Chapter 34 – Operation Condor

While the rest of them were getting back to their normal work routine, Jacky and Valerie were passing along information for Valerie’s little trap. At the same time, all the other DJs were trying to compete for the spot to host the coming season’s show. Jacky and Valerie had the most votes for a collaboration with Jacky and Angela being second place.

On the other hand, Wallace went back to his usual routine at Orchids Agency. He seemed less interest in his surroundings and focused in his work 100%. However, it was only a front. He looked like he was occupied with work because he was frequently making trips out of the agency to meet clients or taking care of matters for Orchids.

All seemed quiet on different levels since they were just getting on with their work routines and trying to set their lifestyles back into motion like before. After all, they’d already uncovered some things and could finally rest with everyone acting like normal again. Not exactly normal to other people’s definition, but to them.

*****

It was until Wednesday that Valerie finally proceeded with her original plan. She couldn’t find the right time to approach Jo since it conflicted with her own schedule. However, she was glad to have several more days to prepare. She was confidence but not so negligence of her surroundings and the person she had to deal with this time. That girl might be acting out of childish antics, but she knew she still had to be very careful.

That afternoon, she waited for Jo just in front of the gift shop. And for the record, it was actually called Niters. Valerie smiled at the silly name. It might have been better off being ‘Notorious’, she thought.

Taking a quick glance at her watch once more, she braced herself for the moment since it was almost 5. Jacky was actually across the street–in his car, waiting for her. He insisted on coming even though she said she could take care of herself just fine.

Jo was finally off after another five minutes–past her working hours. Valerie straightened up since she had been leaning on the rail a distance not far from the shop. She tossed her hair back behind her shoulders before approaching Jo. Jo didn’t seem to notice her since Jo was looking for something in her purse at that exact moment–possibly her keys.

“Jo Wu?” Valerie asked in a casual tone.

It was then that Jo looked up.

“Yes, you are?” Jo asked back.

“Valerie Tao.”

“Do I know you?”

“You will soon enough. Let’s step away from here and find another place to talk.”

Jo looked hesitant, eyeing Valerie suspicious. However, Valerie still maintained her composure.

“Scared?” Valerie asked.

Jo could sense the challenging tone in Valerie’s voice. Her anger suddenly rising since she couldn’t believe that this stranger should try to mock her.

“Sure,” Jo said in an equally challenging tone. “Why not? Let’s see who will be scared then.”

Valerie must admit Jo had some gut. The others must have been lenient when describing Jo to her since Jo just met her but seemed to display such arrogance. But she knew that she was not any better. She silently reminded herself that she was the one in control so she shouldn’t distract herself with other irrelevant facts.

Valerie smiled. “Let’s go then.” Valerie led Jo toward her car and signaled for Jo to get in. “I’m not going to take you to a secret alley and attack you in case you’re wondering.”

Jo got in without even having second thoughts since she could hear Valerie’s mocking tone again.

Valerie pulled out after Jo got in safely. She checked the rearview mirror real quick to see Jacky following them at a distance. He had taken Wallace’s car so even if Jo spotted the car, she wouldn’t guess it was him.

“Where are we going really?” Jo asked.

“Ever heard of a place called Serpent Cliff?” Valerie asked back.

Jo seemed to be a bit taken aback.

Valerie let out a secretive smile. “Don’t worry. There are no serpents there like legends have it. It’s just a great place for those filmmakers to scare others with those fancy effects after the shoot.”

They arrived at Serpent Cliff around twenty minutes later. Valerie maintained a casual conversation with Jo on the way just to keep her on the edge and set the mood for the upcoming “talk.” Valerie parked at a spot located inside a parking lot for visitors near the edge of the cliff and signaled for Jo to get out. She knew that Jacky was nearby so she directed Jo away from the scene as soon as possible so Jo wouldn’t notice the car if it were to come up.

“Are you going to tell me your purpose or are you going to lead me closer to the cliff and try to…” Jo asked, stopping at mid-sentence.

“I’m not going to resort to that,” Valerie reassured Jo.

They crossed the street toward the other side before stopping at a railing a distance from the cliff.  Valerie holstered leaned her hands on the rail with her back to it–leaving Jo standing a distance from her–before speaking up.

“Okay,” Valerie said, resuming the mysterious tone. “Time for the talk.”

“So, who are you actually and what’s your purpose in scaring me on the way here and…” Jo rattled off.

Valerie smiled. “I heard that you’re getting married to Jacky soon.”

“And that concerns you because?”

Valerie let out a laugh of amusement, not believing that Jo couldn’t guess her purpose at all. “I work at the same radio station as him and the way I see it…”

“Oh! So you’re one of that Sonia’s friends and just want to speak up on her behalf, right? Well, you’re wasting your breath. Because I…”

Valerie let out another laugh, shaking her head at Jo’s incapability to register the information into her head. “Kid, you know nothing about romance at all. And you definitely don’t know anything about Sonia. Would she want someone to speak up on her behalf? Besides, who says that I’m here to speak on her behalf?”

“Then what are you here for? Stop trying to insult me because that won’t work either.”

“This is just going to be too easy. When I heard the rumor that you’ve defeated Sonia and possibly some others and finally winning Jacky’s heart, I thought you’re some extraordinary being. I guess I’m wrong. You’re just a little girl who doesn’t know anything at all.”

“I’m warning you. Are you trying to distract me by taking me here so Sonia can meet with him somewhere and begs him to take her back?”

Valerie shook her head. “If you’re so dumb as to not figure it out yet, I’m here for myself. Yes, that’s right. I said it. I’m declaring war on you. I’m going to take Jacky away from you, just like how you did it with Sonia. But…” She stopped to point a threatening finger at Jo before continuing. “…I won’t use such lowly tricks like using his parents. I will let you see what’s the proper way to win a guy’s heart.”

Jo’s face color had changed a few shades by this time–which wasn’t lost on Valerie at all. She knew that everything was going as she planned. Under one more minute, Jo would blurt the information she needed for this mission.

“You think you can do just that, right? It’s too late. The Chus already announced the wedding. They can’t back down. Besides, what makes you think you can win his heart?”

“I work with him. I have the right advantages. Besides, I won’t violate the rules if I quit my job for him.”

Jo smirked. “You say that I’m dumb but you’re even more naïve for thinking that. You know the reason why his parents agreed on our marriage?”

Valerie turned on her challenging look again. “What? Don’t tell me because of your childishness.”

Jo still had on that arrogant smirk of hers. “Superstition.”

Valerie tucked her hair behind her ear again. “Kid, you don’t make sense at all.”

“Our birthdates are a perfect match and I will bring him a future of luck. You can’t beat that.”

Valerie laughed out in disbelief that it was such a simple answer, displaying her usual amused look when she regained herself again. “You know what? I can arrange otherwise.”

“You’re just all talks and threats. What can you do? Are you going to swap my birthdate and yours just like how I did it to Sonia? No way are the Chus going to believe you since I have solid connection.”

“Thank you for telling me the tip. But like you could have the brain cells to do that.”

Valerie removed her hands from the rail she had been leaning on and began to walk away from Jo with her usual challenging smile.

“I said it and I’ll say it again!” Jo yelled after Valerie. “I did it, okay?! You’ll never top me in anything like that! Why should I care if you don’t believe me or not?! You’re just a jealous old hag!”

Valerie turned around to face Jo again, but this time with a passive expression. “Oh really? How old are you again, kid? 30? You don’t fool me with that look. Must have been a lot of plastic surgery, right?”

Jo’s face was burning red from anger by now. “Shut up! I’m only 24.”

“As if I believe you.”

After that, Valerie turned around and walked to her car, leaving Jo standing there alone. She knew that Jacky would call a Taxi to come this way casually so Jo could have some sort of transportation to escape from this place. He would know Valerie was done when she drove away. That was their planned signal. No matter what Jo’d done, they agreed beforehand not to leave Jo there alone at such a deserted place. However, Valerie felt that this had been so easy. Why did the others fret so much?

*****

Ehlo whistled and tapped on the edge of his car as he was waiting for Jacky to lure Mrs. Chu and Jo outside.

“Would you stop it?” Angela asked from the other side.

Ehlo smiled and looked over at her. “I’m just bored, okay? Can’t I tap on my car?”

“You’re distracting us. And it’s not your car.”

Ehlo turned his attention back on the mansion. “From? And we all know why it’s not my car.”

“You’re just distracting us, okay?”

Ehlo nodded. “Okay.”

“Guys,” Wallace interfered from behind Ehlo.

“Here they come now.”

“Finally,” Angela muttered.

“Someone’s impatient. Jo may be dumb but she will be suspicious if Jacky’s not careful.”

