The First Order – Chapter 211


Chapter 211: Investigation Division

Translator: Legge Editor: Legge

 

They barely managed to turn a goat into cured meat with all the salt available at the outpost. Li Qingzheng was a little excited as he seemed to have discovered a new business opportunity.

“It’s almost the Lunar New Year, right? Every household, including the refugees, will want to enjoy themselves for a few days. Since we get our meat for nothing, we can keep selling them in town as long as the Wolf King continues sending their game to us,” Li Qingzheng said. Thinking of this, Li Qingzheng seemed to already be dreaming of becoming an esquire in town.

Ren Xiaosu looked at him as he rubbed the salt onto the meat. “Wouldn’t the Li Consortium’s forces do something if you try that?”

“I’ll sell them secretly,” Li Qingzheng said with a chuckle.

Ren Xiaosu asked, “Are you familiar with any of the shops?”

“No.” Li Qingzheng said, “But since meat is quite scarce, I think it should be easy to sell.”

Ren Xiaosu sighed, “Have you ever eaten meat during the Lunar New Year before? Everyone just makes do with some lard in their cooking and considers that a New Year celebration. The meat will only be valuable if you can sell them in the stronghold. I’ll introduce you to a friend of mine. He’s called Wang Fugui, and it won’t be difficult to get to know some people in the stronghold with his skills.”

Li Qingzheng’s eyes lit up. “Really?”

He also knew what Ren Xiaosu said was true. All of a sudden, this outpost had become a wholesale market for meat. However, the town’s purchasing power was too low for them to make much of a profit, and they might not be able to sell the meat off easily unless he was willing to reduce the price. Therefore, it was extremely important to have a qualified distributor.

Meanwhile, Ren Xiaosu still needed to stay undercover in this outpost and wait for more opportunities to get more nanomachines… so he needed Li Qingzheng to front the dealings.

By acting as the intermediary between Li Qingzheng and Wang Fugui, he could travel frequently between the outpost and town. Moreover, they would also be able to rake in the majority of the profits.

Old Wang was still quite capable in this aspect.

But at this moment, Li Qingzheng felt a little puzzled. “Aren’t you a student from the stronghold? How did you know about life in town?”

Ren Xiaosu glanced at him and said, “I’m a refugee too.”

When it came to the day for the supplies to be delivered, Li Qingzheng instructed everyone to hide the cured meat and everything else in case the ruffians delivering the supplies got any ideas. “We must hide everything. If not, those bastards will for sure seize a lot of the meat when they see them.”

The truck carrying the goods and supplies came up via the mountain road. But they only unloaded a bag of rice and a bag of noodles without giving them any salt. Li Qingzheng was stunned. He asked, “What about the salt?”

“You’re already very fortunate to have rice and noodles.” The two soldiers said as they smoked their cigarettes, “Hurry up and sign for it. Otherwise, you won’t even get rice and noodles.”

“You should at least give us some salt,” Li Qingzheng said after hesitating for a moment.

“Do you want it or not? If you don’t, we’ll bring it back with us,” said one of the soldiers delivering the supplies.

Li Qingzheng said through his teeth, “Yes, I want it!”

“You’re still so picky, huh? Do you know how many refugees don’t even get to eat?!” After he said that, they got back into the truck and left. Li Qingzheng did not dare say anything else in front of them.

After the truck left, he cursed out loud, “Those bastards must have embezzled our provisions for themselves. Are they trying to force us to dig for wild vegetables in the mountains to pair with rice and noodles?”

When they opened up the bags of rice and noodles, they were shocked to discover that sand had been mixed into them!

“They are not treating us as people!” someone said indignantly.

Ren Xiaosu sighed to the students, “This is the world that y’all have never come into contact with before.”

Just after the resupply truck departed, another military transport truck drove up from the bottom of the mountain. Everyone watched quietly as they waited for the vehicle to arrive without knowing what they were here for.

When they saw a platoon with loaded guns getting out of the truck, everyone realized this was probably the combat troops of the Li Consortium. Li Qingzheng calmed himself down and put on a placating smile. “Sirs, may I know the purpose of you coming to our outpost?”

The officer in charge sneered, “Did anyone come by to inspect the outpost a few days ago?”

When Ren Xiaosu heard this, he was thrilled. He had been waiting for the past few days for these people to come and investigate the incident, and they had finally arrived!

At first, he wondered if he could bait a few more people who had these nanomachines to come to the outpost through this incident. But he never expected that they were not stupid either as they sent over a full-strength platoon.

Of course, this was reasonable. After all, two elite members of the organization had mysteriously gone missing, so they would definitely have to take extra precautions.

Ren Xiaosu felt that this officer would probably be carrying nanomachines as well, but he could not possibly take such a big risk as attacking them now.

Li Qingzheng explained, “Yes, they’ve been here. The two of them were very young officers, but they just stayed for ten minutes before leaving.”

“Is that so?” The officer paced around the front of the outpost when he suddenly asked, “I can smell the scent of blood. Did a battle break out here?”

Everyone was stunned as they did not expect this guy to have such a keen nose. After all, several days had passed since they had skinned and cut up the meat. The scent of blood should have already dissipated from around here.

Immediately, all the soldiers behind the officer cocked their weapons and pointed them at Ren Xiaosu and the others. Li Qingzheng quickly put on a placating smile and said, “We hunted some game with our guns, and we haven’t had the time to take the cured meat we preserved out to dry.”

Then Li Qingzheng hurriedly went to open the kitchen door and revealed the cured meat on the kitchen stove.

The officer raised his eyebrows and said, “It’s no wonder there’s the gamy smell of goat in the air.” Then the officer said, “Search the outpost.”

Five soldiers stayed behind while the rest swarmed into the houses to conduct a search. Ren Xiaosu and the others did not dare move.

After a while, the soldiers trickled back to report, “We found nothing out of the ordinary.”

The officer said coldly, “It’s just a routine inspection. Please do not mind, my fellow colleagues.”

Actually, he did not feel that anything was off with this outpost. Hunting was also common at several of the other outposts, except they did not have as abundant a harvest as here.

He was mainly concerned with finding the vehicle, corpses, and belongings of the two officers. After all, it would not be easy to hide the vehicle after killing them. If anyone coveted the belongings of the two missing officers, they would surely leave behind some clues.

As he had not found any signs of a battle taking place or an abandoned vehicle on the road, he had already lowered his guard.

Based on the two officers’ patrol route and schedule, they should have been in the vicinity of these few outposts located nearby when something happened to them. However, the officer in charge of the search did not find anything unusual here.

While he questioned the outpost’s soldiers one by one, someone would make detailed notes next to him. During the questioning, he did not even notice any unusual behavior from anyone.

After questioning for a long time, he found that the people here were either obedient students who had escaped from a disaster or former refugees and hooligans. They did not even have enough sets of uniforms and weapons, so how could they possibly kill two elite soldiers?

The officer said coldly, “Let’s head to the next outpost.” He decided to have a look nearby at the other outposts first.

Ren Xiaosu felt a little sorry when he saw this great harvest of nanomachines leaving.

However, he knew the investigation would not end so easily. They would definitely come back with a more rigorous investigation, especially when the two people who had died were… the family members of the organization.

But as the military transport truck started driving down the mountain, everyone saw some wolves lurking in the forest. It seemed like the wolves were planning on following the truck.

Ren Xiaosu was taken aback. Were the wolves planning to kill the Li Consortium’s combat troops?

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 209


Chapter 209 Returning the favor

When Ren Xiaosu battled the two officers, he had observed a fine, silvery glow coming from the blood vessels on the backs of their hands. As the blood vessels of an ordinary human should look bluish on the outside, it was obvious there was some kind of special energy flowing within their bodies during the time their hands glowed from the inside. At that time, Ren Xiaosu was guessing it was caused by the nanomachines. And from the looks of it now, it was just as he had thought.

The silvery radiance emanating from the two officers’ bodies right now was like a stream converging into a river as it started building up on the surface of their skins. Ren Xiaosu was hesitating, approaching it warily, not knowing if he should try to acquire this unknown power.

He had always been cautious about the unknown.

‘If I end up using it after saying to not believe in superstitions, would that be a little hypocritical?’ Ren Xiaosu was in a dilemma.

During the physical examination at the military base, he discovered that the nanomachines were trying to interface with his neurons via an external controller. But now that no one was controlling them, he realized he had natural control over these things.

Nanomachines did not have a mind of their own and were only machines. In the early days, nanomachines could not be put into military use because they were too small to be loaded in with overly complex instructions.

After gaining a breakthrough in neurotech, the human brain ended up becoming a processor, while the nanomachines were just an execution terminal. To put it simply, they were purely tools to be used.

But nanomachines needed to be paired with a specific DNA sequence before they could be used. Each person’s DNA was just like a unique password that could only be used to pair with their own nanomachines. The nanomachines would determine whether they were in an operable state via an authorization process. The paired nanomachines were a safe locked with a password. Without the password, they would stop working and refuse any unfamiliar consciousness from trying to access them. Therefore, the two officers were unable to control each other’s nanomachines, and neither could anyone else access theirs.

But when Ren Xiaosu’s willpower tried to initiate contact with the nanomachines, he detected them to be in an idle state. It was as though there were some sort of a barrier denying him from syncing with those nanomachines.

But after his willpower swept over them, the typewriter in the palace suddenly typed several lines of small words.

“Reloading system…

“Resetting to factory settings…

“Reinstalling applications…

“Pairing successful.”

After that, Ren Xiaosu found he had actually taken control of these little machines.

The silvery “river” started flowing towards him across the surface of the snow. They moved up along his legs and finally gathered in his hands. The nanomachines extracted from these two officers combined only amounted to the size of a fist.

It was no wonder they were so weak. So it turned out they had this few nanomachines inside their bodies?

After the nanomachines lost their owners, their ports reopened to wait for a new pairing. Under normal circumstances, they should have been sent back to the factory to be paired again. However, the palace had bypassed all of those steps and helped Ren Xiaosu interface with these nanomachines.

If the ports had not been reopened, the palace could not have proceeded with the pairing process.

The silvery, liquid-metal ball cycled through various strange forms within Ren Xiaosu’s palm. Then it turned into a metallic gauntlet that wrapped around Ren Xiaosu’s hand. After interfacing with Ren Xiaosu’s neurons, they became just like a part of his body and did not make him feel uncomfortable at all.

When he threw a punch at the body of the off-road vehicle, he watched the steel body creak and then collapse. Meanwhile, the nanogauntlet on Ren Xiaosu’s hand did not seem damaged at all.

When Luo Lan mentioned the nanomachines, Ren Xiaosu disdained them greatly. But now his opinion had changed a little.

If he could create body armor with the nanomachines, did it mean he wouldn’t have to use the shadow clone to shield himself from bullets? After all, that method was still rather painful for him.

Of course, it had only changed his opinion a little for now. As for whether it would really prove to be useful, Ren Xiaosu felt that he would only find out after extracting more nanomachines from the other members of the Li Consortium.

Someone would surely come and investigate after two elite members of the Li Consortium disappeared while they were out on inspection. Ren Xiaosu wondered if those who came to investigate would also have nanomachines in them.

Ren Xiaosu ordered the shadow clone to place the two corpses in the vehicle and carry it to the location of the lake as per his memory. He had to be extremely careful when it came to dumping these corpses since he still needed more people with nanomachines to come out here in the future.

When he killed them, he did not use the saber as he was afraid of leaving behind any traces of blood. Right now, he was being even more careful for fear of leaving behind any evidence.

As Ren Xiaosu led his shadow clone forward, he asked, “Old Xu, do you think the amount of nanomachines in the body varies from person to person?

“Since the synchronization rate goes from low to high, there must be a difference in the amount of nanomachines one can control, right?

“Do you think that the next group of people to arrive will be even stronger? That would be good. Who knows, they might have even more nanomachines in their bodies… “Aren’t you being a little shy? Why aren’t you talking?”

People always said that small details make a big difference. So, in order not to expose his own identity, Ren Xiaosu decided to name his shadow clone “Old Xu.”

Before Ren Xiaosu threw the vehicle into the lake, he removed the two officers’ uniforms and put them away in his storage space. Who knew if they would be of any use later? These were the Li Consortium’s colonel uniforms, after all.

After he filled the vehicle with stones and threw it into the lake, he returned to the outpost. When the students saw him coming back, they went up to him and asked, “Monitor, how’d it go?”

“It’s been taken care of,” Ren Xiaosu answered simply and comprehensively. “Go back to sleep. We still have to get up early tomorrow.”

At this moment, Ren Xiaosu noticed the Wolf King standing on the summit of the mountain way in the distance. He thought for a while before heading out into the mountains.

In reality, Ren Xiaosu also did not know why he was so eager to interact with the Wolf King. As he walked on the mountain path, he suddenly felt it was sometimes easier to get along with the wolves than with people.

Before Ren Xiaosu could get far, he saw the Wolf King slowly coming down from the mountain ridge. He had planned on chatting with the Wolf King, but he did not know what to say after he saw it.

As the Wolf King looked calmly at him, Ren Xiaosu thought about how it was still chasing him all over the wilderness just one and a half years ago.

He suddenly remembered the student who mentioned giving the wolves something in return for their favor. Ren Xiaosu opened his mouth and broke the deadlock. He said, “Um… since you gave me a rabbit and a goat, shouldn’t I also give you something in return?”

The Wolf King did not say anything, but Ren Xiaosu could feel it relaxing its muscles slowly. This meant the Wolf King was also putting down its guard.

When Ren Xiaosu saw no response, he prodded, “Since you can’t speak, why don’t I let you choose from a few gifts that I have? Look at you, you’re always running around by yourself in the mountains. I can understand that a king is always lonely, so why don’t I present you the Lord of Wolves of Mount Kun? He can chat with you since both of you are considered ‘kings’ of the wolves. Who knows, you two might have something in common.”

For some reason, Ren Xiaosu felt the Wolf King understood him! Because, when he mentioned the Lord of Wolves of Mount Kun, the Wolf King immediately gave a look of disdain. Ren Xiaosu wondered how the Wolf King was even able to make such an expression!

 



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The First Order – Chapter 207


Chapter 207 Birth of the Lord of Wolves

The howling of wolves seemed to have struck some fear into the recruits at the outpost. A soldier asked, “Platoon Commander, what should we do? Why don’t we run away!”

Li Qingzheng was in a dilemma. “But we’ll become deserters if we run away now.”

“It’s better than getting eaten by the wolves.” An escapee said, “You haven’t seen how huge those things are, but we encountered them when we were escaping. They’re even bigger than bison!”

“Are you serious?” Li Qingzheng had not seen any wolves in a long time. When he heard about how big the wolves were, he couldn’t help feeling a little nervous. But as the platoon commander, he had to reassure everyone. “Don’t be afraid. I did not train in martial arts for nothing. Besides, aren’t we also equipped with guns?”

When the escapees heard the word “guns,” they suddenly remembered that Ren Xiaosu and his group also had guns on them while fleeing from Stronghold 109. Moreover, their group was extremely intimidating at that time too.

Just as they were about to say something, they noticed Ren Xiaosu staring at them with an ambiguous smile. The escapees realized if they snitched on him, they would have nowhere to escape to! So they held back from speaking.

Furthermore, Li Qingzheng obviously disliked them as they used to be stronghold residents, so there were also no obligation for them to remind him.

For some reason, the escapees suddenly did not feel so scared anymore when they realized they were in the same outpost as Ren Xiaosu’s group.

Eventually, Li Qingzheng and his original batch of soldiers were the only ones who were still afraid.

Li Qingzheng and his men held their guns for a long time and waited, but the wolves did not show up. He slowly felt more at ease and said, “Let’s clean up the place first. I think those wolves are also afraid of us since we have more people and guns as well, so they don’t dare to come here.”

It looked like the outpost had been abandoned for a very long time. The pots and pans inside were all covered with a thick layer of dust. It would require a great deal of effort for them to clean up the place if they wanted to live in it.

The escapees did their chores in a trance. Li Qingzheng’s attitude towards them made them feel inferior to refugees. It felt like they had become the lowest class of humanity in this world.

Ren Xiaosu had no sympathy for them, but he would not deliberately ostracize them either. The escapees knew he was a ruthless person, and they subconsciously wanted to get on better terms with him. Since Li Qingzheng did not like them, they would have to find another backer somehow.

Everyone was harboring their own thoughts in this small outpost out here. Only the students were busy working with great enthusiasm and performing their tasks with great efficiency.

Li Qingzheng was still a little unsettled because of the howling from the wolves. He kept considering whether he should call the private army’s headquarters to ask for reinforcements. But when he finally made the call, he did not receive any help he was expecting even after being ridiculed by them. The person on the other end of the line also warned him not to make false reports of the enemy. Otherwise, they would court martial him.

When Li Qingzheng saw Ren Xiaosu continue cleaning with the students like nothing had happened, he asked, “Aren’t y’all scared?”

Ren Xiaosu hesitated for a moment before saying, “Oh yes, I’m so scared.”

The students nodded quickly in unison. “Yeah, we’re really scared.

Li Qingzheng felt that Ren Xiaosu and the students were just mollifying him. In reality, Ren Xiaosu had already told the students in private while they were escaping that the wolves would not attack them. Although the students did not know why Ren Xiaosu said that, Ren Xiaosu was proven right.

Since Ren Xiaosu was not worried, what was there for them to be worried about?

Ren Xiaosu asked Li Qingzheng, “Platoon Commander, why did you choose to be a soldier?”

“For the pay, of course!” Li Qingzheng explained, “If I were rich, who would be willing to come to this godforsaken place and be a soldier? Have you heard yet? The Pyro Company is offering to buy the blood of supernatural beings. You can get 1 million yuan in exchange for a drop of blood! If I were a supernatural being, I would sell my blood every day until the Pyro Company goes bankrupt!”

Ren Xiaosu did not know whether to laugh or cry. Who in the right mind would risk selling their blood just to earn some money after becoming a supernatural being?

