You Are My Little Apple
“Please have this tea, Master.” Xia Lei knelt with both knees on the floor in the martial arts school, holding a cup of black tea high above his head.
Liang Zheng-Chun accepted it gravely and took a tiny sip. His expression was grave but under his seriousness was a happiness which his brows could not contain. A disciple like Xia Lei was one in a hundred years to a martial art practitioner like him. Meeting him was pure coincidence and luck.
Applause rang throughout the martial school. All the students, new and old, were happy for Master Liang and Xia Lei.
Lu Sheng also clapped but the smile on his face seemed a little forced.
Liang Si-Yao carried a tray piled with red envelopes and handed one out to every student. There wasn’t much money in the red envelopes, just a hundred, but this was the custom of the Fo-Shan people; they did not care about the amount of money to draw a picture of auspiciousness.
Liang Si-Yao gave Lu Sheng a red envelope and said quietly, “Monk, I know you’re unhappy but some things can’t be forced. It’ll be good if you think it over.”
“I’m okay. Xia Lei is stronger than me. I’ve practiced Wing Chun for years and him days but I could not beat him. He is most suited to be the successor of Master’s art. I seldom admit defeat to others but Xia Lei is one.”
“Mm. It’s good you think that way,” Liang Si-Yao smiled.
Xia Lei kowtowed, his head banging on the ground three times, then called, “Master.”
Liang Zheng-Chun put down his cup and helped Xia Lei to his feet. He could not hold back his smile anymore and beamed as he said, “Master has some advice for you. Be a good person and do what you do well.”
Xia Lei nodded, “I shall remember that, Master.”
Liang Zheng-Chun patted Xia Lei on the shoulder, “You are one of my Wing Chun people now after entering the doors of Wing Chun. I will not let you off if you use what I teach to do evil or to harm others.”
Xia Lei nodded again and thought, ‘Master isn’t usually so long-winded. Why is he nagging like this today?”
Liang Zheng-Chun leaned close to Xia Lei’s ear and spoke in a low tone, “Si-Yao says she’s working in your company. Is it true?”
Xia Lei kept nodding, “Mm, it’s true.”
Liang Zheng-Chun was silent for two seconds before he spoke again, “Take care of her. If any suspicious men approach her or have designs on her, I’d like you to beat them away.”
Xia Lei paused, then nodded again.
Men with unmarried daughters were mostly like that - afraid that their daughters would be duped by bad men. It wasn’t strange at all for Liang Zheng-Chun to have thoughts like that.
Liang Si-Yao walked over after giving out all the red envelopes, “What are you guys talking about?”
“Don’t tell her,” whispered Liang Zheng-Chun.
Xia Lei’s mind worked nimbly, “Master was teaching me martial arts.”
Liang Si-Yao smiled, “Really, you two. You’ll have plenty of time. Let’s have hotpot tonight. How’s that sound?”
Before Xia Lei could agree, Lu Sheng spoke loudly, “Yes, today is a great day for Xia Lei. Let’s have the young disciple treat us all to a meal, yeah?”
“Yeah!” cheered the students.
Xia Lei laughed as he said, “Okay, okay, it’s my treat. Don’t hold back, guys. Make sure to eat and drink happily.”
The martial hall was filled with happy voices.
Xia Lei had one too many to drink and could not drive after they were done with the hotpot meal so Liang Si-Yao drove him to his neighbourhood in his car.
“Which floor do you live on?” Liang Si-Yao helped Xia Lei out of the car but did not know where to go in the midst all the residential buildings.
Xia Lei pointed at the stairwell facing the front of the car and said vaguely, “Sixth… floor.”
He was so drunk he could not make out which floor his home was on.
“I’ll help you home.” Liang Si-Yao supported Xia Lei as they headed for the stairwell.
When they neared the stairwell, Liang Si-Yao saw a woman on the balcony of the first floor eating a watermelon and staring straight at her and Xia Lei. Her gaze was weird and Liang Si-Yao thought, ‘This woman is strange. Doesn’t she know it’s rude to stare like that at people?”
As she was thinking, the watermelon-eating woman suddenly threw her watermelon away and went into her flat.
Liang Si-Yao had just helped Xia Lei into the stairwell when the watermelon-eating woman suddenly opened her door and walked out, then smiled as she looked at her and Xia Lei. She stood in the middle of the stairs and didn’t look like she intended to get out of the way at all.
“Miss, please move aside,” said Liang Si-Yao politely. She did not know that this woman was Jiang Ru-Yi and that she had an ambiguous relationship with Xia Lei.
“Oh my, isn’t this our Lei?” said Jiang Ru-Yi, pretending to meet them by coincidence in the stairwell.
“Our Lei?” Liang Si-Yao asked curiously, “Who are you?”
“He didn’t tell you about me?”
“No,” said Liang Si-Yao.
Jiang Ru-Yi came forward and slapped Xia Lei lightly on his head, “You rascal, you only know how to get drunk. Why didn’t you tell me you’ve made a new friend?”
“Who… hit me?” Xia Lei mumbled, then closed his eyes again.
‘Is this woman Xia Lei’s girlfriend?’ thought Liang Si-Yao.
“I’m so sorry our Lei has troubled you. You can hand him to me. I’ll take care of him,” said Jiang Ru-Yi.
Liang Si-Yao hesitated. Though she suspected that this woman was Xia Lei’s girlfriend, it was just a guess and she was not comfortable simply handing Xia Lei off to a strange woman.
Jiang Ru-Yi, on the other hand, grabbed Xia Lei’s other arm and prattled on, “You know, our Lei will make a fuss when he’s drunk and vomit all over. He’ll also strip naked and roll on the ground. It’s horrifying.”
