“If you want to pay me back, then you won’t have me as a friend anymore.”
Editor(s): Amalea, FistFullOfDollars, Juurensha
“I’ll go off first.” Cen Shan said to the other guy and lady, “I’m meeting a friend, bye.”
The other party wanted Cen Shan to stay. She said, “I’m really not free. I’m going now.” After she finished speaking, she didn’t even care about the other two before leaving just like that.
Zhou Sheng said, “You go and look for sis-in-law. I’ll take some more pictures.”
Yu Hao hurried downstairs. Cen Shan said, “I’m here, where are you looking?”
Yu Hao said, “Sis-in-law!”
Cen Shan went over to loop her arm around Yu Hao’s, then walked towards the second floor. She took off her little red cap and said, “This is too much of a coincidence. Let’s go, what do you want? Jie will buy clothes for you.”
Yu Hao was afraid of involving Cen Shan, “I don’t want to buy clothes…What’s your relationship with them?”
Cen Shan said, “Then let’s eat dessert bei. From the neighbouring class, not familiar. I hitched a ride on a friend’s private jet on my way back, and I got to know her on the plane. She insisted on getting me to accompany her out shopping on her birthday, yet a man I didn’t know popped up too from somewhere, and she didn’t even tell me in advance. Laoniang was in a bad mood in the first place, yet she still wanted to introduce me to her friend.”
Yu Hao thought, phew, but something’s not right?
“When did you come back? Yu Hao asked.
“Christmas.” Cen Shan answered, “My dad has a project in Beijing, so I didn’t go back. I heard that you were in Beijing and wanted to ask you out for a meal. There’s something I had to find you for.”
Previously, Cen Shan was in a group chat with them, but it was unknown when Cen Shan started hardly speaking in the chat.
“What are you guys doing?” Cen Shan asked, “Taking street photographs?”
Yu Hao briefly talked about his and Zhou Sheng’s affairs in recent months. Cen Shan said, “Does the private investigator firm hire people like me? I want to go there too!”
Yu Hao said, “It’s very tiring! You’re either crouching by flower beds or catching those in affairs. My legs are about to break.”
Cen Shan said, “But that’s still better than standing on a wooden box and waving your hands like a lunatic all day okay? I’ve trained them so much they look like Qilin arms now! Look!” As she spoke, she showed Yu Hao her arms.
Yu Hao said, “You’re not going back to see Gege?”
Cen Shan said helplessly, “What do you think? I’m leaving on the 5th.”
Zhou Sheng jogged back, “Sis-in-law, sis-in-law! I want to eat chocolate fondue! I’m finally seeing you again, so I need to rip a good meal off of you!”
Cen Shan smiled as she got up, then went to the counter to order chocolate fondue for them. Zhou Sheng and Yu Hao looked at each other. Yu Hao quickly waved his hand before Zhou Sheng nodded, feeling reassured.
Cen Shan said, “I was looking for you, Zhou Sheng. You gave the big guy 400,000 to open a shop?”
Zhou Sheng was looking at the camera in his hand and uttered an “un”, “Why?”
Cen Shan frowned, “That won’t do.”
Zhou Sheng looked at Yu Hao to signal ‘quick, it’s your turn now’. Yu Hao said, “I was the one who lent it to him.”
“What’s your account number?” Cen Shan said, “I’ll transfer it to you. Consider me a new shareholder ba.”
Zhou Sheng said, “Sis-in-law!”
Cen Shan, “It’s fine as long as you don’t tell him. Yu Hao, listen to Jiejie, send me your account number.”
Yu Hao didn’t say anything and remained stubborn. In any case, it was pretty good to be awkward once in awhile. Everyone could separate from their environment for a moment, while you look at me and I look at you. It wasn’t easy for Yu Hao to choke out the sentence, “The gym just started earning money, I won’t give you any shares.”
“Who the hell are you trying to deceive?!” Cen Shan said, “Xia Lei came to Beijing too. I bumped into him at a real estate meeting yesterday…Ah thank you, the two of you can eat the chocolate fondue by yourselves. The big guy suffered 100,000 in losses. Behave, that’s Zhou Sheng’s dowry. You two still have to buy a house in Beijing, it isn’t worthwhile to torment yourselves with that foolish big guy. Just don’t tell him.”