As Ehlo was saying that, he rolled up his window so the others couldn’t see them in the car. Angela did the same to her side although it wasn’t necessary. They waited for Jacky’s car to pull out first before following at a safe distance. This time, they had to use Bianca’s car since Mrs. Chu was very familiar with Ehlo and Wallace’s cars by now to be mistaken. They had to take all precautions. Bianca was actually driving Ehlo’s car and was already at the temple with Sonia and Valerie, waiting for their arrival. Chen Yi, Achel, Ming Dao, and Qiao Qiao were actually behind them right now since they wanted to watch every single detail of the operation. What about Johnny? Johnny had a photo shoot this morning and won’t make it to see the plot unfold. But they promised to tell him later when he was back.

As they stopped at a red light, Sam–who was sitting behind Angela, spoke up.

“Do you think it’s going to work?”

“It has to or all efforts will go to waste,” Angela said.

“Auntie got out of the house, right?” Wallace pointed out. “She must believe that Jacky’s just taking her to the temple to pray. She would be more than happy to see that Jacky’s getting along with Jo as well.”

“No wonder people often say that you shouldn’t be happy when someone’s so nice to you.”

“What do you mean?” Sam asked, confused.

“See how sweet Jacky’s acting toward Jo now? It’s the hidden poison. Sudden change in attitude is scary.”

“It would creep you out if Ehlo acts nice toward you then?” Wallace asked.

“If you guys want to argue, don’t bring me into it,” Ehlo said.

They continued the conversation in that manner until they reached the temple.

*****

Ehlo made sure to park a safe distance from Jacky’s car before getting out of the car.

“Show time,” He muttered dramatically.

“I could almost imagine you putting on a pair of sunglasses while you said that,” Angela joked.

Ehlo looked over at Angela to see a teasing expression on her face. “Very funny.”

Wallace and Sam were out of the car by now as well.

“So…how should we proceed?” Sam asked.

“Let’s go find the others,” Ehlo replied.

Sam nodded.

“Bianca should see them coming since she’s parked on the other side,” Wallace said.

“You know what?” Ehlo asked them. “I’m starting to really like that Valerie girl. She has style.”

“You can start a fan club for her after this if you want,” Wallace snapped.

Angela laughed at Wallace’s joke as Ehlo gave Wallace a dagger look as Wallace passed by him.

Sam could see the tension. “Come on, guys.” He put a hand on Ehlo’s shoulder. “Let’s take care of this before we do anything else.”

Ehlo shrugged his shoulders. “Whatever. Let’s go then.”

They joined Bianca and Sonia at the tree near the fortune-telling stand, knowing that Valerie already entered the main hall of the temple. She would probably take them here after pretending to bump into Jacky and Mrs. Chu.

*****

Valerie spotted Jacky, Mrs. Chu, and Jo right away as soon as they entered the main hall. She was actually standing next to one of the big poles waiting for their arrival. She waited until all three were done offering the incense and were about to step out before stepping forward.

“Jacky!” She called out in a cheerful tone.

Jacky turned around in every direction, trying to find the source of the voice. Valerie increased her pace and tapped on his shoulder seconds later. He turned around to see her smiling at him.

“Oh, hi Val,” Jacky greeted her in an as happy tone. “What are you doing here?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” While she was saying that, she gestured her right hand for emphasis. Jacky smiled back at her. She then turned to Mrs. Chu and Jo, extending her hand. “Hi, I’m Valerie Tao, Jacky’s colleague. You must be Mrs. Chu, Jacky’s mother. And nice to meet you again, Jo.”

Jacky silently praised Valerie for her natural acting skills. He could see the annoyed look on Jo’s face. It almost cost him a smile–which might expose their intention. He tried to suppress his laughter and focused on Valerie’s words again.

“Nice to meet you too, Valerie,” Mrs. Chu said with a friendly smile. “You can just call me Auntie.”

“That’s even better, Auntie.” She looked around cautiously. “Are you three busy? I wouldn’t want to keep you with my random talks. I just wanted to come over and say hi since I spotted Jacky here.”

“No. We’re actually heading toward the fortune-teller’s stand to thank him.”

“Oh? You mean the one by the big tree in front? I was heading there too. Would you mind if I join you, Auntie?”

Mrs. Chu shook her head.

Somehow, Valerie was guiding Mrs. Chu out of the front hall with her hands hooked through Mrs. Chu’s right hand while Jacky was holding onto her left. If others were to notice, they would’ve thought that Jacky and Valerie were a couple guiding the mother out like a happy family. Jacky could almost blow it again as he saw Jo’s expression at that moment. However, he repressed the urge to laugh again. Just a little more, he thought. He needed to be patient.

