Xia Lei had actually already asked Princess Yongmei all the questions he wanted to ask. However, this Princess Yongmei before him was vastly different from the Princess Yongmei from before. This one right now was the most complete version of her thus far.
“What do you think I am?” Princess Yongmei raised her arms and twirled in a circle before Xia Lei. She was so beautiful she could charm the birds and the beasts. She had all the right curves, front and back, and she was oh so sexy. She had no clothing either, so all her secret places were on display, uncovered. Add her lifelike visual to the mix, and she could easily incite the desires of any man, and make him do her bidding.
“Stop playing around. Answer my question seriously,” said Xia Lei. He was aiming to get Princess Yongmei to obey him, and he knew that this would not be easy. He was trying to tame a spoiled princess of the Ming dynasty after all!
“All right, I’ll answer your question seriously.” Princess Yongmei had a wicked smile on her pale face. “I am a woman. A woman without clothes.”
Xia Lei was speechless.
This Princess Yongmei was not only arrogant but cheeky, too.
“Are you happy with this answer?”
“You don’t even have a body. Do you count as a woman?” said Xia Lei.
“Must I have a body to be a woman? Human bodies will grow old and die sooner or later, but the soul can live on forever. You represent the former, and I represent the latter.”
Xia Lei felt like a whole new horizon had opened up to him, and he could not help thinking about the implications. In religious teachings, people’s souls either went up to Heaven after they died, or down to Hell. People who were still alive could not see the dead. Several scientific studies had been conducted about what happens after death, but no one could prove that a soul remained after death. A soul was also considered to be complete nonsense by modern people, but there was a live example from the Ming dynasty right in front of Xia Lei right now!
Princess Yongmei had used this way to tell him the answer. She was a soul.
“You say you are a soul. Why is there only one of you?”
“I don’t know either.”
“You don’t know? How is this possible?”
“I’m looking for the answer too.”
“If you are a soul, then there must be more souls than you on this Earth. I can see you, so I can see other souls. However, I have not seen any other soul other than you. What’s going on here?”
Princess Yongmei shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“Plus, I found your corpse in Afghanistan, and also in the sunken ship. What’s going on with these two bodies?”
Princess Yongmei suddenly drew close to Xia Lei, and her face almost touched his. Her eyes were full of surprise. “What did you say? I had two bodies? How is that possible?”
Xia Lei froze on the spot.
From Princess Yongmei’s reaction, she did not know that she had had two bodies. Additionally, she did not like her body to be referred to as a ‘corpse’.
“Did you have a twin sister?” asked Xia Lei.
“No, definitely not,” said Princess Yongmei. She then stared straight at Xia Lei. “Tell me, is this true? I have two bodies?”
“It’s true. I saw them myself. They were exactly the same. And please don’t come so close to me. You don’t know how cold you are.”
Xia Lei felt like he was going to be frozen solid in that short time that she had drawn close to him. It was a cold which seeped into the bones, and difficult to describe. This coldness was not obvious when he was opening up the void, but in the close quarters of the cockpit, the cold was obvious.
“I must find out what is going on.” Princess Yongmei took several steps back, and continued, “I know you want to find out what these alloy pieces are, and the truth behind them. What I can tell you is that I don’t know. In actual fact, I received an order from my father, the emperor, to take the compass and search for those alloy pieces.”
“Your father-emperor did not tell you why he was looking for the alloy pieces?”
“He mentioned it to me once. It’s to live forever.”
“To live forever?” Xia Lei’s heart thumped.
“To live forever…” Princess Yongmei laughed abruptly. “I went to Afghanistan. I made the Hun tribe there my subjects, but I only found one piece there. The compass pointed me onwards, west. I went to Jerusalem, but I could not find anything there. That place was the holy ground of the Christians, the church of Christ. There was no way for me to do much unless I took control of the city, but I lacked the power. Our Ming troops could not cross the Himalayas to Jerusalem either. I returned to Afghanistan, and built the City of the White Horse of Tomorrow, to prepare to make that city my base. I was going to gather my strength, recruit troops, grow my military strength. But I fell ill, and I did not know what the sickness was. The doctors I brought could not treat me. And then…”
Princess Yongmei did not continue.
“And then what?” asked Xia Lei anxiously.
Princess Yongmei laughed bitterly. “And then I knew nothing, till I saw you.”
This was Princess Yongmei’s treasure-seeking experience?
Xia Lei sank into his thoughts. Princess Yongmei’s memories were missing a lot of important events, but he believed that what she told him was true. She had gone to Jerusalem, and this explained why the Sacred Heart necklace was in her tomb. Another thing was that Princess Yongmei had no idea what illness she had contracted, but he knew. Those who came into contact with the ancient alloy had one of two possible outcomes – madness, or death. Ning Jing was still being held under observation in the hospital right now. She was one live example.
Xia Lei’s brain quickly pieced together the clues Princess Yongmei had provided.
Princess Yongmei’s treasure seeking route had been to Afghanistan, then Jerusalem.
She had gone treasure-seeking on the orders of Emperor Yongle, in search of eternal life.
Princess Yongmei had gone mad because of her interaction with the ancient alloy, and she did not know what happened after she’d gone mad.
These were what he had gleaned from his conversation with Princess Yongmei, and it was better than the nothing he had known before. However, Xia Lei had another big question looming in his head now. From Princess Yongmei’s memories, he was sure that she had only gone to Afghanistan and Jerusalem, but not to the vassal states of the Ming dynasty. So what was with the Princess Yongmei in the sunken ship?
“I can tell you one thing. The illness you suffered was madness. Those who come into contact with the alloy will either go mad or die. What you suffered was probably the former. What I don’t get is that you don’t remember what happened after you went mad, but why can you remember your experiences during your life after you met me?” asked Xia Lei.
Princess Yongmei was silent for a bit before she said, “I can see, in that strange void, I can see. In there, the things I’d done would mysteriously appear before my eyes. I can see myself walking, eating, writing a letter to my emperor… But I’ve never seen… how I became like this.”
This was her tactful way of saying that she did not know how she died.
“One last question for you. You are sure you did not go to the Ryuku Islands?”
“I am sure. The City of the White Horse of Tomorrow is a considerable distance from the Ryukyu Islands. I had received a royal command. How could I turn my back on my emperor’s orders, and go to the Ryukyu Islands?” said Princess Yongmei.
It seemed the female corpse in the sunken ship had become an unsolved mystery.
Xia Lei found it all very strange, but his body had gone through so many strange developments that he no longer found it so strange. The mystery of the female corpse in the sunken ship was quite mild when one compared it to the secret of AE.
“My final question. I know you want very much to get close to the necklace around my neck. I’ve talked to you before, and you also know that there is a capsule in this pendant. My question is – Why do you want it?”
“It makes me feel comfortable. I feel like I’m alive when I get close to it, like I have a body of flesh and blood. And it also seems to make me more powerful.” Princess Yongmei looked pleadingly at Xia Lei. “Can you let me get close to it? I swear to you that I will not destroy it. I have no body, and I have no way to eat it, so you don’t have to worry about losing it.”
Xia Lei hesitated. “Just this one time. But you must come out when I tell you to come out.”
Princess Yongmei spoke excitedly, “Yes, of course, I promise.”
Xia Lei took off the necklace around his neck and held it out to Princess Yongmei. He did not want her to come rushing at his neck, because it was a truly uncomfortable feeling.
Princess Yongmei’s body suddenly collapsed on itself, and she was compressed into a ball of light in the blink of an eye. She winked into the pendant.
Xia Lei felt the pendant in his hand become ice-cold all of a sudden. It felt like an ice cube. This cold feeling vanished quickly, however, and the pendant returned to its normal temperature.
What was Princess Yongmei doing in there?
Xia Lei’s left eye twitched at the thought and the outer shell of the pendant disappeared from his vision. He saw the AE capsule in the pendant, and the powder which the capsule contained.
There was just the powder, no Princess Yongmei, and no light.
A minute passed. “All right, come out,” said Xia Lei.
But Princess Yongmei did not come out. The AE capsule remained the same too, no more, no less. However, the Princess Yongmei who had gone into the pendant had disappeared.
“Hello? Did you not hear me? Come out, or I’ll trap you back in that void,” threatened Xia Lei.
Princess Yongmei still did not appear.
Xia Lei then used his X-ray vision on the ancient alloy. The terror gripped him once again, holding his body captive before it disappeared. Every time he did this before, Princess Yongmei would be either released or imprisoned. However, this time seemed to be an exception. He endured the torture of the ‘door-opening’, and the door was open, but Princess Yongmei did not go in.
“This…” Xia Lei stood in the cockpit, flabbergasted. He did not know what to do anymore.
Princess Yongmei had disappeared in such a bizarre fashion.
The yacht continued on its way to China, its hull cutting through the waves.
Xia Lei’s thoughts ran with the wind, off to places he didn’t even know. He had no idea what he should do next.Previous Chapter Next Chapter