Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The county was a small place. It was just a dot on the map and it was impossible to avoid anyone completely. Hence, even if two people did not have much to do with each other at work, they would still be somehow connected in their personal lives.
Du Hang was great at making connections with others. He was indeed well known in the county town. Li Du got him to help investigate the relationship between the county government and Soft Company. Less than two days after his actions in the secretary’s house, Du Hang rang him up.
“Hey, Brother Li, not sure what had happened, but the county chief and the management of Soft Company fell out. The housekeeping responsibilities of the leader’s compound were moved to another cleaning company. Their contract with Soft Company has been terminated.”
With that, Li Du could tell what had happened. It seemed like his plan had worked well. Mr. Secretary must have been angry about his losses and had probably vented his anger on Lu Hai Tao.
Of course, those who knew about the incident regarded it as Lu Hai Tao’s fault. It didn’t matter that they realized the windows were open became the springs were no longer working well. Neither did it matter that they learned the tap in the living room was left flowing because the aerator was damaged.
Lu Hai Tao regarded himself as the personal lifestyle assistant of the county magistrate. Hence, he had to complete those menial daily tasks well. He had to plan for the worst and fix whatever needed to be fixed or replaced in the house.
When the time was right, Li Du got Sophie to dial the county committee’s hotline. Then, he got her to complain, in English, about whatever Lu Hai Tao did. She also mentioned that they would sue him.
At that point, the secretary was still beyond mad with Lu Hai Tao. His fish had been his blood and soul. The broken porcelain had been the result of years of collection. They were all destroyed. Hence, he was furious with Lu Hai Tao.
Sophie’s call added fuel to the fire. After hearing her, Secretary Cui cursed and then requested for the bureau to carry out an investigation of their case.
Li Hai Tao and his Soft Company were considered to have gone against the law in their conflict with Li Du. When it came to issues concerning infringement on private property and commercial contracts violation, the Public Security Bureau was authorized to intervene.
Lu Hai Tao and his employees stopped ignoring Li Du and kept trying to reach out to him by calling. They were very persistent.
However, Li Du rejected every call from them. Do they only want to resolve the problem now? It’s too late! Initially, all they needed to do was apologize to us. However, since matters have reached their current state, it was all Soft Company’s own doing!
That was not all. Lu Hai Tao and Soft Company not only offended Li Du, but have also angered others who had tolerated their misbehavior until that point. In the past, those people did not have the opportunity to strike back. Finally, now they had a chance to. As the saying went, there’s nothing that cannot be accomplished by consolidated effort. There was no shortage of complaints and report calls received by the court, public bureau, and the secretary.
In a short span of time, the entire county became hot on Lu Hai Tao’s heels. Someone even gave the entire saga a name, ‘Squashing a Soft Persimmon Movement’.
As the mastermind behind everything, Li Du was strangely calm and silent. Since Lu Hai Tao was now preoccupied in dealing with the scandal that broke out, he did not look Li Du up nor gave him a call.
As the year was closing, they had many things to prepare for their house. Hence, Li Du took Sophie and the Martins to shop at the end-of-year sales. They bought many things for the house.
This time of the year was the peak of China’s shopping sprees. There were many people in the markets of the town and all sorts of items were being peddled.
People were selling traditional snacks, showing off street performances and art. The Martins were filled with interest at everything they saw. It seemed as though they spent every afternoon exploring the market in town.
On the 28th of the twelfth lunar month, it was just before the new year. Those of Li Du’s classmates who were working out of town had started their holidays and someone organized a class gathering.
Because Li Du had previously helped Yao Hai Bo to make a large sum of money by identifying the copper coins, and also because he had allowed Du Hang to earn a commission when he bought his house, this year’s high school class reunion was more lively than the last time.
Previously, there had been a total of twenty people who were willing to attend the class gathering. This time around, there were more people who joined, a total of forty out of less than fifty.
The venue chosen was the same as previously – Four Seasons Spring Garden. However, the gathering was no longer held in a common room, but a private unit that could accommodate more than fifty people.
Li Du had arrived half an hour early. That was because he knew that in the eyes of some of his ex-classmates, his status stood out. To avoid giving people the chance to gossip about him, Li Du did not want to arrive too late.
While he was on his way, he received a call from a classmate who lived in the same town, Geng Chang Sheng. Hence, Li Du had picked him up along the way.
When he arrived, Li Du pushed open the door and was greeted with a wave of murmuring.
More than half the people had already arrived. The atmosphere was bustling and energetic. Once they saw Li Du, the murmuring increased and got even louder.
“Oh, Du Zi, you’re here? Haha, hurry, hurry, sit down here.”
“Du Zi? You’ve gotta call him Boss Li! Boss Li has made a name of himself in America. I heard the news. He bought a villa and suddenly decided against staying there.”
“That’s right. Boss Li is here, so today’s key figure has arrived, right?”
“The lead actor is here, but the main actress isn’t. Miss Hua Ning Yao from our class will be joining us too.”
The house was filled with smiling faces, but Li Du felt like they were all strangers now.
It has been eight or nine years since they graduated from high school. Most of the people there had undergone huge changes, and Li Du could hardly recall them now.
Li Du said hello to most of the people and then settled down beside Du Hang and Du Zheng Nan. They had sat together at the reunion the year before and had a closer relationship.
The gathering was about to start officially when two other people joined. Those were Yao Jian Bo and a tall, slim beautiful lady.
The lady was clad in a loose white coat and wore her wine-red hair in a high bun. She had a sharp chin and was wearing light makeup. Once she entered the room, the murmuring started again.
“Wow, the goddess is here.”
“Xiao Man Yao, come sit with big brother. It’s been so long since we last met.”
“Hey, why are you two together? Are there lingering feelings between you guys?”
That lady was the beauty of their class back then. Her name was Ning Yao and because she had a tiny waist and a fiery temper, she was nicknamed Xiao Man Yao.
Ning Yao smiled and reached her hand out. She said, “Don’t spout nonsense. I just happened to bump into Boss Yao. You guys please don’t hurt my reputation. I’m still looking for a husband.”
“Xiao Man Yao, do you have a partner? If you don’t, how about we pair up with each other?” Du Hang laughed.
Ning Yao replied, “Sure, I’m preparing to head to America. If you are willing to go with me, then let’s be together.”
Hearing that, everyone turned to look at Li Du. Du Hang laughed heartily and said, “Hey, Xiao Man Yao, you’re not saying that to me, right? You’re saying that for our Boss Li to hear, right? Boss Li, go for it fast!”
Li Du smiled, “Go do what? I have no idea what you mean. Come, now that everyone’s here, let’s raise our glasses. Let’s toast to all our old classmates!”
He was never interested in discussing matters of the heart. Hence, he started to rile everyone up to drink.
Just like that, they were distracted from that topic. It was still a happy occasion to meet with his old classmates. It was especially so that time around because he managed to meet many of them. For a moment, all of them felt like they had returned to their youthful high school period.
Pocket radios, MP3s, Nokia, Motorola, fantasy novels, grilled sausages and fried chicken, basketball, soccer – those were the things that defined their youth and were brought up in their conversation as they reminisced.