The famous Shentu clan actually lived in a village called Yu-Lin, between the mountains and the water, tranquil as a picture in their house of green tiles and white walls. Xia Lei wouldn’t have believed that they’d be living in a village if he hadn’t come here. He had imagined that the Shentu clan would be in the best district in the city, or a villa, or an entire apartment block. The Shentu home, however, was in a village and only looked especially elegant. It was unbelievable.
The Shentu home, however, was very large, spanning ten acres. The front and back of the residence had three hallways, plus front and back gardens with pavilions in a Suzhou-esque landscape.
Fu Ming-Mei stopped the car at the entrance and Shentu Tian-Yin and Xia Lei alighted. Shentu Tian-Yin led him in, talking as she went.
“Most of the Shentu clan live here. My father is a very traditional man. He bought land and had this residence built, then invited all of the Shentu clan to move in after he built Vientaine Group from scratch. The Shentu clan work in Vientaine Group too and my father does not like to hold meetings in the company meeting rooms so he sometimes gathers the clan here in the residence to have a discussion. Before the stroke happened, this place was actually harmonious and lively - it changed after the stroke.” Shentu Tian-Yin sounded sad.
“One thing ruined it - money. Your father built Vientaine Group from scratch and the clan treated him as their shining beacon when he was well. They started having other thoughts after he fell from his pedestal and think Vientaine Group belongs to them. It’s all about money in the end,” said Xia Lei.
Shentu Tian-Yin sighed. “They are picking on me because there is no man in my family. Would they still dare to outwardly bully me if I have a man as impressive as you by my side?”
Xia Lei laughed. “What’s so impressive about me?”
“Liang Si-Yao became your girlfriend overnight - isn’t that impressive?” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
Xia Lei smiled sheepishly and didn’t say anything.
Shentu Yi and a woman came walking out from the central room. The woman looked to be in her early fifties with well-pampered skin; white and plump, giving one the impression of richness.
Shentu Tian-Yin lowered her voice, “The woman next to my Second Uncle is his wife, Wang Fang. Don’t be fooled by her wide exterior - she is small-minded and full of terrible ideas. My Second Uncle is afraid of her and listens to whatever she says.”
“Nn.” Xia Lei gave a small grunt to let her know he’d heard her.
“Tian-Yin, why are you so late?” Shentu Yi spoke in dissatisfaction, “The elders are getting impatient.”
Shentu Yi used Shentu Tian-Yin’s grandparents to pressure her right after she got home.
Before she could answer, Wang Fang interrupted to say, “Our Tian-Yin’s attentions are all on this gentleman here, I’m afraid. What is your name, dear sir?”
She definitely knew Xia Lei’s name and was doing this deliberately. She seemed to be using this method to display her attitude towards Xia Lei - who are you to dare come into the Shentu clan!
Xia Lei wrinkled his brows. He’d envisioned this visit to be difficult but hadn’t expected this Shentu couple to throw down the gauntlet immediately.
“Tian-Yin, why isn’t your boyfriend saying anything?” said Wang Fang.
“What are you trying to say, Aunt?” said Shentu Tian-Yin calmly.
“Is he actually mu…” She did not say the ‘te’ ending but laughed. “This gentleman here must be shy.”
Xia Lei spoke only then. “My name’s Xia Lei. Hello, Aunt.”
He wanted to kick her in the face but she was Shentu Tian-Yin’s Aunt and an elder after all and as her fake boyfriend he should not get on her bad side from the first meeting.
Wang Fang looked Xia Lei over more closely and said, “A handsome man indeed, but what a pity…”
Xia Lei held back his anger and said evenly, “A pity what?”
Wang Fang laughed. “I heard you’re just a high-school graduate. I think it’ll be better if you had a higher level of culture - I didn’t mean anything else.”
Shentu Tian-Yin’s face darkened and she looked about ready to explode.
Shentu Yi followed with, “My dear wife, you’re wonderful in everything except your control of your mouth. Say less if you have nothing good to say. Look, you’ve upset Tian-Yin.”
“I’m not going to matter much but he’ll need Father’s approval. Not just any Tom, Dick or Harry can waltz through our Shentu doors. Tian-Yin’s status is of the chairman of Vientaine Group; it’s a huge matter who her partner is. Can’t I help her weed out the bad ones as her Aunt?” said Wang Fang.
Xia Lei could see it now. The Shentu couple was working together towards the goal of driving him out and having Shentu Tian-Yin remain single - this was most advantageous to them. They did not dare to go overboard in front of Shentu Tian-Yin but an outsider like him was fair game and they would use any method they’d like.
Honestly, Xia Lei wanted to just turn around and leave right then and there because the sight of Shentu Yi and Wang Fang disgusted him. He still had to meet more of the Shentu clan in a bit. However, his heart softened when he saw Shentu Tian-Yin standing alone next to him. Well, he was already there so he’d help her to the end!
Xia Lei smiled. “Aunt, you’re not the one looking for a son-in-law so why is there a need to be picky about culture? I am indeed just a high-school graduate but Tian-Yin likes high-school graduates. I did ask her why she wouldn’t rather go for university graduates and she told me that there are a whole bunch of university graduates and doctorate holders in her company but she likes me. This is called ‘fate’ - you understand that?”