“This…” Liang Si-Yao had never thought of that happening. She could not picture Xia Lei stripping naked and rolling about on the ground. She did not let go of him.
Jiang Ru-Yi tried to drag Xia Lei away and discovered that Liang Si-Yao had not let go and didn’t seem to want to let go. She suddenly produced a document and opened it, then put it before Liang Si-Yao eyes, saying, “Look, look, I’m a police officer. Trust me now?”
Liang Si-Yao then knew that Jiang Ru-Yi was a police officer, and the Chief of a police station at that. The worry in her heart went away and she finally released her grip. “Okay, I’ll put him in your care. Please tell him I drove his car away and I’ll pick him up in the morning.”
Jiang Ru-Yi held her hand out instead, “Give me the keys. You take a taxi back.”
Liang Si-Yao hesitated but gave the keys to Jiang Ru-Yi in the end and left gloomily. That woman was a police station Chief.
Jiang Ru-Yi did not help Xia Lei up to the second floor but directly through her own door. She took Xia Lei away just like that.
Jiang Ru-Yi put Xia Lei on the sofa in the living room, then hit his face lightly, “Who was that woman?”
“Shh… Sleepy…” Xia Lei didn’t even want to open his eyes.
“Humph!” Jiang Ru-Yi reached out again and shook Xia Lei by the waist, “You playboy. You already have a fantastic childhood friend and you still go out to drink and party. What’s so great about that long-legged woman?”
“Khuu… Khuuu…” Xia Lei started snoring.
“Sleeping so soundly, you ass with no conscience.” Jiang Ru-Yi cursed him but there was a smile on her face. She leaned on Xia Lei’s shoulder and spoke to herself, “You’re such a bad guy, bursting into my home like this after getting drunk. What do you intend to do?”
“Khuu… Khuuu…” Xia Lei continued snoring.
Jiang Ru-Yi’s hands wandered all over Xia Lei’s body as her cheeks got redder and redder. “You rascal. You were so thin you had no meat on your bum when we were kids. Your bum is so firm now. What do you need all these firm muscles for? To seduce me? I’m not falling for that.”
Xia Lei could not feel her hands touching him everywhere; he was deep asleep.
Jiang Ru-Yi played around for a bit before she got to her feet. “Forget it. I’ll run a bath for you, then help you take a bath.” Before she walked off, she reached out again to pinch Xia Lei on his thigh, “I’m so good to you even though you went outside to indulge in drink and other pleasures. What do I owe you from my previous life?”
Xia Lei murmured something in response but it was so garbled that he himself wouldn’t be able to make it out.
Jiang Ru-Yi giggled, then went to the bathroom.
Sounds of water came from the bathroom, accompanied by Chief Jiang’s singing. She was singing ‘Little Apple’*.
At that moment, her door suddenly opened and a woman in a trench coat walked in. She dragged Xia Lei off the sofa, then bent and pulled till he was on her shoulder and left.
The door shut without a sound. The whole thing happened in under 15 seconds.
“You are my little, little apple…” Jiang Ru-Yi walked out of the bathroom and was stunned when she looked at the sofa. “He’s… gone?”
She froze for half a beat, then rushed out of the door and up to the second floor to knock on Xia Lei’s door.
In his flat, the trenchcoat-wearing woman held a spray to Xia Lei’s nose and sprayed two times.
“Achoo!” Xia Lei sneezed violently and opened his eyes.
“Lei! Lei!” Jiang Ru-Yi’s voice came from beyond the door.
Xia Lei shook his head vigorously, then saw Long Bing standing before him.
“Lei? Are you home?” Jiang Ru-Yi’s voice sounded very anxious.
Xia Lei seemed to remember something and replied, “I’m home. What is it?”
“I… I’m cutting ties with you!” came Jiang Ru-Yi’s voice, followed by sounds of her going downstairs.
Xia Lei smiled wryly. Jiang Ru-Yi had cut ties with him over a hundred times over the years since they were children but not one time was real. He knew her too well; as well as his own palm.
After half a beat of silence, Xia Lei spoke, “What are you doing here?”
“My job,” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei froze. “Your job? Does it have to do with me?”
Long Bing nodded, “I am surprised too. The subject of my task is you.”
“What’s going on?” asked Xia Lei.
Long Bing sat and looked straight at Xia Lei, “I’m not supposed to tell you, but… I think it doesn’t matter if I do. China Industrial Group handed in a report and it mentions you in it. You processed some important parts for China Industrial Group and they think you can upgrade normal lathes to the advanced standards of the European and American lathes. The higher-ups are very interested in this. They’ve sent me to investigate everything about you.”
Xia Lei was very surprised by Long Bing’s sudden appearance but his surprise went away when she told him why she was here. His collaboration with China Industrial Group looked like a collaboration between two companies but it was actually just him working with them. It was also clear to him how valuable he was to China Industrial Group with the technology block in effect. This was also why he dared to use purchase orders as a bargaining chip to get them to procure the piece of land for him.
There were advantages and disadvantages to everything, of course. He could use his ability to get benefits from China Industrial Group but it had also roused interest in some people. It was not the least bit strange to have Long Bing here investigating him then.
Xia Lei shrugged, “I’m right in front of you now. How do you want to investigate? What do you want to start with?”
“Good night,” said Long Bing. She got up and walked towards the door.
“Hello?” Xia Lei stood up, “You’re leaving just like that?”
Long Bing opened the door. Long Bing shut the door.
Xia Lei looked at the tightly-shut door and didn’t move for a few minutes.
Why was she always so mysterious? She’s unfathomable.
*A song that was very popular in China.
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