“Coming, Jo?” Jacky delivered the last blow to rattle Jo since he couldn’t resist it.

Jacky could hear her footsteps following them as they passed through the double doors. He exchanged a smile with Valerie as they turned right and walked down the right path that led back toward the fortune-teller’s stand.

When they reached the stand, they could see that there was a sign in front of his stand saying he was closed for lunch. However, he was still sitting there. They could also see three girls sitting down in front of the stand also. Upon their presence, the girls turned around. Jacky sent Sonia a smile out of habit before he could stop himself. The girls had already gotten up from their seats when they saw Mrs. Chu. Bianca approached them first while Angela and Sonia stayed a safe distance away.

Bianca smiled. “Jacky. What are you doing here?”

“Just spending some time with my mom,” Jacky replied casually. Then he flashed on his teasing smile. “What are you doing here? Don’t tell me you’re here asking about your future.”

“No. Not at all. It’s about something else.”

“What’s the big secret anyway?”

“I’m not telling you,” She said before turning to Mrs. Chu. “I’m sorry, Auntie. I’m Bianca Bai, Jacky’s friend.”

Mrs. Chu smiled slightly at Bianca before looking toward the stand. She could see that Angela and Sonia had already moved away from the stand to make way for her.

“If you young ones want to talk among yourselves, you can go ahead,” Mrs. Chu said, turning to Jacky. “I’ll just step over there for a bit.”

“Sure, Mom,” Jacky said causally.

Valerie took the opportunity to guide Mrs. Chu over to the stand. Jo also had the opportunity to guide her since Jacky had let go of his mother’s left hand to talk to Bianca.

Upon seeing Mrs. Chu, the fortune-teller got up to greet her. He gestured for her to sit down before he did so himself. Valerie and Jo sat down as well, sending each other dagger looks behind Mrs. Chu’s back.

Mrs. Chu smiled at the fortune-teller. “I want to come here to thank you for your advice last time. I also want to ask you for a good day to arrange their marriage.”

Mrs. Chu took the hint to write down Jacky and Jo’s supposed birthdates and handed it to the fortune-teller. She then reached out a hand and put it onto Jo’s hand for reassurance. Jo smiled a victory smile and stared ahead at the fortune-teller also, waiting for his delivery of good news. The fortune-teller took a quick glimpse at Angela, Jacky, Sonia, and Bianca before turning back to Mrs. Chu and Jo. (Angela and Sonia had managed to join the other two since after Mrs. Chu sat down and were engaged in a casual conversation.)

The fortune-teller pointed at Jo. “Are you asking for this young lady here, Mrs. Chu?”

Mrs. Chu nodded, still maintaining her smile.

The fortune-teller wrinkled his face. “It can’t be right.” He looked over to Jacky and the girls. “Miss Bai!”

All three–Angela, Bianca, and Jacky–walked over to the booth at that time. Sonia was tagging behind them at a safe distance.

“What’s wrong, sir?” Jacky asked on their behalf.

“Wrong birthdate,” The fortune-teller informed them. “She can’t be this person here.” He pointed at the paper in his hand. “But your birthdate…” He pointed at Jacky. “…is correct.”

“What are you saying?” Mrs. Chu asked. “You took a look at it last time.”

“I did, ma’am,” The fortune-teller said. “But she wasn’t around so I was just saying it based on the birthdates and not the face. By looking at her, I know she’s not this person.” He pointed at the paper again.

Mrs. Chu turned to Jo. “Jo, did you…”

Jo turned to the fortune-teller. “What are you saying? It is my birthdate.”

Jacky stepped closer to the table. “Let me see it. I should know.”

Jo’s face turned a bit pale but she tried to maintain her composure in front of Mrs. Chu. Jacky took the paper from the fortune-teller and studied it. The others could see his wrinkled up face–not out of confusion or anger but recognition.

“What’s wrong?” Mrs. Chu asked her son.

Jacky turned to look at his mother finally. “This is Sonia’s birthdate. How did you get it?”

“Well, I thought that I bring both birthdates in for him to see since I heard about how well you and Sonia were getting along but unfortunately, she didn’t make it. But…”

Then Mrs. Chu realized it. She turned to Jo. Jo jumped up from her seat before Mrs. Chu could ask her.

