Even the thought of resignation was enough for Shen Fan’s heart to freeze. Half of what Tang Yi said was that he really intended to give it a try with Zhou Hao, and the other half was that he was afraid of causing trouble for the Shen family.
In fact, Shen Fan also had hidden worries. The only platform he could rely on now was the current company. All men want to have their own business empire, and then to be the ruler, omnipotent in this empire. Shen Fan knew that there was a beast inside him that had not been released yet. Under the eyes of this beast, he couldn’t even tolerate his father Shen Zuoyuan’s intervention. Tang Yi was the brother he was looking for in his heart, and his partner of choice.
Had Tang Yi not been Tang Yi who could hold his own but rather Lin Rui or Gu Yanting, Shen Fan would not have been so hasty and direct in stating his intentions, to the point of overstepping his authority and interfering in Tang Yi’s private life.
He wondered if Tang Yi was aware of this. The relationship between the two of them was now wonderfully maintained at an unfamiliar yet somewhat intimate level. This was mainly the result of Tang Yi’s intentional backing off. Since that day, although Tang Yi had not shown much enthusiasm for such things as acknowledgement of blood relationship, he demonstrated a bit of novel tolerance when Shen Fan commented on or even interfered with his private affairs.
This tolerance came from Tang Yi’s desire for affection, just as his attitude towards Zhou Weiwei was mostly due to seeing his own shadow in the child. Such a Tang Yi was heartbreaking, yet it was difficult to guarantee that he would not be exploitive in the face of the absolute benefits.
Shen Fan suddenly felt a headache. Tang Yi was standing under the grapevine with his hands lowered, his brow serene, making it difficult for Shen Fan to make harsher demands. So he was silent for a moment and could only say, “I hope you can have a better life.”
Tang Yi also hoped that he could have a better life. He himself didn’t expect that the end of his last relationship could be so crisp and clear. He also believed that when Gu Yanting saw what he had left behind for him, he would be able to understand his determination. This determination was inevitably hurtful, but it made him feel more at ease. This way, when facing Zhou Hao, he could feel less guilty.
Zhou Hao just smiled indifferently. The day before Tang Yi went to Gu’s house, Zhou Hao drove him to dinner. Tang Yi naturally wanted to refuse, but Zhou Hao didn’t give him a chance. He lowered the window and handed over a beautifully framed document. When Tang Yi opened it, he saw that it was a photocopy of a rural school building. The big stone that used to be there when Tang Yi went to school was still at the entrance of the school. It was said that because there had been several accidents in front of the school, the white-haired headmaster went to invite a “Taishan stone” to ward off evil spirits(1).
When Tang Yi first enrolled in school, he stood in front of this big stone. The headmaster with his wrinkled face held the still timid boy in one hand while pointing to the big stone with the other, saying impassionedly, “The eternal land under heaven is vast and righteous…” Tang Yi didn’t remember anything after that, but he remembered the words “Vast and Righteous”, maybe because they were carved on the big stone.
The appearance of the school in the photocopied document had not changed much. The school building at the back was still the same two-storey building it had been when Tang Yi went to school, but freshly painted. It was not that Tang Yi hadn’t thought of going back over the years. He did go back when he got into the university, but unfortunately his return was far from glorious. The old headmaster had died long ago and the teachers who had taught him were all old men and women who stayed at home, carrying stools to bask in the sun in the yards of their houses.
Tang Yi even picked out the most decent clothes to wear back then. Not many people in the village recognised him. At first they thought he was someone’s relative. Later, after seeing him walk around the village, they thought he was a stranger who had taken a wrong turn. Tang Yi wandered around for a long time and went to the well house where he had lived when he was a child. When he saw the collapsed pile of soil, he faintly found a sense of belonging.
At that time, he couldn’t afford to give anything back to the village, and most of the old people who remembered him could only vaguely refer to him as “the village head’s boy”, so when Tang Yi started working later, he had no desire to go back again.
Everyone’s life was colourful. Whether they were poor, or rich and prosperous, they had enough friends and relatives to keep them busy. So there was no room to spare for a wild child who had had a few meals with them a long time ago. Tang Yi felt that if he hadn’t gone back, he could have still found a little bit of human affection in his grey memory that he could mourn, and that would have at least made him feel somewhat warm.
“I happen to have a project under me, not far from the Wennian Primary School, and it is an honour for me, a businessman stinking of money, to fund the expansion of the school.” Zhou Hao looked at Tang Yi with a smile, reaching out from the car window and holding Tang Yi’s wrist, “Don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean to curry favour with you.”
Tang Yi recovered from his shock and couldn’t help but laugh at these words.
Zhou Hao saw him smile and followed suit, hooking the corners of his lips and inviting him again humbly, “Manager Tang, would I have the honour to invite you to dinner?”
Tang Yi went around to the passenger side and got into the car, holding the project plan in his hand, somewhat at a loss as to what to do. After asking for his opinion, Zhou Hao turned on some soothing light music. The piano piece resembling the ding dong sound of the rain quickly relaxed Tang Yi.
