Half an hour before the ball was all free activity. Lu Shaoyue brought Ye Shuang around the cruise, and they basically spent that half an hour greeting people that came from all walks of life. Some they knew, others they did not.
It was naturally Zuo Yuanhang and his wife who had the first dance. After the host stepped onto the dance floor, those that dance partners also joined them. Lu Shaoyue had a dance with Ye Shuang, and after that, it was time for people to change dance partners and interact with the other guests.
Ye Shuang and Lu Shaoyue were not in a relationship, so of course, they did not have to stay at each other's side—they only needed to show up and leave together. Therefore, as they parted from each other, Lu Shaoyue was dragged away from one of the other guests, and Zuo Yuanhang's assistant came over to invite Ye Shuang.
"Please take a seat." She entered a room that was decorated differently from a normal resting room. Zuo Yuanhang was already sitting inside. Since she had not really interacted with him as Sister Shuang before, the affection points that had been gained by Brother Shuang had no use here. After Sister Shuang entered, Zuo Yuanhang lifted his head slightly as greeting before cutting right to the point. "You should have studied the information on those six people already. Now they are all at the party, I wonder how you are planning to go about this."
The assistant exited the room and closed the door softly. Ye Shuang walked forward and sat down at a respectful distance from Zuo Yuanhang. She turned to look at the large screen that Zuo Yuanhang had set up between them. The screen showed the image of the party that was still ongoing. There was also a laptop sitting on the coffee table between them—the screen of the laptop was separated into smaller screens, and each small screen represented a surveillance camera. The screen could be enlarged if they wanted to have a closer look at that particular screen. The one showing on the large screen now was the part of the main hall.
"Albert has already approached one of them this afternoon, and based on their interaction, the man can be removed from the suspect pool." Ye Shuang looked for the other candidates on the screen.
Zuo Yuanhang sipped at the coffee and raised his brows. "Oh?"
"The person is suffering from some old age disease, and the doctor is suggesting for him to slow down his lifestyle. His son just bought a villa on the Australian east coast, and it looks like it's for him to prepare for his recovery. The elder has started to adjust his lifestyle to one of a retiree. To put it in another way, this man has already prepared to retire from the scene. Albert's speculation is that he will leave your company within the next six months—at most, it will not be more than a year. He plans to live off the shares that he has in your company."
Ye Shuang finished the information that she had gathered and picked up the coffee jug to pour herself a cup. She stirred it with the spoon twice before lifting her head to continue. "If Mr. Zuo is worried, you can go and investigate the immigration request. Currently, there are so many people on the cruise. If you say you're just concerned about the company's elder workers, there will be people who are willing to help Mr. Zuo investigate stuff like this."
Zuo Yuanhang looked at Ye Shuang and then picked up his phone to call and give some orders. Then he sat back down and said, "If this is real, the news did come at the right time. Elder Lee is probably afraid that it might create chaos among the people underneath him if the news of his imminent departure is leaked, but he has hidden it so well that when he suddenly leaves, I will be the one who will suffer from his sudden movement. After all, I need time to adjust to the change in the company's structure."
"Our talent demands such a high price, so of course they will not disappoint Mr. Zuo," Ye Shuang said politely as she lowered her head to twist open the rose blooms on her bracelet. The petals opened to reveal the communication device that was hidden underneath. "Albert, now you can move toward your nine o'clock and stop for a while before the champagne tower. Wait a minute… Okay, now pick up the bottle of Boerl and Kroff champagne. Yes, the entire bottle and walk away."
Zuo Yuanhang was listening to Ye Shuang's orders, but he kept his eyes on the camera that was pointing at the champagne tower. The timing was just perfect. Just as Albert who grabbed the bottle of champagne and was about to turn away, one of the six suspects immediately rushed over to stop him. Then, the two-started a conversation based on the champagne that Albert had in his hands.
"Do you mind explaining?" Zuo Yuanhang tossed his gaze toward Ye Shuang.
"I've met the man's date on the deck before. I heard her mention that this particular bottle of champagne that will be served during the party. However, there are hidden rules at the party as well. An invited guest of course will have no problem getting the bottle, but the girl is just a model—she is not qualified enough to take something like this." Ye Shuang smiled. "Therefore, I guess the reason she has been grumbling to our target and the way she kept turning her head to look at the champagne table should be to call our target to help her grab a glass. It's fine if my guess is wrong—after all, there will be other chances."
