Snap! A thick, coarse shrub was torn apart by the bullet of a sniper rifle. However, Xia Lei had already rounded the shrub and gone to higher ground in the second before the bullet hit the shrub.
“Is that guy human? He’s running up that hill as quickly as I do on flat ground - how’s that possible?” The sniper on the opposite hill couldn’t help wiping the cold sweat from his brow. He watched nervously as Xia Lei leapt up and all around the surface of the hillside. He could see him but he could not lock his sights on him. The distance and time needed for the bullet to travel meant that he would need about 1.5 to 2 seconds to make the shot and Xia Lei would’ve run at least ten metres away from the spot he was aiming at in that amount of time.
At that moment, Xia Lei suddenly disappeared from his field of vision and he couldn’t find him no matter how he searched.
“That guy… ran away?” The sniper lurking in his high spot presumed so but he did not dare to give up on looking for traces of Xia Lei. He didn’t dare to look for other targets either because he was afraid that he himself would become Xia Lei’s target once he switched to another target!
The sniper gave up after staying frozen in place for a minute. He crawled slowly from his sniping spot to head to another place.
The battle at the foot of the hill had grown fiercer. Who knew how many bullets both sides had fired, and how many clips were emptied. It was difficult for both sides, the Chinese agents and the team in camouflage, to advance or make the other side retreat. Both sides were in a deeply worrying situation.
This was not strange since even the American troops, the strongest in the world, probably needed 250,000 bullets to kill off one Islamic militant*. These were real numbers too.
On the hill, Xia Lei had climbed to a pile of rubble. His left eye was fixed on the hill opposite and though that sniper was wearing camouflage and blended almost perfectly with the ground, he looked like he was a person holding a torchlight in the dark to Xia Lei. He couldn’t be more obvious.
Xia Lei pushed the barrel of the sniper rifle out from a gap between two rocks and aimed at the sniper’s head. He pulled the trigger.
Bang! A gunshot sounded and the bullet was propelled from the barrel. It hit that sniper in the back after 1.5 seconds. The sniper was wearing a bullet-proof vest, of course, but the vest was unable to stop the impact of the sniper bullet. Besides, Xia Lei’s sniper rifle had undergone special modification and it was extremely powerful, be it sniping distance or power!
A big chunk of flesh was torn from the sniper’s back and his lungs were destroyed by the impact; there was no possibility of living.
Xia Lei let out a breath of relief after confirming that that sniper was dead. He spoke into the communicator, “The enemy’s sniper has been killed. Don’t rush out. Keep firing and I’ll clean them out.”
“Nice!” Tang Yu-Yan’s voice was full of excitement.
Bang! Another gunshot. A camouflaged man had his chest blown open.
Bang! Another camouflaged man fell to the ground.
Bang! A camouflaged man who had just stuck his head out from behind a rock had his brains splattered all over in one shot…
After killing their RPG operator and their sniper, Xia Lei could search for targets without worries and kill them. He was also out of the enemies’ range so there was no worry at all about bullets reaching him!
The enemy could not hang on any longer after a few minutes and they gave up on their advance. They retreated to the other side of the hill, all rather worse for wear. Xia Lei did not cease fire. He killed off more of them as they made their retreat. Of the thirty camouflaged men who had attacked, less than fifteen left the battlefield with their lives!
Xia Lei did not feel the disgust of having killed a human this time. What Long Bing said appeared to be true; killing people was a terrible thing but it was nothing once one got used to it. The two killers he’d killed and the people he had sniped today pushed Xia Lei’s kill count up into the double digits.
Not feeling the disgust did not mean it felt good and after the battle was done, the desire to kill gone and his taut nerves relaxed, Xia Lei’s mind was again a blank - scarily blank.
“It’s over, Xia Lei. Come down. We’ve got to leave.” Tang Yu-Yan’s voice came from over the receiver.
Xia Lei came to his senses then. He made a sound of acknowledgement, then hugged the sniper rifle as he made his way down the hill. He had dashed up the hill in one go in the heat of battle and his nerves had been so taut he’d felt like he was wandering outside the demon’s gate. Now that he could relax, he found that his leg muscles were aching.
‘I’d probably have to tread much more on a path like this if I want to be the same type of people as Long Bing and Tang Yu-Yan, haven’t I?’ A bitter smile appeared in the corners of Xia Lei’s mouth.
The Bureau 101 agents were already cleaning up the battlefield at the foot of the hill. Three agents had been killed but this was not the worst of it. The worst thing was that their guide Karam was dead.
The unknown camouflaged men had 17 casualties, 12 of which had been killed by Xia Lei. This one battle had changed the Bureau 101 agents’ perspective of this gentlemanly-looking ‘consultant’. The agents had previously thought that Xia Lei was a purely technical consultant, like a hacker or linguist, but they had not expected him to be such an overwhelming sniper!
The Bureau 101 agents searched the bodies of the enemies but found nothing that could identify them. However, the items they found provided some clues.
