“Oh. It’s nothing. It’s just that your Uncle Zhao wants to see you.”
“See me? Why?” Li Shuo was quite surprised.
Him and Zhao Rongtian, chairman of Ennan Group, have only met twice. Once was the first-year banquet of Zhao Rongtian ‘s only son. At that time he was still very young. His father and Zhao Rongtian had only a general friendship.
The other time was when he wrote a paper. It was about Chinese business leaders in New York. He didn’t make an appointment through his father. So it was difficult to make an appointment with him. He only said ten minutes. Zhao Rongtian didn’t know who he was. It is estimated that he had forgotten that. “Your Uncle Zhao’s previous business was mainly concentrated in the Yangtze River area. Now he wants to expand trade in the north. You need to set up a branch in Beijing. Find a long-term accounting firm. Aren’t you stationed in Beijing?”
“Oh.” Li Shuo laughed. “Good thing, then you can talk about it.” But this thing does not need to call him back to the United States to talk about it. He thinks that maybe mostly it is because of his parents missing him. Although he is more than willing to accompany his parents, he is now really can’t help to worry about Li Chengxiu. He plans to go back immediately after seeing Zhao Rongtian. He will bring Li Chengxiu back at Christmas.
“Have you never seen your uncle Zhao?”
“I have seen him. I was a kid back the. But when you started to work together, I already left the United States.”
“Well. He is a very visionary and wise person. You talk more with him soon. You also want to thank Mrs. Zhao. She proposed to cooperate with you. It is rare that she remembers you.”
“Do you remember that he has a son?” Mr. Li asked. “I’m impressed. I’m very old. That Jin kid is very good.”
Li Shuo was also impressed with the one-year-old banquet that he attended when he was twelve. Zhao Rongtian was the president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and a celebrity in Manhattan. It was a social ceremony. He was a little hypocritical when he was a kid. He was always thinking differently compared to others. He didn’t appreciate the combination of Chinese and Western Zhao’s style, and the fact that he was not a big fan of that.
He remembers that several children of the same age wanted to hug a baby that was doll-like. One of the children also spoke of wanting to hold the child in Chinese and the nanny of the Zhao family pretended not to understand Chinese. Her eyes must be turned into the sky. After all, she was holding the big boss’ precious only son. He could see clearly all of the commotion from the side.
Although he was also curious about the milk-carved doll-like baby who would just laughed at everyone, he did not step forward to join the crowd. “Your uncle Zhao sent his son to the Jingcheng management branch. You will also see him this time. In the future, you will be both friends and partners.”
Li Shuo smiled quietly: “Okay.” Zhao Rongtian’s husband and wife are notorious. He really has some doubts about the man’s ability. Hope it is not a difficult role. Otherwise, he will be caught between Zhao Rongtian and his dad. Isn’t it troublesome?
“What are you talking about? Your son had just gotten home. He hasn’t even eaten yet.” Mrs. Li took her son’s hand. “It’s going to be dinner soon. I’ll show you the little cabbage I planted. It’s so watery.”
Li Shuo followed his mother with a smile. After eating, Li Shuo was already tired. After taking a bath, he fell asleep in bed. He was waiting for that person to wake up. It was dark. He looked at his watch. Although Li Chengxiu woke up at this time, his parents had ready fallen asleep. Li Shuo took a photo of himself without shaving and sent it to Li Chengxiu. In the photo, he appeared to be mentally exhausted. Jet lag is really troublesome.
Li Chengxiu quickly returned a text message: You look tired. Take a good rest.
Li Shuo dialed the phone. The phone rang for a long time before it was connected. A soft, cautious voice rang: “International long-distance call… very expensive. Let’s text.”
Li Shuo chuckled: “It’s okay. I want to hear your voice.”
Li Chengxiu also chuckled: “Where are you now?”
“It’s ten o’clock in the evening. I wanted you and my mother to video-chat. But she was already asleep.”
“Video-chat…” Li Chengxiu said timidly. “No, not very good.”
“It doesn’t matter. Didn’t I tell you? My parents are aware of my sexual orientation. And they respect me very much.”
“But …” the tone over the phone was hesitant.
“If you feel uncomfortable, then no need for video-chat. How about just saying a few words? My parents are very curious about you.”
“I’ll go back to accompany you soon after I finish things here. If you are bored, just go out with Xiaohui. Don’t feel bored. Okay?”
“Cheng Xiu.” Li Shuo said softly. “You will like my parents. My parents will also like you. By my side, you don’t have to bear any burden.”
A soft pumping sound came from the phone. Li Chengxiu whispered, “Brother Li, I know.”
Early the next morning. Li Shuo went to play tennis with his father. This is the sport of his mother and father from childhood to adult. When he was in college, he participated in the National College Tennis League. He also reached the quarter-finals. He exercised for the whole morning. He then took his parents to a French restaurant where they often go for dinner.
In the afternoon, he went shopping with his mother. He is an only child and he had been on the other side of the ocean all year round. So he always feels like he owed something to his parents. Every time he returns home, he will spend most of his time with his family.
At dusk, he returned home. He changed into his suit. Uncle Guang sent the family of three to Zhao Rongtian’s family dinner. Mr. Li was recently taken to Kunqu by Uncle Guang. The two of them sang in the car to the kunqu music. Li Shuo and his mother laughed at them.
Zhao Rongtian lives at the heart of the Upper East Side which is adjacent to the Central Park. He has built a small artificial lake in his residence. It is the only Chinese mansion in the Upper East Side. Li Shuo remembers that this mansion has also been used by domestic media.
Uncle Guang stopped the car at the door of the mansion under the guidance of the security. Li Shuo said: “Uncle Guang. Don’t fall asleep when you listen to music. Remember to leave some gaps in the window.”
Uncle Guang waved his hand: “I will.”
“Wait for us. Okay?” Li Shuo patted Uncle Guang’s shoulder with a smile.
Mrs. Li stepped out of the car. Li Shuo bent over and arranged her slightly wrinkled skirt. In between this action, he heard a thick baritone voice calling his father’s name. As soon as he looked up, Zhao Rongtian took his wife out to meet them. Behind him was a tall young man. The moment Li Shuo saw the face clearly, his brain burst. Zhao, Zhao Jinxin? !
Zhao Jinxin did not give him a deep look. Then he smiled well and pleasantly: “Uncle Li and Auntie Li, hello. I haven’t seen you for a long time. Why is Auntie getting younger and more beautiful?”
Mrs. Li smiled with her eyes bent: “Jin Xin has grown up but his mouth is still so sweet.”
Zhao Jinxin’s eyes fell on Li Shuo. He made a pretentious surprised expression: “Is this big brother Li? So handsome.”
“Hello.” Li Shuo nodded at Zhao Jinxin. The two of them seemed to have never seen each other. He smiled generously: “Hello, Uncle Zhao, Hello, Auntie.”
“Ouch. Such a talented young man.” Zhao Rongtian eyed Li Shuo up and down. He then laugh aloud. “Last time I saw you, you were still a kid.”
Mr. Li said with emotion: “that’s not it. Last time you saw him, Jin Xin was just able to crawl. In a blink of an eye, the children are all grown-up and we are all old.”
Mrs. Zhao smiled and said: “It is either Jinxin who was here before or Li Shuo was not here. This is the first time that we have six of us here. Come inside the house. Let’s talk.” The four elders walked ahead. Zhao Jinxin and Li Shuo followed.
Zhao Jinxin glanced at Li Shuo sideways. He whispered: “I said we will see you again.” The tone of the voice sounds like he is amused. It was quite a bit mixed with a hint of desire. Li Shuo looked at his dad’s back without squinting. He pretended not to hear it. He quickly entered the house.
Faced with this ridiculous coincidence, Li Shuo has turned from surprise to calm. But when he thought of this relationship between his parents, he was worried about being unclear with this person. He doesn’t like private and professional affairs to be mixed together. Avoiding trouble is much more important than making money. He is afraid that he had to reconsider the cooperation.
During the dinner, the two heads of households chatted about the stock market. The two ladies politely showed off their sons. Zhao Jinxin and Li Shuo sat face to face. Li Shuo always looked at his mother with a smile, avoiding unnecessary eye contact with Zhao Jinxin. Zhao Jinxin raised his glass: “Brother, come. Let’s have a drink.”
Li Shuo toasted gracefully, flicking the glass with him. Mrs. Zhao covered her mouth and smiled, “You two have a huge gap in age. Otherwise, you must have grown up together.”
“It’s a pity. It would be nice if I knew my older brother earlier.” Zhao Jinxin said very sincerely.
Li Shuo laughed: “No mention.”
“Big brother usually have any hobbies? What do you like to do?”
“Tennis. Skiing. Diving. How about you?”
“I happen to like them too. Next time we will go together.”
Li Shuo smiled slightly: “Okay.”
“Little Shuo, when Jinxin went to China soon, you have to take good care of this younger brother.” Mrs. Li asked.
“That is for sure.” Li Shuo agreed with a smile. He turned to Zhao Rongtian. “Uncle Zhao. I heard from my dad that you plan to open up trade in the North.”
“Yeah. I heard that you are in Beijing. Let’s cooperate with our two families. That would be very reliable.” Zhao Rongtian waved his hand. “However, today we only eat and chat. We will talk about business at our company tomorrow.”
Li Shuo nodded with a smile. Zhao Jinxin said: “Brother, do you want some more beef?”
“Oh. No. I’m full. Thank you.”
“If you are full, I will take you to the lake? You can take a look.” Li Shuo was just about to refuse but his dad said: “Go. You young people have a good chat.”
Li Shuo wiped the corner of his mouth slowly. His eyes gave Zhao Jinxin a sharp look. Zhao Jinxin smiled innocently. Li Shuo stood up. He made a “please” gesture with a light smile. He would like to see what tricks Zhao Jinxin can use.
