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Happy Diwali! +++ The Butterfly Dragon III: The Two Dragons Act III +++ [Updated 30/9/2022: 6:00 PM EST]

Introduction This story which is the third book (or Act as I'm calling it) is the conclusion of the Butterfly Dragon trilogy. This book will wrap up all the loose ends created during the course of the adventures of Heylyn, Alicia, Monique and Valerie over the three books and several short stories involving the characters. It will also bring back a number of characters from the previous two books to assist in overcoming the forces with which they're about to clash. Hidden forces whose presence I've been building up over the course of the first two Acts of the Dragon Butterfly story. As is the case with my previous Butterfly Dragon books, science will play a big part, especially in this book with the return of some of fan favourite characters, though the challenges they're about to face might be too much even for the legendary Butterfly Dragon herself. I hope that you enjoy what's in store. Bare with me as this story is written (mostly) live, with edits coming after I

The Butterfly Dragon: Mr Wrong Or Right? (First Draft And Updates Finished March 3, 2022)

Thank you to one of our Elected Representatives here in my community for sharing this link to the organization Sun Flower Of Peace, who are dedicated to helping Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion through a fundraiser or alternately you can directly support the United Nations Refugee Agency by donating through their web page.


Please if you can, show your support to causes like those promoted by Elspeth Heyworth, who spent a great deal of her life and effort helping women.


Important Note


This story focuses solely on issues of the transformation of business to address the growing demands required by both business and industry to overcome our growing impact upon the environment. Ultimately this is a story about people, who've decided to take action and implement these changes in the midst of their own individual life stories. 


Let's face it, no matter the challenges in life regardless of their scope and scale, our individual lives go on. We get up in the morning (or in the case of a certain writer I know, sometime before noon). We conduct our day, most of us dealing with our responsibilities, our needs and requirements and then our wants in life, all while addressing and often compromising the same of others. That's where the stories of our lives happen no matter how big the issue or challenge is. Without that, we have no empathy, let alone context through which to relate with each other or the world around us. No matter how different we are, we all have that in common.


The changes we need to make in order to deal with the challenges to preserve and nurture the environment are part of what we do individually as people in our everyday lives, and as part of the apparatus of society, through the business, industry and markets that drive our domestic and global economy. 


Most of these changes are things that we do on a personal level in order to assure ourselves we've done our part. To avert that nagging feeling by the end of the day that we've missed something we needed to do in order to do our part. Like throw a plastic container in the correct recycling bin rather than the refuse container. Trying not to use so much hot water. Reducing our carbon footprint by reducing the use of our power hungry devices, and in the case of those who have the finances to enjoy a luxury of such things, to use those finances and technology to optimize their on/off time. In doing any of those things, you're driving a business that deals directly with sustainability.


Socially in our cliques, such as those of our immediate surroundings (our neighbourhood or community) and our work places and businesses, there's a social change that needs to happen that involves going beyond the individual. This story really addresses when a company decides to make those kinds of changes, the kinds of stresses and pressures that accompany that decision against the backdrop of life, all while the ongoing plot devices of the Butterfly Dragon are continuing to exert their complex tapestry upon the world of these stories.


In our world, there are ways we can directly impact these kinds of changes, no matter the scale from which we're operating. On that scale, personally I'm very low. My impact as one person is negligible. My consumption is likely considerably less than that of most especially in terms of energy usage and waste byproducts associated with my survival. Many of us are in the same boat, but we can't compare ourselves on the grounds of linear scale. We have to think in terms of attitude across all scales because that's what is going to transform the way we do things enough to achieve the goals that will take us there. The point at which the requirements of our consumption and lifestyle are in harmony with the demands upon the environment, personally, socially, economically and globally.


Just by thinking about these things, you're already on the right track. The next step is to start with small steps and if you miss a day or two, don't beat yourself (or anyone else) up. The important thing is that it becomes a part of the way you live and do all things, and is something you consider with nearly every action. From that point, without being a zealot, it becomes contagious in a good way. Hopefully much more so than the Omicron variant.


I have a number of organizations that I support as best I am capable, as do many of you. They would all likely agree that the most powerful way to affect this sort of transformation is not through zeal, but by the measure of one's own yardstick (or in my country, by the meter). By considering the mission statements and efforts that these organizations make, you can start to acquire your own compass. One that works for you.


Here's a list I compiled for the purposes of providing a resource for everyone, regardless of what part of the world from which you might be arriving at Shhhh! Digital Media. 


There are many forces isolating us in this world, and its true that we do need to have personal boundaries that keep our personal, social and lifestyle habits and choices separate from our regional and global involvement. However, there are many places that we can at least meet in the middle to address and to take action to achieve this harmony with the environment.


Globally, you might consider looking into the efforts of the United Nations Environment Programme

Where I live in Canada, your efforts to learn more might include looking into the efforts of Environment And Climate Change Canada or my neighbours to the south in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency. In the United States you can also find the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.




In Europe there's the European Environmental Agency where you can find resources to learn more about this effort.


In the Middle East, you can look to the resources of Arab.org to find a list of regional environmental organizations taking part in this effort, along with links to many other resources regarding social issues.


In Israel you can find the KKL-JNF: For a Sustainable Future for Israel, which lists regional organizations working to protect the environment through various projects.




In Asia And The Pacific Nations you can look up resources once again on the United Nations Environment Programme (they really are the top resource for global information on the topic) and by this Google Search


In Oceania, you can find many resources at the World Commission On Protected Areas, in turn hosted by another great global resource for the environment:



Locally for myself, the most influential in my life have been the David Suzuki Foundation and the Environmental Registry Of Ontario


So, as you can see, in this effort, you're not alone and all of this has been going on, all over the world, the whole time.

Introduction


This story takes place during the initial events in the first chapters of A Lady's Prerogative III: Singularity and immediately before the events of The Butterfly Dragon III: The Two Dragons which is inherently connected to, but uniquely independent of the events of Singularity.


Yes, this story does deal with the lives of the characters that many of you may already be familiar with from The Butterfly Dragon storyline (starting with BFD I: Heroes Of Our Own). As such, many of the characters and story elements take place from a woman's perspective and despite being a male author, I've gone to great lengths to be as empathic as possible when writing for these characters and sometimes that requires that I step into the headspace of women as much as possible, without losing myself in the process. Many of the character traits that make it into these stories are aspects that I find inspiring in members of the opposite sex, while I strive to see things from their perspective. 


One of my favourite sayings is from Sean Connery. It goes: "Women? I find them fascinating. I really like them, but I don't understand them". What makes writing so much an adventure is the fact that you really do have to strive to get a feel for your characters, especially when it comes to the opposite sex, and to do so without sexualizing or objectifying them as sex objects, while the social pressures that pile up while you're writing the characters are pushing against you. As if there's this hidden force that doesn't want you to explore one of the most fascinating aspects of character writing.


Regardless, I persevere whenever I write these stories and books because its more like the treasure at the end of the rainbow than anything and if I'm fortunate enough to have done it well, I might hit upon an epiphany of understanding between women and men, by sharing in the voices of women. Besides, you learn much about being a man, by considering things from a woman's perspective not to mention, if you're older like me, you gain a perspective of how much society has changed, even in as little time as over the last forty years from when I started to become curious about them.


They will always be an imperative part of my stories and I will always strive to represent them better and more accurately where permitted. The men are in this story as well, and in a way fitting to the plot. Some more comfortable with their own masculinity in the sense that they don't need to be a knuckle dragging meanie to assert their masculine nature. Its possible to be a man without being a complete and utter knuckle dragging moron, as some men seem to think defines masculinity.


For such men, I'll borrow a quote from one of my favourite authors, Douglas Adams:


"...And so the problem remained, and lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake coming down from the trees in the first place, and some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no-one should ever have left the oceans."

Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy


If you define being a man by how mean you can be or that you can conglomerate with others of the same ilk to torment others of a different and more quiet ilk than yourself, or how you can perpetuate anger and hate to others, then I'd say that you should probably give up all on the benefits of society and get back in the trees where you belong

  • For one, it would be much better for the environment and you'd be protected on an endangered species list

  • Secondly, those species already living in the trees could teach you so much about how to live together quietly and somewhat peacefully and if you failed at that, you'd probably become their meal

  • Thirdly, nobody would take it personally when you did get on one of those kicks with a group of your friends where you rant and hollar and attempt to torment others, because they'd all be too busy taking pictures of you for their nature blogs

  • Lastly, whenever you decided that you needed to throw your poo at other people, it would actually be kind of funny because you'd be behind a glass barrier with nothing but amused tourists gawking at you


There's a big difference between "growing a pair", and actually growing a pair in case you want to get all sexist about it. 


If you define being a man that way and want to know true courage, then go through your life with a pair of your sex organs blatantly visible on your chest, where everyone can judge you sexually according to how big or small they are. 


