The German engineers had not yet arrived, but the Spring Festival was approaching.
Xia Lei and Shentu Tianyin’s wedding ceremony had not taken place yet, but the media channels were already cooking up a storm in news. The bride was China’s wealthiest woman, the queen of Vientaine Group, and the groom was China’s Father of Rifles, the director of Thunder Horse Military Factory, the arms industry’s dark horse, and the hero of millions of Chinese. The media would not let up on the wedding of two figures of society such as these.
It was not just the upcoming wedding. Xia Lei’s childhood had also been dug up — which primary school he went to, which secondary school he went to, and what jobs he did on construction sites. All these things of the past had been almost-forgotten by Xia Lei himself, but those reporters dug it all out, and added their versions to newspapers as well as on the internet.
After these stories were published, the people then found out that Xia Lei had been born a regular, poor boy who had to give up on studying in Jingdu University for the sake of raising his younger sister. However, in a short span of two, three years, he had risen fast in the world, and become a billionaire. He had also become a hero of the people, loved by many. He had both fame and fortune, and his life was like an inspirational drama, like an instructional textbook for parents to educate their children with.
The reporters did not forget about Shentu Tianyin, of course, but her story was much simpler. She had been born with a golden key in her hand, and studied abroad. She had then taken over the reins of Vientaine Group after her father fell ill, becoming the queen of Vientaine Group. She had no scandals, and if one dug for them, one would only be able to unearth the “possible fiance and fiancee” act she had put on with Xia Lei in the past. However, she actually was going to marry Xia Lei now, so how could that old news be considered a scandal?
Nearly all of the media channels used the same phrase for their pairing — a perfect pair.
The wedding was set for the thirtieth day of the twelfth lunar month, and it was the date Shentu Ren had chosen.
Xia Lei turned up in Haizhu City on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth lunar month. He wanted to burn an incense stick to his late mother before his wedding, to let her know. This was also a custom is his hometown.
Xia Xue went to the cemetery with Xia Lei too. She carried a bouquet of fresh flowers, and Xia Lei carried a large bag of hell money, and joss paper, as well as ritual items he had bought from the shop which sold traditional items for the dead, like paper clothing and shoes.
The siblings came to a grave. Xia Xue placed the flowers on the grave, and Xia Lei lit incense sticks, then burnt the joss-paper and hell money.
“Brother and I have come to visit you, Mum.” Xia Xue’s voice was full of sadness.
Xia Lei burnt joss-paper as he said, “Mum, Xue is all grown up now. She got into Jingdu University, and she has good grades. I’m doing well too. You don’t have to worry about us.”
“Mum, Brother has made much of himself. He’s now the director of Thunder Horse Group, and a hero of the nation. You’ll be happy in heaven too.” Xia Xue’s eyes held tears, but the corners of her mouth held a smile.
Xia Lei finished burning the joss-paper and knelt on the ground to kowtow to his mother. “Mum, I’m getting married tomorrow. It is a shame that you can’t drink the tea your daughter-in-law would offer you at the tea ceremony, but it’s all right. I’ll bring her here for the Spring Festival, and kneel and serve tea to you. Would you like that?”
A wind blew past, and the pine tree next to the grave swayed, rustling. This sound was like a reply from his mother.
This wind stirred up the memories of his mother, and Xia Lei’s eyes moistened.
The most painful thing in the human world was to experience the loss of someone, a forever goodbye, leaving kith and kin behind.
“If only Dad were still around. He would be happy for you, for sure,” said Xia Xue.
“Dad, he…” Xia Lei was about to say something, but he swallowed the words he was about to say.
“What do you want to say, Brother?” Xia Xue looked at Xia Lei.
“I still have no news of him, but I believe that he is alive, somewhere.”
Xia Xue shook her head and said sadly, “No need to comfort me, Brother. I know that the chances of Dad still being alive is slim. I’ve already gotten used to life without Dad, and I only miss him occasionally. I feel sad then.”
Xia Lei patted her shoulder, but said nothing.
If his father, Xia Changhe, had been an ordinary man, and not a free agent of the FA Organisation, he would have told Xia Xue the truth. However, she was just a university student, and telling her the truth would only bring her untold danger, and no benefit at all.
“Brother, Sister-in-law should have come with us today. She should kowtow to Mum,” said Xia Xue.
“Your sister-in-law is not like normal folk. There will be many honoured guests at our wedding tomorrow, so she has to call those people up, send wedding invitations and handle the wedding matters. You have to be understanding. Didn’t I say that I would bring her here to kowtow and pour tea for Mum during the Spring Festival?”
Xia Xue quirked her lips. “Yes, yes, you protect sister-in-law. I’ll have tough days ahead of me for sure.”
Xia Lei laughed. “What nonsense are you saying in front of Mum? Your sister-in-law is educated and logical, and she won’t bully you. I’ll hit her if she bullies you.”
“Cheh, lies. Would you bear to hit Sister-in-law? You would definitely hit me, though.”
“Of course I’ll hit you when you’re disobedient.”
“Look, look! You’re letting your true colours show now.” Xia Xue pulled a face. “Did you hear that, Mum? Brother is bullying me!”
The wind blew, and the pine tree rustled.
The siblings’ bickering before the grave added to the joviality of the place. If their mother’s soul was in heaven, then she surely must be smiling when she saw them.
Just then, a middle-aged woman came walking down the path in the tomb area. She was dressed plainly, but she was tall and sexy. She walked towards the siblings, chewing gum as she approached.
