Book 4 Chapter 6 - New Home
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“Hey, hey! Wait a second!” A voice came from behind after Li Yiming walked out of the noodle shop. It was the young man from the airport, who came out of the restaurant running.
“What is it?” Li Yiming stopped and turned around with a grave countenance. He performed a seal with his right hand, which he did behind his back. At this point, it was not simply about the young man being creepy. There was something strange, almost frightening. As expected, Mr. Kong’s mission was not as simple as it seemed.
“You forgot something.” The young man was panting after just jogging for a short distance. He handed over the cake to Li Yiming.
“Thanks.” Li Yiming took the cake without letting his guard down.
“You’re welcome.” The young man answered between shallow gasps for air. It did not seem like he was faking his exhaustion after a slow jog.
“Is there anything else?” Li Yiming asked.
“Uh… nothing.” The young man was visibly startled, not expecting Li Yixing’s distanced tone and aloofness.
“I’ll be leaving now if that’s all. Thanks for bringing my cake to me.” Li Yiming said as he turned around. The thunder in his hand slowly began to coalesce as he focused on preparing for anything the young man could do. However, the latter just shrugged awkwardly and left with his worn-out computer bag on his back.
‘Doesn’t seem to be him. I don’t sense anything abnormal.’ Bai Ze’s voice rang out in Li Yiming’s head.
After returning to the hotel, Li Yiming called room service and ordered dinner for two.“There’s definitely something wrong with that noodle shop. How can any normal guardian inhibit both of our senses at the same time?” Li Yiming said with a grave tone as he slurped his noodles.
“It seems they aren’t openly hostile yet. It sounded more like a warning than anything. Do you remember what the waiter said in the end?” Bai Ze sat at the front of the bed and kicked her feet around.
“To not hinder their business?” Li Yiming caught onto Bai Ze’s hint.
“Yeah, they probably gave the warning after noticing that you were there. If they were malicious, then it wouldn’t have been as simple as your noodles disappearing. This is no ordinary neighborhood.”
“That’s precisely what I’m worried about. What do they want exactly? Are they telling me to stay away from the noodle shop in particular… or this neighborhood in general?”
“You mean they don’t want you to get closer to Qing He? Or maybe they’re also looking for him?” Upon hearing this, Bai Ze sat up straight with a hesitant expression.
“There should be quite a few guardians living amongst normal people. I can’t avoid them all. It seems unlikely that guardians would want to drive me out of their neighborhood at sight. Unless there’s a particular reason for being territorial?”
“Never heard of something like that before… It would seem that they’re most likely also concerned about Qing He. As expected, a mission from Mr. Kong isn’t as simple as it seems. Already a complication before even meeting the person in our charge.”
“Regardless, we must complete Mr. Kong’s mission.” Li Yiming stated with determination. The outcome of this mission could affect Liu Meng, so he cannot afford to go about this carelessly.
“About the mission... Have you considered how to find him? That’s the first step, right? As of right now, you don’t even know what Qing He looks like. This neighborhood isn’t a small one. Do you really want to just go looking for this person from door to door?” Bai Ze leaned back against the bed and picked up a chicken paw.
“It’s hard to find the information about who lives where and even if I did, I would probably just find the same things that the old security guard found. Qing He is most likely not his real name, so trying to search for him with official records wouldn’t amount to anything.” Li Yiming set his chopsticks down and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Bai Ze furrowed her brows in disgust, picked up a box of tissue from the front of the bed, and threw it toward Li Yiming.
“Why don’t you just move into the neighborhood, that’ll increase the chances of actually finding him.”
“Move in? How? Should we rent an apartment?” Li Yiming was interested by the proposition. ‘That sounds like a good idea.’
“Why rent? Just buy the apartment straight up! It’s not as if you don’t have the money, right? It’s easier to do things as a new owner rather than a tenant, don’t you think?” Bai Ze was unimpressed by Li Yiming’s answer. ‘It’s impossible to change for him to change his old ways to thinking even if he did become rich overnight, I guess.’
“Buy? This is Hangzhou, do you know how much one square meter costs? I cannot afford this kind of expenditure.” Li Yiming recalled rather painfully the four million he spent on the luxury car in the Shangbei domain. When the domain conclusion, the money was flushed down the drain.
