Three days later.
Qin Xiang stood before the French window in his office and sipped tea from a fancy teacup as he admired the view outside. It wasn’t actually much of a view - it was Thunder Horse Manufacturing’s premises. His gaze fell upon the single-storey houses by a warehouse. Xia Lei’s personal workshop was in one of them.
Xia Lei’s workshop door was closed and the windows were covered by thick, opaque curtains. No one on the outside could see in.
A faint smile appeared in the corners of Qin Xiang’s lips at the thought of Xia Lei. “That guy has been busy these past few days; he didn’t even have time to take care of his hair. I want to cut his hair for him… How do I ask?”
At that moment, a Hongqi limousine suddenly drove through the main gates. It had Jing-Du license plates.
Qin Xian started, then fished out his mobile phone and called Xia Lei. “Lei, the Jing-Du person is here!”
“That guy from China Industrial Group - I forgot his name,” said Qin Xiang as he watched the person get out of the car.
“I got it.” Xia Lei’s voice came from the phone.
“Then why haven’t you exited your workshop?” said Qin Xiang anxiously, “If the China Industrial Group people know what you’re building they’ll see red. That won’t be good.”
“I’m getting out right now.” Xia Lei hung up and exited the workshop.
Outside the workshop, Xia Lei spotted the person walking towards the office building - it was China Industrial Group’s head of Procurement, Zhou Wei.
So China Industrial Group could not wait any longer and sent someone.
Sending someone now definitely meant that it was related to Josef’s intelligent lathe.
Zhou Wei saw Xia Lei as well and greeted him from afar. “Heh heh, long time no see, Chairman Xia. Hello, hello!”
“Hello, Big Brother Zhou.” Xia Lei walked up to him and shook his hand. “Haven’t seen you in a while. I was starting to miss you.”
It didn’t matter if he’d really missed him or not but it was still nice to hear such words.
“Heh heh, let’s not be so formal,” smiled Zhou Wei, “I know you’re busy so I won’t take too much of your time. I’ll cut straight to the chase and tell you that I’ve come to ask for your help.”
“Let’s talk in my office,” said Xia Lei.
Zhou Wei looked at Xia Lei. “Let’s talk in your workshop.”
Xia Lei froze. That sentence told him that Zhou Wei had come prepared - China Industrial Group already knew that he was building the intelligent lathe.
“Well? Don’t want me to see it?” said Zhou Wei.
“How can that be? Come, this way.” Xia Lei brought Zhou Wei to his workshop.
Zhou Wei spotted the half-built intelligent lathe as soon as he walked into the workshop. It was already about 50% complete and it looked like the base of a fairly large truck instead of a lathe. Zhou Wei was an industry insider, however, and could tell with one glance what it was.
“I have to tell you, Chairman Xia, that you are the person I most admire.” Zhou Wei’s face was the picture of surprise and awe. “We are also building it and we are using an elite team in China Industrial Group but I feel like you would be the faster to complete it.”
“Um… How did you know that I was building the intelligent lathe?” asked Xia Lei probingly.
Zhou Wei laughed. “You brought back the drawings from Germany and you’ve seen the actual thing with your own eyes. You gave the drawings to the nation but we guessed that you would surely try to build it on your own. You have the ability to do so.”
That made sense but Xia Lei knew that China Industrial Group was a military-backed giant in the industry and it was as easy as pie for them to send an agent to scout him out. He didn’t point it out however, and pretended to know nothing of it.
“Say it. What is your aim?” Xia Lei did not want to keep beating about the bush. China Industrial Group already knew and even sent someone here - there must be some sort of aim.
“May I take a few pictures?” said Zhou Wei, “Elder Mu wants to have a look.”
Xia Lei shrugged. “Sure, why not? I’ve even given you guys the drawings so what are some pictures? Take as many as you want.”
Zhou Wei took out a digital camera from his briefcase and took pictures from several different angles. He even included the materials and processed parts in the workshop.
Click click click. Zhou Wei took tens of photographs.
Xia Lei waited for him to be done before saying, “You’re done taking pictures. Tell me - what is your aim?”
“Let’s talk in your office,” said Zhou Wei.
“This way, please.” Xia Lei brought Zhou Wei out of the workshop and to the office building.
Xia Lei worried over the problem at hand while walking to the office. Zhou Wei’s aim was obvious - he wanted to see the intelligent lathe with his own eyes and take pictures to bring back to China Industrial Group.
These actions were akin to sending an industry spy but only China Industrial Group would do it so brazenly.
What aim did he have other than this?
Xia Lei thought and thought but couldn’t come up with anything.
Liang Si-Yao only knew that Zhou Wei had arrived when he walked into the office. She greeted him politely. “Hello, Mr Zhou. When did you arrive? We would have arranged something in advance if you’d called.” She paused, then smiled as she said, “Please take a seat. I’ll make you some tea.”
Xia Lei didn’t have a secretary so she sometimes filled the role.
“Thank you, Miss Liang. Sorry to trouble you,” said Zhou Wei politely.
Liang Si-Yao made him a cup of Iron Goddess of Mercy.
Zhou Wei got up from the sofa as a gesture of thanks.
“No need to stand on ceremony, Mr Zhou.” Liang Si-Yao smiled.
