The First Order – Chapter 586


Chapter 586 Li Shentan“s awful hobby

Zhou Yingxue looked at Li Shentan’s retreating figure and asked, “Master, who is he?”

“Li Shentan,” Ren Xiaosu said calmly.

“Sounds familiar, but I can’t remember who that is,” Zhou Yingxue said as she thought hard.

“The Demon Whisperer.” Ren Xiaosu looked at the gold left behind on the lawn. In the end, he still took the gold and put it into his storage space.

When Zhou Yingxue heard the mention of the “Demon Whisperer,” she froze. “Master, so he’s the Demon Whisperer? He’s actually quite good-looking. He doesn’t at all look like the demons that are told in the legends. But wow, for a person like Li Shentan to gift you gold, Master, you must be so amazing.”

Ren Xiaosu shot a look at Zhou Yingxue. He was already feeling a little numb towards her frequent flattering.

In the dark of the night, Li Shentan carried the roasted sweet potatoes he had just bought and jogged all the way back to the little courtyard house he was staying at with Si Liren. At this moment, the young Si Liren was still reading her novel with relish.

Li Shentan grumbled, “I bought these sweet potatoes for you from such a faraway place. Shouldn’t you at least thank me for them? To prevent the sweet potatoes from getting cold, I even ran all the way back here!”

Si Liren put down her book and said with a smile, “Thank you, Big Brother Shentan!” She took the sweet potatoes from Li Shentan’s hands. Then she looked at him and wondered, “Big Bro, why do you look so happy?”

“I saw Ren Xiaosu.” Li Shentan said with a smile.

Si Liren pouted. “What’s there to be happy about seeing him?”

“I told him to go to Qinghe University.” Li Shentan looked very excited. “But I didn’t tell him for what!”

“And then?” Si Liren was puzzled.

“Think about it. If he brings his maid to Qinghe University without knowing who’s there, how interesting would it be if he happens to bump into Yang Xiaojin! That’ll be so fun!” Li Shentan’s eyes glimmered as he spoke.

Si Liren had been catching up on a lot of romance novels recently. When she heard what Li Shentan said, she got interested as well. “After that, Yang Xiaojin and Ren Xiaosu will turn on each other and a deadly pursuit begins in Luoyang City. When the sound of the sniper rifle rings out, Zhou Yingxue will be the first to slump to the ground?”

Li Shentan did not know whether to laugh or cry. “There’s no need for a deadly pursuit, right?”

“Aren’t all the female leads’ scenes written like this?” Si Liren muttered. “When will he be going to Qinghe University?”

“It’s late today, so I suppose he’ll go tomorrow,” Li Shentan guessed.

“Then let’s go and have a look too.” Si Liren blinked innocently.

Li Shentan thought for a moment and said, “They might not get to see each other. After all, Qinghe University is quite big, so the chances of them bumping into each other will be quite low.”

“Then let’s treat it like we’re going out for a walk.” Si Liren said, “I haven’t been to Qinghe University before.”

“What if I get recognized by the university students? I’m also very famous now, so a lot of girls will come asking for my autograph,” Li Shentan said hesitantly.

Si Liren’s eyes widened. “You’re even starting to get burdened like a celebrity now?”

After Ren Xiaosu returned to the hotel, he did not sleep at all. The words Li Shentan had said to him kept ringing in his head. “Make a trip to Qinghe University. There could be a reward waiting for you there.”

What was this reward about?

Due to a lack of information, Ren Xiaosu could not make any guesses.

These words seemed to have a hold on him, so when Ren Xiaosu woke up the next morning, he knocked on Zhou Yingxue’s door and said he would be making a trip to Qinghe University. He told Zhou Yingxue she did not have to follow him and could continue sleeping.

But in the end, Zhou Yingxue got ready within two minutes and said she wanted to go and have a look as well since she had not been to Qinghe University before.

After breakfast, the two of them headed straight for Qinghe University. Old Li and Qin Sheng appeared at the hotel again and headed straight for Ren Xiaosu’s room.

But they still found nothing this time. They did not even manage to find a trace of dead skin, much less hair!

Old Li wondered, “Could that kid be bald? Maybe he’s been wearing a wig all this while?”

He and Qin Sheng were left looking at each other, lost. Qin Sheng said, “It could also be that he’s quite cautious. He might have purposely swept up his hair like many hitmen do. They never leave behind any traces.”

“Perhaps.” Old Li said helplessly, “Let’s go look for them and see if we can find anything out from them again. That Zhang Qingxi has pushed this matter entirely onto us, and the others are also quite concerned about it, so we have to get to the bottom of things.”

Ren Xiaosu and Zhou Yingxue had already walked through the school gate of Qinghe University. No one stopped them from entering. This was unlike the universities of the other consortiums where they were completely off limits to outsiders. If anyone wanted to enter the campus, they would have to show their ID first. After they got in, they would be subjected to strict, routine checks as well.

Those universities might as well be called institutes of secrets instead!

The young men and women in the university were walking around on campus with relaxed and unrestrained smiles on their faces. There were even couples holding hands and walking past too.

Ren Xiaosu stood on campus and looked at these carefree university students. He suddenly felt that such a life seemed really far away from him.

The students here were dating, playing basketball, and dancing at socials together while he had to flee for his life from the pursuit of the Experimentals. He had even risked his life in the wilderness with the Razor Sharp Company and faced enemies and gunfire at Stronghold 146.

The contrast was like creatures living in two different worlds. But when Ren Xiaosu looked back on his path, he realized there was no turning back for him. It was that chaos that pushed him forward bit by bit.

His life had never given him any choices.

A moment later, Zhou Yingxue said, “Master, look, so many students are running in the same direction. I wonder why they’re hurrying there.”

Ren Xiaosu wondered if this was the “reward” Li Shentan was telling him about.

He said, “Come, let’s go and have a look too.”

However, Ren Xiaosu was a little disappointed when he arrived at the crowded place. He saw a lot of people crowding around a stage, and it looked like a debate was going on. The topic of the debate was whether humans should possess nuclear capabilities or not.

Due to the incident at Stronghold 74, a place like Qinghe University, where many ideological students were gathered, would definitely pay attention to such matters.

The university students on stage all stuck to their arguments, but Ren Xiaosu was not interested in such armchair strategists debating.

Should humans possess nuclear capabilities or not? This was something that not even Ren Xiaosu was sure about. But he knew it was already a thing, and he had also witnessed the power of it from a distance away.

No matter how intense the students debated the subject, nuclear weapons were inevitable.

Zhou Yingxue smiled with great interest and said, “Master, these students look like they’re the same age as you or maybe even be a little older, but they all still feel like children who haven’t yet grown up.”

When Zhou Yingxue said that, she did not lower her voice. Several students nearby turned over and looked at them. Ren Xiaosu flipped up his hood in a bad mood and snapped at Zhou Yingxue, “Will it kill you to speak less? Is this the right time to be flattering me? At least keep your voice down!”

“OK…”



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The First Order – Chapter 585


Chapter 585 Li Shentan“s gift of gold

In the town square, Ren Xiaosu wanted to leave immediately at first. However, the magician’s words made him stop in his tracks. He turned around and saw Li Shentan standing in the crowd with a card deck in his hand. He had suddenly stopped his performance he was putting on.

The crowd around Li Shentan looked at Ren Xiaosu. Meanwhile, Ren Xiaosu casually pulled his hood up so fewer people would remember his appearance.

When Li Shentan saw Ren Xiaosu stop in his tracks, he smiled. “Hang around for a bit and let me finish showing off my magic.”

With that, the crowd turned back to look at Li Shentan. They saw the playing cards in Li Shentan’s right hand suddenly surge into the sky like a water fountain. Although he only had one deck in hand, the cards hovering above everyone’s heads and spinning around in the air enshrouded everyone underneath it.

Slowly, the cards converged like a whirlwind and headed towards Li Shentan.

The crowd let out a cry of surprise. They could no longer tell whether this was a magic trick or a magic spell, nor could they figure out what was causing the cards to spin around like that.

The dazzling whirlwind of cards finally enveloped Li Shentan, and the onlookers could no longer see his figure. All they could see were the cards spinning around rapidly.

Li Shentan, surrounded by countless cards, said with a smile, “Three… two… one!”

As soon as he finished speaking, the whirlwind of cards dropped to the ground. And Li Shentan was nowhere to be seen!

The crowd immediately cheered. They had never seen such amazing magic in their lives before.

Furthermore, everyone witnessed the magician disappearing into thin air despite being in such close proximity!

A girl screamed, “Cool, that was so damn cool! I’ve fallen in love with that magician! This must be real magic, right!”

Li Shentan had been performing magic in Luoyang City for quite some time now. Due to his amazing magic tricks and handsome appearance, many girls had become his fans. Even before night fell, a lot of people would already be waiting in the town square for his performance to start.

Meanwhile, Li Shentan never disappointed his audience either. His magic tricks were never repeated, and the audience could not even tell how he pulled them off.

Ren Xiaosu frowned. Even he was unable to tell how Li Shentan did that.

At this moment, Li Shentan’s laughter pealed from behind him. “How did you like my trick?”

Ren Xiaosu turned around and asked Li Shentan, “How did you do that?”

“It was just misdirection,” Li Shentan said with a humble smile.

But Ren Xiaosu knew it was definitely not as simple as misdirection. He just did not understand why Li Shentan would appear in this place. Moreover, he was clearly a legendary supernatural being, yet he liked doing street magic so much.

