The two of them went home and slept until they woke up in the middle of the afternoon. Lu Ying remembered the important matter of the salary, got up and took his son straight to the shopping mall. When his colleagues saw him, they secretly frowned.
Supervisor Li immediately came forward when he got the message, helplessly pulled Lu Ying into the corner and muttered, “I’ve been talking to Manager Zhang, but she won’t relent. I don’t understand why she is targeting you. Why don’t I take you to her and you’ll apologise to her properly? How can you mess with money!”
Lu Ying shook his head straight away, “An apology is out of the question.”
“Xiao Lu, don’t be stubborn!”
“I’m not stubborn.”
“There will be staff transfers in the coming year, and she might be transferred away, so why don’t you put up with her for a while?”
Lu Ying didn’t want to wait. Staff transfer was not a matter of a few days; in case it dragged on for half a year, who would remember his poor salary. Applying for labour arbitration was also very tricky. He just wanted to cut through the mess quickly and get paid, nothing more.
“I’ll sort it out myself.”
It just so happened that Brother Yang called to invite him to dinner. Lu Ying’s bad mood was swept away and he left the shopping mall humming a happy tune. Before he went to take a bath today, he also quit his part-time job as a takeaway delivery. Brother Yang had to be full-time. After making up his mind, Lu Ying was going to seriously follow Brother Yang to learn the craft in the future.
Yang Sigu’s house was even more lively today. Apart from a few old friends, Dr. Hu actually came too!
As soon as he walked through the door and ran into Dr. Hu, Lu Ying almost braked and turned around to leave, then greeted the man tensely, “Hello, Dr. Hu!”
Dr. Hu looked up, gave him a condescending glance and let out a nasal “hm”.
Lu Ying breathed a sigh of relief.
“What, do you have rhinitis?” Ji Xiaofeng raised his hand and twisted Dr. Hu’s handsome nose, causing Dr. Hu to stand up and yell, “Impudent!”
“You don’t like to go out with me? Just say it if you want to fight!” Ji Xiaofeng wasn’t afraid to take it head on.
“Lu Ying, come and help serve the dishes.” Liu Dichuan hurriedly dragged Lu Ying away.
After entering the kitchen, Liu Dichuan exhaled.
“These two stinkers are really made for each other.”
Brother Yang laughed as he cooked, “As long as you don’t touch Xiao Ji, everything is fine with Dr. Hu. You guys are just too used to Ji Xiaofeng. Take Lu Ying for example. Xiao Ji took you and eloped to Guanlan City and didn’t come back for a whole year, so how can you blame Dr. Hu for hating you? After he beat and scolded Ji Xiaofeng, they got lovey-dovey with each other again. But you, an outsider, could only be the punching bag.”
Lu Ying spread his hands, feeling wronged, and hastily defended himself, “Brother Yang, don’t talk nonsense, we didn’t elope! Brother Ji just saw that I had never been out of the mountains before, so he took me out to see something. We went there to work and earn money, eat good food, have fun and nothing else. You and Brother Ji are my older brothers!”
Liu Dichuan snorted and rubbed Lu Ying’s soft hair, “Brother Yang is teasing you.”
“Xiao Ji just thinks you’re an honest boy, easy to send around.” Yang Sigu shook his head and laughed, “I blame your Grandpa Lu for treating you like a baby and not teaching you anything. As a result, you ran away as soon as someone coaxed you, growing so old but knowing nothing.”
Lu Ying was even more anxious at his words, “Grandpa Lu was doing it for my own good.”
“Stubborn and old-fashioned, unaware that the world outside has changed a long time ago.” Yang Sigu snorted coldly.
Liu Dichuan changed the subject, “Xiao Lu, why do you suddenly want to quit your job early?”
“I want to learn the craft seriously. Brother Yang gave me the opportunity, I want to make good use of it.”
“You will definitely be fine.” Liu Dichuan smiled. If Yang Sigu, this fake gentleman, suddenly kindly decided to teach this kid Lu Ying, he must have ulterior motives. But for Lu Ying it was indeed a good opportunity. Although Yang Sigu didn’t have the rare skill of Dr. Hu to save lives and treat injuries, in human society he was proficient in all the good things that could earn you a living. Baking was just one of the things Yang Sigu was good at, and it was a hobby that he did for fun. For him it was a hobby, but there were many people who sought it. Besides, cooking was a good fit for Lu Ying, who loved to eat and was very good at it.
In the early morning, the snow in the small town slowly melted under the warm sun. Lu Ying sent the child to the kindergarten and went straight to the mall. He was nearly forty minutes earlier than everyone’s work hours. When he arrived, Lu Ying didn’t go anywhere and squatted at the entrance of the garage lift.
