Lei stares at the laptop’s screen totally stunned.
He looked at the graph, over and over again; studying the lines.
It is already 5.15pm.
The stock market has closed.
There will be no more changes on the line until tomorrow morning when the stock market starts again at 8am.
“This… this is serious,” Lei uttered.
“Hello? Talking to us?”
Lei gazes to the desk phone where it is now in a conference call with both Ah Si and Mei Zhuo.
He had temporarily forgotten about it.
“Oh, sorry. I am… slightly…” Lei didn’t know what to say.
“It is okay,” Mei Zhuo said. “I was stunned just like you, but I recover quickly,”
Ah Si sighed.
“I guess you already know why I tell my agent to retain my shares. You see… I can’t sell this even if I want to. The shares are going down and we all know this is affecting Xi Men’s company. And if we sell it, it is going down even more. And the problem is, we don’t know how low this will go. I don’t want to do this to Xi Men. We can really kill him,” Mei Zhuo said.
“I know,” Lei said. “The moment you said it is Xi Men, I already know why you can’t sell it. Because I can’t too,”
“So… any idea what is going on?” Ah Si asked.
“No,” Lei is quick to answer. “I don’t know what happened,” he looked at the graph still. “Xi Men did not talk to me, which is nothing unusual after all…”
“But it seems to be unusual if something like this happened and he didn’t tell any of us,” Ah Si said.
“I agree,” Mei Zhuo said.
Lei exhaled a deep breath as he looked at the graph. “It is normal earlier in the day… but within the last hour… it goes down… and then the last 8 minutes is a steep dive,”
“Something is undoubtedly going on with Xi Men’s company, and it is pretty serious too,” Ah Si said.
“Do you think Xi Men didn’t know about this, that is why he didn’t tell us that something is happening at his company?” Mei Zhuo asked.
“It is impossible that Xi Men didn’t know,” Lei said. “Assuming he really doesn’t know by all means, he will still be informed by his corporate team,”
“Hmmm…” Mei Zhuo said. “You are right though…”
“I wonder what happened…” Ah Si said.
“Should we go and… visit Xi Men?” Mei Zhuo suggested.
Lei turned his head and looked at the desk phone.
And on the other side, Ah Si straightened his head from looking at the computer screen to look at the desk phone too.
Xiao You turned her head to look at her smartphone upon hearing the notification tone.
She scoops her phone up and looked at the newly received message.
Jing: Xiao You, we can’t come over and pass you the laptop tonight. We’ll do it tomorrow, okay?
And she typed her respond on her phone…
Xiao You: Okay. See you tomorrow.
“Since I asked for her help, I need to respect that. If she can’t do it today, then I can’t say anything, right?” Xiao You uttered.
Xiao You looked at her phone again.
Jing: Sorry about that, there is an emergency tonight. Yes, see you tomorrow.
Xiao You’s eyes strayed, “Emergency?”
Step. Step. Step.
*Squeezes nasal bridge.
*Exhaled deep breath.
*Lowered hand from squeezing nasal bridge.
*Dives hand into pants and takes the smartphone out.
Lei: Xi Men, where are you?
Xi Men exhaled another deep breath as he worked his fingers on the phone.
Xi Men: Just parked my car at the hotel. Walking to the lift now.
And then he saw Mei Zhuo typing…
Mei Zhuo: Come up to the bar. We are here.
Xi Men lifted his head up.
Once the lift opened, Xi Men looked ahead to the rooftop bar where he had met his buddies here for a couple of times.
With his right hand tucked into his pants’ pocket, he walked towards the bar.
His eyes scanned left and right…
And then he saw them.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si, sitting at one of the tables, waiting for him.
He walked towards them.
“Hey,” he said, and sits down on the empty seat among them.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si stare straight at Xi Men.
“Hmmm?” Xi Men casually asked.
“Just left office?” Ah Si asked.
Xi Men turned to look at Ah Si, “Yeah,” he replied. “You guys have been here for a while?”
“Hmmm… maybe 5 minutes. I came after I have dinner with Xiao Qiao,” Mei Zhuo said.
“I came after I dropped Jing back home after dinner,” Lei said.
“And after I kissed my kids goodnight,” Ah Si said.
Xi Men smirked, and then turned his head and flagged a waiter that is walking pass the table, “One beer, please,” he ordered.
Xi Men then exhaled a deep breath as he straightened his head to look at his friends. “So, what bring you guys here?”
“Well, you, of course,” Mei Zhuo said. “This is where you are staying now,”
“This will be my last night here,” Xi Men said, diving his hand into his pants’ pocket to take out the pack of cigarette.
“Oh?” Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si asked at the same time.
“Yes. I will be going back to the mansion tomorrow,” Xi Men replied, taking a stick of cigarette out.
“Mansion?” they asked.
