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185 It’s a Trap

 Gu Nianzhi got out of the taxi, and looked up at the high-rise buildings in the precinct.

All the apartments located near the heart of the capital city were just as expensive as her apartment in C City's Fengya precinct. The similar prices meant that the property management and the surrounding layout were more or less the same.

It was a gated community; a security guard stood at the entrance.

It was a lovely place. The roads were immaculately clean, and the precinct was quiet and peaceful, having been built some distance away from the busier thoroughfares in town. It was obvious that this was a high-class residential area, meant for the wealthy.

There was a separate entrance for the private cars of the community residents and their visitors. Gu Nianzhi had arrived in a taxi, however, and had to enter through the pedestrian passageway. She would have to present her ID and obtain permission from the owner of the apartment she was visiting before she could be allowed inside.

Gu Nianzhi looked at her watch. It was exactly half past two in the afternoon, but it was already cold out, and a little gloomy-thick clouds had drifted over the sun, obscuring it. Even so, the neighborhood seemed alive with the festive spirit of Christmas.

Two enormous Christmas trees stood at the entrance to the community, crowned with massive 5-point stars. They had been decorated with an assortment of shiny ornaments, LED lights, and ribbons-the trees were pretty enough now, but they would be absolutely spectacular at night, once the lights were on.

Gu Nianzhi smiled as she gazed appreciatively at the Christmas trees. She walked into the reception room, her suitcase trundling behind her. She said to the security guard manning the front desk: "Hi, I'm here to attend the party at Room 138 in Building No. 5 today." She handed him the invitation in her hand.

The security guard took her invitation and looked it over. He looked up at Gu Nianzhi in surprise, momentarily speechless.

Gu Nianzhi felt there was something odd about the way he was looking at her.

"Is there a problem?" Gu Nianzhi asked politely. "May I go in?"

"Oh, no, please wait here." The young security guard blushed and quickly went to the back room to make a phone call. He was probably checking with the owner of Room 138.

Gu Nianzhi was not in a hurry. She waited patiently at the front desk.

She was dressed in a classic Burberry duffle coat, a periwinkle Hermès cashmere and silk compass scarf, and tailored cashmere trousers that hugged her long, slender legs. She stood in the middle of the room, slim and erect, as beautiful as a painting that had come alive.

The other security guards in the room exchanged a furtive, knowing look.

After a moment, the young security guard returned and mumbled to Gu Nianzhi: "Nobody answered the phone. You'll have to wait outside, I'm afraid."

Gu Nianzhi blinked. Her doe-like eyes, clear and mesmerizing, turned the young man's brain to mush: he could not even remember what he had just said.

"Nobody answered the phone? That can't be right." Gu Nianzhi got out her phone and dialed Mei Xiawen's number.

She reached Mei Xiawen's voicemail. "Hi, this is Mei Xiawen. I'm busy right now. Please leave your number and message, I'll call you back as soon as I can."

Gu Nianzhi: "..."

The guard had been telling the truth: no one was answering the phone.

What was going on?

Gu Nianzhi stared at her phone in confusion. She looked up at the security guards. "Could you call him again? It says here on my invitation that the party will begin at 2 o' clock."

It was already half past two-where was everyone?

The security guard was a sympathetic young man who could not say no; he saw that the other security guards were all pretending not to have heard her, so he obliged her by returning to the back room a second time to place another call.

This time, he tried calling for a good 15 minutes. He finally came out, shrugging helplessly at Gu Nianzhi. "I'm sorry, but I still can't get anyone to answer the phone."

"Could you let me in anyway?" Gu Nianzhi was somewhat annoyed. "You can send someone with me, you'll know I'm not lying once we get there. This invitation I have is legit."

The security guard laughed good-naturedly. "Miss, that's against the rules. We can't do that, the residents will complain. Please don't take this personally, okay?"

It was entirely normal for a high-class community such as this one to be particularly strict about its security measures. No one who did not live here could get in, not unless they had been specifically invited by one of the residents.

It was the same for her Fengya apartment: when she had been in a light coma for a week, Mei Xiawen had made several attempts to see her, but had been turned away at the gates by the security guards in her community. Chen Lie had specifically told the guards not to let anyone looking for Gu Nianzhi in.

Gu Nianzhi pressed her lips together. She did not want to make things difficult for them. She turned and looked for a place to sit down.

The pudgy, middle-aged female guard walked over and rudely shoved her. "Get out! This isn't a waiting room."

The young security guard turned away guiltily and disappeared into the back room.

The remaining security guard, a middle-aged man, crossed his legs and shielded himself from her with an open newspaper: it was obvious he did not want to deal with her.

Gu Nianzhi glanced at them, but did not say anything. She walked out of the reception room.

There was a row of holly trees beyond the community fence, between the road and the sidewalk.

Gu Nianzhi dragged her suitcase to a holly tree near the entrance, and waited there.

It was a quiet, secluded road. There was very little traffic; most of the residents here had private cars, and entered the community through a different entrance. Gu Nianzhi watched the entrance as she waited under the tree, but only saw two people enter the community. Unfortunately, she did not know either of them.

She stood around for almost half an hour, bored out of her mind. She began to feel annoyed and frustrated. She got out her phone and called Green Tea Fang, but the number was unreachable. She called Little Temptress: unreachable. Finally, she called Lady Cao-still nothing.

What the heck?!

Gu Nianzhi cursed inwardly. She gave up and decided she might as well spend the time playing mobile games on her phone.

It was a lot easier to pass the time once she was engrossed in a game.

When she finally looked up from her phone, the sky had darkened, and her hands and feet were numb from the cold.

Up here in the north, the days were a lot shorter during winter.

She looked at her phone and discovered it was already five o'clock.

She had waited for more than two hours...

She waited at the fence next to the entrance of the community, unaware that Mei Xiawen was able to see her from his bedroom window.

Mei Xiawen stood before the French windows, nursing a steaming mug of coffee. He watched the shapely, pretty figure standing at the entrance to the community. There was a flicker of defiant glee in his eyes.

Heh, I hope you enjoyed standing at the gate for two hours...

He checked his watch: it was already five o'clock. It was time to let her in. He could not put it off any longer-Little Temptress and her other roommates were getting restless, and would be running out to look for Gu Nianzhi any minute now.

Mei Xiawen got out his phone and called the security guard. He asked amiably: "Is this the security office? I'm calling from Room 138, Building No. 5. Has my guest arrived?"

The security guard on the other end of the line broke out in a cold sweat. "She's here. I couldn't get ahold of you, so I didn't let her in."

"Thank you, please let her in." Mei Xiawen put his phone away, and turned to look for Jiang Hongcha. "Gu Nianzhi's here."

Jiang Hongcha nodded as she gave him a knowing look. "I'll get ready."

Mei Xiawen walked into the living room, where his classmates were having a merry time playing a variety of party games. He said cheerfully, "Lower your voices, guys. Nianzhi's here."

"Oh! Nianzhi's finally here!" Little Temptress leapt to her feet. "Where is she? Where is she?!"

"She'll be here in a minute. I'll get the door." Mei Xiawen smiled as he walked to the entrance hallway. He gestured for everyone to be quiet.

Gu Nianzhi made her way to Mei Xiawen's apartment, a gift box clutched securely in her hand.

The gift box contained the Van Cleef & Arpels five-flower necklace Mei Xiawen had previously sent to her as a gift. She had kept the original packaging; the necklace lay inside its box, which was in turn packaged securely in the exact same gift box she had received from Mei Xiawen.

She stepped out of the elevator, and found herself standing before Room 138.

Gu Nianzhi adjusted her hair before ringing the doorbell.

The front door flew open as soon as the doorbell rang.

Mei Xiawen stood smiling in the doorway, dressed in a homely cashmere cardigan. His gold-rimmed glasses glinted in the light as he nodded to her in greeting. "Nianzhi, you're finally here!"

He had not seen her for six months, and was surprised to see how much she had grown. The hint of childishness in her face had vanished without a trace. There was now a calm, mature serenity to her strikingly beautiful face. When she smiled, her red cherry lips curved seductively, as though inviting a kiss.

