In the midst of the faint smell of sandalwood, a secretary in professional clothes held a stack of documents in his arms and gently knocked on the door of the chairman’s office.
A calm welcome came from the door. She straightened her expression, smiled and pushed open the door.
The office was located in a high-rise with excellent views. There were rows of tall buildings in the distance and light flooded her vision, as if breaking into a bright and splendid paradise.
The secretary instinctively blinked. Then she collected herself and looked at her boss sitting at the large desk.
Sure enough, the young chairman was quietly looking at the oil painting on the wall again.
He had been staring at it like this ever since the painting was hung on the wall yesterday.
“Chairman Pei, this is the material transmitted by Mr Zhuang. It is the latest project of the A11 commercial intelligent robot.”
The secretary respectfully put the document in his hand on the table. “Mr Zhuang said that after you take the time to read it, you might need to hold a remote meeting.”
Pei Yan shifted his gaze to the stack of documents. “I see.”
The secretary confirmed the schedule for the next two days with him and set a time for the meeting with reference to the other company’s proposal.
When reporting to him, the secretary glanced at the oil painting on the wall from time to time.
Before leaving, she couldn’t help exclaiming, “Chairman Pei, I remember that this is Elert’s most famous work. Isn’t it called A Country Girl?”
With Chairman Pei’s identity, this must be an authentic work worth tens of millions.
Pei Yan followed her gaze and answered gently, “Yes.”
It was a quiet and beautiful pastoral landscape painting, but there were only dark and light rural scenes. There was no girl.
Her smile was full of envy. “It is beautiful.”
The moment the secretary closed the door, she saw the chairman’s silent side face and couldn’t help thinking of another thing.
There was no girl in the painting called A Country Girl but a woman might actually appear next to the chairman, who had been single so far.
He might be getting married soon.
There was gossip in the company that the chairman’s mother was looking for a suitable wife for him.
Or rather, the right business partner.
Pei Yan spent two hours absentmindedly reading through the project proposal. Then he stayed up late at night to enter the online meeting room that had been scheduled in advance.
In the meeting room, there were foreign colleagues from the head of Zart Technology Company. There was also Zhuang Wenbai, the head of domestic regional business, the president of the appraisal department and so on.
There were also the relevant people in charge of the Pei Group, which was Zart’s only partner in China, such as Pei Yan.
The purpose of this meeting was to determine the prospects of the project.
The A11 commercial intelligent robot was still in the development stage and had a more understandable name in their mouths. It was called the second generation work assistant.
Compared with the first generation which mainly assisted the user, the second generation would be able to independently complete some user-assigned tasks and guide the owner to work according to the built-in program.
As the name suggested, it greatly improved the quality and efficiency of work.
Pei Yan usually had no opinion. He listened silently while the secretary took shorthand notes of the meeting.
Once the meeting was over, the video panes darkened one by one. The secretary finished her work and there were only two people left in the virtual room.
It was still morning where Zhuang Wenbai was and the sun was shining behind him.
The window outside Pei Yan’s office was already full of night.
Once the work matter ended, Zhuang Wenbai looked at his expression and said softly, “You don’t want to go home again?”
Pei Yan was looking at the blue sky reflected in the glass window behind him and it took him a long time to answer. “…No.”
He vaguely remembered a photo he had seen a long time ago. It was a Western-style building covered in snow. Young students walked by holding books and the sky was just as blue.
Zhuang Wenbai wasn’t in the photo at that time. He was a college student studying abroad and casually took photos of the scenery of the surrounding campus.
Now five or six years had passed. Even compared to when he was in high school, Zhuang Wenbai hadn’t changed much. It was just that his facial features had become more mature but he still looked like a gentle student council president.
Zhuang Wenbai heard his insincere words but didn’t ask anything else. “The matter here is almost over. I will return to China on the weekend.”
He seemed to be very busy. From time to time, there were notification sounds from his computer, knocks outside his door and the pages stacked on his desk blew in the wind.
“Okay.” Pei Yan didn’t want to disturb him too much. “See you on the weekend.”
Zhuang Wenbai looked at his face. His eyes flickered slightly and he seemed to smile. “See you on the weekend.”
The screen went out abruptly.
