He Gu was a little agitated. After working for a while, he was distracted, always thinking of how Song Juhan just up and left and probably wouldn’t talk to him for a long time. But he was someone who didn’t know how to defuse a conflict. It wasn’t that he was ashamed, he just really didn’t know what to do. He once tried to make up with Song Juhan when he got angry, but it only made him angrier.
After thinking about it, he decided to go to work. He had planned to give himself a day off because he was so tired yesterday, but now he needed to work to distract his attention.
Before going out, he suddenly found a phone on the sofa. He walked over and looked at it. Sure enough, it was Song Juhan’s. Song Juhan was a person who didn’t care much about most things and was often forgetful.
He Gu sent a message to Xiao Song:
Xiao Song, Juhan’s phone is at my place.
After that, he put the phone in his pocket and went out.
When he arrived at the company, his assistant Chen Shan was quite surprised to see him. “Chief He, aren’t you feeling unwell today?”
“There’s something I was worried about.”
“Chief He, you’re dressed so handsomely today.” Chen Shan eyed him from head to toe and complimented, “I think your taste is getting better and better.”
He Gu took a look at his clothes. When a sponsor sent some clothes, Song Juhan had given them to him in passing. The pants were too long for him to wear, but the shirt fit well. Such quality clothes were something that could only be obtained with a heap of money.
“Our Chief He is handsome and has a nice figure. What doesn’t look good on him? His standards are just too high. My niece is an Oxford graduate, but he wouldn’t even look at her.” The Executive Director was a straightforward, middle-aged dajie1大姐 – It literally means “big sister,” but it’s also a polite term for an older woman.. Few people in the company dared to joke with He Gu, and she was one of them.
He Gu pretended not to have heard her. “Go back to work.” After saying that, he went to communicate with his subordinates about the progress of the project.
As soon as he graduated, he entered this well-known, large state-owned enterprise. After six years of hard work, he became a middle-level leader. He knew that his career pretty much stopped here. He wasn’t good at socializing and expressing himself, and he also couldn’t do management. He only knew how to do his major. Except for the heavy workload, he was satisfied with his current position and income.
After looking over his subordinate’s project report, he nitpicked out a bunch of mistakes. Probably because of his bad mood, his tone was particularly harsh.
Just then, Chen Shan came in. “Chief He, Chief Gu is looking for you.”
“En, he’s in the office. You can come over when you have time.”
The subordinate let out a sigh of relief.
“I see,” He Gu explained a few more things, then left the office.
The “Chief Gu” Chen Shan was referring to was Gu Qingpei2To those who don’t get it, Gu Qingpei is actually the main character of Zhen Feng Duijue (listed as Beloved Enemy on NU. That title is a big mistranslation, so I don’t wanna use it haha), a novel by Shui Qian Cheng, the same author of this novel.
Shui Qian Cheng likes having her characters make cameos in her other works. However, although Gu Qingpei is mentioned here, none of the characters of Years of Intoxication are mentioned in Zhen Feng Duijue., a senior executive of their company. He started out in production, then later took charge in personnel. Now, he was in charge of bidding and procurement. Gu Qingpei was only three or four years older than He Gu, but his abilities were the best, and his career developed so fast that others could only be left behind. He was a top figure in their company, but his abilities, knowledge, and eloquence were only one factor to it; it was mainly because he was too handsome.
He Gu and Gu Qingpei often dealt with a lot of business together. Chief Gu also looked after him quite well, and their relationship was quite good.
After taking an elevator to the upper floor, He Gu then passed through a long hallway and knocked on the solid and imposing wooden door before him.
The offices above the ninth floor were all the offices of executives. They were renovated just a year ago, and it cost more than two million yuan. Saying that he was not all envious would be too hypocritical, but He Gu also knew that he could never move into such an office.
“Come in.” A steady, magnetic voice came from inside.
He Gu pushed the door in.
In the spacious and luxurious director’s office, a tall man in a white dress shirt stood before an executive table. His left hand was behind him, while the right one was holding a pen against a milky white rice paper3宣纸 – aka Xuan paper, a kind of paper originating in ancient China used for writing and painting. Xuan paper is renowned for being soft and fine textured, suitable for conveying the artistic expression of both Chinese calligraphy and painting. (Wikipedia) atop the desk. He was doing calligraphy.
