Assistant Architect by Xi He Qing Ling
Chapter 95: Old Chiang
Feeling rather giddy from the wine, the five of them were relaxing haphazardly on the large couch after the meal. Sitting next to each other close and laughing, He Xueying and Gu Yao were watching a variety show on the phone. Although there was friction between them in the beginning, now they acted like best friends. No one would have guessed that they met for the first time earlier that day.
He Chengtian spoke with Old Chiang. He was curious about his experiences and reasoning for opening the restaurant.
Since hearing that Gu Yu and Old Chiang were dorm-mates, Zhang Siyi also wanted to hear more from Old Chiang. When Zhang Siyi learned that Old Chiang and Gu Yu were the same in that they both were the provincial college entrance examination champions, his eyes bulged and his jaw dropped in shock. Having the construction industry loose such a valuable talent made Zhang Siyi feel regretful and felt disappointed that he was hiding in the corner of this uninviting city and was no longer in the construction industry.
Explaining the history of the restaurant, Old Chiang spoke: “It may be from those days as a child growing up with martial art movies and novels. Like being part of a secret society, what child didn’t want to open a tea house for the masters and heroes?”
Laughing, He Chengtian nodded and agreed. The struggling hero was always the most fascinating. But, as he grew up and matured, those ridiculous ideas slowly disappeared and instead pursued fame and fortune.
He Chengtian believed that without money, one could not achieve their dream. He would always ridicule those people with dreams by saying one could not achieve anything without money. With money, a person can be the top dog and could handle any matter and do what they wanted.
One may think that they have reached the desired status that money can bring, however there will always be people with more money. Moving forward in perpetual motion, He Chengtian didn’t know where the end was.
By the reinforced ideals of Zhang Siyi, Gu Yu and Old Chiang, at this time, He Chengtian finally became confused. He couldn’t help asking Old Chiang: “If you don’t make money by opening this restaurant, where does your main income come from?”
Unlike Gu Yu, Old Chiang was more modest and leisurely explained. He and Gu Yu graduated with an architectural license the same year. After the exam, Gu Yu went further in the industry to become a director at Borderless while Old Chiang wanted to step back from the industry and opened this restaurant.
In the earlier years of the domestic construction industry, in order to get the qualifications for a project, an unlicensed person could borrow a license from an architect for a fee. Even if an architect does not have active building projects, one could earn tens of millions from just the fees alone. However, in recent years, there were two forces that have led to the decline of borrowed licenses. One, because of the increased number of graduates and licensed architects active in the field. Two, because industry standards have changed and many have banned the use of barrowed licenses.
Zhang Siyi had heard of borrowing licenses before and immediately asked: “How much can you earn from the fees now?”
Old Chiang looked at Zhang Siyi with interest. He heard Gu Yu’s intimate tone when introducing Zhang Siyi as his “little apprentice” in the company. During dinner, he saw Gu Yu watching Zhang Siyi from time to time and as the evening progressed, he felt Gu Yu’s behavior was unusual. When has the arrogant Old Four ever been so concerned about a person?
Old Chiang thought to himself: Since Zhang Siyi is Gu Yu’s apprentice and because I was his classmate, then doesn’t that make me Zhang Siyi’s uncle? Ha-ha!
Amused by his own thoughts, Old Chiang said to Zhang Siyi: “It’s not as good as it used to be. The average is between seventy to eighty thousand a year. For the time being, I rely on this income only.” Old Chiang waved his hand to dissuade him and said: “But don’t use my lazy methods as your role model. Everyday, I just sleep and eat and as time passes day after day there is no future. Make sure you follow your director. He is more promising then I.
Zhang Siyi: “…”
Nearby, Gu Yu was listening while sipping his wine and said: “So you admit to your lazy business. I wish the restaurant had closed earlier so you could come out and get down to business.” Angry, Old Chiang picked up a peanut and threw it at Gu Yu. As he put up his hand to catch it, Gu Yu smiled and said: “But with your cooking skills, to be an architect is also a real pity.”
Listening to Gu Yu speak, Zhang Siyi picked up on some of the nuances in his speech and secretly thought: He admires Old Chiang’s freedom, but regrets his talents are wasted.
Since he wasn’t on the same wave-length as them, He Chengtian remained confused and asked: “Is seventy to eighty thousand a year enough income to run the restaurant?””
While eating peanuts, Old Chiang continued to peel them and toss the shells at Gu Yu: “Not always.”
He Chengtian was surprised: “Did Gu Yu invest in this restaurant?”
Old Chiang grumbled: “Even with good interest, how can this cheapskate invest in me?”
Hearing Old Chiang harsh words towards Gu Yu put He Chengtian in a good mood. In spite of Gu Yu, He Chengtian took out his business card and offered an olive branch: “Your restaurant is so good it would be a shame for it to close. If you have difficulties in the future, you can find me and I will make an investment.”
Old Chiang put down his peanuts and hurriedly accepted the business card: “Wow, Old Four. You are a high school classmate of this big boss!?”
Maintaining his original posture holding a glass of wine, Gu Yu scoffed: “Yes. He is the local tyrant. Quickly, hold his thigh.”
He Chengtian: “……”
Zhang Siyi’s cheeks were red from the wine and curiously asked: “Why is Gu Yu called ‘Old Four’?” Zhang Siyi always felt that his own nickname ‘Auntie Four’ strangely matched. Moreover, since Gu Yu also knows the nickname that his colleagues gave him, will if feel weird to hear the reason? Zhang Siyi discretely turned to look at Gu Yu and found that Gu Yu was already watching him. Scared, he quickly turned away to avoid eye contact.
Chuckling, Old Chiang smiled at him: “There were four people in our dormitory room. Since he was one year younger, all of us called him Old Four.”
Zhang Siyi wondered: “He is a younger than you?””
“Well, according to the Gregorian calendar it is a small year.” This time He Chengtian answered. He looked at Gu Yu and said: “But I remember your birthday is in January, right? According to the lunar calendar, it is the same.”
Gu Yu raised his eyebrows in surprise and looked at him: “You must have been paying close attention to me all those years ago if you remembered my birthday.”
He Chengtian: “……” Shit! Every year you got more birthday love letters and gifts than me. How can I not know?
He Chengtian didn’t want to talk to Gu Yu, so he continued to talk with Old Chiang about life. Under the influence of the very relaxed atmosphere, He Chengtian asked about his emotional life: “If you are here alone every day without making money, aren’t you worried about marriage?”
Taking his time to respond, Old Chiang replied: “People who like my way of life will naturally be attracted to my values and even if my three meals a day are light, they will choose to be with me. What would it mean to be together if we only married for financial reasons and didn’t hold the same views? Yes, there are exceptions in the world, but I think feelings are more important.”
As a “secular” person, He Chengtian listened to this speech and silently burst into tears in his heart.
Relaxing until nine in the evening, Gu Yu proposed to leave. Since the atmosphere was as comfortable and cozy as one’s own home, everyone was reluctant to get up to leave.
Gu Yu pulled out a stack of money to pay, but even though Old Chiang called Gu Yu a cheapskate, he unexpectedly refused: “Forget about it.”
Gu Yu hesitated for a few minutes but finally relented: “Sooner or later, you will have to close.”
Old Chiang: “…..”
Getting ready to depart, they put on their coats, scarves and hats and said goodbye. Staggering together out the door, the unanticipated chilly wind was an obvious contrast to the warm and welcomed interior.
A hundred meters away, Zhang Siyi turned his head to glanced back at the entrance. As if the time spent in the restaurant was only a dream, the sign and two lanterns that welcomed them previously, were completely hidden in darkness. The satiated feeling in his stomach and the warmth he felt from the wine reminded Zhang Siyi that the evening wasn’t just a mirage.
Walking back passed the old buildings and residential area, the five of them returned to the world. Afterwards, He Chengtian also had some thoughts. Shit, it was supposed to be Gu Yu treat, but in the end, Gu Yu spent nothing and he dug himself a huge investment pit! How is it possible!?
In the evening, Zhang Siyi took a shower and lay in bed and reflected on what happened during the day. Feeling a little uncomfortable about the day’s ‘date’, he privately sent He Xueying a message of apology on WeChat. He also thanked her and promised to take her out for dinner alone.
He Xueying quickly replied: “You are welcome. It had been so long since we saw each other and I had fun meeting new friends. I am very happy.”
Seemingly like an afterthought, she added: “I exchanged information with Gu Yao and invited her over next week. Do you want to come too?”
Thinking of her enthusiastic attitude when inviting him to practice driving, Zhang Siyi was hesitant: “I’m busy next week. Maybe some other time.” After chatting with her for a few more minutes he hung up and threw his phone to opposite side of his bed then raised his hands to cover his face.
After today, Zhang Siyi discovered a terrible fact. His attempt to divert his attention away from same sex pairings by looking for a girlfriend by normal means, completely failed! He Xueying could never be in his heart. The instant he saw Gu Yu dressed in his jacket, Zhang Siyi was only focused on him. His eyes feasted on GU Yu’s handsome appearance. He indulged in the essence of Gu Yu’s. The yearning he felt from the warmth of Gu Yu’s touch……
He never thought he would get in so deep that he would feel like he could never come back.
Sighing, Zhang Siyi heard the buzzing of the phone’s vibration and sat up to reach for his phone. He saw the new message —-
Gu Yu: “Are you free tomorrow? Let’s go practice driving.”