Brother Si

  Qiqi sits on the couch to finish her breakfast drink wondering if she should call Sun Zhi again. When Fat Cat jumps up onto her lap she strokes his soft fur, “Do you want your breakfast?” She laughs when he immediately meows, “Fatty, do you know what I am saying?”

   He rolls his round amber eyes, yes stupid human girl I do. You barely gave me any dinner and I have been waiting an hour for you to wake your little drunk ass up!

  She sips her drink then sets the empty glass down on the coffee table. “Okay, but you need to go on a diet, it isn’t healthy to be so overweight. I will stop at the pet store and get you better cat food later.”

  Fat Cat jumps off her lap and looks back at Qiqi while meowing, well, hurry up, I’m starving! Although the taste of the cat food is disgusting I need to pad my stomach. 

  Qiqi lazily gets off the couch and walks to the cupboard to fill his bowl. She only fills it half way with the cat food and Fat Cat taps his paw on the edge of the dish while glaring at Qiqi. That’s it? Come on! Don’t be so stingy! Although that haughty wench who lived here never paid any attention to me she always kept my dish full!

  She notices his disapproving expression and affectionately strokes his soft furry head. “I’m sorry Fat Cat but it is for your own good. I will get you the most delicious and healthy brand at the pet store, I promise! Maybe I will buy a leash and take you out for a walk tonight. What do you think?”

  He shakes his head, A leash? A walk? Little idiot.. I’m a cat! What did the old monk say? How long will I have to bear this humiliation? I want to cry! If I wasn’t so damn hungry I would put up my tail and storm off right now! How did I end up with this stupid girl!

  Qiqi has no idea the thoughts that are rolling around in Fat Cat’s head. She watches him stick his head into the dish and gobble up the cat food then lick his mouth.

  She goes into the bedroom and looks at the messy school uniform thrown on the chair. I need to go back to the High School and finish drawing the basketball players. If I can’t find my laptop I can change up the end of the arc a little.

  After her shower she dries her long black hair then pulls it up into a high ponytail. She smells the school uniform, ‘EEk..I should have washed it last night.” She picks up her phone on the bedside table and calls Kang Xue, “Xue Xue do you have your old uniform?”

  Kang Xue is slipping on red 10 cm high heels when she answers the phone. “What?”

  “Your uniform.”

 “Not at my apartment. It is at my parent’s house. Why?”

 “Well mine is stinky. I need to go back to the High School to draw. If I can’t get my laptop I will need new material.”

  “Just wear regular clothes.”

 “No Auntie said I can’t distract the students.”

 “Did you call the hospital so you can email me your medical report.”

“Not yet. I just got up. I will before I leave.”

  “You need to do that so I can show it to the old witch. Qiqi honey, are you sure if you can’t get your laptop back you can redo the end of the arc?”

  “I can. Don’t worry, I won’t let you down.” But I hope I can contact the handsome man and get it back. I want to go to the Jade Auction with Brother Si. “Should I go to FutureTech? He isn’t answering my calls.”

  Kang Xue considers the idea then frowns, “No.I doubt you could talk to him. They always screen people and if you don’t have an appointment they will ignore you.”

  “Should I call Uncle Lu?”

 “That is actually a good idea. He probably won’t ignore your uncle’s call. But, I thought you didn’t want your Uncle to know you are writing a Webtoon. Doesn’t he think you are going to H University for your Masters in International Business?”

  “Well..yeah and he would wonder why my laptop is in Sun Zhi’s car. That might be even harder to explain. I could cause problems for Sun Zhi.”

  Kang Xue walks to grab her jacket from the closet, “Sweetie, I think you should resign yourself to the fact you need to redo your work. I can delay the old witch when you email me the medical report. Please, from now on back up your work.”

 “I know it is my own fault. Is your mother home? Can I get your uniform?”

  ??? I am a head taller than you and I was well, very developed in high school. “If you want. Just email me that asap.” She leaves her apartment, “I have to get the bus, call me later.”

  “Okay. Thanks Xue!”

  Qiqi puts on a white sweater and a pair of ripped blue jeans. After she ties her white tennis shoes she grabs her purse. Should I try him again? She dials Sun Zhi’s number as she walks to the living room. No answer.. 

   “Fat Cat, I will be back later, go out and do your business.” She opens the sliding glass door to the balcony and leaves it open while she fills his water dish.

  The fluffy orange cat hurries out the door and glances back to make sure Qiqi isn’t watching him. He sighs as he relieves himself, Ahhh.. then shivers it is really starting to get cold outside. He hurries back inside and jumps up on the couch curling into a fluffy orange ball.

  Fat Cat watches Qiqi shut the door to the balcony and head to the front door. He twitches his whiskers, Little fool is leaving without her coat. With that thin little body of hers she will freeze!

  He starts meowing loudly then jumps over to the chair where she threw her black cashmere jacket last night. Qiqi turns around, “Haha..Fat Cat, are you reminding me to take my jacket?” She picks him up and kisses his fluffy head, “Thank you. Are you caring for me?” The fat orange cat struggles to get out of her embrace with a thud lands on the floor. When he arrogantly struts away he scoffs, Hmmph! If you get a cold, who will take care of me? 

  Qiqi slips the warm jacket on and takes a bright red woolen scarf hanging on a wall hook, “Bye Fatty! See you later.”

  Once she is downstairs she decides to take a taxi. While she is waiting Zheng Si comes down from his grandmother’s apartment. He was there to gain her support because of the hastily called Board meeting, sure that with her backing there shouldn’t be any problems maintaining his position at the Zheng Group. He pulls up his collar of his black trench coat as he exits the building to block the wind and walks towards his car. The driver opens the back door and when he enters he notices Qiqi standing on the corner. He instructs the driver to pull up to where she is standing. He rolls down the window, “Shen Qiqi, do you need a ride?”

  She smiles when she sees who is in the black Rolls Royce, “Brother Si! What are you doing here so early?”

  “I was visiting Grandma. Where are you going? I will give you a ride.”

  “I don’t want to trouble you.”

  “No trouble. I have time before a meeting.”

  “I need to pick something up at a friend’s house on Plum Blossom Way. Are you sure it won’t delay you too much?”

  “Not a problem I am headed that direction.”

  The driver looks in the rear view mirror. Young Master, the Company is the opposite direction.

  Qiqi gets into the back seat, “ Brrr.. thanks! It feels like Winter is almost here.”

  Zheng Si brushes her loose hair behind her ear then tightens her red scarf around her neck, “It is supposed to snow at the end of the week.”

  Qiqi smiles and her beautiful almond shaped brown eyes sparkle, “Really? I love the way the city looks blanketed in snow. Do you remember when you and my brother took me to Switzerland on Winter Break when I was a freshman? I had such a good time!.”

  Zheng Si’s lips curl up in an arc, “Little girl I see you have selective memory. You don’t remember twisting your ankle and having to be carried back to the lodge on my back. Your brother still blames me because I let you accompany me to the slope at the back of the mountain.”

