BFF—it was such a great term. [ED/N: = best friends forever, in case you have doubts.]
She plays a series of significant roles in a girl’s life—catfight companion, lesbian girlfriend, home wrecker... you name it. Other than those, one of the most important functions of a BFF was to help distinguish good men from bad ones.
When a girl went on a first date with an unfamiliar guy or some internet pal, she would usually bring her BFF along. If she showed up alone, it would mean one of two things: either she was silly and innocently sweet, or she trusted the guy a lot.
Neither of those were applicable to Jiang Xiaozhai, though. She simply had enough faith in herself and believed she could cope with any situation on her own.
It wasn't weekend and attending the exhibition counted as a business trip for the two girls, which meant they couldn't just send Panpan back alone. Gu Yu certainly did not mind her company and asked her to join them for lunch without any insincerity.
Although Xiaozhai mentioned earlier that she was going to buy him lunch, with that piece of fragrant rosewood in his hand now, it wouldn't be appropriate to let her pay the bill.
Hence, the three of them did not walk far but picked a nearby restaurant. Panpan had kept a steady gaze on Gu Yu with her widely open eyes ever since he picked up the menu.
Placing an order in a restaurant was telltale hint regarding a guy’s taste and disposition. A table full of expensive dishes was shouting "uncultured and vulgar", while a meal consisting of budget dishes only would indicate he was nothing but a cheapskate.
A man worth considering should order a variety of dishes, ranging from meat to vegetables and in the right proportions, for it would at least prove he had adequate intelligence and some principles.
Yet some guys managed to avoid being classified as either of the types mentioned above—Gu Yu was one of them. "I’ll have a stir-fried broccoli, a mushroom and bamboo shoot soup, and a bean sprout salad, oh, just mildly spicy, please…"
He ordered those three and handed the menu to Panpan with a smile. "There, what would you like to eat?"
Panpan took over the menu and gave Xiaozhai a sneaky look, which would translate as ‘not bad at all, he has nailed it so far’.
Exactly! What the girls cared most about was not how much money a guy had or how willing he was to spend it; even his IQ was not all that important… the ultimate prerequisite was, ‘He cares about me!’
Gu Yu had just demonstrated that. Everything he ordered was Xiaozhai’s favorite, things she had mentioned casually during their conversations. The ultimate trick here was the so-called ‘my opponents might have a myriad of different methods, but I’ll defeat them with a single move’.
Panpan then ordered another two dishes, both cheap ones. After all, she could tell from the guy’s appearance that he was not the well-off type. The dishes were soon served and the three chatted away as they ate the food.
The "division of work" was apparent for this team. During the "interrogation", Panpan was the one shooting all sorts of questions at Gu Yu—ranging from questions about where he came from and how he made a living all the way to his height, weight, and the size of his house. If it were up to her, she would even have him answer how good he was in bed.
Gu Yu, on the other hand, found the questions so awkward that he had to ignore a few and answered the rest with much embarrassment.
Xiaozhai barely spoke during the lunch, but was watching them with a delightful smile.
The "interview" went on for an entire hour and Panpan did not let Gu Yu off the hook until the lunch was almost over. It was long past noon and the two girls needed to go back to work, so they made no further arrangements with Gu Yu.
The three bid each other farewell right there, outside the restaurant. Gu Yu left for the long-distance bus station while the two girls were heading back to work. By then, Panpan had swapped her previous friendly attitude for criticism and persuasion.
"Sis, what are you doing with a guy like that? Ok, he’s cute, but cuteness does not bring food to the table. Have you heard about his background? He lives in a village…"
"I believe that’s a county-level city."
"Whatever! They’re the same thing! They don’t even have buildings taller than two stories! How does pit toilet sound to you?
Even if things work out for the two of you, well, have you ever heard of a thing called ‘long-distance relationship’? It’s 'long distance' we’re talking about here! The rate of failure is like 99.9%. Are you sure you can make that work?
