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All the buildings belonging to the Flowery Orchard were situated in the valley surrounded on three sides by mountains. The fourth side faced the hill with the small bungalow, where Shi Jin used to squat in—on its other side lay the abandoned park and the road. All in all, this location was hidden quite well.
The orchard was connected to the outside world by the four gates, each of them facing one cardinal direction. The second gate was located in the east, between two mountains, and was just wide enough for two trucks to pass side by side. When Shi Jin arrived, the iron doors were wide open and more than a dozen large trucks were parked in the spacious area before them.
He put the map away and looked across the gate, towards the mountainside. Not surprisingly, he saw two sentry posts there, one on each side of the entrance.
“Little JinJin, what are you looking at?” Gua Two appeared out of nowhere, using the board he held to completely block Shi Jin’s sight.
Shi Jin glanced at him and pointed to the mountainside, not trying to hide what he saw. “Just now, Gua Three told me that we are honest businessmen, but would honest businessmen build such an easy to defend, but hard to attack place and set up guards on both sides of the entrance, and even equip their employees with guns?”
Gua Two raised his eyebrows and laughed, showing his white teeth. “The situation forced us to do this. We’re too close to the border, this area is not quite safe.”
Situation, my ass.
Shi Jin rolled his eyes but didn’t say anything, knowing that he hadn’t won the trust of the people here yet. He changed the topic. “What’s that thing in your hand?”
“It’s our orchard’s advertisement board”, answered Gua Two, moving towards the nearest truck and fastening the board up. He turned back to Shi Jin and said, “Well, isn’t it eye-catching? It was me who came up with this method. Amazing, right?”
Haven’t people been advertising things like that since quite a while ago?
Shi Jin swallowed those words and asked, “When do we leave? And where are we delivering these fruits?”
“Good children shouldn’t be too curious.” Gua Two came over, put his arm around Shi Jin’s shoulder and said with a smile, “You just have to follow me, don’t worry about doing anything else.”
Shi Jin shook his hand off and asked no more questions. He said with a straight face, “Okay, Little ‘Number Two’.”
Gua Two gaped at him. Was this Shi Jin’s way of getting back at him because he called him “Little JinJin”? After being stunned for a moment, he burst out laughing and playfully thumped Shi Jin on the shoulder, saying with a delighted face: “You are so cute, not like a spoiled young master at all, I like you!”
Shi Jin raised a leg to kick him and refused to speak to him again.
A quarter of an hour later, all preparations were finished and the team finally set out. Shi Jin ended up in the middle part of the convoy, sitting in a passenger seat while Gua Two was driving.
“Do you have a driver’s license?” Gua Two asked.
“No, I’m not old enough, but I know how to drive,” Shi Jin answered.
“Then we will switch later. You can sleep first, to keep your strength up.”
Shi Jin frowned: “Aren’t you afraid that I will be caught driving without a license?”
Gua Two gave him a funny look and said with a half-smile, “Don’t worry, there’s no police where we are going.”
This made Shi Jin puzzled.
A few hours later, when Shi Jin woke up from his nap and was ready to replace Gua Two, he finally understood what Gua Two meant by “no police”.
“Have we passed the border?” Shi Jin looked around, noticing the desolate surroundings and the strange words on the street signs that were occasionally visible on the roadside.
“You have good eyes.” Gua Two, holding an unlit cigarette in his mouth, said slightly unintelligibly, “In ten minutes the convoy will stop for a fifteen-minute break. You should grab some food and be ready to take over from me.”
So we really crossed the border. Shi Jin became rather skeptical about the existence of mangoes in their trucks, but he didn’t ask anything more. He bent down and took food out of the small car refrigerator.
After a short rest, the convoy continued their journey. Gua Two fell asleep right after switching to the passenger seat. Shi Jin followed the vehicle before him to an unknown destination and asked Xiao Si in his mind, “In the end, what is your Darling’s identity? Don’t say you don’t know.”