The artificial lake dug by the Zhao family is on the edge of Central Park. The design is very cunning. You can see the beautiful view of Central Park at the back garden of the Zhao family. But when it gets into the night or when it’s under a fog, the surrounding buildings are not clearly visible. Li Shuo narrowed his eyes and looked at the lake under the night. The night wind struck lightly. It was cool and pleasant.
“The scenery here is pretty good.” Zhao Jinxin rested his hands behind his head. He exchanged his breath comfortably.
“It’s beautiful.” Li Shuo said heartily.
Zhao Jinxin chuckled: “I forgot how old I was when I moved here. When I was a kid, every time I approached the lake, everyone followed. They were afraid I might fall in like I’m so stupid.”
Li Shuo thought. Zhao Jinxin was the single child of the Zhao family. And they only have him at the age of 40 for Zhao Rongtian. That was really their lifeblood. It is not surprising to hire eight people to watch him 24 hours. Li Shuo did not answer. He waited for what Zhao Jinxin will say or do.
He didn’t want to admit it but he was a little curious of what Zhao Jinxin might dare to do. Zhao Jinxin stooped to pick up a stone from the grass. He threw it hard towards the center of the lake. There’s a “Boom” sound. The small stone fell into the lake. A small circle of quiet ripples swayed under the moonlight.
Li Shuo was still quiet. But he was on alert. After all, Zhao Jinxin “sneak attacked” him on the plane. “It’s good here. But I still prefer my apartment.” Zhao Jinxin smiled lowly. “On the highest floor. It’s nearly two hundred meters away from the ground. There are no taller buildings around.”
Li Shuo remembered what Zhao Jinxin said on the plane. There was an uncontrollable picture of sexual activity in his mind. Zhao Jinxin followed his thought in a tempting way: “Being naked in the swimming pool. Exposed to the sky and the sun. It seems that the whole world is empty. But looking down. You can also see the cars traveling on the street and the kite flying in the riverside park. Children playing. But no one will see you. Seeing what you are doing. You will be ashamed at first. But you will soon … ”
“All right.” Li Shuo interrupted him immediately. He suddenly found out that his thoughts were being taken by Zhao Jinxin. It was whether Zhao Jinxin had guessed what he was thinking or it was Zhao Jinxin trying to force the erotic pictures into his mind.
He was “invaded” by this person’s idea. This is definitely not a good thing. He paused. He smiled a little helpless. “Jin Xin. Your pursuit doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t matter whether you have charm or not. Look at the face of our fathers. Let’s pretend like nothing happened on the plane. We will be friends. Not anything other than that.”
Zhao Jinxin glanced at him sideways. Then he grinned: “Really? We can’t be more? I sent you the photo. Do you like it?”
“I like it. You are in good shape.” Li Shuo admitted frankly.
Zhao Jinxin blinked his eyes: “I have something ‘better’. Do you want to see?”
Li Shuo put his hands in his hands. He smiled and shook his head: “If you can’t communicate with me normally, then we’d better not have contact at all.”
Zhao Jinxin stared at him for two seconds. He laughed: “Okay. I won’t tease you.”
Li Shuo raised his wrist and looked at his watch: “I’ll go back first.”
He was about to leave. Zhao Jinxin grabbed his arm: “What’s the hurry? I’ll take you to play around the lake?”
“No. It’s so dark …”
“It’s dark and it’s fun. We can put fireworks on the lake. It’ll be very beautiful.”
Li Shuo plucked off his hand politely but firmly: “No need. I have limited time to be back here. I want to stay with my parents.” He nodded to Zhao Jinxin. He turned around and walked back.
Zhao Jinxin looked at his back. The corners of his lips were always smiling. It was not until Li Shuo ‘s back disappeared that he took out his mobile phone. A call was made. He said lazily, “Hey, brother. I saw him.” … “Well. You have a good vision. It fits my taste perfectly.” … “Sister-in-law’s eyes are also good …” … Zhao Jinxin put the phone away from his ears to the person on the phone screaming. After the roar was over, he said with a grin. “Don’t be so fierce. Just kidding. If you have such a bad temper, you will die.” … “Don’t worry, brother. Although it’s a little difficult. But …” Zhao Jinxin narrowed his eyes slightly. “…This is fun.”
*Translator’s Note: do note that Chinese call others ‘uncle’, ‘auntie’, ‘brother’, ‘sister’ even when they have no blood relation. That’s just a sign of respect. Also, ‘Kunqu’ is the ancient Chinese opera if I’m not mistaken.
Okay, I think I must explain this. Regardless of the gender, for the Chinese, they will use ‘wife’, ‘sister-in-law’, or ‘mother-in-law’ for a relationship even between men. In this part where Zhao Jinxin regards Li Chengxiu as his ‘sister-in-law’ is because of him wanting the man to be with his ‘brother’. You will know who this ‘brother’ is in later chapter. And among Chinese, if someone is in a man x man relationship, it’s natural to regard the other as ‘wife’ or ‘husband’ as they like. This may not be familiar for westerners so I just thought I should explain. This is told to me by my Chinese friend who is of course, gay.