The First Order – Chapter 556


In the prodigious mountains in the west, the traces of human civilization had been completely erased by the vegetation.In the morning, Old Li and Qin Sheng set off and entered the mountains. They scurried across the uneven ground in the forested mountains as though they were traveling on flat ground.When they speedily arrived at a canyon that was six to seven meters wide, they swiftly leaped across it like cats without batting an eyelid.

It seemed they did not regard this canyon to be dangerous at all.

Every time this happened, Qin Sheng would feel a sense of pride like he had conquered nature.

But his teacher always reminded him that it was not possible for a human to conquer nature. What a Rider should seek to do was become a unique living creature that was a part of nature.

Just as Old Li had said to Ren Xiaosu, he always believed that human beings should leave the strongholds so they could adapt to this world. If not, they would only get eliminated.

That was how he lived as well.

Slowly, as the two of them got closer to their destination, Qin Sheng’s stamina was gradually depleting. Old Li stopped in his tracks and said with a smile, “Since you aren’t a true Rider yet, you should conserve your energy a little. You’ll be required to scale a 600-meter-tall vertical cliff this time. It won’t be easy to get to the top.”

“Teacher, must I really climb that high?” Qin Sheng said with a wry smile, “Without any protective measures, I’ll die if I fall from that height.”

But Old Li didn’t seem to care. “As disciples of the Riders, how can you be afraid of death? This is about faith. Moreover, the height of 600 meters was determined by the Riders that came before. Why did they not set it at 500 or 700 meters? Because you can unlock your body’s shackles at 600 meters, so it isn’t necessary to climb higher than that. You should know that back then, that Rider had climbed to a height of 900 meters. You and I can’t match his brilliance. However, 600 meters is the minimum height that has to be climbed, not one meter less.”

The Rider Old Li was referring to was the founder of the Qinghe Group. Currently, in the Riders organization, everyone was a believer in the philosophy of the Riders. Besides putting their faith in the original Rider, they also sought to conquer nature by becoming a part of it. All these years, they had been searching for the original Rider’s descendant.

The so-called secret to unlocking the genetic code in a Rider’s body lay in the eight mysterious challenges that pushed the challenger to conquer nature and become a part of it.

Among them was the Surge of Strength: Mountain biking.

Birth of Sky: Skydiving.

Life of Water: Extreme surfing.

Life of Wind: Wingsuit flying.

Currently, Qin Sheng was only left with the last challenge. Law of Attraction: Without any protective measures, he had to scale a 600-meter-tall cliff with only his bare hands.

In fact, the Riders did not mind letting the outside world know about this secret. They just never publicized it before. However, these eight challenges had to be completed by normal people in order to fully unlock the shackles in their bodies.

If they did not have an extreme passion and faith during the process, it would be impossible to complete the eight challenges. If someone succeeded in completing them, they would become a member of the Riders as well, because they would understand there was something more to life after experiencing the original Rider’s glory.

Each of these eight challenges was a matter of life and death. They would have to go through near-death experiences before they could clear these thresholds.

When Old Li looked at Qin Sheng’s youthful face brimming with vigor, he was reminded of himself from 15 years ago.

Now that he was 38 years old, he was no longer considered young. Although his body had become stronger after his genetic code was unlocked, his mindset was destined to be different.

The other members of the Riders probably had the same mindset as him. Their current wish was to find the original Rider’s descendant. Although they did not have a chance to meet that Rider, they wanted to see if his descendant was cut from the same cloth.

Looking at the 600-meter-tall cliff in front of him, Old Li said with a sigh, “In recent years, we feel that there might not be any new Riders coming through in the future. Some people who attempted the wingsuit flying challenge after you were attacked by flying beasts while midair. As the various consortiums have stopped operating aircraft, skydiving has become impossible. The most difficult challenge is still surfing. They say a huge creature is often sighted devouring ships off the coast of the Kong Consortium’s territory in recent times. Even going out to sea will be difficult, so don’t mention surfing.”

Not mentioning the difficulty of the challenge itself, just the conditions to complete them had become even harsher than before. If you could not even get into the sky, how could you skydive? In the process of parachuting down, there was even the possibility of being attacked by flying beasts. This was no longer a near-death experience but a sure-death experience.

When Qin Sheng started the challenges, some people in their organization had already foreseen that these situations might happen. Therefore, they trained Qin Sheng to complete the other challenges first.

As they passed through the forest, a smooth cliff suddenly appeared in front of them. Old Li was lost in thought as he looked at the cliff. In the past, he had also climbed up from here.

Old Li said with a smile, “When my uncle brought me here, I had the same thought as you. How could a human being climb this cliff? It was impossible to do, right? But as it turned out, I managed to do it. Qin Sheng, go on and climb it. Complete your last challenge and become the final Rider.”

Qin Sheng took off his heavy fall clothing and changed into his rock climbing shoes, vest, and shorts they had specially brought with them. He also attached a chalk bag to his belt. The chalk would prevent his palms from getting sweaty and increase the friction between his hands and the cliff wall.

Old Li said with a smile, “Do you still remember what I told you?”

Qin Sheng glanced at Old Li. “I remember…. Only faith, the sun, and the moon are eternal.”

With that, Qin Sheng turned around and walked towards the mountain. Even at noon, the autumn sun did not feel scorching. Instead, it gave people a sense of warmth in the cold wind.

Under normal circumstances, climbers would have to familiarize themselves with the route in advance for a free solo. It was necessary for the climber to be lowered down from the top with a rope bit by bit, not only to get familiarized with the route, but also to clear debris off the cliff walls.

However, a lot of Riders had already climbed this cliff before. Qin Sheng could even see the subtle traces left on the cliff wall to deduce the route those Riders took back then. It was as though he had the guidance of his predecessors.

At this moment, Qin Sheng turned around and looked at Old Li. It was as though the brilliant Riders from before were all standing behind and smiling at him.

As he climbed the cliff, Qin Sheng’s movements were like an agile ape. But when he reached the height of a 100 meters, Qin Sheng started to feel his stamina depleting quickly.

As he stood there, he lodged his arm in a crevice on the stone wall and took a break while panting heavily. Looking up above him, it was as if there was no end to the cliff.

Then Qin Sheng saw some words carved into the cliff beside him: Zhang Qingxi was here.

Thinking about it, this should be where Brother Qingxi had rested when he scaled the wall. Qin Sheng smiled. Then he adjusted his breathing and continued to climb up.

At this moment, it felt like the other Riders were climbing to the top of the cliff with him.

Old Li started stretching at the bottom of the cliff. He began climbing up the cliff with a bundle of ropes on his back. But to a Rider like Old Li, it was no longer challenging to climb up a cliff like this. Rather, it felt more like a reminder of his youth.



