Peng Fang’s winery had just opened. He invited many friends to come experience it, hoping to take the opportunity to promote it further.
After dinner, he even prepared gifts for them as a parting gesture. He Gu looked inside the bag to find a bottle of red wine, and decided to bring it home with him. When Song Juhan came over to visit, he would occasionally drink a glass or two.
As they walked to the parking lot, Feng Zheng glanced at his watch and said, “Do you wanna go have a drink?”
He Gu smiled and said, “If I drink any more, I won’t be able to drive. Let’s go another day.”
“Alright.” Feng Zheng patted his shoulder. “By the way, one of my relatives recently bought a manor in the suburbs, and the building is very beautiful. I remember you used to like to go fishing. When are you free to go together?”
When He Gu was young, he often went fishing with his father. After his father passed away, fishing became a way of remembering him, as well as an activity that calmed him. When he had spare time, he would find a place and go fishing on his own. It just so happened that recently he was too busy with work. With what Feng Zheng said, he was a little moved. Nodding his head, He Gu said, “Okay, we can go when I have free time.”
Feng Zheng smiled. “Drive safely.”
“Okay. Feng Zheng, thanks for today.”
“Thanks for what?”
“Thanks for introducing me to your friends, and for the delicious seafood.”
Feng Zheng laughed out loud. “If that’s what you like, I still have many great things to show you.”
He Gu was startled and felt a little flustered. “Feng Zheng, you don’t have to be so good to me.”
Feng Zheng looked at him intently. “You were also really good to me back then.”
“That was back then. We are just friends now…” Back when they were studying, of course he was good to Feng Zheng. After all, Feng Zheng was a junior that he had feelings for, as well as his colleague and the son of his boss. He used to buy medicine for him in the middle of the night, and spent ages thinking of the perfect birthday present. He also worked many nights of overtime just to make up for Feng Zheng’s mistakes. He Gu didn’t have many close friends, so every single one counted. He had no reason not to be good to him.
Feng Zheng shrugged. “Exactly. We are friends, so why can’t I be good to you?”
He Gu thought to himself that he really shouldn’t think too much, so he simply smiled and replied, “That’s right, we are friends. I’ll see you around then.”
Feng Zheng waved goodbye.
Song Juhan recently released the title single for his new album, and for a while, managed to top all the major music billboards. During this time, he appeared everywhere in the public eye. Whether it was on the TV, internet, or magazines, he was all there, and you could see his advertisements on every other channel.
In order to hype up his new album release, Song Juhan was busy running around everywhere promoting. During this time, the two rarely had any opportunity to meet up, so He Gu would occasionally send him a few messages. Whether Song Juhan replied or not, it didn’t matter to him.
On his last day at Nanchuang, Gu Qingpei got together with a few of his closest colleagues to have another farewell meal at the company canteen. Although they had already hosted many farewell parties and drank many bottles of wine, this time around, the meal was a simple one.
Within the canteen, there was a wide TV screen, and coincidentally, it was currently playing the new single by Song Juhan. The song was a dark jazz piece with rather depressing lyrics, and it wasn’t easy to sing along to. But after hearing it a few times, anyone could manage to sing a few lines. At that time, someone began to unknowingly hum along.
Gu Qingpei turned his head towards the TV. Lifting the corner of his lips a bit and seemingly trying to hide a smile, he glanced at He Gu. He Gu nodded his head embarrassingly.
“Xiao Chen, do you like this singer?” Gu Qingpei asked the person that was currently humming the song.
“Of course,” Xiao Chen smiled as he replied. “Song Juhan’s songs are great. On top of that, he is talented and handsome. Most of his songs are also written by himself.”
“Is he mixed race?” Gu Qingpei’s understanding of Song Juhan was limited to simply knowing his face and name.
“Indeed, he is a quarter German. His mother is that Chinese-German supermodel. She is incredibly beautiful.” The female colleague took out her phone as she replied and began to show off her screensaver to everyone. It was a candid shot of a gorgeous mixed-race goddess with what could be described as the perfect figure. She was covered in only a thin layer of tulle and was holding a little three or four year old boy in her arms. The boy had a full head of black curls, delicate facial features, and eyes so bright, they could be seen as holding the entire starry night within. “This was taken when he was just four years old. His mother brought him to a Vogue cover shoot.”
“Wow! That figure’s very nice.”