Plus, I can always take the bottle back to my room to enjoy.
Zuo Yuanhang stared at Ye Shuang for half a minute before he opened his lips to say, "The price for that 1.5 liters of Boerl and Kroff champagne is 1.5k. The party only prepared ten bottles in total…"
Furthermore, they had not been served all at once as the party host would replace the bottle at certain intervals.
"Really‽ That's so expensive!" Ye Shuang pretended to be shocked.
"Since the price is that high, I'll have Albert put it back later." Ye Shuang felt regret. Her original plan was to act dumb and have Albert bring the bottle back to their room.
Zuo Yuanhang looked at Ye Shuang for half a minute and picked up the phone again. "Since Miss Ye likes this, I'll have someone reserve a bottle for you."
Then he called to make the order.
Ye Shuang replied politely. Her face was smiling in such a way that it felt like she was saying, "Oh, you're being too kind to me."
When they turned back to the surveillance, Albert had already successfully gained contact with the suspect. Holding the champagne, he walked next to the guy as they moved back to the seat where the model was waiting.
Due to the angle, Albert could not have seen every single candidate as they wandered about the dance hall. He could not have turned his head around constantly to look for them, as it would have been too obvious. However, with Ye Shuang monitoring everything from the dark, it was quite simple to come up with a few 'chance encounters'. He had managed to form a relationship with some of the suspects while he only greeted others with a nod. He shared a few conversations with them before leaving. After all, the cruise would last for three days and two nights, so he did not need to interact with all of the targets in one night. He left an impression with some of them and would find a chance later.
When she was monitoring the situation, Ye Shuang saw that Albert had entered his working mode, and she relaxed. She placed her focus on the other people at the ball. She and Zuo Yuanhang did not stay inside the room the entire time. As the host, Zuo Yuanhang was required to leave once in a while to greet the guests. On Ye Shuang's part, she would occasionally leave the room to have a dance with Lu Shaoyue to show that she had not forgotten about her date.
When the ball was half way done and was almost nearing the end, Ye Shuang, who was looking at the surveillance footage, seemed to realize something was wrong. "Huh‽"
Zuo Yuanhang raised his eyes to look her way. "Is there a problem?"
Ye Shuang scratched her chin. "It's nothing serious. Is Mr. Zuo's family trying to educate the children to be independent from such a young age?"
"Hmm?" Zuo Yuanhang frowned like he could not understand the sudden jump in conversation. "Please do describe it in more detail. I don't quite understand what you mean."
After two hours of cooperation, Zuo Yuanhang's approval of Sister Shuang had almost reached the state of approval he had for Brother Shuang. From his perspective, people with power deserved respect, no matter their gender.
"I just saw your son and daughter… look." Ye Shuang pointed at one of the screens. "The one on the top right, the dessert table. That corner where the cherry cake is placed, see?"
Zuo Yuanhang followed Ye Shuang's finger and saw the two children sharing a cherry cake among themselves, their lips covered with the dessert. Of course, that was not the point, the point was that there was no guardian watching over them.
"Don't tell me Mr. Zuo's family allows the children to play on their own in a situation like this, do they? Forgive me, but this is fine if it's at home. However, now we're on a ship, and there are too many security threats." Ye Shuang frowned and could not help herself from commenting.
When she ran into the two kids feeding the puppy at Zuo Yuanhang's parents' place, she had felt a certain way about it. One of the kids was seven and the other three. The older one might already know her alphabet, but the three year old was a mere toddler. Even though they knew that the big sister would not lead her brother purposely to somewhere dangerous, ultimately, the two kids were still quite young. Who could guarantee that they would not suddenly come up with a strange idea? Furthermore, they were just kids, so it was always a chance that people on the dance floor might bump into them because they could not see them.
Zuo Yuanhang had a deeper frown than Ye Shuang. His lips were stretched thin, and he said, "It should my wife who is watching over them, but now…"
"Toilet… No, I mean, perhaps Mrs. Zuo is slightly preoccupied at the moment?"
Zuo Yuanhang stared at Ye Shuang before picking up the phone. "I'll have my assistant go take a look."
As she was worried about, Ye Shuang saw the two kids did run into someone. The big sister was fine, but it was the younger boy who was not looking ahead because his eyes were locked on the cake in his hands. The girl was looking around, so the boy bounced into someone's leg with his head. He collapsed to the ground with his butt first, and then the cake toppled and fell on his shirt.
Han Chu turned around when he felt something knocked into his leg. He lowered his head because that something touched his leg. Han Chu was holding a plate of Black Forest cake when he looked down, and he saw a boy who on the ground next to him. There was a half-eaten cake that rolled away, and the thick butter cream dirtied the boy's shirt.
The boy was already feeling sad from the pain of the fall. When he saw the ruined cake and the dirtied clothes, his lips tightened, and his large eyes brimmed with water.
"Little brother!" The girl was also spooked. She immediately squatted down to inspect her brother's condition. She reached out her hands to touch her brother's head, saying, "Don't cry, don't cry. Here, I'll help you rub the pain away."
"You're lying!" The boy choked on his words and complained, "It's still so painful."
"Err…" The girl was flustered, and she bit her finger. "But that is what the auntie always say will work."
The boy brushed at his tears and puffed up his cheeks. "The grown-ups are all liars. Mom also said that she will return in a minute!"
The girl thought about it and nodded. "You're right."
Han Chu squatted down, and his dark eyes looked at the boy seriously. Then he turned to look at the girl. Seeing the resemblance, he asked, "Zuo Yuanhang's kids?"
"Huh? You know our father‽" The two children were in the middle of discussing whether all adults were liars, but when they heard their father's name, they immediately turned around. After the topic was turned away, the boy suddenly remembered his shirt that was now dirtied. The sadness that he felt earlier returned, and tears started to circle in his eyes again.
Ye Shuang also saw that on the screen. She immediately pulled Zuo Yuanhang back and said, "There's no need to trouble other people. I'll just have Brother Han send the kids to the resting room."
Then, she changed the channel to contact Han Chu. "Brother Han, please bring the two children to the nearby resting area. Someone will be there to take over from you."
Han Chu accepted the message and replied with a light grunt. He then turned back to the two kids. "Shall I bring you two to the resting area? Your father is looking for you."
This warm news did not gain a good reception from the two kids. Instead, Han Chu saw the two kids suck in a cold breath in unison, and their eyes were widened with terror. It felt like they were not going to go meet their father but a monster. Their small voice even changed slightly. "Father‽"
Yes, father… It's not even your stepfather, what are you so afraid of? Han Chu felt quite speechless then. Just how did the Zuo family normally educate their kids?
Using the cake in his hands to comfort the little boy, Han Chu led the two kids to the resting area and handed them over to the assistant. He greeted the assistant with a nod and then returned to the dance floor. The assistant brought the two to the room where Zuo Yuanhang was, and the mission was completed.
The screen was still showing the situation in the dance hall. Since Albert no longer needed her assistance, there was no reason for them to avoid the children. The children were still initially anxious, but when they saw there was an aunty whom they did not know inside the room with their family, they started to relax slightly. Zuo Yuanhang normally would not educate his children directly in the presence of outsiders.
Ye Shuang looked at Zuo Yuanhang. "Do you need me to leave?"
The two children immediately revealed an expression of pleading, and Ye Shuang understood what Han Chu was feeling earlier. Zuo Yuanhang looked at the two children and then shook his head at Ye Shuang. "There's no need—the party is ending soon. Now everyone should be turning their attention to this place, waiting for me to come out. It's better if you leave after a little while."
After resolving Ye Shuang's concern, it was time to deal with the kids. Using the same tone, Zuo Yuanhang asked the pair that obediently walked toward him, "Where is your mother?"
The two shared a look, and the girl answered rather nervously, "Mom said that she has to go do something and told us not to wander about. She said she'd be back soon"
Did she really need to use the toilet? Ye Shuang thought.
Zuo Yuanhang frowned. "When was this?"
The girl probably had gotten used to her father's interrogation method, so she replied with just the important details. "It was after you came out and left."
"Then, hasn't that been half an hour already?" Ye Shuang was shocked. It looked like this was not an urgency of the bladder but something else!
The area around Zuo Yuanhang froze, and Ye Shuang pulled over the two kids to herself. She patted their heads to console them and then thought about it. "Mrs. Zuo probably really is in the bathroom. I mean, she perhaps has an emergency. She probably knows you're watching over the kids, so she knows it will be fine to leave the kids in the dance hall."
"She doesn't know about this," Zuo Yuanhang said calmly. "My wife doesn't have a share or role at the company. She is only responsible for family business, so it is not my habit to share work-related stuff with her."
A stay-at-home mom did not have the skill to understand business talk, and many things would just be complaining. In that case, why waste the energy to talk? Ye Shuang was silent. If Zuo Yuanhang was right, this meant that Mrs. Zuo was indeed quite irresponsible.
"Other than this time, has there been any other time when your mother left suddenly and did not ask people to look after you?" Zuo Yuanhang narrowed his eyes and continued the interrogation. Ye Shuang scratched her face and stood up. "I think I should leave."
People might see her leave the room. However, there was more than one resting room, and she could just say she went there to rest because she was not feeling so well. Why would she stay to get into other people's family business‽
Zuo Yuanhang also felt it was awkward for her to say, so he nodded to give his agreement. Ye Shuang quickly found her escape. Just as she closed the door, she heard Zuo Yuanhang ask, "How many times this has happened already? Tell me everything you can remember…"
Ye Shuang walked away from the door, and when the music and conversation drifted into her ears, she finally stopped hearing what happened next. Based on Zuo Yuanhang's personality, he probably saw Mrs. Zuo as nothing more than a working partner. They worked together to have children and worked together to raise a family.
Obviously, this partner had failed in her role, and it was not shocking for Zuo Yuanhang to come up with a solution to fix this problem. Once the female leader of the family was stripped of certain power, if the female did not have her own private source of income, one could imagine her status at the family. At this point, Ye Shuang sighed on Mrs. Zuo's behalf.
Marrying a powerful man was a good thing but if this man had no interest in you at all privately, then that might not be such a good thing. She had just returned to the dance floor when Lu Shaoyue came over to her. "The party is ending soon. I haven't seen you around. Were you catching up with a friend?"
"I was just sitting at the resting area, chatting with a friend." Ye Shuang smiled and tossed the issue with Mrs. Zuo out of her mind. She accepted Lu Shaoyue's hand and joined him on the dance floor. "However, it seems you've been quite busy, haven't you? I actually spotted you multiple times, but you always had someone around him, so I did not have a chance to cut in."
Lu Shaoyue smiled. "If Miss Ye is willing, I can keep a permanent spot for Miss Ye open next to me."
He he… He just flirted with me. What should I do‽
Ye Shuang smiled and skirted around the question. Lu Shaoyue was tactful enough to change the subject after he did not get the response he wanted. He then started to introduce Ye Shuang to the people who were there. He gave her a brief introduction to these people's background.
After they danced for two songs, they rested. Before Zuo Yuanhang came out to announce the end of the ball, Ye Shuang caught sight of Mrs. Zuo. Mrs. Zuo came back from the outside deck, and it looked like she had not been around the dance hall. Not long after her return, a man also came back from the outside deck.
It would have been fine if both of them used the front door. After all the outside deck was very large, and it was not uncommon for the guest to go out there to take a breather. However, the deck that faced the balcony was very small, and it was only normally used as an emergency exit. There was not even a chair to sit outside, and there was no view, so what could Mrs. Zuo have been doing out there?
Ye Shuang thought about it, and even though she had an idea, she decided to mind her own business. The husband was not passionate, and the wife did not seem like she was into it either. Based on Zuo Yuanhang's detached personality, Ye Shuang would not have been surprised if it was exposed that Mrs. Zuo had an extra-marital affair.
"What's on your mind?" Lu Shaoyue realized that Ye Shuang was spacing out.
"Hmm?" Ye Shuang returned to reality, and she saw Albert raising his glass to her. "It's nothing. A friend is calling me. I'm sorry, I'll need to excuse myself again."
Lu Shaoyue followed Ye Shuang's gaze and saw Albert. He brows creased with a smile, and he quickly relaxed. "Of course, I'm not one to hog all of your time."
Ye Shuang smiled and apologized to him before walking toward Albert.