If men's penises were presented overtly in a bra between their legs for everyone to see the same way as women's breasts were, for all to judge, you'd find that the meanie knuckle dragging moron attitude of such men would be nearly non-existent and we'd all likely be that much more closer to world peace.


I love being a man, and am glad that I'm not of the knuckle dragging brute variety, but that doesn't mean that I'm a pushover for those that are. I've just learned to keep that aspect of my being where it needs to be and know how to use it where its most effective and where it will make a difference.


Until then, I enjoy being the kind of guy that can really go the distance to share in the voices of the opposite sex. I like them. I don't understand them. But I'm really trying my best.


So get over it, and really do grow a pair.


Finally, I'm not a member of anything that is particularly blood centric in the sense that it limits whom I can date or with whom I become romantically involved and I certainly never would be. My last girlfriend is South Korean and before her, Mandarin Chinese, (while I'm what you could consider part Welsh, French, Spanish and Cree Native with a smattering of other European). My own love interest is actually Asian and I stand by that regardless of how any local cult ideology opposes that as sure as gravity. The character Heylyn Yates aka Ai Yuanlin Ying aka the Butterfly Dragon is Mandarin Chinese. 


I stand by that and always will. Get the picture?


I vote in every election. I file my taxes and I support the medical industry, including our own Health Care system in Canada.


'Nuff said.


Placeholder art has been replaced with the appropriate final version art for each character rendered in this story. More will be added as I go and artist credits will always be given (though it doesn't always appear when I initially publish). In the case artistic credit is missing, refer to the Shhhh! Digital Media credits page.


Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


The Butterfly Dragon: Mr Wrong Or Right?


Valerie was intensely focused on her work. As much so as Heylyn might have been on any day, for the two women had this in common. An underlying motivation which permeated everything they did.


Even their sense of motivation. Dedication. Perseverance.


Their motivations were part of a common growing realization in society. They didn't work simply to achieve a milestone enforced upon them by society every week, such as forty hours or a required income to survive. Whether or not they had achieved everything from Mazlo's hierarchy of needs, they'd still have pursued their efforts with the same fervor. After all, life wasn't simply about building something and then lazing around in it for the rest of your life. Life was part growth and part maintenance. If you simply did what you had to every day, then you'd certainly only be living half of that for which you yearned.


Had they both been impoverished and struggling, they'd each still be as dedicated to their craft and would have continued regardless of the hurdles. Work to them was merely the steps to achieving a greater overall goal. The path towards a grander vision when compared to their own present. A destination they each knew they'd never reach as they envisioned it in their mind, but a destination to which they might arrive halfway if they strived. Waking up every day to see that their destination had kept ahead of them by the same distance it had the previous day. In all truth, it wasn't a place at all, but a state of mind.


They both tended to see things in terms of their potential for growth, and hence as they progressed towards their goals, they each tended to create an intricate network of connections with their peers. In Heylyn's case, if she had come to the conclusion after careful evaluation that they might further her goals while helping them to achieve theirs, she'd hire them. Ninety nine percent of the time, she'd reach her short term goals as a result, hence achieving the growth necessary to "level up" so to speak and to focus on her long term goals. In her case, this meant she'd grow her company revenue that much more and hence her market reach. When Heylyn knew she had a viable product in the form of one of her various garment lines, this was how she expanded, though rarely without the capital to back it up.


Valerie, tended to take a slightly different approach to Heylyn's means of allegiance. Valerie's prime investment capital reserved to be leveraged for allegiances was her time and attention. Even when she had been with Torman, she'd always taken this direct approach to building strategic alliances between where Torman was and where he wanted to be in the future. The difference was that when Valerie had gotten Torman there, he'd usually restrain her from being actively a part of any business operations on a day to day basis until he once again wanted to venture into new territory. Then he'd approach her and manipulate her into believing that her restraint from participating was a result of her own doing. That he'd dangled opportunity before her many times, and that she'd simply not taken advantage due to laziness or lack of motivation. This of course would infuriate her, leading her to prove otherwise to him, whereupon she'd jump right into the role he'd required of her for their venture pursuit. By the time she realized she'd been played, it usually was too late and she'd simply be psychologically restrained once again by his manipulative nature. 


Like the little girl stuck on the swing, realizing that she couldn't simply jump off. She'd chosen to stay on when it was barely moving, trusting his motivations and intentions. By the time their swing had reached its heights, it was far too dangerous to simply leap from it.


Even years after his demise, she'd struggled with her own momentum, for at the height of her achievements since that time, she'd often find herself incapacitated as a result of her experiences with Torman. She'd slip into a depression which would further be fed by her idle helplessness, as she found herself unable to operate. Her lack of effort arising as the result of mental barriers she'd constructed to protect her often fragile psyche from her experiences with Torman.


She spent a couple of years dealing with a Psychotherapist, who'd guided her back from her experiences with Torman, using a mixture of cognitive therapy and confidence building techniques. By the time Valerie had founded her own company, Corporate Analysis Technology International, she'd rarely found herself stifled by successes. On occasions when she did, she'd simply take a day, sit in bed with her tablet and a hot cup of latte reading the latest novel she'd picked for herself. When she returned to duty for herself the next day, she'd feel energized and refreshed, without being hard on herself at all.


After her experiences with the Western Delegation and their mission to the Asian Alliance, she'd decided that she wanted to try something different other than Corporate Analysis. So she up and sold the company for a sizeable yet modest sum, and diversified her investments between the markets and real estate. This allowed her to live comfortably while still requiring that she put in the effort to maintain her own financial momentum. By that point in time, Alicia had told Heylyn that Valerie was currently between projects, even hinting that if she ever wanted to hire Valerie, that it would be the best time to snatch her up.


Heylyn of course had already been considering the proposition as they neared the end of their time in the Western Delegation, but didn't want to pressure Valerie between her commitments to Corporate Analysis Technology and Heylyn's own West Meet East. Having heard that Valerie had sold her company, Heylyn immediately organized a girl's night out, inviting the usual circle of friends. Alicia, Monique and of course Valerie, along with Kori Jonglyu and Aikari Hori, Hiroyuki's wife. Aikari and Hiroyuki had moved to Canada from Osaka in Japan, when Kawaī kao Cosmetics established a branch and manufactory in the fashion district of Toronto. From that point Aikari had become an honorary member of their friendship circle.


The night out had been a success and a good time was had by all, including Monique who apparently had far too good a time judging by her recollection the following day. More importantly, it allowed Heylyn and Valerie to have a talk where Heylyn introduced the idea of Valerie working for West Meet East International and on her own terms.


Heylyn shared her vision of how she saw Valerie helping facilitate the growth of WME in key areas, all of which were in Valerie's expertise of Market Analysis and Territory Sales. Not only that, but Heylyn was approaching her as a consultant, meaning that Valerie would essentially be her own boss, but report to Heylyn when it came to planning, finances and execution. Valerie would have the free reign of brainstorming, while approaching Heylyn with these ideas for approval, planning and execution.


That night Valerie made up her mind, though she refrained from telling Heylyn until the following week. Valerie was eager to start with the opportunity but she was also experienced enough in life not to let her own anticipation become a stumbling block. She remained casually withdrawn for a week after the ladies night out, and then contacted Heylyn on the ninth day since that time. The following day, Valerie arrived at West Meet East Studio and its respective offices on Queen Street West at eight thirty in the morning for her first day.


Despite the occasion, the sky was overcast and a dark gray cloud hung over the world, for in the week since their night out, the  situation in many places globally had suddenly taken a turn for the grim.


There had been growing seismic activity on the West coast, all the way north from Alaska, down to Victoria in British Columbia, through to Washington, Oregon and finally California. Several large earth quakes had followed on the coast, crippling transportation and all but cutting off essential services throughout the region as the authorities struggled to deal with the growing death toll.


In Florida and New Mexico, a pandemic had sprouted, finding its feet in Everglade National Park, resulting in the quarantining of western Florida and southeastern New Mexico.


A freak storm had wiped a city from the map in Madagascar, leaving only one survivor in the region and nearly four million dead.


Forest fires around the world had reached unprecedented levels and despite a small victory having been claimed in the battle against those in the Amazon rainforest, over thirty other major carbon storing forests throughout the world were now burning due to draught and dry weather.


Evidence was mounting that the world had become ill with excessive resource extraction and the neglect of global biospheres in the previous decades.


It was under the tragic circumstances in this suddenly dismal environment that Valerie had impressed Heylyn the most.


Heylyn had called a meeting with the core staff of WME in order to introduce Valerie and to allow them to become familiar with her role and capacity at the company.


