It was less than 18:00 when the banquet hall of the Wanhai Hotel began to welcome the evening’s guests one after another.
The banquet was scheduled to officially start at 18:30, and each of the tables in the hall was decorated with exquisite fruit plates. Waiters stood respectfully on both sides of the tables, smiling and greeting every guest who walked on the floral patterned woven carpet.
Wanhai was considered one of the famous first class hotels in the neighbourhood, and usually the banquet hall hosted mostly wedding banquets and business banquets. But no matter what the occasion was, most of the guests would be dressed in suits and look very imposing. It was really rare to see people dressed in such a variety of fancy ways as today.
After a young waiter guided a few guests to their seats, he couldn’t overcome his curiosity and quietly pulled a colleague to the corner, “Hey, do you know which company has booked it tonight? How come there are people wearing swimming trunks?”
The colleague looked around and made sure no one was paying attention before lowering his voice and saying, “Who knows, I heard someone talking about something internal, so be careful not to be taken advantage of later.” The man raised his eyebrows and spoke with disdain, “I think it’s just a small company that uses our hotel to put up a show. Looks quite rude.”
A manager on duty glanced over, and the two of them suddenly didn’t dare to continue muttering and went their separate ways.
When Tang Yi walked out of the VIP lounge with Zhou Weiwei in his arms, what he saw was a messy scene. Zhou Hao was one step behind him; taking a look, he gently squeezed Tang Yi’s shoulder and whispered, “I’ve arranged you a place beside me. Do you want to go there or wait for a while?”
Zhou Hao’s flight was twenty minutes late. When he arrived at the airport, he had his driver race all the way to the hotel, managing to narrow the gap by another fraction and making their lateness stick within exactly a quarter of an hour.
The old and steady driver hadn’t been this crazy since he passed his prime. But today he was forced by his boss to put his decades-old guts on the line and speed down the road in a C-Series car. Who knows how many princelings who were over here on a leisurely holiday in their sports cars had been angered. But the old driver found it quite enjoyable, and when he saw Tang Yi coming down to pick up the boss, he didn’t forget to boast a bit.
Tang Yi suddenly was in a momentary daze as he looked at the man who stared at him, stepping out of the car.
He didn’t need to guess to understand Zhou Hao’s intention. Between them, the only one who needed to worry about being late was actually him. When Tang Yi said “I’ll wait”, he was more or less respectful to his superior; after all, it was Zhou Hao’s initial order.
But later, Zhou Hao’s reaction was not at all like that of a strict and noble boss.
Instead, there was some indefinable meaning.
Zhou Hao lowered his head slightly and whispered in Tang Yi’s ear, as if a feather gently swept over his auricle.
Tang Yi stiffened and shifted Zhou Weiwei in his arms, raised his head and pointed at Ning Zeyu who was waving at him, saying with a smile, “I’ll wait for a while. Let me go over and talk to Manager Ning for a few minutes first.”
Zhou Hao followed his line of sight; Ning Zeyu’s waving arm twitched convulsively as he saw him. Zhou Hao smiled and nodded in greeting, then turned around and walked away.
Shen Fan had not yet arrived, so the people who were seated took advantage of this to find someone they knew to talk to. Ning Zeyu watched Tang Yi come over, patted his chest and gasped a little.
“Tang Yi, that was Director Zhou just now?”
Tang Yi nodded. His black-rimmed glasses pressed on the bridge of his nose a little uncomfortably, so he pinched his nose and said with a smile, “Going over to toast later?”
Ning Zeyu was good at drinking and could drink a lot. The job at the marketing department was like being a fish in water for him, as joyful as it could be. However, whenever this guy poured drinks, he always liked to go after Tang Yi, and although Tang Yi didn’t lose to him, he did suffer a lot.
Tang Yi didn’t know what to do, so he somehow managed to naturally joke about Zhou Hao at this moment.
Seeing Ning Zeyu’s constipated expression, he suddenly felt that a fox pretending to be a tiger could be quite a pleasant thing.
Sure enough, Ning Zeyu gave a dry chuckle and reluctantly continued bickering, “What’s the point of toasting these bosses, their bellies are too precious to pour drinks in them. It’s just the two of us tonight, okay?”
Tang Yi raised his eyebrows to look at him, but Zhou Weiwei was the first to answer angrily, “Okay! If you don’t drink, you’re a puppy!”
“Hey!” Ning Zeyu was startled and as soon as he recovered, he immediately poked Zhou Weiwei’s little cheeks bitterly, “A puppy, too! Whoever admits defeat first tonight is a grandson!”
He didn’t ask Tang Yi who this child was. At first he forgot to ask, then he thought the child was quite interesting and didn’t think much, just teasing him.
Now, when he saw Zhou Weiwei dressed up in a little suit, he curiously bumped Tang Yi with his elbow, “This child, whose is he?”
