He Gu had to run to the construction site for several days to solve a load-bearing wall problem. During this period, he was caught in a difficult situation between the architect and the contractor that they almost got into a fight. He came home everyday feeling like his entire body had shed layers of skin from inside to outside. When the problem was finally settled for the time being, he could now relax a little for a few days.
When he was resting at home, he turned on his computer like usual, then searched for the latest news about Song Juhan, scrolling through Song Juhan’s Tieba1an online message board, Weibo, and forum. He Gu had no hobbies. At most, he’d read books and work out. In general, he was quite a dull person. The only relatable activity he did, which everyone could understand, was probably star-chasing. Of course, using “star-chasing” to describe him being Song Juhan’s long-time bed partner was inappropriate, but he felt that their relationship wasn’t too far off. He silently paid attention to Song Juhan’s every move in various ways and through various channels. Meanwhile, Song Juhan didn’t know and didn’t care. The biggest difference between He Gu and an ordinary star-chaser was nothing more than the fact that he’d already slept with the star.
He’d blend into many places on the internet where Song Juhan’s fans were dense, but he seldom spoke and never broke any news. He just liked watching. He liked watching those clips, photos, and interviews of Song Juhan that the fans had collected as if they were some treasure. He also liked those little fanmade videos, fanart, fanfics, and many more, for these were things he usually didn’t see. What the fans created was a very good and very perfect Song Juhan. This was not at all the same as the Song Juhan he knew, but he wasn’t going to tear it down. This perfect Song Juhan was really too charming and had all kinds of good things. Why would he destroy such a good thing?
He Gu had downloaded hundreds of gigabytes of materials about Song Juhan into his computer: pictures, movies, music videos, commercials, interviews, and so on. So long as it was about Song Juhan, he would save it by habit. He thought that, in this way, he could preserve the bits and pieces of Song Juhan that he couldn’t see. He’d even secretly record Song Juhan while he was sleeping next to him, but he’d never tell anyone.
While watching one of Song Juhan’s recent interviews, his phone suddenly rang. He picked it up and saw an unfamiliar number.
“… He Gu?” The voice on the other end of the phone was a little hesitant. It was a steady and pleasant young man’s voice.
He Gu’s heart tightened. This voice… Although he hadn’t heard it for many years, he knew at once who the person on the other end was. He took a deep breath, leaned back in his chair, and said as calmly as possible, “It’s me.”
“I’m Feng Zheng.”
“En, I can hear it.”
“You still remember my voice. That’s nice.”
“My memory has always been good.”
Feng Zheng laughed. “That too.”
He Gu felt a little uncomfortable. Although he already knew from Song Juhan that Feng Zheng had returned, he didn’t expect Feng Zheng to contact him again. After all, the two of them could be regarded to have parted on bad terms. But come to think of it, after all these years, they were no longer reckless students. Those things from the past should have also gone away with the wind. He said slowly, “You’re back in the country. I heard you’re doing venture capital?”
“Heard? Heard from Song Juhan?”
“En.” He Gu noticed the bit of oddness in Feng Zheng’s voice.
Feng Zheng said with a smile, “I didn’t expect you two to be together for so long. I underestimated you guys.”
He Gu didn’t want to continue this topic with Feng Zheng. “Congratulations. I thought you’d always stay in America.”
“Being on your own turf is better. I was bound to come back sooner or later.” Feng Zheng sighed. “Now is that time. How about you? What are you doing now?”
“I’ve been in Nanchuang ever since graduation, and I’m also doing my own major.”
“That really fits your personality,” said Feng Zheng. “I’m quite curious what you look like right now. We haven’t seen each other in… six, seven years, right?”
“Around that.” Without waiting for Feng Zheng to say it, He Gu took the initiative and said, “Let’s have a meal some time.”
He wasn’t good at dealing with others, but if he hesitated even a little on this, it would seem like he was unreasonable.
“Yeah, I also want to meet up with you. How about this Saturday night? I just came back, and I don’t know where it’s good to eat. You decide on the place.”
“You think about what you want to eat in the next few days, and I’ll take you there.”
“OK.”2This was written in English in the raws.
He Gu hung up, unable to keep pretending. He placed his phone on the table, feeling very tired. Actually, he didn’t want to see Feng Zheng at all. The problem wasn’t with him; He Gu just found it troublesome. He had a bit of social anxiety ever since he was a child. When he started work, he forced himself to change. But when it came to personal relationships, he still tried to keep it simple, avoiding getting involved with too many people. He would rather be at home alone, eating instant noodles, than go scrounge some food at a noisy banquet.
But he knew that he couldn’t hide from Feng Zheng.