“This is the real world, not a domain, remember? Purchasing an apartment now is considered an investment.” Bai Ze covered her face in frustration and pointed at the news reporting the steadily rising real-estate prices, in contrast to the falling stocks market.
“Oh right.” Li Yiming realized that his apartment would not disappear, unlike the car he bought.
The next morning, Li Yiming eagerly visited a property agent. ‘To purchase a house in Hangzhou… This is my dream from university come true!’
The agent’s office was a single small room. The walls were covered with notices and fliers. At a glance, most were second-hand transactions that included a great variety of prices, location, and area.
“I want to buy an apartment.” Li Yiming, who did not want to waste time, went straight to the counter.
Only one person was in the room, a middle-aged man who seemed to be the owner himself. He was slightly overweight and had unkempt hair, but the eyes behind his borderless glasses shone with the shrewdness typical of a businessman.
“Buy?” The owner looked away from his computer and examined Li Yiming from head to toe. He had been sizing up Li Yiming ever since the latter entered the office. There were many youngsters like him who came to rent an apartment, since there was a renowned university nearby. However, most property owners were not keen on students as they were not financially stable and might leave at a moment’s notice. As such, his attitude was a little nonchalant. ‘Purchase an apartment? Bring your parents and then maybe we’ll talk about it.’
“Yup, in the Second Wen District.” Li Yiming did not notice the man’s attitude and was still absorbed in his dream of home ownership.
“The Second Wen District? Are you looking for anything in particular? The owner replied casually, but stood up hesitantly. He dissected Li Yiming from the way he spoke. When a young man like Li Yiming would ask to buy an apartment as if he was purchasing cup noodles, there were only two possibilities. Either he is an ignorant youngster who had completely lost sight of reality, or he is a rich heir to whom money was just a number. Even if the chance of being right was only fifty percent, he should treat Li Yiming with seriousness. ‘Didn’t the same thing happen to Old Zhang from across the street? He thought it was a young couple at first, so he didn’t pay much attention. Turned out it was some rich kid buying a place for his girlfriend. Three million just like that. In the same district too, and I struggled to sell it not too long ago...’
“Nothing in particular, as long as it’s in the Second Wen District.” Li Yiming replied with a smile as he glanced around at the fliers on the walls.
“What about the size?” The agent was puzzled. However, once again, this confirmed his suspicions; who else would seemingly not care at all when it came to something as big as purchasing a home?
“I’d like to buy a small apartment if possible, but if not, a larger one would also be okay,” Li Yiming replied as he calculated how much money he had. Also, he figured that it would be best if he could avoid a large purchase, since it seemed Liu Meng did not like Hangzhou very much, so he probably would not stay in the city for the long term.
“If you want an apartment that’s for sale right now, I only have two for you to choose from. The first is closer to the northern entrance, on the ninth floor. 142 square meters with four bedrooms and two living rooms. The other is on the second floor, 68 square meters with two bedrooms and a living room. The first one’s around five million and the second one’s around two.” The owner pulled these numbers quickly off the top of his head, as he always did when it came to business. Despite being increasingly puzzled by Li Yiming’s intentions, he secretly hoped for a big deal to happen.
“Can I see them?” Li Yiming weighed the options and found that he could afford either apartment without a problem.
“You would have to make a deposit first,” The agent answered hesitantly. He was not sure about Li Yiming’s intentions. If he was indeed an ignorant youngster, not only would his trip be wasted, but there probably would be troubles even afterward. As such, he made an unreasonable request. ‘Fight the strange with even stranger I guess.’
“Deposit? Just to see the apartment?” Li Yiming was obviously not an idiot the owner thought his to be. He was baffled by such a demand.
“It’s mainly the consultation fee. With the recent jump of property prices, there are a lot clients who just come to observe but not to purchase. To reduce the wasting of human resources, the company has set a rule. Of course, if the final transaction goes through, the deposit will be counted as the agent fee and you wouldn’t have to pay twice.” The shop owner, true to his keen mind, improved an excuse. Of course, the “company” consisted of just him and his wife.
“Sure. How much is the deposit?” After a little consideration, Li Yiming thought it to be reasonable and complied.
“500 yuan.” The agent resolutely asked a big sum. The number did not really matter anyways, since he was breaking the rules anyhow.
