The days that followed were peaceful and nobody caused trouble for either Hu Hou or Thunder Horse Manufacturing.
After the suspension was lifted from Thunder Horse Manufacturing, Xia Lei did not cancel the outsourced orders for parts but placed more. The automatic skateboard was selling well domestically and overseas and even distributors in South America had expressed interest. Just Thunder Horse Manufacturing was not enough to meet the demand and outsourcing had become a necessity.
The branch company set-up in Sichuan was progressing smoothly and the construction company had already started building the factory, office building, dormitories and so on; construction was quick. With the help of the local government, the newly-hired workers were also brought to the training base and given training by their seniors from the Hai-Zhu company. The workers would be ready to start the production process once the factory was completed.
In the main Hai-Zhu branch, the R&D department had new results under the leadership of Han Bo and Thunder Horse Manufacturing added a smart desk to their product catalogue. This product was made of aluminium alloy parts which were light yet durable. More importantly, it could be adjusted to be a regular desk or a standing desk by changing the way the bracket was connected. This was great for white-collar office workers who sat in their offices year-in and year-out. They could raise the height of their desks with a few simple movements if they were tired of sitting and use it while standing. If they got tired of standing, they could move it back in a few simple steps. This smart desk could also help prevent several work-related ailments like lumbar and cervical spondylosis, cardiovascular disease, and even obesity. They received several orders for this product when it was launched and it not only increased the profit margin of Thunder Horse Manufacturing but also strengthened its weak product mix.
This peaceful period and chain of good events did not make Xia Lei relax his guard. He filled his everyday schedules - mornings were for taking care of paperwork and afternoons for study. He studied Chinese medicine, Western medicine, electrical engineering, new languages and so on. He did not rest at night either - he would practice Wing Chun before he went to bed, or the skills Qin Xiang had taught him. To liken this process of accumulation of power, he was a spring being wound tighter and tighter, and would burst straight up into the sky if released!
The Spring Festival arrived in the blink of an eye.
Xia Lei got up early on the first day of the festival. He cooked a packet of frozen tangyuan* and woke Xia Xue up to eat some. He would always wake up early on this day to cook a packet of tangyuan, then call lazybones Xia Xue to eat. He had kept this up for six years.
“Happy New Year, Brother! I wish you happiness and prosperity; may fortune smile upon you.” Xia Xue was all smiles. She would say the same thing to Xia Lei every year on the first day of the Lunar New Year.
Xia Lei took out a red packet from his bag and said with a smile, “A red packet for you. Take it.”
Xia Xue tore it open eagerly to find a credit card inside. “Brother, what’s this credit card for? What’s the credit limit on it?” she asked in surprise.
“One million,” said Xia Lei with a grin.
“What?” Xia Xue was stunned.
Xia Lei rubbed Xia Xue’s head. “The pin is your birthday. The company’s finance department will pay the monthly bill for this card. But you have to hold back on your spending. I’ll whack you if you max the card every month.”
Xia Xue shook her head hard. “I can’t accept this credit card, Brother. It’s too much. I’m just a university student - how can I spend so much?”
Xia Lei looked at the sky beyond the window and he seemed to be reflecting on his past. “I was unaccomplished back then and could only afford to give you a few tens of yuan in red packet money. I gave you more last year but it was just a hundred yuan. I used to make a wish at every Spring Festival, wishing that if I made it rich one day, I would give you a million-yuan red packet. This is my wish and I can finally realise it today.”
“But, Brother…” Xia Xue held the credit card in her hand and didn’t know what to do with it.
Xia Lei laughed. “Silly girl, take it. Isn’t the purpose of me earning money so that we can lead better lives? Besides, girls need lots of support. I don’t want those despicable second-generation boys to have designs on you. Our little Xue is not a second-generation heiress but a first-generation rich girl.”
“Heh heh.” Xia Xue was appeased by Xia Lei’s words and she said with a laugh, “Brother, my standards are high. I’m not going to pick a boyfriend by the size of his wallet but the size of his heart.”
“Do you already have a boyfriend?” asked Xia Lei investigatively.
Xia Xue rolled her eyes at him. “Trying to pry? No, no, I’m just in my first year of university. I don’t want to date.”
Xia Lei quickly changed the topic. “Eat the tangyuan. It won’t taste good when it’s cold.”
Xia Xue lifted her bowl, and abruptly put it down. “Brother, how about we call Big Sister Ru-Yi over to eat with us?”
Xia Lei considered it and nodded. “Sure, I cooked a little too much anyway. Let’s call her over. She’s living alone so she definitely won’t get up so early to cook tangyuan.”
“Brother, you’re getting more established too. You’ve broken up with Big Sister Si-Yao for a while already - shouldn’t you get a new girlfriend?”
Xia Lei rolled his eyes at her. “What are you trying to say?”
One side of Xia Xue’s lips went up in a smile. “I think Big Sister Ru-Yi is not bad. She grew up with you and she’s pretty too. You’ll have a sense of security too because she’ll be a policewoman wife. Um, she just has a bit of stubbornness and is a little straightforward in her speech. Other than that she doesn’t have any flaws. She also likes you a lot. Why don’t you try dating? The two of you match well.”
Xia Lei smiled wryly. “What are you worrying about me for? It’s not as if I don’t know that she… It’s just… We grew up together so we’re too familiar with each other and don’t have those feelings. I don’t have those sort of feelings for her. Even if we try to date, won’t it be me doing more harm than good for her?”
