Zeng Yuewei had experienced some serious mood swings recently, but in general, her life was good.
Days were peaceful and quiet without that annoying fly whom she dared not provoke and had to offer herself on a plate to from time to time. However, they were still pursuing the shopping mall project and the Zeng family had already removed her from the job, fearing that the she might be implicated.
It was a pity that her value would not be appreciated, but it also helped her to make the decision. At least, she was no longer troubled by her conflicting feelings.
She arrived at the company early in the morning as usual and walked into her own office. The room was a bit small. It was actually a glass-separated space set up in the office area and not a proper room.
Zeng Yuewei put down her handbag and started cleaning up. She had a very strong sense of privacy, thus the old cleaning lady was never allowed here—what Zeng Yuewei disliked more than anything else was having anyone trespass on her territory.
She finished tidying up in a moment, just in time before other staff started to come in. She took out some loose tea leaves and was about to go get some hot water, when the security called out, "Sister Wei, you have a parcel!"
She was slightly surprised, for she did not make any purchase recently. She came over and found the parcel rather small. Looking at the receipt, she saw that the telephone number of the sender belonged to Gu Yu.
She brought the parcel back to her office and opened it. Inside it was a small box, in which nine incense pills were arranged neatly.
Confused, Zeng Yuewei picked up her phone and dialed Gu Yu’s number. The call was immediately put through and Gu Yu answered it with a question. "Hello, have you received the parcel?"
"Yes, I did. What are those?"
"I need to ask you a favor," Gu Yu sounded a bit awkward.
"What favor?" Her interest was soon aroused.
"Well, among your colleagues and friends, is there anyone suffering from great mental stress? My incense works very well on promoting sleep and maintaining vitality…"
"Ah, so you need me to advertise them for you?" She interrupted.
"Um… yes. I could use a bit of extra cash these days," he was getting more embarrassed but still told the truth.
Zeng Yuewei picked up an incense pill with her fingertips and studied it while she asked, "So, are these your major product?"
"There are two kinds. One is the incense pill and the other is the incense stick. The sticks need a few more days of cellaring. I’ll send them to you once they are ready," he explained.
The two became closer after the agarwood exhibition and were officially friends now. Zeng Yuewei had been worried all along that harm might come to Gu Yu from He Tian, hence when she heard that that son of a bi*ch had gone impotent, she was happy not only for herself but also because Gu Yu had escaped from his ill fate.
Ever since she was introduced to Gu Yu, her attitude towards the guy had been changing. She started off wanting to challenge Gu Yu, then gave up her aggressive attitude, and after knowing this guy a little bit more, she finally realized that he was an utterly simple man. Apart from making incense, he hardly had any other skills.
"That won’t be a problem. What’s your minimum price?" Zeng Yuewei chuckled.
"Well, for a box of six incense pills, I want to set the price at 200 yuan and the incense sticks are 500 yuan per sixty sticks… the price can be lowered if they buy in bulk…"
"Stop right there!"
She found him hopeless and gave him a price directly. "400 for the pills and 1200 for the sticks!"
"What? Won’t that be too much?" Gu Yu asked in surprise.
"Tsk! Do you have any idea how much money people spend on tension-relief medicine? This is nothing," Zeng Yuewei taunted him mercilessly. She then grinned. "Now, how big of a commission am I going to get from you?"
Gu Yu went speechless. He had no talent for business, period.
Normally, things like this would proceed as such—the seller gave his base price to an agency and let the latter work their magic, and the difference between the base and final price was where the commission came from. However, with Zeng Yuewei’s family background, she could not care less about it.
Hearing Gu Yu stutter and splutter on the other side, she stopped teasing him. "Don’t worry, just buy me a lunch some day."
"Ah, thank you, then."
"No problem. Bye."
After hanging up, Zeng Yuewei pursed her lips without knowing it. She had incense utensils right here in the office, so she picked one pill up to try it out right away.
The utensils were of a set, which included a dozen of incense wares such as incense tongs, incense spoon, incense slicer, duster, censer, silver leaf pot, etc. She fetched a palm-sized bronze censer and filled it up with special incense ash calcined from diatomite, then heated up a small piece of charcoal until it turned red and buried it into the ash.
After that, she pierced the ash with a thin chopstick to make a hole, which was then covered by a mica plate. The incense pill was placed upon the plate. This was called the indirect method of burning incense. By using the charcoal and incense ash, this process would not produce any smoke.
Zeng Yuewei had gone through the trouble of learning it from an old master, which had admittedly fooled quite a lot of people.
A couple of minutes later, she held the censer in her left hand and enveloped it with her right hand to gather the scent. A tranquil and pleasant smell drifted out of the censer and filled her nostrils. She felt as if a light breeze was brushing against her face and the scent reminded her of a bright moon revealing itself from behind the clouds.
Zeng Yuewei breathed in deeply and closed her eyes to enjoy the aftertaste in satisfaction. The incense was indeed out of the ordinary. In fact, she began to think the price she set was still not high enough.
After taking three deep breaths in, she put the censer down next to her and started working. Either the incense was doing its job, or it was a psychological effect—anyway, she was in an excellent form today. Her thoughts were swift and she was extremely efficient in her work.
Before she knew it, it was almost noon. She stretched her arms and checked on the incense pills, which had only shrunk by a third.
Zeng Yuewei put a file together and dialed a number from her landline. "Leqi, come in here for a moment."
Shortly after that, there was a knock at the door and a girl with level bangs came in. "Sister Wei, you wanted to see me?"
"Take this file with you and have a look. Make it into a PPT. We’ll use it in the meeting this afternoon."