Actually, in a way, Song Juhan and Feng Zheng were somewhat similar. Both were proud sons of heaven3天之骄子 – an especially privileged person, and both were eager to excel over others. If it weren’t for the competitive smell of gunpowder, then He Gu probably wouldn’t have aroused Song Juhan interest from the start.
How many years had it been since he and Feng Zheng last saw each other? He began to recall.
When he got to college, he was still in the same campus where his high school was. The high school department wasn’t close to them, but since there were only three canteens in the campus, he and Song Juhan would run into each other once or twice a month on average. Like those little girls at school, He Gu would deliberately go to the distant second canteen and eat there just to see Song Juhan a few more times.
While a freshman in college, he had encountered Song Juhan head-on many times, but Song Juhan didn’t remember him at all.
Later? Later, Song Juhan went abroad to study music without going through his senior year in high school. Even when He Gu had started his internship in college, he still didn’t see Song Juhan. He only knew all kinds of news about him through different entertainment reports, like how he was dating the daughter of some God of Pop, that he appeared as an honored guest in some world singing tour, that he wrote the music of an award-winning movie, that he became the spokesperson for a fashion brand in Greater China for a time, and how he and his mixed-race supermodel mother joined a vintage fashion show…
He Gu remembered reading those reports and truly realizing what it meant to be “worlds apart.” While he was still getting an 800 yuan pay from his internship, Song Juhan’s father had already given him an island as a coming-of-age gift.
However, at that time, he really only had a star-chasing mentality towards Song Juhan. Just because the two of them once had a solitary afternoon together, it made him have a deeper fondness for him. Song Juhan seemed so out of reach on screen and on paper though that He Gu once wondered if he had imagined that afternoon.
Then later, in his fourth year of college internship, Song Juhan returned to the country, and he happened to know a junior in their club—Feng Zheng. Since it was four months after He Gu graduated, then he hadn’t seen Feng Zheng in six and a half years.
But what’s the point in figuring this out? He Gu thought it was quite funny. He probably just wanted to prove that he indeed had a good memory.
A good memory was really both a blessing and a curse. If only he could choose what to remember, then he would choose to remember only the happy and useful memories, forgetting the sad and useless ones. But the memories Song Juhan gave him were a mix of happy and sad ones. Even if He Gu could really freely filter his memories, he would still choose to remember Song Juhan and his bits and pieces.
Soon, it was Saturday. He Gu made a booking at a roast duck restaurant with a long history, for Feng Zheng had said he wanted to eat authentic roast duck.
Few people knew about this roast duck restaurant. Because of its remote location, it was hard to find. The owners were an old married couple who didn’t have children. They can’t cook that many ducks in a day, but the taste was excellent, making people talk about it to their friends. There were only two private rooms in the restaurant, so He Gu called early and managed to get a booking.
He Gu parked the car, got out with the umbrella open, took the wine out from the trunk, then walked towards the intersection.
The weather in the capital at this time was really annoying. It was always drizzling. He Gu couldn’t remember the last time he saw the blue sky.
Standing at the intersection, he texted Feng Zheng, telling him that the place was hard to find, so he would wait for him at the crossroads.
A short while later, Feng Zheng replied with an “Okay.”
After waiting for nearly twenty minutes, a grey, continental car made a U-turn up ahead before slowly stopping in front of He Gu.
The car had only stopped for one second when the door at the back opened a second later. A tall man came out of the car without an umbrella.
Looking at Feng Zheng in the rain, He Gu was stunned.
It had been six years. Time went by so fast. They had all changed from innocent youngsters to suit-and-tie people of society. Something intangible lay between the two of them like a mist of rain, making people feel a little heavy.
Feng Zheng’s appearance hadn’t changed much. He was still quite good-looking. However, his temperament didn’t ease down a bit. With three parts arrogance, four parts childishness, and the remaining three parts of noble air, he looked all the more striking. He wore a well-ironed suit and a long trench coat, making his figure particularly tall and straight.
The door in the front opened, and the driver ran over with an umbrella, frantically holding it for Feng Zheng.
With eyes still fixed on He Gu, Feng Zheng took the umbrella and said to the driver, “You go find a place to eat.”
He Gu coughed lightly, then went over. Smiling, he stretched out his hand. “Feng Zheng, long time no see.”
Feng Zheng also smiled, and he shook his hand. “He Gu.”
He held He Gu’s hand for a moment, then with a bit of force, pulled him into his arms, hugging him gently.
He Gu was surprised, yet he still politely patted him on the back.
Feng Zheng released him and said, “Why wait at the intersection? It’s windy here.”
“The restaurant is hard to find, and it’s also hard to drive the car in. Now let’s go.” He Gu made a gesture of invitation.
Feng Zheng smiled, and they walked inside side by side.
“He Gu, you don’t look very good. Have you been tiring yourself out lately?”
