Du Hong did not turn to Cheng Gang for help.
Cheng Gang had indeed been nice to her and she was to some extent feeling attached to him. However, the attachment was not persuasive enough for her to hang onto him shamelessly and confront his wife.
Despite her gentle and meek appearance, she had long come round the idea: I live at the mercy of men and men can be found everywhere.
Thus, she found a small inn to make do for the night and was sitting by another man the following noon.
"Thank you so much for helping me, or I wouldn't even have the money to buy lunch."
Inside the dining hall of a private club, Du Hong was cutting up a medium rare steak. She wasn't very good with knife and fork, but still maneuvered them with elegant movements.
"Make yourself at home. I know we're not exactly friends, but one ought to lend a hand when there's an emergency, not to mention when a beauty like you is involved."
The man was in his thirties and quite tall. There was a shrewdness and capable feeling about him, typical of a businessman. His name was Chen Cai. He was the owner of this club and a customer of Du Hong.
She called everyone in turn for help last night and Chen Cai was the most sincere one.
Du Hong smiled and went on, "Have you made your decision, then? You know my background. I've been doing this ever since I started working. Your reputation is safe with me."
"You're a celebrity in this line of work. I should be the one flattered to have you here."
Chen Cai took out a contract and pushed it towards her. "Here's the contract. Have a look."
"Oh my, so formal!"
Du Hong did not see that coming and almost jumped when she read through the contract, which explicitly said she was to be the head waitress of the health care department with an annual salary of 300,000 yuan. There were other preferential terms such as monthly commission and year-end bonuses.
"This, this… Brother Chen, I'm only here to be a masseuse. You're putting too much faith in me!" She made a somewhat deliberate gesture to express her jittery emotions.
"I'm willing to give you that salary, you're an employee worth that much. If everything looks fine, sign it later," Chen Cai waved her off.
"In that case, thank you… Big Brother."
She paused after the "thank you" before addressing him differently, her eyes flickering brightly while she chuckled, biting her lip slightly.
"Ugh, cough! Cough!"
Chen Cai was stunned by the enchanting charm she naturally radiated and had to cover his flurry with coughing. He cursed to himself, 'This woman is alluring like a witch!'
After the employment relationship was settled and the two were on more friendly terms, he briefly talked her through the setup of the club. It was quite well-known in Le Zhou, and provided a series of services from dining, accommodation, and leisure activities to entertainment. Because of the privacy it provided, dignitaries took up a large proportion of the customers here.
After some chatting, Chen Cai sighed, sending out an air of vexation. "Since you've said yes to the offer, we're on the same boat now. I'm gonna be honest with you. Business seems good here, but you never know how tough things can get unless you're the one running it. Like a while ago, when I tried to expand the business to include other projects, those sons of a bi*ch have been stalling for months without giving me their approval. What am I supposed to do?"
"Ask them out and talk things through, then."
"I did! I've set up a banquet tonight in the Oasis… hey, since we're on it, why don't you come with me?"
It dawned on Du Hong that this was his real goal! She was going to be the tool he used to knock on various doors for his benefit. Women in this line of work used to be called social butterflies. Now, they were known as "female public relations".
She did not feel insulted. After a brief contemplation, a broad smile appeared across her face. "No problem. Brother Chen, I've been flattered by your favor and I'll do everything I can to return it."
"Haha, I'm happy to hear it! Here, let me make a toast to you!" Chen Cai laughed.
"We are so honored to have Director Zhao here tonight, I'm excited beyond words! Everything I want to say shall be expressed in this liquor. I'll empty my glass first to show respect!"
Inside a private room, Chen Cai was holding a glass of white spirit in his hands. Bowing slightly to a man on the seat of honor, he downed the spirit in one gulp.
"Nice! Very nice!"
"Oh my, Xiao Chen still carries his liquor like a gentleman. Not me, not anymore."
"That's because Director Zhao has been worn out by the heavy workload, unlike us idlers. We are in no position to be your equals."
Various people sat around the tables. There were government officials, businessmen, and those from the media. Everyone was shouting at the same time, centering around that official.
Du Hong only stood up after the first round of toast had finished. She smiled, "Director Zhao, it's my first time meeting you today. I hope you're not offended, but I feel very close to you even though we just met. If you don't mind, I'll make a toast to you as well."
"One toast is not enough. Make it three!"
"Exactly, you're the only woman here. You have to show your sincerity. Have three!"