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The First Order – Chapter 557


Free soloing is one of the most exhausting activities in extreme sports. In his climb, Qin Sheng took seven breaks, and he could even see the words left behind by his predecessors at every resting spot.As he made his way to the top, the names were like warm greetings that silently supported him.Old Li was following Qin Sheng at a speed that was neither fast nor slow. Old Li enjoyed not the joy of reaching the top but the pleasure of looking for the names of his old friends.

After he went back and met up with his old friends, he would have a new conversation topic. “Buddy, you rested eight times when you scaled the cliff back then. You really suck!”

Old Li was not the only person with a sarcastic sense of humor. All Riders would develop this bad habit after being a part of this organization for some time.

When Qin Sheng was at the last ten meters of his ascent, his arms were shaking. However, Old Li called out from below, “Keep climbing. If you fall down now, there will be no more new Riders in the future!”

Just as he finished speaking, Qin Sheng let out a fierce grunt and continued climbing upward.

Several hours had already passed, and the afternoon sun was gradually setting behind the cliff.

The wind in the mountains was starting to pick up, and their clothes were flapping loudly in the wind. Qin Sheng climbed up as though he were chasing the fading afterglow of the sunset.

Old Li did not help him because every Rider had to take their own path.

He remembered when the original Rider first established the organization, he once said to a senior member of the Riders, “This is where we part ways. From here on out, I will no longer interfere with what you do.”

At this moment, Qin Sheng’s right hand grabbed the edge of the cliff. Using the last bit of his strength, he pulled his entire body up with his right hand as support. As he laid at the top of the cliff and gasped violently for breath, he suddenly noticed a dense inscription on the ground.

There were names at the end of every sentence. Zhang Qingxi, Li Yingyun, Huang Xiaoyu, Wen Meng, Wu Dingyuan, Luo Yunxian, Xu Ke…

There were a total of 32 familiar names.

Old Li’s real name was Li Yingyun, while Xu Ke’s name surprised Qin Sheng. Honestly, probably no one in the rest of the world knew that Xu Ke was also a member of the Riders. Only those who had made it to the top of this cliff could see the names that were clearly engraved here.

Everyone wrote the same thing: “Only faith, the sun, and the moon are eternal.”

Qin Sheng was stunned. He realized someone had etched two large words before any of those other inscriptions. However, no name was signed.

“Forever young.”

These words stood out.

Qin Sheng immediately turned to look at Old Li, who had just arrived at the top. “Did that Rider really die when The Cataclysm occurred?”

Old Li shook his head and said with a smile, “I don’t know either, I really don’t know.”

Qin Sheng turned around and looked at the words “forever young.” This cliff was the most suitable place for the Riders to face their challenge and had only been discovered by his predecessors after The Cataclysm. But why would these words appear here?

All generations of the Riders had signed their names after writing here, except for the one that said “forever young.” So there were not just 32 Riders in the organization. Including that unknown person, there should be a total of 33.

Old Li said next to him, “Your vision should not be limited to what’s in front of you.”

The young Qin Sheng jerked his head up to face the western horizon. The setting sun’s rays were shining through the clouds in the distance. When the magnificent clouds suddenly parted, the golden rays shone down like a sea of light.

Then a cracking sound suddenly came from the young Qin Sheng’s body. Old Li started laughing in a pleased manner.

It seemed that some kind of shackle had been unlocked as a huge and powerful force swept through Qin Sheng’s body like a torrent.

Old Li smiled and said, “Qin Sheng, you’re the last Rider.”

But suddenly, the sound of gunfire rang out from the mountains in the distance. Old Li and Qin Sheng turned around to look. The anguished wails of humans followed after the gunshots. Who could be fighting in the mountains? Could it be that the Qing Consortium and the Zhou Consortium have started engaging in war?

A moment later, a gray figure climbed to the peak of a nearby mountain. Old Li frowned when he saw that figure had climbed up at a shockingly fast speed. The physical strength of the other party was probably even comparable to that of a Rider!

The gray figure standing at the top of the mountain across from them did not have any hair or even eyebrows. The other party looked quietly at Old Li and Qin Sheng with a gaze like that of a normal, callous human being.

The description might not be accurate, because in Old Li’s opinion, the other party was almost the same as a human being except for its telltale skin color.

It was an Experimental!

This word immediately flashed across Old Li’s mind. They had heard of the Experimentals before. After all, they were known to be wreaking havoc in the Southwest for a long time now.

But Old Li could not understand why the Experimentals would suddenly come to the Central Plains.

Besides, didn’t they say Experimentals moved in a reptilian-like crawl? Why was this Experimental in front of them so special then? It even had an expressive gaze in its eyes like that of human beings?

Old Li stood upright in confrontation with the other party. However, the Experimental actually smiled at Old Li before heading back down the mountain. It seemed like it had climbed to the summit just to take a look at them.

After the Experimental left, Old Li immediately secured the rope he had brought up with him to the summit. “Let’s leave here quickly. We have to inform the Zhou Consortium about the arrival of the Experimentals. If Stronghold 74 is caught unprepared, I’m afraid that everyone in the stronghold will be in trouble!”

In that instant, a scene of the stronghold residents wailing in anguish appeared in Old Li’s mind. It was a sight no humans wanted to see.

Just before they headed back down the mountain, Old Li even purposely turned around and took a look. He saw in the distance a dense group of Experimentals crazily surging forward in the valley. The number of Experimentals covering the entire wilderness was probably close to 10,000 strong.

Even someone as experienced and knowledgeable as Old Li could feel his scalp going numb at the sight of this. How did the number of Experimentals grow so rapidly?!

They could only pray the garrison troops of Stronghold 74 were sufficient!

As Old Li and Qin Sheng sprinted towards Stronghold 74, Qin Sheng’s joy at becoming a Rider vanished.

When they arrived at the stronghold gate, Old Li did not hide his identity and directly produced his Riders’ identification. Then he told the Zhou Consortium troops that there was a large number of Experimentals right behind them. Even by their most conservative estimate, there were still around 6,000 of them!

But before they could explain further, the Zhou Consortium troops suddenly received news that the brigade sent from Stronghold 73 to reinforce their defenses had been ambushed by the Experimentals. More than half of the reinforcements had been injured or killed and were retreating back to Stronghold 73!

As it was already dark, that brigade did not even manage to figure out how many Experimentals they were ambushed by. Before they received more precise intelligence about the Experimentals, the troops from Stronghold 73 could only wait until they were joined by more soldiers before coming over to reinforce Stronghold 74’s defenses.

In other words, Stronghold 74 would be an isolated city for at least the next seven days!

Old Li said in a solemn voice, “The Experimentals behind us can’t run faster than us, so that must be another group of Experimentals that ambushed your troops. They’re attacking the stronghold from both the east and the west. If that’s really the case, then we must be prepared that their numbers exceed 10,000!”