After cleaning up the place, everyone stared at each other blankly, as they were unsure of what to do next. But in actual fact, this was just how it was in a remote outpost like this. Boredom was simply a part of their daily lives.

At this moment, Li Qingzheng let out a sigh and said, “To be honest, it’s such a pity for you stronghold students to come here to be sentries. With all the knowledge that you have, there’s nowhere you can apply it to. Y’all have studied for over a decade for nothing.”

Ren Xiaosu was taken aback. He had heard from Jiang Wu before that she hoped the students could further their studies in the future, and that these children were all fine saplings who studied very hard and were also very smart.

He looked at the remaining eight students and suddenly said, “I have some textbooks with me. Starting from today, y’all can study by yourselves whenever you have free time. If there’s a chance, I’ll buy some advanced textbooks from town for y’all. Even though we’re now in a place like this, you can’t fall behind in your studies.”

The students were stunned. “We’re going to self-study here?”

They were more interested in learning how to hunt, how to protect themselves, and how to protect others now, rather than continue their education.

After experiencing the cruelty of this world, the students’ thoughts on education had started to waver. Sometimes, they would wonder if education was even useful at all.

Ren Xiaosu explained patiently, “I’m your class monitor. Back then, the student councilor said that it’s the duty of the monitor to ensure that everyone studies hard.”

The students could not find any words to refute him with. Then Ren Xiaosu continued, “In life, your friends might betray you one day, or your lover could betray you; but math, physics, and chemistry will not.”

The students were dumbfounded. What kinda nonsensical crap was that!

Ren Xiaosu whispered to them a promise. “Study hard, and I’ll take y’all to the mountains to practice shooting firearms tomorrow!”

This time, the students broke out with smiles.

Looking at these students, Ren Xiaosu got the thought that the Yang Consortium was probably also making use of this time to research the nanomachines. If there were no repercussions from its usage, it might be a good idea to give these students some self-protection abilities using the nanomachines.

The next morning, Ren Xiaosu was still sleeping in the house when he heard Li Qingzheng shout from outside, “Quick, come out and have a look!”

Ren Xiaosu put on his clothes and went outside to have a look. He saw a goat lying at the door of one of the houses in the outpost. He also noticed some packed snow in front of the door where a neat row of large wolf prints could be seen.

Ren Xiaosu immediately looked around and saw the Wolf King up on the summit of the mountain again. When it saw Ren Xiaosu looking over, it turned around and disappeared into the wilderness. It was as though it had stood there just to greet him.

This goat was as large as a domesticated cow, and it would probably take several days for everyone at the outpost to finish eating it.

Even though there were some changes to domesticated animals nowadays, they were not as great as the changes seen in the wild. The wolves must have hunted this goat in the mountains.

While Ren Xiaosu was thinking about that, Li Qingzheng was belly laughing. “I never expected the wolves would offer tribute and bow down before me after I arrived at this mountain. Don’t address me as Platoon Commander Li anymore. Call me the Lord of Wolves instead!”

Ren Xiaosu’s eyes twitched. This fellow was too good at elevating his own status.

Off to the side, Chen Wudi was wondering if he should beat up Li Qingzheng since the title “Lord of Wolves” sounded like a demon name.

 



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The First Order – Chapter 206


Chapter 206 Middle of nowhere

The military transport truck slowly drove through the vast wilderness towards a mountainous region. Here, the mountains were not very high.

While the platoon sat in the back, Ren Xiaosu silently took note of their current position. This should be a place several dozen kilometers away from Stronghold 108.

When they passed by several factories along the way, Li Qingzheng introduced the place to them. “These are the Li Consortium’s oil refineries, and our outpost is just up front. Our daily responsibility will be to observe any signs of approaching enemies. If there are, we have to report it immediately through the satellite phone.”

Ren Xiaosu asked, “What do we do after reporting

it?”

This question stumped Li Qingzheng. The higher-ups had not mentioned what actions to take after reporting an intrusion. Were they supposed to defend the place until reinforcements arrived or should they retreat?

It seemed like their task was just to keep watch and function as an early warning system.

But Ren Xiaosu felt they would be risking their lives by keeping watch here.

They were not issued with any uniforms or firearms. An entire platoon consisting of 30 people only had 11 automatic rifles and just over 20 magazines with them. What else could they be other than cannon fodder?

However, Li Qingzheng was not too worried about that. “Just think about it. A large contingent of soldiers from the combat troops have already been deployed to Stronghold 109. If there’s any danger, they’ll be the ones to handle it. What do we have to worry about?”

“What if other organizations start a war?” Ren Xiaosu asked.

“That won’t happen.” Li Qingzheng waved it off and said, “How can there still be wars in this era? I’ve never witnessed a real war since the day I was born!”

When Ren Xiaosu heard that, he did not say anything more. Even the refugees were used to living in these peaceful times. Everyone always thought that war was something very far away from them, and even Ren Xiaosu also had such thoughts.

But Ren Xiaosu felt that something was not right. What if the Li Consortium initiated an attack on others? What if those frontline troops of the Li Consortium couldn’t beat back the Experimentals?

If war was not coming, the Li Consortium would have no reason to mobilize so many troops. Moreover, the various organizations would also have spies planted inside the other strongholds. If the Li Consortium started ramping up its war preparations, that would make the other organizations nervous as well.

It was like they were all tied together by a single rope. If someone pulled too hard, it would tighten around the others. Once the rope snapped, war would break out.

“We’ve arrived!” Li Qingzheng shouted excitedly, “This will be our outpost from now on!”

When Ren Xiaosu jumped out of the truck, he was stunned after looking around at the place. He could only see a row of small, one-story houses standing on the hilltop in front of him with a big mountain behind. This was the middle of nowhere.

No one was in the outpost. It seemed like Eighth Platoon of the Iron Second was going to have this outpost all to themselves. It was no wonder Li Qingzheng could speak so pompously back then.

Li Qingzheng pointed at the top of the mountain as he stood on the flat ground of the outpost. “Every day, five of you will be on sentry duty on a rotating basis in the watchtower up there where you’ll check for any signs of the enemy. If a situation crops up, report it immediately to the higher-ups.”

“Is that all?” Ren Xiaosu asked.

“Right, there’s nothing else.” Li Qingzheng said with a smile, “Supplies will be delivered to us regularly, so we don’t have to worry about anything at all. All we need to do is to keep a close eye on this direction.”

“Who will come from this direction?” Ren Xiaosu asked.

“How would I know?” Li Qingzheng was amused. “No one goes into those mountains, and neither will anyone come out from there. So we can all just rest assured that no one will attack us.”

Ren Xiaosu made a rough guess of their current position. They should be situated at one of the northernmost outposts in the area controlled by the Li Consortium. Which organizations were to the north? The Qing Consortium or the Yang Consortium?

Ren Xiaosu asked him, “Do you know where Stronghold 88 is?”

Li Qingzheng was surprised. “I don’t know.”

Alright, Ren Xiaosu would just have to ask someone else when there was an opportunity. He should have asked Yang Xiaojin back then…

After everyone unloaded the supplies from the military transport truck, Ren Xiaosu estimated their supplies would only last the 30 of them seven days at most. He wondered if the subsequent resupply would be delivered on time. Seeing as the Li Consortium was busy on all fronts, who knew if they would forget about them over here.

When Li Qingzheng saw Ren Xiaosu’s expression, he said with a smile, “Bro, I know y’all are looking to leave this place. But in the current circumstances, even if you escape back to town, you might not be able to leave with the others. There are many military bases stationed all over town, and there’s so many of you as well, so how are you going to leave? Y’all will probably get caught and interrogated before you can even step out of there.”

Ren Xiaosu realized that even though Li Qingzheng looked rather stupid, he was well aware of the situation. He clearly knew that Ren Xiaosu’s mind was not present.

Li Qingzheng added, “I suggest you just stay here for now. If there’s an opportunity in the future, I’ll try to transfer you back to the town. Then you can get together more often with your relatives and friends.”

Ren Xiaosu knew Li Qingzheng was hinting at more money, but he still thanked him anyway. “OK, I’m counting on you then, Platoon Commander Li.”

“Haha, no need to be polite.” Li Qingzheng said with a smile, “You can just stay at this outpost with no worries. If enemies really do come, I’ll chase them away with my boxing. There’s nothing for y’all to be afraid of.”

Li Qingzheng had also found out that Ren Xiaosu and his group used to be students from Stronghold 109 and that Ren Xiaosu was the class monitor of the group. To him, it was normal that a group of students would feel afraid coming to such a place. As a big brother, he had to comfort them a little.

The students beside them did not say anything as they unloaded the supplies. They did not know what expression to make when they heard Li Qingzheng’s words.

Right at this moment, Li Qingzheng laughed, “Y’all don’t have to do this work. Just let the stronghold residents do it. Didn’t they used to despise us refugees? It’s time we let them experience the life of a refugee.”

The students looked at Ren Xiaosu, who said to Li Qingzheng with a smile, “Let’s work together instead.” Although he also did not really like the stronghold residents, it was not enough to make him want to order the seven escapees around.