When Manager Zhang got out of her car, Lu Ying appeared in front of her calmly: “Why did you deduct my salary? Just because I don’t want to sleep with you?”
Manager Zhang was taken aback. She looked up and saw Lu Ying’s face. Probably because of the cold wind, at this moment his cheeks were flushed; his mouth was slightly curved in anger, his lips were red and his teeth were white. There was nothing more appealing than this sight.
In an instant, all her anger disappeared. Manager Zhang looked around and found that they were in a blind spot of surveillance. She smiled kindly and said, “It seems that you know exactly what I mean. I thought you were too stupid to understand me when you repeatedly rejected me.”
“Not afraid that your husband knows?” Lu Ying asked.
Manager Zhang sneered, “So what if he knows? He likes young and pretty girls, I like young and good looking boys, we each have our own virtues. As far as I know, you don’t have a wife or elders, what’s there to be afraid of a single man coming out to play? As long as you make me happy, I’ll make you a supervisor in an instant, and you can buy a car or a house depending on your performance.”
Looking at her face full of determination to win, Lu Ying recoiled in disgust.
Manager Zhang leaned closer and closer, smiling and staring at Lu Ying: “Now you’re finally getting the hang of it? How about a date for dinner tonight?”
Lu Ying backed up and said “bah!”, full of disgust: “Damn, who wants to eat with you, don’t scare me to death at night!”
The phone recording was saved, and he turned around and left.
When he was halfway home on his moped, his salary arrived, even including an extra month.
Lu Ying breathed a sigh of relief. He had learned this trick from Brother Ji a long time ago but he didn’t expect it to really work.
Not far from the municipal government office of Caifeng City, there was a secluded street full of antique and elegant charm, with old buildings on both sides of it. Brick by brick, they all carried the flavour of history. The street was not wide and didn’t look busy. Only two or three pedestrians slowly walked in the night and occasionally you could hear the sound of music from the old houses. It was a quiet place in the middle of the chaos, one of the most popular places for local literary and artistic people.
A black car stopped at the junction of the old street. Qin Zhuopu and his assistant got out of the car. After the sun went down in the evening, the cold rain started falling.
They were obviously not far apart, but Caifeng City this year was much colder than Guanlan City.
Qin Zhuopu took the umbrella handed by his assistant, stood at the corner and looked at the old street. It was dark, and the red light of a few lanterns flickered sporadically, faintly illuminating the ancient cornices and stones. Qin Zhuopu wasn’t moving. The young assistant next to him shivered, his teeth chattering. Mr. Qin gave him a slight glance. The assistant was so scared that he quickly clenched his jaws tightly. It wasn’t that he was timid, this place just looked as if ghost movies could be shot here directly!
It was not the first time Qin Zhuopu had come here. He held the umbrella and led the way, cleverly avoiding a few puddles. Finally he stopped in front of a large ancient mansion with the word ‘Shen’ on the swaying red lantern.
The Shen family was the leader of the catering industry in Caifeng City, and even in the whole province, and was one of the few oldest catering houses left in China, a centuries-old establishment that had been passed down from generation to generation. Every time Qin Zhuopu came to Caifeng City, if he had time, he would definitely come here to enjoy a meal.
When he used to come, it was the current heir of the Shen family, Boss Shen, who was in charge of the cooking. And tonight, at this meal, he might be able to have a chance to eat a meal cooked by the retired old man of the Shen family himself.
When Qin Zhuopu thought of this, he felt a little bit of anticipation.
“Nephew, you’re finally here!”
“Zhuopu, Mom would like to introduce you to the elders.”
As soon as Qin Zhuopu entered, he was warmly greeted by a middle-aged man, followed by several men and women, all of the same generation as his mother. Whether they knew each other or not, Qin Zhuopu politely exchanged pleasantries as Mrs. Qin introduced him.
Only after Mrs. Qin finished introducing the last uncle did Qin Zhuopu notice the only young man who stood out in the room full of middle-aged and elderly people. He was taken aback when he saw his mother take a few steps forward and take the young man’s hand, saying affectionately, “Zhuopu, look at Yourong, do you remember him? Your Aunt Su’s son. Aunt Su is the old school friend I told you about before. It’s a pity that Aunt Su’s family emigrated later and I never thought I would see her again in Caifeng City after twenty years. I just found out from talking to Yourong that you were alumni of the same school in the United States. What a coincidence!”
“It’s all fate, Senior Brother Qin, don’t you think so?” Yu Yourong was dressed in a well-tailored light-coloured casual suit that matched his handsome appearance and clean and well-behaved temperament. He was clearly a man in his thirties, but it would not be difficult to mistake him for a university student. No wonder he was so popular with the elders.
