Everything went back to normal when the incident involving the black gang members died down. Those exciting days were in the past and the days that followed were peaceful. Xia Lei went to work at the manufacturing plant every day and went home punctually. Other than the time spent at work or the required amount of sleep time, he used all his time on learning electrical engineering and his frame of reference was the intelligent lathe that Josef was researching.
Every time he acquired a new bit of knowledge of electrical engineering, Xia Lei would use it on his stored memory of the intelligent lathe to understand the structure and purpose of those circuits. Him doing so was like re-designing and producing Josef’s intelligent machine. The images of drawings in his head were not just drawings anymore; he could envision them as actual things.
The days were peaceful and fulfilling but he also had a bit of trouble.
This bit of trouble was Annina.
After the whole chain of events, she had found out that he was a ‘married man’ but she had not given up. She was still hoeing persistently at the wall.
It was unstandable why she was like this.
She had suddenly met a man who would use a brick to hit gun-wielding gangsters on the head, risking his own life to save her. This man was rather handsome too and gentle and conscientious - how could she let go of this great and beautiful encounter? So what if he had a wife? Married couples got divorced every day on this Earth, right?
Swing the hoe well and no wall shall stand!
This popular phrase in China was fairly applicable to Annina, and that was what she did.
“Lukas, don’t move,” said Annina suddenly in front of the Leopard 2 engine.
Xia Lei looked up at Annina from screwing the screws with a bewildered expression. “What is it?”
Annina took off her gloves and removed a white towel from around her neck, then drew close and wiped Xia Lei’s face, saying as she wiped, “You got engine grease on your face. I’ll wipe it for you.”
“I’ll do it myself,” said Xia Lei awkwardly.
“No, don’t move. I can wipe it for you.” Annina crouched on the tank engine.
Xia Lei was extremely embarrassed but she was wiping his face for him and he couldn’t move his face aside and end up having her wipe his ear, could he?
Scenarios like this played out not just once, but on a daily basis.
This was already the thirtieth day after Josef had been shot and Xia Lei had lost count of the number of times Annina had hinted at and shown him her interest. He wasn’t very strong-willed himself but Long Bing would appear at critical times since that night she knocked the roof with a rock. How dare he progress with Annina under those circumstances? He would worry about something happening every time Annina made his heart flutter. He worried whether Long Bing would appear suddenly or use a rock to knock on the roof, or cough outside the door… He worried so much it’d become an illness.
Xia Lei held on till Annina was done wiping the grease off his face and let out a quiet sigh. He was being continually seduced during the day by Annina and he had to sleep on the same bed as Long Bing at night but could not do anything with her. He’d need to see a psychiatrist for his time in Germany.
Annina put the towel away. “Lukas, let’s go to the hospital in the afternoon. I got a call from Josef and he said he’ll be discharged in the afternoon. Let’s go pick him up from the hospital.”
Josef had been warded for a whole month and if he had not had Xia Lei and that pair of tweezers, he would have been in a coffin.
“He doesn’t like me and sees me as…”
“A love rival?” Annina chortled. “Were you going to say that?”
Xia Lei nodded. “Isn’t it?”
“Him and me are impossible. I’ve always treated him like an older brother. How can I marry someone I see as my older brother? That’s not love,” said Annina, “There is someone though. I want to be with him, but… he’s married. What should I do?”
Xia Lei cleared his throat. He didn’t dare to respond to those words.
“Come with me to the hospital. Josef says he wants to thank you personally.” Annina stopped teasing Xia Lei; she felt that he was in quite a pitiable position, actually.
“Okay, I’ll go with you,” said Xia Lei. ‘That intelligent lathe’s most important part is its CNC. When will Josef be able to finish that up after he’s discharged? I hope he completes it in a month. I’ll be able to go home then.’ he thought.
He’d been in Germany for over a month now and was not allowed to contact anyone in China. He had no clue what was happening in his own company. Xia Lei had been dreaming of his home, Jiang Ru-Yi and Liang Si-Yao these past few days, as well as his company and Shentu Tian-Ying…
Annina brought him to a hospital in the afternoon and Xia Lei saw Josef in the ward. Josef was a skinny man but the month in hospital had put pounds on him. He still looked weak, however, and needed more rest before he could resume his normal activities.
Xia Lei did not see a single friend of Josef’s in the ward. The room was cold and lonely and it was surprising to Xia Lei.
“How do you feel today, Josef?” Annina greeted Josef.
“Not bad, thanks.” Josef moved his gaze to Xia Lei and moved to him, reaching both hands out to shake his hand before he could speak.
Xia Lei had taken the initiative to shake hands with Josef the first time they met but Josef had not shaken his hand. Now it was Josef taking the initiative to shake with both hands - this showed how much his attitude towards Xia Lei had changed since the incident.