Li Qingzheng said with a smile beside him, “You students are really kind, but it’s a shame you didn’t pass the synchronization test. I heard that those who passed the test will become true elite troopers who can fight against a 100 opponents.”

Ren Xiaosu was still skeptical about the idea of one person fighting against a 100. To be honest, he had his own path to follow. So he was not envious of those who had passed the test. The only problem was that he felt a little uncomfortable when he saw the compassionate look in Chen Wudi’s eyes.

Suddenly, Ren Xiaosu looked up and saw the majestic Wolf King standing on the summit of a mountain and watching him quietly. He was shocked to realize the wolves were still following him.

When the Wolf King saw that Ren Xiaosu had noticed it, it did not avoid his eyes. After a while, it disappeared into the mountains. Li Qingzheng followed Ren Xiaosu’s gaze and looked at the mountain as well, but he saw nothing there. “What are you looking at?”

Ren Xiaosu smiled. “Just enjoying the scenery.”

Suddenly, wolves howled. Everyone jumped up in shock. Li Qingzheng said in panic, “There’s actually wolves in those mountains?!”

But Ren Xiaosu did not feel any fear this time.

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 241


Chapter 241 Encountering the nanosoldiers
When Ren Xiaosu said they would have more leeway to do what they wanted, he did not actually mean to cause any trouble. But if no one was there to watch over them daily, no one would know whether they were truly guarding the high ground.

With Liu Taiyu staying in the rear, they could easily find somewhere to hide or move from their original positions on the front line.

Someone leaned forward and asked through the gap between the driver’s cabin and truck bed, “Platoon Commander, Platoon Sergeant, what if we really end up as cannon fodder on the battlefield?”

“Yeah, Liu Zhaojiang took half of all our ammo with him. When we defend the strategic high ground, we’ll definitely run out of ammo in no time. Surely we aren’t gonna have to resort to biting the enemy with our teeth, right?”

Even now, everyone was still resenting Liu Zhaojiang. They could understand why he chose to be a deserter since all of them had thoughts of running away as well. But by taking away so much cured meat and ammunition when he left, that was as good as condemning everyone else to their deaths.

The current situation for their platoon was almost no different from having to fight barehanded.

Ren Xiaosu looked at Li Qingzheng and asked, “If you knew that someone would run away, would you still have stayed behind?”

“Yes, there are still others in the platoon who have families to protect, after all,” Li Qingzheng said.

What upset Li Qingzheng the most was that he had treated everyone like brothers, yet one of them ran away with his weapon and provisions without even saying a word of goodbye. Fortunately for them, there were enough provisions left for the rest, and they would not have to go hungry as a result.

Li Qingzheng sighed. “If someone offers y’all a 1,000,000 yuan, would any of you sell me out?”

“Don’t think too much.” Ren Xiaosu comforted him, “You aren’t worth that much. We won’t accept the money if it goes against our conscience.”

Li Qingzheng was speechless.

The soldiers at the back of the truck started laughing at this. However, someone still said worriedly, “Jokes aside, what if we really end up becoming cannon fodder?”

Ren Xiaosu thought for a moment and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll come up with something when we get there.”

Everyone felt relieved by Ren Xiaosu’s answer. If Ren Xiaosu could come up with a plan, they would not have to end up becoming cannon fodder.

When they arrived at the forward operating base in the afternoon, all vehicles passing through here were required to get refueled. Otherwise, they would not be able to continue the long-distance journey.

However, this forward operating base was not required to provide meals and provisions to the private troops. Some of the private troops were starving since the beginning and thought they would surely be fed first before heading out to the battlefield. After all, superiors should not let their soldiers go hungry in the face of battle.

But who could have thought the Li Consortium’s combat troops wouldn’t treat the private troops as human beings!

However, these private soldiers of Stronghold 108 were unaware that the other private troops were still entitled to the usual military benefits. It was just that those benefits for them had been stopped by Liu Taiyu.

When it was mealtime, the soldiers in Ren Xiaosu’s group hid in the military transport truck and secretly ate their rations they had brought from the outpost. Although Liu Zhaojiang took away quite a lot of cured meat, Ren Xiaosu and Li Qingzheng had bought a lot of wheat flour to make into buns and flatbread.

When the soldiers under Ren Xiaosu hiding in the back of the truck saw the other private soldiers enduring starvation, they suddenly felt they had followed the right leader.

After refueling the truck, Ren Xiaosu suddenly said, “Platoon Sergeant, teach me how to drive.”

Li Qingzheng was taken aback for a moment. “Alright.”

Currently, Liu Taiyu was at the FOB eating his meal. Officers like him were all served good food, and there would be people fawning upon him and showing him good hospitality upon reaching the FOB. As such, these officers didn’t usually resume their journey quickly.

As for addressing him as “Platoon Sergeant,” even Li Qingzheng himself did not feel anything wrong with it.

Li Qingzheng was teaching Ren Xiaosu how to drive in the open area. “You just need to remember to step on the clutch when you change gears when driving stick. It’s not that difficult to change gears once you reach a certain speed.”

About an hour later, Ren Xiaosu could somewhat manage to drive on the road. As long as he did not have to shift gears, he could drive very smoothly.

All of a sudden, Ren Xiaosu felt bad. He hadn’t been able to learn how to ride the bicycle no matter how hard he tried. At the time, he kept blaming the palace. He thought it could be due to his ability to copy other people’s skills that made him unable to learn a skill through his own means.

After all, he had to make some sacrifices in order to gain something, right? Ren Xiaosu understood this very well. So it occurred to him that it was not because he was stupid that he couldn’t master the bicycle, but that the palace had limited him. But right now, it seemed like… not being able to master the bicycle had totally nothing to do with the palace! It was just him!

Ren Xiaosu found this difficult to accept.

In the afternoon, Liu Taiyu even secretly had some wine at the FOB before setting off again. Ren Xiaosu thought that if even the officer in charge of the private army was drinking during the wartime, what kind of combat effectiveness would the Li Consortium’s combat troops be capable of?

Upon setting off again, Ren Xiaosu insisted on driving the truck. As the saying went, “Strike while the iron is hot.” He was determined to master this skill while he had the chance.

When they got here in the morning, everyone was still laughing happily in the truck bed. But by the afternoon, no one spoke as they were all trembling in fear in the back of the truck. All of them were tightly grasping the handrails in the bed.

Ren Xiaosu was driving so fast that he reached the front of the convoy in just a short while. He sat in the cab while controlling the steering wheel in high spirits. This was the first time in his life that he was driving a vehicle. It was a wonderful feeling.

Li Qingzheng who was next to him had already turned pale. He said, “Platoon Commander, the road is slippery during winter. If you drive so fast, the truck might flip over when you step on the brakes.”

Ren Xiaosu pondered it for a moment before saying, “Then won’t it be fine as long as I don’t step on the brakes?”

Li Qingzheng was speechless. After Li Qingzheng took five minutes to calm himself down, he said in seriousness, “Platoon Commander, why don’t I drive instead? I’m worried that you’ll exhaust yourself.”

Ren Xiaosu was finally persuaded to sit in the front passenger seat after the rest of his comrades on board strongly expressed their concerns. However, he was still very happy. After all, knowing how to drive in these wastelands was also considered as having a life-saving skill.

Ren Xiaosu said to the palace in his mind, “What’s the proficiency of my driving? It should be at advanced or intermediate level since I can drive so well, right?”

The voice from the palace said, “It has been detected that the host does not possess any driving skills.”

Ren Xiaosu was unhappy to hear that. “Who are you bluffing here? How can I not have any driving skills when I’ve already driven on the road? Can you at least have some logic in your judgment…. It’s fine even if you just judge that I’m at a basic level!”

All of a sudden, Li Qingzheng said, “Platoon Commander, there’s a situation up ahead.”

Ren Xiaosu looked and saw some officers wearing the Li Consortium’s military uniform standing in their way. It looked like there were quite a few of their soldiers there.

“Just stay in the vehicle.” Ren Xiaosu said, “Let Liu Taiyu handle them since we’re just normal soldiers.”

Liu Taiyu’s off-road vehicle sped over from behind. The officer in front of Liu Taiyu maintained his high and mighty attitude as he said, “All of your trucks have been commandeered. Have all of the men in the vehicles get out.”

Liu Taiyu was dumbfounded. “We were ordered to quickly head to the front lines at Mt. Fengyi. If we hand over all of our military transport trucks to you, how are we supposed to get there?”

“Why should I care?” The officer sneered. During their conversation, the blood vessels in his face became silvery strands. It was as though something was glowing inside his blood vessels. “All of you, get out of the trucks now!”

 



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The First Order – Chapter 270


Chapter 270 Qing Zhen set me up!

Sometimes when enemies made their attacks, they would have to rack their brains for several days just to find a breakthrough point. Even with heavy firepower, they still would not know where to start attacking. Even if they wanted to carry out a full coverage attack, they would not be able to do it.

In normal circumstances, the more ruthless commanders would just send in cannon fodder to get an understanding of the actual situation. Thousands of lives would be wasted just to find out where the heavy weapons were located on the defensive grounds.

