Chapter 1 – Director Sun is a Fastidious Man
Fight the Landlord (斗地主) is a very popular 3-player (often gambling) Chinese card game where there are two peasants and one landlord. The goal of the game is to be the first one to get rid of your cards. You can get rid of your cards by playing more “powerful” cards against the opponent’s previous move. This is a guide on how to play. If you search on YouTube, there are plenty of professional matches you can watch.
In the dead of night, stars scattered sparsely across the sky.
A black sedan sped down the long street, blurring the streetlamps outside its windows into two resplendent ribbons of golden light. The time approached two in the morning, and although there was no congestion on the road, cars would rush by from time to time.
In the center of the city, the bright lights of towering buildings washed the night aglow, forever unable to sink into sleep.
The chauffeur stopped at an intersection, casually glancing at the rearview mirror while waiting at the red light. The director sat expressionlessly in the back row, brows tightly knit and staring sharply at his phone screen. His complexion definitely could not be considered pleasant, seemingly still engrossed in work-related troubles.
He’s wealthy yet still works so hard; no wonder he’s such a successful figure, the chauffeur thought to himself. Noticing that the red light had counted down to zero, he regained his concentration, stepped on the gas pedal, and drove smoothly past the intersection.
‘Successful figure’ Sun Zinan was using his ever-present, deeply profound concentration to stare at his WeChat interface. Finally, he tapped on the Fight the Landlord applet and began a new game.
This was his recently acquired hobby. Whenever he was bored, he would play two games of Fight the Landlord; even if it did not relieve stress, it at least made his life less monotonous.
Director Sun had only average gaming skills and he did not put much effort into it, but he was a pay-to-win player with over 2.3 million Huanle Dou, the in-game currency.
The game loaded after the countdown. Due to the amount of Huanle Dou he had, Sun Zinan was forced into the top-level division.
The starting betting value of this division was one thousand, the highest thirty thousand. Neither wins nor losses were small sums and bankruptcy was especially easy. But tonight, Sun Zinan’s luck was not bad and he still retained the clear-headedness of someone who had barely started bidding. Without using much effort, he even managed to win five matches in a row.
After each win, the system would automatically switch him to two new opponents. This time, the player whose turn was after his was called ‘Fresh Breeze Comes Gently’ and their avatar was a timeless white lotus. The player before him had the English name ‘DONKI’ and his avatar was a double-helix structure similar to DNA.
Sun Zinan’s company was a part of the biotechnology sector, so he was particularly drawn to the avatar and subconsciously glanced at it again.
This single glance distracted him into pressing the wrong button, and he accidentally tapped ‘Snatch the Landlord’s Position.’
Snatching the landlord’s position doubled the risks and rewards. Sun Zinan’s deck was not very good; when he had realized his mistake, he cursed inwardly. Fuck.
Fresh Breeze Comes Gently skipped over their turn. It seemed like DONKI’s deck was pretty good, with a high chance of winning, and he snatched the landlord position back. The score quadrupled, yet DONKI was apparently not yet satisfied and selected ‘Super Boost.’
Their bottom cards were revealed, a pair of threes and one four.
Sun Zinan stared at his own triple fours and pair of threes. “…”
What trash cards!
He had lost this round for sure; DONKI still had a king bomb. The deducted number of HuanLe Dou made Sun Zinan frown slightly.
Sun Zinan was the silently competitive type. DONKI’s victory made him feel like his arteries had been injected with chicken blood, and he was immediately ready for battle.
The chauffeur in the front seat felt an inexplicable murderous intent from the back seat, as if tiny razor blades were scraping at the fine hairs at the back of his neck.
According to the rules of the game, if you lost after a winning streak, the system would not switch the players. The new round began with the same three people, and DONKI was once again the landlord. Sun Zinan did not fight for the position, nor did he choose to boost it. Although he did not have a joker in his hand, his deck was good and he even had a small bomb.
In the first half of the game, he only played three singles and skipped the rest of his turns. Fresh Breeze Comes Gently put out a pair of twos, tricking DONKI into using up the black-and-white joker in his hand. However, DONKI thought victory was certain and threw out multiple pairs, only leaving a colored joker in his hand. At this time, Sun Zinan finally smirked and unhurriedly used four threes to gently bomb him.