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The First Order – Chapter 558


When Old Li and Qin Sheng finished the free solo challenge, it was already evening. By the time they got back to Stronghold 74 to relay the news, it was already very late at night.

When the news was relayed back that the reinforcements from Stronghold 73 had been ambushed, the Zhou Consortium’s troops fell silent. Old Li asked, “Since the Qing Consortium had informed you all beforehand, why didn’t you deploy more troops over here?”

The commander of the Zhou Consortium troops at Stronghold 74 replied, “Originally, we wanted to mobilize more troops here, but didn’t something happen at Stronghold 73 a while ago too? Who would’ve expected something like this to happen? If not for the cave-in at East Lake in Stronghold 73, the reinforcements would’ve already arrived.”

Old Li fell silent because the Riders were also involved in the incident at Stronghold 73. Although it was only one of their members who went there, they were involved nonetheless. So strictly speaking, everyone with an ulterior motive at Stronghold 73 that day were accomplices to the Experimentals.

But while Old Li thought like this, others did not. For example, Ren Xiaosu simply felt that the incident was caused by the Pyro Company and the Anjing House and had nothing to do with him at all.

In the middle of the night, the Zhou Consortium troops in the stronghold deployed all their soldiers to the defensive fortifications even though it was already bedtime, leaving only a small number of soldiers with rotational breaks.

Based on the Qing Consortium’s intelligence reports, a few thousand Experimentals were already enough to cause a headache for them in their previous encounters. Their skin and muscles were so tough that not even bullets could penetrate, so they had to resort to using heavy machine guns.

But the Experimentals were also capable of moving very quickly. They could easily dodge their fire and get into the shooters’ blind spots while normal soldiers could not react fast enough to keep up with their movements.

When the speed and strength of the enemy were more than twice that of ordinary soldiers, they would have a feeling of being overwhelmed on the battlefield.

It would feel like the normal soldiers were moving in “slow motion” while the Experimentals were moving at a normal speed. Even if they possessed firearms, they would still suffer heavy casualties while fighting in that situation.

Although the soldiers could kill a lot of Experimentals, the Experimentals did not care about casualties at all. They could just turn the stronghold residents into Experimentals to make up for their losses after taking over the stronghold!

Old Li glanced at Qin Sheng and said, “By rights, you should go to a town immediately and live there for a year once you become a Rider. You can’t use your power or even use the skills I’ve taught you to survive in the wilderness. But at a critical moment like this, you and I should help the Zhou Consortium defend against external enemies first.”

Qin Sheng nodded at that. He understood the seriousness of the situation.

There wasn’t really anyone around the town outside the stronghold anymore. Even the refugees had already been shifted into the stronghold to help build the defensive fortifications. This was probably the first time the refugees had stepped foot in the stronghold, but they were made to wear an anklet tracker.

After all, the refugees would still have to leave the stronghold after the war was over.

At this moment, Ren Xiaosu was leading Fang Zhi and the others quietly towards the perimeter of the construction site. He whispered, “Do y’all have any other valuables on you?”

Fang Zhi nodded and said, “We managed to gather 30,000 yuan in cash and five watches.” Fang Zhi was visibly feeling the pinch. His own watch was very expensive and cost him more than 200,000 yuan.

Ren Xiaosu first used his watch to trade for some food. The officer in charge of watching over the grain supplies grinned from ear to ear. These supplies were not his own but the Zhou Consortium’s rations, after all. Since he could get a branded watch in exchange for some of these grains, he could not be happier to oblige.

Ren Xiaosu traded for around a dozen bags of grains, which would be enough to sustain them for at least half a month. However, Ren Xiaosu did not put it away into his storage space. Instead, he made Fang Zhi and the others carry them.

Immediately after, Ren Xiaosu used the remaining 30,000 yuan and five watches to bribe the supervisor of the construction site to allow them to leave.

The officer in charge of supervising the construction site even specifically instructed them not to head out after returning home. If they were caught and made to come back here again, not even the gods could help them.

There were more than 2,000 people at the construction site where Ren Xiaosu and the others were working. It had so many conscripted workers there was not even a place to house them all, so they could only sleep on the ground.

Therefore, no one would realize it even if a dozen-odd people disappeared.

When Fang Zhi walked out of the construction site, he felt extremely puzzled. “We got out so easily? They let us go just like that?”

Ren Xiaosu glanced at him. “They only brought you here to work, not line you up to be executed. There’s already so many people working there, so it’s not like they miss the few of us. It’s the private troops who’re supervising the construction site, and you know how they are, don’t you?”

In recent years, the various consortiums had been gradually downsizing the number of private troops. In another few years, they might not even be around anymore.

According to Zhang Jinglin, stronghold overseers used to be elected at the beginning. As the consortiums were still not strong at that time, some stronghold overseers could even rival the consortiums with the private troops under their control.

But gradually, as the consortiums grew more and more powerful, the status of the overseers became weaker and weaker. Even though they controlled the private troops, that only served as a proverbial loincloth for the overseers. In the end, their power was even further corroded by the highly addictive cigarettes the consortiums supplied.

In the current day, the consortiums had started replacing the overseers. For example, Luo Lan was secretly in charge of an entire stronghold even though he did not hold an official post in Stronghold 113 in the past.

And now, the consortiums openly took over all the strongholds. So, there was no reason for the private troops to exist.

Many officers in the private troops had also realized this point. They knew very well that the consortiums would not want to keep good-for-nothings like them under their payroll. In that case, they might as well earn whatever money they could so they would have nothing to worry about for the rest of their lives.

The group walked stealthily in the streets. From time to time, they even had to follow Ren Xiaosu’s lead to avoid any military vehicles that passed by. It took them two hours to get to the hotel where Li Ran and the others were staying. Along the way, Ren Xiaosu kept feeling that something was not quite right tonight. The stronghold was especially “active,” and it felt as if a war would be breaking out immediately.

Ever since Li Ran and the others got to the hotel, they had been waiting in the hotel lobby. Li Ran had wanted to go back to her own room, but Zhou Yingxue insisted they sit in the lobby to wait. She said it was impossible that Ren Xiaosu would stay at the construction site for too long and that he might escape as soon as it turned dark.

As expected, Zhou Yingxue rushed over happily to Ren Xiaosu when she saw him. However, she was turned off by the sweaty stench of this group of people.

Li Ran pinched her nose. “Hurry up and go take a shower.”

“How can we still be in the mood to take a shower?” Ren Xiaosu frowned and said, “Pack up your belongings immediately. We have to leave the stronghold tonight.”

“Why do we have to leave the stronghold?” Li Ran exclaimed. “We just arrived, and the concert hasn’t even been held yet.”

Ren Xiaosu cast an eye at her. She was really oblivious about the seriousness of the situation. Why would she still be thinking of the concert at such a time!

He said to Zhou Yingxue, “Use your power to make a tunnel leading outside the walls or something. We’ll leave through that.”

