The person who came to get Xia Lei was named Ke Jie, 27 or 28 years old, with thick eyebrows and big eyes. One could tell that he was a professional soldier or some sort of special forces, and not a regular person.
Ke Jie drove a Hongqi sedan and sent Xia Lei directly to the airport. Afterwards, he accompanied Xia Lei on the earliest direct flight to Jing-Du.
During the entire process, Ke Jie said just three sentences to Xia Lei.
Sentence one: Long Bing sent me.
Sentence two: My name's Ke Jie.
Sentence three: Let's go.
Long Bing was unapproachable and like a glacier to others. Even the people who worked for her barely spoke.
Xia Lei felt gradually calmer after the plane took off. He had not been very willing to go to Jing-Du earlier but he could take this chance to go to Jing-Du University and see his little sister. He didn't have to pay for the plane ticket after all. He could treat it as a free trip.
"Um, Mr Ke..." Xia Lei tried his luck asking, "Where will you take me to?"
Ke Jie glanced at Xia Lei, "I have not yet received instructions. I suppose Chief Long will pick you up at the airport."
"Chief Long?" This was the first time Xia Lei heard someone refer to Long Bing's title and he was surprised, "What is she chief of?"
Ke Jie shut his mouth.
Xia Lei put on an extra nice voice, "Chat with me. I won't tell her what you tell me."
"Chief Long told me that you would definitely ask what she does for a living. She said when that happens, I am to shut my mouth. I am carrying out her order now. Please don't ask again," said Ke Jie.
Having failed in his approach, Xia Lei shut up as well but he thought to himself, 'She's a chief of something so her rank is surely quite high. She can even make Jiang Ru-Yi Chief of Police. What sort of chief is she?"
It wasn't actually that hard to guess the answer since a regular soldier will be called 'Chief' when he reached a certain level in the military. Taking into account Long Bing's age, she wouldn't be high-ranking in political or governmental circles, so that left the military. Her character and attitude was another sort of proof of that - She was a professional soldier!
'Could she be a general? Rear admiral, or something like that?' At that thought, Xia Lei smiled bitterly and shook his head, 'It's useless even if I guess her identity. Why waste my brain cells on this? It's better to think about the product for Thunder Horse Manufacturing."
Xia Lei had already pondered and mulled over what product to manufacture for his company over a hundred times and came up with several ideas. Work-out equipment would be good but it was difficult to sell when he lacked sports equipment connections. Producing screws, nuts and metal components wouldn't be profitable either unless he used inferior materials to compete with the other companies. This market was already saturated anyway. As for medical equipment, it would be difficult to sell if he did not give the hospitals rebates...
It was unfeasible whichever idea he had.
Xia Lei's gaze landed on the onboard entertainment screen which happened to be playing an advertisement.
A lake surrounded by green mountains, waterfowl flying overhead and a person paddling on a surfboard, braving wind and waves. A line of text ran across the image: Ke-Wen automatic surfboard brings you greater joys in life - presented by The Northern Group.
Xia Lei was stunned. He could tell at first glance that it was Liu Ying's patent. Gu Ke-Wen had snatched Liu Ying's patent, and The Northern Group was a conglomerate owned by the Gu clan and second in market value only to the Shentu clan's Vientaine Group.
If it were not for Gu Ke-Wen's brutal methods, Liu Ying would not have gone to Australia and he would have a 20% stake in Nice Moves Sports Equipment Company shares, profiting from this novelty product. However, Gu Ke-Wen had used unscrupulous methods to snatch all these away.
The advertisement finished playing and the next one started. Images of the design plans of the automatic surfboard he had seen back then kept surfacing in Xia Lei's head, each image transmitted from his left eye to his brain, displayed clear as day. He remembered every single detail, down to the punctuation!
Honestly speaking, Thunder Horse Manufacturing was capable of producing this sort of automatic surfboard itself but this would a be violation of the patent law. If the Northern Group decided to sue, a simple fine would incapacitate the still budding Thunder Horse Manufacturing. That was why Xia Lei dared not rush into producing an automatic surfboard even though it would bring him great profit.
The plane landed at Jing-Du International Airport in the evening. Xia Lei followed Ke Jie out of the arrival hall and waited by the road for a few minutes before an unmarked military vehicle stopped before him. Long Bing was in the driver's seat and she was expressionless even when she saw Xia Lei.
Jie Ke stood at attention but did not salute.
"Go back to Hai-Zhu City. You have no tasks here," said Long Bing.
"Yes." With simply one word, Jie Ke turned around and walked towards the airport lobby.
Xia Lei pulled open the door and sat in the passenger seat, saying, "Actually, you could have had Jie Ke bring the information to you. Why make me come?"
Long Bing glanced at Xia Lei, "Two reasons. One, somebody wants to see you. Two, I need you to help me with something."
Xia Lei paused, "This means... My matter wasn't the most important?"
