Deliberately Finding Fault
Xia Lei went out to greet her with a smile on his face, “Big Sister Ning, what brings you here today?”
Ning Jing’s little mouth quirked slightly, “What, I can’t come here unless I have something to ask you?”
Xia Lei smiled, “Of course you can come! I’ll always welcome you.” After a pause, he added, “I’m sorry about yesterday. I messed up.”
“I don’t blame you – I didn’t know Ren Wen-Qiang would turn up either. We haven’t seen each other in years,” said Ning Jing.
“Your parents seem to like him a lot,” said Xia Lei.
“I’m here to apologise. My mother was rude last night, and Ren Wen-Qiang, he was too arrogant…” She looked at Xia Lei, and was not sure how to continue.
Xia Lei behaved as though it didn’t matter, “It’s fine. It’s normal for someone of his status to look down on someone like me. This society is like that – lacking trust and respect.” He laughed, “And, your mother was doing it for your own good. Ren Wen-Qiang is indeed outstanding. I think most mothers would want a son-in-law like him for their daughters.”
“Oh, stop talking about that,” Ning Jing cut Xia Lei off, “Not every woman wants to marry a man of status and not every woman wants to marry for a big house or nice car. You’re not me. How would you know what sort of man I like?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way,” said Xia Lei.
“I know you don’t mean it that way. What I’m trying to say is that I, myself, am most sure about what sort of person I like and what sort of person I would spend the rest of my life with. My mother is not the one who will make important decisions for me,” said Ning Jing.
Xia Lei did not want to speak further on this topic. He said, “Please, come in and have a seat. I’ll make some tea for you and we can chat.”
Ning Jing looked at Xia Lei, her gaze seeming rather sharp, “Won’t I be in the way of your work?”
Xia Lei laughed and said, “No, no. There isn’t much work to do today.”
A sweet smile appeared on Ning Jing’s face, “Can you introduce your two employees? I don’t have many friends so I’d be happy to have more.”
“No problem. They’ll be glad to get to know a friend like you,” said Xia Lei.
Ning Jing followed Xia Lei into the workshop and he introduced Ma Xiao-An and Zhou Xiao-Hong to her. The four of them chatted and laughed, and Ning Jing taught Zhou Xiao-Hong how to use the computer and the Office software. The atmosphere in the workshop was harmoniously friendly.
Looking at Ning Jing and Zhou Xiao-Hong get along, Xia Lei had a small suspicious thought, ‘Why would a doctorate holder such as Ning Jing want to make friends with Ma Xiao-An and Zhou Xiao-Hong? Strange.’
Those who were cultured and those who weren’t actually had few topics in common when they interacted. The chance of them becoming friends were even smaller.
Before Xia Lei could think of a reason, a black BMW stopped by the side of the road. It was a multi-million-yuan BMW 7 series. The sunlight bouncing off the car’s body wax made it look extraordinarily impressive.
The door opened and a suit-clad Ren Wen-Qiang got out from the driver’s side. He removed his sunglasses, looked at Thunder Horse Workshop, and walked straight over.
“Big Sister Ning, someone’s looking for you,” said Xia Lei. He didn’t think Ren Wen-Qiang would come here looking for him. If Ning Jing were not here, a person such as Ren Wen-Qiang would probably never give a small roadside establishment like Thunder Horse Workshop more than a passing glance.
Ning Jing looked up at Xia Lei’s words. When she saw Ren Wen-Qiang, she froze and the smile on her face disappeared.
Ren Wen-Qiang walked into Thunder Horse Workshop and his line of sight swept past Xia Lei, Ma Xiao-An and Zhou Xiao-Hong’s faces, then stopped on Ning Jing’s face and a nice smile appeared on his face, “Jing, why did you switch your phone off when I called you? I went to your home to look for you and Auntie said you’d gone out. I only knew you didn’t go to work today when I went to your workplace. I asked around and heard of this place. It wasn’t easy to find; I had some trouble locating it.”
Ning Jing forced a stiff smile on her face, “What are you looking for me for?”
“I’ve been away from this city for many years and there has been some great changes. I’d like to see how it had changed but I lack a guide who can take me around. Would you like to accompany me on a round of the city?” Without waiting for Ning Jing’s agreement, he continued, “I’ve booked us a table at Golden Beach. We can have Western cuisine at noon.”
An expensive car, romantic Western meal and a handsome man – these held great attraction for women and it was hard to say no to it but Ning Jing seemed to be an exception. She shook her head, “I don’t like Western cuisine.”
“Then let’s go for Chinese cuisine. I know a restaurant which specialises in Cantonese cuisine and they have good food.”
“I…” Ning Jing did not expect Ren Wen-Qiang to be so persistent. She did not want to reject him directly so she’s said she didn’t like Western but he’d changed it to Cantonese cuisine right away. She wasn’t sure what excuse to use to refuse him anymore.
At that moment, Zhou Xiao-Hong got up and walked to the water dispenser to get Ren Wen-Qiang a cup of water and brought it to him with both hands, “Have some water, sir.”
Ren Wen-Qiang did not stretch out his hand; he did not even respond nor look at Zhou Xiao-Hong.
