There were more people in the conference room. Xia Lei saw Shentu Tian-Yin right away when he walked in, and the one he didn’t want to see most, Gu Ke-Wen.
Shentu Tian-Yin and Gu Ke-Wen spotted Xia Lei too and their reactions were completely different. Gu Ke-Wen looked at him with hate and disgust while Shentu Tian-Yin stood and waved at Xia Lei.
“Here, there’s a seat here.” Shentu Tian-Yin’s words were friendly and she had a bright smile on her face.
Xia Lei responded with a smile and walked towards her. He didn’t know why but he felt close and familiar with her; he felt like chatting and getting some updates about Shentu Ren’s condition.
“Isn’t that Xia Lei?” whispered a business owner, “There was a media report a few days ago saying he’s Shentu Tian-Yin’s boyfriend - is it true?”
“It should be. Look! Isn’t Shentu Tian-Yin greeting him right now? She’s smiling so familiarly - have either of us seen her smile before?” said another business owner.
“Every dog has his day indeed. A little-known punk actually managed to get the Vientaine Group ice queen?” A young director of a company was uncomfortable with that idea.
“Who knows? Maybe he’s good at ‘that’. No one can do anything if the ice queen of Vientaine Group likes it,” said someone.
“This punk is really lucky to get Shentu Tian-Yin’s favour. He’ll marry into wealth,” someone said.
The room was full of discussion and what some of them said did not matter - it was just gossip and speculation. Some young heirs and future business owners were full of jealous hate and what they said was not pleasant to hear. The men all thought this way - they would have been fine with it if Xia Lei was richer or outranked them socially but every one of them felt like he was better than Xia Lei. Why had they not gained the favour of Shentu Tian-Yin? It was like sticking a flower on cow dung to these people.
Xia Lei was not deaf; he could hear them with all that discussion going on. He felt uncomfortable but he couldn’t do anything about it. He couldn’t punch all those people discussing him, could he? If he did that, then he’d have to hit most of the people in the conference room.
The best way to deal with it was take it calmly. Xia Lei pretended to not have heard and walked to Shentu Tian-Yin. She personally pulled a chair out for him and invited him to sit.
“What have you been busy with the past few days?” Shentu Tian-Yin looked a little displeased, “You didn’t even give me a call.”
Xia Lei did want to call her but he’d been worried that Liang Si-Yao would be jealous so he kept himself from calling. He’d also guessed that Shentu Tian-Yin would ask him this question but he did not have a good answer. He just smiled. “I was working on a new product. I did want to give you a call, but…”
“Miss Liang has you on a short leash, huh?” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
Xia Lei laughed sheepishly and changed the topic. “Oh, right, how is Uncle?”
Shentu Tian-Yin smirked faintly. “He’s doing well. He can hold down some thin gruel now but he’s still very weak. He can’t get out of bed and can’t speak.”
“How long is he conscious per day?”
“He’s quite awake. Sometimes it’s five hours, sometimes even more - up to eight hours.” A smile appeared on Shentu Tian-Yin’s face at that. “I played the movies he used to like for him recently. He’s in good mental health.”
“That’s good. Don’t be too anxious; take it slowly. He needs some time to recover.” Xia Lei was reassured.
“You should pay him a visit. He must want to meet you,” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
“I’m afraid that that will have to wait. I have to accompany my Master to Mount Emei for the martial arts seminar,” said Xia Lei.
Shentu Tian-Yin let out a disappointed sigh and didn’t say more.
Xia Lei also felt like his interactions with Shentu Tian-Yin were now rather awkward and there was a little bit of loss and melancholy mixed in with it. However, there was no way he could be in a relationship with Liang Si-Yao where they were stuck together like glue and also play secret games with Shentu Tian-Yin. He was not that sort of person and could not do something like two-timing. Liang Si-Yao and Shentu Tian-Yin were also not magnanimous enough to accept each other’s existence.
The most complicated and incomprehensible thing in the human realm was, undeniably, feelings.
Hu Hou said a few lines of introduction and went straight to the main topic. He talked about the requirements for the exposition sign-up, how to get a booth, and so on. At the end, he called out Gu Ke-Wen by name to invite her onstage.
“There are many businesses in our Hai-Zhu City but not many have managed to go beyond the Chinese market and be influential at the same time. Nice Moves Sports Equipment Company, however, is one such example,” said Hu Hou, “Their automatic surfboard sold well in the American and European markets, bringing glory to us in Hai-Zhu and our nation. Let me now welcome the chairwoman of Nice Moves, Miss Gu Ke-Wen, to say a few words. Our entrepreneurs should also learn from her experience.”
Applause rang throughout the room.
Only Xia Lei and Shentu Tian-Yin did not clap in that conference room.
Gu Ke-Wen spoke with assurance into the microphone, “I’ll just say a few simple words. The world economy is integrated these days and we who do business cannot always focus on the domestic market. We should look into making products which are suitable for foreign markets. We have our advantage of our human resources so if products are matched up with this, we will succeed. Nice Moves succeeded because of this reason. We just researched the product which would most suit the European and American markets…”
The young directors of companies which worked with Gu Ke-Wen went along with her speech and clapped at every appropriate opportunity, helping Gu Ke-Wen keep her mask of pride while adding to the atmosphere in the conference room.
Gu Ke-Wen was not lacking in suitors either.
Shentu Tian-Yin had no interest in listening further. She touched Xia Lei’s thigh with the back of her hand.
Xia Lei lowered his voice, “What is it?”
Shentu Tian-Yin also lowered her voice, “I know how she got her hands on Nice Moves Sports Equipment Company. She can be considered a talent for being such an upfront robber. Really, Mayor Hu, why let her make a speech at an event like this? I’m disgusted by that pretence of hers.”
