The American troops could bomb whoever they wished and had enough combat power to go where they wished, but they were still not fully able to control Afghanistan, especially the territories controlled by Islamic militants and the armed tribes. This was why the CIA could only use drones and sky-based surveillance in these areas and did not dare step foot on the surface.
The three of them took a whole week to get out of that mountainous area, then through the Pashtun tribe territory and into the Wakhan Corridor with Dayetia leading them. All they had run into during this time were remotely controlled drones and American warplanes which had whooshed past; they encountered no militant forces on the ground.
The failed mission that night had been the CIA’s best chance to capture Xia Lei and they had lost it. Xia Lei had escaped again, and was with Dayetia, someone with good relations with the tribes. This was like a fish slipping into the ocean, and it was almost impossible to capture it again.
But the CIA was not willing to give up just like that. They constantly sent out all sorts of surveillance and reconnaissance forces, and they did not stop though they failed.
Xia Lei got through the Wakhan Corridor and into Chinese territory after yet another week.
“We’re safe now.” Xia Lei truly relaxed after entering China. He excitedly grabbed the dirt from under his feet and threw it up in the sky as he shouted, “I’m home!”
What excited him was not just his return home but finally having shaken off the CIA’s pursuit. The mission to Afghanistan had been fraught with danger but he had gained a lot too. Other than the secrets he had found out, his greater gain was the experience he had gained through numerous battles. These battles had matured him and made him into a force which could truly be independent.
“Is this China? It’s so empty.” Szlamy looked disappointed. She’d been longing to go to China to buy clothes the past two weeks but what she saw now was an empty landscape. She couldn’t even buy lousy hand-sewn clothing like she had on, much less colourful and fancy clothing.
Xia Lei laughed as he said, “This is the border. Wait till we get to the city. You’ll be surprised by China’s advancement.”
The country had prospered and its citizens were proud.
“Xia, you said we’re safe, right?” Dayetia used binoculars to look into the distance.
A cloud of dust was thrown up by wind in the direction she was looking in, coming speedily towards them.
It was not a cloud of dust but a convoy, and Xia Lei spotted it right away. He had also seen the military plates on those vehicles and the soldiers in them. The Wakhan Corridor was in a volatile area and the anti-terrorism forces there were always on high alert. It was not strange for the Chinese government to appear so quickly because this place was always under the military’s surveillance.
Szlamy took hold of the AK47 which she had slung over her shoulder before Xia Lei could speak. She looked ready to take cover and start shooting.
Xia Lei stayed her hand. “Don’t do anything foolish. Let me handle it.”
Szlamy instinctively looked at Dayetia but she handed the AK47 to Xia Lei before Dayetia said anything.
Xia Lei stretched out his hand to Dayetia. “Give me your gun too.”
Dayetia hesitated, but still removed the AK47 from her shoulder and handed it to Xia Lei in the end. She spoke fiercely, “Remember that your people are still in our hands. If Szlamy and I are captured then your people will die in our tribe.”
This was a threat.
Xia Lei laughed dismissively. “We’ve gone through so many things together - do you still not trust me? Relax. No one will harm you with me around.”
Szlamy waved her fist and gave him a punch on his shoulder as she giggled, “I trust you.”
This punch of hers was heavy and felt rather heartless. Xia Lei couldn’t help the small wrinkling of his brows, but this was H-cup Szlamy and he couldn’t be mad at her.
He and Szlamy had shared a saddle every day for the past two weeks and riding a horse was not without pressing and rubbing interactions. Their skin had not been rubbed to the point of forming calluses but their feelings had grown quite a bit. If it had not been for their daily mad dash and Dayetia’s constant presence, Szlamy would have eaten Xia Lei up, even without him initiating it.
Xia Lei felt like he was going to get sick from all that holding back for the two weeks.
The convoy quickly came up to the trio and the soldiers fanned out, surrounding them.
An officer jumped out of the vehicle with his gun held high and trained on them. He shouted, “You have entered Chinese territory. Put down your weapons and identify yourselves!”
Xia Lei put the two AK47s and his sniper rifle on the ground, then raised his hands high as he said loudly, “Colonel, I’d like to speak with you!”
Xia Lei had singled out the man with the colonel rank on his shoulder to talk. The colonel in charge paused. Xia Lei should be the one identifying himself in this situation but he had requested to speak with the colonel instead. “Who are you?”
Xia Lei spoke loudly, “I am part of National Security. You need to be of a rank high enough to check my identity. I want to speak with you. Please cooperate.”
What attitude was this!
The colonel thought for a bit and nodded in the end. “You can come over. The two of them have to stay behind in their positions and not move from their spots.”
Xia Lei walked over and cut straight to the chase. “I’d like to borrow your mobile phone to make a call. Someone will explain the situation to you.”
“You’d better not be pulling a fast one on me or there will be hell to pay.” The colonel did not make things difficult for him; he handed his phone to Xia Lei.
Xia Lei actually had a satellite phone on him but he had not dared to switch it on for the past two weeks for fear that the CIA would lock onto his position. He had switched it on when they had first stepped on Chinese soil but its batteries had gone flat before he could dial a number.