“Director Zhou’s.” Tang Yi chuckled, “The one with the precious belly you’ve just mentioned.”
Ning Zeyu: “……”
Zhou Weiwei reminded happily, “Yes, you said my dad won’t dare to drink!”
Ning Zeyu was busy coughing as he tried to explain, “I, how could I?”
Zhou Weiwei puffed out his cheeks and gave Ning Zeyu a suspicious look. When the latter awkwardly touched his nose and turned his head, he mysteriously leaned to Tang Yi’s ear and whispered, “Actually, Susu was right…”
Tang Yi: “……”
There was a noise at the entrance, and Tang Yi turned to see a young man surrounded by several people stepping into the venue. He immediately smiled at Ning Zeyu and changed the topic, “Take your seat, I’ll go over there first.”
Two seats had already been set aside next to Zhou Hao, and Tang Yi settled Zhou Weiwei before turning to look at the young man who was walking slowly.
The young man was none other than Shen Fan. With a very upright face and a light smile, he looked like a good student going to the podium to receive the third best award.
Shen Fan was dressed in a formal suit and even his cufflinks and tie clip were meticulously and carefully matched.
There was a brief silence in the venue. A part of the crowd looked at Shen Fan’s attire, intuitively realising something, and their faces instantly changed. Another part, however, merely glanced at it carelessly.
Shen Fan was oblivious to the various glances around him and walked all the way from the entrance, not forgetting to nod slightly to the people on either side of him. It was only when he reached Zhou Hao’s table that he paused.
“Tang Yi,” Shen Fan suddenly smiled and waved at Tang Yi, “Long time no see.”
Tang Yi froze for a moment; Zhou Hao behind him stood up and politely extended his hand, “Good evening, Mr. Shen.”
“Mr. Zhou,” Shen Fan leaned forward slightly and shook his hand, “Why don’t I sit here at Mr. Zhou’s table?”
Shen Fan sat down as soon as he said he would, not giving anyone a chance to make a comment.
According to the original procedure, there was a thirty-minute ceremony before the banquet. After the host finished her opening speech, Shen Fan and several other leaders would give their speeches before the banquet officially started. Then it would be the time for the waiters to start serving the cold dishes.
At this moment, not only did Shen Fan not take his place, but he also sat down next to Tang Yi. The people around him suddenly looked at each other and didn’t know what to do.
Shen Fan’s assistant was looking down his nose sullenly and had no intention to explain anything.
After a while, the person in charge of the banquet came over and whispered a question, “Director Shen, after the host finishes the opening speech, you will have to go over and speak.” The person in charge remotely pointed down to where Shen Fan should be, “That’s your position.”
Tang Yi listened with a frown and couldn’t help but look over.
Shen Fan gave a thoughtful glance at the podium where the host, wearing a little light pink dress, was smiling and greeting the people below.
“Oh, let her go and change her clothes.” Shen Fan glanced and averted his eyes.
The host, who had just been beaming and laughing, received such a cold order and was confused for a moment. She hadn’t brought any other dresses with her. All she knew was that tonight was just a bit of fun with little formality. But Shen Fan was a serious boss and he was not happy, so she didn’t dare say anything. If the boss didn’t like her dress, she had to borrow another one from the hotel.
The host changed into a dark green dress and walked from the dressing room to the stage again, the corners of her mouth drooping.
The person in charge was careful when he came over this time, and even his tone of voice was consciously softened a little, “Director Shen, what do you think?”
Shen Fan didn’t even raise his head and spat out one word, “Change.”
Tang Yi watched from the side as that host changed six or seven sets of clothes, and by the end the makeup on her face didn’t hold. The people at the venue finally noticed that something was wrong. The host was a very beautiful young girl. She kept running to the dressing room with the hangers to change clothes. Shen Fan from the beginning to the end just glanced there. The meaning was obvious: it’s my world and those who obey me will prosper but those who disobey me will not only die, but will also lose three layers of skin.
Not a word was said, but the implication couldn’t be more clear as far as choosing clothes was concerned.
So some smart people took advantage of the delay and went back in a hurry to change into suits, then slipped back in a cat-like manner. When they looked at the new director, there was a vague sense of awe in their eyes.
These people naturally knew what to wear to the party and were prepared for it. However, the hints given from above were so biassed that even Ning Zeyu only remembered there would be a hot spring bath after the meal. When they later saw someone coming dressed in a casual manner, they followed suit with the idea that the whole crowd would not be condemned.
Then this idea was coldly slapped to death by Shen Fan.
The host changed half a dozen outfits, and the whole time Shen Fan just sat indifferently, not even giving her a single look. The person in charge knew that he could not get away with this, so he silently cursed the rumours of Shen Fan’s benevolence while bending over and waiting for the follow-up.
Luckily, after a while, Shen Fan finally relented, “Let’s get started!”
