Several days ago, some people from his high school group had contacted everyone for a gathering just before the new year.
The contacts were their former class monitor as well as academic representative, namely Jiang Kai and Du Xin Lan. Li Du had been especially active in high school, and had taken on the role of a labor representative.
On the 28th day of the twelfth lunar month, they met up at noon in a restaurant in the county town.
In the morning, after Li Du had finished his video call with Sophie, he gave Ah Ow and Crispy Noodles a kiss each and then dashed off to ready himself to head out for the gathering at the restaurant.
Godzilla also got changed and ready to go. Li Du waved his hand and said, "What're you going there for? Just stay at home. The public security in the county is very good."
"Let me go," said the Mexican, who was sulking.
"What's the matter?" Li Du wondered. "You've been here for some time and still have no confidence in the law and order of my hometown?"
Godzilla sighed, "Oh, it's too boring. I want to go out."
Big Quinn added hurriedly, "Boss, I wanna go too. It's really boring."
After hearing that, Li Du burst out laughing and said, "Alright, let's go out together, but I can't take you to the gathering. You can drive around in the car."
Godzilla nodded. "Okay."
His home was not far from the restaurant, known as "Four Seasons Spring Garden." It was one of the five poshest restaurants in their county. It had four levels: the first was the hall, the second offered a buffet, while the three and four levels housed private rooms.
When Li Du arrived, he mentioned the room number and a smiling waiter took him up to the fourth level.
As he opened the door, he saw two people sitting together while fiddling with their mobile phones. Their eyes met and Li Du laughed, "Nan Ge, Du Hang, long time no see."
Both of them were his high school classmates. Nan Ge's full name was Du Zheng Nanhe was their monitor. Both of them lived in the city village, and like Li Du's home, the village had been merged with the city in the recent years.
Du Zheng Nan, who had a tall build and wore glasses, had an intellectual look about him.
He was the best performing student in the class, and had done well for the college entrance examination. He had taken "Project 985" at one of the key universities.
Du Hang, who was shorter and dark-skinned, had a stout physique. Li Du had not kept in touch with him after graduating from high school and was not aware of his latest happenings.
Friendships made during school days were very pure, even if there was conflicting interest or collusion between them. Hence, even though they hadn't seen each other for a long time, they still felt the same closeness to each other as before.
Du Hang took out three bottles of beer from a corner of the room and said, "Come on, Du Zi, we haven't seen you for such a long time. Let's have a drink first."
Li Du waved him off with a smile and said, "No, no, no. Let's wait for the rest."
They were in a large room, as about 24 people were expected to turn up. Not long after Li Du had arrived, ten more people enteredthe room was filled with chatter in no time.
They chatted briefly. Du Zheng Nan had stayed on in school as a graduate student, and might also continue on to teach. Du Nang was a businessman engaged in real estate sales.
The number of people increased. A former classmate, Ning Bai Chuan, asked Li Du, "Du Zi, what are you doing now? I heard people mention that you've gone abroad?"
Li Du smiled. "Well, I've been in the United States as a graduate student on my own expense, trying to get me a gold-plating. As you all know, I'm just a piece of rusty metal and would be worthless without the gold-plating."
A few of the girls laughed. One of the girls asked, "Going abroad on your own expense would cost a lot. How do you deal with that?"
Li Du said, "I work in the United States. It's not that difficult to make a living over there, so I make enough for my tuition and living expenses."
"You're being modest. I heard from my mother that you have been making your fortune while schooling in the United States," said Geng Chang Sheng, who was from the same town and knew his parents.
As Li Du waved his hand to protest, Du Hang caught his wrist. "Whoa, is this thing real?"
Geng Chang Sheng asked, "What's real?"
Du Hang glared at him and said, "What are your eyes for? Look at this watch on his wristPatek Philippe!"
Several of his female ex-classmates exclaimed in surprise. They had already entered the workforce and mostly worked in big citiesthey knew what the ownership of a Patek Philippe watch represented.
Li Du withdrew his hand and said, "Oh, this is an old watch, a second-hand one. Ha, ha . . . it's not worth much."
Du Hang said, "I'll give you 5,000 yuan. How about selling me this not-so-valuable second-hand item?"
Li Du was speechless.
Du Hang added, "You don't have to be modest, old pal. I may not know the exact value of your watch, but to me, it's without a doubt the famous Patek Philippe watch!"
"The Patek Philippe is indeed a famous watch." The door opened and an exquisitely made-up girl entered.
Someone cried out in an exaggerated manner, "Oh, representative, are you working on the streets? Why are you dressed up this way? So seductive-looking."
The girl was an academic representative, named Zhang Xue Ning, who had taken the college entrance examination again the next year after high school. She had excelled in the later examination and had enrolled in the prestigious University of Jin Jing in their province.
Zhang Xue Ning went forward to pretend to smack the girl who had teased her. A young man had followed her into the room, and after hearing the teasing, he made a face at Zhang Xue Ning.
Li Du hadn't seen this young man before. Someone knew him and said, "Representative, is this your boyfriend?"
Zhang Xue Ning nodded graciously. "Yes, he's considered one of our schoolmates. I was in year 4 and was in his class. Hope all of you don't mind that I brought him along."
"Schoolmate? One year younger than us and I've got no impression?" Du Hang was puzzled. "Usually, for such a good-looking and smart guy, Iwho knows everything and everyonewould not have missed out on making his acquaintance."
The young man smiled. "Oh, I was newly transferred at the time, so although we were at the same school, we have indeed not met."
His name was Zhou Ji, and he had an artistic air about him. Now he was back at his alma mater as a music teacher.
Zhang Xue Ning introduced him briefly, then asked, "Who bought a Patek Philippe? Zhou Ji's family is in the watch business."
"You are related to Mr. Zhou Jianguo?" Du Hang couldn't help asking after hearing Zhang Xuening's words.
Zhou Ji smiled and said, "That's my father. Do you know him? I'm not going to see my elders here I hope?"
A few people laughed, but not Du Hang. He stood up and shook hands warmly with him. "Turns out you are Master Zhou. I've heard your father's name, but hadn't the honor of meeting him."
As he spoke, he informed his classmates, "Mr. Zhou Jianguo is a famous businessman in our province, and 'Zhou's Watch' is their family's brand."
Many students were in awe. He was indeed worthy of the name of "master" title, being the second-generation of a rich family. "Zhou's Watch" was considered a huge taxpayer in their province.
Zhou Ji was someone who preferred a low profile. "Don't look at me like that. My father is a successful businessman, but it doesn't have anything to do with me. In the future, his business would also have nothing to do with me. I'm just a music teacher."
He hastily tried to change the topic, "Anyway, do you guys want to buy Patek Philippe? I know a little about this brand and can offer some help."