Every employee was given the day off when the day of the feast occurred. Most of them would help out with setting up the decorations or hauling the enormous number of tables to the Great Hall. Everyone had their job and it was Alice's to make sure everything went smoothly. Together with Nick Mayer, they paraded throughout the Great Hall, making sure that everything was in place and otherwise corrected. It all went according to her plan, which pleased her.
Around four in the afternoon, Alice went home to prepare herself for the feast. She left the final preparations in the hands of Mayer - which she was a little bit sceptical about, but with hourly updates she had decided that she'd manage not being on location all the time - and hoped for the best. By then most decorations had been placed, the tables had been carried inside and the dance floor and all the equipment had been installed. The cooks just needed to prepare the food now, the waiters and waitresses needed to be instructed and make sure the tables were prepared and the security needed to be in place. The party would start at promptly seven o'clock, not a minute later. The guests would arrive at six. Her speech would start the moment everyone was seated, preferably a little earlier than the schedule.

Alice's outfit for that night existed of a black dress and heels that would make her feel taller than any man in the room. There were no arms but the dress fitted close to her neck, which accentuated her shoulders and face. On top of that, it hugged her figure and because it hid her somewhat bony hip bones, the dress made her actually look better than ever. The dress was simple yet fashionable. Her mask was Bordeaux red, in honour of the colours of Rilex, with black lace to add a little style to it. Her hair had been pulled back into a tight knot.
Normally she did not go out on make-up on a normal working day, but tonight her eyes were heavily darkened. Black eye-shadow, black eye-liner and mascara. Her contours were stressed, giving her face an even sterner look. Tonight, she kept her lips slightly pink, unlike the bloody red colour that they usually were. All in all, she looked even more powerful than on a normal day. And that was exactly the goal Alice had set for herself, as she wanted everyone in the hall to be amazed by Rilex's empire. Her empire.

She left her apartment at a quarter to six. Around six she arrived at Rilex Internationals' Headquarters. A whole queue had formed in front of the large entrance doors, to Alice's delight. Fancy looking men, most of them with a round belly, in smokings, with beautiful, younger ladies hanging on their arms. The most beautiful dresses in all kinds of colours were presented in the line, with the glistering of diamonds and pearls on fingers, wrists, necks and ears to make the women eye even more beautiful. The more dresses Alice saw, the more she was convinced that each of these wives had tried to out-shine each other. Ten-thousand-dollar dresses were not uncommon in the world Alice lived in.
In front of the doors was a red carpet laid out, which was filled all the way up to the end of the pavement. The new guests barely had space to get out their cars. Those without an Uber driver handed their keys to the parking employees. An immense group of news reporters and photographers had gathered around the entrance, pushing each other away to get the best view from behind the barriers.
The security was checking everyone's IDs and invitations prior to letting them in. She spotted Elias as well. He had his finger on his ear, probably pressing his earbud deeper into his ear to hear his colleague better through the tiny device. When her car rolled up on the driveway, he looked up, obviously recognizing the car. As the professional he was, he turned around after a couple of seconds, not granting Alice a glance. She was glad he did that.
Alice' Uber driver dropped her off in front of the entrance. She got out of the car, put her mask in place and walked with confident strikes towards the entrance. The guards immediately recognized her, but her partners and clients only noticed who the bold young lady dressed in black was until she was let in without having to show her ID or anything else. She turned around, right before entering Rilex's Great Hall to nod, wave and show a little smile. Her name was called by the news reporters and their photographers, trying to get a good shot of the successful, young chief in office before she'd disappear inside as well as her guests. She granted them a glance while a small, self-indulged smile decorated her face, then turned around to head inside.

A handful guests had already managed to get inside, most of them still waiting at the reception to be shown to their tables by the dozens of waiters and waitresses. Those who were already seated, were talking contently with each other. Everyone was already wearing their mask, but Alice recognized them all within a split second. A good CEO always knew the names of the people that mattered.
Contently, she looked around the Great Hall. The stage was all set up, with an enormous screen behind it. Right now, it showed the emblem of Rilex on a black background: a fox's head in curly grey lines. The fox looked like it was made of rusted metal, like the fox's head on the gates in front of Richmond Mansion. There was soft, classical music playing along with it.
The dance floor was placed in front of the great stage. That would later serve as the place for the waltzing, as it was a tradition to do at the Rilex anniversaries. Her father had once started it and after his death, the previous Vice President and now Alice herself had maintained it.
The tables were already prepared; each of them had a couple of forks, spoons and knives per person, plus a wine glass and a water glass accompanied by a carafe with water. There were white roses on each table, placed in simple, see-through, red vases.
She could hear the cooks and everyone else who belonged in the kitchen work hastily to finish the first couple of courses. The bartenders were either polishing their glassware or practiced making cocktails with flair.
Everything seemed to be in place and Alice felt almost emotional knowing how much effort had gone into this. But she did not let a tear escape her eye. Instead, she started searching for her Vice President, Miles Campbell. He was supposed to help her around and keep an eye on the overall schedule. Of course, she knew it by heart as well, but it was easy to lose the track of time especially when you were serving as overall host during the evening. Whenever she was speeching, he was always in the front row, telling her how much minutes she still had. He was her right hand, as so to say.

Alice eventually spotted him near the stage. He was dressed in a lavender tuxedo with a simple white mask and a white tie with purple flowers. It made his ebony wooden skin stand out even more. The heavy contrast between his clothes and skin made him appear even more handsome than usual. He was talking to the stage director and two people of the technical team, probably talking everything through once more before I would hit the stage. For this speech, they had prepared special graphics to go along with her words and they needed everything to be timed perfect for her words to have the hardest impact. On top of that, they needed to adjust the lighting and the sound accordingly too. She definitely did not want her mic to suddenly drop out while she was in the middle of her speech.
She walked towards the small group and was immediately greeted.
"Ah, Miss Richmond, so nice to see you!" the stage director, a man named Mitchell, immediately hummed. She nodded curtly in his direction, then turned to Miles.
"Everything's going according to the planning?"
"We're even ahead a couple of minutes, what about that," Miles grinned. Alice nodded agreeingly.
"No problems so far?"
"Not a single one. Everyone knows their instructions. The guests seem happy already. I also checked in on the kitchen staff and the appetizers have already been prepared. It's basically all set," Miles answered.
Alice nodded slowly. She was content, knowing that all her hard work eventually had resulted in a smooth development of the evening. It was rather weird that she needn't even correct anything. She was used to picking out the flaws and directing people to improve them. Now that there was nothing left to do, she almost felt out of use.
"Good work, gentlemen," Alice said, after a few moments of silence. She eyed all of them individually. Miles. Mitchell. Mayer. Each of the men seemed happy at receiving that compliment after all those hard words prior to the party.
"I suppose I will study my lines a little bit further. If anyone needs me, I'll be backstage," she said to all of them, then turned directly to Miles. "Contact me if anything goes wrong."
Her Vice President nodded solemnly and Alice left the group of men alone to resume their jobs. Mitchell tagged along as she walked backstage.

