Chapter 123 - Beautiful Werden
Another workday was over. It'd only been two days but Annina was very satisfied with her assistant. To her, he was an exceptional mechanic and what made her even more satisfied was his diligence and good manners. It really was quite pleasant to work with him. She also knew that Xia Lei was the person who had helped her. She didn't know why he wouldn't admit it but she was still grateful.
"Lukas, I'll send you to the train station" Annina said to Xia Lei before they went to the staff showers.
"Aren't you going to Josef's birthday party? You don't have to worry about me. I can call a taxi to the train station," said Xia Lei.
"My place is 100 metres away from Josef's so I'm not in any hurry. Come on, wait for me after you're done with your shower and I'll send you back," said Annina.
Xia Lei smiled at her, "Okay. Thanks."
Annina smiled sincerely at Xia Lei.
They headed for the showers. There were a lot of people heading there too since mechanics do mostly manual work and get stained with grease a lot on top of perspiring the whole day. Most would shower before going home and few were willing to stink up their own car with their sweat or get avoided by others on trains.
When they were almost to the showers, Xia Lei spotted Josef. He was chatting with a colleague as he walked and seemed engrossed in conversation.
Xia Lei was struck by a thought, 'What is he talking about?'
He fixed his eye on Josef's lips and wanted to lip-read his conversation but discovered that the mouth shapes he'd memorised for Chinese did not work with German. The familiar shapes he knew were no use when it came to matching with the German language.
However, he was still able to mimic some of the mouth shapes and pronounce it to himself and piece together some German words: ahead of the times, large, intelligent, lathe, definitely, success.
It was just a few simple words and Xia Lei could not guess much more. He was a little disappointed and thought 'My lip-reading in Chinese is good but that is because I'm familiar with my native tongue. I'd have to study and familiarise myself with the German pronunciation and lip shapes if I want lip-reading to be even more useful.'
There were just too many things to learn and Xia Lei felt like he seriously lacked time for all of it.
"Josef!" Annina quickly walked over.
Josef saw Annina and a smile appeared on his face, "Annina, you must come tonight."
"I'll definitely come." Annina walked up to Josef, then pulled him aside and whispered in his ear.
Xia Lei glanced at them before entering the showers.
Over ten minutes later, Xia Lei changed into fresh clothing and left the showers. Annina walked out of the showers at the same time, her hair still dripping. It was obvious that she had showered in a hurry.
"I could have waited; there was no need for you to hurry like that," said Xia Lei with a smile. He felt a little thankful as he knew that she would not have had to rush through her shower if she hadn't wanted to send him to the train station.
Annina pursed her lips in a smile, "Let's go get our ride."
A few minutes later, Annina's Breakout zoomed out of the plant and onto a highway which led to the city.
Xia Lei sat behind her and held tightly onto her slim waist. Her well-rounded bottom nestled between his legs, making him ultra-sensitive.
Annina quickly got to a T-junction where the road ahead led to the city, and left to a small town. There was a sign next to the T-junction which read 'Werden* - 5 km' in German.
Xia Lei had seen this road sign four times already but he had no clue what it looked like since he'd never been there before.
While Xia Lei was looking at the sign, Annina suddenly turned into the road heading towards Werden.
"Aren't we going to the train station?" asked Xia Lei in surprise, "Where are you taking me?"
"To my place," said Annina.
"To... Your place?" Xia Lei was stunned.
"I talked to Josef and he's invited you to his birthday party. Come to my place first and we'll go to Josef's birthday party together afterwards," said Annina.
Xia Lei was speechless.
"You aren't mad, are you? I just brought you here without asking you... haha," laughed Annina.
Xia Lei smiled, "How can I be mad? I'd like to make some new friends too."
Josef was a very accomplished electrical engineer and Xia Lei wanted to make connections with people like him. How could he be angry when he was looking for a chance like this?
The few kilometres went by in a flash and an old town came into view.
The town sat in the middle of a trough valley, surrounded by several mountain peaks. The architecture was a typical classical style, with Romanesque roofs and a Gothic church. The mix of buildings did not give one the feeling of modern times but of stepping into the Middle Ages of Europe. One could almost imagine that a group of Germanic knights would come charging out of the maple forest next to the town at any moment.
The mountain peaks, ancient architecture, slow-moving river with clear waters and maple trees and the greenest grass as far as the eye can see. This place was breathtakingly beautiful.
The beauty of the landscape struck Xia Lei like a thunderbolt. He sighed. 'This is a rare sight now in my country.'
Annina suddenly turned onto an ancient cobblestone road and Xia Lei was nearly bounced off the motorcycle. He hurriedly held on to Annina's small waist and stuck himself close to her back. He was stable now but the real test had just begun. The bumpy road made him go up and down on the motorcycle...
