Two days later.
Bureau 101 Headquarters, Shi Boren’s office.
Xia Lei placed an anti-radiation container on Shi Boren’s desk. Shi Boren had been sitting at his desk, but he got up and moved away when he saw the container on his desk, and stood far, far away from it.
Ling Han, who was sitting on the sofa, started to get a little nervous too.
Only Long Bing behaved as usual, and she stood silently by Xia Lei’s side.
“I found the items at the bottom of the sea in Okinawa. There were 21 pieces in all.” Xia Lei gave them a brief overview, and said, “Besides these 21 pieces of ancient alloy, I also found a new pointer needle.”
“A pointer needle again?” Ling Han wrinkled his brows. “Ah, what a pain in the neck. When will we ever get to the end of our search? It was Japan this time — what’s the next location?”
“We have to continue the search, no matter how difficult it gets. Where did the compass point? We’ll make preparations,” said Shi Boren.
Xia Lei laughed dryly. “There’s no need to make preparations.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Ling Han in confusion. “Have you already confirmed the next treasure location?”
“See for yourselves,” said Xia Lei. He then took out the compass, put it on the desk and installed the pointer needle on the compass.
The needle on the compass sat quietly, unmoving.
“What’s going on? Is it broken? Hurry up and fix it. You’ve repaired it before, so I believe you can do it again,” said Shi Boren in surprise.
“Indeed. The Mysterious Alloy X Project is very important to our country. You must find a way to repair it,” said Ling Han.
Xia Lei said nothing.
Just then, the needle on the compass suddenly stood, and floated above the compass. It pointed straight up at the sky.
This was why Xia Lei had not bothered to explain what he had meant. The pointer needle he had found this time would erect itself and point up at the sky only after it had gathered enough unexplained energy to do so. It returned to its original position when that unexplained energy ran out. It gathered energy, stood up, went back — it repeated this over and over.
Ling Han and Shi Boren stared at the compass, gobsmacked. They stared at the needle, standing straight and tall, and they did not speak for quite a while. The needle on the compass went through one cycle of its repetitive movements as they stared dumbly at it.
Xia Lei shrugged. “Now you know why I said there’s no need to make preparations. The next treasure location is in the sky, and we can’t search for the next location with our current capabilities. The search using compass and needle has ended.”
Ling Han snapped back to his senses. “This… How can this be possible?”
“Could this alloy be from another planet? Do aliens really exist?” said Shi Boren.
Xia Lei shook his head. “I don’t know if there are aliens, but I know that this alloy has more to it than meets the eye. I’ve used all the pieces which I’ve already found to assemble a box. I’m just missing the last piece.”
“Box?” Long Bing, too, showed some reaction at that, because this was the first time she heard Xia Lei talk about his research.
“Yes, a box. It’s in the container. I don’t recommend that you examine it yourself, though. I’ve taken some photographs, so take a look at them.”
Several photographs appeared on the desk.
Shi Boren, Ling Han and Long Bing gathered around the photographs. The photographs were indeed of a box. Xia Lei had taken an overall shot, and one of each side of the box too. It was as he had said — this box was missing a corner and was incomplete.
Ling Han and Shi Boren exchanged glances after looking at the photographs. They were both in a state of bewilderment and could not quite accept it.
“Up in the air… An incomplete box… What the hell is going on here?” Ling Han gave a sigh. “I don’t know what to report to the higher-ups either.”
Shi Boren stared at the photograph of the box with the missing corner, then said, “Lei, from the photograph you’ve taken, it looks like this box is missing just one piece. You can complete the box once you find this one piece, and get to the bottom of the mystery of the Alloy X Project, right?”
“The problem is this last piece. I have no way of finding it.” Xia Lei was helpless too.
“Lei, what result do you think you’ll have if you assemble this box completely?” Ling Han stared straight at Xia Lei, waiting for his answer.
“I don’t know, but whatever the result, I can guarantee that it will make waves around the world,” said Xia Lei.
In fact, if he told of the truths he already knew, just the secret about Princess Yongmei would be enough to make waves around the world.
A real soul which could kill people without leaving a trace!
It was too bad that she had gone missing.
Ling Han thought for a bit. “How about this — you leave the compass behind. I’ll arrange for someone to fly around the world with it. We’ll have it taken up to the space station if we don’t get any results. If we do this, we’ll still have a bit of hope if the treasure location is on the moon.”
“What if it’s on another planet, which is not the moon?” asked Xia Lei.
Ling Han laughed dryly. “Then we have no solution. The American Mars Project will only begin in the year 2030. As for us, it’s estimated that we’ll need decades more to do that. You might still have the chance to go to search for the last piece of ancient alloy on other planets in your lifetime.”
Xia Lei did not feel like he would have this chance. Even if he did, and if China had the capability to send him to the moon, or to Mars, it was no guarantee that he would indeed find the last piece of ancient alloy.