He Gu also kept a copy of these photos. They were the first ever pair of Asian descent mother and son to appear on the cover of US Vogue Magazine. At the time, it caused a huge stir in the fashion industry. Although that was not the first time Song Juhan appeared in the public eye, it was the first time the international world knew of him. This mother and son pair were indeed very pleasing to the eye.
He Gu had met Song Juhan’s mother on a few occasions. She was a Chinese-German born in America, was both passionate and smart, and with a stunning appearance to match. Although Song Juhan’s appearance was very similar to his mother, their personality was nothing alike.
“To this day, her figure is still as great as before.” The female colleague shook her head and sighed, “Is she even human?”
Gu Qingpei exclaimed, “Indeed, she is very beautiful.”
“Song Juhan’s father is also very handsome. This family is just too much!” The female colleague was very proud in talking about her idol and didn’t seem to care whether the others were interested or even listening or not, just desperately trying to show all the photos on her phone.
Gu Qingpei glanced at He Gu and deliberately teased him. “He Gu, do you like his songs?”
Caught off guard, He Gu choked on his soup and started to cough.
“Chief He definitely doesn’t care about these things,” Xiao Chen said with a smile. “He might not even know who Song Juhan is.”
Gu Qingpei sneered. His eyes showed a spark of playfulness.
He Gu cleared his throat, and said nonchalantly, “En, I really don’t quite know what young people like these days.”
“Oh, Chief He is only twenty-eight years old. That’s still considered young. Why are you always acting like a middle-aged man?”
“Exactly. Chief He’s personality is just too mature. Always with a serious face. It’s actually kind of scary when he gets angry. Chief Gu, you tell him.”
He Gu smiled. “You little rascals. Aren’t you just using the fact that Chief Gu is here to curse me?”
Gu Qingpei patted He Gu on the shoulder, purposely put on a serious face, and said, “Oh, Junior He, you should smile a bit more. And stop with this serious face of yours. With this temperament, you won’t be able to find a wife in the future.”
The entire table started laughing.
At the end of the work day, Gu Qingpei sent a text to He Gu: “Come have a drink with me tonight.”
He Gu thought Gu Qingpei must still be trying to headhunt him, so he replied, “Sure.”
After a while, Gu Qingpei sent over a meeting time and address. The bar was located on the bar street, and the name seemed vaguely familiar to He Gu. He seemed to have heard it from somewhere before, but at the moment, he couldn’t exactly recall where, so he just left it at that.
After work, He Gu returned home. He made himself a bowl of noodles and ate while watching TV. Although he rarely watched TV, when he thought of how no one was using a TV that cost him a shocking 40,000 yuan, he felt quite sorry.
The TV screen suddenly showed a rather familiar individual, not Song Juhan, but Zhuang Jieyu. This newcomer had managed to secure a role in a famous director’s upcoming film—the second male lead. The naive and innocent looking face on the screen really couldn’t be linked to the man he met at Song Juhan’s house the other day. But if one thought of the difference between Song Juhan in public and in private, there really wasn’t much to be shocked about.
Looking at him, He Gu suddenly lost his appetite. Song Juhan was always surrounded by such gorgeous individuals all year round. The fact that they could last six years together was really quite the miracle.
After clearing the table, he went for a shower.
Warm water washed away the tiredness of the day. Closing his eyes, he cleared his mind, letting his thoughts drift to Song Juhan’s face.
In another two days, it would be his birthday, and two-thirds of this month had already passed. He wasn’t sure if Song Juhan still remembered his promise to spend time with him this birthday. He wasn’t wishful in hoping that Song Juhan would suddenly grow a conscience. Because even if Song Juhan forgot, it wasn’t like he would feel guilty, so he would simply call him and remind him about it. Although Song Juhan had a bad memory, he would always keep his word and honor his promises.
After his shower, He Gu changed into casual clothes. He looked at himself in the mirror. The person staring back was slender and upright, cultured and proper. Compared to the thin figure and youthfulness of his student days, his year-round fitness training had indeed been fruitful.
He dried his hair, put on this coat, and left.
Once he arrived, He Gu felt his scalp go numb. Just from looking at the people coming and going from this bar, he could instantly tell it was a gay bar. Only then did he remember. He had seen people mention this bar online. It was a Qing Bar1清吧 – ‘Qing’, meaning clear or light. A ‘Qing Bar’ mainly plays calm or light music and is rather quiet, without a dance pit, female escorts or loud music. The atmosphere is similar to that of a Piano lounge. It became popular in Shanghai in 2005 and caters to an older, more educated and sophisticated audience., and quite a stylish one at that. It was well-known in the Beijing gay community, nicknamed ‘Black Gate’ after the two pitch black stone doors at its entrance. The owner was a closeted, yet widely known as gay, celebrity. He Gu had even met the owner at one of Song Juhan’s parties.