An hour went by. By now, the Great Hall of Rilex Internationals was filled with two hundred important guests and all the staff that was needed to give them the best evening possible. Alice sometimes peeked through the curtains, looking at her clients and partners having a good time. Everyone had gotten their drinks and first appetizer now. The entrance doors would soon close and everyone would take in their place.
Alice was revising the last bits of her speech, uneasily pacing around backstage whilst Mitchell made sure everything was in place and working. She was always a bit worried, even though she had practiced it countless of times. It wasn't like she couldn't speak in front of a great crowd - she basically had to do that on a daily basis - but it wasn't like it was her favourite thing to do. On top of that, she always feared something would go wrong. Mitchell assured her that everything was tested at least a dozen times, but the anxiety stayed buried in Alice's stomach, making her nauseous.
She put in her earbud, only to hear Miles tell her that the final guests had arrived a couple of minutes later. She'd wait another few minutes so they could be seated and have their entrée and wine before she'd get up the stage. Alice signed Mitchell to come over to her.
"Play the video and start the timer," she told him. He nodded towards her and immediately ran off towards his technician. Within less than a minute, the lights in the Great Hall dimmed and an astonished 'aah' erupted from the crowd.
The emblem of Rilex disappeared from the screen and instead the head of a fox appeared on screen. A real animal, this time. The animal turned around, facing the camera now. His look was intelligent, knowing, for as far as animals' eyes could be considered that.
The sound of fresh snow collapsing under weight appeared when the fox moved. He turned his head, facing the white cover of frozen water particles underneath him. He stayed still for a long time. The crowd was silent too, aside from the usual clinking of the glasses when they were put back on the table again.
The fox suddenly jumped up and ran back towards the forest. His probably hours-long journey was reduced to a few seconds, until it would arrive to its den. A few small cubs welcomed their parent with so much joy and little squeals that the audience let out a content sigh. Baby animals were always warmly welcomed in the hearts of people, it was not any different for CEOs.
When the fox left its den, Alice appeared on stage. All eyes were suddenly on here. More than two hundred pair of blue, green, grey, brown and hazel coloured eyes. Each of them expected utter perfection from her. And of course, each of them would receive nothing but perfection.
She looked down to her shoes until she arrived at her podium table. It was made out of a beautiful dark mahogany wood, as was much of the rest of Rilex's interior. The mic on it was already installed and on, Mitchell told her through her earbud. When she stopped in front of it, she heard her own breath through the speakers. Luckily the fox was still moving and the sound of snow collapsing underneath its body weight was louder than her short, fast breaths.
Alice looked up at the same moment the fox's attention was caught.
"I want to thank you all for coming. I truly am grateful to see such a big crowd honouring Rilex Internationals," she started. A modest wave of applause arose from the audience and she smiled tightly, unable to lift the corners of her mouth more for people she did not know and hardly cared about. The fox now started running, as it had caught up on something. Perhaps the faint patter of a field mouse's feet underneath the snow; a rabbit hopping through the snow or the almost silent strikes of a bird landing on a low-hanging tree branch.
"My father was an extraordinary man," Alice begun. "Many of you might know him. Others might only know Samuel, or even just me. Rilex has grown in the time my father has been away. I am sure we have made him proud, you and I."
A small smile formed on her lips. Anyone that knew her would see it was not genuine. But no one knew her well enough in this room to see that. Not even those closest to her. If only she would know that a deep pair of dark eyes did see. They were watching her in interest; an interest that was not easily provoked by someone. Alice did not see. The crowd was smudged together to a dark mass.
The video switched to a bunny. Its ears were tensed, trying to locate from which way the sound of paws slamming into the frozen ground were coming from. Here, in the middle of the tundra, the sound echoed across the whole valley. They seemed to come from everywhere.
"That is what Rilex is about. Completing my father's dream. I would not have been here if I had now wanted to honour him. I also would not have been here if Rilex didn't have the potential to grow. Only in two years, we have accomplished so much and we will continue to reach more of our goals in the future."
The fox was only a few metres away and jumped forwards. The rabbit saw its enemy too late and tried to flee, but with a gracious leap the fox landed on top of its prey. The white snow coloured red and within moments, the fox had caught the bunny. A sound of distress went through the audience, as they saw the predator carry its food back towards the forest,
"My father's legacy will grow, I can ensure every single one of you that. How much and in what time, I will not be able to tell. But I know for sure that anything standing in my way will soon be cleared out."
When the fox was almost back to its den, another set of feet could be heard thundering upon the ground. Heavier feet. More feet. The fox only hesitated for a second, but it was long enough for the group of wolves to appear through the close-set pine trees. With the rabbit clenched between its jaws, the fox started to run. With paws longer than his, the wolves soon caught up and it quickly became a battle of wits instead of strength.
The fox changed its course, so that the wind would not carry his smell anymore. Hiding underneath a bush, the wolves rushed past only a matter of seconds later, completely oblivious that their prey, and their prey's prey, has outsmarted them.
"Rilex will rise to the top no matter what. We will devour anything in our path to ensure that and we will not back up for anything." Alice closed her eyes, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is how we honour Chester Richmond; by creating the biggest and most powerful empire the world has ever known."
Alice finished her speech and opened her eyes at the same time an eruption of applause thundered through the room. The large walls echoed it back, causing the sound to be even louder. She was met by a standing ovation. People were laughing, people were cheering, people were howling, people were screaming. And Alice took in it with a sense of pride growing in her stomach. Because this was her empire, this was her legacy. And no one was going to bring this down.
Soon, Woolf Industrials would fall. Alice would make sure of that, oh, yes she would.

A twinkle had appeared in the two dark eyes. Covered between a black mask, they were barely able to be seen. But Alice was drawn towards them nevertheless. And from the stage, she could just see a person getting up from their seat and walking off.
At that time, it was not important enough for her to think about it long. Perhaps she would have connected the eyes to the person sooner if she had thought about it better. Only she did not and the eyes were soon forgotten.
Alice got off stage and the emblem of Rilex Internationals appeared back on the screens. The applause would not end for another few minutes.

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