There was no way the research was going to continue. Two of their best scientists had died in a night and this could be said to be a loss for the nation.
Xia Lei could not leave either, since everyone in the research laboratory area was restricted from leaving. It wasn’t just him and Long Bing - even the two soldiers who had come to help were not allowed to leave.
Wang Lei had made the decision. He stayed behind too, as an example. He did have the right to leave and just report what had happened to a superior but he did not do so; this made people respect him.
The medical staff had not arrived yet so Xia Lei and Long Bing returned to their rooms. Long Bing went straight to report the situation to Shi Boren, and Xia Lei stayed in his room, recalling everything he had just witnessed.
Every bit of what happened from the beginning of Doctor Chen Kexue and Doctor Luo Su’s illnesses to their deaths replayed in his head like a video. He brought up scene after scene in his head, trying to find possibilities…
Knock knock knocking came from the door.
Xia Lei’s train of thought was interrupted. He looked over and saw Ning Jing standing outside his door. Her head was bandaged and she looked anxious.
‘She came at the right time. I would’ve needed to find some excuse to see her if she didn’t come on her own.’ Xia Lei got up and opened the door for Ning Jing. He invited her in, then shut the door.
“Isn’t movement restricted? Why did you come over?” asked Xia Lei casually.
“They did say that and outsiders cannot come in, but we can move about freely in the laboratory area,” said Ning Jing, “Scholar Wang is in a call with the higher-ups. He has no time to keep an eye on me now but he will surely do so once his call ends so I hurried over here to see you.”
“Are you scared?” Xia Lei looked at her.
Ning Jing nodded, and said, “But… I don’t feel scared when I’m with you.”
Xia Lei lowered his voice, “Tell me - what’s written in that bronze book?”
Ning Jing paused. She looked at Xia Lei but did not speak.
Xia Lei smiled. “It’s all right. I know you have your protocol here and cannot reveal anything about the research to just anyone. Treat it as if I’ve not asked anything if you don’t want to talk about it.”
NIng Jing bit her lip and glanced subconsciously at the tightly-shut door, then drew close to Xia Lei’s ear and spoke in the softest of voices. “That bronze book has a total of 32 pages and exactly 10,000 words; no more, no less. I’ve checked a large volume of our resources but I have no idea of the origin or what language these words are in.”
“You don’t recognise even one?” asked Xia Lei in surprise.
Ning Jing shook her head. “It’s not just me. I showed it to several experts in the same field, even sought advice from local language experts. No one has seen words like these.”
If the words in the bronze book were a language an expert like Ning Jing didn’t even recognise, then it surely was not an item from the Ming era of Emperor Yong Le's reign. Xia Lei had a feeling that the mysterious contents of the bronze book was related to the mysterious alloy.
Xia Lei got pen and paper and handed them to Ning Jing. “Can you write a few of the words from the book? Best if they’re from the very start of the book.”
Ning Jing did not refuse, and quickly wrote a line of words on the paper.
Xia Lei scrutinised the paper. The words were fairly special, like a little person posing in different positions. A few of the words even had the shape of a person’s head, and parts similar to eyes and lips. He had never seen anything like it, much less recognised it.
He tore the paper up after he was done reading and threw the pieces in the toilet bowl to flush them away. He would not forget anything he’d seen, so there was no need to keep that piece of paper with the mysterious words. Ning Jing and himself would get into trouble if it was discovered.
Xia Lei returned to Ning Jing’s side. “What else do you know?”
Ning Jing put her chin by his ear and her lips were almost touching his ear as she said, “This group of experts found nothing so far. You can say that they have gained absolutely nothing. Scholar Wang is under great pressure and frequently throws a fit.”
The higher-ups placed great importance on this and had provided Wang Lei with personnel, money and anything he needed but there had been no result after such a long period of time researching - of course the higher-ups would be unhappy. One could only imagine the pressure Wang Lei was under.
Ning Jing’s voice was tiny. “But I heard that another group’s set out with the compass, looking for the next treasure location.”
Xia Lei’s heart thumped. “Where did they go?”
“I don’t know. I asked Wang Lei but he scolded me and I didn’t dare to ask again.”
“Don’t ask him anymore,” said Xia Lei, “You have to be careful. It is unknown what those two pieces of alloy are. It’s best if you don’t come into contact with them. Those two scientists who died were both people who had touched those pieces of alloy.”
“Nn.” Ning Jing couldn’t help the smile which spread across her face. “You do care for me; it feels warm.”
Xia Lei gave a laugh. “Has your mother tried to make you go for marriage meetings recently?”
The smile on Ning Jing’s face crumbled, and she pursed her lips. “I’ve already moved out. I haven’t been back in a long time.”
“I’m sorry…” said Xia Lei apologetically.