Sharon and Troy, the two inhouse photographers were there, as was Kori Jonglyu the lighting assistant and set decorator. There were Ingrid, Larissa and Ebtissam, the three senior seamstresses. There were Nathan and Corinthia, the carpenters, set builders and maintenance engineers of the building. Lisa, the Comptroller and Network Specialist had arrived with Delaine, Jill and Dylan, who were in order of appearance the Publicity Rep, Video Editor and Digital FX and Post Editor.


Of course there was Monique, who had recently been promoted to Senior Model,  essentially leaving her in charge of all the training and scheduling of staff and on-call models working for WME. There was Thomas, the Wardrobe Manager who'd oversee the storage and cataloguing of all the outfits they'd produced at WME. There were Fay the Makeup and Cosmetics Specialist and Sienna the Senior Hairstylist. Finally there were Jennifer and Helen, the first faces that anyone coming into their offices and studio would see. The pretty faces of West Meet East's receptionists.


Most of the other staff were on-call simply because they were generally needed during shows and on occasion, the publicity and promotional shoots organized by Delaine and Jill.


They were all gathered around the boardroom table, which was actually shaped much like a horse shoe, allowing them to present and discuss their designer outfits or have staff meetings where everyone could face one another with ease.


As usual, they'd all congregated into their own cliques, discussing the latest episode of their favourite streaming series and friendly company gossip over coffee, tea, cappuccino, espresso and most frequently, Chai Latte (as was Heylyn's favourite).


"Morning boss," Monique greeted Heylyn as she arrived.


"Morning Monique. Glad to see everyone made it early today," Heylyn put her portfolio down on the floor beside her chair as she headed over to the cupboards for her favourite cup.


She then transferred her Chai Latte from the paper cup into her mug and made her way back to her seat just as Valerie walked in the room accompanied by Kori and Troy.


"You left some of Valerie for us did you?" Monique asked Kori as they arrived.


"We just finished giving her the full tour," Kori responded.


"Its amazing how deceptively big this place is on the inside," Valerie remarked about her tour of the WME building.


"Wait until you see the basement, where we archive all the designs. Even I get spooked down there on occasion," Thomas jumped in on their conversation.


"We left it for Heylyn to show Valerie her new office. We know she likes to do that part herself," Troy responded with a friendly smile as Heylyn took a sip of her Latte.


"Want to help yourself to a beverage? There's an espresso and cappuccino maker there. It does coffee too in case you're curious. You can get hot water for tea from the water heater and there's droves of specialty teas in the cupboard. Looks like Monique picked up some pastries this morning as well from the local caterer. Help yourself and when you're settled in, we'll get this meeting started," Heylyn stood and showed Valerie her way around the boardroom.


Valerie made herself a mug of Rooibos tea, having lucked upon a box in the cupboard. She then grabbed a bran muffin and made her way to her seat beside Heylyn.


"Ready?" asked Heylyn.


"And then some..." Valerie agreed.


Heylyn took Valerie's cue and stood from her chair.


"Excuse me, could I have your attention, please?" Heylyn began, waiting for their banter to die down before continuing.


"As most of you already know, we've called this meeting to welcome our latest member to the West Meet East team. She's a lady with whom I've personally worked on some very challenging projects in the past, including but not limited to the Western Delegation for Tynan And Associates' mission to meet with the representatives of the Asian Alliance. We successfully negotiated an agreement to support world wide funding of health care costs related to Tynan's medical wonder drug, simply known as SY-349 initially, and for marketing as the Systematic RNA Cure For Cancer And Degenerative Disease. 


Valerie was a crucial member of that team and the successes the delegation collaboratively achieved were all due to Valerie's organizational skills in managing every leg of our journey. I would like to say that for that reason alone, I've brought her on board, but if I did, that wouldn't be true. She's also a trusted friend and business colleague that has demonstrated her immense strength and capacity for business management, territory sales and corporate analysis and long before she sold her own company, a foray into the Big Data aspects of analysis. 


I suspect as I had all along that she would eventually become an integral part of our team, bringing professional business expertise and skills to benefit our mostly misguided artist's coalition here at West Meet East. We've always needed someone to guide us both professionally and practically in the often challenging world of business and not just anyone. Someone who could just as easily deal with a room full of Diva models, artists and other creators and administrators operating this company, myself included, and then a moment later, deal with the business professionals, corporate interests and financiers that are imperative to us procuring deals for outfit and garment producing companies throughout the world. This is the business for which we thrive, and sometimes just barely survive. Valerie is going to help us thrive and survive. Please give your attention to our latest member of the team, Valerie Aspen. Director Of Business Strategies," Heylyn introduced Valerie, who received a warm applause as she stood readying herself to address those seated around the table.


"They're applauding now, but wait until they see me on a day I haven't had my morning tea..." Valerie joked, bringing about laughter from the room.


"After having spent enough time in flight cabins and hotels with you, and then seeing you the next morning, that's why keeping the coffee and tea fully stocked was the first thing on my list..." Heylyn responded, drawing more laughter.


"What's so funny? She's not kidding," Monique remarked with a reserved smirk on her face.


"Thank you for that very warm introduction. Its nice to feel so welcomed onto this team and I am looking forward to what challenges may lay ahead for us. In all irony, the world of business and finance isn't so different from the world of design and artistry as most people would pretend it is. Though more fixated on numbers, projections and finite solutions, the world of business still has its own Divas, as egos run as high in business as they do anywhere else and with many of those involved in business pouring so much of themselves into their pursuit of it, they're bound to be perturbed when they encounter a few bumps here and there. Usually in the form of the bottom line. At the end of the day, they're still driven by their successes. 


One thing I've learned from all people who've been successful in business is that there is no failure. There is only delayed success. What most people mistake for failure is actually the result of tying their sense of gratification with the bottom line. When you're trying to grow a business that is stumbling its way through the world, you can't associate gratification any measure of growth. If you do, you'll be disappointed every day and the days that you don't see the growth you're looking for, will far outnumber the days that you do. So success isn't defined by anything to do with gratification because in business, success is about commitment to a goal, and at that, often a long term one. So what I hope to bring to West Meet East, as much so as the growth of our business into new markets, is this sense of success in such a way that it permeates our team. Remember that we're not aiming for tomorrow. It'll be there without a doubt and on our way to our real goal. We're aiming for the years ahead and our gratification comes from the effort.


While I'm developing that aspect of West Meet East's business, I'll be learning from all of you in ways I can't yet anticipate. In this respect, we will very much embody our company's slogan and byline and one that has kept this company a strong performer in both business and the arts community. We're West Meet East International: we'll meet you in the middle," Valerie smiled on her final words of her unscripted speech for the company.


The employees and Heylyn alike applauded her, and for the first time in her life as a business specialist, she felt like she'd somehow found her way home.


When the applause died down, and it did take some time to do so, she continued.


"There have been events around the world that have cast grim shadows upon our future. Not just the future of this company, but the future of humanity. I am speaking to you now as a business professional more so than an idealist. Lets face it, there's not enough room in this world for two Walton Norlers. He's got the goods on being the world's most innovative business professional and perhaps the most inspired idealist of our time. So I'm going to deal with this situation the world is facing with my propensity as a business woman. I go where my strengths are. Knowing how this global situation is affecting people around the world is one of the most important factors in growing our reach, while serving the global good. If we keep those two concepts in mind, you'll see how we can turn a profit from a win - win situation.


As a business person and not an idealist, I'm focusing on the first because the second will accompany it if we as a company do things right. Most people feel powerless to affect any kind of positive change that might help to heal our environment and most people attempt to find the small ticket items that ease their conscience, rather than support the growth of our progress in that arena. So as a business person, one of my first goals should be to facilitate this by giving our customers the power to affect their world in profound ways. In doing so, it gives our customers a definite direction and an ease to their conscience while gaining from their own trust in a market economy. After all, they'll receive the goods or services we're providing, in addition to the fact that they're supporting a way of doing things that has a profound impact upon the environment and sustainability.


In doing this, it gives us the edge against our competitors and creates a dynamic where those competitors who fail to jump on board with these goals, will no longer exist in just twenty short years from now. We're not in business to put our competitors out of business. We're in business to sell products and or services. We're simply taking the best steps to support the needs of our customers by giving them the power to change the world by what they purchase from us. So our first project here at West Meet East is something Heylyn and I have already discussed at great length last week. 


We're going to transform this company by ensuring that every one of  us, every one of our suppliers, every one of our strategic partners and allies are all on the same page when it comes to issues of the environment and supporting the diverse biospheres throughout the world. Every aspect of how we do business will stick to this model at both the level of the individual, the department and the company. Not to mention, we're going to cover each other in this effort. If one of us slips up and misses the ball, then another one of us will catch it for them and point out to them how they could have caught it without making them feel bad about it. This isn't about who does the most. Its about getting it done. 


