Sissy (Niang Niang Qiang) - Chap 14
The car quickly reached a high office building in the city center.
Shao Qun’s company branch in Shenzhen was renting floors ten to twelve in it. Both of them went upstairs, and as soon as they entered the offices, the lady at the front desk quickly got up, stepped outside and greeted Shao Qun with a sweet smile: “Hello, Mr.Shao.”
Shao Qun nodded with a smile and asked, “Is anybody still here?” He looked at his watch and clicked his tongue, “I’m more than an hour late.”
“They’re waiting for you in the conference room, sir. Over here, please.”
“All right.” Shao Qun quietly put his hand on Li Chengxiu’s back, “Chengxiu, come with me.”
Li Chengxiu followed Shao Qun into the conference room.
The two people sitting inside immediately got up and said with a smile: “Mr. Shao… Mr. Shao! Hello, hello.”
Shao Qun smiled and shook their hands: “I’m really sorry that you had to wait for so long. There were traffic jams on the road.”
“Of course, of course! Mr. Shao is a busy man. Besides, the traffic situation in Shenzhen is unfortunately nothing new.”
Shao Qun laughed and said, “Yes, when I was in Beijing, I had to pass through the 3rd Ring Road every day to go to work. I thought it would be better here, but I guess I was wrong, hehe.”
They exchanged a couple more polite words, and then finally they asked “Who is this?” as if they had just discovered that Li Chengxiu was also in the room.
“Oh.” Shao Qun quickly put his hand on Li Chengxiu’s back in an almost intimate gesture and pushed him to the front, “This is the chef from Futong Grand Hotel whom I specifically hired to prepare Chinese food. Besides, he is also my junior high school classmate. Just call him Chef Li. Chengxiu, these are the people from an event planning company in Hong Kong. They are here to help me organize the party.”
The two guys quickly shook hands with Li Chengxiu: “Chef Li is so young.”
Li Chengxiu returned their handshakes and stiffly smiled in response.
These kinds of occasions where he had to take part in social interactions scared him the most. The more enthusiastic the other party, the more uncomfortable it made him.
After some more polite small talk, the two began to discuss business affairs with Shao Qun.
Li Chengxiu watched them show a PowerPoint presentation, which offered several party design options for Shao Qun to choose from.
Shao Qun smiled without saying a word, and when the presentation was over, he turned his head towards Li Chengxiu and asked, “Chengxiu, what do you think?”
“Ah? Very… very good.”
“Which option is better?”
Li Chengxiu glanced at the two men from the planning company who were looking at him with expectant eyes and suddenly felt guilty for not listening carefully enough.
Shao Qun said: “Ok, how about you show the key points to Chef Li again?”
The event planners quickly clicked over to the key point slide and presented it to Li Chengxiu again with pictures and text explanations.
Li Chengxiu was confused by all of this. He didn’t understand what they meant by baroque style or by Caribbean style…Moreover, he felt it was ridiculous to use three characters to spell just one English word.”
Shao Qun approached him and put his hand on his shoulder, “So? Chengxiu, what do you think?”
Li Chengxiu moved his body away uncomfortably and whispered, “It’s all good. You decide.”
Shao Qun smiled, “But I want to hear your opinion.” He squeezed his shoulder gently and said in a soft voice, “Your opinion is very important to me.”
This time even the two Hongkongers felt that the atmosphere was not quite right, but they didn’t let it show.
Li Chengxiu felt his heart beating like a drum. He hurriedly said, “I…I really don’t know. You choose.”
Shao Qun laughed, then turned his head and said, “To be honest, I’m not very satisfied with either of the options. I’d rather not have something that is not quite in the western style but also not quite in the Chinese style. I want the style of this venue to be worthy of chef Xiao Li’s cooking skills.” He winked at Li Chengxiu.
One of the guys quickly responded: “I understand, Mr. Shao. How about we keep the venue in modern Chinese style but at the same time incorporate some classical details, like wooden utensils and ceramic plates. Only this way can it be fully worthy of Chef Li’s gourmet delicacies.”
