One day later, Iturup Island.
A silver Ilyus.h.i.+n 38 surveillance aircraft landed on the military base on Iturup Island in the twilight. The door to the cabin opened, and Xia Lei and Long Bing stepped out of the aircraft. A group of Russian soldiers looked curiously at these two Chinese people, trying to guess what what they’d come here for.
Xia Lei and Long Bing’s aim was simple. They wanted to confirm the fourth treasure location with the ancient compa.s.s.
The Ilyus.h.i.+n 38 had made a circle around j.a.pan, and the compa.s.s had not left Xia Lei’s hands. The flight had given them a result, and that was that the general location of the fourth treasure was somewhere in the Ryukyu Islands, and not the mainland.
This result surprised Xia Lei, but it wasn’t that surprisingly when he thought about it.
The Ryukyu Islands was part of the territories owned by the Ming during the Ming dynasty, and the kings of the past all had their t.i.tles conferred by the Ming emperor. Afterwards, j.a.pan had seized the Ryukyu Islands and added it to her territories but voices calling for the independence of this territory from j.a.pan had not ceased. The compa.s.s was an item from the Ming dynasty, so it made sense that the treasure location was hidden somewhere on a va.s.sal state.
This was a guess, of course.
Xia Lei and Long Bing walked to a barrack under the watchful gazes of a large group of Russian soldiers.
“This result is unexpected.” Long Bing frowned. “The compa.s.s shook the most when we were close to Ryukyu Islands, and it obviously pointed to Okinawa. That’s where the American military base is located. Our mission will be very dangerous.”
The Okinawan islands was where the American base was, and there were four major branches, sea, land, air, and marines stationed there with over 20,000 soldiers. These islands could be said to be military islands, an unsinkable aircraft carrier blocking China’s pa.s.sage to the western Pacific.
Digging for treasure there was like selling drugs in a stand next to a police station. The danger level was so high that it could not be recorded.
“We can’t do anything about it.” Xia Lei smiled wryly. “I hope the fourth treasure location is not under any of the American military runways. How are we going to get them to let us dig there?”
Long Bing glared at Xia Lei. “You’re still in the mood to joke? If it really is under a runway I’ll give you a shovel and a hoe. Go dig.”
Xia Lei laughed. “It can’t be.”
“How are you going to handle Gu Kewu and Gu Kewen?” Long Bing changed the topic. “We can’t take Gu Kewu to Okinawa with us.”
“Gu Kewen wants to meet in Tokyo. Looks like I’ll have to go to Tokyo first, settle the matter with Gu Kewen and Gu Kewu, then go to Okinawa.” Xia Lei looked at Long Bing. “So you go to Okinawa first. I’ll be about ready to come over once I deal with them.”
“You want to take Gu Kewu to Tokyo alone?”
Xia Lei nodded. “Gu Kewen and I have some personal matters to settle between us. Trust me, I’ll meet up with you in Okinawa.”
“You made your decision?”
“I’ve made my decision.”
“All right, then I’ve decided too. I’m coming with you to Tokyo, then to Okinawa.”
Xia Lei was speechless.
“You are the only person on the Alloy X Project, and the only one who can go treasure-hunting. How can I rest easy and let you go to Tokyo alone? You’re up against Gu Kewen, and the CIA is backing her,” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei was troubled by this but Long Bing was adamant. From what Xia Lei knew of her, there was no persuading her to go to Okinawa to wait for him. However, if he brought Long Bing with him to Tokyo, Long Bing would surely find out about what Gu Kewen had on Shentu Tianyin, and that was going to be troublesome too.
‘Should I tell Long Bing the truth?’ pondered Xia Lei. ‘She is a patriotic woman, and she wouldn’t forgive this. What would she do if she found out that Tianyin had embezzled so many state-owned a.s.sets through Gu Kewen?’
He wouldn’t keep things from Long Bing if it was about other things, but this involved Shentu Tianyin. He hesitated, not sure what to do.
Xia Lei was quiet, deep in thought, and Long Bing looked at him expressionlessly but her eyes were sharp. Her eyes seemed to bore into Xia Lei’s own, and into his soul.
“If that’s the case, then we should prepare ourselves. We’ll take a s.h.i.+p to j.a.pan in the morning.” Xia Lei looked away from Long Bing’s eyes and continued walking to the barracks.
Long Bing must have some of her own speculations but she did not ask since Xia Lei did not talk about it.
These were the barracks of the Russian soldiers, and Gu Kewu was in one of them.
Gu Kewu’s head had been covered in a black cloth all this while, and he was cuffed and restrained to a wooden chair, unable to move and unable to see outside. This was to because they had promised the soldiers on Iturup Island that they would not be dragged into this. It was a must that Gu Kewu be unaware of what place this was.
The cost of using the Ilyus.h.i.+n 38 surveillance aircraft was substantial, of course. Xia Lei paid the relevant people USD 500,000. This included the fee to help him enter j.a.pan, but it was still quite a hefty sum.
Gu Kewu lifted his head at the sound of the door opening and turned towards it. He could not see Xia Lei or Long Bing and this made him nervous. “Who’s there?”
“Me,” said Xia Lei.
“Where is this?” asked Gu Kewu.
“j.a.pan. We’re in j.a.pan,” said Xia Lei.
“Why is my head still covered? Uncuff me.” Gu Kewu struggled for a but, but he could not get up.
“I will uncuff you when it’s time to uncuff you. Be a good boy and don’t open your mouth unnecessarily, or you’ll suffer,” warned Xia Lei.
“No, take the hood off. I can’t see anything. How do I know if you’re not lying to me?” said Gu Kewu.
Long Bing walked over and smashed the handle of her knife on Gu Kewu’s carotid artery. Gu Kewu fainted with a m.u.f.fled groan.
Xia Lei looked wordlessly at Long Bing.
Long Bing shrugged. “Why waste words with him? Let him be quiet. Isn’t that better?”
Of course he was quiet – he was unconscious! It was just a little strange to Xia Lei that a woman was using this sort of method to solve problems.
“He can’t hear anything now.” Long Bing spoke probingly, “Don’t you have something you want to tell me?”
“Um…” Xia Lei did not know how to broach the subject. What was worse was that he had not decided if he was going to tell Long Bing some of the truth.
Long Bing sighed. “Looks like I’m not one of your trusted friends.”
She seemed upset by this.
“No, no,” said Xia Lei hurriedly, “Why would you think that? You’re like family to me. It’s just that I don’t know how I can talk to you about this. It goes against your principles…”
Knocking came from the door before Xia Lei could finish. A Russian soldier said in Russian, “Sir, I’ve brought your dinner.”
Xia Lei went to open the door and accept the dinner the Russian soldier had delivered. Bread, cheese and two sausages. Xia Lei took the dinners, but the Russian soldier still stood in the doorway, looking at Xia Lei. He seemed to be waiting for something, and had no intention of walking away.
“Oh, sorry, I nearly forgot. Here’s a tip. Thanks.” Xia Lei took out a USD 100 note from his pocket and handed it casually to the Russian soldier.
Xia Lei’s generosity made the Russian soldier smile. He said, “Sir, the fis.h.i.+ng vessel we have prepared for you leaves at 0400 HRS. It is still early now. You can sleep, and I will come get you.”
“We’re using a fis.h.i.+ng vessel to get to j.a.pan?”
“Of course. We can’t use a military vessel.” The Russian soldier smiled, then said, “Don’t worry, it’s a j.a.panese fis.h.i.+ng vessel with j.a.panese fishermen. There won’t be any problems.”
“I understand. Thank you,” said Xia Lei. He reached to close the door after the Russian soldier had left.
Long Bing took one dinner from Xia Lei and went to the table to eat. She was still upset at him. He could tell when she was upset at him in one look.
Xia Lei smiled wryly. He carried his dinner to that same table and said, “All right, I’ll tell you but you have to promise me that you won’t tell anyone. This is very important to me, and Tianyin and I will be in huge trouble if word of this gets out.”
Long Bing looked up at Xia Lei. She gave a slight nod.
Xia Lei told her everything, then observed her.
Long Bing did not react. She chewed her food slowly, as if she had just heard some inconsequential bit of trivia.
Long Bing’s silence made Xia Lei nervous. “I’ve told you everything. This goes against your principles, but you made me tell you. I’ve told you now and you’re not saying anything. What do you mean by this reaction?”
Long Bing then spoke evenly, “I haven’t let go of my principles. Once this mission is over and we’re back in China, I’ll arrest Shentu Tianyin. I’ll handle this case in the way it should be handled.”
“What?” Xia Lei was so shocked he could not speak.
Long Bing threw the bread in her hand at Xia Lei’s face. “You idiot. What sort of woman did you marry? She’s so bold, so ambitious. You’ve dug a trap for yourself and you’re going to fall into it later.”
Xia Lei laughed dryly. “I’m cleaning her s.h.i.+t up now, aren’t I? I have no choice either. I’m her husband.”
Long Bing sighed. “Sometimes I really envy Shentu Tianyin. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, becoming the chairperson of Vientaine Group right after graduating from university… And when it came to marriage, she married a good man like you. She must have nothing to regret in her life as a woman.”
“About that, she… She does have some tough times too, sometimes.”
“Yeah, yeah, stop protecting your wife.” Long Bing glared at Xia Lei. “I’m a woman too. How come I don’t see you showing concern for me, and thinking of my feelings?”
Xia Lei stared blankly. He didn’t know how to respond to that.
“I was just joking around with you. I’ve already forgotten what you’d said. I’ll take it as you’ve said nothing.”
Xia Lei let out a breath of relief.
“But I have to remind you that though Shentu Tianyin is your wife, you cannot baselessly protect her. If you do this, her ambition and greed will grow. You’ll clean her s.h.i.+t up this time – what about next time? And the next, next time? There will come a day where you won’t be able to clean the s.h.i.+t off yourself.”
Xia Lei nodded.
Who knew what the future would be like? He could not imagine it, but right now, he had to clean Shentu Tianyin’s s.h.i.+t up.