The First Order – Chapter 258


Chapter 258 A mysterious sniper

Ren Xiaosu carefully recalled the information Tang Zhou had told him. Tang Zhou mentioned that the Qing Consortium defeated the Divine Arms Battalion two days ago, but he did not say how many of them were pushed back in defeat.

But since their cooperation was going so well, there was no reason for Qing Zhen and Tang Zhou to trick him. And even though Qing Zhen was arrogant, he had always been reliable and trustworthy. Something must have gone wrong in between this period.

As Ren Xiaosu watched the two nanosoldiers walking towards him, he was surprised to see them looking all out of sorts. This didn’t make any sense.

They were back in the farthest stretches of the Li Consortium’s territory where different groups of Li Consortium troops were stationed every dozen or so kilometers apart. So the Divine Arms Battalion should not be this frightened when they had already made it back to here.

Could they have encountered other enemies along the way?

Wait a minute, could it be Li Shentan? Ren Xiaosu knew that Li Shentan had led an entire combat brigade and disappeared with them, and that he also held a grudge against the Li Consortium. He might have really led that combat brigade to the battlefield and slain the Divine Arms Battalion from the rear.

The moment these two wounded soldiers of the Divine Arms Battalion walked onto the Brambles, Ren Xiaosu wrapped the vines around them tightly. The two wounded soldiers of the Divine Arms Battalion were already severely injured and couldn’t put up a fight.

When Ren Xiaosu was sure that no one else was around, he jumped out of the snow. The two Divine Arms officers were shocked to see someone emerge from the snow. The terrifying Brambles seemed to have been manipulated by someone!

Ren Xiaosu did not kill them immediately but came up to them with a frown and asked, “Where’s the rest of the Divine Arms Battalion?”

One of the officers of the Divine Arms Battalion endured his pain and said through clenched teeth, “Who are you! Who on earth are you! Why are you wearing the uniform of our Divine Arms Battalion?”

Ren Xiaosu glanced at the uniform he was wearing, then snapped, “Weren’t y’all the ones who forced us to swap?”

The two Divine Arms officers were stunned. What did he mean? Wait, they suddenly remembered this. So this young man standing before them was actually a soldier from the private army?! But why was there someone hidden among the private troops who could control these terrifying plants? He had to be a spy! This young man had to be a spy!

The two Divine Arms officers realized something. One of them roared, “The Qing Consortium only ambushed us because you revealed our whereabouts to them!”

“Ahem, what are you talking about? Why can’t I understand what you’re saying?” Ren Xiaosu asked, “Let me ask again, where’s the rest of the Divine Arms? Were they attacked by a strange force? If no one wants to answer, I’ll ask again later.”

“They’re about 20 kilometers behind us. If you have the balls, go and look for yourself,” one of the Divine Arms officers said fiercely.

Ren Xiaosu acknowledged them before decisively killing them with the Brambles. He was rather suspicious about why these two men were acting alone. He would probably have to head further north before he could finally learn what had happened.

He collected the nanomachines from the two men, looted the belongings in their pockets, and placed the rifles into his storage space.

His storage space was emptier now after much of the food had been consumed during the time they were back at the outpost.

However, Ren Xiaosu wasn’t in a hurry to leave yet. He dug around in the snow for some time before he found the dozen or so playing cards he had hidden.

He had thought that many of the Divine Arms Battalion’s soldiers would pass by on this route, so he even resorted to using the Explosive Poker cards. But as it turned out, he had wasted all his efforts and also wasted quite a few gratitude tokens by planting more than ten Bramble seeds in the area.

Although he could retrieve the Explosive Poker cards, he could not pull the Brambles out of the ground after they had been planted.

After Ren Xiaosu recollected all of his Explosive Poker cards, he headed north. He was still in the area of Mt. Tantou and would reach the boundary of Mt. Fengyi by heading further north. Walking in the snow was not exactly difficult for him, but he had to be careful in case he revealed his presence.

When Ren Xiaosu set off, it was morning. By the time he arrived at Mt. Fengyi, it was already afternoon. But soon after cresting a hill, Ren Xiaosu was stunned. He saw an officer of the Divine Arms Battalion lying on the ground in front of him. A large area of the snow was tainted pink by his blood. The blood did not look like it had flowed out of him but splattered instead!

Ren Xiaosu finally understood the strangeness of this. As the Divine Arms officers were retreating, they encountered a sniper. Everyone else in the Divine Arms Battalion was dead except for the two he saw earlier!

Before they died, the two Divine Arms officers had even wanted to dupe Ren Xiaosu, who they realized was a spy, into heading to the battlefield where a sniper was lying in ambush. Because Ren Xiaosu was wearing the Divine Arms uniform, he would also end up as a target for the sniper by coming here.

These Divine Arms officers were pretty unrelenting. The first thing they wanted to do before they died was not to beg for mercy but to lure Ren Xiaosu here into a trap.

But the sniper should have already left. The time that Ren Xiaosu spent here in the snow concluding what had happened was definitely enough for a skilled sniper to kill him. However, no one opened fire at him even after so much time had passed.

And it should have already been a while since the sniper conducted his mission here. There was no reason why the sniper would stay around when the mission to eliminate the Divine Arms Battalion was completed.

But why would a sniper mysteriously appear here? Could it be a Qing Consortium sniper? No, it shouldn’t be. The only Qing Consortium soldiers behind enemy lines were Tang Zhou and his men, which Tang Zhou had confirmed.

Then who else could it be? The Yang Consortium!

Ren Xiaosu searched around in the snow for some time, but he was a little disappointed when he found the sniper’s bullet. It wasn’t the silver-gray bullet the Saboteurs used. This bullet also did not have the special pattern engraved on it that the Saboteurs carried around.

But of course, this was to be expected. There had to be a lot of troops and snipers from the Yang Consortium out on the front lines. Meanwhile, Yang Xiaojin, who was also a family member of the organization, had only just returned to the organization to recover, so how could she possibly return to the battlefield so soon?

Yang Xiaojin should still be at Stronghold 88.

Ren Xiaosu went around to look for any traces of the Divine Arms officers. He could gather a few more nanomachines for every one of them he found.

It was a fantastic harvest this time around, seeing how his armor was near to completion.

But then he heard the sound of engines coming from the mountain roads in the south before he could locate all the corpses of the Divine Arms officers. Ren Xiaosu frowned as the sound grew closer. It had to be the Li Consortium’s people if they were heading north at this time. They must have seen the Brambles and the two dead Divine Arms officers.

Ren Xiaosu immediately tossed greed aside and ran towards the snowy mountain. He would still have many opportunities to collect nanomachines in the future. But if his identity were exposed, that would be very troublesome.

One of Ren Xiaosu’s greatest strengths was that he could always maintain his rationality when faced with huge temptation, like the time when he had to give up on the gold back in the Jing Mountains.

The ambush on the Divine Arms Battalion went much smoother than Ren Xiaosu had expected. He did not even have to do much since the mysterious sniper had already helped him kill 99% of his enemies.

But the sudden appearance of this mysterious sniper had also made the situation weirder.

 

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 257


Chapter 257 Finding the spy within three days!

The Qing Consortium’s soldiers were getting pumped up from having just defeated the legendary Divine Arms Battalion of the Li Consortium. However, Qing Zhen immediately gathered from this ambush that the nanosoldiers were actually not that weak. If they hadn’t received the intel in time, the Li Consortium would have really caused them a great deal of trouble.

Qing Zhen did not underestimate the Divine Arms Battalion’s nanosoldiers and placed an unusual amount of emphasis on them.

Next to him, Qing Zhen’s trusted aide asked, “Do you mean the nanosoldiers shouldn’t be deployed in such a fashion?”

Qing Zhen said, “If these nanosoldiers were commanded by me, I would deploy each platoon separately to infiltrate through the forested mountains. They only need the intel supplied by personnel planted within the Li Consortium to easily coordinate a decapitation strike[1].”

His aide nodded and said, “I see. Sir, you are indeed wise.”

Qing Zhen looked at him calmly. “I’m not telling you this so you can suck up to me but to arrange for more people to protect me.”

“Ah?” The aide was taken aback and could not understand why Qing Zhen was saying this.

Qing Zhen sighed and said, “The Yang Consortium’s nanosoldiers might be arriving soon. They’re much smarter than the Li Consortium, so we have to strengthen our defense forces immediately.”

Then Qing Zhen looked out into the distant snowy lands that had just been plowed by the artillery fire. He wondered, “Why is he everywhere?”

The soldiers around him were even more confused by this. Who was he referring to?

The atmosphere in the Li Consortium’s command center was extremely depressing. A middle-aged general sat at the end of the long table in the room with a somber and sullen expression. Although all the seats at the table were filled, no one was saying anything.

“The Divine Arms Battalion has suffered a crushing defeat.” The middle-aged general said, “All I want to know is why the Qing Consortium was aware of our Divine Arms Battalion’s operations beforehand.”

Still, no one spoke.

In reality, a lot of the others were also puzzled by this. The Divine Arms Battalion had to keep the command center updated every day of matters like their battle plans’ execution and current location. Everything had been proceeding smoothly, but a disaster still happened when they got close to the Qing Consortium’s territory.