"No problem," the girl answered with a giggle.
Leqi was in her early twenties and was with the company only for a short while. She was a smart and sensible girl as well as a smooth talker. Zeng Yuewei was getting along with her quite well. She took over the file but did not leave right away. Instead, she gave the censer a glimpse and asked, "Sister Wei, are you burning incense there?"
"Yes. Are you into this as well?"
"Only a bit, I’m just messing around with it. May I smell it?"
"Sure, there you go."
Zeng Yuewei held up the censer and the girl lowered her head to take a few sniffs. She appeared to be rather excited. "Wow, I’ve never smelled anything like it. Sister, where did you buy it?"
"I didn’t. A friend gave it to me."
Leqi was obviously disappointed, still staring at the censer with pitiable eyes as she turned to leave. Seeing that, Zeng Yuewei picked up two pills casually and said, "Fine, enough with your puppy eyes. Take these. Let me know if you like them. My friend is searching for potential customers."
"Thank you, Sister Wei. I knew you’re the best!"
The girl soon left the office and returned to her own seat. She carefully put the pills in a box and went back to her work.
Before long, the clock hit twelve o’clock and people in the office area were fidgeting and moving away from their desks one after another. A girl next to Leqi called out, "Qi Qi, coming for lunch?"
"I’m not going to the canteen today. I’m meeting a friend," she answered with a smile.
"All right, we’re off, then."
After all colleagues in her department had left, Leqi stood up and went downstairs in the elevator, then ran to a cafe across the road.
The interior was gracefully decorated with a slightly dim light. Two couples were snuggling in their seats. She looked around and found the person she was looking for in a seat in the innermost corner. "Uncle Han!" She greeted.
Across the table from her sat a middle-aged, average-looking man. The so-called "middle age" did not say much about how old he really was, for he could be anywhere between forty and fifty. He had an indifferent expression and did not say another word after the "Mhm". Leqi was quite used to his manner. She ordered some food for herself and said, "She didn’t do much yesterday. She spent all day in the company and went to sing karaoke with us in the evening. She went home immediately after that and nothing out of the ordinary happened. She was still in the office this morning. There seemed to be a new project and she wanted to put her talent to a good use there. Oh, right, she received a parcel this morning, probably incense. I saw her burning incense just then."
"Burning Incense?"Old Han frowned.
"She was burning this."
Leqi took out the incense pills and pushed them to Han. "I use them sometimes, just for fun. This stuff is top-notch. She said a friend gave them to her."
The middle-aged man picked it up and sniffed. He nodded, "Good, they could be useful."
Seeing that her effort was not futile, the girl was delighted and swarmed the man with clever flattery.
She was a newcomer with little sense of belonging to the company. With all the attractive promises the He family gave her, she became their informer without a second thought.
After that, the middle-aged man gave her some more instructions and left by himself.
That night, in a villa.
Holding a censer in his hands, Li Yan breathed in deeply and let out a turbid breath before turning his head reluctantly and said, "This is extraordinary, amazing! To call the maker of this incense a master is not a praise high enough."
"Exactly. This stuff did not interest me that much, but this one is so, so unexpectedly…"
He Zun agreed with Li Yan from beside him and almost felt he had exhausted his vocabulary. Both were tycoons who had been given all sorts of peculiar gifts, among which were a large amount of agarwood, sandalwood and various incense products.
Despite all the stuff they had seen, they were utterly stunned by this incense pill.
Just then, Uncle Han, who was waiting on the side added, "Zeng Yuewei received nine pills in total and that friend of hers was thinking about making it into a long-term business."
"Can we trust the person reporting to you?" He Zun asked suddenly.
"That person is very easy to control and has a shallow mind, her information should be credible."
"That’s good…" he nodded and turned to Li Yan. "Old Li, what do you think?"
"We’ve been following them around for several days. The others all seemed normal and that Zeng girl was the only one who showed any signs of being connected to the incident. We have to stick to her even if that is not a clue at all, or we are left with nothing," Li Yan sighed.
He Zun did not respond, but only stared at the censer and pondered. After quite a while, he ordered, "Bring us the car. We’re going to Taiqing Temple!"
"Yes! Right now!"
Uncle Han hurried out to prepare the car and the three hit the road within a couple of minutes.
It was very late. Only a handful of vehicles and pedestrians were still out. They drove all the way to the red-walled and green-tiled Taiqing Temple and found the front gate already locked. The sizable temple complex was indiscernible in the dim light.
"Knock, knock, knock!"
"Bang, bang, bang!"
Uncle Han knocked on the gate first, then started to bang at it with the knocker. After a while, the priest on the night shift rushed out infuriated and bellowed, "At this hour of the night, who the hell… oh my, Chairman He! Chairman Li!"
The two ignored his instantaneous change of attitude and initial vulgar outburst. They requested straight away, "We’re looking for Priest Mo."
The priest was taken aback. He was quick-witted and immediately said, "Priest Mo is probably still up. Please come in!"
With that, they entered the temple, led by the priest who was babbling on. "The Old Immortal was awesome. Even our own abbot had to bow and pander to him and he did not even bother to return the pleasantries.
He can sit in the meditation abode for a whole day without moving. That’s such an amazing ability.
We are holding a religious ceremony next month here in the temple. We are looking forward to your gracious presence, if you could spare us some time."
Soon, they reached the backyard and stopped in front of a meditation abode. The priest went up to knock on the door. "Old priest, Mr. He and Mr. Li are here to see you."
Immediately after that, a deep and energetic voice came from inside. "Come in!"