“Juliana has moved out. So I can go back,” Xi Men said, flicking the lighter in his hand and lights up the cigarette on his lips.
“Oh…” the three of them said again.
After taking a deep puff of the cigarette and lets out the smoke, “So why are you guys looking for me like this? You are used to crash to my office or call me up and asked to meet, instead of waiting for me here in the bar at the hotel that I am currently staying at,” Xi Men said.
“We’ve been waiting for your call though,” Ah Si uttered.
Xi Men turned his head to look at Ah Si, “My call?”
“Yeah,” Ah Si nodded.
“Why?” Xi Men asked.
“We thought you’ll need us,” Mei Zhuo said.
Xi Men frowned. “Why would I need you guys?”
Refusing to reply to what Xi Men has said, “Well. We’ve been waiting by our phones, and you didn’t call. And since you didn’t call, we decided to go home or go for dinner with our families before we come here at this time to look for you,” Lei said. “And we know you are most likely working really, really late today, so… why should we crashed to your office and look for you and interrupt your job, knowing you are one thousand percent needed in your company today?”
Xi Men looked at Lei.
Xi Men then finds himself smirking belatedly. “You knew?”
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si nodded.
“And in case you don’t know yet, you smell like you’ve been dunked in a pool of tobacco before you came,” Ah Si said.
Xi Men finds himself looking at the lighted cigarette in between his fingers, thinking about the intensity of smoking he has done today.
“Must be tough on you today,” Mei Zhuo said.
“Yeah. It is,” Xi Men admitted. “I’ve smoked few packets of cigarette at work today,” he brought the cigarette to his lips. “Three? Four? I don’t know,”
“I have never heard you smoked that much in a day,” Ah Si said.
“Yeah. I know,” Xi Men said, exhaling the smoke from his mouth. “So, how did you guys found out?”
“Stockbroker agent called me asking me to sell off my stocks. It means your company is most likely in a crisis,” Mei Zhuo said.
Xi Men took a deep breath, “So that’s how it spreads…” he brings the cigarette to his lips again.
“But that’s all we know. We don’t know anything else, such as what happened that leads to the crisis,” Ah Si said.
“We hope it is not too private and confidential about your company matters for you to share with us and we’ll see how we can help,” Lei said.
“There’s nothing you can help,” Xi Men responded.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si exchanged glances for such a quick respond.
“It is really too private and confidential?” Lei asked.
“All company matters are private and confidential,” Xi Men said.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si exchanged gazes again.
“But instead of talking about the details, I can tell you the overviews,” Xi Men continued.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si now looked at Xi Men.
The waiter came and puts down the glass of beer that Xi Men had ordered.
“Juliana moved out from the mansion today,” Xi Men said, and then puffed on the cigarette.
‘What is this… talking about Juliana moving out from the mansion out of blue…’ Lei thought to himself.
‘Didn’t you already tell us that just now?’ Mei Zhuo thought to himself.
‘Is this related to your company’s crisis?’ Ah Si thought to himself.
“She moved back home, and her father only knew about our divorce today,” Xi Men said, exhaling the smoke from his mouth.
They looked at him.
“He called me,” Xi Men said.
“He questions you why you divorced Juliana?” Ah Si asked.
“Mm hmm,” Xi Men nodded. “Asking those questions; why are we divorcing, is it Juliana is not doing her job well as my wife, is there any way we can reconcile… stuffs like that. And since I explained and say I will not be with Juliana anymore, and that I could not love her…” he paused, and took a deep breath and then exhaled it with a unique blend of frustration and contentment.
“Are you saying… he does something to your company?” Lei asked.
Xi Men smirked.
“So, you are not willing to work out with Juliana despite 5 years of marriage?” Mr. Lin asked on the phone.
“I am sorry. The marriage has been a mistake all along. I am willing to take the responsibility for this,” Xi Men uttered on the phone receiver. “I am sorry, Mr. Lin,”
He had formally changed the calling of his father-in-law to a professional Mr. Lin now.
Mr. Lin takes a deep breath and then exhaled it frustratingly over the phone. “Is this really your decision?”
“Yes, Mr. Lin,” Xi Men said. “I am sorry for causing pain to Juliana. But having her with me is going to pain her more. So this is the best for me and for her as well,”
“Very well then,”
Xi Men didn’t say a thing on the phone.
“If you have decided that you can’t be with Juliana, then I supposed we should have a clean cut,”
“Clean cut?” Xi Men repeated after Mr. Lin.
“Yes. It means, there is no need for us to continue our business with each other anymore,”
Xi Men’s eyes brightened up.
“He pulls out all the projects that he has with Xi Men Corporation,” Xi Men uttered.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si stared at Xi Men in shock.
“All?” Ah Si asked.
Xi Men nodded. “All,”
“Is… is it a lot?” Lei asked.
“7 projects,” Xi Men said.
