Chapter 17: A Lonely Winter Night
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The sun was setting. In the spacious CEO office, it was so quiet that Lin Qian could hear her own breathing.
She peeked again. Li Zhicheng was sitting behind his desk, still reading through the documents from various departments, his face expressionless as before.
He had been sitting there for an hour since they received the bidding result.
It was almost time to get off work; the top floor was about to clear out. Lin Qian was not in the mood to work; she rested her chin in one hand, the other hand twiddling the leaf of the small-potted-plant, one time… two times… three times…
Finally, Li Zhicheng rose from his seat. Lin Qian immediately sat up straight, put on a sedated look, and stared at him. He turned off his computer, put on his coat, and walked out.
Lin Qian stood up. “Boss.”
Li Zhicheng stared at her. His dark brows, as though dyed with black ink, were distinct and appeared exceptionally calm under the light.
Pausing for a while, he ordered, “Tomorrow morning, ten o’clock, gather the high committee for a meeting.”
“Okay,” Lin Qian instantly replied; inquiring further, she asked, “The agenda?”
“The next step of the group’s development plan.” His voice was as before, deep and convincing.
Lin Qian was moved, and answered with a smile, “Okay. I will inform them first thing in the morning.”
Li Zhicheng nodded, turned around and walked towards the exit.
“Are you going home now?” Lin Qian asked.
Li Zhicheng straightened his collar; his face nonchalant. “No. Going out for a walk.”
Lin Qian stood still, staring at him walking away, stepping into the elevator; the elevator door gradually shut. She then sat down, stared in a daze at the closed dark brown, paulownia wood door of the CEO’s office, and released a long sigh. Then she put her head on the table, listless.
The last rays of twilight scattered over the industrial zone. Li Zhicheng exited the building, looked up, both hands in his coat pockets; he passed by the workers straggling to the rows of factories in the back.
Since he had become the CEO, he often came and walked around the industrial zone. However, he seldom made himself known, usually walking briskly with his head low so very few people recognized him.
At the security booth beside the factory, there was a group of people chatting. It was not until Li Zhicheng had walked away, that Gao Lang, silently tracking him, reverted his gaze back to the group.
Beside him, a forklift operator in his early thirties whispered, “It is said that the big deal with Ming or something is off. Is that true?”
Another security guard immediately responded, “It’s true. Didn’t you know? The word has spread since this morning! My sister-in-law works in the administrative department and she said it’s over!”
Gao Lang frowned as he listened.
“So what will happen to Aida?”
The night was approaching; the people walking around the zone were becoming sparse. Gao Lang sat quietly among the noisy workers and security guards. He scratched his head anxiously. He was worried for Li Zhicheng, but he was clueless as to what to do.
Suddenly, a security guard sitting beside him stared at the factory in front, exclaiming, “What’s that?”
Gao Lang followed his stare; a few security guards cautiously stood up.
Beneath the dark sky, a few dozen workers in blue workers jumpsuits were marching towards the office with sullen looks on their faces.
When Lin Qian stepped out of the office, the sky was already dark. She was deep in her thoughts, so she was unaware of the surrounding noise. She only felt something was wrong behind her when she reached the center of the parking lot outside of the building.
She turned around and her eyes widened.
A large group of workers in blue was approaching the office building threateningly. Lin Qian even spotted a few of people in the crowd with something like metal rods in their hands. Another thing caught her attention: a few security guards were rushing towards their direction, and leading in front was no other than Gao Lang!
They blocked the workers’ path. Gao Lang questioned them, “What are you planning to do? Where are you heading?”
The leaders were a few fiendish-looking, big and tall men in their thirties. One of them shouted, “Get out of the way! We want to reason with the board! Justice shall prevail! They are behind in payment, working in collusion with the outsiders to bring down Aida. They have never cared whether senior employees like us live or die! We demand an explanation!”
Right after he finished his speech, a few people in the mob loudly echoed their agreement. The rest kicked up a fuss as well.
Most of the security guards were inexperienced lads; they were stunned and did not know what to do. Gao Lang alone dared to say loudly, “You are just stirring up trouble! There is no such thing going on. Go back now!”
When she heard the troublemaking leader spew these accusations, the first thought that popped into in her mind was:
Is it New Bori or SMQ?
Her pulse started racing; she turned around and walked further away to a safer place. At the same time, she took out her cell phone and called Li Zhicheng. The call hadn’t even been put through when suddenly she heard another outburst. Someone shouted angrily, “Beat him! This brat is one of them too! They are here just to bring down Aida!”
Lin Qian’s heart sank. Instantly she turned around, and all she saw were the men in blue jumpsuits and the security guards in dark grey jumbled in a mess. Punching, kicking, tearing, mobbing; ruthless faces were mixed among the frightened looks. They were genuinely fighting! Under the dim night light, someone lifted a metal rod up high and slammed it down. Not knowing whether it hit someone or the ground, a loud crack sounded out.
