Li Huaibei stepped out of the taxi and looked at the office building towering on him. It was a well-known site in Beijing that housed numerous multinational companies from various background.
Hesitation flashed on Li Huaibei’s face before his gaze zeroed in on a window on the seventeenth floor. The silvery one-way glass pane stopped Li Huaibei’s gaze from reaching interior of the building, but it did not block his senses. Li Huabei could feel the presence of a woman leaning on the glass plane, twirling a fountain pen in her hands as she smiled. She seemed like she was expecting Li Huaibei, but was a little shocked when he actually did show up.
With a long sigh, Li Huaibei made his way toward the main entrance.
As the elevator opened on the seventeenth floor, Li Huaibei was welcomed by a lobby with minimalistic decors. Behind the counter, a framed sign with “ Li Ping Consulting Co” written in traditional calligraphy was put to prominent display, which was quite unfit for design theme of the room. Despite a name that evoked the countryside, this was the most prestigious marketing company in Beijing. 1
“Good morning sir! Welcome to Li Ping Consulting Co. Do you have an appointment?” The lady at the counter bowed down with a gracious smile.
Li Huaibei smiled back at the young girl’s good manners. He shook his head and looked at the telephone on the counter instead.
Just as the receptionist was growing confused, the office phone rang. She gave him an apologetic smile and picked up the phone swiftly.
“Alright. Please wait a moment.” The young lady hung up the phone after a brief exchange. She seemed even more baffled. ‘That was a priority line call from the CEO. I’ve never even seen her before. Who is this handsome man? What’s his relationship with the boss?’ The fire of curiosity was burning fiercely in her heart.
“This way, sir.” The young lady gestured, inviting Li Huaibei inside.
Li Huaibei was led through a wooden door that concealed a completely different world from the lobby. Stepping into the door felt like a trip back in time. The floor was covered by dark ceramic tiles while the walls were lined with a crimson wood. Carvings of birds and mythical beasts decorated every corner and nook. On the office desk, there was no computer, only a set of stationary for calligraphy. Next to the set of brushes was a little incense burner which held all of the smoke inside of it, but diffused a soothing aroma throughout the office. At the window, the glass panes were concealed by a mural of the hundred bird and the phoenix. The disjointed rays of morning sunlight that penetrated into the room almost made it seem like an ethereal realm that did not belong to the mortal plane.
Behind the desk stood a wooden chair whose build and design hinted at its history and value.
On the chair sat a beautiful woman dressed in a gray robe. She did wear have any accessories except for a singular black wooden hairpin that pierced through the ball of hair on her back. Instead of standing up and greeting Li Huaibei, she contemplated him with her chin still resting on her left hand.
Li Huaibei did not seem to care and sat down right in front of her. He picked up one of the iridescent white jade teacup, filled it up, and graciously took a sip.
‘Wuyi Guanmi?’ Li Huaibei asked, a little surprised by what he was tasting.
“Impressive, few can discern it with a single mouthful.” The lady raised her cup at Li Huaibei.
“Should I call you Supervisor Wang or Stargaze?” Li Huaibei asked with a smile as he once again sipped the high-grade red tea.
“Why the pretentiousness after becoming a sage?” The woman chuckled and played around with her teacup.
“You can tell?” Li Huaibei was a little shocked. ‘News should not have spread so fast, and she can tell with a single glance?’
“Is that strange?” The lady asked back with a smile. It was as though she could see through all lies with the fire of wisdom hidden behind her enthralling eyes.
“Looks like the rumors were true. I’ve found what I’ve been looking for.”
Stargaze is one of the three sages who were publicly known, alongside Bing Shuai and Yun Qiang. It is said that she could move her soul to the celestial realm and know about the future. Among the three sages, she was the most mysterious.
“I’m sure the rumors must have also told you of my consultation fees.” Stargaze put the teacup down and stared Li Huaibei. Despite this being their first face-to-face, she had paid attention to Li Huaibei even since Eden. ‘A recent sage, and he comes with a request? This is not going to be a simple task.’
“I wish to look for someone,” Li Huaibei said bluntly as he removed a sandalwood bracelet adorned with leaves on the table. It was a level six guardian gear and his most valuable item besides his sword.
“Who are you looking for?” Stargaze’s eyes stayed fixated on Li Huaibei.
“Mr. Kong?” Stargaze’s smile faded away. Her countenance began to be colored with doubt, and she seemed to have sunken into her own thoughts.
Li Huaibei poured another cup of tea for himself and savored it slowly, waiting patiently for Stargaze’s answer.
“Why? …I shouldn’t ask. And you wouldn’t answer truthfully even if I did. Finding him isn’t difficult, but…” After a long silence, Stargaze shifted her attention toward the wooden bracelet that rested on top of the table.
“If it’s not enough, I can raise my bid.” Li Huaibei answered. Mr. Kong was no simple man to look for, and even for sages, Mr. Kong was closer to a character in a mythical tale than a real man.
“I don’t need payment.” Suddenly, Stargaze said with furrowed brows; she seemed to have something else in mind.
