Xia Lei clicked on the text document, noting that it contained research information extracted straight from the AE Research Centre. They had conducted a few tests on the mineral-like material within the amber but even the geniuses in America couldn’t come up with an answer.
Breezing through the lengthy reports till its end, Xia Lei gasped in surprise. The AE Research Centre had actually not done any study on the material for medical purposes. Their main focus was just identification, to which they had concluded that the material was a kind of mineral. A mineral that was even rarer and way more precious than rare earth elements.
“What the hell?” Xia Lei tried his best to suppress his shock. “When Father gave them to me, they were already encapsulated. He told me to take one each month and I consumed eleven of them, leaving the last one till now. How was Father so confident in them that he fed them to me? There is nothing in here to prove its medical functionality.”
The main research focus of the AE Research Centre was on the rare mineral alone. If Xia Changhe’s knowledge was in tune with that of the centre, why would he make his own son consume it? This fact alone indicated that Xai Changhe knew more than the centre. But how would an FA agent hold more knowledge about the mineral than the AE Research Centre that was funded and supported by America?
This was a question that seemed to bear no answer.
He gave it some thought, deciding to pick up the satellite phone. Xia Lei wanted to contact his father but the line just couldn’t seem to reach the old man.
This was his father’s style. Xia Changhe was a nomad. When would he ever take a break from this lifestyle and settle down for life? No one knew.
“Hubby, why are you still awake at this hour?” Jiang Ruyi entered the room, holding a steaming bowl of white fungus and wolfberry soup with jujube.
Wolfberry and jujube were typically used to nourish the kidney. It so happened that these were the two materials that his pregnant wives fed him often. The sight of those two cursed elements was enough to make Xia Lei gag now but he refrained from doing so. He would always force a smile whenever his lovers had served him that, not forgetting to applaud them on how nice it smelt.
“Drink up, I’ll go fetch you another bowl when you’re done,” beamed Jiang Ruyi.
Xia Lei had nothing to say in his defence.
“Open wide, I’ll feed you.” Jiang Ruyi scooped a spoonful of soup daintily, hovering it over to Xia Lei’s lips carefully.
Xia Lei forced himself to swallow it, allowing Jiang Ruyi to sit on his lap. The affectionate display immediately filling the room up with warmth and sweetness.
“Are they asleep?” Xia Lei wrapped his arms around her waist gently, rubbing a cautious palm over her slightly protruding belly. He marvelled the little life budding within his lover.
“They already went to sleep. They said that I’ve not been here for a really long time so I should give you some company tonight.” As soon as the sentence escaped her lips, Jiang Ruyi was a blushing mess.
Xia Lei laughed breathily. “There’s no need for such hassle. Isn’t it livelier to sleep together?”
“Ptui!” Jiang Ruyi pinched her fingers hard around his ear. She jeered, “I knew you were one hell of a rascal when we were kids. I guess some things don’t change, huh? You’re still a rascal. Come clean, what did you do to them three whenever you slept together?”
This was the Jiang Ruyi Xia Lei was familiar with.
“Well, isn't it obvious? Why do you need to ask?” Xia Lei had at least the decency to feel bashful.
“I could already imagine it without you saying a thing.” Jiang Ruyi’s lips were pulled into a frown.
“Anyway, I refuse to sleep with them.”
“It’s only an occasional thing. How could I handle frequent nights like that? After the children are born, we won’t be able to do things like that. It’ll be a bad influence on our children.”
“Say, what should my child call Fan Fan?” Jiang Ruyi was suddenly reminded of this question.
Xia Lei paused to think. “First mother.”
“What about Liang Siyao?”
“What about Long Bing?”
“Then what about me?”
“What kind of question is that? Of course, your child would call you mom, idiot.” Xia Lei slapped Jiang Ruyi’s round bottom.
“No!” Jiang Ruyi wiggled in his hold, smushing her soft bottom against Xia Lei’s firm thigh. “I wanna be the first mother. I’ve known you since we were kids and you’ve already gotten a taste of my body a long time ago. I am your very first woman.”
Xia Lei gaped at her silently.
“I don’t care, I want to be the first mother to all the children.”
“I see.” Xia Lei mused, “I’ll have Fan Fan’s kid call you first mother instead.”
“Then what will Liang Siyao’s child call me?”
“What the hell? Why is it so confusing?”
Putting on a straight face, Xia Lei explained his rationale, “Your child will call Fan Fan first mother and her child will call you first mother in return. Siyao’s child will call Long Bing their first mother and Long Bing’s child will return the favour. With that, won’t everyone have the chance to be called the first mother?”
Jiang Ruyi rolled her eyes at Xia Lei in exasperation. “Wow, amazing!”
“Of course. I’m the head of this house. It’s a given that I must consider every aspect well.”
Abruptly, Jiang Ruyi reached over again to pinch Xia Lei’s ear.
“Ow...” Xia Lei winced. Despite the little yelps of pain, he made a move to lift Jiang Ruyi up effortlessly. “Let’s head to bed.”
All while Jiang Ruyi’s mind was still a jumbled mess of confusion. “So Fan Fan’s child will call me first mother and Liang Siyao’s child will call me second mother. Jeez, why is our family a gigantic mess?”
Xia Lei’s wife and children were his drugs. It was a remedy to make him forget about the pressing worries and concerns.
On the second day of the Lunar New Year,
Xia Xue paid a visit to Vientiane Group’s headquarters in Jingdu. She was here on a mission to deliver Shentu Tianyin an invitation to her brother’s wedding. At that moment, the woman was staring hard at Vientiane’s closing price on the American stock market yesterday. After a month or so, Vientiane Group had finally fallen below the issue price. It was a decline of a good fifteen percent.