Lin Qian’s heart thumped with fright. Finally the call with Li Zhicheng had been put through. The sound of the call connecting rang at her ear, but for the longest time no one answered the phone. Irritated, Lin Qian hung up and dialed 1-1-0 instead.
Meanwhile, other people noticed what was happening. The staff walking out from the building, the operators from the industrial zone behind, the security guards up front… Some of them came forth and tried to stop the fight, but most of them stayed in the outer circle just like Lin Qian, afraid to move.
Suddenly, from the fighting crowd, a worker glanced at Lin Qian. Pointing to her he shouted, “That girl used to work at SMQ! Grab her and ask her!”
The crowd stared at Lin Qian.
Lin Qian’s heart sank deeper. She couldn’t be bothered with calling the police now. Surely someone would call. She turned around and ran.
It’s SMQ! This is undoubtedly SMQ’s doing!
Since this was a planned riot, there were likely gangsters involved. Lin Qian would definitely not stay and “confront” or “stop” them, because it would be of no use.
Turning swiftly, she sprinted away; within the blink of an eye she had left the parking lot, leaving the few men who were chasing her behind. But when she jumped down the stairs, a few people from the crowd were suddenly there blocking her way.
Lin Qian immediately turned around and tried to escape, but one of them had fast reflexes. He caught her by the shoulder and dragged her back. The sky was completely dark now, the trees cast dark shadows, and the streetlights had not turned on yet. Lin Qian could only make out a few tall and big shadows surrounding her. Then one of them suddenly raised his hand. Whack! She had been smacked in the face.
The slap made Lin Qian see stars, a burning sensation spread across her cheek, the taste of blood filled her mouth. Then the men let her go; they quickly walked towards the front gate of the complex, and disappeared among the crowd.
Lin Qian was rooted to the spot, her hand on her cheek, tears gushing forth. She felt weak in her knees too. She stared in the direction of the men who ran, then she turned towards the office building. Beneath the dusky night, more and more people were gathering there, chaos ensuing.
She fought back tears, took out her phone and continued dialing 1-1-0. She had not even finished dialing yet when suddenly she heard footsteps hurrying towards her. She felt her heart in her throat again. She immediately turned around.
She met his pair of familiar dark eyes.
Li Zhicheng was standing in front of her. His figure stood tall, his breathing a little fast, his gaze locked on her.
Lin Qian’s heart was still fluttering, but her voice had calmed down. She stared at him, speaking slowly and clearly, “I’m fine. Quick—go and handle it. I will call the police. Be careful.”
Before she could finish talking, her hand, still covering her face, was held tightly by his. Lin Qian stared at him blankly. He moved her hand away, his gaze pausing on her swollen face. His eyes turned cold. “Who did this?”
For some unknown reason, upon hearing his words, her eyes turned watery again. She quickly sniffed, answering, “I didn’t see clearly. They ran away.”
Li Zhicheng did not say another word.
Their eyes met. He stared at her intently; his hand still holding her wrist, his fingers warm and powerful.
Being stared at by him like this, Lin Qian felt her brain stop functioning all of a sudden. She felt even more uneasy.
From behind him, two soldier security guards ran towards them, standing behind Li Zhicheng.
Li Zhicheng was still staring at her, but he ordered the security guard behind him, “Take her away. Don’t let anyone touch her.”
Lin Qian hadn’t made a sound, but he had let go of her, turned around, and strode away.
Lin Qian walked away under the escort of a security guard.
Turning around after a few steps, she saw Li Zhicheng already making his way into the parking lot, walking without hesitation towards the group of troublemakers.
Lin Qian was brought to the security department. She stood on the balcony applying an ice pack that had been provided by the security guard to her swollen cheek.
The sky was pitch black now. The hullabaloo in the parking lot was still unresolved. It seemed like another group of security guards and workers in blue was rushing towards the crowd.
In this night full of terror, Lin Qian was very anxious. Are Li Zhicheng, Gao Lang, and the rest hurt? How’s the situation now? Why are the police not here yet?
Face still swollen, her brain flashed back to the moment she had been surrounded by those men. She had been terrified and was now enraged. She was eager to call Li Mochen, but as she put her fingers on the keypad, she let the idea fall away.
The security guard who had accompanied her came out of the house and joined her. Looking into the distance, he wore a long face as well. He peered at her, speaking hesitantly. “Miss Lin, is Aida… really going down? Are we losing our jobs soon?”
Lin Qian stared back at his dejected look; his hopeful eyes stared at her. For a moment, she was unable to answer.
Her phone, which she was holding tightly, suddenly rang.
It was an unknown number.
She absentmindedly picked up the call. “Hello.”
The other end of the call was noisy, with loud music, chatter, and laughter.
Lin Qian had a bad feeling about this.
Then she heard the familiar and disdainful voice of Chen Zheng, slowly uttering, “Lin Qian. Does it hurt fighting with me?”