The evening breeze here was cool and the night was foggy. Pei Yan drove home alone on the viaduct. He deliberately missed the two correct exits off the bridge and when he had the last opportunity to turn the corner, he turned the steering wheel and drove obediently in the direction of home.
The castle-like luxury home was as quiet as ever.
After he nominally took over the company’s affairs, Pei Minghong left the house completely and it wasn’t known where he was living.
Pei Minghong hated everyone in the family.
A father who didn’t talk to him, a brother who fought with him, a wife who was annoying and a son who took away all his hard work soon after being recognized home.
He vowed to start over.
Pei Yan, who was published in the newspaper in a suit that day, was still a freshman and tried to hide the overwhelming feeling that permeated his heart. His mother Ye Lanting had put away all her smiles and his grandfather Pei Huaishan let out a long sigh.
His uncle Pei Siyou, whom he wasn’t very familiar with, ignored his brother who slammed the door and left. His eyes fell on Pei Yan and he patted Pei Yan on the shoulder.
“There will be professional managers to help you take care of the company’s affairs,” he said. “Don’t be too nervous. You can still do what you like.”
Pei Yan thanked his uncle for his comfort. “I will work hard.”
At that time, he added in a low voice in his heart, ‘What I like is finance.’
Did his uncle really want to fight for the family property as his father said?
He didn’t know.
He just thought that no one would refuse the opportunity to acquire such huge wealth. But he was wrong.
Later, Pei Siyou went abroad again and Pei Huaishan returned to his mountain. Pei Minghong disappeared and only Ye Lanting stayed by his side every step of the way.
His mother didn’t leave him alone.
So he couldn’t leave his mother.
After growing up, Pei Yan took a deep breath and walked into the house. Ye Lanting patiently waited for him to come back as usual.
She was still beautiful and graceful as she said in a gentle voice, “You’re back. Today you are later than yesterday.”
He habitually hid the time he finished work and simply explained, “There was a teleconference in the evening.”
Ye Lanting smiled. “It is hard to drive so late. I asked the kitchen to make soup.”
Pei Yan took off his suit casually and unbuttoned his shirt that had been buttoned up all day. “Mom, I’m not hungry now.”
Ye Lanting stared at his movements, Her fingers moved imperceptibly but she restrained herself.
She took a step closer to her son with a gentle voice, “Just drink soup. It is very nourishing. You have to pay attention to your body.”
After a brief silence, Pei Yan nodded. “Okay.”
The marble table top was cold and he sat at the table drinking soup.
Ye Lanting sat beside him and showed him the photos.
She smiled. “Do you remember Uncle Liu from Fuli? His daughter went to the same college as you. You must have a lot in common. She said she is very impressed with you.”
The photo on the phone showed a sweet-looking girl.
Miss Liu, Miss Zhang, Miss Wang.
He shouldn’t talk when eating. This was a habit that Ye Lanting had cultivated since Pei Yan came to the Pei house.
He silently listened to every word Ye Lanting said and looked at every photo without interrupting.
Once the soup was finished, Pei Yan was about to speak when he heard his mother’s expectant voice. “You must be able to chat. Your life is too lonely. Don’t always be busy with work. I want to have more people to accompany you.”
This expectation was like a crystal bubble. Once it failed to meet the promise, it would shatter in the blink of an eye into a desolate spray.
So he could only say, “I will meet her.”
Ye Lanting’s smile became gentler.
She picked up the empty soup bowl and gracefully got up. She walked away but didn’t forget to tell her tired-looking son, “Rest early and have dinner with Miss Liu tomorrow.”
Pei Yan returned to his room, changed clothes, bathed and went to bed step by step.
The layout of the room was almost indistinguishable from his student days, except that the books on the shelves had changed over many generations.
The entire mansion fell into extreme silence.
The moonlight stayed on the windowsill and Pei Yan lost sleep as usual.
He hadn’t seen colorful birds from this window for a long time.
He didn’t want to see Miss Liu.
He wanted to move out alone.
But he could only think so in his head until he fell asleep.
However, Pei Yan never fell asleep.
He watched the sky slowly change from deep back to grayish blue.
The faint morning light dyed everything in the room with a hazy glow.
The black bookcase, the white documents, the gray bedding and the wooden box in the corner of the room were all covered with an illusion of warmth.
