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Gary sat down in his seat and pulled the chair closer to the table. As he lifted his head, he looked into Xin's eyes. They were as beautiful as ever. What had started out originally as just a simple crush had grown stronger in Gary's heart.
The two of them, although having spent little time in total together, he still had yet to find someone who made his heart beat faster or gave him the feeling of butterflies when he saw them in person.
It had been over a year now since the two had met in person, and yet here he was in front of her, getting those same feelings again.
"It's been a long time since I've come back to this hometown of mine," Xin said. "It really has changed a lot, and look at you as well, you look completely different. No, there is something different about you."
Gary smirked as the courses came out and were delivered to the table. They were small in size but with several smaller plates, allowing a person to get a true taste of everything. It was a fine dining experience which Gary wasn't really fond of, but he thought it would be a nice treat.
"I mean look at this, who would have thought from school you would have become so successful. I've heard that you invested in so many projects and now you're fancy enough to book out the whole floor to yourself?" Xin said as she dug in.
Gary did feel a bit guilty about taking over the restaurant, and the amount that needed to be spent nearly made his heart break in two. It was only because he wanted somewhere completely quiet for the two of them, and for their first meeting in such a long time, he didn't want to take her to the Wolf's Pool Club.
"The city has changed thanks to your father. He has been a good mayor," Gary commented.
"Oh please," Xin replied. "You know that's all a charade, do you think I was born yesterday? It's thanks to the Howlers and I guess you as well. I wanted to ask Gary, why did you leave the AFC?"
It was a question that had been playing on Xin's mind for the longest of times, so much that she had done research into Gary. He was supported by the Howlers organization, which was a gang in disguise.
She knew the two had to be working closely together because a lot of the projects in Slough that made it what it was today were spearheaded by the Howlers Corp and Gary's name.
So she could only guess that it might have something to do with the gang.
"I've been busier, and I felt disingenuous. My goal was never to be part of the AFC; it was a dream but it wasn't a goal," Gary answered. "I just wanted a good place for my family to live. Amy has that now, but my mother, she's still… asleep."
Xin still didn't get the information she wanted, but she also felt wrong to push him because the answer felt like a genuine one.
"I heard your next fight is a ranked one. If you win it, you'll enter the top 50. It's an important step for you, right?" Gary asked.Finishing their third course, it was time for dessert. Strangely, what had arrived was a chocolate brownie with some ice cream. To which Gary had pushed over toward Xin, stating that she could have it.
"That reminds me of when I first met you. Weren't you sick all over? I thought it was because of the chocolate at the time," Xin commented.
"Haha, it was," Gary replied. "I'm allergic, so you go ahead and eat up."
After taking a few scoops of the dessert and tasting the sweetness in her mouth, she started to speak again.
"Yeah, the next match is a big one. If I get in, I can finally fulfill my promise with my father. I can then go around and do what I want. I'll be strong enough to be free and independent."
After waiting for Xin to finish her dessert, Gary then went into his suit pocket and pulled out a black and gold card, sliding it over to Xin.
She picked it up and looked at it, but she could see nothing on it; it was just a black and gold card, nothing else.
"What is this?" Xin asked.
"I asked for this meeting because I knew you were coming back before your big break. I really did want to meet and catch up with you, Xin," Gary explained. "The truth is, though, that there is also an ulterior motive to calling you here. That card is from the Howlers group.
"It's a formal invitation. I heard that a lot of companies and groups have approached you, and you denied them all. I don't know what your reason is, but I was hoping since the two of us are close with each other, you would accept this invite."
Xin held onto the card for a while; she was playing with it. When she looked at Gary, she was almost upset by him.
"Gary, I know that the Howlers are a gang. The reason why I rejected those offers is because I'm about to finally be free from my father's control. I don't want to go ahead and join a gang and then be under their control.
"I don't know what your situation is with the Howlers, but I respect your decision. But I can't just accept being sponsored by a group I know nothing about, or have them force me to do things I don't agree with. I'm sorry."
Xin went to hand the card back, but Gary stopped her by pushing it toward her.
"I'm asking you, Xin, to join us. We will simply sponsor you; you won't be under us, but we will be partners. You know as well as I do, you can't keep rejecting them forever.
"Those at the top will force you to join, just like they did with your brother. If he couldn't escape it, neither can you. But if you join the Howlers, then I can help you in some way, and I promise, we won't ever make you do something that you don't wish to do."
Gary was smooth with his words, but it was still extremely difficult for her to do so, even though she knew Gary was right. She went to give the card back one more time before Gary stopped her again.
"Gary, don't make this harder than it has to be; how can you even make a promise like that?" Xin asked.
"I'm making a promise, Xin, not just on behalf of the Howlers but also from me, Gary Dem, the leader of the Howlers group and corporation. The leader of the Howlers gang."
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