Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The second Lin Qian saw Li Zhicheng, the first thought that struck her wasn’t that there would be any new-love-old-romance drama, or that one of them would annoy or be jealous of the other. The only thing she could think of was not allowing them to meet each other.
There were two reasons for that.
First, Ning Weikai was a cunning fox. If he saw Li Zhicheng and her together visiting the stores, he would wonder what was going on. Although they had been low-key without drawing any attention, the less trouble the better.
Second, Ning Weikai had come here with ostentation – all suited up and were centered by his followers. In comparison, however outstanding Li Zhicheng was, he would be outshined in his casual outfit and accompanied only by her. Besides, this was somewhat of a date for the two of them—they wore matching hats. If they were spotted matching by others, it could spark rumors. Ning Weikai would laugh at her—at least on the inside—and his sidekicks would judge Li Zhicheng and her, thinking there was an inappropriate relationship between a superior and a subordinate.
Humph, Li Zhicheng isn’t someone they can look down upon.
He wasn’t ostentatious because he was sophisticated. He spent every second with her because they loved each other and only each other reciprocally.
When she saw Li Zhicheng walking toward her with the beverages, all she could think about was protecting him from being despised by the worthless. She did not want anyone to stand a chance of thinking little of Li Zhicheng.
After making up her mind, she stepped back, beamed and bowed toward Ning Weikai. In a clear voice she said, “Mr. Ning, I’ll leave you alone now. Take care.”
The area was packed with people. Ning Weikai concentrated on Lin Qian without noticing Li Zhicheng in the crowd. Seeing her try to get away from him as though he were a contagious disease, he couldn’t help chuckling.
Lin Qian said goodbye to the executives behind him. Seeing this, everyone thought Ning Weikai had already bid her farewell, so they all pretended to be polite and waved her goodbye.
Ning Weikai didn’t say anything further. He glanced at her one more time before leading the crowd behind him away.
Lin Qian was relieved. When she turned her back, she saw Li Zhicheng approaching her. He looked in the direction Ning Weikai had gone and then looked back at her. That look was a bit…enigmatic.
Lin Qian walked hurriedly to him and grabbed her beverage.
“Thanks. Let’s go.” She smiled at him.
He stared at her without a word.
Lin Qian lightly pulled on his sleeve and said, “Let’s go.”
“Sure,” he murmured. Lin Qian rejoiced in her heart and started to walk away with him. Suddenly, she felt some pressure on her shoulders—it was his arm. Lin Qian just followed him and they leisurely walked out of the mall.
Just when Li Zhicheng was about to open the exit door, with his woman in his arm, he turned his head.
Diagonal from them was the escalator where Ning Weikai and his fellows were. The light was blazing in the mall, and both men had acute senses. From across the crowd, they exchanged eye contact and then turned their heads away, marching toward their own destinations.
Li Zhicheng still had businesses to deal with that afternoon. He left the urban area and drove Lin Qian home first.
Golden sunshine spilled on the grey road, making the light inside the car shimmer. Lin Qian felt a bit languid. She lied in the shotgun seat and started to sip her lemon kumquat juice.
Li Zhicheng focused on driving—as usual without facial expression. Lin Qian looked down at his drink. It was first flush oolong tea. It was so typical of him to get a beverage without any sweetness in it.
Li Zhicheng reached to the oolong tea, sipped it and put it back.
The simple motion made Lin Qian’s heart pound rapidly.
She had to admit that sometimes a man was just handsome from top to bottom, and sometimes every move he made flaunted his suaveness. Even the way he drank was different from other men: he looked steadily ahead while accurately landing his hand on the cup. After picking it up, instead of holding the bottom or covering the whole thing with his palm and gulping it down like others, he left his hand slightly open and pressed his fingers on the bottle with equal strength in each finger. It kind of resembled how ancient people held their wine cups decorously and magnanimously, making his hands looked slender and captivating.
How could drinking water look magnanimous in her eyes?
“What are you looking at?” he suddenly asked.
Lin Qian hadn’t expected that question. She smiled awkwardly and said, “Nothing. I’m just wondering, you really don’t drink anything sweet?”
“No,” he murmured. “I don’t like sweet.”
After a moment of silence in the car, he asked, “Do you like sweet?”
Lin Qian thought about it for a moment and answered, “Actually, I like all sorts of flavors.”