Where I come into this is that with the help of Delaine, Jill and Dylan, we're going to prepare marketing videos highlighting this transformation, and they will become a part of our latest marketing campaign. When I'm dealing with corporate sales for garment manufacturers, I'll be enforcing this both upon our suppliers and our potential customers. If we sign a deal with one of the big garment producers, we will ensure that all of these goals supporting the environment are met without compromise. When we are at the top of our business as one of the few design houses that live up to this ideal consistently and permanently, we will become the choice designers when deals are signed on the strength of support for the environment, and when combined with the demand for Heylyn's latest designs, we will ensure an unprecedented growth for the company all the while empowering our customers to truly change the world. Heylyn will explain the rest..." Valerie took her seat as the applause returned and then subsequently died as Heylyn politely waited.


"Valerie's pitch is going to be supported by our marketing materials, especially those provided by Delaine, Jill and Dylan, each of whom will also ensure their department lives up to these new requirements, and we'll be having monthly meetings to follow up with each department to monitor this change. This will continue as long as required. Our slogan and byline is also going to be affected by this change, as it will no longer simply be: we'll meet you in the middle. It will now be West Meet East International: We'll meet in the middle, and together we'll meet the environment all the way," Heylyn announced the change to their slogan and byline, once again drawing an applause from the rest of the team.


"The biggest change, and certainly the biggest one to which I'm looking forward is the addition of a  completely new line, which will in all truth be like adding a fifth season to our four season lineup. This fifth season however will always run concurrently to any other season. It will be our Eco-wear line and will accompany all seasons. A line produced entirely from recycled materials and in terms of design, reflecting this nature in its message and presentation," Heylyn summarized the platform for West Meet East's future.


The addition of this pseudo-season also facilitated an aspect of her own Chinese culture in the form of the Five Elements. The four seasons were each bound to their own respective element: summer was fire, winter was metal, spring was water and autumn was wood. This fifth season that Heylyn was adding would represent the earth element, the center of all other elements. Hence, this addition fit into the overall mystique of West Meet East, which truly integrated the ideas of the Wests and the East  in harmonious balance.


There was a moment of pause as Heylyn looked to each of the faces of her team, seeing a mixture of optimism coupled with slight confusion as was to be expected.


"From the look on some of your faces, you have questions? Lets talk about this," Heylyn sat back down in her chair as Sharon's hand went up.


"When do these changes take effect?" she asked Heylyn as the others looked on.


"Immediately. Today. Right now," Heylyn took a sip of her Chai Latte.


"Does that mean you're going to start bringing your mug with you for your morning Chai Latte in order to avert the paper cup you're throwing away when you pour it into a mug here?" asked Monique, marveling at being the first one to catch Heylyn at her own game.



"You caught me, red handed. You did kind of make me feel a little bit singled out in front of everyone, but I can take it. When you're doing this for each other, don't use it to leverage power over one another. The important thing is that the problem is addressed and solved if possible. These are exactly the kinds of changes we're looking to make, though we're going to be dealing with much bigger ones that will affect our entire process here in every department," Heylyn explained to them taking advantage of the opportunity that Monique had presented.


"How will this affect our departmental budgets?" asked Lisa.


"When it comes to decisions like this whose consequences have implication that directly affect budget, we're going to deal with that in our monthly meetings. This is definitely something that falls into the area of accounting..." Valerie started, then looking over to Heylyn to handle the rest.


"Mike, our accounting rep from the firm handling all of our books and finances will be at these meetings. Since some of the changes we're making will lead to Government tax credits, any changes in budget will be balanced against those credits first, and any outstanding overhead will be discussed at that time. However, if you're worried about budget cuts for each of your departments, don't be. At the very most, those changes will be minor and as I said, we'll deal with them at the meetings on a case by case basis," Heylyn summarized the answer.


"Can we do a department of the month kind of thing? You know, when one of the departments here manages to achieve a lot in terms of transitioning to eco-friendly, we win something?" asked Kori.


"I like that one, but the Modeling Department would take it every month..." Monique got into the conversation competitively.




"Not on a long shot Monique. Without cameras, how is anyone going to see you? You'd be fodder without photography. This one's in the bag for the photog department," Troy jumped in on her game as he gave Sharon a high five, even causing Valerie to giggle.


"Are you two finished? asked Heylyn ever so slightly impatiently.


The laughter ceased, just barely restrained behind smiles.

"That's a good idea Kori, but ultimately we want to focus on the team. All of us here. We'll reward suppliers who meet our standards, and somehow pass that along to our customers to reward them too. I was thinking that we could have a monthly vote where we each choose the West Meet East team member that exemplified these goals. Nobody will pick that person except for all of us, and nobody will be made the lesser for not having achieved it, ever," Heylyn paused for effect.


"...However, that doesn't mean that there aren't benefits to being chosen for that honour. For instance, WME could pay for a date night for the winner each month. Enough for dinner at a nice restaurant and a movie for a couple," Heylyn assured her team.


"Can we vote for you?" asked Dylan.


"Well, you can, but that won't get you a raise..." Heylyn joked prompting a short round of laughter.


"If you do, and I win, I'll take it that you want me to pick the winner. I was thinking we could actually hold our first vote at the end of this meeting. Whoever is selected will be the first ever winner, but they have to be selected based upon their efforts in taking WME forward environmentally. I know that there are a few of you who already embody that as part of your lifestyle, and have been for years. We all know who those people are and we intend to see that they're recognized. After all, we arrived at this decision as a result of people like them. So when you vote, take all of that into consideration, but ultimately, vote for who you want to choose and for your own reasons, focusing on our environmental goals," Heylyn explained how they were changing to take West Meet East forward.


The meeting continued as Heylyn and Valerie fielded questions until there were no more. 


At that point, they held their first vote and picked the winner for that month and the winner was indeed very suprised.


Getting To Know Yew


"So have you decided who you're bringing yet?" asked Lisa, as she sat across the table from Valerie, who finished the last nibbles of her chicken nuggets.


"Leave her alone already! Give her some room to make her own choices... but I think Troy likes you," Monique interjected from the seat beside Lisa.


A song forced it's way through the speakers and into their ears at their favourite lunch break restaurant/cafe.


"Definitely. I get that vibe too," Kori nodded as she took the last sip of her bubble tea.


"Troy and I have known each other for a few years. He was one of the first people I met here when we were putting together the Western Delegation. I haven't dated for a very long time not to mention that everything was going fine with this lunch until you brought up the topic. Lisa's forgivable but you should know better Monique," Valerie smirked first at Lisa and then Monique.


"I think Monique is as concerned as am I that with work and all, you might go the whole month and forget about the paid date night you won. Remember, you have to take advantage it before the end of the month..." Lisa urged Valerie.


"And I know Valerie better than everyone at this table... she doesn't look it, but she's a strong one..." Monique added.


"That's not the point. The point is that it should be up to me to make those things happen... and that doesn't mean that I'm not in the market. It just means that I'm evaluating my options," Valerie responded strategically.


"Troy's pretty shy. I don't think he'd approach Valerie himself. Her personality can be a bit strong as you said Monique... and that's a good thing... but Troy's a little timid at times..." Kori observed of her co-worker.


"...things have changed a lot over the years... especially how we meet people... how we become involved... When I met my first serious boyfriend, things were very different socially," Valerie nervously opted to let down her defenses just a little.


She figured that these were members of her team at WME and that sooner or later, she had to begin to trust others outside of her small circle of Heylyn, Alicia and Monique. She decided to take that chance and for the first time in a long time, she opened up.


"How so? You're not that old... are you?" asked Kori, startled suddenly by the possibility that she might be the youngest of them at the restaurant.


"Old enough to have some experience and a different perspective. I mean when I met my first boyfriend, it was he who approached me. Back then society had a very different dynamic. Most men  felt it was their duty to shoulder everything, and that their women should be quietly supportive of them in this endeavor, answering only with yes dear and no dear. A sort of testosterone run society. It was very different, and most accommodated that way of doing things for quite some time. I grew up in the tail end of that way of life which had been in its death throes since the late nineteen sixties. Being a teen in the nineteen nineties, I grew up in the boundary between generations. Part way in the generation that did things that way, and part way into the one after who walked to a much different and socially liberated beat..." Valerie tried to explain her point of view.


"I get what you're saying. I'm from the Kurt Cobain generation you know? We're kind of the attitude like: here we are now, entertain us! You know, like we were telling the last generation to get on with it!" Kori responded to Valerie's observations, completely relating to what she was saying.


"So what was he like? I find it hard to believe that you'd be the quiet woman supporting your man from the background..." Lisa remarked in disbelief of Valerie's statements.


"She wasn't a push over... believe me..." Monique spoke up in defense of Valerie's dignity.


