Foreign Languages are Actually Easy
Xia Lei worked from afternoon to night.
Ma Xiao-An could not help and he had to get up early the next day to open for business so Xia Lei asked him to go home. He continued using the lathe to process new parts. He had already finished welding all the broken parts in the afternoon and he was now left with the other pieces. He would be finished with the job once these were done.
Ning Jing had nothing to do, so she sat at Xia Lei’s desk, browsing through the books he’d brought. She flipped through two books on machining, then held up ‘Contemporary German for University’ and spoke in surprise, “Master Xia, are you learning German on your own?”
“Yeah, it’s always good to expand one’s knowledge,” replied Xia Lei offhandedly.
“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” Ning Jing spoke German all of a sudden.
Xia Lei’s left eye twitched and the matching words in German appeared in his head as well as the pronunciation and grammar. It was fascinating. This was his first time hearing someone speak German but he understood what Ning Jing was saying. She said: Do you speak German?
“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” repeated Ning Jing, this time with a hint of a challenge in her voice. She obviously didn’t believe that a welder could understand German.
Xia Lei thought of an answer. There was no book in front of him, but his left eye displayed word after word of German, and the appropriate grammar and pronunciation appeared in his head, joining together to form a sentence. This was an extremely complicated and miraculous process but it took only a few seconds.
A smile appeared in the corners of Xia Lei’s mouth as he said, “Ich kann Deutsch, aber ich spreche nicht sehr gut.”
He said: I can speak German but not very well.
Ning Jing looked at Xia Lei in surprise and was still for a bit before she spoke again, “You really can speak German. What made you want to learn German? It’s not a common foreign language – you should pick English if you wanted to learn a foreign language since it is used more widely.”
A few minutes later, Xia Lei spoke, “Mademoiselle, je parle un peu le français.”
“You…” Ning Jing could sit still no longer and she stood, gaping at Xia Lei with round eyes. “You just spoke… French?”
Xia Lei grinned, “Yes, I said I also speak a little French.”
“Heavens! You have such hidden depths! I know English and German but not French. You’re more amazing than I am!” praised Ning Jing. She was starting to look at Xia Lei in a whole new light.
“How can I be? I’m just learning some simple phrases because of boredom. You earned your Doctorate at such a young age – you’re the amazing one. I really admire you.”
“Oh, no, no, no, I should be the one admiring you. You have such great workmanship at such a young age and you even taught yourself German and French. This shows how clever and ambitious you are in improving yourself. Such a positive attitude towards life is something I should emulate,” said Ning Jing.
“Hehe… Are we going to keep going?” Xia Lei grinned, then turned his attention back to the work at hand.
Ning Jing kept staring at Xia Lei, unable to tear her gaze away from him. ‘It’s laughable that I did not believe him one bit when I first met him. I actually looked down on him. It is rare to find someone of his skill in this entire country and on top of that he also taught himself German and French. Other than my Doctorate, what do I have that is better than him?’ thought Ning Jing.
She was full of admiration and just a touch of shame.
She had no idea but the man she admired now was just a diamond in the rough. No one can tell how Xia Lei will grow and develop in the future!
“All right, finally done.” Xia Lei switched off the lathe, removed the gear he had been working on and put it under the lamp for inspection.
Ning Jing cleared her head of her jumbled thoughts and moved to Xia Lei’s side to look at the gear. “Is this the last part?”
“Yes, it’s the last one,” said Xia Lei.
“You finished the job more quickly than I’d expected. I thought it would take the whole night.” Her lips quirked, “I was going to ask you where I could sleep for the night.”
“You weren’t thinking of spending the night here, were you?”
“You don’t even have a bed here. There isn’t a place for me to sleep even if I wanted to.”
Xia Lei was about to say that he had a foldable bed but stopped himself from saying it for fear that it would lead to a misunderstanding. He changed his words, “I’ll send you home, Big Sister Ning. Are you going home or back to the Archaeological Bureau?”
Ning Jing looked at Xia Lei, all smiles, “Are you going to send me home, and have me drive you back?”
Xia Lei then remembered he did not have a car. He laughed awkwardly and didn’t mention sending her home again.
“Accompany me to the Archaeological Bureau, then. I need your help,” said Ning Jing.
“Are you going to put it together and make it move tonight?” asked Xia Lei.
Ning Jing nodded. “It is a marvel. I can’t wait to unlock its mysteries.”
“Okay, I’ll go with you to the Archaeological Bureau.” He wanted to know the answer to the origins of the compass and its secrets too.
Half an hour later, Xia Lei and Ning Jing arrived at the Archaeological Bureau. This time, they went to an archaeological studio instead of the display room.
The studio was fairly large but it was filled with artifacts waiting for restoration such as porcelain, stone and other relics, making the space seem cramped and small. Ning Jing cleared a worktable to make space, then gingerly placed the compass, repaired parts and copies of parts on it.