He Gu looked at his watch and realized it was still early. Since he hated being late, he would always leave with extra time to spare. Thankfully, he now had some time to calm down.
Why in the world would Gu Qingpei ask to meet at a gay bar! Even if it was to headhunt him, there was no need to go to such lengths. Besides, He Gu didn’t even enjoy going to these places meant for hooking up and one-night stands.
This was simply too embarrassing. It was like going out for a meal as a vegetarian, and the people in the party insist on accompanying him and eating a vegetarian meal as well. Gu Qingpei’s actions really confused him.
After thinking for a while, he decided to stop Gu Qingpei at the door, and then suggest changing to another location. Otherwise, both of them would be uncomfortable.
He Gu parked his car, and stood outside the bar to wait.
Not even half a minute later, an effeminate boy came over to chat him up. He Gu politely replied, “I’m waiting for a friend.”
“A boyfriend?” Asked the effeminate boy as he fluttered his eyelids.
“Well then. When your friend arrives, we could play together.”
“No thank you,” He Gu answered unsmiling. After he refused in such an aggravated tone, the other party was a little scared, and he turned around and left.
Unexpectedly, right after one left, another appeared. He Gu laughed to himself. He seemed to be quite popular?
After getting rid of the second person, He Gu saw Gu Qingpei casually walking over to him.
Stopping right in front of him, Gu Qingpei appeared to be holding back a smirk while giving him a once-over.
He Gu frowned slightly. “Chief Gu? Why did you choose to meet in such a place?”
“What’s wrong? You don’t like this type of place?”
“I rarely come here. Besides, this place isn’t really suitable for chatting. Why don’t we change to somewhere else?”
“It’s okay. It’s not noisy here.”
“Yeah, uh… ” He Gu’s eyes widened. “You’ve been here before?”
Gu Qingpei smiled and replied, “Yes, I’m a regular here.”
He Gu’s eyes widened even more. Could it be that Gu Qingpei was also…
That can’t be right. He heard that Gu Qingpei was divorced. His ex-wife was previously a Nanchuang employee, and he had even seen photos of her before. She was considered quite the beauty.
Gu Qingpei took advantage of his daze to grab his arm and drag him into the bar.
The two found a table and sat down. Gu Qingpei called over a waiter with practiced ease. “Bring the wine I left here last time.”
He Gu finally believed Gu Qingpei was a regular and often frequented this bar. But he still had many doubts in his heart. Was Gu Qingpei really…
Gu Qingpei looked at the dumbfounded He Gu, and laughed. “What expression are you showing? It’s like you’ve seen a ghost.”
He Gu said with embarrassment, “Chief Gu, this…”
“It’s rare to meet someone with the same orientation within my normal work and life circle. I’m actually quite happy.”
He Gu replied in shock, “Chief Gu, you really are gay.”
“Why? Do I not seem like it?” Gu Qingpei spread his arms out, and gave an expression that said “come look and appreciate me.”2任君鉴赏 – an arrogant phrase meaning come notice me and appreciate the goods
“Yeah… Not really.”
“Haha, how can you even talk about me? You’re the one that doesn’t look like it. I used to think I have an eye for seeing through others. We’ve known each other for years, and I didn’t even notice it at all. I’m not sure whether it’s your ability to hide it well, or if my skills are failing me.”
He Gu smiled helplessly. “I’m not sure whether to be happy or not.” Actually, thinking back, it wasn’t wrong to say Gu Qingpei has the unique sophistication of a gay. It’s just that his speech and demeanor didn’t hold a hint of femininity. In addition to his popularity with women, he was even married and divorced. So it was naturally impossible for people to think he could be bent in any way. On the other hand, even while standing in a gay bar, He Gu still seemed like a stupid straight man.
The wine came, and the waiter poured glasses for both of them. Gu Qingpei raised his glass. “Seriously, if I hadn’t left my job, we would never be sitting here today. And since we’re no longer colleagues, I’d like to make you a friend instead.”
“Chief Gu is being polite. I am flattered3受宠若惊 (idiom) – to be overwhelmed by a favor from a superior.”
