The flight arranged by the Germans departed at 10 in the morning and arrived in Germany after 10 hours. Due to the time difference, it was only three in the afternoon when they arrived.
The plane landed at Essen City Airport. Xia Lei and his group left the airport and arrived at Annina's home in the suburbs under the supervision of a group of German Special Forces soldiers. According to the plan of the Germans, Xia Lei and his group actually needed to go to a military base. However, Xia Lei had put forth a request to let Annina visit her home and the Germans allowed it, just for a night.
The snow-covered mountain forest, frozen river, and wooden German-style house nestled between forest and river sent Xia Lei down memory lane. He felt like he had entered an oil painting. The picturesque tranquility he experienced here was difficult to have in China.
“This is my home.” Annina introduced the house to Tang Yuyan and Long Bing and said warmly, “Please come in. I’ll get some food for you guys.”
"Is the food in your fridge still edible?" asked Tang Yuyan.
Annina had been in China for over a year. Even if there was food in her fridge, it was probably no longer edible now.
"No worries, I have my ways," said Annina with a smile.
“Then let me help you.” Tang Yuyan followed Annina to her house.
Long Bing and Xia Lei followed behind them. Long Bing said quietly, “She’s been so quiet this entire trip that it’s weird.”
Xia Lei laughed. “Did you want her to cause trouble? It’s good that she’s been quiet. I don’t want anything troublesome to happen.”
Long Bing curled her lips. She obviously wouldn’t believe that Tang Yuyan would become a well-behaved girl.
“Director Xia,” A young man pulling a suitcase caught up to Xia Lei and Long Bing. “Do you have some time to talk?”
This young man was tall with long legs, and he was nicely built and proportioned. He wore black-framed glasses and was handsome, scholarly. Although he stood next to Xia Lei, he was still not one who was easily overlooked.
This young man’s name was Liu Zhengnan, a very talented man who was just recruited from the talent market into the Thunder Horse Group. He had studied in Germany’s Munich University, and obtained a doctorate degree in electrical engineering. He could speak German, was familiar with the German environment and had a doctorate in electrical engineering, making him a perfect choice for this mission. This was why Xia Lei had brought him along from China. Additionally, Xia Lei also had another aim, and that was to observe him to see if he could be trained to be his assistant.
There was actually a story behind Liu Zhengnan joining the Thunder Horse Group too. China Industrial Group had also had their eyes on him and offered him a high salary, but he chose the smaller Thunder Horse Group in the end. During his interview, he said that Xia Lei was the country’s best mechanic and electrical engineer, and was his idol, and he, Liu Zhengnan, was willing to join the Thunder Horse Group and contribute his youth to China’s first private military enterprise.
“You can enter first. I’ll have a little chat with Zhengnan,” said Xia Lei to Long Bing.
Long Bing nodded and entered Annina's house.
Xia Lei smiled and said, “Zhengnan, what did you want to talk to me about?”
“Director Xia.” Liu Zhengnan pushed up his spectacles and said politely, “I know this place. It’s quite a volatile area. Essen City is an industrial city that started developing after the Second World War, but it isn’t Germany’s industrial centre. It would be very difficult to ship the parts we need from China if we build our workshop and lathe here. It would also extend our stay in Germany, which also increases our risk.”
Liu Zhengnan did not know of Xia Lei's identity as a consultant at Bureau 101, nor about Tang Yuyan’s and Long Bing's identities, but he was a very clever person. China sent people to Germany to build workshops for the XL2500 sniper rifle, the Gust assault rifle, and the super composite intelligent lathe, which could be considered the core of Thunder Horse Military Factory. He could infer a little of their identities with this information, and this was why he was worried for Xia Lei.
"I know that you're worried, but rest assured — we're only stopping here for one night. We won't build the workshop here. I'm sure Germany doesn't want such an important workshop to be built here either. Oh right, I was just thinking of asking you something."
"What do you want to ask me?"
"You've been in Germany for years, so you have had many schoolmates, don’t you? Do you have any classmate or friend who's in the architectural field?"
"Do you want my classmates to help us in the building of the workshop?"
"No no, the Germans will provide the civil work for the workshop. You know Annina. She contributed a lot to help me build my business. She has a dream and she wants a medieval-styled castle, and a farm or something." Xia Lei smiled. "You know how every girl dreams of being a princess. I want to help her realise her dream, and build her a medieval-styled castle. If any of your friends and classmates can do this, please contact them."
Liu Zhengnan thought for a bit and said, "No problem, Director Xia. I have a classmate at Munich University who majored in architectural design. He is very talented and is especially good at designing classical style houses. But he is still starting his own business now. I don't know if his capabilities will meet your requirements."
Xia Lei replied, "It's fine as long as he has talent. I can pay for the materials and the workforce if he doesn't have money."
"Then there's no problem. I'll call him right now. He’ll be overjoyed, for sure." Liu Zhengnan was very happy. He took out his phone to make the call.
