Chapter 24 — Strawberry Gardens
He Xiu left the bathroom after he finished bathing. He looked at his cell phone and realized that he had missed a call from Tang Zheng. While he towel-dried his hair, he returned the call. “What’s the matter?”
Tang Zheng cackled evilly. “Master He, let’s go pick strawberries tomorrow.”
He Xiu lightly rubbed his temple as he sat down on his bed. “You are truly becoming more and more feminine.”
Tang Zheng: “…”
“I have to work tomorrow. You can go pick strawberries by yourself.”
After He Xiu finished speaking, he wanted to hang up. At that moment, Tang Zheng yelled, “I also invited two beauties!”
“Oh.” He Xiu coldly responded and moved to hang up.
“It’s Lin Zhen and Jian Yan!”
He Xiu paused before returning the phone to his ear. “When did you hook up with them?
Tang Zheng said with extreme anger, “What hook up; I…have a matter I’m collaborating with Chief Lin on.”
Surprised, He Xiu asked, “What matter are you collaborating with her on? 《 Satisfactory 》’s theme song?”
Tang Zheng snorted. “Do you want to know? Well, I’m not telling you. Do you want to come tomorrow? If you won’t come, I’ll invite someone else.”
He Xiu said, “I’ll come.”
“Okay, it’s decided. Drive your car to my home first tomorrow. We’ll go together.”
After He Xiu hung up the phone, he sat for some time on his bed before walking up to his mirror and picking up a hair dryer to blow dry his hair.
He and Tang Zheng had arranged to meet at the gate of Tang Mansion at 9:30AM, so in a rare occurrence, he left a bit later than usual. After he had tidied up and walked downstairs, He Jing Long and Zhao Ying Fang were still sitting at the table, eating breakfast with He Chen.
He Jing Long saw him appear and asked, “Why are you leaving so late today?”
He Xiu replied, “I’m meeting Tang Zheng today. I’ll go to the company in the afternoon.”
He Jing Long nodded. “You go to the company every day; you should rest more. Since you’re here, you should eat with us.”
“Can’t. I arranged to eat with Tang Zheng.” He Xiu didn’t turn his head around as he left.
After he closed the door behind him, Zhao Ying Fang laughed loudly. “What is this attitude of his? Not even knowing to greet us when he sees us.”
While He Jing Long drank his soup, he said, “It’s not the first day he’s acted like this. I thought you were long accustomed to it.”
Zhao Ying Fang choked upon hearing his words. Still wanting to say something, He Jing Long looked at He Chen. “Did you quarrel with your older brother last night?”
He Chen set down his cup of coffee and smiled at him. “No; we were just talking about our brotherly feelings, nothing more.”
Once those words left his mouth, Zhao Ying Fang’s complexion became even more unsightly. “How many times have I told you, he is not your older brother!”
He Jing Long dropped his spoon. Pa. He seemed to also have become angry. “You even have the nerve to say that? How mischievous was He Chen as a child? It’s exactly because you have always whispered in his ear that He Xiu is not his older brother, that he had come to steal the family estate, that he has become like this currently!”
“Ah, don’t tell me what I said is wrong?” Zhao Ying Fang sneered at him. “If there was no He Xiu, Starlight General Merchandise would belong to our Chen’er, are you with me now?”
“Dad, mom, I’m full. I’ll go to the company first.” He Chen picked up a napkin to wipe the corners of his mouth and then got up to leave the dining room. Behind him, the sounds of He Jing Long and Zhao Ying Fang arguing were still faintly audible. He Chen laughed and carried his briefcase out the door.
He remembered that, in his childhood, his parents had been very loving to one another, but ever since He Xiu came, the two of them began to argue constantly. In front of outsiders, however, they still acted very close. Originally, if he cried, he could make them stop fighting, but over time, he gradually no longer got involved with their affairs.
When had that begun? Probably when He Xiu had lifted him by the collar and asked him whose mother was the mistress. After that day, he had understood that his mama had stolen He Xiu’s father, but what about it?
He was He Jing Long and Zhao Ying Fang’s only son. In this home, the disgrace had always been He Xiu.
Because Jian Yan remembered to call about her manuscript, she called Lin Zhen first thing in the morning to get her to send two assistants over. Who would have imagined that Lin Zhen had unexpectedly not gotten up yet. Jian Yan glanced at the time and asked her, “Chief Lin, do you not need to go to work today?”
“Ah?” This prompted a sleepy Lin Zhen. “What work? Didn’t we agree to go pick strawberries today?”
Jian Yan’s brows rose. “Picking strawberries? What picking strawberries?”
Lin Zhen kneaded her temple as she sat up, her quilt pooling around her. “Ah, It seems that I forgot to tell you that Strawberry Gardens opened. We can go pick strawberries.”
“Oh…but I want to draw today. It’s rare that I have a day off. Invite someone else to go, okay?”
“Others also need to draw, and more urgently than you too!” Lin Zhen stepped into her velvet slippers and walked over to her bathroom. “I have calculated that picking strawberries shouldn’t take a lot of time. You should be able to return in the afternoon. You can draw then. I’ll call your assistants for you.”
“Assistants definitely need to be called, but…”
“Don’t say ‘but;’ aren’t you a strawberry-enthusiast? Don’t miss this gigantic opportunity.” Lin Zhen held the phone between her shoulder as she squeezed toothpaste onto her toothbrush. “I’m going to wash my face and rinse my mouth, so I won’t talk to you any longer. An hour later, I’ll come to your house and wait for you. If you aren’t coming, your pay is being deducted.”
