“Tasty.” Annina polished off two bowls of tangyuan on her own. Good thing the pot was empty or she would’ve gone for another bowl.
Xia Xue was astonished by her appetite and wondered how Annina could eat so well and still have such a good figure. She also sneaked glances at Xia Lei, trying to figure out how far along Xia Lei had progressed with his relationship with his ‘friend’.
Xia Xue’s wanting a Sister-in-law had turned into an obsession. Xia Lei did not know what to say about this but he could understand why Xia Xue had this complex. She’d lost her mother at a young age and did not receive any motherly love so she wished to have another woman in the family. She could never hope to have a mother again but her wish for a sister-in-law could come true. That was why she urged Xia Lei to date or get married when she saw him with pretty women.
Annina took no notice of Xia Xue’s strange gaze. She used a serviette to wipe her mouth. She looked at Xia Lei and said in German, “Lei, I actually came this time to tell you about an idea I have.”
“What idea?” replied Xia Lei in German.
“The products your company is manufacturing now are just small items. It’s a long way to becoming a big company. I know you’re an ambitious man and you won’t be satisfied with maintaining the status quo.”
Xia Lei gave a laugh. “You’re right. I am indeed ambitious. What’s your idea, then?”
“Let’s do something big,” said Annina.
“What do you have in mind?” Xia Lei was curious.
“Hold on.” Xia Xue suddenly interrupted them. “Brother, didn’t you tell me that Miss Xia Mei is English? She’s speaking German now. Are you trying to fool your own sister?”
“She’s actually German. Her identity is a sensitive issue now so don’t tell anyone she’s from Germany,” said Xia Lei.
“Why?” Xia Xue was not satisfied with an answer like this.
Xia Lei looked serious. “Would I hide it from you if I could tell you? Don’t pry into this.”
“Uhn.” Xia Xue seemed to sense the seriousness of the matter. She stuck her tongue out at him and stopped asking questions.
“Please continue, but don’t use German. Speak in English. You also have to change your habit of using your mother tongue or you’ll get into trouble,” said Xia Lei to Annina.
“Sorry. I forgot Xue can’t understand German.” Annina said apologetically, this time in English.
Xia Xue could understand her now and she shot a smile at Annina.
Annina continued, “Lei, you are a most excellent machinist. I also know that you’re an excellent electrical engineer since you could build Josef’s intelligent lathe with your own two hands. And me - I’m an excellent machinist too. My specialty is engines. Let’s work together and build car engines.”
“What?” Xia Lei stared blankly.
“I did some rough calculations while I was in Jingdu. You just need to put in 2.5 billion to have a production base built. It’ll have an annual output of 100,000 engines of various types. I’m confident that we’ll be able to build the world’s most advanced car engine,” said Annina.
Xia Lei laughed. “2.5 billion? You might as well sell me off. Where am I to get that amount of money?”
“Loans. The bank can help us solve the problem of money. You can also look for investors. I believe that there are venture capital companies which will be willing to invest in us,” said Annina excitedly.
Xia Lei shook his head. “You don’t understand our current situation. Even if your project is very good, it’s going to be difficult to get a loan from the banks, much less a loan of 2.5 billion. Banks would rather loan money to state-owned enterprises and let it go to waste there than risk loaning to private enterprises. And about venture capital companies - they’ll possibly be willing to invest a few million to help you start your own online store but over two billion for an engine production base? Ha. Don’t even think of it.”
Annina’s excitement died with Xia Lei’s dousing cold words. “So my plan won’t work?”
“Nope,” said Xia Lei.
Annina looked disappointed. “What a pity. I even drew up plans for this idea. I didn’t bring it with me because I haven’t finished it, but it looks like… I won’t need to.”
Xia Lei thought for a bit and said, “No, finish it. I lack the capability to do this now but this doesn’t mean I won’t be able to in the future. Don’t you want to come help me? Let’s wait till the time is ripe for you to come be my Chief Engineer. We’ll put your plan in motion when the requirements are met.”
“That’s great!” Annina hugged Xia Lei in excitement, then gave him a smacking big kiss on his cheek.
Xia Lei froze in embarrassment. Xia Xue was present, and watching.
Xia Xue was grinning from ear to ear. “It’s okay, you two pretend I’m air. Or I can leave. Do you want me to leave?”
Xia Lei had nothing to say to a little sister like this.
Xia Xue thought to herself, ‘She’s kissing him for no good reason. What degree of ‘friend’ is she?’
Annina did not seem the least bit bothered. She immediately thought of something else and said, “Lei, Long Bing mentioned something once. She asked if I knew how to make guns. Um… Sniper rifles. I said I could and that my father and grandfather were gun-makers, so I know how to make guns from childhood. I joined Krupp Mak Maschinenbau afterwards and this company is also a military enterprise with its own light weapons production line. I told her I have an understanding of these production lines and she let me come so I could talk to you about a plan for making guns. I just feel that guns aren’t as good as car engines, so I pushed this topic back for later.”
