“Hey man,” Xi Men opened the door without knocking and took his first step in.
The people inside the CEO room looked at Xi Men.
Immediately noticing Mei Zhuo is not alone in his CEO room but with a guest, Xi Men is suddenly embarrassed and also guilty for crashing in, “Oops, sorry,” he took a step back to leave the room.
“Hey, it is okay, it is okay!” Mei Zhuo yelled out to Xi Men as Xi Men is about to swing the door close. “Come in, Xi Men, come in,”
Halting what he is doing and only having his head seen at the opened door, “Are you sure it is alright?” Xi Men said.
“Yes, come in!” Mei Zhuo said.
“Alright…” Xi Men opened the door wide and entered the room.
“Let me introduce,” Mei Zhuo stands up and said.
His guest, who is sitting in front of Mei Zhuo, also stands up.
Xi Men Immediately corrects his already-straight lean navy tie as he walked towards the desk.
“Mark, this is Xi Men, CEO of Xi Men Corporation which focuses on tea industry. He is also my buddy since preschool,” Mei Zhuo said.
Xi Men reaches the desk and extends his hand for a gesture of handshake.
“And Xi Men, this is Mark Liu, the owner of Liu Management which focuses on management and services system,”
“Hello,” Mark said, as he grabbed Xi Men’s hand for a handshake.
“Hi, Mr. Liu, nice to meet you,” Xi Men smiled.
“Feel free to call me Mark, Mr. Xi Men,”
“Sure, Mark,” Xi Men smiled. “May I ask which part of Taipei is your company located at?”
“It is a company that I start up in San Francisco,” Mark said. “Currently I do not have a base here yet,”
“Ah, I am sorry! I thought it is a local Taiwan company considering the name is ‘Liu’…” Xi Men smiled at Mark.
“Don’t worry about it,” Mark smiled. “I understand the confusion,”
Xi Men smiled, “Please sit, please sit…” he said to Mark while gesturing to the chair that Mark has gotten up from to greet Xi Men.
“Thanks,” Mark said, sitting down now.
Xi Men then turned to look at Mei Zhuo, “Sorry about barging in. Your secretary is not at her seat. So I thought it was okay to come in…”
“Tracy is on leave today,” Mei Zhuo said.
“Oh. Am I interrupting any kind of business dealings you are having with Mark?”
“No, not really. We are just chatting casually. Ah Si introduces him to me,” Mei Zhuo said.
“Ah Si plans to engage a system that Mark sells for some kind of hotel’s management,” Mei Zhuo said.
“Ah Si’s hotel?” Xi Men asked.
“Ah Si’s new hotel precisely,” Mei Zhuo adds.
“New hotel? You mean the one that he is currently building near the airport?” Xi Men asked.
“Yes, Mr. Xi Men, so what I am offering is just a management system for operations and services in Mr. Dao Ming’s new hotel,” Mark explained instead.
Turning his head to look at Mark, “And so… you are saying it is some highly technical business management system for a hotel?” Xi Men asked.
“Yes,” Mark said.
“Ah, I see,” Xi Men said, and he turned to look at Mei Zhuo again, “So you do not have any dealings with him? And he is here just to chat with you?”
“In some ways,” Mei Zhuo said.
“What do you mean in some ways?” Xi Men asked.
“Mark’s service is planned for Ah Si’s new hotel. You know that hotel will include a shopping mall in the building, which is mine, so Ah Si asked Mark to come to discuss with me to know if his management system is required for my side (the mall) or if I did not have it implemented, will it affect the system of the mall,” Mei Zhuo said.
Xi Men frowned a little bit. “Sounds a little bit complicated,”
“It is complicated,” Mei Zhuo said. “Only someone like Mark can do it,”
All three of them laughed.
“So, do you require it?” Xi Men asked Mei Zhuo.
“Based on what has been explained to me, no. It is just a management system which Ah Si wanted for the hotel,” Mei Zhuo said, and then he turned to look at Mark, “Xi Men is also somewhat involved in the hotel; his company will be providing the tea leaves, which is required in Ah Si’s hotel,”
“Oh?” Mark asked.
“Not just that. There will be a tea house in the hotel, which is mine,” Xi Men smiled at Mark.
