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C city, T country
Gua Two carefully examined the corpse. He pulled out a knife and gave the bushy beard a rough shave, then scrutinized the dead man’s face. “It really isn’t Meng La,” he determined in the end, his expression turning ugly. “Although his facial features are similar, his physical condition is too poor. Moreover, unlike Meng La, his dark skin isn’t natural but has been artificially tanned over a short period of time.”
Gua One finished dealing with the aftermath of the battle and came over. Noticing that the two’s expressions weren’t right, he frowned. “What’s the matter?”
Gua Two told him.
Gua One’s face contorted to match, but he reassured them by saying, “We managed to save all of the hostages. It’s a shame we didn’t get Meng La, but he wasn’t the main target of this operation, so let’s not get distracted.”
His voice had barely died away before Old Ghost cried out in panic.
It attracted everyone’s attention and they rushed over to him.
“What’s going on?” Gua One asked as soon as he got close.
Old Ghost was supporting one of his subordinates on the floor. “They all got dizzy and nauseous out of nowhere. Something’s wrong!” he cried.
“Boss, I feel sick…” the man he was holding up said with difficulty, then turned his head to the side and vomited, his face looking worse by the second.
Gua Two glanced around at the rescued members of Phantom, taking note of their symptoms. Suddenly, he thought of something, and his expression changed. Turning to Lian Jun, he began, “Jun-shao, could they be…”
“They were given Long Shi’s poison,” Lian Jun’s tone was certain, his face sinking. “As expected, Meng La would never be so kind as to just give away his bargaining chips to Zuo Yang. Stop standing around, get ready to leave. Contact our nearest branch, tell them we’re going to send people to their hospital.”
After a moment of shock, everyone hurried off to fulfill his orders. Old Ghost arranged for his subordinates to be moved to his car. He was anxious and worried, on the verge of an emotional breakdown.
With help, he managed to save his people, he’d clearly saved them, so what was happening now? How could they be poisoned? Long Shi was in Zuo Yang’s hands now—were they back at the beginning again? Could he…
Lian Jun noticed his agitation. “Don’t worry—we collected a large amount of research data when we found Hydra’s secret lab, and that includes Long Shi’s notes as well. It’s only a matter of time until an antidote is made. We don’t need Long Shi at all,” he appeased.
Old Ghost calmed down a little. Giving him a grateful look, he said, “Truly, thank you. I’ll never forget all the help you’ve given me, and Old Ghost always repays his debts.”
Lian Jun didn’t respond, only urged his subordinates to hurry up once more. As soon as everyone got in the cars, he ordered the team to split up—Gua Five would escort Old Ghost and his people to the hospital by a more concealed, alternate route, and the rest of the troops would follow Lian Jun on the main route.
“Jun-shao?” Gua Five frowned, unwilling to separate from the main team.
“Do as I said. Meng La must’ve known this was a trap and stayed hidden in the dark, and now Zuo Yang also knows that he’s been tricked. They will both mobilize forces to kill me in order to stabilize the situation, and a fierce battle is unavoidable. Old Ghost’s people can’t afford to wait for medical help, but it would be inconvenient to take them with us,” Lian Jun explained.
Still reluctant, Gua Five acknowledged the order. Fists clenched, he said he would keep in contact with Gua One, and exited the car.
All preparations finished, Lian Jun took a last glance at the mess in front of the hospital entrance and ordered everyone to leave.
It was only after they’d set off that Old Ghost came to know about Lian Jun’s arrangements from Gua Five. Understanding that Lian Jun was covering his retreat, he glanced at his subordinates in the back of the van, who had already fallen into a coma, and scrubbed his hands over his face.
The motorcade quickly reached the main road. Then, as it passed through a complicated intersection, several of the vehicles discreetly broke off and mixed into the flow of traffic, turned onto another road out of the city, and disappeared.
After confirming that Gua Five had safely entered the alternate evacuation route, Lian Jun put down his phone and instructed, “Turn around, regroup, and split into two teams. One team is to attack Gunfire’s city headquarters, the other Nine Eagles’. You don’t need to wipe them out, just keep them occupied enough that they won’t have strength to spare to track down Old Ghost.”