“7 projects can cost a lot…” Mei Zhuo said. “Depending on the cost of each project…”
Xi Men casually smiled and then takes a deep puff on the cigarette in his hand again. “After the call, within 30 minutes, directors from various departments of my company told me that they have received calls from the representatives of Lin Holdings that the projects they were working on (together with Lin Holdings) have officially been called off from their side. My employees do not know what happened, so they tried to talk it out with the representatives but Lin Holdings have said that there is no room for negotiations. So everyone in all departments are in chaos, as they are working on those projects for months and probably years but suddenly all of their efforts have been wasted. And then in less than 15 minutes, my employees told me that my stocks’ price is falling in the stock market. It goes plummeting very soon after,” Xi Men explained.
“I don’t understand,” Ah Si said. “Few projects being pulled off shouldn’t contribute that much to your shares going down…”
“The shares did not go down because of that,” Xi Men said.
“So… you are saying, there are other factors affecting your company too?” Ah Si asked.
Xi Men nodded, “Yes. And one of it is selling off my shares,”
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si looked at Xi Men.
“You mean…?” Lei asked.
“Mr. Lin sold off his shares,”
“I didn’t know he is one of your major shareholders…” Lei said, looking at Xi Men.
“He is not. He only caused a small dive. But…”
All of them looked at Xi Men.
“Not if everyone does the same,” Xi Men said.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si’s eyes brightened up.
“Mr. Lin told his shareholders, business partners and even clients that he had sold off the shares. Since Mr. Lin is the one selling his shares, everybody treat this as an insider news, thus a lot of people thought Xi Men Corporation is in crisis, they quickly sell off their shares fearing for the worst, and that’s what causing my stocks to plummet,” Xi Men sighed. “The ‘worst’ happened because of that,”
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si looked at each other.
“And also,” Xi Men said.
They looked at Xi Men.
“Some of Mr. Lin’s business partners respect him so much and wanted to protect their business relationship… few of the companies came to me today and requests to terminate their projects with us,” Xi Men said, puffing on the cigarette.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si are surprised to hear that.
“If some of them could do this, I have to expect more will do the same in the next few days,” Xi Men said, “So… with all of this happening… why wouldn’t my stock prices plummet?”
“Wow… that’s… bad,” Mei Zhuo said.
“I think the news is out,” Xi Men said, puffing again.
“What news?” Ah Si asked.
“Should be in the financial segment,” Xi Men said.
What is he talking about?
“Huh?” Lei and Mei Zhuo asked.
“Oh, are you talking about the news, as in the news?” Ah Si asked as he dives his hand into the pants’ pocket to retrieve his phones.
“What are you talking about?” Lei turned to look at Ah Si and asked.
Upon seeing Ah Si working his hands on his smartphone, Lei figured that Xi Men is talking about the news reported in the media.
“This…” Ah Si said, looking at the phone. “Media statement…?” and that prompted Lei and Mei Zhuo to lean nearer to Ah Si to take a look at the screen of the smartphone.
Hearing what Ah Si said, “So it is out already,” Xi Men said. “Yes,” he adds, “I was told Lin Holdings released media statement about cutting off business ties and retracting projects with Xi Men Corporation 30 minutes ago,” he then exhaled a deep breath. “So, watch out. My shares prices will continue, or rather, plummet even more once the stock market opens at 8am tomorrow,”
“Goodness…” Ah Si murmured.
“So you can see; if it is just about Lin Holdings retracting projects, I may suffer some losses but it won’t be critical. But I fall into crisis now because of all and various factors,” Xi Men said.
“I understand now,” Ah Si said.
Lei and Mei Zhuo nodded in agreement, before they looked at each other.
Xi Men smirks painfully, “I have been spending the whole afternoon and evening accessing and evaluating the damages and losses that I know so far… the amount freaks me out. But that is not the final amount, there is more to come,”
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si could only look at him, and then at each other.
“Xi Men… are you alright?” Lei asked.
Xi Men smirks, and then he tapped the cigarette ash into the ashtray. “I don’t know. I have never encountered such matter before. I don’t know how to deal with this and I don’t know anything about disaster recovery. I am in a mess right now,”
They do not know how to help Xi Men.
“My dad being the president of the company, of course, is being informed about the trouble. He knew it within 10 minutes when the trouble strikes Xi Men Corporation. So he called me up and found out the reason this happened is because of Juliana and I have divorced,” Xi Men said. “He then scolds the shit out of me today,”
“But this is business; why is he scolding and…”
“Because I didn’t tell him, or my mom, that I have divorced Juliana,” Xi Men said, interrupting Ah Si.
“Ah? Such a huge matter and you did not tell…” Mei Zhuo asked.
“I have a lot of things to think about, about Juliana, about Xiao You; that I just forgot to inform him,” Xi Men said.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si exchanged glances.
