People came and went on the streets under the sky of night.
“Yuyan, do you hold it against me for telling you to get out of that private room?” said Tang Tianlong apologetically after they walked out of Wangfu Hotel.
Tang Yuyan smiled wryly but did not say anything. She surely had complaints but she did not want to articulate them.
Tang Tianlong sighed. “You know the rules of the Tang sect. It’s been hundreds of years and every generation is the same, otherwise we Tangs wouldn’t have persevered to this day. We have to guarantee the sect before all else, and the interests of the sect are far from what’s right and what’s wrong. Neither Mu Jianfeng nor Ye Kun are people we can offend.”
“But Shentu Tianyin dared to.” Tang Yuyan couldn’t help thinking about the courage Shentu Tianyin had to intervene in that situation. She did not fear death on the battlefield but she lacked that sort of courage.
“You cannot compare yourself to her. The Shentu clan has only established itself for the past thirty years. It is a clan formed via rapid growth and it has no foundations. You are a woman of the Tang - you are different.”
“A woman of the Tang?” Tang Yuyan’s voice carried a hint of bitterness. “So what if I am a woman of the Tang? I cannot dare to offend Mu Jianfeng, and Ye Kun. I actually can’t even compete with Shentu Tianyin. Why should I want this distinction?”
“Our Tang sect has stood for hundreds of years but the Shentu clan will not see its hundredth year. Didn’t you see it? Shentu Tianyin’s eyes were fearful when Mu Jianfeng said he would attack the Vientaine Group shares, and investigate the acquisition of her assets. Xia Lei insists that Shentu Tianyin not be involved to protect her. Would a clan like hers persevere?”
“Forget it. I don’t want to hear all these.”
“I have to say it even if you don’t want to listen.” Tang Tianlong continued his lecturing, “I know you like Xia Lei. Your mother and I, and your grandfather also quite like him. It would be good if you two can be together but if this threatens the interests of the Tang sect then we can only give up. If you cannot win against Shentu Tianyin then don’t compete - distance yourself from Xia Lei.”
Tang Yuyan bit her cherry-red lip lightly. She found it unfair. How could one just give up on liking someone? Besides, Xia Lei had saved her life and she would not forget their shared experiences in Afghanistan for the rest of her life.
“I know it’ll be difficult to persuade you,” said Tang Tianlong, “So I’ll put it this way - Seeing how Xia Lei behaved in the hotel today, I think he is a ticking time bomb which will go off at any time. He will tear himself apart, and hurt those close to him too. You are my daughter so of course I wish for you to have your happiness, but I do not wish to see you hurt.”
“We’ve investigated and found nothing. When did he become a ticking time bomb? Forget it, I don’t want to talk about this with you anymore. You go home first. I want to take a walk on my own.” Tang Yuyan didn’t want to talk anymore and left alone.
Tang Tianlong sighed. He watched the single silhouette of his daughter and did not move for quite a while.
Under the same sky, a different scene was playing out in a villa in a high-end residential district.
“Okay, okay, we can start eating now.” Xia Lei walked out of the kitchen holding a tray with three bowls of plain noodles in broth on it.
Shentu Tianyin pursed her little mouth and said discontentedly, “This is the dinner you’re making for us? I was looking forward to a feast. Just three bowls of noodles?”
Xia Lei laughed. “Look at the time - it’s almost ten. When can we start eating if I make a feast? I’m not afraid of hunger but Uncle Ren’s body cannot be starved.”
Shentu Ren laughed. “Look how good Lei is with his words. Let’s not go to the dining room and just eat here in the living room. We can watch the telly too.”
“Father, you always take his side.” Shentu Tianyin pretended to be unhappy but could not keep the act up for long. She smiled when Xia Lei put a steaming bowl of noodles in her hands.
The three of them sat in the living room, eating noodles as they watched television.
Shentu Ren seemed to have picked Phoenix Military Channel on purpose, and a programme was playing. The male host in camo clothing spoke loudly and was rather imposing.
After talking about the latest American destroyer, the video switched to a sniper rifle. Xia Lei recognised it immediately - it was the XL2500 which he and Annina had developed.
“Look, Tianyin. This is the gun Lei developed. The XL2500 sniper rifle,” said Shentu Ren excitedly.
“This is the gun? I haven’t seen it before. Father, how did you recognise it?” Shentu Tianyin looked curious.
“You don’t know about it? These days the newspapers, news channels and the internet’s all abuzz, talking about Xia Lei and his XL2500 sniper rifle. I’ve seen it over and over - how can I not recognise it?” said Shentu Ren.
Shentu Tianyin laughed. “The media is all over it and so much attention is on it… and Mu Jianfeng and Ye Kun were trying to pressure Xia Lei in this situation? They’re going against the natural order of things!”