Everything had its best flavor, whether it was sweet, sour, spicy, salty or bitter. She was willing to taste them all and she enjoyed discovering new things.
Li Zhicheng smiled following her ordinary answer.
Lin Qian blushed. “What are you smiling at?”
Li Zhicheng peeked at her without saying anything.
He was innately tepid while she was enthusiastic about everything.
She was like a colorful flower blossoming in his quiet soul.
Though he wasn’t talking, Lin Qian could sense that he was in a good mood.
It’s now or never.
Lin Qian sipped her drink and said as though it was not at all a big deal, “Ning Weikai and I have met before.”
Why would she want to tell Li Zhicheng about this past relationship?
Lin Qian had thought it through. To sustain a relationship, two people should be honest with each other.
In the mall, Li Zhicheng had seen her and Ning Weikai speaking in what had appeared to be an intimate manner. Although Ning Weikai was pretending to be a “teacher,” Li Zhicheng was an intelligent person who could extrapolate from tiny issues. He probably wondered why Ning Weikai had spoken to a nobody such as herself. It was possible that he already suspected something, but just wasn’t revealing his thoughts.
After she said this, he stopped concentrating on driving for an instant and glanced at her. The look was a bit aggressive, which made Lin Qian feel bashful.
All she had said was “met before,” but the look he gave her made her feel like he already knew everything solely based on that. But no one could see through something that vague.
The car arrived at the neighborhood where Lin Qian lived. He turned the steering wheel gradually, looked in the rearview mirror, and started to back the car up. Lin Qian dived in while he wasn’t looking at her. “Umm… He was a senior when I was a sophomore in college. We were originally close friends, but then we dated for around half a month. We broke up quickly because we weren’t compatible.”
Lin Qian concealed something. She had broken up with Ning Weikai not because of incompatibility, but because he’d cheated on her. However, it was kind of a disgraceful thing to say, so she made up a reason.
Li Zhicheng expertly parked the car while she “confessed.” Instead of saying anything, he turned his head and stared at her quietly.
How does he feel? Jealous? Angry?
Lin Qian thought she’d already told him everything. However, the bafflingly complex look on his face and his hands, which gripped the steering, wheel made her feel like she was feather-plucking a tiger—dangerous but exciting.
“I’m leaving now. See you on Monday.” She unfastened her seat belt and reached for the doorknob.
Suddenly she felt her arm being pulled. Just when she realized what was happening, he had already leaned toward her and put his lips on hers.
This was a completely different kiss from last time.
Stronger, deeper and more aggressive.
Lin Qian’s heart raced rapidly—she felt numb because her tongue and lips had completely surrendered. Li Zhicheng trapped her in the chair with his arms and body, putting one of his hands on her waist and pressing her body against his chest, rendering her unable to lean away; his other hand held her head. Her entire body was trapped in his, and she couldn’t move whatsoever.
His face rubbed against her cheeks. She could even feel his tall nose pressed against her face. His breath gushed out on her cheeks and eyes. She could feel the light scent of oolong tea from his mouth while his tongue chased hers, leaving her no choice but to be completely intimate with him.
After kissing him for a while, Lin Qian slowly lifted her hands and pressed them against his chest, gently grabbing his shirt.
The kiss lasted for a long time.
Three minutes? Five minutes? Maybe even ten minutes?
He didn’t move his face away until Lin Qian’s lips felt sore. He stared at her with his beautiful brooding eyes. There seemed to be an undercurrent within their depths.
Lin Qian flushed, her hands still on his chest. She didn’t say anything, and he still held her waist.
“Don’t you have a secret deal with my brother,” she said in a low voice, “that you won’t make a move on me in the short term? You don’t think that counts?”
She sounded more coquettish than questioning.
Lin Zhicheng watched her blushing face and murmured, “Today’s an exception.”
“If you can tolerate him talking to you like that, can you tolerate me making an exception?”
Lin Qian was dazed. The corners of her lips curved. She didn’t expect the hand on her wait to forcefully pull her forward again. Li Zhicheng lowered his head and kissed her once again.
This time, Lin Qian wasn’t as unprepared. She closed her eyes when his lips covered hers, her body slightly trembling.
And this time, his kiss was smooth and calm; the aftertaste reminded her of appeasement. After the kiss, he moved away from her.
“Go back home,” he said, “or I can’t guarantee whether I’ll make you stay in my car or not.”
