Book 1 Chapter 4 - Six Lobsters
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“I found something!” A voice shattered the awkwardness between the two. More precisely, it broke Li Yiming’s unease, as only he was able to hear it: it was Eyeglasses.
“Highway 208 was contracted by Yunlong Construction Group. Yunlong Construction Group, founded in 1990…” Eyeglasses continued, offering a detailed description. Only a few minutes have elapsed, and somehow he was able to collect such a comprehensive set of information. ‘What a competent man!’ Li Yiming thought. True to being a man dedicated to his work, Li Yiming forgot about Ji Xiaoqing, who stood in front of him.
Ji Xiaoqin could not hear Eyeglasses’ voice; she could only see the man in front of her staring at her with eyes devoid of hope. The sight of him looking back at her like that made her heart ache. She did love Li Yiming. The two years they had spent together were not a mere dream. However, life was not simply about roses and chocolates, it was also about braving its vicissitudes, about carrying the burdens of everyday life. Li Yiming could not give her the life she desired. She had to fight for it herself. What could she use to obtain what she wanted? With her dance performances? No, she understood where her advantages lie; she was young and beautiful; she had an elegant disposition. She outshone the girl Guo Xiang pursued with Li Yiming’s help by far. If that swarthy, freckled girl was enough for Guo Xiang, why would she not be? A 15 year-old girl may long for her prince charming riding a white horse, but a 25 year-old woman’s wish is to marry into affluence.
Every person has the right to pursue their dream. During this journey, many things needed to be sacrificed. Love is but one of them.
“Yiming.” Ji Xiaoqin was about to say something, but Li Yiming interrupted her with a hand gesture: Eyeglasses was getting to something important.
“These are more details concerning Yunlong. Do you know who’s the chairman?” Complacency was noticeable through Eyeglasses’ voice. To be honest, being able to dig out that much information on a corporation of this scale somewhat entitled him to it.
“Guo Tai?” Li Yiming blurted out. Guo Tai was Guo Xiang’s father. He once met the man when he went to the latter’s place.
“You’ve found it too?” Eyeglasses’ zeal was slightly thwarted. He went through quite a bit of trouble to gather everything. Yet, this unimpressive person stole his finale. It seemed that invitations are not just given to anyone who shows up.
Contrary to Eyeglasses’ feelings of setback, when Li Yiming blurted out Guo Tai’s name, Ji Xiaoqin felt as if her heart was pricked by a needle. The last sliver of wishful thinking was gone. ‘He really did see us yesterday… Guo Xiang’s father… Is he mockingly pointing out that Guo Xiang used to be the object of my despise?’
“Yiming.” Ji Xiaoqin’s guilt deepened. She had several scripts prepared in her mind, but panic struck her when she stepped onto the stage. She was at a complete loss and did not know how to broach the subject. After all, she was just a college student who barely stepped into the real world.
Li Yiming waved his hand and interrupted her once again. Then, he strode toward the campus exit, wholeheartedly focused on his conversation with Eyeglasses.
Ji Xiaoqing looked at Li Yiming’s back as he left, her heart torn. ‘Should I stop him? With what? With ‘sorry’ ? I’ve passed the point of no return, is there even a point in apologizing?’ Tears blurred her sight and dribbled down her cheeks. She clenched the bags containing branded gowns that would have been unknown to her for her entire life otherwise. She silently uttered what she couldn’t say out loud: ‘I’m sorry.’
“Guo Tai is the current chairman of Yunlong Construction group. He resides at 15, Century Garden. His father was a prominent figure in the capital before his retirement, and he’s in convalescence in an elderly residence in the capital as of right now. Guo Tai’s son, Guo Xiang, studied Chinese literature at Hangzhou Teacher’s College. He graduated in July and was known to be a playboy.” Li Yiming searched his mind for information related to Guo Xiang as he walked out of the campus gate.
This call this time had no holograms. It appears that the video and the voice components could be split up. Li Yiming was unable see the astonishment on his interlocutors’ faces. Everyone could more or less accept the fact that Eyeglasses had the ability to collect information quickly. In some sense, Eyeglasses was a top-level hacker, so any information stored online was only a few clicks away. But Li Yiming… could it be that his ability was similar to Eyeglasses?
“Good! Do you have anything to add?” Eyeglasses asked, somewhat frustrated.
“No. This is all I have for now.” Li Yiming stopped at a little convenience store near the campus entrance. He turned back to look at the neighborhood and suddenly felt the urge to have a smoke.
“Quite good, Mr Li,” complimented Qing Linglong.
“Not bad…” slowly spat out Eyeglasses. “How about you take over. I feel quite useless after all you’ve said. Also, another thing, Yunlong Construction is hosting a charity fundraiser tonight, at 7:30, on the top floor of Yunding Tower.”
“They’re still in the mood to host a fundraiser?” Li Yiming was somewhat flabbergasted. The collapse accident had barely happened, and rescue operations were still ongoing. Yet, the culprit was hosting a gala now, out of all times?
“The date for this event was decided three months ago. What’s more, ten minutes ago, in a press conference, Yunlong Construction’s media spokesperson guaranteed that there were no defects in the quality of their project. They requested the appropriate governmental body to investigate this accident in a thorough manner. Furthermore, they will donate seventy percent of the money they raise tonight to the victims’ families.”
“The usual trick… The event tonight must have required extensive preparations and rescheduling it might result in unwanted consequences. Second, this event itself is a nice opportunity to shift the public’s attention. Third, with money, they can silence any complaints coming from the media.” Qing Qiaoqiao explained with some diffidence.
‘This girl is remarkable. Sharp reasoning.’ observed Li Yiming.
“What should we do?” asked Eyeglasses.
“Eyeglasses, can you get your hands on a few invitation cards to this gala tonight?” inquired Qing Linglong.
“No problem. Ten minutes.”
“Sure. We’ll need three. Tonight, Mr. Li, Qiaoqiao and I will attend the gala. Eyeglasses, you will infiltrate their headquarters and look for any other available clues. Grandma Wang, I’ll trouble you with a trip to the site of the accident, since it’s your strong suit. Do we agree on this plan?”
“No problem. How am I going to give you the invitation?” Eyeglasses answered indifferently.
“Get everything ready. I’ll come to you with Qiaoqiao in a moment.”
“I’ll notify you if I find anything.” Grandma Wang, who remained silent the whole time, sank back into quietness after a single sentence; it seemed like she has already left.
“Thank you, Grandma Wang.” Qing Linglong was rather polite to elders. “Mr. Li, shall we meet at first floor of Yunding, 7:00 tonight?”
“Sure, I’ll head over right away.” Li Yiming looked at the time: he still had more than an hour at his disposal, but getting there on time with Hangzhou’s transit was no easy feat.
The clock had ticked to 7:15, and Li Yiming was becoming anxious as the encumbered bus he took remained stuck in the middle of traffic. The road ahead was completely jammed, and, over the past fifteen minutes, the bus had barely inched forty meters forward. The traffic in Hangzhou, a headache enough usually, had been pushed to the brink of complete paralysis after the viaduct collapsed. Qing Linglong had already called twice to urge him, but there was nothing he could do. Left with no other choice, she left the invitation at a newspaper stand at the bottom of Yunding Tower and went up with Qing Qiaoqiao.
Li Yiming looked at the bus route map: still five more stops until his destination. He gritted his teeth and jumped off the bus. He ran to a public bicycle rental station, grabbed a bicycle and pedalled furiously toward Yunding Tower.
Li Yiming finally arrived at 7:40, drenched in sweat. He looked around and quickly found the newspaper stand. Unfortunately, there was no bicycle station: he was stuck with the bicycle he borrowed.
‘Whatever, not much I can do about that.’ Li Yiming dashed toward the newspaper stand and took the envelope containing the invitation. He even asked the old shopkeeper to look after his bicycle. He dashed toward the building, without forgetting to glance back at the rented bicycle; it costs an extra fee after an hour, and three hundred RMB upon loss...
On the top floor, he met four men in suits who scrutinized him with a look of bemusement: a forehead full of sweat, clammy hair, and uneven breath; blue t-shirt whose color had whitened slightly from being washed too many times; three quarter denims; dusty yellow sneakers; and a simple bag.
