Chapter 29 – Double Conspiracy

It was just barely hitting 6 AM but the guys were up already. Ehlo and Ming Dao took turns calling Wallace, Johnny, Angela, Bianca, and Qiao Qiao last night before they went to bed so they could meet up this morning.

Ming Dao must admit he shouldn’t let himself be hauled into this type of dramas but he couldn’t help it. Curiosity would eventually kill the cat, right?

As Sam was making coffee for them, Ming Dao turned on the radio just out of habit while Ehlo tried to prepare breakfast for them. He glimpsed around the living room awkwardly, wondering how things were going to work out. As he was pulling a piece of the curtain back to spy across the street, he spotted no activity whatsoever. He pondered if they should just call this whole thing off.

“Do you think Wallace and Johnny can get past Jacky?” Ming Dao asked casually.

“Like he’s paying attention to them,” Ehlo snapped.

“You never know.”

As if to settle their contradicting point of views, the doorbell rang at that time. To confirm Ehlo’s words and discrediting Ming Dao, Wallace and Johnny appeared at the door as soon as Ming Dao opened it.

“How did you guys get here so fast?” Ming Dao asked in disbelief.

“It’s a miracle, isn’t it?” Wallace joked, walking into the living, leaving Ming Dao puzzled.

Johnny flashed on his sympathetic smile. “Jacky switched his schedule around again so he’s doing morning shows again–including the weekends.”

“Oh…” Ming Dao finally closed the door as Johnny walked into the kitchen. However, it didn’t seem like someone wanted Ming Dao to have a break–before the meeting–since the doorbell rang again. He opened it up to see Qiao Qiao. He brightened up immediately. “Hey!”

“Hey!” Qiao Qiao greeted him cheerfully. “The others here yet?”

“Move it, already!” Chen Yi’s voice yelled behind her. “Even if it’s the peak of summer, but you know how chilly it is in the early morning?”

Qiao Qiao turned around to face Chen Yi again, giving him a slap on the shoulder. “What’s your hurry anyway?”

“Isn’t it enough that I said I was cold?”

“Sissy!”

“You two, please,” Ming Dao interfered.

Ming Dao took the hint to step aside at that time so Chen Yi could walk past them. At that exact same time, Sam was bringing out a tray of coffee for them. When he saw Chen Yi, he looked as puzzled as Ming Dao. He set the tray down before turning to the three at the door.

“How come you’re here?” Sam asked.

“I can’t come?” Chen Yi asked back.

“It’s not that. It’s just…”

Qiao Qiao smiled. “The more brains put together, the better.”

“Okay.”

Ming Dao–instead of shutting the door–stepped forward to see if anyone else was coming. When he was sure there wasn’t anyone else at that time, he shut the door and returned to the living room. He could see that Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao had made themselves comfortable at the sofa by the window already with Qiao Qiao in the middle. He sat down on the remaining empty space, hoping this silly meeting would be over soon so he could catch some sleep before going in for work. Ehlo came out at that time also, delivering breakfast for them.

Ehlo wrinkled his eyebrows. “Somehow this has turned into a kiddie get together?”

Chen Yi pointed at Ehlo. “Watch it, Mr. Pervert.”

“Should I remind you guys that we’re here today to cooperate, not argue?” Johnny interjected.

Ehlo turned to Johnny. “He called me ‘Mr. Pervert’ first.”

“We have an hour,” Wallace said, tapping his watch for effect. “Do you guys think it’s wise to argue?”

Ehlo knew it was two against one and his sole purpose today was to gather them all together for a discussion, not sort out who was ‘Mr. Cool’ so he put the empty tray aside and sat down next to Sam at the other sofa facing the other three.

“Who else is coming?” Qiao Qiao asked.

“Angela, Bianca, and…” Ehlo listed.

“Don’t tell me Sonia because that beats the whole purpose of setting them up. The goal is not to let either of them know of our plan, you know.”

“I’m not dumb.”

“I know you’re not, but I’m just saying that…”

Chen Yi yanked at Qiao Qiao’s shirt sleeve for her to stop.

Qiao Qiao turned to Chen Yi. “What?”

“Overboard. And not to mention we’re prompt for time, hello.”

Qiao Qiao sighed out and ended up sipping her coffee instead of going on further.

“I agree with you that we shouldn’t let Sonia know either, but your words are a bit sharp. It’ll cut others sooner or later.”

Qiao Qiao nodded, rolling her eyes, not wanting to argue with him anymore.

“Guys,” Ehlo interfered again.

“Whatever,” Qiao Qiao muttered.

“Who turned off the radio?” Sam asked.

“I did,” Ehlo said. “Don’t want to listen to his cowardly voice while I’m trying to set my moods for the meeting here.”

