Xia Lei came to the company with red eyes the next day. He’d been practically sleepless the previous night going through the things his father had left behind, trying to find some clue. His efforts were in vain, however. That mysterious man looked so much like his father - Why won’t he come home or meet with him?
These questions would never be answered if he couldn’t meet with that mysterious man. However, Xia Lei had the answer to a problem in front of him, and that was a bendable selfie stick. He had completed the design for it in the span of a night.
The selfie stick he had ‘upgraded’ was more compact and could be kept in the pocket but also reach two metres in length when extended. It could also bend and fulfil all the requirements of picture-taking enthusiasts, even pictures of the back of their heads. Pictures of scenery at an angle were no problem either.
Xia Lei told Liang Si-Yao of his selfie stick manufacturing idea and she cheerfully applauded his idea.
“This plan is much better than the shopping trolley!” said Liang Si-Yao excitedly, “People who buy shopping trolleys are mostly old folk. Young people would barely give a product like shopping trolleys a glance, much less grocery shopping. This selfie stick, on the other hand, is very popular amongst youngsters. I think we’ll be able to sell a lot of these if our product is better than the others!”
“One more thing. Nothing like this 360-degree bending selfie stick is on the market yet. My design is also quite unique. I plan to get the patent for this and make this product unique to us,” said Xia Lei.
“Patent application? Will it work?”
Xia Lei smiled. “Of course it will, just not in Hai-Zhu City. I’ll give Long Bing a call and ask her to help settle this. I won’t have to make a trip to the patent office with her help. Hai-Zhu is a small city too, so I don’t want anyone to know that we have a product like this.”
If he went to the patent office in Hai-Zhu City, he could run into problems or even have his secret leaked. To put it plainly, this bendable selfie stick was just a little innovation with no technological component to it. Anyone could make a copy of it from just a drawing of it. Xia Lei wanted Long Bing’s help in order to avoid all these problems. She had also helped in the application for the automatic surfboard for Liu Ying.
“I do approve of the patent application but will she be willing to help with it?” Liang Si-Yao was doubtful.
“This is a small thing compared to what I did for them. If they’re not going to help me with this little thing, I’m going to pretend not to know anything the next time they want something from me. Don’t bother with this, Senior Disciple. Let’s split up the tasks. You make copies of the drawings, one for each workshop director. From today on, our company is going to go full force to manufacture this selfie stick and quickly make up one shipment.”
“Okay, I’m on it.” Liang Si-Yao took the drawings and went to work.
Xia Lei started preparing the necessary documentation for the patent processing and called Long Bing when he was done.
Long Bing’s voice came over the speaker before he could say anything. “You must have some favour to ask me if you’re taking the initiative to call me. What is it? Speak.”
Xia Lei was a little at a loss for words and said, “How did you know I called to ask for help?”
“So are you calling to invite me out for a coffee?”
Xia Lei laughed. “I’ll treat you to coffee the next time you come to Hai-Zhu. I actually am calling to ask for your help. I have a selfie stick idea I’d like to have patented. You know my situation. I have over a hundred employees who depend on me for their livelihood but business is not doing very well and I may not be able to support them all for long.”
“Wait, a selfie stick?” Long Bing sounded curious. “Hasn’t that thing been around for a while? The youngsters are playing around with it night and day, taking pictures of everything. Are you sure this regular item is your idea?”
“The one I’ve designed can bend 360 degrees. Have you seen that before?” said Xia Lei.
“That I haven’t.”
“Can you help me settle the patent if I send you the documents?”
Long Bing was quiet for a bit before she said, “It should be no problem if it’s bendable. Send it to me and I’ll show it to Boss Shi. We can get it confirmed today.”
“Thank you.” Xia Lei let out a sigh of relief, then asked probingly, “You don’t need Boss Shi for this, do you?”
“I don’t have the power to do the patent approval in Jing-Du. The approval the last time was also because I pleaded with Boss Shi to help you. You’re his rising star now so he’ll be happy to help you.”
“What rising star… Thanks. Please also tell Boss Shi that I’m grateful for his help.”
“It’s nothing; don’t be so formal. You did well so he will get you a patent even if you say that you invented the kitchen knife.”
She could make jokes like these too?
Xia Lei was speechless.
“Mm, send me one of those when you make them.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Anything else? If not, I’ll hang up.” Long Bing hung up without waiting for Xia Lei’s response.