“A tunnel?” Fang Zhi asked doubtfully, “How wide is the tunnel?”

“Wide enough for a person to pass through.” Ren Xiaosu looked at Fang Zhi.

“What about our loudspeakers and instruments?” Fang Zhi exclaimed, “Even a single trumpet of ours is worth more than a 100,000 yuan!”

Ren Xiaosu was dumbfounded by what he said. He had not expected instruments to be so expensive.

Next to them, one of the ten plainclothes guards from the Wang Consortium said, “I don’t think it’s necessary for us to leave. Even if the Qing Consortium attacks this place, they won’t do anything to the stronghold residents, so we can just stay in the hotel without worries. There’s nothing to be afraid of. When the time comes, I can liaise with them as an officer of the Wang Consortium, and they’ll definitely let us go. After all, the Qing Consortium will not want to offend the Wang Consortium after just declaring war on the Zhou Consortium.”



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The First Order – Chapter 559


Chapter 559 Attack of the Experimentals

The plainclothes guard spoke with logic and reason. What he was trying to say was that they did not have to listen to Ren Xiaosu.
Moreover, he really convinced the others as well. Fang Zhi pulled Zhou Yingxue over and said, “I think they’re right. We don’t actually have to leave at all. If the Qing Consortium attacks, the Wang Consortium’s officer can handle them. Everything will be fine since there’s absolutely no reason for the Qing Consortium to declare war on the entire Central Plains.”

Fang Zhi did not say this to Ren Xiaosu. Instead, he spoke to Zhou Yingxue because Ren Xiaosu was her assistant, so he would definitely have to listen to her.

But when Ren Xiaosu heard that, he could not help but get angry.

If it were really the Qing Consortium coming to attack, it would be fine. He was just afraid that the enemy was not the Qing Consortium!

If it were the Qing Consortium invading Stronghold 74, why would Ren Xiaosu run away? He could walk brazenly in the stronghold at that time, alright? When the time came, there wouldn’t even be a need for the Wang Consortium officers to liaise with them. After all, he was still an active officer in the Qing Consortium’s army!

Back at Position 313, Ren Xiaosu gave the defensive deployment map to Qing Zhen and helped Luo Lan on many occasions. Luo Lan even said he could make Ren Xiaosu a general, but Ren Xiaosu turned down his offer. He did not want any official positions; just money would do.

Luo Lan said he would keep the post for him anyway, and he could take the position as and when he felt like it.

Ren Xiaosu looked at the few plainclothes officers who were speaking so confidently as if they had the authority to negotiate with the Qing Consortium. Right now, Ren Xiaosu was most afraid the enemy was not the Qing Consortium.

After all, Luo Lan had only recently become friends with the Zhou Consortium. He also understood that Qing Zhen was not someone who liked starting wars. Since the Zhou Consortium did not declare war on the Qing Consortium, why would Qing Zhen have his soldiers travel 500 kilometers over mountain paths to the Central Plains for no reason? Did he think it would be fun?

All of a sudden, a bell rang out in Stronghold 74. Ren Xiaosu was stunned. He asked Zhou Yingxue, “Do the bells in the Central Plains have the same meaning as the ones in the Southwest and Northwest?”

Zhou Yingxue whispered, “Yes, they mean the same thing. It’s signaling that the stronghold is in danger.”

A patrol squad drove past outside with a loudspeaker blaring, “All stronghold residents are to stay at home. You will not be allowed to come outside without permission. If you encounter any unknown creatures, please inform the Zhou Consortium’s troops by telephone as soon as possible. The landline number is 077.”

All residents of the stronghold had a landline telephone in their homes. Ren Xiaosu and the others had also used one when they were running the clinic.

When Ren Xiaosu heard that, his expression immediately sank. He looked at Li Ran and the plainclothes guards and said, “There’s no need to leave. We can’t escape anymore.”

Ren Xiaosu could roughly guess who was coming to attack Stronghold 74. Other than terrifying creatures like the Experimentals, there was probably nothing else that could make a consortium fear they were facing a formidable foe.

If there were really Experimentals outside the stronghold, the wilderness would be the most dangerous place to be right now.

As for what the plainclothes guard had said about no stronghold residents coming to harm no matter who attacked the stronghold, that was even more ridiculous. The Experimentals were absolutely the kind that would massacre everyone.

When Zhou Yingxue noticed Ren Xiaosu’s serious expression, she quickly asked, “Just what on earth is coming to attack?”

Ren Xiaosu looked at Zhou Yingxue. “Since you’re also from the Southwest, you must’ve heard of the Experimentals…”

Zhou Yingxue also blanched. After all, the Experimentals had already destroyed several strongholds in the Southwest.

Immediately, Zhou Yingxue said to Li Ran, “The mission only requires us to protect you, so you have to leave with us now. If you want to live, don’t worry about the others.”

Li Ran turned a little panicky and looked at Ren Xiaosu, who was standing off to the side. However, Ren Xiaosu did not say anything. He was frowning while thinking about something.

Next to them, one of the plainclothes guards said unhappily when he heard Zhou Yingxue’s words, “You were only hired to boost the image of our client. Do you really think Ms. Ranran needs your protection? She’ll stay with us and no one will be able to hurt her, because we’re active military personnel!”

Zhou Yingxue gave that plainclothes guard a cold stare. “How’re you going to protect Li Ran when your guns have been confiscated by the Zhou Consortium? Besides, it’s still a question whether you’ve been on a real battlefield before!”

Then Li Ran asked Zhou Yingxue, “Is the situation really that terrible? I can pay you more, so please just protect all of us?”

The plainclothes guard stopped her and said, “Why do you want to pay them more? She’s only a superhuman! Besides, we haven’t even seen her use her power, so who knows if her reputation precedes her?”

Li Ran did not listen to him and continued asking Zhou Yingxue, “I can pay more. Will you agree?”

To Li Ran’s surprise, Zhou Yingxue turned her head and looked at Ren Xiaosu. It was as if she were asking for his opinion.

Li Ran suddenly realized Ren Xiaosu was not her assistant at all. Why else would Zhou Yingxue need to consult her assistant on what to do next?

But thinking of this, Li Ran felt that everything made sense now. Even Zhou Yingxue could not stop Ren Xiaosu from acting on his own throughout the tour. If he were just a lowly assistant, how could he possibly act so recklessly?

As he spoke, Mu Wan’ge stepped out of the hotel elevator. He only ran down from his hotel room when he heard the commotion outside. As such, he wanted to meet up with the rest of the group to decide on what to do next.

Sensing the tense atmosphere in the hotel lobby, Mu Wan’ge asked what was going on. In the end, a crew member told him the stronghold might get attacked by some unknown creatures that were extremely strong. And right now, Li Ran was requesting that Zhou Yingxue and Ren Xiaosu protect everyone, but the plainclothes guards did not allow it.

