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“Hello.”

“Do me a favor please.” With his voice low and somber, he continued, “There’s a masquerade ball tonight. Will you be my partner?”

“This kind of ball is for blind dating, why would I, a married woman, go there?”

“I already said I needed your help. Anyway, with a mask on, no one will recognize you. It’ll just be for a while,” Gu Beicheng urged her in a desperate tone.

“Don’t tell me that other than me, you can’t find any other woman? I don’t underestimate your charisma at all.” It was evident that An Xiaoning was unwilling to go.

“Five hundred thousand,” Gu Beicheng offered this price. “Just half an hour and we’ll go back. Five hundred thousand for 30 minutes, how’s that?”

“It’s a deal then.” No one would ever complain of having too much money.

It was soon nighttime. Under the bright lighting that illuminated the venue, one could see that An Xiaoning was dressed immaculately, all decked up for the event. Gu Beicheng’s eyes brightened up at the sight of her.

He handed the masquerade mask over to her. Noticing that the mask would only reveal her eyes, An Xiaoning momentarily felt relieved.

With her hair tucked behind her ears and the mask on her face, she possessed a different kind of alluring charm.

“If I don’t look close enough, I would never realize it was you,” Gu Beicheng assured her. “Follow me inside and don’t speak a word. It won’t be nice if you are recognized by someone.”

“Don’t tell me there’s someone I know inside.”

He casually touched his nose, slightly awkward. “Of course there is.”

After they went in, An Xiaoning wished she could take Gu Beicheng’s head off and kick it around like a soccer ball. That jerk dared to lie to her. It was undoubtedly a blind date ball, but why didn’t he tell her beforehand that Madam Gu would be there too?

Although half of Madam Gu’s face was hidden by a mask, An Xiaoning could still recognize her.

She was suddenly on pins and needles. She even slightly regretted helping Gu Beicheng over money.

“Son, is this the lady you’ve taken a fancy to?”

“No, this is my partner for the ball.”

Madam Gu’s face changed instantly. She said in a hushed tone, “Told you to come here to pick a lady, what have you brought a partner for?”

“How badly does your son need to find a woman that I have to attend this ball today?”

“You could find one easily, but you better be serious in your relationship. That Chi Rui’er whom you’ve dated before, what kind of fling was that? Those who are invited here today are all celebrities. I asked you to attend today to meet more of these kinds of ladies. Just a few days ago, I read from a magazine report that you like men — that really pissed me off, what do you think I’ll feel as your mother?”

A smile twitched at the corner of Gu Beicheng’s mouth. “All of those were fabricated by the media. Can you believe them?”

“We know that, but others don’t, right? Enough of this rubbish, I don’t care, you have to get married before Ye Xiaotian does. I want to hold my head high before Ye Xiaotian’s mother!”

“Mother, lower your volume.” Gu Beicheng hugged his mother to reassure her. “Fine, you can go and find someone you think is decent for your son to see now. I’ll go and take a look too, to see if there’s anyone I fancy.”

“That’s much better,” Madam Gu replied and headed in.

Gu Beicheng tapped An Xiaoning’s hand to signal her to follow him, and he headed towards another direction.

They had not gone too far when An Xiaoning stopped in her tracks abruptly.

Within sight were Jin Qingyan and another woman wearing a mask. He was wearing a mask that covered half his face, but she could recognize him immediately. Looking again at the woman wearing a full mask, she was sure that it was Jin Qingyue. It seemed like he had come for Jin Qingyue.

“Come on, let’s go.”

An Xiaoning whispered, “Are you blind? Jin Qingyan’s in front — can’t you see that?”

“Yes, so what? If you stand beside me and don’t speak a word, would he be able to recognize you?”

“Yes, he would.” She debated, “Can’t we just stand here?”

“There’s someone I know over there. Come on, it’ll be fine.” Gu Beicheng reached out to drag her over forcefully. An Xiaoning felt extremely uncomfortable — her head hung low, and she stared fixedly on the ground. She did not dare to look in Jin Qingyan’s direction at all.

“Wow, who is this beautiful lady?” Ye Xiaotian straightened his posture. “New lover?”

Gu Beicheng forced a grin. “Take a guess?”

Ye Xiaotian pouted jokingly, “Not sure where you found this beauty to show off in front of your buddy.”

Jin Qingyan, who was nearby, narrowed his eyes. His gaze landed on the figure beside Gu Beicheng. There was no question about it, he could tell who it was at first glance.

He had been intimately involved with this figure countless times, it would be absurd if he couldn’t recognize her!

“You can’t recognize who she is, yet you blame her for being a beauty.” Gu Beicheng sneered.

Ye Xiaotian paused for a moment, observing An Xiaoning carefully. Since she had her head hung low, he had no choice but to go closer. He scanned her from head to toe and finally stood there, his mouth agape. It was like he had made a shocking discovery — there was a look of disbelief in his eyes. He purposely bumped into Gu Beicheng and remarked playfully, “Wow, you’re really something.”

In an attempt to make her stand firmly with her head held high, Gu Beicheng grabbed An Xiaoning’s shoulder, but she was too guilty to raise her head.

“A ball like this is completely pointless.”

“Indeed, completely pointless,” Ye Xiaotian chimed in. “A bunch of boring women, I can’t be bothered to look at them.”

The two went on and on with their conversation. An Xiaoning stood there feeling tortured, wishing that time would pass quickly.

On the other hand, Jin Qingyan’s line of sight was fixated on An Xiaoning while Jin Qingyue beside him had taken out her phone to check it continuously. It looked like she also did not want to be there at all.

A blind date ball like that could not do without them — nor without Long Tianze. He arrived the latest of them all.

“It’s really getting worse over the years. One look at their figures and almost none are right on point.” As he said that, Long Tianze’s eyes landed on Jin Qingyue and he quickly averted them.

“I’m already a married man and I still have to accompany you to suffer such treatment.” He then ordered Jin Qingyue, “Switch off your phone.”

Jin Qingyue cast him a pitiful look. “Brother, I don’t want to be here.”

“Even if you don’t want to, you have to. This is our mother’s orders.”

Jin Qingyue said in annoyance, “Our mother really shouldn’t have made me come here, it’s useless.”

“Those who attend this ball are our city’s most eligible bachelors. Choose properly. If there’s anyone you fancy, then coming here would’ve been useful.”

Jin Qingyue raised her eyebrows. “Brother, I already have a boyfriend now. Are you making me into a two-timer?”

Jin Qingyan suddenly stopped speaking. The look in his eyes became ice cold. Seeing her brother’s expression, Jin Qingyue was immediately intimidated into a state of speechlessness.

On one side, Long Tianze appeared as if he was casually looking at the women around him. In reality, his soul had traveled miles out of his body.

For this masquerade ball, the few of them were there just for fun. They left the exact same way they had arrived, without any gains at all. Yet…

An Xiaoning was easily able to receive five hundred thousand.

Who would find fault with money?

Even though the thought of being subjected to a round of questioning once she was home arose, it did not matter anymore.

She used to think five hundred thousand was a large amount. Now, she could get it so effortlessly. Only a fool would say no to it.

An Xiaoning did not go home immediately while still wearing the gown. She changed into another set of clothes and threw the gown she had had on directly into the rubbish bin. As her car was pulling into the house, Jin Qingyan had already reached home.