The reactions of Tiannan City's elite upon their arrival were decidedly worth going bankrupt for. Hell, if Li Yundong snapped photos of those gobsmacked expressions and sold them afterwards, he could probably earn back the 70 thousand yuan he'd splurged on clothes.
The sounds of smashing glass drew Li Yundong's attention towards his right. A poor waiter appeared to be losing his grip on reality as well as the tray he was holding in his right hand. Seconds later, the tray joined the rest of the broken flutes in the puddle of alcohol on the floor.
Li Yundong gave the hall a quick scan, half-expecting to see the same thing occurring to the other waitstaff in the hall. He didn't see any fallen trays or broken flutes, though he did notice something that came across as amusing. Another waiter with a champagne bottle was refilling a guest's flute. Or at least he would be if the champagne actually went into the flute instead of onto the poor guest's expensive-looking suit. The fact that the guest himself hadn't noticed his own wardrobe disaster spoke volumes regarding the effect a dolled-up Su Chan had on people.
Good. That'll teach these snobbish socialites to judge a person's worth solely by their clothes.
Beside him, Su Chan suddenly hid herself behind his back.
Li Yundong squeezed Su Chan's hand. "What's wrong?"
"I- I'm scared... They're looking at me like they want to devour me."
Li Yundong squeezed her hand again.
"Don't be afraid," Li Yundong said. "I'll be right by your side the whole time."
"Yep. You're my best girl, after all," Li Yundong said. "Now. What say we go find something to satisfy that appetite of yours, hm?"
Su Chan's face lit up instantly. "Okay!"
Even I find her adorable let alone these men, Zhou Qin thought, her eyes fixed upon Su Chan.
"I know right..." Ding Nan answered.
Zhou Qin looked at Ding Nan in mild surprise. Did I say that out loud?
Apparently, she did.
Focus, Zhou Qin!
Zhou Qin glanced at He Shao, then smirked when she noticed his state of stupor.
"He Shao, I'd take my leave now if I were you," Zhou Qin said coldly. "You wouldn't want to stay and be humiliated by an uncultured gigolo, would you now?"
The flush she saw on He Shao's neck and cheeks brought a sense of satisfaction to Zhou Qin.
"I doubt a nobody like him would have the guts to mess with me," He Shao said.
Zhou Qin shook her head and regarded He Shao coldly. Being surrounded by obsequious and unctuous people all his life had no doubt fueled He Shao's delusions of grandeur. While everyone else fawned over the man, Zhou Qin could never bring herself to respect him. So much hubris, all because he had familial connections to a high-ranking bureaucrat.
Zhou Qin tore her gaze away from He Shao. Not even her aloof demeanor could hold back the contempt she felt for that man.
All of a sudden, Zhou Qin smirked.
"No guts, you said?" Zhou Qin said smugly. "Looks like you're about to be proven wrong."
Across the banquet hall, Li Yundong was storming towards them like a man on a mission.
Holding Su Chan's hand, Li Yundong strode past the stunned socialites with his head held high. He'd spotted Zhou Qin at the far end of the hall. She, Ding Nan, and Mr. Douchebag 2.0 were standing together having a conversation.
Li Yundong greeted Zhou Qin with a smile, then shot Douchebag a glare.
"You got anything else to say to me now?" Li Yundong said coldly.
Somehow, the crimson tint he saw on Douchebag's cheeks felt as satisfying as breaking the guy's nose.
Oh, I'm not done with you yet, you son of a bitch.
Li Yundong stepped aside to reveal Su Chan, who'd been hiding behind him during the exchange. Then, he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her to his side.
"This is my girlfriend, Su Chan," Li Yundong said, staring straight into Douchebag's eyes, "the woman you have so graciously insulted a few hours ago."
A silence spread among them until Li Yundong broke it with a derisive sneer.
"You prance around in your nice clothes, acting all high and mighty when in fact you're just a self-righteous and shallow barbarian who hides behind his status! Normal people like us are uncultured and unsophisticated, you said?" Li Yundong released Su Chan and got up into Douchebag's face. "Well, lemme tell you something, pal. You don't know the first thing about virtue! Cultured? You think yourself above others just because you can afford clothes with a flashier name? Don't make me laugh."
Li Yundong stepped back, then rested his hand on the small of Su Chan's back. "My Su Chan never dressed stylishly not because she couldn't, but because she didn't want to!" Li Yundong paused and took in the room full of rich socialites, then smirked. "You rich folks should thank her, since it's obviously an act of kindness on her part. If she walks around in stylish dresses every day, I'm pretty sure you people would end up developing an inferiority complex. Especially those of you who judge people based on appearance alone."
Douchebag's face had turned into a deep shade of scarlet, like the color of a pig's liver.
Li Yundong's smirk faltered and he shot Zhou Qin an apologetic look.
"I'm sorry. I wasn't referring to you guys. I'm aware that not all rich people are like that," Li Yundong said. "To be honest, Su Chan and I had been pretty excited about attending your party. We just never expected to be so thoroughly insulted the moment we got here." Li Yundong glared at Douchebag. "I'm not going to lie. The only reason I brought Su Chan back here tonight is because I wanted this snob to eat his words!"
Douchebag growled. "How dare you—"
"That's enough, He Shao," Zhou Qin cut him off coldly. "You brought this upon yourself. Leave now before I have you removed."
He Shao shot a murderous glare at Li Yundong.
Li Yundong returned the man's glare with twice the ferocity.
Li Yundong felt a wave of satisfaction when he saw fear flash across He Shao's countenance. Their eye contact ended when He Shao took an abrupt step backwards. Then, He Shao gave Zhou Qin a final look before he stormed off.
Li Yundong kept his eyes on He Shao until the latter disappeared from the banquet hall entirely. A taste of your own medicine. He snorted, then turned back to Zhou Qin.
"I'm terribly sorry about all this," Li Yundong said. "I don't think it's right for me to stay at your party after everything that happened. Happy birthday, Zhou Qin. And I hope you enjoy—"
The slight frown between Zhou Qin's brows stilled his words. She almost looked hurt.
Li Yundong sighed. "Look, I know this isn't ideal, but—"
"Hey, Li Yundong, don't you think you're being a little insensitive here?" Ding Nan cut in.
Li Yundong glanced at Ding Nan, his brows arched high.
Ding Nan was smiling at him.
"Seriously, Li Yundong? You're just gonna up and leave after Zhou Qin came to your defense and basically told He Shao to shove it? Real classy of you, buddy. Besides..." Ding Nan paused and tilted her head to side furtively. "I don't think the other guests will be too happy if you leave just like that."
Li Yundong's eyes scanned across the banquet hall. The young men were all stealing glances at Su Chan, whereas the women and older men were staring at him with interest.
Li Yundong sighed. "I don't think—"
"Oh, there you are, Li Yundong! Finally, you're here. We've been looking for you!"
Li Yundong turned to his ten o'clock and saw Feng Na and Cheng Cheng approaching him.
Li Yundong chuckled and waved at the two girls. "Good evening, girls. So who else is here?" he asked.
Feng Na and Zhou Qin exchanged a brief nod.
"Kris and her friends," Feng Na said, pointing at another corner of the hall.
The students from the University of Pennsylvania were all gathered there, chatting and laughing happily as though they owned the place. Looks like the Americans are having fun, Li Yundong thought. Well, they probably have a lot of these events back at their country.
Before Li Yundong could look away, Kris spotted him looking at them. Their eyes met briefly across the room before Kris rolled her eyes and turned away. Chick's out of her damn mind if she thinks she can convince me to accept her as a disciple with that kind of attitude.
Speaking of disciples...
Li Yundong spotted John among the group of foreigners. John was smiling back at him with his champagne flute raised.
Well, at least some people around here knew a thing or two about respect. Even though the person couldn't pronounce sifu worth a shit.
Li Yundong gave John a nod before turning back to Zhou Qin.
Zhou Qin's frown was gone, thank God. Instead, she was smiling at him.
"Enjoy the party, Li Yundong," Zhou Qin said in a voice that was surprisingly warm. "Food's at the head table."
Zhou Qin left after giving Su Chan a brief nod.
Something tells me that this woman isn't your average Jane, Li Yundong thought as he watched Zhou Qin flit about the hall with an elegant gait.
Someone nudged his side.
Turning to his right, Li Yundong saw Feng Na smirking at him.
"So. Welcome to high society," Feng Na said.
Once again, Li Yundong's eyes drifted towards Zhou Qin, who was now conversing with some guy who looked like he wore a lot of polo shirts and had a plethora of golfing buddies. Even from afar, Li Yundong could tell that Zhou Qin was in her element.
"Who is she really?" he asked.
"I asked around earlier," Feng Na said in a low voice. "She's the daughter of some deputy governor."
Li Yundong nearly choked on his own spit.
"I don't get it. With that kind of background, she could study anywhere," Li Yundong said. "What is she even doing in our university?"
"Who knows how these powerful people operate," Feng Na said with a shrug. "Maybe she has her own plans."
Powerful people, huh?
"Shit. The guy I pissed off earlier... Is he from a powerful family as well?"
Feng Na laughed gloatingly. "What's the matter, hm?" Feng Na nudged his side with her elbow. "Scared?"
Li Yundong chuckled instead of answering the question.
Then, Li Yundong felt a tug on his left sleeve. Su Chan was staring at him like a hurt puppy.
"Yundong... Have you forgotten how hungry I am... All you care about is chatting..."
"Crap!" Li Yundong smacked his forehead. "I'm so sorry! I forgot!"
Then, he flashed Feng Na a smile.
"Hey, Su Chan and I are gonna grab some food. We haven't had dinner yet. So. Talk to you later!"
Feng Na smirked. "You skipped dinner on purpose, didn't you? So that you can have an all-you-can-eat buffet here."
Li Yundong chuckled and gave Feng Na a thumbs up. "You know me so well!"
The head table was rectangular in shape and over ten meters long.
Li Yundong laughed when he saw the look on Su Chan's face. He had long since deemed it as her I-haven't-eaten-in-centuries look. Li Yundong smacked Su Chan's hand away when she reached out to grab the entire rotisserie chicken.
"Tsk! Where are your table manners! Grab a plate first, silly," Li Yundong chastised.
A huge pout formed on Su Chan's lips.
"B- but you told me earlier that I can eat anything I want..."
Li Yundong stared at Su Chan, his expression a complex mixture of amusement, exasperation, and adoration.
"My God, you're so silly," he said, pinching Su Chan's cheek. "You can eat all you want, but you must put it into your own plate first."
Su Chan's eyes sparkled.
"Really, really, really? Can I really?"
Li Yundong lifted a chicken drumstick from his plate and bit into it.
"Nope," Li Yundong said around a mouthful of chicken. "I lied. All the food here has been poisoned. You should just stand there and watch me eat."
Su Chan gasped, then stomped her foot.
"Y-You meanie! You promised me I can eat anything I want! You liar!!!"