The military vehicle galloped over the mountain roads, going up and down the range; the red leaves were like flames.
The scenery was picturesque but Xia Lei was in no mood to admire it. He grew increasingly anxious the closer they got to that military base. “Tell me - How is Ning Jing now?”
This was his third time asking this question.
Long Bing’s first answer: Just a small problem.
Long Bing’s second answer: You’ll know when you see her.
This time, Long Bing glanced at Xia Lei and sighed. “Okay, I’ll tell you. She’s gone mad.”
“Ha?” Xia Lei paused, not daring to believe it. He clearly remembered that he had specially nagged Ning Jing not to interact with those two pieces of alloy when he’d left, but something had still happened to her.
A hint of puzzlement tinged Long Bing’s voice. “I didn’t quite believe it when I received the notice either. But I’ve seen them and Ning Jing too. They were definitely mad. The best specialist doctors in the nation had examined them but they could not find the cause. It seems to be a collective disease, and the cause is unexplained… This is very strange.”
The images of the two pieces of ancient alloy and the bronze book surfaced in Xia Lei’s mind, followed by Ning Jing’s face.
Ning Jing had finally gotten out of the shadow of her parents to pursue her own happiness and live her own life, but she had unexpectedly run into this sort of thing now. She really was an unfortunate woman.
Scenes of what he had experienced with Ning Jing played like a video and Xia Lei’s heart filled with hurt and worry. He had always treated Ning Jing as a good friend and he could not accept the fact that she had gone mad.
Long Bing sighed. “I know you’re close with Doctor Ning but don’t be so worried. She and those experts have not been mad for long. There’s still hope in curing them.”
Xia Lei stopped thinking about it. “I hope so. She’s actually quite a pitiful woman.”
“Many women are pitiful creatures in need of help in your eyes.”
Xia Lei smiled wryly. “Stop joking with me. I’m not in the mood now.” After a pause, he added, “Tell me - was it you who wanted me to come take a look or was it someone in the higher-ups who specified that I should come?”
Long Bing was silent for a bit before she said, “The people in the research group are either dying or going mad. If it were up to me to decide, would I tell you to come? It’s the higher-ups.”
“I don’t know the details of this matter but I’m guessing that he’s just the mouthpiece even though the order came from him. The research project on the mysterious alloy is on of the nation’s most secret and there’s someone in the higher-ups in charge. Boss Shi cannot oversee such an important matter. Don’t ask me who it is, though. I don’t know either,” said Long Bing.
It was a material which could change the manufacturing industry of a nation and raise the standing of the whole of China on a global scale - if one looked at it this way, then Boss Shi’s status was definitely not high enough to have this sort of responsibility.
Xia Lei thought for a bit and said, “Then why are they getting me to take action? The danger of that alloy is apparent - people who have come in contact with it either die or go mad. I might die or go mad too if I get involved.”
“I think that someone in the higher-ups is of the opinion that you’ll be fine since you were the one who excavated the alloy in Afghanistan. Besides, you’ll get some information for yourself too. That’s why the higher-ups want you to try something.”
Xia Lei did a crying laugh. “They didn’t want me to interact with the alloy in the past because they were afraid that I’d learn some secret and now that those experts are either dead or mad and there’s no one else, they think of me. Am I a useful bit of cannon fodder to them?”
Long Bing rolled her eyes at Xia Lei. “Other people can only dream of being cannon fodder. Stop complaining. Individual gains and losses are insignificant when compared to national interests.”
Xia Lei grew silent and did not continue the conversation. He’d put on a show of unwillingness but he was actually quite willing indeed. He had been waiting for the opportunity to come into contact with the ancient alloy and that bronze book and this opportunity had landed on his lap now. Why would he reject it?
There was still a risk since the people who had come into contact with these items had either died or gone mad, but how was he to unravel the mysteries of AE without taking this bit of risk?
His career progression and how much money he made were not the most important to Xia Lei. What mattered most was to unravel the mysteries of the ancient alloy and AE!
The military vehicle entered the military base. Long Bing handed Xia Lei an entrance pass when they alighted.
Xia Lei looked at the card. It had his picture, a magnetic strip and the words ‘Special Authority’. He asked curiously, “What does ‘Special Authority’ mean?”
“It means you have the same level of authority as Scholar Wang Lei. You can freely enter and exit this base if you comply with the regulations. You can transport whichever resources you need for your use, including manpower. You also have the authority to mobilise some people.”
Xia Lei looked at her. “Including you?”
Long Bing looked back at him. “If you want me to loosen your joints and give you a beating, then my answer is ‘Yes’.”
So it was a yes.
Ordering Long Bing around? This was the first time Xia Lei had this sort of authority and it all felt quite strange to him.