“You need to set your moods for the meeting?” Chen Yi asked, suppressing his laughter.  He had somehow grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl earlier and was munching on it right now as he was talking to them.

“Don’t…”

“Awww…come on. It’s no fun sitting around here and waiting for Angela jie and Bianca in silence.”

“Stop scoring points with my fiancée.”

“Whatever,” Chen Yi said, putting his left hand onto Qiao Qiao’s right shoulder as he talked.

“Hey, why don’t you lean onto the armrest?” Qiao Qiao protested.

“I don’t like it.”

“Like I’m your cushion.”

“Maybe.”

Qiao Qiao pushed his hand away gently and grabbed the other apple in the fruit bowl instead of eating the breakfast that Ehlo made. Although they decided to gather for a breakfast meeting, but only Ming Dao and Sam were eating with Ehlo.

Ehlo pointed his fork at Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao. “What’s with you two and apples?”

“It keeps the doctor away?”

Chen Yi shrugged about the same time Qiao Qiao was responding.

“I wonder when they’re coming,” Johnny pondered, changing the subject on purpose. “Should we call them? If they’re not here soon, we have to head to work or we’ll all be late.”

“Maybe wait for five more minutes?” Wallace suggested. “Ehlo?”

Ehlo nodded. “Sounds fair.”

Ming Dao handed the buttered toast to Qiao Qiao at that time. She took it from him and ended up eating both the toast and apple at the same time.

“I want one too,” Chen Yi said, his smile teasing.

Qiao Qiao rolled her eyes. “He’s not your slave.”

“Are you trying to defend…”

Qiao Qiao gave him a sharp look.

Chen Yi shrugged. “Whatever.”

“I’ll switch seats with you,” Ehlo offered, looking at Ming Dao.

“Huh?”

“Sitting next to them is too suicidal, don’t you think?”

Ming Dao glanced at Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao real quick, sensing a showdown so he gathered up his dish and switched with Ehlo. Before Ehlo could walk to Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao’s side, Qiao Qiao got up and moved one over, leaving the middle spot empty.

“Hey, I was just kidding,” Chen Yi said, seeing the apparent hostility.

“Apparently, it wasn’t funny,” Ehlo answered in Qiao Qiao’s place, sitting down in the middle, continuing to eat.

Ming Dao and Sam exchanged a look but continued with their food consuming as well. Ming Dao continued with passing out the buttered toast to the other guys as well, pondering what Chen Yi meant earlier.

“Guys, you know that we’re getting way off subject, right?” Johnny asked when they were all settled down like before.

Ehlo turned on Johnny. “What’s with you and trying to keep everyone on subject? We’re going to be sitting statues soon if we don’t talk or move around.”

“Some of us have to go to work soon, you know,” Wallace reminded him.

As Ehlo was about to say something, the doorbell rang again. “This better be them.” He went to the door and opened it up.

Angela and Bianca greeted him with a smile. However, Angela caught onto his emotional state right away.

“What’s wrong?” Angela asked in a concerned tone.

“What?” Ehlo asked back.

“You look like you’re going to a funeral.”

Ehlo couldn’t help but laughed at Angela’s concerned expression and tone. “I can see that my fiancée cares for me a lot.”

Angela wrinkled her face. “Whatever! And I thought you were serious.”

She walked past him to the living room instead. Bianca shrugged her shoulders and flashed him a sympathy smile. Ehlo closed the door quickly and returned to his seat again. Wallace took the hint to get up and sit at a chair next to Qiao Qiao, leaving two empty spaces between him and Johnny for Angela and Bianca.

“Let’s get this thing going already,” Wallace said.

“All right,” Ehlo agreed. He looked around the room real quick before starting. “I think I told you briefly on the phone it concerns Jacky so…”

“Are we playing matchmakers now?” Angela jumped in. “I thought Jacky could handle his life affairs better than this. Not to mention that…”

“I was getting to that part.”

Angela could see Ehlo’s intense expression so she stopped her questioning series.

“I think his parents drove the ultimatum so he has to marry Jo and…”

Angela’s mouth opened wide in shock and she was about to say something but she bit down on her tongue again, trying to wait for Ehlo to finish.

“I know. That was my reaction at first too when I heard it. But right or wrong, I’ll just have to find out later when I decide to sneak in a little visit with Auntie this afternoon. So for now, since you and Sam work with them, try to find a way to pull them together as much as possible and…” Ehlo could see Angela’s wrinkled up face.

“You’re skipping the details.”

“Yes, we’re prompt for time since you both showed up a tad late. But the bottom line is…don’t let them know we’re doing this.”

Angela nodded.

“You know what?” Bianca asked. “We should visit Uncle Ben more.”

Ehlo had a puzzled look on his face.

