Rhapsody of Death

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Chapter 29

“Well Qian, let’s stay on track and go to your house to plan our next move. I have a suspicion that if you tell me how your brother got married to such a bitch we may get closer to finding your next soul.”

Qin-Yao was not Mo-Xiu’s only wife. His first wife was Ji Yuan-Mei (Gee Youon-May). She was an only child with rich and generous parents and she turned out to be a spoiled, domineering woman. Her father owned many international trading companies and traveled abroad frequently so he decided to have his daughter finish her education abroad so she could learn to speak English fluently. His ultimate plan was to have her gradually take over the family business so he could retire.

She was reaching the age when a woman is expected to leave her home to establish her own family and her parents grew increasingly concerned about her inability to sustain any sort of a romantic relationship. On the other hand, it pained her father to watch her suffer with each break up, so he finally decided to search for suitable husbands and introduce them, hoping that she could find someone that she could live with.

None of her father’s candidates were acceptable so she remained single for a few more years until she met Mo-Xiu, my brother. They seemed to have a good chemistry and eventually fell in love, at least to the extent that they wanted to get married. But her parents objected because he was not from a wealthy family and had no professional skills. They suspected that he was not sincere in his feelings for Yuan-Mei and was only planning to cash in on the family fortune, so they opposed their marriage from the start.

However, Yuan-Mei prevailed as usual and they were married. She also convinced her father to give Mo-Xiu a position in the company and train him so he would have a chance to prove that he could acquire the skills that would allow them to jointly manage the company when her father retired.

After they had settled into their new home, Mo-Xiu relocated our mother to live with them; partly out of a wish for her to live more comfortably in her old age and also to prove to his younger brothers that he was performing his filial duties as the oldest son.

Unfortunately, the personalities of the two women made it impossible for them to coexist in the same house. Yuan-Mei continued her usual practice of buying only the best products and always insisted on having the chauffeur drive her around the city to complete her errands as opposed to taking public transportation. But possibly her most repugnant behavior, in the eyes of our mother, was her refusal to eat left-over food. Having lived a life of near poverty, always struggling to make ends meet, she could only view such behavior as criminally wasteful.

On top of that, she resented the way that Yuan-Mei bossed her son around, showing him no respect. In fact, she felt that her entire family was looked down upon because of their low social status and resented having to depend on such a disagreeable person for her existence.

“As Yuan-Mei became increasingly doubtful about Mo-Xiu’s capability to manage the company she became more critical of him both at the office and at home after work. Their relationship deteriorated to the point where any thoughts of having children and her assuming the role of mother and housewife seemed futile.

Whenever Mother started to complain, Yuan-Mei viciously attacked her verbally, accusing her of being ungrateful for having all her needs provided for by her generous daughter-in-law. Of course, this kind of humiliation and lack of respect was not acceptable and she pleaded with Mo-Xiu to rent an inexpensive apartment for her so she could move out and live by herself.

But, Mo-Xiu kept putting her off by reminding her that his wife was very wealthy and if she could endure her unhappiness, the day would eventually come when he would possess the wealth and power to free her from this intolerable situation. Her love and sympathy for her son gave her the resolve to persevere and stoically accept her place in their home.

Again, Mo-Xiu proposed that Yuan-Mei stay home and have a baby which of course she refused as before. She even went to her parents and complained but they did not support her. Being from the older conservative generation, they believed that it is a wife’s duty to bear a child for her husband. They also regretted never having a son and wished that she could bear two sons so that she could give her family name to the second son thereby preserving her father’s surname for posterity.

Yuan-Mei could not be swayed. Her exposure to Western culture during her education abroad overrode her early childhood traditional upbringing and she rejected the “dutiful wife” stereotype as antiquated. But she eventually reached the conclusion that perhaps it would be necessary to try to have a baby to salvage their marriage. The frequency and intensity of their disagreements at the office resulted in a serious breakdown of their relationship and it was obvious to her that Mo-Xiu was having doubts about being in their marriage.

She decided to discuss their problem with him and offer to stay at home to attempt having a child and let him manage the company on his own. After trying for six months, she still was not pregnant and began to worry. She finally decided to seek help from a traditional Chinese physician to see if some combination of herbal medicines could produce the desired results.

