—Xu Lin Conglomerate Headquarters, 82nd floor. In a sleek modern office with ceiling-high windows, a young man paced anxiously.
"The call could not connect..."
"The call could not connect..."
"Damn it!" The mobile phone struck the wall and broke apart. The young man roughly pulled a hand through his hair. "Where's that old man gone to..."
A single desk and a plush office chair stood alone in that large reflective room. A thin but wide computer screen glowed, a complex spreadsheet with many red-marked numbers displayed. Several documents were scattered haphazardly on the desk's surface, and above them lay a newspaper. The headline: "Xu Lin Conglomerate Robbed, President Xu Wei Missing or Guilty?"
Su Mei reports: This morning, an unthinkable event happened. The corporate giant Xu Lin Conglomerate, whose financial prowess has earned it the rank of the top business in the world, is on the brink of collapse.
The reason for this is the sudden disappearance of President Xu Wei, the founder and CEO of Xu Lin Conglomerate. He was last sighted attending a conference yesterday noon. Sometime afterward, President Xu is said to have boarded a private jet to an unknown destination. At the same time it was revealed that 70% of the Conglomerate's assets had been removed. Trillions of yuan are now missing.
It is nearly a certainty that these two disappearances are related. The question shaking the world is, where did all that money go?
The handset phone on the desk began to ring. Xu Mingling snarled and viciously took the call. "What is it?"
His father's secretary answered, "Manager Xu, several investors are on the line asking about..."
"I don't know!" Xu Mingling snapped. "The old man never told me anything. I hadn't seen him for the past five years."
Xu Lin Conglomerate's stocks are nosediving. Investors are clamoring for explanations and demanding a refund of their investments. Xu Lin Conglomerate is swiftly heading towards bankruptcy with the struggle over the remaining 30% of their financial assets. Many are wondering who will take responsibility for the insurmountable debts and damage caused to all of Xu Lin Conglomerate's affiliated businesses, which number thousands all across the world. This event is surely the biggest financial disaster of the century.
The board of directors has temporarily appointed President Xu's son, Xu Mingling, to take charge of the situation. Attempts have been made to contact Manager Xu Mingling, but he has refused to give a statement. In recent interviews, the top executive officers are reported to have no knowledge of the former President Xu's whereabouts. The Economic Observer will continue investigations into this matter...
"Manager Xu, President Tian of F&S Corp wishes to speak with you."
Xu Mingling scrubbed his face with his hand. "Put him on," he said resignedly. In this position, he couldn't dare offend his father's old friend.
Click. The secretary connected his line with President Tian.
"President Tian, it is an honor to speak with you," Xu Mingling said.
A kindly old voice came from across the line. "Ah, little Mingling. I haven't seen you since your birthday. Are you well?"
Xu Mingling forced a friendly voice. "President Tian, don't joke. Under these circumstances, how could I possibly be well..." His hand gripped the edge of the desk so hard that his knuckles turned white like a ghost.
The voice on the other end sighed. "Yes, that's true. What a terrible thing to happen... For your father to disappear and leave such a burden on a promising youth such as yourself, this truly is unfortunate. But little Mingling, no need to be so formal. Call me Uncle Tian just like when you were a cute child."
"... Of course, Uncle Tian."
"Good, good. Now, about the matter of Xu Lin Conglomerate... Little Mingling, what are your plans? Surely this is too much, even for you. It may put me in a difficult spot, but this uncle is willing to hold out a hand if it's for little Mingling. I have always thought very fondly of you, as if you were my own son. It pains me to see you face such troubles alone."
With a false angelic tone, Xu Mingling said, "A thousand thanks for your kindness, Uncle Tian, but I must follow my own path. As a Xu, how can I back down in the face of adversity?"
President Tian sighed sadly. "Such a strong-willed child... Ah, little Mingling! This uncle worries for you. Come, accept my help. Not everyone would be so kind. Don't you know how many would want to take advantage of this situation?"
What a hypocrite, Xu Mingling furiously thought. "My heart is set, Uncle Tian, but I will never forget your generosity."
"All right, I can tell when to admit defeat. But little Mingling, if anything happens, know that you can always come to me for help."
"Then, let us talk again some other time."
"Definitely," Xu Mingling said, pressing the button to end the call. When the dial tone sounded, he slammed the phone into the receiver. "Definitely not, damned opportunistic scum! You're nothing but a dog nipping at my ankles while pretending to be a puppy!!" Xu Mingling roared at the ceiling. "Curse you to hell!" He kicked his desk, making the heavy metal shake.
Seething, Xu Mingling dropped into his chair and crossed his arms. He cursed at President Tian, the investors, the useless old farts in the company, and most of all, his father who disappeared without a trace! He angrily swept the newspaper off the desk and set to organizing the documents.
In any case, he had no more time to waste. He needed to do everything in his power to preserve Xu Lin Conglomerate!
Xu Mingling threw himself into his work. He contributed all of his personal assets to the company, sold off everything unnecessary, ruthlessly commanded negotiations, and began a full-scale restructuring of the Conglomerate. Two weeks passed in the blink of an eye.