Let’s say you two work it out and decide to tie the knot. Are you going to move to Bai Town, or is he coming to Shengtian? Moving to Bai Town means abandoning your current life; having him come to Shengtian is placing his head in a noose. He didn’t even finish university, what is he gonna do here? I know you have your own house and everything. Well, that’s like having him married into your family…"
She bombarded Xiaozhai with her lecture and only then realized that her dear friend was not taking any of that in. She was vexed. "Sis, what do you think? Say something!"
"Nothing, just go with the flow," Xiaozhai smiled.
"F*ck! I hate it when you say that! You’re killing me here!"
Panpan was frustrated by that stone-cold shoulder she smashed into and would not talk to Xiaozhai for the rest of their trip...
The bus turned up at the station and Gu Yu jumped out as soon as the door opened. With that backpack on his back and the wood in his hand, he looked rather bizarre and was attracting quite a few glances from the passers-by.
Actually, he also felt he had wasted a good opportunity. If he could roll around in the dirt and lie down by the side of the road with the wood in his arms, he was sure he could earn some dinner money, if not more, by posing as a beggar.
The place he got off at was called "Old Crossing" and was only a few hundred meters away from the long-distance bus station. The South Station of Shengtian had a long history and had gone through quite a few changes. It was now covering a very wide area.
Old Crossing, for instance, consisted of numerous small lanes and alleys, all of which were tiny streets closely packed together. Together, they took up an area as large as an urban village and to the taxi drivers, anywhere within it was the same as "in front of the station".
A stranger to the city might not be able to find the exit even after milling around here for thirty minutes. Gu Yu used to take bus trips all the time between Shengtian and Bai Town when he was in university and knew the area like the back of his hand.
Old Dog puffed out some smoke and dropped the cigarette butt to the ground, then ground it with his foot. He kept his eyes on the figure not far ahead of him as he beckoned at his hatchet man and followed Gu Yu cautiously, acting all natural.
"Old Dog" was his moniker, and his real name hadn’t been used for years. Back when He Zun was starting his own enterprise, Old Dog had been following him and doing his bidding. The He family was into real estate business, which involved housing demolition and resettlement, both being things that could result in disputes. The usual order of solving these problems was to let the developers deal with it first and if they failed, the authorities would then take over. When even the authorities could not work it out, the "gentlemen of the society" would make themselves useful.
With some maneuvering behind closed doors, anything could be eventually settled.
It was during that period that Old Dog moved up the food chain and became He Zun’s right-hand man. However, after the He family had their business legitimized, they wiped away all blemishes in their record. Thanks to his long service to the family, he managed to get a swivel-chair job in the company.
He was essentially doing the same thing as he always did. If something could not be solved on the table, He Zun and He Tian would leave it to him. Old Dog was using much milder approach these days as well, seldom making a bloody scene.
After all, it was a society ruled by law now. He tried his best to avoid all the hacking and killing.
The task given to him today was an impromptu one. Taking care of this skinny boy was a piece of cake. His stalking started right after Gu Yu left the restaurant. He then followed him on and off the bus until Gu Yu reached Old Crossing.
Old Dog was laughing on the inside, for this place was simply perfect. He could get away easily even if he killed someone here, let alone sort a guy out.
The scraggy fellow would probably fight like a five-year-old. He was turning the idea over in his head as he followed Gu Yu, ‘Break an arm… oh, no, make that two ribs, that should do the trick.’
These days, even the scoundrels had to be unconventional. They needed to know things like how slight injury, minor injury and serious injury were classified so that they could do their job "properly".
Just as he was thinking it over, Old Dog was delighted to find an alley ahead of him. He was very familiar with this area and knew the alley had a dead end—a perfect spot to beat someone up.
He ordered in a low voice and quickened his steps, wanting to knock Gu Yu down from behind. However, he had only advanced a few meters when the fellow turned into that alley on his own.
Could it get any easier than that?
Old Dog and his underling were trotting by now. They each took out a brass knuckle and put it on the right hand. They got to the entrance of the alley within no time. However, when they looked inside…
‘What the hell? Where is he?’
Low residential houses flanked the alley and all the doors were closed. A tall wall stood at the end, but not a soul was in that alley.
