Compared to the adjacent Huarun Nine Mile Bund, Green City Huangpu Bay was more elegant and luxurious. Qin Sheng could imagine this apartment on the Bund and facing Pudong must cost a bomb. He wondered when he could afford a place for himself. In fact, he was not the first time this thought came to mind.
After buying some fruits from a nearby store, Qin Sheng stood by the gate as he waited as the security there was rather strict. After a while, Xue Hao came running up to Qin Sheng, saying, “I thought you backed out of this out of fear!”
“I’m not going to the infernal regions, what’s there to be fearful of? Unless your aunt is the female version of the Hannibal?” Qin Sheng said, as he tossed the bag of fruits to Xue Hao.
Xue Hao followed closely behind Qin Sheng as they walked to the apartment. To Xue Hao, Qin Sheng was like a sage who was hiding in this buzzling city. He was especially in awe of how Qin Sheng overcame the gang in the KTV and helped him settle the school bullies. Not only did Qin Sheng take away all his troubles at school, his goddess seemed to look at him in a different light nowadays after the incident at the KTV.
This was the new home of Ms Cheongsum. Apart from Green City Huangpu Bay where she currently stayed, she also owned a number of other properties in Shanghai. When Xue Hao finally opened the door with his keys and entered the apartment, Ms Cheong Sum was in the midst of preparing the dishes in the kitchen. Qin Sheng changed into slippers and started looking around the house. He began to wonder how many man had ever had the privilege to be treated this way.
“Auntie, we’re here,” Xue Hao shouted into the kitchen as he put the bag of fruits onto the table.
Ms Cheongsum came out of the kitchen with a spatula in her hand, cladding in a grey t-shirt and yoga pants. She was also wearing an apron. With a her hair twirled into swirl and secured on top of her head, Qin Sheng felt differently about her today.
“Ms Xue,” Qin Sheng greeted Ms Cheongsum despite sometimes he did not see eye to eye with her. This was so that Ms Cheongsum would not make things difficult for him in Shangshan Ruoshui. After all, Ms Cheongsum was not any mediocrity like Wang Haizhao or Yu Fengzhi.
“Here you are, Qin Sheng. You and Hao can take a seat in the living room for the time being. I’ll be ready in no time,” Xue Qingyan said, wiping off the perspiration on her forehead.
Qin Sheng smiled and politely said, ”Is there anything I can help you with?”
“You cook?” Xue Qingyan sounded dubious. However to be fair, many men in today’s society knew how to cook and Xue Qingyan knew quite a number of them.
“We who come from the less well off background had to mature quicker than our peers, we need to take care to ourselves,” Qing Sheng said modestly.
“Alright, let’s not argue about that. Go and watch some television while you wait for me to get the food ready,” Xue Qingyan gave Qin Sheng a look and turned to enter the kitchen.
Qin Sheng and Xue Hao sat themselves down in the living and Xue Qingyan brought a plate of fruits out after a while and said, “You must be hungry, have some fruits first.”
“Thank you, Ms Xue,” Qin Sheng half stood up and took over the plate of fruits.
Xue Qingyan said in a disapproving tone, “This is not Shangshan Ruoshui so you can stop calling me Ms Xue. Since I’m older than you, just call me Big Sister Xue.”
“Err..,” Qin Sheng stammered, “Alright, Big Sister Xue.”
“That’s more like it. Continue watching the TV.”
Xue Hao flicked through the channels and settled on a movie. On the other hand, Qin Sheng scanned the house to realize that Ms Cheongsum’s apartment consisted of three rooms and two living areas and was furnished in an American minimalist fashion. Qin Sheng thought the design really suited her personality.
“Doesn’t my aunt meet your standards? Not only is she a capable woman, she’s also good at cooking. You will be one lucky guy if you marry her,” Xue Hao said proudly. He was aware of the many suitors pursuing his aunt, it was just too bad that those rich second generation men did not catch his aunt’s eyes. This had begun to worry his grandfather.
Qin Sheng picked up an apple and started biting and chewing. He stole a glance at Ms Cheongsum, who was still in the kitchen. Overcome with curiosity, he asked Xue Hao, “What is your aunt working as?”