He spoke calmly, but Lin Qian’s heart skipped a beat. She sensed that he was not joking, so she hurriedly opened the door. When she realized what he’d just said, she flushed again.
Make you stay in my car—that’s wild.
Li Zhicheng also got out. Afternoon sunlight shined down on the car and their faces. He stood by the car door with his hand in his pockets, watching her go upstairs.
Possibly due to a hallucination, Lin Qian saw a modest red tint on his straight face. However, he stood there still like a statue. The red made him look more like a real person.
He was a man in his mid-twenties who was in love instead of just a cunning businessman.
But alas, that young and lack-of-ripeness look was only an illusion.
After walking away a few seconds, Lin Qian turned her head back and asked him, “What is the pact you made with my brother? Would you please just tell me?”
He stared at her and reverted back to his intricate, impassive old self. “It’s not the time to tell you yet.”
“Okay,” Lin Qian said.
After arriving back at home, Lin Qian did nothing but lie in bed.
Recalling the passionate kiss that had almost boiled her entire body, her heart throbbed, and she could barely even see straight. She touched her lips, took her hat off, stared at it, and then put it back on her head.
There wasn’t any engine sound from outside. Has he gone?
Lin Qian jumped out of bed and walked to the balcony. She was dazed by what she saw.
Li Zhicheng and his car were still there. He leaned against his car, and not far from him was the pond with goldfish swimming around. Surrounding the pond was nearly a dozen kids running around and having fun.
Um, he likes kids?
Lin Qian leaned against the balcony with her head resting on her left hand, looking down at him. After a while, she went back to her room, took out a piece of paper and started to fold it.
As a matter of fact, Li Zhicheng didn’t have any particular liking for kids. He stood there to think things through.
His chest, where her hands had just pressed against, was still warm. And there was a sweet and velvety scent in his mouth.
An unfamiliar but luscious feeling slowly grew in his heart and before he realized it, there was a smile on his face.
And what came to his mind was the look on Lin Qian’s face when she glanced up at him from across the crowd in the mall.
Tender and delicate.
In those large and bright eyes, all he could see was delicate tenderness.
It had been best for both of them that he didn’t show himself in the mall given the circumstances, and she was astute enough to see that.
And after a quick decision, he went to her. But then he heard her voice. “Mr. Ning, I’ll leave you alone now.” After which she bowed and the man walked away, the problem resolved before he had even arrived.
When he had been in the army, everyone was full of respect whenever talking about the “wolf of the southwest,” Li Zhicheng. And after the battle against SMQ, everyone at Aida looked at him with awe.
When that woman had learned of his true mind, she’d become wrong-footed and hadn’t wanted to touch him with a ten-foot pole. But now she seemed to have reverted to her old attitude, thinking of him as a naive fellow, showing delicateness and pity in her eyes.
He was trying to dominate the whole market and planning to destroy his competitors in the near future. But she still worried he could be wronged.
Li Zhicheng put his hand on the rearview mirror and started tapping on it.
So bright is the moonlight
And on your dainty face doth shine
So willowy is your body
Which makes my nerves tight
He heard a whistle from above. Li Zhicheng looked up and saw a white paper plane spiraling down to him—it almost looked like a dove. Lin Qian’s stood on her balcony, looking at him with her head in her hands.
Li Zhicheng was agile enough to catch this mischievous paper plane. There were words written on it. He opened it. “Aida will win for sure!” she had written.
Li Zhicheng chuckled. He looked up again with the paper plane in his hand. With more than ten flights of stairs between them, he couldn’t see her face clearly. Nonetheless, he could see the shine of her smile, and that radiant light could have melted his heart.
It was about time to leave. Li Zhicheng stared at her for another moment before getting into the car. He folded the paper back to the shape of a plane and put it on the dashboard. Whenever he glanced at the paper plane while driving, he found it difficult to control his feelings. He picked it up and caressed it.
The Changgong Project team was secretly operated under Lin Qian’s marketing division. Nominally, she was the single point of contact from the leadership team; but actually, all the executives and experts from Aida were involved in it.
Li Zhicheng was the person in charge overall; Liu Tong and Gu Yanzhi were directly under him. These three people comprised the kernel of the project, responsible for the design, production and marketing of the new products.
Under these three were four sub-teams: materials technology, design, marketing and production control. Every team had a leader, and Lin Qian was the leader of the marketing team. Her performance would, however, be inspected by Gu Yanzhi.
After that passionate kiss, Lin Qian didn’t have the time to see Li Zhicheng in private. The whole project team had started to operate without a break following his instructions.
Lin Qian wouldn’t overthink anything during a time like this. Something was clear, some feelings were confessed, however it was not the right time to let out the emotions. Therefore both of them would had to suppress their desire of each other’s company. Regardless, every time there was a meeting, she couldn’t resist sneaking a peak of him.
Sometimes, their distant eye contact would make Lin Qian’s heart palpitate. There were undercurrents in both of their eyes. Something only the two of them could understand.
As for Li Zhicheng, he was buried in the project, spending twenty-four seven in his office and deprived of private leisure time. Lin Qian knew that he was the busiest person in the entire company because everything would ultimately come to him.
There were five experts working under Lin Qian. However, the materials for and the exterior of the new project hadn’t been finalized—there was only a general idea for each. The marketing team could only make some rough draft, being less busy than other teams.
When Lin Qian went to Gu Yanzhi to ask him about the key points of their current work, Gu Yanzhi was preparing to go on a business trip. He waved his hands and said, “Mr. Li and I are going to Europe to negotiate for a new type of fabric, and we won’t be back for about a week. Just mull it all over until I come back. Give us something brand new and invaluable because this product is going to be brand new, never before seen by this world. Capiche?”
His request was much more demanding than his tone. Lin Qian could only acquiesce to him, thinking how tiring it would be for Li Zhicheng to go on such a rushed and faraway business trip.
In the afternoon, she got a message from him. ‘Business trip to Europe. Be back in six days.’
Lin Qian smiled and replied, ‘Got it. All the best.’ She thought of typing ‘I’m here waiting for you,’ but deleted it on second thought because she felt that it was too clingy.
Since Lin Qian did not get the clear guideline from higher-up executives, she decided to find the guideline herself with her team. To be fair, the overall direction of the new product explained by Li Zhicheng was quite clear, and everyone thought there was plenty of potential in it. Lots of great ideas were generated after countless discussions, such as how to promote it, which forms of advertisement should be utilized and whether hunger marketing was needed and so on.
However, Lin Qian felt that something was missing. None of their ideas matched what Gu Yanzhi had described as “brand new” and “invaluable.”
After the meeting, she locked herself in her office and soaked in a deep rumination. Her final thought was something Li Zhicheng had said to her in the mall.
He had said that the product must be the most cost-effective, and that it would top the two major brands offered by New Bori.
She had asked, “Do you know how difficult it is to make a perfect bag like that?”
She remained quiet for a while and called Lin Mochen, disregarding the time.
It was midnight in America and Lin Mochen sounded languorous. He was still, of course, very sharp. “What is it?”
Lin Qian glanced at the clock and said, “Sorry, brother. I was deep in thought and didn’t notice the time before calling you.”
Lin Mocheng chuckled lightly and sit up, facing the blazing lights of Manhattan out the window. “What were you thinking about?”
Lin Qian explained the situation to Lin Mochen. “I think that instead of planning on how to quickly promote the product, the marketing team should conduct a market survey first.”
“A survey? Why?”
“This industry has been developed for years—it’s pretty mature already. All the established brands are there, and hardly anyone will be willing to conduct a customer survey on a particular line of bags.
“But I think we should do this. What customers think of this brand, whether there is a demand for it. Who’s going to be our target group, and what functions should it have to better meet their expectations—provided that they’re interested in it. We can’t know any of this without a field survey. So I plan to choose several cities and conduct a small-scale household investigation in order to get the most accurate information.”
After listening, Lin Mochen became quiet for a while—then he beamed. “I support your decision.” He paused and said, “From past to present, and for every industry, the more you want to do the best, the more you should be earnest and down to earth. If you want to make some extraordinary products, you need to study the market before marketing.”
After hanging up the phone, Lin Qian thought, That’s just the way it should be. Li Zhicheng said that unlike the case of SMQ, using “tricks” are not enough to defeat New Bori. The bags must be extremely high quality, thus the effort to craft this perfect “longbow” must be high quality as well.
A perfect commercial war meant they must take each step with exceptional care. As a result, the birth of such products would mark the end of the race within its industry, just like what iPhone did in the cell phone industry, and what their “longbow” would potentially do this to the bag market.
The next day, Lin Qian led her team, together with some other top performers, to start the survey in different locations.
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