While Ileva was asking Xia Lei to shoot, the snipers of the three companies had achieved their final results. The Barrett sniper with the M90 sniper rifle had hit the target at 2,000 metres in the five ring. HK's sniper used the company's latest sniper rifle and also hit the target at 2,000 metres in the five ring. FN was a little lacking in comparison, only hitting the target at 1,500 metres.
The snipers of Barret and HK had actually attempted shots at the targets further away but were unsuccessful. A distance of 2,500 metres was already an insurmountable mountain to climb to them and their sniper rifles so a target at 3,200 metres was simply beyond imagining. However, they were also of the opinion that Xia Lei would not be able to hit a target at that distance.
Xia Lei walked toward the shooting area and all eyes went to him. Discussions started up.
"This Chinese guy's not a professional sniper but he issued a challenge like this. The 20,000,000 Euros is a sure-lose for him."
"Aren't the Chinese all like this? They like to flaunt their wealth. But using 20,000,000 Euros just to try and stand out is too foolish."
This Chinese guy is surely going to fail but he's achieved his goal. He and his company's names are going to be on headlines in the media, haha, but they're going to be a joke."
"China's importing weapons from Russia too. Can the Chinese weapons surpass the giants of the West? This is a joke. They can't even surpass our Russian weapons."
"He's so handsome…"
Xia Lei stood in the shooting area amidst a jumble of conversation. He placed his unmodified sniper rifle on the standing-rack and got ready to shoot.
He didn't actually need this sort of assistance in shooting but he had earlier said that he was not a professional sniper. His lie would be uncovered if he crouched and hit a target which others couldn't hit.
This was one of his strategies. By claiming to be an amateur, more of the focus would go to the capabilities of the XL2500.
"Please hurry up, Mr Xia," urged Joe Barton. "You've dragged it on for long enough. This farce should end."
HK's Mueller also laughed and said, "I'm ready to receive the transfer, Mr Xia."
Bang! A shot rang out.
This was Xia Lei's reply.
"He's. .hit the ten ring of the target at 800 metres!" called out a gun enthusiast from before a telescope.
This was the same result as the snipers from Barrett and HK.
Mueller and Joe Barton couldn't help exchanging glances. Both were surprised. Xia Lei being able to hit the ten ring at 800 metres proved that the XL2500 was an excellent sniper rifle.
Bang! Another shot rang out.
"Woah!" Another person called out, "He hit the ten ring at 1,500 metres!"
The rooftop had grown silent.
Joe Barton, Mueller and Ileva's expressions grew heavy.
The executives of the three industry giants were getting nervous for some reason.
Bang! The third gunshot.
"Holy shit!" exclaimed someone, "He hit the ten ring at 2,000 metres!"
The rooftop burst into activity at those words.
"How's that possible? The guns from the industry giants only hit the five ring and he hit the TEN?"
"This result has already surpassed the three giants. What the h.e.l.l? Chinese sniper rifles have reached these levels? I don't believe it!"
Natalya, the reporter from Russian National television station, was also moved by his performance. "I dare not believe my eyes. A sniper rifle produced by a Chinese company has actually hit the ten ring at 2,000 metres, surpassing the sniper rifles of Barrett and HK. Around the world, rumours have started going around that China is rising up to challenge the dominance of the European and American products in the market. I can believe these rumours now. What we have just witnessed is an example of just such a thing happening. A small Chinese military factory has challenged the giants in the industry and won. A beautiful victory! NO! The challenge is not over! Let us keep watching…"
Bang! The fourth gunshot.
Xia Lei had hit the target at 2,500 metres in the ten ring!
The jaws of the three executives dropped when they observed the result with their surveillance equipment. They'd been imagining the prize of 20,000,000 Euros being transferred to their accounts before Xia Lei had taken his shots but they were now discovering that that money was totally out of their reach - the money had been bait all along!
"Oh my God!" Natalya yelled excitedly, "2,500 metres in the ten ring! This is a miracle! It's the beginning of a sniping world record!"
But this was not the end of it.
Xia Lei put down the factory-produced XL2500 and switched to the XL2500 he had personally modified.
"What is he doing? Is he going to shoot at that target at 3,200 metres?" Natalya's face was alight with delight. "If he succeeds… Oh my God. I might have to announce to the whole world that the best sniper rifle in the world is produced by China's Thunder Horse Military Factory!"
Bang! A shot rang out and smoke wafted.
The rooftop was silent, waiting for a sighting to be called out.
The first to speak was not one of the enthusiasts in front of the telescopes but Barrett's sniper. "He… He hit the target at 3,200 metres. Ei, Eight ring!"
The rooftop burst into activity again. Applause, cheers and a myriad of discussions and praise swept towards Xia Lei like a wave.
Xia Lei put his sniper rifle away and looked relaxed, smiling. "I'm done shooting. If you're not satisfied with the result then I can go again. If you guys can hit the furthest target too then I'll still give you the prize of 20,000,000 Euros."
The three executives couldn't help exchanging looks again; they were all silent and their faces filled with shame. They knew well the capabilities of their sniper rifles. There was no way they would be able to hit the target at 2,500 metres, much less the one at 3,200 metres!
Thunder Horse Military Factory's XL2500 had left Barrett and HK in the dust with an effective range which was 1,200 metres more than their sniper rifles. These numbers were like a declaration: The best sniper rifle in the world was no longer a product of the European or American companies but China! China's Thunder Horse Military Factory had risen to the top and made a name for itself!
"Well then, gentlemen, and lady, can I announce that I've won?" Xia Lei acted polite and magnanimous.
This act, however, was like a barb to the three executives.
"I admit your victory," said Joe Barton, "But I want to buy your gun. I want to see what's going on here."
"Sure, you can buy my gun but it'll have to go through my government's approval," said Xia Lei.
"What?" Joe Barton wrinkled his brows. "If you're not selling then why are you partic.i.p.ating in this exhibition?"
Xia Lei gave a laugh. "You're American, aren't you, Mr Barton?"
"So what if I am?" Joe Barton frowned.
"Then I'll answer your question. There's international weapons exhibitions every year but are all the weapons on display for sale? So will you sell your Raptor F22 fighters if I want to buy them? And Mr Mueller, would you sell Germany's Leopard 2 tanks to me if I wanted them? Your blockade on technology comes first, and my sniper rifle has our own technical skills involved too, and these are not open to you."
"Let's go." Joe Barton did not want to talk further with Xia Lei.
Mueller also motioned for his people to leave the rooftop.
Barrett had suffered the biggest loss of the three giants because they were publicly acknowledged to be the leader of sniper rifles, the undisputed champion. A small, unknown company, however, had toppled Barrett from its high perch!
The three executives exited the rooftop, not wanting to appear in the media at this point of time. This was like a shaming episode for them.
"Mr Xia, can you tell us about your company?" Natalya could not let go of the opportunity to interview Xia Lei.
Xia Lei stood smiling in front of the camera. "Of course. We, Thunder Horse Military Factory, are a guns company startup. It is a reflection of the progress of the manufacturing industry in China…"
He spoke well and was poised. Before the camera, Xia Lei gave one the impression of relaxed confidence.
Tang Yuyan looked at Xia Lei, her gaze unknowingly starstruck.
Ling Han appeared behind Tang Yuyan and said, "This guy is pretty clever, huh."
Tang Yuyan glanced at Ling Han. "Where did you go? We were so busy earlier and needed you to help but couldn't find you."
"I went to investigate where Xia Lei had gone the day before," said Ling Han.
Tang Yuyan wrinkled her brows. "You knew?"
"Is it strange that I know?" said Ling Han.
"What did you find?" asked Tang Yuyan probingly.
Ling Han shook his head. "Nothing. That's why I say Xia Lei is a clever one."
"Are you friend or foe?"
"Is that important?"
Tang Yuyan looked straight at Ling Han. "Tell me."
Ling Han spoke softly. "Friend, of course. At least for now."
Tang Yuyan breathed a mental sigh of relief. "Then why did you secretly investigate him?"
"He is fairly intriguing. Don't you think there's more than meets the eye?" said Ling Han.
"Sometimes. But I trust him. He's a good person. He has not done anything that would go against the country since I met him. Conversely, he has contributed much to our nation. This right here is an example. Can you hope for the government-backed Hanwu Weapons to have achieved what he had?"
A faint smile appeared in the corners of Ling Han's lips. "It's precisely because of this that I am friend, not foe. But even if we are friends I want to understand what sort of friend he is. Don't you want to get to know him too?"
Tang Yuyan said nothing more. Her gaze went back to Xia Lei. At that moment, the reporter Natalya suddenly kissed Xia Lei on the cheek.
Tang Yuyan wrinkled her brows and muttered under her breath, "bit.c.h."