As soon as these words were spoken, the whole room fell quiet. Even Scarface who had been plastered all over the woman in the student attire raised his eyes to look at the teenager on the sofa.
Ma Lei’s gaze from the opposite side was real and sharp. Chen Yuanming lowered his head slightly, took a deep breath, reached out and picked up the pack of cigarettes that was on the coffee table.
Light yellow box, gilded bronze font, ten pieces of standard 555.
Chen Yuanming had also smoked once. He remembered that Sun Ju of the Finance Bureau loved American cigarettes the most. He had also smoked 555 and Hilton’s for a while, and though he didn’t like them their price and status was apparent.
Over the next 20 years, there will be an endless stream of smuggled cigarettes produced in Europe and the United States. Marlboro, Camel, Dunhill Road, Rothmans … across the southeast coast, the numerous smuggling ships that were carrying thousands of boxes of private cigarettes to be dumped on the Mainland were doing very profitable business.
Compared with color TVs, with its high costs, large volume and low profits, this was the real money-making business.
It’s not that Chen Yuanming had never thought of this. Starting from the third shipment, he and Scarface will stay for a night at the small courtyard in Luzhou. What kind of goods did they unload there? Why was it that the waterproofing on the truck he was driving was getting better and better, but the load was getting lighter and lighter? Even from the point of view of distance, China has so much land and so many cities, why did they choose the Changsha-Wuhan line …?
Some things he had noticed but had never been interested in thinking it over carefully.
Recently however, because he was in full control of negotiations with Wang Haitao, because of the permissiveness in Scarface’s words, because his mind was filled with those strange dreams and because his goals were within reach, he had relaxed his vigilance and ignored the real, stereotypical, behind-the scenes boss of this smuggling syndicate which will likely become the “No.1” in the future.
He had always wanted to be keep a low profile, to be humble and to use this place as springboard to future success. But as they say, once you get into the sack you cannot escape without breaking it.
Chen Yuanming raised his head as his fingertips lightly grazed the cigarette box. The gaze of the man sitting opposite him was still sharp and, at this time, even held a bit of coldness. Exhaling deeply, he smiled.
The cigarette box was put back on the coffee table, and Chen Yuanming shook his head. “Brother, you view me too highly.”
Ma Lei’s eyes narrowed. He picked up the cigarette case on the table and pulled one out. The beauty beside him immediately took out a lighter and leaned in front of him to light it. A deep exhale and a puff. A white smoke ring faintly appeared between the two and disappeared.
“Do you know what the strangest thing is about you?” He gently knocked against the cigarette and the ashes fell into the crystal ashtray.
Ma Lei’s voice was not loud, and with his image obscured by the smoke he seemed a little unpredictable. “It’s not that you are too clever, or that you’re too good at making money, but sometimes, with just a glance you are able to understand the key point. What a fucking skill this is, but you never show it off. You act as though it’s just right and proper.”
After saying that he pointed at the cigarette case on the table, and this luxurious and extravagant room, “Did you see the name of this place?”
Chen Yuanming did not answer.
Ma Lei smiled, “You’ve seen it.”
Even if Chen Yuanming did not have a brain, then he had really lived two lives in vain if he could not guess what was happening at this time. Cigarette smuggling, official car pick-up and drop off, a small building full of delicate beauties … Maybe some people may not be familiar with these things, but most would have heard of the Xiamen case before, right? This was exactly the same, but in his previous life, Ma Lei had been imprisoned in 1994, and that person only started his own smuggling business in 1994.
The smartest thing about this man in front of him was that he never runs short of goods. When transporting a Nissan color TV, he will bring back some internally manufactured double-priced domestic goods to ensure that his fleet was profitable. What about the sale of smuggled cigarettes? Changsha’s Baisha brand and Wuhan’s Huanghelou, these two brands were the trump cards for those smuggling domestic cigarettes, how could Ma Lei not have a share?
If this continued, he would have woven a huge network which would have eventually engulfed him…
The expression on Chen Yuanming’s face remained unchanged, but he said yet again, “Brother Ma, you have the wrong idea, my plan is not this kind of business.”
“What else can make more money than this? Is it that you want to run the Northeast Line …” Ma Lei laughed at himself, “Or did I look away, and you are actually not short of money?”
Chen Yuanming was silent for a little while and also flashed a little a bitter smile. He suddenly found that in the face of such a character, concealment and evasiveness would cause greater suspicion. He sighed softly and shook his head. “In fact, I intend to resign soon. My goal is in Shanghai.”
As soon as those two words appeared, “in Shanghai”, Scarface raised his head in surprise, “Shanghai? You want to run that line? With just your 300,000 yuan and your small body?”
Ma Lei did not immediately jump to conclusions, but stared at Chen Yuanming for a moment, and said lightly. “That capital is not enough for a freight line. It may be sufficient to run other things. Shanghai … Do you intend to invest in the stock market?”
In December 1990, the Shanghai Stock Exchange began operations. At that time, there were only eight stocks on the market. These stocks soared several times as soon as they went public, making profits for some well-informed people who entered the stock market early.
In July this year, a new stock exchange was also opened in Shenzhen. For Zhuhai, which was nearby, this news had spread quickly.
But this thing was really too new. It was purely money against money. You couldn’t see any tangible goods and thus people found it to be confusing. Ma Lei unexpectedly glanced at the boy sitting in the opposite seat, this kind of gambling was not this child’s nature.
“Haha, have you gone stupid from fever?” Scarface laughed, and gulped down the red wine in his hands like a cow, “Isn’t stock trading like gambling. When it comes down to it, the winner is the banker.”
From a certain perspective, at this time the Chinese stock market was indeed a casino. It was a game between powerful households, securities dealers and thousands of retail investors. Many people became rich overnight, but even more were losing their life savings because their funds were locked up in one bear market after another.
In this crazy era of stock market mania, 99% of the stockholders who entered the market were indeed more persistent and more impulsive than gamblers and lottery players.
But that was not Chen Yuanming.
He may not have experienced the stock market in this current era, but he went to night school to study finance, and had built a financial management company of his own. Although he had lost everything in the end, he had read a lot and was familiar with the stock market of this era. He was indeed confident that he could obtain his own huge profits in this danger zone. He really needed money, not just little money, or just a million dollars, but a huge number that could not be looked down upon and he wanted that money at his fingertips.
It was just this kind of self-confidence that had placed him in his current dilemma.
Facing Chen Yuanming’s silence, Ma Lei smiled, sat upright, and extinguished the cigarette in the ashtray. “Regardless of whether your words are true or false … you are telling me that this place is just a springboard, and you are not interested in getting involved with us at all?”
Scarface also pushed away the sister who was dressed like a student and sat up straight. His beady eyes did not contain any of its previous lightheartedness. The scars on his face were twitching and looked fierce. The ladies, who had just been laughing, closed their mouths consciously, trying to shrink their bodies, as if to avoid the terrible sharpness emanated by these two people.
Chen Yuanming straightened his back and was soaked in cold sweat. He had been forced to the end of the road.
Before entering this place, he was just a peripheral shrimp, a small and insignificant character. But after entering this place, he became either a potential ally, or an enemy.
It was just a matter of perception.
Taking a deep breath, Chen Yuanming squeezed his fists tightly and revealed a tiny smile.
“Brother Ma, are you interested in hearing a story from me?”
 Referring to Lai Changxing
The author has something to say: From now on, the plot will slowly involve companies and characters that exist in the real world. I will choose appropriate pseudonyms for these famous people, but I will use the original names of their companies and locations to increase the realism. > _ <
Translator Notes: This chapter had me on the edge of my seat when translating!!