“Goodness! You…” Wang Fang had not expected Xia Lei to dare talk back to her and her cheeks turned pale in anger.
Shentu Tian-Yin gave a sputtering laugh.
“Let’s go, Honey. Take me to your grandfather.” Xia Lei held out his hand. “Hand the gift to me; I’ll carry it.”
“Nn.” Shentu Tian-Yin made a sound of agreement and handed two large wrapped gifts to Xia Lei. She held intimately onto his arm as he carried the bags of gifts.
The two then took no further notice of Shentu Yi and Wang Fang, moving around them to get to the central room.
Shentu Yi and Wang Fang exchanged looks, their expressions ugly.
“What asset is this punk supposed to be? He’s a thorn in society’s side!” said Wang Fang.
“This is no simple punk. Huang Yi-Hu perished in his hands. He’s a powerful one,” said Shentu Yi in a low voice.
Wang Fang spoke angrily, “I don’t care who he is. I’ll never let someone like this through the doors of our Shentu clan! How dare he speak to me like that on our first meeting - what foothold will we have left if that woman marries him? We have to get everyone to chase this punk out later. He’s going to soak his rice in his own tears!”
This Wang Fang had a good eye and great intuition. Based on Xia Lei’s personality, methods and capabilities, would he let the Shentu clan bully his wife if he married Shentu Tian-Yin? He’d smash them to bits!
The central room was empty so Shentu Tian-Yin led Xia Lei through side door to an inner courtyard.
The inner courtyard had a large area paved with greenish-black flagstones and a white-haired old man was basking in the sun on a chair. A group of people were chatting next to him. Shentu Tian-Feng was part of that group and next to him was a young woman in her early twenties. The woman was very pretty and heavily pregnant - she looked like she would give birth soon.
“The woman next to Shentu Tian-Feng is Tan Jing-Jing, his wife. She’s eight months pregnant and carrying a boy. My grandfather is very pleased about it and is awaiting the birth of his great-grandson,” said Shentu Tian-Yin to Xia Lei.
Xia Lei smiled wryly. “Your grandfather’s generation is stubbornly set on male inheritance. You have to look at it another way - some things just can’t be corrected.”
Shentu Tian-Yin nodded. “Come, I’ll take you to meet my grandfather.”
They walked towards Shentu Wei-Ye and all the eyes of the Shentu clan rested on Xia Lei. Not one of their gazes were friendly - they already saw Xia Lei as a negative effect on their current lofty way of life.
Shentu Wei-Ye looked at Xia Lei and there was a trace of anger in his eyes.
Shentu Tian-Yin braced herself and said, “I’m back, Grandfather. Let me introduce you - this is Xia Lei, my boyfriend.”
Xia Lei followed with the words, “Hello, Grandfather. I’ve bought you some gifts…”
Before he could finish, Shentu Wei-Ye snorted. “Who are you calling ‘Grandfather’? We are not related. Do not assume that I’ll be your ‘Grandfather’.”
The group of Shentus behind Shentu Wei-Ye smiled smiles of schadenfreude, especially Shentu Tian-Feng. His was not the most obvious smile but the most gleeful.
Xia Lei was not perturbed. He smiled as he said, “Did I mis-speak? What should I call you then? Is ‘Grandpa’ okay?”
Shentu Tian-Feng’s wife, Tan Jing-Jing muttered, “What thick skin.”
Shentu Tian-Yin looked at her and Tan Jing-Jing looked away. She shut her mouth.
Xia Lei placed the gifts next to Shentu Wei-Ye’s chair but he did not even spare him so much as a glance.
“Tian-Yin, when did you get together?” Shentu Wei-Ye glowered at Shentu Tian-Yin without masking any of his dissatisfaction.
“We’ve been dating for months. I wasn’t sure before but I am now sure that he is my other half so I’ve brought him back to meet you and the uncles and aunts. We will be one family in the future; he’ll meet you all sooner or later.”
“One family?” Shentu Wei-Ye wrinkled his brows.
Shentu Tian-Yin braced herself. “Yes. We’re planning to get married in spring.”
“Bah! I’m not dead yet.” Shentu Wei-Ye’s tone was accusatory, “Why didn’t you seek my permission about a matter as big as this? Or your uncles and aunts? Your marriage is a huge thing to our Shentu clan - how can you make this decision on your own?”
Shentu Tian-Yin bit her lip. Her heart must’ve been shattered but she was a strong woman. She steeled herself and did not let any tears out.
Xia Lei saw her struggle and felt sad for her.
Shentu Yi and Wang Fang came out from the central room at that moment.
“Father, this punk gave me lip from the get-go,” complained Wang Fang as soon as she walked over, “I was doing it for Tian-Yin’s own good, saying that he’s just a high-school graduate and he responded that I wasn’t the one looking for a son-in-law. Father, you see, how can a person like this be a match for our Tian-Yin?”
The Shentu clan buzzed in response.
“How can he behave like that?”
“Yeah, why did Tian-Yin get a man like that? What low class.”
“Will we still have our positions in Vientaine Group if Tian-Yin marries this man with no respect for his elders?”
All of their words and lines uttered could be summarised with one word - Money!Previous Chapter Next Chapter