The red Ferrari stopped in a high-class neighbourhood next to a semi-detached house. Ning Yuan-Shan’s home was on the left and Ning Yuan-Hai on the right. Chi Jing-Qiu alighted from her car and walked to the door on the left.
At that moment, a black BMW M6 entered the neighbourhood and stopped by the road. Xia Lei sat in the driver’s seat and quietly watched Chi Jing-Qiu walk to the door and press the doorbell.
A woman opened the door for her - it was Ning Yuan-Shan’s wife, Yu Hui.
Yu Hui closed the door after Chi Jing-Qiu entered.
They were too far away and the distance would affect his X-ray vision, so Xia Lei opened the car door, prepared to circle around to the back of the house to spy on Ning Yuan-Shan and Chi Jing-Qiu. Just as he opened his car door, however, a knock came from the other front-seat car door.
Xia Lei turned to look and was struck dumb.
Standing at the window was Ning Jing. She was looking at Xia Lei with curious eyes, her hand still against the window in a knocking posture.
Xia Lei had been focused on Chi Jing-Qiu and did not notice Ning Jing approaching from the entrance of the neighbourhood at all. It was also a small neighbourhood with many people coming and going.
‘What bad luck…’ thought Xia Lei to himself as he slapped a smile on his face and rolled down the window. He greeted Ning Jing, “I haven’t seen you in a while, Big Sister Ning. Hello.”
A pretty smile appeared on Ning Jing’s face. “Yes, we haven’t seen each other in a while; you don’t call to chat either. Oh, right, what are you doing here?”
“I… I’m waiting for a friend,” said Xia Lei. He wished Ning Jing would just hurry home and let him listen in on Ning Yuan-Shan and Chi Jing-Qiu’s conversation but she did not seem to want to go anywhere.
“This car’s nice. Is it new?”
“Yeah, I bought a new car,” said Xia Lei.
“Do you plan to keep talking to me while seated in your car?” Ning Jing’s lips curled slightly in dissatisfaction.
Xia Lei then responded by properly alighting from his car. He’d originally intended to just give Ning Jing some greetings and walk off but he’d forgotten about the past between himself and Ning Jing. She would never be able to treat him like a normal friend because of past events.
“Your friend won’t be here for a while, right? How about coming to my place? Your friend can give you a call when he or she arrives,” said Ning Jing.
“Uh…” Xia Lei had not expected her to invite him to her home. Just thinking of her father, Ning Yuan-Hai and her mother, Zhang Hui-Lan made him feel a headache coming on. Those two were extremely self-centred snobs.
“You’re practically at my doorstep and you’re not willing to pay me a visit?” Ning Jing’s eyes were downcast.
Wasn’t Ning Jing’s home next to Ning Yuan-Shan’s? Xia Lei was struck by a thought and said, “Sure, I’ll visit.”
“That’s more like it. Let’s go.” Ning Jing happily grabbed onto Xia Lei’s hand and led him to her home.
Xia Lei felt quite awkward but he did not shake her hand off.
Ning Jing opened the front door with her keys, then brought Xia Lei to the living room.
Ning Yuan-Hai and Zhang Hui-Lan were watching the telly. They froze when they saw Ning Jing bringing Xia Lei in.
“Mother, Father, I ran into Xia Lei in the neighbourhood and invited him in for a chat,” said Ning Jing with a smile.
Xia Lei detested this self-centred couple but he still forced himself to be polite. “Hello, Uncle, Aunt. I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
Zhang Hui-Lan snapped back to reality and hastily got up from the sofa, saying, “No, no, please take a seat.”
Ning Yuan-Hai spoke too. “Sit, sit. What are you standing around for, Jing? Go make some tea for Xia Lei.”
“Nn, okay, right away.” Ning Jing looked rather happy as she went off to make Xia Lei tea.
Xia Lei chose a seat facing the shared wall of the semi-detached house and sat. Houses like these won’t have a double wall; one would always be shared. The place beyond that wall was Ning Yuan-Shan’s home and his living room would be on the first floor too. Now then, what was Ning Yuan-Shan and Chi Jing-Qiu talking about?
Just as Xia Lei got ready to use his X-ray vision on the wall, Zhang Hui-Lan spoke again. “Xia Lei, I hear you’ve started a company.”
Xia Lei nodded. “Yes, I did. It’s just a small company.” As he spoke, his eye twitched and the shared wall disappeared from his vision. He saw Ning Yuan-Shan and Chi Jing-Qiu.
“Small companies can grow too. Didn’t the current big companies also start small?” Zhang Hui-Lan smiled as she said, “Our Jing bought a selfie stick from JD for me. She said your company manufactured it - how very impressive of you.”
Ning Yuan-Hai was all smiles. “Xia Lei, drop by anytime you’re free next time; don’t be shy. Your little sister is studying in Jing-Du so it must be all cold and lonely on your own. Come over and it’ll be more lively than being by yourself.”
Xia Lei found himself at a loss for words. This couple didn’t have this sort of attitude before. Back then, Ren Wen-Qiang had just come back from overseas - he was highly educated, had status and high income - miles better than the little worker he was. Ning Yuan-Hai and Zhang Hui-Lan had been hell-bent on match-making Ren Wen-Qiang and Ning Jing and seen him as a thorn in their side. Now that Ren Wen-Qiang was down on his luck and Xia Lei was successful, however, the couple was treating him rather nicely.
An old saying was fitting for this - Nobody cares for a poor man but a rich man deep in the woods would have distant relatives. These people sure were realistic.
The warmth displayed by the couple made it difficult for Xia Lei to be stone-faced and he chatted with them while keeping his focus on Ning Yuan-Shan and Chi Jing-Qiu. “Thank you Uncle, Auntie. I’m doing okay. I stay at my Master’s place often and it is quite lively with my Master and Senior Disciple.”
“Master? Senior Disciple?” Ning Yuan-Hai and Zhang Hui-Lan looked at each other with odd expressions on their faces.
At that moment, Ning Jing walked over with the tea. She put a cup of Bamboo Leaf Green in front of Xia Lei and sat next to him, then followed up with, “Didn’t you know, Mother, Father? Xia Lei is learning Wing Chun now. He’s quite skilled.”
“Learned and skilled. If this were ancient times you’d be a top scorer in the imperial examinations. Heh heh!” Zhang Hui-Lan laughed in an exaggerated manner.
Next to her, Ning Yuan-Hai rolled his eyes. He did not say anything but his eyes seemed to say ‘What are you up to now you know that he’s doing well?’
Ning Jing continued, “I also know that Xia Lei’s Senior Disciple is an overseas graduate and an all-rounded fighter and scholar. She’s his assistant now. Oh, and she’s a beauty too, isn’t she, Xia Lei?”
Xia Lei was focusing on Ning Yuan-Shan and Chi Jing-Qiu, lip-reading their conversation. He was in no mood to chat with Ning Jing and just agreed absentmindedly. “Yeah, yeah, she really is very beautiful.”
The bit of joy on Ning Jing’s face drained away.
Ning Jing and Xia Lei seemed to have a relationship that ended before it even begun. It could only be described as ‘fate’.
“Ahem…” Zhang Hui-Lan smiled. “She may be highly educated but surely not as highly educated as our Jing? Our Jing is a doctorate-holder. And what era is this now - we don’t have to fight or kill anymore. Learning martial arts is what a man should do, not a woman. If husband and wife both practise martial arts then wouldn’t they tear the house down when they have a spat?”
Ning Yuan-Hai laughed dryly. “Right, right. Marriage is the most important event in a person’s life. It’s extremely important who your partner is. There’s a lot of factors to consider - if the parents are excellent then the child’s foundation will also be excellent and it will surely be a very impressive prodigy.”
How did these two end up implicating children?
Xia Lei just listened and didn’t respond. His gaze was still locked on Ning Yuan-Shan and Chi Jing-Qiu on the other side of the wall.
Chi Jing Qiu handed the memory card from Xiang Hong-Bin to Ning Yuan-Shan.
There was a gloating smile on Ning Yuan-Shan’s face as he excitedly inserted the memory card into the prepared reader-device and connected it to his phone.
“Well done, well done.” Ning Yuan-Shan looked at the drawings displayed on his phone and got more excited the more he saw. “Now that we have these drawings I can assemble a team. We will definitely build this lathe. Oh, right, your father-in-law and your husband will take part too so they shall have a share of the rewards.”
Chi Jing-Qiu, on the other hand, was not interested. “I don’t care about them. I’m only concerned about my manager position.”
Ning Yuan-Shan shook a finger at Chi Jing-Qiu and smiled as he said, “You, you’re good in all aspects except this.”
“Chairman Ning, I believe in one thing and that is ‘Every man for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost’. The human lifespan is just a few decades and I don’t want to spend it all in mediocracy.”
“Whatever. I’m not interested in your family affairs. I’ll do what I promised,” said Ning Yuan-Shan, “I’ll promote you tomorrow and give you the position of ‘Sales Manager’. Is that good enough for you?”
Chi Jing-Qiu had a gleeful smile on her face. “Thank you, Chairman Ning.”
“However, you still have to be in charge of this matter,” said Ning Yuan-Shan.
“No problem. My inside-man will keep an eye on Xia Lei and I’ll report to you immediately if anything happens on his end,” said Chi Jing-Qiu.
Ning Yuan-Shan unplugged the connecting cable, then carefully placed the reader-device with the memory card inside it in his pocket. A small smirk appeared on his face. “That punk Xia Lei wants to climb to the top with this lathe? He’s dreaming. He shouldn’t have taken away our most important client, China Industrial Group. I wouldn’t do this to him otherwise. If he wants to blame anyone he should blame himself for not knowing his own limits.”
Ning Yuan-Shan was not greedy but connections and reputation were particularly important to him. Xia Lei poaching a China Industrial Group, which should’ve been his big client in the first place, was like a stain on his reputation and a breaking of the connection between his company and China Industrial Group. This in turn affected one of his paths to advancement, so how could he not bear a grudge?
“He deserves it. I was his classmate and I know him. He must be desperate to escape the clutches of poverty and is probably hanging on any bit that would help him advance like a stubborn weed or he would have repaid your kindness. People like this are not worthy of sympathy. But Chairman Ning, he’s also building an intelligent lathe. How shall we take care of him?”
Ning Yuan-Shan sneered, “Can a civilian company build lathes faster than us? We shall make the workers work overtime on this and complete the machine before he does. Then we will write a report and apply for the patent. If he builds one, we will sue him for stealing our company secrets. Who will the judge believe then? Him or me?”
Chi Jing-Qiu giggled. “You, of course, Chairman Ning. You’re more important than Mayor Hu in Hai-Zhu. Which judge would dare go against you? Besides, we are a government-backed corporation. Who would believe that a giant like us would steal from a small company? Xia Lei won’t even be able to cry when that happens.”
“That’s a future matter. Right now you should contact the production department immediately. I want the best in our company. A design plan must be drawn up tonight.”
“Yes, I’ll call them over right away.” Chi Jing-Qiu was excited too.
Xia Lei stopped using his X-ray vision at that point and did a mental sigh.Previous Chapter Next Chapter