Zeng Yuewei felt she had degraded herself. Despite being repulsed by He Tian, she still put on the clothes he sent and put up with his molesting, all for that one percent chance that she might get to seal the deal.
The quality of Zeng’s products was excellent enough to partner up with any company. Only, these days decisions were not made purely on the basis of objective facts, for the power sometimes lay in the hands of some rather obnoxious people.
Therefore, when she clattered into He Tian’s car wearing a red dress and 7 cm heels, she felt like a high-end escort.
"Ha! I knew this dress would suit you! Actually, there was also a white one, but with that thorny rose vibe of yours, white just does not seem right. It’s not like you are a weepy white lotus kind of a girl."
He Tian sized her up with his unscrupulous eyes while he was driving, as if he was commenting on a piece of exquisite art.
Zeng Yuewei could not be bothered to start a conversation and only said, "I’ll leave as soon as the event finishes. I won’t need you to drive me back."
"That won’t do. I’ve made reservation at the Crystal Palace. Have dinner with me. Oh, I’ve heard the suite there is really good, shall we try it?"
She turned her head abruptly and was almost shooting flames with her eyes.
"I’m just kidding! Don’t be so serious!"
Being an accomplished flirt with a lot of experience, he placated Zeng Yuewei right away and switched the subject to some background information on the event.
He Tian had a childhood friend called Li Yang whose family had been working in comprehensive industry and recently expanded to include real estate business. Like He Tian, Li Yang was moving to the front seat in the family business and starting to participate in decision-making and operational affairs.
The hype over agarwood in recent years had gotten that fellow thinking. Using incense as the theme and coming up with a concept of "delighting in tranquility", he had been focusing on establishing a high-end community and even held an agarwood exhibition for it. In doing so, he could expand the scope of his business, as well as draw some attention to the project before it launched.
The exhibition was held in a museum in northern Shengtian. The place was quite far away and it took them over 20 minutes to drive there.
The museum was a spacious four-story building. Banners had been hung over the front gate, along with flower arrangements and hot-air balloons on either side. The two got out of the car and walked in without showing an invitation. The service staff was obviously well-trained as they were recognized at once and ushered in with a bow.
After entering the building, Zeng Yuewei was somewhat surprised to find quite a number of visitors, among whom were people from printed and network media, as well as TV reporters. To their right, a man was talking confidently in front of a camera—he was none other than Li Yang himself.
The guy had a pair of black-rimmed glasses on and his slightly chubby figure gave him an amiable look. After pouring out his words for a few minutes, he got rid of the reporters and approached them directly.
Having greeted his good friend, he turned to Zeng Yuewei. "I presume this is Miss Zeng?"
"Nice to meet you, Mr Li. I’ve heard so much about you," she put on that trademark public relations smile again.
"I’m a nobody. My friends are too kind, that’s all. I’ve been told that Miss Zeng is an expert in agarwood and I’m hoping you could teach me a thing or two today."
"You flatter me, Mr Li. I should be the one learning new things here today!"
After exchanging some pleasantries, Li Yang noticed that some other acquaintances had arrived. He moved closer to He Tian and whispered, "Go to the fourth floor later. I need to take care of some stuff first."
"Yeah, yeah. Off you go!"
He Tian waved him off and took Zeng Yuewei to wander around the museum.
Li Yang, on the other hand, left them to entertain distinguished guests, the press, and even some average elderly visitors. He did not have a flamboyant attitude but rather a diplomatic one. Well, at least he was paying attention to everything that needed taking care of.
Li Yang was taking a break after busying himself for quite a while. A female voice suddenly came to his ears.
"Mr Li, may I take a photo?"
He turned around and felt his heart skip a beat. He had to pause for a second before replying. "You are…"
"I’m from Tianbao. I’m here to help with the event today." [ED/N: An ad agent, probably]
"Right. Of course you can take my picture. How’s Mr Zhao?"
"Thank you. Mr Zhao is abroad right now, he would certainly be here today if not for that… um, Mr Li, just standing there is fine," the girl instructed him briefly.
"Ha, sorry about that."
Li Yang laughed and stopped posing intentionally, changing to a natural posture instead. The girl finished taking photos and added, "We’ll be making some brochures and will probably need your kind advice then."
"Of course. Tianbao and I go back a long way and I have full confidence in you. By the way, what’s your…"
"Oh, here’s my card," she took out a business card and handed it to Li Yang.
"Jiang Xiaozhai? That’s a very nice name!"
Seeing the name on the card, Li Yang couldn’t help but compliment it. He then handed out his card in return and reminded her, "We’ll have a small event on the fourth floor later. Do check it out if you don’t mind."
Xiaozhai winced. She wasn’t aware of such an arrangement in her schedule. It soon dawned on her, though, that it should be an event for some inner circle. She then replied, "Thank you very much, Mr Li. I’ll make sure to attend. I still have some errands to run and will leave you in peace now."
With that, she left him.
Li Yang remained standing absent-mindedly, still following that figure with his eyes, making no secret of the possessiveness in them. Coming from a rich and powerful family, he was never short of women. Even so, he had always distinguished sex from relationships and only had two girlfriends he took seriously at the moment.
When he met Jiang Xiaozhai today, however, something stirred within him.
On the other side, Xiaozhai searched around the hall several times before she finally found the person she was looking for, who was stuffing herself with snacks in a corner. She asked in a worried tone, "Liu Nai! Have you finished your work? All you’ve been doing is eating!"
"Ah… damn you! Don’t use my nickname in front of so many people!" A chubby girl cramming her mouth with food complained unintelligibly.
"What should I call you, then? Right… Panpan!" 
A cloud of biscuit crumbs was spit out of the girl’s mouth. She couldn’t help it. Her real name sounded even more embarrassing. She hastily washed the biscuit down with some water before growling at Xiaozhai, "Call me Xiao Pan! Xiao Pan! Xiao Pan!"
"Don’t be so grumpy. I’ll buy you some milk powder candy after this."
Xiaozhai grabbed her by the collar and pulled her out of the corner like dragging a puppy. "Come with me to the fourth floor."
"What are we doing in the fourth floor?"
"Didn’t I tell you that Li Yang had a whole bunch of raw incense material here? If I’m guessing it right, he is going to have a live-cutting later. We are very lucky that he actually invited me."
"Cutting the materials? Oh my gosh!"
Panpan was immediately enthused and started running right away. "What are we waiting for? I’ve always wanted to see that!"
"Be careful! Don’t get clumsy and trip yourself!"
Xiaozhai sighed and sauntered in her wake.
The so-called jade-betting, incense-betting and walnut-betting were no longer unheard-of performances nowadays. However, for most people, they were still more of an urban legend. After all, the collectors and the common people belonged to two different worlds, and might never cross paths.
When plants were wounded, they would repair the damage by secreting a kind of oil, which was an incredibly slow process. A thin layer of oil was only observable after one or two years. The color would deepen in one or two decades and would only became mellow and even after thirty to fifty years. Those hundred-year-old materials of the highest grade would even entirely turn into oil, coming inside out.
This layer of oil was the so-called "incense".
The incense-betting consisted of taking a piece of wood and determining the quality of the incense inside by looking at the color of its cross-section. An oil-covered cross-section did not guarantee that there was oil inside. Even if there was oil, it might not be thick or even enough. The worst would be to open up the wood and found it to be hollow.
Everything depended on one’s judgement as much as on one’s luck. Same as in jade-betting, one’s fortune would be determined by one cut.
Everyone had curiosity in them. Given the chance, they would never miss something like this. Xiaozhai was fond of incense herself and such an event was right up her alley. After sending a message to you-know-whom, she took Panpan to the fourth floor.
 TL/N: Panpan (盼盼) was the name of a famous panda in China. It was the mascot of the 11th Asian Games held in China in 1990.