“They’re all lying, Auntie,” Jo blurted out. “He’s just trying to get back at me just because you don’t agree to their marriage and their bad fortune if they’re together. They probably paid him…” She pointed at the fortune-teller. “…to set this up.”

“I’m sorry, Miss,” The fortune-teller said, somewhat offended. “But I wouldn’t do such a thing.” Then he observed Jo more carefully.

“What’s wrong, sir?” Jacky asked.

“Wait a minute.” He got up upon realizing it. “I recognize you. You’re that girl who was here that one time when I was in a hurry to pick up my kid. You were wearing sunglasses and dark clothes that day but I recognize you, especially that voice. “

Mrs. Chu turned back to him. “What are you talking about?” She looked around at the others. “Would someone please explain this to me?”

The fortune-teller told Mrs. Chu what happened several days before the day Mrs. Chu came to him with the birthdates.

“This is outrageous!” Jo exclaimed. “You’re lying!”

Jo was now actually standing a safe distance from them all, trying to protect herself from the so-called “accusation.” Valerie took this time to step forward to face Jo.

Valerie smiled. “Are they lying or are you?”

“Shut up!” Jo bellowed, pointing at Valerie. “You’re just using this opportunity to your advantage! You’re probably in this with them too. You’re just pretending to help him and that Sonia because you want to gain their trust so you can get to Jacky. Don’t you dare sacrifice me for your schemes.”

Valerie still smiled. “Kid, you’ve got a lot to learn.”

Mrs. Chu was a bit surprised at Valerie’s sudden change of tone–opposing to her sweet voice from before. The others were actually used to Valerie’s tactic by now so they were just observing the scene unfold.

“You know why I’m so confident?” Valerie asked. “Because I…” She stopped to point at herself. “… have proof.”

“You’re just making it up to frame me.”

“Is this some sort of misunderstanding?” Mrs. Chu asked.

Jacky put a hand on Mrs. Chu’s shoulder. “Mom, let Valerie continue.”

Jo turned to Mrs. Chu. “See, Auntie? I told you he’s in on it.” She turned her attention to Jacky. “She’s just trying to win your heart by helping you in this. She told me the other day.”

Valerie shook her head. “Kid, you’re wasting time. It’s no use.”

Valerie finally relieved everyone from the wait. She reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a compact-sized recorder. She pressed “Play” and turned the volume up so the others could hear it as well. There were some background noises before they heard any talking. When it came on, they heard the conversation being exchanged between Valerie and Jo, starting with Valerie saying, “I heard that you’re getting married to Jacky soon.” At first, Mrs. Chu couldn’t stop staring at Valerie, trying to figure her out. However, when it got near the end, she directed her attention toward Jo. Jo knew that she was in for good since she’d never guessed that Valerie had set up a trap for her. Mrs. Chu’s face had changed a few shades since she heard the first of Jo’s confession from the recorded message–from both anger and disappointment. However, Valerie was the first one to speak up after the message was done playing.

“Kid, you’re so careless. I wonder how you’ve thought of that little scheme in the first place. And let me clarify it for you. The only truth in this whole thing is that I like Jacky. But I won’t use such despicable methods to take him away from others.”

Jo knew that she couldn’t defend herself anymore since she was already exposed. Mrs. Chu’s sharp looks were already tearing her apart, making her unable to shoot anymore attacks back at Valerie.

“How could you play on my trust like that?” Mrs. Chu asked.

“Auntie, I…I…” Jo stuttered.

Jo didn’t know what to say at that moment. She suddenly burst into tears, causing everyone around to be surprised since she had been so firm on her words toward Valerie before. Was this the result of the pressure of having everyone staring at her at that very moment?

“Jo, no matter how hard you cry, you can’t convince me otherwise,” Mrs. Chu said.

Just when the others were exchanging looks all around, not knowing what to say, they saw Angela stepping forward.

“Auntie, she didn’t mean to deceive you in such ways,” Angela said. “I think she did it because of her love for Jacky. Even if she knows it’s not the best way to approach the situation.”

The others were more than taken aback by Angela’s reaction than Jo’s sudden crying episodes. They couldn’t believe that Angela should step up to defend a girl whom they had been trying to expose since last Sunday. Moreover, it was she who had been so anxious to help Sonia the whole time while they were planning their trap. How could she defend the enemy just when things were finally brought to light?

