Later that day, Gu Qingpei called back to explain why he hung up abruptly. He said it was his new driver, and in an embarrassed tone, he apologized for the man’s rudeness.
Of course, He Gu didn’t believe the other person was simply a driver. Just his arrogant tone, in itself, spoke volumes. Even a debt collector wouldn’t be so harsh and unreasonable. But since He Gu was never one to gossip, if Gu Qingpei didn’t say anything, he wouldn’t ask either.
It seemed Gu Qingpei’s situation at his new company really wasn’t ideal. He was too used to being praised at Nanchuang, and it was inevitable that he would suffer some setbacks in a new environment. However, He Gu believed that, with Gu Qingpei’s ability, he would be able to slowly work it out. At the moment though, He Gu could feel a sense of loneliness and pressure from Gu Qingpei. And since they still had something to talk about, he offered to go for a meal together. Last time they went for drinks, it was Gu Qingpei that paid in the end. So this time, He Gu promised to treat Gu Qingpei.
Gu Qingpei gladly accepted.
For the whole day, He Gu worked tirelessly at the construction site. At the end of the day, he rushed home to take a shower and change his clothes, then got ready to meet Gu Qingpei.
Before leaving, he received a call from Xiao Song.
He Gu looked at the caller ID, and felt his heart in his throat. If Xiao Song was calling him, it had to do with Song Juhan. He took a deep breath and answered the call, “Hello, Xiao Song.”
“He Gu-ge.” Xiao Song’s voice was trembling and sounded extremely aggrieved.
“What’s wrong? Are you crying?”
“I might get fired. I feel so bad inside, but I don’t dare to let my girlfriend know. I just wanted someone to talk to.”
He Gu looked at his watch. There was still plenty of time, so he sat down and said in a gentle voice, “Don’t cry. What’s the matter?” Because He Gu’s vocal range was quite low, his voice sounded particularly steady and earnest, giving the listener a calm and soothing vibe.
Xiao Song did indeed calm down a little. “It’s just that Han-ge’s temper has been quite unstable recently. You guys must have argued again, right?”
“Why are you suddenly talking about us? I thought we were talking about you.”
“It’s just… When Han-ge’s in a bad mood, things always go wrong. And when things go wrong, Chief Song gets mad at me. The other day, while shooting a commercial, Han-ge got in a fight with the photographer. Chief Song spent a lot of money suppressing the incident, and I was used as cannon fodder.” Xiao Song’s voice started to choke up again as he spoke about the cause of his distress.
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“Why was there a fight?”
Xiao Song hesitated for a moment before he replied, “Actually, the issue wasn’t that serious, just some disagreements with work. Han-ge’s temper isn’t usually this violent. But when I asked him later, he said…”
“What did he say?”
“He said the photographer’s camera was rubbish.”
“All because of that?” Song Juhan’s personality might have various problems, but he was always very dedicated to his work. Why would he start a fight on something like this?
“I don’t know much about cameras, but that camera looked quite professional and expensive. Then I remembered, that camera looks really similar to the one that hurt you the other day.”
He Gu frowned. “You’re thinking too much. Those cameras are always in black, and they mostly look the same.”
“… Maybe. But every time you have a disagreement with Han-ge, he will be especially temperamental.”
He Gu didn’t know whether to laugh or not. “Xiao Song, it doesn’t matter who gets him angry; he will still be temperamental. Like if you made a cat angry, it will probably scratch you a few times too. But I understand what you mean. Don’t you just want me to give him a pet on his head?”
Xiao Song lowered his voice and said, “He Gu-ge, I actually really admire you, and I highly respect you too. I don’t want to ask you to do something you don’t want to just for the sake of my work. But I just think that it’s such a pity between you two. I mean if you guys stop fighting, it’ll be better for everyone involved.”
“Us? What is there to be pitied about between us?”
“I just think Han-ge really cares about you, more than he does for anyone else.”
Although He Gu felt a tight pain in his chest, he feigned calmness as he said, “Why do you think that?”
“I… I can feel it.”
He Gu broke into a fit of laughter that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Xiao Song, I think I understand Juhan more than you do. About your work, I really don’t think I can help you there. Everytime I try to look for him when he’s angry, it’s just like pouring oil on fire. But don’t worry too much. I promise Chief Song won’t really fire you. I don’t think he can find a better assistant than you.”
“Yes. Last time, Juhan even said he would give you a raise. Them two, father and son, are actually really satisfied with you.”
Xiao Song’s voice sounded a lot better after that. “Really? You know I’m still paying back my mortgage, so the pressure is quite heavy on me. If I get fired right now, I probably won’t be able to find another job with such high wages.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He Gu1In the raws, it says ‘Song Juhan has met Chief Song before’, but I’m pretty sure what the author meant here was ‘He Gu’ had met Chief Song before. He was a shrewd man with an intimidating aura. Although it was normal for people in high positions to take out their temper on their subordinates, since Xiao Song’s work ability and character were both great, they wouldn’t easily fire someone like him.
“Thank you, He Gu-ge. Talking with you has made me feel a lot better.”
“Everything will be fine. Just focus on your work. I’m sure no one is willing to let you go.”
“Thank you, ge.”
“En. I’m hanging up then.”
“En… Ge, so when are you planning to speak to Han-ge?”
He Gu was silent for a while, deep in thought. “We’ll see.”
After hanging up, He Gu rushed out the door.
Since Gu Qingpei wanted to have pizza, He Gu especially reserved a table at a well-known Italian restaurant. As the restaurant was located in a particularly busy business district, the traffic around the area was quite bad, let alone trying to find a parking space. As he patiently waited in line at the underground parking lot, moving forward at the pace of snails, he finally spotted a parking space. Moving forward towards the space, he was stopped by a sports car reversing very fast towards him.
He watched on as the white Porsche 911 slowly turned towards the space, reversing back, driving forwards, reversing, forwards… The car continued to repeat this maneuver several times, but was still unable to park in the space. After sometime, the cars behind He Gu began to grow impatient, loudly and angrily pumping their horns.
He Gu glanced at his watch, and realized it was getting close to the meeting time with Gu Qingpei. Turning off his engine, he got out of his car and walked towards the Porsche 911, then knocked on the driver’s seat window.
The window slowly rolled down, revealing a young and handsome face. Both pairs of eyes widened in shock.
Beijing was such a big city. What a coincidence it was to meet here.
Zhuang Jieyu was still left in a daze, staring dumbfoundedly at He Gu.
“Get out,” said He Gu coldly.
“Get out. There’s a whole line of cars waiting.”
Zhuang Jieyu gritted his teeth, glared at He Gu, then reluctantly got out of his car.
He Gu got in and closed the door. With one move forward and a quick reverse, the car swiftly backed into the space in one smooth maneuver.
Getting out of the sports car, He Gu didn’t even spare a glance at the dumbfounded young actor. Minding his own business, he drove off in a hurry.
After finally parking his car, He Gu walked quickly towards the restaurant. As he got to the elevator doors, he saw Zhuang Jieyu leaning against a pillar, as if waiting for him.
He Gu couldn’t help looking Zhuang Jieyu up and down. On this cold winter day, he was wearing just a baseball cap, sunglasses, jacket and jeans, appearing as young and delicate as a budding sprout.
Song Juhan was right. Zhuang Jieyu did look a lot like Feng Zheng when he was nineteen. It wasn’t his looks exactly, or his build, but rather the same youthful temperament.
Zhuang Jieyu saw him, and said in a reluctant manner, “Thanks for just now.”
“You’re welcome.” He Gu pressed the button for the elevator, and stood aside to wait.
Zhuang Jieyu came over, and walked around He Gu twice, tsked, and said, “How are you and Han-ge even together? You two are simply too different.”
He Gu ignored him.
Zhuang Jieyu wasn’t embarrassed about He Gu’s dismissal, and instead continued, “Hey, what are you here for? Dinner?”
“Me too. Let’s have dinner together.”
“I have plans with a friend.”
“I don’t mind.”
“I mind.” The elevator doors opened, and He Gu strode in quickly.
Zhuang Jieyu was left dumbfounded, before swearing under his breath and walking into the elevator. “Do you have to be so direct? Do you even know how many people want to have a meal with me but don’t even have a chance?”
He Gu looked straight at the elevator door, once again ignoring him.
“How can you be so rude!” Zhuang Jieyu stomped his foot in frustration.
The elevator doors opened with a ding, and He Gu rushed out with giant strides, trying to generate as much distance as he could from this strange person.
“You’re acting like no one ever eats with you… Wait, are you having dinner here?” Zhuang Jieyu pointed at the restaurant in front of him.
He Gu let out a sigh. “I’m here for business today. Can you stop following me now.”
“Who the fuck is following you?” Zhuang Jieyu looked like he was about to explode from frustration. “Laozi has dinner plans with a friend here!”
“Oh, my mistake.” Without waiting for a response, He Gu turned and walked into the restaurant.
He sat down at a table and waited for Gu Qingpei to arrive. Looking around, he noticed Zhuang Jieyu and his friend were sitting at a table not too far away. He didn’t know what Zhuang Jieyu had said to his friend, but the two simultaneously turned their heads and looked in his direction. Although He Gu felt a little uncomfortable inside, there was nothing he could do about it.