  Qiqi starts laughing showing her cute dimples, “Well, I did enjoy sitting in front of the fireplace drinking hot chocolate. You kept buying me presents to get my mind off my ankle. Do you remember carrying me up to the roof to look at the fireworks when they celebrated New Year’s Eve. It was such a beautiful clear night..so many stars.. ” 

  “Remember.” He affectionately pats her head,”It was a very beautiful night.” Sitting on the roof  in the moonlight you looked like a little fairy.  He can feel his mood becoming better listening to her sweet voice. 

  The driver wonders who the young girl is. He has never seen Zheng Si smile or laugh so freely. I need to tell Madam she worries about his taciturn personality.

  Qiqi looks out the window, “ We are almost there. Could you please turn the next left, it is the first villa. Brother Si, thank you for the ride.”

  “Do you want me to wait?”

  “No. I am going to visit for a bit. I haven’t seen Auntie for a long time.”

    He buttons the top button of her jacket, “Very well. Don’t forget the Jade Auction is tomorrow night. I will pick you up at eight.”

   “Okay.” My God I hope I can get my laptop back or I won’t be able to go. After I pick up the school uniform I have to go to the company where Sun Zhi works, I can’t disappoint Brother Si.

  

Sketches

  Curious Sun Zhi  looks down at the stage to see who has caught Zhen Sihao’s attention. It isn’t often that Zhen Sihao loses his cool.

   He watchs Zhen Sihao unexpectedly appear from behind the DJ dragging the beautiful young singer off the stage.

   “…”

  Sun Zhi turns to Han Weisheng, “Who is the little songbird?”

 Watching the strange scene on the stage Han Weisheng curls his lips, “No idea. I have never seen her before but I would like to know the story too..haha..” He looks at the puddle of red wine and broken glass on the floor. “I never heard of him raising a woman…or should I say little girl.”

 Sun Zhi puts down his drink, “I’m leaving. See you on Saturday Weisheng.”

Zheng Si follows him out the door, “Zhi, are you busy tomorrow?”

“No. Why?”

“ The girl in the accident today, well she and my grandmother are close. I was at Grandmother’s and she mentioned the incident.”

 Sun Zhi has a confused expression, I paid the bill but I don’t recall telling the girl my name. 

  “When you gave her a ride to the hospital she left a laptop in your Land Rover. Can I stop by and pick it up?”

  “Sure.”

 “I will be by in the morning. I want to see your new villa also. I am temporarily staying at the Harborview Hotel but am looking for a villa in that area.”

  Sun Zhi yawns, “Sounds good see you then.”

   Zheng Si watches Sun Zhi leave, very good..now Shen Qiqi can accompany me to the Jade Auction.

    Walking through the Club the exhaustion from the intense training in the mountains is really hitting Sun Zhi. He frowns when his phone is ringing and black lines form on his forehead. Who the hell got this number! 

    Shen Qiqi scrunches up her nose when he doesn’t answer again as she and Kang Xue leave Woo’s Noodle Shop, “Kang Xue I couldn’t find anything about Sun Zhi, he is like a handsome ghost!”

  Kang Xue shivers as they walk back to Shen Qiqi’s apartment. “Well, that shows you right there he isn’t someone to get involved with Qiqi. People that are able to hide their identity that well are definitely not simple.”

  “Xue, you can’t jump to conclusions. He had a very gentle manner when he took me to the hospital. He looks like a military man, I told you that, so of course he doesn’t have a social media presence. Look at my Uncle Wei, he is never in the news. You couldn’t meet a sweeter man. Every time he goes abroad he brings me back a surprise. Do you remember when I went to military training and collapsed from the heat? He had his personal helicopter take me to Auntie Han’s Hospital.”

   “…”  What world does this girl live in? General Wei sweet? I can barely breathe when he is around from his oppressive aura! He is the scariest man I have ever met!  You were in the ambulance so you didn’t see, He was cursing and looked like the King of Hell when he kicked the instructor across the field. Everyone was scared to death by him.

  They arrive at Shen Qiqi’s apartment building and Qiqi says, “Stay in the second bedroom I changed the sheets, it is too late to go back to your apartment.”

  Kang Xue thinks about the big orange cat, “I will get a taxi, I need to get up for work early. I have a meeting with the old witch. You need to get up early too and get a copy of your medical records from today then email it to me. So don’t stay up too late.”

  “Okay, I will wait with you until the taxi comes.”

  After Kang Xue leaves, Qiqi walks up the stairs to her apartment. She doesn’t like taking the elevator when she is alone. When she first moved into the building the elevator was broken and she was stuck inside for an hour. She is breathless when she reaches her apartment, I shouldn’t have eaten so many noodles.

  When she enters Fat Cat lazily opens his amber eyes, he is comfortably curled up into a ball on the couch. He lets out a perfunctory meow to greet QiQi as he stretches out his stubby fat legs. He raises his head, the girl looks drunk. He glances at his empty bowl at the edge of the kitchen.  I hope she remembers to feed me. 

  Qiqi plops down on the couch and pets his ruffled orange fur, “Fat Cat… hahaha..you have bed head.” She hugs him squeezing his neck and he wiggles to get out of her grasp. He meows and looks towards the kitchen. Qiqi sees his movement and pets him, “Midnight eating isn’t good for you. You really need to lose some weight.”

  Fat Cat jumps off the couch, he sounds pitiful as he meows tapping his paw on the dish. Diet? No way! It is already bad enough I need to eat cat food but I don’t like to be hungry… I was a world class chef before my scheming assistant pushed me off the balcony! Saying I committed suicide because of unrequited love… what a joke! I was  a little chubby yes… but I was very popular with the ladies! If I ever see that ungrateful man again I will claw his eyes out!

 Qiqi laughs out loud at his behavior, “ You seem to understand me..haha..You are such a little glutton.. Fat Cat you are too funny! Okay, but I am going to the pet store tomorrow to buy you better cat food. This food that Peng Mai bought has too many fillers.” She fills his bowl, “Eat slowly.”

  She opens the refrigerator and takes out a bottle of water, I know it is late but I need my laptop. I am going to try the handsome guy’s phone again. Maybe this time I will send a text message. Qiqi sits on the couch and bites her bottom lip, [My name is Shen Qiqi you took me to the hospital today. Thank you for that. I left my laptop in your car. Can I meet you to get it back?] That is nice and clear.

  Going into the bathroom she takes off the school uniform and smells it. I need to go back to the High School tomorrow to sketch those Basketball players .. doesn’t smell too bad…a little smoky from Woo’s but it will be okay.  She neatly folds it then gets into the shower, I wonder if he will respond to my text?

  After her shower Qiqi puts on her pajamas then gets under the quilt and immediately falls asleep. When she wakes up to the sound of alarm she squints her eyes then turns it off. Oh my head.. She lays on the bed motionless for a few minutes then goes to the kitchen to get a glass of juice. She stirs a packet of vitamins into the juice then gulps it down.

   Fat Cat slowly walks out from the second bedroom where he comfortably slept on the fresh sheets. The little drunk looks a wreck, her hair is a tangled bird’s nest and the dried drool by her mouth is really gross. He walks past Qiqi to drink from his water bowl avoiding her when she reaches down to pick him up. He meows, Clean up first.. He scratches at the sliding glass door leading to the balcony and she automatically opens it for him to go out. She is always surprised, his litter box is on the balcony and he will let her know when he wants to go out. He is a very smart cat. She has a smile watching Fat Cat look at her through the glass. He won’t go to the litter box if she is watching. Recently she added him to her Webtoon and her fans love him. A designer contacted her about using his image on her newest collection of fun t shirts.