Li Shentan glanced at Zhou Yingxue, who was standing next to Ren Xiaosu. However, he did not ask Ren Xiaosu anything. Instead, he seemed to have thought of something and said, “Oh yeah, come with me. I have something I want to give you.”

Then Li Shentan led the way to a small park next to the square. It was where many of the stronghold residents strolled.

Li Shentan was walking at the front and did not seem worried that Ren Xiaosu would just leave.

When they got to a place where there was no one around, Li Shentan took out a black cloth and threw it onto the grass. This action took Ren Xiaosu by surprise. What was Li Shentan up to?

Li Shentan looked at Ren Xiaosu and said with a smile, “Let me show you a trick.”

With that, he blew the black cloth before lifting it up again. All of a sudden, a large pile of gold bars were lying on the lawn!

“This is for you.” Li Shentan smiled happily and said, “Do you like it?”

Zhou Yingxue’s eyes widened, but Ren Xiaosu, who had always been greedy, remained still. He only frowned and asked, “What do you want?”

“This was stolen from the Zong Consortium, but I wasn’t the one who robbed them. It was a supernatural being named Wang Congyang who did it,” Li Shentan said with a smile.

“Wang Congyang? Who did he rob?!” Ren Xiaosu suddenly felt like there were some very important details behind this.

“I think it was stolen from a brigade commander of the Zong Consortium. At that time, Wang Congyang drove his little train and knocked over the brigade commander’s vehicle he was using for transporting away his assets. After that, he took half the gold while I took the remaining half. I know you like these things, so I kept it especially for you,” Li Shentan explained with a smile. “I didn’t lay a finger on any of it. The money for our daily expenses is all earned through my magic shows.”

Ren Xiaosu suddenly understood something. Their Razor Sharp Company had once encountered the pursuit of an armored brigade within the Zong Consortium’s territory. No one could understand why the armored brigade did not head to the battlefield at the front line and instead ran back to the Zong Consortium’s territory to chase after them on his steam locomotive.

He realized now he had also taken the blame for Wang Congyang once before.

They were not fucking chasing after him at all. It was just that when the brigade commander saw the steam locomotive, he thought it was Wang Congyang driving it. As such, he pursued Wang Congyang to try to get his assets back!

Ren Xiaosu was speechless. Maybe he should not be using the powers he had copied from others so recklessly.

However, Ren Xiaosu still did not accept the gold bars. To be honest, he did not really want to have any dealings with Li Shentan, because it was extremely dangerous for a normal person to deal with a lunatic. You would not even be able to imagine what the other party might be planning by offering you the gold.

Ren Xiaosu changed the subject and asked, “Where’s that little girl who’s always with you?”

Ren Xiaosu was asking about Si Liren. Didn’t those two used to be inseparable? As he spoke, Ren Xiaosu even looked up into the sky to see if Si Liren was floating in the air again.

Li Shentan explained, “Oh, she’s been really into romance novels recently, so she doesn’t come out anymore.”

“Why did you come to Luoyang City?” Ren Xiaosu asked again.

Li Shentan said with a smile, “Because this place is more suitable for people like me who perform to make a living. Don’t you think the residents of a stronghold like Luoyang City are much ‘livelier’ than the residents of the other strongholds? I feel really stifled when I’m in the other strongholds, like I’m waiting for the consortiums to skin me alive even when I’m sitting at home.”

Zhou Yingxue remained standing behind Ren Xiaosu without saying a word. She knew it was not the time for her to speak. Meanwhile, Ren Xiaosu was watching Li Shentan very carefully. He always had the feeling that Li Shentan’s motives were not that straightforward.

Could Li Shentan have been purposely waiting here for him? But that didn’t make sense either. He had only come to Luoyang City by chance.

Ren Xiaosu then asked, “What are you planning to do in the future? Put on magic shows in Luoyang City?”

“No, no, no.” Li Shentan said with a laugh, “I’m waiting for a miracle to happen.”

It was Li Shentan who ended the conversation first. He said, “It’s getting late. That little girl is still waiting for me to bring home sweet potatoes for her to eat. I’ll leave the gold here. If you want it, you can just take it with you. If you don’t want it, I can’t do anything about that. We’ll definitely meet again. Oh right, I suggest you make a trip to Qinghe University. There could be a reward waiting for you there.”

After that, Li Shentan turned around and left without any hesitation.

His behavior was predicated on his whims.



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The First Order – Chapter 584


Chapter 584 Old friend, Magician Li Shentan!

During this period, too many things had happened in the territory of the Alliance of Strongholds. The war in the Southwest, the war in the Northwest, and the nuclear strike on Stronghold 74.

All of these events left everyone in a panic. While walking the streets of Luoyang City, the chief editor had heard the populace discussing these conflicts. This era was gradually crumbling, as was the order that humanity had recently reestablished.

He had reprimanded that reporter just now for fabricating news in an attempt to make a name for himself. Alright, rather than saying that he fabricated news, it was more of just listening to one side of the story and writing a draft without validating the facts. The headline was also very sensational.

That reporter said the other newspapers were also doing the same as it would help their newspapers to sell better, while the reporters who wrote such articles became well-known quickly.

But just because that was what everyone was doing, should they go with the flow as well? The chief editor would very much prefer to go against the flow!

The chief editor looked at Ren Xiaosu and said, “Alright, this phrase will be published in the papers starting tomorrow. My name is Jiang Xu, pleased to meet you. Or to be precise, I’m pleased I was able to come across a sentence like that.”

Ren Xiaosu did not know whether to laugh or cry. What the other party was trying to say was that he was actually not that interested in Ren Xiaosu.

Ren Xiaosu stood up and got Zhou Yingxue to pay the 400,000 yuan. This sum had already been laundered by Zhou Yingxue, so it would not be traceable by anyone. As for the rest of the money, they would have to make a trip back to the black market before they could spend it, and it just so happened the black market was right next to Luoyang City.

After exiting the headquarters of Hope Media, Zhou Yingxue said excitedly by his side, “Master, that Jiang Xu is a legendary figure. He actually waived 1.6 million yuan in fees because of a statement you made. Master, you’re amazing!”

“That’s enough, there should be a limit to your flattery,” Ren Xiaosu said.

“Alright!”

It was getting late. Ren Xiaosu was leading Zhou Yingxue straight to the hotel in Luoyang City when he suddenly felt some interest in this stronghold city. He decided he would go sightseeing for a day before leaving since it wouldn’t affect his schedule.

They got two rooms, each for one person. The hotel in Luoyang City was as hospitable as the hotel back at the black market. Ren Xiaosu sat by the floor-to-ceiling window in his room and read the newspaper he had swiped from Hope Media’s headquarters earlier. It was today’s newspaper, and Ren Xiaosu thought that since he had already taken out a 400,000 yuan ad placement, taking a copy of their newspaper should not be asking too much, right? He had only taken it as a gift anyway.

The newspaper was still filled with analysis articles about Zhou Consortium’s Stronghold 74. The Zhou Consortium had formed a new rescue team to head to Stronghold 74 to assess the possibility of rebuilding it. If that were not possible, they would have to find a new location to rebuild Stronghold 74.

Other than that, it was the usual articles criticizing the Pyro Company.

The other newspapers had basically forgotten about the Pyro Company. After all, nuclear bombs were the trending topic. However, Hope Media was different. In their articles, they were still hoping the Pyro Company could disclose their research and prove that their current studies did not violate scientific ethics.

The third page covered the Qing Consortium and Luo Lan. The journalist even praised Luo Lan for being bold and daring. But when Ren Xiaosu saw Luo Lan thanking the person who fired the nuclear bomb with tears in his eyes, he nearly laughed out loud. That fatso was way too shameless.

Eventually, Ren Xiaosu flipped to the entertainment section of the newspaper. The biggest news was that Li Ran had returned to Stronghold 61. The fans streamed onto the streets to welcome and greet their idol.

When night fell, Zhou Yingxue suddenly knocked on his door and said she wanted to eat out. Ren Xiaosu put down the newspaper and went out with her.

After Ren Xiaosu walked out of the hotel’s main entrance, Old Li and Qin Sheng suddenly came out of the hotel’s kitchen and went to the hotel’s front desk to ask for Ren Xiaosu’s room key.

The two of them were very cautious. Before they entered the room, they checked if there were any traps left behind by Ren Xiaosu. However, they found nothing.

“Search every corner and see if he left behind any hairs,” Old Li said.

Hair loss was not an exclusive condition suffered by middle-aged men. If Ren Xiaosu had taken a shower in his room, some of his hair would definitely be on the floor.

The two of them put on gloves and searched through the entire room. Unfortunately, they could not find anything at all. Old Li wondered, “He took a shower after checking into the hotel this afternoon, but there isn’t a single strand of hair on the floor of the bathroom. Could he have purposely picked up all his hair?”

Qin Sheng scratched his head. “Or maybe it’s just that the quality of his hair is better? So, what should we do now?”

“What else can we do?” Old Li snapped at him. “We can only come back tomorrow and search again.”

“What if he isn’t the person we’re looking for?” Qin Sheng asked.

“We have nothing to lose anyway.” Old Li said, “We’re just looking for his hair to get it tested so we can make sure.”

“What if he’s the one?” Qin Sheng asked.