Gua One and Gua Two both looked at him in surprise. Gua Two asked, “Aren’t we withdrawing?”
“The best way to withdraw is to attack,” Lian Jun replied, then clarified, “We need to buy Old Ghost time. Besides, though Meng La didn’t come to the hospital, he’s probably in C city, just in case the deal wasn’t a trap. Let’s try to flush him out.”
Gua One and Gua Two looked at each other, eyes lit with fighting spirit. They acknowledged the order and started to divide the troops.
L country’s capital, the private hospital
Shi Jin forced everyone to have a leisurely breakfast together. He seemed to be relaxed, but in fact, his nerves were pulled so tense they were about to snap.
Anxious, Xiao Si warned, <Your progress bar is going up fast, it’s already reached 700.>
“Someone is targeting me—eight out of ten, Gunfire. Zuo Yang fell for Lian Jun’s bait and wouldn’t risk attacking me again.” Shi Jin stuffed an egg in his mouth, pretending not to see Fei Yujing and the officials’ impatience. After swallowing, he looked at one of the officials and threw out a casual question. “Oh, right, did L country’s authorities send news? Have any suspicious people or vehicles entered the capital these past few days?”
“No, everything is as usual,” the man answered, his attitude stiff.
“I see.” Shi Jin cut another egg into pieces. He turned to Gua Nine. “How are things in the hospital? Were there any personnel changes?”
Gua Nine thought Shi Jin had gathered them because there was no news from Lian Jun and he wanted a distraction, that he was asking random questions because he was nervous. “No, there are only our own people in the hospital, you can rest assured.”
“Yeah, then I don’t have to worry. Come on, let’s eat fast, cold food doesn’t taste as good. Lawyer Fei, you should drink less coffee, you’ll hurt your stomach,” Shi Jin changed the topic again. He took a glance at the non-stop rise of his progress bar, pondering how to keep everyone together and stop them from leaving when breakfast was over.
Gua One and Gua Two had outstanding abilities. After Lian Jun gave the order to attack, they took only a few minutes to make arrangements and gather their men, then they rushed straight to Gunfire and Nine Eagles’ bases in C city.
The enemies hadn’t expected Lian Jun to attack instead of retreat, and both organizations had been caught by surprise. Annihilation broke through their defenses in short order, forcing them to order a hasty recall of all the people they sent out.
Lian Jun followed after Gua One’s team, who were assigned to take care of Gunfire’s base. However, as he watched Gua One enter it so easily, his expression not only didn’t relax but turned more and more somber.
Such a sloppy response and poor defense from Gunfire could only mean one thing—Meng La wasn’t there.
But if Meng La wasn’t there, where on earth was he? Hadn’t Zuo Yang’s offer of cooperation tempted him at all?
Without realizing, Lian Jun’s fingers stroked the wheelchair armrest as he fell deep in thought. All of a sudden, a memory of Shi Jin hugging him when they said goodbye flashed through his mind; shocked, he was struck by a certain possibility.
If he was Meng La, what would he do if he had doubts about Zuo Yang’s deal?
First of all, he would definitely agree to the offer, gambling on the possibility of Zuo Yang being sincere. Secondly, in order to avoid Zuo Yang leading him by the nose, he’d try his best to ensure his own safety. He would tamper with the chips he was forced to give away so that Zuo Yang wouldn’t gain the upper hand, or even set Zuo Yang up.
Finally, he would find some way to ensure that Gunfire would still be in play even if the alliance with Nine Eagles was broken beyond repair—he would try to acquire a bargaining chip big enough to let Gunfire pass through the current storm to safety.
And what chip could that be except for Shi Jin? After all, Nine Eagles forced Annihilation and Phantom to stop their attacks relying on nothing more than an “antidote to treat Shi Jin’s poison.” So, didn’t that mean that capturing Shi Jin was no different to having Annihilation wrapped around their fingers?
When Lian Jun thought of this, his heart was already ice-cold. He took out his phone and called Shi Jin—however, despite his call usually being answered in a matter of seconds, this time, he heard the prompt that the number he had dialed was out of range.
Out of range? How could a high-level private hospital in the middle of the capital be out of range? It could only mean one thing—the hospital was being covered by a signal jammer!