“Oh, if Mr. Ling’s shopping mall is not affected by the system, then Mr. Xi Men, your tea house will not be affected as well,” Mark said.
“Hmmm, okay,” Xi Men said, and then turned to look at Mei Zhuo, “I am pretty sure Lei is not affected then,”
Mei Zhuo then smirked, “Lei is only providing insurance for that building, why would he be affected?”
Mei Zhuo and Xi Men then chuckled, while Mark just smiled, since he doesn’t really know what it is all about and who Lei is; and also, what has been uttered is a topic between Mei Zhuo and Xi Men.
“Oh, sorry about that,” Mei Zhuo said, suddenly realizes Mark is not part of the conversation.
“No worries,” Mark smiled.
“I hope you will get this project from Ah Si,” Xi Men smiled.
“Thank you, Mr. Xi Men. I hope so too,” Mark said.
“You are welcome. You said just now that your company is based in San Francisco. Are you from San Francisco?” Xi Men asked.
“Yes, I am from San Francisco. But I have personally moved to Taipei approximately 2 months ago to work on this project with Mr. Dao Ming,” Mark said. “I will start up a branch here soon,”
“Oh,” Xi Men and Mei Zhuo said.
“That sounds like a huge sacrifice to actually move over…” Xi Men said.
“It is okay. It is for business anyway,” Mark smiled. “I moved my family over so it isn’t that bad,”
“Oh? That is nice to hear,” Mei Zhuo said. “So… I assume you don’t know many people over here yet?”
Mark smiled, “No, not yet,”
“You will get to know a lot of people soon,” Xi Men smiled.
“I hope so,” Mark said.
“Oh, my father-in-law’s company will be having an annual dinner this Saturday. Would you like to come?” Mei Zhuo asked.
“Annual dinner?” Mark asked.
“Yes, but let me repeat – not my company’s but my father-in-law’s,” Mei Zhuo said. “You can treat it as an opportunity to know more people,”
Xi Men nodded. “If you are not interested to know more people, then you can treat it as though coming over to… umm… give face to Mei Zhuo, since it is his father-in-law…”
“HEY,” Mei Zhuo growled at Xi Men, causing Xi Men to laugh and Mark to chuckle.
“Don’t worry, all of us will be there,” Xi Men said at Mark.
“Well, if you have extended an invitation to me, Mr. Ling, then I would love to come,” Mark said.
Xi Men smiled.
“Great, and bring your partner along. Now… let me pass you the address of the venue,” Mei Zhuo said, searching for papers on his desk. “Or do you want a GPS location instead?” he looked at Mark.
“So, why do you come to look for me, huh?” Mei Zhuo asked.
“Well, just thought of meeting you for lunch,” Xi Men said, walking next to Mei Zhuo with both his hands in his pants’ pocket.
Mei Zhuo smiled. “Sounds like you don’t have work today,”
“I do. I have run my mind on overdrive mode about a project tender, so I just decide to come out for a breather,”
“You are lucky that I am free,”
“Among all of us, you are the freest,” Xi Men said.
“I’ll take that as a compliment instead of an insult,” Mei Zhuo said.
Xi Men smirked. “You got me curious. How could you as a CEO… don’t have things to do?” he turned his head to look at Mei Zhuo.
“What do you mean I don’t have things to do?” Mei Zhuo glared at Xi Men. “I have. It’s just that I am not as busy as you and Ah Si,” he said. “And Lei,”
“Which is why I thought I can barge in just now like what I always do. And on this particular day without your secretary at work, is the day you are busy,”
“I’ve told you it is not really about work,” Mei Zhuo said. “Or rather, we’ve finished talking about work when you came,”
Xi Men smirked, and then he took a deep breath.
“So… if I am not free, are you going to look for Ah Si or Lei to try your luck?” Mei Zhuo asked.
“What if none of us are free?”
“Then I’ll go and eat on my own,” Xi Men said nonchalantly.
“Why don’t you ask Juliana?”
“I eat dinner with her everyday,”
“I am not asking you to eat lunch with her everyday,” Mei Zhuo said. “Just once in a while. I am sure she would like to do that with you,”
“I know,” he nonchalantly said. “So what do you want to eat?” he turned to look at Mei Zhuo.
