To many people, the Qu family’s cocktail party was not only a banquet. It also represented a networking opportunity, as well as an outlet to detect if the tides were turning. Jiang Yuanpeng and Tao Minya were married for decades, but they suddenly were in the midst of a divorce. Who would believe that it was a simple divorce?
Hence, when news that Chang Shi Gui would attend the reception with a partner, everyone could tell that this was Chang Shi Gui’s way of making a stand - he was going to stand by his aunt Tao Minya.
This was understandable. Tao Minya was the biological sister of Chang Shi Gui’s mother, Tao Huixue. Moreover, even though the Jiang family’s elders had good relations with the Chang family, the relationship had dwindled by the time it reached Jiang Yuanpeng’s generation. If it weren't for Tao Minya binding the two families together, they probably wouldn’t have much ties. Now that the link was removed, Chang Shi Gui naturally didn’t need to worry about familial ties or allow the Jiang family to gain any benefits.
The two Jiang brothers - one was plain and dull, while the other was a wastrel. If their ancestors hadn’t left a sizeable amount of money behind, the Jiang family would probably be bankrupt by now. It was said that Chang Shi Gui had long been disdainful of the two brothers; now, it seemed as though it was not simply a rumour.
Some were looking out for changes in the business world, while some were simply here for gossip.
Three wealthy businessmen of equal standing had a toast with one another. They looked at the door a few times, but they still didn’t see the person they were anticipating. Businessman A said quietly, “I heard that Mr. Chang is interested in a beautiful actress. Is he intending to marry her?”
“There’s been word of that.” Businessman B coughed, then looked warily around. It was only when he was certain that strangers weren’t listening that he continued, “A few days ago, that female actress had a massive scandal, but Mr. Chang didn’t leave her. Instead, he’s blatantly bringing her to this event. This woman truly has her means …” He raised his thumb up at his two friends.
Humans were gossipy by nature, regardless of gender or social status.
Businessman C seemed calmer than his other friends. When he heard their comments, he didn’t hastily share his views. He simply looked curious and surprised, as though he was very interested in their topic of conversation. All this while, he didn't say anything negative about Chang Shi Gui’s girlfriend.
“Actors are best at putting on a show.” Businessman A’s tone was disdainful towards actors, “They’re all the same.”
“My brother, that’s where you’re wrong.” Businessman B patted his shoulder, “If she was like what you said, how could she have mesmerized a person like Mr. Chang to this extent?”
“Men,” Businessman A snorted, “Aren’t they all the same in front of beautiful women?” Previously, when he invested in “My Heart Longs for You”, he had a meal with the actors from the movie, and they met prominent people like Jiang Cheng and Chang Shi Gui at the restaurant. Back then, Mr. Chang was literally glowing when his eyes fell onto Ning Xi.
However, he didn’t mention this to his two friends. He had made investments into several movies; some were profitable, others made losses. The only more prolific movie was “My Heart Longs for You.” Moviegoers were more picky nowadays, it was hard for him to even tell what types of scripts would be profitable.
“They’re here.” Businessman C said lightly, breaking up the conversation. All of them promptly turned towards the entrance, and saw the Qu family walking up towards Chang Shi Gui. Chang Shi Gui and the woman beside him were surrounded by a number of people, and all they could see were the top of their heads.
Under these circumstances, they knew that they didn’t have the right to go up to the couple, hence they could only stand around holding their wine glasses and hope that they would eventually have the chance to show themselves before Chang Shi Gui.
Qu Yuanbo followed behind his father. As he listened to his father and Chang Shi Gui’s conversation, he cast his gaze onto the woman beside Chang Shi Gui.
Noticing Qu Yuanbo’s discerning gaze, Ning Xi maintained her smile. She nodded at him and widened her smile.
“Mr. Chang, Miss Ning, this is my son, Qu Yuanbo.” Father Qu didn’t treat Ning Xi as a simple accessory. Instead, he treated her as though she was a distinguished guest, and started introducing the couple to the son he was most proud of.
Qu Yuanbo could feel the courtesy paid by his father towards this female actress. Hence, when greeting Chang Shi Gui, he also moderated his attitude towards Ning Xi. Someone who was brought to this occasion by Chang Shi Gui wouldn’t simply be an actress. She was probably also Chang Shi Gui’s future wife, the future mistress of the Chang family. This was someone the Qu family couldn’t afford to offend.
In reality, even if this woman didn’t end up as the mistress of the Chang family in future, he felt that this woman was worthy of his respect. Previously, in order to understand Chang Shi Gui’s preference, he personally studied this woman’s life. He could only sigh after that, and finally understood why Chang Shi Gui would take an interest in a woman like her.
If he was the one who met someone like Ning Xi, he would probably be attracted to her too.
Some would think that men would place utmost importance upon a woman’s looks, but in reality, it wasn’t the case. A man who knew how to appreciate a woman would be attracted to a woman’s innate qualities. Someone like Ning Xi, who was full of stories, would most easily capture the curiosity of men.
Curiosity usually marked the beginning of attraction. When a man starts showing interest in a woman, they are usually not far from love.
