The banquet was being held at Golden Kaidi Hotel and had two parts; a dinner and evening party. Hu Hou had wanted to have it in the government auditorium so as not to appear wasteful to the public but Shentu Tian-Yin had offered to cover all expenses. There was no refusing her offer, and so the banquet was held at Golden Kaidi Hotel. This hotel was also one of the subsidiaries of Vientiane Group - it was like Shentu Tian-Yin inviting the important people of Hai-Zhu for a free gathering.
The calculated costs of the banquet was a million yuan. Xia Lei had to consider some factors before giving a bonus and get scolded by ‘housekeeper’ Liang Si-Yao but Shentu Tian-Yin had spent it just like that to treat people to a meal and have a chat. They were levels apart.
Hu Hou told him of these on their way there.
Inside the venue, Xia Lei said, “Mayor Hu, I am more than honoured that you’ve come to fetch me yourself. You must be very busy at this banquet so there’s no need to accompany me. Please, go about your business.”
“I do have a lot to do. I won’t be accompanying you, then. I’ll look for you when I’m less busy,” said Hu Hou modestly.
After Hu Hou went off, Xia Lei found himself a seat in a corner and sat down to watch the situation in the dining hall quietly. There were already quite a few guests in the dining hall, all dressed to the nines and of good bearing. Some sat silently while some made quiet conversation. There were over a hundred guests in the huge dining hall but it was rather quiet.
Xia Lei scanned the area and his gaze stopped on the area close to the stage. He’d spotted Shentu Tian-Yin and next to her was Gu Ke-Wen. Shentu Tian-Yin was dressed in a long black strapless dress. Her head of fine black hair was pulled into a flowerbud hairstyle with a purple silk flower inserted into it; stylish, cool, elegant and noble. Next to her, Gu Ke-Wen was dressed in a red low-cut evening dress with an expensive diamond-studded necklace around her neck. The diamonds sparkled under the light, drawing attention to the area of white skin beneath it and that deep V-shaped groove. Her sexiness was fairly different from Shentu Tian-Yin’s. Gu Ke-Wen was like a rose in the royal garden while Shentu Tian-Yin was a tulip at the base of an iceberg, blooming next to a bubbling stream.
Shentu Tian-Yin and Gu Ke-Wen were women of the same rank but they were completely different. Shentu Tian-Yin was three points ahead in bearing but when it came to womanly wiles and sexiness, she lost to Gu Ke-Wen by two points.
What Xia Lei found strange at seeing Shentu Tian-Yin again was that he would have a feeling of wanting to woo her and to be with her in the past. This feeling had disappeared now, however. He could admire her unearthly beauty but also feel her coldness and aloofness at the same time.
At that moment, a young man in a white suit walked up to Shentu Tian-Yin and Gu Ke-Wen, then sat on the other side of Shentu Tian-Yin. Shentu Tian-Yin did not seem repulsed by the young man and even greeted him.
This young man was tall, lean and handsome; he was not any less attractive than a beautiful male South-Korean celebrity. A man like this would garner a whole lot of fans anywhere, be it a venue like this or a in a marketplace selling pork.
Who was he? Xia Lei was struck by a thought and his left eye twitched, locking on to the trio. Coincidentally, Gu Ke-Wen greeted the young man at this point.
“Why have you come only now, Big Brother?” Gu Ke-Wen had a sweet smile on her face.
Xia Lei found out the young man’s identity - Gu Ke-Wu
Gu Ke-Wu smiled faintly. “Do you think I have that much free time on my hands? I had something to take care of at the company so I’m late. I’d have pushed it to tomorrow if I’d known that Tian-Yin was here too.”
His words were nice but Shentu Tian-Yin just listened and didn’t even give him a polite smile.
“Oh, right, Tian-Yin, I’m thinking of starting a charitable fund for the care of left-behind children. Will you be interested in participating?” Gu Ke-Wu did not mind Shentu Tian-Yin’s coldness and he seemed to have a lot of topics to draw her into.
Shentu Tian-Yin spoke then, perhaps to not appear rude. “Thank you, but our Vientiane Group has its own charitable funds. We are also supporting the care of left-behind children.”
Gu Ke-Wu just smiled faintly. He did not seem bothered at all about her coldness to him.
“Why are you talking about work again, Big Brother? Big Sister Tian-Yin has worked the whole day - she must want to relax right now. Aren’t you just making her upset on purpose?” Gu Ke-Wen winked at Gu Ke-Wu, as if to give her brother pointers on how to keep on the good side of an ice-queen like Shentu Tian-Yin.
Gu Ke-Wu got the hint and he chuckled. “Please excuse me, I am not well-versed in the ways of great minds like yours but I shall learn.”
Xia Lei felt the skin on his back crawl in disgust. Gu Ke-Wu had both looks and status so there was no shortage of women around him - how could he not know how women think? He could fool a young teenage girl with those words but it was naive to think that it would work on Shentu Tian-Yin.
The Gu clan had risen from the underworld and was still connected to the underworld. No person of the Gu clan was free of bloodshed. Gu Ke-Wen was already extremely sly and venomous, let alone the future head of the Gu clan, Gu Ke-Wu. What sort of person was he? Xia Lei was full of conjectures about him.
