The breakfast of bread, mutton and pulao made Xia Lei burp. The owner of the shop refused his money when he tried to pay, and even invited Xia Lei and Tang Yu-Yan to his home to be his guests. They were flustered by his invitation.
Tang Yu-Yan had been speaking with the owner in Urdu all this while and Xia Lei understood not a word. The owner also uttered some Chinese words once in a while but it was pronounced weirdly and full of errors.
‘Looks like I’ll have to learn more foreign languages. The popular languages I’ve learnt are not enough. Tang Yu-Yan’s Urdu seems well-practiced and this tells me that she must be very familiar with the situation in the Middle East. This should also be the reason why she was sent on this mission, and not Long Bing,’ thought Xia Lei.
They left the restaurant and Tang Yu-Yan continued on the road towards the Afghan border.
“What language do they use in Afghanistan?” asked Xia Lei casually.
“Pashto and Persian - I know both,” said Tang Yu-Yan. She then said a sentence of similar meanings from each language and looked rather proud of herself.
Xia Lei gave her a half smile. “Showoff. Know any Russian?”
“Long Bing knows it, so the higher ups will always send her on missions to Eastern Europe instead of me. Middle East - that’s me,” said Tang Yu-Yan.
“How about your brother?”
“He speaks Vietnamese, Burmese, Thai and Japanese. And English, of course. So he’s mainly tasked with missions to South Asia and Japan.” Tang Yu-Yan gave Xia Lei a look and said with a grin, “I know you speak German, English, French, Japanese, Russian and more, so you’re suitable for missions around the world.”
Xia Lei was speechless.
The Ford Raptor roared out of Islamabad and towards Peshawar. Peshawar was one of the main cities along the northwestern border of Pakistan, and beyond Peshawar was Afghanistan.
Tang Yu-Yan and Xia Lei arrived in Peshawar at noon.
Xia Lei had thought that Tang Yu-Yan would check them into a hotel or something but she drove straight to some normal-looking residential houses. The walls surrounding the place were very tall, at least four metres high. Two Ford Raptors were parked behind those walls; the ten agents had arrived earlier than them.
After entering the house and seeing the equipment and busy agents, Xia Lei discovered that the house was actually a stronghold of Bureau 101 in Pakistan. It was also the ‘safe point’ or ‘intelligence station’ one would often see in spy movies.
Tang Yu-Yan brought Xia Lei to a room on the second floor. “You’ll stay here. I’ll be next door. Rest now because we’re going to enter Afghanistan at night. Feel free to tell me if you need anything. We’re going into hostile territory once we leave Peshawar.”
Xia Lei thought for a bit. “Give me some books to learn Peruvian and Urdu. Reading is a form of rest too.”
“No problem. I’ll get someone to bring it up.” Tang Yu-Yan left Xia Lei’s room.
Xia Lei looked about his room. The furnishing were simple - a single bed, a desk, a chair and a combination bathroom.
His gaze went to the single bed and he abruptly thought of the situation with Long Bing in Germany. He had shared bed and pillow with Long Bing most nights in that period of over a month. They were also acting as husband and wife now but Tang Yu-Yan was not staying with him.
‘What am I thinking? This is Pakistan. China’s best country-friend. This is also Bureau 101’s intelligence station. How can I sleep on the same bed as her? This status as husband and wife must be only applicable in some special circumstances,’ thought Xia Lei.
An agent knocked on Xia Lei’s door and delivered books on Persian, Pashto and Urdu language learning.
Xia Lei said his thanks and sent the agent away, then stayed in the room to read. His speed was as ungodly as ever, with his left eye working like scanner, saving everything he saw in his brain.
The sound of running water came from the other side of the wall after he’d done a bit of learning.
Xia Lei glanced inadvertently at the wall with his activated eye. The wall disappeared all of a sudden and he saw right into the next room. Tang Yu-Yan’s clothes were on the bed - outdoor clothing, black lace panties, black bra and white socks. The door to the shower was not closed but not totally open either; a white figure could be seen through the gap.
Her skin was as white and soft as snow and it seemed it could melt with one breath. Her full, firm breasts jiggled perfectly and her buttocks - they lost not to Annina’s. They were plump and had a good layer of fat, but were still electrifyingly bouncy. Her beautiful legs were long and straight, rounded yet firm, evidently due to her practicing martial arts from a young age. Her legs were a match for Liang Si-Yao’s beautiful legs…
This was an inadvertent look which had become rather voyeuristic and Xia Lei should look away but he still couldn’t help staring for a little more before he looked away. He then had a new thought in his head, ‘My left eye is getting quicker and quicker at seeing through things. I can feel that the obstacles are lessening too. Is this the result of practice and long-term use, or is this ability continuously evolving?’
Xia Lei had never stopped thinking about his left eye’s powers but he was still unable to get any answers.
He gave up after thinking about it for a while and continued reading the books.