Xia Lei thought of Liu Ying and sighed. “The world’s never been fair. You have to fight for fairness yourself. She’s done so many bad deeds - she’ll have her retribution sooner or later.”
Just then, an employee brought in an automatic surfboard and placed it on the table in front of Gu Ke-Wen.
Gu Ke-Wen smiled. “Nice Moves will represent our Hai-Zhu City companies at the Expo with our automatic surfboard. It has already made a name for itself in foreign markets but is relatively unknown locally. I sincerely thank Mayor Hu for giving us the opportunity to show this product to the domestic market. We are also confident that we will be able to enter the local markets. I also hope that Mayor Hu will arrange for us to have a good spot at the Expo, yes, Mayor Hu?”
“Of course!” said someone in support, “Mayor Hu, you must give Miss Gu a prominent spot.”
Hu Hou laughed. “Of course I will, please rest assured, Miss Gu. The best booth should go to the company with the product which can best represent the innovative vision of Hai-Zhu City.”
“Thank you, Mayor Hu.” Gu Ke-Wen smiled gaily and she glanced at Xia Lei, then added, “Oh, right, Mayor Hu, is a company that processes parts for others going to be participating in this Expo too? Is he going to display the parts he processed for other people or screws or something?”
She did not name names but many knew that she was referring to Xia Lei. Some reporter had dug up Xia Lei’s background for a gossipy article on his relationship with Shentu Tian-Yin, including his educational background and his past hard life working at construction sites, and published it for all to see. Who didn’t know about Xia Lei in Hai-Zhu City now? His fame, however, was ill fame. The sour grapes mocked him and made him the butt of their jokes.
“Gu Ke-Wen!” Shentu Tian-Yin stood.
Xia Lei pulled her by the hand and back to her seat.
Gu Ke-Wen did not back down and said mockingly, “I didn’t say any names, Big Sister Tian-Yin, are you so sure of who I’m talking about? As a woman myself, let me warn you that some men are only after your money. He can do anything for your money. He used to do hard labour just to survive so what won’t he do now?”
There was scattered laughter in the conference room and the people laughing were those who were on good terms with Gu Ke-Wen.
Shentu Tian-Yin made to lash back at her but Xia Lei held her back and stood up. “Gu Ke-Wen, I don’t care if you’re talking about me. Would I fall if you shot ten thousand words at me? You can’t hurt a hair on my head.”
“What thick skin!” scoffed Gu Ke-Wen, “Mayor Hu, I won’t say anything about other companies but how could you include Thunder Horse Manufacturing? It’s a small, screw-processing workshop. If Thunder Horse Manufacturing is participating then Nice Moves will not participate!”
Only Gu Ke-Wen would go screaming straight to Hu Hou like this!
“Miss Gu, this…” Hu Hou struggled to keep his calm. The Gu clan was huge and he did not want to step on any toes but he was uncomfortable with Gu Ke-Wen throwing dirt on his face like this in public.
“Mayor Hu, this is for the sake of our Hai-Zhu City companies’ pride. How can a small business with no decent product participate in an Expo like this? Isn’t this throwing soot on the Hai-Zhu City companies? If he displays some screws in his booth… Haha… If the media reports this, people from other regions would think that we in Hai-Zhu City are poor and backward,” said Gu Ke-Wen.
Hu Hou’s face darkened. He had invited Xia Lei and had always held him in high regard so of course he hoped that Xia Lei would participate in the Expo. Gu Ke-Wen cornering him like this and saying things which seemed logical troubled him.
Xia Lei laughed. “Gu Ke-Wen, you dare talk to Mayor Hu like this when you’re a robber? You really think that your Gu clan is number one in the universe?”
“What did you say?” Gu Ke-Wen raised a finger at Xia Lei. “Who are you calling a robber?”
Xia Lei took no heed of Gu Ke-Wen’s threat. He raised his voice, “I believe many of you here know that Nice Moves Sports Equipment Company belonged to Madam Liu Ying. This Gu Ke-Wen used her son to threaten her and coerce her into selling the company to her. This automatic surfboard you see was developed by Liu Ying’s late husband, and has now become Gu Ke-Wen’s. Tell me, what is this if it’s not robbery?”
The conference room was quiet immediately and the atmosphere changed.
Many of the people present actually knew about Nice Moves and the automatic surfboard but had not dared to speak of it.
Xia Lei, however, did not care and poked the hornets’ nest.
Gu Ke-Wen turned pale with anger and her gaze filled with utmost hate.
Hu Hou laughed. “I say, what’s going on with you two? Please resolve your conflicts privately later. This is a government conference room.”
Gu Ke-Wen let out a snort. “Mayor Hu, I’m going to say just this. It’s him or me. If you let him participate in the Expo, we, Nice Moves Sports Equipment Company will withdraw. All other Gu clan companies will also withdraw.”
“It will be no issue if the Gu clan companies withdraw, Mayor Hu. Our Shentu companies will take their spots,” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
“You…” Gu Ke-Wen was so angry she could not speak. Shentu Tian-Yin and Xia Lei were obviously not ordinary opponents and she clearly could not treat Shentu Tian-Yin the same way she had treated Xia Lei.
“Um…” Hu Hou hesitated.
“Rest assured, Mayor Hu. I’ll bring out a most excellent product for the Expo to replace Nice Moves. I can guarantee you that this product will not disappoint,” said Xia Lei.
“You sure?” Hu Hou looked at Xia Lei.
Xia Lei smiled. “When have I not kept my promise, Mayor Hu?”
Hu Hou nodded, then looked at Gu Ke-Wen. “You’re not participating, right? Then don’t participate.”
Gu Ke-Wen froze.Previous Chapter Next Chapter