   As the cool breeze hits her face Qiqi sighs what a beautiful day, blue skies with some wispy white clouds. Oh! I wonder if the handsome guy texted me back. She trips on her slipper as she hurries into her bedroom. She anxiously picks up her phone then looks discouraged, nothing.. Should I text again? No that would be too pushy. But I do need my laptop. So it is reasonable to try to contact him. [Sorry to be a bother but I have my work on my laptop and I need it.]

  Sun Zhi stares at the texts, this is the same number from the calls last night. So it is the High School girl from yesterday.  

  He decides to make sure the laptop is in his Land Rover before he responds. When he comes down the stairs Fu Mo greets him with a very pleasant smile , “CEO Sun did you want breakfast now?”

  Sun Zhi responds, “No need.” He walks past her down a hallway to the garage. The smile disappears from her pretty face as she watches his back, I spent two hours making a special meal for you. I made all the dishes Madam Sun said are his favorites.

  He opens the back door of the white Land Rover the laptop isn’t on the seat. He looks at the floor a bookbag has papers hanging out and the laptop is under the seat with some more papers.

Picking up the loose papers he smiles, the little girl was sketching me at the coffee shop. Haha.. he sees a few sketches of High School boys in Basketball uniforms. .she seems to like to draw men. He puts the papers carefully in the book bag then picks up the laptop that is covered with stickers. She must need her homework. I will call Si and tell him I found the laptop.

  Zheng Si is getting dressed to go to a Board  meeting at the Zheng Group then he plans on going to Sun Zhi’s villa. He is putting on a black silk tie when his phone rings. “Zhi.”

  “I found the laptop if you want to come by and pick it up.”

 “I have to go to a meeting then I will come by.”

  “I am going to Bashu City. Do you want to meet for lunch? You can come on Saturday to see the villa and I want to introduce you to someone.”

  “That sounds good. I didn’t think that bastard Chu would try to fuck me the moment I got into town. I just found out about the Board meeting this morning.”

  “How does Ming’s restaurant sound for lunch?”

  “One o’clock?” Zheng Si puts on a Limited Edition Patek Phillip watch, “See you there.”

  “Si, the girl texted me about the laptop should I tell her you are picking it up?”

 “No need to respond.” I don’t want you having any contact with Shen Qiqi. He hangs up and has a faint smile, Shen Qiqi will be able to go to the Jade Auction with me. I missed the little girl’s smile while I was in Africa.

Sun Zhi At The Club

   Sun Zhi puts on his motorcycle helmet then straddles the seat of his custom red and black Ducati Superleggera. He speeds down the steep driveway opening the inpenetrable iron gate as he approaches. After he drives onto the dark winding road leading down to the highway he accelerates as the icy cold wind coming off the lake below whips his face energizing him. Exhausted from training soldiers in the rugged terrain of the Washu Mountains he planned on reading then going to bed early. His plan was disrupted by his good friend Zheng Si’s call to meet at the Black Dragon Club in Bashu City. Since he hadn’t seen his friends in a long time he decided to join them for a couple drinks.

  When Sun Zhi arrives he bypasses a group of beautiful women who are greedily staring at his eye-catching appearance. Wearing a black leather jacket that wraps around his taut broad chest and black jeans that hug his long legs he looks untamed and extremely sexy. He languidly strides past the women ignoring their comments and nods to the muscular doorman who buzzes a side door. Sun Zhi moves seamlessly through the noisy bar wondering why the Club is extraordinarily crowded on a Thursday night. He shakes his head when he hears the DJ announce the start of a Talent Show. He has a faint smile on his handsome face, what the hell?

   Two scantily dressed women are surrounded by several drunk men cheering as they walk to the stage. Sihao’s club had definitely changed since the last time I was here..haha. Weaving through the unruly crowd Sun Zhi reaches a staircase behind the dance floor. He takes the steps two at a time to the second floor them moving down a short hallway to the owner’s private room.

  Zheng Si stops talking to Han Weisheng when he notices what Sun Zhi is wearing, a black Gucci leather jacket and black jeans. His black hair is messily hanging onto his forehead and his cheeks are slightly red. “Zhi, did you ride a motorcycle.”

Zheng Si was hoping that Sun Zhi would drive his Land Rover to the Club. He could retrieve Shen Qiqi’s laptop, preventing her from meeting Sun Zhi again. He drinks his wine thinking about how to discreetly broach the subject without having to explain Shen Qiqi and his relationship.

  “Yeah. I just bought a new Ducati and I wanted to test it out.” He picks up a bottle of red wine and pours a glass then sits down. “Weisheng. I heard you left the Bureau.”

  “I did.”

 “What are you doing now?”

  Han Weisheng lazily takes a cigarette out of a pack then lights it. “I am running the Hotels under the Han Group. I recently opened a new one in the city.”

  Sun Zhi crosses his long legs and leans back on the luxurious Italian leather couch. “Sounds boring.” He laughs and refills Han Weisheng’s glass. “Give me a cigarette.”

  Han Weisheng hands him the pack as a thin line of smoke curls in the air from his cigarette. He has a serious expression, “I got tired of all the bureaucratic bull shit. I am thinking of opening a Security Agency, would you be interested? You could be my partner.”

  Sun Zhi thinks about recently being undercover working for the CEO of Li Group, Li Tian. Although it was his cover working as his bodyguard he got a taste of what the job entailed. “No. I am going to be taking a more active role at FutureTech now that I finished my last mission.”

  “Well if you get bored. Haha..keep it in mind.” He drinks his wine. “Where are you living now?”

  “I  moved into my recently finished villa on the mountain. Come by when you have a chance my designers created a unique security system. If you do start a Security business you might be interested in purchasing it for your clients. I have to say I was impressed when they demonstrated it to me.”

  “I have a busy schedule this week with the Harborview Hotel. How about this weekend?”

  “I don’t have any plans for Saturday.”

  “If you want I can invite my chief designer and Director of R&D. I think we would find my new project interesting.”

  “Sounds good. Before I left the Bureau I heard Futuretech is working on a secret project for the Army.”

  Sun Zhi  flicks his cigarette in the ashtray, “We can discuss on Saturday. I am not happy with that asshole who is in charge on their end. I worked with Deng Larry before on a mission and he cuts corners.. You know the type..one of those ass lickers always sucking up to the Brass.”

  “Fuck! That prick! I always had a bad feeling when I saw him. Underneath that gentlemanly exterior he is definitely a scheming fox. I never could figure out his end game though..”

  “You should be glad you left. Zheng Tielin quit for the same reason as you..too much fucking bullshit.”

  Zheng Si chimes in when he hears his cousin’s name. He is the only member of his family he likes. Zheng Tielin is a straightforward honest man which is a rare commodity in the Zheng family. “How is my cousin Tielin? I haven’t seen him in over a year.”

  “Good. I saw him when I was working in Catang City.”

   The door opens and two beautiful dark haired women wearing low cut red sequined minidresses come in carrying appetizers. When the chef said they were going to deliver food to the owner’s private room they were very excited. They refill the Han brothers’ empty wine glasses then one leans over Sun Zhi to take his glass and he moves back, “I’m good. No need.”

   Zheng Si is standing by a table flicking his cigarette into an ashtray. He curtly waves away the women as they attempt to get close to him. Repulsed by their heavy perfume he scowls barely containing his disgust. “Leave.” They don’t move and one of the women seductively brushes her chest across his arm, ”But..” Controlling the urge to kick the woman across the room he narrows his cold and unfathomable eyes, his voice deepens, “Now.”

  The four men have known each other since childhood and the relaxed  atmosphere becomes stifled. Han Tifeng peels a prawn teasing Zheng Si, he knows his cleanliness fetish, “ Si, why did you get rid of the women? If I were still single I would enjoy having those beautiful women hang all over me. Shit! the huge breasts on the tall one…I would love to take a bite.” He laughs then pops the prawn into his mouth, while he is chewing he continues, “I’m lucky I got out of the house to join you tonight. My wife has me on lockdown since she had the baby. If I even talk to my secretary she throws a jealous fit.”

  His brother Weisheng slaps him on the head and takes away his wine glass. ”Do you know how  lucky you are to have a woman like Sui!”

  Tifeng pushes him, “Damn brother.. that hurt! You know I am just kidding!”

  The door opens and a very tall man wearing a black baseball cap and face mask covering his face comes into the room. Sun Zhi is lighting a cigarette , he looks up, “Sihao, what is with the ‘I’m a kpop star’ look? Are you performing tonight at your… hahaha… Talent Show?”

  “Fuck off! Unless you want me to charge you for those two bottles of 1989 Chateaux Cheval.”

   Sun Zhi smirks as he takes out his black card throwing it onto the table. “Charge me but don’t forget the friend and family discount. Your Club must be hurting.. a Talent Show haha..” 

   Pfft! Zhen Sihao tosses the card back to Sun Zhi then takes off his mask ignoring his sarcasm. “When did you get back Si?”

 “Today.”

  Zhen Sihao pours a glass of whisky, “How long are you going to be in Bashu City?”

 “Indefinitely. I found out what I needed to know.”

  Zhen Sihao walks over to the two way glass to look down at the stage, “ Mo Yimo told me Chu was in the Club a couple nights ago with one of the Zangwa brothers..Yan.”

   Zheng Si raises his eyebrow, “ That little motherf****r  won’t be celebrating for long.”

    A woman comes in carrying dishes on a tray. Zhen Sihao tells the woman to leave the door open and the sound of the singers’s soft angelic voice floats into the room

  Han Tiefeng is the first to comment, “The woman’s beautiful voice sounds so expressive… full of heartbreak. Really good rendition.” He takes a chicken roll off the plate the woman placed on the table. “Do you recognize the girl?”

   Zhen Sihao has a complicated expression, he turns away from Han Weisheng to look out of the two way glass. All of a sudden while looking down at the stage of the Talent Contest Zhen Sihao exclaims, “What the hell?” then drops his glass of wine on the floor and rushes out of the room

  Curious the men look down at the stage to see what has caught his attention. It isn’t often that Zhen Sihao loses his cool.

  They watch Zhen Sihao unexpectedly appear from behind the DJ dragging the beautiful singer off the stage.

  “…”

Woo’s Noodle Shop

   “Kang Xue, I think we should eat inside, the patio will be too cold for you.”

   “No, we can sit by one of the space heaters, it is always too crowded in the shop.”

   “Yeah and once we have a couple beers and the steaming noodles it will be warm. Okay. I see a table over there.” Shen Qiqi points to the left then chuckles, “See that Auntie? I drew her a couple months ago for a character at the beginning of my last arc. The manager at the convenience store where Fan Bai met Wang Ru.”

   Kang Xue glances at the plump woman with short frizzy black hair and a round red face drinking a bottle of coke. “Oh my God, that is funny.”

   Shen Qiqi walks over, “Auntie Gu! How have you been?”

  The woman  wipes her mouth covered in red sauce with a napkin then takes off the plastic gloves she is wearing. “Woo Chang added a new dish, Flaming Hot Pig Trotters.” Fanning her greasy mouth  she drinks her coke. “Ahh..sooo spicy” She shows them the menu.“The old man has some new competition down the block so he had to change up his menu.”

  “I am surprised, Grandpa Woo is so stubborn..” She is interrupted by a short elderly man with white hair and a long sparse beard. He is wearing a sauce splattered apron and carrying a box of napkins. “Little Girl, who is stubborn?”

  “Haha..Grandpa Woo! You know the old man at the fish market. The one that will only take cash.”

  “Oh, yeah he is a stubborn old fart. Shen Qiqi I haven’t seen you in awhile, you brought a friend? She looks cold in that skimpy dress.”

   “…”

  “You girls come inside. I will give you a basket of Flaming Hot Pig Trotters.”

  “Thanks Grandpa but we are going to sit on the patio. I will try the new dish next time, I have been craving your delicious beef noodles.”

  He raises an eyebrow looking at Kang Xue’s thin bare arms, “Ok.”

  After they sit down they order a couple beers and the beef noodles. Kang Xue pulls the wool scarf tighter around her neck and moves her chair closer to the outdoor heater. “Qiqi, how do you know Zheng Si? Because his grandmother lives in your apartment?” But they seemed rather intimate and Qiqi only moved there three months ago. Zheng Si would have been in Tunisia.

   The beers arrive and Shen Qiqi takes a gulp, “Ahh.” She eats a few of the fried tofu appetizers they ordered. “Brother Si? Do you remember the first year of  Middle School when my parents went to England to reorganize the management of Shen Entertainment Europe? I stayed with Auntie Han and used to go to Uncle Ji’s Private Hospital to volunteer after school and on weekends. I met Brother Si there. Try these they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, yummy!”

   Kang Xue sips her beer, Zheng Si would have been a senior in High School.”So he volunteered there too?”

  “No. He was a patient.” Shen Qiqi drinks her beer. When she sees the steaming bowl of beef noodles her eyes light up. She uses her chopsticks and moves quickly to eat the piping hot food. Sweat forms on her forehead as she devours her meal. When she takes a break she notices Kang Xue isn’t eating, “Xue, I thought you liked Beef Noodles.” She waves at the server, “Ming’er could we have two more beers and two glasses of Baijiu. Thanks.”

  Kang Xue bites her bottom lip wondering if she should ask more questions. After the look Zheng Si gave her she doesn’t want Qiqi to become curious about her interest. “Why was he in the hospital?”

  “Well I can’t say. The only reason I know was because I sneaked a peek at his medical chart. I might get in trouble from Auntie if she knew I looked.” She waves her chopsticks, “Not that I think you would tell but to be honest I felt really guilty after I did it. Like prying into someone’s personal pain.”

  “So how did you become friends?”

  Qiqi laughs, “Are you interested in Brother Si?I have never seen him with a girlfriend. I should fix you up with him. Brother Si is completely dreamy..gentle..smart..kind and he looks like an Immortal. Especially when he wears a Tang suit like today.”

  Kang Xue’s face pales, are we talking about the same person? He is a damn devil! “He isn’t my type, I was curious. I never heard you mention him.”