Someone came knocking a little later and Tang Yu-Yan pushed the door open and walked in without waiting for Xia Lei to even lift his head from the book. She still wore the well-worn outdoor clothing but her hair was wet and she looked refreshed, lively. This must be because she’d just had a shower.
Xia Lei out down the book and looked at her. “What’s up?” He’d looked at her for two minutes earlier and felt rather guilty about it.
“Time to eat. Aren’t you hungry?” said Tang Yu-Yan, “The cook made Chinese food specially for us.”
“I ate so many oily foods in the morning so I don’t feel hungry now. I’m not eating; you go ahead,” said Xia Lei.
“I’m actually not hungry either. Okay, then come with me to meet someone,” said Tang Yu-Yan.
“Who are we meeting?”
“We still need a guide for a mission like this?” asked Xia Lei in surprise.
Tang Yu-Yan smiled wryly. “Bruh, it’s Afghanistan, not Pakistan. There are American, English and EU troops on the ground there, plus armed religious groups and Afghan military forces and tribes. You can’t even imagine the chaos there. We need a guide who knows the situation there and can help us avoid unnecessary trouble to reach our destination safely.”
“What’s our destination in Afghanistan?”
“Bamiyan Valley,” said Tang Yu-Yan, “Tang Xuan-Zhao went there and the world-famous Bamiyan Buddhas are there too, but they were blown up by a religious militant group.”
Xia Lei’s heart thudded. “Are Ning Jing and the experts trapped in Bamiyan Valley?”
“Yes, by a Pashtun tribe. We know their location but it is in a war zone so we need to rely on the connections of locals to get in.”
“Does Ning Jing and the experts being in the area have to do with the Bamiyan Buddhas?” The wheels of Xia Lei’s mind spun.
Tang Yu-Yan rolled her eyes at Xia Lei. “I really don’t know what Ning Jing and those experts are doing there so stop asking. Are you coming, or not? I’ll just go on my own then.”
“Of course I’m coming. Peshawar is a beautiful city and I must have a walk around since this is a rare trip,” said Xia Lei.
Tang Yu-Yan took a gun from her waist and tossed it to Xia Lei. “Take this. It’s your weapon.”
Xia Lei grinned. “Finally willing to give me a gun.”
“This is Peshawar but it’s close to Afghanistan. Our safety here is not guaranteed so giving you a gun for your own protection is a must. Wait till we get to Afghanistan - you can have all the guns you want. Let’s go.”
Xia Lei shoved the gun in his belt and followed Tang Yu-Yan out the door.
The afternoon sun bathed the streets in golden light and the exotic buildings basked quietly in the glow. The bright colours of the flowers and people in the city made it look like they had walked into a scene from a painting.
They did not walk far before some young girls clad in black cloth walked towards them. Xia Lei gave them a friendly smile but the young girls turned away to face the walls and did not even look at Xia Lei.
Xia Lei felt embarrassed. “What’s this?”
Tang Yu-Yan giggled. “They have their own beliefs in Islam. No use being handsome. Don’t have any hopes of encounters with women here.”
Xia Lei had nothing to say to this woman of the Tang sect.
The two of them went slowly through the streets and to a terminal market. Tang Yu-Yan told Xia Lei that the guide they wanted to meet was in that market. The guide was a Pashtun named Karam. He was selling beans and wheat in the market but that was just a cover. His real identity was a satellite member of the intelligence station and he drew a sizeable paycheque from the intelligence station every month.
You only needed money to buy the person you wanted in this world and it had nothing to do with religion or beliefs.
Xia Lei was stunned by what he saw at a roadside stall upon entering the market. The goods on display were not pancakes or headscarves but equipment from the US military. The items ranged from clothing to protective gear and there were even US weapons and ammunition.
The stall owner spotted Xia Lei looking at his wares and used the unfamiliar English tongue to say, “Friend, take a look. All good things. One gun, one hundred US dollars, I give one hundred bullets free.”
Xia Lei wanted to go over to take a look but Tang Yu-Yan pulled him by the hand. “Careful, don’t get marked.”
Xia Lei waved a refusal at the stall owner, then walked off with Tang Yu-Yan.
Tang Yu-Yan spoke in a low voice, “Who knows how many countries’ intelligence officers are here in this territory. Don’t do anything out of the ordinary or you’ll be marked.”
Xia Lei did a small nod. “I got it. I was just curious. I didn’t actually want to buy a gun.”
He surveyed their surroundings as he spoke. This terminal market was fairly messy and there were merchants from Afghanistan as well as a fair number from overseas. There were also blonde-haired and blue-eyed caucasian tourists. Some tourists held onto their cameras and snapped pictures while some tourists haggled with stall vendors.
This environment added a twinge of worry in Xia Lei’s heart. He would have to deal with more than just the rescue mission if he were to be discovered by CIA intelligence officers.
As they went deeper into the terminal market, a black-veiled woman in a corner pointed her watch at Xia Lei and Tang Yu-Yan.
There was a high-definition camera in her watch.Previous Chapter Next Chapter