When Mu Wan’ge heard this, he immediately turned to Ren Xiaosu and nearly grabbed his hands. He said sincerely, “I have money, please protect me. My life is dedicated to art, not to be sacrificed to monsters.”

Everyone in the lobby was stunned. When Li Ran saw Mu Wan’ge approaching Ren Xiaosu directly instead of Zhou Yingxue, she was not surprised at all. This made more sense now.

If not, why would Mu Wan’ge keep insisting on having Ren Xiaosu appear in his movie? And even chased him all the way to Stronghold 74?

Only this could explain everything!

This time, Mu Wan’ge had only brought two crew members along with him, with most of those in the group being Li Ran’s people. All in all, there were 30 of them.

Ren Xiaosu was not interested in saving so many people. Furthermore, if the Experimentals were to invade into the stronghold, 90% of the people in this city would die. Why would he care about others at a time like this? With such a large group of people, shouldn’t they be more afraid the Experimentals would find them more easily?

In actual fact, Ren Xiaosu had also realized the Experimentals were not so thorough in their search of a stronghold. So, even though the strongholds in the Southwest had been invaded by the Experimentals before, a few survivors still managed to escape. Ren Xiaosu thought that if the Experimentals were to really breach the stronghold, he could make use of Zhou Yingxue’s power to create a small underground refuge to take shelter in. The Zhou Consortium could not possibly give up Stronghold 74 entirely. Once the Zhou Consortium’s troops drove the Experimentals away, they could come out of the underground refuge.

But was it really that simple?



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The First Order – Chapter 560


There was barely any staff left in the hotel, with only one or two people staying behind to look after the place while the rest of their colleagues went home to their families.

While Li Ran and the others were sitting in the hotel lobby in a daze, gunshots suddenly rang out outside the stronghold. To be precise, it came from the top of the stronghold walls.

The plainclothes guards from the Wang Consortium were standing at the hotel’s entrance and had been discussing how to get their hands on some weapons. They wondered if they could contact the Wang Consortium to get them to liaise with the Zhou Consortium to return the weapons to them.

But after talking on the satellite phone for a long time, the Wang Consortium only promised them that they would speak with the Zhou Consortium about the matter. However, there was no further update.

Ren Xiaosu glanced at those soldiers standing at the entrance, then pulled Zhou Yingxue aside and said, “You stay here. I’ll go outside to take a look.”

Zhou Yingxue turned anxious. She lowered her voice and said, “Master, please don’t go running around. I’m scared.”

“What’s the use of being scared?” Ren Xiaosu retrieved two pistols and six magazines from his storage space and handed them to Zhou Yingxue. “This hotel is located in the center of the stronghold. If anything happens here, it means that the entire stronghold is doomed. When the time comes, you can just find a random spot to open up an underground refuge with your seeds. After that, wait for me to come and rescue you, understand?”

“Then should we still save Li Ran at that time?” Zhou Yingxue asked.

Ren Xiaosu was stunned for a moment. “It’s already good enough if you can survive, so why would you still think about saving others at that time? At worst, we don’t get to participate in the Anjing House trials, but we won’t die either.”

Zhou Yingxue broke out into a smile and was no longer scared. “Yes, Master.”

She was most worried that Ren Xiaosu was only using her to join the Anjing House and would abandon her after that. But right now, it seemed she was more important than his objective of joining the Anjing House.

Ren Xiaosu found this a little baffling. How could this woman change so quickly? Just a moment ago, she was looking quite scared. But now, she could even start smiling.

After that, he walked out of the hotel. When Li Ran and Mu Wan’ge saw this, they immediately panicked. Li Ran got up and asked, “Where are you going?”

“I’m going outside to take a look,” Ren Xiaosu replied.

“If you’re leaving, who’s going to protect us?” Mu Wan’ge said anxiously.

“What if you don’t come back?” Li Ran said, sounding a little lost.

Ren Xiaosu gestured with his chin at Zhou Yingxue and said, “You still have her around.”

Everyone looked at Zhou Yingxue. When they saw Zhou Yingxue inspecting the pistols, everyone wondered how she managed to sneak them into the stronghold.

Ren Xiaosu looked at the plainclothes guards and said with a grin, “And there’s still them, right? They can protect y’all.”

When those guards saw the two guns Zhou Yingxue was holding, their eyes lit up. “We’re active military personnel. Since you want us to protect everyone, we should be the ones handling those guns. Also, we’re more adept at using them.”

Ren Xiaosu sneered, “Zhou Yingxue, if anyone tries to seize the guns from you after I leave, you can shoot them dead.”

Zhou Yingxue also said calmly, “You’re saying that you guys are more adept at using firearms? You couldn’t even safeguard your own guns, so why are you still talking about using them?”

With that, Ren Xiaosu left. As a matter of fact, Zhou Yingxue was not a weak-willed woman at all. She was a lady who could blatantly lie without batting an eyelid. If these plainclothes guards dared to plot against Zhou Yingxue to get her guns, they would probably be killed by her tonight.

After Ren Xiaosu left the hotel, he headed to the west side of the stronghold. That should be the main battlefield where the Zhou Consortium’s troops were going to face the Experimentals. But on the way there, he suddenly saw more than a dozen supernatural beings dressed in black hopping across the roofs at almost the same speed as him. They only took a glance at him and did not say anything.

But something felt strange. Where did these supernatural beings come from? A moment later, Ren Xiaosu noticed the sabers they were carrying on their belts. Weren’t those the Pyro Company’s ceramic sabers?

Wait a minute, were all these people the Pyro Company’s members? All of them must have been hiding in Stronghold 74 before the Experimentals arrived.

But since they were members of the Pyro Company, why didn’t they make a move when they encountered a supernatural being like him?

Ren Xiaosu quietly ran off in another direction. Then he switched to using his shadow clone to follow the Pyro Company members to see what they were up to.

The garrison troops had already ceased firing from the top of the stronghold walls, and Ren Xiaosu wondered what the situation outside was like.

Eventually, the Pyro Company members and Ren Xiaosu arrived at the stronghold’s western walls. The Pyro Company members immediately announced their identities to the Zhou Consortium’s troops and started ascending the walls.

Ren Xiaosu watched through his spotting scope. He also saw the Zhou Consortium’s troops distributing guns to the Pyro Company members. It seemed like the Pyro Company members would be joining forces with the Zhou Consortium’s troops to guard the city this time.

The Pyro Company was going to help defend the city and protect the stronghold residents? So it turned out the Pyro Company members did not try to capture a supernatural being like him when they encountered him earlier because they had an even more important task to handle?

This was subverting Ren Xiaosu’s understanding. So when humans were faced with a common threat, even an organization like the Pyro Company would become part of the defense forces?

