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Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios

As soon as he saw them, Gu Beicheng let go of his female companion’s hand and said, “You guys are here early.”

“We’re just punctual.”

Noticing that Gu Beicheng was about to grab a drink from a waiter’s tray, An Xiaoning quickly stopped him and handed him a glass from Ling Ciye’s tray.

Gu Beicheng gave a faint smile.

Jin Qingyan was slightly displeased with her gesture and tightened his grip on her waist. An Xiaoning remained unfazed and instead cocked her head to the side to smile at Jin Qingyan.

Minutes later, Ye Xiaotian, who was donning a white suit, arrived together with Mo Li, which was no surprise.

Soon, all the remaining guests had turned up.

To An Xiaoning’s surprise, Chi Rui’er was present too.

She followed closely behind Xu Youran and made her way downstairs.

Jin Qingyan looked up at Xu Youran, only to find that she appeared rather familiar, as if he had seen her somewhere before.

Likewise, An Xiaoning shared similar sentiments as Jin Qingyan and in fact had been finding Xu Youran strangely familiar since the first time they met at the Gu family home.

Xu Youran stepped forward and welcomed the guests smilingly, “Dear elites of the business circle, welcome to the Xu family home.”

“You must be the legendary Ms. Xu. You’re really gorgeous. Let me toast to you on this rare occasion that we’re meeting,” said Ling Ciye.

“Thank you for flattering me, Mr. Ling.” She reached out for a glass of liquor from the waiter’s tray and clinked it against Ling Ciye’s glass before taking a small sip.

Gazing at her, Ling Ciye said, “Ms. Xu, you don’t seem to go out often. I rarely see you.”

“Yeah, I grew up overseas – I’ve been there since young and only returned a few years ago. You definitely wouldn’t have had the chance to see me often since you’re such a busy man, Mr. Ling.” As soon as she finished speaking, she turned around and said to Jin Qingyan and An Xiaoning, “Beicheng, Xiaoning, and I are going to become family very soon. Please make yourself at home and refrain from the formalities.”

An Xiaoning nodded in courtesy and answered, “That’s right. I should be addressing you as my sister-in-law, actually.”

“It won’t be too late to wait ’til after Dongcheng and I get married to do so,” said Xu Youran, chuckling with a hand covering her mouth.

“That’s true.”

The melodious music came to an abrupt stop as Military Commander Xu made an appearance along the railing of the second storey. He picked up the microphone and began addressing the guests with a formal speech.

It was none other than a speech to welcome the guests.

While everyone shifted their gazes onto the second storey, An Xiaoning continued to observe Xu Youran and Chi Rui’er.

She discovered that although Xu Youran and Chi Rui’er appeared to be on rather good terms with each other, there seemed to be an invisible distance between them in reality.

An Xiaoning began to wonder if Xu Youran had decided to save Chi Rui’er out of sheer camaraderie or because of an ulterior motive. She could not help but feel that there was more to Xu Youran than meets the eye.

The music continued to play in the background after Military Commander Xu ended his speech.

The crowd of guests continued to chat amongst themselves while standing or sitting down.

Xu Youran turned to face Chi Rui’er and asked with a smile, “Don’t you know them personally too? Why aren’t you guys speaking?”

“There’s nothing much to talk about,” Chi Rui’er answered awkwardly.

Xu Youran folded her arms in puzzlement and said, “Why would that be the case? Aren’t you dating Jin Qingyan’s father? Seems like you’re going to become his stepmother very soon.”

A grave expression formed on Jin Qingyan’s face as soon as he heard her words.

Not waiting for Jin Qingyan to speak, Ling Ciye quickly interjected with a sarcastic smile, “They’re just dating, becoming a stepmother is too far-fetched. Ms. Xu, could you please tap on your EQ and think twice before you utter such callous remarks?”

“Yes, yes, it was just a slip of the tongue. Don’t mind me, Mr. Jin,” Xu Youran frantically apologized.

“Of course I won’t. It’s not true, nor will it become true anyway. Why would I mind?” Jin Qingyan said with an icy cold stare in his eyes.

