Lin Rui had thought about how he should behave this time. He thought that he had Shen Fan’s support behind him, and Tang Yi was promoted by Shen Fan, so there was basically no doubt about snapping a good position for himself. Before the meeting with Tang Yi, he proudly said to his colleague, “If I have time later, I will mention you in passing.”
The colleague understood what he meant and poured him water and served tea several times since then. Who knew that when they entered the office, the things would be completely different.
The colleague tried to speak for Lin Rui, but the latter’s face instantly turned black. Tang Yi glanced at them with interest and then averted his eyes, as if these two were just a pair of clowns singing in harmony. Lin Rui finally couldn’t bear it, turned his head and said to his colleague rather unkindly, “You go out first! I have something to discuss with Mr. Tang.”
This colleague’s original position was not as high as Lin Rui’s. Although he was unhappy, Tang Yi had already expressed his attitude clearly, so the man frowned and left first. Lin Rui waited for a long time after the office door closed, then stood up, shoved his hands in his pants pockets and walked straight to Tang Yi’s desk.
“Mr. Tang, actually, I’m here mainly for work.” Lin Rui lowered his head slightly and coughed softly, “I know you may have some misunderstandings about me, but I still hope to have a decent position in the company. Of course, I don’t care if I have real power or not. My mother needs my care now. I need to stay in T City.”
“Oh? “Tang Yi glanced at him and said calmly, “But there is no place for you here. What’s more, there are so many companies in T City, so why should you succumb to me?”
His expression was indifferent. Lin Rui glanced at him but couldn’t get any useful information. He couldn’t even speculate on Tang Yi’s intentions. He could only pause and continue to explain, “My salary in ER is something that other small companies in T City can’t afford. I can’t get into a big company either. Besides, I have been working for ER for two years and I really don’t want to go to another company to start from scratch.”
“So what? ”
“So, Mr. Tang, just give me a position at will. Anyway, the salary is paid by the headquarters, and I’m not picky.”
Tang Yi nodded and asked suddenly, “Is your mother’s health good?”
Lin Rui was taken aback for a moment and replied vaguely, “She’s okay.”
“It’s a good thing she’s okay.” Tang Yi leaned back in his chair and said softly, “Otherwise, she would be used by her son time and again, claiming that she is critically ill at every turn. And every time, a little bit of her blessing would be gone.” He narrowed his eyes and said with amusement, “Lin Rui, do you really think the whole world owes you? You want to get into the company, you want to ask for more money, you don’t want to go anywhere…”
Tang Yi tsked, “Don’t think so, no one cares about your wishes.”
Lin Rui was taken aback for a moment, and it took a while before he reacted. At that time when Shen Fan called Tang Yi, he was next to Shen Fan. Naturally, he heard Tang Yi’s unwillingness and anger clearly, but there was no way for him to refuse. Shen Fan pressed Tang Yi down, and Tang Yi had to provide for him even if he didn’t want to.
Lin Rui came back this time with a sense of superiority. He had been parachuted into Tang Yi’s department two years ago, and when he was kicked out by Zhou Hao, everyone knew it was because Tang Yi couldn’t tolerate him. He had no face at that time and had to work for a long time in the head office with his tail between his legs before he slowly climbed up. This time he had Shen Fan’s backing, so he naturally came back full of vigour and confidence. How could he have expected that Tang Yi would change his mind in just two days?
After a long time Lin Rui opened his mouth and said, “It was Mr. Shen’s intention for me to come back. You agreed before…”
“Yes,” Tang Yi said blankly, “just to toss you.”
When Tang Yi left the company, the sky outside was completely dark, and the north wind greeted people like a slap in the face. He wrapped his coat tighter around him. Thinking of Lin Rui’s anger when he left the company in the afternoon, he shook his head speechlessly.
Two years ago, Tang Yi would not have spoken so simply and rudely. At that time, Lin Rui and he had conflicts and repeatedly had disagreements at work, and Tang Yi was always justified in giving Lin Rui a clear explanation, even hesitating when Zhou Hao wanted to kick him out. If it were before, today’s dialogue would most likely be a different story. For example, Tang Yi would talk about Lin Rui’s work performance, or make it clear that the company was about to break away from the head office and tell him to fend for himself.