Tang Yi said, “I’m quite nervous when you’re like this.”
Zhou Hao glanced at him, smiled and made a surprised expression, “That’s great, wouldn’t I have an opportunity to take advantage of it?”
Tang Yi: “……”
Zhou Hao watched him not say anything, and after laughing for a while, he added, “I hope to have you with me on my next visit to junior middle and high schools. People in T City are too good at drinking for me to handle.”
“You’ve been drinking?” Tang Yi’s jaw dropped in surprise, “With whom?”
“With that headmaster! The other party thought I was up to no good and only signed the contract after they saw me drunk under the table.”
“……” Tang Yi opened his mouth and suddenly said, “Is it because of me?” Some words sounded natural, but he couldn’t help but blush when he said them. He hesitated for a moment, borrowing Zhou Hao’s words to ask, “Is it really not to curry favour with me?”
“I won’t admit it even if it is.” Zhou Hao was full of smiles, “I always have to act a little bit noble.”
Such a project was completely public welfare in nature. Tang Yi had consulted on related matters before, so he knew that the subsequent investment in teachers after the expansion of the school would require even more money. According to his current income he might have to work for several years before he could barely start repaying his school. Zhou Hao quietly made the arrangements for him, giving him plenty of room to advance, attack, retreat, and defend.
Probably he had gotten lucky.
Even a rational person like Tang Yi couldn’t help but sigh that Zhou Hao had done everything just right, almost perfectly, making it hard for him to resist.
At dinner, the relationship between the two finally took a step forward. Zhou Hao took him to a tea restaurant opened by a friend. The simple and rustic dining environment made Tang Yi relax unconsciously, so when Zhou Hao picked up a shrimp dumpling for him, Tang Yi didn’t refuse.
After the meal, Zhou Hao looked at Tang Yi for a while and asked, “After the Mid-Autumn Festival, can I court you?”
Tang Yi’s hand shook, and the spilled hot tea slightly burned his fingers.
“Yes,” Tang Yi coughed lightly, “Good luck.”
The Mid-Autumn Festival was a lively day. Shen Fan’s mother’s clubhouse was finally closed for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Big Beauty went home early in the morning to make mooncakes. The moulds were all new and the process had to be followed online, so naturally Tang Yi went over to help, and the result was that each one was beautifully made. The mooncakes had to be put in an airtight container for two or three days before they could be eaten. Shen Fan’s mother was so excited that she sealed the ones Tang Yi had made and hid them away with great enthusiasm.
The reunion dinner in the evening was also cooked by the three of them in turns. Shen Fan, someone who didn’t distinguish between salt and sugar, ended up making scrambled eggs with tomatoes that almost scared Big Beauty to a heart attack when served.
After eating and drinking, Tang Yi suddenly received a call from Zhou Hao, asking him to go out. Shen Fan was about to follow him out with a black face, but was pulled back by Big Beauty. Big Beauty had something to ask him, and when Tang Yi went out, the playfulness that had been hanging around all day was gone.
Shen Fan was a little dazed and worried that Tang Yi was going out alone, so he couldn’t help but look out frequently, only to be slapped on the back.
“Say! What’s the relationship between you two!” Big Beauty’s willow eyebrows were drawn together in a frown and the moment she opened her mouth, Shen Fan nearly choked to death.
He didn’t understand the other party’s intentions for a moment and vaguely said, “Friends, huh?”
“Bullshit! Friend? You’re staring at your wife like that!”
Big Beauty cursed sharply, but then she feared that Tang Yi would come back and hear her, so she lowered her voice and continued tearfully, “Fanfan, I told you that it’s not normal for you not to have a girlfriend all these years! But I’ve seen all the things in your bedroom, there’s nothing wrong with it! You can’t do this to your mother! Your mother is still young, your mother wants to hug her grandchildren after looking forward to them for so many years, how can you go down the wrong path?…”
“Lao Sun, that old fox, brings his granddaughter to our shop every time… Hey, that girl has grown up well, your mother couldn’t help it… hugged her once and was laughed at by that old fox, saying that I was going to kidnap her. Why am I so miserable? I…”
Big Beauty resurfaced from her grief, looked at Shen Fan’s stunned, crying and laughing look, and slapped him again, “Talk now!”
“……” Shen Fan was overwhelmed by his mother’s sky-breaking imagination and felt he could barely open his mouth, “Really friends!”
“Friend my ass! You give your friends your own pyjamas to wear? You cooked for a friend today? You look at your friend eating and take a bite when he takes a bite?” Big Beauty didn’t believe it, and her trembling finger almost poked Shen Fan’s forehead, “Your lips say one thing but your body says what you really think!”
“I…” Shen Fan was confused for a moment, “What does my body say?”
- Basically what it says, a stone with some inscriptions to ward off evil spirits