Early next morning, Xia Lei led the two women out of the door. They took a regular taxi to the Jerusalem Museum.
Police cars zoomed past every so often on their way to the museum, making the trio inexplicably nervous.
Liu Qiang wanted to go too but Xia Lei refused. Liu Qiang was to stay at the intelligence station and be on standby to drive over and pick them up. The car he was to drive had their weapons loaded onto it - three XL2500 sniper rifles, one Gust assault rifle.
Xia Lei had his considerations too when refusing to let Liu Qiang participate. The expert group had been exposed and Liu Qiang had stayed at the hotel for a long time so the hotel surveillance cameras had taken who knows how many shots of his face. It would be a terrible decision to take Liu Qiang to the museum with them under these circumstances.
They got out of the taxi and went into the museum, straight to the archaeology section. The full name of this place was the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archaeology Wing, which was a mouthful indeed.
Xia Lei spotted surveillance cameras and alarms everywhere, as well as security personnel on his way to the map. It would be impossible to steal anything from this place even if he and Qin Xiang were to work together. Fortunately, he just needed to take a look at that ancient map.
A bookish, bespectacled girl came up to them in welcome when they entered the archaeology section. She greeted them softly, “It’s me. Come with me.”
This girl was the one Qiao Ping had mentioned. Her name was Duan Ningning, and she was the one who had given them the information on the map.
They followed Duan Ningning deeper into the museum. They did not go fast, and pretended to admire artifacts as they walked. This museum had almost 6,000 artifacts in it. Most were related to religion and every artifact had a small description of the history of the item behind it.
Xia Lei quickly spotted the ancient map with the help of Duan Ningning. It was actually not one piece but some pages combined. The material of these pages was treated animal skin, and it had been treated so that it would not corrode but the passage of time had fused these pages together and it was impossible to separate them. Only the top piece could be seen clearly.
Next to the bulletproof glass display, Duan Ningning whispered, “This is it. They say it was already like this when they excavated it. There’s no way to peel it apart, but good thing the top piece can still be read clearly. Have a look - is it the type of map you wanted?”
Xia Lei had had his gaze fixed on the map in the display from the time he saw it. The map was indeed of Jerusalem Old City and was ancient. Who knew how old it truly was.
The ancient map had a drawing of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on it but there was no drawing of the Dome of the Rock, unfortunately.
This discovery made Xia Lei’s estimate of this map’s age go up by a huge margin. ‘The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by Emperor Constantine in 335AD while the Dome of the Rock was built between 687 and 691 by the Ninth Caliph Abdul Malik. There is a difference of over 300 years between the two structures. This map has no drawing of the Dome of the Rock, so that means it was made not long after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built, and is at least 1,600 years old.’
Tang Yuyan spoke, “This map is very old and it’s not detailed either. Useless.”
Xia Lei said nothing. His left eye focused on the map behind the glass case and it twitched. His X-ray vision penetrated the glass and landed on the map, and the ancient leather slowly disappeared, revealing the hidden drawings below.
The second piece of the map had no buildings on it but it had some thick, black lines, and notes written in Hebrew.
Those lines, and those Hebrew words… Xia Lei’s brain went into explosive overdrive, pulling out thousands of Hebrew words. His thought processes sped up simultaneously, comparing those Hebrew words. It was translating!
Xia Lei’s current brain capabilities were such that he did not need to go through gruelling learning of a minority language. He just needed to read a dictionary of this language and he could translate everything from this language. This right now was an example. He did not actually know Hebrew but he could translate it at a glance as long as it was in Hebrew.
Xia Lei was now like a machine translating system after his brain evolved. There would be gaps in content for large amounts of text, of course, and be quite messy, but short phrases and sentences were no problem.
Xia Lei filled with excitement after he translated the Hebrew writing. ‘I found it! It’s the drainage system of ancient Jerusalem! There’s a drainage pipe under the Church of the Holy Sepulchre!’ After a pause, he thought, ‘Wait, there’s a total of three pieces stuck together. What’s on the last piece?’
Xia Lei’s left eye kept going, and the second piece disappeared.
Xia Lei was staring hard at the map behind the glass display, as if possessed. Long Bing and Tang Yuyan could not help exchanging looks. The two women’s eyes were filled with curiosity and incomprehension.
“Hello? Did you find something?” asked Long Bing.
“Is he out of it?” came Tang Yuyan’s voice.
