Chapter 2: The Major
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
It was gloomy and chilly in the early winter. The bus station was noisy, full of voices, footsteps, and announcements from speakers.
Still dressed in the woolen military coat, Li Zhicheng jumped off a bus with a small traveling bag in his hand. His tall and straight figure stood out in the crowd. He looked around quietly and quickly, and focused his attention on a Cadillac parked at the station entrance. He strode over to the car.
Gu Yanzhi was leaning against the car door with his arms crossed, looking at him with a faint smile on his face. “Oh hey, who is this dapper man coming back from the military?”
All the people around turned their heads and watched their interaction.
Seemingly oblivious to their surroundings, Li Zhicheng kept walking until he stopped in front of Gu.
The two stared at each other. Li spoke up lightly, “Your cousin.”
Gu Yanzhi grinned, and reach out to Li Zhicheng’s shoulder. A smile appeared on the face of Li Zhicheng too, and the two men hugged each other tightly.
The car ran smoothly on the Second Ring Road.
Gu Yanzhi had his hands on the steering wheel, his fingers lightly tapping the sides. It was warm and quiet in the car. He looked up at the rearview mirror and saw Li Zhicheng sitting upright, rigid as a tree and was looking out of the window. His face was still emotionless, clearly warning others to keep their distance.
To Gu Yanzhi, this was the most annoying thing about Li Zhicheng, who was only at his twenties. However, if you didn’t make conversation with him, he would act indifferently all day; as cold as ice.
“You’ve grown even taller,” Gu Yanzhi teased casually.
Still peering at the city familiar yet foreign to him, Li Zhicheng said in a calm and cool voice, “Mmm. I’ve been taller than you since I was twelve.”
Gu Yanzhi chuckled and turned the steering wheel along the roundabout. He changed the topic. “Shall we go to the Group first or the nursing home first?”
Gu Yanzhi smiled and said nothing. He thought, This guy has been away for years, but still knows the old man’s temperament well. He can tell that the old man has used his own illness as a pretext for bringing him back.
The most important thing to the old man was still the family business.
Lin Qian stood in front of the Aida Building, feeling quite unsettled.
Things were different from two months ago when she had come for her interview.
At that time, in front of the grand building there parked many vehicles, many expensive vehicles. The well-dressed office staff had ushered guests in and out, and they seemed very busy. Behind the building had been the industrial park, where she had seen red banners with inspiring slogans everywhere and workers bustling around. The whole scene had been flourishing and ambitious.
The same grand building, the same clean park. But it was quiet and deserted. In front of the building, only two security guards were idle and seemingly in a trance. Most of the plants behind looked dull with workers squatting in the doorways, smoking and chatting—apparently, the production had already stopped. And those once-dazzling red slogan banners had all disappeared.
Oh, she did spot one. Half of it was hanging on the wall and the other half drooped onto the ground.
While Lin Qian was staring blankly ahead, a subtle yet luxurious car passed by her quietly.
She turned her head.
To her surprise, she recognized the man in the driver’s seat.
His face frequently appeared in magazines and newspapers. It was Gu Yanzhi, the First Vice CEO of Aida Group, and the nephew of the Chairman of the Board.
He looks younger and more handsome in person than in his pictures. I wonder if he is as cunning as they say he is?
Her gaze shifted to the back seat, where another man sat. Through the dark glass, she couldn’t make out who the person was—someone who was able to have the famous Gu Yanzhi be his chauffeur.
Gu Yanzhi also saw the woman outside. After casually glancing over, his eyes lit up when he saw her. The woman was very young and wore a black business dress which flattered her slim figure. She had pretty facial features. She was walking gracefully in front of the dark gray buildings and plants, and looked elegant and refined.
He turned around and found that Li Zhicheng was watching her as well. Gu Yanzhi smiled at him. “Well, do you know her?”
Li Zhicheng withdrew his gaze without expression. “No.”
Half an hour later, Lin Qian stood in the Human Resources Department of Aida Group. The HR manager reviewed the resume in her hand and glanced up at the girl in front of her, feeling troubled.
The information in the resume was clear: Lin Qian. Female. Age 25. Work Experience: three years. Her recruitment had been confirmed two months ago for the position of CEO Assistant. The scheduled starting date was today.
She looked at Lin Qian. “I remember you. But something here has changed recently. There were news reports on it. Haven’t you heard anything?”
Lin Qian was a little embarrassed. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
She’d always believed in the motto, “Be kind to others and be kinder to yourself.” When she’d decided to change jobs, she decided that a good break was deserved after years of hard work, and that she should enjoy some decent amount of time off before starting her new job.
So when she had received the offer letter, she made excuses to set her first day two months later than requested. Because the CEO of Aida was impressed with her and didn’t need her assistance that soon, her request had been granted.
She had traveled to many places in her two months and had stayed in Tibet for over one week, carelessly spending her time at leisure. After the accident in Tibet, she had hurriedly returned to report for duty. She really had no idea what had been recently happening.
The HR manager hesitated a little bit and said, “The operations in the Group have run into some difficulties. A week ago, the former CEO took responsibility for it and resigned. Now, the CEO position is temporarily empty.”
Lin Qian stood without saying a word.
Books on job hunting skills hadn’t taught her what to do when she applied for a CEO assistant and the CEO stepped down for having destroyed the company.
Up in the penthouse, in the office of the vice president, Gu Yanzhi made two cups of Pu’er tea and raised his head. He saw Li Zhicheng standing in front of the scattered light of the French window, gazing at the vast park below in contemplation, his long eyebrows furrowed.
He had taken his coat off, and was dressed in a green army shirt and a pair of army pants; he was long and slim. Maybe because he was immersed in the military life for so many years, even though all he did was simply standing there, he still looked cool and elegant.
Gu Yanzhi smiled. He walked over and handed him the tea.
Li Zhicheng spoke up, “How bad is the situation?”
Gu Yanzhi sat down on the sofa next to Li, sipped his tea, and said, “It’s terrible. The CEO, to whom we paid a whopping salary, lost two billion dollars in overseas markets. And he was incredibly good at hiding the truth, even better than I am! Now that things are out in the open, he’s screwed and we are in serious trouble, too!”
There was no expression on Li Zhicheng’s face but a calm look around his eyes and brow.
“How much do we have left?”
His wording was vague, but Gu Yanzhi understood. “Do you mean how much is left in the market share? It’s a mess in the overseas market, so forget about it. As for the domestic market, resources and funds have been mobilized to develop the overseas market, and at the news, other competitors rushed to take advantage of this opportunity. SMQ has taken the most from us. Aida’s market share has fallen from twenty percent to eight percent.”
Li Zhicheng stood still with the tea cup in his hand, and said nothing. Then he brushed his long fingers gently against the smooth edge of the celadon cup. “I see.”
They said no more. The room filled with silence and the aroma of tea.
Gu Yanzhi looked at him, feeling that he was being a bit distant.
Of course, they’d had a great relationship since they were kids. But they had barely seen each other in recent years, and what he knew about Li Zhicheng was all based on rumors. Rumor had it that the troops Li Zhicheng commanded always had excellent performance in their military exercises, and therefore it was challenging to obtain the approval for his retirement and demobilization.
Rumor had it that he’d directed his military operations in an equally decisive, relentless, and unpredictable way, which was why he was called the “Wolf of the Southwest.” This was completely unlike his handsome and restrained appearance. Young as he was, he had no interests other than his military affairs. Money, women, power, they were all alien ideas to him. In this era of luxury and debauchery, he seemed like a boring, old-fashioned man from a different time period.
Gu Yanzhi smiled slightly. Why did the chairman decide to call back this son of his? And why had he even agreed to return?
Though the old saying went that “a business war was like a real war,” the two were actually very different. The business world involved scheming and Machiavellianism. And as for him? Despite his outstanding military talents, he knew nothing about business, nor did he have any experience in the field. Besides, he was so quiet and aloof that he seemed reluctant to speak to others. How could he manage an enterprise of thousands of people?
At that moment, the secretary knocked on the door and came in.
She had a resume from the HR department.
Gu Yanzhi waved the secretary out. He sat down in his executive chair, flipped through the pages casually, and said, “Geez, under these circumstances? Our employee turnover rate has reached 30 percent this month, and somebody is still coming to us ready to work? Is she stupid or just unique?”
Li Zhicheng kept silent.
Gu Yanzhi went on to say, “Our former CEO was an *sshole, but he did well with internal management. Everyone he recruited can be considered high performer. He hired this person for himself, so I think she should be quite good. You need an assistant anyway. Do you want to keep her?”
“Your call.” A cool voice. It was as if he had no interest in the person or the matter at all.
Catching a glimpse of the picture on the resume, Gu Yanzhi laughed, “Wow. It’s the pretty girl we just drove by on the road.” He read from the resume: “‘Lin Qian. Graduated from the Department of Economics & Management in China XX University.’” He paused for a second. “She was a senior specialist of the Marketing Department in SMQ with excellent performance for consecutive years…”
Li Zhicheng turned to look at him. “Keep her.”