But now it was different. Lin Rui should not have taken him for a fool after he said those things to Gu Yanting, thinking that he didn’t know anything.
In the evening, Tang Yi got home a little late, and Gu Yanting had already prepared dinner and waited for him. Weiwei woke up once in the middle of the day, and after staring at Gu Yanting for a long time, he only asked, “Where is Uncle Tang?” For the first time in more than 20 years, Gu Yanting learned to speak in the soft tone of talking to a child and lisped, “Susu has gone to work to earn money, he will be back tonight.”
Weiwei and Gu Yanting stared at each other for a while before Weiwei nodded solemnly.
“Then what?” Tang Yi took a bite of food and asked quietly with a smile.
“Then he went to pee, and after peeing, he went back to sleep. I’ve just glanced at him and he hasn’t woken up yet.” Gu Yanting was a little excited and said in a suppressed voice, “Hey, how did I manage to make such a contact with this kid?”
Tang Yi was taken aback. He didn’t know if Gu Yanting and the child had made contact, but they were quite close by blood. He was silent for a while and unconsciously stopped eating. Almost everyone knew about Gu Yanting’s biological parents now, but the man himself was the only one who was kept in the dark. Tang Yi wanted to talk to him and opened his mouth but didn’t know how to start.
Seeing that he was not in a good mood, Gu Yanting consciously stopped talking and waited until they were about to go to bed before stroking Tang Yi’s brow and asking with some anxiety, “Are you troubled?”
Tang Yi paused and nodded slowly.
Who knew Gu Yanting would misunderstand. He withdrew his hand and rubbed it a little uneasily, then put it back and continued to massage. After doing so many times, he said uncomfortably, “Actually, actually I’ve read the email you said.”
After he finished speaking, he glanced at Tang Yi carefully but didn’t continue.
Tang Yi looked up at him, and it took him a while to realise what Gu Yanting was talking about, “The email?”
“En,” Gu Yanting touched his nose and gave a muffled grunt.
Tang Yi looked at him for a while, then nodded half-heartedly. He knew that with 80% probability Gu Yanting’s reaction was like this because he had no explanation and the meaning of the letter was similar to what Tang Yi had thought. It was just that after many years, there was no practical point in pursuing it. The reason why he mentioned it was just to get rid of the suffocation in his heart, so that Gu Yanting could understand where his distrust came from.
Gu Yanting frowned, as if very worried.
Tang Yi sighed, stretched out his hand and patted him without speaking, then heard Gu Yanting whisper, “I don’t know what I thought at the time, I just said that. But I didn’t really dislike you. I just, just said that.”
“I know. Go to bed first.”
“No, hey, I don’t know how to say it.” Gu Yanting’s voice was a little anxious, “Actually, I was very happy at the time, and I didn’t mean it that way.”
Tang Yi nodded. As soon as he wanted to say “I know”, he saw Gu Yanting turn over and take the phone from the side, poking it twice in a hurry.
“Actually, in fact, I still have several letters behind it.” He swallowed nervously and pushed the phone forward, “Why don’t you read it all again, and then beat me up and vent, okay?”
“I won’t hit you, it’s all in the past.” Tang Yi was a little helpless but when he glanced at the emails in a row on the phone screen, he couldn’t help being stunned.
Five minutes later, Tang Yi was reading all the emails, including those that he hadn’t read earlier, with a self-abusive mentality, and then half an hour later, Gu Yanting finally failed to escape the fate of being beaten.
The content of Email 1 was the one that Tang Yi had seen.
Tang Yi skimmed through it and scrolled down, then saw Email 2.
Email 2: I went shopping with him today. Hey, he had to buy me a down jacket, do you know? More than three thousand yuan swiped in one click! Damn it! Don’t you know that this lord doesn’t like down jackets?! It’s ugly as hell.