Based on the description of the Divine Arms officer, the Qing Consortium clearly knew which direction the Divine Arms Battalion would approach from, so they set up an ambush in advance. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to inflict such a large number of casualties on the Divine Arms Battalion.

The Li Consortium had been concealing their strength and biding their time over the years. But now that war had suddenly broken out, everyone was looking forward to seeing the Divine Arms Battalion’s capabilities. In the end, they were almost wiped out by the Qing Consortium even before the battle had begun!

Why? Where did it all go wrong!

The middle-aged general looked to Hu Shuo on his left and said, “A spy must have leaked the information. As Director of the Office of Special Investigations, you did not sniff out the spy in time. So you’ll be bearing the main responsibility. However, this isn’t the time to mete out punishment. You must sort out the issues in your Office of Special Investigations to make amends for your mistakes.”

Hu Shuo kept quiet as he looked calmly at the table in front of him. Honestly speaking, he was very puzzled as well.

Although he had other motives for staying in the Li Consortium, the Office of Special Investigations had always been functioning normally. An espionage battle would prove to be the most critical component during wartime. Sometimes, having the right intelligence could even influence the outcome of a war.

Although Hu Shuo had sniffed out quite a few spies recently in his course of duty, he kept some of them around in preparation for his future plans. But keeping them around did not mean he did not care about them. The identified spies remained under the surveillance of his Office of Special Investigations and were earmarked for greater use in the future. However, none of these spies could gain access to the secrets of the Divine Arms Battalion.

Suddenly, someone said, “The private troops who swapped uniforms and vehicles with the Divine Arms Battalion haven’t arrived at the assigned strategic location yet. I suspect this incident could be related to them.”

The middle-aged general frowned. “Why didn’t anyone report about an important matter like this earlier?”

“Previously, the Divine Arms officers who were assigned and traveled together with them would report their whereabouts daily. However, we suddenly lost contact with them yesterday,” the officer said.

“Search for this group of private troops immediately and confirm their location within the next three days!” the middle-aged general ordered.

“Yes, sir!” the officer answered.

The middle-aged general said, “Meeting adjourned. The strategy must be put into place ASAP. The news of the Divine Arms Battalion’s heavy losses will spread to the Yang Consortium very soon. We have to be prepared for the Qing Consortium’s and the Yang Consortium’s counterattacks. General Hu, remain behind.”

After everyone else dispersed, only Hu Shuo remained seated. The middle-aged general said, “The leaking of the Divine Arms Battalion’s operations is of great importance. The spy is likely to hold a high rank within the organization, so I’ll give you three days to find out who it is!”

Hu Shuo looked up and said, “OK.”

The middle-aged general did not bring this up earlier because he suspected the spy was among those attending the meeting. The reason why he did not punish Hu Shuo was that, first, he was the Director of the Office of Special Investigations and had been working for the Li Consortium for decades with few mistakes made, earning merit and toiling hard for the organization. Second, this war was intricately linked with Hu Shuo as well. If they replaced the Director of the Office of Special Investigations at this time, chaos would probably be caused down the road.

But the middle-aged general was probably not expecting that trouble would originate from Hu Shuo himself.

Two days later, Ren Xiaosu, the perpetrator of the Divine Arms Battalion’s defeat, was hidden somewhere in an ambush in the snowy ground. There was a dirt road beside him that was paved by the Li Consortium just before the war broke out.

After Qing Zhen had driven the Divine Arms Battalion to retreat, he not only informed Tang Zhou of their victory, he also told him which route of retreat the Divine Arms Battalion was taking

Ren Xiaosu used this information for basis that the Divine Arms Battalion would likely use the road in front of him.

As the Divine Arms Battalion had suffered heavy losses, they would definitely need to retreat to the forward operating base behind them to reorganize. That would then be a chance for Ren Xiaosu.

He did not include Tang Zhou in his plan. On one hand, there were too many people on Tang Zhou’s side and their presence would easily be sensed. On the other hand, Ren Xiaosu did not want Tang Zhou to know what actions he would take and his true reason for keeping some of the Divine Arms Battalion alive.

Ren Xiaosu went through the plan in his mind. Since the Divine Arms Battalion was in such a pathetic state, the trump cards he left behind should be enough to deal with the remaining defeated soldiers, right?

Suddenly, Ren Xiaosu heard the sound of footsteps on snow and got excited. Here they come!

As Ren Xiaosu hid in the thick snow next to the road, he nearly stopped breathing.

He left a tiny hole in the surface of the snow to observe the outside world. But a moment later when Ren Xiaosu saw the Divine Arms Battalion’s soldiers, he was shocked!

He saw two of the Divine Arms Battalion’s soldiers limping towards the ambush site he had set up. Ren Xiaosu felt unwell at the sight. He had requested Qing Zhen leave some of the Divine Arms Battalion alive, but he only left two of them for him in the end?

Ren Xiaosu was a little confused by this. Why didn’t he just leave one soldier alive then? Was he purposely trying to gross him out?

Eh?

Ren Xiaosu had been lying in the snow for the past two days. Probably, few people in this world had as much resolve as him. But Ren Xiaosu realized this was what he had been waiting for after lying in the snow for the past two days.

‘No, that can’t be right.’ Ren Xiaosu thought that something else unexpected must have happened. Qing Zhen couldn’t possibly have spared only two of the Divine Arms soldiers.



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The First Order – Chapter 254


Chapter 254 Hunting nanosoldiers

Ren Xiaosu knew Wang Yuchi and his classmates were all top students. In order to get into university, they had long since started picking up knowledge beyond their level. But he constantly wondered what a few high school students were capable of. However, Ren Xiaosu realized now that he had underestimated Jiang Wu’s students. Jiang Wu had used her life, dignity, and principles to protect them, and they had not embarrassed her.

Wang Yuchi thought for a moment and said, “It’s impossible to ask us to design something too intricate. All we can do is try to reduce drag as much as possible and do our best to further improve on the design of the mechanical transmission structure—”

“You don’t have to explain it, that’ll be enough!” Ren Xiaosu gave a wave of his hand. “Design a rough draft first, then improve on it after y’all get the chance to further your studies!”

“But, Monitor, I don’t really understand you. Why do you want such a thing?” Wang Yuchi raised his doubts, “First, we don’t have the materials. Second, the power source of this armor—”

Ren Xiaosu gave another wave of his hand. “Don’t worry about that. We’ll definitely have it!”

Ren Xiaosu knew very well that the problems raised by Wang Yuchi were actually solvable with the use of the nanomachines. However, he could not tell Wang Yuchi the truth as of yet.

Wang Yuchi and the other students just stared dumbfoundedly at Ren Xiaosu. Forget it, there was no need to explain any further.

The students could guess their class monitor had probably discovered something good again. Was he going to take advantage of someone again?

When Ren Xiaosu looked at the nearby officers of the Divine Arms Battalion again, it felt as though he was looking at his brand-new armor.

Ren Xiaosu had already come up with a new plan. If Tang Zhou could relay the news back successfully, there would only be a few routes from the main battlefield that the Divine Arms Battalion could retreat by. He would need to figure out the situation in these coming days before making his move so that he could successfully collect enough nanomachines for his armor. But he wondered how strong Tang Zhou and his men’s combat capabilities were. They shouldn’t be too weak, right?

The heavy snow had been falling nonstop in the forested mountains. It wasn’t only snowing on the Li Consortium’s side; all three organizations were stranded in their various battlefields by the heavy snowfall.

As the roads were blocked by the deep snow, no vehicles could pass through. In some places, the snow even reached crotch level on the soldiers. It was impossible to fight a war in these conditions.

The snow was the true weapon of mass destruction here.

The impasse on the battlefield that had been like the hot barrel of a just fired machine gun was suddenly cooled down by the snow.

Ren Xiaosu and everyone else at the campsite were taking shelter in their tents. No one was willing to go outside to make a trail in the snow, not even the Divine Arms officers.

Ren Xiaosu was the only person who went out every night until the morning when he came back to sleep. While he slept, Chen Wudi would keep watch by his side. No one was able to get close to him.

Over the past few days, many people eat all their rations of buns. Meanwhile, Ren Xiaosu would return carrying a lot of potatoes with him every day. He would bring back 28 or 29 potatoes each time. In any case, their group would definitely have something to eat every day. However, no one knew where Ren Xiaosu had dug the potatoes up from.

As a matter of fact, their platoon did not seem like they had ever lacked any food.

When Ren Xiaosu woke up, Li Qingzheng asked curiously, “Xiaosu, what have you been busy with for the past few days? Why are you always going out when evening comes?”

Ren Xiaosu said tiredly, “I’ve been digging for potatoes for y’all. We can’t just rest on our laurels, now can we?”

When he said that, the entire platoon of soldiers was moved to tears. “Platoon Commander, you are such a good person! Thank you, Platoon Commander!”

As Ren Xiaosu watched his number of gratitude tokens increase again, he knew he was getting closer to unlocking his new weapon.

In reality, he had not been going out to dig up potatoes. Instead, he was meeting up with Tang Zhou every night to discuss their upcoming plans.