Lian Jun took a few deep breaths to suppress the panic surging in his chest and called Gua One’s phone, ordering, “Stop the attack and withdraw, notify Gua Two as well. We’re returning to L country immediately—Meng La isn’t here, he’s going after Shi Jin!”
Not waiting for Gua One’s response, he hung up and called the government liaison of L country, and the person in charge of Annihilation troops in L country, telling them to send people to protect Shi Jin.
Having talked enough nonsense to thoroughly annoy everyone, Shi Jin managed to delay enough that this impromptu breakfast party lasted more than half an hour, but it still came to an inevitable end. By then, the progress bar in Shi Jin’s mind had risen to 850.
“Is there still no news from Lian Jun?” In a last desperate struggle, Shi Jin grabbed Gua Nine before he rose from the table.
Gua Nine shook his head, taking out his phone to check again. “My phone didn’t ring, so… Eh? Why is there no signal?”
Surprised, Shi Jin looked at his own phone, but it was the same. After giving the progress bar a glance, he showed his phone to Gua Nine. “I also have no signal. Something must be wrong.”
Gua Nine’s eyebrows knitted. He stopped the others, who were about to leave, and asked them to check their phones.
The others had heard their conversation. They pulled out their phones and looked at them, then frowned.
It was obvious that none of their phones had a signal.
Gua Nine’s face sank. He stood up, commanding, “Don’t leave. The lack of signal is suspicious—someone might be trying to attack us. I’ll go and check the situation, you all stay here.”
The door of the doctor’s office serving as a temporary dining room was suddenly thrown open, and the member of Annihilation in charge of protection of the hospital hurried in. “The L country officials just sent someone to inform us that the building we used to live in caught fire out of nowhere,” he said, frowning. “The emergency services are putting it out, but for the time being, is impossible to determine how many people have been trapped inside and if there were any casualties. They need us to give them a list of staff who stayed there so they will know how many people there are to rescue. Also, the signal…”
“It’s blocked,” Gua Nine interrupted him. “Strengthen the hospital defenses—that fire is likely to be deliberate, so we also need to be careful. Send people to find the signal jammer and destroy it as soon as possible. I’ll talk to the person who came with the news and tell him that the list is not needed because most of us are staying in the hospital, we only sent a few people back. Shi Jin, you…”
“I’ll stay here to guard everyone. Be careful, pay attention to your safety and don’t allow anyone to enter the hospital,” Shi Jin answered, not forgetting to urge him.
Gua Nine, very satisfied with his cooperation, nodded. He ordered people to come over to protect Shi Jin and the others, then took the man in charge of the protection of the hospital and marched out.
<JinJin, your progress bar is stuck at 850,> Xiao Si said with anxiety.
“Since it’s not rising, it means I’m safe for the time being. The enemies haven’t found a way to enter the hospital—the fire and blocking the signal is to throw our side into chaos and lure me into coming outside. We mustn’t get taken in by their tricks.” Shi Jin didn’t lose his calm, and after appeasing Xiao Si, he began to pacify the other people in the room, who were somewhat agitated.
Gua Nine returned a few minutes later, bringing bad news: “I ran into the second messenger from the L country officials just as I left. The fire was very serious. Although none of our people died, some of them got hurt while they escaped, and quite a few rescuers were injured as well. This hospital is the closest to the scene of fire and the authorities want to send everyone with minor injuries here.”
Straight away, Xiao Si said, <JinJin, your progress bar has risen to 900.>
Shi Jin’s expression changed for an instant as he realized that was probably how the enemy planned to enter the hospital—sneak in with the wounded. However, despite knowing that, he still had to agree to let them come in, because some of the victims were their own people and he couldn’t make them wait for medical help.
Oh well, it seemed he had to let the dogs into the room, then shut the door and beat them while they couldn’t escape.
He’d already decided to use this plan but had to keep up appearances, so he asked, “Wouldn’t the signal jammer interfere with the treatment?”
“It shouldn’t. Only people with minor injuries are going to come here, there will be no need to use the more delicate machinery in the operating rooms, so I don’t think it will affect anything,” Gua Nine replied.