But it seemed like the Qing Consortium was fully aware of that right from the beginning. They even knew where the SHORADs at Position 313 were deployed. The SHORADS were very expensive and should only be deployed at strategic locations in case the front got bombarded with artillery fire.

But the moment Qing Zhen began his attack, he ordered a barrage of mortars to be fired at the strategic locations like they didn’t cost money, effectively making a “one-for-one exchange” by destroying the Li Consortium’s SHORADs with his cheap mortar shells.

If Ma Kai and his men had known their defensive deployment map had been leaked, they would have been more conservative in their deployment of the SHORADs. But they didn’t know!

How could they have known that the so-called commander of the Heroes Battalion would turn out to be the most important spy of the Qing Consortium? He even gave away the defensive deployment map just like that.

Just one round of unexpected mortar bombardment had nearly destroyed all the SHORADs at Position 313!

This move by Qing Zhen was disgustingly effective.

The defensive deployment map was simply too important. Qing Zhen had intended to break through the defensive line at Position 319. But with the emergence of this deployment map, he immediately changed his strategy.

If Qing Zhen did not have the defensive deployment map, a large quantity of those mortar shells would have been wasted. But with it, he could achieve a closer and more accurate strike, forcing the SHORAD forces to be up to their ears in work.

Although the Li Consortium’s development of armaments had been going well and their talent pool was bulging, they had basically not fought in any large-scale battles in recent years. Even a talent like Ma Kai, who had a thorough understanding of warfare, was nothing but a novice.

No matter how much theoretical knowledge a person had, it would still take some time to put this knowledge into practice and gain valuable lessons.

It was unfortunate that they were facing Qing Zhen who did not have any intention of affording them time to grow.

At this moment, Ren Xiaosu led the Heroes Battalion to their position located on a small hill on the mountain. There was a small bunker with heavy fortifications around it, while a 43-degree slope laid in front of them.

As Ren Xiaosu looked down from up here while lying prone behind the defensive fortifications, the soldiers of the Heroes Battalion were trembling next to him while holding their guns.

Listening to the continuous artillery fire that was booming in the distance, Li Qingzheng asked in a quavering voice, “Battalion Commander, will the Qing Consortium bombard us with their mortars? We won’t be able to hold them off!”

“What are you afraid of?” Ren Xiaosu said, “It’s not like they’ve started bombarding us!”

At this moment, the Qing Consortium’s soldiers could faintly be seen approaching at the foot of the mountain where their battalion was positioned. Ren Xiaosu roughly estimated there to be over a 1,000 of them. This was an infantry regiment!

“Are we going to fight them?” Li Qingzheng asked.

“Yes, of course we’re going to fight. Why shouldn’t we fight when we have the terrain advantage?” Ren Xiaosu said, “Let’s wait for them to get a little closer!”

“Any closer and they’ll be within distance of hurling their grenades over,” Li Qingzheng said anxiously.

“There’s no need to panic. Everything is well within my control,” Ren Xiaosu said calmly.

When the Qing Consortium’s infantry regiment got halfway up the mountain, Ren Xiaosu suddenly shouted, “Open fire!”

The four heavy machine guns in the bunker spewed tongues of flame. The machine gun bullets hit the mountainside and splashed mud all around. When one of the soldiers got hit by a bullet in the arm, his arm broke!

Although the Qing Consortium soldiers wanted to rush up, they could not do so. They tried shooting at Ren Xiaosu and his men’s location, but the advantage of the defensive fortifications was simply too great.

In order to tackle this kind of high ground in modern warfare, the most common method was for troops to charge forward until they were within distance of the enemy. Then they could choose to bombard the target accurately with artillery fire using precision laser guidance.

This laser guidance was used to point out the target’s location accurately so that the supporting troops could send in missiles from the rear.

They had already tried their best to charge up the mountain. A soldier was holding up a laser guidance device, but no supporting fire came from behind even after he pointed it at the bunker for a long time.

The regimental commander lost all hope and lamented, “Qing Zhen set me up!”

Actually, he understood that Qing Zhen definitely wanted to get rid of him quickly since he was in Qing Yun’s camp and was not cooperative with Qing Zhen in his battle plans either.

But he did not expect Qing Zhen to be this treacherous. He was brave enough to use the outcome of the war to trap him? If they could not secure this front, what would happen if it affected the big picture?

But what he did not know was that Qing Zhen had absolutely no intention of securing this front, because he had already made a deal with Ren Xiaosu!

“Regimental Commander, what should we do now?” a soldier shouted out amid the heavy fire coming from the mountain.

“Use the rocket launcher!” the regimental commander roared.

With a loud boom, a soldier who was carrying the rocket launcher was blown away by an explosion. The rocket had exploded before it could even be launched!

“Regimental Commander, what are we gonna do now?!”

“Charge!” The regimental commander clenched his teeth and said, “After we charge up, we’re gonna blow up this position with our grenades. That’s the only way we can survive. There shouldn’t be too many soldiers defending this position, so we still have hope!”

A stupid way to storm high ground was by throwing hand grenades. After the attacking soldiers advanced to a close enough distance, they would throw the grenades to blow up the defensive position. When that was successful, the soldiers at the defensive position would no longer be able to stand.

So grenadiers in the military used to play an extremely important role. Whoever could throw grenades most accurately would survive and enjoy the spoils of war.

Of course, this method was gradually eliminated with the advancement in firepower. Unless it was a desperate situation, no one would do it this way anymore.

They had been issued with an unserviceable rocket launcher, and after charging halfway up the mountain, they realized they had no supporting fire.

This left the regimental commander in despair. Qing Zhen had even pushed him to the point where he had to resort to such an obsolete tactic.

Several of the brave grenadiers in the troops immediately continued to advance. After they got to the designated distance, they threw their grenades over!

Everyone midway up the mountain became quite excited. It seemed like the troops who were guarding this position on the mountain were quite inexperienced for them to get close enough to throw their grenades!

After waiting for a short while, the grenades that were thrown over detonated. However, the explosion sounded very soft.

The regimental commander was a smart person. So when he heard the sounds of the explosions, he growled, “Qing Zhen, you treacherous fool, you’ve gone too far! How could you issue us with dummy grenades!”

Although the training grenades were not dummy grenades, their explosive power was extremely weak. The explosions would only produce a sound but were not enough to kill anyone. Moreover, they looked exactly the same as a real grenade.

The regimental commander was nearly in tears. It was only then that he realized how unscrupulous Qing Zhen really was. He did not even leave a way out for them!

As Ren Xiaosu kept firing on the hill, he was treating this as practice for his Advanced Firearms Proficiency. He was using the automatic rifle in such a way that it felt like a sniper rifle in his hand. One shot, one kill, that was how accurate he was!

Ren Xiaosu said to Li Qingzheng at this moment, “See, we’re the Heroes Battalion after all. The opposing Qing troops are not a threat to us at all.”

Li Qingzheng believed it immediately. That was because he also felt very relaxed when dealing with the enemy.

At this moment, the other soldiers of the Heroes Battalion also realized that war did not seem that terrifying after all.

 

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 268


Chapter 268 On the verge of war

As Position 313 Covered a very large area, those who were unfamiliar with the place might even get lost here.

Ren Xiaosu said to Adjutant Zhang, who was leading the way, “Um… can you bring us a map so we can choose where to establish our defensive position?”

Adjutant Zhang turned back around and looked at him. He said, “The commander has already chosen a spot for you all. All you need to do is to defend your position well. Soldiers on the battlefield only have to obey their orders and shouldn’t be questioning them.”

Ren Xiaosu curled his lips but did not say anything. In truth, it did not really matter to him. Since Tang Zhou had already informed Qing Zhen that he would be deployed to Position 313, the Qing Consortium would attack anyone but him now.

He had only made that remark as he wanted to see if he could choose a convenient spot to leave the camp from to get in contact with Tang Zhou.

It didn’t matter even if he was not allowed to. That was not a big issue.

At this moment, Ren Xiaosu suddenly realized that Chen Wudi had been rather quiet. He asked, “What’s the matter?”

Chen Wudi said, “Master, I heard a lot of people in the camp saying that they want to send us to our deaths.”

“Oh, that?” Ren Xiaosu replied, “Don’t worry, even if all of them get wiped out, we’ll still be fine.”

Chen Wudi had already awoken his super hearing. Ren Xiaosu tested it out with Chen Wudi before and discovered that he could hear what was being said even if he was just speaking in a whisper from a kilometer away.

But this power had its effects on Chen Wudi, because he could hear the “evilness” in this world.

The ancients were particular about being strait-laced. As the saying went, one should pay restrain themselves even while in private.

But most people couldn’t conduct themselves that way. People were used to talking behind others’ backs as dark sides got amplified when in private. The opinions they could not express openly intensified in the shadows.

And Chen Wudi could hear all of those things now.

If Ren Xiaosu had this power, he would definitely not be burdened by it. After all, he was not innocent himself.

But it was different for Chen Wudi.

Ren Xiaosu looked at Chen Wudi and asked, “Can you ignore it?”

