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133 Everything has changed

 Xiao Luo walked towards where Zhao Mengqi lay, tucked in her bed, asleep. He couldn't tell if she was in deep slumber. He peered at her face from where he stood, and she appeared pale in the dim-lit room. There was a look of casual indifference on his face, a look that hardly conveyed how much she used to mean to him.

Did he resent her?

To be honest, for a time, he felt bitter. He just couldn't believe it happened. He kept running it through his mind endlessly. Then the accident happened. That certainly jolted him back to his senses, a new perspective, if you like. He couldn't keep clinging on to past events that he had no control over. It was time to let go. Perhaps the specter of death does that to a man - it removed the clutter and helped him to see life as it was.

Fate always plays a fickle hand in matters of love. For some people, it's like two ships passing in the night, while others it may blossom into lasting relationships, only to break apart at the first signs of trouble. Such things have a way of making one grow up. It makes them stronger in the end.

"You're Xiao Lou, aren't you?" a voice came from behind him. It startled him somewhat, he wasn't expecting anyone else. But, he kept his composure, turning towards the direction of the voice. It was Zhao Mingqe's roommate. She recognized him immediately as Mengqi's ex-boyfriend. "Her condition deteriorated about half a month ago. When she gets back from work, she'll be sitting at the table in a daze most of the time. Sometimes she even cries to herself." She felt compelled to fill him in with the details, her wavy hair framing her exaggerated expression of compassion. Without letting up, she chipped in, "Do you know, she said she was so silly to abandon a good man like you. You are so loving and always doting on her." As Zhao Mengqi's roommate, she felt duty-bound to bring the pair back together again, and she was doing so with such high drama!

Xiao Luo stood facing the woman, hands casually in his pockets. He kept a kindly composure, but his face showed no emotions, in a deadpan kind of way. He turned slightly, tilting his head towards Mengqi, and spoke gently, almost to himself, "It's not too late to start over. Find the love you're looking for." He sighed quietly before he continued, "Two months is not a long time to find out a man's true character, please forget about me."

Zhao Mengqi stirred as she sensed a familiar presence, but she could barely open her eyes. It took a while to find her focus, then a glow returned to her cheeks. She spoke faintly, "Is this a dream? It's such a beautiful dream..." she trailed off without completing her sentence.

She shut both her eyes tightly, as if not wanting her dream to end. She thought she was hallucinating. Was that Xiao Luo standing next to her?

"Mengqi, this is not a dream, open your eyes, it's Xiao Luo. He is here." The woman had suddenly positioned herself between the two, voluntarily taking on the role of peacemaker.

"Really?"

She was incredulous, and said to her friend in an almost pleading tone, "Don't you lie to me, Linger." As tears rolled down her cheeks, she sobbed, "Even if it's a dream, it'll be enough for me. Luo, I'm so sorry for leaving you. I'm so sorry..."

At a loss of what to do, she kept her eyes shut, not wanting to know if this was all a dream at all. She just didn't have the courage to Xiao Luo again.

"You don't have to be sorry, you just chose your own life and we don't owe each other anything. I'm here today as your classmate, and I'm asking you to live your life as how you wanted to. As how you should. Have courage."

"Luo, thank you. You are right. I was naïve and I didn't cherish what I had. It's too late for regrets now." Her voice breaking, she poured out her feelings openly, "If I could start all over again, I'd hold you tight and never let you go again."

Tears streamed down her face as she spoke, and she grimaced, struggling to hold back the tears. Memories of happier and simpler times flashed by, she almost smiled as she recalled the times he prepared her favorite egg fried rice. It seemed to her the days of innocence were now long past, and she was solely responsible for destroying that love. It was a hard lesson indeed. She hated herself for that.

"We are no longer the same people we once were, Mengqi." Xiao Luo said gently.

"Yeah..." Zhao Mengqi smiled bitterly.

Squeak.

The room door opened, and a doctor leaned in from behind it with a stern word, "You two, the patient needs to rest. Don't talk for too long!" Xiao Luo nodded and said to Zhao Mengqi, "Take good care of yourself!"