Email 3: Hey, let me tell you, he quarrelled with me today, just because I didn’t go with him to book a room. How pretentious is it? You have to book a room for the holidays, and not just any room, you have to go to a five-star hotel. Do you know how much it costs for one night? Two thousand yuan! Damn it! Sleep for two thousand yuan for one night! Hey, let me show you…
Email 4: A bit annoying today. He insisted on buying me a cake and I didn’t let him. As a result, he was angry with me…
Email 5: Fuck! Lao Tzu saved up half a year’s salary to buy him a watch and he actually said it was ugly ugly ugly! What’s ugly? Almost 20,000!
Tang Yi hadn’t really expected Gu Yanting to give him an explanation that would completely relieve him. No matter how beautiful the words were, the damage had been caused after all, and the estrangement and the rift started with an email, gradually widening over the years and finally reaching the point of no return.
But looking back again at that moment, the same email had a completely different intention and meaning. Just like the same sentence “Go to hell” could be a soft, sticky one when lovers flirt with each other, or “Go to hell” said with your finger on the trigger when meeting the enemy. The semantics of the same expression could be diametrically opposite. How to understand it depended on the setting and the environment. Of course, Gu Yanting saying such stupid words could make anyone grit their teeth, but Tang Yi’s problem was that he already had a preconceived impression, and even when he saw the email, he held on to his pride and arrogance and refused to seek an explanation on the spot.
Tang Yi didn’t hit him really hard. He was just a little annoyed but didn’t know how to express it. After Gu Yanting waited for him to finish, he kept turning his head to look at him, then waited for him to lie down to sleep angrily before wrapping himself around and hugging him.
“Actually, I didn’t mean I disliked you.” Gu Yanting, who regained his senses, rubbed Tang Yi’s back, whispering in his ear, “I think I might be a bit of a show-off.”
Tang Yi was still angry, “What’s to show off about here?”
“He used to show off, show off his computer, his mobile phone, how much he spent on a trip with someone, and he always compared it to my things.” Gu Yanting said slyly, “Later on, I just wanted to earn some face back.”
Tang Yi nudged him speechlessly but without real force. He suddenly remembered the incident when Lin Rui had just returned to China. A tiny thought flashed in his mind, and finally he asked quietly, “When he approached you yesterday, why didn’t you invite him to a better cafe?”
“What?” Gu Yanting was taken aback, “It wasn’t that bad, it cost more than fifty.”
“Fifty is not that bad? You must have spent thousands on a meal for him.”
“……” Gu Yanting was silent for a while, and finally said slowly, “Actually, that day… I just wanted to pretend to be cool. But I regretted it at the check-out. I was so distraught I had to ask for the receipt to scratch the prize… didn’t win.”(1)
When Gu Yanting said “didn’t win”, his voice was weak. Tang Yi felt angry and funny, and his heart ached until he fell asleep.
No one knew better than Tang Yi how cool Gu Yanting used to be. For example, asking for receipts and packing leftovers, two seemingly trivial things, Gu Yanting had never done them, nor had he let Tang Yi do them.
Back then, Tang Yi simply liked Gu Yanting, and that kind of liking, not yet fused with the trivialities of oil bottles and salt shakers, was rather sober. He could even list the other party’s faults and shortcomings one by one. At that time, Gu Yanting’s biggest shortcoming in Tang Yi’s eyes was how important his face was for him, so much that Tang Yi was often embarrassed on various occasions.
For example, the two of them went to the luxury shopping mall in the centre of T City together for the first time. Tang Yi had been there before. Later, a dessert shop opened on the second floor of that shopping mall and he called Gu Yanting on a whim to spend Valentine’s Day there. They had just started working at that time, and neither of them had the conditions to be able to go to such places often. Tang Yi’s original intention was to treat Gu Yanting and satisfy their little vanity at the same time. Who knew that Gu Yanting would arrive and the first sentence he said would make Tang Yi embarrassed.
When Gu Yanting saw Tang Yi from a distance, he walked over with a solemn face and asked, “Why are you waiting for me here?”
Tang Yi was taken aback for a moment; then he heard Gu Yanting sigh and say in a rather loud voice, “Damn, Wang Gang told me that he bought XX shoes today and spent more than five hundred. This loser.”
