The punishment for the wine-spiking incident was quickly meted out. Ren Wen-Qiang was swept out of the Vientaine Group doors and disciplinary action was taken against Xu Lang. Both these punishments were serious blows to Ren Wen-Qiang and Xu Lang. Xu Lang's career progression was a dead end because of the incident and Ren Wen-Qiang lost everything that had made him proud after being let go.
Ren Wen-Qiang and Xu Lang would have had bright futures ahead of them if they had not schemed to make a fool of Xia Lei. Was it worth it to have fallen into such despair?
An old saying summed it all up: The evils we bring upon ourselves are the hardest to bear.
This saying fit Ren Wen-Qiang and Xu Lang to a T.
The incident did not have much of an effect on Xia Lei. He went to work as usual and took care of office work, then went home with Liang Si-Yao after work to practice Wing Chun. He also tried to think of ways for Thunder Horse Manufacturing to move away from just providing processing services for other companies and come up with a patented product which would belong to the company but progress was so slow it was insignificant. No matter how hard he worked, he always stopped at brainstorming and could go no further.
On another front, Xia Lei did not respond to Chi Jing-Qiu's offer right away; he was in no rush. Instead, it was Chi Jing-Qiu who called him several times, asking if he thought about it.
The only thing that was pleasing was that the plans for the supermarket had progressed smoothly. Qin Xiang used the supplier information he had gathered to explore supplier channels of other supermarkets, prices and settlement. He made contact and signed contracts. Already, quite a few suppliers had signed long-term contracts with their supermarket. Having these suppliers meant that payment in the beginning was not a problem and payment could be done a month later. The suppliers were also using this to forge a good long-term collaborative relationship with Thunder Horse Manufacturing.
Qin Xiang contacted suppliers and negotiated with them and Xia Lei signed and sealed the deal with the company stamp. The renovators had also arrived and begun their work, installing work lifts, tiles, lighting, the surveillance system and so on. Thunder Horse Manufacturing did lack some funds but it still had enough cash to bring out for the supermarket renovation.
Supermarket renovation was not complicated - it just needed to be clean and neat. It actually didn't take too much time or money. Once the tiles were laid and the ceilings done, the suppliers would all be rushing to put their products on the best shelves. Some special products had to be accompanied by their own display case and promoter, including home delivery services...
Matters big and small occupied Xia Lei, and he practically forgot about the purchase order from Chi Jing-Qiu.
A fortnight later.
Pow, pop, pop, pop, pow...!
A string of a hundred thousand firecrackers popped on the pavement, filling the air with smoke. Confetti flew all around. Thunder Horse Manufacturing's Beauty of Beauteous Supermarket had been established.
There were no special guests; it was just various suppliers and people from Thunder Horse Manufacturing, but it was very lively. The supermarket was not officially open but the entrance was crowded with customers waiting to go in. These customers were residents of the neighbourhood and numbered in the hundreds. They were here for the opening bargain sale of 20% off all products.
The 20% off was a real discount. For example, the Mengniu Dairy Company's special Jiangsu province's Kunlun mountain range cow's milk was 60 yuan per pack but Beauty of Beauteous had it at 48 yuan on discount. Who wasn't willing to buy when one could save 12 yuan on a pack milk? The regular shoppers in supermarkets were not youngsters but aunts and uncles willing to walk the extra distance to save one or two yuan.
With their first shopping experience and knowledge that Beauty of Beauteous had cheaper prices than other supermarkets, they would become long-term customers. Furthermore, the supermarket did not have to pay rent so other supermarkets would not dare to start a price war with it. From its conception, it was slated to draw the business from the nearby supermarkets and become the most popular supermarket along this stretch.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony was over, the supermarket workers opened the doors and hundreds of customers poured in.
A smile appeared on Xia Lei's face at the happy scene, "It's all good, but this name, 'Beauty of Beauteous'..."
Qin Xiang cut Xia Lei off and rolled his eyes at him, "Didn't you put me fully in charge? I like this name so I'm going to use it."
Xia Lei smiled, "I didn't say that the name was bad. It just makes me think of your hair salon."
Qin Xiang looked at the signboard above the supermarket entrance, looking a little pained, "The name can be considered a tribute to my hair salon, I suppose. It represents my past."
If Xia Lei had not turned up, he would have still been controlled by Huang Yi-Hu and not have the money to send his mother for treatment. Those days were terrible days but no matter how bad the days were, they were still part of his past and part of his life which cannot be cut away.
"How's Auntie's treatment going?" asked Xia Lei.
"The first treatment process has been completed. Her condition is not bad. The doctors say that we can proceed with the surgery once her tumor becomes smaller," said Qin Xiang.
Xia Lei smiled, "That's good. Go accompany Auntie more often if you have free time."
"Mm," Qin Xiang suddenly remembered something, "That's right. I have some results from what you'd asked me to do."
Xia Lei was suddenly alert, "You mean Chi Jing-Qiu?"
Qin Xiang nodded, "I got A-Lan to tail her during the day and I personally follow her at night. She was acting quite normally till last night, going to work and shopping after work, sometimes going on dates with other men at night. But last night she drove to a place. Do you know where she went?"
Xia Lei shook his head, "No idea. Just tell me."
"She went to Distinguished Gathering," said Qin Xiang.