Just then, he suddenly wanted to find a fairy tale book with a beautiful cover to read.
He just no longer had such books in his bookcase.
As the air changed from gray-blue to bright white, Pei Yan got up, passed by the dusty wooden box and walked into the bathroom. He repeated what he had done a few hours ago by brushing his teeth, washing his face and changing clothes.
He looked at his fully grown self in the mirror and was in a dull daze.
Pei Yan gradually couldn’t remember what he was like as a child.
All he remembered was that he enjoyed reading fairy tales and all types of whimsical stories.
His elementary school class subscribed to monthly magazines. In the first grade, the class had to distribute more than ten copies of ‘Wisdom and Exploration’ and more than twenty copies of ‘New Edition of Fairy Tales’ every month. One of them was his.
At that time, his mother Luo Xiuyun followed his hobbies and ordered ‘New Edition of Fairy Tales’ for him year after year. It filled half his bookcase one after another.
On weekends when Pei Yan finished his homework, he often sat at his desk and flipped through the storybook, reading with gusto. He occasionally looked at the clouds and birds outside the window, imagining the pictures in the stories and letting his heart drift away with the fantasy.
When his playmate who lived nearby ran downstairs to call his name, he quickly closed the magazine and excitedly told his mother that he was going to play in the neighborhood and would come back before dinner.
He had storybooks, roller skates, a glass bottle with grasshoppers and a happy childhood.
In the year before middle school, there were only three or four copies of ‘New Edition of Fairy Tales’ that were sent to the class every month. The largest number of subscribers was for ‘Wisdom and Exploration’, which was ordered by most of the class.
Before he knew it, his playmates asked him to play in the neighborhood less often. They said that they had to go to the bookstore on weekends or some had to attend classes.
Since he was about to enter middle school, relatives and colleagues who knew him enthusiastically pointed out how Luo Xiuyun should educate his son.
They chattered and said that Luo Xiuyun had already wasted precious time in elementary school. She should let her son go to the Olympiad and foreign language training classes on weekends rather than letting the child do it according to his personality. This would make him lose at the starting line when the future competition was so fierce.
Once the form for ordering monthly magazines for the new semester was delivered, Lu Xiuyun seemed hesitant and asked for his opinion. “Do you want to order other magazines this time? What is the most subscribed magazine in your class?”
“Okay.” Pei Yan also hesitated. “Most people order ‘Wisdom and Exploration’.”
“Then should we order a copy of this as well?”
“Okay.” Pei Yan thought for a while and added. “I also want ‘New Edition of Fairy Tales’.”
That year, Pei Yan started to receive two magazines at the same time.
He didn’t like complicated and difficult to understand Olympiad and difficult to memorize foreign languages. He preferred language and history.
Luo Xiuyun didn’t force him to go to extracurricular classes because she wasn’t sure it was necessary. In addition, her son obviously wasn’t interested in it.
But she was still worried that her son would fall too far behind. As a self-comforting supplement, she bought him the most prominent books on the middle school shelves of the bookstore.
When Pei Yan was really bored, he would occasionally open them to take a look.
The days passed like running water. The skates stuffed in the corner of the carport were dusty and the empty glass bottles were lost in the gap of time. For middle school, he didn’t need to choose a variety of monthly magazines. Teachers would give a clear list of extracurricular reading materials and teaching aids then everyone bought it.
There was no more uncertainty.
There was also no more ‘New Edition of Fairy Tales.’
The old ‘New Editions of Fairy Tales’ was moved from the increasingly crowded bookcases to cardboard boxes.
Like most people, Pei Yan subconsciously forgot fairy tales because there were so many things to learn and so many topics to do every day. He didn’t have time to think about anything else.
He subtly accepted a more ordinary fate.
He was an obedient and sensible student with excellent grades. His goal was to be admitted to a key college, learn the hottest major and strive to get ahead in the future. He would make his mother proud, start a family, work hard every day and go home after work. Then he would chat with his wife about this ordinary day and urge their children to do their homework.
He had a hardworking, simple, gentle and obedient mother who was willing to give everything for the child and listen to all the good words about the child. The rest of his life would be busy with his children, wife and grandchildren.
Life was like this and many families were like this.
There wasn’t necessarily much happiness but at least he wouldn’t be too far behind others.
People were always afraid of falling behind.