The guy called Wang Gang had not contacted Gu Yanting for a long time. Five hundred shoes was something Tang Yi and Gu Yanting couldn’t dream about, but in the luxury shopping mall this number was nothing. Tang Yi rubbed his face in embarrassment but Gu Yanting was unaware of it, bragging like his friend was a tycoon.
Tang Yi was very depressed, but when he saw that Gu Yanting was wearing a set of early autumn clothes, he felt a sharp pain in his heart: it was Gu Yanting’s most expensive outfit, but it was very thin. The north wind in T City in February still smelled of ice. This suit didn’t block the cold or the wind. The reason why Gu Yanting chose it was probably because he was afraid of being shabby and embarrassing.
Gu Yanting was afraid of losing face, and therefore was afraid of being looked down upon. Whether it was him wearing out-of-season clothes or talking about things as if he feared that others would think he had no money, it was actually just a sign of weakness. There is a saying that “the more a man emphasises something, the more he lacks it.” Tang Yi thought a lot and only when he applied it to Gu Yanting did he realise that Gu Yanting actually cared about money very much.
Many people made various comparisons between the children of the poor and the children of the rich, and there were many experts from all walks of life who published articles on equality or inequality in life. Tang Yi thought that he had climbed up from the bottom of the ladder and he often disdained such topics. In his eyes, most of those who liked to talk about it were big losers who made excuses for their failures and didn’t work hard. So whenever he saw a similar topic, he felt a deep sense of contempt and superiority.
But when Gu Yanting stood there, a little formal and pretending to be awesome, while a young lady gracefully made an order not far behind him, Tang Yi realised that the gap really existed.
In a luxury shopping mall or a high-end club, his and Gu Yanting’s first reaction was never to enjoy themselves elegantly and comfortably but self-examine with restraint and low self-esteem whether it was appropriate and whether they would be embarrassed.
It was just that Tang Yi was used to being restrained, while Gu Yanting didn’t know how to hide it.
Tang Yi was repeatedly embarrassed by this, but strangely felt defensive about Gu Yanting, out of empathy. Later, the salaries of the two of them gradually increased; they bought a house and a car, and they had money and cards in their bags when they went out. Gu Yanting stopped saying “I have a classmate” and “I have a friend.” It was just that Tang Yi didn’t expect that Gu Yanting’s true meaning in the email was a change in form but not in content and what he said was “I have a boyfriend”.
However, if Gu Yanting could ask for a receipt in front of Lin Rui after eating in order to get a ten or a fifty yuan prize… It really hurt.
Gu Yanting didn’t ask for leave when he came back this time. He stayed with Tang Yi till Wednesday. When he got up in the morning, he received a call from the company. The colleague’s tone was very nice and he even said to him slightly teasingly, “Mr. Gu, are you running to the tender land now and can’t be bothered? But it’s December, so at least you should hold on to get your year-end bonus.”
Gu Yanting coughed a little and only then did he realise that two days had passed in a flash.
The colleague smiled with understanding and after a long pause added, “But it’s okay. You saved up a lot of vacation time before, it will be useless later anyway. Just come back and get a leave slip.” Gu Yanting had worked very hard before, and he hadn’t even used two weeks of annual leave. This colleague had a good relationship with him. He thought Gu Yanting was chasing a girl, so he kindly suggested that he use his annual leave, otherwise there would be no chance after this month.
Gu Yanting was suddenly enlightened; but after he chatted for a short while, he felt his mobile phone vibrate and another call came in. He took the phone away from his ear and glanced at it. He didn’t want to see it so much that he almost hung up on his colleague’s call.
“…she’s just agreed to it. Anyway, the leave slip can be arranged later. By the way, don’t forget to fax me those two documents.” The colleague said with a smile. After listening to silence, he called, “Lao Gu?”
Gu Yanting hurriedly returned to his senses, “Ah, ah, I see.”
“Don’t forget.” The colleague said, “I’ll hang up first.”