“No.” Chen Wudi shook his head and said, “They’re saying the troops here have already chosen the most dangerous position for us to guard. As long as Qing Zhen’s troops come attacking, we’ll be the first to die.”

“What else did they say?” Ren Xiaosu asked.

“They also said that we deserve to die as it would save them from getting roped in.” Chen Wudi said dejectedly, “But it wasn’t our decision to come here. We didn’t even offend them.”

“Mhm.” Ren Xiaosu said, “They’re the ones at

fault.”

“Master, what is our purpose in seeking scriptures from the Western Paradise?” Chen Wudi asked.

Ren Xiaosu pondered the question for a moment. “So that we can lead a comfortable life?”

Chen Wudi was stunned for a moment. “Master, are you being serious? Shouldn’t it be for the deliverance of all living creatures?”

Ren Xiaosu patiently advised, “You must save yourself before you can save others. Isn’t there a saying that goes ‘don’t judge others by your own metric’? In simple terms, that means you should get rich first before helping others get rich with you. Only by doing it first can you—”

Chen Wudi put his head in his hands and interrupted, “Master, can you stop explaining for a moment? Let me process this for a moment…”

On the same night Ren Xiaosu arrived at Position 313, Luo Lan secretly arrived at the Yang Consortium’s Stronghold 88. Furthermore, Luo Lan was also being unusually low-key as he only brought two orderlies with him this time.

Although the Yang Consortium’s higher-ups held secret talks with Luo Lan, no one in the outside world even knew he had gone there or what they discussed.

But at midnight that night, the Yang Consortium’s armored brigade and two infantry brigades suddenly started pushing south and were expected to arrive at the Li Consortium’s front line at Mt. Qingsheng within the next two days. They had actually taken the initiative to kick off the war.

The Yang Consortium’s armored brigade moved out from the front line of Mt. Ping and led the advance. Meanwhile, the infantry division on the flank closed down on Mt. Qingsheng from the north with the intention of containing the enemy’s firepower. As long as this defensive line was broken, the Li Consortium’s defenses in the west would no longer be effective.

Meanwhile, the Qing Consortium also made a move on their side. It was as though they had discussed it beforehand. That night, a group of mechanized infantry suddenly rolled in from the north.

As the long stretch of mechanized infantry column meandered along on the mountain paths, the lights on the vehicles looked like torches shining in the night. Several engineering battalions were quickly building bridges and paving roads as they moved on the paths. Their speed was so fast it was unbelievable.

Meanwhile, special forces had already been deployed onto the battlefield to scout ahead for enemies.

Some of the Li Consortium’s troops had still been holding at the FOBs to reorganize their forces, but all of them got deployed to the front lines by the evening.

The 13 defensive positions at Mt. Qingsheng were brightly lit as the entire camp was illuminated by huge spotlights. Meanwhile, the military camp was filled with the angry voices of the Li Consortium’s officers shouting.

When a military truck drove in, the soldiers jumped out from the back of the vehicle and rushed to their assigned spots without stopping

Ren Xiaosu was sitting on a hill and looking behind him. The spot their battalion was assigned to was at the northernmost area of Position 313. Just as Chen Wudi had heard, it was Colonel Ma Kai who had arranged for them to guard this position and send them to their deaths.

All they had were four machine guns. They were not even issued a rocket launcher, much less being given any mortars. It would be a miracle if they could defend their position with the weapons they had.

So when the soldiers at Position 313 met Ren Xiaosu and his men, they looked at them as though they were looking at the dead. No one believed they would survive.

When Chen Wudi sat down next to Ren Xiaosu, Ren Xiaosu said to him, “Immediately let me know if you hear anything unusual. We should also have our guards up against Qing Zhen in case he goes back on his word.”

“OK.” Chen Wudi nodded vigorously.

While sitting at this relatively elevated position, Ren Xiaosu could vaguely spot the soldiers at the camp running back and forth a kilometer or two behind them. There were people directing the vehicles with glowing red batons. People were also constantly walking in and out of the command center at the rear.

However, Ren Xiaosu suddenly felt that something was odd about the three huge tents that were standing quietly in the camp. While there were people busily going in and out of the other tents, those three tents remained idle, undisturbed by anyone. There weren’t even any soldiers who went near it.

What was with this? Could it be the Li Consortium’s classified zone?

At this moment, Li Qingzheng walked up with an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder. “Xiaosu, I’m feeling a little panicky…”

“Don’t panic, there’s nothing to panic about.” Ren Xiaosu laughed and said, “At most, we’ll just run away when the Qing Consortium’s combat troops start attacking us.”

“You’re taking it so lightly. How can we run away just like that?” Li Qingzheng shrugged as he sat next to Ren Xiaosu and whispered, “A group of scouts have just been deployed from here. I heard them saying that it seemed like the Qing Consortium’s troops are coming here to get their revenge.”

Ren Xiaosu started frowning. Could there be a change of plans?

He turned around and looked at the camp behind him. Suddenly, he had an inkling that a lot of people there were subconsciously looking at them at this moment.

As the war was on the verge of breaking out, everyone at the camp bore a grudge against this “Heroes” Battalion. Even the rearguard troops who had just arrived at Position 313 were horrified when they heard the Heroes Battalion was here. Everyone had the feeling that the Qing Consortium would definitely attack this place first.

Although it was difficult to predict who would win the war, no one felt that the Heroes Battalion could survive this battle.

 

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 266


Chapter 266 Live targets on the battlefield

Li Qingzheng was in a joyous mood. Not only did they upgrade their gear, but they were also given a resupply of rations. More importantly, Ren Xiaosu had immediately promoted him to commander of the reinforced company after being appointed major. As such, Li Qingzheng had even more soldiers under his command now.

180 people used to be in the reinforced company. But after the battle, the entire reinforced company had nearly been wiped out by the Qing Consortium.

That was mainly because Ren Xiaosu had deliberately arranged for the reinforced company to follow close to him and made them the main fighting force in that battle. How could there be no casualties in a war? After all, bullets are blind!

At the time, everyone realized that Ren Xiaosu had also rushed out furthest to the front. So why had all the people around him died, yet he was left unscathed?

After the battle ended, Ren Xiaosu even led everyone to mourn for their dead comrades. He said with a very sorrowful look, “Our brothers in arms led a great life and died such a glorious death. Some of them fought bravely, and others even died saving me…”

How could those soldiers from the reinforced company possibly give up their lives to save Ren Xiaosu? The others might believe it, but Li Qingzheng and Jiang Wu’s students were not convinced.

But nobody minded. In this era, the living had no time to grieve for the dead.

Besides, it wasn’t like they had a foundation of friendship with them to begin with.

This time, they were under orders of command headquarters to head northwards and had been requested to join up with the garrison at Position 313 where a large group of the Li Consortium’s combat troops were also stationed.

Usually, private troops would not get deployed to important strategic locations like Position 313 to provide support. But the situation with the Heroes Battalion was a little different. No one could say for sure if they were still considered as private troops or not.

After all, none of the battalion commanders in the private army had been given official appointments before, and no private army had ever defeated any of the Qing Consortium’s combat troops either.

Let alone the private troops, not even the Li Consortium’s regular troops were a match for the Qing Consortium’s regular troops.

On their way there, they passed two forward operating bases. The treatment they received when they entered the FOBs was different this time. The commanders of the FOBs even welcomed them with great hospitality when they arrived, and they were served good food that included delectable meat dishes.

Not only did they have food to eat when they arrived, but they also found it unnecessary to pack some buns to take with them on departure. The people from the FOBs would load up baskets of buns onto the vehicles and even gave them beef jerky to bring along!

This made Ren Xiaosu feel somewhat uncomfortable. There was no room for him to make use of his street smarts!

When the commander of the FOB sent them off, he said with a smile, “I wish you all the best going forward. When you get to Position 313, we hope to hear about the glory of our Li Consortium’s combat troops again…”

He took 20 minutes just to bid farewell to them. It was undeniable that he was fawning upon them.

Actually, this was just how the Li Consortium’s system was structured. When a new star rose, the sycophants would always think this would be a good opportunity to pander to those above them. If they did not do it now, it would be too late when the new star reached the top!

But after they resumed their journey, even Li Qingzheng noticed something was off. “Xiaosu, I’ve realized that everyone seems to know we’re heading to Position 313. Something doesn’t feel right.”

The movement of a fighting force was generally kept confidential, and it was the same even for the private troops. Friendly forces were not allowed to ask about each other’s battle plans without authorization from the higher-ups!

But it was really odd this time. It seemed that someone was deliberately telling everyone that the Heroes Battalion was headed for Position

313!

Ren Xiaosu smiled and said, “What do you think is the reason for that?”

“Are they using us to bait the Qing Consortium?” Li Qingzheng wondered. He was taking a shot in the dark as he wasn’t certain about it either. After all, his views were the same as any other refugee’s. It was very sharp of him that he was able to guess this.

Ren Xiaosu sighed and said, “So that’s how the Li Consortium treats their heroes. I suppose they’re too smart for their own good.”

“What do you mean?” Li Qingzheng asked curiously.

Next to them, Chen Wudi piped up, “What my master meant was, how could anyone not have guessed it when even you were able to think of it?”