Xia Lei didn’t seem to have heard Shentu Tianyin and Shentu Ren’s conversation. It was his first time watching news about himself and he seemed fairly focused.
On the screen, the host used a baton to point at an XL2500 on a display screen. He spoke in a changed tone, almost bragging, “This is a new generation of sniper rifle produced through independent research in our homeland, China. The XL2500. It made its first appearance at the Moscow International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Mr Xia Lei, the youngest military scientist in China, used it to defeat Barrett, the company which had dominated the sniper rifle world for dozens of years…”
The screen then changed to show the rooftop of the Moscow International Convention and Exhibition Centre. A tall, handsome Chinese young man put a rifle in position; his stance was exceptional. He looked undefeatable in that instant and was just too freaking cool.
Shentu Tianyin looked quietly at Xia Lei on the television screen. She was fully absorbed in the programme too.
Xia Lei laughed abruptly after the programme was over. “When did I become a military scientist? People will laugh at this label they put on me.”
“Who would dare?” said Shentu Tianyin. “You can be called a military scientist because you made that gun. What have those scientists with research funding and subsidies achieved then?”
Shentu Ren piped up too. “Yes, yes, Lei, you cannot undervalue yourself.” He laughed. “Looks to me like you’re not just a military scientist but a miracle-doctor too. You’ve cured a person such as me who was on the brink of death. Who can dare say you’re not a gifted doctor?”
Xia Lei was uncomfortable with all the praise he was getting. “Let’s eat our noodles.”
Xia Lei gave Shentu Ren a massage after they had their noodles. Shentu Ren could already walk slowly without crutches after a period of rest and rehabilitation. He had not even dared to dream of this sort of recovery years ago.
Shentu Tianyin called Xia Lei to her study after he exited Shentu Ren’s room.
“Lei, I think you shouldn’t go to the banks for that 5,000,000,000. Just the interest itself is a heavy burden.” Shentu Tianyin cut straight to the chase. “I’ve said that I would give you 5,000,000,000 and I mean it. You just have to give the nod and I will get the Finance Department to raise the sum for you.”
5,000,000,000 was a huge sum and it would take some time to prepare it even if it was Shentu Tianyin who wanted to use it.
Honestly, Xia Lei was very moved but he still shook his head after some thought. “Tianyin, it’s not that I’m unwilling to receive your help but I don’t want you to get involved. You’ve witnessed the situation at Wangfu Hotel and you should know how it is. What I want to say is that you’re a business person and Mu Jianfeng and Ye Kun are both officials. The expression ‘the poor cannot compete with the rich and the rich cannot compete with officials’ is apt in this situation. Moreover, Mu Jianfeng and Ye Kun also represent a part of our country’s military industry. There are countless people behind them backing them up - how many can you fight?”
“But didn’t that Ling Han solve your problem? He is working for someone big and Mu Jianfeng and Ye Kun were visibly cowed. Would they still dare to hinder you if I’m the one giving you money?” said Shentu Tianyin.
Xia Lei laughed dryly. “If you really think that that was the end of it then you’re too naive. They’re representatives of a huge group of collective interests and they will not give up - I know all too well. Anyway, just don’t get yourself involved in this. I can use the connections on Ling Han’s side and get a low-interest loan.”
Shentu Tianyin sighed. “You always refuse my help. My father and I both owe you a debt for saving his life. And Vientaine Group would have fallen into the hands of my Second Uncle’s family if it had not been for you. We owe you so much - how can we repay you?”
“Why do you…” Xia Lei didn’t know what to say. He had never been the sort of person who would act on something because he expected a reward.
Shentu Tianyin looked quietly at Xia Lei and said some joking words which did not exactly sound like a joke. “You’re not asking me to pay you back by giving my heart to you, are you?”
Xia Lei stared dumbly; he did not know what to say in response to that.
Women’s hearts were the most complicated things on Earth. Sometimes they would say they didn’t want something though they wanted it, and sometimes they said they wanted something but didn’t really want it at all. Shentu Tianyin’s words seemed to imply that she didn’t want to give her heart to him but who knew if she truly wanted to or not?
Shentu Tianyin had been Xia Lei’s dream girl so he surely did want her, but how could he just decide on something like this in this manner? He needed some mental preparation.
Hurt flashed in Shentu Tianyin’s eyes but a smile appeared on her pretty face. “I was just joking with you. Don’t take it seriously.”
Xia Lei smiled too. “Oh, I won’t, I won’t.”
But he had forgotten that Shentu Tianyin was not a woman who joked around.
“Then I’ll respect your wishes. However, you have to come to me if you need my help. I’ll be upset with you if you don’t.”
“Nn, I will.”
“You should stay in the guestroom tonight. I’ll drive you back to Thunder Horse Military Factory in the morning.”
“Nn, good night.” Xia Lei didn’t know why but he felt a pang of disappointment for some unknown reason.Previous Chapter Next Chapter