Her mood was already dampened to see such a fall. The moment she set eyes on the invitation Xia Xue held out to her, Shentu Tianyin’s mood worsened. She grasped the edges of the card tightly, forgetting to greet her ex-sister in law altogether.
“Sister, are you okay?” Xia Xue studied Shentu Tianyin with concern.
It was only then that Shentu Tianyin snapped out of it. “Oh, uh, I’m okay. I saw this coming but it still feels very sudden to me.”
Xia Xue sighed. “I was really rooting for you and my brother. I had a feeling that you both would last long. It’s still a shock to me that you both are divorced now.”
Shentu Tianyin mustered a wry smile. “Don’t blame your brother for this. It’s my fault, I have wronged him greatly.” Pausing for a moment, she continued, “And yet, you still take me as a sister. If Fan Fan catches this, she’ll be upset. I don’t wish to complicate things between you and your sister in law.”
“Look, she won’t be the only sister in law I’m about to have… Let’s not talk about them. The dynamics of my family is terrifyingly complicated.” Xia Xue uttered, “Sister, you should attend the wedding.”
“But…” Shentu Tianyin had made it clear that she wouldn’t attend Xia Lei and Fan Fan’s wedding. However, now that Xia Xue was here personally to deliver the invitation, her initial decision had swayed. To watch the man she loved marry another woman was masochistic but she couldn’t help but wish to see Xia Lei again.
Xia Lei was her drug. She knew full well that it was bad but she was hooked onto it. Her addiction had gone beyond her willpower to quit.
“Sister, I need to excuse myself now. There’s still some invitations to deliver elsewhere. Thank you for making time for me, see you next time.” Xia Xue bid her farewell and exited Shentu Tianyin’s office.
Bo Mingmei entered the office this time with a pout. “She’s so fake, just like her brother.”
That unsolicited comment made Shentu Tianyin scowl. “Don’t say things like that.”
Bo Mingmei huffed. “The divorce was not too long ago and he’s already about to get married to a high official. Not to mention, that man has three other women on the side. Didn’t you catch how delighted Xia Xue was when she mentioned her numerous sisters-in-law? Her little smile ticks me off.”
“Quit it, you’ve said enough!” Shentu Tianyin was genuinely mad.
“I don’t care if it offends you. I just don’t want to see you in pain again.” Bo Mingme stared straight into Shentu Tianyin’s eyes. “I was beginning to think that Xia Lei was already involved with the other women while you were married. What right does he reserve to live life like a paradise while you’re constantly in pain despite a minor fault?”
“You...” Shentu Tianyin swayed her arm over. But before her palm could collide with Bo Mingmei’s cheek, she halted herself.
“If hitting me would make you feel better, go ahead.” Bo Mingmei said blatantly.
Shentu Tianyin retracted her arms. “I divorced him. You can’t shift the blame on him. He did give me a chance to give up on Vientiane Group to join him in the Thunder Horse Organization and I rejected him. Xia Lei has helped me dissolve multiple disasters that could land me in jail. My father owes him a life too. He has done so much for me and yet I let him be my scapegoat. Before the incident took place, I had even prepared the divorce letters and signed it. Shouldn’t I be punished for my sins?”
Bo Mingmei was aware of it but she hadn’t learnt of the entire story. Now that Shentu Tianyin had confessed aloud, Bo Mingmei’s disdain towards Xia Lei was immediately gone. Shentu Tianyin was evidently at the wrong. She was the one who brought up the divorce. How could Xia Lei be blamed for her own demise?
The other women drawled a long sigh. “He was willing to forgive me and see me as a friend. I’m already grateful for that. And yes, it’s true that I’m suffering inside but I brought this upon myself. I won’t blame it on anyone else.”
“But you can’t stay like this forever. This is detrimental for your health.”
“Do I look like someone who would collapse easily?” Shentu Tianyin tossed her a pointed look.
Bo Mingmei could only chuckle dryly. “I know I can’t convince you but I’ll like to advise you against attending their wedding.”
“No, I made my decision. I’m attending it.”
“Why are you trying to hurt yourself? There will be a lot of reporters at the event. With you attending as his ex-wife is only going to fuel headlines.”
“They can write whatever they want, I couldn’t care less. The fourth day of the new year is a very important day for him. I just wish to see him happy again,” said Shentu Tianyin.
“Jeez, you really should go get another man and start another relationship.”
Shentu Tianyin replied, “Sure, why don’t you get me another man that is as good as him?”
That seemed to have shut Bo Mingmei’s mouth up effectively.
Was there anyone on earth who could match up to Xia Lei?
No, Xia Lei was the best.
“Go prepare me a gift,” said Shentu Tianyin.
“Anything specific?” Bo Mingmei said, “He’s way richer than you now. He’s got money and women at his disposal. What is there left to give him?”
Shentu Tianyin caressed the sacred heart necklace around her neck.
Bo Mingmei gasped. “You can’t be serious about giving that away?! There’s only one of it in this world!”
“I’m not stupid. This is a wedding gift from Xia Lei. How can I give it away and have it worn by some other women?” Shentu Tianyin sighed and continued, “Nevermind, I better go pick the gifts myself.”
Doot… Doot… Doot…
Out of the blue, the landline phone on her desk started to ring.
Shentu Tianyin answered the call. “Hello?”
“Shentu Tianyin, it’s me. Tang Yuyan.” Tang Yuyan’s voice rang through the receptor. “Are you free for a cup of coffee now?”
“What’s the matter?”
“I’ll like to talk to you about some women affairs.”
There was only a brief moment of hesitation before Shentu Tianyin answered, “Okay.”