Gu Ke-Wu expressed interest after Shentu Tian-Yin’s praise. He took out a name card and handed it to Xia Lei with both hands. “Mr Xia, this is my name card. It has my phone number on it. Let’s have tea when you have time. Oh, you can look for me about business matters too. I’m willing to work with an outstanding entrepreneur like yourself.”
“Thank you.” Xia Let got up as well and used both hands to receive his name card. He knew though that this was just an act in front of Shentu Tian-Yin.
Gu Ke-Wu would never be his friend for no other reason than that he had destroyed a loyal dog of the Gu clan, Huang Yi-Hu.
He, however, handed his name card to him graciously. If Xia Lei refused his name card, he would appear graceless.
Xia Lei looked at the title on Gu Ke-Wu’s namecard - Vice Chairman of North Group.
“Mr Xia, it looks like it was not a mistake to invite you over. Look, you’ve made a friend so quickly.” Shentu Tian-Yin’s voice was soft but clear, “This was not my aim, however. I invited you over to talk about Ning Yuan-Shan.”
Several thoughts flashed through Xia Lei’s mind at that sentence.
“You know that we, the Vientaine Group, are working on the wind-power project with Far East Heavy Industries. They were supposed to provide the equipment but with Ning Yuan-Shan under arrest, Far East Heavy Industries is without a leader and we have been affected as well. We were waiting on the last shipment of equipment when this happened. There is no way they can get the goods to us in time now. I am troubled by this matter - you are a professional in this field; is there something you may suggest?” Shentu Tian-Yin looked at Xia Lei with expectant eyes.
Xia Lei was there when Ning Yuan-Shan had been arrested and even beat up Ren Wen-Qiang. How could Shentu Tian-Yin be unaware of this with her information network? She did not mention that Ning Yuan-Shan’s arrest had to do with him but he knew that she knew some of the truth and had chosen not to speak of it.
Xia Lei thought for a bit before he said, “Miss Shentu, I don’t know the details of the situation so I cannot simply give you suggestions. If it’s permissible, perhaps you could furnish me with more details? I may be able to give you a suggestion then.”
Shentu Tian-Yin was silent, then she nodded. “This is not the place to talk. Let’s schedule something tomorrow.”
Xia Lei smiled in agreement.
Gu Ke-Wen made a contemptuous sound with her nose. “Big Sister Tian-Yin, you have a pool of talent in Vientaine Group - do you really need Mr Xia’s opinion?”
“You say this because you don’t really know Mr Xia. He is the best in the country. We have several talents in our Vientiane Group but those we have in the same field as Mr Xia cannot be compared to him. What is so wrong about me asking Mr Xia for his opinion?”
Shentu Tian-Yin was dissatisfied with Gu Ke-Wen’s barbs and her tone became a shade more unpleasant.
Gu Ke-Wen was about to say more but Gu Ke-Wu glared at her and she shut her mouth.
Gu Ke-Wu laughed. “So this means that it is an honour to meet you, Mr Xia. We must have some drinks together later.”
Xia Lei chuckled. “Mr Gu, you’re too kind. The honoured one is me.”
“Don’t be so formal then, you two,” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
Just then, a paunchy man brought a blonde-haired, blue-eyed foreigner to the table. This man looked to be in his early fifties and was wearing a loose-fitting suit and a friendly smile. The foreigner next to him was tall and sturdy and gave one the impression of a healthy man.
“You’re here, Second Uncle. Take a seat,” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
“Uncle Yi, please sit.” Gu Ke-Wu and Gu Ke-Wen also greeted him.
“Ke-Wu, Ke-Wen, we all know each other already, no need to be so formal.” The man smiled as he spoke and seemed quite relaxed about etiquette.
It was Xia Lei’s first time meeting him so he wasn’t sure how to greet him but from Shentu Tian-Yin’s greeting, he surmised that this man was Shentu Yi.
“Mr Xia, this is my Second Uncle, Shentu Yi.” Shentu Tian-Yin did the introductions and he was indeed named so.
Xia Lei stood at the introduction and smiled as he said, “Hello, Mr Shentu. I am Xia Lei - nice to meet you.”
“Xia Lei?” Shentu Yi just said those two words, did a perfunctory handshake and was done with him.
Xia Lei awkwardly took his seat again. He saw Gu Ke-Wen’s mouth curl in contempt. She seemed to take joy in seeing him being belittled. Gu Ke-Wu, on the other hand, was calm and he maintained a small smile which made him look poised and elegant.
‘Gu Ke-Wen’s still a greenhorn compared to Gu Ke-Wu,’ thought Xia Lei to himself.
“Tian-Yin, let me introduce you. This is Mr Konrad, an electrical engineer I’ve hired from Germany. He can help us solve the problems we’ve encountered.”
“Harlow, Mizz Teen-Yeen. Berry happy meet yew.” The German named Konrad stretched out a hand to Shentu Tian-Yin elegantly.
Shentu Tian-Yin paused, then stood and shook hands with Konrad. “Hello, Mr Konrad.”
“Please have a seat, Mr Konrad.” Shentu Yi pulled out a chair for Konrad.
“Danks.” Konrad’s Chinese was terrible.
Shentu Yi and Konrad seated themselves and Xia Lei couldn’t help making guesses when he looked at Konrad. ‘What problem prompted Shentu Yi to hire an electrical engineer from Germany? Shentu Tian-Yin also asked to meet me tomorrow to ask my opinion on something - could it be the same problem?’