Not long after, Gu Qingpei arrived, and started apologizing the moment he sat down. “It really is getting harder and harder to find a parking space around here.”
“Yes, especially on the weekends,” said He Gu as he smiled. “How is Chief Gu finding his new company?”
Gu Qingpei sighed. “Don’t even mention it. It’s a complete mess. A bit challenging, but nothing I can’t handle.”
“It suits you though. With all that excessive energy, Nanchuang really wasn’t the place for you to show your true abilities.”
“Haha, I think so too.”
The two continued to chat amicably as they ate. Suddenly, Gu Qingpei looked around and asked, “He Gu, did you notice that the people at that table have been watching us?”
He Gu aimed a warning glare at Zhuang Jieyu, then turned back around and said, “Maybe they think Chief Gu looks handsome.”
“I’ll take that as a yes then.” Gu Qingpei chuckled, and raised his hand to gesture at the nearby waiter. “Send a bottle of wine to that table over there.”
He Gu nearly choked.
Gu Qingpei smiled. “That boy with the black hair is totally my type. What do you think, will they come over?”
He Gu lightly coughed twice before saying, “He will.”
“I think so too.” Gu Qingpei revealed a smile full of confidence.
“I think he’s an actor,” said He Gu.
“Really? I don’t exactly pay attention to those things, but no wonder he looks so cute.”
“En. He’s not too famous, so not a lot of people know him yet.”
The waiter sent the wine over. Although Zhuang Jieyu was taken aback at first, he immediately recovered himself and gave Gu Qingpei a mischievous but cute smile.
Very soon, the two came over with Zhuang Jieyu wearing a casual smile. “Thank you, Ge.”
“You’re welcome. Come join us.”
“Sure.” Zhuang Jieyu glanced provokingly at He Gu. But the latter pretended not to know him, instead lightly nodded his head in acknowledgement.
The two confidently sat down without reservation. Just like Zhuang Jieyu, his friend also looked very young, with an equally youthful baby face and a head of maroon dyed hair. Both men looked very charming and cute, and with a sweet mouth to match, easily striking up a conversation with Gu Qingpei. He Gu sat quietly at the side, like an unused prop.
He Gu didn’t feel awkward at all. Without paying much attention to the conversation, he simply smiled and nodded absentmindedly yet politely when necessary. Meanwhile, He Gu focused on observing how Gu Qingpei chatted up and flirted with other men. It wasn’t that he was trying to learn anything, he was just curious. Curious as to what a real charming gay looked like.
After observing for a while, He Gu realized there wasn’t much to see. With Gu Qingpei’s conditions, he didn’t really need to deliberately do much to attract other men.
Gu Qingpei noticed He Gu was being left out, and hurriedly steered the conversation to include him again. Not long after, the group had already exchanged their WeChat details.
After exchanging contacts, Zhuang Jieyu glanced at He Gu sitting next to him, a hint of mischief flashed before his eyes as he asked, “He Gu-ge, what do you do for a living?”
“Engineer,” said He Gu unenthusiastically.
“Oh, no wonder you seem so earnest and calm.” Zhuang Jieyu gave He Gu a once-over, before turning to his friend and said in a low and secretive voice. “Hey, that’s the self-restraint faculty, right?”
Gu Qingpei couldn’t help himself and broke into a fit of laughter, his shoulders trembling from the force of it.
He Gu felt a little embarrassed. “I don’t understand the things you young people say.”
“Then allow me to explain, the self-restraint faculty is…”
“You guys chat. I need to use the restroom,” said He Gu as he sprang up from his seat.
Gu Qingpei smiled, then said, “Stop teasing He Gu.”
“Then I’ll tease you instead, ge.”
Once He Gu entered the restroom, he took out his phone and started reading the news for a while. After waiting for a suitable amount of time, and deciding that it would be considered rude if he stayed any longer, he reluctantly walked back to his seat. Unexpectedly, Zhuang Jieyu and his friend had already left.
He Gu finally let out a sigh of relief.
Gu Qingpei smiled apologetically. “If I had known you would be so uncomfortable, I wouldn’t have let them come over.”
“It’s fine. We’re just having dinner.”
“I actually just wanted to introduce you to a few more friends.”
“Thank you, Chief Gu.” He Gu knew Gu Qingpei only meant well. But even if he wanted to meet more people, it wouldn’t be someone as childish and immature as Zhuang Jieyu.
As the two started chatting about work again, He Gu felt more at ease. Although the meal had an unexpected yet brief disturbance, in the end, it was still very enjoyable.
After all these years, it was refreshing to find another person he could call a friend and whom he could chat with openly. He Gu began to feel a sense of happiness growing from the bottom of his heart.
It wasn’t that He Gu didn’t feel lonely sometimes, he was simply more tolerant of the emotion.