Justice Across The DimensionsChapters List
Chapter 8: A Game of Prestige 
The smell of cheap coffee left Bai Qiujiang feeling giddy and sick that he could hardly tolerate one single sip of it. He deftly placed the cup down, diverting Qi Wang’s attention with conversation, with the cup coming with a soft thud on the old but tidy coffee table.
“Mr. Qi, we need some help—”
“I’m afraid I’m no longer part of the Qi Group, Qiujiang. Just call me Qi Wang. Spare me all that ‘Mr. Qi’ nonsense.”
Bai Qiujiang giggled sheepishly. “Sorry, Mr. Qi— Ah, no. It’s Qi Wang. Yes, Qi Wang. I’m sorry. Please bear with me.”
Qi Wang ignored all that, switching his focus instead to his steaming hot coffee. After Heaven-knows-how-many sachets of instant coffee, he has grown used to its flavor. If anything, this a-dollar-a-sachet coffee tasted no worse than those over glorified, Italian handground brew. In fact, he rather enjoyed the distinctive sweet aroma that lingered in his teeth.
Bai Qiujiang frowned at Qi Wang’s taciturnity but he quickly recovered himself and finished what he wanted to convey.
“Qi Wang, it’s Qi Ze. He’s…”
And he delved into a long story about how Qi Ze’s investments have gone awry: the country resort and bungalow project had been forced to halt indefinitely, and the new smartphone project too came to a standstill. Yet, despite all the projects being put on hold, they couldn’t afford to stop injecting more cash into the projects, of which are slowly deteriorating into a herd of white elephants. For this, the Qi Group suffered staggering losses amounting to hundreds of millions, which happened in just two short months.
“Well, you were handling those projects right up to your resignation, Qi Wang, and I’m wondering if you have any solutions.”
He was so direct that one might wonder if he feels zero guilt for approaching Qi Wang so brazenly.
He had always thought Qi Wang to be madly in love with Qi Qiuyu and wanted only the best for their son Qi Ze. The Qi Group was even the greatest monument of his success and he would never stand by seeing it falling into ruins.
But Qi Wang said nothing.
He could hardly care. Nothing about the Qi Group was worth any more of his concern, especially when he discovered Qi Ze was no son of his. Why should he be concerned? If anyone were distressed and anxious, it could only be Bai Qiujiang.
And the intention of his visit could have never been any clearer.
Qi Ze has caused blunders in all his projects and he needed Qi Wang’s help to bail him out of trouble.
Qi Wang’s empty cup came down on the table before he finally broke his silence, “If Qi Ze wants my help, then why is he not here himself?”
Bai Qiujiang had believed that as long as he informed Qi Wang of the problems tormenting Qi Ze, Qi Wang would readily step in to help without qualm nor query. Since Qi Wang was exactly the person who had spearheaded the projects Qi Ze now handles, he must have great knowledge of them and that would make him the best candidate to salvage them.
Yet now, Qi Wang was demanding why is Qi Ze not here. As if it was not obvious enough! As if the high and mighty President of a publicly-listed business giant would ever deign to step on the shabby streets of these decrepit suburbs!
Won’t it be too degrading for Qi Ze to just come?!
Nevertheless, Bai Qiujiang knew better than to openly admit to such reasons. Not to Qi Wang. He gave a lousy pretence, saying, “He’s busy with work, I’m afraid. You of all people know how he can’t extricate himself from the quicksand of drudgery. But that’s hardly the point. So, what do you think, Qi Wang? I’m afraid this bleeding will go on and on until we finally plug it. The Qi Group might be an empire capable of weathering any storm, but surely we’ll want to avoid any unnecessary losses, don’t we?”
Bai Qiujiang was always an eloquent speaker, being able to bend anyone’s will with finesse and facility. Using reason and emotion to great effect, he tried earnestly to persuade Qi Wang, who instantly realized Original 1 would never be able to resist his charms especially if he knew nothing about the whole truth. He would yield without fail. In fact, in the original chronology prior to Qi Wang’s advent, Bai Qiujiang did come to Original 1 for help and the latter did really help him. That was how Qi Ze, with Qi Wang’s help, cruised through the storm of tribulations and succeeded in amalgamating his position as President of the Qi Group.
But Qi Wang was no fool. It was terribly unreasonable and proud for Qi Ze to expect help from him without appearing in person. Is he taking him for a fool?!
Qi Wang cut off Bai Qiujiang with a chuckle.
“Children need to learn to endure pain to grow up. Even I have had my share of shortcomings when I first received the reins to the Qi Group. Let him fall. This way, he’ll learn to be stronger when he gets up. I daresay it’s only a couple of billions at most. Surely the company can tolerate this as part of his learning curve.”
Bai Qiujiang felt his blood boiling at how flippantly Qi Wang deflected his expected duty.
A couple of billion that the company can tolerate?! What kind of company can tolerate such losses?! Does he think he’s still speaking as the head of a mighty conglomerate?!
“But Qi Wang…” he begged feebly.
Qi Wang waved him off, cutting him off again. Then, with the agility of a magician in a show, he produced a folio from underneath the table. A business proposal of sorts. Qi Wang placed it in front of Bai Qiujiang and looked at him excitedly, “Let’s set aside the matter of the Qi Group for now, Qiujiang. Let’s talk about this. I’m interested in this new venture to produce computer chips and smartphone processors…”
And with this, Qi Wang embarked on a lively oratory of his own, bedecked with myriads of gesticulation that illustrated his brimming enthusiasm. According to his proposal, the new business venture would yield profits as soon as the capital is poured in. He was also confident that he could be the lead player in the industry within a year, penetrate international markets in two, and rank among the world’s best after that.