Shao Qun laughed and said, “That’s not bad, really not bad. You guys go back to your drawing board and revise the design. We don’t have a lot of time left, so let’s decide on this as soon as possible. Now, let’s put this aside for a while, and discuss the dishes with Chef Li.”
Shao Qun’s hand was still on Li Chengxiu’s shoulder, but when he noticed his tense face and stiff body, he put it away.”
Li Chengxiu immediately relaxed, nodded and proceeded to seriously discuss the dishes with the event planners.
Since this was his area of expertise, the conversation ran much smoother.
Shao Qun didn’t participate very much. He occasionally dropped a few comments but most of the time he just sat there with a propped up chin, tilted head and confident smile on his face. He was looking at Li Chengxiu with deep and cunning eyes, just like a wolf who was stalking his prey.
They talked for more than two hours before they managed to finalize the menu.
Shao Qun looked out the window – the sky was already dark.
He stood up and stretched. His movements revealed his toned and sturdy body, making the two thin southern men really envious.
Shao Qun patted Li Chengxiu on the back: “Chengxiu, I’ll take you out to eat something nice.” Then he raised his head, “You two can join us, if you want. You’ve worked hard today.”
The men waved their hands repeatedly: “Thank you for your kind invitation, Mr. Shao. But we still have something to do after this, so no need!”
Shao Qun smiled, showing his white teeth, very satisfied with their answer.
He seemed to be in a good mood, as he led Li Chengxiu to his car, throwing his car keys up and down.
“Chengxiu, what do you want to eat?”
“I want to go home.”
Shao Qun was stunned for a moment, then he frowned, “Why?”
“I have things to do. At home.”
“What kind of things would you need to do at home?”
Li Chengxiu answered honestly: “Wash clothes, clean my room.”
“You can do this after dinner. Don’t you want to eat?”
“I can cook for myself.”
A bit of displeasure flashed in Shao Qun’s eyes. He didn’t expect Li Chengxiu to have so little respect for him that he didn’t even bother to think of a decent excuse for refusing his invitation.
He laughed dryly and mocked him: “Chengxiu, you are really something. Do you know how many people need to make an appointment in advance in order to have a meal with me? Can’t you treat me a bit better?”
Li Chengxiu silently looked down at his feet.
Shao Qun unlocked the car, got into the driver’s seat and slammed the door behind him with a bang.
Li Chengxiu stood outside at a loss. He knew that Shao Qun must be angry, but now he didn’t know whether he was supposed to get into the car or not.
Shao Qun rolled the car window down and said impatiently, “Get inside.”
Li Chengxiu hesitated: “Or I can also go back by myself?”
Shao Qun rolled his eyes, opened the door and got out of the car. He stood very close to Li Chengxiu, as he gave him a condescending look and jokingly threatened him: “Xiao Chengxiu, get in the car. Or would you rather I carry you inside?”
Frightened, Li Chengxiu took a big step back. He turned around and obediently got into the car.
Shao Qun showed a sarcastic smile and also got in.
The two of them drove out of the parking lot in silence. Li Chengxiu looked outside the window and anxiously asked, “Can I go home?”
Shao Qun glanced at him, suddenly made a sharp turn and parked the car on the curb.
Li Chengxiu was taken aback by this sudden action and looked at Shao Qun in horror.
He vaguely felt that Shao Qun hadn’t changed at all. His temper was still so irritable and unpredictable. As an adult, he probably learned to hide it well behind his manners but actually deep down his temper never improved.
Shao Qun took a deep breath, then put on his friendly smile again and turned to look at Li Chengxiu: “I’ll take you home now.”
Li Chengxiu was a bit suspicious, “All right…”
“But…” Shao Qun grinned, “I’m also going to your house.”
Li Chengxiu was startled and blurted out, “Why?”
“We haven’t seen each other for many years, and we haven’t even had a good conversation yet. Is it asking too much of you to invite your old classmate to dinner?”