“I don’t know about you guys but those times we spent there, they really enjoyed themselves with sharing the food and the interaction and…”

Ehlo pointed at Bianca. “Clever. I didn’t think of that. Maybe I should just go ask Uncle Ben to join me and Auntie too since she might not tell me ‘cause even if I’m his best buddy, I’m still an outsider.”

“So…” Angela said, attempting to divert the topic back to its original point.

Ehlo glanced at his watch. “You guys go stalk Jacky and Sonia while I go investigate. I’ll report back what I find out later and we’ll see how we can get them together.”

“By stalking you mean just try to hook them up or do you mean make sure they actually like each other?” Bianca asked. “‘Cause it sounds to me like we’re just doing it as we see fit and not acknowledging any facts.”

“He actually shouted out his love for Sonia last night,” Wallace verified. “I’m not sure about Sonia though.”

Angela turned to Wallace. “He did?”

“It was something more like ‘So what if I love her?’ kind of thing,” Johnny quoted Jacky’s words.

“Were you guys confronting him?” Bianca asked.

Johnny nodded, handing Bianca half of his toast that he’d broken with his hands.

“I told you guys that something’s wrong with Jacky these past weeks,” Qiao Qiao said in an as a matter of fact tone. “You should’ve paid more attention.”

“Yes, missy,” Ehlo gave in. “And stop acting lovey-dovey in front of us, will you?”

Johnny and Bianca turned to look at him.

“What?” Bianca asked.

“Not all of us are taken, you know,” Ehlo said. “Stop making us jealous.”

“You’re dating?” Angela asked, turning to Johnny and Bianca.

Ehlo gasped. “You don’t know?”

“We don’t know either,” Ming Dao said, speaking up for Sam also.

“Me either but it might as well be,” Wallace said.

“We’re supposed to wrap this up,” Johnny said, reminding them all–again.

“So it’s family problems?” Chen Yi asked, diverting it into the correct subject matter again–and somewhat attempting to sabotage Ehlo. “Why is it always so cliché?”

“This drama dragged out for two years already,” Ehlo said. “I think we should try to end it once and for all.”

“You make it sound like we’re superheroes,” Angela said.

“If we can pull it off, then we are.” He clapped his hands at that time. “All right, let’s get this going then. We should all be leaving.” He jumped up from his seat at that time and headed for the door.

Angela got up also. “I guess we’re all dismissed?”

“Can’t argue with him since we all have to go to work,” Sam said. “Meeting today, remember?”

Angela nodded. “And probably a great opportunity to talk to Sonia too.”

Ehlo had gone back to his place to get his briefcase already while the rest of them were still lingering behind to mull over the situation.

“I think I better head out too,” Wallace said. “Anyone want a ride?” Out of habit, he turned to Angela.

“I think it’s better I go with Bianca,” Angela said.

“All right then.”

“I’ll go with you then,” Johnny said to Wallace.

Wallace nodded.

Chen Yi turned to Qiao Qiao at that time. “You’re coming with me, right?”

“Doesn’t look it,” Qiao Qiao snapped.

Chen Yi smiled. “Aww…come on…I was just kidding earlier.”

Qiao Qiao ignored him and tuned in to the others again.

“I guess we keep it among ourselves, huh?” Bianca asked. “I mean only the ones who arrived here today, not the rest of the group.”

“The less know the better and we’re already over-doing the number of people,” Chen Yi said.

“Do you think this whole forcing them together would work?” Ming Dao asked in a doubtful tone. “Considering how Jacky said he’s getting married soon and…”

“I don’t know about him, but if Ehlo doesn’t get to the bottom of the problem, he won’t let this go just like that.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Johnny said, sounding troubled.

“Maybe I should go with Ehlo later,” Wallace said. “I mean considering how he would lose his coolness sometimes.”

“Good idea,” Angela agreed. “I want to tag along too.”

“You’re…”

“I could say I want to visit, right?”

Wallace smiled.

Sam turned to Ming Dao. “You take the car, I’ll just catch a ride with Bianca since Angela and I are going to the same place. “

“All right then. I guess I’ll go first.”

“I’ll go with you, Wallace,” Qiao Qiao said, making her way to the door.

“Why are you bothering him when we work near each other?” Chen Yi questioned.

“Doesn’t matter,” Wallace interfered. “Let’s go, kiddo.” He turned to Chen Yi. “I want to catch up with her.”

Chen Yi shrugged. “Whatever.”

The group finally dispersed for the time being yet they were still thinking about the mission that Ehlo had bestowed upon their shoulders. They silently wondered what was up exactly this time since Ehlo didn’t really elaborate. Yes, they were prompt for time, so everything was rushed. But what was that about Jacky marrying Jo? This had got to be some joke of the century. But they would soon find out tonight. They silently hoped that Ehlo could dig up some truth in this whole mess. It was not their place to say, but they wanted to at least know the reasons behind the problems.

© Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Re-posted: Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

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