At that moment, Old Dog could not believe his eyes. It was at most ten seconds between the time when the fellow turned into this alley and when he got here. Where on earth could he have gone in that brief moment?
"Brother Dog, what do we do?" The hatchet man was also worried.
"Look around! See if he is hiding… holy crap!"
Before he finished his sentence, Old Dog ran to the tall wall hastily and stared at a mark on a brick. It was quite some time before he spoke again. "Is he a man or a goddamn monkey? How could he jump over such a tall wall?"
Gu Yu got on a bus at an unhurried pace, still carrying his backpack and the wood. The bus took him all the way to the train station in the north of the city.
'They couldn’t have followed me this far, could they?'
The moment he walked out of the restaurant, he felt two sets of eyes lock onto him and then follow him all the way to Old Crossing. Therefore, he took a detour and escaped in the most laid-back manner, deliberately leaving behind a shoe print. That tall wall might seem impossible to scale to other people, but doing so was as easy as killing a fly for him.
As a matter of fact, with the physical fitness and sensory sensitivity Gu Yu had now, as long as he did not run into some pain-in-the-neck stuff such as an ancient martial art user, an esper, a martial art master, a soldier king or something along those lines, ordinary people would pose no threat to him at all. 
However, he did not want to trouble himself with an unnecessary confrontation. So what if he could defeat those people? That would be telling them ‘Yea I’m awesome like this. Come and challenge me.’
Things would take a downward spiral from there. Defeating a small boss would draw the big boss out, then some elder—all the way to their ancestor. He would end up digging up the ancestral grave of their family.
‘Come on! I’m not the hoodlum here! I won’t pick up a watermelon knife and hack my way to Penglai East Road. I’m a busy man!’ 
That night, in a hotel.
A shirtless He Tian was lying on a large and comfortable bed, and water was running in the bathroom.
He had dinner with Zeng Yuewei and drove her back only to return here with another woman—his "friend with benefits" tonight. Sex was probably the only thing he couldn’t get enough of, for he was a textbook example of a womanizer.
After a while, the sound of running water stopped and a woman walked out, wrapped in a white towel. She had a slim face, doll eyes and a curvaceous body—in a word, it was a typical internet celebrity style.
The woman standing by the bed had bent herself into a tempting pose and called out in a tender voice.
"Come to me, babe!" He beckoned.
"I won’t. When are you buying me that race car you promised? You’re always lying to me," the woman was smart. She knew exactly when to ask for her rewards.
"Haha, I’m taking you shopping tomorrow. Come up here now!"
He Tian had been drooling over Zeng Yuewei without lying his hands on her all day and needed to vent that lust of his since long ago. Seeing that the woman was acting pretentious, he was going to swoop in, but then his phone rang all of a sudden.
He picked it up and said in an irritated tone, "Hey, what took you so long? How did it go?"
"Mr. He, I’m sorry. That fellow was very sneaky and ditched us. Ah Si and I have been waiting around the station all this time and he was nowhere to be found. That’s why I did not call you earlier," it was Old Dog who called him. [ED/N: Ah Si is the hatchet man]
He Tian’s face darkened, "So, you got nothing?"
"Well, he seemed to have been heading towards the long-distance bus station, so I suppose he’s not from around here. But it could also be that he had spotted us and was leading us on…"
Before he could finish, He Tian’s cell phone was thrown away, making the woman jump.
"Rubbish! Good for nothing!"
He swore a few times, then turned to the woman suddenly. "Come over here!"
He then grabbed her by her hair and pressed her down. Not daring defy him, the woman took off his underwear compliantly and start to serve him between his legs.
He Tian screamed and kicked the woman away. His entire body was tensed up as he rolled around on the bed, wailing in misery.
 ED/N: About the soldier king, that's the literal translation; it probably refers to sth along the lines of "the most epic uber super duper strong Chinese soldier whom even US commandos like Rambo wouldn't be able to win". Also, other things like espers mentioned here may not appear in the novel, treat them as examples.
 TL/N: The 1st sentence is a quote from the 1996 Hong Kong movie "The God of Cookery", or "食神", starring Stephen Chow.