“You’ve been a good friend, Qiujiang, and I’ll never leave you out of any good fortune that I encounter. I have some money, but I could use more. How about joining me? Invest some of your money in me and in return, you’ll get a third of this new venture’s shares. What say you?”
Truth be told, Bai Qiujiang found the proposal enticing. In fact, if Qi Wang were still President of the Qi Group, he would pledge his wholehearted support in a thrice.
But the Qi Wang today was nothing more than a man in his middle years with no money, no influence, and certainly no power. Development is the crux of any tech startup and the research could run either as short as months or as long as years. That would mean that the new venture could be burning through cash like dried kindling so long as a breakthrough is not reached. Not to mention, they would have to provide an absurdly large payroll that tech personnel these days demand. In fact, Bai Qiujiang doubted any other company not called the Qi Group could finance such a perilous endeavor; most certainly not a fresh and limited startup like Qi Wang’s!
Is he expecting to succeed just like that joke of a droid he created? That Patriot One?
Beyond a doubt, entrusting any money in Qi Wang’s endeavor would only yield just as much good as scooping water with a basket, which Bai Qiujiang sees as a lost cause.
He came to ask for help, only for Qi Wang to pester him for money instead. With discontentment and resentment slowly taking root inside his mind, he excused himself quickly from Qi Wang with some feeble excuses and promptly escaped.
Sit any longer, and he feared that he would never be spared from joining Qi Wang’s little circus of a joke.
Indeed, having no two pennies to rub together changed even him. The Qi Wang before would have never badgered him for money.
He left the dingy neighborhood of Qi Wang’s place and immediately placed a call to Qi Qiuyu, telling her about the outcome of his visit, or rather the lack of it.
“I’ll think of something,” came her curt reply.
Just one sentence and the line went dead. Bai Qiujiang cast one last disdainful look at the sad, run-down slums outside. Depressing the accelerator, he picked up more speed to transport himself away as quickly as possible.
Not long after Bai Qiujiang left, Qi Wang reached for the business proposal and tucked it away.
He had given Bai Qiujiang a chance, but he himself refused to take it. Despite calling him “Qi Wang” with the breath and tone of a friend, it would seem that this former colleague and once-most trusted subordinate of his has barely any faith in him.
It was a chance for Bai Qiujiang to be rich but by his own volition, he flatly declined it and Qi Wang was only too happy to respect his decision.
He put away the proposal, washed the cups, and replaced them back in the kitchen cabinet. Then his phone rang.
This time, it was Qi Qiuyu.
She had never once contacted him since their divorce. Needless to say, her contacting him suddenly could only be due to Qi Ze.
Qi Wang chuckled and tapped on the “Answer” button.
He could hear slow, heavy breathing from the other end of the line. For seconds there was nothing, before her voice finally came.
“What would make you help Qi Ze, Qi Wang? He’s your son. Help him, for Heaven’s sake! You know best of all how difficult those old wolves in the board are. Qi Ze is still young; he’d not be able to ward them off…”
Qi Wang was hardly stirred despite Qi Qiuyu’s attempt to guilt-trip and strongarm him into agreeing. In fact, if he had not been so disgusted, he might have laughed.
Qi Qiuyu must still think of him as the same Qi Wang who had been so faithfully in love with her, the same Qi Wang who would do or sacrifice anything for her. Nothing else would have made her say such words.
Such is Love. Once exalted as the purest object in the world, but now degraded into something that could be bartered for benefits and favors. How ironic and ludicrous it is indeed.
With a voice that didn’t match the dry, sardonic smile he was wearing, Qi Wang interrupted Qi Qiuyu and said, “I know how much you love him, Qiuyu. But a man only learns pain if he falls, and only then can he learn from his mistakes. Qi Ze has had too many successes in life and a bump or two might just do him some good.”
With finesse and cleverness, he spoke with the voice and tone of a father who has designs painstakingly intended for his son’s benefit. Qi Qiuyu would never see through such excellent playacting.
Expectedly, what he said did little to please Qi Qiuyu. In fact, she bulldozed through what he has to say, insisting, “Help him, Qi Wang. Help him and perhaps we can turn things around.”
She was fishing; help Qi Ze and she might consider annulling the divorce.
Qi Wang began to wonder if Qi Qiuyu and Bai Qiujiang have always taken him for a fool. How else would they find such courage to lie to him with so straight a face?
Is there anything on his face that suggested him a daft fool?
“How about you give me two hundred million, then I’ll promise to help you?”
Qi Wang told her about the same business proposal he presented to Bai Qiujiang.
He did not need money from either of them. It was merely a gesture of kindness so that they could earn a fortune alongside him. Yet Qi Qiuyu seemed to misunderstand him. Before he could finish telling her about his new idea, she slammed the phone shut viciously.
As foolish as a calf, he mused. Their loss then. Not mine.
He shook his head with exasperation and mulled over things before he changed and got out. He traveled back to Green Oak University, his former alma mater. Some time ago, Qi Wang had sent to his former mentor the results of his research and they had agreed to meet each other here.
Qi Wang came to the lab where he would meet his mentor. But when he pushed himself past the doors, to his surprise, he found the entire lab filled with armed officers of the police department’s tactical unit.
Qi Wang stared at them blankly. He did not expect them to be here. Not this soon.
Thank you all for your support! I’d be sure to keep on going!
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