Shi Jin nodded. “Then allow the wounded to come, their injuries should be taken care of as soon as possible. I’ll inform Uncle Long and let him arrange the medical personnel.”
Gua Nine acknowledged the command and left.
The officials sitting nearby and listening to their conversation were in a complicated mood, both scared and relieved—fortunately, Shi Jin had forced them to move to the hospital, or the ones trapped in the fire today would have been them.
And they were different from Annihilation members who had undergone all kinds of survival training. Members of Annihilation were able to escape from the burning buildings despite suffering injuries, but if it was their group, then they could probably only wait for rescue. But if so many of the rescuers got hurt as well, who knew if they would even have lasted until help could reach them?
Shi Jin spoke after Gua Nine left: “All right, everybody stay here and don’t run around. This is the innermost part of the hospital, close to all evacuation routes, and there are guards outside. The enemies aren’t likely to come this far, and even if they do, it’s easy to get away, so there’s no need to worry.” Saying so, he got up. “I’m going to find Uncle Long, I’ll be back soon.”
Fei Yujing frowned at him. When the teenager opened the door and was about to walk out, he called out to him on instinct. “Shi Jin.”
Shi Jin turned to look at him. “What’s the matter?”
Fei Yujing stopped speaking, as if this question made him come back to his senses.
Shi Jin came back over. He took out his pocket gun and the spare magazine, put it in his brother’s hand, carefully taught him how to use it, and said, “Protect everyone, yourself included. I’ll be right back.” Then he turned around and walked out of the door. He asked for a spare gun from one of the guards, tucked it in his pocket, and ran to find Uncle Long.
Fei Yujing saw his actions. He looked at the small pocket gun in his hand, still warm with Shi Jin’s body temperature, and his frown deepened.
Uncle Long had yet to begin the day’s experiments, so when Shi Jin barrelled in saying there were wounded coming over, he didn’t hesitate to drop what he was doing and head for the door.
Shi Jin reached for a spare doctor’s gown and mask, put them on in a rush, and hurried after him.
“What are you doing?” Uncle Long asked, puzzled.
“I’m going to help too,” Shi Jin replied as if it was only natural.
Uncle Long’s eyebrows twitched. He was about to say that they had enough medical personnel that a layman would be of no help, but then thought that if Shi Jin stayed by his side, it would be more convenient to protect him, so he swallowed his words and let the teenager tag along.
The doctors and nurses quickly prepared the medical equipment they would need, then pushed the mobile stretchers to the entrance, ready to receive patients.
Shi Jin joined the crowd and waved to Gua Nine, who’d arrived a little earlier. After adjusting his white coat, he took a look at the situation outside the hospital, then settled in to wait for the wounded.
A few minutes later, several cars with the official license plates approached the hospital and stopped by the entrance of the emergency department. The drivers got out, all of them wearing the orange uniforms of L country’s rescue workers.
As soon as they got off, they opened the back doors of their vehicles, calling for the doctors.
The medical staff rushed forward, with Uncle Long taking the lead.
<JinJin, your progress bar has gone up again, to 950,> Xiao Si informed him nervously.
Shi Jin stopped scrutinizing the new arrivals and pulled up his mask. “It’s fine,” he said in his mind as he stepped towards the wounded.
There were sixteen of them in total, five Annihilation members and eleven official rescue workers. Shi Jin nudged Uncle Long, signaling him to separate them.
Uncle Long gave him a ‘I know, this is common sense’ glare, and elbowed him aside. He assigned doctors to each patient and ordered for the ones with the heavier injuries to be taken to the operating rooms.
Shi Jin wandered around the periphery. As his gaze swept over the people who’d brought the wounded, he became more and more confused.
“Except for our people, there are only L country’s rescue workers here. Are the L country officials working with the enemy? But did Gunfire have so much pull?” He found it hard to believe.
Xiao Si’s nerves were stretched taut. <The progress bar doesn’t lie. Since it has gone up, at least one of these people is a threat to you,> it said, solemn.
As Shi Jin pondered, his eyes drifted back to the rescue workers in orange uniforms. Suddenly, he thought of something.