Having special authority was quite different. The soldiers guarding the passageway in the research area did not conduct a body search on Xia Lei and only reminded him to leave his mobile phone behind. Xia Lei had to remove the necklace from around his neck the last time but there was no need for that this time.
He left his phone in their care and followed Long Bing into the research area in the mountain, soon coming to where they had been before - the area where the ancient alloy was being studied.
This area was sealed off and some gun-toting soldiers were guarding the entrance and exit to the passageway. The lights were on but there was no sign of activity. It was quiet and the area was filled with a gloomy and strange atmosphere.
“Are you going to look at the research area or at those experts first?” said Long Bing.
“Ning Jing and those experts are not in there?” asked Xia Lei.
“That place is a very dangerous place to those experts now. How could we still allow them to remain in there? They’ve been moved to another zone.”
“Then let’s first see the people.”
Long Bing led him to another zone and they arrived a few minutes later. This area had gun-toting soldiers too. They showed their passes and were given clearance to enter.
After they entered, a doctor led them to a large room. Xia Lei saw Wang Lei, some experts and Ning Jing.
Wang Lei was crouched over on the floor playing with a shoe and mumbling to himself. “Beepbeep, beepbeep… Truck’s coming, truck’s coming… Beep beep…”
A Scholar of science, reduced to that. This was quite a loss to the nation.
The other experts were in bad shape too. One was looking vacantly at the ceiling. Another was shredding paper towels in his hands, and one was doing mathematical calculations with pen and paper. On the paper was written ‘1+1=11’.
Any person who could make it into this group of experts had at least five years of excellent learning but this person’s intelligence had degraded so badly that it was worse than a primary school student’s! There was sure to be a great uproar if news of this leaked.
Xia Lei’s gaze went to Ning Jing.
Ning Jing was in white patient garb, sitting on a chair. She held a makeup mirror in her hand and a lipstick too. She looked at herself in the mirror as she applied the lipstick over and over to her lips. Her originally petite, peachy lips were now a huge red swath of lipstick and it looked like she had just gulped blood.
A doctor standing to one side said, “Their intelligence now is not over five years of age. Doctor Ning’s condition is a little better but not normal either. We’ve thought of everything we could and used all treatment methods we could but their condition is not improving.”
“Hm, I see. Thank you.” Xia Lei walked towards Ning Jing.
Ning Jing did not sense him approaching at all. She looked at herself in the mirror, then put a red dot on her forehead with the lipstick.
“Ning Jing, it’s me.” Xia Lei squatted by Ning Jing and said gently, “Do you still remember me?”
Ning Jing looked at Xia Lei then and she stared blankly before suddenly reaching out to hold Xia Lei’s face. “You’re here, Xiao Ming! You’re late again! The kindergarten teachers will scold you but don’t be afraid - I won’t tell the teachers,” she said excitedly.
Xia Lei didn’t know what to say. A ringing was echoing in his brain.
Ning Jing abruptly drew closer again and gave Xia Lei a smacking kiss on his forehead.
Xia Lei froze. A blood-red kiss mark appeared on his forehead.
“Let’s play house, Xiao Ming. I’ll be Mother, you’ll be Father.” As she spoke, she reached into her collar and groped around. She took out a glass marble from her bra. “This is our child.”
Xia Lei was speechless.
“Let’s go, Xia Lei.” Long Bing wrinkled her brows. “You can’t help her now. Let the doctors take care of her.”
“Give me a few more minutes,” said Xia Lei.
Xia Lei called up the power of his eye and focused on Ning Jing’s head. He was going to do a deep X-ray.
There were no anomalies in Ning Jing’s brain and all seemed normal. He then scanned the rest of Ning Jing’s body and it was all normal too. His impression was that Ning Jing was in very good health except for the times when she suddenly returned to her childhood.
“Stay here, Ning Jing. I’ll come visit you later.” Xia Lei stood and patted Ning Jing on the head.
“Noooo, Xiao Ming, you’re skipping class again! I’m going to tell the teacher! She’s going to spank you!” Ning Jing was huffy.
Xia Lei sighed and turned to leave. He was not going to be of any help even if he stayed. He had to find the cause of Ning Jing and the experts’ madness to solve this problem - and this seemed directly related to the secrets of the ancient alloy and AE too!
Xia Lei exited the room and asked the doctor, “Did they all go mad at the same time or was it one by one?”
“They suddenly became like this a week ago, at 9pm on Saturday. This is what we found from the surveillance footage, but we couldn’t find the cause.”
So this had begun a week ago and the higher-ups had not let Xia Lei be involved till now. It was apparent that the person or team in charge of this had tried all the methods thinkable during this time, and let Xia Lei do something about it only after weighing the potential risks and potential for successful treatment.
“Thank you. Please take good care of Doctor Ning. She is my friend,” said Xia Lei to the doctor.
The doctor nodded. “No problem. Rest assured.”
Xia Lei left.Previous Chapter Next Chapter