Long Bing spoke indifferently, "It's not clear yet. Give me the information and I'll tell you the result after I've had some experts analyse it. Also, I've got someone to put Chi Jing-Qiu under surveillance. I'll let you know if anything crops up."
"That's more like it," said Xia Lei, "Who wants to see me? And what do you want me to help with?"
"It isn't the time to talk about this now. Let's go to my home first," said Long Bing.
"Your home?" Xia Lei had not expected this arrangement.
Long Bing stepped on the accelerator. She was obviously not going to reply to that question.
Outside the window, high-rise buildings were everywhere and cars zipped by in a never-ceasing stream. Jing-Du was a much busier city than Hai-Zhu and Xia Lei felt a sense of novelty as a first-timer. However, the scenery seemed to comprise solely of high-rise buildings and he found it boring after a few minutes. He was so bored he took out his phone and made to call Xia Xue but figured she might still be attending classes and he would be disturbing her if he called so he wrote a message instead. 'Xue, I'm in Jing-Du. I'll be staying at Long Bing's place. Give me a call when it's convenient for you. Bring your big brother out on a tour of Jing-Du city.'
SInce he'd come to Jing-Du, he must meet up with his sister.
"Are you sending a message to Xia Xue?" Long Bing broke the silence between them.
"Mm, I want to meet with her," said Xia Lei.
"It's your first time in Jing-Du. What do you think?"
"Um, the roads are busy and the air is bad," said Xia Lei.
"Haha..." Long Bing suddenly laughed.
"What are you laughing about?"
"Nothing." Long Bing's smile went away and she was quiet again.
Xia Lei looked at her, "You actually look very nice when you smile. Why are you usually so dour?"
Long Bing glanced at Xia Lei, "Someone said the same thing to me yesterday."
"Oh?" Xia Lei laughed, "Who said that?"
"Some foreign executive. Very young, handsome, fearfully highly-educated," said Long Bing.
"Heh heh," Xia Lei laughed, "If he said that, he must be interested in you. How did you react?"
Long Bing looked at him again, "That means... A man's interest in a woman?"
Xia Lei then realised that he had put himself in the equation and he laughed awkwardly, "Um, I'm not counted. We're friends so I'm saying it for your own good."
Long Bing looked away and said tonelessly, "You want to know my reaction?"
"Of course. How did you react?"
"I punched him and he squatted on the ground for five minutes," said Long Bing.
Xia Lei was speechless.
Her beauty and sexiness were undeniable but could she get married at this rate? Xia Lei was worried for her.
His phone suddenly beeped with a message alert.
Xia Xue had replied: I miss you so much, Big Brother! I know where Big Sister Long's place is. I've been there. Tomorrow's a weekend so I'll look for you there and take you around town.
Xia Lei sent a message back: Okay, see you tomorrow.
Half an hour later, Long Bing drove the unmarked military vehicle into a humble neighbourhood. There were no high-rise condominiums which stretched into the sky, nor anything higher than five storeys. It was all few-storey family villas. The villas themselves were not modern constructions but looked to have been built in the 40s or 50s. Every home had a little garden in front, full of flora and fauna; they looked very elegant. This neighbourhood was like a small enclosed village, its quietness a change from the bustling city.
Xia Lei thought to himself, 'A neighbourhood like this and a house like this... Even those with money would probably not be able to buy one, huh?'
They walked along a little road shaded by trees and met several elderly folk on the way. They all greeted Long Bing and surreptitiously looked at Xia Lei, their gazes odd.
When they got to the gate of a villa numbered 17, Long Bing said, "We're here. This is my home."
The villa was two storeys high and was red-bricked. The little garden out front was planted with many roses; red, pink, white and even some purple, brightly coloured live decorations for the house.
"You must love roses," smiled Xia Lei, "I couldn't tell that you're actually quite a romantic."
Long Bing glared at Xia Lei, "These were planted by my mother."
"Your mother... Auntie lives here too?" Xia Lei felt weird at once. If he'd known it was like this he wouldn't come to Long Bing's home. Staying over at someone's home when it was their first time meeting each other was not a good thing.
Long Bing was silent and she looked a little sad, "She died on the battlefield with my father."
"I'm sorry," Xia Lei said uncomfortably, "I didn't know..."
"It's okay. Come in." Long Bing walked towards the entrance.
Xia Lei followed.
Just then, an old man walked out from next door, holding a bird cage. He smiled when he saw Long Bing and Xia Lei and spoke with an accent, "Young lady, this must be your boyfriend, huh? First time seeing him. Come to my place for dinner later. I'll make something tasty for you."
Long Bing looked at the old man, "Uncle Chen, he is my colleague, not my boyfriend."
Xia Lei smiled and nodded awkwardly at the old man in a sort of greeting. Before he could say anything, however, Long Bing dragged him through the door.
The old man surnamed Chen rubbed the top of his bald head and chuckled, "This is the first time I've seen her bring a man home. Colleague? Ha, I don't believe you."