Shi Boren patted Xia Lei on the shoulder. “Don’t be discouraged, Lei. It’s possible that other factors may be affecting the compass needle and making it behave in this way. Chin up. Take the alloy pieces you’ve found back to your laboratory and study them first. It’s best if you get some result from your research, but we won’t find fault with you if you have no results. We know that you have tried your best.”
“Indeed,” said Ling Han. “Hand the matter of finding the next treasure location to the government. I’ll report any findings to you guys.”
“Hurry up and take these things away. Just looking at your box frightens me. Plus, you need to do research for the Alloy X Project, and make guns too. Our troops are still waiting for your Gust assault rifles. You’d better not mess this up, Boy, or I won’t let you off.”
Xia Lei gave a laugh, and carried the anti-radiation container out of Shi Boren’s office.
The mission to find treasure in Japan was complete at this point.
Long Bing followed Xia Lei out and said softly, “Lei, are you going back to Thunder Horse Military Factory, or to Shentu Tianyin?”
“I’m going to put these in the laboratory at Thunder Horse Military Factory first, then go to Shentu Tianyin. I’ve been away for some time, so I should return and see how things are going on,” said Xia Lei.
“Go back, then. I’ll wait for you at my place on Saturday,” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei was speechless.
“What bad things are you two muttering about over here?” Tang Yuyan’s voice came from the other end of the corridor all of a sudden. She was in a full set of black combat gear, and there were several torn places on her clothing. There were even some bloodstains on her neck. It looked like she had just returned from the frontlines, and she had a charming smile in the corners of her lips and she spoke teasingly.
“Were you in a war?” said Xia Lei with a smile.
“A terrorist cell sneaked in from the east. I led a team in pursuit of them, and managed to kill them all after seven days and seven nights,” said Tang Yuyan. She then looked at Long Bing, her gaze odd. “Eh, I haven’t seen you in a while, but your complexion looks better than it had been, Chief Long. Are you in a relationship now?”
Long Bing rolled her eyes at Tang Yuyan. “Relationship, my foot.”
Tang Yuyan looked at Xia Lei next, and said not-pointedly, “I just heard a woman say that she was going to wait at home for someone on Saturday. I also heard that being in a relationship will make a woman more beautiful. Xia Lei, you left me out of the mission to Japan. Could you have…”
She did not continue, but Xia Lei and Long Bing knew what she wanted to say.
The women of Bureau 101 were not simple-minded, and Tang Yuyan was a woman so wiley she could be the reincarnation of a fox.
Long Bing was annoyed at herself too. The words she had carelessly uttered had been heard by Tang Yuyan, and these words, plus the change in her complexion, had been enough for the foxy Tang Yuyan to smell a rat.
Xia Lei gave a laugh. “Yuyan, Chief Long and I agreed to meet at her place on Saturday for a meal in celebration of the completion of this mission. I’ll be taking Tianyin with me. You can come too, if you’re interested. Best to bring your boyfriend too, and let us meet him. Your complexion looks quite good too. Your skin must be getting moistened by all that love.”
“Moistened, my foot. I’m not interested.” Tang Yuyan rolled her eyes at Xia Lei, and strode past him. As she brushed past him, she abruptly stretched her foot out and stomped on the back of his leg.
“You…” Xia Lei didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
Tang Yuyan swayed her hips as she walked towards Shi Boren’s office. She turned back to say something after taking a few steps, but Xia Lei and Long Bing had already walked along the corridor towards the exit. Her expression fell, and she stood blankly for a few seconds before she turned to her front again.
As she walked out of the underground headquarters, Long Bing smiled and said, “Good thing you think fast, or Tang Yuyan would have made some wild speculations. I’m not afraid of gossip, but you’ll be in big trouble if Shentu Tianyin finds out.”
Xia Lei smiled wryly. “I had no choice. I’ll get more experience when I run into more of these sort of situations.”
“Remember — Saturday. I’ll wait for you at my place.”
“Mm, I’ll go to your place on Saturday,” said Xia Lei.
A few minutes later, Xia Lei and Long Bing left Bureau 101, each in their respective vehicles. Xia Lei drove his Chevrolet Suburban straight to Thunder Horse Military Factory.
He had to report and complete the mission once he returned to Jingdu, so he had had no time to study the box which had been assembled from the 29 pieces of alloy. He was able to take the box back to his laboratory now to study it. The most important thing to do was to return home, of course, and he planned to return to his and Shentu Tianyin’s home, Leiyin Home, when he had studied the box.
The Chevrolet Suburban galloped on the road, and the cityscape flashed past the windows of the car.
Xia Lei’s thoughts flew ahead of him, and entered his laboratory. He thought about the first piece of ancient alloy, and the box which he had assembled out of the 29 pieces he had now. Those experiences, and the people and events related to AE flashed through his head, one by one. His brain analysed the people and the events on its own.
He was just one part short of a complete box, so did this mean that he was just one step away from solving the mystery of AE?