Mei Xiawen reflexively looked away. "Come in."

Gu Nianzhi handed him the gift box in her hand. She smiled and said, "Hello, Class Rep."

Mei Xiawen snapped out of his reverie when he saw the present. He accepted the gift box, and said in a teasing manner, "Oh my, a present for me? How thoughtful of you."

His voice had been unnaturally loud; she looked at him in some surprise, but did not comment. She moved her suitcase into a corner by the door.

Mei Xiawen smiled. He waited until she had entered the hallway before closing the door.


Gu Nianzhi's three roommates ran over to her, and led her by the hand into the apartment.

"Green Tea Fang, Little Temptress, Lady Cao-wow, it's only been six months, but I can hardly recognize you. I swear, the three of you are getting more beautiful by the day!" Gu Nianzhi laughed and gave each of her three soul sisters a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

One of her classmates rushed over to Gu Nianzhi, his arms wide open. "Miss Gu, I want a hug too!"

"Ugh, go hug yourself!" Little Temptress ruthlessly shoved him away as she escorted Gu Nianzhi protectively into the living room.

The two of them had just arrived at the center of the living room when Jiang Hongcha suddenly walked over with the gift box Gu Nianzhi had brought with her. She stepped in front of Gu Nianzhi, blocking her way.

"You're Gu Nianzhi, right?" Jiang Hongcha smiled easily, as though she had never met Gu Nianzhi before this. "We can't accept your gift. Please, take it back."

Gu Nianzhi was surprised.

The "gift" was the necklace she had just returned to Mei Xiawen.

The Van Cleef & Arpels five-flower necklace was extremely expensive. She could not keep it.

"It isn't a present," Gu Nianzhi replied coolly. "I'm just returning to Class Rep what belongs to him."

"Really?" Jiang Hongcha smiled. She unwrapped the present and opened the lid of the box to show everyone what was inside.

Gu Nianzhi's heart immediately sank.

The contents of the gift box had been swapped out-the Van Cleef & Arpels five-flower necklace had been substituted with a pair of Hugo Boss men's underwear!

Gu Nianzhi looked up at Mei Xiawen, her expression calm and composed. Her eyes, bright and clear, made Mei Xiawen feel a little guilty, but he did not back down. Instead, he smiled faintly as he said, in a slow and patronizing manner: "Nianzhi, I know you've been trying to get me to agree to be your boyfriend for the last six months, but I don't think we're right for each other. I can't force myself. Sorry, but I just can't see myself getting together with you." He slid an arm around Jiang Hongcha's waist. "Hongcha was my first love. She returned from abroad recently, and I realized that I still love her. Nianzhi, can you forgive me?"

The room was now dead silent.

Their classmates looked from Gu Nianzhi to Mei Xiawen, and then to Jiang Hongcha. They held their breaths, intrigued and excited by the sudden drama.

Gu Nianzhi blinked. She smiled as she said, "Class Rep, what are you and Miss Jiang going on about? I don't understand."

Jiang Hongcha lightly pushed Mei Xiawen in a gentle, chiding manner. "Xiawen, Nianzhi is just a little girl, don't do this to her." She smiled at Gu Nianzhi. "My dear girl, please don't take this personally. Xiawen is just too nice for his own good-if he's been unintentionally leading you on this whole time, I apologize to you on his behalf..."

"Now wait a minute..." Gu Nianzhi put her hands up in a "time-out" gesture as she looked directly at Jiang Hongcha. "Miss Jiang, I think you're the one confused here, not me. This isn't the first time we've met. You visited me in America on the 16th of December-you showed me photos of you and Mei Xiawen, together in bed, and begged me to leave him. I already made it clear to you, then and there, that I have never been in a romantic relationship with Mei Xiawen. If he made you think I was the one trying to get into his pants, then I'm afraid you've fallen for his ploy: he was only saying that to make himself seem more desirable. Surely you weren't stupid enough to take his word for it?" Gu Nianzhi extracted an envelope from her pocket and shook out the contents. A stack of photos scattered to the floor.