Xia Lei called Long Bing. Few knew her number so she could roughly guess at the caller’s purpose when she saw the person’s phone number. Xia Lei spoke before she could speak when the call connected. “It’s me. I’m back.”
Long Bing was silent for a bit before saying, “Captured?”
This insight made Xia Lei’s cheeks colour. He gave a wry laugh. “Why say that? I’m carrying out a mission too - I just don’t know anyone. I have a military officer next to me. Help me say hello to him and explain the situation.”
“Where’s Tang Yu-Yan?” asked Long Bing.
“She’s still in Afghanistan. The situation’s complicated. I’ll tell you later,” said Xia Lei.
“Nn. Hand the phone to the officer. I’ll talk to him,” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei handed the phone to the colonel. “Colonel, someone wants to speak with you.”
There was a serious expression on the colonel’s face. He took the phone and said cautiously, “Hello, who is this…”
Dayetia and Szlamy kept a close watch on Xia Lei and the colonel of the team. Both women were anxious. Dozens of fully-equipped soldiers were standing opposite them and they were highly-trained too. The soldiers were under orders to stay on guard and had their guns pointed at the two women, and the black muzzles made the women nervous.
“What is Xia saying to that military officer, Chieftain?” Szlamy couldn’t hold back any longer and asked.
“Xia is calling someone to explain the situation to this officer. Xia is likely part of the Chinese government and possibly a highly-ranked agent,” said Dayetia.
“Chieftain, you… understand Chinese?” Szlamy was astonished.
Dayetia rolled her eyes at her. “The Hun language is actually quite similar to Chinese and Tibetan. You’re just not open to learning. I don’t know much though. Don’t tell Xia.”
“Isn’t that lying to him?”
Dayetia swung her hand and slapped Szlamy upside the head.
Szlamy shot Dayetia a disgruntled look but she shut her mouth.
The colonel was done talking with Long Bing then and his attitude took a great turn. His smile was a few degrees brighter when he talked to Xia Lei again. “I know the rough situation now. We’re just waiting for the official paperwork to come in. I’ll have to trouble you to please come to our camp with us. We will send you to the airport once the paperwork from the higher-ups comes through.”
“Okay, then thank you in advance too,” said Xia Lei politely.
It was arranged to have Dayetia and Szlamy in a vehicle with Xia Lei, but their weapons were temporarily confiscated and not given back to them.
The three of them were brought to the military base of the border guards and the documents were already faxed over by the time the convoy reached the base. The three of them were then transported to the closest airport before even getting out of the vehicle. The issue of plane tickets were also taken care of and the only thing the three of them needed to do after being sent to the airport was to get on the plane.
“Mr Xia, your guns have been entrusted to the airline for special handling. It will be returned to you once you disembark. However, your two companions cannot have their guns back. I hope you forgive us for that,” said the colonel as he escorted Xia Lei to the plane.
Xia Lei smiled and said, “No worries. They don’t need guns here. That’s it, then. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” The colonel saluted.
Xia Lei paused, then returned the salute but he was not as precise as the military man. This was his first time being saluted and it made him feel like a military man, responsible and honorable. It was a strange feeling.
They had been booked on first class and they drew strange looks when they entered the cabin. There were looks of surprise, despise and confusion. This was not strange at all since the trio were still wearing the clothes they were in when leaving the White Hun Tribe. Their clothes were torn, tattered and bloodstained. Xia Lei was a little better but Dayetia and Szlamy looked like savages from a primitive tribe - explosively sexy savages.
“What are you looking at? Haven’t seen women before? I’ll rip your eyes out!” said Szlamy fiercely. However, she spoke in Pashto and no one else other than Xia Lei and Dayetia understood her.
A young man in a suit laughed in ridicule, “What are you quacking about? Are you from some primitive tribe? Ooh, learning to sit in first class like modern humans. Go take a bath before you get on a plane. Remember to go to economy - that’s more fitting for you.”
“What’s that punk saying?” Szlamy did not understand.
Dayetia wrinkled her brows, her face dark. She would have killed this arrogant young man without hesitation if they were in Afghanistan and he dared talk to her like this. However, she did not tell Szlamy what the young man had said. She did not want Xia Lei to know that she understood some Chinese and, more importantly, she did not want to commit any offences while in China.
Xia Lei walked over and hit the young man’s carotid artery with a knife-hand without warning. The young man fell in a dead faint before even having time to grunt.
The airline security witnessed it all but he had received prior notification; he turned away and pretended not to have seen it.
Xia Lei did not want to do it but he did not want to miss any opportunities to better his relationship with Dayetia too. He was doing it for the sake of Tang Yu-Yan, Ning Jing, those experts and for the place which the compass pointed to.
Szlamy took Xia Lei’s arm and smiled very sweetly. She drew close to Xia Lei’s ear and said something.
Xia Lei couldn’t help moving his gaze to Szlamy’s short skirt and his face turned red for some inexplicable reason.Previous Chapter Next Chapter