One day later - Western Germany's industrial area, Essen City, in a rented flat.
A view of the bustling streets of Essen could be seen from the window. Tall buildings, endless streams of traffic and pedestrians, typical of cities and nothing new. The difference was that everything here was was well organised and that the people were mostly tall and strict Germanic people.
"Like this place?" Long Bing's voice came from behind.
Xia Lei looked back at her and smiled, "Can't say how much I like it. It's very clean and very orderly but lacks the human touch we have. I'm Chinese, so to me, the place that suits me most is our own place."
No matter how great Germany was, it was the Germans' Germany, not a Germany for the Chinese. No matter how big the world was, the most comfortable place would be one's home. This feeling was shared by everyone, even by those who left their hometowns.
"I'm the same," Long Bing gave a faint smile, "Let's get down to business. Have you memorised the information I gave you? Recite it to me."
Xia Lei did not even have to think. "My name is Liang Hu, born 3rd December, 1991. My home address is Sichuan City, Jin-Niu district, a distinguished neighbourhood in Building 51, First floor, Unit 1. My German name is Lukas. I came to Germany to work and earn more money to change my lifestyle. My residence permit number is 05792787 and my permit is valid for three years. My work permit number is 811568798. I can work in Germany and my work permit is also valid for three years. The company I'm going to join is Krupp Mak Maschinenbau. This company is one of two manufacturers of the Leopard 2 tank. My job position is a normal mechanic assistant."
An 'assistant' was a polite way to say that he was an errand boy for the mechanics.
Long Bing nodded. "Mm, you've remembered well. I have to remind you too that you are fluent in German, which is good, but it can be dangerous. You will attract the attention of others if you're too good. It'll be best to speak less when you interact with others and not draw any attention to yourself."
"Okay. I can speak more slowly, like I'm trying to recall words."
"That's good. You'll be reporting for work tomorrow at the manufacturing plant of Krupp MaK Maschinenbau. Look for a man named 'Krew' and he will arrange work for you to do. I'll give you his information and a video about Krupp MaK Maschinenbau. Destroy them after you've read them. I'm going to contact our people while you read through the information." Long Bing gave Xia Lei an information packet and a mobile phone-only flash drive.
Xia Lei nodded and looked at the information in the packet after Long Bing left.
The packet contained Krew's picture. He was middle-aged, plump, blonde hair balding at the top and his eyes were miserable. Xia Lei looked at his information next. It was quite detailed and had Krew's birth date, blood type, height, weight and so on, as well as work habits and descriptions of hobbies and leisure activities. He liked to bet on horses and football and had gambling debts.
Xia Lei was not surprised by this in the least. This was the sort of person who could be bribed easily after all, and arrange for him to enter the manufacturing plant to work.
After he read through Krew's information, Xia Lei inserted the mobile phone flash drive into the phone Long Bing had prepared for him and watched the video on Krupp MaK Maschinenbau.
The company was one of the few big and important machine manufacturers in Germany. The company was also part of the Krupp* family conglomerate. The prominent Krupp family once made artillery during the Great Qing dynasty and these were used in the country's defence. Though the family had withdrawn from the spotlight of history, the video still described them in detail. There was also a video of the manufacturing plant of Krupp MaK Maschinenbau.
The company owned several manufacturing plants and the one Xia Lei was going to was a branch in Essen. The video also covered the situation in this plant. Xia Lei memorised all of it.
After he was done watching the video, Xia Lei had nothing else to do and the image of that man who resembled his father, Xia Chang-He, appeared in his head again. 'Should I tell her about that man?' Xia Lei was still undecided.
He would have already told Long Bing if that man had not resembled his father so strongly. He had his worries about this matter because it was very odd from beginning to end and letting her intercede would be bad if that man really was his missing father.
Long Bing returned to the room to find Xia Lei staring into space by the window. "Have you looked at the information I gave you?"
Xia Lei snapped back to reality, "Yep, I've taken a look... I'll take the time to memorise the information at night."
"You'd better not make any mistakes. This is very important. Germany is not as dangerous as America but the EU has similar views on several fronts, like the technological blockade they have put up against China. Most importantly, the EU and America share information. Germany has military bases in America as well as intelligence networks in all areas. We will be in danger if we're discovered," said Long Bing.
Xia Lei smiled wryly, "The way you speak makes it sound like we are spies. Are we engaged in espionage?"
"Nothing wrong if you think of it like that. Anyway, just be very careful and exercise caution. Remember that."
Xia Lei nodded.
"Let's go. We'll go for a walk, then buy some daily necessities. We can also familiarise ourselves with the environment," said Long Bing.
Xia Lei suddenly remembered something, "Oh, right. You haven't mentioned what relationship we have. What do I say if someone asks me?"
Long Bing looked at Xia Lei a little strangely and spoke after a bit of silence, "The higher-ups have decided that I'm your wife."
"Huh?" Xia Lei was taken aback, "Why didn't you tell me such a thing earlier? Th-the higher-ups are slow to inform me, huh. I'm not ready."
"What do you need to be ready for? It's not real." Long Bing rolled her eyes at Xia Lei, "The plan was for me to pretend to be your girlfriend or fiancée but it wasn't a very good choice for my cover so they had another meeting and decided that I should pretend to be your wife. We've been married for half a year and I'm here in Germany with you to look for opportunities. I don't have to work; you're supporting me."
Xia Lei was speechless.
"Doing this is also helps prevent a sudden investigation by the German Immigration or the Labour Authority. We have to pay more attention to some details to better protect our identities," said Long Bing.
"Okay, Laura," said Xia Lei.
'Laura' was Long Bing's German name, and her made-up Chinese name was 'Chen Li'.
Long Bing reached out to hold Xia Lei's hand and said intimately, "Let's go, Lukas."
She'd suddenly entered 'wife mode' for 'Lukas'. Xia Lei, on the other hand, froze for a bit before he relaxed. There was no avoiding this difference. Long Bing was a special agent who'd undergone professional training after all and he was just a regular guy.
The pair left the flat and shopped while wandering about in the nearby streets. Long Bing played the role of wife perfectly the whole time - holding onto Xia Lei's hand, and playfully asking him to buy things she liked. Xia Lei felt like she had suddenly turned into a whole other person and was completely different from the iceberg-like Long Bing he knew. She'd become a warm and adorable woman.
They left the flat empty-handed and returned with several bags of various shapes and sizes.
Xia Lei relaxed after walking through the doorway. "We didn't have to act so much, did we? I don't think anyone was watching us," he said.
Long Bing shook her head and said sternly, "There will be people taking notice of us wherever we go. The only difference is if it was intentional or not. Can you tell what a person's objective is? You cannot, so you also can't be sure who is a disguised special agent or intelligence operative. Because of what we have to do here, we must be in our roles every minute. Only then can we avoid having our identities seen through due to carelessness." After a pause, she added, "This can be considered a new lesson."
Xia Lei had X-ray vision and could see a person's heart but could not see into a person's heart and see one's motives. There were so many people on the streets - who knew if there really was a special agent or intelligence agent hidden amongst them?
"Okay, I'll remember that." Xia Lei's gaze landed on the only bed in the room - a double bed. It made him think of something and he began to look nervous, "Uh... Does the 'every minute' you said include sleeping time?"
Long Bing nodded slightly.
Xia Lei raised his finger and pointed at the double bed, asking probingly, "Then at night, we..."
Long Bing nodded again, "Sleep together."
Xia Lei froze on the spot. His brain started throwing out scenarios of himself sleeping on the same bed as Long Bing and he became even more nervous.
Long Bing glared at Xia Lei, "If you have any impure thoughts and try to do something funny, I will..." She raised a hand, made her fingers into the shape of scissors and made a snipping motion.
Xia Lei looked back at her wordlessly.
Dinner was German-style; ham, bacon, sour soup and a plate of fruit salad. Cooking exotic dishes was as simple as taking a look at the recipe and preparing them accordingly to Xia Lei. There was no need for him to put on an act in the kitchen. He was already a warm and nice husband.
After dinner, Xia Lei bundled himself on the sofa in the small living room and watched television to put off having to go to bed. However, no matter how long he put it off, he still had to sleep.
Long Bing acted a lot more naturally than he did. She had gone to bed an hour earlier and she was already asleep when Xia Lei entered the bedroom.
The lights were off in the room but this did not stop Xia Lei from seeing the situation on the bed clearly.
Long Bing was dressed in thin pyjamas and only covered by a thin summer quilt.
Xia Lei let out a light breath and crawled on the bed. He did not have the habit of wearing pyjamas but this was a special situation and he was dressed in pyjamas too. It was a short-sleeved type paired with shorts.
The bed smelt of Long Bing's fragrance and this womanly fragrance did not bring pleasure to Xia Lei but was a form of torture. It made him very nervous. He did not dare move after he lay down.
"Do you want the blanket?" Long Bing suddenly turned around and looked at Xia Lei beside her.
Xia Lei nearly had a scare. "Weren't you asleep?"
"You're very nervous."
"I... I'm not nervous."
Long Bing pfft-ed, "Okay, I saw wrong then. You're not nervous at all. Want the blanket?"
Xia Lei nodded.
Long Bing moved some of the blanket over to cover Xia Lei and the two of them were covered by a single blanket. Thereafter, the both of them stayed quiet and closed their eyes to go to sleep.
The bed was slightly small for two adults at 1.5 metres.
Long Bing looked at Xia Lei.
Xia Lei looked at the ceiling.
After who knew how long, Xia Lei suddenly felt an itch in the arm that was next to Long Bing and he reached to scratch it, accidentally touching Long Bing.
"Sorry, I, I didn't do that on purpose," Xia Lei hurriedly explained himself.
Long Bing reached a hand out of the quilt and made her fingers into a pair of scissors in Xia Lei's face, then silently made a snipping motion.
Xia Lei was speechless.