Josef’s house was bigger than Annina’s and had a field in front and a little tin-roofed shed at the back. When Xia Lei saw the tin-roofed shed, he thought, ‘Josef is studying an intelligent lathe on his own and it’s large so he definitely can’t have it in his living quarters. It should be in that shed.’
Just as he was about to use his X-ray vision on the shed, Josef walked over. “Annina, can you help me out? There are too many guests for me to handle.”
“Sure. What do you need?”
“Help me get some alcohol. You know where my cellar is.”
Annina nodded, “Okay.” she then said to Xia Lei, “Wait for me.”
After Annina walked off, Josef looked at Xia Lei, “You’re called Lukas, right?”
His tone was not respectful at all and Xia Lei could tell that this Josef did not want to invite him to his birthday party - he was only here because of Annina. Xia Lei actually had no interest at all in coming here if not for Josef’s status as electrical engineer and the project he was working on. These were all the underlying reasons.
Josef was not respectful but Xia Lei still smiled and said politely, “Yes. Hello, Mr Josef.” He reached out a hand for a handshake.
“My hands are greasy. Let’s not shake hands,” said Josef, “Then, Lukas, can you go to the utility shed and help me get some charcoal? We need charcoal for a barbecue.”
“No problem. Where’s the utility shed?” asked Xia Lei.
Josef lifted his hand and pointed.
Xia Lei walked towards the utility shed. Josef was not treating him like a guest at all but an unwelcome guy who was here to party. However, having Josef give him frosty looks and stupid tasks was nothing compared to his desire to obtain trade secrets.
Some guests chatting in the front garden looked at Xia Lei and started gossipping.
“That Chinese guy’s Annina’s new assistant. I hear she gets along well with him and they work well together,” said a guest.
“I heard that he took just one hour to fix Annina’s motorcycle and the root of the problem of her engine troubles too. Man, he’s good,” said another guest.
“You know why Annina was willing to accept this new assistant?” said a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman laughingly, “She told me that this Chinese assistant knows martial arts and can fight well. She offended some people from the underworld last night and claims that this Chinese assistant helped her solve her problem.”
“So that means this Chinese guy is already quite a capable person. Looks like he doesn’t like him; he’s sending him to get charcoal.”
A middle-aged man laughed, “Josef likes Annina. Everyone knows that. This young Chinese guy isn’t bad-looking and works well with Annina so of course Josef dislikes him. The guy’s dumb for coming here; he’s just inviting trouble.”
The guests changed topics when Josef walked over.
Xia Lei did not hear their chatter either - he had arrived at the utility shed.
It was a simple wooden shed by the side of the house.
There were various random things in there like farming tools, mechanical parts and the charcoal that Xia Lei needed to fetch. It was a huge sack of about 50 kg. Xia Lei was in no rush to get the charcoal when he entered the shed and he stood by the window to look at the tin-roofed shed behind Josef’s house.
Josef’s house was purely made of wood but this shed’s walls were brick and concrete and very solid. This, however, was no obstacle to Xia Lei’s left eye and the walls disappeared as his eye twitched.
He saw a machine covered by a tarpaulin coated with fluorescent material. It was quite large - almost ten metres long, and was about three or four metres wide. Xia Lei focused his gaze and tried to use his X-ray vision on the fluorescent tarpaulin but discovered that it seemed to absorb his ability. He put his best effort into trying to see past the tarpaulin bit all he could make out was a blurry thing.
Xia Lei was stunned, ‘The fluorescent tarpaulin can actually absorb my ability and weaken my X-ray vision so much I can’t see the object clearly. Why?’
Ever since he’d gained his abilities, Xia Lei had always been able to use his X-ray vision and it never failed him. Till now.
Every existing thing will have its matching opposite - this was the rule of nature. The ‘Five Elements’ in Chinese culture was also based on this logic. In other words, a thing with no opposite and equal force did not exist and Xia Lei’s X-ray vision was no exception.
Xia Lei did not keep trying and stopped using his abilities. He carried the sack of charcoal out of the utility shed. He did not get a clear look at the thing under the fluorescent tarpaulin but he could confirm that it was the intelligent lathe that Josef was working on. He knew this place now and he had plenty of opportunities so he was not in a rush.
Xia Lei placed the charcoal next to the grill and Annina walked out at that moment, carrying a case of red wine followed by Josef, who had brought out a wooden barrel for alcohol.
Annina’s brows wrinkled when she saw Xia Lei putting charcoal in the grill. She put down the case of wine, walked to Xia Lei and said quietly, “We can leave if you’d like, Lukas. I can make dinner for you.”
Xia Lei smiled, “It’s fine. I’m quite happy.”
“Okay, as long as you’re happy.” As she spoke, she shifted her gaze to Josef, her brows still furrowed.
Josef opened the case of red wine and the barrel. The barrel contained dark beer and its iconic scorched malt fragrance could be smelt from afar. The guests started on the alcohol and barbecue; the birthday party had officially begun.
Xia Lei was only familiar with Annina out of all the people there and so he was the loneliest one in the lively crowd. He was not gloomy, however, and even though no one talked to him he watched people chat and familiarized himself with German mouth shapes and pronunciation to perfect his lip-reading.
After a short while, some youths arrived on motorcycles. They were about the same age as Josef and were dressed in cool biker wear. Josef embraced them warmly and made small talk - it looked like they were on close terms.
At that moment, Annina managed to shake off a female friend and walked to Xia Lei, “Let’s have a drink, Lukas. For our friendship.”
Xia Lei clinked drinkware with her, “For our friendship.” He drained the cup.
“Those guys who just arrived are Josef’s bosom buddies. They were classmates in university. One’s a police officer, one a professional boxer and two work for BMW.” Annina had had one drink too many and she was extra chatty, “I know them. They all have bad tempers.”
Xia Lei gave her a bland smile. He had no interest in knowing about Josef’s friends. He would leave Germany once he got his hands on what he needed so the matters and people here were rather meaningless to him.
Josef put down the drink in his hand, went to the centre of the party and raised his voice, “Today is my twenty-seventh birthday. I thank everyone for coming. You are my colleagues, classmates, neighbours and also my friends. You are all people I cherish in my life.”
The guests applauded and Xia Lei clapped along politely.
After his first words, Josef’s gaze went to the corner where Xia Lei and Annina stood and he smiled, “Let me now invite a new friend to say a few words. Our new friend is Lukas from China.” He gestured at Xia Lei, “Please come forward, Lukas.”
Xia Lei hesitated. He had no idea what Josef was up to but he had a bad feeling about it.
“Looks like our new friend is a bashful one. He’s shy! Let’s give him a round of applause to welcome him, aye?” Josef started clapping.
The guests started clapping and even Annina joined in.
Xia Lei walked reluctantly to Josef and said somewhat awkwardly, “Happy birthday, Mr Josef.”
“Thank you.” Josef put a smile on his face, “Lukas, I hear you know some martial arts. Chinese kung fu is world-famous and very powerful, isn’t it?”
Xia Lei glanced subconsciously at Annina. If anyone knew he practised martial arts it would be Annina. So that meant that Annina had already guessed that he had lent her a helping hand last night and she’d told one of her close friends who’d subsequently opened her big mouth and let even more people know.
Annina had no bad intentions but she’s brought him trouble all the same.
“Actually…” said Xia Lei, “I don’t really know any kung fu, but Chinese kung fu is indeed powerful.”
“You’re bluffing, aren’t you?” A young man dressed in biker clothing walked to the centre of the party and spoke disdainfully, “The China I know produces cheap, low-quality products like socks and shirts. And about kung fu - it’s just fantasy stories. You can only see that in movies.”
The other youths in biker clothing guffawed.
Xia Lei’s expression turned ugly. He’d had a bad feeling and he was right - this Josef was deliberately embarrassing him.
“Hans, you shouldn’t say that. Lukas is my colleague and friend,” said Josef pretentiously.
The man named Hans gave a belittling smile, “I can’t stand those who lie. China has no kung fu, only low-quality products. If he’s not happy about it he can go one round with me. I’ll show him how we box in Germany.”
Josef looked at Xia Lei, “Lukas, do you dare fight one round with Hans?”
“There’s no need for this,” said Xia Lei.
“Ha!” sneered Hans, “China produces cowards as well as shitty products.”
Xia Lei’s anger was stoked, “You really want a fight?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter