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There were, of course, smart ones who remained neutral and just watched wordlessly. It didn't matter if Shentu Tian-Yin continued managing Vientaine Group or if Shentu Tian-Feng took over - they were going to wait till there was a clear result, then follow the 'winner'. Let Shentu Wei-Ye and Shentu Yi fight it out with Shentu Tian-Yin!
As others talked and watched, Xia Lei observed. He observed the Shentu clan's expressions, their mouth shapes and grasped their way of thinking.
Shentu Wei-Ye was just searching for something to start flaring up at Xia Lei and Wang Fang delivered it. When Wang Fang was done complaining, he glared at Xia Lei and said angrily, "Did you say that?"
"Yes." Xia Lei admitted it right away without remorse. "I did say that. So what if I'm a high-school graduate? Is there some law against high-school graduates being in love and getting married? Marriage is something between two people. What is the intention of outsiders who want to interfere in this?"
He emphasised 'intention'.
The Shentus present were there for entertainment and to see what was going on so that they could go whichever way the wind blew. Shentu Wei-Ye and Shentu Yi, however, had the most motivation to interfere.
"What is wrong with you? You're with Tian-Yin, so Wang Fang is your elder. How can you talk to an elder like that?" said Shentu Wei-Ye angrily.
Xia Lei laughed. "She is an elder but I didn't say anything offensive. I just stated that she wasn't the one looking for a son-in-law and she isn't, is she?"
"You…" Shentu Wei-Ye was so angry his beard quivered.
Shentu Tian-Feng hurried to pat Shentu Wei-Ye's back. "Don't get mad, Grandfather. It's not worth it to lose your temper over such things. You have to take care of your health."
Tan Jing-Jing added more to her husband's words, "That's right, Grandfather. Some people can't wait for you to have an unfortunate accident. You have to take care of yourself and see the birth of your great-grandson."
"Who are you talking about?" Shentu Tian-Yin glared angrily at Tan Jing-Jing.
"I did, didn't talk about anyone." Tan Jing-Jing cowered away from Shentu Tian-Yin's gaze.
"I'm not good with words so please be lenient if I've said anything offensive," said Xia Lei. He then turned to Shentu Tian-Yin. "Honey, take me to see your father."
"Nn, I'll take you to him." Shentu Tian-Yin then said to Shentu Wei-Ye, "Grandfather, I'll take Xia Lei to see Father. I'll be back to accompany you in a while."
"Take him there and come here. I have something I want to talk about with you," said Shentu Wei-Ye.
"Nn, yes." Shentu Tian-Yin made a sound of agreement and brought Xia Lei to the back of the courtyard and towards some rooms.
On their way there, Xia Lei said apologetically, "I'm sorry I made your grandfather mad. I'm just not comfortable with them pressuring you like that and lashed out before I knew it."
Shentu Tian-Yin lifted one side of her mouth in a half-smile. "Why apologise? My grandfather's never been happy to see me. It's no use trying to butter him up."
"True, he wouldn't be happy even if I acted like an obedient boy and kowtowed to him. But if you were male and I were female, he'd be happy if you brought me home and introduced me as your girlfriend," said Xia Lei.
Shentu Tian-Yin seemed to have imagined the scenario and she laughed. "If you were a woman you'd be a fickle one."
Xia Lei paused. "What do you mean by that? Why am I a fickle woman?"
"If I were male, Liang Si-Yao would also be male. Something happened between you and Liang Si-Yao last night - if this isn't fickle, then what?" said Shentu Tian-Yin.
Why did she keep bringing this up?
Xia Lei gave a wry laugh. "We've actually been together for almost half a year. I went to her father's martial school to learn Wing Chun and that's how we met. She helped me get my company in order afterwards. Her father also took me on as a disciple and is teaching me the True Wing Chun of their family. We go to work together, eat together, practice martial arts together… It was something that developed over time, not just one night."
The feelings between Liang Si-Yao and himself did indeed build up from little things. He had spent a lot of time with her during work, daily life and practice, laughing with her, playing around with her, giving her massages and so on. These were all scenarios from which a romance could blossom. Liang Si-Yao herself was beautiful and had a smoking body, especially her pair of legs, which were even more beautiful than Lin Zhi-Lin's*. She also had a good temperament and… what else could he be picky about?
Others looked at professional background or family ties when looking for a girlfriend but he didn't care about those. He wanted someone pretty whom he liked - those were his only standards.
Shentu Tian-Yin's mouth turned slightly downwards. "Is she… skilled in martial arts?"
The image of Liang Si-Yao sparring fiercely with him surfaced in his mind. Those beautiful legs filled with power, those white, soft fists, and those jiggling globes… Xia Lei could not help the smile that spread on his face. "Mm-hm, she is my Master's progeny after all and training since she was a child so she's powerful. I can just barely spar evenly with her."
