Chapter 344 - The Mantis

A woman lay in the jade coffin with no clothes on. She was entirely naked, and her skin was snow white and bloodless; she looked like she was sculpted from ice. She looked exactly as depicted on the relief on the stone door, and was elegant beyond compare. Her figure was slender and she was ample where she should be and plump where she should be in a very sexy way. She lay silently in the jade coffin, quiet and serene, giving one the impression that she was not dead but asleep. 

Xia Lei was beyond surprised. ‘This Princess Yong-Mei looks barely older than 20. Did she die young?’

The ancient book of the White Hun Tribe had not recorded when the princess had died, and all the history books of China, history and even folktales had no record of a ‘Princess Yong-Mei’. There was no way to verify when and how she died. 

Xia Lei’s gaze stopped at her neck. She had a gold necklace around her neck and the pendant of the necklace was not a precious gem or jade but a gold pointer-needle. Jewels and precious jade lay around her, every piece an exquisite work, but he did not see any green metal or anything related to ‘AE’.

‘There’s no alloy Ning Jing talked about or any bronze book. There’s just a needle. Why? Did Princess Yong-Mei hide the alloy and bronze book in another place?’ Xia Lei head was full of guesses as he then exerted his strength and pushed open the lid of the jade coffin. 

Xia Lei did not need to use his X-ray vision to see Princess Yong-Mei in the jade coffin and with the lid open, he could see her even more clearly. He felt like Princess Yong-Mei’s skin was even more delicate than he’d imagined, like pure white flower petals. He reached out a finger and poked her thigh. The flesh on her thigh was depressed, but quickly sprang up again. 

‘There’s elasticity too?!’ Xia Lei was gobsmacked. 

As he stared at her thigh, he suddenly saw some movement under her eyelids out of the corner of his eye, as if she had opened her eyes a crack. This shocked him and he hurriedly took a step back. He was afraid that Princess Yong-Mei would rise from the dead and suddenly grab him by the neck or something. 

However, Princess Yong-Mei did not move. The movement earlier when it looked like she was opening her eyes was but a hallucination. 

Xia Lei observed her for a while more and stepped back to the jade coffin. He reached out to take the necklace from Princess Yong-Mei’s neck and put it carefully in his backpack. The needle was related to the next treasure location and was very important. 

Following that, he stuffed all the precious gems and jade into his backpack. These ancient burial items were very valuable and no one would know if he took them anyway. They were also a nice compensation for what he had spent during this mission. 

Xia Lei’s attention returned to Princess Yong-Mei’s body after he searched the jade coffin. He had more or less gotten used to facing her body and the initial shock had worn off a little. His thoughts started whirring. 

‘There’s no preservation measures so how is Princess Yong-Mei’s body so well-preserved? There’s no decay even after hundreds of years. This doesn’t make sense… unless there’s something hidden in her body?’ 

Filling the body with preservatives could stop the body from decaying. Methods like this were present in ancient times, like how Egyptian mummies were made. 

With that thought in mind, Xia Lei’s left eye twitched and he started a deeper observation of Princess Yong-Mei. There were no preservatives in her body anywhere, not even her stomach; he could even see her perfectly intact intestines. He then looked at her chest. Her lungs were also perfectly preserved without any preservatives. He moved his gaze to her head last, and what he saw shook him to his core!

A piece of green metal rested upon her tongue. A closer look told him that it was the alloy Ning Jing had described!

The ancient alloy in Princess Yong-Mei’s mouth looked like a gear, just with very few teeth, making it look like a six-pointed star. It was fairly strange and mysterious. 

“I’m sorry, Princess Yong-Mei. Please, blame Boss Shi if you want to blame someone. It’s him who made me do this. It’s nothing to do with me…” Xia Lei babbled. He reached to pull her chin downwards and removed the metal alloy from her mouth. 

Princess Yong-Mei’s lips dried up rapidly after the metal left her mouth. 

“This…” Xia Lei could not believe his eyes. He was so shocked he could not speak. 

It wasn’t just her lips. Princess Yong-Mei’s skin also lost its pale translucence and quickly turned grey, then black in the blink of an eye. What was even more bizarre was that her body became like snow under the hot sun, melting away at a visible speed.

Yes, melting!

The first thing to disappear was her lips, then her nose and her whole face. Her high and firm breasts melted quickly too, starting from the tips, then the base and finally the ribs. 

The entire process was complete in under five minutes. The perfectly preserved body of beauty was now a pile of ash. Even her bones had fallen apart, becoming white ash!

Xia Lei could only watch, dumbfounded and motionless as it all unfolded before him. He slowly pulled himself together after Princess Yong-Mei was ash. He wiped at his forehead - cold sweat had beaded it. 