“Miss Liang, I… I would like to talk privately with Chairman Xia. You know that I am just doing what the higher-ups tell me to do and I’m just following orders. I do beg for forgiveness if I’ve offended you.”
“Oh, that’s quite all right; I understand. Have your talk. I was just on my way to take a look around the workshops.” Liang Si-Yao smiled and left the office.
Xia Lei’s brows wrinkled. “Big Brother Zhou, Liang Si-Yao is my Senior Disciple. I trust her as much as I trust myself. There was no need to send her away.”
Zhou Wei smiled wryly. “I’m just doing what the higher-ups ordered, Chairman Xia. My hands are tied. You should understand too that this matter is a national secret and involves international disputes so we’d prefer if this was kept as private as possible. Knowing about some things can bring her more harm than good.”
Xia Lei nodded. “Please speak.”
“I’ll say it then.” Zhou Wei hesitated. “We failed.”
Xia Lei paused. “Why is it a failure? The things I’ve brought back - the detailed drawings, circuit plans, the CNC - how can China Industrial Group fail with your capabilities?”
Zhou Wei laughed bitterly. “This was why I said you will finish this machine sooner than us. We’ve put our best team on it and processed all the parts, assembled them and installed the CNC program you brought back from Germany. The accuracy, however, was lacking and there were several errors.”
“We have found our reason for failure.”
“What is it?”
“Parts,” said Zhou Wei, “We are unable to process the parts required in the drawings. Every part was off by just a little bit, and the project failed when all those inaccuracies accumulated.”
The difference was minute. Parts which looked exactly the same to the naked eye were off by a tiny bit and those little bits, when added together, resulted in failure to build the intelligent lathe.
Zhou Wei’s second aim was clear at that point in the conversation.
China Industrial Group had designs on his intelligent lathe.
“Chairman Xia.” Zhou Wei smiled. “You are a clever man. You should already know what our aim is.”
Xia Lei knew what he wanted but he shook his head. “No, I don’t.”
“We’re going around in circles, Chairman Xia,” said Zhou Wei, “We need a successfully working intelligent lathe to process parts that would pass muster and be used to make machines like this in batches. This is something that would greatly benefit the nation and the people. I believe you will help us.”
Xia Lei laughed. “Please, don’t put me on a pedestal, Big Brother Zhou. I went through a lot of danger in Germany for this intelligent lathe and was almost killed by gangsters. I got the drawings and CNC program and even handed them in to the nation. You have them in your hands. What more do you want from me? Do you feel like I haven’t contributed enough? You know what I got for my efforts? Free domestic flights and high-speed trains. Haha!”
“Hahaha…” Zhou Wei laughed too.
Xia Lei watched him laugh and thought to himself, ‘Fuck. I don’t owe you guys anything. You only come to me when you need me and don’t even throw a purchase order my way when you don’t need me. Trying to use nationalism to make me give you the lathe for free? Do you think I’m a fool?’
“Ahem.” Zhou Wei suddenly stopped laughing and his expression turned serious in an instant. “Name your price.”
“You really want to buy it?”
“No joke.” Zhou Wei grew more serious. “You know the nature of this matter.”
Xia Lei pondered, then said lightly, “I’d like to chat a little before I name a price.”
“You guys got what you wanted from my trip to Germany - the drawings and the CNC program. You thought you’d be able to make the lathe on your own so you didn’t bother to even give me a call, much less show me some thanks. I don’t actually care about these but you don’t know what I went through in Germany. I could have spent the rest of my life behind bars over there if I was found out. I also stepped on the toes of some gangster while trying to complete the mission and they came after me more than once. If I was just a tad unlucky, I would have died over there. I’ve done so much and not asked for any reward from the nation, and neither have I asked to be an official. The ones who profited the most - you guys - have you not one word of thanks to give?”
Zhou Wei looked ashamed.
“I don’t actually care about receiving thanks - I can’t eat it or spend it. I know my status. A big corporation like you guys simply look down on a small company like mine and working with me is like a stain on your reputation. This doesn’t matter either. But you know what? When I came back from Germany, I found that my little company was under siege by Ning Yuan-Shan. It was difficult to even survive yet you guys gave me no purchase orders. I had to manufacture my own shopping trolleys and selfie sticks. Isn’t this such cold treatment?”
“Chairman Xia…” Zhou Wei tried to explain but he was too ashamed himself.
“You guys want to buy my intelligent lathe? I know. This will be the last time we’ll work together. Once you have this intelligent lathe you’ll be able to make all the parts you need and then batch-produce them. You won’t need me anymore. Am I right?” said Xia Lei.
“Ahem…” Zhou Wei spoke awkwardly, “You’re overthinking it, Chairman Xia. We were just too busy and didn’t consider your feelings nor whether you needed help. I can guarantee that there will be plenty of opportunities for us to work together.”
“I don’t want a guarantee. I know who I’m working with. Now let me ask you something - what if I don’t sell?” Xia Lei stared straight at Zhou Wei.
Zhou Wei smiled wryly. “You have to sell. You know the nature of this matter.” After a pause, he added, “So, name a price.”
Xia Lei chuckled. “I won’t hold back and I’ll just name my price then. How about this - a lucky 88,000,000.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter