"Pretend what?" She frowned, not really expecting him to see through the mask that she had put on to hide her emotions.
"Pretend to be normal and all focused when you are clearly not." His voice was only loud enough for the two to hear.
"But I am normal, nothing to pretend." She faked a laugh to prove her point.
"Are you?" He looked right into her eyes, making sure she felt the pressure of his gaze. And she sure did as she gave up soon after and lowered her gaze to look away from him. She didn't want to be the damsel in distress all the time and let him know how weak she was deep inside.
As she broke the eye contact, Wu Zhang placed the knuckle of his index finger beneath her chin and made her look at him. "Tell me you are fine and I will let it go."
Song Jia felt quite baffled and looked at him with an expression of disbelief. Giving up, she asked, "I can't understand how do you always know it?"
"So you agree that you are distracted?" Wu Zhang asked with a soft smile. His notion about this woman in front of him could never go wrong. She was like an open book to him—every word of which he had memorized by heart. They hadn't been together for more than seven months, but he understood her more than any person she had in her life ever could.
"Fine, yeah I do." She nodded her head and sighed after shrugging her shoulders. She knew there was no point denying it because he understood her too well. But it still always amused her that, how well he could read her in such a short span of time.
"What is it then?" He asked patiently to hear out to his damsel in distress.
"I just heard someone calling my mom's maiden name. I guess... she is here." The awkwardness in her voice was very evident because even she was not sure if it was actually her mother or some other woman with the same name. And not to forget that her mother was tagged a lot many names after she ran away with someone else, leaving behind her sick daughter and husband.
Wu Zhang didn't need to be told which mom she was talking about. She had never called Yue Ling her mom so it was obviously her birth mother Liu Anna. After noticing the anxious look on her face, Wu Zhang knew what was going on in her mind. He could not fathom the intensity of the pain that she was feeling at that moment, but he knew it was too stinging to bear. He had no idea how it felt like to grow up without the love of your parents, but from the look of her face, he knew it had been quite painful for her.
He gently patted the back of her palm that was resting on her thigh. So... you want to meet her?"
Song Jia shrugged her shoulders and then shook her head. "To be honest, at least for once, I do."
After almost an hour more, it was time to auction the final object of the evening—the qipao donated by Mo Biyu. Two men who were a part of the organizing team came upon the stage with a mannequin that was wrapped in the exquisite qipao and placed it beside the auctioneer.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is finally time to auction this beautiful mulberry silk qipao that has been embroidered with the finest threads made of pure gold. However, the real beauty of this qipao is not the gold thread, but its inspiration itself. It was designed by the great designer Ye Bolin after being inspired by the famous 'Lotus and Birds' painting by the great artist of all times Bada Shanren. There is only a single piece of this made in the entire world exclusively for its owner, which needs no introduction—Mrs. Wu Mo Biyu. Coming straight from the collection of Madam Wu and to had been designed by the greatest artist of his time, the opening bid for this qipao should be no less than one hundred and fifty million dollars." With such words, the bidding started and no one held back in the race to acquire such a masterpiece.
"Two hundred million dollars!" Someone quoted.
"Two hundred and twenty million." Another person increased the bid.
"Three hundred million dollars I heard. Bring your bid." The auctioneer left no stone unturned to hike the price.
When the price reached up to five hundred million and everyone thought it will increase no more, a gentle feminine voice shocked everyone. "Six hundred million dollars."
All the heads turned in the direction of the voice to find out it was none other than Zhao Li Ming sitting in the second row. Even Wu Zhang and Mo Biyu looked at her with a surprised expression. Six hundred million dollars for this qipao was a little too much. The maximum they were expecting it to reach was five hundred million dollars because of its history and the owner.
"Miss Zhao Li Ming has bid for six hundred million dollars. Is there anyone else willing to pay a higher amount for this gorgeous qipao?"
"Six hundred and ten million dollars." A male voice came from the crowd.
Zhao Li Ming frowned and rose her bid to another level that no one could beat. "Seven hundred million dollars."
After waiting for some time and counting to three, when no one came to bid more, the auctioneer struck his gavel against the big round sound block and declared the qipao 'sold' for seven hundred million dollars to Zhao Li Ming. To seal the deal, she was asked to go up on the stage and sign the papers there itself. Zhao Li Ming smiled and walked gracefully.
Song Jia cocked her head glanced at Zhao Li Ming to observe her from top to bottom. She noticed that she was wearing a gown from the most expensive range of Gucci's latest spring collection. She knew about it because these gowns had blown the market on the first day of their launch and she had heard a lot of female employees at her company talk about it. Apart from the beautiful face that Zhao Li Ming possessed, her make-up was perfectly done with her hair collected into a complicated yet beautiful topknot that she was sure would have required a lot of time to do it to such perfection. From the looks of it, in the eyes of Song Jia, Zhao Li Ming looked like a girl who kept herself updated with everything going on in the fashion industry. All Song Jia could think at that time was, why would such a young girl like Zhao Li Ming be interested in such an old-fashioned qipao? It didn't look like to be of her taste. However, as the auction reached its end, and the deal was finalized in front of the audience, Song Jia brushed the thought off her mind. It was not her concern anyway.
After the long auction, the guests all moved to the dining area. Mo Biyu had excused herself to meet with a few other important guests of her, leaving Song Jia and Wu Zhang to themselves. Song Jia still had that unsettling feeling in her heart regarding her mother and wanted to be alone for the time being. She saw that many people were approaching Wu Zhang to suck up to him but she didn't want to indulge herself in the small talk anymore. All she did was to stand there and smile. Realizing she needed some space, she finally excused herself and headed to the restroom that was in a much quieter end of the hall.
Without the sound of her high heels clicking, she was walking lost in her own thoughts when she heard a tender female voice at the U-turn of the corridor. "Xiao Ming you know she was Song Jia, why did you go to her looking for trouble?"
Song Jia frowned hearing her name and her feet unconsciously stopped. Who was this woman talking about her, she thought to herself.