Yu Hao looked at Zhou Sheng. Zhou Sheng fiddled with his camera and still didn’t speak.
Yu Hao, “It’s really okay, we don’t lack that…”
Cen Shan, “Tell him when the time comes that I’m the one who invested that money, so if he loses it, then so be it. But if the two of you are the ones who invested it, he would definitely think of a way to return it…I’m afraid that he’d end up losing all the money and end up doing something stupid.”
“Sis-in-law.” Zhou Sheng said, “You’re the one in the wrong this time.”
Cen Shan stopped talking.
Yu Hao placed an ice cream bar in the chocolate fondue . Zhou Sheng had taken him to eat this twice before, and he had wanted to go long ago, but it was too expensive, so he couldn’t bear to. But now Cen Shan was treating them and had even ordered two portions. After they finished one, another one was quickly ordered.
“Eat slowly, your stomach might get cold.” Cen Shan said to Yu Hao.
“There’s no use changing the subject.” Zhou Sheng put away his camera, “When we were in different cities, Gege always told me to come to Beijing to look for Yu Hao. Even if this makes me sound like a pain in the ass, I have to say it.”
Cen Shan said grumpily, “I got it.”
“What did you get?” Zhou Sheng said, “Say it ah.”
Cen Shan took a deep breath and didn’t want to look at Zhou Sheng. Yu Hao used his gaze to signal to Zhou Sheng, don’t mess around in other couple’s affairs.
“I really envy you both.” Cen Shan suddenly said.
“You can too.” Zhou Sheng took out his phone, used WeChat and sent the photos to his colleagues. His work had ended for the day. Yu Hao fed him ice cream.
“I’m dead tired.” Cen Shan said, “Zhou Sheng, do you know how tiring it is for me in Vienna alone? I get looked down on everywhere I go, and I get ostracised too. My dad’s just a nouveau riche, so if they don’t bully me, who else will they bully? After I finish my classes everyday, I’m so tired, I don’t even have the strength to bathe, but I still have to read and learn German by myself. Do you understand that?”
Zhou Sheng said, “I understand.”
Yu Hao said, “I understand it so well.”
Cen Shan heaved a prolonged sigh. Zhou Sheng said, “But what do you want him to do? You’ll have to eventually draw a line ba.”
Cen Shan said, “I don’t know. I don’t even know what I want in my life, but you two look like you do.”
Yu Hao, “Do you love him?”
Cen Shan said grumpily, “I do.”
Zhou Sheng looked down and fiddled around with his phone for a bit, “ID.”
Cen Shan, “What?”
“I said, what’s your ID?” Zhou Sheng said.
Yu Hao, “Ai hold on, I think I have it! I have it!”
“What do you guys want to do?” Cen Shan frowned.
Yu Hao recalled that he had helped Cen Shan buy a train ticket once, so her passenger information was still in the system. Cen Shan said, “Stop it……”
Zhou Sheng took Yu Hao’s phone and sat at one side. Cen Shan got up and wanted to go over, but Yu Hao uttered an “aiya”.
Cen Shan hurriedly said, “Did you get burnt? Sorry, I’m sorry.” Yu Hao was feigning it to cooperate with Zhou Sheng and stall Cen Shan, but Cen Shan was afraid that the chocolate fondue had spilled onto Yu Hao and quickly wiped him with a tissue.
“It’s done.” In this short span of time, Zhou Sheng bought a plane ticket for Cen Shan, “You have two hours to get to the airport.”
Yu Hao, “I’ll call a cab for you.”
Cen Shan, “……”
“The cab’s here.” Yu Hao said, “Go ba, hurry.”
Zhou Sheng, “Gege will pick you up at the airport there.”
Cen Shan, “……………………”
Cen Shan sat for another 15 seconds, and the atmosphere seemed heavy. Then she got up, put on her cap, and ran outside. Zhou Sheng whistled to her, “Sis-in-law! Happy New Year!”
“Sis-in-law, Happy New Year!” Yu Hao smiled happily at Cen Shan.
Cen Shan didn’t look back; she raised her hand and waved with her back facing them.
Zhou Sheng sat back down and smiled as he fed Yu Hao the chocolate ice cream. However, suddenly, the two of them remembered something extremely serious at the same time.
Yu Hao, “Is this chocolate fondue paid for?”
Zhou Sheng, “……”
Yu Hao, “How much was the ticket?”
Zhou Sheng, “Business class, 3,200……”
Yu Hao, “Why is it so expensive?!”
Zhou Sheng, “It’s New Year’s! All the tickets got a price hike! Damn it, I only got an extra 500 for working overtime today! How much is the dessert?”
Yu Hao, “298……get it from Gege?”
Zhou Sheng didn’t know whether to cry or laugh, “He doesn’t have any damn money!”
The next day, when Yu Hao and Zhou Sheng went out to continue collecting evidence, Fu Liqun called.
“Baby.” Fu Liqun said, “Thank you guys for yesterday.”
Yu Hao was currently worrying about his topic in the hot pot shop, “You’re being too polite.”
Zhou Sheng took a bottle of foreign wine and pretended to be a salesman as he knocked on the rooms’ doors. Yu Hao craned his neck to take a look. He was in the hall eating meat that was so sticky it would still stick to the plate even if it was turned upside down. It was so fun to follow Zhou Sheng out on his private detective jobs! They could even get their hot pot meal reimbursed by his company.
Looks like the private detective industry was really profitable.
Yu Hao said, “Have a good time for the next few days……”
Fu Liqun said, “She has already left. I transferred ownership of the gym the day before yesterday.”
Yu Hao stopped moving. Fu Liqun said, “I’m sorry, brother, I didn’t let you guys know beforehand.”
“It’s okay, it’s okay.” Yu Hao continued eating calmly, “It’s fine if you’ve thought it through.”
Fu Liqun fell silent for awhile. Yu Hao felt apprehensive as he looked at Zhou Sheng entering the room. Zhou Sheng got chased out, then made an ‘ok’ gesture at Yu Hao. He then took off his jacket and came over to eat hot pot meat with him. On a winter day with drifting snow that filled the sky, the two of them ate meat blanched in a copper pot in the restaurant, and life was so incredibly wonderful.
Still, Yu Hao was a little dismayed because of Fu Liqun, “Do you want to come to Beijing to relax?”
Fu Liqun said, “I won’t disturb you guys for now, the two of you are busy too.”
Zhou Sheng took the earphones with a mic attached, “Come ba, Gege.”
Fu Liqun said, “Young Master, give me a card number. I’ll transfer the rest of the money over. After closing down, total losses sum up to about 100,000. Your sis-in-law wanted to pay it for me, but I didn’t let her. I’ll strive to return it to you by the end of the year.”
Zhou Sheng said, “Transfer the money over. We’ve already agreed at the outset that all profits and losses are on me.”
Fu Liqun, “That is what’s written on the contract, but……”
Zhou Sheng, “If you want to pay me back, then you won’t have me as a friend anymore.”
Fu Liqun, “Give me the card number first ba.”
“Gege.” Yu Hao suddenly said, “I miss you, come visit us ba. Otherwise we can go back?”
Fu Liqun was quiet again for a while, then he said, “Okay, I’ll let you know when I’ve booked a ticket.”
The call ended. Zhou Sheng said, “Eat ba.”
“You haven’t decided on a topic?” On the first day of work, Lin Ze asked.
There were already more than 70 topics in the list, all of which have been rejected by Lin Ze.
Yu Hao said, “Not yet.”
Lin Ze, “I saw you going around everywhere to eat in your circle of friends. You seemed pretty happy eating ma. You ate chocolate fondue, normal hot pot, and even some fruitwood roasted chicken…Aren’t you afraid of getting fat?”
Yu Hao said, “I’m sorry, I’ll keep…working hard.”
Lin Ze, “Your independent feature determines whether you can pass your probation period, take note of it.”
Yu Hao said, “You won’t fire me.”
Lin Ze laughed, “See if I will?”
Yu Hao, “……”
Lin Ze said, “This also concerns your salary package later on.”
Yu Hao immediately said, “I’ll definitely work on it seriously.” He pondered for a bit, held his camera up, and planned to go out for interviews.
Lin Ze said, “Yu Hao, you’re too obedient sometimes.”
Yu Hao thought about it, stopped walking and said, “Too obedient?”
Lin Ze ruminated for a long time, then finally said, “You’ve never refuted me before, or had any times when you’d say, ‘Ah Ze, what the hell do you know? I must do this feature!’”