“In that case…” Old Li frowned. They still did not know much about that young man, so it was difficult to say if they could accept such an outcome. Old Li sighed and said, “At least he’s still a normal human being. Furthermore, he doesn’t look like a bad person. Although it doesn’t seem like he can fight well, this outcome isn’t too far from what we were expecting.”

On their way here to Luoyang City, even though Old Li and Qin Sheng had chatted a lot with Ren Xiaosu, he looked really skinny and weak to them, and they felt he could not fight well either. Those in the Riders were all powerful superhumans, after all, so would a young man like that really be able to helm the organization? Old Li had some doubts.

As a matter of fact, although the Riders believed in Ren He, they did not necessarily have to acknowledge Ren He’s descendants as their overlords. They still had to see what kind of person Ren He’s descendant was.

For example, Riders like Zhang Qingxi and Wu Dingyuan might look kind, but each of them was more arrogant than the other.

However, Old Li and Qin Sheng did not know what Ren Xiaosu had done in the Northwest and Southwest. There was also the role Ren Xiaosu played in the farce between the Anjing House and the Pyro Company a while ago.

If they knew about all this, they would probably not think that Ren Xiaosu could not fight.

At this moment, Ren Xiaosu did not know what was going on in his room. Two of the famed Riders had sneaked into his room to search for his hair.

The nightlife in Luoyang City was bustling, much more flourishing than Ren Xiaosu had imagined. Not even Stronghold 73, which was built based on the framework of a consortium, could compare to it.

Perhaps, because free trade was allowed in Luoyang City, the industries here were more developed.

Moreover, the Qinghe Group’s ethos was this as well. They encouraged innovation, creative thinking, and were business friendly.

The university here was also allowed much more freedom. It was unlike the other consortiums where all their students had to devote themselves to the organization’s own research. Qinghe University was currently the only university in the entire Alliance of Strongholds that had always offered art subjects.

When Ren Xiaosu arrived at the town square, he even saw some people singing while playing the guitar. He also saw some people putting on a performance arts showcase and painting themselves with extravagant colors all over.

“Master, there’s someone doing magic over there,” Zhou Yingxue suddenly shouted joyfully.

But when Ren Xiaosu turned around and saw the performer, he immediately turned around and left.

The young magician smiled through the crowd and said, “Shouldn’t old friends greet each other when they meet again?”



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The First Order – Chapter 582


582 Destination: Luoyang City

“Old Li, I’ve always been curious about the relationship between the Riders and the Qinghe Group.” Ren Xiaosu asked as they were leaving Stronghold 73, “The world says that the Riders are part of the Qinghe Group, but I feel that y’all are more like free agents?”

After the Zhou Consortium troops took in the escapees, Ren Xiaosu, Zhou Yingxue, Li Yingyun, and Qin Sheng left the group together. All of them did not really want to have any interaction with the Zhou Consortium troops, let alone be put through radiation tests.

Since Ren Xiaosu still had some matters to attend to at Hope Media in Luoyang City, the four of them decided to travel together.

Old Li replied to Ren Xiaosu’s question, “Actually, it isn’t really a secret, so it doesn’t matter even if I tell you about it. Before The Cataclysm, the Riders and the Qinghe Group were only working under the same boss. Both parties did not have any relation to the other and they were more like two peer institutions. Later on, when The Cataclysm happened, the Riders helped the founder of the organization save the Qinghe Group. As such, the relationship between the two organizations became very close. Before that, both parties rarely interacted with each other.”

“I see.” Ren Xiaosu nodded.

Then Old Li sighed and said, “Back then, our predecessors died and got wounded just so they could protect the foundation of the Qinghe Group. Now that the Qing Consortium has achieved nuclear capability again, who knows when an apocalypse will once again befall humanity.”

However, Ren Xiaosu shook his head. “I don’t see it that way. I still feel that it depends on who uses the weapons. Based on my understanding of Qing Zhen and Luo Lan, they wouldn’t abuse such weapons.”

“Oh?” Old Li looked at Ren Xiaosu in surprise. “Brother Xiaosu, are you very familiar with the heroic duo of the Qing Consortium?”

Ren Xiaosu did not know whether to laugh or cry. What the hell was with that corny nickname?! The heroic duo of the Qing Consortium? He said, “I used to live in the Southwest but was forced to come to the Central Plains because of the Experimental invasion. I’ve interacted with Qing Zhen and Luo Lan before. While I don’t think that they’re good people, they’re definitely not bad people either, so I ask that the Riders please not judge them with any bias.”

Ren Xiaosu’s relationship with Luo Lan could be considered quite good. So he was very willing to speak up for the Qing Consortium so they could have fewer enemies.

However, as Old Li was listening to him, he suddenly realized something else. He already knew that Ren Xiaosu’s name only had a character’s difference from Ren Xiaobei. Moreover, the young man beside him was also a supernatural being and looked very powerful as well.

Previously, Old Li did not think too deeply into it. This was because he felt that even if that Rider’s heir had managed to live a long life, he should now be very old. At the least, he would appear as a middle-aged man, so he did not put too much thought into Ren Xiaosu.

But now, when he heard that Ren Xiaosu was also from the Southwest, he could not help having second thoughts about his identity. Old Li discreetly sized up Ren Xiaosu and thought, ‘Hmm, he’s rather handsome too…’

Could this be the person the Riders and the Experimentals were looking for?!

However, Old Li did not really say much and just kept the matter to himself. They would be seeing each other at Luoyang City anyway, so Old Li would have to ponder over the details first.

Ren Xiaosu casually asked, “I heard that the Qinghe Group is now under the control of the Xu clan. The Xu clan also said that they’re only managing the organization on behalf of the major shareholder. Could the Xu clan really be so impartial and have no selfish motives?”

“I don’t know about others,” Old Li’s thoughts got interrupted as he replied, “but in the Xu clan, Xu Ke’s family is a very honorable one. They’ve never hankered for something that doesn’t belong to them. However, it’s harder to speak for the other members of the Xu clan. Although the organization’s caretaker role has been passed down through Xu Ke’s family for three generations, he still has other relatives who aren’t satisfied with the status quo. Never mind, why am I telling you all this?”

Ren Xiaosu realized there were also conflicts at play within the Qinghe Group.

When they arrived at Luoyang City, Ren Xiaosu and Zhou Yingxue got registered at the gate before they were allowed into the stronghold. Due to the Riders accompanying them, everything proceeded very smoothly.

But when Ren Xiaosu saw a lot of people going in and out of Luoyang City, he asked Old Li, “These people look like refugees. Are they allowed to enter and exit as they please?”

“Oh, about that,” Old Li smiled and said, “Many of them hold work or trader visas in the stronghold, so they can go in and out of the stronghold at any time as long as their papers are valid. Of course, they still have to leave before the gate closes at 10 PM nightly. Only those with student passes can stay in the stronghold until they complete their studies. After they graduate successfully, they can directly apply for residential ID cards and settle down in the stronghold.”

Ren Xiaosu thought this was a rather novel practice. “How many young people from the other strongholds come here to take the college entrance exam? Can refugees take the exam as well?”

“Of course they can. The refugees are also allowed to attend university. Besides, Qinghe University has also specifically set aside some enrollment spots for the refugees. This is to encourage them to make use of their knowledge so they may change their fate. As long as they can get into the university, they have a chance of becoming stronghold residents,” Qin Sheng explained. “Thus, supplementary classes are held outside Luoyang City as well. Some of the teachers in the stronghold love going into town to earn the extra income. This can also be considered a unique industry that can only be found in Luoyang City.”

Ren Xiaosu nodded. So the refugees were also given a chance to improve their lives. Although it was a difficult path to take, it was still enough to give the refugees some hope.

Qin Sheng looked at Ren Xiaosu and continued, “We wanted to open up the stronghold in the past, but you also know that this’ll only make us enemies of the other consortiums. As such, we can only do it this way.”

“I understand.” Ren Xiaosu nodded. In this era, anyone who dared to stand out from others would definitely need the courage to do so. It was already difficult for the Qinghe Group to want to create a path for the refugees to climb, so what more could others ask of them?

Qin Sheng continued, “But even so, a lot of consortiums are still unhappy about it. They often send representatives to come and hold discussions with the Qinghe Group. They hope we can be like the other consortiums and forbid refugees from entering the stronghold.”

As they spoke, they stepped into the stronghold. The Qinghe Group’s vehicles were already waiting on the other side of the gate. Old Li had a car deliver Ren Xiaosu and Zhou Yingxue to the building of Hope Media’s headquarters. Meanwhile, they rushed off to join up with the other Riders for a meeting.

This was an internal meeting for the Riders. Too many things had happened recently, and some of them were related to their own group, so they had to quickly hold a meeting to reach a conclusion.

After bidding each other farewell, their journey together ended as they parted ways.

Upon arriving at Hope Media’s headquarters, Ren Xiaosu got out of the car and had a look. The building was a little run-down and far from the grand appearances of the other buildings in the stronghold.

It was hard to imagine this was actually the headquarters of the famous Hope Media.

Ren Xiaosu explained to the security guard at the door that he was here to place an advertisement in the newspaper. Almost immediately, an employee from the business department came out to receive him.

This staff member was not old and was probably around the same age as Zhou Yingxue. The person smiled and said, “Which company are you two from? What is it that you’d like to advertise with us? And what ad size are you looking to place?”



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The First Order – Chapter 583


Chapter 583 The weight of a few words

The business department employee welcomed the two of them into the building. “Let me introduce myself. My name is Ying Yuzheng, the supervisor of the Business Department. Let’s head upstairs to talk.”

After Ren Xiaosu walked into the building, he made an observation of the internal operations of Hope Media. The staff were walking around without any particularly tight security in place like it was just a normal office building.

Importantly, Hope Media supposedly made many enemies over the years and offended countless organizations. Shouldn’t a company like this be more careful?

When they arrived on the seventh floor, Ren Xiaosu heard a loud, clear voice lecturing someone the moment he stepped out of the elevator.

An old man holding a cane was saying to a young man, “We journalists need to respect the truth. Don’t you know what was wrong with the draft you submitted yesterday? Have you investigated the source or verified the facts? It’s absolutely unacceptable to write an article based on your own assumptions in order to attract the attention of readers! Every newspaper that goes out from here must report the facts. When people pick up a copy of today’s newspaper from Hope Media in the future, they’ll immediately learn about what truly happened today. That’s what our job’s about!”

The young reporter said, “But the other newspapers—”

“Others are others, Hope Media is Hope Media!” The old man holding a cane said, “Don’t forget, what was your intention when you first entered the industry? Was it for fame and fortune? If you want fame and fortune, I’ll write a recommendation letter for you to go work at Qinghe Group! We at Hope Media must always respect the truth and record history factually!”

The young reporter stopped talking.

Ying Yuzheng said to Ren Xiaosu and Zhou Yingxue with a smile, “I’m sorry you had to see that. Our chief editor has a short temper. This way please.”

He brought Ren Xiaosu and Zhou Yingxue into a meeting room where Ren Xiaosu saw some large red words written on the wall: “Seek truth from fact.”

Ren Xiaosu did not think there was anything wrong with the chief editor’s anger towards the reporter. In fact, it made him trust Hope Media more.

Ying Yuzheng sat on the opposite side at the conference table and asked warmly, “What sort of advertisement are you two looking to place?”

“It’s very simple.” Ren Xiaosu smiled and took out a piece of paper to explain, “I only need this to be published at the bottom of the fifth page. The ad will take up a quarter of the page.”

Ying Yuzheng took the note from him. There were only two sentences written on it. “Don’t let the sorrows of our era become your sorrow as well.”

The second sentence was: “61.”

This was the solution Ren Xiaosu had thought of. Since Hope Media’s newspaper circulation spread across the Central Plains, then if Old Wang were also in the Central Plains, he would definitely read such an influential newspaper to keep up with the current affairs.

Wang Fugui might not look like a very serious person, but actually, he was really meticulous and dependable. In the past, when Ren Xiaosu was still living in town, he would often see Wang Fugui reading the official newspaper of the Qing Consortium when he went to his grocery store. His reason for doing so was so that he could keep up with recent happenings and not be out of touch with the times.

Thus, Ren Xiaosu thought of placing an advertisement in Hope Media’s newspaper. Be it Yan Liuyuan or Wang Fugui, they would surely link it to him if they saw the message.

He had said these words to Yan Liuyuan in front of Old Wang. Xiaoyu would even occasionally bring it up in the presence of others, so it was a very iconic statement.

Meanwhile, the “61” below that statement was to indicate that he was going to settle down at Stronghold 61 soon. If Old Wang and the others saw it, they should go to Stronghold 61 to look for him.

This hint was not exactly obscure, but only Old Wang and Yan Liuyuan would know what it meant.

Ying Yuzheng looked at the note and wondered, “You’re just gonna advertise this?”

Usually, those who approached Hope Media to publish their advertisements would do so to promote their businesses, such as selling clothes or cosmetics. As for the advertisement that Ren Xiaosu was looking to place, it did not seem to serve any purpose at all.

Could it be that he was a spy from some organization using the advertisement to transmit an encrypted message? Ying Yuzheng was a little hesitant. This was something Hope Media frequently encountered. For example, the Riders’ earliest form of contact was through the use of Hope Media’s newspaper to transmit their messages. If they decrypted the messages with their key, they could get the information they wanted.

However, no spy would be so attention seeking as to advertise on the fifth page of the newspaper. The first four pages did not accept any advertisement placements, while advertising on the fifth page would be extremely expensive.

Ying Yuzheng looked at Ren Xiaosu and said, “May I know the purpose of this advertisement?”

Ren Xiaosu smiled and said, “Just take it that I’m spreading a positive message.”

“What does this ’61’ mean?” Ying Yuzheng asked.

“Oh, 61 refers to Children’s Day. I would like to wish everyone a happy Children’s Day in advance,” Ren Xiaosu explained without batting an eyelid.

Like hell Ying Yuzheng would believe that! It was still a long way to Children’s Day! He patiently said, “Sir, it’s November right now.”

“Mhm, we want the advertisement to be placed until June 1st of next year.” Ren Xiaosu smiled and said, “How much would that cost?”

This shocked Ying Yuzheng. Beside Ren Xiaosu, Zhou Yingxue could feel her heart aching. How much would it cost to have this quarter-page advertisement running for more than half a year?!

Ying Yuzheng did a rough calculation before saying to Ren Xiaosu, “Sorry, this account is a little too big for me to handle. I can’t make the decision, so please wait a moment.”

Just the advertising fee alone would come up to over two million yuan. Furthermore, he could not figure out Ren Xiaosu and Zhou Yingxue’s intentions for this advertisement.

Not long after Ying Yuzheng excused himself, Ren Xiaosu again heard the sound of a cane tapping on the ground outside the door. Right after, the chief editor pushed open the door and entered. The man’s gray hair was neatly combed, and he was wearing a black tunic suit. He looked very spirited.

The chief editor came to the conference table and picked up the note. He asked, “Is this the advertisement our two guests want to place in our newspaper?”

Ying Yuzheng said, “Yes.”

The chief editor was stunned when he saw the note. He could not help but mutter, “Don’t let the sorrows of our era become your sorrow as well….”

He looked up at Ren Xiaosu. “Who made this statement?”

“I did,” Ren Xiaosu said.

“Why did you say it?” The chief editor continued asking.

“Because I wanted to caution my younger brother not to be influenced by the sentiments of this era.” Ren Xiaosu said in a serious tone, “I just feel that I should be sharing this with more people by publishing it in the newspaper.”

The chief editor laughed. He was not going to be taken in by Ren Xiaosu’s nonsensical reason. However, he fell in love with the statement at the first instance.

The chief editor held the note in his hand and looked at it for a long time before saying, “You can just pay 20% of the fees. 400,000 yuan will be the advertising cost for the word ’61’ while the rest can be waived. I won’t ask you the reason for placing this ad, and I’ll have it published until June 1st of next year.”

Ying Yuzheng, who was standing off to the side, was stunned. A total of 1.6 million yuan was waived just like that!

Ren Xiaosu was also puzzled. “Why are you doing this?”

The chief editor waved the note in his hand and said, “This sentence alone is worth that much.”

Ren Xiaosu was moved. So it turned out there were still people in this era who valued a sentence that much.



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The First Order – Chapter 580


Chapter 580 Me too

By this time, Ren Xiaosu and the others had set off again. They were advancing in the direction of Stronghold 73. Without the threat of the Experimentals behind them, their escape this time was not that tense.
At night, Zhou Yingxue took Li Ran aside, and they spent half the night chatting away. It seemed that Li Ran had a lot to say to Zhou Yingxue due to the setback she had suffered and was in a bit of a vulnerable state.

She told her about her past, from her kindergarten days to her high school graduation, why she became a singer, and the difficulties she faced as a singer. She seemed to be regarding Zhou Yingxue as a confidante now.

Meanwhile, Zhou Yingxue was listening with gusto and even asked Li Ran if she had a chance of making her debut.

In the morning, Ren Xiaosu realized that the plainclothes guards had become unwilling to carry Li Ran anymore. Instead, it was Zhou Yingxue who carried her.

After this disaster, Li Ran decided to cancel her concert tour. Therefore, this meant Zhou Yingxue’s mission was completed.

When Li Ran informed the Anjing House about the completion of the mission, Zhou Yingxue received her reward shortly after.

However, after the Anjing House paid the reward, they hoped to get some detailed information from Zhou Yingxue in regards to Stronghold 74. They wanted to know what exactly happened there.

Zhou Yingxue looked at Ren Xiaosu. “Can we tell them about it, Master?

Li Ran listened quietly but did not say anything. Ren Xiaosu thought for a moment and said, “If we can earn some money from this, why not? It wasn’t us who blew Stronghold 74 up, anyway!”

So Zhou Yingxue conveyed the details of Stronghold 74 being destroyed by a nuclear bomb to the Anjing House and received another million yuan in return.

Ren Xiaosu thought the Anjing House must be really rich since they were actually willing to pay a million yuan for just some intel.

As a matter of fact, Hope Media would publish the entire story of everything that happened at Stronghold 74 very soon. This money was totally theirs for the taking.

While they were escaping, the reporter from Hope Media kept running back and forth within the group. After getting the consent of an escapee, he took a picture of them as they were fleeing to use as a featured image for his articles in the future.

At a time like this, Ren Xiaosu avoided all contact with the reporter. He initially felt it would surely be easier for him to find his family and friends if he appeared in the newspapers, but it would probably also put him in danger.

Old Li ran over to ask Ren Xiaosu if he was the one who caused that small mushroom cloud to appear inside the stronghold. He had seen Ren Xiaosu casually blow up the stronghold walls. Although he did not know how that happened, he got a rather strong impression of it.

Moreover, that mushroom cloud was obviously the doing of a supernatural being. Hence, Old Li linked it to Ren Xiaosu.

Having met once before, the two Riders and Ren Xiaosu chatted for quite a bit along the way. They got to know each other.

But when Old Li asked him about that mushroom cloud, Ren Xiaosu simply feigned ignorance. How could he let others learn about his trump card so easily?

Although he had become more familiar with the Riders, there was no need to reveal everything to them.

On the same afternoon, the escapees were finally able to meet up with the Zhou Consortium’s reinforcements.

When everyone saw the Zhou Consortium troops, they felt like they had reunited with their family members. The Zhou Consortium troops did not disappoint the escapees either, and they immediately transported them away in their military trucks.

The rest of the Zhou Consortium troops continued to advance towards Stronghold 74. After being informed that a nuclear bomb had been dropped on Stronghold 74, they did not head directly to the battlefield. Instead, they slowed their pace and waited for troops from the rear to transport the CBRN[1] suits over.

The escapees rushed for the combat rations the Zhou Consortium troops were giving out from the vehicles. As they had been starving for so long, they were really unable to bear it anymore.

Suddenly, Li Ran looked at Fang Zhi in the truck and asked, “Where are Ren Xiaosu and Zhou Yingxue? Li Yingyun and Qin Sheng have disappeared as well.”

Fang Zhi also wondered, “I remember they got into the truck with us just now. Why have they disappeared all of a sudden?”

When Li Ran turned her head and looked out the back of the truck, she could only see the scenery that was getting further and further away.

After experiencing all the mind-boggling incidents along the way, the concert was far in the back of her mind. She only remembered the figure of that young man who led the crowd out of the stronghold.

When she thought about how Zhou Yingxue would follow her master to wander the world again, she even felt a little envious and somewhat disappointed.

If anyone perhaps encountered these two again, Ren Xiaosu would likely become Zhou Yingxue’s assistant once more. He was both mysterious and restrained.

Li Ran wondered if she would have a chance to come into contact with that mysterious world again. At this moment, she was somewhat able to understand Mu Wan’ge.

Li Ran looked at Mu Wan’ge, who was sitting beside her, before saying with a sigh, “At some point, I also started hoping I could be his maid and wander the world with him.”

Mu Wan’ge said, “Me too.”

Li Ran was surprised.

After arriving at Stronghold 73, the escapees had to undergo a series of radiation tests first before being accepted into the stronghold.

Meanwhile, Zhou Yingxue and the others went into town and bought a new car. Then they headed straight for the Wang Consortium’s stronghold where they did not have to undergo those radiation tests.

As for the Hope Media reporter, he got a lift in their car to Luoyang City.

Three days later, Hope Media’s newspaper caused a great stir across the Alliance of Strongholds.

On this day, Hope Media’s newspapers got sold out in all the various strongholds. As such, Hope Media had no choice but to add another print run of a 100,000 copies of newspapers. However, even that was not enough.

The news of Stronghold 74 being destroyed by a nuclear bomb even overshadowed the Experimentals’ attack. Since the Experimentals were already dead, everyone did not find it necessary to talk about them anymore. Nuclear bombs were the real threat now.

Moreover, civilization and an era had been destroyed in the past because of such weapons. Now that it had appeared again, it was really difficult for people not to think of the worst-case scenario.

As the saying went, a burnt child dreaded the fire.

And to be clear, this was a real fire!

In just a single day, everyone was fervently discussing this matter. Some people claimed that since the nuclear bomb was targeted at the Experimentals and not humans, it was considered as ridding evil for the good of humanity.

But more people believed that something like that should not even be deployed as a military weapon anymore. Besides, what if there had still been survivors inside of Stronghold 74? Then wouldn’t the strike have killed them together with the Experimentals?

Furthermore, with the nuclear strike, no humans could live in Stronghold 74 for the next 50 years. This was something that would still have a very significant impact.

As a result of the nuclear strike, everyone even neglected the Pyro Company issue. Before this, everyone had been denouncing the Pyro Company for creating those monsters.

Humans were simply too forgetful. They tended to forget past pains once the wounds were healed.

At this moment, everyone was curious to know how the various consortiums would react. After all, something so threatening would surely be a great cause of concern for them.

While the other consortiums remained silent, the Wang Consortium suddenly held a press conference.

At this press conference, the Wang Consortium pinned the blame on the Qing Consortium. On one hand, they protested against the Qing Consortium for the nuclear strike. On the other hand, they hoped the other consortiums would unite and hold discussions on this matter with the Qing Consortium. They hoped the Qing Consortium would willingly give up on the further research and development of nuclear weapons. Otherwise, sanctions would be imposed upon them.

Human beings needed to work together to protect the future of mankind, and the Qing Consortium should not turn themselves into a potential threat to humanity. The current Alliance of Strongholds that humanity had was already too fragile.

[1] A CBRN suit (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) is a piece of military protective equipment. | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBC_suit



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The First Order – Chapter 581


Throughout this storm, what disappointed the Hope Media reporter the most was that he had captured many photos of the escapees so that everyone would pay more attention to them, as well as the disaster itself.However, that was quickly forgotten, and it made the reporter a little sad.After the Wang Consortium directed the blame at the Qing Consortium, everyone started waiting for the other consortiums to react. However, the other consortiums seemed to have suddenly lost their voices as they maintained silence over the matter.

The reporters who wanted to interview the higher-ups of the Kong Consortium and Zhou Consortium were also blocked from doing so.

Actually, it wasn’t as though everyone was fucking stupid or something. Forget that you, the Wang Consortium, had suddenly joined the fray, but why did you have to drag the rest of us consortiums in as well in front of the reporters? The Qing Consortium really did have fucking nuclear bombs, alright?!

Moreover, they could not understand why the Wang Consortium would dare to jump into the fray when they knew the Qing Consortium had nuclear weapons. Were they not afraid of death?

Or could the Wang Consortium have something that bolstered their confidence? If they did not, the Wang Consortium would seem a little foolish with their accusations.

Before these questions were answered, they could only remain silent.

In recent years, the Zhou and Kong Consortiums were starting to feel pressure from the Wang Consortium. Otherwise, Zhou Shiji would not have taken the initiative to befriend Luo Lan.

However, after the nuclear bomb was dropped, the entire political situation was turned upside down. Suddenly, everyone could not tell who was friend and who was foe.

Or to be more accurate, other than themselves, everyone else was an enemy. It was just that they could not tell who the more threatening parties were.

Regarding the nuclear bomb, the Zhou Consortium felt very complicated. The Experimentals proved to be a very troublesome matter for them. If it weren’t for this nuclear bomb, they would not even have known how to deal with it.

They would have been unwilling to bomb their own Stronghold 74, but the Qing Consortium had helped them solve that dilemma.

Everyone understood the Qing Consortium had only launched their nuclear bomb after the situation was deemed beyond saving, and from the looks of it, they did not want to cause any civilian casualties either. But by dropping the nuclear bomb, everything in the vicinity of Stronghold 74 was as good as destroyed.

Since the Qing Consortium was bold enough to use a nuclear bomb to deal with the Experimentals, why didn’t they use it against the Experimentals while they were in their territory?!

Therefore, Zhou Shiji felt he needed to put aside his ties with the Qing Consortium for now and wait for the situation to become clearer.

The days passed, and the reporters from Hope Media went all the way to the Qing Consortium to ask how they viewed this matter and whether they would give up their nuclear weapons.

In the end, the Qing Consortium’s answer was completely unexpected. The Qing Consortium’s spokesperson questioned, “The nuclear bomb wasn’t launched by us, so why is the Wang Consortium pointing fingers at us? Have consortiums these days started fabricating lies?”

The reporters were stunned on the spot. Just as everyone in the world was thinking this was the Qing Consortium’s doing, the Qing Consortium actually denied it was them.

Thinking back, it did seem like there was no evidence pointing to the fact that this was done by the Qing Consortium.

The various consortiums were also left speechless. Everyone knew full well that the nuclear test sites in the Central Plains had been destroyed by the Saboteurs, and only the Qing Consortium was still equipped with a nuclear capability. However, it was also true that they did not have any evidence of that.

It was obvious the Qing Consortium was intent on denying responsibility for the strike. Who knew if they were trying to stall for time, or if they were just trying to plunge the situation into even muddier waters.

Before everyone could figure out what was going on, Luo Lan, who was currently visiting the Kong Consortium, actually started accepting public interviews.

Logically speaking, Luo Lan should really have been leaving the Central Plains and returning to the Qing Consortium’s territory. Even Zhou Qi was trying to persuade Luo Lan to leave quickly.

If the consortiums were to issue a joint arrest order for Luo Lan, Zhou Qi could not protect him!

But not only did Luo Lan not leave, he even flamboyantly accepted the interviews. How infuriating!

When Luo Lan faced the reporters, he said in a heavy tone, “Don’t be accusing our Qing Consortium so easily. Just because the Wang Consortium says it was us who launched the strike, does it really mean we did? A lot of people know the Saboteurs have been trying to destroy our nuclear test base in the Southwest, yet they still haven’t found it, have they? But how are they going to find it when we don’t actually have any of those? The Wang Consortium had better not falsely accuse us like that.”

The reporters were dumbfounded. “Then what’s your opinion on this matter?”

Luo Lan sounded even more depressed and nearly cried. “Whoever did it, I feel it was a really good move. According to the Hope Media reporters, Stronghold 74 had already fallen to the Experimentals at that time, right? That means that no matter whether there were any survivors, the Experimentals would still tear them apart. Our Qing Consortium has fought quite a few battles with the Experimentals before. Back when the Li Consortium’s stronghold was attacked by the Experimentals, our Qing Consortium also suffered heavy losses when we went over to reinforce them. It’s a pity the Li Consortium did not manage to withstand the attacks of the Experimentals. In order to let the Li Consortium’s residents continue living in peace, our Qing Consortium took control of their strongholds.”

Based on what Luo Lan had said, they had only taken over the Li Consortium’s strongholds out of a sense of justice. They had wanted to support the Li Consortium’s fight against the Experimentals, but the Li Consortium was unable to hold on. In the end, it was all the Experimentals’ fault!

His “compassionate” tone made him sound just like a good Samaritan.

Luo Lan said as he wiped away his tears, “No matter who blew up Stronghold 74, I, Luo Lan, will be the first to thank them for taking revenge for the residents of the Southwest and for taking revenge for the residents of Stronghold 74! They’ve even eliminated a future threat for humanity as well!”

Then Luo Lan bowed deeply to the camera and said, “Thank you all!”

The reporters were all dumbfounded. When the consortiums saw the reporters’ articles, they wanted to scold Luo Lan for his shamelessness!

A member of the Kong Consortium who was standing beside Luo Lan said with a smile after the reporters left, “Boss Luo, you show no fear in the face of danger. After such a brouhaha, you can still act as though nothing happened and remain a guest at our Kong Consortium. I’m really impressed.”

This was not a lie, as he really admired Luo Lan from the bottom of his heart. Disregarding everything else, he would have to give Luo Lan a perfect score just for his acting chops and courage!

The people from the Kong Consortium did not ask whether the Qing Consortium had any nuclear weapons. They had never depended on evidence to judge others. Everyone already knew this was done by the Qing Consortium after all, so there was no need for them to probe further.

However, Luo Lan narrowed his eyes. “This is only the start. It’s not like I’ll only be a guest here at your Kong Consortium, I’m also going to be visiting the Wang Consortium in a few days. Let’s see who dares to lay a finger on me.”

After the Kong Consortium’s people left, Luo Lan immediately lay on the sofa and asked Zhou Qi, “I’m feeling really panicky now. Do you think they’ll really tie me up?”

Zhou Qi did not know whether to laugh or cry. “Since you’re so worried, let’s hurry back to the Qing Consortium. Whenever you were out the past few days, the people in the stronghold have been pointing and talking behind your back. I reckon that once you go to the Wang Consortium, you’ll be met with people throwing rotten eggs at your head! You must know the Wang Consortium’s official media outlets have started painting the Qing Consortium as the villain now.”

“I can’t leave.” Luo Lan stood up and looked out the window. “The Qing Consortium is on the cusp of a political storm. Qing Zhen still needs someone to stir up trouble in the Central Plains to buy him some time, so I can’t leave yet!”



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The First Order – Chapter 579


Wang Fugui’s original intention was to return to the Central Plains as soon as possible. After all, Ren Xiaosu was in the Central Plains, so what was the point of them being here in the Northwest?Moreover, Old Wang was very sure that Ren Xiaosu had gone to the Central Plains to look for them. Therefore, he definitely had to go back!

However, Zhang Xiaoman refused to let him leave. He even insisted on arranging for them to stay at the military base and prepared food and hot water for them, saying that it would not be too late to leave in another few days.

The reason Zhang Xiaoman gave to convince Wang Fugui was very simple: “The Central Plains are so big, and our people from Fortress 178 are also looking for Ren Xiaosu there, so wouldn’t it be much better for us to look for him than you trying your luck to find him? You don’t even know where Ren Xiaosu might pop up anyway.”

Zhang Xiaoman said, “Don’t worry, we still have a great chance of finding him.”

“Why do you say that?” Wang Fugui was stunned. “Why are y’all so sure that you can find him?”

“Since you and Ren Xiaosu are old friends, do you know Xu Xianchu as well?” Zhang Xiaoman asked.

“I don’t really know him, but I know that he’s a good friend of Xiaosu’s.” Wang Fugui wondered, “Can Xu Xianchu find Ren Xiaosu?”

However, Wang Fugui did not believe that. After all, they were the ones who were closest to Ren Xiaosu. If even they did not know where to find him, how would Xu Xianchu know?

Zhang Xiaoman lowered his voice and said, “Old Xu told us that wherever Ren Xiaosu goes, a stronghold will collapse. Just look, isn’t Stronghold 74 in the south of the Central Plains currently under siege? It might just collapse someday. Xu Xianchu suspects that Ren Xiaosu could be there, so Wang Fengyuan has already sent someone to Stronghold 74 to investigate. For all we know, he might be found in another few days!”

Wang Fugui was dumbfounded. ‘So you all are relying on mysticism to search for Ren Xiaosu?!’ What the fuck did he mean by strongholds would collapse whenever Ren Xiaosu went?

Wang Fugui thought back. Eh, it did seem like that was really the case!

After thinking for a long time, Wang Fugui did not even know how to refute Zhang Xiaoman’s words!

But upon further thinking, it was indeed more reliable to have Fortress 178 look for someone than them. As such, Wang Fugui decided to wait here for news.

At this moment, news of Stronghold 74 collapsing had not yet spread to the Northwest. Even the majority of those in the Alliance of Strongholds still did not know what had happened to Stronghold 74. They only knew that contact had been lost with the people there.

Zhang Xiaoman dragged Wang Fugui with him to get lunch. Immediately after that, he enthusiastically arranged some goods for Wang Fugui to bring back to the Central Plains. “We initially thought that trade with the Central Plains wouldn’t start until half a year later, but we’ve underestimated the enthusiasm of the merchants out there. You can’t be returning with your trucks empty, or you would have wasted a trip! I’ve already arranged everything for you over here. Of course, we can’t let you take too much on our first deal, so we just prepared several dozen tons of potassium chloride for you to haul back.”

Wang Fugui was dumbfounded. He knew what potassium chloride was and the many uses it had. If he brought it back, it would definitely sell for a lot.

In fact, most of the minerals from the Northwest could be sold directly to the Wang Consortium when they were brought back to the Central Plains. The Wang Consortium’s purpose in opening the trade route was precisely for the Northwest’s mineral resources, after all.

Zhang Xiaoman offered him several dozen tons of the mineral as soon as he opened his mouth, but Wang Fugui could not even comprehend the amount that this unit of measurement represented.

He hesitated for a moment before saying, “We only brought four used trucks…”

Zhang Xiaoman said nonchalantly, “Don’t worry, I’ll get you some more trucks.”

He then got his orderly to summon the more well-to-do families in the stronghold and owners of various businesses over.

These people used to be under the Zong Consortium’s protection. After Fortress 178 had taken over at the stronghold, Zhang Jinglin ordered not to make things too difficult for them.

Zhang Xiaoman and the others tacitly understood what this meant. What the fortress commander meant was that they could make things difficult for them but not to the extent of forcing them to their deaths.

Therefore, Zhang Xiaoman, who had been looking for a chance to deal with these well-to-do families, was now presented with a good opportunity to make them contribute to Wang Fugui’s business.

When these families arrived, Zhang Xiaoman asked to borrow a convoy of vehicles from them. If there were any extra vehicles left after loading up the potassium chloride, they would add some nickel ore for Wang Fugui to bring back.

Although those well-to-do families felt pained, they did not dare to say anything. Seeing that Zhang Xiaoman had garrisoned his troops next to Stronghold 144 and had a say over their lives, he was their daddy.

But that was not all. Zhang Xiaoman felt it would take too much effort for Wang Fugui to personally sell his stock of lipstick, so he had these people purchase the goods Wang Fugui had brought over from the Central Plains. In the future, Wang Fugui could sell his goods directly to them when he brought more from the Central Plains.

Those well-to-do families were grumbling incessantly in their hearts, but the smart ones suddenly realized something. Could this be Zhang Xiaoman’s way of diverting the money into his own pocket? Could it be that Zhang Xiaoman did not want to directly ask them for money, so he used the excuse of doing business to take their money instead?

At this moment, any smart person would surely know not to turn down his requests. In fact, they would even respond positively on the surface!

After these well-to-do families left, Wang Fugui was left stunned as he sat down in the base. Having been in business for most of his life, this was the first time he felt that doing business was not difficult at all!

The four truckloads of goods they brought here had been sold out even before they started selling them.

However, Old Wang did not go too far with this opportunity. Although he quoted a price higher than the cost to these well-to-do families, it was not absurdly high. After all, if he wanted them to be his distributors in the long run, it would have to be a win-win situation for everyone, right?

Old Wang was not blinded by what was placed in front of him. Instead, he was thinking about the future rather than a one-off deal.

Old Wang was already starting to contemplate his plans. Now that there was a relationship with Fortress 178, he might just become the most indomitable and successful businessman on the northwestern trade route. This way, their whole family would be able to lead a comfortable life.

And it would be a great life!

And he understood that Zhang Xiaoman was doing all this because of Ren Xiaosu.

Old Wang was given preferential treatment in Fortress 178’s territory as he was one of the people Ren Xiaosu had been searching so desperately for. Old Wang had mentioned to Wang Yuchi that they should always have a backer when it came to doing business. However, he did not expect their backer would be this powerful.

