A Gathering of Distinguished Folk
Xia Lei took a taxi to Gold Coast and arrived before seven. He had a driving licence and a car but he did not dare to drive on the roads yet. Jiang Ru-Yi was still hogging his car and driving it to and from work, asking him for petrol money when she ran out. There was no helping it - Jiang Ru-Yi was his nemesis after all.
Xia Lei signed in at the guardhouse and entered the neighbourhood. Two young women walked past Xia Lei and both could not help taking another look at Xia Lei. He had on a white long-sleeved shirt with a brown tie, black suit pants and shiny dress shoes. His healthy physique and handsome face combined with his dress made him particularly handsome tonight.
He knocked on Liu Ying’s door and she brightened when she saw him. She smiled as she said, “Wow, Lei, you look so handsome tonight.”
Xia Lei smiled, “You’re very beautiful too, Big Sister Liu.”
Liu Ying wore a black evening gown, low-cut and back-revealing. A beautiful pale view presented itself in front as well as in the back, coupled with her plump bottom and the graceful lines of her waist; she was not just beautiful tonight, she was also sexy.
Xia Lei’s praise seemed to make Liu Ying feel more comfortable. She smiled and her smile was sweet and charming, with an air of indescribable attractiveness.
“Big Sister Liu, I don’t know anyone in your circle of friends. You’ll have to take care of me when we get there,” laughed Xia Lei.
Liu Ying patted Xia Lei lightly on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, I will introduce some friends to you. It will help your career too.”
“Thank you,” said Xia Lei. This was also the reason why he was willing to accompany Liu Ying to the party. He needed to build his own connections and this party was an opportunity.
“Look at you, being all formal again, aren’t we? Let’s go get the car.” Liu Ying walked towards the garage.
A few minutes later, an Audi Q7 drove out of the gates of the Gold Coast neighbourhood and headed towards the seaside. They were going to a private club called the Distinguished Gathering. People who were part of the club were wealthy and respectable, and all were people of importance in Hai-Zhu City.
“Have you found any suspicious persons by your side, Big Sister Liu?” asked Xia Lei as the car entered the highway.
Liu Ying shook her head, “After you reminded me last night, I observed the people around me when I went to the company earlier today but… I have no experience in things like this. I wouldn’t know even if that person walked back and forth in front of me eight times.”
“If it was someone close to you who sent the thief, he must be keeping a low profile now. It’s normal for you to not find anything. It’ll be best for you to be careful during this period of time and not give the enemy any more opportunities.”
“Mm.” Liu Ying nodded, then smiled at Xia Lei, “I’m not worried or afraid with you by my side. I didn’t have such problems when my husband was still around. Ah, it’s just myself and my child now. I feel so tired sometimes.”
“Don’t worry. If you need me to do anything, just ask,” consoled Xia Lei.
The Audi Q7 exited the highway as they chatted and continued towards the sea, arriving at the Distinguished Gathering club. It was located on a small peninsula, surrounded by sea on three sides. The main building was on a hill 300 metres above sea level, visible from afar, its red brick walls and pavilions reminiscent of ancient imperial residences in an extraordinary style.
“That’s the Distinguished Gathering club, and it’s part of Gu Yi-Shan’s estate,” Liu Ying told Xia Lei as she drove up the hill.
“Who is Gu Yi-Shan?” It was the first time he heard the name.
“You don’t know?” Liu Ying was surprised, “Jing-Du’s Gu clan. It’s a clan as famous as our Hai-Zhu City’s Shentu clan. They are on par with the Shentu clan as well and are rivals in the real estate industry.”
Xia Lei laughed a little shamefacedly, “I’m just a small fry, Big Sister Liu. How can I know about prominent people like them? I’m also borrowing your light this time to see more of the world outside my own. I’ll tell you honestly that even though I was born and raised here, this is my first time coming here and I’ve never even heard of this place before.”
Liu Ying removed her right hand from the gear stick and reached to pat Xia Lei on his thigh, then rested her hand there and didn’t move it away.
Xia Lei immediately felt nervous and awkward. He had no idea why he had said such words to invoke sympathy. She did not say anything in response but reached to touch his thigh. He could not bend his head around it - did he say anything to provoke or seduce her?
Liu Ying removed her hand from Xia Lei’s thigh and laughed, “Don’t sell yourself short, Lei. You’re clever and you have spunk. Big Sister thinks well of you. Who knows, in a few years or ten years later, you may even have your own listed company and a private club like this.”
Xia Lei laughed, “I wouldn’t dare to dream of it. I just want to have a better life. I’m not such an ambitious person.”
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
“No,” said Xia Lei. At that instant, Shentu Tian-Yin’s face suddenly appeared in his head, gorgeous and unattainable.
Liu Ying did not say anything more after she got her answer. She concentrated on the road.
The Audi Q7 climbed the hill and came to a carpark. The carpark was full of expensive cars; Ferrari, Bugatti, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Liu Ying’s Audi Q7 was a pauper compared to these cars, and the pauper of the lowest order at that.
Seeing all these dazzling cars made Xia Lei think in shame, ‘If I drove my Great Wall H6 here, they would probably not even open the doors for me.’
“Let’s go in.” Liu Ying alighted from the car.
Xia Lei alighted too and followed Liu Ying towards a palace-like hall.
A red carpet ran on the path leading to the great hall, lined by young and handsome male escorts on the left and young pretty female escorts on the right. This sight was a first for Xia Lei and he felt a flutter of nervousness.