"I wanted to believe that my boyfriend, who was the man that I thought I was going to marry, had everything under control. That he was handling everything. You know, that womanly act of an imposed surrender. The gesture that many men from that time sought of their women. He even led me down that road, trying to preen me into that kind of woman, very psychologically and I allowed that to happen, thinking that was what I wanted. At the time, it might have been, but he wasn't the one. He turned out to be a monster. It took some time to get over this and get my life back on track and left my head in a difficult spot for a long time," Valerie tried her best to explain what she could, while remaining vague about the details.


"My last boyfriend was too timid, so I can't entirely relate with what you're saying. I mean, a guy should have a bit of a spark to him. Maybe even that mysterious monster within. There's something exciting about the fantasy of playing with danger. Times when he's walking behind you, and you can feel his eyes staring at your behind and your legs as he's staking you in, all the time wondering if he's just going to unleash that monster and ravish you right there..." Lisa fanned her face a bit at the thought.


"We all have those fantasies, I did at one time. But there comes a time when you really get close to someone that the nature of those thoughts changes, and you start thinking about growing old together. About vacations and traveling. Maybe about doing your gardening while he cleans the car in the driveway. About cooking dinner together and cuddling up to a movie afterwards," Valerie tried to describe how relationships transition based upon her experiences, not really realizing that she was simply speaking about another kind of fantasy.


"That's just another variation on the taming the beast life fantasy. Being the one that catches and tames the horse that nobody can ride, and then long after, knowing that you tamed that beast and that it still might be lurking in there ready to ravage you while you sleep..." Lisa defended her viewpoint.


"...What are we doing here? We're trying to fix up Valerie and its so clear that you're the one who needs a boyfriend, Lisa!" Monique responded in defense of her friend.


"So if you like Troy, why don't you just talk to him?" Lisa asked Valerie, purposely ignoring Monique.


"You said it yourself. I have a very strong and forward personality. He's a bit timid, but he's the kind of man I want to know more about. How can I take the aspects of my persona, the ones that give me a forceful personality and put them in the back seat when I want to get close to someone? When my life experiences have made me that way?" asked Valerie.


"By talking with a man who appreciates your forceful personality and your confidence in the first place," Valerie turned to see a man standing beside their table. 


A man that she recognized.


"Jack? Jack Warren?" Valerie said in surprise, a growing smile on her face.


"Valerie Aspen. Yes it has been a while and you're looking good..." he examined her a bit more closely and not so discretely.


"Are you working out or something? You look... great..." he asked her.


"Oh, thank you. That's my diet... A bit of an active lifestyle too. You're looking really good yourself. Like you've gotten a bit of sun..." Valerie responded, blushing slightly.


"I just got back from California a week ago. I was there on some business," he replied.


"Are you still in the same business?" Valerie asked.


"Pretty much. Same business, different capacity. Investment firm. A lot of capital. We're focused on tech. A far cry from our dealings with Torman. We still work closely on occasion with Tynan And Associates. By the way, I'm sorry. I heard about what happened with Torman. That must have been a difficult time for you..." Jack responded, a look of friendly concern on his face.


"I got over it..." Valerie spoke slightly hesitantly.


"She's a survivor! I'm Monique by the way," Monique added, intimately interested in Jack.


"I'm so sorry, Lisa, Monique, Kori, this is Jack Warren. He's an investment broker. Him and I go back a ways," Valerie introduced Jack to her peers.


"Pleased to meet you. You must be the local dream team if you're here with Valerie. Her and I go back. We even introduced Tynan And Associates to the lab that produces the SY-349 more than a decade ago. Back before it was a thing," Jack dropped one of the key items on his personal portfolio.


"What brings you to this neck of the woods?" asked Valerie.


"That's a good question. I'm here following up on an investment opportunity. One related to the fashion industry of all things," Jack explained to Valerie.


"I thought you said you only deal in tech?" asked Lisa.


"We do, but the board asked me to look into a company here on Queen Street. We received a press release two days ago and its really making waves throughout the industry. The kind of thing we see whenever Norler makes an announcement, but this time it wasn't Norler. It was a local fashion designer... Heylyn Yates?" Jack explained.


"Noooo. What a coincidence..." Valerie exclaimed, looking to Monique, Lisa and then Kori.


"How so?" Jack asked, suddenly intensely curious.


"That's where we're from. West Meet East International. We just stepped out for lunch," Valerie told Jack.


"I guess we're leaving together then?" Jack smiled deviously for Valerie.


"I guess so," she smiled somewhat seductively for him as Lisa, Monique and Kori looked on suspiciously.


"I'm driving. I got a rental from the airport. It's a sports car so it can only seat two comfortably. Sorry girls," Jack flashed his keys at them as he led Valerie to the car.


"That's alright. You take the senior lady with you and leave us totally hot babes to walk all the way back on our own..." Kori joked with Valerie and Jack, prompting Monique and Lisa to burst out laughing.



"Gotta show him where to park," Valerie shrugged, a smug smile on her face.


"Sorry ladies," Jack followed suit, shrugging as did Valerie.


"Sure. You two just go and quote park unquote... nudge-nudge wink-wink..." Kori continued her humorous assault on Valerie and Jack rousing another round of laughter from Monique and Lisa.


"Kori, stop making these damned stilts so difficult!" Monique stumbled in her heels as she laughed.


Frustrated, she stopped and removed both her shoes, opting instead to walk back in her bare feet completely unaware of her discrete appeal to onlookers.


"Problem solved," she grabbed up her heels in hand and caught up with Kori and Lisa along the southern sidewalk of Queen Street West under the summer sun.





The Grand Tour


Jack stopped the car a good distance from the dock. He then stepped out of the car, clicking his key chain to unlock Valerie's door.


"Glad you didn't forget about me," Valerie remarked ungraciously.


 Jack missed her cue, instead focused on the curvaceously architected building before him rather than her.


Valerie's mind wandered, finding her thoughts focused on Troy, whom she knew would have found that opportunity by the reflexes of his heart alone. Like she was the only thing on his mind.


"Seeing as you appear to like curves of a different kind, I'm going to give you the grand tour," Valerie grabbed his hand and led him to the receiving door.


"Do all of your clients get this treatment?" Jack asked.


"They all get the tour, but you're getting it from the back door forward," Valerie responded hoping he'd accept her flirtatious challenge.


"That's how they climbed Everest from what I heard," Jack responded.


"No, they did it with Sherpas, whom we will not require for this tour," Valerie responded having read one of the books written in honour of the records of the Sherpas.


"You're still the same Valerie. You never did do business disarmed of your tenacious wit," Jack responded, a smug smile on his face.


"Who says wit is a weapon?" Valerie responded.


"This is quite the scenic parking lot you have here. Compact. Well hidden from Queen Street. Even if you'd given me directions I'd have never found the place with all the one way streets around here," Jack remarked.


"Well we're here, so lets get this under way. We'll start with this door, which would be the shipping and receiving entrance," Valerie started their tour.


"This part of the building looks much older than the rest. At least from the outside anyway," Jack observed as they entered the receiving area.


Jack had worked in commercial real estate for a short time prior to becoming an investment broker.


"You'd be absolutely correct on that note. Heylyn bought this building about a decade ago and word is it has a bit of a history. It predates the first world war and was initially a bottling plant for a soft drink and beverage company. Heylyn had the place gutted, even replacing the aluminum wiring and forty amp service with two separate sixty amp lines. One for the offices, the other for the sewing machines and presentation stage," Valerie described the process Heylyn went through initially when she took over the property.


"So the rest of the building is new?" Jack asked Valerie.


"Yes. From somewhere beyond this door Heylyn had the rest of building rebuilt to her specifications..." Valerie explained.


"Where did she get the initial financing?" asked Jack.


"Her first distribution deal gave her enough liquidity to acquire financing. Her father, who was a prominent architect allowed her to take a second mortgage on their family home, which had grown in value considerably since they'd purchased it thirty years ago after arriving in Canada. Between all three assets, she was able to get a considerable financing deal with flexible payment options, which paid for all of the construction and the equipment to get her business going," Valerie told Jack.


"So she's still carrying that debt load?" asked Jack, as it was his business to know these things in the case of a potential investment.


"No. She paid it off in the first five years. She said it was pretty tight living during that time but it paid off as she saved a small fortune by avoiding decades of interest. After the salaries, supplies, utilities, property and business taxes are paid, everything West Meet East brings in is profit," Valerie underlined Heylyn's efficiency.


"Looks like a pretty tight ship. I'll have to see how it looks in the books if we get that far," Jack looked around the receiving area as they headed for door to the offices.


"There's two docks. One the height of a cube van, the other is standard height for commercial shipping. Most of our supplies come in via a cube van, and around twice quarterly a couple of straight trucks bring in the office supplies and big rolls of fabric. Lisa, our operations manager and IT person doubles as a shipper and receiver as well. She's got a full plate, but she seems to thrive in keeping busy," Valerie further explained their shipping and receiving setup.


