Twenty minutes after, Lin Zhinian came out, and Ye Xingzhou was already waiting for him in the car.
Lin Zhinian opened the car door and sat inside.
He apologized first, and Ye Xingzhou casually put down the half-read magazine and gestured for the driver to start.
“Come with me to Qingping Garden and have a meal with Chen Lao.”
Lin Zhinian was momentarily surprised but quickly understood.
Ye Xingzhou had finally achieved his wish.
Eight million had secured him an invitation to Qingping Garden, which was a profitable deal for him.
“What can I do?” he hesitantly asked.
Ye Xingzhou leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, saying calmly, “Chen Lao is fond of Western oil paintings.
Just chat with him about anything.”
Lin Zhinian nodded.
“Alright, I understand.”
His gaze fell upon Ye Xingzhou’s face, and seeing the fatigue in his expression, he asked softly, “Xingzhou, why do you look so exhausted?”
Without opening his eyes, Ye Xingzhou responded with a casual “i’m fine.”
Lin Zhinian thought about what happened earlier and thought to explain, “Qi Xing suddenly had the idea to visit the art exhibition today.
My second uncle wants to cooperate with Ronghua Capital, and Qi Ronghua is famous for spoiling his son.
I didn’t want to offend him and strain the relationship.”
Ye Xingzhou simply said, “do as you please.”
Those words devoid of any emotion seemed considerate but actually indifferent.
Lin Zhinian felt somewhat unwilling and continued, “Qi Xing wanted to buy the award-winning painting from me, but I didn’t agree.
Xingzhou, after the exhibition is over, I’ll give you the painting.”
The words “I painted it for you” reached his lips but were left unsaid.
With closed eyes and an unchanged expression, Ye Xingzhou calmly replied, “Thank you.”
The conversation came to a complete stop.
Seeing Ye Xingzhou’s lack of interest, Lin Zhinian had no choice but to give up.
He shifted his gaze to the scenery outside the car window, lost in thought.
He had known Ye Xingzhou for a long time.
They attended the same international high school.
Ye Xingzhou transferred there in the second semester of their freshman year.
Everyone knew him as the illegitimate son, and his brothers and classmates isolated and bullied him.
Back then, Ye Xingzhou was even more indifferent than he is now, solitary like a lone wolf.
Lin Zhinian was the only one who reached out to him.
At least at that time, Ye Xingzhou’s eyes held warmth when he looked at him.
When did it start to change? Lin Zhinian wondered.
Perhaps it was when Ye Xingzhou asked him if he wanted to join him, and he refused.
He was afraid, he needed the shelter of his family, and he couldn’t give up those worldly possessions.
For over a decade, he studied and worked abroad.
Although the Lin family’s glory had faded, he had obtained what he had always wanted: honor, fame, and dreams.
The only thing missing was Ye Xingzhou.
What exactly was their relationship now, Lin Zhinian himself didn’t know.
Before returning to Huai City and seeing Ye Xingzhou again, he had imagined many possibilities, none of which matched the current situation.
Ye Xingzhou didn’t hide his intention to get closer to him, whether for utility or humiliation, perhaps both.
Lin Zhinian could refuse, but he didn’t want to, for the sake of the Lin family or his own selfishness.
The car drove north for forty minutes and entered a privately-owned estate surrounded by mountains and water.
It used to be a royal garden but now served as a private sanatorium.
It was a place where not just anyone could enter, even with money.
In the past, the Ye family was invincible in the business world, and their connections wouldn’t be underestimated.
However, those had nothing to do with the current Ye Xingzhou.
After taking control of the company, he had to establish a new network of personal relationships on his own.
For the opportunity to have a meal that cost eight million, he truly believed it was worth it.
The car stopped in front of a small building with Chinese architecture.
A man who appeared to be the butler greeted them and led them inside.
Chen Lao was painting in front of a large table in the living room.
The old man, nearly seventy years old, wore a blue Tang suit.
He wasn’t tall, but his posture was upright, and his brush moved swiftly.
He had the aura of a refined scholar.
Chen Lao used to be an influential figure in both politics and business.
Even Ye Xingzhou’s deceased father had to call him “elder brother” in front of him.
Ye Xingzhou and Lin Zhinian waited on the side for a while until Chen Lao finished the painting.
Then he looked up and seemed to notice their presence, smiling and saying, “I got so absorbed in my painting that I didn’t notice you come in.
You don’t have to stand there so formally, please have a seat.”
Ye Xingzhou presented the gift he brought—a box of Longjing tea.
It wasn’t anything particularly valuable, but it suited Chen Lao’s taste.
He happily accepted it, saying, “We’re just having a simple meal, no need to be so polite.
I remember seeing you before; back then, you were only in your teens.
Your father said you were reserved and didn’t talk much.
I saw potential in you even then.
It’s been so many years in the blink of an eye.”
Ye Xingzhou replied calmly, “I should have come to visit you earlier, but there was never a suitable opportunity.”
After exchanging a few pleasantries, Ye Xingzhou introduced Lin Zhinian by his side.
Chen Lao had also heard of his name and showed interest, saying with enthusiasm, “Although I can only paint traditional Chinese paintings myself, I am quite interested in Western paintings.
I have collected quite a few.
Unexpectedly, I have the pleasure of meeting an expert today.”
Lin Zhinian hurriedly responded, “Chen Lao, you flatter me.
I’m just driven by my interest, not really an expert.”
Chen Lao waved his hand, saying, “It’s a good thing for young people to have talent.
No need to be so modest.”
The conversation then revolved around art.
Lin Zhinian engaged in casual conversation with Chen Lao, while Ye Xingzhou occasionally added a few words.
The atmosphere remained pleasant.
As lunchtime approached, the butler came to remind them that lunch was ready, but Chen Lao showed no intention of moving immediately.
He continued talking as if waiting for someone.
Twenty minutes later, someone finally arrived.
Before the person entered, his voice could be heard, “Old man, why did you suddenly call me for a meal? You didn’t even give me advance notice, and the traffic was terrible.”
They looked up and saw the person who spoke, and it was Qi Xing.
Lin Zhinian’s expression showed surprise, while Ye Xingzhou slightly furrowed his brow, but he quickly returned to his usual demeanor.
Qi Xing noticed them and raised an eyebrow.
He walked over and sat next to Chen Lao, saying in a carefree manner, “You should have told me you were coming here.
We could have come together.”
Chen Lao asked him, “Do you know each other?”
I went to see Lin Laoshi’s art exhibition this morning.
And, old man, you already know, I wanted to bid on the painting you donated, but Mr.
Ye here snatched it from me for eight million.” Qi Xing emphasized the “eight million” as if he intended to mock Ye Xingzhou.
Chen Lao had a smile on his face.
“It seems you’ve met by coincidence .That’s good.”
He introduced Ye Xingzhou and Lin Zhinian, saying that Qi xing was his adopted grandson.
“I see that you’re all young people and have things to talk about, so I invited this kid as well.
It’s just a meal together, the more the merrier.”
Qi xing stared at Ye Xingzhou, with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
“Yeah, I’m afraid someone might think I ruined his plans by coming here.”
Lin Zhinian smiled and joined in.
“It’s indeed livelier with more people.
Besides, I owe Qi xing a meal.”
But Qi xing only stared at Ye Xingzhou and drew out his words.
“What do you say, Ye xingzhao?”
Ye Xingzhou calmly looked back at him and lightly uttered two words, “I have no objections.”
There was neither awkwardness nor embarrassment in his expression.
Although Ye xingzhao didn’t expect the relationship between Qi xing and Chen , it didn’t affect him at all.
Qi Xing sneered in his heart.
Not seeing him change his expression made him frustrated.
During the meal, Chen lao continued to chat with Lin Zhinian about his art exhibition and mentioned the award-winning piece by Lin Zhinian.