Zhou Xiao-Hong froze awkwardly and was at a loss as to what to do.
Xia Lei spoke, “Xiao-Hong, this gentleman here is too much of a noble. You won’t be able to get him to respond so just go about your work and ignore him.”
Zhou Xiao-Hong returned to the desk with the cup of water and put it on the desk. She then busied herself with the computer and software. It was as if she’d got used to living so humbly that there was no unhappiness at being treated in that contemptuous manner by Ren Wen-Qiang.
Ma Xiao-An, however, was not as accepting and humble as Zhou Xiao-Hong. He snatched up the cup of water and drained it in one go, then slammed it heavily back on the table, saying angrily, “Even country leaders are not so arrogant. Giving you a cup of water is giving you some respect – you don’t even know that? What are you playing at?”
Ren Wen-Qiang’s gaze took on a shade of anger. He sneered, “So hot-headed for a welder. I wonder where you got your confidence from.”
“So what if I’m a welder? I dare you to say that again!” Ma Xiao-An rolled up his sleeves, getting all ready for a fight.
Ren Wen-Qiang’s eyes were full of disdain, “Showing your fists after one line from me? Before you get too hasty, let me tell you that I’m an eighth degree judo black belt.”
Ma Xiao-An had taken a step forward but he took it back. Don’t even talk about eighth degree – he couldn’t even beat a first degree.
Ren Wen-Qiang looked at Xia Lei, his eyes still full of disdain. “Xia Lei, is it? I know it isn’t easy for you to run a small machine shop. This is already quite good for a person of your level but don’t overreach. Ning Jing is not a woman you can afford to go after. Don’t get involved with her any more because you don’t suit her.”
Xia Lei had a good temper but he could not hold it in any longer, he pointed to the door and said, “Get out!”
Ren Wen-Qiang looked at Ning Jing, “Jing, come with me. Don’t hang out with these uncultured people; you’ll be tainted by them.”
“I’m not going. Go by yourself if you want to leave!” Ning Jing had had enough too.
“Do you want me to call Auntie and Uncle? I think if they found out you were here, they would surely come over. Your father has a bad heart – can you bear to anger him over a matter like this?”
“You…” Ning Jing was so angry her vision blurred, “How can you be so overbearing!”
“How can I protect you if I’m not overbearing? There are too many swindlers in this world. You’re so naive, you’ll be cheated easily.”
He didn’t say who the swindler was but when he spoke, he sent a provocative look to Xia Lei, obviously meaning him.
Xia Lei wanted to beat him up and Ma Xiao-An raised a wrench, ready to assist.
At that moment, three vehicles stopped by the side of the road. One was a black Mercedes, one a flatbed lorry and the last a small crane.
The door of the Mercedes opened and a bald old man stepped out from the driver’s side, looked at Thunder Horse Workshop and walked straight towards it. Behind him, the flatbed lorry driver jumped down and pulled off the tarp on the cargo bed. On the cargo bed were two brand new CNC lathes and a precision welder.
This sudden development suspended the tension in the workshop.
The elderly man walked into Thunder Horse Workshop. He was thin with long eyebrows and though he had crows’ feet at the corners of his eyes, his gaze was still sharp and reserved, and carried the changes of time that young people lacked.
Xia Lei had never seen this old man before. The lorry and the crane outside his machine shop was also raising lots of questions. He was about to open his mouth to ask about it when Ren Wen-Qiang unexpectedly spoke first.
“Senior Fu,” Ren Wen-Qiang was surprised but respectful, “What are you doing here?”
The old man called Senior Fu gave Ren Wen-Qiang a look and spoke indifferently, “Wen-Qiang, why are you here?”
“I…” Ren Wen-Qiang laughed awkwardly, “I came to look for my friend.”
The old man called Senior Fu did not speak to Ren Wen-Qiang again. He looked at Xia Lei, then at Ma Xiao-An and inquired, “Which one of you is Xia Lei?”
“I am. May I ask who you are?” said Xia Lei.
The old man called Senior Fu smiled faintly, “I am Fu Chuan-Fu. I am the butler of the Shentu clan. Heh heh, I heard of what happened yesterday and I am deeply thankful.”
When he said that, Xia Lei understood immediately. Shentu Tian-Yin’s face appeared in his mind, and everything about her was clear and detailed, almost as if she were in front of him in all her lofty brilliance.
To the side, Ren Wen-Qiang looked at Xia Lei in surprise. What he had now was all given to him by Shentu Tian-Yin. He could not comprehend how this little roadside shop owner Xia Lei would be acquainted with a woman such as Shentu Tian-Yin! His emotions at that moment were difficult to describe; they were exceedingly complex!
Fu Chuan-Fu continued, “Our lady has instructed me to deliver some equipment to you as a token of gratitude.”
Before Xia Lei could speak, Ren Wen-Qiang interrupted, “Senior Fu, what is going on? Why would Miss Shentu instruct you to…”
Fu Chuan-Fu frowned, “Wen-Qiang, don’t you know that I don’t like people to interrupt me when I am speaking?”
Ren Wen-Qiang froze and turned red. He shut up.