“You two sure are troublesome. Okay, okay, I won’t talk about you. I’ll call her over to have tangyuan.” Xia Xue shook her head, sighed and went out.
Xia Lei sat quietly, thinking, ‘Should I have a talk with Ru-Yi? It’s not right for her to keep waiting for me. But how do I broach the subject? Ah, what a headache.’
The current him could solve complicated electrical engineering problems on his own but he was still unversed in the ways of love. Liang Si-Yao’s betrayal had scarred him so and he was now cautious about love.
Knock knock knock. Someone was knocking on the door.
“So quick?” Xia Lei hurried to open the door and he paused.
Standing in the doorway was not Xia Xue and Jiang Ru-Yi but the blue-eyed, golden-haired Annina.
She was dressed in a white shirt and form-fitting blue jeans, matched with a pair of Adidas sports shoes. Annina was like a ray of spring in the doorway, brightening his view. Her beauty and sexiness were pleasing and comforting to the eye.
Annina was also carrying a fruit basket full of mandarins.
“Rooster riches!” said Annina with a big smile. She put the basket in Xia Lei’s hands. “Happy New Union!”
She was pretty but the Chinese words coming out of her were gibberish.
Xia Lei did not correct her mistakes. He accepted the fruit basket and pulled her into the flat, saying nervously, “How did you get here?”
“Took a vacuum machine,” said Annina.
Xia Lei smiled wryly. “I know you took a plane here. I’m asking if Long Bing knows you’re here.”
“What did you say?” Xia Lei spoke a little too quickly for Annina to catch his words.
Xia Lei repeated himself in German.
Annina replied in German, “She knows. She wasn’t willing to let me come at first but I said I’d quit if she didn’t let me and that I won’t do all the work they’d arranged for me. After that, they assigned someone to send me over.”
Xia Lei smiled wryly. “Are there people following you?”
“I’m not worried about that. I’m Xia Mei now, not Annina. Annina’s a drug mule and she’s dead,” said Annina.
Xia Lei shrugged. “Welcome, Miss Xia Mei. Thank you for your mandarins. You’re too kind.”
“Happy New Union!”
Xia Lei was speechless.
Annina spread her arms and gave Xia Lei a tight hug, then kissed him on his left and right cheeks.
Jiang Ru-Yi and Xia Xue appeared in the doorway to see the two of them pressed tightly together. Jiang Ru-Yi was stunned. Xia Xue covered her eyes and her expression turned sour.
Annina’s back was to the door and she did not let go of Xia Lei after kissing his cheeks. She kept holding onto him.
Xia Lei quickly patted her on the back and said in German, “My little sister’s back.”
Annina let go of him only then and turned to see Xia Xue and Jiang Ru-Yi. She smiled as she greeted them, “Hi, hello guys. Happy New Union.”
“Pfft!” Xia Lei did not hold back and held his stomach as he laughed.
Jiang Ru-Yi did not laugh - she was livid.
Xia Lei quickly did introductions. “This is Miss Xia Mei. She’s from… England. She’s my friend.”
“Are there English people named Xia Mei?” said Jiang Ru-Yi.
“Her English name’s Julia.” Xia Lei then said to Annina, “Xia Mei, this is Miss Jiang Ru-Yi.”
“Hello, Miss Jiang.” Annina stretched out a hand to Jiang Ru-Yi. Her pronunciation was good this time and had no errors.
Jiang Ru-Yi turned around and walked off.
Annina stood awkwardly on the spot.
“You haven’t had tangyuan yet, Big Sister Ru-Yi.” Xia Xue chased after her.
“You guys go ahead. I have no appetite,” said Jiang Ru-Yi.
Xia Xue looked back at Xia Lei and gave him a look, telling him to chase after her.
Xia Lei took one step towards the door and stopped. “Forget it. Let’s eat.”
He’d been thinking about how to make things clear with Jiang Ru-Yi - there was no need to explain anything with this happening now. This was good. He could avoid an awkward confrontation like this.
“Is this your sister, Lei?” asked Annina in German, “What’s her name?”
“Xia Xue. You can call her Xue,” said Xia Lei.
Annina walked up to Xia Xue and gave her a hug, saying warmly, “You’re so pretty, Xue.”
Xia Xue giggled. “You’re very pretty too, Miss Xia Mei. Why are you surnamed Xia?”
Annina pointed at Xia Lei. “Because of your brother.”
“Eh?” Xia Xue looked surprised. There was only one situation where a woman had the same last name as an unrelated man in the West and that was marriage. This Western woman was surnamed Xia, so didn’t this mean that she was her sister-in-law?
“Aren’t we eating round sugars? I’m hungry. I want a bowl.” Annina went to the dining table.
Xia Xue walked to Xia Lei and said in a low voice, “No way, Brother. Is this sister-in-law from the West the surprise you wanted to give me?”
Xia Lei rolled his eyes at Xia Xue. “Stop making blind guesses. We’re just friends.” After a pause, he added, “She has no friends or relatives in China. She’s rather pitiful to have to be all on her own. We have to take good care of her.”
Xia Xue lifted one side of her mouth in a smile. “Won’t it be great if you can take care of her as a husband? A Western sister-in-law is not bad. It’ll be easier for me to learn English in the future.”
Xia Lei was speechless.
*Tangyuan - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangyuan_(food)Previous Chapter Next Chapter