2nd -【Young Master】
Chu Yu exited the police station holding a clear, plastic bag. The small bag was full of brightly colored fruit candy, which had been forced onto him by the female officer.
Choosing a raspberry-flavored one, he peeled off the wrapper and put the candy in his mouth. Then Chu Yu remembered and turned to ask Lu Shi, who was standing next to him, “Ah… classmate, candy, do you want some?”
He and Lu Shi looked at each other. He was still a little scared, so his offer sounded a bit empty. Chu Yu always felt that this guy was much scarier than the guys with big sleeve tattoos squatting in a row inside.
The wind was strong and the air was terribly stifling hot, putting Lu Shi in a bad mood. He glanced at the watch on his left wrist and refused, “No, I’m leaving first.”
“Oh, okay.” Chu Yu nodded, habitually wanting to say ‘see you later’, but he quickly swallowed it back— not ‘see you later’ ah, more like ‘see you never again’.
After the other boy’s back disappeared into the distance, Chu Yu dazedly stood at the door of the police station for a while, then he suddenly recalled his purpose in coming to Qingchuan Road— his beef!
After hesitating for two seconds, and feeling sincerely disappointed with his sense of direction, Chu Yu decided to bite the bullet. He went to buy a bottle of water at the nearby convenience store and took the opportunity to ask for directions.
Lu Shi lived on Qingchuan Road. The old-fashioned, 30-year-old building had graying concrete walls on the outside and narrow passages with short doors on the inside. Spiders were weaving webs in its dark corners while the staircase railings’ green paint peeled away to reveal its underlying rust.
He was somewhat mysophobic and took a shower first when he got home; he deliberately washed his hands three extra times. The wound on his left arm was soaked in water and lost its color, but Lu Shi didn’t bother looking at it, too lazy to care.
Lu Shi had changed into a white t-shirt and was wiping his hair when the phone rang.
“Shitou?”1Literally translated as Stone. This nickname will be explained later in the novel.
On the other side of the phone, Wei Guanglei was alarmed, his voice coarse. “Fuck his ancestors sideways! Lu-Ge, did that stupid Zhao Jiaqiang send someone to hinder you?”
Lu Shi questioned, “Who?”
“…” Wei Guanglei choked on his words. His stomach was full of a fire that couldn’t be extinguished so he patiently explained, “It’s the guy who likes to wear red shorts and has azure dragons tattooed on his arms. He always goes around saying, ‘I’m Qiang-Ge, the boss of the Azure Dragon Gang’!”
Lu Shi matched the person with the name. “En, he blocked me in an alley behind the street around noon today.”
“No way?” Wei Guanglei was anxious again. “Lu-Ge, my sworn brother, sigh, you didn’t cripple anyone, did you? Are they still alive?”
It really wasn’t that he liked to fight, but when Lu Shi first moved to Qingchuan Road, many people noticed that he’d just graduated from junior highschool and that there weren’t any adults in his family. He always walked alone, but the shoes he wore weren’t cheap.
He was like a lamb that suddenly appeared with ‘I have money and I’m very easy to bully’ written all over his body, so some people started to have evil thoughts.
This area of Qingchuan Road was quite chaotic. It was full of old houses that hadn’t been demolished, and as such, people from all walks of life could live in them. In the summer especially, when people were very irritable, crowds gathered in the back alleys to have armed scuffles, and it was always lively at night. At times, it was necessary to reserve a space in advance, otherwise, it would be too crowded, which restricted others from performing to their fullest.
Thus, in the beginning, Lu Shi fought almost every day and it lasted for a long time. It wasn’t until later that very few people on Qingchuan Road dared to do anything to Lu Shi.
Everyone reached the same consensus— you’re no match for him, you can’t offend him, he’s not a fucking lamb no matter how you look cause he’s obviously a feral wolf!
There once was a daring man who didn’t believe in such evil. He saw that Lu Shi was young and handsome, so he went in the middle of the night to pick his lock. That night, Lu Shi crippled the man’s leg in the corridor. His howls of pain could be heard all the way down the street.
Throwing his white towel aside, Lu Shi grabbed a bottle of mineral water out of the fridge, unscrewed the cap, and took two gulps. “There was no accident. Someone called the police so we all went to the station together.”
Wei Guanglei hadn’t expected this to happen. “Then?”
“They’re still inside, I left first to eat.”
