The night deepened gradually, and Iturup Island was especially cold with the currents coming in from Siberia. Xia Lei had huddled up on the sofa to sleep but he was soon awakened by the cold and was unable to go back to sleep.
‘Why doesn’t this bloody place have heaters?’ grumbled Xia Lei to himself. ‘I gave them USD 500,000 and I get this sort of service? The Russians sure are miserly.’
Spending money during missions and not claiming it from expenses was something only Xia Lei did in Bureau 101. He did not know that he had a nickname in Bureau 101 – Moneybags Xia.
Xia Lei looked at his watch. Four more hours to go to 0400 hrs. He frowned. How was he going to bear the next four hours? His gaze went to Gu Kewu. That guy had not woken up after being knocked out. For safety considerations, Xia Lei shoved Gu Kewu into a sleeping bag so he would not freeze.
His gaze then landed on Long Bing.
There were three of them in the room and only Long Bing had the bed and blankets, warm and comfortable.
For some reason, Xia Lei thought of the time he had spent with her in Germany. They had been pretend-spouses, and slept on the same bed in case of sudden investigations. They had slept on the same bed for over a month, and had various intimate interactions during that time too.
He wanted to get on the bed and sleep with her, and they already had plenty of experience sleeping on the same bed. However, he thought of Shentu Tianyin and he scolded himself. ‘How can I think like this? I’m a married man. How can I sleep on the same bed as her?’
Just then, Long Bing opened her eyes. “Come up on the bed. Sleep with me.”
“How can I do that? Sleep. Don’t bother about me,” said Xia Lei awkwardly.
“It’s cold. How are we going to do our mission if you fall sick? You’re the key person in this mission. What am I going to do if something happens to you?”
Xia Lei still shook his head. “No, no thanks. Go to sleep. You really don’t have to bother about me.”
Long Bing wrinkled her brows. “Fine. You’re not coming over, huh? I’ll call Boss Shi right now and tell him about Shentu Tianyin’s situation.”
“Huh?” Xia Lei froze. “You’re using this to threaten me?”
“This is for your own good. Are you coming over here, or not?”
Xia Lei was at a loss for words.
“I’m calling. You know me. I’ll do what I say I’ll do.” Long Bing got out from under the blankets to reach for her phone in her clothes.
“Don’t, don’t! I’ll come over.” Xia Lei bit the bullet and went to her. He took off his shoes and got ready to get under the blanket.
“Take off your jacket and your trousers too, or you’ll catch a cold easily when you wake up. I’m saying this for your own good too,” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei was speechless.
He did take his jacket and trousers off in the end and went under the blanket. He didn’t really mind this because he had slept like this with Long Bing every night in Germany. Plus, he knew that Long Bing was threatening to report Shentu Tianyin was more a jest then an actual threat, and that she really was doing it for his own good. How could he get angry at Long Bing for this?
The bed in the room was an army bed, and it was quite narrow.
“Say, if Shentu Tianyin finds out that we’re sleeping together on a cramped bed now, would she get so mad she’d want to divorce you?” asked Long Bing all of a sudden.
Xia Lei laughed dryly. “No. We didn’t do anything.”
“That’s right. We lived together in Germany for over a month and we didn’t do anything.” Long Bing seemed to be recalling those times. Her gaze was gentle. A rare gentleness. A faint smile traced her lips, peaceful.
“Let’s not chat anymore. Go to sleep and rest up. We’re going to be sneaking into Japan later.”
“I can’t sleep. Chat with me. Tell me, what do you do when you’re on a bed with Shentu Tianyin?”
Xia Lei was speechless.
This Long Bing tonight seemed like a whole other person. There were many times where she had not seemed like a woman but a cold robot, a cold, beautiful, sexy robot like in The Terminator. Tonight though, she had become a real woman of flesh and blood, with a woman’s thoughts and emotions.
“Tell me,” urged Long Bing.
Xia Lei’s head hurt. He could not say it, and he was rather nonplussed too. Even middle-school children knew about these things, right? She should already know as an adult, so why was she still asking? Was she trying to make things awkward on purpose?
“Tell me,” urged Long Bing again.
“Tell you what? That thing… that thing is…” Xia Lei looked at Long Bing. “Hey, what’s wrong with you today? Why do you keep asking me these weird questions?”
Long Bing looked at Xia Lei too. Their faces were centimetres apart.
Xia Lei lost, and looked away.
A rare smile appeared on her lips. “I’m just asking you a question. Why’d you have to get so nervous? I’m not a tigress. Why’re you avoiding me?”
XIa Lei smiled wryly. “Think about the question you’re asking. That sort of thing is like that. What’s there to ask about?”
“That…” Long Bing was silent for a bit, her eyes distant. “I’m asking you because I don’t know. I’m almost 26, but… But that sort of thing is still a blank slate to me. I don’t feel comfortable asking others about it too, so I’m asking you.”
What was this? Xia Lei was uneasy and his head filled with jumbled thoughts and feelings.
“I’d never thought about falling in love with anyone before, or getting married and having children. I’d also thought that I would never have a normal woman’s life. But after you and Shentu Tianyin got married, I suddenly felt very lonely. This feeling is not so apparent when I’m working but every night, when I go home and see my empty house, this feeling keeps growing stronger and stronger… What do you think is wrong with me?”
These words of hers seemed to be her true thoughts.
Xia Lei’s heart softened, and he felt a pang of sadness, a trace of pity. To him, Long Bing was a woman who had sealed herself up in an iceberg. She would not get close to people, and others found it hard to approach her too. It was only now that he sensed her loneliness, her isolation. She was still flesh and blood after all, and had the emotions and consciousness of a woman. Which woman didn’t want someone to love her and be with her?
“You should find a good man and fall in love. You’re a woman, and you should have a man to love you. Are you going to be an agent your whole life? You’ll have to retire from the field one day. Getting into a relationship and finding love at a later age is much more difficult then. What’s a woman’s most precious time? Her youth. You’ve given all of your youth to the nation – what about yourself? You have to take care of yourself too. You have to be better to yourself.” Xia Lei spoke, and he spoke his mind.
“Who should I fall in love with?”
“I can’t give you advice on that. What type of man you like, what sort of requirements and criteria you have – it’s all your own preferences. You’re beautiful. If you want to fall in love, there will surely be a man who fits all your criteria who will woo you. Really, trust me on that.”
“I’ve always trusted you. So introduce someone to me.”
“Uh… I do know quite a few outstanding young men, but I feel none of them is a match for you. Besides, you have to be the one to decide on things like this. I can’t help you with it.”
“I think other men aren’t a match for me too.”
“See, we share the same point of view. What type of man do you like, then? Tell me. I’ll help keep a lookout for you, and I’ll make introductions if I meet anyone suitable.”
“I like bright and handsome men. About your height, and your build. Oh, and more importantly, he has to be strong. Stronger than me, and be able to protect me when I’m under fire. He should be willing to sacrifice himself and buy time for me when enemies are after my life.”
Xia Lei paused. All this criteria she listed… Wasn’t she talking about him, Xia Lei?
Was this a heart-to-heart talk between friends or a heartfelt confession?
Under the blanket, Long Bing suddenly grabbed Xia Lei’s hand.
Xia Lei grew nervous immediately. He looked at Long Bing. “You…”
Long Bing bit her pink lip. “A woman who has, including today, slept on the same bed as you for a month and 13 days, is now telling you that she wants to fall in love and is looking for a man she can spend the rest of her life with. Instead, you’re volunteering to be a middleman to introduce her to other men. Are you really clueless or are you pretending to be clueless?”
“Long Bing, I… I do get it, b, but…” Xia Lei was having a headache. “I’m married. I can’t give you what you want. I can’t hurt you either. You can find a man better than me, really.”
“Really, my foot. Who’s better than you? More outstanding than you? And the criteria I mentioned – who can fulfil those?”
Xia Lei was speechless.
“You know what I want?” Long Bing’s eyes were aflame. “I want to feel like a woman. You said it yourself, that what’s most precious to a woman is her youth, I’ve given most of my youth to the nation. I want some of my youth for myself. I don’t want to remain untouched by a man in my prime. The work I do is also far from the norm, and I can leave this world on any day. You’ve had your fun with Shentu Tianyin, Liang Siyao and that German girl, but have you ever thought about how I feel?”
Xia Lei did not know what to say anymore.
She really was a woman who dared act on her thoughts, and in that moment, she had no care for Shentu Tianyin, or that Xia Lei had dated other women before. She wanted to do it, so she was doing it. Xia Lei’s feelings about it? Fuck his feelings!Previous Chapter Next Chapter