And so the matter was settled. Xia Lei knew that the more Boss Shi helped him, the more favours he owed him. The most difficult things to repay were personal favours and he would, naturally, have to do tasks for Shi Bo-Ren. This was nothing too bad either since Shi Bo-Ren was tasking him with things which were for the good of the nation. This country was not perfect and had her minuses but she was ultimately the land which nurtured all of the Chinese; it was a noble thing to make her better and greater.
Xia Lei went to the workshops after he settled the matter of the patent. A few workshops had already begun preparing the materials to produce the selfie stick he had designed and were the picture of activity. The production of the shopping trolley hadn’t ceased either. Its profit margin wasn’t as high as the selfie stick but a market for it still existed. A company needed several different products and Thunder Horse Manufacturing already had two - it was a good start.
Once he walked out of the workshops, he went right back into his own and back to the making of the intelligent lathe. This intelligent lathe, not the shopping trolley nor the selfie stick, would be the true trump card for Thunder Horse Manufacturing!
Xia Lei was so busy in his workshop that he lost all sense of time. Liang Si-Yao was not idle either; she brought the first selfie stick manufactured to Xia Lei. They were both quite satisfied with the stick the employees had made.
However, they were faced with a new problem - the product was out now but how were they going to sell it?
Your goods wouldn’t necessarily sell well if they were good in this day and age. Advertising and public relations were very important. Thunder Horse Manufacturing had neither of these.
“Our customer base and sales channels are too small. This type of selfie stick is easily produced; a worker can make 20 or 30 of these in a day. We can make around 2,000 sticks in a day but our reserves would be diminished. Our funds and materials will soon run out so we have to solve the problem of sales as soon as possible,” said Liang Si-Yao.
Xia Lei thought for a bit and his brows wrinkled. “We can sell some of them in our own supermarket but the sales will be almost negligible. Things like these are sold online. What do you think about online sales platforms?”
“Are you talking about opening an online shop?” Liang Si-Yao shook her head. “The online shop business is tough. A newly-made online shop with no word-of-mouth or repeat customers will struggle in the market. Another problem is that we have just two products now while online shops have a wide variety of products for sale.”
“I’m not interested in opening an online shop. I’m saying we should sell on those sites. JD has a sellers’ platform, right? We can try that. We can also promote our products to other big sites. Our product is new and interesting so it fills the gap in the selfie stick market. I think the e-commerce and online shops will be interested,” said Xia Lei.
“Not a bad idea. I’ll contact JD right away. I’ll also mobilise the youngsters in the sales department and get them to contact the big online platforms.” Liang Si-Yao went off excitedly.
Xia Lei watched her go and thought to himself, ‘I must buy her a car if we make money from this. She’s put in so much work already.’
Liang Si-Yao suddenly turned around. “I just remembered - isn’t Monk a professional bodyguard? I heard him say that his boss is one of the JD shareholders and has some pull with the board. We can only contact the lower-tier employees if we make phone calls we won’t get good prices like that. Even if we do, the whole process will be very troublesome. How about I ask Monk and see what he says.”
‘Monk’ was the nickname of Lu Sheng, Liang Zheng-Chun’s disciple. He found Xia Lei an eyesore when he’d first started learning Wing Chun at the martial arts school and even fought with him. Lu Sheng had lost and the two of them became friends.
Lu Sheng’s stern face appeared in Xia Lei’s mind and he smiled faintly. “I haven’t heard anything about his boss but this does seem like a better option than contacting the JD employees. I do know that Lu Sheng likes you - won’t it be awkward?”
Liang Si-Yao rolled her eyes at Xia Lei. “He likes me, so we should be awkward when we’re together? So is it awkward when we’re together?”
Was this a question?
This approached a grey area - did she like Xia Lei, or was it Xia Lei who liked her?
Liang Si-Yao seemed to realise that she had said something that could be embarrassing and blushed. She turned to exit the workshop without waiting for Xia Lei’s answer and said as she walked, “Don’t worry about this; I’ll make arrangements. You’ll come with me when the time comes.”
“Mm.” Xia Lei gave a sound of agreement but a question ate at him from the inside. ‘Is it awkward when I am with her?’
His mind played out a scenario where he was unzipping her skirt and slipping her underwear off…
It’s still a little awkward after all.Previous Chapter Next Chapter