Mei Zhuo looked at Xi Men, and he then smirks at how fast Xi Men changed the topic. “I don’t have any preference for now. What about you?”
Xi Men tilts his head. “Should we go for Japanese cuisine?” he then looked at Mei Zhuo again.
“Okay with me,”
“Alright,” Xi Men said as they both walked.
Mei Zhuo smirked again, and eventually lets out a small laugh.
Xi Men gazes at him. “What is that all about?”
“Nothing,” Mei Zhuo said.
“Really?” Xi Men looked at Mei Zhuo suspiciously.
Mei Zhuo looked at Xi Men, “You, as usual, are quick to change the topic when it comes to Juliana,”
Xi Men then straightened his gaze and his head. “There is nothing to talk about her, so why should I continue with the topic?”
“Oh well…” Mei Zhuo puts both his hands into his pants’ pocket.
Xi Men didn’t say anything further as they walked.
Mei Zhuo gazes over to Xi Men and looked at his facial expression. “This is your real face,”
Xi Men turned his head to look at Mei Zhuo who is looking back at him, “Huh? What real face?”
“The ‘happy go lucky and super elated’ face when seeing clients and business partners are just a mask. That face is only reserved for meeting people related to business,” Mei Zhuo said. “Like when you saw Mark just now, the ‘happy face’ appears,”
Xi Men gazes at Mei Zhuo, and then Xi Men chuckled, “We need to be friendly when we meet people related to business,” he defended, “And the way you say it is as though I have many ‘faces’,”
“Sort of,” Mei Zhuo folded his hands on his chest.
Xi Men’s chuckle dies and then frowned at Mei Zhuo. “Sort of? You are saying it as though I have mastered a Chinese art opera where performers can just ‘change’ the mask on his face within a millisecond,”
“You are almost there,”
“You sound like mocking me,” Xi Men said.
“An eye for an eye to the earlier insult you’ve uttered,”
Xi Men glared at him, “I thought you said that’s a compliment,”
Mei Zhuo chuckled, “Anyway, what I meant was, you showed different facial expressions to different people. What I was describing earlier is only reserved for work. And when you meet up with us, you don’t smile or laugh like that,”
“That shows I don’t pretend in front of you guys, you know,” Xi Men said.
Mei Zhuo lets out another chuckle. “Right,”
Xi Men just smirked as a respond to Mei Zhuo’s chuckle. “Ah, there’s no queue at the restaurant,” he heads to the Japanese restaurant.
Looking at Xi Men walking away and entering the restaurant, Mei Zhuo exhaled his deep breath.
‘We know you did not pretend in front of us, Xi Men, but even when you are who you are in front of us… you haven’t been yourself…’
‘And we are sure you know too,’
‘All we can do is just let you be,’
‘Because it is you, Xi Men,’
Mei Zhuo then walked into the restaurant.
Juliana turned her head. “Oh, hi Lei,” she smiled at the sight of Lei. “Hi Jing,”
“Hello,” Jing smiled as she leaned over to Juliana for a hug.
And then Juliana hugged Lei.
“Where is Xi Men?” Lei asked, looking around the hotel lobby.
“Oh, he is at the lavatory,” Juliana said.
“Oh,” Lei responded, and then turned his head to look at the ballroom’s door, “Have you seen Ah Si or Mei Zhuo?”
“No, I haven’t. As a matter of fact, we haven’t entered the ballroom yet. We have just arrived and Xi Men said he wanted to go to the lavatory so I’ve been here, so… maybe both of you should go ahead first?” Juliana asked.
“And you’ll be waiting for Xi Men here?” Lei asked Juliana.
“Yeah,” Juliana said.
Lei turned to look at his wife, “What do you think?” he asked.
“It is up to you,” Jing said. “I am fine here or in the ballroom,”
“Hmmm…” Lei wondered, and then gazes at the ballroom’s entrance.
Xi Men flings his hands to get rid of the water droplets on his hands after washing them.
He then lifted his head up and looked into the mirror, making sure the tie is straight, suit is nice and the hair is perfectly at its place without a strand strayed.
He turned and heads to the exit to leave the lavatory.
Just as he exits the lavatory, a woman appeared and passed by him before turning to go to the female lavatory.
