On the way, the young man’s mouth basically never closed. Ou Shaowen struggled to say a few words back at first, then the driver joined in with gusto and the young man called Dong Qiao just plopped down on the seat and chatted with the driver, you come and I go (as if they were relatives or friends), and it was no longer an atmosphere where he could intervene. In just a few minutes, Ou Shaowen already knew the young man’s name, the school he graduated from, the plot of a drama he had rehearsed while studying, the experience of signing up with an entertainment company, the fruits he liked to eat, his height and weight, and his favourite movie.
The taxi soon arrived at Qingxiwan Community, where the access control was strict and outside vehicles were never allowed to enter at will.
“Just stop here, I’ll walk in.” Ou Shaowen paid the fare with his mobile phone, finally ending this one-sided listening and preparing to get out of the car.
“Eh.” Dong Qiao called out to him with a surprised look, “This community is so big and there’s still so far to go, you’re just going to walk back? Doesn’t the guard over here know you? Or do you have an access card, it would be better to have the taxi take you directly to your door.”
“It’s not far.” He usually ran several laps around the whole community when he exercised.
“Why don’t I take you in?” As Dong Qiao said, he quickly got out of the taxi, “I just finished practising the dance. I’m very thirsty. Is it okay to go to your house to drink something?”
Ou Shaowen fell silent and looked at him without saying a word.
The atmosphere was a little stagnant. Dong Qiao’s eyes drifted, avoiding Ou Shaowen’s gaze, as he smiled brightly, “The taxi has left, why are we still staying here, let’s go inside, I’m dying of thirst.”
“But…” Ou Shaowen finally opened his mouth.
Dong Qiao pursed his lips tightly, feeling indescribably nervous.
“Didn’t you tell me before that we’d each pay half of the fare?” Ou Shaowen’s tone was very serious, without the slightest hint of humour.
Dong Qiao sighed with relief, picked up his phone and told Ou Shaowen to add him on WeChat to transfer money while naturally walking into the community.
Ou Shaowen followed him, his mind caught up in the term he had just heard, “I don’t have WeChat.”
“No way.” Dong Qiao looked at him incredulously, “What era do you live in, how can someone not even have WeChat?”
Before Ou Shaowen could answer, he was overfilled with enthusiasm again, “It’s fine, it’s fine, I’ll just teach you to apply for one, this is very simple.”
His tone was the same as Qi Yue’s when he knew Ou Shaowen didn’t have Weibo.
Ou Shaowen watched Dong Qiao operate his mobile phone to apply for WeChat and then add himself as a friend, “Come, come, I’ll send you a red envelope. How much was the fare just now?”
“Then I’ll transfer you forty.” He really sent a red envelope and then leaned to look at the mobile phone screen again, “You can receive it by clicking on it.”
Ou Shaowen collected the money, nodded slightly to him, and then walked home in silence.
Dong Qiao at first tried to ask a few questions about what training sessions Qimeng had arranged for him, but the farther he walked, the more breathless and exhausted he became, and when he reached the villa door, he let out a sigh of relief and hung on to Ou Shaowen, wailing intermittently, “Ah, God, I can’t, I really can’t today! I feel like I’ve reached my physical limit, I can’t walk anymore.”
Ou Shaowen glanced at him and rang the doorbell.
The garden gates opened automatically to either side, and Ou Shaowen reached out and slowly but firmly pushed Dong Qiao away, “Here we are.”
They walked down what seemed for Dong Qiao like a very long garden path and finally reached the main door. He stepped up two steps, found a wall and leaned against it, unable to hold on anymore.
“Why does Xiao Wen come back by himself? I was about to tell you…” Aunt Zhou opened the door and immediately saw a sweaty and panting young man standing not far from Ou Shaowen. What she originally planned to say was immediately swallowed back, and she just demonstrated a warm and polite smile, “Xiao Wen, is this your friend? Hey, why didn’t you call for Lao Li to pick you up? Look how tired he is, come in for a drink.”
“Thank you, auntie.” Dong Qiao instantly showed a well-behaved smile.
As he walked inside, he couldn’t help but feel excited and thrilled. Before today, he didn’t even think he would be able to enter President Ou’s house so easily and drink water at President Ou’s place. He held the cup and swallowed the water in small sips, trying to make his expression look natural and calm.
“Aunt Zhou, I’ll go up first.” Ou Shaowen wanted to go and familiarise himself with the new things he learned today.