Sun Zinan’s moves were to the point of immorality. He had about a dozen cards left in his hand that were all either pairs or straights. Every move he made was like a stab towards DONKI, leaving his opponent with no choice but to sit there and take the hits. DONKI was so enraged that he opened up the interaction chat panel of the game and bitterly sent a bucket of cold water over to Sun Zinan.
The sound of water splashing out from the game was so loud that the chauffeur curiously looked over at the rearview mirror.
Sun Zinan startled, then immediately threw a retaliatory rotten tomato.
DONKI could not escape this, so he decided to recklessly throw his cards away and devote himself to dousing Sun Zinan with cold water. Sun Zinan multitasked and threw rotten tomatoes as he continued to play out cards. The ceaseless exchange of beatings became as lively as a vegetable market. Fresh Breeze Comes Gently saw that the commotion did not deter the game, so he teamed up with Sun Zinan with a chicken-catching effect to combat DONKI. The pressurized pot blew up, and the atmosphere became exceedingly dynamic.
The round ended with the peasants’ victory, so the system did not switch the players. The trio of players paid no attention to who won or lost, each quickly tapping ‘Start’ and reaching out towards their opponents’ avatars—
Ice water, chicken feathers, and tomatoes flew chaotically at each other.
In the few months Sun Zinan had been playing Fight the Landlord, he had never met such a childish player. It could be said that the two of them had started a feud. DONKI’s battle strategy was to kill a thousand soldiers while losing eight hundred of his own—as long as Fresh Breeze Comes Gently played a card, he would use the largest card in his hand, taking away all of Sun Zinan’s chances to place down a card.
Sun Zinan’s move came after DONKI, so he was thoroughly suppressed. He was so enraged that he almost choked up a mouthful of blood, furiously sending DONKI emoticons of a chicken being strangled.
This round became utter chaos. DONKI was increasingly frenzied, Sun Zinan was powerless despite his determination, and Fresh Breeze Comes Gently profited greatly from the situation. At the end of the round, Sun Zinan swept his eyes over the final results and abruptly thought, Fuck.
He had been so caught up in throwing tomatoes and pouring cold water that he hadn’t noticed that he was teammates with DONKI…the profiting Fresh Breeze Comes Gently had been the landlord!
The phone screen’s dim light illuminated his face, casting a pallid look.
Director Sun’s finger hovered over his screen, hesitating to press the ‘Start’ button. Even though he could not see the person on the other side of the screen, he could feel the awkward embarrassment between the two of them.
While he was hesitating, the chauffeur turned to the left. Sun Zinan had been too engrossed in the game and could not brace himself from tilting over. His finger accidentally pressed down on the ‘Start’ button.
Sun Zinan, “…”
After looking at his screen closely, he realized that he had hesitated for too long. The system had already switched him to a different game. Sun Zinan let out a sigh, somehow tinged by an indescribable regret.
Perhaps it was because venting made people happy. Director Sun had strict self-discipline; even when playing Fight the Landlord, he had to play properly. He couldn’t recall the last time he had unrestrainedly thrown rotten tomatoes at someone.
He won this new round as the sedan stopped in front of his apartment. Sun Zinan closed the game and put his phone away. By the time the car had parked completely and the chauffeur had opened the door for him, Sun Zinan’s mood had returned back to normal. “You’ve worked hard. Pick me up at eight tomorrow.”
The chauffeur nodded, watching him walk towards the entrance gates, then suddenly remembered something and hurriedly called out, “Boss, Butler Wu called today and said the old man wants you to go home for dinner tomorrow evening.”
Sun Zinan’s footsteps paused, the momentary relaxation brought by Fight the Landlord immediately vanishing into smoke. A heavy weariness clung to the corners of his eyes and brows, then disappeared in an instant, merely dew evaporating under the sun. His voice was coldly indifferent. “Understood.”
The chauffeur replied, “Please take care. Good night.”
The next day. Yinhong Tower, Hongsen Biotechnology.
Gleaming glass windows reflected a rarely seen clear sky. Clusters of skyscrapers cast shadows on the ground, preserving a vestige of cold air in front of the building despite the warm April breeze.
The automated glass doors slid open to reveal young men in suits hurrying down the stairs. Traces of shock flashed by when they noticed the Bentley outside, but all of them quickly suppressed their emotions into masks of neutral expressions.