Qi Xing casually said, “I quite like that painting.
I wanted to buy it from Sir Lin, but unfortunately, he wouldn’t part with it.”
Because Chen Lao was present, Lin Zhinian explained, “I intended to give that painting to Xingzhou.
“So it was meant for Ye xingzhao,” Qi xing suddenly realized, “i understand.”
Lin Zhinian nodded slightly, looking slightly uncomfortable.
Chen lao scolded Qi xing with a laugh.
“You little rascal, don’t meddle in others affairs.
Buying it would only ruin it.although I was also thinking it would be nice if I could have a chance to buy that painting, it’s truly magnificent”
Qi Xing retorted, “Old man, you don’t get a chance to join the fun either.
Since sir Lin was going to give the painting to Ye Xingzhao, neither of us will buy it.”
Ye Xingzhou didn’t pay him any attention and calmly proposed to Chen lao, “If you like it, I can donate the painting to you.”
As he spoke, Lin Zhinian’s face changed slightly, but he quickly concealed it.
Chen lao laughed and said, “How can I accept such kindness? A true gentleman doesn’t take away what someone else likes.
I feel embarrassed to accept.”
“My nephew doesn’t appreciate those things, and it would be better if the painting goes to someone who truly understands.
If you like it, don’t hesitate,” Ye Xingzhou’s tone was like a junior presenting a gift that matches the other party’s preferences.
After speaking, he considerately turned to Lin Zhinian and asked, “What do you think, Zhinian?”
Lin Zhinian raised his eyes and met Ye Xingzhou’s calm and composed gaze.
His voice paused, and he said, “It’s an honor for my humble work to be collected by Chen lao.”
Qi Xing, sitting across from them, clicked his tongue, laughing as he gave Chen Lao a thumbs-up.
“You really are influential, old man.”
With the conversation reaching that point, Chen lao no longer declined and happily accepted their goodwill.
After a joyous meal, they accompanied Chen lao to have a pot of tea.
Later, Chen Lao enthusiastically took Lin Zhinian to appreciate the paintings he collected, telling Qi xing and Ye Xingzhou that they didn’t have to come along if they weren’t interested.
Ye Xingzhou went to the restroom and came out, and proceeded to the yard outside to get some fresh air while waiting for Lin Zhinian.
In the corridor of the courtyard, Qi xing fed the fish in the pond below.
When he saw Ye Xingzhou coming out, he casually threw a handful of fish food into the water and spoke first, “It must have been quite a struggle for you to flatter my godfather and specially bring sir Lin to please him.”
Ye Xingzhou didn’t take his sarcasm seriously.
He casually lit a cigarette, and Qi xing sneered, “and also if you don’t want to be kicked out by my godfather, you better not smoke in front of him.”
Ye Xingzhou’s gaze turned towards him, the cigarette hanging from his mouth, his eyes slightly narrowed.
His pupils were pitch black, but the gaze behind the lenses was explicit.
He stared at Qi xing attentively without withdrawing his gaze.
Qi Xing became slightly annoyed.
He remembered how Ye Xingzhou “harassed” him at the art gallery before and felt uncomfortable all over again.
“What are you looking at?” Qi xing raised his voice, his face showing annoyance.
Ye Xingzhou picked up on these few words and finally spoke, “The son of a nouveau riche?”
“Do you want to know the relationship between me and my godfather?” Qi xing laughed, “cause i won’t tell you.”
After saying that, he changed his mind, walked closer to Ye Xingzhou, and deliberately provoked him by getting in his face.
“How about this? Since you don’t seem to care much about sir Lin anyway, you let me have him.
I’ll help you build face in front of my godfather, so you don’t have to go through the trouble of painting and giving gifts with a forced smile.
Maybe my godfather will look at you with more favor.”
Getting too close, they had already passed the safe distance, but Qi xing didn’t realize it himself.
Ye Xingzhou calmly looked at him, his gaze piercing through him as he slowly uttered, “I refuse.”
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