Chapter 18 — When did Jian Yan and Director He…become food buddies?
It just so happened that Jian Yan hadn’t brought soup today. She thought that tasting a little mouthful would be enough, but He Xiu straightforwardly ladled her a small bowl.
“Thank you.” Jian Yan held the bowl with both hands as she thanked him.
He Xiu said, “There’s no need. I have free-loaded several dishes off of you, so I should also reciprocate.”
Jian Yan curled her lips into a slight smile and picked up a spoon to taste. A trace of the olives’ bitterness had melded into the pork soup. After swallowing, an aftertaste of sweetness remained between her lips and teeth.
“Tasty. Your culinary skills are pretty good.” Jian Yan was truly surprised. Although He Xiu had said last time that he also cooked quite a lot, she thought that it was Wang Po selling his melons1…apparently, this melon was indeed truly sweet.
Accepting the praise, He Xiu seemed to be a bit proud of himself. “When I was a child, all the food was made by me…” His voice came to an abrupt end. Afterward, it seemed like he had forcibly swallowed his words back into his stomach.
Jian Yan’s eyes twitched. She could mentally finish He Xiu’s carelessly revealed sentence with a hundred thousand words. She didn’t ask any further, however, and pushed her own yuxiang2 eggplant to him. She said to him, “I woke up early this morning to make yuxiang eggplant. Try it. I cannot drink your soup for free.”
A colleague eating at a nearby table glanced over at them. When did Jian Yan and Director He…become food buddies?
Jian Yan, pinched on time, finished the food within ten minutes. “Director He, I finished eating, so I’ll leave first.”
He Xiu watched as she packed away her bowl and chopsticks and offhandedly said, “Eating so quickly is detrimental for digestion.”
“I can’t do anything about it. There are too many people here today at the department store. Having ten minutes to eat is already very luxurious.”
He Xiu: “…”
Isn’t this covert criticism aimed towards the boss too harsh?
He chuckled and said to Jian Yan, “After this busy spell ends, I’ll treat you to another meal.”
“Then thank you, Director He.” That was only if she was still at Starlight General Merchandise then.
In the afternoon, as expected, she wasn’t able to get off work at 3:30PM and could only leave the store at 4:00PM. After returning home, she flopped onto the sofa, not wanting to move at all. Although she had worked overtime before as well, that was overtime while sitting down and expending her eyesight only. Now, she was on her feet the entire day at the store, unable to take a break because she kept having to talk to clients. It really was strenuous work.
That night, she didn’t want to cook either.
She took out her cell phone and opened a takeout app to order food. She ordered a pot of her favorite food, maocai.
Just after she finished ordering, Lin Zhen’s call came through. “Jian Yan, did you get off work? I’m at Starlight General Merchandise right now. Let’s eat dinner together!”
Jian Yan, weakly and without strength, said, “I just got home…”
“…Then you should come out again.”
“No thanks…” Jian Yan’s lips tilted downward. “You’re still going to Starlight General Merchandise to eat? I bet you can’t even find a seat to sit.”
“Today, all the eateries are giving discounts and have even given out vouchers! I’m already in line!”
Jian Yan: “…”
“Then I hope you have a delightful meal. I already ordered maocai.”
“Okay then. I snatched a few first-rate steak from the supermarket today and will head over to give you one later.”
Lin Zhen: “…” Altogether, she had only been able to grab two steaks, okay!?
“I won’t talk to you anymore. I bought many things with You You today and am nearly dead from exhaustion.”
“…” Jian Yan’s heart finally became unbalanced. Why was it that she, who had stayed in the shopping mall all day, was the one who hadn’t bought anything! “You You had free time to go to the mall? She didn’t need to draw a draft? She already handed over this week’s serial?”
Lin Zhen: “…”
She had doubts on who was really You You’s boss.
“Only after spending money will she have even more motivation to draw the draft. My number is being called, so I’ll hang up first.”
After Lin Zhen finished talking, she really did hang up. Jian Yan slanted her lips and threw her cell phone to the side. Ah, she also really wanted to eat tasty food. She hadn’t been able to successfully buy something from Yu Zhi’s Desserts…but she had been able to eat He Xiu’s personally cooked pork and pearl barley soup for lunch. It seemed like she wasn’t very unlucky.
Thinking of He Xiu, she recalled those two individuals at the mall this morning. She remembered that they were called He Chen and Xu Ying. Getting up from her sofa, she turned on her desktop computer and searched for 「 Starlight General Merchandise 」.
She hadn’t expected Starlight General Merchandise to even have a Baike page.3 She opened the page and began reading, taking note of the box with the founder’s name. Written in it was 「 He Jing Long 」.
He Jing Long should be He Xiu and He Chen’s father, the chairman of Starlight General Merchandise. His name was colored blue; it looked like she could click on it to be linked to a website. Jian Yan clicked on his name and was led to his Baike page. She read his introduction.
He was a well-known entrepreneur within the country and had been featured several times on the cover of Caijing Magazine.4 The beginning of this year had been Starlight General Merchandise’s twenty-seventh anniversary, so he and his wife had accepted a magazine interview where he had talked about his entrepreneur history. Jian Yan was somewhat curious and searched online for this magazine issue. She was actually able to find an electronic version of the magazine online.
He Jing Long originally came from a construction background. Using this analogy, he was presently the equivalent to a chief labor contractor. More than thirty years ago, a call from the government about a project had been the turning point of his career. At that time, A City had still been in the middle of development, and the government also had no money. They had begun many projects, but their funding had been insufficient. They had to use land to offset the costs of their projects.
The land that Starlight General Merchandise’s first store had been built on had been given to He Jing Long to offset the expenses of those projects.
He Jing Long naturally completed the project, and after gaining the land, he obviously had to build something on top. But the question of what to build, everyone’s ideas had been different at that time. He Jing Long, however, had opposed everyone else’s ideas and persevered with building a department store.
His decision had proved to be the correct one as Starlight General Merchandise was currently the tycoon in the domestic general merchandise industry. Starlight General Merchandise’s fashion even became the guide for how young people wore clothes.
The first store, located in Starlight Plaza, accounted for more than 60% of the whole chain’s annual sales. Starlight General Merchandise’s first store was a success, but it still relied on Starlight Plaza’s growth. The current Starlight Plaza was the earliest landmark of A City, and the creator of Starlight Plaza was He Jing Long’s wife, Zhao Ying Fang.
This magazine also wrote plenty on the love story of the successful entrepreneur and his wife. After awhile, Jian Yan more or less understood what had happened. That land Starlight Plaza was on, apart from the area under Starlight General Plaza, belonged to the Zhao Family. After finding out that He Jing Long wanted to built a department store, the Zhao Family had wanted to join hands, and it had been built upon this land.
He Jing Long had built the general merchandise store, and they had built the surrounding area into a plaza and other stores. The name of the plaza had also been taken from ‘Starlight.’ This collaborative project not only became a tremendous success, it also brought about He Jing Long and Zhao Ying Fang’s fated marriage.
The magazine specially had the two of them pose for a photo for this issue release. Even though they were both over fifty years-old, they looked like a very sweet, loving couple.
Jian Yan didn’t expect that after she read Caijing Magazine, she would, without warning, be fed such a huge mouthful of dog food.5
The magazine even wrote about a few years of Starlight General Merchandise’s sales performance record. He Jing Long expressed at the end of last year that Yu Zhi’s Desserts was the sacred place to visit in Starlight General Merchandise’s main store. He believed that this year, Starlight General Merchandise’s sales could obtain an even better performance record.
Jian Yan read up to here before recalling that she had forgotten to buy desserts from Yu Zhi…
She dejectedly exited the magazine interview.
Luckily, the food she had ordered arrived at this time. A savory pot of maocai temporarily soothed the sorrow in her heart.
It was evening when Lin Zhen finally left Starlight General Merchandise and carried her numerous spoils of war with her as she visited Jian Yan.