“Engineers often work overtime. I’m used to it.”
“The body is the capital of revolution. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Didn’t you say it yourself that since you have no family, you don’t have to work too hard, and that you can just earn enough to spend.”
He Gu smiled. “The money is actually just enough to spend, but the work is really too much. Sometimes… Well, anyway, that’s just how it is when you’re working for others.”
As the two of them talked, they had already walked all the way to the roast duck restaurant. He Gu looked at the humble facade and politely said, “You said you didn’t want to eat at those famous stores, and asked me to take you to an authentic one. May dashaoye4大少爷 – an honorific for the eldest son of a large family/family with social status. They are usually highly educated, fashionable, stylish, and most of them study abroad. not scorn this small temple.”
Feng Zheng laughed. “Didn’t we often eat kebabs at the roadside back in college? If I really wanted to put on airs, then I wouldn’t be in front of you.”
He Gu smiled and said, “Come, this restaurant is really delicious.”
The two of them went into a private room and sat down. Aside from roast duck, there was nothing else in this store’s menu. What the boss wanted to serve was what they would eat. It was quite unruly.
He Gu had brought along a bottle of wine from 1999. He actually didn’t know anything about wines, but there were many wines at home which had been sent by Song Juhan’s assistant. He Gu randomly took a bottle, knowing that Feng Zheng would like it.
When Feng Zheng saw the wine, the corners of his mouth tugged up slightly. “This is Song Juhan’s, right?” His tone didn’t sound very good.
He Gu was a bit embarrassed. “En… Is it expensive?”
“It’s okay, but it’s not like you’d drink it.”
He Gu didn’t take to heart Feng Zheng’s mean remarks. He knew the two of them didn’t get along, yet he still invited trouble upon himself. “If you don’t like it…”
“It’s fine. Let’s drink,” Feng Zheng said nonchalantly.
He Gu opened the wine and poured two glasses.
They clinked their glasses together in a toast. Feng Zheng smiled and looked at He Gu. “To celebrate meeting again after a long time.”
“To meeting again after a long time.”
The food came in turn, and the two of them chatted as they ate.
“En, this roast duck is really delicious. I especially don’t like those fat ducks. Who knows how much hormones they’ve been fed with. They’re almost as big as geese,” Feng Zheng praised.
“The ducks in this restaurant are raised by the owner himself in his hometown. They’re all raised in the countryside, so they are more expensive than Quanjude5全聚德 – Quanjude is a Chinese restaurant known for its Peking roast duck and its longstanding culinary heritage since its establishment.. I also don’t like them too fat.”
“Do you remember that barbecue shop by the eastern gate of our school?” Feng Zheng wiped his hands and said with a smile, “I don’t know if it’s still there.”
“It’s been demolished, gone for a long time now. But malatang6麻辣烫 – hot spicy soup often sold as street food is still there. And the cart, it’s more flexible now. I saw it last time I drove by.”
“Sometimes I really want to go back and have a taste, but now…” Feng Zheng looked at the suit he was wearing and laughed at himself.
He Gu was also a bit rueful. “I also feel embarrassed to line up together with students.”
Feng Zheng propped up his chin and looked at him. “Time flies so fast, from then to now… By the way, Song Juhan told you that we met, right?”
He Gu paused. Feigning indifference, he said, “En, he told me.”
Feng Zheng narrowed his eyes. “Looks like you guys get along so well.”
“It’s not bad.” He Gu eluded Feng Zheng’s insinuation. He wasn’t willing to talk to anyone about what happened between him and Song Juhan, especially with Feng Zheng.
“But with all the s*x scandals about him, don’t you guys quarrel often?”
He Gu put down the chopsticks and said flatly, “All those scandals are fake.”
He wasn’t saying this to justify Song Juhan, for they really were fake. Those who truly had an affair with him would be concealed tightly. Those s*x scandals that broke out were merely involved with all sorts of schemes. How would He Gu know this? Because Song Juhan never bothered to lie to him.
Feng Zheng lost his voice and laughed. But then he stopped. He probably felt it was inappropriate, so he held back his laugh hard. Then he just looked at He Gu with a banter in his eyes. He obviously didn’t believe it.
He Gu sipped his wine and thought about it. His words really didn’t sound very credible. And it seemed like Feng Zheng wasn’t going to stop asking questions until he made things clear today.
He had long known that Feng Zheng and Song Juhan were similar people. They’d wrap their inner arrogance and tyranny with a coat of elegance and sophistication. The only difference was that Feng Zheng’s symptoms were much lighter than Song Juhan’s. At the least, his temper was better than Song Juhan’s.
Sure enough, Feng Zheng propped up his chin. Looking at He Gu with a smile and a sharp gaze, he said, “He Gu, why are you doing this?”