  “I guess he never came up in conversation. I did use the sketches of Brother Si for Ming Jason.Do you remember that character? Fan Bai’s friend who came back from abroad, the tennis champion.”

  Qiqi gets lost in thought remembering Zheng Si in the hospital. He had been in a horrific car crash and his mother died from her injuries. He had facial bruising and a leg injury but the worst problem was he had traumatic blindness from seeing his mother’s bloody body. Qiqi saw him sitting in a wheelchair with no one else around so she asked him if he needed her to push him somewhere. He didn’t answer and she didn’t know he was blind. It looked as though he was staring at her so she smiled brightly and asked him again. Her aunt came out of her office when she heard Qiqi’s voice and told her to take some magazines to the common area.

The next time she saw him she overheard him being insulted by a middle aged man for being a useless blind man. She rushed over and interrupted saying it was time for Zheng Si to go to the garden for fresh air. Once they were outside she put a milk tea into his hands she had just bought exclaiming what a horrible man his Uncle was. After that incident they slowly became friends over the course of his stay at the hospital.

 “Qiqi! Qiqi!”

 “Oh sorry Xue I was thinking about Brother Si.”

  Kang Xue eats her noodles wondering why Zheng Si was hospitalized. She didn’t meet him until she was a Sophomore at A University. She had a crush on him when he was the TA in her Statistics class,  openly pursuing him never believing he would reject her advances. Being the school flower she couldn’t accept the embarrassment then made a big mistake by dating his step brother Chu. She ended up being a pawn in Chu’s revenge plan against Zheng Si.

   Qiqi slams down her glass of Baijiu and her eyes water, “I am going to call Sun Zhi.”

  “Who?”

  “The handsome man who has my laptop.”

  “Oh. Right.”

   Before she calls her phone rings, “Brother Si?”

   Kang Xue grips her napkin. Why is he calling?

  “Qiqi, I have an invitation to a Jade Auction tomorrow night. I heard they will be auctioning a Flawless Mutton Jade carved bracelet from the Han Dynasty.”

  “Really! If I get my laptop back I can go!”

  Zheng Si crosses his legs sitting on his Grandmother’s balcony. He has been watching Shen Qiqi on the patio of the Noodle Shop across the street. He lights a cigarette.“What happened to your laptop?”

  “Long story but it has important files on it and if I don’t get it back I need to redo my work.”

  “Maybe I could help you. What software program did you use?”

  “Thanks but I am calling the man right now who has my laptop in his Land Rover.”

 He crushes the cigarette he just lit in the ashtray, “What man?”

 “Well this is where it is a long story. His name is Sun Zhi. I will call you after I contact him. I really want to go to the Auction.” Qiqi hangs up the phone before he asks any more questions.

  Zheng Si calls Sun Zhi when he answers he says, “Zhi, I just returned from Africa do you want to go to the Club for a drink?”

  “Sure. Should I call Old Third?”

  “He is in France on business. The Han brothers said they can join us.”

 “Okay I will shower and be there.”

  Sun Zhi’s phone rings again. It is an unknown number so he doesn’t answer. Tossing the phone on the table he goes into the bathroom.

  At the Noodle Shop Shen Qiqi frowns, “He isn’t answering.”

 “It probably comes up as an unknown number. Where are you going with Zheng Si?”

 Shen Qiqi is a little drunk and she holds Kang Xue’s cold hand as she teases, “ Xue, I have never heard you ask so many questions haha.. I think you do like Brother Si. Love at first sight!”

  Kang Xue’s face turns red and she snaps, “Shut up! I just want you to finish the arc. You don’t need any distractions.”

  “I was kidding, don’t be so serious! There is a Jade Auction I want to attend, Brother Si has an invitation. I still have my birthday money from Uncle Feng on my card.”

Shen Qiqi orders another beer. “I think I will look on Baidu and see if I can find information about Sun Zhi. Maybe I can find out where he works or an address.”

His Name is Sun Zhi

   “I can have the information for you in an hour. But, have the man courier your laptop to your Publisher’s office. Don’t meet him or give him your address. Do you understand?”

   Shen Qiqi crosses her fingers, she doesn’t like to lie to her family. “Of course. I don’t want to meet the man again.” 

  “Okay I will send you the info. Make sure you have Auntie Han check you out.”

    Shen Qiqi sighs and crosses her fingers again, “I will. Thanks, Cousin. When will you be back from L.A.? Are you still crushing on Lili? I have two VIP tickets that include backstage passes to her Red Butterfly World Tour concert on the twenty fifth.”

  He tosses his cigarette off the balcony. YES! Backstage passes!  He sounds calm, “I don’t have a crush on Lili. I like her music.  If you can’t go..well..yeah send me the tickets.”

  “Sure. I will look for your text. Cousin I thought you quit smoking. Throw the rest of that pack away.”

   “…” Feng Chao looks down at the four cigarettes left in his pack and shakes his head. Is she a little psychic?!?

    Shen Qiqi meets Kang Xue’s death gaze, “What?”

   “I thought we were going to that concert? You know Chou Yi is opening for Lili and I love him!”

   “Well which is more important, Xue? The concert or my laptop and our jobs? I think the Red Butterfly World Tour will be in Hirachi City next month and we can go. We can go to the concert then over to Shingu Island to the new resort. What do you think?”

  “Lili’s manager gave you the tickets because Lili is a fan of ‘Bai Wants Romance’. I mean you can’t just give them away and ask for two more.”

  “True, but Lili wants me to model a character after her in the next arc. I will exchange for the tickets.”

   “She wants to be in your Webtoon?”

   “Silly huh? Anyway, Cousin Chao will call in an hour. I’m hungry, do you want to order takeout?”

   “Are you sure he can find the information?”

   “Positive.”

   Kang Xue  teases “Can your cousin hack into Xanadu Publishing’s computer and give me a raise next check?”

   Shen Qiqi crumples up the empty bag of potato chips “Could but won’t.” 

   Kang Xue is in a good mood believing that Shen Qiqi can get her laptop back. “Whatever haha…what do you want to eat?”

  “Let’s walk over to Woo’s Noodle shop across the street. It is nice out tonight we can sit on the patio.”

   “Are you going to change?”

   Shen Qiqi looks at the school uniform she is wearing. “No. If I change I would just have more clothes to wash on Saturday.”

   “You are so lazy.”

   “I’m not lazy. I just don’t like doing laundry.”

   “…”

    “Wait. I need to bring Fat Cat back into the apartment.” She walks out to the balcony and the cat moves his stumpy legs as fast as he can past her into the warm room. The fat orange cat glares at Kang Xue, Brrr..I know it was you woman and your damn allergies! 

    Kang Xue holds her nose and pushes Shen Qiqi towards the door. “Hurry let’s go before I have an allergy attack.” 

   When they arrive at the first floor and the elevator door opens, an extremely handsome man wearing a Tang suit lazily strides towards the elevator. Shen Qiqi excitedly runs out of the elevator and hugs him, wrapping her arms around his tight waist. “Grandma Zheng said you were back.” He looks down at what Shen Qiqi is wearing and rubs her head, “Are you cosplaying.”

   Shen Qiqi laughs, “No. Long story. Grandma Zheng is very excited you are back. I’m jealous she is making her special pork ribs for you.”