Assistant Yu Liang scuttered over, rushing to help Sun Zinan open the car door.
Sun Zinan was not sitting inside the car when he got there. Instead, he was leaning against the car door, knocking his fingers against the roof. He cast a sideways glance at his assistant and asked, “What are we doing today?”
His eyes were graceful and had a striking classic beauty; long but not narrow, resembling the carved jade phoenixes in museums. He had deep double eyelids cut distinctly above thick dark lashes. It was unclear if he had some foreign or ethnic minority ancestry, but his eyes were especially deeply set, his gaze imposing.
Yu Liang was so frightened he began stuttering. “Director Sun, weren’t we going—going to Tianhai University?”
“Going to a school in this kind of car,” Sun Zinan said with a frown, “Means that we made a special trip to show off because we’re afraid people won’t know we’re some kind of nouveau riche, doesn’t it?”
The breeze under the building was cool, but Yu Liang felt cold sweat running down his forehead. “This…my apologies.”
“Change the car.” Sun Zinan waved his hand to dismiss the matter. “Be more low-profile. We’re going to ask them for a business partnership, not to slap their faces with money.”
Yu Liang hurriedly followed the chauffeur to the garage to replace the car. As he walked, he inwardly scolded himself. Yu Liang had just joined the company, and wasn’t familiar with Director Sun. He had only heard from an experienced assistant, Gu Yao, that Director Sun was a meticulous person. Yu Liang saw that Director Sun was very young, so he had thought he was meticulous towards luxury cars and women. Contrary to his expectations, Sun Zinan was actually a very serious person, and now Yu Liang was sweating over the consequences of his prejudices.
On the way to the school, Sun Zinan answered a call. The caller sounded so anxious they could have crawled through the phone and dragged Sun Zinan back to the company. “Why are you personally making the trip?”
Sun Zinan replied easily, “One can only show sincerity through determination. Since it didn’t work last time, we’ll have to try again. We have to show him our earnest efforts.”
“That professor is such a stubborn fellow, so obstinate…aiya, you should have brought someone with you.”
Sun Zinan poked at Yu Liang, who was sitting in front of him. “Make a sound for Director Zheng.”
Yu Liang, “Ah?”
“Did you hear?” Sun Zinan put the phone back by his ear. “I brought a thug, stop fretting.”
Director Zheng, “…”
Sun Zinan hung up on him.
At three fifty in the afternoon, an unobtrusive black Mercedes-Benz slowly rolled to a stop in front of the Life Sciences Institute of Tianhai University. After Yu Liang conversed with the front desk, he turned back to tell Sun Zinan, “Director Sun, Professor Tang says he can only meet for half an hour, so it’s not too convenient to go too far. We’ll meet him at one of the cafés on campus.”
Sun Zinan did not appear to feel slighted. It seemed he had made prior mental preparations as he casually replied, “Sure.”
The smell of coffee and cream wafted throughout the building. There was a counter in a corner with a small blackboard chalk menu. This place was called a café, but it was really a student convenience store. Sun Zinan sat at a small square table and squeezed his long legs underneath, resulting in a slightly awkward pose. However, it was impossible to tell, and he even leisurely studied the menu.
It was a weekday afternoon, and most of the students were either in classrooms or labs. Every once in a while, a student would pass by and be unable to resist buying a coffee at the counter. This allowed them to also sneak glances at Sun Zinan, like they were zoo visitors who did not want to overtly distress the animal.
Being the type of person who easily forgot his mistakes and was as unvigilant as a simple-minded squirrel, Yu Liang thought only of food the moment he sat down and completely erased the emphasized ‘low-profile.’ Having seen the students secretly taking pictures on their phones, he did not sense anything off and even mused out loud, “Tch, tch. You can do whatever you want if you’re handsome.”
Sun Zinan endured for as long as he could, before aiming a kick under the table.
From the hallway echoed the sound of an elevator arriving. It was completely buried under the noise of coffee machines and Yu Liang, along with his chair, flying through the air due to a certain kick. Sun Zinan did not notice anything until the sound of steady footsteps closed in, at which he refocused his attention on the handsome, model-like man in front of him.
The handsome man had flawless posture and wore glasses. He did not look at them, and instead addressed the students near the counter. “Don’t be impolite, stop sneaking photos.”