“Why apologise?” said Ning Jing. “You’ve said before that I am a person, not a thing. I should have my own life. I felt that you were right and that I should also have a life of my own. As for my parents… I’ll wait for them to think this through before I go back.”
“I support your decision,” said Xia Lei.
Ning Jing suddenly drew close again, and her plump, moist lips touched his ear.
Xia Lei froze.
“Ah…” Ning Jing flushed immediately. “I’m sorry, I suddenly remembered something I’d left out and I wanted to tell you,” she said hurriedly.
“It’s all right. What did you remember? Tell me now.” Xia Lei did not mind.
Ning Jing’s breath was warm on Xia Lei’s ear, and her voice became cotton-soft. “I heard Scholar Wang on a phone call. He greeted the person on the line as ‘Boss Shi’ and they mentioned you.”
Her speaking like that, blowing warm air into his ear tickled and Xia Lei would have moved away already if she were talking about something else but what she was saying hooked his curiosity. He tolerated her ‘harassment’ and asked, “What did they talk about?”
Ning Jing continued breathing into his ear. “I couldn’t hear what that Boss Shi said and only heard a few lines of what Scholar Wang said. He said not to use you to find the next treasure location, then said that you shouldn’t be allowed to know too much of the secrets.”
Xia Lei understood immediately. Shi Boren had wanted him to be responsible for finding the next treasure location and asked for Wang Lei’s opinion but Wang Lei had rejected the idea, saying that Xia Lei should not be allowed to know too many secrets about the ancient alloy.
This couldn’t actually count as a secret.
“Nn, okay. Thank you.” Xia Lei gave a laugh. “Scholar Wang doesn’t want me to take credit. He doesn’t understand me at all. I don’t care for credit or glory - I already have so much of that but what use are they? Not even good for wiping my ass.”
It was true - he had brought back the most advanced lathe from Germany. This was a great contribution to the nation. And he had built Thunder Horse Military Factory to make the most advanced sniper rifles for China. This was also a great contribution. But what had he gained so far? He did gain some benefits but he had also gained problems; it was a double-edged sword. He’d long seen past the veneer of credit and glory and didn’t care for them.
Ning Jing touched Xia Lei’s ear again, gently, softly, lingering.
This wasn’t an accident anymore but deliberate.
Xia Lei could not stay still at this contact anymore. He quickly moved his ear away and looked at her awkwardly. He was taken aback - Ning Jing had always seemed like a weak and timid girl to him, and fairly shy too. How was she so daring now, stimulating a man in this way?
Their eyes met. Ning Jing’s face grew redder and she grew nervous. Her generous bosom also moved up and down very obviously with each breath she took. She then closed her eyes, as if waiting for something.
This was the body language of a woman waiting for a kiss. Xia Lei had long left the title of ‘beginner in love’ behind so he knew full well what she was hoping for, but the knowledge of what she wanted gave him a headache. Why did she suddenly want him to kiss her?
It was comical. Ning Jing sneaked a peek from under her lashes and she shut her eyes again when she saw Xia Lei looking straight at her, continuing to wait for a kiss.
Her personality had changed a lot but she was still so clumsy in this aspect. If she were experienced and smart, she should have kept stimulating him. Weren’t all men like that? They would have some bottom line in the beginning but eventually the body will overcome the brain and make decisions. It wasn't just bottom lines - his bottom clothing would be gone too.
At the peak of awkwardness, a knocking came at the door.
“Who is it?” Xia Lei let out a quiet breath of relief and hurried to open the door.
Ning Jing stamped a foot in frustration and grumbled to herself, “I already did as described in the book - why didn’t it work? Ah, I forgot to say that it’s hot and to remove my clothes… I’m an idiot!”
Xia Lei’s footsteps faltered at those words and his face crumpled in a silent laugh.
Wang Lei had knocked.
“What’s the matter, Scholar Wang?” Xia Lei maintained his polite manner.
Wang Lei looked at Ning Jing in the room, then at Xia Lei. “What were you two doing?”
“Ning Jing and I are friends. What happened earlier scared her and she came to look for me, so we chatted,” said Xia Lei.
Wang Lei looked at Ning Jing again. “Is that so?”
Ning Jing nodded. “Yes, it was as he said.”
Xia Lei interrupted, “Scholar Wang, relax. We didn’t chat about anything sensitive. Right, what did you come to me for?”
“The medical staff are here. Everybody here must undergo a full-body checkup,” said Wang Lei. “Mr Xia, you are the first. Come with me.”
“I’m the first?” A strange feeling grew in Xia Lei’s heart. “Why?”
“Is there a difference who goes first and who goes last? Enough with the questions. Come with me,” said Wang Lei.
“Okay.” Xia Lei followed Wang Lei out of the room.
“I’m coming too.” Ning Jing followed.Previous Chapter Next Chapter