Yu Hao, “!!!”
Lin Ze said, “I’ve rejected 75 of your feature topics in a row. Don’t you have even one where, even if you had to start quarrelling with your leader, you must conduct an interview for no matter what?”
“I understand.” Yu Hao recalled his pile of topics.
It was the fourth month of his internship at the newspaper office. His salary for the first three months had been paid, and the reimbursement for the previous months were settled as well. In addition to the fee for his manuscripts, he had received 3,000 more than he had expected. This was the good thing about working in public institutions. They would pay however much they said they would and wouldn’t deduct anything even if you were a contract worker. It wasn’t like private enterprises where it depended on what the boss said.
Zhou Sheng’s salary wasn’t paid yet. The two of them saved up the money. From now on, they had to be careful with their expenditure; they still had to pay a few tens of thousands for rent before the New Year in February.
Fortunately, Cen Shan remembered to transfer them the ticket money. Otherwise, Yu Hao’s heart would have ached for a long time. Today, he decided to go to the Forbidden City to interview people about a museum event and report on the special exhibition of the Forbidden City in January. These days, he wrote two 400-word manuscripts every day, and he had to sort out Jin Weicheng’s manuscripts for him and then conduct interviews either in the morning or afternoon while he spent the remaining time writing manuscripts. After mastering the literary style of the media, minor interviews barely required any major changes before they were approved. Lin Ze would choose one from Yu Hao’s two manuscripts every day to hand in.
As for the major investigation features, theoretically, it should be a monthly issue. Lin Ze hoped for stability, and after they were stable, they would begin publishing two issues per month. Jin Weicheng chose three topics this month, but they were all rejected by Lin Ze too.
Now, the two investigative reporters were both brainstorming for future directions.
Zhou Sheng said, “Why don’t I stir up some trouble for you, then you can interview me?”
Yu Hao, “Knock it off.”
Beijing entered its coldest season, and the deadline kept approaching. If Yu Hao couldn’t come up with a suitable topic before the 15th, Lin Ze would choose one from the previous 70 over topics and handle it personally as he took Situ Ye out for the interview.
“I would like to see what your boss is capable of though.” Zhou Sheng said.
Yu Hao was preparing for the opening report of his graduation thesis at home. He said, “His professional competence can obviously crush Jin Laoshi. He just wants to leave me the opportunity. I feel like even if I can’t come up with a topic, he’d still give me a full-time position anyway, but I don’t want it to be like that.”
“Oh right.” Yu Hao remembered and said, “Gege didn’t contact you? I thought he’d come see us, I already bought him all four sets online.”
Zhou Sheng said, “I don’t know about him, he didn’t call me either.”
The next day, when Yu Hao went to conduct an interview for the launch of new property, he bumped into Xia Lei unexpectedly. At that time, he was in a forward lunge position as he took pictures of the city residents sleeping in tents as they waited in line outside the property, while chanting, “CCTV, CCTV, intern reporter Yu Hao is reporting for you. North wind blows, snowflakes drift. Our city’s real estate sales performance is seriously good. The general public was here since yesterday night at -12 degrees in the northern winds, with their own sleeping bags……”
“Young Madam?” A voice rang out from behind Yu Hao.
Yu Hao was a little baffled. He asked, astonished, “Who?”
The guy behind him was both tall and skinny, and wore a suit. Yu Hao thought, Why do you all seem to change so much after entering society?! He said, “Xia Lei?!”
Xia Lei gave him a cup of ginger soup provided by the sales department and said, “I heard from Gege that you’re a reporter now; I can’t believe I’d bump into you here!”
Yu Hao laughed, “You’re here to buy a house?”
Xia Lei, “My uncle’s friend is the developer for this real estate. I’m here to help out. What are you writing? There’s no dirt ba?”
Yu Hao said, “Don’t worry, it’s all good.”
Xia Lei handed Yu Hao a red envelope. Yu Hao didn’t bother being formal with him and accepted it; he would be passing it to Lin Ze when he returned anyway. The red envelopes of the whole office were like waiter’s tips, and they were up to the leader to distribute. Yu Hao had bumped into a few people who gave him red envelopes. After he rejected them and went back to the office to talk about it, Lin Ze said, “Are you dumb? If they give it to you just accept it. Come back and I’ll buy snacks for you guys.”
