The first song ended as the band playing in the corner came to a stop.
Dancing pairs all around the hall ended with all sorts of different moves and bowed gracefully to their partners before turning their gazes to a small area in the middle that had been deliberately vacated.
There, a couple that seemed worlds apart in their appearance had also come to a halt.
Some guests hid their secret disappointment. Others revealed disdain.
In such ‘upper-class’ social situations, the social dance was naturally an important part of a party’s social interaction. One could more or less tell a person's background from their dance moves.
Prior to this, many present had practiced their dance steps diligently, secretly looking forward to being chosen as Ji Zhixiu's dance partner at this birthday banquet and showing off their skills…
They were all confident that with their status and ability, they would be able to obtain this honor. At the very least, this limelight would only be stolen by those comparable to themselves.
Yet unexpectedly, a fellow that had never been heard of before had popped up and became the target of Miss Ji’s favor.
Naturally, these people gritted their teeth in secret. While not exasperated, they couldn’t help but compare themselves to the other party. Apart from his appearance, everything else about this person seemed to be ordinary and even his dance steps were rather jerky. All in all, he was just like a simple ordinary person, and these other guests couldn’t help harboring some dark expectations, such as tripping over his feet while dancing…
Unfortunately, although Lin Jie's performance was average, he performed steadily from beginning to end and even got to chat and laugh happily with Miss Ji.
With one hand firmly holding on to Ji Zhixiu's hand and the other supporting the latter's waist, Lin Jie executed the simplest of ending poses and let out a silent sigh of relief.
Dancing and all that… was still a little difficult for someone like him who had been cooped up in a bookstore for years, especially when he still had to shield out the shifty gazes from all around him.
After the music stopped, Ji Zhixiu consciously released her hand from Lin Jie's shoulder and took a step back, lifting the hem of her skirt and bowing elegantly. “Thank you for your guidance. Each time speaking with you makes me realize my ignorance and shallowness… and I always benefit greatly.”
"Don’t mention it! You’re an old customer of mine after all, and I’ve always viewed ‘after-sales’ service with great importance. But then, we've known each other for almost half a year. There's no need to be so… formal, we can just get along like normal friends do.”
Lin Jie smiled helplessly as he watched Zhixiu, who was shining brightly today, bow toward him. He wondered if it was because Miss Ji had been at her lowest point when she walked into the bookstore on that rainy night, making her psychologically feeble in the face of Lin Jie.
Or had the first conversation which he dominated and led been too intense that she developed a mental frailty?
It just felt that… Miss Ji seemed overly deferential. In other words, she had already been ‘shaped by Lin Jie.’
While such an outcome could also be considered intentional, Lin Jie would feel a little guilty if he went overboard…
Ji Zhixiu pursed her lips. For a moment, she looked fearful and troubled, but then after a moment’s hesitation, she finally nodded stiffly. “You’re right. I’ll treat you like a friend.”
While it was extremely difficult for her to treat an entity stronger than Supreme-rank as a friend, she had to try her best to acquiesce since it was Mr. Lin’s request.
"…" Had it not been for the fact that this occasion was a serious affair, Lin Jie wanted to facepalm and sigh.
Look at how stiff you are. Clearly, you aren’t relaxed at all! Why does it feel like I’m giving you an order? It feels like you are being even more cautious than before!
Lin Jie was complaining inwardly when he saw a young man with auburn hair decked out in a luxurious suit approach. He held a glass of wine in his hand and gave Ji Zhixiu an appropriate smile before raising his glass.
"Long time no see, Miss Ji."
Ji Zhixiu frowned imperceptibly. The person in front of her was no ordinary noble. He was a direct descendant of a magician family and one of the more powerful forerunners of the current age. He was talented and had similarly reached Pandemonium-rank at quite a young age.
As Fitch had learned, there were many transcendent beings at this banquet.
In the past, Ji Zhixiu would have worked hard to befriend these people and gain more leverage for Rolle Resource. Furthermore, she would pick suitable collaborators among them to back herself, her father, and the whole Rolle Resource… It was a fate she couldn’t avoid.
But now, with Mr. Lin as a backing, these people were dispensable.
"It's been awhile," Ji nodded.
Though such people were no longer of value, necessary courtesies still needed to be kept, thus, she made the customary introductions to Lin Jie. "John Fred, second son of the Freds."
She deliberated and decided not to introduce Lin Jie to John.
Firstly, Mr. Lin's identity had to be revealed when the two sides announced their cooperation later. Only then would it be intimidating enough.
Secondly… She didn't deem it necessary to introduce Mr. Lin to such worthless people; it would be much too demeaning.
Naturally, Lin Jie didn’t know what Ji Zhixiu was thinking. With a smile, he extended his hand politely. “Hello.”
John, on the other hand, had a strange look on his face. He didn’t offer his hand but raised an eyebrow and looked at Ji Zhixiu. After waiting for a moment, he realized that Ji Zhixiu had no intention of continuing the introductions, so then scrutinized Lin Jie with interest.
Of course, it wasn't from embarrassment. His expression was a mixture of surprise, sarcasm, realization, and gloating.
In his opinion, there were only two situations where only one party was introduced. The first being that one party was known to everyone, while the second was that this person wasn’t worth introducing.
He had never seen this young dark-haired man in front of him, which meant that the first scenario was completely impossible.
Therefore, it could only be the second possibility… I never imagined that this fellow is just a shield that Ji Zhixiu pulled over! She actually resorted to this just because she doesn’t want to pick one of us as a future partner…
Smirking every so slightly, he asked, “May I ask, Miss Ji, doesn’t this gentleman not have a name? It should be fair to introduce both parties, right? That’s basic etiquette.”
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Feeling pleased with himself, John’s smile widened as he continued, “Even if there is a great disparity in status, it would be way too embarrassing to just introduce one party.”
"…?" Ji Zhixiu was confused.
Yes, it is indeed. But why aren’t you so pleased with yourself instead of being embarrassed? Was the humiliation not strong enough or are you actually a masochist? But now isn’t the time to be considering this.
Ji Zhixiu's gaze lingered on Lin Jie's hanging palm and her heart clenched when she looked up toward his face.
The bookstore owner's smile had disappeared.