Chapter 399 - Banquet
Nie Yan still vividly remembered the scene of himself camped out on that rooftop, pulling the trigger of his sniper rifle. The bullet shot straight through Cao Xu's head just as he was about to enter his private car, splattering brain matter all over the ground.
That single gunshot vented out all the rancor Nie Yan had built up for Cao Xu over the years.
Nie Yan's hatred for Cao Xu was no longer as intense in this life. After all, his parents were still alive. But if Cao Xu dared to harm anyone close to him, Nie Yan would make him pay!
Although Nie Yan was currently no match for the behemoth known as the Century Financial Group, he was slowly amassing more power. Eventually the day would come when he could rival their power!
Roughly 20% of the Century Financial Group's profits came directly from the virtual reality industry while another 70% were related. If their position as a hegemon in the industry was shaken, it would greatly damage their business.
A youngster who looked to be about 24 years old sat across from Cao Xu. He had an unruly smile on his face which attracted the attention of all surrounding ladies. This fellow was undoubtedly a lady killer with his pretty boy appearance.
A few women in revealing dresses went up to greet him. He greeted them back with a faint smile, displaying elegance and grace.
His eyes swept through the crowd before finally settling on the star of today's banquet, Xie Yao. Her unmatched beauty would make any man's heart race.
"So, Young Master Fan, what do you think? Interested?" Cao Xu gazed at the youth across from him with a meaningful smile.
"Not bad, a bit immature. Give it a few more years, and she'll definitely grow up to be a world-class beauty," Fan Yuan replied. He had to admit that Xie Yao, who was the focus of attention, was beautiful enough to move even his heart.
"She's the young lady of the Dragonsoar Financial Group. By obtaining her you'll receive the support of the Dragonsoar Financial Group, allowing you to crush all your rivals and inherit the Euro Fortune Financial Group. Your prospects will be limitless. Then it'll be my turn to rely on you, my friend." Cao Xu chuckled before taking a sip from his wine glass.
"Assuming that day comes, will you still be able to tolerate my presence?" Fan Yuan asked with a teasing smile. He knew better than to trust the word of a sly old fox like Cao Xu. They might be on friendly terms right now, but that was because he was weak, and Cao Xu had a financial interest in supporting him. If he ever came to pose a threat to the Century Financial Group one day, Cao Xu wouldn't hesitate to eliminate him.
Cao Xu chuckled and placed his wine glass back down on the table.
"What are your thoughts on the Dragonsoar Financial Group supporting Asskickers United?" Cao Xu changed the subject.
"What thoughts? Asskickers United is nothing compared to my Angel Corps. It's a pity the Viridian Empire is so far away from the Satreen Empire. Otherwise, in just 10 days, I'd crush them so badly they won't even dare to step foot outside of Calore," Fan Yuan stated arrogantly.
"Don't underestimate the growth of Asskickers United, especially since they have the support of the Dragonsoar Financial Group," Cao Xu warned. He had originally planned to sweep through and take over the entire Viridian Empire with the combined might of Victorious Return, Radiant Sacred Flame, Bloodlust Blades, Alliances of Mages, and Divine Protectors. However, this plan was foiled by the emergence of Asskickers United. Victorious Return and Radiant Sacred Flame had lost their value, and Bloodlust Blades was on the verge of collapse as well. Although Alliance of Mages and Divine Protectors seemed powerful from the outside, unless they captured all the strongholds of their several neighbouring cities, they were still vulnerable. Given the population of Calore, the unimpeded growth of Asskickers United would spell a bleak future for both guilds. Asskickers United had completely disruspted his business operations in the Viridian Empire. Fortunately, the 20 or so properties he owned were enough to support Alliance of Mages and Divine Protectors. He had diverted most of his capital to Angel Corps and several other guilds in the Satreen Empire. What left him feeling disgruntled was this youth before him—Fan Yuan, the guild leader of Angel Corps as well as one of the heirs to the Euro Fortune Financial Group. He was too cunning, making him harder to manipulate.
Asskickers United's rise to power and subsequent growth was too astonishing. How could Cao Xu possibly not pay attention to them, especially so after they received the backing of the Dragonsoar Financial Group. With Asskickers United's assistance, the Dragonsoar Financial Group had gained the business districts of six Basic Strongholds and one Intermediate Stronghold. The Dragonsoar Financial Group's rapidly growing presence in the virtual reality industry was enough to even threaten the Century Financial Group!
Nie Yan was sitting too far away, so he couldn't hear what Cao Xu and Fan Yuan were talking about. However, he could tell it was related to Xie Yao, especially with the way Fan Yuan was looking at her. It made him feel extremely uneasy.
At this moment, Fan Yuan and Cao Xu stood up and walked over to Xie Yao and her father.