Lucky thing the cobblestone road did not go on for long and they stopped in front of a house by the river. The house had the meandering river in front and a lush maple forest at the back; there were no neighbours to be seen and it was beautifully tranquil. This was the most appealing living environment Xia Lei had ever seen.
"This is my home." Annina took off her sunglasses.
Xia Lei quickly jumped off the motorcycle, "Do you live alone?"
"Yep. My parents live somewhere else." Annina made a gesture of invitation, "Welcome."
Xia Lei followed her into the house. There was a sofa and fireplace in the living room and a pair of antlers and hunting gun hung above it. "Do you like to hunt?" asked Xia Lei curiously.
"No, that's my father's hunting gun. I don't like to kill animals. Take a seat; I'll make you some coffee," said Annina.
"No need. Aren't we going to Josef's place?" said Xia Lei.
Annina laughed, "It's not even six yet. His birthday party is at seven; we don't have to be there so early. Sit down, I'll make coffee. You can also look around if you want, don't be shy."
Xia Lei stopped protesting and nodded.
Annina went to the kitchen to make coffee and Xia Lei took out his phone to send a message to Long Bing: Going to a colleague's birthday party. I'll be late.
He soon received a reply: Okay.
Just that one word. Xia Lei smiled wryly, then put his phone away and went to look around Annina's home.
She did not own many high-end items but the design and layout of her home was quite cosy and comfortable. Xia Lei saw many highly specialised books, mostly mechanical manufacturing and electrical engineering, in the study on the second floor. He flipped casually through one of the electrical engineering books and found that the information in the book was more detailed and comprehensive than what he'd found online.
'I'll ask if I can borrow some books later,' he thought.
Annina brought a steaming cup of black coffee over, "Oh, you're in the study. You like reading too?"
"Yes, I love reading," said Xia Lei.
"You're reading a book on electrical engineering. Are you interested in this field?" Annina put the coffee on the study table.
"Yeah, I'm doing some self-learning," said Xia Lei, and he laughed, "Truthfully, I want to be like you and get a high-level job title. I'll be able to earn more then."
"I'm not too familiar with electrical engineering but if you get the chance you should talk to Josef. He's a genius. Oh, right, he's working on some large super intelligent lathe now and it's close to completion. He'll succeed if nothing goes wrong," said Annina.
"A large super intelligent lathe?" Xia Lei's mind whirred and he recalled the conversation he'd lip-read at the plant. The words 'intelligent' and 'lathe' had definitely been mentioned.
"Yep, he talked about it and it shall be the most advanced intelligent lathe in the world. It'll be able to save a huge amount of manpower and time. More importantly, its precision will be even higher than the current lathes," said Annina, "Being able to increase the precision, even by a thousandth of an iota is an impressive feat in itself."
Xia Lei picked up the cup of black coffee and stirred it with a spoon, thinking, 'I must get my hands on his design! If Thunder Horse Manufacturing can get a lathe like this then my company, my Thunder Horse Manufacturing, will be the best manufacturer in the whole of China!'
"You like this place?" Annina looked at Xia Lei, all smiles.
"I like it. I really like it," smiled Xia Lei, "I was even thinking that it'd be nice to have a house like this."
"If you like it you can come live in my home. Are you still renting now? If you move in I'll only charge you a token amount for rent. What do you think?"
"Uh..." Xia Lei thought for a bit, "Thanks but my rent period is not up yet. Let's talk about it again when it is."
"How about you stay here for the night? I want to drink so there won't be anyone who can send you home later," said Annina.
Xia Lei thought about it again, "Okay, then... pardon the intrusion."
"Hee hee, are all you Chinese so polite?" Annina laughed.
"Most Chinese are. We are a nation of etiquette," said Xia Lei.
The pair started chatting and Xia Lei soon forgot Long Bing's cautioning words to not reveal that he could speak German very fluently. However, in his two days of interaction with Annina, Xia Lei did not think that she would bring him trouble. She was just a senior mechanic, a regular woman.
After coffee, Annina brought Xia Lei out at about 6.30pm and they walked along a small path to Josef's house.
* Werden - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werden,_Essen
Looking for the name of this place took a loooooong time. Online dictionaries gave me nothing. I looked for a list of towns close to Essen and it didn't give me any names which were similar enough to the Chinese, which is (wò dēng). Finally, with my scrappy knowledge of German, I typed in variations into Google coupled with the keyword 'Germany'. Woeden, wurden, and finally... Wuerden, which finally gave me 'Werden, Essen'. Sigh.