Xiao Si did know—after the second progress bar was activated, it received the complete information about Lian Jun, so its answer was quite detailed: <Darling is the boss of the legal transnational criminal organization called “Annihilation”. Annihilation developed and made its fortune with rather dirty means, gaining a lot of resentment from many other underground forces, but that is all in the past—since Darling took over, Annihilation has become better and better. It not only cut off all of its grey businesses but is also cooperating with the officials of various countries, occasionally assisting them in cleaning up some illegal criminal organizations. It’s gradually leaving the underworld. That’s why, JinJin, believe me, Darling really is a good person.>
The more Shi Jin heard, the more shocked he was. He finally understood why his progress bar fell like crazy after Lian Jun has permitted him to stay—someone like Lian Jun, who had connections with both dark and light sides of society, was indeed an existence to be fearful of.
Huh, I unknowingly hugged a really big golden thigh.
Shi Jin let out a sigh, his mood slightly complicated. Remembering his progress bar, he pondered for some time, then fished out the cell phone from his pocket.
Xiao Si asked curiously, <JinJin, who are you going to call? I will help you make the call, you should keep your eyes on the road.>
“Gua Two is right next to me, who knows if he is really sleeping? If he sees my phone dialing a number on its own, I’ll be burned at the stake,” said Shi Jin, his finger skillfully pushing the buttons and entering a series of numbers.
Xiao Si was shocked: <JinJin, isn’t this your eldest brother’s number? Did you dial the wrong one?>
“No, that’s who I’m calling. Right now, we’re in another country, I’m using an encrypted mobile phone belonging to Lian Jun, and the progress bar has dropped to 700. It’s the right time and the right place—this opportunity is too good to miss.”
Hearing these words, Xiao Si quieted down. It helped Shi Jin to watch the road while he made the call.
Shi Jin turned on the speakerphone, not caring Gua Two would be able to hear everything, but it seemed that the man was deeply asleep because the loud dial tone didn’t even make him stir.
Ten seconds later, the call finally got through and Shi Weichong answered: “Hello?”
Shi Jin deliberately lowered his voice and called out shakily, “Big Brother.”
“Xiao Jin?” Shi Weichong’s voice rose and he asked quickly, “Where are you?”
Shi Jin’s tone continued to waver, “In a very safe place, I’ve also found a well-paid job, you don’t have to worry about me. I saw the news. Big brother, congratulations for officially taking over Ruixing. I’m calling you because I just wanted to tell you…”
“Xiao Jin,” Shi Weichong interrupted him, his tone of voice brooking no argument, “tell me where you are and I will pick you up.”
Pick me up? What for, to kill me? I’m not suicidal.
Shi Jin glanced at his progress bar, which had risen by 10 points, and realized clearly how intense Shi Weichong’s killing intent towards ‘the original’ was. He said hurriedly, his voice no longer shaking: “Be careful of your assistant, I’ve seen him with dad before. Good-bye, brother, take care of yourself.” After that, he hung up and put the phone in his pocket in one smooth motion.
Xiao Si was anxious: <JinJin, the progress bar has risen to 720.>
Shi Jin said soothingly: “It’s okay, it’s going to fall down. There’s no helping it—as long as I get back in touch with my brothers, my progress bar is bound to fluctuate. Now I just hope that after receiving such a selfless help from me, Shi Weichong will have a pang of conscience and will become a little less eager to kill me.”
<I’m sure he will,> Xiao Si comforted him, reasoning, <You are not a threat to him and he’s not someone bloodthirsty enough to kill people without any reason. Let’s try to slowly win him over; sooner or later, he will give up the idea of killing you.>
“I really hope so.”
The convoy continued its journey for some time. Suddenly, Xiao Si cried out. Shi Jin, who was concentrating on watching the road and its surroundings, offhandedly asked what’s happened.
<JinJin, your progress bar is filling up at a constant rate.> Xiao Si’s tone was grave. <It’s rising faster and faster, and now it’s already 750. I’d thought your points rose because Shi Weichong was angry you hung up on him, but now it seems there’s a danger ahead and you’re getting closer to it.>
Shi Jin’s heart sank. He tried depressing the gas pedal and couldn’t stop himself from cursing after finding out that the speed of the progress bar filling up increased with the speed of the truck.
“What’s the matter?” Gua Two opened his eyes and looked like he had just woken up. He asked, yawning, “How long did I sleep?”
“Not long,” Shi Jin answered, hesitating whether to warn Gua Two about the danger ahead.
While he was thinking, Gua Two suddenly reached out and closed the half-open window of the truck, saying with a smile, “It’s getting dark and we’ll be going through the forest soon. There may be some wild animals, so be careful.”
Shi Jin’s anxious heart relaxed after hearing these words. He ground his teeth: “It’s obvious this bastard knows there’s danger in front of us!”
Xiao Si stammered: <Pro, probably?>
When it was dark, the vehicles in the convoy turned on their lights one after another and maintaining a constant speed drove into the dirt road running through the jungle.
The progress bar has risen to 900 and started to increase at a rate of 10 points per minute. Shi Jin’s hands were sweaty, his body tense, and his eyes kept sweeping over the pitch-dark woods on both sides of the road to be prepared for the danger that may come at any moment.
“Take it easy, the situation is not that serious.” Gua Two put his hand on Shi Jin’s shoulder and spoke in a leisurely voice.
Shi Jin didn’t answer him, but concentrated on driving.
960, 970, 980, 990… Looking at his progress bar that was about to fill up, Shi Jin held his breath. He put his foot on the brakes and was going to step on it.
“Don’t stop, keep driving, keep up with the truck in front.” Just in time, Gua Two tightened his hand on Shi Jin’s shoulder and urged him on.
Shi Jin clenched his teeth and peered at his progress bar, which was only three points away from filling up. He moved his foot away from the brakes and stepped on the gas hard—I don’t care anymore! Gua Two’d better be as good as he says he is, otherwise everyone will die here today!
Suddenly there was an explosion in front, and the dark jungle was illuminated by fire, almost blinding Shi Jin. He reflexively tried to brake, but Gua Two stopped him again: “Keep up with the truck in front, drive the same way they do. The attackers won’t dare to use heavy weaponry in the jungle indiscriminately, because they could easily cause a forest fire that way. No one would be that stupid.”
They are bombarding us and you are still saying they won’t dare to use heavy weapons?!
Shi Jin wanted to curse, but his mind calmed down. Looking around quickly, he located the front truck amid the fire and smoke caused by the explosion, then turned the steering wheel and followed it off the road, brushing past the tree branches.
Bang bang bang.
Suddenly, a loud sound of gunfire could be heard. Gua Two lowered his window a little and pointed his gun towards the dense forest, shooting a few bullets.
The flames of war were burning.
Shi Jin didn’t dare to be distracted by the gunfire. He kept a close eye on the car before him and continued to drive, threading his way through the jungle trees.
He didn’t know how long it took, but the sound of explosions and gunfire finally died down, and the convoy returned to the dirt road.
Gua Two leaned back in the passenger seat and praised him, satisfied: “Little JinJin, you are not bad. You are actually quite tough mentally.”
“Fuck.” Shi Jin looked at the marks the bullets left on their truck and did not hold back his swearing. He added resentfully, “And you say you are not gangsters!”
“Okay, Little ‘Number Two’” – what Shi Jin said here is 小老二, which literally means ‘little male genitals’ (let’s not be crass :)). 二 is a part of Gua Two’s name. I tried to make it an insult understandable in English, do tell me if you have a better idea, please.
About legal and illegal criminal organizations—that’s not really it, but think pirates and privateers. There will be more info later.
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