Xia Lei then understood why Long Bing had let Annina come knocking on his door on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Boss Shi must know about Long Bing getting an advanced sniper rifle from him so they were probably thinking of getting him to produce more advanced sniper rifles for the nation, hence the appearance of Annina as a guest.
“So, how much investment is needed for the production of sniper rifles?” asked Xia Lei.
Annina thought for a bit and said, “It depends on the production capacity. A large production line would need a lot of money, of course, but if it’s small… I’d estimate it to be around three hundred million. It’s not just the cost of production of the equipment but the testing too.”
“Three hundred million?” Xia Lei frowned. His assets were only in the two hundred million range. The branch company in Sichuan would probably cost him over one hundred million, leaving him with little more than one hundred million - it was not enough.
“Three hundred million, at the least,” said Annina.
If he could maintain the quality and advanced specifications in the production line for sniper rifles, orders from the military would come flooding in; enough to make one vomit from all the work. His arms would get cramps from counting all the money he’d make. Xia Lei had rejected Long Bing’s idea because he was the only one who could make the guns and he was only modifying it. There was no way they could produce guns based on Thunder Horse Manufacturing’s capabilities. However, it was different with Annina. According to what she said, her family was like a gun-producing clan and she was familiar with the light weapons production line operations in Krupp Mak Maschinenbau. Even he did not have this sort of information on this end. It was completely different with Annina on board!
Xia Lei smelt a business opportunity - and a big one at that.
“Nn. Tell Long Bing that I’ll consider it, then tell her my decision. And you can get me a simplified version so I can get an idea of what your plan’s about. It’ll help me reach a decision too,” said Xia Lei.
“Okay. She let me stay for three days but I’m not allowed to go out. I can make a simple plan for you during these three days,” said Annina.
“You’re… staying for three days?” Xia Lei’s expression was a little odd.
“Yeah. Long Bing won’t let me stay in a hotel and won’t let me go out. Her subordinates are on guard outside too,” said Annina.
Xia Lei looked away from her and used his X-ray vision. There wasn’t anyone in the doorway but a familiar face was in the stairwell - Ke Jie. He moved his gaze from the door to the balcony and saw a Buick van parked by the side of the road outside the walls of his neighbourhood. Two stone-faced young men he did not recognise sat in the Buick. One could tell in one glance that they were obviously not regular people.
“Can I stay here? I’d have to go to Jingdu if you don’t let me stay. I don’t want to go back so early. That place is awful.” Annina looked anxiously at Xia Lei.
“Of course you can. Stay in my room. I’ll sleep in my father’s room,” said Xia Lei with a smile.
“Thank you.” Annina gave Xia Lei another hug. And of course, kisses on the cheeks followed.
Xia Xue did not understand the part of the conversation where Xia Lei and Annina were talking about the production of sniper rifles. She was just a first-year after all and her English was limited. However, she did understand when Annina said she wanted to stay for three days and she smiled as she said, “I’ll go prepare some pyjamas and house slippers for Xia Mei. Oh, Big Sister Xia Mei, you can use mine if you don’t mind.”
“No problem. I’ll be troubling you.” Annina’s smile was so sweet it could cause diabetes.
“It’s no trouble at all, Big Sister Xia Mei.” Xia Xue smiled too but her smile was a little strange and she looked at her brother when she smiled.
Xia Lei glared at her.
Just then, Xia Lei’s mobile phone rang.
Xia Lei took out his phone and looked at the screen - it was Shentu Tian-Yin. He picked up and said, “Happy New Year, Tian-Yin.”
“Happy New Year. Do you have time?” said Shentu Tian-Yin, “I don’t have company matters to take care of today so how about we go to the park for a walk?”
“Oh, um…” Xia Lei looked at Annina. She had come to be his houseguest but he was going off to accompany Shentu Tian-Yin on a walk around the park; it was a little difficult to explain.
“Father is going too. He said he’s not seen you in a while so he misses you. Nn, he’s recovering well. It’s just that his legs have not gained enough strength to walk yet. It’ll be good if you can take a look,” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
“Okay, let’s meet at the park entrance. Oh, right, which park?” asked Xia Lei.
“Jingshan Park,” said Shentu Tian-Yin.
After ending the call, Xia Lei said apologetically, “I’m sorry, Xia Mei. I have to go out for a bit. I’ll be back in the afternoon and we can have dinner together. I’ll make delicious dishes for you.”
Annina shrugged. “No problem. I have to write my plans anyway. Go on. I’ll see you in the evening.”
Xia Lei glared at Xia Xue. “Xue, you stay at home today to accompany Xia Mei.”
“Uhn.” Xia Xue pouted her little lips.
Xia Lei sighed. “I’ll cook sweet and sour pork for you tonight.”
“Nice! Heh heh.” Xia Xue smiled.Previous Chapter Next Chapter