Liu Ying held onto Xia Lei’s arm gently and leaned to his ear, saying softly, “I was nervous too when I first came to a place like this. It’s nothing, don’t be nervous. I’m here.”
Xia Lei felt better and he gave a small sound of agreement, then walked into the hall with Liu Ying.
The hall was spacious and built in an ancient style. All the tables and chairs were made of gold-brushed Chinese cedarwood, the gold glinting and setting it apart from the ordinary. Gold-brushed Chinese cedarwood was produced only in Sichuan and not anywhere else in the world. It was extremely precious. In ancient times, only the emperor had the right to use gold-brushed Chinese cedarwood for furniture. Here, all the furniture seemed to be made of gold-brushed Chinese cedarwood. It truly gave one the feeling of being in a palace and make one hold the venue and its host in reverence.
There were many guests already in the hall, either chatting or drinking wine. The party seemed lively yet quiet at the same time, and there was no impression of noise at all. It was in an environment like this, in quiet chats, that huge business deals were being sealed easily, unknown to the public and with the potential to affect the stock markets significantly the next day.
Xia Lei quickly scanned the hall and every face. He found three surprisingly familiar faces - Ning Yuan-Shan, Ren Wen-Qiang and Ning Jing. When he spotted the trio, they were talking softly in a corner of the hall, and the atmosphere seemed quite harmonious.
“Do you recognise anyone familiar?” Liu Ying asked quietly.
“Yes, over there,” said Xia Lei. He pointed, “See them? Chairman of East Wind Heavy Industries, Ning Yuan-Shan and his niece, Ning Jing. The young man next to her is Ren Wen-Qiang, part of the Shentu Group. They say he is in charge of the Shentu wind power plant project.”
“I know Ning Yuan-Shan but not the two young people you speak of. Ren Wen-Qiang… In charge of such an important project at such a young age. So young and promising.”
“Do you want to go over and talk to Ning Yuan-Shan, Big Sister Liu?” asked Xia Lei.
“No, I won’t. I’m working with you now so there’s no need for me to go over and chat,” said Liu Ying, “He is the chairman of a huge enterprise and I am just a small business owner so we have nothing to talk about. My little bit of trade is not attention-worthy to big players like them.”
Xia Lei laughed, “I actually don’t want to go over either. I had some disagreement with that Ren Wen-Qiang fellow.”
“Oh? What happened?” Liu Ying was curious.
Before Xia Lei could talk about it, a middle-aged man walked over with three long-stemmed wine glasses, all smiles, “CEO Liu, I was looking all over for you earlier. I didn’t think you would come at this time.” After he spoke, he handed Liu Ying a glass and handed another one to Xia Lei.
Xia Lei nodded his regards, “Thanks.”
Liu Ying spoke, “Lei, let me introduce you. This is Nice Moves Sports Equipment Company’s Research and Development Department manager, Lin Bo-Wen.”
Xia Lei extended his hand, “Nice to meet you, Mr Lin.”
Lin Bo-Wen smiled as he said, “No need to introduce you, I already know about you - supplier for our Nice Moves Sports Equipment, Xia Lei.” He shook hands with Xia Lei, “Very nice to meet you.”
Xia was a little curious, and he thought ‘A person such as Liu Ying is considered one of the lowest ranking here in a party like this so how can a manager of a research and development department receive an invitation to such a high-class party?’
The three of them clinked glasses and took a sip.
Liu Ying seemed to have had the same thought as Xia Lei. She looked at Lin Bo-Wen, “That’s right, Bo-Wen, what are you doing here?”
“I came with my younger sister. She’s good friends with the second young lady of the Gu clan. This party was organised by Gu Ke-Wen, so… Heh heh, just borrowing some glamour from my little sister,” said Lin Bo-Wen.
“I see,” said Liu Ying, “Gu Yi-Shan has two daughters, Gu Ke-Wu and Gu Ke-Wen, both incredible young women. I fear only Shentu Tian-Yin can be the match of the Gu sisters in the business world.”
“They are both talented people, well versed in letters and military stratagem,” added Lin Bo-Wen, then he laughed again, “CEO Liu, Mr Xia, I shall have to leave you. I’ll go look for my sister.”
“Mm, off you go, then,” said Liu Ying.
Xia Lei watched him go, then asked, “Who is his sister, Big Sister Liu?”
Liu Ying smiled, “Why, are you interested in his younger sister?”
Xia Lei was embarrassed and said, “Don’t tease me, Big Sister Liu. I don’t even know her name so how can I be interested?”
“So why are you asking?”
“Just curious. Think about it - if his younger sister is good friends with the second daughter of the Gu clan, he can easily use that connection to get a better position in the Gu empire. Why stay in your company?” said Xia Lei.
“You… You suspect him?” Liu Ying suddenly thought of the possibility.
Xia Lei shook his head, “No, I’m just curious. I’m actually an outsider and I have no evidence so how can I suspect the manager of your Research and Development department?”
Liu Ying was silent for a bit before she spoke, “His younger sister is Lin Ya-Ru. We’ve met once before but I’m not very familiar with her. I do know that she knows a lot of people and she has a huge social circle.”
“I see.” Xia Lei did not say more.
At that moment, Ning Jing suddenly started to make her way towards them. She looked straight at Xia Lei, her gaze intense.
Xia Lei gave an internal groan because when Ning Jing spotted him, so did Ren Wen-Qiang. That guy was also looking at him and his gaze was like a polished knife.
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