At the privacy of my own quarters, I called one of my friends who was also in the journalism world. She was a versatile woman of many connections, and I had always asked for her help in different matters.
A polite voice greeted me the moment she picked up the phone. Not bothering to prolong our conversation, I opted to cut to the chase, “Hey, I need you to find out the owner of a house,”
Already used to my direct requests, she hummed in understanding. A distinct sound of slurping of noodles marred her speech before she swallowed and clearly asked, “Okay. The address?”
I dutifully told her all the information I had; the rustling of paper on the other line signified her taking notes on the details needed for my request, “Got it. I'll tell you tomorrow at the latest.”
“Okay, thanks a lot.”
I hung up the phone, glad that our strict professionalism did not warrant any prying questions or explanations from both parties.
Sheer boredom engulfed me as I blankly stared at the ceiling while I waited for her reply. I tossed and turned before deciding to fall asleep when the ringtone of my phone halted my actions. A faint smile played on my lips in awe of her amazing speed. I had long been acquainted with her work ethics, yet it still manages to astonish me every time.
“The owner of the house’s name is Dong Ting, who was born in the year 1990. As a post-90s generation, it’s not bad for him to afford a villa at this age,” she drawled out, alerting me awake.
Dong Ting? It must be that Mr. Dong; was this house his?
The shock I felt upon the realization led me to hang up on her without bothering to utter a single word of gratitude.
The man behind my dilemma was very thorough. Even the house he used to keep me imprisoned was under another’s name.
It was safe to say, that I was off?his scent again.
The events of the past few days churned in my head. The turmoil of emotions writhing inside me led to my inability to rest properly during the early hours of the night.
It was not until the clock ticked past midnight that I had drifted off to sleep. Despite that, I still woke up in time with the sun rising high in the morning the next day.
Yawning as I stretched my sore muscles, I was struck with a bothersome observation in lieu of the amenities the huge mansion had. It was an almost bitter pill to swallow, given the supposed unfavorable circumstances I was in, that I could not find any fault to complain about with the residence. The environment here was surprisingly good and quiet, that not even the chirping of merry birds could be heard outside the windows.
The scrutiny of these issues jolted me to be vigilant. My mind ran in circles, hoping to arrive at some clue as I sat on the bed in a daze.
Suddenly, something occurred to me.
Truthfully, it was not as if I was completely clueless about my current predicament. The morning after that cursed night, I had already felt something wrong when I woke up in the presidential suite alone. I had followed my instincts as a journalist and had searched through every corner of the area, when I finally found an intricately designed cufflink on the carpet under the outer coat hanger.
And generally speaking, only important persons customized cufflinks.
It confused me as to how it could have made its way to the space I was staying in. The treasured item was handmade, delicate and expensive, and all it took was one careful look to know that it was not normally worn by ordinary people.
I knew of its perceived importance, so at the moment, I had stored the cufflink away.
After all, it was made of pure gold and was obviously worth a lot of money. It would have proved its use to me someday, especially when I had found it in the chambers of where I had resided in while intoxicated.
I got up and went through my luggage. Hidden inside a small pocket, I fished out the cufflink and fiddled with it on the palm of my hand.
My brows furrowed in deep concentration as I assessed the small object. For some unknown reason, the more I looked at it, the more familiar it felt.
Thinking hard, I had indeed seen lots of cufflinks these days. Some were not exactly the same as the one I had, but was what I believed, almost similar, at least.
With a hand cupping my chin in thought, I recalled my memories.
I racked my brain for any possible discovery, but any vision that might have aided in shedding light on these matters were blurry and unrecognizable. Sighing and flopping back on the bed, it might be because of my pregnancy that my brain had turned dull. I used to have a photographic memory that enabled me to memorize even my most hectic of schedules.
The notion brought me to ponder over my recent agendas. I had been doing news investigations these days, and a large percentage of the ones I met were ordinary folks. It was hard to figure out where I could have had any opportunity to see cufflinks like this.
The only exception to those average individuals was the day before yesterday when I went to interview Sang Qi, the Vice President of Dayu Group.
I sat up in a flash, my eyes widening in surprise. Yes, that was it!
I finally remembered!
When I was questioning Sang Qi that day, I had sat opposite of him. It was due to his habit of holding a fist to cover his nose and mouth, that my eyes had given attention to the cuffs of his sleeves.
It was only in passing that I had blankly noticed the specially crafted and exquisite cufflinks he wore, but now, it occurred to me that they were strikingly identical to this article I was tinkering with.
A grin broke out on my face at the little excitement I felt for the victory of finding such a small connection. In my glee, I happily washed up and changed at once, before coming downstairs for breakfast.
Although I had not fully comprehended the situation, I had a feeling that the perpetrator could be Sang Qi.
The cufflinks were a big hint, seeing as it was a luxury that only people with a high regard for taste could afford.
Additionally, most elites flaunted themselves using discernable accessories like golden necklaces and brand watches. Only a select few paid much emphasis to minor details like their cufflinks.
The faint odor of tobacco on Sang Qi was also distinguishable. It was not the kind of stale scent that many would associate with the smell of strangers smoking in alleys. It was an unmistakable familiarity to me. I was confident that I had encountered it before.
After finishing my breakfast in haste, I ran outside with no delay. Jin chased me and asked if I would come back for lunch, to which I only responded with a suspicious answer, “You may prepare some food for me. If I can’t make it back for lunch, I’ll have them in the evening.”