Yu Hao’s outlook on the world broke. How could they accept red envelopes? But Lin Ze said, “If you don’t accept it, they won’t allow you to come back to write a piece, and would just exert all their strength to bother you; they’d ask you to leave your contact information, then keep calling you like their lives depended on it. Of course, you’ll have to judge for yourself whether the red envelope can be accepted or not.”
Yu Hao, “Jin Laoshi has never accepted red envelopes before okay!”
Situ Ye, “Oh is that so? Then sorry, sorry.”
Yu Hao, “……”
Yu Hao suddenly remembered that when Jin Weicheng went out for normal interviews, he never took him along and had never handed any red envelopes to Lin Ze.
Thus, whenever Yu Hao saw a red envelope for an incident that wasn’t too serious, he would accept it. When he handed it to Lin Ze, Situ Ye said, “Are you dumb? He asked you to give it to him, and you really gave it to him?”
Yu Hao, “……”
Lin Ze said, “Ignore him, good job. Let lady boss help you open an account in the bank and save your New Year’s money for you. When you need to use it, you can go ask him for it.”
Yu Hao, “…………”
Sure enough, after Xia Lei saw Yu Hao accept the red envelope, he felt a lot more at ease.
“I’ll talk with the reporter Laoshi.” Xia Lei said to the manager of the sales department.
The sales department prepared some refreshments for Yu Hao and poured tea for him. Yu Hao was a little terrified, but he suddenly sensed that something was weird —— after conducting enough interviews, he had honed his intuition.
“Have you settled payment for the construction and the wages of the workers yet?” Yu Hao asked pensively.
Xia Lei laughed, “You’re really well informed, Young Madam. Help your brother this once ba. It really has nothing to do with us. The construction side is the one delaying the payment.”
Yu Hao had just casually guessed, yet he accurately struck Xia Lei’s Achilles' heel. He thought about it, then said, “Don’t delay it for too long. If it gets out of hand, even if we don’t come, others will.”
Xia Lei nodded and heaved a sigh of relief, “We have a competitor, it has been dragging on for a year, and we’re currently in a tussle. Go and interview them?”
Yu Hao thought, you guys are really……so he recorded down the situation and was ready to hand it to Lin Ze, who could just transfer it to the general office.
Xia Lei asked again, “The construction funds…No, the investment for the gym, did Gege hand you guys the remainder?”
Yu Hao said, “You guys transferred ownership? What’s the balance?”
Yu Hao wanted to get some information out of him. He had always suspected that Fu Liqun was taking money out of his pockets to cushion the fall, but he realised a problem —— he really shouldn’t have asked this. If the amount after Fu Liqun’s liquidation was more than what he had returned to Zhou Sheng, then wouldn’t that……
Fortunately, their friendship withstood the test.
Xia Lei said, “I remember it wasn’t more than 300,000. The one who took over didn’t give us much.”
Yu Hao nodded, somewhat helpless, “I asked Gege to come to Beijing to relax and find some work to do.”
“You reporters have a wide network of connections.” Xia Lei said, “What I’m saying is, wouldn’t it be easy to help him find a job?”
Yu Hao did find out that yes, after entering this field, when he had just started conducting interviews, even though he was just an intern reporter, everyone would treat him politely everywhere he went. Even if they had a guilty conscience, they would offer diplomacy before violence. The more people he came into contact with, the more competent he felt. However, Lin Ze repeatedly knocked Yu Hao down, telling him to not think that he’s super amazing and how everyone’s really courteous to him because of the two words ‘Qinghua Times’, so they didn’t dare offend him at random.
Yu Hao often reminded himself as well, that he needed to keep a low profile.
Yu Hao said, “Yeah, he’s not coming, I’ll call him again at night.”
Xia Lei was surprised, “You don’t know? He went to the South, he’s seeking asylum at Yangming’s place.”
Yu Hao was utterly baffled, “Isn’t Yangming working as a HR personnel in that something company in Ying City?”
“That was a long time ago.” Xia Lei said, “Li Yangming job hopped last December, and he found a friend’s biotechnological company that makes health products. Gege went over as well after the New Year.”