   His dark eyes have a soft light in them gazing at her small upturned face. He narrows his obsidian eyes behind his gold rimmed glasses giving Kang Xue a warning look. Zheng Si then affectionately smiles at Shen Qiqi “Why don’t you and your friend join us.”

Shen Qiqi hits him in his hard chest with her tiny fist, “ Brother Si, do you want to send me to my death? You should have seen how excited Grandma was that you came to visit her as soon as you got back. I would be a big light bulb haha.”

  He laughs as she lets go of his waist, “Well, we will need to have dinner another night and catch up.” 

  Shen Qiqi’s eyes curve into a crescent shape and she smiles showing her perfect white teeth, “Sure. Whenever is good for you.  Oh. I forgot my manners. I was so happy to see you. This is my friend Kang Xue. She can come with us. You might have a lot in common, you both went to the same University.”

   “Miss Kang.”

  Shen Qiqi doesn’t notice the cold temperature surrounding Zheng Si or Kang Xue’s pale complexion.  “ I don’t work at Uncle Lu’s anymore so I have more free time. So whenever is convenient for you.”

  He has a strange expression on his face after seeing Kang Xue. Zheng Si composes himself then he casually says, “You don’t work at Lu Corporation?”

   Shen Qiqi’s phone rings and she has a notification, “Oh.. Brother Si I need to look at this. Call me.” She walks away to see her cousin’s text leaving Kang Xue standing with Zheng Si. The atmosphere is tense and awkward between the two of them. Kang Xue breaks the silence, “Senior, long time no see.”

  “Kang Xue, you know the consequences if you tell Shen Qiqi of our relationship at University.”

  “Don’t worry I won’t. Qiqi is too naive..she wouldn’t understand.”

  “Then I will be leaving.” 

   Kang Xue has maintained her cool demeanor in front of Zheng Si but as she watches him walk into the elevator a tear forms in the corner of her eye. Bastard. 

  He gets into the elevator and as the door is closing he can see Shen Qiqi smiling happily looking at her phone. Zheng Si’s face loses its gentle appearance and he has a terrifying expression while thinking about Kang Xue plotting with his brother Chu against him. How could such a sweet girl like Shen Qiqi be friends with a scheming bitch like Kang Xue? Zheng Si’s ink black eyes reflect his hidden darkness, you had better keep your word Kang Xue or you are fucking dead. Shen Qiqi is the only light in my abysmal world, I can’t have the little girl know my true self. She is so innocent and pure, she makes me laugh. The way she sweetly calls me Brother Si…he clenches his fist, Dammit! Why is she friends with that scheming bitch Kang Xue!

  Kang Xue wipes her eye with her finger then puts a smile on her face as she walks over to Shen Qiqi, “Is that your Cousin?”

  “Do you believe how fast Cousin Chao got the information! He is such a wizard!” She holds up her phone– Sun Zhi- phone number xxx-xxx-xxx. 

   Qiqi texts back [What is his address?]

  [Call. Have him send the laptop by courier. You don’t need his address]

 [I want to get it tonight]

 [No. You can’t go to a strange man’s house.] Not to mention he is the CEO of FutureTech and the way his information is hidden he is not a simple man. The villa is not registered in his name but under one of his corporations, which means he does not want its location to be public knowledge. He would definitely wonder how you found him, which would lead straight to me. So…definitely not giving you the address Little Cousin. 

[Fine.Thanks. Put that cigarette out now]

Feng Chao looks at the cigarette he is holding between his fingers. How does she know?!?

[Not smoking]

[Liar..smiling emoji]

“I will call him when we get to the noodle shop.” Shen Qiqi walks out the apartment building and shivers. “Xue,did you notice how the temperature drops right after the sun goes down? You must be cold.”She takes her warm woolen scarf off, “Wear my scarf.”

  Kang Xue pushes Shen Qiqi’s hand away,  “The bulky green scarf will look stupid with my dress.”

  “Who cares? You will catch a cold.” She wraps it around her friend’s neck. “It is not like you are going to run into Chou Yi…Haha.”

   Kang Xue looks at the high school uniform Shen Qiqi is wearing and shakes her head, “Qiqi do you know you should always dress beautifully, you never know if you will meet a handsome man.”

   Shen Qiqi says, “Well Xue, the likelihood of running into a handsome man at Woo’s is zero..less than zero. Haha..because of the cheap noodles and beer his clientele is well.. a bit sloppy to say the least. I only bring my sketchbook here when I need a side character..a fat Uncle with a big belly..or a frazzled Auntie who is depressed from her low paying job and no boyfriend who comes to get drunk on beer and Baijiu while slurping up some delicious beef noodles.”

    Kang Xue bursts out laughing and she ruffles Shen Qiqi’s hair, “Qiqi you always make me laugh with your nonsense!”

    They both are laughing as they walk onto the patio of the Noodle Shop. But Xue has a point. I should dress up beautifully when I meet Sun Zhi to get my laptop. ..Sun Zhi…hmmm.. nice name..

QiQi’s Apartment

     While they are in the taxi on the way to Shen Qiqi’s apartment, Kang Xue calls the editor and tells half truths to explain the situation. After the woman screams in her ear for two minutes she agrees to give Shen Qiqi three days but she needs to email the doctor’s report.  Kang Xue breathes a sigh of relief after she hangs up, “How is your head?” 

   “Hurts a little but not too bad.”

  “Well the witch said you can have until Saturday. If we can’t find your laptop, do you at least have it on paper, sketches..notes.”

   Shen Qiqi reassures Kang Xue. “I have the outline, and sketches. Even if I don’t retrieve the laptop I can get the arc finished by Saturday. If I work twenty four hours a day.

  “Seriously Qiqi back up your work so this doesn’t happen again.”

   Shen Qiqi leans on her shoulder, “I will. Sorry Xue.”

  Kang Xue pats her head, “Don’t worry. Your webtoon is getting popular the old witch wouldn’t dare fire you. The owner came into the office the other day and I heard him telling Luo Yi he was happy with the new artists. He mentioned your name.”

  Qiqi’s eyes light up, “Really! He mentioned me?”

   “Yeah. So keep up the hard work.Well he actually said you need more social media presence but I will mention that after you get your next arc finished.

  The taxi pulls up to Shen  Qiqi’s apartment building and Kang Xue opens the door then frowns, “Could you pull up a little further there is a big puddle here.” She looks at her new red slingback Gucci heels . Thanks, you are a sweetheart. I just bought these heels.”

  The  driver looks at the beautiful woman in the rear view mirror and drives a little further down, “This good?”

  “Yes.”  She smiles at him as she opens the door and steps out. He stares admiringly at Kang Xue while she waits for Qiqi to exit the taxi.  She is tall, about 170cm and has a curvaceous body. What a beauty! When they were outside the Zheng Tower waiting for a taxi he noticed the two of them. A tall statuesque beauty wearing a tight beige dress and a short cute high school girl. A businessman was about to get into his taxi but he told he already had a fare and drove up in front of Kang Xue and Jiang Qiqi.

    When Qiqi closes the door to the taxi she says hello to an elderly woman carrying two bags of groceries. “Grandma Zheng let me carry that for you.”

    “Thank you Little Qiqi. My grandson is coming over for dinner so I went to the meat market.”

   “Zheng Si came back from Africa?”