The two of them clinked glasses lightly and tasted the wine.
He Gu was confused about what Gu Qingpei wanted to do, but since Gu Qingpei always had a sense of propriety, he didn’t make too much of a fuss.
Gu Qingpei smiled and said, “Don’t be scared. I know what you’re thinking about. I don’t mean anything else. I was just, um, how do I put it, a little lonely. Not many people around me know my sexual orientation. I don’t have friends in similar situations whom I can talk to, and it’s quite depressing sometimes. I’m sure you’ve also felt the same.”
He Gu smiled. “Chief Gu, thank you.”
It was only then that his hanging heart4悬着的心 – Tense, nervous. Same meaning as “heart rising to your throat.” fell back to its original place, and his whole body relaxed. Gu Qingpei was right. Having such a friend would be a fortunate thing. Besides, of the many people who wanted to befriend Gu Qingpei, He Gu had the big advantage for having the same orientation as him. Anyway, it was a good thing.
They clinked their glasses again.
At that moment, a man came over and called out from afar, “Qingpei.”
“Oh, why are you in the store today?” Gu Qingpei stood up.
He Gu turned around to look. The bar was dimly lit, but he immediately recognized the boss—Ou Taining5Liz: Another character from Zhen Feng Duijue. I can’t remember what his role was though haha. Ou Taining was an actor. To be precise, he was an actor past his prime. In his early twenties, he was quite popular because of a drama. He went a little quiet later, but having been in the entertainment industry for years, he had accumulated a lot of wealth and connections. Now, he was gradually shifting to just working behind the scenes.
Ou Taining was at Song Juhan’s party last time, and Xiao Song gossiped about him. He Gu wasn’t very interested in this person, but his memory was good.
Ou Taining was about the same age as Gu Qingpei, and he had a temperament that was rather unique. Hidden in his deep, melancholy eyes, there was a vicissitude that had nothing to do with age, adding depth to his already handsome visage. With such a man, it was hard to tell his orientation from appearance alone. It was only revealed when his relationship problems got on the news two years ago.
All these were what Xiao Song had told him. Xiao Song, this child, was really gossipy.
The two of them had a few pleasant words before Ou Taining noticed He Gu. He was surprised. “Have we met before? Last year, at the Four Seasons Hotel…”
He Gu nodded. “I’m Song Juhan’s schoolmate. I didn’t expect Mr. Ou to recognize me.”
Song Juhan really hated him mingling with people in the entertainment circle, so if Ou Taining hadn’t recognize him, he would absolutely pretend he’d never seen him before. He didn’t expect Ou Taining would have such a good memory. There were over a hundred people at the party, and they didn’t even say a word to each other.
Ou Taining sized up He Gu with a smile. “How could I not recognize you? Song Juhan’s assistant had been following you around, and at that time, everyone was very curious why Song Juhan sent his own assistant to take care of others.”
He Gu laughed. “I’m not in the circle. He was probably just afraid I’d feel awkward.”
He reckoned Song Juhan was afraid he’d make a fool of himself or say something irresponsible. Song Juhan was really overthinking it. If it weren’t for Xiao Song accompanying him all the time, he would have dropped off his gift and left.
Gu Qingpei said in surprise, “So you guys have met before, what a coincidence.”
“Yeah, I also just happened to be in the store today. It’s been a long time since you’ve been here, and I ran into you right away. What a coincidence indeed.”
“Come sit and talk?”
Ou Taining looked at his watch. “Can’t, my time is just enough to come say hello to you. I’ve got one more job tonight, and I can’t put it off.”
“You’re so busy, big star.” Gu Qingpei patted him on the shoulder. “Go ahead, and drink less.”
Ou Taining asked the waiter to give them a bottle of wine, and then left.
He Gu asked, “Chief Gu, how did you guys meet?”
“I come here often. We got to know each other through a mutual friend. He’s a nice guy, and he doesn’t have any of a star’s impatience.”
He Gu heard what Gu Qingpei meant to say, but he could only pretend not to understand, pouring Gu Qingpei some wine to mask himself.
Gu Qingpei sipped the wine and narrowed his eyes on He Gu. “Since we’re friends now, how about letting me in on some gossip about you and superstar Song?”
Lizonka: I was in charge of translating half of this part, but Hillary outdid herself and translated 3/4 of this chapter haha. Thank you, Hillary!