It happened just within a second and it is so quickly that Xi Men had no time to register that incident right at that moment, but only AFTER someone had passed by him.
He happened to turn his head to the left and straight into the entrance of the female toilet, wanting to catch a glimpse of the woman that had just passed by. And of course, the woman isn’t there anymore.
Not only he can’t see anything in the lavatory from where he stood, but he also suddenly remembered this is a female toilet that he is gazing at prompting him to immediately straightened his head.
It is rude to look at the lavatory of the opposite gender like that.
Thank goodness nobody caught him staring like that.
He then walked away.
All he knows is that the female that had passed by him is wearing a black dress.
And her perfume smells sweet and lovely.
The woman stepped into the lavatory and then halted her steps; after she remembered passing by a man that had just comes out from the male lavatory.
She isn’t quite sure why but she is kind of curious all of a sudden.
She turned around and heads to the exit and gazes at the area where she had the brief ‘encounter’ with the man.
Of course, the man isn’t there anymore.
She tilts her head and then she turned around again, heading into one of the empty cubicles.
Although she didn’t get to see his face as it is too quick of a movement, she knew he is wearing a nice black suit.
And also, the smell of his manly cologne.
Juliana smiled as she looked at Xi Men emerging from the lavatory and walked towards her as he straightened his suit again.
“You look absolutely dashing,” Juliana compliments with a big smile on her face.
“Lei and Jing have arrived,”
“Oh? Where are they?” Xi Men looked around, trying to look for Lei and Jing.
“They have entered the ballroom,” Juliana said. “They just did,”
“Oh,” Xi Men said. “Alright then, are you ready to go in?”
Xi Men lifted his arm up and Juliana hooks her hand in, and both of them walked to the ballroom.
“Yo,” Mei Zhuo responded to Xi Men and they give each other a quick bro hug.
“Hi Mei Zhuo,”
“Oh hello, Juliana,” Mei Zhuo said, reaching to Juliana for a hug. “How have you been?”
“Great, thanks,” Juliana smiled.
“Hello Xi Men, hi Juliana,”
“Hi Xiao Qiao,” Xi Men said, leaning over to hug Xiao Qiao briefly.
“Hi Xiao Qiao,” Juliana also said, and hugged Xiao Qiao after Xi Men did.
“Busy?” Xi Men asked, looking at Mei Zhuo.
“It is okay. My father-in-law keeps dragging Xiao Qiao and I, wanting to introduce us to his friends and business partners, whom he doesn’t even remember that he had already introduced us to last year, and the year before, and the year before, and the year before, and the year before…”
Xiao Qiao laughed and then gives a painless smack on her husband.
Xi Men and Juliana chuckled.
“So, where is Lei?” Mei Zhuo asked. “Not here yet?”
“They’ve arrived. Juliana said Lei and Jing come in first,” Xi Men said.
“Really? I didn’t see them…” Mei Zhuo said, looking around; trying to spot for Lei.
“Has Ah Si arrived?” Xi Men asked.
“Yes, he is. I saw him talking to Mark just now,” Mei Zhuo looked around again, trying to spot for Ah Si this time.
“Mark? You mean Mark Liu from Liu Management?”
“Oh, so Mark has arrived for a long time?”
“I am not sure about that. I only saw him. I haven’t talk to him yet,” Mei Zhuo said, looking around still. “Ah, over there,” he pointed to the 3 o’clock angle.
Xi Men and Juliana turned their heads and looked at the direction where Mei Zhuo is pointing at.
Standing next the entrance of the ballroom, Ah Si is introducing Mark to Lei.
“Ah, both of them are over there,” Xi Men said.
“Let’s go over before my father-in-law drags us to introduce another businessman that we had already know,” Mei Zhuo said, already took the first step and dragged Xiao Qiao along before Xi Men could reply.
Xi Men and Juliana chuckled.
All four of them walked towards Ah Si and Lei.
“Hey guys,” Mei Zhuo said as he approached the other two of F4s with their wives.
Lei, Jing, Ah Si, San Chai and Mark turned their heads to the calling.
“Oh, hi Mei Zhuo,” Lei said, reaching over to Mei Zhuo for a bro hug.
“Hey Xi Men,” Ah Si called.
And the gang gave each other and their wives a brief hug as they usually do when they meet up and even when they leave.