“Your son is charming and promising. Father Qu, you brought up your son well.” Chang Shi Gui took the champagne from Father Qu, then raised it to a toast with Father Qu.
“Oh, Mr. Chang is too kind.” Father Qu was full of smiles, and cheerily added, “Mr. Chang, please come in. Yuanbo, please accompany Mr. Chang.”
Chang Shi Gui might address Father Qu as a senior, but the latter wouldn’t take it seriously and casually address Chang Shi Gui as a junior. Right now, the Qu family needed their help. If he was going to put on airs and act as a senior, that would simply be too much.
After Father Qu left, Ning Xi noticed that people continually approached Chang Shi Gui and tried to get into his good books. As his girlfriend, she was also praised to the skies. No matter how narcissistic she might sometimes be, she couldn’t withstand the waves of compliments that came her way.
Eventually, she couldn’t stand it anymore, so she ditched Chang Shi Gui and found a secluded spot and sat down. It was also a chance for the inflated pride of hers, brought about by the onslaught of praises, to return to normal.
However, since she also carried the title of “Chang Shi Gui’s girlfriend”, no matter how secluded the corner was, there would be people who would approach her to engage in “wifely” conversations. This treatment was much better than the previous time she attended such an event. Back then, these rich women looked at her as though she was a dispensable presence. Few would put down their airs and initiate conversations with her.
In reality, when women from the upper-class were willing to interact with you, their every action and words would please others, and would not let others feel awkward or lofty.
Obviously, it was a piece of cake for them to flatter someone, but it was a matter of willingness.
“You’re Ning Xi?”
This question was rather unfriendly, and carried a hint of superiority. Ning Xi’s gaze swept across the few women beside her. Naturally, all of them averted their gazes, and they even found a reason to leave. It seemed as though they didn’t want to engage in a conflict with the woman who suddenly appeared, but they didn’t want to witness Ning Xi being put in a tight spot, hence they decided to stay away.
Ning Xi looked at the woman standing before her. The latter looked as though she was in her forties, though she was probably older than she looked. She was wearing a qipao with peony embroidery, and her buttons were made from ruby. It looked extremely luxurious, hence Ning Xi guessed that this person was probably Chang Shi Gui’s relative. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have put on the airs of a senior. She lowered her eyes, but she could guess who this person was.
When Chang Qin saw Ning Xi observing her without speaking, she couldn’t help but frown. How could this girlfriend of Chang Shi Gui be so rude? She straightened her silk shawl, then raised her chin and said, “What’s Shi Gui doing? He brought you here, but didn’t bother to bring you to greet us seniors.”
Ning Xi showed a bashful smile, “Nice to meet you.”
Chang Qin grunted begrudgingly in acknowledgement. In reality, she was extremely unsatisfied with Chang Shi Gui’s choice. With Shi Gui’s status, he could find any other woman, but he chose to get attached to an actress who seemed to be embroiled in endless scandals. Wouldn’t this cause the Chang family to become a joke?
She wondered why her sister-in-law didn’t step forward to stop such a ridiculous matter. Could it be that she was really willing for Chang Shi Gui to marry such a wife?
No matter how much Chang Qin looked at Ning Xi, she still thought that the latter was too pretty and seductive, hence she wasn’t suitable to be the Chang family’s mistress. Fortunately, she remembered where she was, so no matter how unhappy she felt, she didn’t want to create a scene and disgrace her nephew.
“Since Shi Gui likes you, then you should follow him from now on and lead a stable life.” Chang Qin frowned. “Don’t bring those bad habits from outside into the Chang family.”
Ning Xi looked up and smiled cheerily at Chang Qin, “I wonder what habits you are referring to?”
Chang Qin thought to herself, what else could she be referring to? Naturally, it was the ridiculous publicity stunts used by the entertainment industry. And there’s those troublesome relatives of Ning Xi, they should all be dealt with properly, so that they wouldn’t smear her nephew’s reputation as the Chang Enterprises CEO down, or cause him to appear the entertainment news all the time.
However, she didn’t voice any of these out. As she looked at Ning Xi’s smiling eyes, she felt somewhat uneasy, and didn’t dare to speak further.
“Sister Ning,” Tao Shenyan was holding a glass of wine as he walked over to Ning Xi, “I saw that Brother Chang was surrounded by an entire group of people, so I guessed that you would surely have found a corner to get some peace. It turns out that I’m right.” He raised his glass in Ning Xi’s direction, and as he turned around, he acted as though he had just noticed Chang Qin’s presence. “Aunty Chang, you’re here too?”
Recognising Tao Shenyan as the nephew from her sister-in-law’s maiden family, Chang Qin forced a laugh, “It’s rare to see Shi Gui’s girlfriend, so I came over to chat with her.” This Tao lad actually addressed Ning Xi as “sister”, could this be reflective of her sister-in-law's stance towards Ning Xi?
Chang Qin sometimes really didn’t understand her sister-in-law. She wasn’t anxious that her son had gotten such a girlfriend, and she even asked the juniors from her maiden family to address an actress as “sister”. Was she crazy?