Chapter 71: Connections
In the middle of December, Xu Tingsheng went down to the town of Xishan and rented 3 rooms on the second storey of a riverside residence. Two of the rooms were for Fu Cheng and himself, while the other one was intended as a guest room. Of course, it was primarily prepared for Huang Yaming.
The landlord of this place did not actually live in Xishan, with the rent usually collected on his behalf by a pair of tenants, a husband and his wife, who stayed on the first storey. The two reportedly ran a small business in Xishan.
Xu Tingsheng had reached a verbal agreement with the landlord over the phone. While speaking to him, he had clearly been able to sense that he who had struck it rich overnight due to the sudden emergence of the academy city of Xishan did not really care about this little bit of money at all. The three rooms amounted to 750 yuan in monthly rent, without even a contract having been signed between the two sides.
The landlord said that Xu Tingsheng could simply stop paying the monthly rent for the next month if he wanted to leave, and not to bother him otherwise.
Xu Tingsheng was naturally welcoming of this.
The first time he had gone to pay the rent, Xu Tingsheng had made an unexpected discovery. The couple living on the first floor was in fact the lady boss of the wonton stall and the young lad from back then who had drunkenly narrated the story of the lady boss and himself and showed Xu Tingsheng’s group the many scars that densely riddled his body.
Back when Fang Yunyao had come, this young lad who had once experienced numerous hardships had gifted Fu Cheng with a stroke of ‘godly support’.
The lady boss who resembled Xiao Songjia really did have the ‘Jia’ character in her name. Her name was Tao Jiaxiu, while the young lad was called Zhong Wusheng.
Although the greater part of his time was still spent in university, as Xu Tingsheng returned on occasion to the riverside residence, he sometimes caught glimpses of the interactions between the two. He was able to tell that they truly were very loving and affectionate, just that their days were somewhat hard and exhausting.
They grew closer as time passed. Once in a while, when Xu Tingsheng and Fu Cheng or Huang Yaming had come to stay in the riverside residence, Huang Yaming would knock mischievously on the door of the couple’s room, telling Zhong Wusheng, “Don’t make too much of a racket tonight. The soundproofing between floors isn’t good and there’re still three single guys living upstairs. Kindly show some understanding and sympathy.”
Zhong Wusheng would rush out from his room and effortlessly take Huang Yaming down, terrorizing him for a while till Tao Jiaxiu appeared and admonished him, “Let go, you foolish trouble-maker. You really don’t have a sense of perspective! Be careful lest you injure others.”
And so Zhong Wusheng would do as he was told and obediently let go.
Last time, Zhong Wusheng had proclaimed while in a drunken state, “I could actually have taken on 5 of them alone, do you believe me?”
Xu Tingsheng had initially dismissed these as drunken exaggerations, yet it now appeared to really be believable.
Looking at the force and technique Zhong Wusheng displayed every time he subdued Huang Yaming, it did indeed appear as though dealing with three to five people at once might really be nothing for him at all.
The original impression Xu Tingsheng had had of Zhong Wusheng was already pretty decent. Now, with his fighting prowess added into the mix, Xu Tingsheng felt even more like he should befriend him. He thought of Mr Xu’s business; if it was really going to expand at the rate that it was intended, there would eventually come a time when Mr Xu would need such a person by his side.
Whether or not this matter would succeed would depend entirely on the wills of Zhong Wusheng and Tao Jiaxiu. At the very least, this represented an opportunity for Tao Jiaxiu to escape her present need to toil so hard every day.
In the following days, Xu Tingsheng would often bring people over to patronize the lady boss’ wonton stall, making use of this chance to also strike up conversation with Zhong Wusheng, whose business was perpetually not good.
It was quite apparent that Zhong Wusheng was really not cut out for running a business at a stall. Sometimes, while haggling with customers over prices, he would already be in a huff after just exchanging a few lines, flinging the clothes onto the counter as if saying-take it or leave it, I couldn’t care less!
Apart from Xu Tingsheng, no one else could stomach eating wonton noodles on such a regular basis. Instead, Xu Tingsheng rotated between coming with his roommates, Huang Yaming, Fu Cheng and Song Ni, or even Fang Yuqing on occasion.
On the presently red-hot topic of Rebirth, the person whom Xu Tingsheng was most worried about was the demoness Fang Chen. After all, she was practically the sole outsider who knew of their secret. In her own words, she had a hold over Xu Tingsheng and was ready to threaten him with it whenever she wanted.
Still, she had been surprisingly quiet over this period of time, only having called Xu Tingsheng once to ask if Apple had visited recently. Upon hearing that she had not, she hadn’t said much more, just reminding him to call her over for a meal the next time Apple came.
Xu Tingsheng didn’t know whether he should rejoice or worry over the fact that Fang Chen was clearly more interested in Apple than she was in him.
The person whom Xu Tingsheng was truly interacting with more and more was Fang Yuqing. This was a truly strange person. Usually, he appeared like he didn’t care about anything at all, his head stuck up in the air as if he was the sole lord that mattered under the heavens. However, this hateful arrogance was just one side to him.
On the other hand, he was actually also loyal, straightforward and utterly shameless. According the man himself, “I’m only like this to those I consider worthy. You should consider yourself fortunate, Xu Tingsheng.”
Xu Tingsheng answered, “Can I bother you to please scram a little further from me.”
Fang Yuqing said, “Yuqing told me to hang out with you more, and my sister also told me the exact same thing. What’s rarer is that even this bro myself am willing to hang out together with you. Look, how honoured you should feel.”
Xu Tingsheng asked, “Bro, you’re already a third year student-don’t tell me you’re not busy? You’re not considering looking for an internship?”
Fang Yuqing said, “Find my ass, whatever I find will all be meaningless anyway…..in any case, it’ll all have to be done according to my Dad’s will. If he wishes me to go for an internship, why, he’ll naturally arrange it for me then.”
Xu Tingsheng said, “I am incapable of communicating properly with ‘official second gens’.”
Fang Yuqing said, “How am I an ‘official second gen’? In my family, I might as well be an adoptive child. My standing is lower even than our dog…The one truly groomed as a second gen in my family is my elder sister; she’s the one involved in those second gen social circles….That bunch of people all act that way on the surface, the girls dignified and the guys gentlemanly, but in actual fact, each and every one of them is so freaking scheming…that kind of circle-I’m not used to it, and nor do I want to be.”
Xu Tingsheng said, “But neither should you be hanging out with a poor little peasant like me, right? Go pick up some girls with your wastrel comrades at some nightclub or whatever. Isn’t that way more interesting than sitting here with me eating wonton noodles?
Fang Yuqing grinned, “Wow, nightclub! You speak as if Yuqing and my sister don’t know how to murder people…. What’s more, Bro Zhong’s agreed to let me learn some techniques from him. Less causing trouble for me, you.”
Fang Yuqing and Zhong Wusheng were actually very compatible in temperament. The two of them now began discussing some martial art techniques as Xu Tingsheng sat by the side and quietly savoured his wonton noodles in peace.
Xu Tingsheng was actually not too clear on the background of the Fang family. Fang Yuqing not having himself elaborated, he really then shouldn’t ask, much less discreetly attempt to probe further.
Based on their time together, Xu Tingsheng had gradually come to understand this chap called Fang Yuqing. When it came to such matters involving him, rather than trying to test and probe such words out of him, one might as well ask him directly, for the worst case scenario would merely be his refusal to answer. If someone tried scheming against him, they might then not even be able to remain friends anymore.
How could someone with such a demoness of a sister really be a fool?