Actually, Ren Xiaosu understood that if the Zhou Consortium’s troops were to be defeated, hundreds of thousands of people across the entire stronghold would end up suffering. But to be honest, he was really not expecting the Pyro Company to automatically step forward to give their assistance.

Old Li and Qin Sheng had already collected their firearms distributed by the Zhou Consortium troops. However, the Zhou Consortium did not assign them any specific tasks. But if the Experimentals started charging up the walls, it would be up to these supernatural beings to fend them off.

After all, it would be very difficult to kill the Experimentals with just pistols and automatic rifles if that happened. Furthermore, the Experimentals were extremely mobile. So if an Experimental managed to climb the walls, it would become a huge threat to the stronghold’s entire defense system. Even more Experimentals could manage to get up on the walls and cause the entire defensive line to collapse. At that time, they could only rely on the newly built defensive fortifications within the city, although that would surely be their last resort.

At this moment, the Experimentals had just started attacking, but they were forced to retreat into the forest when the Zhou Consortium killed several dozen of them with heavy machine guns.

When the Experimentals emerged from the forest again, everyone on the stronghold walls was stunned. That was because there were several hundred live hostages being herded towards the stronghold by the Experimentals. Old Li thought he might even know some of them as they seemed to be the refugees who had escaped into the wilderness to avoid the organizations.

The Experimentals would usually kill anyone they encountered. But it was different this time. They had actually learned how to take humans as hostages!

The humans had heavy machine guns, didn’t they? Then let’s see if they were willing to kill their own kind first.

The garrison force stationed on the stronghold walls in the east was facing a similar predicament. It was not only the refugees that were being herded forward by the Experimentals, but a large number of the Zhou Consortium soldiers in their blue military uniforms were also among the crowd. It seemed that these were the reinforcements from Stronghold 73 that had been recently captured by the Experimentals.

To open fire or not to open fire?

Old Li, Qin Sheng, and the Pyro Company members did not say anything because they were only here to provide support, so it was not up to them to make the decisions.

The commander of the Zhou Consortium’s garrison troops stood on the stronghold walls and looked silently at the crowd of people approaching the city. Those people cried until their throats turned hoarse. Some of the adults were hugging their children in their arms while their faces were covered in tears.

Among the crowd, a few sporadic Experimentals were responsible for herding them forward. Meanwhile, the main Experimental forces were closely following about six meters behind them. If the soldiers on the walls did not make a move, the Experimentals would destroy the seemingly impenetrable stronghold in less than a minute once they got close enough to the walls.

The Zhou Consortium commander said calmly, “Open fire.”



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The First Order – Chapter 561


In the past, no one from the three consortiums in the Southwest had thought of the Experimentals as a threat before. This was because the consortiums believed they were just a bunch of unintelligent beasts. They thought they could get rid of the Experimentals once and for all after they were done settling their inter-consortium matters.

But by the time Qing Yi headed to the south to take care of the Experimentals problem, the Qing Consortium came to realize that the intelligent being among the Experimentals was not easy to deal with.

As of now, humans would have to treat the Experimentals as beings with the same intelligence level and carefully deal with them.

For example, right now, the Zhou Consortium troops would have never expected the Experimentals to be holding the refugees and captive soldiers as hostages to advance towards the stronghold. This made the Zhou Consortium commander standing on the stronghold walls very troubled.

Although the commander of the Zhou Consortium troops had calmly given the order to open fire, there were still the elderly and children among the refugees held hostage. After this battle was over, this commander of the Zhou Consortium troops would very likely be bugged by his conscience.

Not everyone could be fully cold-blooded and heartless. He was only making the most rational and calm choice based on the situation.

The heavy machine guns mounted atop the stronghold walls started firing. In the dark of the night, the muzzle flashes produced were like fire-spitting dragons. It even resembled meteors shooting across the sky.

Everyone on the stronghold walls was watching this sight quietly. Old Li and Qin Sheng saw the refugees being ripped apart by the bullets, and some of them were even people they knew. Just recently, they had delivered some medicine to those refugees and received a basketful of wild chicken eggs in return.

Old Li had promised them at the time that he would purchase some coats for twelve of the refugee children. But before he could get the clothes for them, those twelve children had perished.

However, neither Old Li nor Qin Sheng stopped the Zhou Consortium troops from opening fire, because they knew this was the best option they had. Although the Riders were honorable people, they were never taught to be benevolent.

Amid the gunfire, the Experimentals mixed into the crowd of people were also shot by the heavy machine guns. When they realized the humans had opened fire, they immediately pulled back.

They retreated out of the heavy machine guns’ range at the fastest possible speed and disappeared into the forest.

Some of the machine gunners seemed to have gone crazy as they kept shooting at the Experimentals even though they were running off. However, this group of Experimentals seemed to have undergone some kind of training. While they were retreating, they even did so by running in zigzag patterns and trying their best to avoid getting shot.

The commander of the Zhou Consortium troops had already tried his best to draw in the Experimentals so that they could cut off their retreat. But this time, their barrage of gunfire was only able to kill several hundred Experimentals at most. As the Experimentals fled, the garrison troops on the stronghold walls were also able to see for themselves just how much strength these creatures had.

However, before the garrison troops could breathe a sigh of relief, the other garrison troops in the south suddenly roared on the radio that they were under attack!

“What’s going on? Didn’t the Experimentals just retreat?” someone said in a stunned voice.

“This is bad. That was just a feint earlier!” the commander of the Zhou Consortium’s troops said, clenching his teeth.

Earlier, the Experimentals had mobilized a large number of forces to attack the stronghold. They even forced all the refugees to move in front as shields for them and pretended they were going to attack the stronghold from this side.

As a result, the Zhou Consortium’s troops had to resort to transferring some troops away from the south and north gates at the last minute in a desperate attempt to defend this side of the stronghold. However, those reinforcements had only managed to get halfway to the western walls when they received orders to turn around and head back to their original positions.

It turned out that even though the Experimentals at the west gate had looked like they were launching a very powerful attack, it was only used to divert the attention of the stronghold’s garrison. In fact, the Experimentals had other plans that now seemed even more devious than they expected.

The commander of the Zhou Consortium troops issued an order on the radio frequency. “Defend the south gate! We must not allow the Experimentals to ascend the stronghold walls!”

Just five minutes earlier, everyone had witnessed how strong the Experimentals were. If such monsters were to climb the stronghold walls and engage them in close combat, it would probably only take ten minutes for their entire defense network at the southern walls to collapse.

As he spoke, the commander of the Zhou Consortium troops could already see Old Li and Qin Sheng rushing towards the south gate. Even the Pyro Company’s 15 members followed close behind.

Both parties were very decisive in their actions. Once there was danger of the south side falling to the Experimentals, they knew exactly where they were needed most.

If the Experimentals managed to get to the top of the stronghold walls, they were the only ones who could drive them back down.