Xia Lei paused. Distinguished Gathering was the private club owned by the Gu clan. Why would Chi Jing-Qiu go there at night?
"She was very cautious when going there and chose to go at 10:00 pm," said Qin Xiang, "This isn't normal."
"Have you discovered anything else?" said Xia Lei.
Qin Xiang shrugged, "You know what sort of place Distinguished Gathering is. I didn't dare follow her after she drove in. I couldn't investigate who she met there or what they discussed."
The Gu clan had its origins in the underworld and they were powerful and ruthless. Huang Yi-Hu could not even compare. If the Gu clan could arrange Huang Yi-Hu's death, they could also make an infiltrator disappear without a trace.
After some silence, Xia Lei said, "You did right. Don't enter the Gu clan's territory unnecessarily. Let's leave this matter as it is and don't follow Chi Jing-Qiu any more."
"The girl Chi Jing-Qiu is a potential danger; you be careful. I suggest you not work with her. The supermarket is open so it's no problem to get a few million a year and this money will more or less cover the employees' insurance and bonuses. You get what I mean? Don't go reaching for too much," said Qin Xiang worriedly.
"I know. I'll take care of this properly. Go about your work." Xia Lei thought about Chi Jing-Qiu going to Distinguished Gathering and unexpectedly felt a faint shiver of impending danger.
"Okay, I'm off. I'm giving this back."
A wallet appeared in Qin Xiang's hand like magic. Xia Lei took a closer look - it was his wallet!
"I can teach you if you want to learn." Qin Xiang put the wallet in Xia Lei's hand and walked off, hand on hip.
Xia Lei smiled wryly and shook his head, "Why did he think of teaching me pickpocketing? Do I need this skill? Really..."
When he got back to the office, Liang Si-Yao was not in. Xia Lei sat at his desk and looked through the information Chi Jing-Qiu had given him again. He thought for a bit, then finally took his phone out and called Long Bing.
"Miss Long, there's something..."
"BANG! BANG! BANG!" Three gunshots suddenly came from the phone.
Xia Lei was shocked and cried anxiously, "What happened? Are you all right?"
Long Bing's voice came from the phone this time, "I'm fine. I'm at the shooting range."
Xia Lei breathed a sigh of relief.
"You seem quite worried," laughed Long Bing, "Say it. What is it?"
"Do you know who Chi Jing-Qiu is?" said Xia Lei.
"I know, East Wind Heavy Industries' secretary. Why are you asking me this?"
"Well, it's like this. She came looking for me a fortnight ago wanting to work with me. Then she gave me..." Xia Lei quickly gave Long Bing a summary of what happened, then added, "The parts she wants me to process are all high-precision parts and I don't know what they are for. Additionally, my friend has discovered that she'd gone to the Gu clan's Distinguished Gathering last night. I'm afraid that there's a problem with these orders. Can you investigate what these parts she wants me to process are being used for?"
Long Bing was silent for a bit before she spoke, "What are you worried about?"
"I'm worried these parts have the same use as China Industrial Group's parts - for military purposes. If that's the case, I need to be clear on who I'm processing these parts for or I would unknowingly land myself in hot soup."
If it's for military purposes, it wouldn't matter if the parts were being used for China's military but if they were not, then he'd be labelled a traitor to the nation and persecuted!
Long Bing lowered her voice, "Can you send me a copy of the parts information she gave you?"
"Is it okay if I take pictures and send them to you through the phone-mail?" said Xia Lei.
Long Bing thought for a bit, "No, it's better if you send them to me in person."
"Eh?" Xia Lei was surprised, "In person?"
"If this was from outside forces then your phone may have been bugged already. The information you pass to me may be intercepted. Hand it to me in person. I'll get someone to fetch you now. Don't worry about the cost of plane tickets or anything," said Long Bing.
"This..." Xia Lei regretted calling Long Bing a little. His company was just getting itself off the ground and the supermarket had just opened for business. If he, the chairman, went off to Jing-Du at this point of time, who would be at the helm steering the ship?
"It's no time for consideration. This is not a small matter. Understand me?" Long Bing's voice was stern.
Xia Lei sighed, "Okay, I'll wait in my office for your people to come."
As he finished the call, Liang Si-Yao walked through the doorway, carrying two large bags of groceries. They were all food items; vegetables, meat and various spices.
"So cheap! I wanted to buy more but I couldn't carry any more. I was even thinking of calling you to come to the supermarket to help me carry more stuff." Liang Si-Yao looked rather pleased.
"What did you buy so much food for?"
"I bought it all for you to cook." Liang Si-Yao smiled, "My dad and I like your cooking. Come home with me tonight and cook us a feast. Hee hee, I'm getting happy just thinking about it."
Xia Lei smiled wryly, "I'm afraid I can't cook tonight. Long Bing wants me to go to Jing-Du for a bit. I was just about to tell you. You'll have to watch over the company while I'm away."
"What are you going to Jing-Du for?"
"You know about Chi Jing-Qiu's purchase order. I think there's something suspicious about it. I called Long Bing just now and she said it was serious and wants me to bring the information to her..." Xia Lei gave a simple overview of what happened.
Liang Si-Yao sighed gloomily, "What bad luck. I bought so much! I'll die if my dad makes me cook!" She paused, then suddenly said, "No, no. I'll call Qin Xiang right away and return the goods to him."
Xia Lei was speechless.