“Mr. He4Gu Qingpei actually addresses He Gu with 工 (gōng), which means “worker” or “employee.” However, I decided to use “Mr.” instead because the former two don’t sound natural terms of address in English., you’re here.” Gu Qingpei lifted his head and smiled at He Gu. He was in his early thirties, and he had an impeccably handsome face with narrow cheeks and a pointed chin. He had two thick eyebrows that were tilted up a bit, and his two long and narrow eyes had a depth one couldn’t fathom. He wore a pair of gold-rimmed glasses, and his hair was meticulously gathered to the back of his head. The collar of his white shirt was as sharp as a knife cut, and there was an air of polished elitism all over his body. He raised his chin and said, “Sit.”
He Gu sat on the sofa.
Gu Qingpei dabbed his brush on the ink and continued to write something on the rice paper as he said, “I’ve been practicing calligraphy recently, and when I write, my mind is especially calm. It helps me think and decompress. You can try it sometime.”
Gu Qingpei put down the brush, gently put aside the red sandalwood paperweight, then held the paper up, showing it to He Gu. He said with a smile, “How is it?”
Two lines were written on the paper: Ride the long wind to break the ten thousand miles of waves. Overtake the blue clouds and sing the song of the nine heavens.
The words were written with forceful and free strokes, like dragons sweeping over water.
He Gu then understood. Looked like the rumors of Gu Qingpei changing jobs were true. He could more or less guess Gu Qingpei’s purpose in calling him here. He nodded. “Chief Gu, your handwriting is very good.”
Gu Qingpei chuckled. “If others praised me like that, it would sound like flattery. How come it sounds sincere coming from you.”
He Gu said, “It really is very good.”
Gu Qingpei rolled up the paper and put it inside a silk canister. Then he came over, his tailored suit accentuating his tall and straight figure just right.
He Gu stood up.
“Sit, sit,” said Gu Qingpei as he sat next to him. He handed the calligraphy canister to him. “It’s for you.”
“Thank you, Chief Gu.” He Gu politely accepted.
Gu Qingpei looked at He Gu. “Have you been sleeping badly lately? You look quite exhausted.”
“Well, there are some pressing projects.”
“Money belongs to the company, while your health belongs to you. You should find a balance between them. People have limited energy. Don’t push yourself too hard.”
Gu Qingpei picked up the purple clay teapot and poured tea for He Gu.
He Gu quickly said, “Chief Gu, let me do it.”
Gu Qingpei smiled and said, “Don’t be polite.” He poured two cups of tea. “Try it.”
He Gu took a sip but couldn’t taste anything. He could only say, “It’s good tea.”
Gu Qingpei laughed. “He Gu, you’re really interesting.”
He Gu didn’t know what Gu Qingpei meant by “interesting,” but he knew that it was wrong to let a superior pour tea. After all these years, he still often exposed a lot of shortcomings in the particulars of getting by in society.
“Don’t be nervous. Let’s have a chat.”
“Mr. He, how many years have you been in the company?”
“A veteran. I remember when I was in charge of personnel two years ago, I gave you an evaluation every year. How about I give you another evaluation today? Let’s talk about how you feel about the status quo, the position, the intensity of the work, the pay, the environment, whatever.”
He Gu nodded hesitantly.
Gu Qingpei asked him about his recent project. His words were all trying to find out whether he was satisfied with his position, workload and salary. He Gu was only unsociable; he wasn’t stupid. He could only answer his questions evasively.
After chatting for about ten minutes, Gu Qingpei got to the point: “As you’ve also probably heard, I’ll be leaving next month, so I’m handing my work over.”
He Gu nodded. “I’ve heard of it. Where is Chief Gu transferring to?”
“A friend’s company, mainly engaged in real estate.” Gu Qingpei leaned on the sofa and looked around. “I’ve only used this new office for half a year, and I’m really a bit reluctant to leave it behind.”
“You’ve5He Gu uses the polite form of “you” (您) when talking to Gu Qingpei been working here for ten years. It must have taken a lot of determination to make such a big change.”
“Yeah, that friend of mine was digging me up two years ago, and I’ve been evaluating his company for a full two years. I actually don’t have any dissatisfaction with our unit. The leaders are respected, and the subordinates are competent. It’s easy to enjoy the shade when you have a tree to lean back on; I don’t have to take on too much responsibility. And after sitting in my position, the work has become quite leisurely. Most of the time is now spent bragging and drinking. It’s just that…” Gu Qingpei smiled. “It’s because of this that I feel like my days are a little less exciting. I’m still young, and I still want to have some challenges in my life. Me staying here and joining the board of directors is the end of it, but I think I’m far more than that.”
He Gu had always admired Gu Qingpei. Gu Qingpei didn’t merely have a nice appearance and an eloquent tongue. He also had a swift and decisive leadership style, as well as being amiable and refined. Moreover, he had a rigorous, professional and impeccable academic background. Like him, Gu Qingpei was also an engineer, but their developments were as different as black and white.