Mrs. Chu–not knowing Angela very well–gave Angela a warm smile. She then turned to Jacky. “It looks like you have a good group of friends.” Then she turned back to Angela. “You are wise for your age, young one.”

“Each of us has our priorities in life already set in mind,” Angela continued. “But not all of us know how to take the right approach to achieve our goals. That’s why I think it’s better to forgive than to set shame upon that person’s mistake.”

Mrs. Chu smiled again. “Don’t worry.” She patted Angela’s hand to reassure her. “I won’t take it out on her or anyone. “

“Mom, I hope you’re not proceeding with the wedding,” Jacky said, feeling their chance slipping by. He gave Angela a dagger look behind Mrs. Chu’s back as he said that since she seemed to have undone their efforts and softened his mother’s heart. She shot a look back at him when Mrs. Chu turned toward him. “She might have done it out of love, but I’m not marrying someone who pulled such a trick on our family.”

“Just because I want to listen to your friend and forgive her doesn’t mean she still gets special treatment,” Mrs. Chu said. “Even if I finally realize how much damage my overly concern with birthdates and fortunes had caused, I won’t let someone get away with playing on my trust.”

Jacky smiled back at his mother before stepping over to where Sonia was standing. He tugged on her left arm and led her over to Mrs. Chu. Sonia smiled and gave Mrs. Chu a polite nod full of respect.

“Mom, this is your future daughter-in-law,” Jacky said.

He could see Sonia blushing. Even if she seemed to be the strong and aggressive type at work, but she couldn’t help but feeling a bit strange upon hearing him say that, especially in front of his own mother.

Mrs. Chu smiled. “Nice to finally meet you, Sonia.”

Just then, they heard Ehlo’s voice from behind them. They turned around to see him, Wallace, and Sam walking out from behind the big tree with a camcorder in his hand.

“And this is a wrap, everyone,” Ehlo said, continuing his speech from before. “Nice job. You’ve been witnessing a production from Huang and Huo. Thanks for everyone’s cooperation and support.”

Angela stepped away from her spot near Mrs. Chu and walked toward Ehlo. “Huang…Yu…Rong…”

Ehlo smiled innocently at her. “What? I can’t capture a historical moment? Not to mention such a touching one too. You’re the best by the way with your lines. I would’ve never thought you’ll be so forgiving.”

Mrs. Chu had on a confused expression. “Ehlo? Wallace? What are you doing here?” She then turned to the others. “Are you guys up to something again?”

“Don’t worry, Auntie,” Wallace reassured her. “We’ll explain it from the top.”

For the next ten minutes, Ehlo and Wallace took turns to fill Mrs. Chu in on their discoveries since this past weekend up until their plans. Somehow along the way, Jo had stopped crying and was listening in as well but at a corner a distance away from them all. The fortune-teller ended up not taking his lunch break like he planned after helping them as a witness. He listened intently with interest also.

When they were done, Mrs. Chu spoke up again.

“You kids could’ve told me instead of going through so much.”

“Mom, would you have believed us?” Jacky asked.

Mrs. Chu hesitated for a bit then nodded in agreement to Jacky’s words. “All right. Should we all go back and tell your father the news?”

Ehlo brightened up. “Good idea, Auntie. I’ll come and visit as well.”

Angela gave him a look. “You just want to finish the last part of the Huang and Huo production.”

Ehlo leaned in and whispered to her, “And the food too.”

Angela shoved him aside and began to walk back out to the direction where they parked earlier.

Mrs. Chu turned to the fortune-teller and thanked him once again before walking with them down the path that led back toward front.

“Miss. Chang, remember what I told you earlier,” The fortune-teller yelled after them. “That person is present right now.”

Ehlo turned to Angela. “What’s he talking about?”

Wallace–who was walking on Angela’s right side–turned to her as well.

“What?!” Angela exclaimed. “Is this a staring contest?”

Bianca smiled. “You won’t believe what he told Angela the other day!”

“Bai Xin Hui!”

“This must be good,” Ehlo said with a sly smile. “What did the fortune-teller tell her?”

“He said that someone’s going to confess to her in the upcoming month!” Bianca exclaimed, ignoring Angela’s glare.

Angela’s face was burning red by now. Whether it was from anger or embarrassment, they were not sure themselves. She had already increased her pace after receiving some more stares from the others so they had no other chance to observe any further.

“It’s definitely not Jacky if we’re going by what he just said now,” Ehlo teased. “You know, with him being present right now.” He turned to Wallace. “Don’t tell me you’re planning to get back together.”

