There was a little house behind the warehouse with a bed, a table and two sofas. It was simply furnished and very clean. A small river wound by the front of the house and an abandoned construction site sat on the opposite bank, silent as a grave.
“I lived here for a period of time,” said Xia Changhe. He gestured for Xia Lei to sit on the sofa.
Xia Lei sat on the sofa. “Dad, there are many things I don’t understand. We finally meet now so I want to get to the bottom of those things.”
Xia Changhe sat opposite Xia Lei. “I know. Now is the time to tell you the truth.”
Xia Lei looked at his father, waiting quietly for him to continue.
“I believe you already know that I am not an ordinary civilian.” Xia Changhe said slowly, “I am part of the FA Organisation - the Free Agents. This organisation was established a hundred years ago during World War I. You cannot imagine how powerful and how mysterious it is.”
Xia Lei couldn’t help interrupting. “How… How did you join this FA Organisation?”
Xia Changhe gave a dry laugh. “I am an orphan. I grew up in an orphanage. One day a person came to the orphanage and took me away but it was not the type of adoption you’d expect. I was brought to Siberia and I underwent gruelling training there. Children from all over the world were there. American, German, English, Japanese, Israeli, Saudi… Orphans from all those countries you could see on a map were sent there. FA is an international organisation of specialised, select members and I am one of many.”
Xia Lei then understood the reason why he had never seen any grandparents.
Xia Changhe continued, “I trained in Siberia for 15 years. Many people died, and those who survived and passed the final test were sent back to their respective home countries to await our missions. I got to know your mother during that period of time.”
Xia Lei’s heart squeezed. His memories of his mother had gone a little hazy.
“I knew that a person like myself should not have gotten close to her but I could not help myself. I had entered the river of love and it was the first time I felt like I was living like a human should. And so we got married, and had you and Xia Xue. I lived in the small gap between the two worlds of home and FA. I went on missions for the FA, and played the role of a husband and father at home.”
“Does the FA know of me and Xue?” asked Xia Lei.
“Three people knew. They’re dead now. I would never let them live. I kill whoever threatens my children,” said Xia Changhe.
Xia Lei felt a chill cross his heart. His old man was actually this sort of person! He was completely different from the ordinary, honest father he had in his memories.
“The one I am most sorry about is your mother. She did not know my real identity all through her illness and death. I received a mission after your mother’s death to investigate the AE Research Center in America. I brought some of the new generation FAs with me and spent almost two years investigating the secret of the AE Research Center - the AE capsules. A drug which could let the human race fully evolve. During that time you fell ill. You had unexplained headaches and your health was getting worse and worse. I brought you to the hospital for a check-up and the doctors told me that there was a tumor in your head which could not be operated on. You would live for less than a year more.”
Xia Changhe nodded. “Before your mother died she told me to take good care of you two. I promised her. I could not watch you die like that. I stole the 12 AE capsules from the AE Research Center and let you eat them. This was my only hope for you to live on.”
Memories flashed in Xia Lei’s head. “You let me eat one capsule a month, and I ate 11… But how did the AE capsules heal the tumor in my head?”
Xia Changhe shook his head. “I am no biologist. I don’t know how it did it but I know that evolution is a mysterious and powerful thing which can make your body stronger, more perfect. Truthfully, I gained some information when I was carrying out this mission and I deeply believed that the AE capsules would help you live on, otherwise I wouldn’t have stolen them.”
Xia Lei subconsciously touched the pendant of the necklace around his neck. He had consumed 11 out of the 12 capsules - what would he attain if he took the last?
“I know you still have one.” Xia Changhe looked at Xia Lei. “When do you plan to eat it?”
Xia Lei thought for a bit and said, “I want to take it and I also want to know what taking it will bring to me, but what I want to know more is what it is made of. I did some digging too and I know that they are the only capsules so I have no intention of eating it yet. I also have questions. If these were the only ones, then how did the AE Research Center get their hands on them? Who made them? America?”
Xia Changhe was silent for a bit before he spoke. “Human science has not reached this level of technology yet. These were excavated.”
“Huh?” Xia Lei was thunderstruck.