“Aren’t you going to call Professor Huang, Big Sister Ning?” asked Xia Lei.
Ning Jing considered it and said, “It’s too late. Forget it. He’ll come in early tomorrow anyway. I am not good with machines, Master Xia, so can I ask for your help in assembling this compass?”
“Of course,” replied Xia Lei quickly.
“I’ll make a cup of tea for you,” said Ning Jing.
Xia Lei smiled and said, “Don’t stand on ceremony, Big Sister Ning.”
“I’ll make some tea to chase away your sleepiness. Go about your work, then. I’ll be back soon.” Ning Jing walked out of the room.
Xia Lei looked away from her slim, retreating back and started to work on reassembling the compass.
This was his first time doing work that was so similar to watchmaking so he had no prior experience to draw from. However, he had his great advantage – his eye. Using his eye, he could recall all the original places of the parts and easily see areas others couldn’t to put everything back in its proper place. Thus, though it was his first time doing this, he raced along like a seasoned professional, skilled and smooth.
By the time Ning Jing entered the room with a cup of Pu’er tea, Xia Lei had already installed the last piece in the compass.
Strangely, the golden pointer on the compass started moving right after the last piece was put in place. It pointed north.
Xia Lei dusted off his hands and grinned as he said, “Done.”
Ning Jing walked briskly over, her gaze fixed on the compass on the worktable. “How are you so quick?” she exclaimed delightedly.
Xia Lei smiled but said nothing. He had actually slowed down for safety’s sake while putting the compass together. If he wanted speed, he would have finished it while Ning Jing was still boiling the water.
“It’s moving. Did you use the repaired parts?” Ning Jing held her spectacles higher up the bridge of her nose but could not see which parts Xia Lei had used in the reassembly.
“I used the repaired parts. I felt that we should try with the original parts first, then with the copies and let you see which would give the better result,” said Xia Lei.
“You’re so thoughtful. Oh dear, I forgot to give you tea.” Ning Jing remembered about the Pu’er tea she was holding and shoved it into Xia Lei’s hands before rushing to examine the compass.
Xia Lei wasn’t actually thirsty. He took one sip before putting it aside and going to Ning Jing’s side to watch her fiddle with the compass.
Ning Jing’s body fragrance smelt great. She was totally unaware of Xia Lei next to her and did not see that her forward-leaning posture revealed snowy peaks below the V-neckline of her top.
Under the white light, the young and beautiful Doctor, mesmerising fragrance, seductive view and mysterious compass combined to give Xia Lei a strange feeling. It was as if something was getting restless, threatening to come out – it was hard to describe it.
“Master Xia, please install the new copies in the compass. It may give us a different result,” said Ning Jing.
“No problem.” Xia Lei was faster this time when exchanging the parts.
However, the compass did not move at all after the copies were put in.
Ning Jing inspected it quickly and mused, “How strange. Why is it like this? Master Xia, can you please put the original parts back in?”
Xia Lei thought it was strange too but he didn’t ask any questions and changed the parts. This time, the compass moved again and the golden pointer pointed straight north.
“I think… This compass looks like it’s made with pig iron but it must have some other special material inside. It’s amazing,” said Ning Jing admiringly.
“You guys need to study it more closely then. My part of work is done.”
At that moment, the room door was suddenly pushed open by someone and a familiar face appeared in front of Xia Lei and Ning Jing.
Expressionless Long Bing of the icy aura had arrived. She glanced at Xia Lei and Ning Jing before her gaze went to the compass.
“Why are you here?” Xia Lei broke the eerie silence.
“You’re done, so I came.” Long Bing walked to the worktable, reached out and took hold of the compass and turned around to leave.
Ning Jing grew anxious and hurried to block Long Bing’s way. “Miss Long, what are you doing? You can’t take the compass away!”
“Your opinion does not matter. Your Bureau Chief has no say either. Move aside. Don’t hinder my work,” said Long Bing frostily.
“No, no! You can’t take it away! Explain yourself!” Ning Jing stubbornly stayed put.
Long Bing suddenly delivered a knife chop to Ning Jing’s neck. Ning Jing let out a soft groan as her head tilted back and she collapsed backwards.
Xia Lei quickly ran forward to catch Ning Jing to stop her from hitting the floor. “Why did you do that? She was no threat to you!” he exclaimed in shock.
“She will wake in fifteen minutes. Take care of her. Our cooperation ends here this time. I shall contact you the next time I need your help,” said Long Bing calmly.
“Aren’t you even going to ask if I will agree to it? And I fixed the compass like you’d asked. Can you tell me what it does?” asked Xia Lei depressedly.
“Don’t ask about things you shouldn’t know. Goodbye.” Long Bing turned and left without wasting any further words.
Xia Lei held the unconscious Ning Jing in his arms and stared at the empty doorway. He was motionless for quite a while.