Assistant Architect by Xi He Qing Ling
Chapter 68: Honoring Ancestors
Zhang Siyi’s heart stopped: “What do you mean: not-so-good?” He heard Fu Xinhui breathing heavily with exertion as if he was busy with something so he couldn’t talk right now. “Then you remember to call me back as soon as possible!” Zhang Siyi rushed to say, but Fu Xinhui never replied.
At first, Zhang Siyi wasn’t very attached to Cheer-up, but every day when he came home from work, Cheer-Up would come greet him and beg to be petted and thus changed Zhang Siyi’s attitude bit by bit. Even though Fu Xinhui is technically Cheer-Up’s owner, the dog didn’t treat Zhang Siyi any differently. Since it’s been two months since Fu Xinhui got the dog, the two men felt a little bit like parents, so naturally, when Zhang Siyi heard ‘not so good’ he began to worry.
“Sisi, what are you doing alone upstairs? Come down and honor your grandparents!” Zhang Siyi’s Mother yelled from downstairs.
“Coming!” Zhang Siyi yelled down in response. He sighed and put aside his thoughts of Fu Xinhui and the dog for the time being.
According to local customs, during New Year’s, the whole family would meet for a celebratory meal and honor their elders. In the past, Zhang Siyi would drive to his Grandfather’s home to celebrate, but because of cancer, it has been seven years since his passing. Due to grief, his Grandmother also passed away six months after his Grandfather. Now, they stay at home to celebrate and pay tribute to their ancestors.
Zhang Siyi saw his Father kneeling at the small shrine at home with incense sticks in his hand whispering in a low voice: “Father, thank you for your good fortune and the merits of our ancestors. The Zhang family is very good in both body and mind. You can rest assured. Also, Siyi graduated from abroad this year and found a job in Haicheng. He is working very diligently, and his career is taking off. If you and Mother know from beyond, then please bless his safety and protect him from bad people so his life can be successful and peaceful……”
Zhang Siyi seldom had the opportunity to hear his father prayers. He didn’t expect his scrupulous and demanding father to say such boastful words in front of Grandpa. Having argued with him just before, Zhang Siyi felt guilty. Looking at his back, he watched his Father insert the incense into the small shrine on the table then turn around. Suddenly, he felt a little awkward, like he was eavesdropping on his father. His Father’s stern face urged: “Hurry, down on your knees!”
Zhang Siyi: “…..”
After receiving the incense stick from his Mother, Zhang Siyi also kneeled and said: “Grandpa, thanks to you I am all right in body and mind, you can rest assured….”
Exasperated, Father Zhang abruptly gave Zhang Siyi a whack on the back of his head: “What are you saying? Speak properly!”
Zhang Siyi felt extremely depressed and thought: “How am I not saying it good enough? It’s the same as you!” Solemnly, he flattened his mouth and continued: “Anyway, I’m very good but I don’t have enough money to spend. Grandpa please bless me next year so my wages will increase, and I get more bonuses. Oh, and also, I hope I don’t get fired….”
Listening to Zhang Siyi’s bewildering prayer, the corner of his Father’s eye twitched. He wanted to reach out a slap Zhang Siyi into the ashes of the incense sticks, but with great restraint, his Father did nothing.
After worship, Zhang Siyi sprang up, patted his knees and launched himself upstairs like a monkey in the trees. In less than an hour, the hot dishes Mother and housekeeper have prepared will be ready for News Years dinner.
After sending a few messages to Fu Xinhui without receiving a response, Zhang Siyi couldn’t wait for his call any longer, so he called instead, but to his surprise, the other party’s phone was turned off! Zhang Siyi was so anxious that he was constantly looking down at his phone while hurrying to eat his dinner. His Father was getting angrier and angrier and glared at Zhang Siyi.
Zhang Siyi ignored his Father’s unstated criticism. He felt the phone suddenly vibrate in his hand. He looked down and confirmed it was Fu Xinhui calling. He quickly left his seat, walked to the side and answered the phone eagerly: “Hello? What’s the matter with you? Why did you turn the phone off? I’m worried sick. Do you know that?”
Watching Zhang Siyi nervous expressions and anxious movements, his parents turned to look at one another. An unspoken communication passed between them: His girlfriend?
Fu Xinhui: “Something has happened to my family.”
Zhang Siyi: “What happened?”
Fu Xinhui: “Before my uncle went gambling in Macau, he owed more than 20 million. He hid the truth from my father and borrowed money from a loan shark. Not long ago, the police came over to the house and arrested my uncle for fraudulent practices.”
Zhang Siyi: “But today is New Year’s Eve!”
Fu Xinhui: “The police don’t care if it is New Year’s Eve or not.”
Zhang Siyi: “So what’s going to happen now?
Fu Xinhui: “After, the debt collectors came to the house and smashed the door down looking for my uncle. We are hiding in a hotel for now.”
Zhang Siyi: “What? It’s your Uncle’s business, not yours. Why did they come to your house?”