The rest of the crowd jeered on. Du Hong wiggled her slim waist at the words, showing the adequate amount of shyness and grievance. "Director Zhao, these men are so mean. I know you're the good one."
"Haha, that's enough. One glass will do!"
The gaze of the director was fixed upon her fair body like a hook.
"I knew you're a gentleman. I'll drink it up first!"
Du Hong tilted her head back and emptied the glass. She smiled and went on, "Here, let me refill your glass."
With those words, she filled the glass to the rim and handed it gently into his hand. In the brief moment when their hands touched, she tickled his palm with her pinkie.
The director shuddered, feeling as if a bug had fallen into his chest and was crawling around. Even the spirit did not taste the same now.
Seeing this, Chen Cai pursed his lips inconspicuously. The old fool cared for neither money nor fame, but had a soft spot for women.
Maybe the liquor was too strong, or the beauty was too intoxicating. Director Zhao with a great capacity for liquor on normal days was tipsy only after a few rounds today. Noticing his condition, Chen Cai said immediately, "Director Zhao, how are you feeling? Shall we drive you back now?"
"I'm, I'm alright, just a bit dizzy."
"In that case, how about going upstairs and taking a rest. We've had a suite ready for you. Ah Hong, take Director Zhao to his room. See that he gets everything he needs!"
Du Hong's eyes lost focus for a split second before coming to herself again. She smiled, "Don't worry, I got it!"
After that, she supported the director to his feet, her body leaning against his, and walked slowly out of the room.
After the two left the room, everyone went quiet. It was after some time before someone said, "Bro, that was neat! Where did you find a vamp like that?"
"Haha, it was pure luck. She handed herself to me." Chen Cai was quite satisfied with himself.
"Geez, that was awesome!"
The admiration was genuine. For people of their status, Du Hong was a treasure that could solve a lot of problems.
Chen Cai indeed had sharp eyes; the woman was a top-grade stunner.
She was able to keep a quasi-dignitary away from his home all night, drowning him in her tenderness and even extending his stay to the following morning. It wasn't until late into the afternoon when Chen Cai got a call from Du Hong. He went to pick her up himself.
She showed no trace of tiredness whatsoever. Instead, she was in high spirits and looked all the more alluring.
She sat on the back seat and Chen Cai would dart a look at her every now and then from the rearview mirror. Looking at her was somehow giving him palpitations. He said, "Ah Hong, you've done me a great favor this time. I don't know where to begin to say thank you."
"You don't have to. We're family."
"Haha, you're right. Then I'll skip the courtesies… oh, you're still looking for a place to live, right? I have a house nearby and nobody's living there right now. It's got the furniture and everything. You can move in right away."
"Great, I'll skip the courtesies as well."
"Of course, you do that."
Running her fingers through her hair, Du Hong turned to look out of the window, lost in her thoughts.
The people she got involved with earlier were small business owners, whom she had considered people of importance. However, after yesterday, she realized that in the eyes of those with the real power, those businessmen were nobodies.
Without realizing it, her state of mind was changing. What Chen Cai offered her was a platform where she could meet all sorts of big-shots.
As the saying went, each was on their own path and each with their own fate. Some worked hard on themselves, some had connections, some depended on their cruelty and mercilessness, but all she had to depend on was that tattered book.
It depicted all the corporal pleasures there were in this mortal world. No man or woman could resist what took place in the sheets, which was why the book was invaluable. It had become the focal point of her attention now. She was even considering to find someone and translate the last pages into plain, modern mandarin…
While she was going over the idea in her head, she let out a little cry of surprise. On the pavement outside, two young passers-by were walking in their direction. Their clothes were filthy and they looked fatigued. However, there was an aura about them that made them stand out from the crowd.
She recognized them at the first glance. They were none other than that couple who had came to her for a foot massage. She was right. With their looks, she would never forget their faces.
Chen Cai noticed her long silence and could not help asking.
"Nothing. I saw a young couple out there, very good-looking."
"Good-looking? They can't be more good-looking than you!"
The vehicle drove on, passing the two. Gu Yu suddenly turned his head, apparently struck by something strange. "Someone was watching us from that vehicle.
"Someone we know?"
"I think it was that foot massage woman, that No. 3."
Xiaozhai also looked towards that direction and chuckled in a half jocose, half indifferent tone. "Nice car. I wish her a brilliant future!"