“Xi Men, meet Mark Liu. He is from Liu Management and…” Ah Si introduces.
“Oh, I already met him at Mei Zhuo’s office the other day,” Xi Men interrupts.
“Oh, really?” Ah Si asked.
“Yeah,” Xi Men said, “Hello, Mark,” he extends his hand out to Mark who is standing in front of him. “Glad to see you again,”
“Hi Mr. Xi Men,” Mark accepted the handshake. “Glad to see you too,”
Xi Men smiled, and then leaned over to Ah Si and softly asked, “Already giving him the project?”
“Not yet. Still contemplating,” Ah Si replied. “Can’t decide so soon as I have to think and evaluate from various angles,”
“I see,” Xi Men said. “Alright, I understand that,”
“So, Mark, thanks for coming,” Mei Zhuo said, extending his hand out.
“No problem. Thanks for inviting me, Mr. Ling,” Mark smiled, grabbing Mei Zhuo’s extended hand for a handshake.
“I hope things are so far so good for you here,” Ah Si said.
“Yes, it is, thank you,”
“Do suit yourself,” Mei Zhuo said.
“Did you come alone?” Mei Zhuo asked. “I thought I asked you to bring your partner,” he winked.
“Yes, I brought my wife with me,” Mark smiled.
“Oh, your wife? Where is she?” Lei asked, begin looking around; more precisely around Mark.
“She had gone to the lavatory. She’ll be back soon…” Mark said, and happened to look to the left and right, hoping to see his wife.
He surely hopes she will be able to locate him since they are standing near the entrance.
“Oh right, mentioning of that, I forgot to introduce, this is my wife, Ying Xiao Qiao,” Mei Zhuo said, looking at Xiao Qiao. “Like I have told you, this is my father-in-law’s company’s annual dinner, so that’s her father,” he looked at Mark, but pointed at Xiao Qiao.
Xiao Qiao could only chuckle at the way her husband explains.
“Hi, Mrs. Ling,” Mark extends his hand out to Xiao Qiao.
“Hello,” Xiao Qiao smiled, accepting his handshake.
Looking at Xiao Qiao and smirks, Xi Men then returned his gaze to Mark as he says, “And this is…”
Juliana, Mei Zhuo, Xiao Qiao, Lei, Jing, Ah Si and San Chai are looking at Xi Men speaking, and possibly introducing, when he suddenly stopped, as he looked straight to somewhere, his eyes still.
His gaze is fixed to somewhere right behind Mark.
All of them eventually turned to the angle of where Xi Men is looking at, and Mark turned around to look too.
“Ah, you are back,” Mark said, putting his hand around the shoulder of a woman in a beautiful black dress standing behind him and then gently pulled her into the group.
All of them finally saw her face since she was standing behind Mark and now they have a perfect angle to look at her since Mark made her took a step forward.
There is a distinct change of facial expressions on Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si.
San Chai’s jaw slowly drops…
Jing blinked numerous times as she felt the woman looked familiar.
Xiao Qiao noted the unexplainable intensity that appears all of a sudden in the group.
Juliana just smiled, paying no attention to whatever is happening.
While the woman, her eyes are fixed at Xi Men.
Mark smiled and then he introduces, “This is my wife, Yang Xiao You,”
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si immediately had their heads and eyes turned to look at Xi Men.
Jing and Xiao Qiao turned their heads to look at Xi Men.
Xi Men’s gaze at Xiao You had not budged at all, other than expanded slightly; for he is startled to see her here.
He was about to introduce Juliana when he saw someone approaching Mark from Mark’s back, causing him (Xi Men) to look over and immediately notices that face whose eyes also looked back at him (Xi Men).
And that face has caused him to stop talking and is immediately overwhelmed by surprise.
He also witnessed the small smile that was on her face had faded immediately upon seeing him.
Their eyes locked.
She suddenly turned her head away, breaking the locked gaze with him.
She then turned and smiled faintly at Mark.
Xi Men felt a small yet noticeable grip on his right arm, causing him to remember there is someone else next to him.
He turned his head a little to the direction of Juliana who had moved her hand a little, before he returned his gaze to Xiao You and Mark.
“This is Juliana Lin,” Xi Men introduces. “My wife,”