Chapter 7: Tiger Nurturing
Translated by Shiya of Exiled Rebels Translation
Yan Ke and Lu Shang conversed while eating. Yan Ke was shocked that this “child from the Lu family” was a lot different from what he had imagined. Yan Ke was compared to Lu Shang throughout his childhood, but now that they had met, he found Lu Shang to be less boring. It seemed like Yan Ke was blinded by all the rumors, to know a person, you’d have to converse with them yourself.
“I’d be at ease if you are the one with Tong Yan’s stocks. At least I’m sure it won’t let my father down.” Yan Ke poured Lu Shang and himself each a cup of wine, “You don’t have to say anything, ask and I shall assist you.”
Lu Shang raised his cup to show his gratitude; he drank the whole cup down.
“On the subject of letting someone down, we are just so alike. My father died too early, your father wasn’t great either. At least I have a daughter, but you…” Yan Ke was a little drunk; he burped. Looking at Li Sui who was blocking wine for Lu Shang the whole time, he said, “If your father knew, he’d be furious to death…no, furious to live.”
His words were not appropriate, but they weren’t out of malice. Lu Shang seemed to be undisturbed, he just poured himself a cup of hot tea; not giving a reply.
After dinner, some of the guests Yan Ke brought wanted a dip in the hot springs. Li Sui had too much alcohol, he was dizzy and stumbled around, almost going into the female hot springs. Yan Ke’s friends couldn’t stop teasing him for it. Yan Ke was a good person, but his choice of friends was bad. Genuine talents came from hard work, but fake talents came from money. Sadly, Yan Ke’s friends belonged to the latter group. A lot of his friends looked down on the poor, they got their kicks out of looking down on people, someone like Li Sui was exactly right for that.
This time around Lu Shang didn’t smile, he crouched down to tidy up Li Sui’s clothes, “You’ve never been here before?”
Li Sui shook his head.
Lu Shang patiently taught Li Sui. Telling him where the lockers were, and where the changing rooms were. He also told him the procedures in using them, and what he should be aware of. Lu Shang sounded like a parent warning his kid before a school field trip. “When you are here, you’re a customer. If you have any problems, you can ask the staff for help. If they refuse your reasonable requests or inquiries, you can make a complaint.” Lu Shang continued, “If any other customers are troubling you, you can also make a complaint.”
Lu Shang was too correct and serious, the others who were just enjoying the show all felt ashamed. At the end, all of them just turned tail and ran, no one dared laugh at Li Sui anymore.
Lu Shang was always a lowkey person, except for Yan Ke and Sun Mao, no one there knew him. Before Yan Ke’s friends came, they only heard that Yan Ke was inviting an old monk-like person for dinner, they had no idea who this person was either. After dinner, when they heard from Sun Mao who Lu Shang was, they all wanted to punch themselves in the face, self-loathing hard. But that was of course another separate tale that took place later.
Hot spring water would increase one’s blood pressure, Lu Shang naturally didn’t go in. Lu Shang sat at the side, looking at Li Sui having fun in the water. When Li Sui finally had enough, Lu Shang scooped him out of the water and brought him home.
Before Lu Shang left, Yan Ke heard about the incident and went apologizing to Lu Shang. Lu Shang didn’t comment. Li Sui however just laughed and said “it’s fine” while waving his hand, his face red and puffed from immersing in hot water for too long.
Lu Shang had his own stubbornness in this particular aspect, maybe it had something to do with his own experiences. He could tolerate a poor and depressed person, but he couldn’t accept people who lack the heart to do better. Just like how people who always laughed at others being stupid were usually quite stupid themselves. People who get self-esteem through laughing at others were usually weaker than the ones they laughed at, because only a weak heart required something fake to patch it up. This was also the reason why Lu Shang wanted to help Li Sui so much now, even if he knew his own time was running out. This kid was like a dried-up whale, Lu Shang wanted to know so badly how Li Sui would turn out if he were to give him water; what kind of waves would this whale create?
They went past a supermarket on the way home. On its window was a notice, a shutting down notice. Lu Shang wanted to buy something from it before it closed down, so he let the driver go home on his own.
This was the first time Li Sui visited a supermarket, he pushed the cart around and found everything so overwhelming. Lu Shang asked what he wanted twice, but he didn’t even hear him. “Chocolates? Chips? Carbonated drinks?”
Li Sui had a familiar confused look on his face, so Lu Shang just gave up asking altogether. He loaded the cart with food a child would like, that wasn’t nearly enough though. Lu Shang asked Li Sui to get a basket and he filled that up as well.
When Lu Shang was paying at the counter, Li Sui was staring at the shelf near it.
“Which one do you want? Take it if you want.” Lu Shang reminded him.
Li Sui wavered, but picked up a small pack of milk biscuits at the end.
This was the first time Li Sui acted for something he yearned to come true, so Lu Shang couldn’t help but stare at Li Sui for a while. Lu Shang turned around and said to the cashier, “I will have the whole box, thank you.”