“You just have too much time on your hands,” Wallace said.

After that, Wallace increased his pace also.

Ehlo turned to Bianca. “What did I say?”

“You’re beyond help,” Bianca muttered. She took this opportunity to double back to the side parking lot to retrieve Ehlo’s car.

Ehlo suddenly realized that Jo was lagging behind them. “Hurry up, Jo! You’re the main star of the next scene here, wouldn’t want to delay the production, would you?”

“Huang Yu Rong!” Angela shouted from the front.

Ehlo quickly caught up to her and walked side-by-side with her again. He flashed on his innocent smile. “What?”

“Stop rubbing salt onto someone’s injury!”

Ehlo got into the saluting mode. “Yes, ma’am!”

“Remember what I told you the other day, Huang Yu Rong,” Valerie said, walking on Angela’s left.

Angela turned to Valerie. “What are you talking about?”

Ehlo still had on his teasing smile. “She wants to get together with me behind your back.”

Angela hit him on the shoulder before turning to Valerie for the “accurate” explanation.

“Nothing,” Valerie said. “It was some unfinished business between us. Anyway, I’m going to leave, okay? Since I’m done for the day already.”

Jacky heard their conversation although he and Sonia were guiding Mrs. Chu down the path in front of the chattering group. He turned around and gave Valerie a gratitude smile once again as she approached him.

Valerie smiled back. “Don’t mention it, Zhu Fan Gang. Remember to take good care of Sonia or else.”

Jacky smiled again. “Yes, Miss Tao.”

Valerie turned to Mrs. Chu. “I’ll be going now, Auntie. Sorry for my rude behaviors earlier. I’ll come by to visit sometimes.”

“I should thank you for helping our Jacky,” Mrs. Chu said.

“It’s my pleasure.”

After that, she left them.

“She’s just amazing, man,” Ehlo complimented. “She’s actually the most incredible out of all you girls here. Well, except for Angela’s aggressiveness of course. No one could win a fight with her.”

Angela turned to give him a look for starting with her–yet again.

“Come on now. You must admit that although all of you pretend to be strong on the outside, but you’re vulnerable on the inside. Only Valerie could carry on with such confidence and poise.”

“You’re into creative writing now?” Wallace asked in a mocking tone.

“Shut up! You’re ruining my mood!”

They’d reached the front entrance at that time. They could see Bianca driving Ehlo’s car up toward them also, parking into a spot nearby. Ehlo stepped forward to give Bianca her key back as she stepped out of the car to do the same with his. While they were doing that, Jacky and Sonia were leading Mrs. Chu across the street to Jacky’s car–with Jo still lagging behind.

Bianca looked at Angela. “Coming with me?”

“Of course,” Angela confirmed. “If I stay with ‘Huang and Huo’ any longer, I might blow up.”

Ehlo turned to Wallace. “Sorry, Huo, you’re out.” He turned back to Angela with a smile. “Now you only have to deal with me.”

“Whatever.”

She followed Bianca after that without another word. Ehlo took a quick scan of the street for cars before proceeding with Wallace and Sam on either of his sides. When they’d safely crossed, Chen Yi turned around from his car–since he had been facing in the other direction to talk to Ming Dao and the girls.

“How did it go?” Chen Yi asked.

“Awesome!” Ehlo said. “You should’ve been there. But it’s no problem. I got it all captured.” He tapped on his camcorder for emphasis.

Although Chen Yi and the others claimed that they wanted to watch the show and wouldn’t want to miss any part of it, but they did not want to sabotage the group’s plan either. Too many tagging along might attract unwanted attention, causing Jo to react if she should recognize them–especially Chen Yi and Qiao Qiao, so they’d been waiting by their car for further news.

“Great that you did, Huang,” Wallace interrupted Ehlo’s story-telling. “Can we get going now? Jacky already left. We might miss the next shooting if we don’t hurry. Even Angela and Bianca are gone.”

Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face. “What are you guys talking about?”

“I’ll tell you later when we get there,” Ehlo said.

Without further ado, they–Ehlo, Wallace, and Sam–crossed the street again to Ehlo’s car and pulled out at last. It actually implied it literally also since Chen Yi had pulled out while they were getting in the car.

*****

The next day, they met again in front of the Chu mansion to talk. This time, Johnny was around also. Jacky had stayed with his parents since yesterday afternoon so they were just meeting him there to check up on further news.