Then, he turned away and promptly left the room, without so much as a backward glance. He wanted to believe that Zhao Mengqi would be able to start over again after leaving Hua Haifeng. This thought gave him a sense of relief.

As soon as they stepped out of the room, Xiao Luo passed a UnionPay card to Ma Linger. "There're ten thousand dollars in this card, the password's 666666, please take care of her."

Ma Linger raised an eyebrow. 10 thousand dollars, just like that - he was indeed rich. Mengqi sure missed out on a fine catch!

"Just don't tell her I was here when she recovers. Just tell her she was hallucinating. As for the money, you'll figure out something." Xiao Luo said plainly, meaning every word of it.

"Ok, Alright."

Ma Linger nodded quickly in acknowledgment. She suddenly felt the burden of the UnionPay card in her hand.

******

"Hello, Boss Chen, your orders are soon to be... What? You don't want them? You can't do this right, Boss Chen? I trusted you so we didn't sign the contract, but how could you just abandon the orders? They're worth more than a hundred thousand!"

Fang Changlei was speaking from the general manager's office at Taste Buds. When he got confirmation that the other party had rescinded the orders, he jumped off his chair, raising his voice with an intimidating tone. Before he could protest, the other party had already hung up. He felt his anger rising even digital tone from his receiver resounded across the room. "beep... beep... beep".

"F*ck, who's been messing around behind my back!"

Fang Changlei was livid! He flung the phone hard against the floor. He was infuriated, looking like he was about to tear someone apart. This was the eighth phone call, all of them to regular customers, each one canceling their orders. And these were familiar, old friends and customers that he regularly plied with hostesses in steamy private rooms. They shared very solid business relationships. So it was indeed vexing that every single of them had called in to cancel their orders. Without a doubt, someone was messing with Taste Buds.

"Chairman Fang, what did they say? Why'd they cancel the orders so suddenly?" The male assistance asked meekly, not at all sure what was going on.

"I have don't have the details, but they all said someone has a hold over them and had them sign contracts with some other supplier, ordering mooncakes from another brand...Another brand! Damn, could it be Luo's Workshop?"

Fang Changlei, couldn't help feeling a sense of déjà vu. A few days ago, the orders from Zhang Hongda, of Fuke Group also slipped by from right under his nose. He pulled his pipe away from his mouth, and voiced his thoughts aloud, "Could it be that little a**hole who's screwing me up from behind?

The male assistant noticed his expression had turned dark, he stayed as silent as a church mouse, trembling in the corner where he stood.

"No, no, no, it's impossible, that little as*hole never had this kind of muscle."

Fang Changlei could not stop waving his hand around as he ran through the list of possible suspects in his head. As he cupped his hand across his chin, he said to himself again, "If Boss Chu was involved, it'd be as easy as ABC, Boss Chu regarded that little as*hole extremely highly, after all."

As he pondered further, he looked more and more perplexed, "So is it Boss Chu who wants to mess with me?"

The more he thought about it, the scarier it got. Even though he had a good relationship with the Dragon Gang and Long Sankui, yet he was no match to Chu Yunxiong. "If the black force of Jiangcheng was Dragon Gang, then the white force had to be Chu Yunxiong. If Chu Yunxiong wanted to deal with him, then he might as well..." Fang Changlei's head was in a spin, as he explored the possible scenarios, "But, why?"

He had no beef with Chu Yunxiong, going as far as arranging for the marriage of his son to Chu's daughter. He had treated Chu Yunxiong with respect like Lafayette, there was no reason for Chu Yunxiong to deal with him!

He couldn't help feeling like he was groping around in a fog. Fang Changlei broke into a cold sweat, he barked out an order, "Quick, get the car, I'd like to visit Boss Chu."

"Yessir."

The male assistant, jumped in response, nodded hurriedly, and left to make immediate arrangements.

Fang Changlei had to know for certain if Chu Yunxiong was the one behind this whole episode. If not, he would not be able to eat or sleep

in peace.