The workers moved Fan Fan’s equipment into a room, turning it into a laboratory.
Just the sight of the equipment filling the room made Xia Lei feel a headache coming on.
“My grandfather will come by in the next few days to see how everything is going on. He will decide if he will also move over here to work then,” said Fan Fan.
Xia Lei wrinkled his brows. One Fan Fan was enough of a headache. If Fan Yiming came too, he was going to have a migraine.
“What, Big Brother Lei? You don’t like my grandfather coming here?” Fan Fan had seen the change in Xia Lei’s expression.
Xia Lei put on a smile. “Why would I dislike it? We are all doing it for the Alloy X Project. It’s a good thing for our work if Elder Fan comes over.”
“It’s good that you think of it that way.” A pretty smile appeared on Fan Fan’s face too. “Big Brother Lei, the equipment is here. We can proceed with our work now. Could I trouble you to take your clothes off?”
“Huh?” said Xia Lei in surprise. “Didn’t I already take my clothes off the last time? Why do you want me to strip again?”
“We had no equipment the last time. I only did some simple checks and took pictures. The equipment is here now, so I have to do it all again. Hurry up and strip.”
Xia Lei was speechless.
“Strip. No dirty thoughts.” Fan Fan mentioned that quite specifically.
“What dirty thoughts?” asked Xia Lei in fake obliviousness.
“Thoughts which are naughty.” Fan Fan’s face reddened.
“Oh, so you think those things are naughty things. Words like these coming from the mouth of a scientist like yourself is wrong.” Xia Lei spoke in all seriousness, “Doesn’t mankind depend on those things to breed? If those sort of things didn’t exist, then the human race would have been extinguished long ago.”
“C,Can we not talk about these? I just want you to take your clothes off.” Fan Fan couldn’t out-talk Xia Lei.
Xia Lei took that opportunity to leave. “I am not free today. Let’s do this another day.”
“You…” Fan Fan was rooted to the spot. She had not expected Xia Lei to reject her like this.
‘You do what you want, and your grandfather also comes when he feels like it. Who has ever asked for my opinion? You treat me as the key to the treasure. Fuck that! I’m a person, not a key!’ thought Xia Lei.
“Hold on!” Fan Fan suddenly mustered up her courage and called Xia Lei to a stop.
Xia Lei looked back at her. “What else do you want?”
“What do you want in exchange for cooperation in my work?” Fan Fan bit her lip.
“I have to strip when you tell me to strip. What sort of person do you take me for? You want me to strip for you? Fine. But you have to strip naked too. We’ll both be naked,” said Xia Lei.
“You…” Fan Fan was so angry she could not speak. She had not expected Xia Lei to demand such a thing.
“You’re not willing?” Xia Lei gave a laugh. “Then what gave you the basis to assume that I would be willing to strip in front of you? Is my body not of value, or is it my dignity that is not of value?”
“I…” Fan Fan could find no words of retort.
“That’s it for today. Let’s talk again when I’m in the mood.” Xia Lei walked out the door, and threw one more line out. “I’m going to the underground laboratory. I’m going to connect the ancient alloy pieces, so don’t follow me. It’s very dangerous.”
Fan Fan bit her lip. She could not utter a word.
Xia Lei’s conditions were indeed a little too much, but it was intentional. He wanted to use this method to send a message to the people of the ZN Bureau: I am not an item for you to manipulate as you wish!
This message was also for Fan Fan and Fan Yiming. He wanted them to know that no one could force him to do what he did not want to do!
This was necessary. If he yielded blindly and was patient and accommodating all the time, the other party would take it all for granted. Even if he did not directly reject Fan Fan’s request, or the addition of Fan Yiming to the project, he could delay things. Thunder Horse Military Factory’s upgrading and the Alloy X Project provided him excuses. However, once the other party lost patience, he would come out of hiding, and Xia Lei would be able to see just what sort of person was having designs on him!
Of course, the most important goal was to conquer Fan Fan, and rely on her to get through this.
During their time of interactions with each other, Xia Lei had gained some understanding of Fan Fan. This woman was not one who would be swayed by money or egotism. It was difficult to sway her with good looks too, because her head was full of her work. Add her special constitution to the mix, and he had a woman who with an instinctive fear and rejection of men. He had to think hard to conquer a woman like her, and use some methods.
With some understanding of Fan Fan’s character, Xia Lei started on his plans to win her over.
He was in no hurry in that regard.
In the underground laboratory, Xia Lei took out the ancient alloy pieces and the bronze book, and placed them on the work table. He also had a notebook computer.
Strange writing met his eyes when he opened the bronze book. Some letters looked like a mess of weeds, some looked like a tadpole, and some looked like human heads, with noses and eyes, and even lines for mouths. Xia Lei had used his X-ray vision on this book in the past, and he knew that every letter in this book had a tone. The entire bronze book was like a ‘bronze tape’ or a ‘bronze CD’. Unfortunately, he had had no new discoveries other than the melodious syllables he heard in his head when he used his X-ray vision on it.
But today was different.
Xia Lei opened up the notebook computer and clicked about. A PDF document was quickly brought up on the screen. Piece after piece of floor tile was in the document, and every floor tile had a picture. These pictures were all different. Some were Chinese characters, some were people, some were lines. These pictures all combined to form a circular pattern which looked like a complicated mess.
The clue Xia Lei had found at the first treasure location was in this mess of a circular pattern.
Xia Lei’s gaze swept over the pattern in the PDF document, and the pictures on the tiles were sucked into his brain, like a vacuum sucking at dust. His gaze went to the bronze book again, and the letters on the bronze book went into his brain, one by one.
There were 10,000 mysterious letters in the bronze book in all, and 999 floor tiles in the first treasure location. Those numbers added together gave 10,999. This number was meaningless, but together, it was different.
The mysterious letters from the bronze book and the drawings on the tiles were coming together constantly in combinations in Xia Lei’s head. The human-head-shaped letters were moved to the tiles with human shapes, men to men, women to women. The letters of line-forms were moved to the pictures with lines, combining to form a complete image. The dragonflies went to dragonflies, and the tadpoles were matched with tadpoles to form entirely new pictures. This was not based on his imagination or splicing, but tracing. This was the clue which Xia Lei had discovered at the first treasure location site — the drawings on the tiles and the mysterious letters in the bronze book strangely fit together!
A fairly simple example was that the heads of the people drawn on the tiles were blurry and were missing some lines, but when put together with a head-shaped letter from the bronze book, it formed a complete picture of a person, and was very clear too. The seemingly broken lines on the floor tiles, when overlaid with the letter line-forms of the mysterious letters, gave a complete lined image. The Chinese characters on the floor tiles were all practically incomplete and difficult to recognise, but when lines from the bronze book were added, complete Chinese characters were formed.
Picture after picture was combined, and a sort of animated clip appeared in Xia Lei’s head. A larger, circular pattern emerged, and it looked like a compass engraved with runes.
The ‘core’ of this compass was Chinese characters, those he recognised. These Chinese characters were linked with the pictures to form a complete sentence: You are the only one who can turn it around.
That was it.
But that was already a very obvious clue.
Xia Lei’s consciousness jolted. The mysterious power within him awakened and the compass in his head started spinning swiftly. It was amazingly strange. Then a voice suddenly appeared in his consciousness.
This was not an unfamiliar voice, because it was the same voice sounding out the syllables of the mysterious letters in the bronze book.
He had no clue what the voice had been saying the past, but he understood now. The power in his brain was like the needle of a gramophone, and his brain was like the machine spinning the record.
“You can decipher my voice, because you are The One. I left my voice in this bronze book to tell you my story. I had a box once, and that was how I gained immense power. My life is long, long beyond your imagination. I built my own kingdom, but even I do not know how large it is. I have conquered many, many women, so many that I do not remember their names anymore. My grandchildren have died before me, and even the grandchildren of grandchildren of my grandchildren have passed before me. A long life has become my torture, yet my subjects hail me as The One. I think they see me as a god — but I am not a god. Wine, women, and vast lands are no longer enough to satisfy my desires. I began to want to unravel the mysteries of the box. And so, I departed from my kingdom. I scaled the highest peak in this world, and crossed the deepest ocean. I don’t know how many places I’ve visited, or if there was any place in this world I had not yet visited. My kingdom was extinguished, but I was not concerned. Then, a continuous snow fell upon the land. I witnessed the extinction of tens of thousands of creatures, and I truly became The One. I despaired. I wanted to end my life in the place where the sun rose. I came to the East, to the place closest to where the sun rose. This was the end I wanted. I leave this bronze book to you, but when the time comes when I am prepared to end my life…”
The voice came to an end.
Xia Lei stood in place for half an hour after that, motionless.Previous Chapter Next Chapter