“Anyway, dad then tried to call Mr. Lin, which I told my dad there’s no use in it, but my dad insists on calling Mr. Lin to persuade him to just take matters personally instead of professionally, and fair enough, Mr. Lin did not pick up the call. I mean, there is no use now. The damage has been done. Even if Mr. Lin listen to him and continues whatever dealings he has with us, do you think we will get out of this crisis immediately? We will still be in crisis for a while, and it will take us time to get back up,” Xi Men makes his point.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si looked at Xi Men.
“I am sorry, Xi Men, I don’t know how to help…” Ah Si said.
“It’s okay. I appreciate the thought. This is Xi Men Corporation’s matter. Not buddies in need of favor. So this is something that I can only deal on my own,” Xi Men smiled faintly at Ah Si.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si looked at Xi Men.
At this crucial time, he could still smile…
“And my mom called me too,” Xi Men said.
“And scolds you?” Lei asked.
Xi Men smiled briefly and shook his head. “She did not. She asked what happened. She also asked if I want her to come back and accompany me at this tough time,” he said. “I said no. I said I will be okay. Truth is there is nothing she can do even if she comes back, so she asked me to keep her updated and to inform her immediately if I need her home,”
“At least she didn’t scold you for not informing her about your divorce,” Mei Zhuo said.
“I think she wants to, but perhaps she knew I am too stressed at the moment, so she did not. She did say she wished I had informed her earlier,” Xi Men said.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si smiled.
“So… how are you going to deal with this…crisis…?” Lei asked.
Xi Men took a deep breath. “As of now… I need to maintain my existing projects and also give them confidence that Xi Men Corporation is okay. My dad could not come back to Taipei to deal with this because he has some dealings to do in Manhattan so I need to be in charge regarding every single matter here. But in the meantime, he will be… and try talking to the shareholders and explain to them about whatever is going on. I’ll talk to dad on daily basis and we’ll deal with this one step at a time,” he looked at the cigarette in between his fingers, “And also, considering the crisis Xi Men Corporation is having, I have imposed freeze on hiring,”
Lei nodded, “I think hiring freeze is one of the right things to do at the moment,”
“So… is Xi Men Corporation going to be okay?” Mei Zhuo asked.
Xi Men smirks again, “To be honest, I don’t know. If I cannot settle this and get the company out from this crisis, Xi Men Corporation is going to vanish,”
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si looked at Xi Men, (they) shocked.
Xi Men brings the cigarette to his lips and puffed on it. “Since you said your agent called you, did you sell off your shares?” he looked at Mei Zhuo.
Mei Zhuo looked at Xi Men, “How… how could I sell it when I know you are in a critical situation…?”
Xi Men smiled, “Thank you for thinking about me,”
Mei Zhuo smiled briefly.
“Putting friendship aside…” Xi Men looked at the cigarette in his hand, and then brings it to the ashtray and kills the fire. “My shares are not stable and we already know they will plummet tomorrow. It may plummet even further to an all-time low. You are suffering losses with these stock investments if you are not selling it now. And what if it did not go to JUST all-time low? What if I cannot get the company out of the crisis? If my company is gone, the shares will vanish with it and your money will be gone with it. So… before you suffer losses even more, sell your shares,”
All of them looked at Xi Men.
“I do not have faith in this. So, do what you need to do professionally,” Xi Men said, taking another cigarette out from the pack. “Just don’t worry about me,” he puts the cigarette on his lips and then he lights it up. “There is no huge difference if you sell off your shares when I am already in a crisis,”
“Don’t think about that, Xi Men. A little helps a long way. Losses are nothing. It’s part of stock investments,” Lei said.
“I am serious, Lei,” Xi Men said.
“And we are serious too. It’s our stocks. We will decide if we want to sell it or not, okay?” Lei asked.
Ah Si and Mei Zhuo nodded in unison.
Xi Men finds himself smirking, “Alright,” he took a deep puff on the cigarette. “I never knew Lin Holdings has such a huge impact in my company,”
They looked at Xi Men.
“When I first married Juliana, I only have one or two dealings with Lin Holdings. But over the years, agreements, dealings and projects increased… and the thing is, I did not get into crisis because of projects, but the relations,” he puffed again. “It’s so unpredictable. And I definitely did not see this coming,”
“Mr. Lin takes things more than personal,” Ah Si said.
“He should have just taken the things about you and Juliana personal,” Mei Zhuo said.
“He should. But sadly, not all will lead life like that,” Lei said.
Xi Men smirks. “It’s okay. If only I had been more persistent about not marrying his daughter years ago, then he will not do this to me today,” he said, puffing again.
Lei, Mei Zhuo and Ah Si looked at Xi Men.
Until the end of the day… even after such critical incident, Xi Men has clearly stated that he has no regrets divorcing Juliana; and it is still about him not wanting to marry Juliana in the first place.