A middle-aged woman chewing gum?
Xia Lei was immediately alert. His left eye twitched, and he focused on the woman’s face. He saw a white woman in the next second, and he stared dumbly when he saw who it was.
The woman slowed her steps.
“Xue, your Sister Ruyi invited us to her place for a meal. Drive my car back first, and help her out,” said Xia Lei.
“I want to stay here with Mum for a little longer. Can’t I go back with you?” said Xia Xue.
“Be good, and go back.” Xia Lei’s tone grew stern.
“Humph! Fine. Give me the keys.” Xia Xue stretched her hand out huffily for the keys.
Xia Lei handed them to her, and watched her leave.
The woman brushed past Xia Lei. She walked straight past him, and crouched at another grave to slowly place the flowers she had brought on it.
“What did you come here for, Yelena?” Xia Lei said softly. “Where is my Dad?”
“Your father is here too. You’ll meet him soon,” said Yelena.
Xia Lei looked up, and down the hill, but he saw only Xia Xue, leaving in a huff. He did not spot his father, Xia Changhe. He then looked up, and soon saw him standing in a patch of pine trees.
Xia Changhe just stood there, and did not walk towards him
Yelena put a satellite phone by Xia Lei. “Your father said that he can only meet you like this, for your own safety. Chat with him.”
Xia Lei picked up the satellite phone, and Xia Changhe took out a satellite phone too.
“When did you come back, Dad?”
“I’ve been back for some time. I’ve been waiting for you in Haizhu. I knew that you would come burn joss-sticks for your mother, so I came early to wait for you.”
“Dad, I’m getting married tomorrow.”
“I know. I wish you well.”
Xia Lei smiled. “Thanks, Dad. I can’t take Tianyin with me to offer you tea, but I believe that she will be able to, one day.”
“Didn’t you hear me? I’m only wishing you well.”
“What do you mean, Dad? Don’t you like Tianyin?”
“I have no complaints if she didn’t have that ambition of hers. I came here today to give you a good scolding.”
“Dad, I’m getting married tomorrow! Everything’s going well, so what are you scolding me for?”
“You went to Japan knowing full well that it was Gu Kewen’s trap, but you went and risked your life anyway to meet Gu Kewen, all because you wanted to get rid of dirty evidence against Shentu Tianyin! Do you know that you’re up against Dark Mona, the top-tier killer of the FA? Did you think how you’d be letting your Mum down if you die? Letting me down? And, if you died, Xia Xue would be left all alone in this world. Who’s going to take care of her?”
Xia Lei wanted to retort, but he swallowed his words before they got out. It was only right that his father scolded him. Besides, him scolding him like this was because he cared about him, and loved him, was it not?
Xia Changhe sighed. “Forget it. You’re getting married to Shentu Tianyin tomorrow, so I can’t stop you from being with her. But I have to warn you to keep a close eye on her. Don’t let her ambitions get out of control, or you’ll get dragged into it too. You won’t be able to break free if you want to, when that time comes.”
Xia Lei nodded. “I got it, Dad.”
“And, this is China so the FA and CIA dare not move openly. This doesn’t mean that they would make no moves, though. The secret your body holds is too important, and they won’t let go of it. You have to be mindful of your safety, and Xia Xue’s too.”
“Nn, I know.”
“So tell me about your Alloy X Project. Any progress?”
“I found 22 pieces of ancient alloy at the bottom of the sea in Okinawa. I’m just short one piece from making a complete box. But the new needle I found points straight up to the sky. I have no way of locating the last piece. Right now, someone has the compass and is flying around the world. I’m waiting for the result of that too,” said Xia Lei.
“What happened there?”
“I have no clue either.”
“We can’t hurry this sort of thing, so let’s just wait.”
“Right, Dad, I want to tell you some good news.”
“What good news?”
“You’re going to be a grandfather.”
“You punk. Are you trying to tell me that Jiang Ruyi is pregnant with your kid?” said Xia Changhe with a laugh.
“Yes. How did you know?”
“I’ve been in Haizhu for a while — How could I not know?”
Xia Lei laughed. “You’re going to be a grandfather. Are you happy about it?”
“If it’s true, then yes, I’m happy. I’m afraid that you’re being happy about nothing though.”
“What do you mean?”
“I got Yelena to check. Jiang Ruyi is not pregnant. Her period was only ten days late, and she went to get herself checked too — she is not pregnant. Yelena took a picture of the records of the hospital check-up. It was a misunderstanding.”
Xia Lei was rooted to the spot. He had been ready to be a father, but the truth was such. This was a bit much for him to accept.
“All right, I’ve got to go. Take care.” Xia Changhe hung up, and vanished from the pine trees.
Yelena stood too, and took the satellite phone from Xia Lei’s hand. She didn’t forget her parting barb. “You want to be a father, huh? Then keep working hard.”
Xia Lei looked gloomily at her. Forget goodbyes.
A nagging doubt surfaced in his head as he watched Yelena leave. ‘Tianyin and I have been together for months, and we didn’t use any protection. She should’ve gotten pregnant under normal circumstances, but why hasn’t she? It wasn’t easy for Ruyi to get pregnant, but it turned out to be a misunderstanding… Long Bing and Annina… I had sex with them, and I didn’t use protection on many occasions… Even if Tianyin and Ruyi have fertility problems, would Long Bing and Annina have problems too? If it’s not the problem with the women, then the problem is…’
Xia Lei didn’t dare finish the thought.Previous Chapter Next Chapter