Xia Lei looked surreptitiously at Shentu Tian-Yin’s face and saw her brows knit in unhappiness.
Konrad suddenly spoke in German, “Ihre Nichte scheint nicht glücklich zu sein.”
He said: Your niece does not seem happy.
Shentu Yi hesitated, then nodded.
Xia Lei looked at Shentu Yi and quickly discovered that he had a tiny receiver, smaller than a button, in his ear. His left eye twitched and he saw a small electronic device in his clothing. He was struck by a thought, ‘This Shentu Yi is weird. He brought a German electrical engineer to a banquet and also equipment that spies or special agents would use. There seems to be someone interpreting for him in real-time too. What is he up to?’
“What did he say?” Shentu Tian-Yin seemed to sense that Konrad was talking about her and she was displeased.
Shentu Yi shook his head. “Tian-Yin, you know your Second Uncle’s culture. I don’t know any German.”
“I don’t know any German either. It’s not a major language so I’ve never thought of picking it up,” said Gu Ke-Wu.
Xia Lei could tell that something was off. ‘There’s obviously someone interpreting for Shentu Yi in real-time and he can understand Konrad but he said he didn’t know any German. He could be excused for not relaying some rude comment but Konrad only said something very normal. Why didn’t he translate it for Shentu Tian-Yin?’
Konrad gave a laugh and spoke very stiffly in Chinese, “Eye say, yew very pretty.”
A small smile showed in the corners of Shentu Tian-Yin’s lips but she moved her gaze to Xia Lei.
‘She knows that I know German?’ thought Xia Lei. It would be easy for him to reveal Shentu Yi’s lie; he could just translate what Konrad had said. However, he thought about it and did not do so.
“Second Uncle, why didn’t you discuss it with me before hiring an electrical engineer from Germany?” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
“Tian-Yin, you are so busy that I cannot bear to see you so tired. I personally hired Mr Konrad here to help. I did this for Vientaine Group too - you can’t blame me for that, can you?” said Shentu Yi.
“I won’t. But you have to tell me before you do something like this again.” Her words carried a threat.
Shentu Yi laughed awkwardly. “I will.”
Gu Ke-Wen piped up at that moment, “Big Sister Tian-Yin, Uncle Yi has already hired a German electrical engineer so your problems will definitely be solved now. Looks like you won’t have to ask some local expert for help, right?”
No names were mentioned but Xia Lei knew that the ‘local expert’ she’d referred to was him. Gu Ke-Wen had not let go of a single opportunity to taunt him since he got to the table.
Shentu Tian-Yin did not say anything but Gu Ke-Wen’s words sparked the interest of Shentu Yi. His face darkened as he looked at Xia Lei. “Are you also here to help us solve our problem?”
“I don’t know what problem you’ve encountered but I’ve promised Miss Shentu that I’ll give her some suggestions after I’ve gained an understanding of the situation,” said Xia Lei.
“You’re so young - what expert are you?” sneered Shentu Yi.
Xia Lei wrinkled his brows. “Does this have to do with age?”
Shentu Yi spoke aggressively, “China’s manufacturing industry is sluggish now and the academic field is practicing fraud. The whole environment is fickle and impatient. Some punk who has recently graduated from university is impersonating a professional and he is not afraid of being mocked.”
“University graduate?” Gu Ke-Wen giggled. “Uncle Yi, Mr Xia is a high school graduate. He taught himself. He’s much better than those university graduates.”
“High-school?” Shentu Yi suddenly laughed. “Tian Yin, why are you asking a high-school graduate to solve our problems?”
Xia Lei stood and said, “Miss Shentu, I’m sorry, it looks like I won’t be able to give you any suggestions. Thank you for inviting me over to your table but I feel like I’d be more comfortable if I returned to my original seat.”
“Sit down,” said Shentu Tian-Yin. She pointed at Shentu Yi. “You, get out.”
Shentu Yi’s smile froze on his face.
Looks of surprise appeared on Gu Ke-Wu and Gu Ke-Wen’s faces.
Shentu Tian-Yin had actually ordered her own Second Uncle away and not spared his dignity! Something like this was unbelievable to the Gu siblings and Shentu Yi himself could not quite believe it.
“Tian-Yin, I…” Shentu Yi came to his senses and struggled to control his flushed face.
“Need I tell you a second time? Get out,” said Shentu Tian-Yin flatly.
Shentu Yi got to his feet with a crash. He glared at Xia Lei, then turned and left.
“Abalones.” Konrad also stood and left.
Xia Lei paused. He wanted to leave but Shentu Tian-Yin had chased her own uncle away to keep him at the table. How could he just walk off after all that? He looked at Shentu Tian-Yin and forced himself to keep sitting there. He really wanted to smash Gu Ke-Wen’s face with his foot, though.
“Honoured guests, let me, on behalf of the Municipal Party Committee and Government of Hai-Zhu City, thank you for your attendance today. We shall enter the conference room for a discussion after dinner. Please speak up and offer your opinions and ideas on how to revitalise the economy in Hai-Zhu City…” Hu Hou’s voice echoed in the great hall.
The banquet had begun.
Xia Lei had no appetite.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
The results of the scans and tests are out and I don't have cancer! Phew.
Wisdom tooth (impacted) removal tonight... Posting now because I'll be in the chair later.