Li Yiming noticed the formally dressed people around him and felt a mix of embarrassment, reticence, and fear at the prospect of refusal. The authenticity of Li Yiming’s invitation was double-checked and then triple-checked. Just when Li Yiming was about to turn around and leave, the person in charge finally gave his assent. As Li Yiming walked through the door, the manager ordered one of his subordinates to keep an eye on him, should he cause any trouble.
The reception hall was very classy. The cool air brought in by the central air conditioner only took into consideration the men in suits, but not their female companions wearing gowns with deep back cuts, skirts at lower buttocks length or shoulder strap dresses. Li Yiming reached for napkins on a table, wiped away the beads of sweat on his forehead and looked around for the Qing sisters.
The size of the hall was quite imposing, and it could accommodate several hundreds of guests at a time. Li Yiming quickly glanced around, but couldn’t find the Qing sisters. On the stage, a political figure Li Yiming remembered seeing on TV was delivering a speech about today’s viaduct collapse, explaining how different governmental bodies and Yunlong Construction group handled the emergency in a timely manner. Right next to him stood a famous anchor from a Hangzhou television station. She was dressed in a purple evening gown with a side slit, maintaining her usual sensuality.
Li Yiming noticed the buffet tables on the side. The diversity and the quality of the food seemed outstanding. However, the guests all gathered around the center of the hall to listen to the “report”, so the tables were left unattended. Li Yiming rubbed his hands: he was really famished, since the only meal he had today was an egg roll for breakfast. He planned to eat supper, but had to cancel his plans for time’s sake.
Ji Xiaoqin stood amongst the crowd, cuddling intimately with Guo Xiang. Everything around her felt surreal. She was dressed in an evening dress of a famous brand, her neck adorned by a necklace that was said to be worth several hundreds of thousands of yuan. Surrounded left and right by wealthy gentry, this is was a world unimaginable to her former self. She was immersed in the deep exaltation that her sacrifices had finally bore fruit, but then, she saw someone that could not be here.
Chen Jiawang is a college student clerk at Yunding Tower for the summer. Usually, such an event would not call upon the service of an intern like him, but, after the collapse of Highway 208, one of the regulars lost contact with his family. In a moment of desperation, he requested for a leave, so Chen Jiawang ended up substituting for him.
Chen Jiawang considered his work to be quite valuable. Being able to receive this many personalities made him feel honored. However, right now he was rather anxious: his supervisor had specifically instructed him to keep a close eye on any suspicious actions that the man in front of him makes. If there was anything abnormal, he needed to report it at once. ‘But… Is eating considered abnormal?’
Li Yiming felt that today’s troubles were truly worth it; a plethora of delicacies to fill himself with. After an entire day without food, coupled with intense physical efforts, he found the food especially… ‘Hey! Is that a two kilogram lobster?’
By the time Li Yiming chomped on his sixth lobster, Chen Jiawang was beginning to lose his nerve. He felt this was certainly, absolutely, without a doubt the “suspicious” behavior his supervisor had mentioned. ‘But… Should I stop him from eating more lobsters, or should I go to my supervisor?’ Chen Jiawang hesitated, and he secretly prayed for help to extract him from this predicament.
When she saw Li Yiming, Ji Xiaoqin was baffled. ‘Why is he here? Don’t tell me that Guo Xiang invited him?’ By the time she saw him feast on the sixth lobster, she was also about to lose her composure. She was certain that he came here to cause trouble, and that he must have followed her all the way here. Ji Xiaoqin found an excuse to politely retreat from the crowd and scurried toward Li Yiming.
Chen Jiawang gave a sigh of relief: his prayers have been answered. Someone was coming to relieve him from his anxiety and embarrassment. ‘That woman is tangled with the crown prince of Yunlong Construction group. With that kind of intimacy, I’d think of her as one of his consorts. If he knows her, there shouldn’t be any problems. Maybe this guy just has eccentric tastes for clothing and food. After all, what kind of rich person doesn't have a weird habit?’
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