Fu Xinhui: “I can’t tell you the specifics right now, but in short my Uncle used my father’s name. I heard those people have long been threatening to sue him, but he ignored it and continued doing things his own way. My Uncle provoked them, and they retaliated against our family……”
Zhang Siyi: “Oh My God! He’s completely screwing up your whole family!”
Fu Xinhui: “Yes…… Regardless, my Dad is urgently trying to get him out of jail.”
Zhang Siyi: “What!? To get out and keep hurting the family? That’s not helpful! Your dad’s making the situation worse!”
Fu Xinhui: “Hey, I don’t know what he is thinking.”
Suddenly remembering about the dog Zhang Siyi asked: “You said Cheer-Up wasn’t so good. Is he alright?”
“He is fine now.” Feeling down, Fu Xinhui’s responded in a hoarse voice. “Cheer-Up is confused and scared. Previously, my sister didn’t bother with him, but now, she is telling me to get rid of the dog. Even though his name is Cheer-Up, I haven’t actually cheered up.”
Zhang Siyi: “What? Is your sister that much of a cold-blooded animal that she demands you get rid of such a cute dog?”
Fu Xinhui: “Well… it’s not really like that. We were out in town and Cheer-Up ran off. I was worried and went after him and told my sister to go. But my sister was worried more about the entire situation, so she called for the bodyguard to follow. We saw one of the debt collectors grabbing Cheer-Up maliciously. Then the bodyguard went after the debt collector and beat him. Shockingly, my sister also ran over with a brick in hand…. That was the first time I saw her protect the family. She was speechless afterwards.”
After listening, Zhang Siyi was surprised: “That’s very different then what you told me about her. She said one thing, but in fact her actions were the opposite.” His attitude towards Fu Xinhui’s sister changed.
Fu Xinhui: “Yeah.”
Zhang Siyi: “…..”
Fu Xinhui: “I’ve been thinking if I have always misunderstood my sister. Maybe I thought her harsh words from the past sounded mean, but in fact were said in concern. Hey, I am pretty confused now. Have you eaten? You’re supposed to be eating now, aren’t you? Sorry to bother you.”
Zhang Siyi: “Don’t’ be so polite. Since you and Cheer-Up are well, then I am at ease.”
Fu Xinhui: “Well, you go and eat, we’ll talk later.”
Zhang Siyi: “Yes, you remember to eat yourself.”
Hanging up the phone, Zhang Siyi sighed. What a mess!
When his Mother saw that he had finally finished his call, she inquired: “Sisi, who’s on the phone? What have you been talking about for so long?”
Zhang Siyi couldn’t help but tell his parents everything about Fu Xinhui’s family situation.
Deep in thought, Zhang Siyi’s Father listened to what Zhang Siyi said and furrowed his brows. His Mother was also listening and sighed: “The rich family situation isn’t good for them. What are they doing now?”
Zhang Siyi: “They are staying at a hotel now and will have New Year’s dinner there.”
Mother Zhang shook her head: “With what has happened to them, its hard to think of eating.”
For a long time, his Father didn’t express his opinion on this matter. Suddenly he asked: “Is this the classmate you are renting a house with in Haicheng now?”
Zhang Siyi: “Well, yeah.”
With contempt, Zhang Siyi’s Father spoke: “Just pay attention to your own needs and don’t have anything to do with his family. Maintaining a minimal relationship with your classmate is alright, but his family is more trouble than its worth.”
After hearing what his father had to say, Zhang Siyi was livid. He rarely talked back to his father, but he couldn’t contain his emotions: “What is this ‘minimal friendship’? He is my BEST friend! When I had no money to pay for rent, he helped me willingly. Now that he is in trouble, it’s my turn to help. I can’t stand by idle and do nothing!”
His Father put his chopsticks down and fired back: “What did I say? I told you not to get in touch with his family. Did I tell you to ignore him? You said he needs help, but with what ability do you have currently that can help him?”
The self-esteem of any person who ‘does not have the ability’ will feel hurt. Zhang Siyi is no exception, especially because his father’s words were so true. Zhang Siyi face was black and blue with anger.
In a forceful voice, his father snapped again: “I’ll tell you, this kind of rich second generation doesn’t know what a setback is. He doesn’t know what true work ethic is. He doesn’t know how to move forward and rely on himself. You have been with him for so long, it is a miracle that you haven’t been corrupted too. His life is a waste!”
Zhang Siyi: “……”
Noticing the atmosphere becoming tenser and gloomier, Zhang Siyi’s Mother spoke up in a timely manner: “It is the New Year’s. Can you two stop quarreling? Sisi, you are being too sensitive. Your father did not say that you had to end your friendship. He is worried about you being implicated in the incident because you rent an apartment together. Now that his family is having problems, what are you going to do about your place? And you, Old Comrade Zhang, you see his rich friend be able to build relationships with others regardless of wealth or poverty is also a person worthy of respect. It would do well to speak more tactfully and not put on airs of an lieutenant master.”
Mother Zhang served them wine and a bowl of soup. Not uttering a word, father and son lowered their heads and ate their sweet soup.