Qin Zhuopu smiled lightly, “En.”
Yu Yourong stepped forward and extended his right hand: “Long time no see. How are you?”
Qin Zhuopu shook his hand politely, “Thank you for asking.” After saying that, he withdrew his hand, feeling that his palm was gently tickled, as uncomfortable as if chewing gum was sticking to it, “I’m going to the bathroom.”
“Yunlan, your son is really talented. I used to know that he has outstanding abilities, but I can’t believe that he has inherited all the good qualities of you two. If he went to be an actor, those handsome celebrity guys would have nothing on him. I used to like to brag about our Rongrong’s good looks, but today I can’t do that.” The pretty-looking, smartly dressed Ms. Su held Mrs. Qin’s arm affectionately, laughing and blowing rainbow farts. The rest of the people present followed suit, and for a while the elders praised the only two young people there.
Yu Yourong sat next to Qin Zhuopu and didn’t interrupt, only occasionally inserting a sentence or two when Mrs. Qin was talking. Not long after, Mrs. Qin smiled and pulled Yu Yourong to sit beside her, chatting with him affectionately.
She felt that it was fate that she had met her good friend’s family at this time. Yu Yourong appeared just when she was thinking it was time for her son to find someone.
When Qin Zhuopu returned to the banquet table and saw that someone else was sitting next to his mother, he was ready to take a seat at random. At once Aunt Su, whom he had just met, beckoned, “Zhuopu! Auntie can call you Zhuopu, right? Come and sit with Auntie.”
“I’m a junior, how can I sit here?” Qin Zhuopu settled down at the bottom of the table.
Now Mrs. Qin beckoned him, “Come and sit next to Yourong, you are the only two young people at this table, you’ll be more comfortable sitting together.”
Qin Zhuopu shook his head, “I just want to eat.”
“Have you been hungry all day again? Have some hot soup to warm your stomach first.” Mrs. Qin frowned. Her son’s health was most important; nothing else was urgent. She got up and personally served her son a bowl of soup, chatting some more before giving up.
During the meal, Mrs. Qin and Aunt Su brought up the subject of the two young men several times, but Qin Zhuopu bypassed it cleverly. Soon the table was cleared of food and the meal was over. Qin Zhuopu helped his mother out, and Mrs. Qin’s eyes were full of reluctance as she looked at Aunt Su and Yu Yourong.
Qin Zhuopu urged his mother to get in the car and followed after her. Yu Yourong suddenly stepped forward and handed Qin Zhuopu an invitation through the car window: “Senior Brother, I have returned home this time to hold an art exhibition in Caifeng City. Senior Brother is welcome to give guidance if he has time.”
Qin Zhuopu took the invitation with an unchanged expression: “It depends on the situation.”
“I hope you will be kind enough to come. Auntie, it’s so nice to meet an elder like you when I return home, I’ll definitely have afternoon tea with Auntie when I have time.”
As the car started, Mrs. Qin immediately looked at her son with a smile on her face, “Zhuopu, what do you think about Yourong?”
Qin Zhuopu sneered and shook his head, “Nothing good.”
Mrs. Qin patted him, “Look at the way you look down on people. Although Yourong’s career is not as good as yours, he is also very good in all aspects. He is three years younger than you, graduated from the same prestigious school as you, and his looks and education level are flawless. It is also a coincidence that Aunt Su’s son likes the same sex, just like you do. Aunt Su is divorced from her husband and is returning to China with the intention of settling down permanently. She is also open-minded and wholeheartedly supports her son’s choice.”
“So today is a blind date arranged for the two of us?”
“Mom is doing it for your own good…”
“You should have at least told me in advance. I told you years ago not to meddle in my personal affairs. I didn’t come to Caifeng City to be tossed around by you.”
Qin Zhuopu didn’t feel angry or offended, just increasingly frustrated with his mother.
“Then why did you suddenly come to Caifeng City? I asked you to see the doctor before, but you refused.”
“As you wished, I’m here to find myself someone.”
And this someone just happens to come with a bonus son.
Zaizai: Dad, who was your first love?
Lu Ying: Of course, it’s me.
Yu Yourong: It’s me, it’s me!
Lu Ying: Where did this person come from?
Mr. Qin: Don’t talk nonsense, surnamed Yu, you and I have never held hands!
Lu Ying: He looks very good.
Mr. Qin: He looks good? Do your eyes grow on your ass?
Lu Ying: …then you can’t get hard, can you?
Mr. Qin: I think your ass is itchy.
Mrs. Qin (roaring): You two go back to your room!