“500 per apartment?”
“Oh, no, no, no. It’s a one-time fee and even if you don’t find an apartment you want this time, you’re welcome to return free of charge.” The shop owner still seemed to have a resemblance of a conscience.
Without hesitating, Li Yiming paid the sum, and the shop owner produced a fake receipt for the fake fee. ‘Wait, this guy is for real? He’s actually paying?’
“Let’s go now. I’m in a rush. By the way, if I make the purchase right away, can you guys also take care of the moving and the paperwork?”
“Of course, all of these services are included in the commission.” The agent locked his office up and led the way with enthusiasm; his gamble with Li Yiming had paid off.
As he walked into the Second Wen District, Li Yiming did not see the same old security guard in the security booth. ‘I guess his changed shifts.’
The real-estate agent had his own considerations and first brought Li Yiming to see the larger apartment. If one could afford it, one would naturally gravitate towards the larger one. It was only human nature to dislike something after being given the chance to obtain a better alternative first. Most importantly, the higher the final transaction value, the higher the commission.
“This is it, four bedrooms, two living rooms, one kitchen and two bathrooms, with minimal renovation. If you want to use it as a family home, renovation wouldn’t be too troublesome.” The agent opened the door and presented his product with enthusiasm. Even if Li Yiming ended up not purchasing it, he was going to get paid, so he would at least deliver on the professionalism
Li Yiming did not enter yet. He looked at his neighbor’s door. The two of them would share the same elevator. He remembered what happened when Liu Meng paid him a visit. ‘How long did it take before everyone knew about it...?’
“The main bedroom has its own balcony while the study has French windows. This is the nursery. Of course, if you don’t need it, you can turn it into a storeroom or a walk-in closet. I assure you that your wife will love it.” The shop owner continued his energetic narration as Li Yiming entered the apartment.
A moldy smell was the first thing Li Yiming perceived, suggesting that the apartment had been empty for a while already. However, the interior design was nice, and the rooms seemed especially huge since they were mostly empty. For someone like Li Yiming, who had lived in a small apartment for most of his life, this was a very welcome change.
After looking around for a while, seemingly affected by the agent’s numerous mentions of the word “bride”, Li Yiming’s thoughts went astray. ‘Let’s put the reclined chair Liu Meng likes so much here, and her makeup cabinet here, and some flowers and plants in the balcony. I remember her saying that she loved those.... The toilet is spacious, perhaps we can fit a bathtub…’
A happy smile appeared on Li Yiming’s face as he contemplated the beautiful scenery from the large glass panes of the French windows in the study.
‘Yiming.’ Bai Ze’s sudden call dragged Li Yiming back into reality
“What is it?” Li Yiming returned to reality, he was still half-sunken in his daydream.
“The agent…’ Bai Ze had a grave tone.
‘The agent?’ Li Yiming suddenly realized that he could not hear the shop owner anymore, despite the latter having been talking non-stop ever since they entered the apartment. Even after extending his senses, he could not sense a single thing.
‘Where did he go?’ Li Yiming’s shock and worry grew.
‘I don’t know. He disappeared the moment you entered the study.’
“What?” Li Yiming was shocked. It made sense that he did not notice anything happen, since he was distracted. But for Bai Ze to noticed nothing?
Li Yiming hurried out of the study.
“How is it? Are you happy with this apartment?” Li Yiming was met with a wide grin. The agent was holding onto the doorframe of a bedroom with one hand while wiping away the sweat on his forehead with the other.
Li Yiming slowly took one step back. Nothing happened.
Two more steps and the agent disappeared. However, when he moved forward, the agent appeared once again, visibly puzzled by his odd behavior.
“When can I move in?” Li Yiming with a calm and confident smile.
For reference, ~5 million yuan is about 800k USD. That's a lot of money, especially when the GDP per capita is ~8k in China. (Most likely higher in the cities, but probably not much more than 12 - 15k USD in a city such as Hangzhou, since the value is reported to being right above 19k USD in Shanghai). As you can easily imagine, the pressure of home ownership, of marriage (which is very hard to do without home ownership), and conforming to society can be a very stressful burden, especially for those who are not as successful as their peers at competing in a capitalistic society.
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