Li Chengxiu thought about it for a long time before saying, “My house is messy.”
Shao Qun laughed out loud: “It doesn’t matter. I don’t care.”
Li Chengxiu gritted his teeth: “I…don’t think…it’s a good idea.”
“Oh, why not?”
“I think… my house…is not good. You won’t be comfortable.”
Shao Qun touched his head: “How can I not be comfortable, if you’re there?”
Both his tone and his words sounded extremely ambiguous. No matter how dense Li Chengxiu was, he could still feel that something was off.
Shao Qun didn’t give him a chance to react. He pulled at his arm and begged in a coquettish tone: “Chengxiu, invite me over! I want to eat a meal cooked by you.”
Li Chengxiu was speechless.
“Chengxiu, is it because you still hate me? Do you really still hate me? I was such a jerk back then. If you still hate me, you can hit me. I won’t fight back.”
“No…” Li Chengxiu didn’t want to hear anything about the past, especially from Shao Qun’s mouth. There was just too much irony in it.
Shao Qun quickly said: “Since you don’t hate me, what’s wrong with inviting an old classmate to your home? Are you afraid that I will eat all the food you have at home? Or are you afraid that I will eat you?”
Li Chengxiu felt his ears become inexplicably hot, and he really couldn’t think of a suitable reason for refusing Shao Qun. In the end he said: “Let’s… let’s just eat somewhere else.”
“No, I don’t want to eat anywhere else. I want to go to your house.”
Li Chengxiu was at a loss for words..
Still flabbergasted, Li Chengxiu took Shao Qun to his house.
The place where he lived was a residential block of flats. The house was already old, and the outer walls had lost all the remnants of the original color. The building was seven stories high, but there was no elevator. Li Chengxiu lived, of course, on the top floor.
The apartment on the top floor was the cheapest place he could rent at the time. Not only was it inconvenient to go up and down, but in the summer, he was directly under the sun-heated roof which made his room feel almost like an oven.
Although the sun had already set and by the time Shao Qun had arrived at the apartment, the noon heat had long passed, it was still very hot inside. He parked the car in an open space more than 200 meters away from the house. After walking all that distance and then climbing up to the seventh floor, Shao Qun was sweating profusely, and the last thing he expected was a wave of heat rushing toward him and almost knocking him out when he entered Li Chengxiu’s place.
Shao Qun didn’t like the heat, and he hardly ever stayed in places without air conditioning in the summer. At this moment, he felt like he was really suffering too much.
He couldn’t help complaining irritably: “Why is it so hot here? Turn on the air conditioner, hurry up!”
Li Chengxiu turned on the lights and shook his head:”There is no air conditioner.”
“No air conditioner?” Shao Qun repeated in disbelief. In the summer, Shenzhen was like an oven – the heat in this place could drive people insane. Especially during the tropical typhoons that came several times a year, the whole city would basically turn into a big sauna. Shao Qun couldn’t figure out how Li Chengxiu survived here without air conditioning.
He looked around the place. The interior structure was extremely simple. It was a 30 square meter apartment. Except for the bathroom, all the other rooms – kitchen, bedroom and dining room – were connected to each other.Just a piece of glass was dividing the kitchen away from other spaces. A single bed was standing directly opposite a simple table and a chair. There was almost nothing else in the apartment. And, of course, not a trace of air conditioning.
Li Chengxiu pointed to the chair: “You sit down here.” He went to the bedside, dragged the stool with the fan over to Shao Qun and switched it on.
Shao Qun was already covered in sweat and was extremely disgusted with this sticky feeling. He irritably sat on the chair, letting the fan blow all over him, and said to Li Chengxiu, “Bring me a piece of tissue.”
Li Chengxiu took the roll of toilet paper standing by the bed and handed it to him. There were no extra chairs in the room, so he sat down on the bed and watched the fan blow at Shao Qun. He adjusted his breathing and hoped to cool himself down like that.
Shao Qun’s irritability and visible disdain for this room made him somewhat uncomfortable. For him, living in such a house was actually a luxury. He could have rented a cheaper single room which he would have had to share with other people, but his personality was not suitable for living with strangers at all. When he thought about living under the same roof with people he didn’t know, it scared him to the bottom of his heart. No matter how much he cared about saving money, he still couldn’t force himself to accept roommates. He had no choice but to spend an extra 300 RMB a month to rent a small single apartment just for himself.
No matter whether it was good or not, he was satisfied with his own place. Besides, he didn’t want to invite Shao Qun here at all. It was his choice to insist on coming over.
Although Li Chengxiu was annoyed, he didn’t know how to express it, and he was too hot. Shao Qun was occupying his fan now, so Li Chengxiu got up and said, “I’m going to take a shower. You just sit here for a while.”
Shao Qun’s body had cooled down a little, and his tone became better.
“By the way, can you pour me a glass of water?” he asked.
Li Chengxiu gave him some water, then took his pajamas and went in to take a bath.
When he came out after a quick shower, he saw Shao Qun flipping through an accounting book on his desk with great interest.
Shao Qun immediately noticed Li Chengxiu standing in front of him, looking fresh and tender, with his wet hair and in his white freshly washed cotton pajamas.
Li Chengxiu’s fair face was slightly red, his soft hair was clinging to his cheeks, and water droplets trickled down his slender neck into the collar, leaving a few water stains on his beautiful collarbone.
Shao Qun swallowed unconsciously.
This man in his late twenties looked like a young and pure student, exuding unadorned temptation. Even though Shao Qun had just cooled down, now he seemed to feel slightly hot again. He had been imagining this body for more than ten years.
Shao Qun was looking at Li Chengxiu with the eyes of a hungry wolf but the other party didn’t realize it. He was actually focused on the book Shao Qun was holding in his hands.
Shao Qun came back to his senses and held up the accounting book: “What is this? Are you studying?”
Li Chengxiu nodded.
He shook his head: “Now, just self study.”
When he first arrived in Shenzhen, he was not only poor but also deep in debt. At that time, he was still young and energetic, capable of working day and night. So apart from making money, he didn’t really think about anything else.
It was not until a few years ago that his income actually allowed him to save some extra money in addition to paying his living expenses and settling his debts. At that time, the thirst for knowledge buried deep in his heart gradually awakened again.
So he bought some high school textbooks and squeezed some time away from work to study by himself.
After dropping out of school for several years, even if he had once been a top student, he had almost forgotten everything. When he picked up studying again, he didn’t realize how difficult it would be at first. But with a bit of tenacity, he still managed to pass the exams to get his high school diploma.
In the past two years, he began to teach himself some accounting. He didn’t have time to go to night school, so he could only buy books and study what he could.
He thought about it a lot and felt that accounting was a profession that demanded the least face-to-face contact with anybody. Besides, the entry threshold was relatively low, so it seemed to be the most suitable choice for him.
Being a chef was not his dream job. He still remembered how when he was a child he hoped to become a doctor or a scientist. But those dreams were annihilated a long time ago, in the summer of the third year of junior high school.
Shao Qun handed him the book: “Chengxiu, if you want to learn, I can ask a professional accountant to give you private lessons.”
Li Chengxiu was stunned for a moment, but then shook his head: “No, thank you.”
Shao Qun smiled: “Chengxiu, you don’t have to be polite with me.” He then stood up, grabbed the towel on Li Chengxiu’s shoulders and was about to wipe his hair.
Li Chengxiu quickly turned his head away to avoid Shao Qun’s touch.
A flash of embarrassment flashed across Shao Qun’s face. He still stubbornly put the towel over Li Chengxiu’s head and rubbed it with his hands: “You should wipe it dry, otherwise you can easily catch a cold.”
Li Chengxiu simply took a step back, looking at Shao Qun with vigilance.
Shao Qun reluctantly threw the towel on the table. When he saw this deliciously juicy fat sheep in front of him which he couldn’t eat yet, he felt really hungry.
“Chengxiu, cook something for us. I’m starving.”