“It’s good to see you, Mr Josef,” said Xia Lei as he shook hands.
“I know what you did for me, Lukas.” Josef gave Xia Lei a hug and said sincerely, “Thank you for saving me. I was… not nice to you. I want to apologise for that.”
Xia Lei smiled. “What do you have to apologise for? You didn’t do anything to feel sorry for.”
Josef smiled too. “Would you be my friend, Lukas?”
“Of course. It is my honour to be your friend,” said Xia Lei.
Annina cut in, “Can you guys not be so gross? If you two keep going on like this it’ll make me think you’re gay.”
Josef and Xia Lei looked at each other and laughed. Their past disagreements went up in a puff of smoke at that instant.
Annina spoke again, “What about those friends of yours, Josef? Why haven’t any of them turned up when you’re getting discharged today?”
Josef shook his head. “Hans nearly got me killed. I don’t need friends like that and I’ve cut ties with some of the people in my past. I want to tell you a bit of good news too.”
“What?” asked Annina.
Josef paused, then spoke in an exaggerated manner, “In my time in hospital, I worked on my design in my notebook and I’ve completed the CNC design for my intelligent lathe. I can tell you in all honesty that this machine will be the most advanced lathe in the world! I’ll be rich!”
“Wow! Really?” Annina hugged Josef and said excitedly, “Congratulations, Josef!”
“One more week and my baby will be complete. I’ll buy you a Harley when I profit in the future, yeah?” Josef said with a grin.
“Yeah!” Annina gave Josef a kiss on the cheek in her excitement.
Kisses on the cheek was a very normal thing in the West but Josef was excited by the kiss. He glanced at Xia Lei out of the corner of his eye, concerned about his reaction. Xia Lei, however, was all smiles and looked very happy about it.
Xia Lei waited for Annina to release Josef and went over to give him a hug as well. He smiled as he said, “Congratulations, Josef. You’re brilliant. Your research results will surely go global and bring new vigour to the manufacturing industry.”
Josef shook his head. “I didn’t think so far ahead. Besides, some things just can’t be exported.”
Xia Lei thought to himself, ‘Not exporting it will not stop your research from taking root in the East. I saved your life and stole your research so we’re even. One week. One week and I’ll get your research and be able to go home!’
“Can you guys help me take some stuff? I haven’t been home in a month and I need to go to the supermarket to buy some groceries. The stuff in the fridge are definitely not useable now,” said Josef.
“We’ll help you even if you didn’t ask. Let’s go! What do you need us to help you take?” said Annina.
“Can you help me walk? I can’t really move around so well right now.” Josef looked at Annina with eyes full of expectation.
Annina nodded in easy agreement. “No problem.”
“Lukas, can you help me carry my laptop bag? I have just this item,” said Josef to Xia Lei.
Xia Lei looked at the laptop bag on the bed and was struck by a thought but he did not show any outward reaction. “No problem.”
Josef walked out of the hospital with Annina’s help and Xia Lei followed with Josef’s laptop bag. He was struck by the impulse to make up some excuse to get away from Josef’s field of vision so that he could copy the CNC program which Josef had completed. However, at the peak of his impulse, a voice surfaced in his head. ‘Relax, calm down…’
Annina helped Josef into a taxi and said to Xia Lei, “Go with Josef in the taxi. I’ll follow on my motorcycle.”
Josef, however, said, “Come with me, Annina. Lukas knows how to drive a motorcycle, right?” He looked at Xia Lei.
A Heaven-sent golden opportunity!
Xia Lei nodded as he said, “I can, no problem. Give me your keys, Annina. I’ll follow.”
Annina rolled her eyes at Xia Lei and handed her keys over to him somewhat reluctantly.
Xia Lei felt like he was getting a ticket back to China when Annina gave him the keys. ‘This is a great opportunity. I’ll pretend to fall behind and copy the CNC program…’ he thought excitedly to himself.
“Lukas, can you hand me my laptop bag?” came Josef’s voice.
Xia Lei felt like he’d been splashed with cold water.
Josef was a cautious man and this was why he should not act impulsively at this most critical time in the mission.
Xia Lei smiled and walked over to hand Josef the laptop bag. “Let’s go. I’ll do my best to keep up. Just make me a cup of coffee if you guys lose sight of me. I’ll definitely turn up while the coffee’s still warm.”
“Be careful while driving,” nagged Annina.
Xia Lei nodded.
The taxi entered traffic and Xia Lei took out his mobile phone to make a call. “He’s out of the hospital. He’s completed what we want. It’s on. Tonight.”
A woman’s voice came from the phone, “Drive off, then. I’m in the lobby of the hospital.”
Xia Lei was speechless.Previous Chapter Next Chapter