Just then, two uniformed security guards came walking towards them. One of them was talking into a walkie-talkie.
Duan Ningning grew nervous. “Leave, quick. We’ve attracted attention.”
Xia Lei still stood before the glass display, unmoving, unblinking. The him right then seemed to be held in place by something, and there was no shaking it off.
Long Bing gave Xia Lei a push but there was still no response from him. He seemed possessed.
Tang Yuyan made a quick decision. “Miss Duan, go. We’ll take care of this.”
Tang Yuyan’s rank was much higher than Duan Ningning’s and she did not hesitate; she turned and left.
The two security guards came over and one of them spoke in English. “What are you doing?”
Long Bing answered in English, “Nothing, just looking at artifacts.”
As Long Bing held the two security guards off, Tang Yuyan stomped hard on the back of Xia Lei’s leg and hissed, “What are you doing?”
Xia Lei snapped back to his senses. He closed his eyes and shook his head gently.
“Are you all from China?” asked a security guard.
“Yes, we like Israel. Is there a problem?” said Long Bing.
“Please let us have a look at your passports,” said the security guard.
“Why?” Long Bing wrinkled her brows.
“There is no ‘why’. Just a routine check,” said the security guard, then he added, “Hurry up, don’t cause trouble.”
This seemed to be a warning.
Long Bing was about to show their passports when Xia Lei walked up to them with a smile. “Hello, gentlemen, would you like to be friends? We are all Chinese, from Shanghai. You know Shanghai?” He then cleared his throat and uttered a phrase of gibberish Shanghainese. “Wir ol’ fwiendz o alla.”
That horrendous rendition of Shanghainese made Long Bing want to kick him. But she was impressed by his quick thinking.
The German Nazis had persecuted the Jews in World War Two and not everyone had been willing to provide shelter to the Jews. China had provided shelter. There was a settlement of Jews in Shanghai with a number of Jews who had taken refuge there. There were still Jewish survivors now who go to Shanghai to express their gratitude to the Chinese who had helped them. Xia Lei talked about Shanghai and pretended to be Shanghainese because of this.
Sure enough, a smile appeared on the face of one of the security guards when he heard that they were from Shanghai. “Sir, I know Shanghai. My grandfather and grandmother lived in Shanghai for a while. Thank you for the help that they’ve been given.”
“Oh my, what a coincidence,” said Xia Lei with a laugh. “My grandparents helped a good many Jewish people. My grandma often tells me what a tough time the Jewish people had. She is a very kind soul. She doesn’t even bear to eat the eggs she collected from chicken nests - she gave them all to the Jewish people.”
“Your grandmother is a noble woman.” The security guard talking to Xia Lei drew close and gave Xia Lei a grateful hug.
After the hug, Xia Lei asked probingly, “Sir, we’re being blocked by the police on the streets too and had our passports checked. They also asked a lot of questions. I don’t feel very welcomed as a Chinese person. Is this the case?”
The security guard who had hugged Xia Lei quickly waved his hands and looked apologetic. “No, it’s not like that, Sir. It’s because of an attack yesterday. The higher-ups have instructed us to check the identification of suspicious-looking Chinese people and ask them their reason for coming here. It’s not something we Israeli want to do, it’s…”
“It’s?” Xia Lei actually knew the answer already.
“Oh, never mind. Carry on with your sightseeing. So sorry for disturbing you.” The security guard who’d hugged Xia Lei gave his colleague a look, and they moved off.
“Yer gawta koem to Shanghai fer sigh-ceeing!” called Xia Lei.
The two security guards turned back with smiles, and seemed quite friendly. However, Xia Lei’s Shanghainese was Greek to them.
Long Bing rolled her eyes at Xia Lei. “What the hell was that? Shanghainese? It’s making my skin crawl.”
“Have they heard Shanghainese? If I say it’s Shanghainese then it’s Shanghainese,” said Xia Lei.
“You’re clever. Those two were following orders, and these orders are probably from the CIA,” said Tang Yuyan.
“Let them do their search. We focus on our own task. I’ll settle the score with them after we excavate the items,” said Xia Lei.
Long Bing was surprised. “What have you discovered?”
Xia Lei gave a laugh. “Let’s go. I’ll tell you on the way.”
Earlier, he had looked past the second page and seen more of the ancient and mysterious contents of the map. What was written there was probably something even the Israeli archaeology museum did not know.Previous Chapter Next Chapter