Ren Xiaosu quietly watched through his spotting scope from high ground in the distance. However, he did not know what was happening.

He could only see small, blurry, black figures atop the stronghold walls dashing madly towards the south. Could more Experimentals have appeared at the south gate?

However, Ren Xiaosu still did not make his move. He was considering if he should even participate in this battle.

During the mad dash to the southern walls, the difference in strength between the Riders and the Pyro Company members became obvious. The two Riders were running ahead without even needing to catch their breaths. Furthermore, they were pulling farther and farther away from the Pyro Company members. Behind them, the Pyro Company members desperately tried to catch up to Old Li and Qin Sheng, but they just couldn’t do so.

One of the commanders of the Pyro Company members suddenly said, “Don’t try to keep up with them. We’re just gonna tire ourselves out if we do that. Save our energy and prepare for close combat later. We mustn’t let the Experimentals get up on the walls.”

The garrison troops in the south could hold the defenses for a while. Meanwhile, it would take time for the Riders to rush from the western walls to the southern walls. It would take at least twenty minutes for them to get there. Old Li and Qin Sheng could only pray that the Zhou Consortium’s garrison troops on the southern walls fought hard enough to not fall to a quick defeat!

Now, Ren Xiaosu was also rushing towards the south side. He thought that if Old Li and Qin Sheng could not hold the line, he could at least help if he were closer to the area.

Ren Xiaosu thought that if the Pyro Company members he had always been annoyed with were willing to take a stand at this time, how could he continue to sit idle? Would that not make him worse than the people he hated?

Everyone was running madly about. The Zhou Consortium troops that were returning to their positions in the south were also sprinting on top of the stronghold walls. But as they ran, Old Li and Qin Sheng slowly overtook them.

Ren Xiaosu was also leaping from roof to roof inside the stronghold. However, before he could get close to the walls, the two Riders had already arrived at the south gate. Just as Old Li and Qin Sheng got there, the Experimentals managed to climb to the top of the walls. Kicking off hard against the wall, their fully gray figures pounced, like they were flying, towards the heavy machine guns mounted at the top of the walls. It seemed that they were most afraid of those weapons now. The first group of Experimentals that ascended the walls were on a mission to destroy all of their opponent’s heavy firepower!

But before they could do so, Old Li collided into an Experimental in midair with the strength of an off-road vehicle and sent it hurtling down to the bottom of the stronghold.

Ren Xiaosu immediately found another vantage point to watch everything unfold through his spotting scope. He could see that whenever Old Li threw his punches, there would be a dazzling radiance in the follow-through. Even though Old Li was several meters away from the other Experimentals, he could still land those dazzling punches on them through the air!

It was not only Old Li who could do that. Even Qin Sheng was fighting in a similar style. The dazzling radiance followed every punch they threw!

Ren Xiaosu was stunned by what he saw through the spotting scope. What the hell was this? Were Old Li and Qin Sheng this fearsome? It was no wonder they dared to stroll around in the wilderness so freely.



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The First Order – Chapter 555


Chapter 555 Investigative reporter

The patrol squad escorted Ren Xiaosu, Fang Zhi, and the others to the edge of the stronghold. The nonessential residences had already been cleared out and demolished, and new defensive fortifications were currently being built.
This area used to be a clean and tidy street, and there were small shops and old residential buildings around six stories high that stood on the road. But now the residential buildings and shops had all disappeared. In their place was ground covered in dust and dirt with half-built bunkers and some simple machine gun nests.

Such defensive fortifications were for defending against enemies in a battle once the stronghold walls got breached. But looking at the state of things, how were they supposed to fight this way?

Furthermore, the stronghold gate was sealed shut as well.

“Why’d they seal the gate?” Fang Zhi asked in surprise, “We came in through the east gate this morning. It wasn’t shut over there.”

They were north of the stronghold, which had four city gates in total. Right now, the north gate had already been completely sealed shut with some concrete analogue. Ren Xiaosu had a look at it and saw the material was not fully dry yet. It looked to him like the gate had just been sealed in the past two days.

No one from the patrol squad next to them answered. Meanwhile, Ren Xiaosu was thinking that war might really be breaking out soon. Why else would they seal the gate for no reason?

The east gate was perhaps the only city gate that was not sealed off in the entire stronghold. Could it be that the enemy was going to attack from the west? And that was why the Zhou Consortium only left the east gate untouched?

When they arrived at the construction site, Ren Xiaosu and the others were made to carry bricks and assist the Engineering Corps in building the defensive fortifications.

While carrying bricks, Ren Xiaosu also kept an eye on what the Zhou Consortium’s troops were up to.

First of all, they collected the transported supplies and consolidated them under the troops’ supervision. Usually, this signaled that a very tough war was impending.

Second, they planted naval mines in the river that ran through the stronghold. These mines even seemed to have been specially transported here from the other strongholds.

There were many lakes and rivers in the Zhou Consortium’s territory, while the Wang Consortium’s regions were dominated by plains. As for the Kong Consortium, they were connected to the sea. These were the geographies of the three consortiums. As such, the Zhou Consortium was more versed in the research and development of underwater weapons.

Honestly, Ren Xiaosu could not understand what was going on even after watching for a long time. What on earth were they guarding against? They actually had to plant mines in the water? Normal troops would not be getting into the stronghold through the canal, right?

While they were working, Ren Xiaosu did not feel tired at all. With his physical fitness, this little bit of work was nothing to him.

But Fang Zhi and the others were so tired they nearly died. When they went to collect their lunches, Fang Zhi’s hands were trembling as he held the plastic meal tray given out by the Zhou Consortium.

Fang Zhi grumbled, “Ren Xiaosu, we were just having a laugh in the car. Why did you have to stoop this low? Wait a minute, weren’t you working too? Why don’t you look tired?”

Ren Xiaosu glanced at him. “You people don’t usually do any physical labor at all. When danger really comes, y’all will never be able to run away. It’s for your own good that you can get some training now.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Fang Zhi was speechless. “The Central Plains is such a safe place, and we don’t even see any wild animals around anymore, so where’s the danger that you’re talking about?”

Ren Xiaosu pointed to the ground. “Isn’t Stronghold 74 already facing imminent danger?”

Fang Zhi had a look at the massive defensive fortifications around him. It seemed like that was really that case. He asked, “What on earth is going on here? Is the Qing Consortium coming to attack soon?”

“I dunno.” Ren Xiaosu shook his head. “I don’t have enough info to judge.”

A moment later, someone in the crowd was suddenly singled out and pulled aside by a site supervisor. Then he snatched away a small camera that was hidden in that person’s pocket and said, “What are you doing?”

The person who was pulled aside declared proudly, “I’m an investigative reporter, and I’m documenting everything all of you are doing. You’ve been pressing the stronghold residents into work as laborers, yet you don’t intend to pay them their wages—”

But before he could finish speaking, the site supervisor stopped the reporter and invited him into the shade before changing his meal to a better one. However, that reporter’s camera was confiscated.