Outside of Xu Lin Conglomerate HQ, a tall and shaggy-haired young man squeezed through the massive crowd of protesters. Arriving at the guard blockade, he flashed an ID and swiftly slipped through the opening they made for him. The crowd shouted and booed, madly waving their signs.
The messy young man walked through the dead silent lobby. He took an elevator up to the 82nd floor. He stepped out to another lobby, this one with a few office workers wandering like zombies from overworking. The young man passed them and headed towards the largest office on the floor.
The doors to the office were plastered with signs: "DO NOT OVERLOOK ANY DETAIL" "HURRY UP AND ENTER!" "If something goes wrong because you decided it 'wasn't important', I WILL KILL YOU".
Normally, Xu Mingling detested being bothered by the underlings. After painstakingly reviewing the company's records, however, he'd discovered thousands of small inconsistencies. These inconsistencies, dating back through several years, had hidden the sale of the Conglomerate's non-liquid assets and the embezzlement of their funds. Those inconsistencies were what led to Xu Lin Conglomerate's downfall! Of course Xu Mingling could never allow such a thing to happen again, so he put it on himself to make sure every report was entirely in order.
Wordlessly, the young man entered the office.
There Xu Mingling sat. The once uselessly empty office had been filled with towers of documents and notes. Xu Mingling himself furiously typed on the computer, his fingers flying so quickly they could barely be seen.
Exhaustion clearly left its mark on him. His shiny hair grew dull, and dark bags ringed his eyes.
Without pausing in his typing he said, "Zhong Huang. What did you come here for? I've no time to listen to gloating."
"So you know my name after all."
"Of course I do. I'm not so stupid that I can't remember two characters. What, do you want me to keep calling you Servant #1?" Xu Mingling snorted. "You really are a masochist."
Zhong Huang ignored the insult. "Calling me by name is fine."
"Fine." Xu Mingling finished typing, clicked the mouse a few times, then began typing up another storm. After a few minutes he snapped, "If you're just going to watch, leave."
"No... I'm here to bring you this." Zhong Huang stepped forward. From his bag he took out a white box which was only a bit wider than the span of a hand. Gateway Media's logo adorned the center of the box's top.
He placed the box on the desk and swiftly unpacked it. A slim and futuristic visor nested within. He picked it up and showed it to Xu Mingling, who spared it a glance. "And what is that supposed to be?" he asked, unimpressed.
Zhong Huang began, "It's the console for the Virtual Reality game's..."
"Hah?!" Xu Mingling exploded. "You came and wasted my time over a game?! Take a look around! Do I look like I have time to play to you!" He shoved the box off the desk. It fell with a hollow clatter. Zhong Huang docilely picked it up, holding the visor and box to his chest while Xu Mingling continued his rampage. "Blind! You blind man, go get a haircut. Your disgusting long bangs made you unable to see even the obvious. How could I possibly go play games with these hyenas circling the company! I can't even spare time to sleep, and you're telling me to go play games!"
Zhong Huang wordlessly repackaged the visor and moved to leave the box on the corner of the desk.
Xu Mingling kept typing and didn't look over. "I don't need that clutter. You have it, you take it."
"But this..." Zhong Huang hesitated.
"Shut up. You talking back to your master, Servant #1? I said take it! Or what, maybe you think that's not enough? Here!"
Xu Mingling reached into his pocket and took out his wallet. He grabbed several hundred thousand Yuan and threw it at Zhong Huang's face.
"There! Severance payment for twelve years of work, servant. Now get out of my sight. I never want to see you around again. Honestly, someone like you... Hurry up and disappear!" Xu Mingling swiftly turned back to face the computer screen. But unlike his proud posture before, his head was bowed, and his long black hair fell in a curtain obscuring his face.
It's obvious to anyone that someone as arrogant and detestable as Xu Mingling had no friends. He bullied others and treated them like trash, coercing people to serve him using the power of his father's enormous economic and political power. Now that both his mother and father were gone, the closest person to him was actually the one he called Servant #1. Zhong Huang was, in a twisted way, his only childhood friend. But in the first place, Xu Mingling had forced Zhong Huang to remain by his side. Now that Xu Mingling had lost all of his wealth and status, what could possibly keep this coerced servant at his side?
Once Zhong Huang left, Xu Mingling would truly be alone.
But how could he dare beg him to stay!
If the only way was to pitifully depend on someone else's generosity, Xu Mingling would rather bite off his tongue and die!
The other four servants surely rejoiced the devil Xu Mingling's withdrawal from university. By now they were certainly spreading rumors about the tyrannical and hateful demon who humiliated them on a daily basis, laughing over his misfortune. "That bitch Xu Mingling. He was so proud, but now look how far he's fallen!"
Imagining the horrid shame he'd suffer if Zhong Huang, who had once earnestly proclaimed himself Xu Mingling's hero, were to laugh and say such a thing to him, Xu Mingling desperately shouted, "Leave!!"
But when he looked up, Zhong Huang had already gone.