When He Gu was a few years younger, he had also thought about moving up the ladder. He had also wanted to try socializing and pulling connections. After leaving the campus and stepping into society, he realized that the gap between him and Song Juhan was a chasm. He had naively thought he could shorten the distance through his efforts, but everytime he started, he felt tired and afraid. Gu Qingpei was like a mirror. So long as he was reflected by it, he’d dispel those tiresome thoughts and work on a project with ease. As he got older, he became more aware of what he could and couldn’t do. That chasm, for example, was something he’d never been able to fill in his entire life even if he didn’t stop to rest.
He Gu suddenly realized that he’d been in a daze, and he immediately came back to his senses, just in time to meet Gu Qingpei’s smiling eyes. He nodded awkwardly. “There is indeed more room for Chief Gu to exercise his abilities.”
Gu Qingpei laughed. “He Gu, I didn’t say these words to anyone else in the company. I’ve always been a good judge of character. We’ve had similar experiences, and every time I see you, I feel like I’m seeing my old self. We just have different personalities. You are more steady.”
“Thank you, Chief Gu.” He Gu thought to himself, What a good conversationalist, calling the lack of ambition as “steady.” Each time he spoke with Gu Qingpei, he’d learn a new thing or two.
Gu Qingpei smiled, “Alright, I know you’re busy with work, so I won’t beat around the bush. You’ve always been smart; you should be able to guess what I want to say. So how about it, are you willing to come with me?”
He Gu had indeed already guessed. He originally wanted to decline, but his head happened to be aching, letting him recall the exhaustion of these days, the long hours of late nights and overtime, so he suddenly changed his mind. Might as well listen to what Gu Qing Pei had to say and give himself one more choice. And so he carefully asked about it.
Gu Qingpei gave a brief account of the company he was about to jump into, giving He Gu a good idea of what it was like. However, after listening, He Gu found that it didn’t meet his expectations. Although the annual salary was much higher, independently leading projects would only be more tiring and stressful than now. What’s more, private enterprises weren’t like state-owned enterprises. If there were any problems, he’d have to bear a lot of responsibility. Of course, it wasn’t good for him to refuse directly, so he said instead that he needed more time to think about it.
Gu Qingpei naturally understood that he had many concerns, so he then proceeded to chat about other things and told He Gu that he’d invite him to a meal sometime.
When He Gu went out of Gu Qingpei’s office and took the elevator to a lower floor, a cell phone suddenly rang. Because the ringtone was unfamiliar, he didn’t react at first. But he was the only one in the elevator, so soon after, he realized that it was Song Juhan’s phone.
He quickly answered the phone. “Hey, Xiao Song.”
“He Gu, send my phone over,” Song Juhan’s lazy voice sounded through the phone.
“Okay, what’s the address?”
Song Juhan didn’t speak. He Gu said “hello” twice, only to find that the signal in the elevator was so poor that the line got disconnected. He got out of the elevator and called Song Juhan back.
As soon as the call came through, Song Juhan said angrily, “You fucking dare hung up on me!”
He Gu said weakly, “I was in the elevator just now, and the signal was bad.”
Song Juhan breathed heavily. After some noise, the voice changed to Xiao Song’s. “He Gu-ge6哥 – literally “elder brother,” but can also be a polite way to refer to a man older than you., we’re at the Dasheng Film City. I’m so sorry, but I really can’t get away today. When can you send it over?”
“It’s fine, I’ll have my assistant send it over now.”
“Okay. When your assistant arrives, call me first. I’ll give her a work ID…”
“Let him come himself! Giving my phone to some random assistant, are you kidding me!” Song Juhan’s angry voice came from far away on the other end of the phone.
Xiao Song said with a bitter smile, “He Gu-ge…”
“Well, I’ll go then.” Hanging up the phone, He Gu shook his head helplessly. Dasheng Film City was in the Sixth Ring. Rushing there is like crossing through the entire capital. He could only hope that there was no traffic jam at this hour.
After explaining a bit to his subordinate, He Gu brought the phone and left. Thinking of Song Juhan baring fangs and brandishing claws, he couldn’t help but want to laugh a little. In front of the media, Song Juhan was so elegant and dashing. In private, he was brash and irritable. He had known Song Juhan for many years. His assistant had changed four times, and the clever and good-tempered Xiao Song was the one who had persisted the longest.
Of course, nobody had persisted as long as he did. In every sense of the word, he was even more tolerant than Song Juhan’s parents.
Actually, it wasn’t that hard to get along with Song Juhan. After all, Song Juhan didn’t eat people. One just had to do what he wanted as much as possible.
But others couldn’t do it, for they weren’t afraid of losing him.