Jian Yan just happened to be in her work room drawing at that time, so Lin Zhen’s loud voice startled her. She went downstairs and saw that Lin Zhen was arranging shopping bags of all sizes on her table. Her eyes twitched.
“So this is what you normally do with our blood, sweat, and tears after milking us dry.”
Lin Zhen quirked her lips as she looked at her. “I have already been very conscientious. If you switch companies to manage your work, I can’t say for sure if your works’ copyrights will go with you.”
Jian Yan didn’t reply as she picked and chose things. “This is the first-rate beef you spoke of?”
“Yes. I truly used the power of the cataclysmic flood to fight for it.6 Those aunties are too frightening, I couldn’t squeeze past them at all.”
Jian Yan laughed. She also knew about the fighting strength of the supermarket aunties. Not only had she fought over discounted merchandise at the supermarket every time she went, those aunties despised her, saying that she wore such good clothes, yet she still came to fight over discounted goods with them.
“I can imagine the battlefield situation today. You have worked hard.” She held a steak and weighed it in her hand. It was more or less enough for one person. “Tomorrow morning, I want to sauté this steak, but doesn’t leaving steak outside till noon not taste good?”
Lin Zhen replied, “Why are you placing it aside until noon for? You can just eat it in the morning.”
“I was thinking of letting Director He taste some.”
After Jian Yan said this, she picked out a few other groceries. Lin Zhen was stunned, staring blankly into space. Only after quite a while did she grab Jian Yan’s arm and ask her, “Do you know what you just said?”
What did she just say? Jian Yan thought for a while and then realized what she had just said, causing her to immediately become awkward. “No, Director He cooked pork soup today, and I drank a bowl. Therefore, I wanted to give him a bit of good food tomorrow as proper reciprocation!”
Lin Zhen was even more stunned. “He had stewed soup for you??”
“No! He brought the soup himself. We all eat together in the dining hall, so I free-loaded a bowl of soup.”
Lin Zhen looked at her suspiciously. “Normally, you feel uncomfortable when a man approaches within three steps of you, yet you unexpectedly can share a meal at the same table as him? Even sharing food?”
“…Because we are food buddies!”7
Lin Zhen: “…”
She sized up Jian Yan for a good while before finally understanding something. Don’t tell me that because she knows Master He is bent, she isn’t opposed to him?
This was actually a good sign.
She said, “Then tomorrow, you must cook well! Don’t lose!”
Jian Yan: “…”
It wasn’t like they went to the dining hall to have a big culinary skills competition.
But whatever the case, Lin Zhen had been fooled. She released a slight sigh of relief. As for why she could cheerfully be tablemates with Director He and share meals with him, even her psychiatrist couldn’t explain it, so how could she know?
In short, let nature take its course, okay?
I have offended by being too lazy this morning, posting even later. I apologize 『smile-cry』
Tomorrow, I will return to updating at night. Muah~! Muah~!
Once again thanking you for supporting the official hosting!
Thank you sponsors
- Part of the idiom “every potter praises his own pot” (idiom), Wang Po is known for talking endlessly without getting to the point. He also appears fainthearted/feminine because of this characteristic, so people would call him Grandmother Wang ↩
- Yuxiang, a seasoning of Chinese cuisine that typically contains garlic, scallions, ginger, sugar, salt, chili peppers etc, but no seafood even though yuxiang literally means “fish fragrance” ↩
- Baike is the Chinese version of Wikipedia ↩
- Caijing = “Finance and Economics” — finance magazine in China ↩
- Remember this slang? Single people = dogs; dog food = other loving couples’ PDA so the dogs can live vigorously through them ↩
- “power of the cataclysmic flood” → Legend says that when heaven and earth was first created, there was once a great flood that nearly destroyed the entire world. This slang is used to refer to this world-destroying power. ↩
- Hmm… Jian Yan is digging a hole for herself. Food buddies/friends, especially in workplaces, are known to become lovers after spending and sharing so much together. //coughs ↩