This was A Miao's second time seeing Shen Xinglan smile. No matter how mentally unstable he was or how wicked his tongue was, she couldn't deny his good looks.
She had never seen a man who was better looking than Shen Xinglan, at the very least.
"I hope you'll still be able to smile after hearing what I say next." Shen Xinglan took off his suit and sat down on the sofa. A Miao, who had been planning to go upstairs, walked over to him.
"Xia Yongqiang gave me a call, saying that we should get together for a meal after so long. It's also a celebration for your university admission."
A Miao immediately asked, "Did you agree?"
"Why wouldn't I?" Shen Xinglan raised an eyebrow. "You accompanied me to the Ji family manor. Naturally, I'll have to meet the Xia family as a thank-you."
"How courteous." A Miao gave him a reminder. "Don't forget they've lost the fake pendant. They might be suspecting us."
Shen Xinglan rose to his feet to walk up the stairs. "That's right. It's you that they suspect, not me." He stopped for a moment when he walked past A Miao. "Don't try to slip away with some excuse. I'll fetch you tomorrow noon."
Over at the Xia family villa, Yao Lili threw a tantrum in the living room after hearing that they would be having dinner outside.
"Why must we treat the illegitimate child to a meal? I'm not going!"
Xia Wan was already dressed and looked as pleasant and elegant as usual. Her expression, however, was unsightly.
"Mom, we're not treating her but Shen Xinglan. She's not A Miao; She's Shen Xinglan's fiancee."
Yao Lili looked at her daughter with great dissatisfaction. "Wanwan, what exactly are you planning? Your grandfather has already promised to the Bai family. Very soon, you two will be engaged."
"It's just an engagement, not the marriage itself." Xia Wan wasn't at all worried. There were two more years to go before she would graduate. Who knows what would happen in such a long period of time?"
When Xia Haixin came downstairs and saw Yao Lili still in her pajamas, he couldn't stop himself from saying, "You really don't want to go, do you? Stay home then."
"I'm going! I'm going!" Yao Lili immediately jumped to her feet. "Seriously! Can't you let me talk about it?"
Xia Haixin sighed as he watched his wife turn around and walk up the stairs. Back then, he had married this woman for her beauty and for the fact that the Yao family was a nouveau riche family from the north.
What he didn't expect was that the Yao family would collapse in just a few years and he would still have to endure this woman's stupidity and vulgarity.
"Dad!" Xia Wan stared at him. "No matter what, she's still my mom..."
"You can fool with women outside every now and then but you mustn't make a mistake. Grandpa wouldn't forgive you."
"I know." Xia Haixin understood his daughter's thoughts. Yao Lili had the dirt on their family. She would be his only wife in his life for as long as she didn't cheat on him.
When Xia Yongqiang came out of his room, the entire family was already waiting in line. Xia Haixin personally took the wheel. In the car, he suddenly recalled something and said, "Dad, Xia Fan is back overseas yesterday."
"Didn't he previously say that he wasn't leaving?" Xia Yongqiang scowled. He was well aware that that grandson of his was most similar to him in terms of character. However, Xia Fan was too ambitious and his methods weren't clean enough.
"I've asked Second Brother to give him a call. Since it's his child, it's best for him to watch over him."
Xia Yongqiang nodded. "We'll have your Second Brother's family take care of the overseas business for now. I'll converge the companies in two years. When that happens, you two brothers must stand united."
"I understand, Dad. Rest assured!" Xia Haixin turned his head around and concentrated on driving.
"Rest assured? Don't you understand your own son? If Second Brother makes a fuss when the time comes, don't say I don't leave you any face, Dad..."
On the top floor of Binhai Restaurant, Shen Xinglan and A Miao stepped inside a private room.
"You're here, Xinglan. Hurry and take a seat." Xia Yongqiang's tone was rather courteous but he didn't rise to his feet.
To him, Shen Xinglan was still a part of the younger generation regardless of how impressive the Ji Clan was. Moreover, Shen Xinglan was also his niece's future husband.
"A Miao!" Xia Wan went up to A Miao and held her hand. "I'm really sorry for meeting you the last time without clarifying matters. Grandpa didn't lose his jade pendant. The necklace snapped and fell on the side of his bed."
Shen Xinglan's eyes dimmed. He said casually, "A Miao told me that Elder Xia lost something. But now..."
"Misunderstanding! Just a misunderstanding!" Xia Yongqiang put on an act of glaring at Xia Wan. "This girl went looking for A Miao without even clarifying matters. It's all a misunderstanding."
A Miao took a seat beside Shen Xinglan without responding. She pretended like she didn't see the look that Xia Wan was shooting her.
"Would you mind letting me take a look at it?" Shen Xinglan made a small "oh" sound. "If you lose it a second time, at least I know what it is."
His words were rather unpleasant, but Xia Yongqiang let it slide because he knew this was the way Shen Xinglan was. He took out the jade pendant embedded with a bronze mirror from his bosom and placed it on the table.
"It's nothing valuable. I just gained some affection for it after wearing it for so long."
Shen Xinglan stared at the pendant attentively for several seconds before putting on an uninterested expression. "Then you better put it away, Elder Xia. Be careful of knocking it into things."
A Miao finally learned Xia Yongqiang's goal when they were beginning to dine. He wanted Shen Xinglan to give up the right to auction for a certain piece of land to the Xia family.
"I'm going to the washroom." She didn't have the mood to watch Xia Yongqiang continuously casting her meaningful looks and chose to leave instead. When she walked out of the washroom, she chanced upon Xia Mei looking around at the elevator. Xia Mei's expression swiftly changed after seeing her.