Xu Tingsheng had not asked, and the only thing he knew was this: The reason that Fang Chen and Fang Yuqing were enrolled in Yanzhou University, an institution hardly befitting of their high status, was solely because the old man of the Fang family, their paternal grandfather, was living out his life post-retirement right here in this city.
Also, Yanzhou had been the Fang family’s bedrock all this while. So far, members of the Fang family who had begun on their careers had mostly started out in Yanzhou.
Apart from these bits of information, the rest would have to be deduced and obtained from Xu Tingsheng’s everyday observations:
Firstly, Fang Yuqing’s father was probably not the sole male descendent of his generation. Grandpa Fang would inevitably harbour preferences amongst his several children, so one motive for Fang Chen and Fang Yuqing’s staying in Yanzhou should be to help their father gain favour from their grandfather.
Secondly, Fang Chen’s choice to rejoin the school upon graduation was actually a path of compromise. Universities were different from junior high schools and primary schools in that their leadership was more closely connected with the government, their equivalent rank in the bureaucracy being rather high. Often, the news would carry reports of some of those in university leadership positions being directly transferred to the government, taking on leadership positions as officials.
As a female, Fang Chen joining the university was a option which gave her the leeway to either advance or retreat as needed. She could rise up by joining the government bureaucracy, or she could step back and choose an idle life as a respected university teacher, which was actually also a pretty good option.
Ever since he had returned home during the 1st October holiday and witnessed the current state of the Xu family, Xu Tingsheng had to admit that his desire for success was growing weightier and weightier.
Following his rebirth, Xu Tingsheng had come to possess one rather extreme notion: He desired – and had even gotten used to – having complete control over situations, able to calmly respond to whatever crisis or threats emerged.
Back when he was still in high school, he had been able to rely on his own abilities to push Mr Xu to make a comeback, guarantee the upturn of Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng’s grades, protect Song Ni and Wu Yuewei from harm and even avert Fang Yunyao’s tragedy…
Consequently, he had lived with confidence amidst the sensation that he could easily achieve practically anything that his heart wished for.
Yet, Mr Xu’s current strides forward were way too large, the situation having slipped out of Xu Tingsheng’s control. In other words, his level of advancement now exceeded the scope of Xu Tingsheng’s present ‘safeguarding’ ability.
This overstepping was rather comprehensive. First of all, from a monetary standpoint, his father had seven million yuan of funds in total investment from investors. Xu Tingsheng did not have enough as reserves in case something unexpected cropped up. Secondly, with Mr Xu relying on this seven million for expansion, they might not be dealing merely with supermarkets in due time. Much more complex and scary things existed out there, awaiting the Xu family.
Thus, Xu Tingsheng began to panic.
To alleviate this panic, there were only two ways about it: Money and influence.
Regarding money, Xu Tingsheng had only just taken his first steps forward so far. Although his current rate of money-making was not fast enough, it was not slow either. In the meantime, he was searching for more opportunities as well as finding a direction that truly suited him.
‘Influence’ was a network, a network of people – connections. Xu Tingsheng lacked ‘connections’, and in this area it really couldn’t be much worse.
His family originated from a rural village, being peasants of eighteen generations. Therefore, Xu Tingsheng had the feeling of possessing strength yet not having any place in which to exert it. However much he wished to seek out backing, no such powerful backers existed in his background no matter where he looked, great trees which could shield him from the winds and rains.
And now, Fang Yuqing, Fang Chen and their Fang family were perhaps the greatest connection that Xu Tingsheng might be able to attain at the present moment.
He seemed to have come to get along with Fang Yuqing through pure chance, but in fact, this was a product of constant intentional manipulation to shape the outcome. Otherwise, it was impossible that Fang Yuqing would enjoy hanging out with Xu Tingsheng out of the blue.
This could perhaps be seen as success-driven, but it was all for the sake of gaining the ability to protect his family, and maybe even yet more others who might require his protection in the future. Xu Tingsheng had no other choice, and could claim a perfectly clear conscience in the matter as well.