“The information I got was that a Ming dynasty book was found by the Japanese in a library during the invasion of Nanjing in World War II. The book had records of some absurd content - content related to AE. It was incredible to have the letters ‘AE’ appear in a Ming dynasty book. However, the Japanese were busy invading our land and did not take any special note of this. The war then ended and Japan surrendered. The American troops took over Japan and discovered that book. The Americans started studying it and searched with the clues found in the book. They finally found the capsules in Jerusalem.
This all sounded like a mythical story.
The Japanese invading Nanjing and discovering the book. Americans taking over Japan after World War II, finding leads and finding the AE capsules in Jerusalem. But in the end these AE capsules had ended up in the stomach of a young Chinese lad. Was this fate?
Xia Changhe kept talking. “If the Americans were given more time they might have solved the mystery of the AE capsules. Too bad you couldn’t wait that long. I stole them and gave them to you. And so I became wanted internationally by the CIA and the FA ordered me killed too. How could I meet with you, my children, under those circumstances?”
Xia Lei smiled wryly. “So that means even the AE Research Center cannot confirm the origin and secrets of the AE capsules now?”
Xia Changhe shook his head. “I can tell you for sure that no one in this world knows about the secrets of the AE capsules.”
“Then what about the ancient alloy I extracted from the ruins in Afghanistan? It also has ‘AE’ on it.”
“My investigation is still ongoing. This is why I sent Yelena to look for you to ask you to hand that piece of alloy to me. But what you did was right too, giving it to the Chinese government. The first mention of AE was in China after all and this is a return to its origins of a sort. More importantly, you had an opportunity to interact with the alloy with your status in Bureau 101, so I gave up on that idea.”
Xia Lei knew well that if it had been someone else retrieving that alloy his father would not have let go just like that. He would have killed that person and taken the alloy.
“I had done my best to keep you hidden but the CIA discovered you in the end. They sent their Chinese intelligence officer, Liang Siyao to make contact with you. I wanted to kill her during that period of time but she is highly capable and she had the protection of the CIA. I later discovered that Liang Siyao had no intention to harm you and I just sent Yevgenia to give you some information. She was unexpectedly killed by Liang Siyao.” Xia Changhe gave a laugh at this point. “What was more interesting was that she had fallen in love with you, and you with her. I had more reasons not to kill her. You wouldn’t have forgiven me if I did.”
Xia Lei couldn’t help his bitter smile. His love for Liang Siyao had been a mistake.
“Is there anything else you want to ask me?” Xia Changhe looked at Xia Lei, his eyes tender.
“You’ve told me all that you could, and I have nothing more to ask except this - what degree of investigation have you reached in your investigation of AE?” said Xia Lei.
“You know as much as I do now. You’ll have to rely on yourself to uncover more secrets of AE. Son, only you have the opportunity to come into contact with that compass and that alloy. I will help you from the shadows. Us, father and son working together, we will have the chance to uncover the mysteries.”
Xia Lei wanted to cut ties with Bureau 101 but it now looked like this plan had to be annulled. How was he going to come into contact with the compass and alloy if he cut ties with Bureau 101?
Things like these couldn’t be helped, like running into someone you didn’t want to see, and having to do things you didn’t want to do.
“Son, be careful,” nagged Xia Changhe. “My identity is quite special and you will be in trouble if the people from Bureau 101 find out.”
“I’ve already been marked,” said Xia Lei.
“Who?” Xia Changhe wrinkled his brows.
“I’m not sure who it is but I am sure I’m being marked. Don’t worry, I didn’t betray the country and I didn’t do anything illegal. I’ve actually been contributing to the nation all the while. They wouldn’t ignore my contributions and usefulness. In other words, if they do find out your identity one day I believe the higher-ups would treat me fairly still.”
Xia Changhe let out a sigh. “I’m relieved you think that way. But you’ve antagonised quite a few people. I’m still worried that your enemies would use this to attack you.”
Xia Lei nodded. “I’ll be careful.” After a pause, he said, “You’re my Dad. You’ll always be Dad no matter what your identity is, and this won’t ever change. I go by the law and I can sit tall and proud. If they want to use this to attack me then bring it on. I will not back down, and I will not be afraid.”
Xia Changhe smiled. How could he not feel proud with a son like this?
At that moment, Yelena’s voice suddenly came from in the house. “Leave, now!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter