Yan-Li managed to keep the scandal under wraps while she was considering what course of action to take. After a week, she decided that Providing Yan-Luo with the means to totally break with the Du family and return to Taiwan was the most prudent thing to do.
Although Du-Jie vigorously objected, the parents demanded that he grant Yan-Luo a divorce to eliminate the possibility of the brother’s rivalry over the same woman of erupting into a major family scandal. Yan-Li was appeased by this to some extent but she would never be able forgive or accept her husband again. It galled her that Yan-Luo was being given the chance to leave the mess she created all behind her while the family she had destroyed had to live with the impending bitter split between the brothers.
In a sense, this was a hollow victory for Yan-Luo. True, she had escaped her torturous prison but she had sacrificed a substantial part of her life in the process. When she arrived back in Taiwan her emotions were in turmoil. While the sights and sounds of the city gave her a sense of well being, seeing old friends brought back memories of happy times she would never experience again.
But the most difficult thing was reuniting with her parents. They now realized that it was a mistake to urge her to go to Malaysia to marry Du-Jie and felt a deep sense of guilt that their daughter had suffered so much because of it. The only thing they could do was to cry with her and try to comfort her.
When things had settled down a bit, her thoughts turned to Qian. Was he married or did he have any children? She wanted to locate him but could only gather sketchy accounts of his activities.
While she was in Malaysia, Qian had managed to pay off the family debt, Mo-Fan had graduated from college and had a good job and Mo-Xiu finally returned home and had asked forgiveness from his mother for all the pain he had caused the family. Qian was absorbed in growing his new company, Yin Yang Electronics, into a dominant business empire in Taipei.
Love became the stuff of youthful fairy tales to him. A person can only hold on to love for a limited time in the absence of a mate. After Yan-Luo left for Malaysia, Qian thought about her from time to time, always with an ache in his heart. As time passed, she became only a name in a far off distant country and his once intense feelings for her morphed into a bearable numbness.
His emergence as a stellar businessman was accompanied by an equally impressive rise to prominence in social circles and he was now regarded as the most eligible bachelor in Taipei. His exploits with women were nearly legendary, and his attitude toward relationships had changed to a more pragmatic point of view.
He found that as long as he had money he didn’t have to worry about finding female companions to assuage his physical desires. He had no interest in marriage and always treated his relationships like fast food; breaking up with women and finding new partners before their expectations grew to include thoughts of a long term commitment.
The one exception was Kaori, a former clientele hostess he had met at the men’s club. He was impressed with her general knowledge of the business world and her socializing skills and over time she had become his best friend. He knew that he could trust her and she never pried into his private affairs. She was especially skilled at disarming men hungry for companionship and easily became their confidant which had proven to be invaluable to Qian on several occasions.
Most importantly, she was willing to accept Qian on his own terms and enjoy their time together without any illusions of ever becoming married. She had often told him that her dream was to someday quit her job at the club and become an artist painter. Qian empathized with her, recalling how many of his dreams were smothered by circumstance and bought her an apartment and provided her with a living allowance so she could leave the club and pursue her dream.
They spent time there together when Qian needed respite from his busy schedule. Kaori had converted the apartment into an art studio and was, to his surprise, quite a talented painter. She had a beautiful white phalaenopsis aphrodite plant in the bedroom and had painted a picture of it which she had propped up against the wall beside it so that at first glance, it appeared as if the painting were a reflection in a mirror.
One night Qian was particularly exhausted and was gazing pensively at the bedroom wall; the flowers were only a fuzzy blur in distant stare. Kaori had fallen asleep but suddenly startled awake. She looked at him and could tell by the depressed expression on his face that he was preoccupied with some serious problem but was reluctant to ask him what it was. She could not bear to see the man she loved suffer this way and finally broke the silence.
“What are you thinking? What can I do to help?”
He was silent, reflecting on their relationship with some feelings of guilt. She had been an industrial spy for him extracting information form half drunken executives that would give Yin Yang a competitive advantage in the industry. Although he used this as an excuse to keep their relationship a secret, He wondered if the real reason was to avoid committing to a long term relationship and accepting the resulting encumbrance of elevating her status from mistress to wife.
More likely the justification for his reluctance was his sister-in-law Qin-Yao. She was a perfect example of the club lady stereotype. She purposely manipulated his brother with sexual persuasion to convince him to divorce a devoted wonderful wife just to guarantee herself a future life of luxury. If he were to marry Kaori, society might think that the Yin brothers could only get club women for wives. But deep in his heart he knew that Kaori was different and in fact felt that, ironically, he might be the one using her for his own personal gain.
Despite his misgivings, he finally spoke out what he was contemplating. “Historically, Guang Tong Electronics has suffered from poor management and is on the brink of bankruptcy. There is a rumor that the Japanese corporation, Azumaen, is planning to buy them. If that takeover happens, the resulting monopoly will destroy Yin Yang.”
She instantly sat up; chilled by the implication of his words despite the warm robe she was wearing. “You know that Murakami has a strong desire for me. You promised that I would never have to be close to him again.”
“Yes, I know that but you are the only one that can help me. I know what I promised but I can’t think of any other way to avoid ruin. I have never begged for anything in my life. Do you want me to beg on my knees for this favor?”
“If I meet with Murakami to influence him, I’m afraid I can’t avoid a sexual encounter with him. Can you accept that?”
“For Yin Yang, I will have to bear that sacrifice.”
She could not face him and turned away as tears started to run down her cheeks. “What do you want me to do?”
He knew that even Kaori could not convince Murakami directly to abandon the merger plan but she could feed him false rumors that Guang Tong was in serious trouble with the government and was under investigation by several agencies for fraud and bribery related to government contracts. He just needed to delay their decision long enough to be able to find the financial backing to allow Yin Yang to take over Guang Tong.
The plan succeeded and Qian was able to negotiate with Yuan-Mei, his brother’s ex-wife, to purchase Guang Tong and form a new profitable business partnership. Kaori was exuberant not only over the success of their strategy, but for another personal reason; she was pregnant with his child.
Qian was exhilarated by the successful snatching of Guan Tong Electronics away from Azumaen and Kaori now felt that she could approach Qian about a secure future for her and the child but thought better of bringing it up at the moment. Although for different reasons, they were both blissful and shared many happy moments together that night.
However, her much hoped for future coming to fruition would be obstructed by the reemergence of a part of Qian’s past that he thought had been blocked out of his life for good.