“Eh, what about your friend?” For a normal person, it would be too rude to just leave the invited guest back there alone like that.
Of course, Ou Shaowen was not a normal person, so he rightfully replied, “I brought him in because he said he was thirsty and wanted some water, so he can leave after drinking.” After thinking about it, he added, “He’s not my friend, we just met today.”
Dong Qiao was halfway through drinking his water when he realised in hindsight that Ou Shaowen had long since disappeared, and that the person who looked like a housekeeper was trimming a pot of flowers on the dining table while glancing at him from time to time.
Dong Qiao followed her line of sight and looked at the cup in his hand, which was already empty. His face instantly became hot and he smiled sardonically. “Auntie, can I have another cup of water? I’m sorry, I’ve just finished my dance class with Shaowen and I’m thirsty.”
Auntie Zhou just smiled and didn’t say anything, nodding and pouring him another cup. Dong Qiao finished another cup of water and after trying to strike up a conversation a few times and receiving only a dry reply from Aunt Zhou, he finally had no more reason to stay here. He stood up and cheerfully waved to Aunt Zhou, “Thank you for the water, I’ll go then.”
Aunt Zhou immediately dropped what she was doing and walked him straight to the door, “Okay, take care on the road, I’ll open the door for you.”
After she quickly sent the man away, Aunt Zhou’s face changed and with a look of hating iron for not being steel, she went upstairs and knocked on Ou Shaowen’s door.
“What’s the matter, Aunt Zhou?” He looked confused.
“You don’t even know someone, and you’re bringing him home with you, huh?” Aunt Zhou’s face was rarely serious, “From now on, you don’t need to take care of such friends who come with you after only meeting you once. Come in for a cup of water? What an old-fashioned excuse, two-yuan mineral water is everywhere on any street outside, I don’t believe he has no money to buy it, huh?”
Ou Shaowen didn’t really have a clear idea of which goods were sold in which places, but he nodded obediently, “Okay, next time I’ll suggest he buy it himself.”
“Next time, there will be no next time. This kind of person’s face is thicker than the city wall. If you are a little nicer to him and he sticks to you, you won’t be able to get rid of him.” Aunt Zhou was employed by Ou Renjin and was used to people coming and going around him. Previously she had always been neutral, not saying much or meddling in things, but who would be like Ou Shaowen to help her in the kitchen every day and think of buying her gifts when he earned money? Everyone’s heart is biassed. Right now, she wanted the boy to stay at the villa for as long as possible, even to stay here for the rest of his life.
Ou Shaowen was a little puzzled, but he didn’t raise any objections.
Aunt Zhou saw the expression on his face and knew he hadn’t reacted yet, so she couldn’t help but sigh, “Do you know why he was so desperate to follow you back to the villa?”
Ou Shaowen shook his head.
“He, ah, he must have designs on President Ou, wanting to take your place and become the new master of this villa.”
Ou Shaowen’s pupils dilated slightly and his face immediately sank.
Aunt Zhou was still chattering away, “Just now, he was saying something about how President Ou didn’t pick you up from class and told you to take a taxi back by yourself. I’ve seen a lot of people, I can tell what he’s thinking with that look in his eyes.”
Ou Shaowen’s expression grew colder and colder as he nodded, and this time he responded seriously, “Okay, I see.”
Back in his room, he held his phone and sat motionless on the edge of his bed. In fact, he had learned the story of Ou Renjin and the previous masters of the villa many times through many channels, but he had never felt that he was playing the same role as those predecessors. Ou Renjin did not keep him around out of fondness, their relationship was with a mission and a purpose. He understood this deeply and was ready to leave after he had lost his value.
Whether he leaves after five years, or now, he could accept it calmly.
He should have been able to accept it calmly, right?
But just now, knowing that the seemingly kind and enthusiastic young man had walked into this villa with that kind of purpose in mind, he was suddenly unhappy, more unhappy than he had been every time he had learned that he had been immediately scheduled for another surgery.
Just as he was pondering how he should reject this person harshly the next time he met him, the somewhat peculiar signal suddenly chimed.
So Ou Shaowen’s eyes immediately softened, and he forgot all about it for a moment, and the melody of a song he had heard from somewhere echoed in his head as he picked up the phone.
“I heard you brought a friend home?” Ou Renjin stared at the figure visible in its entirety on the computer screen, slowly tapping the pen in his hand on the desk.