   The old woman’s face lights up, “That boy just arrived not an hour ago and called me to make him his favorite Wontons with crab and shrimp filling and my special honey seared spicy pork ribs. I told him he should go see his parents first but he said he missed my cooking.”

  Shen Qiqi laughs as she opens the door to the apartment building, “Well I have tasted your pork ribs and I don’t blame him. Haha.”

  “You girl!”

  They get into the elevator, “How long will Zheng Si be in town?”

 “He didn’t say. That damn brother of his sending him to the Tunisian branch just because of that woman!”

  “Grandma…” She pats her arm with her free hand, “ Zheng Si emailed me last month and wrote he was enjoying the change. He sent me some awesome pictures of a herd of elephants.”

  They arrive at Mrs. Zheng’s floor, Shen Qiqi and Kang Xue carry her groceries to her apartment. “Tell Brother Si I said hello and when he has time to call me”

  “I will.” 

  As they walk away Kang Xue is curious, “That Grandma..her grandson is Zheng Si? You know him”

 Qiqi pushes the elevator button, “Yeah. Why?”

  Kang Xue has a strange expression as she shakes her head, “Oh…Nothing.

     Shen Qiqi opens the door to her spacious apartment, when she and Kang Xue enter a fat orange cat lazily walks over then rubs against Qiqi’s leg.  Kang Xue’s eyes get itchy, she sneezes then sneezes again in rapid succession. Clearing her throat she says, “I thought your roommate was taking that cat with her when she moved out.”

  Picks up the purring cat and pets his head, “ She called, her boyfriend said no to the cat. I know you are allergic, I will put him on the balcony.”

  Kang Xue brushes some books off the modern sectional couch and sits down. “You need to get a roommate asap. How are you going to pay the rent? You should have made that cheap woman give you some money towards the rent for leaving you so unexpectedly.”

    Qiqi comes out from the bedroom and closes the door “Xue…She doesn’t have any extra money! They needed to put a big deposit down on their new apartment. When I rented this apartment I got a discount because the owner knows my Uncle Lu.”

    “…”  

   Qiqi grabs a bag of potato chips and two cokes, “Why don’t you move in with me. Isn’t your lease up next month?

   Even though the apartment is amazing…spacious..great view..awesome location. Kang Xue glances around the messy apartment. We have been friends since kindergarten. I want to stay friends with you so no.”

  “Sorry Sweetie, I would but I signed another year lease on Monday.” She takes a sip of the coke. ”In the taxi you said that you didn’t get the man’s name but he paid the hospital bill?”

  “Yes. He said since he caused me to fall he would take responsibility. I was going to thank him and get his name but he was gone.”

  “If he paid the hospital would have his name and information. We can call.” Kang Xue takes out her phone and calls the hospital. When the billing department answers she says, “ My name is Shen Qiqi. I was a patient in the emergency room earlier today and someone paid my bill. I want to repay his kindness but I didn’t get his name. Could you tell me who paid the bill?”

  “I’m sorry but we can’t give out that information.”

   “I really don’t feel right allowing him to pay.”

  “You can pay over the phone and we will delete his payment if you want.”

   “…” Kang Xue doesn’t give up easily, “I don’t want to insult him since he insisted on paying. I just want to thank him.”

    The woman rolls her eyes.“I’m sorry we can’t give out that information.”

   “Is there a supervisor I can speak to about this?”

    “I am the supervisor.”

   “Oh.”

   “I have a call on the other line Miss Shen. Is there anything else?”

     What a tough cookie! She won’t bend! “No.”

  “I will hang up then. If you have time please stay on the line for a customer survey.”

  “…” Kang Xue hangs up. “We need to think of a way to get his information.”

   Shen Qiqi finishes the bag of chips and throws the empty bag on the coffee table.”Oh..salty..where is my coke? Ahhh..” She swallows then thinks for a minute. “Xue, my Cousin Feng Chao is a computer expert, maybe I could call him and have him hack into their computer.”

   Shen Qiqi has the strangest family.. But this is good. “Call him.”

  Shen Qiqi makes the call, “Cousin it’s me Qiqi!”

  Feng Chao takes off the virtual reality glasses he is wearing. “What’s up?”

 “Umm..I need a favor.”

  Feng Chao laughs, “ Shen Qiqi is that the only time you remember you have a cousin surnamed Feng?”

   Shen Qiqi tosses a yellow ball of yarn in her hand into a basket of cat toys. She teases, “Cousin! Didn’t I get you VIP tickets to the Chinese Robot Championship in December?”

  “You did. I was just teasing you. That was cool, your friend Wu Kai let me try out his robot after he won.”

  “Wu Kai won? Brat! He told me if he won he would take me to China Disneyland!” I need to call that little rascal!

 ??? He stretches his long legs as he stands up and walks to the hotel room balcony. “So what does my Baby Cousin need?”

  “Don’t call me Baby Cousin, I just turned twenty!”

  “Okay..okay..what do you need.” He looks out at the dark ocean and the full moon.

  “Oh yeah right. Could you hack into Bashu Heights Private Hospital’s billing records? I was in a bit of a scrape today and the man who hit me..”

  Feng Chao’s handsome face turns black as he raises his voice and he tightly grips the railing, “SOME BASTARD HIT YOU? DOES MY FATHER KNOW!” The piece of shit won’t live until tomorrow!

  “Cousin..cousin calm down! I am fine.. FINE!  It was minor and my fault. He was very nice..very nice..”so handsome and nice! “Let me finish. I wasn’t paying attention and stepped off the curb as he was pulling out in his Land Rover. He slammed on his brakes and I fell down.”

  “You need to go to see Auntie Han and have her check your body for any injuries!”

  “I went to the hospital. That is why I am calling. The man paid for my hospital bill and left. It wasn’t until I was with Kang Xue..you remember her my friend you said had big boobs and a smoking hot body”

  Kang Xue slaps Shen Qiqi on her arm whispering, “Shut up!” Why does this girl say whatever pops into her head! 

  Shen Qiqi smiles and has a mischievous gleam in her sparkling brown eyes. She puts her hand over the phone then whispers, “Cousin would turn red to the tip of his ears when he saw you..haha.”

   Feng Chao coughs, “Don’t remember. Continue.”

   “ I want you to hack into their billing department and find his name and personal information. I left my laptop with my files in his car.”

  “Don’t you have a back up?”

  “I want my laptop.” 


   

Lost Laptop

    Tensions are running high on the 14th floor of the Sun Group Building in the small office of the recently formed digital publishing division of Xanadu Publishing. Shen Qiqi, the creator of the popular new Webtoon, Bai Wants Romance, nervously fidgets sitting on an uncomfortable wooden chair from IKEA across from a visibly agitated woman, Kang Xue. Recently transferred to this division Kang Xue was put in charge of Shen Qiqi after her former agent quit citing mental health issues. Her supervisor reasoned that since they are friends she could control Shen Qiqi’s unprofessional behavior.

    The phone on the cluttered desk is ringing. Kang Xue ignores the incessant ringing when she sees the caller ID. Dammit! Why me? She looks at her best friend across the desk.“The deadline is today Qiqi, can’t you at least lie to me? Say the arc is almost finished..I only need a little bit more time…something I can tell the editor?”