In the meantime, the company was rapidly deteriorating due to Mo-Xiu’s serious lack of management skills and absence of a long term vision. The business philosophy of the incumbent corporate officers, that had faithfully served the Ji family for years, clashed with his management style and he began a campaign of replacing them with hand picked allies that would flatter him and obey his wishes. He pursued personal gratification with reckless abandonment, awarding contracts to suppliers that treated him the most lavishly at the local nightclubs. The monetary and intellectual resources of the company were rapidly depleted and only a few of the old steadfast members of management team stayed on out of nostalgia.”

“I’m haven’t heard anything about Qin-Yao yet. Can’t you speed it up a little?”

“Patience grasshopper! All that I have told you is necessary to understand what happens later. Anyway, I was just about to start explaining how Qin-Yao got involved with my brother.”

The first time I met her was at the Moonlight Club where she was working as a hospitality girl under the name of Rosa. Remember? That was the club where Yang and I entertained Murakami just before we established Yin-Yang Electronics.

I was still employed at Guang Tong at the time and my boss, Zhu Cheng-Qing (Jew Tzung-Ching), invited me to attend a meeting with important Japanese customers and help entertain them. To show customers a good time, there was always a lot of chatting and drinking after the business had been conducted. The goal was to get them in a good mood and drunk enough to give us more product orders. I actually studied Japanese for a couple of months so I could participate in the conversations to some extent.

After the hostess seated us, Cheng-Qing spoke with her for a couple of minutes and made arrangements for three hospitality girls to join us at our table; Qin-Yao, Mei-Dai and Kaori. They introduced themselves to our Japanese guests and in return our guests presented their business cards which were carefully scrutinized by the girls. They lavished their attentions on the guests according to the perceived importance of their titles in hopes of capturing the fancy of a rich benefactor. Or, at the least, avoid neglecting any influential customers.

Mei-Dai was the older, more experienced of the three and graciously volunteered her efforts in attempting to impart her level of sophistication to the younger girls. She had been working in the club for a long while and had established her own group of clientele so, on this occasion, she assumed a more passive role and gave her colleagues a chance to apply their flattery and pampering skills to possibly develop a following of their own. The goal was simple. They were to use any means of persuasion to help the guests relax and keep them in a mood to buy more drinks. She noticed some of her more important clients sitting on a sofa nearby so after determining that the guests at this table were enjoying themselves, she whispered a few words in Kaori’s ear and left the party to attend to them.

During the ensuing business talks, Qin-Yao tried to direct the topic of conversation toward herself and interrupted several times to show off how well informed she was but, much to her chagrin, nobody paid any attention to her. By contrast, Kaori kept herself in the background carefully listening to the conversations and tending to her guests’ comforts. Mr. Liao, the interpreter accompanying the Japanese, was struggling to keep each party informed of the others proposals and specification requirements but the Japanese guests were starting to look bored.

Cheng-Qing noticed this and motioned Qin-Yao to sit between them and entertain them. But she didn’t understand the conversation and refused, remaining quietly seated by my side. Then Kaori stood up and moved over to sit with the Japanese and began talking with them. At once she attracted everyone’s attention with her masterful dialogue and elegant manner, including the glaring and obviously jealous Qin-Yao. I only understood bits and pieces of the conversations so I did not join in and of course my boss didn’t have any clue at all. He was like the proverbial ducks that don’t react to thunder; they hear it but do not understand what it is.

Qin-Yao had shifted her attentions to my boss, and was nibbling on his ear and sensuously rubbing his leg when a waiter came over and whispered in her ear. He stood there waiting for a moment as if expecting her to follow him but when she ignored him he left. Up to this point, I had only noticed how annoying and intrusive she was. But, as she resumed her flirting with my boss, I suddenly caught a glimpse of her from a certain angle that gave me a distasteful impression of her. Her face was long and sharp and her eyes were small as were her ears. She was dressed to reveal as much of her body as was permitted in the club but that couldn’t compensate for her flat chest and fat legs, which she kept spreading apart to reveal her crotch. Her obvious attempt to appear provocative was actually repulsive to me.

