Xin Qing did not expect a birthday gift to get her into so much trouble.
The following afternoon, Xin Qing received a phone call from an unknown woman, who ungraciously demanded her to make her a scarf. According to the woman, money would not be an issue as she was willing to pay any amount for it. Xin Qing was not the mood to entertain anything of the sort, so she hung up the phone straight away. She ended up receiving numerous calls over the course of the entire afternoon, whose callers had all demanded her to make embroidery stitches for them. Xin Qing had always been good-tempered and affable, but not even she could remain unaffected by such nonsense. Without further ado, she called Meyer and told him to do something about his sister.
At night, Xin Qing ran into Ailey on the way to the supermarket. There were two other girls with Ailey. When the three saw Xin Qing, they hurried over.
"Xin Qing!" Ailey yelled out to her. She sounded slightly upset. "Why did you hang up on my friends?"
"Are you serious right now?" Xin Qing thought. Now she finally knew why she disliked Ailey so much. This woman probably thought that everyone in this world was her friend. She thought it was completely natural to demand everyone else to do her bidding.
"Because I don't know them," Xin Qing said, her face devoid of any expression.
Ailey quickly grabbed the two girls beside her. "Well, now you know each other! We're all friends now."
"Is there something you need? I have to go get my groceries." Xin Qing did not feel like explaining anything to them. Any further explanations would be pointless anyway.
Ailey nodded. "Yeah, there is something we need. They want your embroidery too. Why don't you make one for each of them? Well, let me think, how many are there... Hm. Around ten of them."
For a long moment, Xin Qing looked at Ailey as if she was seeing some kind of monster. She kept staring at Ailey until the latter was starting to get creeped out.
"Wh-what's wrong?" Ailey said, blinking her eyes. "There's no rush. You can take your time. Just give it to them in a few days."
"Ailey, do you know how long it'll take for me to make one of those scarves? Also, your brother and I are friends. You and I? Not quite. Even if we're friends, we aren't that close, so you can't just demand me to do things for you. I gave you a birthday gift because that's the sensible thing to do. Now I'm refusing to give your friends anything for the same reason. Because it's a reasonable thing to do. I don't know them, and I don't want to know them."
"You d*mn Chinese. Ailey considers you her friend because she thinks highly of you. Do you know that her family owns the supermarket you're heading to? She's asking you for the scarves because she respects you, okay!" Feeling displeased, one of Ailey's companion had begun mocking Xin Qing.
Xin Qing gave her a cold stare. "I didn't ask for her to think highly of me, and I don't need her to think highly of me." Xin Qing stepped around the group and was about to leave.
"Xin Qing, Xin Qing!" Ailey hurried after Xin Qing and seized her. "Please don't get mad. I didn't do it on purpose. If you don't want to do it then that's fine. It's okay!"
Xin Qing felt that same wave of emotion welling up inside her. Frustrated, Xin Qing shook off Ailey's hand. "It's her problem," Xin Qing thought, "and yet she somehow made it sound like I had bullied her."
"I'm not mad. I still have to get my groceries. I'll be going first."
Xin Qing left without a backward glance. As she walked away, Xin Qing could still hear the sound of Ailey crying.
Afterwards, Meyer called her, but she did not pick up. She had scolded his sister. What else could she say to him?
At the same time, she received word from CK that they had already come to a decision between her and Eva's designs. They asked her to drop by. That afternoon, Xin Qing went to CK and was unsurprised to learn that it was her design that they had picked. They did not make any changes to her design at all.
Randa's attitude towards her had suddenly become very genial. He ordered Kay to escort Eva away, leaving Xin Qing alone with him.
"Xin Qing, the higher-ups like your design very much, and have decided to use it this time." As usual, Randa was naked from the waist up. Slowly, he stepped around the design table and came to stand in front of her. "However... you know as well that you're still a student. So I'm afraid it wouldn't be appropriate if we were to tell the client that you had designed it."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Xin Qing asked, startled.
Randa chuckled. "Hehe. What I mean is..." All of a sudden, Randa's hand reached out and wrapped around her waist. "If you're with me, I'll tell them that you've made a lot of input during the design process. After you graduate next year, I'll recommend you to CK! How does that sound? Oh, I didn't make the same promise to Eva, mind you!"
Xin Qing shoved him away, smiling slightly. "If I refuse, would you claim my design as your own?"
"Claim it as mine?! How can you say that?" Randa did not seem to mind that Xin Qing had pushed him away. "You should have said, it is mine."
Xin Qing stared at him wide-eyed. She had underestimated this sleazeball's despicability. When she was about to rebuke him, Randa pulled her into his arms, his hands slipping under her blouse. Xin Qing panicked. She was about to push him away when the door swung open with a bang. Eva and Kay stood at the doorway.
"Oh, yeah! You shameless woman. You're trying to seduce Randa so that he'd put your name on the design!"
Xin Qing felt Randa's hand loosening its grip on her. She shoved him away forcefully and raised her hand to slap him. But she heard Randa said, "Ah... although I don't mind sleeping with you, you should forget it if that's your intention. You were never even part of the design process. I'll never put down your name."
"You..." Xin Qing stared at Randa in disbelief. Before she could say anything, Kay walked over and spoke to her in a stern voice, "Please leave. I'll report this to the higher-ups later. We'll see if any disciplinary action will be taken against you."
Xin Qing glanced at Randa, and then at Eva, who was looking at her gleefully. Xin Qing took a deep breath, turned around, and made her exit, slamming the door behind her.
She ran all the way to the streets. She rubbed her eyes, but that was not enough to stop her tears from flowing out like a running tap. No matter how much she tried, she was not able to dry her tears. In the end, she resigned to sitting on the pavement and crying her heart out.
