Though he now knew He Lao-Qi's address and details about his family, Xia Lei still did not have a way to deal with him. He couldn't enter his home and finish him off, could he? And he couldn't kidnap his junior-high-aged son, could he? He was not an evil person and could never do something like that. He'd also thought about sneaking into He Lao-Qi's home and stealing evidence of his wrongdoings or something like that but Qin Xiang had said that He Lao-Qi never did the dirty work himself. Since that's the case, how high was his chance of stealing something that could be used as evidence of He Lao-Qi's misdeeds?
However, this was not a total waste. He had become friends with Qin Xiang; this was a sort of gain. He was on the first step to being able to deal with He Lao-Qi.
He sat for a while in the private room, then paid the bill and left Ju Shan Garden Teahouse, driving back to Thunder Horse Workshop.
As he alighted from the car, Xia Lei saw two strangers in the workshop talking with Ma Xiao-An about something. He observed them both - they were dressed in suits, carried briefcases and looked mannered. He was curious and thought 'Who are they? What did they come to the workshop for?'
Ma Xiao-An saw Xia Lei and greeted him, "Lei... Boss Lei, someone wants to talk business with you." He then turned to the two suited men and said, "That's our workshop's boss, Xia Lei. You can talk to him. Heh heh, I'm not the one who makes the decisions."
So it was two unknown clients. Xia Lei welcomed them. After the falling-out with Chi Jing-Qiu, the business at Thunder Horse Workshop had been slow, just earning enough to keep itself afloat and not much more. New clients were a good thing, of course.
Once the two suited men heard that Xia Lei was the boss of Thunder Horse Workshop, they greeted him with smiles on their faces and niceties on their lips.
"I am Zhou Wei. This is my colleague, Jiang Xin." The suited Zhou Wei smiled and said, "We represent China Industrial Group from Jing-Du."
Xia Lei recognised neither Jiang Xin nor Zhou Wei; he had ever seen them before nor heard anyone mention their names. It was also his first time hearing of the China Industrial Group Zhou Wei spoke of. Xia Lei found it strange 'It's normal if someone from Hai-Zhu City or the nearby businesses come to me to get parts processed and make orders but Jing-Du is so far away. I haven't come into contact or interacted with a China Industrial Group either. How did they find me here?'
Jian Xin seemed to guess what Xia Lei was thinking and said, "It's like this, Mr Xia. We are here this time to get one thing clarified."
Not for business? Xia Lei was a little disappointed but he did not show it as he responded, "What is it that you want clarified?"
Jiang Xin opened his briefcase and took out a well-wrapped cloth bag. He then opened the cloth bag and revealed a processed part.
Xia Lei froze as soon as he saw the part. This part was the high precision part he had processed for East Wind Heavy Industries back then, earning him the first million in his life. He remembered every detail of every event that happened during that bit of business; naturally he'd remember the high precision part he had personally processed.
"Do you remember this part, Mr Xia?" asked Jiang Xin politely.
Xia Lei nodded, "Of course I remember. This was a part I processed for East Wind Heavy Industries. But what is it doing in your hands?"
Zhou Wei answered, "This is why we are here. The batch of parts you processed was an order we had placed with East Wind Heavy Industries. They are very important. I think you also know that this sort of high precision part processing is currently impossible in our country due to the technology block by Europe and America. You, however, have done it. Impressive."
Xia Lei laughed, "You didn't come all the way from Jing-Du to praise me, did you?"
Jiang Xin spoke, "You jest, Mr Xia. We have come to verify this and to bring you some benefits. You should know what I'm talking about."
"You want me to process another part and prove it to you?" said Xia Lei.
"That is correct. I can guarantee, however, that if you can prove that you can indeed process high precision parts like this, you will have no lack for orders in the future," said Jiang Xin.
Xia Lei was already excited about the prospect but he kept his poker-face, "Can I ask a question before I begin?"
"Please ask," said Zhou Wei politely.
"I processed that batch of parts for East Wind Heavy Industries but they would never speak of this matter to anyone, so how did you know that it was I who'd processed them?" said Xia Lei.
Zhou Wei laughed, "It's simple. There is no local equipment and no local talent to do it. We thought all along that East Wind Heavy Industries would be unable to do it but they handed in the goods on time. We, of course, would want to find out how it was done. After we received the parts from East Wind Heavy Industries, we asked the relevant departments to investigate. It was not difficult to investigate either since many people in East Wind Heavy Industries knew about it. The investigation led us here, and.. Yes, here we are."
Xia Lei had the answers to his questions. It seemed fishy on the surface but Zhou Wei's explanations fit and made sense. Chairman Ning from East Wind Heavy Industries had said that the parts were very important and even paid him one million. The people in China Industrial Group also had no expectation that the important parts would be processed so when East Wind Heavy Industries delivered the goods, wouldn't they naturally be curious and investigate? Representatives from China Industrial Group turning up here after an investigation was not so strange after all.
"Please show us your workmanship, Mr Xia," said Jiang Xin.
Xia Lei nodded, "Of course. I don't have materials like that here though. I can only process with normal materials."
"You don't have to use your materials; we brought appropriate materials for you." Zhou Wei opened his briefcase and took out a cloth bag which he handed to Xia Lei.