My scrutiny ended abruptly when she suddenly yanked my boss up from his chair and dragged him to the karaoke stage. She was just getting ready to sing when the sound of shattering glass and loud shouting silenced all conversation in the club and all heads turned toward an angry man in black shouting as he approached the stage. Club bouncers restrained him but he continued kicking and shouting at my boss and he was being thrown out on the street. “Don’t you go anywhere! Stick around until later and I will give you a new pretty face!”

Mei-Dai was doing her best to ameliorate the situation while Qin-Yao just stood by and pretended that it had nothing to do with her, when, in fact, she was the cause of the whole altercation. The club manager, obviously embarrassed came over to apologize about a drunken guest losing his temper and signaled a waiter to bring over complementary appetizers and a bottle of champagne. Then turned to Qin-Yao and snapped, “You come with me!” As they left the table, Qin-Yao turned to my boss and gave him a flirtatious smile as if nothing happened and said, “Don’t go away, I’ll be right back.”

I was still confused about what caused the problem and asked Kaori what she knew but she just remained silent and seemed embarrassed. Then Mei-Dai explained that customers at the club often requested to be served by a particular girl and in this case, Qin-Yao had not done a good job of distributing her time amongst them. She laughed nervously and I could tell that she was reluctant to say all that was on her mind in criticism of Qin-Yao.

By now, nobody at our table felt like partying and my boss was worried that the man in the black suit that had threatened him earlier might be lying in wait outside the club so we all decided to leave. I hadn’t given that night another thought until I got a call from Qin-Yao a few months later. After listening to idle chit chat about missing me at the club and inquiring about my boss, I was getting impatient and was about to hang up when she quickly told me that the reason she called me was to ask me for help.

I didn’t respond at all because my suspicion was that she was calling to borrow money. Apparently she sensed my suspicion and she then revealed her purpose.

Actually, I wanted to ask you about your boss. What is he so busy doing these days? He doesn’t answer my calls at...

Sorry, but I can’t help you. We are both currently very engaged with business expansion plans and besides, I know nothing of his private affairs.

Several times I have waited out in the street in front of the office and as soon as he saw me he drove away. Can’t you ask him the reason, for me please?

By now she was sobbing over the phone. I should have been sympathetic but for some reason I was annoyed with her whining. In retrospect, my instincts about her were pretty accurate. I told her that I was only staff and didn’t have any influence over my boss. I agreed to mention it to him and then hung up on her.

My colleague in marketing had overheard our conversation and mentioned his own encounter with Qin-Yao.

That must be that Rosa girl from the Moonlight Club right?

Right, how do you know?

I use the same technique to get my customers to give me orders. I just give them a sob story and they cave in out of sympathy. I’m not comparing salesmen to whores mind you; just pointing out a general similarity of methods.

We both had a good laugh about that and I thought to myself, you said it not me. Then he continued on.

She called me the other day whining, asking me to talk to Cheng-Qing to see what I could find out for her. When I told her I couldn’t do it you should have heard the words she used. Some of them I wouldn’t even utter. What a nasty mouth!

I guess now that the boss got laid he isn’t interested in her anymore. Have you mentioned it to Zhu?

Do you think I’m crazy? Why would I make unnecessary trouble for myself?

I guess you’re right about that. What am I thinking?

It occurred to me how naive I was to almost let myself get used by her. If you want to succeed in business, you can’t trust anyone. Not even your colleagues. A few days later, Zhu called us both into his office. He was pacing around behind his desk in an agitated mood and we both knew that it was about Rosa and our hearts sank into our stomach. After a moment, he calmed down and spoke out.

I never expected to get tangled up with such a crazy bitch. Has she called either of you yet?

I decided to lay low until I saw how the conversation was going to play out. My colleague decided to speak out first I just gave an affirmative nod.

For sure! And more than once. She’s really a pest.

Did she ask you to tell me anything?

She wanted me to find out why you were so indifferent; why you have abandoned her. And, she wanted me to tell you not to back her into a corner or else...

Else what? She’s going to kill me and commit suicide? Absurd! Why didn’t you tell me this before?

I thought it was a ploy to grab onto another customer for the club so I just blew it off and hung up on her.

So, did you tell her where I live?

Not a chance! Why, what happened?

I’m so unlucky to get involved with such a deranged woman. She obviously thought of herself as more than just another whore. She came to my house downtown and threatened to kill herself if I didn’t take her back. She’s dreaming if she thinks I should be responsible for saving her life!

How could she be stupid enough to think that she could latch on to a club client and get a lifetime meal ticket? If all the girls acted this way, the club couldn’t stay in business very long.

At first our relationship went pretty well. Rosa would eavesdrop on other guests and give information to me about different deals going on around town. I would repay her by giving her jewelry and sometimes would take her out to eat at a fancy restaurant. But eventually she started pressing me to take her as a mistress and set her up in an apartment so she could quit her job at the club and live a life of luxury. If she pissed on the ground and looked at her reflection in the puddle she would see what she really is and know there is no way I would ever support her life!

What are you going to do boss?

I think I am going to the club to end this once and for all!

I never expected to hear anymore about Qin-Yao, and least of all in connection with my brother. But about a year later that is exactly what happened. I was sitting in my office near quitting time, deliberating with myself as to whether or not to stay overtime to finish off a proposal. On the one hand, if I didn’t stay and finish it today it would only add to my work load tomorrow. On the other hand, I was exhausted and just not in the mood to push myself. The ringing phone startled me out of my cogitation and in that instant I decided to blow off working for the day.

Yuan-Mei was on the phone which surprised me because she rarely called either of us brothers. She urgently wanted to meet with myself and Mo-Fan to discuss some serious matters. Although she was doing her best to conceal her sobbing, she could barely utter more than two or three words at a time. I was worried for her and asked what was wrong but she assured me that she was fine and not to worry. She only wanted to set up a meeting someplace near where my brother and I were living so her husband would not find out about it.

I was unable to contact Mo-Fan so I went to the coffee shop alone. When I arrived, Yuan-Mei was already seated at a table, waiting for me. I didn’t recognize her right away because her hair was cut short and she was dressed casually which was not typical for her. I remembered her with long silky hair loosely wrapped in a bun and always impeccably dressed in the most expensive fashions. She appeared listless and the frustration and despair in her eyes gave her face a haggard appearance.

When she saw me, she managed to suppress sadness long enough to eke out a brief smile. I tried to start the conversation without any idea of what to say.

I couldn’t get in touch with my brother so I thought we could start our lunch without him and try again in a little while. Let’s order our food.

I guess it doesn’t matter that Mo-Fan is not here although I hoped he would come so I could say goodbye because this will probably be the last time we dine together.

What could make you say such a thing?

... I want to divorce Mo-Xiu.

... What happened now?

Obviously you haven’t heard anything. I’m not surprised that your spineless reptile of a brother is too ashamed to tell you about his affair with a night club whore! When company employees told me about his extramarital relationship, I dismissed it as a misinterpreted simple flirtation often associated with business entertainment. But he started coming home late, always tired out. He never woke me when he came home and we often did not speak to each other for weeks at a time. Out of concern for his health, I even suggested that he seek help from a traditional medicine regimen. Now that I look back on that time I can’t believe I was such an idiot!

By this time, Yuan-Mei had worked herself into an emotional state bordering on hysteria and tears were streaming down her cheeks and dripping off her chin, soaking her blouse as if she had just come in from the rain. At that moment, the waiter brought our meals but was terribly embarrassed and scurried away into the kitchen. She wiped the tears from her face and managed to calm down a little and then continued with her desperate story.

I don’t think you know that I gave him complete control over the company so I could stay home and have a baby for him. I am really embarrassed to tell you that sometimes he would not even touch me for two months at a time, let alone make any effort to get me pregnant. Even then, I was in denial despite the evidence of his actions. But then one day Qin-Yao showed up at our house asking me to let Mo-Xiu go so they could live their life together. ... That made it brutally clear that he had exhausted his energy fucking that ugly whore from the club. What a joke!

Well, you can probably guess that the water works started again. Of course everyone in the coffee shop was staring at us, wondering what kind of cruel ass hole I was to make her cry so much. I gave her my handkerchief to dry her tears and tried to comfort her as best I could. She just sat there staring at her food but not taking a bite. She finally calmed down a little and started in again.