What had just happened was probably something that couldn’t be explained, not even if the world’s best biologists and archaeologists gathered!

‘So Princess Yong-Mei’s boy was preserved for hundreds of years because of this?’ Xia Lei’s gaze went to the ancient alloy in his hand. He was filled with shock and awe. 

Humans had an inborn fear of the unknown and Xia Lei was no exception. This ancient alloy which he was interacting with for the first time was like an existence equal to the gods to him!

There were no gods in this world, of course, but he did not know what the heck this mysterious and ancient alloy was. 

After some quiet scrutiny, Xia Lei focused on the ancient alloy and used his X-ray ability on it. However, his ability, which normally worked perfectly fine, was met with resistance again. His vision seemed to be reflected back by something, and his left eye was affected. His vision went black, followed by a burning sensation. It was not too serious - there was just a slight burning and his vision quickly went back to normal.

‘What the hell is this?’ Xia Lei was astounded. He did not dare use his X-ray vision on it again. He held it in his hand and looked at it closely, not leaving any detail out. 

This ancient alloy was roughly the same as Ning Jing had described. It was light, but very tough and strong. He did not test it but he was someone who worked with metals a lot and could roughly judge the strength and toughness of an alloy by touching and looking at it. 

This ancient alloy was obviously out of his field of knowledge, and was stronger and tougher than all the alloys he’d seen. No wonder Ning Jing had said that it was most suitable for making planes. 

Xia Lei had no result after scrutinising it and gave up. He put the alloy in his backpack and made preparations to return and study it. 

He left the central area after putting the alloy away. He moved to an area by a stone wall via safe stone tiles where some wooden boxes were stacked. The boxes had been treated to stop decay; the wood was soaked in oil and there was a layer of wax sealing them shut. There were no locks on the boxes and he opened them easily. 

The first box was filled entirely with gold coins. The gold coins were not as pure as modern gold coins but they still gleamed gold; it was exciting to behold. 

Xia Lei then used his X-ray vision on the other boxes. One other box was filled with gold coins like the first, and the remaining boxes held clothes which had already decayed. The clothing was obviously part of Princess Yong-Mei’s burial goods but hundreds of years had passed and the clothing could not be preserved. 

Xia Lei smiled. ‘The two boxes of gold coins can be handed to Szlamy, and the porcelain in the tomb can go to the White Hun Tribe. I’ll take the gems in the coffin, and the alloy. Everyone wins.’

This was the best outcome - the White Hun Tribe profited and Xia Lei would not only complete his mission but benefit from it too. Giving the gold coins, porcelain and artifacts to the White Hun Tribe was also a way to justify his digging around in their sacred ruins. He couldn’t take all the good stuff away, could he? Szlamy would have no way of explaining herself if he did. 

Xia Lei put the lids back on the boxes and exited the tomb via the safe route. 

After stepping out of the tomb door, he turned back and bowed deeply to the jade coffin. Princess Yong-Mei’s body would not have turned to ash if he had not come here and taken the ancient alloy away. This act of his shamed him greatly. 

Chi chi chi…

The sound of bats calling suddenly came from the passageway. 

Xia Lei was surprised and quickly switched off his torchlight. He listened to the sounds in the passageway with bated breath. Soon, a cloud of bats came flying, brushing past his body as they went into the tomb. They disappeared into the domed roof of the tomb. 

Xia Lei looked up and discovered that there was a space in the domed roof of the tomb. It was a vent which the bats could fly in and out of. He didn’t find it strange since he had felt some airflow when he’d entered. It was clear that there was not just one underground vent, but he was not interested in searching for them. 

Xia Lei looked away and followed the stone slabs up the passageway. He stopped abruptly before he walked not 20 metres. 

About 20 metres above him was a woman pointing a gun at him. Her head was under a black hood and she was in tight-fitting leather. A thermal-imaging device covered her eyes. This sort of equipment was as good as his left eye in environments like this. 

“Give me the backpack and you can leave.” The woman spoke in English. Her voice was cold, threatening. 

The mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind. He had neglected the greater danger for his smaller gain. 

Xia Lei’s mood was in the pits in that instant. The bats earlier wouldn’t be startled for no reason. He should have been prepared, but he was not because he had not heard anything else. In an environment of absolute silence like this, human footfalls would reach far even if a person tread as softly as he could but Xia Lei had not heard any footfalls. 

He looked at the woman’s feet and discovered that she had no shoes on. She had just socks on, and had stuffed cotton between her socks and the soles of her feet. 

This was a smart move. This woman was experienced, and had come prepared! 

“Didn’t you hear me? Give me the backpack!” The woman shouted at Xia Lei. 

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