The banquet finally went on smoothly according to the original plan. In comparison with the eerie silence in the audience when Shen Fan spoke, the two bosses he personally named to give the mid-year summary were a bit of a hoot.
After the drinks came up, the atmosphere quickly became lively. Between the toasts and cheers, everyone finally seemed to be relieved from the depressing atmosphere, eating and drinking.
Shen Fan sat next to Tang Yi, playing a supreme ultimate(1) with the directors other than Zhou Hao throughout the process.
Most of the time, it was the others at the table who were diligently looking for topics, and Shen Fan raised his eyes and responded very few times.
Zhou Hao, on the other hand, played the role of a good father, concentrating on serving Zhou Weiwei food with his eyes downcast. Tang Yi was sitting in the middle of a group of people who were completely at odds with his status, so apart from occasionally nodding and smiling, he also focused on Zhou Weiwei.
Zhou Weiwei ate well; no matter whether it was vegetables from Tang Yi or soup from Zhou Hao, he obediently opened his mouth and swallowed. However, his big eyes would still wander to Shen Fan every now and then, giving him a timid glance.
After three rounds of drinks, some of the old directors who were unhappy with Shen Fan’s arrogant attitude spread their anger to Tang Yi, who was not supposed to be sitting here.
“Whose kid is this…” The man sitting across from Tang Yi looked up and down mockingly. “How come I don’t remember that the company has such a new director? Or is it that Lao Shen propagated and got another son out?”
Shen Fan paused while drinking the soup and suddenly smiled in a meaningful way.
Tang Yi turned his head to look at the tear mole at the corner of his eye and was shaken by this smile, feeling that he had seen it somewhere before.
On the contrary, it was Zhou Hao who took it in stride.
“He’s mine.” Zhou Hao lowered his eyes and picked out bones in Zhou Weiwei’s small bowl, saying slowly, “But today is really not the occasion for an introduction. Eating fish… you need to pick out bones first.”
In the golden light, Zhou Hao’s hard profile was accentuated with a layer of metallic texture, cold and stern. The old director was startled when he realized that Zhou Hao and Tang Yi were feeding the child together. So the relationship between these two people should be much warmer than Shen Fan’s “long time no see” just now.
Zhou Hao was the same age as Shen Fan, yet in the eyes of the crowd, he was much more frightening than Shen Fan. After all, he had become the second largest shareholder of ER a few years ago, and whenever the other directors made any proposition, Zhou Hao was always lukewarm and didn’t support or oppose it, completely letting them toss and turn.
However, in hindsight, he didn’t lose out at all, simply sitting on his hands and reaping the benefits.
He was so calculating, but no one dared to say a word. Two years ago, a director who had a good relationship with Zhou Hao saw a magazine with a popular starlet on the cover in the latter’s office, and sent the starlet to Zhou’s house with blessing. At that time, the change of the board of directors was approaching, and there was nothing wrong with this person’s approach. At most, it was to ensure that Zhou Hao’s vote was foolproof.
Who knew that after Zhou Hao found out about it, he completely expelled the director from the board of directors without saying a word. A number of people at the head office who were involved in the matter, from the receptionist downstairs to Zhou Hao’s secretarial department, were permanently expelled from ER and no one within three generations of their immediate family could work at ER.
ER’s staff regulations and articles of association were said to have been revised in large part by Zhou Hao. Originally, people were quite dismissive of regulations such as credit value and blood relatives, thinking that they were just useless tricks. It was only after this incident that everyone realised, with the benefit of hindsight, that this charter was more than useful.
It was literally the ultimate cut of nepotism within the company, a gentle and subtle way of killing people.
Just as everyone decided that the original boss was a soft-faced lump of dough, Zhou Hao’s image of the cold king of hell became more and more deeply rooted in everyone’s impression over the years. Such a ruthless man, easy to become hostile and not gentle with the knife, was obviously much more intimidating than Shen Fan.
Tang Yi sighed silently in his heart and knew that these words by Zhou Hao would inevitably damage Shen Fan’s face.
He hesitated for a moment and could only lift the wine glass from the table and say with a smile to Shen Fan, “Mr. Shen, Mr. Zhou and I would like to toast you.”
Shen Fan hadn’t touched a drop of wine all night, and Tang Yi didn’t expect that he would drink. So he raised his glass and intended to drink it all. Only when the wine reached his lips did he feel a grip on his wrist as Shen Fan stopped him.
“You toast, of course I’ll drink.” Shen Fan’s voice was low and unhurried, with a trace of a deep melancholy in it. “We won’t leave tonight without getting drunk.”
- The “supreme ultimate” creates yang and yin: movement generates yang; when its activity reaches its limit, it becomes tranquil. Through tranquillity the supreme ultimate generates yin. When tranquillity has reached its limit, there is a return to movement… lol, I have no idea what it means. Shen Fan acting high and mighty?