Chapter 21: Don’t Lose Hope
“Don’t close!” When these two words burst out of her mouth, Lin Jian’s heart felt as though it were soaring, soaring all the way to some wobbly place high above.
Li Zhicheng answered with a single word: “Ok.”
Lin Jian hung up the phone. She seemed shrouded in a layer of frost, but the sweat in her palms was burning hot.
She turned around inside the small room and Gu Yanzhi; he’d come inside somewhen, and now was looking at her from the doorway, his face grave.
“I already know,” he said. “Now we can only gamble.”
Lin Jian nibbled on her lower lip. She nodded firmly.
A gamble, a grand gamble.
A gamble of 20 million.
This was the final, beautiful dream they could have. A dream they entrusted their most intense desires to, their apprehensions, their luck, their unwillingness to go down without a fight.
The two of them went out of the small room side by side.
Lin Jian lowered her voice: “Director Gu, I think that we have to slow down right now, drag things out.”
Lin Jian’s mind had already become extremely calm when she spoke these words. But because her thinking was too cool-headed, it made the beat of her heart inside her chest too fast, too intense.
Gu Yanzhi threw her a slanted glance. He actually smiled at a time like this.
“That’s what we also think,” he said.
Very quickly, Gu Yanzhi passed down Li Zhicheng’s new orders: the website says up. But lower the incoming traffic speed on the server and on the campaign’s web page, make the customers have to order ten times on average before they can successfully make one purchase.
Lin Jian returned back to her computer and started to direct her “fifty cents army.” They started a large-scale hyping campaign on every shopping website and forum, as well as popular local message boards in second and third-tier cities.
That night, the light never went out in Aida general quarters.
The customers’ crazed enthusiasm lasted until the wee hours of the morning. The 2000 “congratulation on winning a premium prize” gifts had finally all been snatched away. After that, the sales had still climbed above 800. The hits on the campaign’s main page broke through five million, the comments section had exploded, and the threads on other big forums were also on fire.
The buyers who couldn’t find a spot among the first 2000 sighed in regret. But most of them still said that the sale itself was very worth it, that the quality and design of Aida’s bags were indeed pretty good.
Those who managed to snatch a premium prize were all wild with joy. They showed their purchase orders and their prize-winning notices, jubilant as though they were celebrating the new year.
However, there were much more voices strongly calling things into question. They questioned whether Aida, after shaking heaven and earth with their commotion, would really pay twenty million in prizes?
Some people also posted that they were returning customers and saw the hacked announcement, so they understood the company didn’t have it easy. They were willing to renounce their prizes of ten thousand. Someone else said they didn’t need ten thousand. The company could just put on a show of goodwill and give everyone a couple thousand. That was something they could accept.
But there were more people who wrote they wouldn’t accept it. Website hacking was the company’s own problem. If they didn’t send the prizes as promised, Aida would lose all credibility from there on.
Because of the previous “carcinogen” affair, the media followed Aida with quite some attention. After that night, every big news outlet, web portal, or microblog rushed to publish the sad yet funny news. One of the titles read like this: “Twenty million. Do they hand it over or not?”
Amidst the watchful eyes of the crowd, amidst all the doubts and questions, Aida maintained radio silence from beginning to end.
According to their previous announcement, the campaign was to last for three days. The prize winners had to wait after the third day before they could take their IDs to various Aida stores and claim their prizes.
And because Aida kept silent, the noise from the consumers and the media, their doubts, as well as their fervent expectation of the results became stronger and stronger, until it almost couldn’t be any more intense. The number of total hits on Aida’s website broke through a hundred million and counting, still increasing with every minute that went by. “Aida’s 20 million prizes” reached the top ten on search engines during these few days, and placed second on the list of the most popular subjects of discussion in the blogging sphere.
Three days later, five to nine in the morning.
Lin Jian put her hand on her forehead. She was still sitting in the small room in the IT department, starting tightly at the computer. Outside, the other employees were just as tense.
The campaign was set to end in five minutes; the customers could go to the stores and claim their prizes. In five minute, the “Aida’s director general’s public statement” in front of her would be published.
The content was very succinct. Li Zhicheng had written it himself. There was probably no one else who had the guts to write it for him at a time like this in any case. Lin Jian had thought about several versions, but after reading what Li Zhicheng had written himself, after thinking it over and over, she still came to the conclusion that wordiness was a flaw. It was better like this.
“To our dear customers, our online friends, and various media outlets:
As everyone knows, three days ago, the online flagship store of our company’s Vinda brand suffered a hacking attack, cause 2000 premium prizes to be distributed by error. Facing such a malicious attack, our company is determined to conduct a thorough investigation, in order to safeguard an honest, safe, and impartial market environment.
To our customers, Aida has always kept its philosophy of ‘one word is worth a thousand in gold,’ whether in the past, in the present, or in the future.
To the 2000 customers who obtained a premium prizes, please proceed to the designated stores and claim your prize of ten thousand, accord to the previously established rules.
I wish you a merry Spring Festival in advance.”
–Director General of Aida Corporation, Li Zhicheng.
After publishing this declaration, what kind of feedback would they receive online or from their customers? Lin Jian could almost imagine it. They would certainly be covered in praise, everyone would be greatly satisfied. She didn’t even have any doubt that in the few hours to come, or perhaps the next few days, Aida’s online flagship store would see its traffic continue to increase explosively.
But the volume of sales, would it also climb explosively?
No, she wasn’t certain.
She was even a little apprehensive.
The past three days were already a vivid example. It seemed already impossible for the website’s traffic to go any higher, and she was confident that during these few days, Aida’s reputation might have been at the highest it’d ever been since the company’s beginnings. However, the volume of sales was very low in comparison, so low it was almost flat.
First day: 427 purchases. Second day: 633 purchases. Third day: 780 purchases.
Maybe it was because everyone was watching, waiting to see which path Aida would take. Maybe the trend would change afterward. Lin Jian didn’t know. Or perhaps, the beautiful traffic numbers were simply a gilded bubble of a momentary brouhaha.
Her head dropped even lower as she thought about these. Not stopping or resting for several days, the cold chill at night, always staying in a state of nervousness on top of that; she’d clearly caught a cold.
She took some cold medicine from the drawer and swallowed it with some water. She kept her focus and energy, continuing to stare at the screen. Only, an unrelated thought popped into her head — she’d kept busy downstairs these few days, directing the fifty cents army and waging war in battlefields everywhere. Apart from the occasional phone reports or last-minute meetings, she’d very rarely seen Li Zhicheng face to face. He hadn’t assigned any other task to her either, for now.
She wondered, what kind of mood was he in, sitting alone high above in the director general’s office? When he saw the reports from the various departments, the various news good or bad, would the eyebrows bunch together or relax on that always calm and cool face of his?
He sat alone on a house of cards, while she was here, struggling, sparing no effort, using every ounce of her energy and abilities.
Ah… Why did it feel so tragic, yet so sweet and full of longing?
After many twists and turns, somewhen, somewhere, did an “A gentleman dies for those who know his worth” sort of mood start to happen?
He wasn’t experienced enough, and not crafty enough. His luck didn’t seem all that good either. But the talent he displayed at his first opportunity was astonishing. Whether the heroic tender during the Ming Sheng deal, or the creative flanking counterattack this time, or the decisiveness he displayed at the precipice they stood on, as resolute as a warrior showing no hesitation in cutting off a hand bitten off by a snake… His penetrating intelligence, his unwavering tenacity, no one could compare to them.
At the top floor.
Something no one could imagine, that Lin Jian couldn’t imagine. At this cliff-hanging juncture, Li Zhicheng and Gu Yanzhi were actually playing chess.
A chessboard black and white, a room filled with the scent of tea.
Gu Yanzhi was really going to lose his head when he saw he was about to lose his fifth game. Sullen, he pushed the chessboard away. “I’m stopping here, it’s no fun.” To begin with, he wasn’t good at it, but the boss still wanted him to play with him today.
Was he trying to gain some confidence in himself after a curb stomp?
Or was he purely passing time while waiting for the results?
He looked up and smiled faintly. “Aren’t you anxious at all?”
Li Zhicheng didn’t raise his head. His eyebrows were thick and large, noble and captivating.
His finger held a white piece, then a black piece. He started playing against himself, finishing this game. He was clearly a handsome youth, yet his maturity and indifferent appearance were enough to inspire awe.
“I’m not anxious.”
Two hours later.
Lin Jian stared at the screen. She really couldn’t bear it any longer.
Things didn’t improve.
After they posted their public declaration, the sales reached a paltry 147.
