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Chapter 37: Earning Money

I laughed. “Just lie still. We really need to finish this before the alcohol gets burnt out.”

I still remembered how physically challenging this task had been at the beginning. I would often crump out halfway through, and have to crawl into bed to rest with Chu Yuan Jiang. He showed no consideration either. There was that one time, when, having regained some of his fitness, he wanted to test it out and insisted on fighting me. We fought for so long that the jar I used to heat the medicinal alcohol exploded with a loud bang, distracting me and causing me to be knocked off the bed by his elbow. I remember falling to the floor, painfully, with a rather loud, muffled thud.

Finally, the other leg was done, and I was able to get on the bed with a relieved, long sigh.

Chu Yuan Jiang lay next to me, and said, “Hey, someone told me of Peter’s past today. Of how he made his fortune. Interested?”

“Peter? Who’s Peter?” I joked.

He kicked me with one foot, “Keep playing the fool, I dare you. The Xiong guy.”

“Oh. So what about that triumphant past of his?”

“Apparently, ten years ago he came here for college and for four years he learnt nothing except how to pick up chicks. It was so bad, that when he graduated he couldn’t even speak fluent English. His family wasn’t lacking for money, but compared to the wealth of people here, they looked positively ordinary. So, once out of college, he ended up with no job and no money. What do you think he did?”

“You tell me.”

“Just before his graduation, he spent three months gathering information about the daughters of wealthy, or powerful families that were sent to study here. The names alone filled three pages… Then he spent another three months on research to pick the most suitable target — A single daughter of a coal mine owner in Shanxi. It took him six months to get into the girl’s circle of friends, and four more to marry the girl. And once married, he had everything — a job, money, a house, and a car.”

I was confused for a moment. “This is must be hearsay. I have never heard about him having a wife or anything.”

“He has sent her away to live in Los Angeles, they do business there too.”

“So, that’s why he has so much freedom here. Explains the beauty contests and stuff.”

Chu Yuan Jiang turned on his side to me. “And that, Junzi, is why I’ve said, the value of money is not dependent on how it’s acquired. As long as it is.”

I sighed, “Let’s not talk about this.”

“Why?” he asked looking at me deeply.

I stiffened with a frown. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

I remembered the time we had lived together in City X… I despised how he socialized everyday to make connections with the rich and the powerful to get jobs from them. And he despised me for only being a street vendor. Eventually, we fell out over whether I should take that construction project[1], and split up.

Chu sat up and spoke, gazing deep into my eyes, “Do you know how difficult it is to make money these day? People work illegally, or carry dead bodies just to make a living. In the past, I would have admitted if you accused me of earning outside the law. But what I do now is legal.”

I sat up too. A fury started to build in my chest, making me struggle for breath. Not for the first time.

I was so familiar with this feeling. It had always driven us to fight each other when we were still a pair of naive adolescents.

He preferred to make connections, form groups, and then use that network to build up his career.

I preferred to work on my own patch of land and trade in my own harvest.

He had his way, and I had mine.

“This type of business can’t support us long-term,” I said eventually.

He sighed, “We don’t have much resources to work with, so it’s obvious we have to listen to others. When our situation changes, they will listen to us instead. It’s like when you run a store. If you just opened a new grocery shop, you need to beg to the suppliers; but if you run Walmart, the suppliers will come to beg you. Junzi, you know your way about those… futures, and you can earn money over Internet without leaving your room. I can only find my way to fortune by dealing with people……”

I remained speechless for a while. In the end, I was unable to control myself, “But those young girls……”

Chu Yuan Jiang replied, indifference in his voice, “Why are you so sure that they’re being used? People are not stupid these days.”

“But this thing… Yes, you can hook up with a call-girl once or twice by yourself – that’s playing the field. Doing it as a business, though……”

“Actually, nevermind. I don’t know how to explain this to you ……” He closed his eyes and concluded, “Plus, it’s pretty late.”

I paused for a bit before standing up and getting his sleepwear from the closet. “By the way, Young Master He is coming for the next party,” he said as he put them on, “You should show up too .”

“Why is he coming again?”

“He has some business with Peter.”

I left. But I did remember to close the bedroom door behind me. The night draughts could be chilly.

I started to admire the night scenery outside of the window, and I suddenly felt as if we were back to a decade ago, when we lived together and supported each other, but chased varying ideals and paths forward all the while.

I still could recall that we used trusted each other and hold no subject taboo during those naive days of youth, like a pair of blood-brothers.

Ever since we reconciled our differences after falling out for the first time, we had always strived to be more tolerant and cautious with each other, careful not to offend when we talked.

After he went to jail, we had grown more intimate and dependent on each other, but at the same time his gratitude and guilt had widened the distance between us.

To be on different life paths[2] without splitting up, for so many years… This was beyond lucky.

There was no way we could cut our binds anymore. But as strong as those ties were, there was too much burden hanging on them, dragging us away from our roots.

Both of us were trying our best to recover and maintain something…… Both of us were covered in dirt and stains, but, still, we saved a special place in our hearts for each other.

Even though we hadn’t chosen the same path, both of us understood that we were a family after all.


[1]The incident was mentioned in Chapter 9

[2]There is a Chinese saying 道不同不相为谋 “There is little common ground for understanding between persons of differing principles”.

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