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 Masks are Expensive

Outside East Wind Heavy Industries' great hall, Xia Lei could not help laughing. He did not care how the matter resolved itself but just thinking of Ren Wen-Qiang and Xu Lang's ugly behaviour in front of so many people made him gleeful and vindicated.

He was not one bit sympathetic towards Ren Wen-Qiang and Xu Lang. If he had not lip-read their conversation in advance and seen Ren Wen-Qiang spike the wine, the one to have made a scene would have been him. If that happened, Xu Zheng-Wen and Ning Yuan-Shan would definitely not speak up for him nor conduct body searches on Ren Wen-Qiang and Xu Lang.

'Shentu Tian-Yin would probably take care of Ren Wen-Qiang since this made her take a hit to her company's reputation. Would Ning Jing's parents still look favourably upon Ren Wen-Qiang as their future son-in-law if he didn't work for Vientain Group? I hope Ning Jing seizes this chance to rid herself of Ren Wen-Qiang.' The thought of Ning Jing struck a chord of melancholy in Xia Lei.

"Xia Lei." A male voice called from behind him.

Xia Lei turned his head to see Mayor Hu Hou and he turned to face him, "Mayor Hu, why have you come outside?"

Hu Hou patted Xia Lei on the shoulder, "Don't take what happened tonight to heart. I came out to have a talk with you and enlighten you on some matters."

Xia Lei laughed, "Thank you, Mayor Hu. I'm fine."

"I was actually the one to get Ning Yuan-Shan to invite you this afternoon and let you attend this dinner party. I was planning to introduce people in the industry to you after the dinner party ended and didn't expect that something like that would happen. You ended up not making any friends but two enemies instead. Sigh," said Hu Hou.

Xia Lei then understood that Ning Yuan-Shan did not want to invite him at all and only sent Chi Jing-Qiu to invite him because of Hu Hou. This also explained why Chi Jing-Qiu had driven over to Thunder Horse Manufacturing to invite him to the dinner party at the last minute, not long before the start of the dinner party.

"Mayor Hu, are the two enemies you speak of Xu Zheng-Wen and Ning Yuan-Shan?" said Xia Lei.

Hu Hou smiled wryly, "Are they not?"

"Xu Zheng-Wen is a government employee so I shall not comment," said Xia Lei, "Ning Yuan-Shan was a rival from before. China Industrial Group worked with East Wind Heavy Industries in the past but they are working with me now so Ning Yuan-Shan sees me as a thorn in his foot. Even if this incident had not occured tonight, he would not see me as a friend."

Hu Hou was silent for a bit before he spoke, "Do you want to talk to him? I can act as a bridge between you two and say a few words on your behalf. One is the leader of one of the country's biggest state-owned enterprises and the other is a rising star I am fond of. East Wind Heavy Industries and Thunder Horse Manufacturing are both businesses based in Hai-Zhu City. I do not wish to see in-fighting."

This seemed to be the reason why Hu Hou had come out after him.

Thunder Horse Manufacturing was just a small, newly-established company while East Wind Heavy Industries was a government-owned enterprise. Thunder Horse Manufacturing had no way to even compare or become a rival of East Wind Heavy Industries. What Hu Hou held in high esteem was the potential of Thunder Horse Manufacturing and the business relationship between Thunder Horse Manufacturing and China Industrial Group. From where he stood, he certainly did not want to see Ning Yuan-Shan create obstacles for Thunder Horse Manufacturing in its growth.

Hu Hou was truly kind and a very good mayor.

"Mayor Hu, I understand your kind intentions and I thank you for it," said Xia Lei, "But even if I go back in with you, Ning Yuan-Shan will not speak with me. He may accept you acting as a middleman but it will be of no use. I'm not interested in talking with him either. He can do what he wants. He can walk on his broad, open road while I cross my wooden bridge. My way may be more difficult but I will get there in the end."

Hu Hou sighed but smiled, "Okay, I'll forget it since you're not willing to. I also thought that way, but... Never mind. You can go home."

Xia Lei shook hands with Hu Hou, "Goodbye, Mayor Hu."

"Work hard. I believe you will definitely make Thunder Horse Manufacturing a big business and our Hai-Zhu City will have another star business to boast of," said Hu Hou.

Xia Lei laughed, "I'll definitely work hard."

"Come to me if you have any difficulties and I'll help you if I can."

"Of course. Thank you, Mayor Hu. Goodbye." Xia Lei bid Hu Hou farewell and walked towards the car park.

When he got to the car park, he remembered that Chi Jing-Qiu had given him a lift and Liang Si-Yao had driven his car away. He took out his phone and was about to call Liang Si-Yao to drive him back when the window of a BMW rolled down and Chi Jing-Qiu stuck her head out, shooting him a smile.

"What are you standing around for? Get in. I'll send you back," said Chi Jing-Qiu.

Seeing the bright smile on Chi Jing-Qiu's face made him admire this woman's thick-skin and inner strength. She'd been pushed to the ground by Ren Wen-Qiang, molested, had her clothing torn and her bra exposed for all to see in the great hall earlier but here she was acting naturally, as if the earlier incident had never happened.