Tang Zhou and his men had a detailed map of the battlefield, which saved Ren Xiaosu a lot of trouble. But after looking at the map, Ren Xiaosu still thought it would be safer if he personally made a trip to check out the locations. As such, he had been going around for the past two days to the best ambush sites located near two routes they identified the Divine Arms Battalion would retreat by.

This action moved Tang Zhou to tears. “Xiaosu, you’re really a good friend of our Qing Consortium!”

Ren Xiaosu looked at Tang Zhou and said, “I’m going to steal the satellite phone for y’all tomorrow. Do you think Qing Zhen and Luo Lan still stand a chance of making a comeback? I found that it was pretty nice being friends with Luo Lan.”

“They will.” Tang Zhou replied decisively, “Mr. Qing Zhen and Boss Luo definitely won’t remain under house arrest for long. We’re all waiting for that day.”

“Fatty Luo will be very touched if he hears you say that.” Ren Xiaosu said, “We’ll meet here again tomorrow evening. I’ll give you the satellite phone then.”

The meeting place they had chosen was a little further away from where Ren Xiaosu had planted the Brambles as he feared he would get seen.

“Didn’t you say there’s five of those nanosoldiers?” Tang Zhou asked, “Do you need us to assist you?”

As Ren Xiaosu turned to leave, he said, “No need, I have Chen Wudi by my side.”

Ren Xiaosu was not actually planning on letting Chen Wudi do anything this time, but he had to say that to Tang Zhou. After all, it would not be easy to deal with five nanosoldiers. Even though he had a good relationship with the Qing Consortium, he still did not want them to gain a clear idea of his powers.

When the next morning arrived, Ren Xiaosu walked back to the campsite with a rabbit held tightly in his arms. Everyone could see Ren Xiaosu’s figure from afar.

Someone stood at the entrance of the campsite and exclaimed, “Where did he catch that rabbit? It’s so big!”

The Divine Arms officers were also starting to run out of field rations. Besides, how could eating field rations every day be better than barbecue? So when these officers saw the rabbit in Ren Xiaosu’s arms, their eyes popped out of their skulls.

But all of a sudden, the huge rabbit in Ren Xiaosu’s arms started struggling. Then Ren Xiaosu fell to his ass in the snow as though overwhelmed by its struggle. The rabbit leaped and bounded away!

A Divine Arms officer said anxiously, “Why didn’t you hold it more tightly!?”

Ren Xiaosu anxiously said, “Chase after it, quick! If you don’t, I’ll have caught it in vain!”

When the five officers of the Divine Arms Battalion heard that, they didn’t think too much and just activated the nanomachines in their bodies. Their explosive speed was even faster than that of the rabbit!

Ren Xiaosu watched from behind with eyes narrowed. These troops truly had more nanomachines in their bodies, judging by the fact that Lin Qi could not even reach such a speed.

A large group of people at the campsite pursued in the direction of the fleeing rabbit against the falling snow. But at this moment, a surprising turn of events took place. They saw a big, red net of brambles suddenly enclosing on the spot where the five officers were standing and trapping them!

The thorns of the brambles immediately pierced their skin. But more terrifying was the officers seemingly having their blood sucked out by the thorns into the vines!

The officers of the Divine Arms Battalion gave their all and tore through the red net. The five of them fell out of it and gasped violently for air. But before they could recover from their shock, another wave of crimson vines on the ground attacked!

There was seemingly no end to the number of crimson vines!

All of those who were following in pursuit behind them retreated in fright when they saw this terrifying sight!

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 252


Chapter 252 An old friend, Tang Zhou!

The Qing Consortium’s troops advanced in a tactical formation. However, Ren Xiaosu still did not come out from behind the large tree as he was waiting

Although the campsite was about 500 meters to his rear, Ren Xiaosu didn’t want to go back to call for reinforcements. After all, there was no one there he could count on other than Chen Wudi.

Jiang Wu’s students would definitely be more than willing to help him, but the key thing was that the eight of them were intellectuals and they might not even know how to hold a rifle.

As for a group like the private troops, how could he possibly count on those incompetent people?

But what Ren Xiaosu was waiting for was for the Qing Consortium’s troops to come a little closer!

When the Qing Consortium’s combat troops stepped into the range of the Brambles, Ren Xiaosu was not in a hurry to make the vines attack. Instead, he waited quietly for this entire platoon to get into range.

Other than the spot Ren Xiaosu had dug up for the seed to sprout, the rest of the vines were concealed under the thick snow.

Just as the Qing Consortium’s troops entered the attack radius, someone realized something was wrong. “Hang on, it feels like we’re stepping on something.”

Someone crouched down and cleared away the snow to reveal the brambles on the ground. “These crimson brambles look a little strange. I’ve never seen a plant like it before.”

“Strange plants like this one are increasing by the day, so nothing is surprising about them. Don’t tell me they can even attack people?” a soldier said as he cast a glance at it before resuming his watch on the surroundings.

However, the platoon commander frowned. “There’s something odd about this. Don’t move any further. We’re withdrawing!”

Ren Xiaosu was surprised while hiding behind a tree that was a few dozen meters away. He did not expect the Qing Consortium troops to be so careful. Weren’t they being overly cautious? Weren’t they just some plants found in the wilderness? ‘What are y’all so afraid of!’

Ren Xiaosu found it a little pitiful. The enemies had presented themselves to him, yet he did not even manage to kill a single one of them.

But what Ren Xiaosu didn’t know was that these were the elite troops sent by Qing Yun to intercept the Divine Arms Battalion and that they were also very well-known throughout the entire Qing Consortium. These were just the scouting party, while the main force behind them were currently reorganizing.

How could a fighting force confident enough to inflict heavy damage upon the Divine Arms’ nanosoldiers fall for a trap so easily?

If he had not incapcitated the Potato Shooter, he could have tested its capabilities.

The commander of the platoon suddenly said, “Friend, are you part of the Li Consortium’s troops?”

When Ren Xiaosu heard this voice, he was stunned. “Tang Zhou?!”

The platoon commander was stunned as well. “Ren Xiaosu?!”

If there had been no interaction, then so be it. But now that the enemy had said something, it turned out to be someone he knew?

Previously, Tang Zhou had sent Qing Zhen and Luo Lan back to Stronghold 111 with the off-road vehicle. As soon as they got back there, Qing Zhen and Luo Lan were placed under house arrest by the Board. Meanwhile, Tang Zhou was deployed to the frontline troops where he reported directly to the forward operating base at Mt. Daping.

After he was reassigned to work under Qing Yun’s troops, Qing Yun knew he still remained loyal to Luo Lan. So Qing Yun demoted him from the rank of captain to platoon commander and sent him to this elite force as a scout.

Many of the soldiers in this force used to be under Qing Zhen’s command. Qing Yun had sent them here on the pretext of “intercepting” the Divine Arms Battalion, but how were they supposed to retreat from this place after successfully intercepting the Divine Arms Battalion?

Importantly, the Li Consortium had stationed their combat troops at the front lines of Mt. Fengyi, Mt. Shuanglong, and Mt. Tantou. Once the Divine Arms Battalion got involved in a battle there, the entire Li Consortium would launch an unbridled counterattack on these troops of the Qing Consortium.

Even if they ended up becoming heroes in the Qing Consortium’s history books, they definitely wouldn’t walk out of this mountain range alive!

So Qing Zhen immediately sent Qing Yun’s trusted troops to negotiate with the Li Consortium after seizing command from him. What everyone was doing was essentially the same thing: removing dissidents from around them.

It was not to say that it was a cruel thing to do, but that war itself was very cruel anyway. If they could not maintain control of their leadership over the military, they could not win the war.

At this moment, Tang Zhou was still unaware that Qing Zhen had seized command of the military. When they were sent out here, Qing Yun did not even equip them with satellite phones or radio sets for communicating with headquarters. That was why when Qing Zhen asked if he could recall this platoon, the second-in-command had said, “It’s too late.”

Ren Xiaosu and Tang Zhou were on pretty good terms when they were still at Stronghold 109, and Tang Zhou also helped them out a lot. Since it was Tang Zhou who was here, this created an immediate opportunity for negotiations to ease the current situation.

Earlier, Ren Xiaosu was wondering why this platoon was so difficult to deal with. Just a few brambles on the ground was all it took to attract their attention? Now that he realized they were Luo Lan and Qing Zhen’s troops, he suddenly felt “enlightened.”

In his opinion, the men under Qing Zhen and Luo Lan were all elite soldiers with no cowards among them.

Ren Xiaosu shouted, “Come over here alone, let’s talk!”

He wasn’t willing to go over. After all, Tang Zhou was not the only person on their side. What if the others decided to shoot at him indiscriminately?

When Tang Zhou heard that, he was ready to step over the brambles to Ren Xiaosu when someone next to him whisper-shouted, “Platoon Commander, you mustn’t go over! What if he’s tricking you to get you over there?”

Tang Zhou shook his head. “Don’t worry, we’re old friends.”

“Even old friends can change,” someone reminded him anxiously. “Don’t believe him so easily.”