"Ying Qingcang... they bullied me..." Somehow, those were the words that she had shouted out. When she realized what she had just said, she was shocked. She was still chastising herself for being pathetic when she heard a voice beside her ear.
"What's the matter with you?"
Xin Qing raised her head, her mind going blank for a moment. "You are..."
A handsome, beaming face was staring at her. That smile was warm, like spring's breeze which was capable of slipping into one's heart, soothing everything inside. That kind of smile would compel anyone to get close him. Recognition came to Xin Qing. It was the same man she had met that rainy day.
"Remember me now?" asked the man, still looking at her.
Xin Qing made a few haphazard swipes to clear the snot away from her face. She stood up hurriedly. "I, I'm fine."
The man chuckled. "Hehe. You're fine? Then how come you're sitting out here on the roadside, crying as if you just got your heart broken? Surely, something must have happened to make you cry like that!"
Xin Qing heard the obvious teasing in the man's tone. Sheepishly, she waved her hand, playing it off. "I'm really fine. Thank you. I'm going to go," Xin Qing said.
"Wait!" the man shouted. "You're an employee at CK?"
Xin Qing glanced at CK's front entrance behind her and let out a humorless chuckle. "I'm afraid that ship has sailed," she said, smiling at the man. She turned around and walked away, completely forgetting about the folder that she had left lying on the pavement. After she was gone, the man picked up the folder and flipped through its contents. A look of surprise formed on his face. Then, he stared pensively at Xin Qing's leaving form.
Xin Qing did not chat with Zhang Mi and Shi Qianqian that night. She left them a message saying that something had come up. After that, she crawled into the covers and fell into a hazy sleep. While Xin Qing was hiding herself away like an ostrich, a dark scowl was forming on the face of a person in another part of the Earth.
"What the hell happened to make her cry like this?" Ying Qingcang held back the sudden urge to head over to France right that instant. He glared at Ah Nan.
"Young Master, that area isn't under our control," Ah Nan said, feeling vexed. "They can only take photos of some of the Young Miss' daily activities. Certain private matters are impossible to track."
"Where did she go before she ended up crying like that?" Ying Qingcang asked, glancing at the photo containing the image of Xin Qing's tear-stained face. He felt a series of tugs in his heart.
"She was in this state after coming out of CK," Ah Nan answered quickly.
"CK?" Ying Qingcang frowned. "Didn't she join the design team recently? Could it be that something had gone wrong with the design?"
Mumbling and fumbling, Ah Nan produced another photo. Ying Qingcang took a look at it. Instantly, Ah Nan felt the temperature of the room dropping.
"This... man... just where the hell did he pop up from?" The photo showed the image of Xin Qing wiping her tears. She and a man were staring at each other. The man's disposition showed that he was not just an ordinary man. In his fury, Ying Qingcang could feel an itch all the way down to his root canals. "First Meyer, and now there's another one? Since when?"
Ah Nan gulped. "This, this was the man the Young Miss had run into before. They probably thought he was just some guy, so they didn't snap a photo of him. They didn't expect to see the man popping up again, so they snap a picture this time."
"Just some guy?" Ying Qingcang released a cold sneer. "Yeah. Go out there and find me an average Joe who looks like that." Anyone with eyes could tell that the man was not ordinary in terms of status and stature. Ying Qingcang tossed the photo to Ah Nan. "Next time, as long as any living person approaches her, snap a picture!"
"Understood," Ah Nan said, picking up the photo. Deep down, Ah Nan was launching a diatribe against his young master for being such a psychopath.
"Get out!" Ying Qingcang ordered without sparing Ah Nan a glance. Then, Ying Qingcang picked up his phone and dialed a number.
Xin Qing woke up before sunrise. She noticed how puffy and red her eyes were, and how unwell she looked. She quickly prepared a bath. As she soaked in the tub, she collected herself and sorted through her feelings. "How dare they set me up like that," she thought. "Stealing my design? Yeah. Just wait, you *ssh*les. This isn't over. The winner hasn't been decided yet!"
She arrived at the academy after breakfast. At the front entrance, she saw Meyer pacing back and forth with a nervous look on his face. When he saw her, he ran over to her.
"Xin Qing, I know that my sister has screwed up. I've already reprimanded her. You weren't picking up my calls. Are you still mad?"
As if Xin Qing even had the energy to care about such matters. Then again, she had always found Meyer rather nice and had always treated him as a friend. "No, it's not that." She began explaining. "It's just I know I've made Ailey cry that day. I didn't know what to say to you. Plus, I've been really busy for the past few days, so..."
"Ah!" said Meyer hurriedly. "It's totally cool that you gave her a good scolding. It was her fault after all. She was spoiled by everyone in the family. I apologize to you on her behalf. How about I treat you to lunch later? I know an awesome Chinese place!"
"Sorry, Meyer. There are some problems with the design project I've been working on. I'm really not in a mood for lunch right now. How about a rain check? After this, I'll treat you instead!"
At her words, Meyer nodded in understanding. "Alright then! We can talk more about it next time." Out of concern, Meyer asked, "Problems with your design project, you said? Is there anything I can do to help?"
Xin Qing shook her head. "It's nothing. Come on, let's head inside!"
When they parted, Meyer asked her again if there was anything he could help her with. Xin Qing stared at him for a while. All of a sudden, she said, "If anything happens, will you trust me?"
"Of course I will!" Meyer said, nodding earnestly. He also had a stern look on his face.
Xin Qing waved at him. "Bye! That's good enough for me."