Lu Shang put all the bags into the back of the car, before he closed the car door, he asked, “Do you like this?”
Li Sui held the pack of biscuits in hand and nodded, then he shook his head again. At the end, even he himself was confused, as if he was reminiscing something. Lu Shang didn’t ask further, he just focused on driving.
When they almost arrived home however, Li Sui spoke. “From when I can remember, I always lived in an orphanage. The orphanage was poor, it had a hard time giving all of us three meals a day. When we were really starving, some kids and I would go steal milk powder for food. We would grab a hand full of powder and eat it dry. We hadn’t eaten snacks before, so we thought milk powder was the tastiest thing on earth. It was only very later on did we find out that the milk powders was for the abandon babies left in the orphanage.” Li Sui picked up a piece of milk biscuit and smiled, “Today, when you brought me to the supermarket, I suddenly found out that there were so many types of snacks.”
Hearing that Lu Shang felt a bit touched, keeping his eyes on the road, he asked, “How were you all these years?”
His tone didn’t sound like he was asking Li Sui, instead it was as if he was asking a relative whom he had separated from for years. Li Sui paused for a bit and asked, “Are you asking me?”
Lu Shang stared at the road, “Hm.”
Li Sui turned his head to Lu Shang’s direction, it seemed like he had to chew over his words a bit, “If I were to compare it with my life now, then it’s bad, I guess. After I left the orphanage, I fell into the hands of human traffickers. Then some stuff happened, and I was left at Li Yan’s bar. I stayed in the bar for three years, then you brought me here.”
“Do you remember anything before you were at the orphanage?”
Li Sui was taken aback by the question, “Before the orphanage?”
Lu Shang quickly cut the conversation off, he said, “Nothing, we are home.”
After the New Years, it was obvious that Lu Shang became busier, there were a lot of days when Li Sui couldn’t see Lu Shang for the whole day. Li Sui took the chance to learn, his growth in all areas was huge. His tutors were changed to follow with his progress, so they were changed quite often too.
Except for an educational tutor, Lu Shang also got Li Sui a fitness trainer. Li Sui didn’t understand why he needed a fitness trainer, “Why do I need fitness training?”
“So that you’re healthy. Don’t become a sick duck like me.” That was what Lu Shang replied.
Li Sui looked at Lu Shang’s intense gaze when Lu Shang stared at his body, he felt like something was not right about that answer. To Li Sui, Lu Shang looked more like a gardener looking at the blossoms, hoping for something to grow.
After training for two months, Li Sui noticed that his regiment was quite different from others. One day he just couldn’t stop himself from asking his trainer, “Why am I different from them? They are all doing shoulder presses and chests presses already, yet I’m still at curls and planks?”
“You guys have different training objectives, so of course you will have different training methods.” The trainer said.
“Different objective?” Li Sui asked.
“Aren’t you training your abdominal muscles? Doing these will make the lines there more evident.”
“What? Wasn’t I training to be healthy?”
“Eh, that’s what Lu Lao Ban told you?” The trainer had an awkward look as he replied.
At the beginning, Lu Shang would still check out Li Sui training from time to time, but he just got too busy, so he couldn’t. All the training was left in the hands of the trainer. Li Sui was hard-working too, even without Lu Shang checking up on him; he worked hard. He didn’t fall behind others, and the result were manifesting clearly too.
As Li Sui grew, Lu Shang realized something, this child actually knew a lot more than he expected. Though if he were to think about the reasons, it wasn’t too hard to figure out. Li Sui struggled in the underclass for so long, he knew how to hide his talents well. He looked a little stupid and clumsy, but his thoughts were extremely organized and detailed. This innate carefulness of his was forged from years of struggles, it was gradually trained as he tried to survive in all that dirt. Lu Shang focused on how he could unleash that potential, turning those traits into a sharp blade in Li Sui’s hands.
Autumn came after Spring; another year had passed in just an instant. Days became longer, another Lunar New Years passed. It was as if spring didn’t exist in this city, it felt like the city jumped spring and went straight to summer. It was so freezing a few days earlier when the snow was melting, but now the sun was hanging high, making the weather scorching hot. The stores were also selling shorts, replacing the spot that should be for autumn trousers.
When Ching Ming Festival arrived, the girls on the street were already wearing stockings and skirts. Leung ZiRui returned from America on this lovely sunny day. The moment he got into the house, he started lamenting how the country was so passionate in welcoming him back, while hassling for fresh water. Leung ZiRui stayed abroad for a year; he got a lot fatter than before, his face also looked red. Lu Shang couldn’t stop himself from laughing, asking if he ate some Jinkela (i). Leung ZiRui fought back and said that Li Sui’s change was more drastic, Li Sui looked like he was inflated with air or something.
T/N: (i) A Chinese fertilizer that made advertisements boasting its effects on plants, when they were completely false.
“Comparing yourself to a kid, how becoming of you.” Lu Shang handed Leung ZiRui a glass of lemon water.
Leung ZiRui immediately screamed, “Kid?” He turned to Lu Shang giving him “the eye”, which meant to ask if anything special happened in the past year.
Lu Shang used a piece of durian to shut Leung ZiRui up, “Eat your fruit.”
Leung ZiRui clicked his tongue as he grumbled how it wasn’t fun.
“Thank you for your care, Dr. Leung. If the day comes when Lu Lao Ban and I have any physical development, you will be the first to know.” Li Sui walked down the stairs with one headphone piece in his ear, leaving the other earpiece loose; he looked collected and calm.
Leung ZiRui was baffled, he was screaming how bad this was. This kid had jumped ship while he was gone, he was on Lu Shang’s side now. At the same time, Leung ZiRui couldn’t stop admiring how much a kid could grow in the matter of a year. It was just a blink of the eye, but Li Sui’s whole aura, even the way he talked was completely different.
“Sigh, it seems like I have fallen to the bottom of the food chain.” Leung ZiRui said while comparing his own height to Li Sui’s, he was a bit disheartened. As he had a heavy emotional blow, he sulkily announced for the two of them to go to RuiGe hospital tomorrow morning.
“I have to go too?” Li Sui was training listening skills recently, so he wore a headphone almost everywhere he went. He couldn’t stop himself from raising his head as he heard what Leung ZiRui said.
In the past year, Li Sui ate a lot and trained a lot, Lu Shang raised him to be healthy and strong. The malnourished skinniness on his face was gone. As Lu Shang forced Li Sui to apply lotion every night, his skin was very smooth and meaty, looking great for pinching.
Leung ZiRui walked over to Li Sui and ruffled his hair into a complete mess, he smirked, “Yeah you too, I will see how much you have matured.”
There were two things Chinese people could do way better than foreigners, one was to celebrate any festival like it was valentine’s day, and another was to celebrate anything with crazy shopping. During Ching Ming Festival, people didn’t go to the graves anymore, they went shopping on the streets instead. No matter how much Uncle Yuen pushed the horn, they were still stuck in the same spot. Some shops were handing out lottery tickets for free, and Li Sui scrolled the window down to take one.
Li Sui got a lot more nervous than before now, his sharpness was starting to show. Lu Shang was very lenient on him, he almost never limited him on anything. Lu Shang would teach Li Sui some principles in life, but he left the rest to Li Sui himself. After Leung ZiRui finished his examination on Lu Shang, he warned, “Be careful, you are basically raising a tiger now, think of the consequences.”
Lu Shang smiled gently, asking Leung ZiRui not to worry. Lu Shang was completely ready in raising a tiger, Li Sui was also a good sprout. However, Lu Shang was certain he knew what he brought up, as long as he held Li Sui’s hands along the way, Li Sui would never threaten him.
Li Sui’s body check-up was simpler than Lu Shang’s, after Leung ZiRui took a sample of his blood, Lu Shang let Li Sui go downstairs for breakfast. RuiGe hospital was connected to the biggest public hospital in the city, when Li Sui walked through the corridors, he met an unexpected person—— Li Yan.
Li Yan was wearing all black clothes, he has a pair of bold sunglasses on, leaning on the walls and talking with someone. The one talking with him was a young lady, she had a slim body. She didn’t have makeup on, but she wore a face mask and a pair of sunglasses. Actually, they were drawing attention exactly because of what they wore.
Li Sui deliberately turned his head to avoid them, but they still saw him.
“If it isn’t Lu Shang’s little lover?” Li Yan put his hands into his pockets, with a mean tone he said, “Why are you running, are you afraid I’d eat you up?” Li Sui turned around to face Li Yan. The latter scanned Li Sui, and said with malice, “What? He hasn’t got bored with you yet?”
Not seeing Li Sui for a while, his changes were drastic in Li Yan’s eyes. That made Li Yan extremely unhappy, but that was natural. When Li Sui was at his bar, he was a scared wimpy kid, now at Lu Shang’s place, he became someone so clever looking. It felt as if he gave a useless rock away, but when that person went home and polished it, it was actually a piece of jade.
Li Sui learned a lot during his days with Lu Shang, he understood at least a bit of what Li Yan was feeling, that just made him find Li Yan childish though. Li Sui said politely but distantly, “Do you need me for something?”
“Tch, what a tone. I am still your ex-boss, you know.” Li Yan took the number ticket on the lady’s hand, “Help your bro a bit, get my woman’s test report for me.”
Li Sui glanced at the woman Li Yan spoke of, the latter however did not look at him, she kept her head down.
Li Sui thought Li Yan was selling drugs again or something, but he had no choice, so he took the paper and let the machine scan the barcode on it. Li Sui took the medicine list that came out, he peeked and froze for a bit. Walking back to Li Yan, he asked, “What is this for?”
“Abortion.” Li Yan didn’t even feel like he should hide it.
After saying that Li Yan laughed and said in a taunting tone, “Why are you here? Don’t tell me you brought someone here to have an abortion too?”