Wei Guanglei sighed, baffled. “Who the hell called the police?”
It was an unspoken rule in Qingchuan Road that if the matter could be solved with a fist, then calling the police was cowardly.
Lu Shi’s words contained a hint of a smile as he replied, “A member of the Communist Youth League.”
Dark clouds accumulated in the sky and strong winds rose on the ground. Lu Shi walked to Wei Guanglei’s auto repair shop’s door and shouted, “Shitou.”
Wei Guanglei yelled back from inside, “Taking a bath! Two minutes!”
Lu Shi was bored but couldn’t go in, so he just stood at the door.
All around him were old shops that hadn’t changed their signs in ten or twenty years. Lu Shi was looking around absentmindedly when his gaze suddenly fixated on a certain spot.
There was a person with a seemingly familiar back standing across the street at the entrance of Old Yang’s Beef House.
Wei Guanglei walked out wearing a sports tank top and saw Lu Shi staring across the street. “I just heard, Lu-Ge, didn’t you help Uncle Yang advertise with that shitty public account two days ago? I didn’t expect it to be useful, already tricking a new customer over for him!”
Lu Shi could see clearly with his great eyesight that he was indeed the Communist Youth League member from this afternoon named Chu Yu.
The boy was still carrying the small plastic bag of fruit candy. He didn’t enter and instead simply went to sit down at a table in front of the store. Perhaps Chu Yu wanted to avoid the strange stains on the plastic stool because he bent down patiently and wiped the seat several times with tissue before finally sitting down.
Withdrawing his gaze, Lu Shi looked at Wei Guanglei whose hair was still dripping wet. “What are we eating?”
“My mother specially stewed chicken soup before she went out to play mahjong. She said that you’re about to start school as the second year’s first place scholarship student and since it’s exhausting being the top student, you have to supplement your brain! She just repeatedly told me to drink less. Seriously, what is this double standard? Not to mention, you still have more than half a month before you leave for school. It’s still so early, what supplement…”
While complaining, Wei Guanglei set up a pair of square folding tables in the corner of the shop. Lu Shi took the bowls and chopsticks in one hand and carried the pot of soup in the other, then the two of them dragged over plastic stools and started eating.
Before their meal finished, the rain that had been brewing for most of the day finally came down, like a raging waterfall. The drainage system of Qingchuan Road was mediocre and thus, the streets were soon filled with water deep enough to raise fish.
Through the curtain of rain, Lu Shi could see Chu Yu who’d finished eating and was talking happily with Uncle Yang who was packing a serving of beef for take out. Uncle Yang took out an umbrella, probably asking the youth if he needed it. Chu Yu waved his hand and refused, but he didn’t leave either. Instead, he sat on the stool and ate from the small fruit candy bag.
Wei Guanglei was still growing and could sweep empty a bowl of rice in a few mouthfuls. After drinking half a bowl of chicken soup, he decided to take a minute break and brought up the topic of Qiang-Ge again.
“I heard that Qiang-Ge had been aiming for you for several days now, he just never dared to do anything before, most likely wary of the rumors. Yesterday, a few of them were collecting protection fees from the street vendors and got into an argument. I don’t know how, but your name got dragged in, so he brought some people to stop you today, probably to prove his status as the boss.”
Having said so much, Wei Guanglei finished off with, “We’re all brothers here. My mother is your mother and Zhu Zhifei, that kid’s mother, is also your mother. Anyway, what I mean is, if you really need someone to pick you up from the police station, just call my mother directly. If she’s not at the mahjong table, then she’s on her way to the mahjong table, she’s quite free.”
Lu Shi didn’t like troubling people. If he could solve it himself, then he’d settle it by his means.
But when he met Wei Guanglei’s eyes, “En,” he said, “will do, thanks.”
Lu Shi continued to eat with downcast eyes. He was slender and lean, regardless of how he sat, he’d still look good. Even while pinching food with his chopsticks, every movement could be said to be somewhat unique.
At that very moment, Wei Guanglei felt that although this brother of his was sitting close to him, he was very far away.
He suddenly remembered when his mother had chatted about Lu Shi with Auntie Jing from next door. She said that not long after Lu Shi had just arrived at Qingchuan Road, there was a bodyguard in a suit who came looking for him in that kind of luxury car that could only be seen on TV. It left quickly and was never seen again.
At that moment, Wei Guanglei’s attention was drawn away. He put the bowl down and burst out with a swear, “Goddamn, that car must be seven or eight million yuan, right?”