Possessions were piled on the ground. There were chewing gum, chocolate, Playboy magazines and some photographs. Amongst these photographs were one with New York’s Central Park in the background, and there was also one with the campus gates of Harvard University. These two photographs were of two couples and they looked intimate.
Tang Yu-Yan pointed at the things on the ground. “Chewing gum, chocolates and Playboy magazines. What do you think their identities are?”
“Don’t these photographs tell us what we need? You should know better than I where these people are from,” said Xia Lei.
Tang Yu-Yan knew well that these were all Americans but she just did not say it. She had already reached the preliminary conclusion that these were American Special Forces, not CIA. It was not likely that the CIA would gather so many agents for a mission so these Special Forces soldiers should have just one or two CIA agents directing them and these agents were not among the fallen.
Tang Yu-Yan spoke after a bit of silence. “Lei, say… aren’t these people after you?”
Xia Lei’s expression changed, just slightly, and he shook his head. “You mean because of the mission to Germany I went on with Long Bing? Possibly. But I’m leaning more towards Ning Jing and the experts being the reason. Didn’t you say that the previous team failed their mission with deaths and serious injuries? These people might have been the ones who did it.”
He said those words but Xia Lei thought of the woman who had spat the chewing gum at him, and the note his father had written. He was actually leaning towards the theory that these people had been targeting him.
“You may be right. This guys will surely come again. We need to catch one alive next time. I’ll interrogate him personally,” said Tang Yu-Yan.
“Our guide is dead. What do we do now?” said Xia Lei.
“We still have to push forward even if our guide’s dead.” Tang Yu-Yan issued the order. “Bury our dead. Sort out the weapons and equipment. Check the condition of the cars. We move in thirty minutes.”
The Bureau 101 agents got moving. Some dug a pit for their fallen comrades, some cleaned weapons and equipment and some checked and repaired the damaged cars. The bodies of the camouflaged men were thrown down a cliff. They would become food for crows and bacteria and eventually turn to white bone.
This couldn’t be helped, especially for the three Bureau 101 agents. Their remains should have been sent back home but the mission had to go on and there was no one to send their bodies back. They had gone into their eternal sleep in this desolate land and their families would not even have a chance to pay their last respects.
This was war, the most evil act of mankind.
Half an hour later, three Ford Raptors continued on their way, heading deep into the mountains.
Xia Lei was driving this time and Tang Yu-Yan sat in the passenger seat. She used the satellite phone and reported the situation to the intelligence station via code. Everything that happened here would be relayed to Bureau 101 through the intelligence station.
The code Tang Yu-Yan used was unique. It was ancient poetry and in the style of Classical Chinese writing so it was useless even if someone intercepted her messages to the intelligence station. Classical Chinese writing was the world’s most difficult text and language, so decipering it was extremely difficult.
Xia Lei waited for Tang Yu-Yan to finish her satellite call before asking, “What do the higher ups say?”
“Continue the mission. The higher ups will send us someone to assist. He will lead us past the tribe-controlled areas,” said Tang Yu-Yan.
“We will pass the territory of the White Rock Tribe tomorrow morning. I’m guessing that the new guide will meet us before we get there,” said Tang Yu-Yan.
“We’re going to Bamiyan Valley - which tribe’s territory is that?” Xia Lei wanted to get a clearer picture of the situation.
Tang Yu-Yan smiled wryly. “Afghanistan has hundreds of tribes. I only know over ten of them, and those are the larger, more well-known tribes. Some small tribes are like small towns or villages in China. They are deep in the mountains, so who knows about them? This is also why we need a guide. Without a guide to lead us and help us with communication, we’d be easily seen as enemies and end up exchanging fire with the tribes.”
“So is this White Rock Tribe you’re talking about a big tribe or a small tribe?”
“It’s not big and it’s not small. If you’re asking how many armed members are in that tribe then I can tell you they have over a thousand,” said Tang Yu-Yan, “So we have to be very careful when passing through the White Rock Tribe territory. We cannot afford to come into conflict with them or we’ll be in big trouble.”
Xia Lei was quiet, then he said, “We should actually use planes for this mission. It’s too complicated on the ground.”
“Brah, this is Afghanistan, country of mountains. What can send us in other than helicopters? Helicopters are too slow and will become live targets for shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles. Plus, Afghanistan’s airspace is under the control of the US and her allies. We’d have no way of avoiding the American troops’ radar and their warplanes will come greet us before we get to our destination if we go by air.”
“I see. Never mind, let’s talk about other things then. It’s such a dangerous mission that we might just perish here. Can you tell me about your Tang hidden weapons techniques?”
“Heh heh, I knew you wouldn’t give up, you punk. Trying to learn our Tang techniques in this sneaky way? How many times must I say ‘no’ for you to give up? Our Tang hidden weapons techniques are never passed down to outsiders. You have to become one of us.”
“Yeah, and I did ask if your father is accepting godsons.”
They talked, they chatted and mountain after mountain was left in their dust.Previous Chapter Next Chapter