Whether it was because her cold was getting worse or because of her mood, Lin Jian’s head felt increasingly heavier. Her forehead was scalding hot. The letters on the screen were jumping. She lifted her head from the screen. The co-workers outside were also silent and grave.
She pushed her chair away, stood up, informed the IT director, then left the building.
Lin Jian woke up. The first thing that greeted her was the pitch-black sky outside the windows.
Startled, she lifted the blanket and sat up.
Facing her, a middle-aged female doctor sat under the lamplight and wrote something. She lifted her head and smiled at Lin Jian. “I took your temperature just moments ago. Your fever’s already receded.”
Lin Jian promptly expressed her thanks, torn between amusement and shame — why did she sleep for so long? She actually slept through this crucial day?
She’d gone to the infirmary after lunch for a prescription. She’d been dead sleepy back then, her mood depressed as well, so she’d wanted to rest a while in a chair before leaving. Who would have thought, she fell asleep just like that.
The doctor added, “Someone from the director general’s office called me. They were looking for you. When they heard you had a fever, they told me not to wake you up and let you have a good sleep.”
Lin Jian asked, “Who was it?”
The doctor said with a faint smile, “It was a young male colleague.”
Everyone was afraid of the cold when they’d just woken up. Lin Jian wrapped herself tightly in her coat, then exited the infirmary.
The company’s headquarters were just across the street. The building was brightly lit at this moment, human silhouettes moving behind the glass window panes.
This day was already over.
Lin Jian didn’t want to go up there for the moment. She sat down on a bench nearby, one bordering a flower bed.
It was already past seven. Those who should have gotten off work and gone back home had already done so. The crowd was sparse around her. Lin Jian leaned back on the bench, looked at the headquarters, looked at the gloomy winter night sky. She released a long breath.
Footsteps came from a small alley nearby. Someone came her way, walking without hurry, drawing a long shadow on the ground. Lin Jian didn’t pay attention to it, still lost in her thoughts.
That person finally came to a halt at her side.
Lin Jian lifted her head. Saw his face.
“Director Li.” She was about to stand up, but he actually sat down beside her.
Lin Jian looked at him sideways. He wore a black coat today, with a shirt and a necktie underneath. Though it was winter, he was dressed clean and simple, cool and relaxed. He was also looking at her. Under the lighting at night, his eyes seemed even brighter, even more limpid.
“Your fever’s gone?” he asked.
Lin Jian had already guessed he’d been the one who called the infirmary. Her heart felt warm. But this warmth was also a confusing, fluttering feeling.
She answered, prime and proper, “Yes. Thank you, Director Li.”
He stayed silent a moment, his eyes looking in front of him. Then he asked again, “Why are you sitting here?”
Lin Jian quietly replied, “I slept through the afternoon and have no idea about the sale numbers. I’m letting my mood stew here for a bit first so that I can be firm and mentally prepared.”
These words caused a smile to flit through Li Zhicheng’s eyes. But her following words made that smile quickly fade without a trace.
She said, “I’m afraid we won’t have anything we want.”
This was something extremely rare for Lin Jian. She was exposing her deepest worries in front of him. She lifted her head, her clear and bright eyes watching him, trying to see a clue about today’s results from his face.
But Li Zhicheng’s face was still as calm as ever, as though neither favor nor humiliation could disturb it. His head was also turned his way, looking at her. Their eyes looked into each other, separated by a very small distance.
Then he lifted his hand and put it behind her, on the back of her bench.
“This isn’t what I think,” he said. “I already saw what I want, it’s almost within reach.”
Lin Jian’s heart thumped in her chest.
What he wanted…. What did it refer to?
She looked at his black, meaningful eyes. Her heart started beating faster. Her face felt a little hot.
But big boss, is now the time to whisper sweet nothings? There seem to be three mountains pressing on my heart, it’s so heavy I’m almost going to stop breathing. Could you not add to my pressure, is that possible?
She understood him wrong, as it happened.
Because Li Zhicheng had already stood up. He stuck his hands in his pockets and glanced at her sideways. “Don’t you want to go and have a look? Today’s sales.”
Lin Jian also stood up immediately. “… Ok, I’m going now.”
A warm smile finally appeared again in his eyes. He whispered, “You won’t be disappointed.”
 士为知己者死，女为悦己者容: A gentleman dies for those who know his worth, a woman makes herself pretty for the one who loves her: Words left behind by Yu Rang (one of the four great assassins during the Spring and Autumn era in China) before he suicided.