Xia Lei walked over and got into the car. "Aren't you afraid of angering Ning Yuan-Shan by driving me back?"

"He's just a doddering old fool. Why should I worry about him?" Chi Jing-Qiu started the engine as she said, "I really don't get why he favours a person like Ren Wen-Qiang. If it were me, I'd favour you and definitely get his precious niece to marry you, hee hee."

Xia Lei frowned, "You're still in the mood to joke at this time?"

Chi Jing-Qiu swallowed her smile and said seriously, "Actually, Ning Yuan-Shan is not entirely picking on you because of you stealing China Industrial Group's business away."

"There's another reason?"

"You still lack experience," said Chi Jing-Qiu, "East Wind Heavy Industries is a government-owned enterprise so losing a few purchase orders is not an issue. The issue lies with business connections. What he values is the relationship with China Industrial Group. All the people in that company are high-ranking military personnel, especially that Mu Jian-Feng. That guy has a voice that's heard even at the highest levels. Think about it - you'd cut off his connection to this group, so would he still be nice to you?"

Xia Lei smiled wryly. He'd never thought of it.

The car moved out of the car park and Xia Lei saw Ning Jing standing outside the great hall through the window. She was looking left and right, as if searching for someone.

"Someone seems to be looking for you. Want me to stop the car?" asked Chi Jing-Qiu teasingly.

Xia Lei hesitated, then said, "Never mind, let's go."

Ning Jing was still looking around when Chi Jing-Qiu drove the BMW out of East Wind Heavy Industries.

"She doesn't suit you," Chi Jing-Qiu giggled, "I'm most suited for you, though. Interested in reconciling with me?"

"I've never even got along with you in the first place, so what reconciliation are you talking about?" said Xia Lei.

"You wooed me but were unsuccessful, unfortunately. I'm giving you another chance now. I'll divorce immediately if you're willing and then I'll quit working at East Wind Heavy Industries and go work at your Thunder Horse Manufacturing. We will definitely have a bright future if we join forces." Chi Jing-Qiu did not look like she was joking.

"Just drive," said Xia Lei indifferently.

Hate flashed in Chi Jing-Qiu's eyes but her mouth was curved in a charming smile, "I was just kidding. I don't fancy you at all."

The BMW raced along the city roads and the street lamps shone brightly upon a prosperous scene. Xia Lei had grown up in this city but it felt foreign all of a sudden at that moment. He recalled the days he had spent on construction sites welding and doing manual labour. Chi Jing-Qiu would probably never even look at him if he had stood before her at that time. He could tell which feelings were real and which a hypocritical show of friendship. It was because of this that there was only business between Chi Jing-Qiu and himself, and no feelings.

Xia Lei was going to ask Chi Jing-Qiu to send him to Liang Si-Yao's home but decided against it after thinking about it. Chi Jing-Qiu did not ask him where he wanted to go either and sent him straight to his little neighbourhood. Her car was going fast the whole journey as she still had to rush back to participate in East Wind Heavy Industries' dance after the dinner party.

Xia Lei alighted in his neighbourhood, patted the car door and said, "Thanks."

"Not going to invite me up?" smiled Chi Jing-Qiu.

"Stop pretending. You won't go even if I did invite you. Hurry back, you should be at Ning Yuan-Shan's side at this time," said Xia Lei.

Chi Jing-Qiu searched in the backseat and took hold of a document envelope, then handed it to Xia Lei through the car window. "Take a look. Give me a call if you can do it. We will both make a lot of money if this deal goes through."

Xia Lei took the document envelope Chi Jing-Qiu gave him. It felt heavy but he did not look inside and just nodded, "I'll take a close look. Wait for my call."

"Bye." Chi Jing-Qiu drove off.

Xia Lei turned and walked into his neighbourhood, opening the envelope and reading the information as he walked.

The envelope held over twenty A4 pages and every piece of paper had drawings of the part to be processed and various parameters. The requirements were high and they were all high-precision parts.

Xia Lei looked through all the drawings but found nothing that described the use of these parts. A suspicion arose, 'These requirements for the high-precision parts are more or less the same standard as the parts China Industrial Group want me to process. How did Chi Jing-Qiu get this sort of business? What are these parts being used for?'

Back home, Xia Lei looked closely at each of the drawings once again but was unable to decipher the use of these parts. He pondered for a bit and finally took out his phone to make a call.

"Bro, I have my facial mask on now. If you've got something, can you call me back later?" Qin Xiang's effeminate voice came from the phone.

"I need your help with something," said Xia Lei.

"Oh, then why be so polite with me? Tell me - what is it?"

"Chi Jing-Qiu has a purchase order and she gave me the drawings. I feel like something isn't right..." Xia Lei gave a simple summary of what had happened.

"What do you want to do?"

"I was thinking of having you keep an eye on her and see who she talks to."

"If you want me to follow her then just say so. 'Keep an eye on her', my ass. Okay, no problem. Write me a text message with her address and whatever details and I'll get to work after I'm finished with my mask. Anything else? I'll hang up if there's nothing else - Masks are expensive." Qin Xiang really did hang up right after.

Xia Lei was speechless.

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