"As you'll also see we've arranged for a policy that requires all of our shipments to be packed in biodegradable packing. No polystyrene chips or plastic wrap. As a result of other companies leading the way in this direction, the manufacturers that developed polystyrene and plastic wrap have developed biodegradable versions of those packing materials. Instead of breaking down in five hundred years, they decompose to biologically manageable nutrients for the soil in under twenty years and can last in storage for up to seven years while retaining their prehensile strength," Valerie explained to Jack.


"Are you sure you're the same Valerie? I seem to remember you throwing needless expenses like environmentalism out the window. I think I remember you even saying that it was just a fad?" Jack responded as if surprised.


"People live and learn in life, and if they were paying attention, they might change. I've gone through a lot of that over the years. Especially since Torman. Besides, I like a challenge. When Heylyn and I put this idea forward, I spent a lot of time researching and talking to industry leaders in that area. Best to learn from their experience. That and hanging out with Alicia, a friend of ours with her Doctorate in biology has helped quite a bit," Valerie once again deflected Jack's denial of her person.


Valerie once again found herself reminded of Troy, and how he would have commended her for her efforts rather than finding inconsistencies in her persona. It wasn't like Valerie was confrontational with Jack or doing anything to draw skepticism from him. He just seemed to elicit it towards her naturally.


Even their previous history was rather inviting, for they'd spent some important intimate moments together before Valerie had met Torman. In meeting him nearly a decade and a half later, he seemed to be suspicious of her in some way. Meanwhile Troy, whom she'd only known a few years always seemed to be encouraging of her.


"I bet. This door leads to the offices?" Jack asked looking for where the old building ended and the new one began.


"Sort of. It will take us into the sewing area. Where we keep the two industrial sewing machines. There's also a double door that only gets opened when we're receiving the big fabric rolls or other big shipments," Valerie pointed out as they entered into the sewing area.


"Hi Ebtissam. Have you got a moment?" asked Valerie as they entered the sewing area.


"For you? Certainly," Ebtissam's smile was friendly and as inviting as her words.


"This is Jack Warren. He's from an investment firm. I'm just giving him the tour. Jack, this is Ebtissam,  one of our Senior Seamstresses," Valerie introduced Ebtissam to Jack.


"Nice to meet you, Ebtissam," Jack smiled.


"Yes, good to meet you Mr. Warren," Ebtissam kept it formal.


"I like the sound of that, but Jack is fine," Jack corrected her.


"Ebtissam runs one of the industrial sewing machines and works with Ingrid and Larissa. We're not always running at full capacity and there's generally a quiet time just after the release of a season's fashion line. That's when Heylyn is busy designing the next lineup for the upcoming season. Those times usually coincide after our busiest time, the show for the previous season's line. Just after the show is when we tighten up operations, archive the older fashion lines to make room for the latest and recover from our post fashion show partying," Valerie joked.


"I'll bet," Jack smiled somewhat amused.


"Ebtissam, Ingrid and Larissa oversee the process of taking Heylyn's designs and turning them into the actual clothing. During that process they work very closely with Heylyn. There's a neighbouring office where the smaller machines are setup. When we're running those machines just before a fashion show, we bring in a small army of operators to help us meet the deadline," explained Valerie.


"Nice meeting you Ebtissam," Jack smiled as they approached a door.


Just beside the door was a large commercial shipping elevator.


"That leads to the archive in the basement. Where we store all of the fashion lines from previous years. Its completely climate controlled to prevent the clothing from deteriorating. Each line is stored with a paper copy of the patterns used to make the clothing. All of that is also digitally backed up by a third party data warehouse. We won't be seeing the archive in this tour, but I thought you might like to know about it. All the paper patterns are biodegradable by the way. They're the only things in this entire operation and office that rely on paper. Everything else is digital and accessible through tablets, laptops or workstations," Valerie showed him the elevator and then led him through a double door to the offices.


Valerie approached another door across from the pair they'd just come through and knocked.


"This is the dressing room, where all of the models and any presenters are prepared before a show. If this red light is on just outside of the door, that means that there's people in varying degrees of clothing or nudity. I always like to knock just to be sure," Valerie blushed ever so slightly before opening the door and entering.


"As you can see there's nothing going on in here right now, but Fay and Sienna are constantly working keeping the proper cosmetic supplies in stock, ensuring that the palette in inventory is complementary to the colours of any lines Heylyn is working on. Heylyn usually gives them colour booklets. A booklet with snippets of all of the fabric that is going to be used with each outfit, so Fay and Sienna know to plan their palettes accordingly for any upcoming shows. This is all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes even when there's no show running," Valerie showed Jack the cabinets where all of the cosmetics were stored.


The door to the dressing room opened and Fay walked in.


"Hi. Sorry, I didn't know you were in here Valerie. Am I interrupting?" Fay asked diplomatically.


"No, not at all. I'm glad you're here actually. Fay, this is Jack Warren. He's with an investment firm. Jack, this is Fay, our Senior Cosmetics Specialist and Makeup Artist," Valerie introduced Fay to Jack.


"Pleased to meet you, Jack," Fay smiled and blushed slightly.


"The pleasure's mine," Jack smiled tactfully, throwing in a bit of charm.


"I was explaining to Jack how you do things here and what a tight ship you run with Sienna," Valerie told Fay.


"How do you keep all of this catalogued, let alone find anything?" asked Jack.


"It's all part of the inventory system on the local network, but we have custom client software that interfaces with the inventory system that runs on tablet computers we carry. Heylyn had the software specially designed for us by a company that specializes in cosmetics applications. Everything is catalogued by a ten character code that is also encoded as a bar code. That same code is used to catalogue the fabric and materials, but the code is descriptive enough that I can tell what type of item it is, the type of cosmetic it is and what colour it is without even seeing the inventory item it refers to. I can also use the tablet to take a photo of any colour and use that to search inventory as well with various options for filtering the results. We can even pick items from inventory and using the camera, preview what they look like applied to our face," Fay showed Jack the tablet and opened the West Meet East inventory system client software.


"Same with the hairstyles and hair product inventory..." Sienna arrived having heard Fay's voice through the door.


"Very impressive," Jack remarked checking out the slick interface.


"The whole crew here is very tech savvy," Valerie remarked.


"You included," Fay defended Valerie.


"I'm catching up. When I first started here I had no idea how involved the operations aspect of running this sort of company was. I have a deep founded respect for it, having worked with it for a few weeks now," Valerie spoke modestly of her aptitude.


"I'm Sienna," Sienna introduced herself, a curvaceous smile on her tiny yet plump lips.


"Nice to meet you Sienna, I'm Jack," Jack greeted her, adding a bit of charm for good measure.


"I'm sorry Sienna, I didn't see you come in," Valerie responded honestly.


"That's alright. I was just saying that we use the same software for managing our hair products and previewing colours as well," Sienna showed Jack on her tablet, even giving Jack's bald head a hair style and applying a quick makeup preview from the real-time camera image of his face, prompting him to laugh.


"I think those makeup colours and that hair doesn't quite go with my suit," he joked, drawing a chuckle from Valerie.


"I don't know, I think it looks kind of cute," Valerie remarked sarcastically.


"Its the same for managing the fabric inventory as well, with real-time previews of the fabrics as virtual clothing. Heylyn's been using that feature to show garment manufacturers her outfits in real-time, essentially allowing them to try them on remotely. Thanks to something I proposed, she's going to be selling her outfits online as well, according to the customer's own measurements. The software company is building that application as we speak and it should be running in another month and available from the West Meet East website," Valerie added.


"By the way, Hiroyuki is here with his wife, Aikari. They're just speaking with Heylyn. He came to check up on us. Part of his territory sales gig I imagine?" Fay advised Valerie.


"Oh really? That's convenient. They're with one of our suppliers, Kawaī kao Cosmetics. They recently built a division here in Toronto and since then, we've really gotten close with Hiroyuki, our regional rep with Kawaī kao. We can cut through the event auditorium to get to Heylyn's office. I think its time you met woman behind all of this," Valerie suggested to Jack.


"So I finally get to meet the mysterious Heylyn do I? Sounds good to me. This is your tour," Jack responded, bidding Fay and Sienna farewell.


"This door here leads to the auditorium, where we host our own fashion shows and events. We occasionally host fund raisers for charity as Heylyn is active in that way. An aspect of her life philosophy," Valerie began sharing aspects of Heylyn's bio.


"She sounds like a real saint," Jack responded slightly abrasively.