There was a piece of metal alloy, the same material as what was used when he was processing parts at East Wind Heavy Industries. Xia Lei took the metal alloy and walked towards a CNC lathe. He first processed blanks, then adjusted the settings to manual and used his left eye to zoom-in and cut it bit by bit to the required accuracy. The whole process, from the time he started the machine to the time he finished the processing, took half an hour.
Xia Lei put the part he had processed in Zhou Wei's hands. "You can inspect it."
Zhou Wei looked at the part Xia Lei had processed and said praisingly, "You didn't even need drawings or parameters and you did it in half an hour. That's amazing."
Jiang Xin, on the other hand, took out some inspection tool and took the part from Zhou Wei for inspection.
The tool Jiang Xin had was very advanced - it looked like an infrared scanner. He put it facing the part and it did a scan, then data of the various number values of the part came out. Xia Lei had never seen such an inspection tool, even at East Wind Heavy Industries.
Jiang Xin was quickly done with the inspection and he could barely mask his excitement. He chuckled as he said, "Looks like we've found the right person. Mr Xia, you are a wonder."
The employees of Thunder Horse Workshop beamed and all of them looked rather excited.
"Do you still need parts like this?" asked Xia Lei.
Zhou Wei smiled and said, "We don't just need parts like this; we need people like you."
Jiang Xin placed the processed part carefully in his briefcase, then said, "Mr Xia, are you interested in joining us at China Industrial Group? You can pick your conditions. We shall accommodate you as long as it is not too extravagant."
'You can pick your conditions'. How many companies in the world could offer that?
Jiang Xin's offer was very tempting indeed to Xia Lei when he heard it.
Ma Xiao-An, Zhou Xiao-Hong and the others, however, got nervous and had complicated feelings about it. They were proud of Xia Lei yet worried about their own futures at the same time. If Xia Lei went to China Industrial Group, Thunder Horse Workshop was finished. What else could they do other than to go to construction sites for work? It was especially difficult for Zhou Xiao-Hong. If Xia Lei had not taken her in she would have probably been living on the streets now. Xia Lei had given her a new life and hope for an even better life - how could she bear to see Xia Lei go?
Everyone's eyes were on Xia Lei, waiting nervously for his answer.
Xia Lei's gaze swept over the faces of Zhou Xiao-Hong, Ma Xiao-An and the others, taking in their nervousness, unwillingness and worries for their future. He suddenly laughed, "Thank you for your kind offer. It may be better for me to go work for you but I still prefer staying here. Just place an order with me if you'd like to have any parts processed - isn't it the same whether I go to China Industrial Group or not?"
Zhou Xiao-Hong and the others let out a sigh of relief and smiles appeared on all their faces.
Zhou Wei and Jiang Xin looked disappointed. They would, of course, prefer if Xia Lei had joined them at China Industrial Group.
"What a shame. Our doors at China Industrial Group will always be open for you, no matter when you'd like to join. We shall welcome you," said Zhou Wei.
"Thank you. I will consider it. In addition, can you tell me what China Industrial Group does?"
Jiang Xin paused, surprised. "Mr Xia, you mean you still don't know what we do at China Industrial Group?"
Xia Lei shook his head, "I'm sorry, I really don't know."
Jiang Xin smiled and said, "We, China Industrial Group, are a government-owned company. We produce fighters, tanks, missiles and so on. We are not for profit but for the building of strength for our nation."
Xia Lei was taken aback but he knew why Chairman Ning had emphasised how important the parts were now after hearing what Jiang Xin said. He also understood why it was easy for China Industrial Group to investigate and find out who it was who had processed the parts.
Government-owned, military industry - who would dare trouble Thunder Horse Workshop in the future if he could get purchase orders from them?
Zhou Wei took a document from his briefcase and handed it to Xia Lei. "We would like you, Mr Xia, to process this part for us this time. The document has a drawing of the part we want processed and its parameters and data. We will provide the materials. Take a look, then we can discuss the contract."
Xia Lei flipped through the document.
"Mr Xia, I have a suggestion," said Jiang Xin.
"What suggestion?" Xia Lei asked casually.
"We hope you, Mr Xia, would register your workshop as a company. Please understand - we are a government-owned company and a large corporation. If you work with us and have only a roadside machine shop to represent you, it is detrimental to our reputation and not good for you either," said Jiang Xin.
Xia Lei laughed, "You don't have to worry about that. I've already had that objective in mind before you came. Your arrival has just brought my plans ahead of schedule. I'll go register as a company this afternoon and look for a piece of land to build a factory building."
Zhou Wei suddenly came close to Xia Lei's ear and spoke in a low tone, "Mr Xia, the parts we need must be processed by you, and only you. Do you understand what I mean? We can take care of normal parts ourselves."
Xia Lei laughed, "No problem."
Zhou Wei stretched out a hand to Xia Lei, "To a happy collaboration."
Xia Lei shook hands with Zhou Wei, "To a happy collaboration."
Jiang Xin also reached out a hand to shake with Xia Lei, "To a happy collaboration."
"To a happy collaboration," said Xia Lei.
The employees of Thunder Horse Workshop burst out in applause.