now he was drinking all of a sudden; it was probably not going to end well.
Sure enough, after the director surnamed Luo gritted his teeth and drank three glasses, he saw Zhou Hao pouring wine again.
“Mr. Luo is a great man, this Zhou has to toast you too.” Zhou Hao turned his glass and looked at it for a long time, then slowly added, “But taking into account the company’s shares, you’ll get five toasts from me. Fortunately, I am a good talker. If you can’t drink five in one go, how about drinking little by little?”
“You…” The man surnamed Luo didn’t expect Zhou Hao to wait for him in ambush and was so angry that he almost fainted.
The 53% Yingbin (a distilled Chinese liquor), drinking this many glasses would be simply putting his old life on the line.
Someone coughed lightly and timidly to relieve the situation, “Mr. Zhou, look, Mr. Luo is getting old, let’s better…”
“Young people nowadays are really confused and do not understand the rules,” Zhou Hao coldly put down the wine glass on the table, raised his eyes and glanced at the man who opened his mouth to talk peace. “If I remember correctly, the manager of B City’s administration department is three years older than Mr. Luo. How about you guys hold hands and go to toast the old man?”
Zhou Hao usually didn’t drink. After a few glasses, he was drunk. In the excitement later, the directors began to leave quietly one by one, while Zhou Hao leaned back in his chair, staring at Tang Yi with a smile at the corner of his mouth.
Tang Yi regarded himself as living a life of small fry for the previous twenty years and was really not up to putting up a show. As a small child with no relatives, his bottom line and dignity were repeatedly grounded and flattened by the word “survival”, a thing simply not worth mentioning. After graduating from junior middle school, he often had to wander without a place to live. When he was young, he still had a broken-down well house left to him by the village. But when he went to the city to go to high school, the well house was requisitioned for another purpose.
However, on high school holidays, no one was allowed to stay in the dormitory. The dormitory attendants were all family members of the teachers and had to have the double holidays. The school was afraid that it would be held responsible if something happened to the students, so the students would be chased out like flies every holiday.
While other children were eager to go home to see their parents, Tang Yi could only hold the mattress and look for a place to bunk. Cold words and even punches and kicks from strangers were commonplace for him.
He had also wished then that someone would stand up to him and shelter him for a moment when he was being bullied for no reason. But the entrance of the alley was always cold and quiet.
Tang Yi got through step by step, beat up others and stood up like a man. He also got convinced that all those big heroes on TV and in movies who fell from the sky to save people from fire and water were bullshit.
Except for at the moment.
Zhou Hao was obviously not a very good drinker, and his eyebrows were drooping with a little bit of thoughtfulness. But his relaxed look was also really nice, and Tang Yi even had to admit that Zhou Hao actually looked like a completely different model of Gu Yanting.
The one more mature and wise, and more compelling.
“Tang Yi,” Zhou Hao finally sighed softly and reached out to politely and thoughtfully solicit his advice, “You help me back?”
Tang Yi finally helped Zhou Hao back to the room. Zhou Hao’s brow was gently furrowed and his eyes were tightly closed, obviously in some distress. Tang Yi couldn’t help being anxious. When he swiped his card to open the door, he stumbled on his feet, almost bringing Zhou Hao down with him in the hallway of the suite.
Zhou Hao happened to be holding onto the wall, and in a flash, he grabbed Tang Yi’s arm and dragged him back.
When the door of the room clicked and locked automatically, Zhou Hao squinted his eyes slightly and pushed Tang Yi against the wall behind him.
In the decorative niche of the hallway was a large bouquet of newly replaced pink lilies, emitting a faint elegant fragrance. The niche lights were soft and ambiguous, and only Zhou Hao’s deep, focused eyebrows carried the dangerous aura of a feral beast.
Tang Yi’s face was hot, and when he tried to move again, he found that his wrists were tightly grasped by the man opposite him.
Zhou Hao lowered his eyes, staring at Tang Yi for a while before he suddenly leaned over. His breath carried a slight smell of alcohol that gently sprayed on Tang Yi’s face. In the half-light and half-darkness, the man took a step closer to Tang Yi whose body was tense to the point of stiffness, opened his mouth and pulled off his glasses with his teeth.
“I really like the way you look without glasses,” Zhou Hao turned his head and threw the glasses on the floor, then let out a low laugh and lowered his head to gently rest against Tang Yi’s forehead.
“Tang Yi… do you want to give it a try with me?”
Tang Yi: “……”
Zhou Hao was slightly taller than him, and in this position, the two of them had their foreheads pressed together and the tips of their noses touched naturally.
What a great position for a kiss, Tang Yi thought to himself. If only it wasn’t this time, how great it would be.
The words “give it a try” were what he had said to Gu Yanting at the beginning. These words were so subtle that they gave each other enough room to retreat. The problem was after he and Gu Yanting had started, the original intention of leaving enough room for manoeuvre was thrown away inexplicably.
When two people who are incompatible give it a try, they often end up with one party caving in.
On the whole, Tang Yi had been the one to try, pointing the way and showing his true colours, while Gu Yanting had instead been adapting himself repeatedly after various trials.
Gu Yanting was originally a big smoker, and since Tang Yi didn’t like the smell of tobacco, Gu Yanting slowly quit. The process of quitting was really unpleasant. Although Tang Yi knew that it was also for the sake of his health, Gu Yanting had a period when he looked yellow and thin, having all kinds of inexplicable body aches and pains. When the cause of the disease could not be found, Tang Yi almost compromised.
On the contrary, Gu Yanting gritted his teeth and endured. Later, when he couldn’t avoid a situation of smoking, he would look at Tang Yi’s worried face every time, tsk and scratch his head gracefully, “What are you looking at? I can bear it.”
Gu Yanting had had more than a dozen boyfriends before, all of whom were chasing him, so he himself was not good at sweet talk, let alone knowing anything about holiday romantics. When Tang Yi was initially repeatedly dissatisfied over the matter, Gu Yanting secretly bought an old-fashioned wall calendar and pinned it to the wall. He then used a large red pen to mark down the special days, and every day before he went to work, he didn’t forget to take a look.
Tang Yi once laughed at his childish behaviour and secretly changed the calendar. Gu Yanting was oblivious to this and naturally missed out on the significant day of that month, whatever it was. When Tang Yi came home and deliberately pointed it out with a cold face, Gu Yanting rushed straight to the bedroom in shock, double-checking that it was indeed unmarked, holding his head and circling the bedroom three times, “How could it be?”
Afterwards he sneaked out and went to buy a cupcake while Tang Yi was cooking.
It was after half past seven and the supermarkets were offering special prices on five yuan cakes, so Gu Yanting hesitantly pointed to the 2.50 on the cake label, very clumsily pleasing Tang Yi, “Look, this means me!”(1)
Tang Yi knew how to cook, but the taste of the food he made was so-so. After Gu Yanting once saw him with a stomach ache from working overtime, he developed a skill of combining colour, flavour and taste at the cost of almost burning down the kitchen. At this point, Tang Yi was ashamed of himself from the bottom of his heart.
Gu Yanting had a lot to say about Tang Yi’s interference in the circle of his friends, but he never tried to stop him. At most, he would say with a bitter face afterwards, “This little lord used to be a person who values his friends.”
Tang Yi was doing him a favour, but couldn’t quite fill that void for him. Every time there was a big project, Tang Yi had to travel with the team. Gu Yanting was very restrained in his personal life. He didn’t do dating or bar hopping, and now without those lively friends he often slept alone on the sofa, on the balcony or in the bedroom after getting off work. He would say to Tang Yi, “Hey, when will you be back? The flowers in our house are all dried to death. ”
Tang Yi was so busy that he could only reply hastily, “Then you can water them.”
Gu Yanting was awkwardly persistent, “No, you’re responsible for your flowers.”
Nowadays, when he thought of the little moments of pouting and complaining, most of them could be interpreted as “ignorant” and “awkward” in the context of the time.
It’s not that they didn’t care for each other, and it’s not that they didn’t go through thick and thin together. In this life, there probably wouldn’t be anyone else like Gu Yanting, gnawing on the peel of a mango by the trash can, nor would there be anyone to mark the tiles on the floor to celebrate the gains and losses by the square inch with him. Yet in the end there was no escape from the fate of shaking hands and saying goodbye.
Tang Yi still couldn’t measure who was right and who was wrong in this relationship, and who was responsible to whom.
How did it come to this?
At first it was just giving it a try. But it went all the way to the black, to the point of hoping they would never meet again.
Zhou Hao watched Tang Yi’s beautiful eyes flicker, seemingly drifting off into the distance, frowning slightly as if he hadn’t adapted to the light.
The fragrance of pink lilies slowly faded away, and the ambiguous posture and atmosphere also dissipated, leaving the two of them silent.
“I’m sorry,” Tang Yi sighed a little, “I can’t say yes, for now.”
He thought the future could come only after the past was cleared up; but who knew that the feng shui would change in just two days? He became someone else’s fragrant bun, a glimpse of white moonlight in someone’s heart. Unfortunately, he couldn’t just say yes, he couldn’t let the residual affection and thoughts of those three years of love wreak havoc on others.
It would be wrong to the three years of his deep love and wrong to Zhou Hao.
“It’s okay,” Zhou Hao let out a low chuckle, “I can wait.”
- How does 2.50 mean Gu Yanting? In Chinese slang, the number 250 means ‘idiot’ (èr bái wǔ)… I spent so much time trying to figure it out 🙂