Lu Shi looked up, following Wei Guanglei’s line of sight, he saw a black Rolls-Royce drive through the rain and slowly stop outside Old Yang’s Beef House.
The driver’s side door opened, and a chauffeur wearing a uniform and white gloves got out of the car with a big, black umbrella. He hurriedly walked around the back of the car and arrived in front of Chu Yu.
After a short conversation, Chu Yu got up to say goodbye to Uncle Yang and then walked to the front of the car with the driver while ducking under the umbrella. He waited for the man to open the car door before sitting in the back seat.
This entire scene shocked Wei Guanglei to the bone. “Which rich family’s young master came here to experience our livelihood? Uncle Yang is probably delighted, he can brag about this for more than half of the year!”
The Rolls-Royce drove away and Lu Shi withdrew his gaze. Lifting his bowl, he took a sip of the soup.
He thought back to the entrance of the police station where Chu Yu was carrying a bag of candy and had asked him if he wanted one, his eyes were light, like a small cup of amber beneath the sun.
Alas, he was indeed a young master with clean eyes devoid of the least bit of haze.
Inside the car, Chu Yu was a little cold due to the air conditioning. He turned his head to look outside the window, but the glass was covered by rain. It was blurry and nothing could be seen clearly—
When he got into the car earlier, he noticed that sitting across the street was someone who seemed to have been the gangster he’d met at noon, but he didn’t have time to confirm it.
What would he even do if he was sure?
Not letting himself think about it anymore, Chu Yu gestured to the fruit candy in his hand and spoke to the driver, “Uncle Chen, if you want some candy, I have a lot!”
Uncle Chen glanced in the rearview mirror, seeing Chu Yu’s bulging cheeks he smiled. “Young master, don’t eat it. That kind of candy is cheap, eating it will make you feel uncomfortable and it’s not good for your health either. Also, from what I just saw, even if that beef tastes novel, it’s not clean. At home, your Aunt Lan made mung bean cake for you. I smelled that it’s divine.”
Chu Yu was somewhat at a loss, he wanted to say that the beef was really, really delicious; the public account’s advertorial hadn’t lied. The candy was also delicious and he didn’t feel uncomfortable after eating it. Holding the plastic bag without letting go, he also wanted to reveal that he’d followed a gangster and had taken a half-day tour of the police station with a group of tattooed men, but he no longer dared to speak.
He didn’t want to brush off the person’s kindly feelings. In the end, Chu Yu only said, “Really? Then I’ll try it when I get back.”
Uncle Chen didn’t notice his low mood and continued, “Madam came home this morning to fetch some important documents and asked where you were so I told her that the young master went out to play with his classmates. Madam left you a message saying she’d be busy for the next few days and won’t return home.”
Chu Yu fiddled with the colorful candy wrapper, rubbing bits of sugar on his fingertips, he made them sticky and uncomfortable.
He stared blankly then nodded after a while. “Thank you, Uncle Chen.”
Uncle Chen advised as usual, “Young master, don’t think that the Madam doesn’t care about you. Madam is concerned about you, it’s just that Sir passed away so abruptly and the pressure fell on Madam’s shoulders. When one is busy, it’s naturally difficult to take care of their home.”
Chu Yu had been hearing these words so much since he was a child that he no longer kept count. He turned away and gazed at the scenery of the streets curtained by the rain outside of the window. After a while, he replied softly, “Yes, I know.”
Once home, despite not at all being exposed to the rain, Aunt Lan anxiously pushed Chu Yu into the bathroom to take a bath.
After soaking for a long time, Chu Yu’s limbs had softened. He changed and looked at himself in the mirror to find that his hair seemed to have grown a little longer. As well as his nails, which had obviously been trimmed yesterday, seemed to have lengthened again today.
Was he having another growth spurt?
He didn’t think much of it as he lay in bed at night and played games. Before going to sleep, he told a story to hypnotize himself and soon drifted off.
In the middle of the night, Chu Yu dreamed that he fell into a volcanic crater. The heat inside his entire body was terrible, like his blood vessels were about to explode.
He also dreamed of that twisted alley covered in dazzling sunlight where Lu Shi turned his head to look at him with his dark brows and icy sharp eyes. The wound on his left arm was still dripping with blood.
- 1Literally translated as Stone. This nickname will be explained later in the novel.