“Ke-Wen, there must be a line of girls a few kilometres long who want to get close to a person such as your brother. You have to keep him in check or you’ll end up with a sister-in-law who is mean to you,” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
Gu Ke-Wen smiled, “I’ve long had someone in mind, Big Sister Tian-Yin. You just don’t know who.”
Shentu Tian-Yin seemed to know who she was talking about and her brows wrinkled.
At that moment, an elderly gentleman walked into the dining hall from the work area and scanned the area before walking towards Shentu Tian-Yin.
Xia Lei recognised him at once - it was the butler of the Shentu clan, Fu Chuan-Fu. Shentu Tian-Yin’s gaze shifted over just then and her gaze met Xia Lei’s. She paused, but did not shift her gaze away.
Xia Lei smiled politely. They were too far apart for him to greet her.
Shentu Tian-Yin did not react; she just stared at Xia Lei.
Fu Chuan-Fu walked to Shentu Tian-Yin and whispered something in her ear. He’d covered his mouth so Xia Lei could not see his lips and was unable to lip-read.
Shentu Tian-Yin nodded, then raised a hand to point at Xia Lei.
Fu Chuan-Fu glanced over and started walking towards Xia Lei.
Xia Lei gave an internal groan at the incoming troublesome thing but put a smile on his face. He waited for Fu Chuan-Fu to come close before greeting him politely. “Long time no see, Elder Fu. You are as spritely as ever.”
“Thank you,” Fu Chuan-Fu was also very polite, “Our Lady invites you to sit with her.”
Xia Lei hesitated, but refused. “I thank Miss Shentu for her kindness but I will not be going over. I’m quite fine here.”
Fu Chuan-Fu’s brows furrowed. “Mr Xia, you are the fifth person our Lady has personally invited this year. Are you not going to honour her request?”
Xia Lei was speechless.
“Please.” Fu Chuan-Fu bent at the waist in an even more respectful manner.
Xia Lei smiled wryly and got up to walk to Shentu Tian-Yin. He was not trying to put on airs but to avoid sitting at the same table at Gu Ke-Wen and Gu Ke-Wu. He, however, was not going to explain something like that to the butler of the Shentu clan.
Gu Ke-Wen saw Xia Lei too and the smile she had on her face disappeared when she saw him. A flash of venom appeared in her large, bright eyes.
Gu Ke-Wu also looked at Xia Lei. His reaction was the complete opposite of Gu Ke-Wen’s and he maintained a friendly smile. He gave a nodding greeting to Xia Lei before Xia Lei greeted him.
There was no way Gu Ke-Wu did not know Xia Lei’s identity from the incident with Nice Moves Sports Equipment Company though he was not a participant in it. He gave the impression that he had no clue who Xia Lei was and was amiable towards him with no hint of malice.
The more normally Gu Ke-Wu acted, the more Xia Lei felt as if he was keeping his true face hidden. He was someone who hid knives behind a smile and a dangerous person.
“Mr Xia, please sit,” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
“Thank you. Hello.” Xia Lei greeted them politely and sat opposite, as far as he could from the three of them.
“Mr Xia? Oh!” Gu Ke-Wu smiled. “I remember now. Hai-Zhu City has a promising young entrepreneur named Xia Lei. I’m guessing that’s you?”
He obviously knew and was aware of details too but chose to display such an attitude - this Gu Ke-Wu was a hard one to grasp.
Xia Lei nodded. “Just some small business. It’s nothing much.”
“Come, let’s get to know one another and be friends.” Gu Ke-Wu stood and stretched out a hand.
Xia Lei stood as well and shook hands with Gu Ke-Wu. “Hello, hello, it’s an honour to meet you… What is your name and title?”
Xia Lei had to pretend too.
“I have no title. I’m surnamed Gu; Gu Ke-Wu,” he said with a smile.
The two men shook and seated themselves. They didn’t exchange further words.
Gu Ke-Wen piped up, “Big Brother, you must not underestimate this Mr Xia. He’s quite impressive. He was just a construction worker half a year ago but he now has his own company. I nearly lost to him last time too.”
Xia Lei’s advancement could be described as a miracle. He was quite impressive and worthy of praise by anyone but Gu Ke-Wen’s words of praise carried undertones of taunting contempt. A small business owner who’d started as a construction worker - how could he be worthy enough to sit at the same table as the head of Vientaine Group and two leaders of North Group?
Xia Lei did not respond to those veiled words but Shentu Tian-Yin wrinkled her brows. “Ke-Wen, I do not approve of your words. The emperor of the Han dynasty, Liu Bang, was a laid-back farmer before he became emperor. Our Shentu clan and your Gu clan were also just normal households in the beginning. We are only at where we are today because of our past hard work and reforms, aren’t we? Our ancestors back then just needed a head for business to do well but it is different now. Mr Xia was able to raise his company from nothing to the state it is in now - I dare say that no one else in China can compare to him.”
Her words made Xia Lei feel quite good about himself and he smiled. “You’re too kind. Thank you.”
Gu Ke-Wen giggled. “I’m just kidding, Big Sister Tian-Yin. You don’t have to take it seriously.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Posting on a Sunday for Monday. I need to do a blood test and an ultrasound to get a better diagnosis for my swollen lymph nodes. Also have a wisdom tooth extraction scheduled for Tuesday... Fun times.
Stay healthy, folks.