“So…how do you feel now, man?” Ehlo asked.

“Relief actually,” Jacky admitted.

“I feel you. You’ve finally got rid of Jo, right? Why didn’t we socialize with Valerie earlier? This conflict would’ve been solved much earlier too.”

“You’ve been praising her non-stop,” Wallace said. “Is she really your new target? Or is it still Xiao Ru?”

“Huo, you want to disperse? Stop exposing my motives!”

“Guys!” Bianca interfered.

Ehlo and Wallace turned to her at the same time. “What?!”

“We’re here to ask Jacky about his family’s well-being, not argue.”

Ehlo and Wallace turned their aggressive look off since they knew Bianca’s right. They turned their attention to Jacky–like the others as well, waiting for him to update them.

“After you guys left, Jo’s parents wanted to move out since…” Jacky gestured his hand. “…you know.”

“Embarrassment or shame?” Ehlo asked.

“I think a little of both.”

“I guess their daughter has gone too far,” Wallace pointed out. “After all, it’s one thing with being so thick-skinned as to cling to your family for status and connection, but it’s another with cooking up such a scheme, right? So what happened in the end?”

“Mom agreed because she could see how embarrassed they were. She doesn’t want to force them to try and forget it. Dad said that it would be good to let us all have some time and space for this thing to pass also.”

Ehlo nodded. “So what’s left now?”

“I don’t know.” He turned to the others for suggestions.

“Maybe go somewhere to relax since we all need a break after this whole thing?” Angela suggested.

“How about dropping the good news on Uncle Ben?” Ehlo continued.

“Good idea,” Bianca said. “I mean he has been quite upset about what happened too.”

“Then it’s set?” Angela asked.

“You bet,” Ehlo replied.

Since the others didn’t seem to object, Ehlo turned to go to his car. He was not really paying attention while he was walking so he ended up bumping into Angela who was walking a few steps in front of him.

“Watch it!” Angela exclaimed.

“Sorry, dear…” Ehlo started to say.

“Cork it.”

Johnny and Bianca had been walking behind them the whole while since Bianca’s car was parked in front of Ehlo’s. Now that they saw another set of dramas about to unleash, they couldn’t help but brace themselves for it.

“I guess you guys won’t be going in the same car then, considering how you two aren’t getting along at all,” Wallace noted, walking up to them.

Angela turned on Wallace. “Who says so? If I don’t, he’ll think that I’m scared of him.”

“Aggressive, aren’t we?” Ehlo commented.

“Move it already. We’re wasting time.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The others continued walking again since the drama seemed to cease for the time being.

When they actually arrived at their designated area, the others watched closely to see if Angela would follow through with her words–aka going with Ehlo. Only Jacky and Sonia weren’t with them since Jacky’s car was park right in front of his mansion–instead of out on the street like theirs.

“Are you backing out?” Ehlo asked in a challenging tone.

“You wish!” Angela shot back.

“This will get so interesting,” Chen Yi said before turning to Wallace. “You’re better off with me and Xiao Yu.”

“I guess I have no choice,” Wallace said.

“Or you can go with Jacky,” Qiao Qiao pointed out.

“Major suicidal.”

“Are you implying that my driving is dangerous?” Jacky hollered over to them.

Even though he was not with them, but he could still hear them considering how quiet this neighborhood was.

“No!” Wallace hollered back. “More like I need motion sickness meds!”

“Suit yourself,” Jacky muttered, turning back to Sonia and signaling for her to get in the car as he did the same.

Qiao Qiao turned to Ming Dao. “Come on. We have to make sacrifices for the others.”

“What?” Ming Dao asked, confused.

“If Wallace doesn’t want to go with Jacky, we have to since we came with Chen Yi earlier, remember? We can’t all squeeze into his race car.”

“Oh.”

“Or you can go with Bianca.”

“It’s okay.”

“Good luck, man,” Chen Yi said to Ming Dao. “I hope you survive.” Then he turned to the others again. “How about we see who gets there first?”

Before he finished, he was already tugging on Achel’s hand and increasing his speed to his car.

The rest didn’t want to waste anymore time either. Sam ended up going with Johnny and Bianca in Bianca’s car since the others were already switching around. Moreover, no one would dare to enter the same car with Ehlo and Angela. Yesterday was an exception because they were still trying to achieve their mission and wouldn’t do anything rash to sabotage their own team’s moves.

© Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Posted: Thursday, February 10th, 2011

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