When Gua Two interrogated Long Shi last time, Long Shi explained that he chose to stay in Hydra because it had an L country official as a backer. At that time, everyone thought that Long Shi had fallen for Gunfire’s deception, but what if that wasn’t the case?
What if Hydra, or rather Gunfire, really had a connection with someone in authority, and now they were using that person’s help to impersonate rescue workers, which would allow them to infiltrate the hospital… If that conjecture was true, then…
“Doctor.” All of a sudden, a wounded man in the orange uniform called out to him in awkward, heavily-accented Y language.
Shi Jin gave a blank stare for a moment before realizing the man was addressing him. In an instant, he put on an innocent, naive expression and turned around, pulling down his mask. “What’s wrong? Is your wound hurting?” he asked kindly, also in Y language.
“No… I, I need to go to bathroom.” The patient was a tall, well-built man with heavy features, deep-set eyes, and dusky complexion; he was quite good-looking. When Shi Jin came over, he explained, bashful, “Just now, a girl bandaged me, I was too embarrassed to say… I hurt my leg, I can’t walk by myself. Can you please help me to bathroom? Thank you.”
In uniform, shy-looking, polite, and handsome—would any doctor dislike such a patient? Shi Jin was a fake, but he also liked him quite a bit, because he found that the moment the man made his request, the progress bar rose again!
This person was definitely one of the bad guys!
Shi Jin’s smile became warmer. “Of course I’ll help you, but you’re taller and heavier than me, I don’t know if I’ll manage on my own. Wait a moment, I’ll get you a wheelchair,” he said, turning around. As he walked towards the outpatient room where the wheelchairs were kept, the smile on the face disappeared for a moment.
“Xiao Si, don’t you feel like this guy’s voice sounds familiar?” he asked in his mind.
<Yes, a little bit. I’m sure I’ve heard it somewhere…>
“Somewhere… like a video call?” Shi Jin prompted.
Xiao Si froze, then burst out screaming. <Ah! It’s Meng La! It’s Meng La without the beard! But JinJin, why is he here?!>
“But of course, he’s here to grab this juicy piece of meat, me,” Shi Jin chuckled. He found a wheelchair in the corner of the office and continued, his tone much lighter, “The kingdom sent people on a thousand-miles-long journey to take the Demon King’s head, but the Demon King actually came knocking on the castle gates. Isn’t this a nice twist?”
Xiao Si fretted.
“Of course I’m happy—if Meng La is here, it means that Lian Jun is in much less danger. Why are you panicking? The hospital is our territory, which means that no matter what he’s planning, he’s basically in my hands now,” Shi Jin said, pushing the wheelchair out of the outpatient clinic. He saw the wounded man they suspected of being Meng La looking over, and gave him yet another friendly smile as he headed towards him.
Shi Jin helped the man sit in the wheelchair, asking like he was making small talk, “What’s your name? I’m an intern here, you can call me Xiao Yuan.”
“Just call me David,” the patient replied, carefully settling in. “Thank you for helping me. I’m really sorry for this,” he added, sheepish.
David, huh? I’m surprised he didn’t call himself John.
Shi Jin pushed the wheelchair deeper into the hospital. “Oh, you don’t need to be so polite, but you’re welcome. By the way, has the fire been put out? Did you discover what caused it?”
“It was almost put out when I left. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but the preliminary suspicion is that it was caused by a ruptured gas pipe,” David replied, both his tone and expression very concerned, as if he was truly worried about the fire.
Inside his head, Shi Jin praised his acting skills, and continued chatting with him. He deliberately pushed him past Gua Nine and said, “Brother Nine, I’m taking this patient to the bathroom. Could you please tell this Dr. Long? He’ll be looking for me, and I don’t want him to scold me for running around again.”
Gua Nine was talking with an official sent by L country government when, out of nowhere, he was called by a name Shi Jin never called him. He froze, then turned to look at the teenager, meeting the big, innocent eyes, filled with kindness and love for the whole world. Speechless, he took a casual glance at the person sitting in the wheelchair. “All right, I’ll explain to Dr. Long for you.”
“Thank you, Brother Nine,” Shi Jin replied, voice sweet as sugar, and continued pushing ‘David’ deeper into the hospital.
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