One day later, a plane took off from Islamabad International Airport.
On the plane, Shi Bo-Ren flipped through the pages of the ancient book Xia Lei had brought from the White Hun Tribe but he could understand neither the ancient book nor the Pashtun translation of it.
“What’s in it?” Shi Bo-Ren looked at Xia Lei and asked curiously.
“This is the White Hun Tribe’s record of their history, people, traditions and ceremonies. There’s also a little bit about Princess Yong-Mei but it’s not very detailed. I borrowed this book and I’ll have to return it,” said Xia Lei.
“What did you borrow it for?” Long Bing couldn’t help interrupting. She was actually worried about the last part where Xia Lei had said ‘return it’. She did not want Xia Lei to go back to a place such as Afghanistan no matter what the reason.
“This mentions persons from the Ming dynasty and the origin of that metal. I want to bring the book back for Ning Jing to have a look at it. She’s an expert in this field so maybe she can find some clues,” said Xia Lei.
“I will pass the book to Ning Jing. This mission is done. You don’t have to find out any more about the metal and don’t meddle, understand?” said Shi Bo-Ren.
Xia Lei paused. “I thought I’d be going with you guys to the next treasure location. You don’t need me anymore?”
“Not for now. I’ll let you know when we need you to act.” Shi Bo-Ren offered no explanations.
Xia Lei wrinkled his brows and was rather dissatisfied. He was deeply interested in knowing the secret of the metal and he had put in so much work in Afghanistan, so much so that it felt like he was holding his brain in his hand while completing the mission. He had not expected to be shafted to one side after finding the new needle.
Shi Bo-Ren glanced at Xia Lei’s expression and sighed. “Lei, don’t be upset. This matter is too important. I cannot call all the shots. The higher ups have a special group of experts in charge of this. I may seem like I’m in a position of power but I can’t be mobilized without that group. I’m actually also an errand-boy, just carrying out orders.”
A little of the anger in Xia Lei’s heart dissipated with Shi Bo-Ren’s words. It was true - the fighter planes at Peshawar military base, the satellite support and the submarine which appeared when he was fleeing South Korea - these all needed very high authority to mobilise. Shi Bo-Ren’s rank was not high enough.
“It’s fine. I’ve already said that this was my last time doing missions like this. I won’t go next time, not even if a special group is going to be ready to save me,” said Xia Lei.
“You punk…” Shi Bo-Ren had a wry look on his face.
He would have unleashed a barrage of scolding if it were Long Bing or Tang Yu-Yan saying such things but he did not flare up at Xia Lei. Xia Lei was a consultant who drew no salary and could say ‘bye-bye’ to him anytime.
“Tea, Godfather?” Tang Yu-Yan came over to smooth things over. She offered a cup to tea to Shi Bo-Ren, then one to Xia Lei. “Lei, you have some tea too.”
“Thank you.” Xia Lei accepted the tea from Tang Yu-Yan.
Shi Bo-Ren put down the cup without taking a sip and got up to leave, saying, “Yu-Yan, you talk to this punk. I’m going to sit somewhere else. Have a good chat; you youngsters have plenty of topics to talk about.”
“No problem. I guarantee I will complete this chatting mission,” said Tang Yu-Yan with a smile.
Shi Bo-Ren gave her a glare and went to the cockpit.
“When are you coming to my place?” Tang Yu-Yan looked at Xia Lei, all smiles.
Xia Lei thought for a bit and said, “We can just make arrangements when we’re back in Jingdu. A few days, probably.”
“Okay, it’s decided then.” Tang Yu-Yan looked rather pleased.
Just then, Long Bing walked over and sat herself unceremoniously opposite them. “We just had news. Ahn Suhyeong is in China.”
“I heard about your mission in South Korea. Could Ahn Suhyeong have come to China to try to get the sword of Attila back?” said Tang Yu-Yan.
Xia Lei gave a laugh. “If he wants the sword of Attila then he’ll have to go to the White Hun Tribe himself to get it. But I think he won’t have the guts to do it.”
Long Bing frowned. “Don’t think lightly of him. Be careful in your everyday life too. The Ahns are powerful and cannot be underestimated.”
“Rest assured, I won’t think lightly of him and I won’t think highly of him either. This is China, not South Korea. I had to stay low in Korea but in China there’s no need to me to lay low, is there?”