“Make a guess?” Xue Hao purposely asked.
Cursing under his breath, Qin Sheng scolded, “Just tell me!”
“Ha ha ha,” Xue Hao seemed to enjoyed being scolded by Qin Sheng. “My aunt is the general manager of an investment company. There are two listed companies under them… So does she match up to your requirements?”
“Match up to my requirements? Are you an idiot? You shouldn’t be asking me these question! You know I don’t even have a car or a house! Are you trying to humiliate me?” said Qin Sheng, being a little frustrated.
Xue Hao tried to act like a seasoned old man as he said, “What a tasteless guy you are! Does my aunt look like the type who would mind the family background of the person she fancies? She would have gotten married long time ago if she cares about family background that much. There are many men who are much more wealthy and capable than you. What my aunt really value is character. Even if your were a beggar on the streets, she would not despise you.”
“You can say anything you like, it doesn’t cost you a cent,” Qin Sheng did not want to waste time arguing with a kid who thought he was talking sense, thinking that Qin Sheng would believe in every word he say about his aunt. Qin Sheng knew better to trust his own judgment.
After bickering with Xue Hao, Xue Qingyan finally removed her apron and exited the kitchen, informing them that dinner was ready. Qin Sheng rushed into the kitchen to help only to realize that Ms Cheongsum had prepared a western-style meal instead of Chinese dishes. There were steak, pasta, salad etc. and Qin Sheng wondered if the food was filling enough.
“I like dinner to be a simpler affair. Chinese food is too oily, so I prepared western food instead. Are you ok?” Xue Qingyan asked casually.
“Sure,” Qin Sheng said, “I’m not picky, anything goes.”
“Looks like you don’t have much confidence in my cooking,” Xue Qingyan half-joked.
It was then Qin Sheng realized that he had said the wrong words. Embarrased, he said, “No, not at all.”
“Did you drive here?” Xue Qingyan asked.
“Can you drink some wine then?” Xue Qingyan continued to ask.
Qin Sheng hesitated for a moment. He did not know Ms. Cheongsum’s intentions were, but he finally replied, “As long as I don’t get drunk, it’s alright to drink a little.”
“Alright, just drink a little,” Xue Qingyan got up to fetch a bottle of red wine dated the year 2005. She preferred red wine and kept a collection of good quality wine to indulge herself occasionally.
Thereafter, Xue Qingyan poured half of the bottle into the decanter in preparation and kept the rest. In her mind, Qin Sheng was just an acquaintance and she supposed they would not be drinking too much together.
“Auntie, I want to drink some too,” Xue Hao implored. He basically did not touch alcohol, but he felt like a kid if did not join in with the wine.
Xue Qingyan fixed her gaze on Xue Hao and said, “You’re just a kid, you’re not allowed to learn to drink.”
“Auntie, I’m not that young anymore! Just let me taste one glass,” Xue Hao continued begging her with earnests.
Xue Qingyan, feeling vexed from Xue Hao’s continuous pestering, poured him a glass of wine. He would become a man one day, and all man should drink otherwise life would become meaningless for them.
“Firstly, Qin Sheng, thank you for your help the other day. If you had not arrived just in time, Xue Hao would’ve gotten in big trouble. Secondly, I’d like to apologize for my rash words that night. I hope you’ll not take it to heart,” Xue Qingyan said. She had not put on make up tonight, except for some lipstick. She usually did not put on any make u at home, however, she had a fairy good complexion which always made her stand out among other ladies.
Hearing those words of thanks and apologies, Qin Sheng was beginning to feel shy about it. He lifted up his wine glass and said, “Big Sister Xue, don’t worry about it. It’s part of my duty anyways so you didn’t need to say thanks or apologize. Please feel free to tell me what you need anytime.”
“Now you are the one standing on ceremony. Don’t feel uncomfortable, otherwise I’m not making you dinner next time,” Xue Qingyan said, keeping eye contact with Qin Sheng as she swirled the wine in her wineglass.
