Casinos were not places any respectable person would visit.
Her father, eldest brother, and second brother would never visit such a cesspool of vice. If they ever did, her mother would rip into them like a bloodhound.
The two of them stopped at the embarkation point of the yacht. The steward at the door promptly asked the present their invitation, polished and polite, “Madams, please present your invitation cards.”
“Here,” Xiao Qiu handed the invitation card to the steward.
The impeccably dressed steward examined it seriously. “Everything seems to be in order. I wish you a pleasant time on board our yacht.”
Such was how Lu Ning was dragged aboard the yacht by Xiao Qiu.
The yacht was quite large, and it had a total of three floors. They passed the reception area and found themselves in an opulent ballroom. Elegant music filled the air with the crisp tones of a chamber orchestra. Several long tables, laden with confectionaries and other finger foods, were interspersed among the throngs of smartly dressed men and dolled up women. One would have had to be blind not to recognise these men and women as those belonging to the upper echelons of society.
Lu Ning rarely attended such events. She had never liked going to the parties her parents were invited to while as a young girl. Her feelings towards such events had not changed since becoming an adult. She would rather stay at home in her apartment with a good book in hand. A steaming cup of tea would not have been remiss either. Being in such an ostentatious environment for the first time in a long while, Lu Ning could not help but marvel at the novelty of the whole experience.
“Xiao Qiu, I’m impressed. I didn’t expect that invitation of yours to be real.”
Xiao Qiu raised her eyebrows and smiled. “Ah Ning, let’s go and grab something to eat. The food looks amazing!”
While the two of them sampled the inviting spread, they heard the discussions around them —
“I heard it being said that the owner of this yacht is going to invite someone to dance with him at the ball tonight. That fortunate lady will even receive a necklace called the Guardian Star.”
“The Guardian Star is said to be the King of Diamonds. It’s one of a kind in the world – no other like it exists. It’s something money can’t buy. Legend has it that the Guardian Star protects whomsoever owns it for all eternity. Don’t you think it sounds so romantic?”
“Bah! Stop dreaming of such nonsense. I heard that the owner of this yacht brought his girlfriend with him. He probably obtained the Guardian Star for his girlfriend.”
“His girlfriend must be so happy!”
Xiao Qiu hopped about excitedly when she heard the news. Nudging Lu Ning by the shoulder, she said, “Ah Ning, when the owner of the yacht comes out to dance later, you must brave your fears and attract his attention. If he asks you to accompany him for a dance, then that string of Guardian Stars will be yours!”
Lu Ning almost spat out a mouthful of fruit juice. “Xiao Qiu, what are you talking about? He’s here with his girlfriend. There’s no way I’ll stand a chance. I’m more than aware of my limits.”
“Ah Ning, you shouldn’t short change yourself. You’re one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met. I can think of no man who wouldn’t appreciate your beauty upon catching sight of you. Look! Even now, you’re drawing attention to yourself.”
Lu Ning scanned her surroundings. Indeed, her appearance had caused quite a commotion. She could feel countless pairs of eyes staring her way, many of whom were well-dressed men in suits and tuxedos. They eyed her slender form hungrily like a wolf stalking a hapless lamb.
Unfortunately for them, Lu Ning was not interested. She already had someone she liked. Even if any one of those men staring at her were to offer up the Guardian star on a silver platter, she wouldn’t bat an eye. Nothing was more precious than a gift from one she truly loved – no else could compare.
“Xiao Qiu, didn’t you say that there is an underground casino? Let’s go and see it.”
“Okay, okay. Let’s go.”
The two of them made their way down to the first floor and entered the casino. Lu Ning was dumbfounded. The sight that greeted her went beyond anything she could imagine.
Gambling tables dotted the casino in every direction. Cocktail waitresses suited in bunny uniforms shuttled back and forth with glasses of alcohol balanced on large trays. Under the dim orange lights, men and women gambled to their heart’s content. From the clothes they wore, none of them lacked money.
Money did not exchange hands at these gambling tables. Instead, they were playing with chips. Each chip was valued at a hundred dollars apiece, with the values only going up from there.
“Ah Ning, look at that table.” At this moment, Xiao Qiu grabbed Lu Ning’s hand, drawing her attention to a particular table.
Lu Ning looked over. The table Xiao Qiu was pointing at was by far the largest of all the tables in the casino. It was the principal seat of the entire venue. Seated at the table were four men placing bets.