But there was something that Old Wang could not understand. Even if Ren Xiaosu had really helped Fortress 178 fight in the war, that should not cause Zhang Xiaoman to behave in such a way, right? A few dozen tons of potassium chloride was placed on credit just like that. How could Zhang Xiaoman have so much authority? These goods were worth millions, after all!

While Wang Fugui was trying to figure this out, Jiao Xiaochen also asked Zhang Xiaoman in private, “Regimental Commander, aren’t you being a little too bold? You really giving him the goods on credit? We don’t have to go that far, do we?”

“What do you know?” Zhang Xiaoman said proudly, “Why else am I the regimental commander and you’re just my deputy?”

Jiao Xiaochen’s face immediately darkened. He was even tempted to kick Zhang Xiaoman. “Then tell me why you’re doing this?”

Zhang Xiaoman whispered, “Didn’t you hear Old Wang? He’s actually Ren Xiaosu’s shopkeeper, so all their assets and money will eventually be returned to Ren Xiaosu. That is to say, all this money will be earned by Ren Xiaosu. If Ren Xiaosu comes to you and says that he wants to buy several dozen tons of potassium chloride on credit, can you say no? After Ren Xiaosu is reunited with Old Wang and realizes that he has so many assets in the Northwest, won’t he want to come back here? We can use these assets to tie down Old Wang and the others first. If they can remain here, Ren Xiaosu will naturally stay here too.”

Jiao Xiaochen pondered things for a moment. “That makes sense, go on.”

“And if Ren Xiaosu returns, who knows? He might end up as our Fortress 178’s commander in another few years.” Zhang Xiaoman muttered mysteriously, “I heard from Old Zhou several days ago that Wang Fengyuan suggested we increase our efforts in searching for Ren Xiaosu during their executive meeting. He hopes to bring him back so that he can systematically learn about military warfare and leadership before getting familiarized with the various fighting forces. Since silence is compliance, the other commanders agreed by not objecting.”

Jiao Xiaochen gasped when he heard that Ren Xiaosu would have to systematically learn military warfare and leadership and become familiar with the various fighting forces. What kinds of officers were required to learn such things? Wasn’t that the job of a fucking commander?!

Zhang Xiaoman chuckled and said, “Actually, the most important thing is that all the generals have already acknowledged Ren Xiaosu. It’s not as though everyone feels that Ren Xiaosu can be the commander right away, but they’ve already accepted that he has the potential and acknowledged his strength, courage, and character! It’s really not easy to achieve that. So, through that war with the Zong Consortium, Ren Xiaosu has already cleared some of the obstacles that he might encounter when he takes over as the fortress commander in another few years or decades. Just think about it, we’re actually making money for the next commander. Don’t you think it’s worth it?!”

“But what if the commander questions us about this batch of potassium chloride…”

“Don’t worry, if we can make Ren Xiaosu come back, the commander might even be willing to give this batch of potassium chloride to Old Wang for free instead of putting it on credit….”



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The First Order – Chapter 578


Chapter 578 The excited Wang Fugui

When Wang Fugui heard the name Zhang Xiaoman mentioned, he was dumbfounded. “Come again?”

“Ren Xiaosu.” Zhang Xiaoman asked again, “You haven’t heard of this name before?”

Zhang Xiaoman was previously the commander of the Razor Sharp Company. After the war with the Zong Consortium, he was promoted three ranks and appointed the commander of Stronghold 144’s infantry regiment due to his outstanding combat achievements and the fact that Fortress 178 was in urgent need of manpower after occupying more territory.

Zhang Xiaoman had thought of boasting about his promotion to his ex-battalion commander, Zhou Yinglong. However, Zhou Yinglong had been promoted to a brigade commander.

Now that he was stationed at Stronghold 144, he did not have much to do every day. He was only responsible for protecting the stronghold and ensuring its safety. At the same time, he also had to work with the stronghold administration team from Fortress 178 to reorganize the governance system of Stronghold 144 as they carried out new post assignments.

In the end, Fortress 178 was really trying to turn Stronghold 144 into the largest distribution center of goods in the entire Northwest just as Wang Fugui had anticipated. With Zhang Xiaoman put in charge of overseeing the place, the rear lines could finally rest easy.

However, Zhang Xiaoman recently kept having the feeling that something was missing in life. Although he had been promoted to the position of regimental commander, the most exemplary soldier in the war was no longer with them.

Based on a discussion that Zhang Xiaoman, Jiao Xiaochen, and the others had, they felt that Ren Xiaosu must have definitely headed to the Central Plains. So when Zhang Xiaoman encountered Wang Fugui, who was a businessman from the Central Plains, he casually asked to see if he could get some information from him and find out how Ren Xiaosu was doing recently.

However, Wang Fugui was shocked when he heard Ren Xiaosu’s name being mentioned. There weren’t that many people that went by this name, so he probed, “Why are you looking for this Ren Xiaosu?”

Wang Fugui was afraid Ren Xiaosu might have gotten himself into some trouble over here that caused him to be wanted by Fortress 178.

But on second thought, Wang Fugui felt that something was not right. Since Ren Xiaosu had a great relationship with Zhang Jinglin, Zhang Jinglin would never arrest Ren Xiaosu over some trivial matter.

Due to the confidentiality law that Fortress 178 had passed, the rest of the world had no idea of how much Ren Xiaosu had contributed in the war with the Zong Consortium. They only knew that a supernatural being had rendered great service and defeated an entire brigade from Stronghold 146 all by himself. However, no one knew who that supernatural being was.

Zhang Xiaoman looked at Wang Fugui and said with a smile, “Bro, don’t ask why I’m looking for him. Never mind, there’s no point in telling you too much.”

Zhang Xiaoman suddenly remembered there was a confidentiality law in place. He could not reveal too much information about Ren Xiaosu in case the outside world’s suspicions were aroused. As such, he got ready to head back inside the military base.

However, Wang Fugui looked at Zhang Xiaoman and said, “I know Ren Xiaosu!”

Wang Fugui felt that with Zhang Jinglin and Xu Xianchu at Fortress 178, there was a high chance they would not make things difficult for Ren Xiaosu. He decided to take a gamble!

By observing Zhang Xiaoman’s expression, he felt he made the right bet this time!

Zhang Xiaoman was getting very excited. He asked, “You said that you know Ren Xiaosu? Where’s he now then?”

Wang Fugui shook his head. “I don’t know where he is either, but he was the one who had been taking care of us. We were separated later on because the Zong Consortium attacked us, and he got ambushed by them. We saw him get pierced by a spear through his stomach with our own eyes!”

With that, Zhang Xiaoman got even more excited since this account of events matched precisely with what Ren Xiaosu had shared with him before.

Back when Ren Xiaosu first arrived at Fortress 178, wasn’t he nursing an injury after being saved by Wang Shengzhi and Wang Shengyin? Ren Xiaosu said he had become enemies with the Zong Consortium because he wanted revenge.

Ren Xiaosu also told them that after the war was over, he would have to go and look for his friends and family who had been separated from him.

However, Zhang Xiaoman did not expect to encounter Wang Fugui here.

However, Zhang Xiaoman was also very cautious. He immediately called the intelligence director, Wang Fengyuan, to confirm some things. After all, everything concerning Ren Xiaosu was classified as top secret in Fortress 178. What if this person were here to pry for information from them? Zhang Xiaoman had to be extra cautious about this.

As soon as the call went through, Zhang Xiaoman mentioned the names of Wang Fugui, Wang Yuchi, Jiang Wu, and the others to Wang Fengyuan. As Jiang Wu was a supernatural being with a unique superpower, Wang Fengyuan immediately replied, “There’s no need to investigate further. They’re the ones that Ren Xiaosu is looking for.”

Zhang Xiaoman excitedly pulled Wang Fugui and the others into the base. “Bro, I finally got to meet Ren Xiaosu’s kin! Did you know that Ren Xiaosu and I were comrades when we were fighting the Zong Consortium? He was part of my Razor Sharp Company and I was his company commander…”

Zhang Xiaoman was rambling incoherently due to excitement. But as he spoke, he realized that Wang Fugui’s and the others’ eyes had reddened.

For a while now, Wang Fugui had been comforting everyone by telling them that Ren Xiaosu was definitely still alive.

But even he did not quite believe his own words sometimes. After all, they had seen a spear pierce Ren Xiaosu with their own eyes. Would a normal person survive after getting hit by something like that? Moreover, Ren Xiaosu was caught in the flood after he got injured, so there was no reason he could survive that. Therefore, he had been saying that Ren Xiaosu was still alive so he and everyone else would have a pillar of support for them to continue living.

But now, they suddenly learned that Ren Xiaosu was really still alive, and he had even personally avenged everyone by destroying the Zong Consortium.

This swirl of emotions everyone was feeling could be compared to eating a whole onion—it left them both agitated and wanting to cry.

Furthermore, when Zhang Xiaoman said Ren Xiaosu had fought really hard in the war, Wang Fugui and the others immediately understood it was because Ren Xiaosu thought they had been killed by the Zong Consortium. Therefore, he wanted to take revenge to nurse his hatred.

The harder Ren Xiaosu fought in the war, the more it represented how much he hated the Zong Consortium. The more he hated the Zong Consortium, the more it showed how important Wang Fugui and the others were to Ren Xiaosu.

“Then do y’all know where he is right now?” Wang Fugui asked, “We’ll go look for him right away.”

“No.” Zhang Xiaoman shook his head. “He disappeared immediately after the war, so I guessed he must have gone to the Central Plains to look for y’all.”

When he said that, Wang Fugui turned around and walked out of the base. He muttered to Jiang Wu as they made their way out, “Let’s head back to the Central Plains…. Let’s head back to the Central Plains right now. He must already be in the Central Plains. Let’s go look for him immediately!”

Jiang Wu nodded. “Mhm, let’s go.”

But before they could even take two steps, Zhang Xiaoman stopped Wang Fugui. He did not know whether to laugh or cry as he said, “We haven’t even found him yet, so how will you find him? Don’t worry, since you’ve come to the Northwest, you’ll be treated as distinguished guests of Fortress 178. We’ll also help to look for him. At least, y’all will feel at ease if you know that he’s fine, right? Oh yes, what’re y’all doing here in the Northwest?”

“Oh, erm…” Wang Fugui wiped the corners of his eyes. “We came here to do business. After all, I have to take care of our big family while Ren Xiaosu is not around.”

Zhang Xiaoman thumped his own chest. “Just tell me what kind of business you wish to conduct here in Stronghold 144 in the future. You can bring your goods from the Central Plains to sell over here, then haul our Fortress 178’s minerals back to the Central Plains. As long as it’s a business dealing with Stronghold 144, there’s nothing you can’t do. If anyone asks about it, you can just mention my name, Zhang Xiaoman!”

Wang Fugui was stunned for quite a while before saying, “Those minerals are too expensive. We can’t afford them at all.”

Zhang Xiaoman thumped his chest again. “You can buy them on credit. You have my word!”

Wang Fugui stood in the base on this afternoon as the sun shone down from above. He thought it felt exceptionally pleasant today.



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The First Order – Chapter 577


The young man who posed the question was Wang Yuchi, and he was originally one of Jiang Wu’s students. But having gone through several huge disasters and wandered around the Central Plains with Wang Fugui for a few months, his appearance had become more mature.Along the way, everyone had suffered a lot. When they finally arrived at Stronghold 144, everyone was worn out from the journey.

During this period, Wang Yuchi also showed potential in his abilities. After learning a lot from Wang Fugui, he was now his right-hand man.

Wang Fugui said proudly, “We came here first to build a working relationship with the people of Fortress 178; this is what we call seizing the initiative. Other people might wait for the trade route to open up in half a year’s time, but we can’t afford to do so. The savings Xiaosu left for us are drying up. If we see him again and he asks how much money we have left, we can’t embarrass ourselves.”

Wang Yuchi fell silent. “Will we still get to see Brother Xiaosu?”

Wang Fugui was taken aback before replying with a smile, “Definitely! I heard that a jinx can live for a millennium, so he definitely won’t die.”

“Then will anyone buy the goods we’ve transported here?” Wang Yuchi changed the subject.

“Of course,” Wang Fugui chuckled and said, “Look, we’re already at an advantage when it comes to traveling to the Northwest to conduct our business. Since y’all have nanomachines in your bodies, and we also have a supernatural being in Ms. Wu with us, normal bandits won’t have any way to rob us. Also, your female classmates are skilled with their hands; the ornaments they designed are all beautiful. While wearing ornaments was already a very popular trend in the Central Plains, the women in the Northwest have never seen them before. I’m sure that they’ll take a liking to it immediately.”

As he spoke, Wang Fugui ran to the back of the box truck and unlocked the trailer. He called out to the people inside, “Ladies, get out of the vehicle and take a breather. Uncle Fugui will bring y’all to town for a hot meal.”

Inside the trailer, Jiang Wu and five female students were diligently braiding some bracelets. Some time ago, Wang Fugui thought of purchasing the bracelets directly from a supplier. However, they felt that the prices in the Central Plains were a ripoff. When the sellers saw that they were refugees, they even deliberately jacked up the price.

Later, Jiang Wu realized the materials needed to make these bracelets were not expensive, so she stepped forward and said they could just buy the raw materials to make it themselves. On the way to the Northwest, the girls could work on braiding the bracelets, and this saved them a lot of money.

Actually, Jiang Wu’s intention was to find something for the female students to do. After all, everyone was in the same boat now. Even Wang Yuchi and the other male students had been forced to grow quickly, so no one should be idle in the group.

Over time, the female students who could not contribute as much started to feel a little embarrassed.

Currently, Jiang Wu was also considered one of the core members of the group. On one hand, she was there to ensure the students would continue studying by themselves. On the other hand, she was responsible for feeding and dressing the group. On top of that, she also used her superpower to protect the group.

In the past, Jiang Wu’s superpower did not have much of a presence in their group.

This was because Ren Xiaosu was too powerful, and there wasn’t a need for Jiang Wu to use her superpower. Since Ren Xiaosu could handle all kinds of situations by himself, Jiang Wu did not have to do anything at all.

But it was different now. Although Wang Yuchi and the other male students had nanomachines, those things were limited by their power source and did not have enough lethality either.

They still came across a few sporadic bandits while traveling to the Northwest from the Central Plains. But when the bandits encountered Jiang Wu, they got scared away by just a few petals she conjured up before even understanding what was going on.

Furthermore, if it were not for Jiang Wu’s plum blossom branches she had materialized to keep everyone together back then, they might have gotten separated and ended up getting washed away by the flood.

Therefore, Wang Fugui would always discuss everything with Jiang Wu when something cropped up these days.

There were not only bracelets in this batch of goods they were transporting, but also cosmetics and other daily necessities that were relatively popular in the Central Plains. Basically, they were all mainly feminine products.

According to Wang Fugui, while women were fussy customers and most people disliked doing business with women, selling to women was a surefire way to make money.

As such, he bought these four used trucks to transport the goods, of which three-quarters were lipstick, skincare products, and various hair conditioners with different scents.

Lipstick was somewhat of a necessity for women, just like how cigarettes were for men. Moreover, the variety of lipstick colors available in the Central Plains was much greater than that in the Southwest and Northwest. The women here would definitely look more trendy if they used them.

Wang Fugui had requested Jiang Wu and a few of the prettier students to use their lipstick products daily once they arrived in the Northwest. This was so they could entice other women to buy their products when they saw how trendy the colors were.

As a matter of fact, many people in the Southwest and Northwest were still at the stage of using rouge paper to color their lips. It was not that they could not afford lipstick but that the Northwest and Southwest were focused on the development of heavy industry. As such, daily necessities like these were very scarce.

Old Wang immediately felt that he had discovered a business opportunity and thought of how to promote it. When he arrived in the Northwest, he would approach some newspaper firms to advocate the use of lipstick. It would go something like this: “Whether a man loves a woman or not, he can prove it by buying our Central Plains’ lipstick for his dearly beloved.”

Wang Fugui used to be the owner of a grocery store in the Southwest. His business had been doing better and better over the years because he was so good at seeking out business opportunities and understanding the customer’s needs.

Back then, the important figures of Stronghold 113 in the Southwest had suddenly taken to eating exotic meat as an expression of their identities and status. That was also partly credited to Wang Fugui’s advocacy of how rare exotic meat was to come by.

“But will Fortress 178 agree to let us sell our things here like this?” Wang Yuchi wondered.

“What’re you afraid of? I’m on good terms with their Commander Zhang Jinglin!” Wang Fugui said proudly.

With that, Wang Fugui took everyone out to eat first. There was also a reason why he dared to bring everyone to the Northwest.

Everyone in the world knew Zhang Jinglin had regained control of Fortress 178, and the entire Northwest was now Fortress 178’s territory. Wang Fugui used to be an acquaintance of Zhang Jinglin in town and enjoyed a friendly relationship with him.

Now that he had arrived in the Northwest, wouldn’t his opportunities abound?

After lunch, Wang Fugui and Wang Yuchi immediately went to look for the people guarding the stronghold. The moment they approached them, Wang Fugui’s first words were, “I’m a friend of Commander Zhang and would like to meet him to do some catching up.”

Of course, the more impressive the introductions, the better! These days, people who did not know how to brag would not be destined for big things!

An officer who was supposedly the new regimental commander of Stronghold 144’s garrison walked up to them. He said with a kind smile, “Bro, even if you’re not a friend of the commander, you can still do business here in the Northwest. All you need to do is pay your taxes accordingly. Our taxes have been lowered recently, so there’s definitely profit to be made.”

Wang Fugui did not give up. “I’m really a friend of your Commander Zhang.”

The regimental commander laughed. “There was someone who said that two days ago. But in the end, we found out the other party was only trying to meet Commander Zhang. They were not actually acquainted at all.”

Wang Fugui was left speechless. Although there were also other merchants like him who came to the Northwest in advance to do business, he did not expect that someone would have already been exposed for trying to pretend to be an acquaintance of the commander.

Off to the side, Wang Yuchi chuckled. “Uncle Fugui, why don’t we just stick to selling our goods? As if we can get to meet their commander so easily. Also, didn’t he say that anyone can come and do business here? There’s no need for us to cotton up to others.”

“Like you’d understand!” Wang Fugui said with a dark expression, “In business, how could it be the same if we had someone at the top looking out for us?”

Suddenly, the regimental commander asked, “Did y’all come from the Central Plains?”

Wang Fugui was stunned. “Of course we came from the Central Plains.”

The regimental commander suddenly asked again, “Then have you heard of someone called Ren Xiaosu in the Central Plains? Oh, by the way, my name is Zhang Xiaoman.”



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