"Heylyn is very balanced. She's an artist and perfectionist first, and she has many aspects to her life,  including being a master level mixed martial artist and in better shape than most people in their twenties. That doesn't mean that she sits out during the fashion shows and parties though. I've seen her really get into the spirit of celebration with a few cocktails myself if you know what I mean and that really helps us all to bond. She never treats her employees like she's above them because she gets down in the trenches of day to day work with every one of them, and yet she's a good leader too that knows how to have fun without compromising her health, though she sticks to legal fun. The occasional drink," Valerie tried to lighten the mythos of her employer.


"Really? I was beginning to think that she was ordained or something," Jack responded sarcastically.


"She's a great leader and responsibly fun, and we wouldn't have her any other way," Valerie defended Heylyn.


""


"These stairs here lead up and onto the stage and runway. If the show is at night, the skylight has lights in it to make it appear like a starry sky, even when its cloudy. Its those little details that really make West Meet East a unique place," Valerie led Jack to the far end of the auditorium and one of the side doors.


"Its deceivingly big in here. The decor is incredible. She designed all of this?" asked Jack.


"She conceived of it, and she doesn't often speak about it. She did mention that a lot of ideas come to her in her dreams, and that she wants the auditorium to reflect that aspect of her life. She sometimes calls it the field...?" Valerie explained to Jack.


"This is looking very promising. I'd say there's a future here for investment from what I've seen so far," Jack alluded to the possibilities assuming that everything added up.


"That's ultimately in Heylyn's care. Any decisions like that are hers and hers alone," Valerie responded carefully.


"With your advice I'm sure?" asked Jack.


"We're getting there, but this is her baby. She's very careful about any decisions that affect her level of leadership, ownership and the overall direction of the company. I'd never want to overstep my boundaries in that regard. We have a mutual respect and that's where it stands firmly," Valerie stood her ground.


"Fine. We'll see how this goes once we get to the numbers," Jack said turning to face Valerie as they approached the dimmed lighting nearing the auditorium side door.


The door suddenly opened and a shapely silhouette stepped into the opening.


At first glance, Jack thought he saw an aura emanating from the body of the person occupying the doorway. He squinted momentarily to ensure that he was seeing correctly. When the aura disappeared from his view, he became less anxious and more curious than otherwise.


"I'm Heylyn Yates. I heard that I've a guest here? A potential investor?" asked Heylyn, whose ominous visage stood before them as if mystical by some sense.


"Heylyn? This is Jack Warren. He's an old friend from way back..." Valerie smiled upon seeing Heylyn.


"Torman? That far back?" confirmed Heylyn cautiously.


"Yes. Actually before him. Jack and I dated for a short time before I met Torman," Valerie admitted uncomfortably to Heylyn.


"I'm actually not that bad a guy, but I've heard nothing but what a remarkable CEO you are," Jack tried buttering her up in order to break the ice.


"Owner. I own the company. Technically I'm not a CEO because we're not incorporated yet," Heylyn defended her position.


"Well that's what I'm here to talk with you about. You see, we could really take this thing to the stars  and back with the right investment capital..." Jack urged Heylyn.


"...and the right board of directors? And the right Chairperson? Before long, we'd be answering to a group of people whose livelihood and purpose in life has no ties to what we created here. They wouldn't care if we folded in bankruptcy as their investors are insured against such losses. We're already with the stars, but we're doing this by our own direction and our own pace. I have no intention of yielding the reigns to anyone else yet," Heylyn stood her ground staunchly.


"Then I guess you just haven't heard the right offer," Jack pressed onward.


"You're right. The offer where you come back in another ten years. I didn't hire Valerie as a doorway for you to come in and takeover what we started here. This is ours and it will remain ours," Heylyn kept her vigil.


"I think what you mean to say is this is yours. I don't see any indication that you share leadership or the final say with anyone else. I represent the democracy of business and corporate interests. Where investment capital creates opportunities for growth and expansion..." Jack elicited to Heylyn as Valerie kept her emotions in check.


"...at the cost of the entrepreneurial spirit, by taking what someone has laboured their whole life to create. Their dreams. Their future. Putting it into the hands of people who've never had a dream of their own except to buy other people's dreams. Who just come into the lives of those who do, and take it all from them under the guise of growth and expansion as you claim. Financing? Sure, I'm in for that possibility. I've depended upon it before. Investment capital and a board of directors? No way," Heylyn stood her ground firmly.


"Heylyn, you're a dictator in a changing world. A world that will eventually forget you even exist unless you learn to play ball their way. Torman knew it. Norler figured it out. Norler actually calls you a friend? Valerie, if you come work with me, I'll make sure you're paid what you're worth and that your say will count. What do you say?" Jack confronted Heylyn, instead trying a different approach to achieve his goal by going through Valerie.


"I thought you were here to investigate the possibility of investment, not for a hostile takeover," Valerie backed up Heylyn.


"I'm here to take this operation to the next level and beyond. You know how these things play out, or did you lose your spine since the last time I saw you? There's no room in business for sentiment. Everything is about the bottom line. You know that. I know that. She knows that. You're working for a control freak that is never going to relinquish anything to her employees, even when she's gone. I can see the writing on the wall. Valerie, do me a favour and wake up!" Jack pushed her psychologically.


"I don't like where this is going! You came in here like an angel and started blowing sunshine in our ears. Now you're trying to take the company of one of my best friends and give control of it to people that just don't give a..." Valerie suddenly became angered.


"I think we're done here, Mr. Warren," Heylyn backed Valerie up, seeing that the situation was approaching the point of no return.


"Fine. I'll just leave, if one of you will walk me back to my car?" asked Jack.


"We both will, because I'm not leaving you alone with my coworker and friend, though I'm not sure if that's more for her protection or yours," Heylyn assured him, looking to Valerie who gave her a dignified smile.


"Alright. I'm going," Jack turned and began walking for the stage door through which they'd come into the auditorium.


"We're right behind you," Heylyn took her place by Valerie's side.


The three of them walked the same path through which they'd initially come all the way back to the receiving area. From there, Jack silently opened the receiving door and walked down the steps to his rental car as Valerie and Heylyn followed.


"You know, this could have really changed things for you. All of you. You just turned down the opportunity of a lifetime," Jack opened the door to his rental sports car and paused, awaiting Heylyn's response.


He was shocked when it was Valerie who spoke.


"No we didn't. We just accepted the opportunity of a lifetime. The opportunity to rely on ourselves and our own better sense of judgement to guide this company into the future, because we really truly care for it, and I'm as much a part of that as everyone else on this team," Valerie responded to Jack's final statement.


Jack remained silent, his brows furrowed, his face stern and chiseled with sharpened edges.


He got into the driver's seat, started the car and drove out onto Nelson Street before traveling north on John Street and merging into traffic along Queen Street West. The integrated GPS unit in the rental laid out a route to the Gardener Expressway and Pearson International Airport.


"Valerie?" asked Heylyn.


"Yes?" Valerie turned and smiled towards her friend.


"I want you to oversee the entire process of our new online store. I'm going to put that entirely in your hands. It was your idea in the first place. Now its your baby. Take it and run with it," Heylyn returned Valerie's smile sincerely.


"Can I ask you something?" Valerie asked Heylyn as they began walking back to the receiving door.


"Sure," Heylyn answered calmly.


"Did you trust me in that situation? Especially when he brought up Torman?" asked Valerie.


"No. I trusted you from the moment that you chose us, Alicia, Monique, Norler and I instead of Torman all those years ago," Heylyn assured Valerie.


"That's what I thought," Valerie agreed.


"You aren't really opposed to corporate investment, are you?" asked Valerie whose former life had been built around the idea.


"Not at all when the people involved have a passion for it and the lives they're taking into their hands. Like Alicia and Norler. Werner too. Call it butterfly intuition, but I don't think Jack was here out of a passion for helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams. There was definitely something else going on..." Heylyn explained to Valerie.


"You know, I could feel it too, but I think I was so blindsided by the possibility of large scale investment that I ignored my intuition. I'm glad you... or the butterfly... saw through it," Valerie pondered how she'd almost missed the veiled threat Jack had posed.


"I think you did outstanding quite honestly and in the end, you really came through," Heylyn returned Valerie's dignified smile.


They walked in through the receiving door and out to the offices where Valerie spoke again.


"I'll get on that web store thing in a moment, I just have something else that I need to do first. Something I should have done a long time ago," Valerie turned right while Heylyn continued along back to her office.


...


"Hiroyuki? Aikari? Good to see you again. I think I'd like to place another order with your company. Our stock is running a little low. Let's go talk with Fay and Sienna about this," Heylyn greeted her guests as Valerie walked towards the lunch room.


"Its good to see you again Heylyn. Always most happy to oblige. You remember Aikari, my wife?" Hiroyuki greeted Heylyn, introducing his wife once again.


"Good to see you again Heylyn," Aikari greeted Heylyn.


