The nights in the beginning of autumn were cool but Xia Lei was so busy that he perspired all over. He’d started cooking at five in the afternoon and only stopped close to seven in the evening. He was tired but his efforts had produced a table of delicacies. There was steak with Italian-style sauce, Sichuan spicy chicken cubes, Australian lamb chops, French roast goose and so on. These various dishes were made from recipes he had found off the internet. Though it was his first time making them and he couldn’t speak for their authenticity, the power of his left eye enabled him to see the fusion of the ingredients and the dishes ended up looking quite decent and smelt good.
This was also Xia Lei’s first time taking so much time and effort to make such a feast for someone. This was all because the guest today was Long Bing, a person he sincerely wanted to thank. He wouldn’t know how badly the situation could have turned out if Long Bing had not intervened at the construction site.
Xia Lei put a bottle of Chanyu red wine on the table and glanced at the time on the grandfather clock on the wall. It was seven O’clock.
‘It’s already seven. Why isn’t she here yet? Did she get some sort of mission and can’t make it? If that’s the case, who’s going to eat all these dishes I made?’ Xia Lei grew anxious and walked to the balcony.
The sky had already darkened and the older residents in the neighbourhood were taking their evening strolls or dancing in the green areas. It was a lively night. Xia Lei scanned the area and didn’t see Long Bing but he saw Jiang Ru-Yi.
Jiang Ru-Yi was sitting on her balcony eating some watermelon. She wore casual home clothes. The soft material clung to her skin and her breasts were pushed high, her buttocks were also round and perky - definite eye candy. Looking down from his balcony, Xia Lei could also see the soft whiteness peeking out from under her collar, the beautiful pale groove deep without end. The sight of her aroused certain thoughts and tempted one to do this and that to her.
Jiang Ru-Yi seemed to have eyes on the top of her head; while Xia Lei was looking at her, she spoke without looking up, “What are you looking at? Shameless.”
Xia Lei found it strange, “How did you know I was looking at you?”
Jiang Ru-Yi put down the watermelon rind in her hand and looked up at Xia Lei, “Your shadow appeared at my feet when you popped up. You know what? Your shadow is as vulgar as you are.” She stretched out a finger and pointed at the floor between her legs.
Sure enough, there was the round shadow of a head on the ground between her legs. The position made it look like the shadow was peeking at some landscape between her legs.
Xia Lei smiled wryly, “Ru-Yi, I didn’t offend you in any way. Are you in a bad mood today? You seem to be annoyed at everything I do.”
“When have I ever not been annoyed at you?”
Xia Lei was speechless.
“She’s not here yet?” asked Jiang Ru-Yi.
“Not yet,” said Xia Lei.
Jiang Ru-Yi smiled, “I can smell your dishes from my flat. Treat me to dinner if she doesn’t turn up. I haven’t made dinner yet.”
Xia Lei was about to agree when a graceful, slender figure entered his line of vision. Long Bing had arrived. She was dressed in a long, black dress, black high heels, matching black bag and black Calot hat. She was poised, elegant and exuded mystery and icyness. Long Bing stood out as always and was easily recognisable from the masses in the neighbourhood.
Xia Lei smiled, “She’s here. I’ll invite you over if we have any leftovers.”
“Go die!” Jiang Ru-Yi snatched up a watermelon rind and flung it at Xia Lei but he had already disappeared from his balcony when she swung her arm.
Long Bing walked towards the stairwell.
“Hello, Miss Long,” Jiang Ru-Yi greeted.
Long Bing gave a slight nod and entered the stairwell.
Jiang Ru-Yi shrugged and muttered to herself, “I’ll buy a dress like that tomorrow. I’ll even get black underwear. Let’s see who’s more like Black Widow!”
Long Bing did not hear what she said. She reached the second floor and knocked on the door.
Xia Lei opened the door with a smile on his face, “You’re here. Please, come in.”
Long Bing spoke quietly, “I could have come earlier but I was temporarily delayed by something. Um, I didn’t even have time to get you a gift.”
Xia Lei laughed, “What is with the formalities? You haven’t eaten, have you? I cooked up some dishes - let’s eat.”
Long Bing removed her Calot hat embellished with black-yarn and placed it on the sofa, then followed Xia Lei to the dining table. She was surprised upon seeing the wonderful spread of various dishes on the table. “Did you make all these dishes?”
“I’m the only one here so who else could have made these? Try it. I don’t know how well I made them either,” said Xia Lei.
“Judging from the colour and smell, it should taste quite good. You are making me more curious about you. You can process high precision parts, speak several languages and even cook such delicious looking dishes though from the information I have gathered, you are just a high school graduate. What sort of background story do you have?” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei smiled, “Is this part of your investigation?”
Long Bing seated herself, “Let’s talk as we eat.”
Xia Lei sat himself and poured a glass of red wine for Long Bing, then one for himself.
Long Bing clinked glasses with Xia Lei, took a sip and said, “Do you know why I was investigating you?”
Xia Lei shook his head, “No, but I don’t think it’s out of curiosity, is it?”