Li Qingzheng was speechless.

However, Ren Xiaosu was also aware that this was a very obvious move. The Li Consortium was openly telling the Qing Consortium that the private troops who had humiliated them would be at Position 313 and was challenging them to go there.

If they did not dare to go, it would also be considered a blow to the Qing Consortium’s morale. But if they did, they would have a fierce battle on their hands.

Actually, the Heroes Battalion was only a pawn on the overall battlefield. They were a drop in the ocean.

Position 313 was located on the sunlit slope of Mt. Shuanglong. Tens of thousands of the Li Consortium’s combat troops were garrisoned on the front lines that stretched all the way from Mt. Tantou to Mt. Shuanglong, passing through Mt. Fengyi in the middle.

Meanwhile, the front line at Mt. Qingsheng in the west that faced the Yang Consortium was even more heavily garrisoned with soldiers. Just at this location alone, tens of thousands of soldiers were traveling to and from the front line on a daily basis.

So their 500-strong battalion was nothing compared to that!

But fighting a war would never be as simple as solving an equation. The generals needed to play every move carefully and fight for every point that was up for grabs.

But the general who made this strategic decision could never have expected that Ren Xiaosu had already discussed matters with the Qing Consortium.

Li Qingzheng was getting extremely worried, but Ren Xiaosu was not one bit worried. He acted like he was just heading north for a holiday getaway.

Li Qingzheng looked at Ren Xiaosu and asked, “Xiaosu, aren’t you worried?”

Chen Wudi corrected, “It’s ‘Battalion Commander!’”

Li Qingzheng snapped, “You’re really worthy of being your master’s lackey!”

By now, everyone knew that Chen Wudi was a little mentally ill. He called himself the reincarnation of the Great Sage while Ren Xiaosu was the reincarnation of Tripitaka.

However, they did not have any issues with him. If anyone in the troops had any difficulties, Chen Wudi would definitely help them as long as they were sincere in asking for help.

It was really rare for a good person like that to appear in a world like this.

When they thought about it sometimes, it was really ironic how only those who were mentally ill were willing to be good people.

Ren Xiaosu, who was resting next to Li Qingzheng, opened his eyes and looked at him. “You can rest easy. With me around, nothing will happen.”

He could not just say to Li Qingzheng, “Don’t worry, I’m the Qing Consortium’s head spy planted in the Li Consortium. They won’t attack the place I’m at.”

He could only beat around the bush.

Although Li Qingzheng admired Ren Xiaosu a lot, he still could not help but ask, “What if they focus their forces on attacking us for the sake of getting revenge?”

Ren Xiaosu got impatient. “If you let me drive for a while, I’ll answer you right away!”

Li Qingzheng immediately gripped the steering wheel tight. “In that case, I don’t want to know.”

Ren Xiaosu was annoyed.

Suddenly, a hawk skimmed over their vehicle at low altitude. Ren Xiaosu looked out of the window and saw the bird probably had a wingspan of more than four meters. What an awe-inspiring sight!

These days, it would be challenging for any air forces to engage in aerial activities with those ferocious flying beasts up in the skies. The main difficulty laid in taking off since they would easily be targeted by these flying beasts.

Wars between humans in the past were a little more diverse than this current era. Then was a time when “those that could fly were not necessarily birds, and those that could swim were not necessarily fish.”

But now armored brigades and artillery units were the keys to victory since only land battlefields were left to fight on. Meanwhile, nanomachines had become the most significant variable in current wars.

The Yang Consortium’s armored brigade quietly arrived at the front line of Mt. Ping at this moment.

In the Yang Consortium’s battle plans, the armored brigade would work with two infantry brigades to tear apart the Li Consortium’s defensive line with a 40-kilometer-wide breach within three days once the war broke out. That would leave all of the Li Consortium’s defensive anchor points at the front line of Mt. Qingsheng ineffective.

But of course, the Li Consortium were not sitting ducks either.

Since everyone still had their trump cards hidden, no one would know what the outcome would be until after the curtain was lifted.

 

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 264


Chapter 264 Heroes

“What? A battalion of private troops has wiped out a group of troops from the Qing Special Forces?!” a general exclaimed in a command center. “You aren’t joking, right? Has it been confirmed yet?”

The staff officer in front of the general said, “It’s absolutely true. It just happened yesterday. We had our people rush to the scene to confirm it after getting the news from a soldier called Chen Wudi they sent back to give a sitrep. The soldiers they killed should be from the Qing Special Forces. It’s just that we do not know why this group of Qing troops would enter our military’s hinterlands or how they got in.”

“How could you allow our enemies to infiltrate so easily? You might as well wait until they arrive at our HQ’s doorstep before you realize they’re here!” the general roared.

The staff officer hemmed and hawed before saying, “We suspect they were sent here to carry out a decapitation strike, so they deliberately traveled in the mountains. They did not bring a full-strength force with them because they wanted to travel quickly and quietly to avoid detection.”

“How did all of them get wiped out then?” the general asked in a composed voice after calming down.

“We have written statements from the private troops who mentioned they were from the Iron Second Battalion. They said they were able to wipe out their enemies this time because their battalion commander is wise and courageous. He took advantage of the Divine Arms Battalion’s uniforms they were wearing to fool the Qing Consortium soldiers into believing him and then immediately launched an assault after forcing them to disarm,” the staff officer said.

“Why does this account sound so weird?” the general wondered. He felt that something was amiss, but he did not know where the problem lay.

“I also find it quite weird. However, it does make sense that the Qing soldiers were aware they wouldn’t be able to defeat the Divine Arms Battalion.” The staff officer said, “How should we handle this matter?”

“How many people from this battalion of private troops died in the battle?” the general asked.

“400. It’s equivalent to the number of deaths our enemies suffered,” the staff officer said.

The general said with heartfelt emotion, “A battalion of private troops was actually able to wipe out the Qing Special Forces and their casualties did not even exceed our expectations? This is a great triumph! This is exactly the triumph we need now!”

The staff officer immediately understood what the general meant. Everyone had been very optimistic about the Divine Arms Battalion’s mission and hoped they would lead them to their first victory in the war. It would have boosted the morale of the military.

However, the higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment. The Li Consortium’s higher-ups and generals were crestfallen at the defeat of the Divine Arms Battalion. In the combat meetings held over the past two days, everyone in the command center seemed overwhelmed by a sense of defeat. The combat staff officers did not even dare to cough openly in fear of getting reprimanded.

But now it was great news that they heard a battalion of private troops had wiped out the troops of their enemy’s Special Forces.

At their level, they did not actually care about how many soldiers died in the battle. All they were concerned about was how this result would affect the overall situation!

The general said, “Report this to the Board immediately, and request for the battalion of private troops involved to be commended. I want to rename the Iron Second Battalion to the Heroes Battalion. The active battalion commander will be officially appointed as a major as part of the Li Consortium’s combat troops. On top of that, I want them to be equipped with the best gear we have.”

The staff officer was stunned for a moment. This was going to set a precedent for their entire military organization!

Even though there were military ranks in the private army, their soldiers were never officially appointed any rank. Therefore, the officers of the private army were just like regular employees, and they could even pay bribes to get appointed to certain positions in the organization. However, the Li Consortium had never considered the private soldiers as their people before.

But with an official appointment now, everything was going to be different. Someday Ren Xiaosu might even get transferred to the Li Consortium’s regular troops and hold an important position!

As for reporting to the Board, that was only standard protocol. At a time like this, the Board would not interfere with decisions regarding the appointment or removal of an officer. As long as the move was beneficial to the war, they would not stop it from happening

But suddenly the general said, “After these private troops have been equipped with their gear, deploy them to our most impregnable defensive line. I’ve received intel that the overall commander of the Qing Consortium military has changed to Qing Zhen.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” the staff officer asked after a slight hesitation.

“Qing Zhen is an extremely prideful man. It would be really embarrassing if word of his Special Forces getting wiped out by our private troops got out. How could a proud person like him possibly tolerate a failure like that?” The general tapped his fingers on the table and sneered, “Send these private troops to our most impregnable defensive line to let Qing Zhen fight them. Let’s wear out his military forces!”

The staff officer finally understood that the general was planning on using these private troops to lure Qing Zhen into a battle at their most robust position on the battlefield.

The battlefield was a large chessboard, and the players involved could not show any emotion. So what if they were the Heroes Battalion? They were still just chess pieces. The sacrifice of the Heroes Battalion would make them martyrs for others.

When the staff officer left, he suddenly thought of a saying: “The merciful cannot control the military; the fair cannot manage wealth.” The ancients had always been right in such regards.

Full of pent-up anger towards Ren Xiaosu, Tang Wanyi of the Personnel Division had just returned to the command center. When he came back, he was ready to write up some dirt about Ren Xiaosu so that he could deal him a fatal blow at a critical point in the future. Heh, how could he expect to survive in the military after offending someone in the Personnel Division? How nonsensical!

But at this moment, someone lifted the Personnel Division’s tent flap. A combat staff officer came in with a document tucked under his arm and said, “Who’s in the Personnel Division?”

Tang Wanyi immediately put on a placating smile and said, “Over here!”

Everyone used to say that other than the chief of staff, normal staff officers held no real authority. But in wartime, these staff officers had the most presence around the generals. If any of them badmouthed you in front of the higher-ups, you would probably not survive the backlash. And it would be even worse if the staff officer was a favorite of the leaders!

Although the staff officer was submissive before the generals, he was not so polite with those in the Personnel Division. “Execute the order on this appointment document. The private troops’ Iron Second Battalion will be renamed the Heroes Battalion, and Ren Xiaosu will be appointed with the rank of major. Equip the battalion with supplies and then deploy them to the designated battlefield at the indicated time.”

Tang Wanyi was stunned. “What? Ren Xiaosu? Appointed to major?”

Tang Wanyi was a smart person and knew what was going on!

The staff officer gave Tang Wanyi a look from the corner of his eyes and said, “What? You have a problem with that?”

“No, I wouldn’t dare. I’ll get to it immediately,” Tang Wanyi said bitterly. What the fuck? He had to travel all the way back there again after just returning?!

Before the staff officer left, he said, “It seems like you have a grudge against this Ren Xiaosu. But let me remind you, his rank is higher than yours now. Besides, he’s now a war hero who will be the role model for our entire military. If you’ve offended him before, you had better reconcile with him quickly. Know what your priorities are.”

Tang Wanyi even wondered if Ren Xiaosu and him were destined to be at odds with each other!

On that very night, Tang Wanyi arrived at the private army’s camp once again. This time, his attitude was much better. He not only brought the appointment document but also five truckloads of food rations and another five truckloads of weapons!

But that was not all. Even the trucks were left behind for Ren Xiaosu and his men so they could use them to get to the front line quickly.

Tang Wanyi looked at Ren Xiaosu and said with a smile, “Sir, I’m sorry if I offended you last time. You’re a magnanimous person. If there’s anything else about me you’re unhappy with, please tell me clearly. Tell me, what can I do to get your forgiveness?”.

Ren Xiaosu gave it some thought. “Why don’t you do the splits for me?”

Tang Wanyi was speechless.

 

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 262


Chapter 262 Leading the troops out of a predicament

After Tang Wanyi and the others left, Ren Xiaosu turned around and said to everyone in the private troops, “I was fortunate to be promoted to commander of the Iron Second Battalion. I won’t use empty talk, but some of you probably already know about my capability. I’m the best at surviving in this wilderness. None of you will starve to death or end up getting killed by the plants for no reason if you follow me!”

Everyone looked at one another. How could he make such boastful claims the moment he got appointed as the new commander? Everyone knew that Ren Xiaosu was just a normal soldier. But now that he had gained such a huge promotion, everyone couldn’t accept it.

Naturally, no one dared protest either. The sight of Ren Xiaosu dragging people around in the snow awhile ago was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Their impression of Ren Xiaosu was that he was a relentless person.

But even though he was unrelenting, they did not believe the words he just said.

Everyone had already been starving for several days, and they also faced the threat of the Brambles outside. Some people felt that Ren Xiaosu becoming the battalion commander at this moment was no different from asking for trouble.

Someone from the reinforced company couldn’t help but ask coldly, “Since you say that, and we’ve been starving for several days already, how are you going to help everyone look for food? We’ll believe you if you can get us out of here alive and find food as well.”

As these people from the reinforced company were originally Liu Taiyu’s cronies, the sudden change in leadership was definitely going to be a little uncomfortable for them.

But anyone here could be the leader as long as they were capable enough.

Someone added, “Yeah, we don’t even dare to walk too far. What if we encounter that plant again?”

When Ren Xiaosu heard this, he gave an impassioned speech. “Since I’ve promised all y’all, I’ll definitely bring everyone out of this place. How about this? I’ll walk ahead, and y’all can follow behind me. As long as I remain unharmed, nothing will happen to you guys behind me, right?”

Everyone was at a loss for words. Some people were instantly moved when Ren Xiaosu said he would lead the way personally. They didn’t expect he would have such courage!

If there really were those terrifying plants along the way, Ren Xiaosu would surely suffer the misfortune first since he would be walking ahead. If Liu Taiyu had been conscious, he would probably have ordered other people to lead the way instead of himself. He would definitely not lead by example like Ren Xiaosu!

Although none of them believed someone this good still existed in these wastelands, wasn’t there a living example standing right in front of them?

Ren Xiaosu said righteously, “Everyone, pack up all of your belongings and tents quickly. We’ll set off in an hour. I’ll walk ahead while you follow me! I’ll help everyone search for something to eat!”

The private troops who were all made up of refugees were not cultured people. History had proven that the less cultured a person was, the less likely they would question people and matters around them. Once they got herd mentality, they ould be more prone to blindly following orders.

They could never have guessed the plant was actually planted there by Ren Xiaosu…

If it were other people leading the way, they might really end up getting into trouble with the plant. However, Ren Xiaosu would definitely be safe doing so.

After the troops set off, Ren Xiaosu led them northwards and avoided all of the Brambles. Some of the vines suddenly emerged from under the snow and started moving threateningly at Ren Xiaosu. However, Ren Xiaosu just stood clear of its attack range.

In the eyes of these private soldiers, it was as though Ren Xiaosu was imbued with the power of the gods!

Someone shouted from behind for him to be careful, but Ren Xiaosu just turned around and said compassionately to them, “In order to lead you to safety, my sacrifice is nothing in the big picture.”

Ren Xiaosu felt that he was a great person. He was actually leading these private troops out of the predicament he had created!

Tears were streaming from someone behind Ren Xiaosu. “Thank you, Battalion Commander!”

“Thank you, Battalion Commander!”

Ren Xiaosu continued advancing while counting the gratitude tokens he received. Good, he had gained yet a few more gratitude tokens. Although there were several dozen private soldiers thanking him, only a few people’s gratitudes were sincere.

Someone from the reinforced company whispered, “It looks like he really is competent. It might be a good idea if we follow a good leader like him in these current times.”

The company commander said calmly, “Let’s observe the situation for now. It isn’t such a big deal if he just gets us out of here. I’ll only be convinced if he can successfully lead us to some food as well.”

In reality, it did not matter to Ren Xiaosu whether he could convince them since he wasn’t planning on doing so in the first place. His priority was to bring them to the designated location he had discussed with Tang Zhou.

The people behind him were not even sincere when they thanked him. He had helped them find a way to sneak into the forward operating base to dine, but he was still immediately betrayed by them. Chen Wudi, who was kind-hearted enough to help someone in need, was described as a fool as well.

Ren Xiaosu neither sympathized with these people nor did he intend to become true comrades with them.

By this time, they had left the Brambles “plantation.” Ren Xiaosu turned around and said to everyone, “Those vines very likely only grew in that small patch there, so there’s no need to worry about them anymore.”

Everyone heaved sighs of relief in response. Someone said, “Then can we rest now?”

Some of them were about to sit right down in the snow. The private troops were lazy like that.

But Ren Xiaosu continued, “We still can’t rest. I promised that I’d search for food for y’all, so let’s overcome the difficulties ahead of us first! And I have already come up with a good plan!”

When they heard they might get something to eat, everyone became excited. Even the reinforced company’s soldiers had run out of food a day ago. Everyone was so hungry they were lightheaded.

Ren Xiaosu headed into the mountains. But before he could even take two steps, he saw a hollow high in a tall tree next to him. He climbed the tree and reached into the hollow.

Everyone was wondering what Ren Xiaosu was doing. But when Ren Xiaosu withdrew his hand from the inside, a squirrel escaped from within in a flurry while Ren Xiaosu held a fistful of pine nuts and dried fruits they had never seen before!

Ren Xiaosu said with a smile, “Everyone, go around and look for similar hollows in the trees like this one. There should be enough food for everyone to fill their stomachs a little. Tell me if anyone discovers a cave or a rock cleft. That’s where our dinner for tonight is going to be!”

“What’s going to be in the cave?” someone asked curiously.

Ren Xiaosu jumped down from the tree. As he stuffed a pine nut into his mouth, he said, “After snakes store enough fat in the bodies, they start hibernating(1) for the winter. When that happens, they become very vulnerable to humans. Also, they prefer to be in groups when they hibernate. If we can find a cave, we’ll basically have found a den of snakes, and we can eat roasted snake for our dinner tonight!”

A ton of venomous snakes, bugs, and ants could be found in the southwestern region. Whenever Ren Xiaosu ventured into the wilderness in the past, he would always be exceptionally alert to this.

But most snakes usually ended up as food during their hibernation process. This was further helped by the fact that snakes preferred hibernating in groups. They did this to coil together to keep warm and reduce water loss in their bodies.

30% of snakes that did not hibernate in groups did not survive the winter.

So some of the braver refugees would head into the mountains to search for snake dens during the winter. If they found one, it would be a great harvest for them, and they would be able to live more comfortably for the entire winter.

And Ren Xiaosu was the bravest person in this group of refugees.

[1] Snakes do not actually hibernate. The term for cold blooded animals that “hibernate” is brumate (brumation).



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