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Chapter 16: The First Step


Before visiting Chu Yuan Jiang, I prepared a huge bag of things for him to eat, to drink and to kill time. At first, I thought we were driving back, which would take at least a day, but DaBiao directly led me into a helicopter on the rooftop of Lin Ye’s house. Wow, the special force training was no joke, he even knew how to fly a helicopter.

When we arrived at the City X Detention Center, DaBiao exchanged a few words with them, and this time I was able to check in with my identity card smoothly.

I couldn’t take my eyes off Chu Yuan Jiang once he walked out. His eyes were hollow; his face was sallow, only the darkness was in his gaze as always.

“Yuan Jiang…” I passed all the things across the table.

He took them and sat down, staring at me, as if it was not him that was detained, “You are so much skinnier than before…

Seeing Chu like this, my voice unconsciously softened, “How can you say that when I should be the one saying this to you…”

He just lifted the corner of his lips slightly with aloofness, “I have accepted my fate. Don’t worry about me.”

I reached out my hand and held his, “Don’t say that. Remember, you still have me. You need to trust me.” He had lost so much weight that I could feel the bones on his palm protruded out, just touching it made me uncomfortable, “I bought you a lot of food and drinks, all of them are your favorite.”

“Didn’t know you have so much power.” He rummaged in the bag with one hand and raised his eyebrow.

“Of course…”

He laughed, but the laughter died very soon.

“What on earth has happened? Can you tell me?” He raised his hollow eyes, staring into mine intensely. A small curve at the corner of his mouth remained on his face.

“I sent the materials to Xinfang this morning[1].” The materials provided to me by Lin Ye, which I knew would cause a new wave of an earthquake. But to save Chu Yuan Jiang, I had no other choice.

“……”

A summary of the materials was in a folder in the bag. I told Chu, “Wait for the lawyer to instruct you on the details.”

“You…”

“You handed me those materials before you left, did you forget? You told me to relay them to Xinfang.”

“…I didn’t know there were so much behind this.” He sighed, “For months I have been in a complete daze… I tumbled so hard that I am  still spacing out…”

“Yuan Jiang…”

“But it’s worth it.” He unconsciously squinted his eyes, “This life is complete, Junzi. Isn’t this why every man struggles? Even if I am gone, many many years later, people will still remember me, don’t you think so?”

“Yuan Jiang, don’t put it like this…” I pulled out the golden green Laughing Buddha hanging on my neck, and swung it in front of him, “Your life is complete, but not mine. Wouldn’t it be better if we both stay alive and be brothers?”

“Junzi…” He raised a hand to support his forehead.

“Hmm?”

“I have become a burden…” He gazed at our holding hands, and even his voice has become hoarse. “You are always like this, minding other people’s business, like a middle-aged auntie…”

“I only mind your business, not others’.”

“It was such bad luck that I met you at that time… I struggled and fought so hard my entire life, in the hope of my brother enjoying a luxury, carefree life, but now you have to survive at other people’s will, how can you be so weak…”

“I am willing to do it for you. This lifestyle is my fate.”

“……”

“Plus, without you, how can I stand here today. Don’t think about this too much, okay? I will be waiting for you outside.” The visiting time was almost up.

He suddenly became emotional, “Junzi…”

I looked at him and gave him a bright smile, “Hug?”

He paused for a moment, and complaint in laughter, “When will you change your bad habit of jumping on people?”

I didn’t say anything but walked around the table and embraced him, “When you are out, I can make you some noodles.”

He remained silent for a long time, and finally squeezed out a response, “Um.”

I didn’t rest after I came back and bought a duplex not far from Lin Ye’s house. It’s never too early to show my loyalty. The judgment of Chu Yuan Jiang was not out yet, and after that, there would still be plenty of situations where I would need him when I lobbied for clemency once things cooled down in several years.

I always valued efficiency. When I bought the house, I also went to a decoration company and picked a cozy and homey interior design, and paid in full.

Lin Ye sent me the docûments of the new business. It turned out that he was the president, and I was the vice president. The next Monday, I put on my newly-bought Armani and flew in.

Lin Ye held a grand introduction of me in front of all the employees on the full staff meeting.

In less than a week, everybody was clear that the newly arrived president rarely showed up in the company. If there were anything that needed his decision, he would only flap his hand – ask the vice president!

After a week’s observation, I noticed there were plenty of talents in the company who were much more knowledgeable than me. Everyone held at least a master’s degree from some top-tier university. Too bad that nobody focused on actually generating profits. It was not rare to see people around a table playing poker on weekends, to receive the doubled overtime pay.

This company was one of those former arms conversion programs, which took old, unclassified military technologies, transformed them into civil machinery, and sold them on the civilian market. Too bad the transformation of the advanced technologies was off point, and the market responded with silence, with only a few counterparts purchase them as a symbolic gesture of support.

I had discussed reforming[2] the enterprise again with Lin Ye, and he threw me one guiding principle, “No layoffs, avoid reassignment. Salaries can only rise not cut, the welfares can only increase not decrease, but profits must go up.”

I took a deep breath. This assignment is not an easy task.

Not to mention the annual deficits, all around the year, starting from March 8, along with May 1 May 4 June 1 July 1 August 1 October 1, Spring Festival Duanwu Festival Qingming Festival.[3] As long as there was a holiday of any kind, in the name of a celebration party, the company gave the employees all sorts of gifts. Boxes of apples, to the newest smartphone for everyone, I could only hopelessly watch as the money flowed out little by little and became the ‘operating cost’ on the book.

Once, I went to the office of management to grab some pens. I told them I needed fountain pens, and the director said the fountain pens had run out and only rollerball pens were left. I didn’t care and just asked them to prepare some fountain pens next time, because we needed them for signing in the case of formal occasions. Then, in a few days, a Montblanc was placed on my office desk, with a ring of diamonds on it.

I went to check the receipt, and the Montblanc pen was twenty-eight thousand each. We brought ten. The president, vice presidents, directors, each received one. I gasped in shock.

However, such a big hole was not what I could mend.

According to Lin Ye, all these people came in with some background. You can fire them if you want, but you never know whom you would offend that’s behind them. So he needed this company to run brilliantly, and let everyone enjoy real benefits.

I was busy as hell, but Lin Ye seemed to have disappeared and left all the burdens to me.

My hands were tied, so I had to go back to City X, and poached back my most reliable workers in the previous company; then looked around hunting for talents that knew both research and marketing. Three months passed in nonstop working.

Lin Ye came to inspect from time to time, sitting in his spotless office, reading my report through the glasses, dressed in formal suits and acted in graceful manners, so quiet that was almost elusive.

I stood aside waiting for his direction. He didn’t say much, and from time to time would instruct me on the keys of interpersonal relationships. I listened carefully, his tone was emotionless, and he always came and left quickly.

After a period of fumbling, I realized it was not that there weren’t any profiting projects in the company because we were selling every kind of machinery in the category, some of the model’s profits, and the others not. Among those profiting models, some earned more, and some earned less, so, over all, the company couldn’t make ends meet every year.

In the name of supporting arms conversion and protecting the integrity of the industrial chain, a whole enterprise fed on the funding from the states.

I was critical of this. A company’s soul is the profit. I complain about the Montblanc pens with Lin Ye, but he just laughed it off and said I thought like a farmer, only cared about saving and ignorant of the big picture.

I re-established a department of research, planning to redesign the branches of the most profiting products, in the hope of broadening the market. All the employees were newly hired outside, with small base pay and high equity incentive compensation. To my surprise, some of the old stuff in the designing department voluntarily applied to work in the new office.

There were two other achievements in these three months.

The first was that my house had finished decorating. I consulted the insiders about the furniture and amenities, to be consistent in style. That Cadillac was locked in the garage, and I drove a state-owned car, which was a black Audi[4]. I tried to approach the dressing style of the ‘red-hat businessmen[5]’ of City B. From inside out; I had remodeled myself like one.

The second, was the several thousand tons of iron ore I hoarded when I just came to power had risen to the sky. At the very beginning, I knew the management of enterprise couldn’t improve in one day. The business could wait, but Chu Yuan Jiang couldn’t. I had to show Lin Ye some success as soon as possible.

When I was running my previous company, I often got annoyed at the fluctuating prices of the raw materials, so I studied a bit about the price of foreign futures. Compared with the complicated prospects, the advantage of the spot price was that it didn’t have expiration date and leverage. It’s not a coincidence that my bet on iron ore was lucky – after all, I was in City B, with naturally gave me more information and connections.

I sold the several thousand tons of iron ores, which immediately doubled the profit on the book. The three-month quarter report released in time and of course I put this in with the most glorious words possible. There was only one fact that I emphasized, which was since I took over the company, it had grown by leaps and bounds in three months, and the profit had increased by 100%.

That day, I got off the plane in the afternoon from signing a big contract with a distant hydroelectric power plant in preparation. When I hurried back to the company for work, I saw Lin Ye’s car at the gate.

A white Maybach.

He leaned on the door, with a cigarette between his lips and wearing a white shirt and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. Quiet and elegant, he looked at me through the smoke with elusive eyes. “What are you hurrying for, Boss Ou?” He asked with no emotion.

“Young Master Lin.” I hastily handed everything in my hand to my assistant and walked to Lin Ye.

He turned around and opened the door, “Get in.”

I nodded and followed him into the car.

“You did a great job. The old man is delighted, and even ask me where I find such a talented man.” He looked outside of the window, seemingly at the scenery that was flying by. I couldn’t tell the expression on his face.

My facial muscles were numb and stiff from days of negotiation and social events, and even my voice had become hoarse, “State-own companies are the easiest to run, the brand is reliable, the business talks are accessible, and cash flow is high. Anyone can do this job as long as, they are not too greedy or lazy.”

He finally turned his head to look at me, “Can you not talk in sarcasm like this?”

“I am only telling the truth.”

“The truth will be told from what you have done. Watch your mouth  from now on, and speak nicely, today it is the old man who wants to meet you.”


Footnotes:

[1]Xinfang, also Letters and Visits, or the Petitioning system, is the administrative system for hearing complaints and grievances from individuals in the People’s Republic of China. One of its usages is for people to report corrupt officials.

[2]The reform of state-owned enterprises in China

[3]March 8th: International Women’s Day; May 1st: International Workers’ Day; May 4th: Youth Day; June 1st: International Children’s Day; July 1st: Communist Party Founding Day; August 1st: Army Founding Day; October 1st: National Day

[4]black Audi: the most common state-owned cars in the Chinese government.

[5]Red-hat businessmen: businessmen with close ties to the government.


Translator’s notes:

Ou and Chu’s talk was a bit hard to understand. For those who need extra explanation, Ou sent out some materials targeting Lin’s enemy in the name of Chu, which could reduce his penalty as a tainted witness. The materials was prepared by Lin, so they needed to teach Chu what to say and report on court, which made Chu realize Ou was working as the lackey of somebody to save him, which was also why Ou was able to meet him and bring him so many things. (This is my understanding)


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