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Chapter 1619: The Leader Comes Knocking
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Cla.s.s gatherings, family gatherings, and going home to celebrate the Lunar New Year — this much was standard for Li Du.
However, there was an extra component this year. On the first day of the Lunar New Year, one of the county leaders came to visit them. The one who came was an in-charge of the Urban Construction Bureau, and he brought along with him some gifts and subordinates as he made his rounds around the area.
Li Du knew there was a reason why the man was here. The official must have been after something to come knocking on his door all of a sudden, and that something was probably money. Li Du guessed the man was aware he had been doing well in America and so made the trip down to ask for some investment funds.
The leader did not say much that day, only offered the standard greetings and pleasantries when he was at their door. A few days after on the fifth day of the new year, the county government sent a car to their doorstep. The County Magistrate had gone out of his way to send Li Du an invitation for a get-together.
Li Du’s mother was a little worried, so she said, “Little Du, nothing good comes out of an invitation from the government. Do you want me to find a way to reject it?”
Li Du smiled as he responded, “What’s the worst that could happen? I’ll go and see what’s going on. Don’t worry, your son has traveled far and wide, what is there that he hasn’t experienced?”
His mother felt conflicted and rubbed her hands together. “You haven’t been around your homeland much in the past years, so you don’t know how things work here. Why don’t you let your father go? He’s an old man anyway, the government won’t touch him even if things go wrong.”
Li Du’s father was unhappy at that and retorted, “Your speculations about the government are nothing but malicious. What would our government do to its people? If there are issues to sort out or crimes to admit to, then so be it. What can they do to innocent people? You’re being ridiculous if you deny—”
Li Du looked at the driver who had been waiting outside for quite a while now, and said, “Alright, dad, that’s enough. I know what’s going on, and it’ll be fine if I just go and settle things.”
His mother was shocked. She asked, “You know what this is about?”
Li Du smiled. “I’m not an idiot. It’s alright, you guys just stay put and wait here. I should be back in the afternoon.”
He boarded the vehicle, which was a Buick minivan. Instead of heading straight to the County Government Compound after Li Du boarded, the car went one round along his street to pick up five other people.
Very quickly, the car was packed full.
Li Du stroked his chin — something was off. It seemed like this was not what he thought it was going to be, and he was not being fetched for investment-related issues.
It was obvious from a glance at their clothes that the other pa.s.sengers were no big shots because they were all his neighbors, though Li Du did not really know these people because he had not been home since his high school days. He just thought they looked familiar.
The others seemed to recognize him, though. Someone handed him a cigarette as he asked him, “You’re Old Li’s boy, right? Li Du, was it? I remember you.”
The driver spoke coldly before Li Du could respond to the man, “Hey, no smoking in the car. Throw the cigarette out.”
A lady wearing a colorful down jacket sneered, “Didn’t your boss tell you to treat us well, Driver Song? We don’t like the tone you’re using with us.”
The driver hummed, “Ha, you dumb fool. This is the kind of person I am, and what about it? Go report me if you’re so unhappy. Tell them I didn’t let you smoke in the company car and have the secretary deal with me!”
The lady had a sharp tongue. She had quite the mouth on her and was rather adept at quarreling after the thousands of times she had argued with her neighbors or on the streets and backyards. When she opened her mouth to speak, it was as if a machine gun had started firing.
“Hey, Xiao Song, what’s with this att.i.tude of yours, huh? You wanna go? You looking down on us because we’re from the vulnerable group? You listen to me now, don’t bully us just because you’re driving a company car! We’re no pushovers, okay? You don’t get to step all over us like this. We’ve got connections up there, the General Secretary of the Party and the President of the country has always said he misses us—”
She did not manage to bluff Xiao Song but she did manage to confuse the neighbor beside her. “F*ck, you patriotic b*tch, you’ve got connections with the General Secretary?”
The lady responded, “Of course, didn’t you hear what he said during the new year? The people he misses the most at the end of the year is us—”
“Yup, you guys are those who are struggling, right? The General Secretary said he missed those who were struggling the most,” Xiao Song interrupted her with disdain.
The people in the car caught on and burst into laughter.
The lady was angry. She said, part embarra.s.sed and part vexed, “That’s right, and what about it? Are you questioning the General Secretary? You listen here, Xiao Song, you’re so dense. I heard you were once the magistrate’s secretary, weren’t you? Look at you, from a secretary to a chauffeur—”
Her words had very obviously hit a sore spot. The driver bit back angrily, “Shut your f*cking mouth. We’re here. Get out of the car, all of you. Someone will bring you up.”
He braked abruptly. Other than Li Du, the rest did not have the habit of wearing their safety belts, so the sudden brake sent them pitching forward. The lady had it the worst — her head knocked into the back of the front seat.
The driver got off the car to open the doors for the pa.s.sengers and a man with a square face and large ears walked over, accompanied by men and women who looked like leaders themselves. The lady who had been about to blow her gasket immediately fell silent at the sight before her.
Li Du recognized them; the men leading the group was the secretary of the County Party. He remembered the secretary’s last name was Cui, and this was the man whose help he utilized to deal with Soft Company.
The stoic secretary smiled when he saw them. He shook their hands and wished them a happy new year one by one before bringing them into his office.
On the way in, a photographer was snapping photos incessantly. A bespectacled teen protested feebly, “Stop taking pictures, it’s not like this is anything extraordinary.”
Li Du was puzzled. What was going on? This was not what he had expected.
In the office, there was a red calligraphy scroll, which read: The Fourth Meeting of the Cheng County Cui Ji Street Slums Remodeling.
Cui Ji was Li Du’s hometown. It used to belong to the outskirts of the county town, but their village was torn down when the county town expanded and arrangements were made for the families of Cui Ji to move into apartments. The main street of the town was then renamed Cui Ji Street.
Li Du knew what was going on the moment he read the scroll — the county town was probably looking to expand further, which would require them to tear down more houses. Someone had opposed this and was becoming an obstacle, so this meeting was probably the government trying to resolve the conflict.
Li Du did not know whether to laugh or cry — to think his parents had become obstacles.
He excused himself before calling his parents to inform them of what was happening.
His mother’s words confirmed his conjecture. “Your dad and I oppose their decision to touch our land, as do our neighbors. We’ve all gotten used to living here. How can they just up and tear down the neighborhood?”
Li Du asked, “Are you unwilling to move because the conditions they offered were unsatisfactory or is it really because you want to stay here? Also, aren’t we the only ones in the area who oppose this? Why would they call the rest here to the office?”
He finally understood why his parents had been so defensive when the car rolled up to their doorstep earlier.
His mother said, “It’s not just us, the rest don’t want to move either, but your father was pushed into becoming the representative of the Anti-Demolition Committee, so that’s why the government came knocking on our door.”
Li Du was exasperated. “And you didn’t think of telling me about something so serious?”
His mother protested weakly, “Because we were scared you’d be angry.”
He was furious indeed. He said, “This is a load of rubbish. You guys might be unwilling to move but you really think the rest of them are resisting because they’re attached to this place? What they really want is better conditions; they’re just using you guys.”