"A pleasure to see you again Aikari. Would you care for some tea first before we get down to business?" asked Heylyn of her guests.


...


Valerie arrived at the lunch room where she found Kori and Monique taking a break with Troy.


"Can I interrupt you?" asked Valerie of the other three as she approached the table.


"What happened to Mr. Hunkie Car?" asked Monique playfully.


"Oh, he had to leave. Something pressing came up," Valerie took a seat seductively across from Troy.


"...you mean with his dry cleaning? He seemed like that kind of guy. Like he was more concerned with the sparkle than the spark," Kori quickly jumped on the opportunity for humour and wit.


"That's pretty accurate Kori, but coming from you I have to admit its no surprise," Valerie replied with a smile acknowledging Kori's keen sense of intuition.


Kori observed that Valerie was fixated on Troy.


"Monique, could you give me a hand leveling the painting Heylyn picked up for the auditorium?" Kori asked Monique, winking profusely as she did.


"What painting? I thought we were going to..." Monique began her confused answer when she suddenly felt Kori's sandaled foot kick her's under the table.


"Ooooh, that painting... the green one? Sure thing. I mean I love levelling paintings," Monique got up  and followed Kori out of the lunch room.


Monique quietly turned and waved to Valerie as they left, gesturing with her hand to her ears indicating to Valerie to give her a call later. Valerie's brows tightened ever so slightly, scoffing at Monique as she left.


"You're looking quite picturesque today. So how are things?" asked Troy politely, looking confidently into her eyes as if he were a camera.


Taking Valerie in completely. Holistically.


A song cautiously peered out of the speakers and looked around before it found its way to their ears.


"Things? I don't really know about things, per se, but I would certainly be much better off if you agreed to come with me to dinner tonight?" she asked Troy, returning his gaze with the addition of a devious smile.


She felt the camera in his eyes click as it captured the moment. A moment composed entirely of her.


"I don't know, I'm a little bit cautious about first dates you know and this one has been on the horizon for a long time. Besides, we work together. That practically puts both of us off limits," Troy toyed with her playfully suddenly understanding her game.


"Well, if it means anything to you, I'll quit after work if you like..." Valerie didn't give up.


"...as long as you rehire yourself before the morning I think we could figure this out. Besides if you're doing the inviting, that means I'm getting a free dinner doesn't it? Oh how the tables have turned for men. So what kind of food were you thinking? I'm thinking there's this great new place around the corner from here..." Troy asked her, choosing his words honestly.


"We can eat whatever you'd like, but I'd prefer if we gave the dessert a lot more consideration?" she shot a seductive glance at him.


"We've known each other for a few years now and you want to take more time considering the dessert than the first course? We've never eaten dinner together before and to tell you the honest truth, this is my first time. I'm a bit nervous about this. You're going to have to be gentle," Troy leaned in closer to her face.


Valerie smiled, shaking her head simultaneously. Remembering her first time as he spoke to her. She recalled her first ever date with Jack. She'd been fresh out of business school, and dazzled by Jack's propensity for the big game, thinking that when he referred to it that he was talking about her.


After he'd taken her first moment from her, she realized that he hadn't been thinking about her at all. In fact, he hadn't even been thinking about women. He'd been thinking finance. Investment. Money. Like she was simply a distraction from those things.


At the moment of her recall, she found herself both wishing and remembering that her first time was with Troy as it should have been. As it was meant to be.


From that moment, Torman was nothing but a distant memory. Yet Jack was much worse. Something wrong.


It was Troy all along and all at once, she suddenly realized what it was to truly be in love. For the first time in her life and after more than thirty years alive. 


She found true love.


That same night, for the first time, they ate their dinner at a table together, in an intimate setting. 


Then later that same night and much more discretely, they had their dessert.


Each other.


Visions In The Night


Miles away and in the southern part of one of the largest urban centers in North America, Monique lay awake in bed in her condominium staring at the ceiling contemplating her life.


Her lost romances and last call dances.


The blank palette of her ceiling became the universe and a distance voice beckoned her from beyond.


A voice full of promise. 


A body covered nearly fully with tattoos.


Skin upon which was written a complete narrative prophecy.


A body full of potential perfection.


A mind full of plans.


...


In the unit a door away from Monique's, Heylyn sat cross legged on her meditation mat, full lotus position.


The sound of a melodious Guzheng rang out from the speakers in her condominium. 


Accents of Pipa strategically painted silence and noise alike.


The two combined like water and fire. Like metal and wood.


The Aerth in the center.


She'd not seen or heard tell of the dragon from the field for some time.


The great dragon she'd once known as Karkathrakushk, as it was called in its own ancient draconic tongue.


The dragon Weltherwithsp as it was known to the denizens of a great field it once protected with the help of a little girl.


Heylyn channeled and directed the Chi through the meridians in her body.


Like the combination to a complex lock, they were the gate to the answers she sought.


In the right combination they'd reveal the secrets of the universe.


Her room disappeared and she'd become a butterfly, her wings flapping, carrying her above a vast field of life.


"Am I a butterfly imagining myself to be a fashion designer, living the life of a person in this great field..." Heylyn pondered as she recited a traditional poem from her ancestry.


"Or am I a person, dreaming that I'm flying above this vast field of mind and consciousness in the form of a butterfly?" the Butterfly pondered.


Am I the herald of truth?


A harbinger of lies?


Above grass? Beneath weeds?


Above the colorful petals of flowers? Beneath the dry dirt of lifelessness?


Her answers came in the form of the trigrams.


The Yarrow stalks folded in her mind, collapsed and broke into their pattern above and below the eternal field.


From the future came the first. One she'd known.


From the past came the second. One she'd nought.


Then she saw their destination in the center of time and space.


For it was the greatest treasure of all.


It was destiny itself.


It was the Gem. 


And how it shone so brightly.


Epilogue


"So how'd it go Jack?" asked a deep voice on Jack's speakerphone.


"Good, but Heylyn must have caught on. She seemed suspicious about something," Jack replied.


"Did you alert them to our presence?" asked the voice.


"No. They definitely don't know a thing. They haven't figured out about Torman. They still think his abilities came from the formula," Jack responded.


"They cannot be aloud to find out about us or Torman's real secret. Did you get into Valerie?" asked the voice.


"No. She had some kind of field protecting her. I tried my best but I couldn't get in. I did however manage to get into someone else," Jack admitted his failure to the voice.


"Excellent. We may be able to overcome this situation after all. Our allies have already arranged for the assassination of Zheng Ni Wong. They're sending a specialist up to Toronto to deal with her. Can you be ready with your new collaborator within two weeks?" asked the voice.


"I think I can manage that. They don't seem especially strong willed," responded Jack.


"Good. Lay low for the time being and do not let any information about our presence be known to them or the one you infiltrated. Do you understand?" asked the voice.


"Most certainly I do," Jack's mood started to improve.


"Good. Everything is in order for the return. Now, we must find the Gem before they do," the voice informed Jack.


"If I'm busy with this, how will we do that?" asked Jack, who'd become somewhat anxious over the question.


"I have it covered. Everything is alright," the voice replied.


"Everyone else is working on some other aspect of this operation. How can everything be alright?" asked Jack.


"We have everything and then some. We have the one who will find the Gem. It is ordained, will be ordained and always was ordained as certainly as the two converge on us from opposite ends of the time spectrum bringing forth the emergence. Our emergence," the voice spoke, now ominous and foreboding.


"If I am so inept that you've given this task to another, I demand to know who it is?!" Jack's emotional intensity entered into his voice.


The voice responded intensely.


"Butterfly. Butterfly. In the night. In the sky. Pluck your wings to see you die. By the fists of Dragon Butterfly," the voice trailed off as the speakerphone connection was lost.


To be continued in...


The Butterfly Dragon III: The Two Dragons


Artwork: Amy WongWendy Pusey, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3D

Tools: Daz3DCorel PainterAdobe PhotoshopLightwave 3D, Borderline Obsession...


Brian Joseph Johns

https://www.shhhhdigital.ca

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The song Break Of A Heartache was written and recorded by Avril Lavigne.


The song Walk was written by the Foo Fighters (Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins, Dave Grohl).


A greatful and heart felt thank you to Yaya Han, who is amongst the many great inspirations for this content.


As always, my greatest thanks to the crew at Disney, Lucasfilm, Marvel, National Geographic and Omni Magazine (perhaps the greatest science speculation publication of all time).


Thanks to the gaming community, both developers and gamers alike. They're amongst the most incredible story tellers of all. Classic Bioware efforts would certainly qualify in that regard.


Thank you to ASMR artists of the world. I doubt I'd be able to relax at all without you.


Hard to believe that pianos and guitars have common ancestry isn't it? Its true. They're actually related through the Lyre.


Of course, thank you to family and friends.