“Nn, true.” Long Bing suddenly switched topics. “Weren’t you two chatting? Carry on.”
Tang Yu-Yan looked at Long Bing. She had many topics she wanted to discuss with Xia Lei but she could say none now.
Xia Lei did not speak either. Someone appeared in his head.
Liang Si-Yao had bid him goodbye in South Korea. Where was she now?
The plane suddenly shook violently.
“Fasten your seatbelts!” came the captain’s voice from over the speakers.
Just after the captain spoke, the plane abruptly grew silent and plummeted, down, down. The people on the plane hadn’t had time to fasten their seatbelts.
“What’s happening?” Tang Yu-Yan was pale with fear.
“No idea!” Long Bing grabbed a handrail tight and tried to get a seatbelt in position to tie herself to it.
Xia Lei was scared too. Abilities and guns were no use in a situation like this. He suddenly thought of death and a chill went down his spine. He had survived hails of bullets - was he going to die here?
People would think of their most important people or life events at the brink of death and this happened to Xia Lei too. However, he did not think of his father or his sister Xia Xue, nor Liang Si-Yao who had hurt him deeply, but Zhu Xuan-Yue in the jade coffin. Princess Yong-Mei!
The plane dropped from the sky like a falling star and the image of Princess Yong-Mei filled Xia Lei’s head. There was that one second where Xia Lei felt he had seen her blink. That terrifying look…
WOMP! There was a dull roar as the plane’s engines suddenly started working again. The falling plane regained lift and finally stopped its downward fall.
Everyone on the plane had broken out in cold sweat. There was silence as composure was regained.
Shi Bo-Ren came out of the cockpit. “For some unknown reason the plane suddenly lost power. Even the electricity was gone. Good thing it recovered on its own. There’re no problems now.”
There were pearls of sweat on Shi Bo-Ren’s forehead; he’d been scared witless too.
“Why did it suddenly lose power?” Long Bing came back to her senses. “This plane has just been through maintenance and all its equipment and circuitry have been checked. There were no problems.”
“No clue. We’ll have to get it checked when we’re back,” said Shi Bo-Ren.
Tang Yu-Yan touched Xia Lei’s arm. “Lei, what did you think about just now?”
Xia Lei smiled wryly. “I thought of my sister. What is going to happen to her, all alone, if I die in a plane crash? And you?”
“Not telling you,” said Tang Yu-Yan playfully.
Xia Lei looked at Long Bing. “Did you think of anything?”
“Your sister,” said Long Bing.
“My sister?” Xia Lei paused. “Why did you think of her?”
Tang Yu-Yan also looked oddly at Long Bing. Her words made her thoughts run wild.
Long Bing spoke evenly, “I was thinking how I’d break the news of your death in a plane crash to her.”
Xia Lei laughed at her words. “If the aircraft functions had not restored themselves then everyone on this plane would probably not survive. If I die, you’ll die too. How are you going to tell Xia Xue I’m dead?”
Long Bing did not deign to answer a question like that.
Tang Yu-Yan suddenly reached out her with claw-like hands and made a scary face with her tongue out. “She’ll become a ghost and tell your sister… Xia Xue, your brother died so horribly…”
“Stop it.” Xia Lei knew it was not real but he had quite a strong reaction to it. He felt like his hair was on end and cold struck at his heart. The memory of Princess Yong-Mei’s body crumbling surfaced in his mind for some reason.
“You’re no fun.” Tang Yu-Yan stopped making a scary face.
Xia Lei was mulling over his thoughts. ‘I won’t believe that there are ghosts in this world even if someone pointed a gun at my head telling me to believe it. But why do I keep remembering her body? And what happened earlier… Could it be connected to that alloy?’
There shouldn’t be ghosts and spirits in this world. If there were, there were billions of people and science had become so advanced - how could a ghost have not been discovered yet? It was ridiculous to link Princess Yong-Mei to what had just happened, but… Why would a plane which had just undergone maintenance suddenly lose power, even electricity? And just recovered mysteriously on its own after that? Xia Lei could only think of that piece of metal alloy.
“Boss Shi, can you let me take another look at that alloy?” Xia Lei stood and tried his luck asking.
Shi Bo-Ren looked at Xia Lei and said right away, “No. I’ve said it clearly. You should not bother with anything to do with it anymore.”
Xia Lei shrugged and sat back at his seat.Previous Chapter Next Chapter