Tang Zhou smiled and said, “Don’t worry, I trust him. Didn’t I tell you guys before that Boss Luo and I were saved by someone while escaping from Stronghold 113 after it collapsed? He’s the person who saved us. He and Boss Luo are good friends too… uh, I’m not exactly sure if they can be considered good friends.”

Everyone around him was stunned by the impact of this twist as it proved a little too much for them to handle. So the other party was Tang Zhou’s savior? But the real question was, why had he appeared at this place? What was he doing here squatting in the snow in the middle of the night by himself? Playing in the snow?

Tang Zhou carefully avoided stepping on the brambles and walked towards the large tree where Ren Xiaosu was. Ren Xiaosu got a little emotional as it felt rather nice to be trusted by others. Tang Zhou actually dared to come over by himself!

“Long time no see, what are you doing here?” When Tang Zhou reached the tree, he saw Ren Xiaosu standing there. He chuckled. “Is that the Divine Arms uniform you’re wearing?”

Ren Xiaosu looked at him. “Let’s sit down and talk.”

Tang Zhou and Ren Xiaosu sat down crossed-legged on the snow. Tang Zhou placed his rifle aside and said, “Does this mean you’ve joined the Li Consortium?”

“Join them? My ass!” Ren Xiaosu said, “I fled with the escapees from Stronghold 109 and ended up getting conscripted into their military.”

“Hahaha,” Tang Zhou laughed. “But you’re not yet as miserable as me. I’ve been sent here to die.”

“Sent here to die?” Ren Xiaosu wondered, “What do you mean?”

“Currently, someone called Qing Yun is in charge of our military forces. Mr. Qing Zhen and Boss Luo have been placed under house arrest at the villa in Stronghold 111 and are stuck there for the time being. I was immediately demoted after transferring to Qing Yun’s forces, and he also placed many of Mr. Qing Zhen’s former men in the force and made us come to intercept your Divine Arms Battalion.”

Ren Xiaosu reacted with a strange expression. “Then y’all are heading in the wrong direction. I’m not from the Divine Arms Battalion; I’m just a part of the private troops…”



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The First Order – Chapter 250


Chapter 250 Side quest unlocked: Seeds!

On the same afternoon, the blizzard had become so heavy that even the officers of the Divine Arms Battalion were finding it unbearable. The private soldiers with the responsibility of forging a path in the snow had to lift their legs high each time they took a step forward.

In this accursed weather, even though everyone was taking turns to create a path in the snow, it was still extremely taxing, even though the terrain was flat.

However, no one else dared to faint for the rest of the afternoon as they were all afraid they would get dragged to their deaths in the snow by Ren Xiaosu.

“Let’s set up camp here.” One of the officers of the Divine Arms Battalion said, “We’ll continue on our march after the snow has stopped.”

It was not the time to think about saving face. If they continued marching, all of them might just end up dying in the snow.

If that happened, they would similarly not be able to accomplish their mission since they wouldn’t even be able to get to Mt. Shuanglong.

That officer of the Divine Arms Battalion felt he could still keep marching, but the private soldiers were simply not fit enough to go on.

When they learned they could finally set up camp and get some rest, all of the private soldiers seemed like they had been injected with a new lease on life. They were trembling in the cold weather and even wanted to sit down in the snow, but Ren Xiaosu roared at them, “Get up and set up your tents. How can y’all think of resting when you don’t have a tent to take shelter in? Do you want to die out here in the snow?”

Actually, they could also rest in the snow without setting up a tent. All they had to do was dig a snow pit and bury themselves in it. This wasn’t some derisive suggestion but a genuine solution if tents were not available while trekking through deep snow. Most people would think it would be colder in a snow pit, but being in one actually helps keep a person warm, because the surroundings outside of a snow pit are even colder than the inside.

Ren Xiaosu had heard from Zhang Jinglin that some human settlements in the far north would build igloos to keep themselves warm in the winter.

Everyone struggled to get up and were using their last bit of strength to set up their tents when faced with the threat of death. However, some of the platoons were in terrible shape. In order to conserve their energy along the way, they had even thrown away their tents at some point. If they could manage to squeeze into other people’s tents, it wouldn’t be so bad. But if the others did not share their tents, they would have to dig snow pits and gamble on whether they would be able to endure the cold in there.

Ren Xiaosu ordered Li Qingzheng and the others, “I’ll set up the tent while y’all go and gather some firewood from the ground. If you can’t find any, tree branches will do too. We have to get a campfire going so that we can keep ourselves warm. Have a bowl of hot porridge, each of you. Otherwise, we won’t be able to bear it for much longer.”

“Alright.” Li Qingzheng’s face was flushed from the cold. “Leave it to me. Follow me, brothers. Let’s go and collect some firewood.”

Branches that were collected from trees would produce a lot of choking smoke when burned. But this was nothing compared to having a campfire to warm themselves with.

At this moment, the voice from the palace in Ren Xiaosu’s mind said, “Quest complete. Awarded Basic Skill Duplication Scroll.”

It wasn’t until this moment that his quest was finally completed. This was probably the hardest standard quest he had ever done.

At present, Ren Xiaosu had two Basic Skill Duplication Scrolls on him. But he didn’t intend to use them since there was no target nearby for him to learn from. But if he met Hu Shuo again, he could probably give it a try. Although the Basic Skill Duplication Scroll couldn’t copy superpowers, Hu Shuo must have some skills that would prove useful for Ren Xiaosu. Even if he was just trying his luck, he could probably still get something good from him.

But the palace was not finished as it continued, “Side quest complete. A new product, Seeds, has been unlocked for purchase in the vending machine!”

Ren Xiaosu’s eyes lit up. His patience for this side quest had finally paid off. It felt like it had taken such a long time for it to be completed. But upon recounting the days carefully, he realized it was only the second day of the new year today.

He had a look inside the palace and saw the vending machine standing quietly within it. A new transparent window had appeared next to the Explosive Poker slot.

There were some seeds scattered within the window. But to Ren Xiaosu’s surprise, they all looked somewhat different from each other. Could it be that different plants would grow from different seeds?

The newly unlocked window slot was just like a candy box in a grocery store. The colorful packaging represented different flavors while different colors of seeds represented different

uses.

He placed a gratitude token into the slot and watched a crimson seed about the size of a thumb get dispensed into the pick-up compartment at the bottom. As Ren Xiaosu held it in his hand, the palace did not explain what this item was for.

“Do I have to plant it before I know what it does?” Ren Xiaosu wondered. ‘But more importantly, shouldn’t the palace at least tell me what kind of environment it grows in?’

It had to have magical properties since it was a product of the palace. However, he would have to test it for himself.

For example, Ren Xiaosu also had to discover how to activate Explosive Poker by himself. If he had not managed to do so, they would have remained bog-standard playing cards.

What should he do now? Should he try planting it in the ground? What if this seed could germinate and sprout immediately? In this winter weather, how great would it be if the plant that grew from the seed bore fruit or something immediately?

Ren Xiaosu had always had great expectations of the side quest rewards awarded by the palace. They were items that basically ignored the laws of nature!

Ren Xiaosu said to Chen Wudi, “Keep watch here at the tent. When they get back, tell them that I spotted a small wild boar and that I’m planning to catch it for our dinner tonight. If I come back late, just improvise and make up an excuse.”

“OK.” Chen Wudi nodded.

Ren Xiaosu headed out into the snow alone. As he walked further and further, he felt that he might have been too hasty to tell Chen Wudi to improvise a reason for his disappearance.

He headed further north to look for a suitable location to experiment with the seed and find out just how magical it was.

He kept heading north until he found a spot that was slightly downwind. Then he started digging up the snow and soil before planting the crimson seed.

SOOV

As Ren Xiaosu patiently waited, he saw the seed he had just planted suddenly sprout. Bramble grew outwards as the thorny vines spread out dozens of meters across the snow before gradually stopping.

If Ren Xiaosu cleared away the snow on the ground, he would see the red bramble spread out on the ground like a spiderweb where it laid in wait for its prey.

At this moment, the plant connected with Ren Xiaosu’s consciousness like it did for Explosive Poker. Ren Xiaosu was shocked when he realized that this plant was extremely aggressive. If it were not controlled by him, it would attack any creature that came near to it!

What was this? Ren Xiaosu had thought this plant could bear fruit that could be eaten, but it turned out to be an attack plant.

No, rather than an attack plant, it was more appropriate to call it a defensive type.

If Ren Xiaosu and the others went and lived in the forested mountains in the future, they would not have to be afraid of any wild animals as long as he planted this thing in their surroundings.

As Ren Xiaosu looked at the other colored seeds in the palace, he wondered what kind of abilities they had. Surely one of them had to be edible, right?

After some thought, he placed an additional five gratitude tokens into the vending machine to trade for five seeds all at once. Then he planted them in the soil at long distance from each other.

As Chen Wudi sat in the tent and waited, Li Qingzheng asked, “Wudi, where did your master go?”

Chen Wudi thought for a moment and said, “My master went out to catch a wild boar for our dinner.”

Li Qingzheng asked, “Then why isn’t he back

yet?”

Chen Wudi gave it some thought. “The boar probably doesn’t agree to it.”



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The First Order – Chapter 248


Chapter 248 The Office of Special Investigations guards against spies!

“The snow’s getting even heavier.” Ren Xiaosu sighed as he observed the weather.

“It’s said that it was even colder than this right after The Cataclysm occurred.” Li Qingzheng was panting as he trudged through the snow. “Some of the older people said they had to store enough food to last them the entire winter during those years. If there wasn’t enough food, they would even resort to stocking up with tree roots. No one could go outside in the winter at all.”

The snow in the mountains gradually reached their feet, then their ankles, and finally, their knees.

This heavy snowfall came so fast and unexpectedly that the Divine Arms officer even started to waver on whether they should continue marching. When he looked at his GPS device and saw it was still functioning normally, he felt a little reassured.

However, there was only a narrow dirt road in the mountains, and it was currently covered in snow. Someone who was not careful enough sprained their ankle when they accidentally stepped onto a rock. Fortunately, the sprain was not too serious as the snow was relatively soft.

Ren Xiaosu walked against the blizzard to get to the front of the troops and shouted to the officer of the Divine Arms Battalion, “We can’t walk any further. The snow is too deep for everyone to move.”

But that Divine Arms officer didn’t care. Since the nanomachines in their bodies were constantly providing them with powered assistance, they did not have much difficulty walking in the snow. Besides, the nanomachines’ battery life would definitely be sufficient to support them for the entire way if they were going to slowly walk like this. Moreover, they were carrying wireless chargers on their backs.

The wireless chargers were standard issue for the combat troops of the Divine Arms Battalion and had to be carried around during a war.

Awhile ago, the Divine Arms officer was adamant about marching even though it was snowing heavily. If he suddenly changed his mind, wouldn’t he be embarrassing himself?

One of the other Divine Arms officers said coldly, “If we can’t get to the specified destination on time, are you going to shoulder the responsibility?”

Ren Xiaosu did not bother contending with them and just said, “Have y’all seen how a wolf pack moves in the snow? We need to keep rotating the people at the front to create a trail so that it’ll be much easier for those at the back to walk. It’ll be easier to advance if every platoon takes turns creating a path in the

snow!”

After hearing this, the Divine Arms officers turned around and looked at the exhausted private soldiers behind them.

The officers looked at one another until one of them said, “We’ll do as you described. Every platoon is to walk at the front for 15 minutes each. No one is allowed to slack off!”

After the order was passed down, the entire group of marching troops went from moving in a swarm to forming a single long and narrow file in the snow.

Ren Xiaosu heaved a sigh of relief. By doing this, it would at least relieve some of their burdens and help the troops march in a more orderly fashion.

Suddenly, the voice from the palace in his mind said, “Quest: Help your comrades who have fallen behind keep up with the troops.”

This quest dumbfounded Ren Xiaosu as no one had fallen behind yet. Besides, these bastards had betrayed him before, so why should he help them?

All of a sudden, Ren Xiaosu saw someone in the troops behind him run off towards the mountain. He knew something was not right. This was a deserter who could no longer bear it and was trying to run away!

Before now, Liu Taiyu had the support of the reinforced company to help him oversee the private troops and prevent anyone from becoming deserters. But now that Liu Taiyu was in a coma, the soldiers of the reinforced company couldn’t care less about maintaining order. Furthermore, they still had to take turns carrying Liu Taiyu. Ren Xiaosu felt that these people might even abandon him along the way and become deserters themselves.

As Ren Xiaosu watched that man run off to the nearby mountains, he could only think of one thing. ‘Would a deserter count as someone who’s fallen behind?’

Of course it fucking would!

A lot of people noticed that deserter as well. Before the others felt tempted to follow suit, they saw Ren Xiaosu dash over. His speed in the snow was unhindered and as fast as running on flat ground!

Within half a minute, Ren Xiaosu caught the deserter and even took his weapons away from him.

As Ren Xiaosu dragged this deserter back by his legs, he earnestly tried to comfort him. “It’s not safe in the mountains. What if something happens to you after you’ve escaped into the mountains?”

The deserter was in despair. “I won’t try to escape anymore, so please let go of me. I’ll stand up and walk by myself!”

A deep trail was carved out in the snow when Ren Xiaosu dragged the deserter back by his legs. Actually, Ren Xiaosu had not meant to get rough with him. Although the deserter had outed him yesterday, it wasn’t worthwhile for Ren Xiaosu to do anything to him.

And there was nothing wrong with being a deserter either. All the soldier wanted was to live!

So Ren Xiaosu only took away the deserter’s weapons when he caught him and did not hit him at all.

But was Ren Xiaosu in the wrong for wanting to complete his quest? He wasn’t in the wrong either!

There was another point that Ren Xiaosu was not lying about. If anyone ventured into the mountains alone in such heavy snowfall, they would die. At the very least, he would never have ventured into the mountains during a violent blizzard.

Ren Xiaosu said to the others, “Everyone, keep walking. Don’t be a deserter, ya hear me!”

Then Ren Xiaosu went over to the reinforced company and said, “Although the Iron Second’s commander is in a coma, y’all have to assume your duties, understand?”

The soldiers of the reinforced company who were carrying Liu Taiyu were a little dumbfounded. Why had this refugee taken control of them?

Ren Xiaosu looked at the Divine Arms officer and said, “If anyone escapes at this time and your plans get discovered by enemy troops, all that you’ve done up til now will have been for naught.”

The Divine Arms officer also thought what he said was true. They turned to the reinforced company’s soldiers and said, “Go keep an eye on the troops. If anyone attempts to desert, shoot them on the spot!”

Li Qingzheng looked at Ren Xiaosu’s back and said with emotion, “Although I don’t know what our platoon commander is up to, his ability to sway people is amazing.”

But at this moment, someone in the troops suddenly fell down in the snow looking utterly exhausted. The people who passed by did not even bother looking at him. Even his comrades from the same platoon were not planning on helping him.

Ren Xiaosu gave a mental sigh. He had thought his quest would be completed after he had caught the deserter, but he had not expected this quest to turn out more difficult than the ones he had before.

Before he could finish lamenting, another person in the troops fainted.

These people were not pretending. After all, the Divine Arms Battalion had just given the order that if anyone deliberately tried to delay the mission, they would be shot.

Ren Xiaosu walked over and fireman-carried the man who had fainted. He said to Chen Wudi, “I guess we’re helping people in need. Piggyback the other person and walk ahead.”

Ren Xiaosu had been waiting for the palace to confirm that he had completed the quest, but it did not say anything even after a long time.

However, Chen Wudi appeared to be quite happy. Doing good deeds together and being a hero with his master felt quite good and fun to him.

After a while, Chen Wudi was even carrying two people on his shoulders. Ren Xiaosu could only explain to the others that his friend was born with great strength.

Although it was rare to see people who could carry two people at once, quite a few refugees at the coal mines outside the stronghold could do it, so it was still explainable.

But if he carried more than that, Ren Xiaosu would probably not be able to explain it.

When the lead officer of the Divine Arms Battalion saw this, he said in surprise, “The Office of Special Investigations is really doing all it can just to guard against spies. No wonder all the other fighting forces in the military are afraid of them!”

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 246


Chapter 246 The Qing base

Countless Qing Consortium troops were already garrisoned on the front lines at Mt. Daping and Mt. Xianlin, and black tents could be seen scattered throughout the clearings in the valley. This place had become the internal transportation hub of this entire mountain range.

The roads in the mountains were no longer dirt roads but concrete surfaces that the Qing Consortium had constructed beforehand. Just by looking at the structure of the roads, it was clear that the Qing Consortium had been operating here for a long time.

This was the only path to reach the Li Consortium in the south. If they wanted to attack the Li Consortium, they would definitely have to pass through here.

The conflict between the three organizations in the southwestern region was not something new at all. The Qing Consortium was extraordinarily well-prepared as they had constructed a forward operating base and defensive fortifications in the mountains way in advance.

Two off-road vehicles were driving over from northeast of the mountains. Qing Zhen and Luo Lan sat in one of the vehicles and looked at the scenery outside. Qing Zhen said with a smile, ‘This place has to be defended well. If we lose our position here, the roads will have been built for nothing. Our enemies can simply drive straight in without any obstacles.”

“Rest easy, we won’t lose this place.” Secretary Zhou sat in the front passenger seat and said coldly, “Qing Zhen, you can say we’re letting you atone for your crimes by having you act as a military advisor. I hope that you will carefully consider the Board’s decision and stop acting recklessly.”

Qing Zhen said calmly with a smile, “Atone for my crimes? What crimes have I committed?”

The soldier driving the vehicle acted as though he were deaf. He only focused on driving and did not dare to react unusually. Meanwhile, Secretary Zhou frowned, thinking about something.

After the off-road vehicle traveled for dozens of kilometers in the mountains, it finally arrived at a huge base. When they came to the sentry post, Secretary Zhou flashed his ID, and they were allowed to pass through.

Qing Zhen looked at the layout of the surrounding barracks and commented, “The security here is a little lax.”

“We’ve arrived. Get out.” Secretary Zhou looked at Qing Zhen and said, “You probably know the combat commander here. I think he can be considered a younger brother of yours? His name is Qing Yun.”

“Oh.” Qing Zhen nodded. “That snotty brat? He cried a lot when we were young.’

Qing Yun was the person who discovered the Experimentals had disappeared from Stronghold 113.

After getting out of the vehicle, Qing Zhen started walking towards the command post tent. “Since I’m here as a military advisor, what happens if Qing Yun does not heed my advice? Have you ever considered this problem? If he insists on doing things his way, am I supposed to take the fall along with him?”

Secretary Zhou’s frown grew deeper as he said, “Don’t try anything, Qing Zhen. Since he’s the commanding officer of the troops, he’ll definitely bear the main responsibility if something goes wrong. But as the military advisor, would you dare say that you won’t be liable if any battles are lost? Both of you are working for the Qing Consortium, so I hope you can be more serious and not deliberately play a passive role.”

Actually, this was the most worrisome matter for the Qing Consortium Board of Directors. They felt uneasy in letting Qing Yun face the other two organizations by himself. After all, Qing Yun’s combat experience was far less than Qing Zhen’s. Moreover, no one in the entire Qing Consortium could match Qing Zhen when it came to wisdom in warfare.

For an organization that large and filled with so many people, it was natural to think that powerful leadership figures abounded. But even throughout history, only a handful of famous leaders had ever existed in this world. And sometimes, some people were really just that exceptionally talented.

But what they were more worried about was that they had been suppressing Qing Zhen too much recently. If Qing Zhen just showed up at the front lines and did not put in any effort for the war, that would also affect the overall situation.

It was not that the Board was being stupid by insisting on suppressing skilled people, but that they had long been accustomed to skilled people yielding to the huge machine that was the organization. An arrogant Shadow had wanted to place himself above the organization. But what happened to him in the end? Didn’t he also become a tool for the Board after admitting defeat?

But the Qing Consortium Board could never have expected Qing Zhen to be so unyielding!

Qing Zhen walked into the tent with a smile. Officers were trotting back and forth within the command post tent. They were all either holding intel of the latest military updates in their hands or about to carry out orders issued by Qing Yun.

Everyone in the tent was stunned for a moment when they saw Qing Zhen walk in. It was like the air in the command post solidified the instant he went in.

Qing Zhen greeted everyone, “There’s no need to get nervous. Just get back to whatever you were doing. Luo Lan and I are just here to see all of you.”

When Qing Yun, who was standing next to the sand table[1] in the command post, saw Qing Zhen, his expression darkened. He looked at Secretary Zhou. “Why did you bring him here?”

Secretary Zhou said calmly, “Your Second Uncle wanted him to come and assist you.”

“Assist me?” Qing Yun sneered, “I don’t need a prisoner to assist me.”

Luo Lan smiled and said, “Qing Yun, do you still remember the days when you used to stick to our behinds and play in the dirt? When I was out on campaign, you were probably still wetting the bed.”

Secretary Zhou said angrily, “That’s enough! A great change will be sweeping over the southwestern region soon, and you’re still in the mood to quarrel like children here? Qing Yun, the two of them will serve as your military advisors. Brief them first, then hold a military meeting.”

Qing Yun gave them a look and said to his second-in-command next to him, “Inform all the commanders of the fighting forces to attend the meeting!”

Ultimately, Qing Yun still did not dare to disobey the Board’s order. Since the Board sent Qing Zhen here as the military advisor, he would have to somehow cooperate with him on the surface. This way, no one could point their fingers at him even if something went wrong.

During the meeting, Qing Zhen sat at the table with his eyes closed throughout. No one knew whether he was listening to the updates given by the commanders of the fighting forces. Meanwhile, Luo Lan sprawled out on the table and openly slept.

An officer said, “We’re currently garrisoned on the front lines at Mt. Daping and Mt. Xianlin. The Li Consortium and the Yang Consortium won’t be so reckless to come and attack us since this war is still mainly a conflict between their two organizations-“.

“How stupid!” interrupted Qing Zhen as his eyes shot open.

The command post fell silent. Qing Zhen bluntly said, “The philosophy on this battlefield is that anyone involved in the war is an enemy, other than our own. Why do you think the Li Consortium and the Yang Consortium won’t take the initiative and attack us just because their grudge is with each other?”

Qing Yun said coldly, “Because the Yang Consortium stole the Li Consortium’s—”

Qing Zhen was guffawed. “That was not stolen by the Yang Consortium. It was I who stole it and gave it to the Yang Consortium. Mark my words, since we’ve already come all the way out here, we’ll certainly be targeted by the Li Consortium. If our defenses slip up, we could very well end up becoming the priority target of the other two organizations. When that happens, they might even be willing to put aside their feud temporarily. The possibility of gaining the Qing Consortium’s interests for themselves would be more than enough to tempt them.”

Qing Yun glared at Qing Zhen as he had been living in Qing Zhen’s shadow for more than 20 years now. When he was in preschool, everyone said there was a person better than him, and that person was called Qing Zhen. When he got to elementary school, high school, or university, it was still the same. Even after entering the military, everyone was still saying that Qing Zhen was better at waging war than anyone else in the organization.

But even if he hated Qing Zhen to the core, he would still sit at the same table with Qing Zhen to discuss the war as he wanted to let the Board know that he was more obedient than Qing Zhen.

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 244


Chapter 244 An excellent harvest of gratitude tokens

The platoon commander was stunned. “What place is that?”

Ren Xiaosu lowered his voice and said to him, “The FOB. It’s at most four kilometers away from us. Not only can you eat your fill while in this uniform, but you can also take some food back with you as well.”

When the platoon commander heard Ren Xiaosu telling him that he could eat at the forward operating base, he hesitated for a moment. What if someone at the FOB discovered their true identity?

But when he looked at Ren Xiaosu’s group again, he thought, ‘Isn’t this a successful example right in front of me?’ If Ren Xiaosu’s group already had their fill, anyone else wearing the Divine Arms uniform would also be able to do the same.

The platoon commander said sincerely, “Thank you, my brother!”

“Gratitude received from Wang Dingguo, +1!

“Quest complete. Awarded Basic Skill Duplication Scroll.”

When Ren Xiaosu received this gratitude token on top of the notification from the palace for the quest’s completion, an idea suddenly came to him!

Just as that platoon commander was about to take his men to get food, they were stopped by Ren Xiaosu.

Ren Xiaosu said in seriousness, “Aren’t the rest of you going to thank me?”

The platoon commander was stunned at first, but he hurriedly got his men to thank Ren Xiaosu. The private soldiers were starving badly. As the information provided by Ren Xiaosu really helped with their survival issues, most of their gratitude was expressed sincerely.

It was so sincere that it could not get any more sincere than this!

All of a sudden, Ren Xiaosu received a total of 18 gratitude tokens!

As a matter of fact, he had more than 400 gratitude tokens as of this moment. If he could make the others in the camp thank him as well, this new weapon might just be unlocked in the blink of an eye!

Ren Xiaosu turned around and looked at Li Qingzheng. “You guys head back to the tent first and rest. There’s something I need to do.”

Li Qingzheng wondered, “Platoon Commander, what are you gonna do?”

Ren Xiaosu said righteously, “Although we’ve had our fill, many people in our Iron Second Battalion are still hungry. We can’t be this selfish. We have to let them know about this!”

Li Qingzheng was a little ashamed when he heard that from Ren Xiaosu. He suddenly felt that he couldn’t compare to Ren Xiaosu as he wasn’t as noble as him!

Li Qingzheng took the initiative and said, “Then let’s split up so that we can inform everyone a little quicker.”

Ren Xiaosu’s expression immediately changed. “No, y’all’ve been working hard all day, so you should get some rest quickly! Hurry up and go to sleep. Don’t tire yourselves out further!”

The soldiers in the platoon were almost moved to tears. They didn’t realize in the past that Ren Xiaosu actually cared this much about them. Li Qingzheng thought the reason he had been relegated to the role of platoon sergeant was because he wasn’t as enlightened as Ren Xiaosu was.

After Ren Xiaosu compelled Li Qingzheng and the others to quickly go and rest, he started going around to each tent to inform the other platoons. The tents issued by the Supply Division were all large tents and were big enough for a platoon to sleep in.

Ren Xiaosu went around patiently to inform the rest of the private troops. Everyone was still quite doubtful at the beginning, but when Ren Xiaosu showed them the buns in his arms, they were convinced!

The platoons informed by Ren Xiaosu felt that he was such a good person…Although, they did find it a little strange that he insisted they thank him.

As Ren Xiaosu counted his gratitude tokens, he saw they had increased to over 900 in just an hour. This harvest of gratitude tokens was much greater than he had ever received in the

past!

Sure enough, in times of hunger, people’s feelings for food would become especially sincere…

com

Ren Xiaosu lifted the next tent’s flap and asked, “Are you all hungry? I know a place—”

The five nanosoldiers in the tent quietly looked to Ren Xiaosu. Then Ren Xiaosu calmly replied with a smile, “Haha, sorry for the disturbance.”

He had been too careless!

Every tent at this campsite looked identical to Ren Xiaosu, so how could he could tell who was in them?

Immediately, the nanosoldiers rushed out of the tent and shouted, “Stop right there! What was the meaning of that?!”

But as they had finished speaking, they discovered that many of the tent flaps on the outside were open with no one inside them.

The nanosoldiers quickly went around the camp to check before gasping at the discovery that they had not even noticed that the camp was already half empty!

Just then, the private soldiers who had finished eating their fill returned from the FOB in groups, and some of them were even picking their teeth with toothpicks. Not only that, it was clear at a glance that they were carrying a lot of things in their arms.

But the returning private soldiers were all petrified when they saw the nanosoldiers walking up to them. A nanosoldier from the Divine Arms Battalion asked coldly, “Where have you all been?”

One of them answered while trembling, “We went to the FOB to eat.”

The nanosoldier was stunned by his answer. “Was it as simple as just eating?”

Gradually, more and more people returned after eating at the FOB. In the end, all of them were punished to stand at attention in the camp.

The nanosoldiers paced around these people and sneered, “Do you know what the crime is if you leave the barracks without permission?”

He then slapped some of the private soldiers’ buns they were carrying in their arms onto the ground, and stomped on them. “You, you,

you!”

The nanosoldier pointed at three of the private soldiers. “Eat the buns on the ground!”

The private soldiers who were singled out were afraid to backtalk. They immediately picked up the flattened buns and stuffed them into their mouths.

The nanosoldier looked at them. “Who said you all could go to the FOB to eat?”

As soon as he finished saying that, he was shocked to find that almost everyone’s gaze had landed on Ren Xiaosu. Not only that, someone even pointed out Ren Xiaosu.

So did this mean that all the soldiers at the camp who went to the FOB to eat were all told to do so by Ren Xiaosu?

This should be easy to handle then. By punishing Ren Xiaosu alone, that would help avoid a mutiny.

Actually, the officers of the Divine Arms Battalion felt helpless. If only one or two people had broken the law, they would be severely punished for it. But too many had committed the crime. What if they punished too many people and that resulted in a mutiny breaking out at the camp? Hence, the best thing to do would be to punish only one person as a warning to the others.

But one of the officers of the Divine Arms Battalion could not figure out something. He looked at Ren Xiaosu and wondered, “Why did you tell the others they could eat at the FOB?”

Ren Xiaosu gave it a bit of thought. “Because the braised chicken cuts at the FOB are delicious.”

The officers of the Divine Arms Battalion was speechless.

While Ren Xiaosu spoke, the expression of one of the Divine Arms officers changed. He decided he would use Ren Xiaosu as a warning to the others tonight!

But at this moment, Ren Xiaosu whispered to one of the Divine Arms nanosoldiers, “Can we step aside to have a word?”

Puzzled, the nanosoldier went with Ren Xiaosu a ways away where Ren Xiaosu flashed his Office of Special Investigations’ military ID without hesitation. “I suspect that there’s a spy from the Qing Consortium within our ranks, so y’all will have to cooperate with me to identify him. However, I have no clue who it might be. No one else can know about this other than the two of us.”

The nanosoldier stayed silent.

Ren Xiaosu thought that since Hu Shuo and Li Shentan were plotting something major, they would definitely be more than OK to help him resolve a small matter like this. If that were the case, he might as well just pass the buck since he could do it.

Tonight’s turn of events upset the nanosoldier. He felt that he had to give it more careful thought.

A captain of the Office of Special Investigations telling everyone to go to the FOB to eat in order to flush out the Qing Consortium’s spy?

That didn’t make any fucking sense!

The Office of Special Investigations was a military unit that even the Divine Arms Battalion was afraid of. After all, not even the Divine Arms Battalion was confident enough to proclaim that no spy could infiltrate their ranks.

Meanwhile, espionage was one of the most serious crimes that could happen in wartime.

 

 



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The First Order – Chapter 242


Chapter 242 Triple identity, Ren Xiaosu!

When the silvery strands appeared on the officer, the Iron Second Battalion’s commander, Liu Taiyu, froze. He lowered his head and did not dare to refute him further. Because he knew this was the most elite unit of the Li Consortium. They were the nanosoldiers of the organization!

The Li Consortium’s main battlefield was divided into two areas, with one at the front line at Mt. Fengyi facing the Qing Consortium, and the other at the front line at Mt. Ping facing the Yang Consortium. The distance between the two battlefields was several hundred kilometers.

Liu Taiyu received news earlier that those nanosoldiers were already heading towards Mt. Ping because the Yang Consortium was the Li Consortium’s main opponent, while the Qing Consortium was just here to take advantage of the situation. However, Liu Taiyu was not expecting the nanosoldiers to appear here.

Did they intend to catch the Qing Consortium off guard? Was that why the organization had even withheld this information internally?

Liu Taiyu grew cold with fear when he realized the situation was worse than he had expected. The front line at Mt. Fengyi where he was being deployed to would definitely end up as ground zero for this war!

But how could the nanosoldiers not have their own vehicles? The nanosoldiers were always given the best equipment. They did not even need to take military transport trucks as they were all issued with off-road vehicles.

Liu Taiyu asked in a whisper, “Sir, where are your vehicles?” While saying that, he took a look at the officer’s shoulder patch that displayed the words “Divine Arms Battalion.” There was also the white logo of a nanospider on it.

This was the legendary Divine Arms Battalion of the Li Consortium.

The Divine Arms officer looked at Liu Taiyu out of the corner of his eye and said, “Our vehicles are parked right up ahead. I want your soldiers to get out of the trucks and take our off-road vehicles instead. On top of that, have all your private troops take off their uniforms.”

“We’ll freeze to death if we take off our clothes in this cold weather,” Liu Taiyu said anxiously.

In response, the officer of the Divine Arms Battalion lunged over and punched Liu Taiyu in the abdomen. He left Liu Taiyu in such pain that he laid on the ground in the fetal position and could not even make a sound!

The Divine Arms officer said calmly, “Why must you speak so much?”

The truck Ren Xiaosu’s platoon was in was the closest to the Divine Arms officers, so he could hear their entire conversation. When the officer said they wanted the private troops to take off their uniforms, Ren Xiaosu realized these nanosoldiers might be planning to pose as private troops on the march.

The Li Consortium’s nanotechnology had always been the subject of much attention. Now that it had been fully put into practical use on the battlefield, it would definitely be regarded as a great threat by the Qing Consortium and the Yang Consortium.

The Li Consortium knew there were spies in their military. Therefore, the Divine Arms Battalion would have to hide their whereabouts if they wanted to spring a surprise on the Qing Consortium.

As the soldiers of the Divine Arms Battalion walked over to the trucks, the lead soldier shouted to Ren Xiaosu and his platoon, “Get out here and change out of your uniforms—” The person speaking froze when he realized Ren Xiaosu and his platoon were not in uniform.

Ren Xiaosu was amused. Wasn’t this such a coincidence? They had not even been issued with uniforms.

The Divine Arms officer wondered, “Where are your uniforms?”

Disgruntled, Ren Xiaosu explained, “We were never issued with uniforms. Not only that, we weren’t even equipped with guns.”

The Divine Arms officers were stunned for a while. Since they did not have much contact with the private troops before, this problem never once crossed their minds!

The officer who beat up Liu Taiyu got so angry he laughed. He looked at Liu Taiyu, who was lying on the ground, and said, “Aren’t you too rampant with your embezzlement of their pay and equipment?! Do you think our Li Consortium is raising you all as parasites?” He then angrily kicked Liu Taiyu’s head so hard that Liu Taiyu fainted.

To be honest, this commander of the Divine Arms Battalion believed his plan was well thought out. They would first pretend to be private troops and get close to the battlefield while avoiding the spies’ attention. Afterwards, they would head into the mountains and flank the Qing Consortium to deal them the fatal blow.

The fitness of these nanosoldiers was fantastic, and they could take routes that normal soldiers couldn’t. So they could reach places the Qing Consortium wouldn’t expect.

This plan was also approved of by Headquarters. They felt that everyone would think they would target the Yang Consortium now, so sneak attacking the Qing Consortium would catch them by surprise and lead to a victory.

If any weak points appeared in the Qing Consortium, the Yang Consortium would also be very happy to seize any gains from them.

Ultimately, the reason for the war between the three organizations was mainly influence. Whoever became the weakest link on the battlefield first would definitely end up facing the most violent attacks from the other sides.

So even though this plan was not considered perfect, it was still a great plan. But the Divine Arms officer never expected their plan would be screwed up right off the bat.

By looking at their uniforms, everyone could tell they were from the Divine Arms Battalion. Even if they drove the private troops’ vehicles, they would not be able to hide that fact from the more observant people.

“What do we do now then?” one of the officers of the Divine Arms Battalion asked.

The commander of the Divine Arms Battalion clenched his teeth and said, “Let’s put on their civilian clothes and have them wear our uniforms instead. Let them continue advancing to the front line at Mt. Fengyi and have the enemy’s spies in our military focus on them.”

Ren Xiaosu’s eyes lit up. At this moment, he was considered to be holding three different identities—that of a private soldier, a member of the Office of Special Investigations, and a member of the Divine Arms Battalion-all at the same time! However, Ren Xiaosu was not afraid of taking on too many identities. After all, it would be easier for him to get things done with these identities.

When the Divine Arms soldiers slapped Liu Taiyu awake, one of them whispered to him, “Continue marching to the front line at Mt. Fengyi and get there within ten days. If you don’t get there in ten days, you’ll be brought in for a court martial. I’ll send five nanosoldiers with you, so don’t try any tricks.”

The commander of the Divine Arms Battalion even placed an electronic ankle monitor on Liu Taiyu. A red light was flashing on the shackle, and it seemed like it would be used for tracking Liu Taiyu’s location. But its functionality was probably not just as simple as tracking him. Why else would they rest easy that Liu Taiyu would carry out their orders accordingly?

They not only had surveillance equipment on him, but also sent their nanosoldiers to follow the private troops as they headed to the front line at Mt. Fengyi together. This could be considered as a dual-layered security measure for the plan.

The Divine Arms Battalion’s decision to temporarily take over the role of the private troops was also a part of the plan. Everyone in the organization knew what the private troops’ behavior was like, so most people would not generally care to plant spies within the private troops.

Besides, even if they were to abruptly disrupt the battle plans of a battalion of private troops, it would have little impact on the big picture.

The commander of the Divine Arms Battalion said coldly, “All of you will camp here for the day before setting off again tomorrow.”

However, Ren Xiaosu was very curious. This group of people in front of him were definitely not the entire strength of the Divine Arms Battalion. After all, he had not even seen Lin Qi and that Captain Zhou around. He wondered if there would be a chance to collect some more of the nanomachines.

At this moment, Li Qingzheng asked, “So are we going to change into the uniform of the Divine Arms?”

Ren Xiaosu nodded. “It’s a good thing.”

Li Qingzheng saw the enthusiastic look in Ren Xiaosu’s eyes. “Xiaosu, did you think of a plan? Tell us about it.”

“After we change into the uniform of the Divine Arms,” Ren Xiaosu said, “let’s first go back to the FOB that we just left from and have a good meal there!”

Everyone was shocked. So the first thing to do after changing into the uniform of the Divine Arms Battalion was to return to the forward operating base to steal their meals?!

Li Qingzheng realized that no matter what identity Ren Xiaosu was given, he could always make use of them like it was fully within his rights to do so…



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The First Order – Chapter 137


Qing Zhen had not expected he would miss Xu Xianchu by such a narrow window, having just returned later by a moment.

However, he was not someone to dwell on such matters. Since he had missed his chance to get him, there was no point in regretting it.

“Let’s enter the stronghold,” Qing Zhen said calmly. Actually, what he should be most concerned about was not Xu Xianchu, but how the old fogeys from the Qing Consortium were going to punish him. Or rather, how they were intending to usurp his authority.

A lot of people in the outside world thought the Qing Consortium was helmed by Qing Zhen. But in actual fact, he only controlled a portion of the military.

Because the consortium’s external affairs were mainly handled by Qing Zhen, outsiders thought that Qing Zhen was very influential within the Qing Consortium.

Only Qing Zhen himself knew that the old fogeys in the consortium never trusted him. With batches and batches of the organization’s Shadows constantly getting replaced, the “face” of the Qing Consortium was the only thing that mattered to the old fogeys.

A saying that had circulated from the Qing Consortium went: “Violence is only a means to maintain order; it can never be order itself.”

In short, a Shadow should stay hidden instead of coming into the open.

With Qing Zhen stealing all the limelight after his confrontation with the Pyro Company, and the old fogeys of the consortium long wanting to suppress his arrogance, they turned to placing him under house arrest and relieving him of all his authority.

Xu Man whispered, “Boss, we’re going to report to the War Department tomorrow. All of our men will probably get separated and assigned to the other forces.”

“OK.” Qing Zhen nodded nonchalantly. “Go ahead.”

“Do you have any words you want me to tell the others?” Xu Man asked, “Why don’t you step out of the car to say a few words to the men? Or we can go with you to wander the wilderness? There are so many of us, and we even have guns too, so we can do anything that we want.”

Qing Zhen chuckled and shook his head. “Many of them are waiting to be reunited with their wives and children back home. But you want to tell them to go back to the wilderness and try to survive there instead?”

“They’d be willing,” Xu Man said.

Qing Zhen opened the car door. The moment he came out, all the soldiers inside the military transport trucks behind him also alighted from their vehicles. The town was suddenly overcrowded with several thousand soldiers, resulting in all of the refugees running away in panic.

“Gentlemen,” Qing Zhen said calmly as he looked at the soldiers in front of him, “after you get assigned to other forces, perform your best and don’t embarrass me.”

Once Qing Zhen finished, several thousand soldiers straightened their backs and answered in unison, “Yes, sir!”

The soldiers understood the fate awaiting them.

“Back into the vehicles!” Qing Zhen then got into his car nonchalantly.

The garrison standing on the ramparts was a little startled after witnessing this scene. It seemed like none of the Qing Consortium’s troop commanders were anywhere near as influential as Qing Zhen.

After entering the stronghold, Qing Zhen returned to his residential villa. He took a shower and then put on a new white suit. He had someone burn his old suit.

As soon as Qing Zhen’s group entered the stronghold, some of the Qing Consortium’s big shots eagerly took over his operational command. The several thousand-strong troops were divvied up as they got assigned to the forces under the different big shots based on a list. The soldiers under Qing Zhen’s command were all brave veterans. Now that the big shots had a chance to take command of a portion of these troops, no one was willing to let this chance slip away.

But it seemed that Qing Zhen did not mind at all.

After his shower, Qing Zhen came out of the villa’s front door. His personal car that had been parked at the door was gone. He smiled. “They even took the car away.”

He headed outside. But the two soldiers on guard duty looked at him awkwardly and said, “Boss Qing Zhen, you can’t leave the house. Please don’t make it difficult for us.”

Qing Zhen raised his eyebrows. “The old fogeys only said that I’m not allowed out of Stronghold 111. When did they say that I can’t even step out of the house? Is someone making things up? Don’t worry, I’m just going out to listen to some singing. Who in Stronghold 111 doesn’t know that I like listening to singing?”

The two soldiers looked at each other. How could he be in the mood to listen to singing at a time like this? Could it be that the renowned Boss Qing Zhen wasn’t worried about his own situation? But the soldiers still did not step aside for him.

Qing Zhen did not say anything. Then, a bullet came from nowhere and hit the flagstone pavement in front of the two soldiers. There was a hidden sniper nearby protecting Qing Zhen!

The two soldiers knew the sniper had shown them mercy. Even if the sniper had shot them dead, the Board would not impose a heavier punishment on Qing Zhen over such a small matter.

No one would want to cause any more trouble during the handing over of command of the combat troops!

Qing Zhen was still looking calmly at the two soldiers when they decided to step back. “Thank you, Boss Qing Zhen, for showing mercy to us.”

“Alright, don’t worry, no one will make things difficult for you two.” Qing Zhen chuckled and walked out.

The two soldiers couldn’t help wondering about this as Qing Zhen left them. Everyone had heard he kept a lot of trump cards around him, but no one expected it to be true.

But didn’t the Board usurp Qing Zhen’s authority? How could anyone still be willing to follow someone who had fallen out of favor with the consortium?

They heard Qing Zhen humming happily as he headed towards the prosperous part of the city. One of the soldiers asked as Qing Zhen walked away, “What is Boss Qing Zhen singing?”

“I don’t know. We don’t even have the money to go and listen to concerts.” The other soldier was unsure about what song it was.

In the evening, Qing Zhen sat down alone inside a theater. Everyone else had left the place as they feared he was poison. Only Qing Zhen was watching the performances as the performers on stage rotated.

He leaned his head against one of his hands. The more alcohol he drank, the clearer his vision became.

In this theater, there was only a sweet and sorrowful voice drifting up to the neon lights.

“A posthouse, a crossroads, how many officials go north and south every day?

“Promotion brings untold joy; demotion sends one home in silence.

“Fame and fortune have always been fleeting. Life keeps flowing and growing….”

At this moment, someone walked up from behind him and said, “Qing Zhen, the Board has something to discuss with you. They’re requesting you attend the meeting.”

Qing Zhen smiled. “Tell them I’m not going.”

On his way back from the jewelry shop, Ren Xiaosu thought about his future plans. Now that he couldn’t sell the gold in his possession and might even get targeted by others at any moment, he was starting to worry that he couldn’t exchange them for cash.

Initially, Ren Xiaosu was not enthusiastic about opening the shop because he still had gold. But now, he had to reconsider opening the shop to do business again. He couldn’t possibly expect to live on the subsidies given by the school to students, right?

Should he sell the black medicine? Ren Xiaosu didn’t want to do that. After all, it was more difficult to earn gratitude tokens than money.

As he walked, he suddenly realized he was back at the shop when he finally looked up. But the moment he came into the shop, he saw Wang Fugui acting suspiciously as he promoted something to a man.

When Ren Xiaosu got closer, he was surprised to see it was the black medicine being promoted.

From Wang Fugui’s expression, it was obvious he was not explaining the proper use of the black medicine. Moreover, the middle-aged man had an indecent look about him.

Ren Xiaosu felt sad. Was he destined to be a drug dealer forever?!



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