Smiling wryly, Xu Youran looked Jin Qingyan in the eye and could not help but notice how cold and aloof he was.

She then turned around and said to Chi Rui’er, “Come, let’s take a look over there.”

“Sure.”

The duo then left together and began babbling about something along the way.

Jin Qingyan seemed to be deep in thought as he stared at Xu Youran from behind.

He sensed something amiss, though he could not put the way he felt into words.

Ye Xiaotian broke his silence and said, “Jin Qingyan, didn’t expect your family to be so happening.”

“How is it any of your business?”

Ye Xiaotian smiled without uttering a word. Instead, he changed the subject and shifted the attention to Gu Beicheng. “Is this your girlfriend?” he asked.

“Of course not. She’s my newly-hired secretary.”

“She’s quite the looker. I bet you recruited her because of her beauty.”

“Do I seem like such a superficial person?” Gu Beicheng retorted.

“From what I know about you… yes, you do.”

“What’s the occasion today? It’s already been 15 minutes,” Gu Beicheng remarked as he took a look at the time on his wristwatch.

Ye Xiaotian snickered and said, “The best is yet to come. Why are you getting so impatient? Look, someone’s come downstairs.”

The crowd looked up, only to see Military Commander Xu’s subordinates coming down the stairs and calling out, “Gentlemen, please follow me upstairs. May the ladies remain waiting downstairs.”

Soon, the gentlemen got up one after another and made their way upstairs while the ladies were left in the living room.

Since Mo Li had rarely attended such formal events, she naturally felt out of place and uneasy. Upon sight of An Xiaoning, she suggested, “Let’s go wait for them on the couch.”

“Okay.”

An Xiaoning had always disliked wearing heels and would only make an exception for formal events and occasions. Although they looked pretty on her feet, she simply could not tolerate the torturous pain in her soles which arose from walking in heels.

She felt a huge sense of relief in her feet the moment she sat down.

“Xiaoning, just what’s the purpose of this gathering?” Mo Li asked softly.

“Ye Xiaotian didn’t tell you?”

“He didn’t mention anything else other than the fact that it was a gathering.”

“Actually, I’m not too sure either. Who knows? Maybe it’s just a casual gathering for the men,” said An Xiaoning, though she had constantly been on her guard.

“I’d like to go to the washroom. Do you want to come along?”

An Xiaoning actually did not need to use the washroom but decided to tag along since Mo Li was pregnant and wearing heels. “I’ll go with you.”

“Okay.”

They arrived at the entrance of the washroom, only to find that it was extremely crowded. Some were touching up their makeup while others were answering nature’s call.

Thus, they decided to ask the servants for help.

“Hello, may I ask if there are other washrooms here?”

“The second and third storey are restricted areas because it’s our master’s bedrooms. There’s a washroom available on the fourth storey. You may take the elevator up,” the servant said smilingly while pointing them in the right direction.

“Alright.”

The two of them entered the elevator and pressed the buttons. Just as the elevator doors were about to close, a hand was stuck through the gap to stop the doors from closing.

An Xiaoning took a look and realized that it was Chi Rui’er.

“Oh, what a coincidence,” said Chi Rui’er, who entered the elevator but did not press any buttons.

“Why aren’t you pressing the buttons?”

“Because I’m going to the fourth storey too. Why else would I say that it was coincidental?” Chi Rui’er said with a pretentious smile.

The doors of the elevator closed slowly, and the elevator began to ascend.

A deafening silence filled the air.

Both An Xiaoning and Chi Rui’er kept mum.

The elevator soon arrived at the fourth storey. However, the doors did not open and instead continued to ascend.

Frightened, Mo Li asked worriedly, “Xiaoning, what’s going on?”

Before An Xiaoning could even respond, Chi Rui’er said casually, “Seems like the elevator is out of order.”

“Why are you so happy about the elevator being faulty?”

“Am I?” Chi Rui’er asked with a grin.

“Are you not?” An Xiaoning retorted.

“Of course not.”