Somehow Qin Sheng could sense something unusually about Mr Cheongsum today. There was no need for her, such an important person, to treat Qin Sheng so kindly, unless she had found out his relationship with Jiang Xianbang? It could not be so. She would not need to do this anyways, even if she were to know about their relationship. Qin Sheng was clueless.
“Alright, but Big Sister Xue, please also treat me normally with no exceptions,” Qin Sheng took in a deep breath to calm his nerves.
“That’s more like it, come,” Xue Qingyan smiled and lifted her wineglass and clinked it against Qin Sheng’s wineglass. She lifted her head slightly and took a sip of the wine, leaving a red lipstick mark on the rim of the glass. When her lips separated from the rim of the glass, Qin Sheng suddenly felt a sense of attraction to her. Many a time, the charm of a woman did not depend on how showy her dressing was, rather it depended on little gestures such as this one.
Xue Hao, the onlooker caught this with his eyes and immediately gave Qin Sheng a kick under the table. How embarrassing was that? Did he say he was not interested in Auntie? Just look at they way he could not take his eyes off her.
Qin Sheng instantly recovered and was relieved that Ms Cheongsum had missed this.
“Qin Sheng, Hao says he really look up to you. Not only were you a brilliant graduate from Fudan University, you’re also a nimble fighter,” Xue Qingyan said thoughtfully, “I’ve something to ask you, but am hesitant about it.”
“Big Sister Xue, didn’t you say not to be feel uneasy around each other?” Qin Sheng chuckled.
“Let’s start eating and talk while we eat,” said Xue Qingyan, waving her hand. After putting a mouthful of salad in her mouth and chewing it, she asked, “You’re a brilliant graduate from the Fudan University, and from my observation and dealing with you so far, you’re definitely a brilliant person. Why are you working in Shangshan Ruoshui? Of course you can choose not to answer my question.
Qin Sheng put the fork in his hand and said with a smile, “There’s nothing for me to hide. It’s just that it’s my choice. After I graduated from Fudan University, I didn’t start working immediately. In fact, I travelled around for two years and eventually returned to Shanghai just last month. Firstly, I’m penniless, and secondly, I want to find a job to ease back into the city. That was why I decided to work at Shangshan Ruoshui,”
Qin Sheng’s explanation was a half-truth.
“I see. No wonder,” that was a reasonable explanation which Xue Qingyan could accept. Then she continued, “Where were you from?”
“You can say I originated from Xi’an,” Qin Sheng said, with a helpless tone.
Xue Qingyan could feel a sense of melancholy in Qin Sheng’s voice and expression, but did not understand the reason. She continued to ask, “How are your parents’ health? Do you have any other siblings?”
It sounded as if Xue Qingyan was doing some background check on Qin Sheng. However, this was necessary for every new person that came into Xue Hao’s life. After all, Xue Hao was someone special to her. She thought to ask Qin Sheng these questions personally first, then have someone to do a further investigation later.
“I was orphaned at a young age, so I don’t have parents and any siblings. My Grandfather was the one to raise me, but he passed away the year before last,” Qin Sheng told her honestly.
Xue Qingyan was instantly taken aback by his answers. She would never have expected Qin Sheng to have such a pitiable past. Even Xue Hao was stunned…
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to probe,” Xue Qingyan said, feeling embarrassed.
Shaking his head, Qin Sheng said, “Don’t worry. I’m used to it anyways, it’s been so many years.”
At this instant, the sharp-witted Hao Lei suddenly claimed to have a stomachache and had to go to the toilet, and he quickly got up and left the table. In fact, he thought this was a golden opportunity for his aunt and Qin Sheng to get more closely acquainted. After all, most woman possessed a innate motherly nature.
Xue Qingyan had wanted to discuss some serious business with Qin Sheng after dinner, however, she found the opportunity to do it now that Xue Hao had suddenly excused himself. “Qin Sheng, actually I’ve invited you to my place for dinner today for another reason too. I need a favor from you.”
Just as Qin Sheng thought, she indeed had something else on her mind, otherwise she would not have treated a small fry to dinner, what more it was her own cooking at her own house!