Jian Yan: “…”
Lin Zhen hung up after she finished speaking. Jian Yan had a slight headache. She looked over at her computer, where there was still only a draft, and sighed. She exited the drawing software.
Pick strawberries, then we’ll just go pick strawberries. Perhaps she could find some new inspiration.
Because she had to leave, she specifically went to wash her hair again. After she came out, she stood in her large dressing room to choose what to wear today.
Mn… light clothes can make one’s mood gentler. She took out a silk floral blouse and gently sniffed it. Floral could not be solely classified as a spring element. Winter could also use it to mix and match, thus returning to a vintage style.
She once again picked the super-long white fur coat and brown velvet short skirt. Jian Yan then walked to her shoe wardrobe and grabbed a pair of red high heels from inside.
After changing, Jian Yan stood in front of her mirror and nodded in satisfaction. Sure enough, wearing high heels could make a woman attractive. Having put together a nice outfit for herself, she applied makeup and blow dried her hair. Lin Zhen had just arrived downstairs when she finished all her preparations.
She picked up a red shoulder bag and went downstairs. When Lin Zhen saw her walk down, her eyes widened as she said, “Holy shit! Goddess Jian, your legs today are liang mi ba!”1
Jian Yan fastened her seatbelt and tilted her head to smile at Lin Zhen. “A long coat and high-waisted short skirt both make your legs seem longer. You deserve to have liang mi ba long legs.”
Lin Zhen said, “You look so beautiful. I really want to go back and change my whole outfit…”
Jian Yan sized her up and commented, “What you’re wearing is also pretty good. At least you remembered the main points I normally tell you——the Law of Complementary yet Different Textiles, which accentuates the gradation without making you appear obese. I’ll give you 80 points.”
“The remaining 20 points are set aside for my room for improvement?”
“No, it’s deducted from your face.”
Lin Zhen: “…”
Really want to throw her out of the car…
She restrained this kind of impulse and drove to Strawberry Gardens. Because today wasn’t the weekend, there weren’t that many people coming to pick strawberries. This point was very much within Jian Yan’s expectations. She and Lin Zhen walked inside, but a few steps later, she saw He Xiu and Tang Zheng waiting inside.
Jian Yan’s steps halted abruptly. She turned her head to ask Lin Zhen, “You invited them?”
“Yes.” Lin Zhen smacked her palm with her fist. “Did I also forgot to tell you this?”
Jian Yan: “…”
When Tang Zheng saw Jian Yan, he nearly whistled. “Jian Yan seems even prettier than when I last saw her! Those legs——even without exaggerating, they’re still 2.8 meters!”
He Xiu didn’t respond to him. Lin Zhen pulled Jian Yan forward to greet them. “Good morning, Head Tang, Head He.”
“We’re outside having fun, don’t be so polite. Call me Tang Zheng, okay?” Tang Zheng winked at her, hinting that they were going to nurture affection between each other.
Lin Zhen understood tacitly. “Okay then.” After she said this, she saw that Jian Yan and He Xiu had no reactions. Her eyes twitched twice before she probed, “Why are you two acting so strange? Is Jian Yan’s performance at work poor?”
He Xiu said, “No, her performance is excellent.”
“Oh…” So then, what’s going on? She glanced at Tang Zheng, but he seemed baffled as well. “Then let’s go pick strawberries. Over there in row number three, it’s chocolate flavored! Let’s go pick from there!”
Jian Yan, however, declined. “I don’t want to eat mutations. I want to eat strawberries with their original, natural flavor.”
“Oh…” Lin Zhen glanced around the field. “This area over here seems to be it.”
Jian Yan nodded and walked forward with her basket raised. “Then I’ll go first and pick this one. I’ll find you all later.”
He Xiu muttered indistinctly to himself for a moment before he walked forward as well. “I’ll accompany her.”
Lin Zhen and Tang Zheng glanced at each other before heading to the third row together.
After Jian Yan entered the row, she began picking strawberries as if she was racing against time. He Xiu just stood to the side and watched her. After she had picked a pile, she finally couldn’t help but taste one. “So sweet!”
He Xiu knitted his brow slightly together. “Don’t you need to wash this strawberry?”
“Oh, tasting one or two shouldn’t be a problem. You can see others eating them too.” She took out her phone and took a few pictures of the strawberries. She pondered for a moment before retrieving another strawberry from the basket and asking He Xiu, “Do you want to taste? It’s really sweet.”
He Xiu pursed his lips before crouching down beside her. He easily picked a strawberry and placed it into the basket. “I apologize for these past two days.”
Jian Yan’s eyes glinted slightly and fed a strawberry into her mouth. “It’s I who should apologize for saying something that I shouldn’t have said…”
“It’s not your fault; it was my own problem.” He Xiu once again plucked a strawberry and placed it into the basket. His brows furrowed slightly as he said, “I haven’t sorted out my emotions. I also didn’t know how I should tell you, so I kept avoiding you. This matter, however, has never been your fault…”
He Xiu was still organizing his words to continue speaking when Jian Yan nodded and said, “I understand, but I just wanted to say…” She took out the new strawberry He Xiu had placed into the basket and explained to him, “It’s like this strawberry——If it doesn’t look pretty, then fine; but here it’s still a little green, so it’s unlikely that it will be very sweet.”
He Xiu: “…”
Expressing thanks to sponsors
- Liang mi ba (两米八) is an exaggeration to say that her legs are super long; 2 meters and 80 centimeters ↩