I can’t believe that any man could get seriously involved with a bitch as ugly as her!

What did you say her name was? Qin-Yao?

Yes, Qin-Yao. Is that important?

The name sounds familiar. I think that was the night club hospitality girl that was stalking my boss about a year ago. It took a long tome for him to get rid of her. Does she work in the Liu Tiao Tong district?

I don’t think so, but not far from there. I found her business card in your brother’s wallet. She works at the Crown Club on XinSheng North Road. ... Anyway, that’s not important.

So what did my brother have to say about that?

At first he denied any involvement and said that all the club girls were attracted to him because of his intelligence, wealth and high social status. But when I accused him of lying to me, he finally apologized to me for the behavior that started the rumors in the company and promised that he would not go to the club again; blaming the girls for their predatory pursuit of wealthy customers.

So, did he keep his promise?

I guess you must already know the answer to that question since I am here confiding in you. But the short answer is no. It didn’t take long for the whole situation to unravel. Company employees informed me that the business was in a crisis. Your brother never went to the office anymore and siphoned of large sums of money for personal use to the extent that we were facing financial collapse. They wanted me to consult with my father and decide how to bail the company out. When I confronted him, he denied any responsibility for the condition of the company and blamed it on bad luck. Then he told me he didn’t care and that I could take control back if I didn’t like the way he was managing. Then he left stormed out with feigned indignancy and never came back home.

So, where did he go?

I suspected that he must be living with his affair so I hired an investigator. It turns out that your brother bought a house in Qin-Yao’s name and they are living together there, leaving me to care for your mother in my home. I wanted to resolve all this as soon as possible and get my life and the company back on track. I contacted him and met to negotiate terms. He wants a divorce because Qin-Yao is pregnant and he wants to marry her. After all the things he’s done to hurt me, he actually had the incredible audacity to ask me to pay him alimony and give him my house. My father was so distressed when he heard about this that he collapsed and is now in the hospital recuperating. Things have progressed beyond reconciliation and we need to settle this in court.

What did my mother say about all this?

Your Mother? What do you think? A mother is always quick to defend her “precious” baby. She said I should be patient and more tolerant so we could resolve our issues and restore harmony in the home. The hell with that! I’ve hired a lawyer to handle all this. There is no time to be sad now. I just want to get rid of that larcenous son-of-a-bitch and make sure the company that my father spent his lifetime building is not destroyed.

After I heard the whole story I could only tell her that I was so sorry but I really couldn’t think of any way to help her. But watching her pleading eyes staring into mine, I suddenly realized what this meeting was all about. I offered to return to her house with her and take my mother away to live elsewhere. She thanked me profusely and then we left the coffee shop together. When we arrived at her house, she ran into her room and shut the door. My mother was surprised to see me.

Why are you here Qian?”

I’ve come to pick you up and take you to my house. Haven’t you been saying that you want to come and live with Mo-Fan and me?

Oh, it must be Yuan-Mei that wants to get me out of here. I understand.

How could you stand by and watch this all happen without letting us know about it?

Young people do whatever they want these days. What can I do? Nobody wants to listen to an old woman.

But, Mo-Xiu has seriously hurt Yuan-Mei and damaged her family’s business. We could have stopped him.

Don’t blame him. It’s not his fault that she couldn’t bear him a child!

Has brother told you all of it?

Oh Yes. I have seen the affair. She’s not that glamorous, but she has fair skin, a sweet smile and is polite to me; unlike my rich arrogant daughter-in-law.

These problems can only be solved by them. There is nothing you or I can do about it now. If you have anything you need to organize before I take you home, I will help you with it.

After their big argument, he left without any word; just like he vanished the last time. Remembering that time made me very sad. But I was happy when he called yesterday and told me that he would pick me up in a couple of days to come and live with him.

Are you sure you want to do that? He is living with his affair.

I thought about it and decided that, for now, I am fortunate to have two other sons that I can rely on.

She reached out and tenderly touched my cheek. She led me up to her room and I began helping her pack. She was older now and didn’t have many personal possessions so we finished quickly and left.

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