The colleague hung up, and at the same time Lin Rui’s call was also hung up.
As soon as Gu Yanting breathed a sigh of relief, he saw the mobile phone screen flashing, and a text message came in, “Is it convenient to accompany me to the hospital?”
The winter morning sun did not bring much warmth, and until eight or nine o’clock Lin Rui couldn’t even see a single sunray. He didn’t wear much today; the off-white cotton t-shirt and a light grey jacket made a fresh and fashionable look. When he stopped on Jianghuai Road, the attention he attracted was directly proportional to the cold wind he encountered.
When Gu Yanting ran over from afar, Lin Rui was smiling and rejecting a girl’s accost. When he turned, the smile on his face hadn’t receded, and he said to Gu Yanting very naturally, “I thought I was disturbing your rest.”
“No.” Gu Yanting wrapped his clothes around himself tighter. There was a handbag hanging on his arm, bulging. He glanced at Lin Rui up and down, and then asked, “Are you going to the hospital?”
Lin Rui let out a sigh, and after glancing at Gu Yanting, he pursed his lips and lowered his head. He often made such a gesture, which generally meant that it was a little difficult to answer, or he was a little sad. Gu Yanting didn’t know if it was the former or the latter this time, so he could only jump on the spot twice to keep warm.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Lin Rui to lower his head enough and finally give the answer. He raised his eyes and said with a somewhat bitter smile, “My mom is having a re-examination today and I… I don’t want to go alone.”
“Ah, that’s it.” Gu Yanting rubbed his hands and asked with concern, “Then did you tell your dad, or your uncle, aunt, grandpa, ah, them, ah?”
“It’s better to tell them.” Gu Yanting said, “The situation is definitely good, don’t worry. And in case it’s not good… it’s time for the family to be prepared.” He paused, and then popped out a very awkward one-liner, “Besides, I’m an outsider and can’t help much.”
The last sentence he said was not as fluent as the previous ones, but the meaning was very clear. Lin Rui was taken aback. After a while, he smiled embarrassedly and explained, “Going to see my mother is just one thing. My leg also hurts a little bit. I want you to accompany me to have a look.”
He rarely brought up the matter of his sore leg, but whenever he did, Gu Yanting would definitely listen. Lin Rui’s original intention today was to have Gu Yanting accompany him to the hospital to see his mother, then stop by for lunch and reminisce with him about the university. He even thought of what he would talk about during the dinner to best evoke Gu Yanting’s previous feelings for him and how to subtly show that he had been given a hard time by Tang Yi at the company.
Who knew that Gu Yanting wouldn’t immediately agree to go with him. Lin Rui was a little lost and his expression was aggrieved and uneasy. He was afraid that Gu Yanting had not heard him clearly, so he deliberately gently held his knee.
Gu Yanting really looked over in agitation.
Lin Rui bit his lower lip and looked at him sadly, and then he heard Gu Yanting ask, “Does your leg hurt? Did it hurt recently?”
Lin Rui nodded.
Gu Yanting looked at his leg hurriedly in concern and said, “It hurts after returning to T City, right? Was it okay before?”
“Yeah, what’s the matter?”
“Tang Yi said your leg hurts here but I didn’t believe it,” Gu Yanting breathed a sigh of relief, and suddenly handed over the bag in his hand, “Tsk, here you are, take it.”
“Cotton trousers,” Gu Yanting saw that Lin Rui didn’t take the bag and pushed it forward. After putting it in Lin Rui’s hands, he sighed and patted Lin Rui on the shoulder, “We’ve been looking into it for a long time, and the winter leg pain is from the cold! Look at you, you’re so weak, it’s going to be even worse when you get older. This is a pair that Tang Yi bought but it was too small, I never wore it, so I’m giving it to you.”
- Some receipt-based lottery. This is how the process is described now: “How do I scratch the receipt? Click on the home page of Alipay, click on Swipe, scan the QR code on the receipt, the information of the receipt will pop up, confirm the information is correct, click on Start Shaking, you can participate in the prize receipt scratching.” But since the story is set in the 2000s, it was likely done differently then.