As I ran out, Driver Ho was already standing by the door. I motioned for him to follow suit while I got in the car. "Dayu Group," I said to him.
He was strapping on his seatbelt when he paused and looked back at me, "Aren't you fired by the magazine, Ms. Xia? Why are you going to Dayu again?"
Scratching my head, I sheepishly smiled at his inquiry to hide the vulnerability I felt at being out in the open. Even the driver here knew I was fired. Did I really have no secrets left to hide from the people in this estate?
“I’ll be having an interview for a job there.” I blurted out and turned on my phone to evade further probing.
The engine roared as the vehicle went on its way to its destination. In the meantime, I took a?quick?look?at the?news?sites in hopes of finding a reason I could use to meet Sang Qi in person.
If I were to push through with meeting him, I would need to have an unavoidable request to do so. After all, people in his position were usually unavailable, and I was sure his secretary would not let me in so easily.
Also, the complaint he had filed against me would have most probably placed me in a black list in his company just in case I chose to seek revenge.
I struggled looking for a fathomable excuse, and eventually lamented. Sighing, I looked at the mirror before ordering, “I’ve changed my mind, sorry. Let’s not go there.”
The car screeched to a stop by the side of the road at my word. I briefly noted, that Driver Ho appeared to be a remarkably obedient underling.
He turned to meet my gaze and asked, “Where are we going now, Ms. Xia?”
Biting my lip, I anxiously reviewed my options.
The streets outside were filled with people milling about. I examined the areas where several seemed to come from, before a particular shopping mall caught my interest. I pointed to its direction and said, “There.”
He nodded, “I’ll be at the underground parking lot. Please take your time, Ms. Xia.”
I entered the mall as planned with nothing but an empty wallet in hand.
It was a devastating truth, perhaps, that journalists were underpaid workers that depended fully on bonuses.
What more, I had normally been accomplishing the least, wanted jobs that offered little to no rewards.
Ho Cong’s family was not rich, too. They had even spent all the money he and his mother saved or borrowed for their two-floored house, that they hardly had any income left to afford their interior decorations. It was out of my own good will when I had given him all my resources to decorate his manor.
I was resolute and firm with my decision before. I would have consistently exceeded boundaries just to please the man, and so for him, my funds of two hundred thousand was emptied swiftly. An idiotic move on my part, especially since it was spent on his prenuptial property. I had intentionally feathered his nest with my own money, with no means to get it back.
This may as well be my impending doom, considering that the day before yesterday, I was even fired from my job. The editor-in-chief promised me three months' salary as compensation but the problem was that payday had not come yet. I was the spitting definition of a broke and unemployed woman.
I exhaled a deep breath and coaxed myself to be more positive. I could always go window-shopping; that would absolutely cost me no penny to spend.
The relaxing atmosphere prompted me to leisurely stroll around until I stumbled into a well-known brand. Instantaneous regret coursed through me the second I set foot in the shop.
It was basically the Maserati of women’s wear, and of course, it was glaringly obvious that I could not even afford a simple wrapping paper from the high-end brand.
I turned around to leave, but a display dress at the center of the shop window enraptured me in a trance. The design was charming and elegant, courting me to fall in love with the clothing at first sight.
As a result, I could not quell the itch to go in and look at the price tag. Poor people like me were driven to perform the action, just so we could see how much it was worth as a comparison to our overall earnings.
I drooled over the dress for a long time, hesitation controlling me before I yielded and went to the store to find the garment. It was more of a need to search for its cost at this point. I had to remind myself that I would not be able to afford it no matter what I generate from my future proceeds.
I made sure to see that no one was lurking near me before I turned the price tag. My mouth let out a gasp as I read, “19,998”.
I felt betrayed by cunning merchants.
Of course, their elaborate ploy to not raise the price to the exact amount of twenty thousand would trick most into thinking that they would not be spending a great fortune for the coveted apparel.
How could a piece of material be so expensive?
Biting my cheek inside, I bitterly released my hold on the label and stroked the garb once again. The fiber was soft and smooth, sliding between my fingers easily like sleek silk. I was mesmerized, and stared in affection at the fabric.
Then suddenly, a woman roughly stole the outfit from me. “Miss, if you don’t want the dress, please don’t wipe your fingers on it,” she snapped, sneering.
I levelled a glare at the woman whose attire labeled her to be a shop assistant.
Predictably, top brands would recruit her snobbish kind to guard their wares. Their prejudice assisted them in evaluating a person’s wealth on first glance, while they rolled their eyes in mockery at common folk like me.
Her bad attitude stirred hatred in me, a steely determination to not lose to her overcame the knowledge that I could not afford the dress as suspected, “How do you know that I don’t want it? Of course I want it, but I have to carefully observe before making a purchase.”
The saleswoman scoffed, “That young lady over there would like to try it on. If you don’t want to buy it now, I’ll give the dress to her.”
I followed her gaze and saw a woman standing nearby, as she had pointed out.
She had a commendable figure, topped with admirable features.
A true elite, judging by the aura she also exhibited. I almost withdrew my gaze when my eyes landed on the man sitting on the sofa behind the girl.
He was engaged in his phone, reading text as he scrolled along.
He was wearing light blue jeans, white silk shirt and a light-colored dust coat. Tall in stature, and powerful with the blatant confidence he exuded.
His sculpture-like figure was perfect and eye-catching.
His form would have attracted majority of the population into drooling over his majestic being, but I did not pay heed to his flawless physique. Something else had grabbed my attention—
The man was none other than the person I suspected. He was Sang Qi.