   Looking at the unsightly expression on her best friend’s pretty face, Shen Qiqi regrets coming into the office instead of calling with the bad news.

  “Wuuhuuu…”

  “Shen Qiqi! Can you stop crying! You are an adult!” Kang Xue tosses the crying girl some tissues across her messy desk.

    Sniffle..sniffle.. “I had it almost completed and..and…”

   “AND WHAT!”

   When Kang Xue raises her voice several people in the cramped office look in their direction. Frustrated she snarls, “Hey!” She grabs a small Pikachu plushie off her desk and flings it at a young man at the next desk who is gawking at them. “Don’t you have work to do!”  She hands Shen Qiqi a bottle of water, “Okay sweetie, calm down..continue.”

     Shen Qiqi wipes her small nose.“I.., I lost my laptop.”

     “Didn’t you back up your work?”

     Shen Qiqi crumples the tissue in her cold sweaty palm as she stares at Kang Xue then lowers her head…in a timid voice she responds..”Ah..well, nooo.”

     A line appears between her exquisite eyebrows as Kang Xue glances at the clock on the wall, “Do you know where you might have left the laptop”

        Shen Qiqi looks up at her angry friend then bites her bottom lip and blinks her eyes a few times summoning the courage to tell the story. “Well, don’t get mad Xue when I tell you. Really, in a way it was a..well..a work related disaster.”

   ???  Kang Xue’s face turns bright red. She leans forward across her desk, clenching her teeth, “Shen QiQi! I don’t have time for this! We need to find your laptop or find a way to delay the witch without you or me being fired!”

    Shen Qiqi takes off the large black framed glasses she is wearing and rubs her misty almond shaped brown eyes. “Xue, let me finish. I was working at the coffee shop on 65th street. You know the one that has the best matcha cake. We went there last week with Yang Yi. There was this really handsome.. I mean…” Her red rimmed eyes light up and she grabs her friend’s hand in both of her small hands.”Super handsome man. I noticed him when he walked in the door. He was wearing a tight fitting black t-shirt and camouflage pants. He was very tall, probably 190 cm..” She blinks her eyes a few times and leans in further across Kang Xue’s desk, “Seriously Xue, his legs were so long…”

   Kang Xue interrupts as she snaps the pencil in her hand. “So you saw this handsome guy and then forgot your laptop at the coffee shop? We can call the shop and see if the laptop is still there.” Kang Xue breathes a sigh of relief and picks up the phone,  as she is dialing the number of the coffee shop Shen Qiqi replies, “Well no. Let me finish the story. I thought he would be perfect for Tang Yan.”

   Kang Xue’s deep brown eyes have a murderous gleam as she glares at Qiqi. The red pencil in her hand snaps. You don’t have the second arc finished you idiot!  Shen Qiqi continues, “He looks like he is in the Military. The man has well defined muscular arms. Shen Qiqi’s brown eyes light up, “ I could tell he has an eight pack under the tight t-shirt. His jet black hair is cut short and his face is angular, long nose, thin lips. I mean he looks like the perfect mode!l He even had dark soulful Peach Blossom eyes.” I would say I think I am in love but..Xue seems super angry right now.

   So, I started to sketch him when he sat down. Unfortunately, another man joined him, blocking my view. I was so pissed off! Do you know how long I have been looking for inspiration for that character!”

  Kang Xue stares at her friend then sighs, it is no use… the girl is very beautiful and talented but a complete idiot! Out of touch with reality..She takes out two pain relievers from the desk and hastily swallows them, then unscrews the top of a water bottle chugging down the water. Shen Qiqi is still describing the handsome man down to the way he wrapped his jadelike hand around the coffee cup. Kang Xue finally says. “Where do you think your laptop could be?”

  “In his Land Rover.” Shen Qiqi points to her bandaged knee. “The handsome guy drove me to the hospital and I forgot the laptop in the backseat of the car.” Forgetting she is furious with her friend’s unprofessional attitude, Kang Xue rushes around her desk worriedly examining Shen Qiqi “What happened!” 

   Shen Qiqi smiles, “Don’t worry… I am okay. I just have a mild concussion and scraped knee.”

  Kang Xue wants to strangle her simple minded friend. If the silly girl hadn’t come into the office since she went to the hospital, I  could easily push back the release.  Frustrated by the chaotic situation she grabs her purse out of the desk drawer and she motions for Shen Qqi to get up. “I’m taking you home. I will talk to the old witch.”

   After she stands up Shen Qiqi smiles at her friend as she hangs onto her slender arm, “So you aren’t mad at me anymore?”

    “…”

   As they walk to the door Kang Xue asks, “Why are you wearing your old High School uniform and those ridiculous glasses  ?”

  “I went to the High School to sketch handsome boys wearing basketball uniforms during their P.E. class. Auntie said I could if I didn’t cause a distraction.” She looks at her uniform, “So I posed as a student and sat in the bleachers.”

  Why does her family always cater to.. Never mind. I will just get a bigger headache. 

                            ****************

   Sun Zhi pushes the passcode as he approaches a formidable iron gate at the edge of his property. Once the impenetrable wide gate swings open he drives his black Land Rover up the steep road to his villa. He bought the land five years ago and designed the villa along with an architect from the Clear Sky Architectural firm. When he got back from his undercover mission in Milan he moved into the spectacular house that overlooks Crystal Lake.The villa has an eco friendly design as well as high tech features designed by one of Sun Zhi’s companies, FutureTech. The spectacular villa blends both traditional Chinese architecture with modern minimalist features.

   He immediately goes up the spiral staircase to his bedroom on the second floor. Once he takes off the heavy black boots and black t-shirt he slides the camouflage pants down his muscular legs. Sun Zhi leans back on the luxurious bed with his hands behind his head and closes his ink black eyes, after I finish my report I am going to sleep for three days! He only returned at noon after training men in the mountains for a week and is mentally and physically exhausted. The intense training involved not only survival skills in the wilderness but also sleep deprivation. He rubs his eyes then gets up to take a shower.

  When he comes out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel and drying his hair the phone in his pant’s pocket rings.  He picks the crumpled pants off the floor and takes out his cell. He grimaces,what the hell does he want? Sun Zhi doesn’t answer and puts the phone on the nightstand. Whatever it is, it can wait.  I completed my mission. I don’t need him anymore. He changes into a black cashmere sweater and a pair of jeans then goes downstairs.

   A pretty young woman wearing a black skirt and a white long sleeve shirt hears him coming down the stairs. She smoothes her hair and takes a deep breath then walks out of the kitchen, “Young Master. Would you like me to bring you tea?” He looks around, “Where is Mrs. Mu?”

  “ She will arrive tomorrow with Butler Mu. My name is Fu Mo, Madam Sun sent me.”

   He remains expressionless but inwardly sighs, why did I give my mother the passcode. I will need to change it tomorrow and send this woman back to the main house. “Very well. Bring the tea to the study.”

   “I will prepare the tea now.” Fu Mo smiles politely then turns and walks back to the kitchen. Madam Sun stressed the fact that her son isn’t talkative and if she wants to keep the job she can’t attempt to get close to him. What he hates the most is chattering women fawning on him. I won’t rush, eventually Sun Zhi will fall in love with me.

  

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