Chapter 23: Master Sun’s The Art of War
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The winter sky in the morning appeared white, grey, and icy, leaving the broad industrial park looking extra cold and bleak.
The day after their first victory was nothing different for Li Zhicheng. As usual, he arrived at the office before 7:00 am.
At 7:00 am sharp, he sat on the couch, looked down at his watch, and then looked out at the cubicles outside the door.
Under the bright lighting, Lin Qian’s desk seemed clean and tidy; a tiny green succulent sat in the corner.
She hadn’t arrived yet.
Li Zhicheng slowly stood up, headed to the bookshelf, then took out an industry magazine, turning to a certain page. He walked back to the couch, leaving the magazine open on the coffee table.
He was waiting.
When it became 8:00 am, Lin Qian, who usually arrived around the same time as him, still wasn’t there yet. Again, Li Zhicheng looked up at her desk, then he looked down and kept on reading.
Until the working bell started ringing at 9:00 am, among a group of footsteps, he spotted the noise he was most familiar with heading to the cubicles. This was followed by more familiar noises of her actions, from taking off her jacket to sitting down and turning on the computer. Suddenly, the phone on her desk began ringing.
In a sweet and soft voice, she answered, “Hello, this is the President’s office.”
Li Zhicheng, who sat on the couch, looked up. Through the half-closed door he could see the side of her clear, pale face and her bright red lips.
He kept reading, but his eyebrows lifted softly.
Her voice and appearance suggested that she must have felt a lot better.
Hanging up the phone, Lin Qian stared at the reports awaiting Li Zhicheng’s signature. She became quiet for a few seconds.
She had actually gotten up pretty early this morning, but she had deliberately arrived late because she was just not feeling up to coming to work. The idea of getting along with each other alone for a couple of hours like they usually did felt a little odd.
Clearly, he was a wolf—perhaps even the most fierce and ruthless one she had met—why had she treated him like a sheep?
She sighed quietly. Why do I just want to storm in and give him a good scolding to his face?
Of course she wouldn’t really scold him. She even managed to put on her professional smile when picking up the documents, then quietly knocked on his door. But she couldn’t laugh with him as she had before—not anymore. A cheesy smile was all she could do.
Huh. Who did he think she was? Although his plan was justified, he shouldn’t have set her up too. Was she just an ordinary, simple individual to him?
Just when she was getting upset thinking about it, an opposite idea slipped into her head.
He had never deliberately tried to hide his talent and ability away from her throughout the whole plan. Despite dealing with him every day, she hadn’t noticed any clues at all. Were they even on the same level?
Stop it, what am I doing?
From now on, I need to be extra vigilant when facing this… unpredictable man.
She pushed the door open and looked up at Li Zhicheng sitting on the couch.
The warm sunshine appeared from behind the clouds, shining through the window, bringing a sweet orange light into the room. As usual, he was in his black trim suit and clean shirt. There was a hint of casualness in his silence as he sat with a nice posture with his hands resting on his knees. Hearing her footsteps, he looked up, his pitch-black eyes calm and peaceful.
Lin Qian’s heart skipped a beat the moment they made eye contact. Silly! She thought to herself. Take a look at him! The expression in his eyes, his posture—he’s clearly evil-minded. Why had she thought him a quiet, humble cat? A freaking cat and a wolf were completely different things—why hadn’t she been able to tell?
Although there were millions of thoughts going on in her head, her smile was getting more and more perfect. She passed over the documents, “President Li, this is the report from the IT department. And this is…”
Li Zhicheng took them. Their rapport was just as usual. She spoke simply, and he read carefully while commenting briefly. She wrote the things he said down in her notebook.
During the process. Lin Qian unconsciously looked up. She noticed how concentrated he was. Below his dark brows, the rich black lashes and tall nose were beautiful and serious, like a painting.
An idea that popped in her head made her realize that she had never really taken a serious look at him.
Soon, the procedure was finished. Picking up the documents, Li Qian was ready to leave—she even looked rushed. “Hold on.” Li Zhicheng’s voice was clear and unexpected.
Lin Qian paused, turning around with a smile. “President Li, do you need anything else?”
His head down and his eyes locked on the document, he patted the couch next to him. “Sit over here.”
Lin Qian could feel her heart racing again.
“Sit… over there?”
She started to imagine their hot, rugged kiss from the other day. The weirdly cool and clear feeling between his arms suddenly started to appear around her.
He seemed to have noticed her hesitation, and slowly looked up at her with his clear eyes.
“Last year’s review for top ten bags was in this magazine.” His fringes lighted tapped on the authoritative magazine from earlier. “An item from SMQ was also included in it.”
Lin Qian realized he wanted her advice.
She decided to play dumb.
Calmly, she walked over to him, but still deliberately kept a distance from him when she sat. Overlooking his focused gaze on her face, she picked up the magazine and began to read with all her attention.
She soon remembered that at some point in the past she had read this article. The authoritative magazine had come up with the top ten most popular bags in 2013 based on the reviews of their quality, appearance, value, sales, and reports from online users.
She was pretty surprised at the article because the top three were all from New Bori. Following were some bags from SMQ and other companies. The bag from Vinda, promoted by Aida, was ranked 8th. It was just that last year’s sales had done poorly.
Would Vinda make it in the top three next year?
Meanwhile, out of habit, Lin Qian picked up the report; based on her knowledge, she began explaining, “President Li, it was a casual-styled bag from New Bori that ranked at number one. As far as I know, the bag had already been released for three years, and the rank was all due to the stylish look, decent quality and affordable price. Ranking second was a professional outdoor sports bag from New Bori. It was quite unusual for a domestic company to design some quality outdoor gear. New Bori sold a lot of them, but they were also slightly pricey…”
In the middle of speaking, it suddenly hit her. What was she doing? Still taking him as that fearless and adventurous boss who needed advice? Considering how he had been able to easily manipulate SMQ, how come he had zero knowledge of this basic information?
What did he even need her for?
Glancing up, Lin Qian kept muttering to herself. She could see those long legs of his slightly crossed as he sat comfortably against the couch next to her, one of his arms resting on the arm rest behind her and the other one on the knee. She could still feel his gaze without looking up. It was like air, everywhere, shrouding her.
Immediately her face turned red.
It quickly flashed in her head that he was a man with clear goals.
Her face was getting redder and redder just by thinking about it. Putting down the magazine quickly, she wanted to dash out of there. “President Li, that is all I know.”
After a brief silence, in his low voice right next to her he said, “You look red.”
She remained quiet for a little while, then looked up at him. “Yeah, maybe the flu is still lingering. I’ll sit further away so I don’t pass it on.” She was ready to leave immediately so as to avoid his unpredictable arms.
Surprisingly, her shoulder started to feel heavy the moment she moved. His hand was on it, pressing her down.
Lin Qian’s pulse pounded—this time she really was held under his arm.
The two gazed at each other. His handsome face was very close to hers, and the same hand still gripped her should tightly, making her unable to move around. Her small panicky image was reflected in his dark but distant eyes.
They didn’t talk. The heated air in the room steamed almost as much as his fingertips, leaving her face feeling burned. He just stared at her; she was surrounded by the couch and his figure, tall and slender.
Lin Qian’s heart pounded harder and harder. A voice emerged in her head, Why is he acting like this? Who courts this way? Quiet but intense. Why are you sure I’ll surrender?
The other voice in her head was cold and smirking. Lin Qian, are you sure he’s into you? It’s only the tip of the iceberg he’s shown you. You don’t even know what he’s up to. Aren’t you afraid of the consequences?
Lin Qian calmed down, looking at him sitting next to her. “President Li, I think this incident was Aida’s darkest hour before the dawn.”
Glancing at her, his eyes seemed to get heavier.
With her loud pulse, Lin Qian felt this was slightly unfair; there was panic in her but strange courage as well. She continued, “Although we’ve lost Ming Sheng, on the plus side, the outlook for SMG’s mid-range bag marketing is bright. God helps those who help themselves—it appears we’re still blessed.”
She felt calm telling Li Zhicheng this, and then she looked straight into his eyes.
He stared back without any change in emotion. The staring lasted for a while.
All of a sudden, Lin Qian started to feel like she was being absurd. He must have understood what she had said since he was so smart. Even though he might’ve figured out the hidden meaning, it didn’t mean she’d have to clarify anything. But today, for some reason, with her shoulder held down, she felt she had to.
With all the emotions she felt between her struggles, regrets, and impulses, the last thing she expected was Li Zhicheng to continue staring at her without revealing any emotion.
“Are you upset?” he quietly asked.
Lin Qian remained silent.
He considered her deeply for a moment, then quickly let go of her shoulder as well as shifted backwards, creating some distance between them for now.
Lin Qian was instantly relieved. But there was a touching sensation that seemed to linger in the shoulder he had just grabbed. She glared at him, unsure what to say.
Calm, he opened a book on the left corner of the desk. Lin Qian realized it was Master Sun’s The Art of War.
She was shocked.
He took out a piece of white paper from the book. He turned and then placed it in front of her. Lin Qian glanced at him—wasn’t this the piece of paper he had recorded his tactics on? The same powerful handwriting, just like before, that included, Pay someone back in his own coin, and Killing with a borrowed knife…
“I’ve never meant to hide anything from you,” he slowly said. “It was the situation.”
Lin Qian didn’t respond.
What was he doing? Offering her some explanation?
As such a complicated person, why was he being this honest?
As she was still silent, Li Zhicheng remained quiet for a little while. Looking straight at Master Sun’s The Art of War, he opened it quickly and steadily, taking out a folded note and turning to her.
“I wrote three copies. This is the second one.” Keeping the note in between his slender fingers, gazing at her with his clear eyes, he asked, “Wanna look?”