“Let’s talk about your father.” Long Bing looked at Xia Lei, her gaze odd.
Xia Lei paused, “Why are we suddenly talking about my father?”
“I’m suddenly very curious about him. Why, is it not convenient to talk about it?”
“It’s not that,” said Xia Lei, “I don’t really know much about my father and he’s never told me what he did for a living; I had no idea up till he disappeared. From what I remember, he was always very busy and was often away on work trips. He spent almost half the year away from home. I only remember this much and I don’t know anything else.”
Long Bing took a bite of the roast goose Xia Lei had cooked and smiled faintly, “Quite good. It tastes similar to the roast goose I had in France - very authentic.”
Xia Lei laughed dryly, then picked up a piece of spicy chicken with chopsticks and gave it to her, “Eat more, then.”
Long Bing ate some dishes, drank two glasses of wine and, just when Xia Lei thought she would not ask any more strange questions, she spoke again. “Your father is Xia Chang-Hai. The household registration file shows that he was born in 1965 and will be fifty this year. He studied Culture and graduated from Hai-Zhu First Middle School. He joined the army after graduation and entered the Special Forces Unit in his third year due to hard work and excellent performance. He served in the Special Forces Unit for three years before retiring and there are no records after that.”
“My father… My father was a soldier?” Xia Lei said in surprise, “How can that be? My sister and I never knew that he was in the army.”
“You really didn’t know?” Long Bing stared at Xia Lei.
“I had no idea. I have no reason to lie to you,” said Xia Lei. He paused for a bit, then said, “What’s with you today? Aren’t you investigating me? Why do you keep talking about my father?”
“Don’t you think it’s strange that your father never told you he was a soldier? And he never told you what he did for a living either - you don’t think that’s strange? Why did he disappear? Isn’t everything very strange?” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei blanked out. He’d never thought that his father, Xia Chang-Hai, was terribly odd in any way before but faced with Long Bing’s questions, he suddenly found himself thinking that his father was not normal at all. He had a secret that he and his sister did not know of.
Long Bing spoke again, “What I found most strange was that I could only find the file from after he retired. I could not find anything beyond his retirement and marriage to your mother.”
“What are you trying to say?”
Long Bing was silent for a bit before she raised her wine glass, “Forget it. It’s nothing. Maybe there are no records because it’s too normal. Let’s not talk about your father and have some wine. The dishes you made are really delicious.”
She must have wanted to say something but decided against it in the end.
Xia Lei smiled wryly and clinked glasses with Long Bing, then gulped a large portion of the wine in the glass in one go.
“Lei, I’ll give you a warning,” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei looked at her, “What?”
“You’ve attracted the attention of some people because of China Industrial Group. Keep a low profile when you do things next time and be more careful,” said Long Bing.
“I didn’t do anything illegal. So what if I get noticed by some people? I’m not worried about this,” said Xia Lei.
“Not everyone is a good person. Some people are keeping an eye on you and it’s not totally friendly. You understand what I mean?” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei nodded, “All right, I’ll listen to you.”
“The matter of Huang Yi-Hu ends here. Don’t touch the Gu clan. You are no match for them,” said Long Bing.
“The Gu clan is not clean at all. What is the sense in you guys coming to investigate me instead of investigating the Gu clan?” said Xia Lei.
“Many know that the Gu clan is dirty. The higher-ups know too. We are not touching them because it is not time. As to when we will move against them - it is not up to me to decide. You don’t have to take the investigation of yourself to heart either. I came here to have a meal with you to say my goodbyes. I’m going back to Jing-Du,” said Long Bing.
“You’re not investigating me anymore?”
A faint smile appeared in the corners of Long Bing’s lips, “Your history is brief. I spent less than a day to investigate the time from when you attended kindergarten. I’ve already written my report and will turn it in soon. Your investigation is over.”
“What did you find in your investigation?” asked Xia Lei probingly.
“You’re very normal. I found nothing special,” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei heaved an internal sigh of relief. He did not want anyone to find out about the secret of his left eye and Long Bing was no exception.
At that moment, Jiang Ru-Yi’s voice suddenly came from downstairs. “Lei, come down, quick! Huang Yi-Hu is dead!”
Xia Lei was shocked. He hurriedly got up and ran to the balcony
Jiang Ru-Yi stood downstairs and said anxiously, “Come with me to the detention centre, quick! Huang Yi-Hu hung himself!”
“Okay, wait for me. I’ll be right down!” said Xia Lei.
Long Bing walked up from behind Xia Lei and grabbed his arm, “Have you forgotten what I’d just said? The matter ends here. Do not involve yourself further.”
Xia Lei froze on the spot.
Long Bing leaned over the balcony railings and looked at Jiang Ru-Yi, “Go tend to your case, Chief Jiang. Xia Lei has to accompany me for dinner so he won’t be joining you at the detention centre.”
She did not wait for Jiang Ru-Yi to answer and left the balcony, towing Xia Lei behind her.
Jiang Ru-Yi hesitated for half a beat, then muttered, “Stuff yourselves.”
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