Xia Lei walked toward Annina's house. Several of the German Special Forces soldiers around the house looked at him, and their gazes varied. Some were cold, some uncertain, and some full of respect. Xia Lei had no need to worry about what the CIA or the FA Organization would do to him under their protection. This was Germany, and he was on German territory. Anyone who disrupted the Germans’ interests would not get away scott-free.
Xia Lei saw Tang Yuyan and Long Bing when he entered. Tang Yuyan was sitting on the sofa meditating. She said she would help Annina, but that's she had only said it to be polite. Long Bing also lay on the sofa, snoring. Jet lag was not comfortable, and even a strong woman would need time to adjust to the time difference.
But this jet-lagged feeling was not very apparent for Xia Lei.
Xia Lei entered the kitchen and saw Annina using some pre-mixed bread flour to make bread. She was also preparing a huge ham, and it was being defrosted.
"Is this ham still edible?" Xia Lei asked. "You've been gone for a year, I'm afraid it has already expired."
Annina then noticed that Xia Lei had entered the kitchen, and she seemed happy. "It won't have expired. The climate here is different from China's. Hams here can last two to three years. A ham which is a little more than a year old is the most delicious."
"I see. I'll help you," said Xia Lei.
"Okay. Help me with that chunk of ham, then," said Annina.
Xia Lei placed the ham in the water to defrost it, then rubbed it with his hands in order to decrease the defrosting time. As he worked on the ham, he said, "Annina, I told Zhengnan to contact his friend. His friend is a very talented architect. I'm thinking of asking him to help you build your castle. What do you think?"
Annina suddenly became quiet.
Xia Lei paused, and asked, "What's wrong? You don't like it?"
"No!" Annina suddenly embraced Xia Lei and wrapped her arms around his neck. She said excitedly, "I’m touched, extremely touched! Lukas, my angel, I love you!"
Xia Lei smiled. "Then it's decided. Oh yeah, where do you want to build your castle?"
"Here. I like it here. This is my home."
"This will be simple, then. We'll talk to hen that architect when he gets here, and have everything settled. If you have any requests, just tell him. All right, let's prepare the food now."
But Annina stayed in Xia Lei's arms. She kissed Xia Lei's cheek, and her deep blue eyes were seductive. "Lukas, come to my room tonight. I'll arrange another room for your two friends. Oh, and Liu Zhengnan too. He needs a room. But you don't need one — you can sleep with me."
Trouble had already begun.
Xia Lei was just looking for an excuse to make Annina give up her thought when he suddenly heard footsteps from behind. He quickly went on the alert and pushed himself out of Annina's embrace, taking two steps back.
Right at this moment, Tang Yuyan appeared in the kitchen doorway and said lazily, "You guys done yet? I'm starving."
Xia Lei spoke with a serious face. "Can't you see that we're working on it, Miss Tang?"
Tang Yuyan yawned, then turned and left.
Annina started moving toward Xia Lei again, but he blinked furiously.
Tang Yuyan suddenly appeared in the doorway again, and she stared straight at the two people in the kitchen.
Annina was at a bit of a loss, and she said, "Miss Tang, is there anything else we can help you with?"
"Nothing." Tang Yuyan disappeared once again.
"Lukas, are you afraid of her?" Annina seemed to have understood something.
"We can't be intimate with her here." Xia Lei was pained.
"She'll tell our secret to my wife. Now you see why I'm wary of her?"
"She's so mean." Annina pouted, and unhappiness was written all over her face.
"Never mind, let’s prepare the food." Xia Lei quickly changed the topic. He quietly breathed a sigh of relief. Tang Yuyan was trouble, but she was also a shield.
Dinner was very simple. Two men, three women. There was very little chatter.
The three women sat on the left side of the dining table, and Xia Lei and Liu Zhengnan sat on the right.
Liu Zhengnan was very handsome, but he didn't attract the eyes of any of the three women sitting at the dining table. The women would only peek at Xia Lei if they were not looking at the food. Some of the looks were direct, and some secret.
Liu Zhengnan sensed something unusual, and he quickly ate his food. He stood and said, "Director Xia, I'm going out to pick up my friend, he's almost here."
Xia Lei nodded. "Go on, go on."
Liu Zhengnan turned and left, and looked back at the dining table as he went out the door. He sighed. ‘Many people at Thunder Horse Military Factory said that Director Xia's private life is a mess. Looks like it's true. That Miss Long aside, Miss Tang and Annina both look like they're ready to devour Director Xia at any time… Ay, Director Xia, I’m not being disloyal here, but I really can't help you."
At the table, Xia Lei suddenly froze up.
Someone had very definitely kicked him under the table when Liu Zhengnan went out the door.
He looked nervously at the three women across him, trying to guess which one of them was teasing him.
The three women sat quietly enjoying their dinner — bread, ham and red wine. He looked at them and they looked at him. Judging from each of their expressions, not one of them looked guilty.Previous Chapter Next Chapter