Although Xie Yao's father and Cao Xu greeted each other courteously with smiles, Nie Yan could sense the hostility between them. It appeared Cao Xu hadn't come merely for the purpose of celebrating Xie Yao's birthday. He clearly had ulterior motives.
"Long time no see." Fan Yuan raised his glass in a refined manner to greet Xie Yao. "I remember you were only 12 years old the last time we met. The Euro Fortune Financial Group and Glory Financial Group had just finalized an important business deal. Who knew that little girl would grow into such a beauty in a short six years."
"You're flattering me. How is Auntie Fan these days?" Xie Yao politely replied.
Sensing the distance in Xie Yao's voice, Fan Yuan briefly froze up before letting out a small chuckle. "She's always talking about you. When will you be visiting Europe again? We can meet up, and I'll show you around."
Liu Rui was also in attendance at this banquet. But he no longer had the face to approach Xie Yao after recent events. Seeing Fan Yuan talk to her, hostility immediately surfaced on his face. He knew exactly who Fan Yuan was. This fellow's background wasn't that much inferior to his own. More importantly, Fan Yuan was one of the heirs to Euro Fortune, one of the largest financial groups in Europe, whose wealth even surpassed that of the Century Financial Group.
Fan Yuan raised his glass to Xie Yao's birthday, then started chatting with the others around him. He would occasionally include Xie Yao in the conversation, saying a few words to her. All in all, he appeared quite at ease.
Xie Yao was starting to get annoyed with Fan Yuan's chattering. Although he appeared refined and elegant on the surface, he was nothing but a playboy and a hypocrite. She would often hear about his sex scandals from others. She naturally didn't have any good feelings toward him.
Why hasn't Nie Yan arrived yet? Don't tell me, he forgot…? Xie Yao felt somewhat anxious. She scanned around the banquet hall once more before spotting Nie Yan sitting on a sofa in a corner. Her face immediately lit up like the sun. He was here all along!
Nie Yan noticed Xie Yao looking over at him and greeted her back with a smile.
When he saw Xie Yao chatting with Fan Yuan just now, he felt a bit unhappy. But after seeing the bright expression on her face when she spotted him, his spirits lifted.
Fan Yuan was an experienced playboy. It was a pity Xie Yao wouldn't give him the time of day.
Just as Fan Yuan was about to say something, Xie Yao interrupted, "Please excuse me. I have something important to do."
Fan Yuan turned rigid as an awkward expression flitted across his face. However, he quickly recovered with a polite smile. "No problem, go on ahead."
Xie Yao made a beeline toward Nie Yan as people stepped aside to let her pass.
"Let's continue chatting, everyone." Fan Yuan smiled. Nevertheless, his gaze followed Xie Yao's back as she went to sit down with Nie Yan on the sofa. They were happily chatting together. Fan Yuan could tell Xie Yao's feelings for Nie Yan were genuine. It was like night and day compared to the polite, distant attitude she kept up with him. His expression turned cold.
The several women near him started gossipping.
"I don't know. He couldn't be Xie Yao's boyfriend, right?"
"Seems like it. Why else would they be chatting so happily?"
An older woman covered in heavy makeup and wearing a revealing dress shook her head. "That boy definitely isn't Yao Yao's boyfriend. She's never once mentioned him to us before. You're all overthinking things. He's probably one of her classmates." She was Xie Yao's paternal aunt, Xie Yi.
Xie Yi had an incensed look on her face as she gazed at Xie Yao chatting with Nie Yan. This little girl is too much of a troublemaker! How can she do something like this on her birthday? She would often abuse her position as aunt to scold Xie Yao. Their relationship at home was far from cordial.
Xie Yao smiling and being cute with a boy left even Xie Yao's father baffled. She normally only acted this carefreely at home.
Xie Jun gazed at Nie Yan. I need to have a chat with this boy and see what his personality is like. Sadly, he was short on time right now. With so many people to greet, he couldn't move away from his spot. It would have to wait for later.
"Why are you sitting all the way over here? I was looking for you for so long but couldn't find you," Xie Yao pouted. She looked up and down at the leisure suit Nie Yan was wearing. He looked pretty prim and proper. She had only ever seen him wear casual clothes. "Who picked out these clothes for you?"
"Myself. I bought them at a shop called Rheims. It's my first time wearing this sort of stuff," Nie Yan replied with a smile.
"No wonder. Next time I'll go with you to buy clothes," Xie Yao declared. Her cheeks slightly flushed red as she thought about the deeper meaning behind her words.
"Alright." Nie Yan nodded, then dug out a small box from his pocket. "Here, this is for you. Happy birthday."
"What is it?" Xie Yao opened up the box and saw the necklace inside. "It's beautiful! Thank you, Nie Yan!"
Xie Yao directly wore the necklace. The gift itself was secondary to her. What mattered was that it was a present from Nie Yan. The delicate necklace sparkled brilliantly under the hall's lighting, pairing well with her pale white skin. She looked like an angel descended from heaven.