"You illegitimate child! Where's Grandpa and the rest?"
A Miao fixed her a cold stare. "What did you call me?"
"Ille..." Xia Mei's eyes widened. "Which room is Grandpa and the rest are in? Tell me now."
"I don't know."
Xia Mei started yelling. "You don't want to let me in, do you? Let me tell you this. Don't think you can be proud just because you've become someone's fiancee or whatever. You're forever a child the Xia family doesn't want! You're just an illegitimate child. I..."
A Miao kneaded her palm.
"How dare you hit me!!" Holding her face in her hand, Xia Mei threw herself at A Miao like a madwoman. A Miao was about to dodge when she saw Shen Xinglan walking out of the private room. Xia Mei was kicked.
"Ah!" Xia Mei caved in on her lower back and fell to the side. She didn't climb up from the floor for a long time.
Yao Lili, who walked out after Shen Xinglan, cried in alarm. She feigned concern as she helped Xia Mei up. "She's a girl. What a vicious kick! What will she do if you injure her..."
"What happened?" Xia Yongqiang walked over with his crutch. His expression was ghastly.
He was so close to successfully persuading Shen Xinglan but Xia Mei's voice had abruptly interrupted their conversation.
"So this is the kind of treatment my fiancee receives at home, Elder Xia." Shen Xinglan's cold gaze swept Xia Mei. The latter climbed up from the floor, trembling.
"Wahhhh! Grandpa..." She wanted to act like she had been wronged but received Xia Yongqiang's angry glare instead.
Xia Haixin immediately said, "Wanwan, bring your cousin in right now."
Yao Lili looked like she had more to say but Xia Wan tugged on her arm. "Mom, let's bring Xia Mei in first."
"Your grandfather's too much! No matter what, Shen Xinglan shouldn't have hit her! It's much too easy for him if we let it slide like this." Yao Lili began to prattle as soon as she returned to the private room.
Finding her mother to be annoying, Xia Wan sent her off to find a waiter to bring over some water.
"Didn't I tell you not to come?" Xia Wan said unhappily when they were the only ones left in the room.
Xia Mei ground her teeth. "Hmph! On what basis? If that illegitimate child can come, why can't I?"
"Had I known this earlier, I wouldn't have told you about it."
Xia Wan's words were sincere. She was truly regretting it.
When she secretly informed Xia Mei about the dinner, she intended for the latter to make things difficult for A Miao. She didn't expect Shen Xinglan to protect that woman but there was something else that even more beyond her expectations.
She had assumed her grandfather was trying to meet A Miao to remind her that she was still a part of the Xia family. She didn't think Xia Yongqiang would truly have a favor to ask of Shen Xinglan...
"If I were you, I'd leave now."
Xia Mei couldn't reconcile herself with this. She yelled, "No! I want Grandpa to teach that illegitimate child and Shen Xinglan a lesson on my behalf."
"Don't you think Grandpa will teach you a lesson instead?" Xia Wan truly didn't wish to waste her time speaking to this moronic cousin of hers.
In Xia Mei's eyes, their family was one of the best families around. The only family that could match up to them in status was the Bai family. She was completely unaware that the Ji clan was like a tiger that was glaring at the two other families like its prey.
"I don't believe it!" Xia Mei was about to rush out of the room when she saw the door open.
Her eyes brightened. Just as she was about to cry for her grandfather, she saw Xia Yongqiang swinging his crutch at her.
"Dad!" Xia Haixin immediately pushed Xia Mei aside. "Take care of your health! Don't be hasty!"
Xia Mei's head plunged into Yao Lili, who had just entered the room. The two women nearly fell at the same time.
"Take her back to school. I don't want to see her." Xia Yongqiang panted in anger. "Give your Second Brother a call. Tell him I won't be caring for his good daughter anymore."
Perhaps Xia Mei had truly suffered a shock. She stared at Xia Yongqiang in a daze and said nothing.
Xia Wan had to give her a push before Xia Mei started bawling.
"Grandpa, I don't dare to do that anymore! Sob, sob, sob..."
Xia Haixin shot Xia Wan a look. The latter nodded and pulled Xia Mei out of the private room. Yao Lili followed suit, not daring to stay behind.
Compared to the mood inside the private room, the mood over on Shen Xinglan and A Miao's end was much better.
"Did you agree to the dinner so you can look at the jade pendant?" A Miao turned her head to look at the man who was driving.
Shen Xinglan cast her a glance. "Did you think I agreed so I can eat with them?"
"That jade pendant..."
"It's the one you exchanged for."
A Miao mulled over it. "Then did they lose the pendant or not?"
"Someone touched it." Shen Xinglan didn't elaborate.
A Miao could tell he wasn't willing to tell her about this and didn't question him further. After returning to the Shen family villa and showering, she hesitated for a long time before knocking on Shen Xinglan's door.
A Miao pushed open the door and saw Shen I and Shen II inside.
"Did I disturb you all? I'll come back later."
"We're done. What business do you have?" Shen Xinglan replied.
"Boss, we'll take our leave then." Shen II pulled Shen I with him as he left. A Miao saw Shen I gave her a secret wink as he closed the door.
Silence suddenly fell over the study. A Miao didn't know if she was seeing things but the mood felt like it had become a little flirtatious. The thought barely occurred to her before she instantly shook her head with all her strength to end it.
Had she gone mad? Why would she feel that way? She must be too nervous.
"Did you come here to show me how you shake your head?" The man's cold voice reminded her of her business.
A Miao took in a deep breath and raised her head. "I'm here to thank you!"