Yu Hao thought, that should be a good fit for him? Fu Liqun’s father works as a consultant in this type of company, so maybe he could find a slightly stable job there. After the gym transferred ownership, Xia Lei relied on his family’s connections and came to Beijing to work in real estate. Meanwhile, Bian Qiang returned to his home village in the city and followed his uncle who worked in demolition for the folks, running around everywhere in a Land Rover. He didn’t know what he was so busy with either.
The guys in the sports class were practically like the Eight Immortals that crossed the sea, each showing his own special talent.
Yu Hao talked about it after going home. Zhou Sheng said, “Is it weird? It’s not ah, we sound quite weird too, right? One of us is an investigative reporter, while the other is a private detective.”
Yu Hao thought that was true. Zhou Sheng continued, “You shouldn’t have asked Xia Lei that.”
Yu Hao said, “I was being dumb, I won’t ask that next time. I was afraid that Gege lost too much and went out to borrow money to fill in our pit.”
Zhou Sheng, “How much was the red packet?”
Yu Hao, “2,000……I’ve handed it in.”
Zhou Sheng, “Damn, so much? Tell Xia Lei to wait for me to go extort some money from him. Does that friend of his uncle live an upright life? How many mistresses does he have outside? See if I’ll extort him to death!”
Yu Hao, “Quit it! Read your linear algebra.”
Zhou Sheng, “I finished reading it. That book isn’t even a kilogram. From today on, I’ll start studying microeconomics.”
Yu Hao felt his head throb when he looked at Zhou Sheng’s stack of heavenly, inscrutable books. The miraculous thing was that Zhou Sheng would actually read it bit by bit, and after Yu Hao returned home two days later, he’d discover that Zhou Sheng had finished reading another half a book, and he could even answer any questions raised about its contents! And just like that, by finishing book after book, he was already halfway done with his preparations! That guy’s IQ was seriously terrifying. In addition, Zhou Sheng read books as if he were buying groceries. Other people would talk about the number of pages in books, but his way of measuring them was, “Western Economics 3.5 catties,” “Linear Algebra 400 grams,” and weighing knowledge in terms of catties, it was quite amazing.
The deadline for Yu Hao’s topic was close at hand. Suddenly, the head office made a request: no investigative interviews can be conducted in January.
“Ah?” Yu Hao almost cheered, but he didn’t dare to look too delighted in front of Lin Ze.
“It’s almost New Year.” Lin Ze looked at the paper’s piece regarding the train station fight for a previous issue, “Let’s conduct ourselves properly and not cause any trouble. Shift it to February ba, I’ll spare your life this once.”
Yu Hao still had lingering fears as he nodded. Lin Ze said, “A feature in February means that you can only change to a full-time position in February, what’s there to be happy about?”
Yu Hao was gradually starting to realise that he really has too much to learn. Even now, when he was about to go out for an interview alone, he would still feel like it was a little strange and frightening.
“Actually, the investigative interview you mentioned before with the border guard wasn’t bad.” Lin Ze said, “But you’ll have to do it in-depth and consider it from the standpoint of how they live their lives, how they stand guard, how they stay in touch with their families, and so on and so forth.”
That was a topic that Yu Hao came up with to serve as a stopgap after racking his brain had produced nothing. He hadn’t thought that Lin Ze wouldn’t think much of the ones he had mentioned seriously and would instead be more interested in his stopgap. However, if he set out from Beijing and went to the Khunjerab Pass border station at an altitude of 4,300m, he would be tormented for at least half a month coming and going. No one would write the manuscripts, and Lin Ze wouldn’t let him go so easily.
“I’ll think about it again.” The words Yu Hao said most often these days were, ‘think about it again.’ Just as he was about to write Jin Weicheng’s manuscripts like a pro, he picked up a call.
“Yu Hao.” Fu Liqun said from the other end, “Can you lend me 5,000 for food expenses? I’ve finished spending all the money I have. I only brought a little over 2,000 when I came to the South.”
Yu Hao said, “I’ll transfer you through WeChat.”
The money Cen Shan transferred over for her plane ticket was still in his WeChat wallet, and he immediately transferred the money to Fu Liqun. Yu Hao couldn’t feel rest assured about Fu Liqun being alone and only roughly knew that he had found a sales job in a prefecture-level economic zone of a coastal province in the south.
Juurensha: Hope things work out for FLQ…
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cat.