“Whatever happens in a domain stays in it.” Li Huaibei cut Stargaze’s thoughts short. He knew that Eden was the only thing that could be of interest to someone who knew as much as she did.
“You’re mistaken. I wouldn’t deny my interest in the events that have transpired in the Eden, but I will not force you to do anything. Our fear of heaven grows with our strength and our understanding of it.” Stargazed pointed to the ceiling.
“Then what do you?”
“I wish for you to do something for me.” Stargaze stood up and slowly picked up a calligraphy brush from the table. “You must have heard some rumors before coming here. I can tell you that they’re true. However, recently, there has been a place… somewhere I can’t quite see clearly.”
Stargaze’s long fingers slowly dragged the brush on the paper. Two characters emerged from her strokes.
“I can’t approach that area, but I’m curious as to what is blocking my vision. I would like you to investigate that place.” Stargaze put the brush down and blow-dried the ink. She then pushed the piece of paper toward her guest.
“Hangzhou? This is the place you can’t see?” Seeing the net yet powerful strokes on the paper, Li Huaibei asked with a cocked brow.
“So?” Stargaze sat down once again and stared at Li Huaibei, hiding all her emotions behind a smile.
“Hopefully you’ll tell me of Mr.Kong’s whereabouts when I come back to you.” Li Huaibei picked up the paper and strode toward the exit.
As Li Huaibei left, Stargaze walked toward the window and raised her head toward the sky. ‘What exactly blocks my vision…? And this feeling of unease…’
* * *
After breakfast, Li Yiming entered a furniture store with Fu Bo. Li Yiming feared arousing Fu Bo’s suspicions if the latter was ever to see that he only had a bed in his apartment, so he might as well spend a little extra to complete his disguise.
As for Fu Bo, he was genuinely surprised by Li Yiming’s financial ease. He had thought of Li Yiming as no more than a graduate seeking for a job in Hangzhou, so he was quite surprised to learn that Li Yiming had actually bought his apartment. ‘Wow… I didn’t think that his family was this rich. The price for real estate here is very different from back when my parents bought the apartment…’ 2
However, Fu Bo’s surprise subsided after witnessing Li Yiming’s rather careless purchases. ‘If my parents can leave an apartment for me, then what is so surprising about him having the same kind of luck?’
“It would be one-hundred twenty thousand after discount. Would you like to pay cash or by card?” The sales representative asked with a big smile. ‘This big of a bill this early in the morning, and everything here? Could me be here for me…?’
“Cash please.” Li Yiming answered nonchalantly. He did not pay attention to what he was picking, and he ended up being surprised by the bill himself. ‘I had only planned to buy enough to fool Fu Bo but it seems like I ended up with a full home set after all.’
“Sure, please enter your… I’m sorry. Cash?” The cashier answered, not expecting anyone to bring so much cash with them. ‘Are you kidding me? Who does that nowadays?’
“Yeah, because… I… Yeah, forgot my card at home,” Li Yiming answered awkwardly. He regretted not squeezing out some time for a trip to the bank now. ‘On the other hand, I don’t know what the reaction would be if I brought a backpack to the bank with five million yuan inside.’
“Sure. Please wait a moment.” The sales girl looked at Li Yiming’s seemingly empty and hesitated. ‘That bag does not look like it has that much money inside, is he pulling a prank?’
The manager quickly arrived. The company’s policies stipulated that whoever handled the transaction would be responsible for it, and the saleswoman did not want to burden herself with it.
The young woman and the managed stared at Li Yiming with widened eyes as he brought out stack after stack of cash from his backpack like a magician. Fu Bo watched the spectacle, rather speechless at Li Yiming’s lack of class. ‘I really should talk to him about this. This is definitely not the best way to impress women.’
“Your sofa came from this store, right? Guo Xiang is really insensitive… Why would he want you to use an old sofa? Not only is it ugly, but it’s also not very hygienic. Who knows who the previous user was? You should throw it away. I’ll buy one for you.”
“You are too kind. It’s actually not that bad. You have already given me a lot of gifts.”
“I’ll visit you frequently enough from now on. Don’t be shy, just think of it as me buying myself a seat.”
As Li Yiming continued to put cash on the counter, he heard a familiar voice behind him and turned his head around.
Ji Xiaoqin’s hands were full of shopping bags, as she walked into the store with the same attractive woman who was driving the car in the morning. Their attention was soon attracted by the huge pile of banknotes on the counter.
Fu Bo’s eyes shone with interest when he saw the duo, while Ying Mei frowned. Li Yiming seemed surprised at seeing Ji Xiaoqin while the latter’s countenance sank greatly.
1. The name Li Ping is often used for “farmgirls in Chinese, kind of like… Caroline (?) for English. (At least according to a quick Google search).
2. Note the interesting conclusion that it was Li Yiming’s parents who bought the apartment. This is common in China, as parents who have the means will help their kids purchase real-estate, in return for hopes of marriage and children soon afterward… A well-oiled machine if you ask me.
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