"Wasn't she mad when you told her yesterday?"
"She was in the beginning but I persuaded her. She's a reasonable woman."
"I think what happened was that she got mad right away when you told her about our agreement and you went on to coax her out of it, then the two of you just couldn't help being together after that," said Shentu Tian-Yin.
Xia Lei couldn't help glancing at Shentu Tian-Yin. He did not say anything but he was astonished. How did she guess something like this!
"Then, you two… um, happened, right?"
Xia Lei felt a headache coming on. "What are you talking about?" he said awkwardly.
"You know what I'm talking about," said Shentu Tian-Yin.
"We haven't got to that step yet, it's just…" Xia Lei caught himself. "What are you asking about this for?"
Shentu Tian-Yin seemed to have gotten the answer she was looking for. She smiled and said, "Nothing, just chatting." She then muttered under her breath, "Probably afraid that I'd snatch him away. Think I don't know what you're thinking, vixen?"
"What did you say?"
"Nothing. Oh, we're here. Come with me," said Shentu Tian-Yin.
Xia Lei discovered then that they had gone through the back courtyard and to the garden behind it. The garden had a small house in it with ancient-looking walls, a crescent- arched door and a uniquely-tiled room at the back. The room was made of wood, its walls mainly made up of high-quality redwood with an elegant antique feel to it.
Fu Chuan-Fu was already waiting in front of the door. He stood expressionlessly with his arms behind his back and turned to open the door when Shentu Tian-Yin brought Xia Lei over.
Xia Lei saw Shentu Tian-Yin's father, Shentu Ren, lying on the bed when he walked in.
Shentu Ren was in his fifties but he looked like an old man in his sixties - pasty-skinned and weak-bodied. He lay on the bed without moving and his breathing was slight; the rise and fall of his chest almost imperceptible. He looked like he was in a terrible state and about to stop breathing any second.
"I've come to see you, Father." The sight of him brought back memories and Shentu Tian-Yin's voice was filled with sadness and her eyes filled with tears.
Xia Lei was affected too and said sadly, "Uncle, I'm… Tian-Yin's boyfriend. I've come to see you."
Shentu Ren did not respond.
Shentu Tian-Yin lowered her voice, "My father is relying on a nutrient solution to live. His condition is worsening and I don't know how much longer he'll be able to hold on."
"Why not continue treatment?" asked Xia Lei.
"I've consulted the world's best doctors and Father has also gone to the best hospitals in the world but they all said the same thing - there is no treatment. I have accepted this reality and I only hope for a miracle to happen."
"Don't be sad. Your father will get better," consoled Xia Lei.
"Nn. Have a chat with my father while I go talk to Grandfather. I'd like to see what he has to say about me bringing you home." Shentu Tian-Yin left Shentu Ren's room.
"Mr Xia, I'll be outside trimming the flowers. Please give me a call if you need anything," said Fu Chuan-Fu.
"Sure, go about your work, Uncle Fu. I'll chat with Father," said Xia Lei.
Just Xia Lei and Shentu Ren were left in the room after Fu Chuan-Fu went away; one remained motionless while the other remained wordless.
'Strokes are caused by a blockage in the brain's blood circulatory system or a rupture affecting the cerebral blood circulation. A serious case would mean a quick death and one not so serious is survivable but could lead to long-term sequelae of paralysis. This means Shentu Ren's condition isn't that dire because he isn't dead now. What does his brain look like?' Xia Lei thought. Following that thought, his left eye twitched and locked onto Shentu Ren's head.
He had no interest in chatting with a man who had been bedridden for three years - it was a waste of time and he'd rather do something useful than engage in aimless chatter. He had been studying medicine for some time now and was fairly versed so he was eager to test his skills.
The situation in Shentu Ren's head appeared in Xia Lei's vision, his left eye working like a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through layer after layer into Shentu Ren's brain. Even the world's most advanced NMR detector could not compare to his ability.
A few minutes later, Xia Lei finished his examination of Shentu Ren's brain and gained a deep understanding of his condition. Shentu Ren's brain had two areas of haemorrhage which surgery could not clear but there was not much blood and it did not affect his life, or he would have been long dead. Xia Lei also discovered that some blood vessels in his head were clogged and these blockages decreased the blood supply to the brain. The brain, as the controller of the body, was not getting enough nutrition from the blood to function normally. It was in 'hibernation' mode. Could his body still function in this condition? Obviously not.
'Will he wake up if I can use a needle to clear his clogged blood vessels?' A bold idea popped into Xia Lei's head.