As Ren Xiaosu, Fang Zhi, and the others watched from afar, they saw the supervisor sending a subordinate to get a red packet, which he then handed to the reporter. That reporter accepted it and did not mention the investigation anymore.

Fang Zhi adjusted his glasses. “That is definitely not an investigative reporter from Hope Media. He has no principles.”

“They resolved the matter with just a red packet?” Ren Xiaosu asked.

“That reporter probably came here intending to extort money. There’s many reporters like him in the Central Plains, and they always claim to be investigating some of the troublesome issues around. However, they’re really just aiming to collect some bribes,” Fang Zhi explained.

“Oh, I see. What about Hope Media? From what you’ve just said, it sounds like Hope Media is different?” Ren Xiaosu asked.

“The chief editor of Hope Media used to be an investigative reporter.” Fang Zhi said with admiration, “He hid in the coal mines of the Kong Consortium to document the mistreatment of coal miners. Because of this incident, he was beaten up several times. After he escaped, all he wanted was to report the things he heard and saw there, but no newspaper firms dared to run his story. It was only at this point that he approached Xu Ke of the Qinghe Group. At that time, Xu Ke had just taken over the organization. Allegedly, Xu Ke and the chief editor hit it off right from the start. Xu Ke said that since no newspaper firms dared to run the story, they could set up their own newspaper firm to report about it, and that was how Hope Media came into existence.”

Ren Xiaosu listened with keen interest. Across from him, Fang Zhi continued with a sigh, “Of course, that’s just an urban myth that’s been circulating, but Hope Media has always been unyielding in whatever they do…. Eh, I have a reporter’s pass as well!”

Fang Zhi came back to his senses at this moment. He had also applied for a reporter’s pass. Of course, he was not looking to become a reporter, but it was useful to him as Li Ran’s assistant since it made matters easier to handle. A lot of celebrities’ assistants also held many titles that were purchased with money.

Fang Zhi rummaged through his wallet for the pass. If he could show his identification to the troops, he would not have to do any more labor.

Other things aside, not having to work in the construction site was the most important.

Fang Zhi took out a card with his photo on it from his wallet and shouted to the site supervisor, “I’m also—”

But before he could finish speaking, Ren Xiaosu took his reporter’s pass away and tore it up. “No, you’re not.”

Fang Zhi was confused.

Ren Xiaosu explained in a low voice, “I’ll take y’all to find Li Ran and the others tonight. If you get taken away now, you’ll be left alone at the construction site after we leave. Are you willing to risk that?”

Fang Zhi said skeptically, “You want to help us escape?”

“Do you think I want to work here? Don’t worry, the stronghold is really big. Even if we run away, the Zhou Consortium won’t have the resources to search the entire stronghold for us.” Ren Xiaosu glanced at him. “But before we leave, there’s still something we need to do.”

Ren Xiaosu remembered the tour group was only carrying enough food to last everyone for at most two days. However, it was apparent that a war would be breaking out soon in Stronghold 74. All of the food was consolidated in the hands of the troops now. If they did not get some provisions for themselves, the entire tour group would go hungry in two days.



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The First Order – Chapter 563


This time, it was the shadow clone that became the main fighting force of the battle. A dozen Experimentals had surrounded the shadow clone, but they were not in a hurry to attack.Among the Experimentals, one of its leaders let out a hoarse roar. It was apparently communicating with its companions on how to deal with the “human” in front of them.

These creatures had departed from the normal speech of humans. They were communicating more like beasts with one another.

But while the Experimentals did not make a move, the shadow clone did.

Seeing that more and more Experimentals were emerging from the underground tunnel, if they weren’t immediately taken care of, their numbers aboveground would only start increasing.

These dozen or so Experimentals were clearly just stalling for time so their companions at the back could join them on the surface.

The shadow clone leaped up and flew straight over the head of an Experimental and towards the exit of the underground tunnel.

When that Experimental saw they could not stall the shadow clone, it tried to tangle up the shadow clone in midair with tooth and claw. But to its surprise, the shadow clone seemed to have expected it to make a move and slashed back at it.

The black saber sliced through the howling wind with a buzzing sound. Before the Experimental could even make contact with the shadow clone’s body, it was severed in half!

The shadow clone did not stop moving. The moment it landed on the ground, it rushed straight for the underground tunnel. The Experimentals that were charging towards the center of the stronghold behind the shadow clone immediately went after it. They wanted to guard the underground tunnel’s exit for the other Experimentals so they could come aboveground safely!

This seemed to be an irrevocable order given by that intelligent being among them.

Six Experimentals went to higher ground and pounced at the shadow clone from behind. Although their appearances were like humans, their crawling motions and gray skin made them look like huge spiders. They were extremely weird-looking.

Just as the Experimentals behind were about to lunge at the shadow clone from above, the shadow clone suddenly bent over and avoided their pursuit by sliding away.

One of the Experimentals was just about to exit from the underground tunnel when it saw a figure sliding on the ground. With a slice, its head was cut off.

The Experimental’s body fell limply back into the tunnel and onto its companions that were preparing to emerge from the ground.

The Experimental below let out an angry roar as it pushed its companion’s corpse aside. Just as it tried to exit the tunnel, its head was pierced by a black saber that suddenly appeared above it.

In just a short moment, four Experimentals had died to that black saber. That black saber was so sharp it could even penetrate the bodies of the Experimentals when bullets could not.

The bodies of these four Experimentals were blocking the tunnel exit while the shadow clone stood on top of their corpses. Listening to the indignant roars of the Experimentals that were stuck in the tunnel, the shadow clone turned its “gaze” to the Experimentals aboveground.

The Experimentals on the street that had surrounded the shadow clone looked at the unfeeling white mask and black saber dripping with a murky liquid. All of a sudden, they felt a little scared.

The human before them was capable of killing them like he was cutting grass. If he were outside the stronghold, they could easily kill him by outnumbering him. However, there were only eight or nine Experimentals inside the stronghold right now. As such, they actually felt they were the weaker side.

In the blink of an eye, this human had single-handedly stopped the final trump card in their wave of attacks on the stronghold.

Old Li and the others saw this scene from the edge of the stronghold walls. In a brief glimpse, they saw the shadow clone facing all the Experimentals alone and even managing to seal off the tunnel.

Qin Sheng looked at the back of the “human” and suddenly felt the other party emanated an aura of invincibility.

Killing the Experimentals was nothing surprising, but scaring them to the point of not daring to make a move was not something that just anyone could achieve.

From the beginning to the end, Ren Xiaosu did not participate in the battle personally. That was because it was enough for him to have the shadow clone fight on his behalf. Meanwhile, he was lying on the roof of a tall building in the distance where he could fire his sniper rifle at any moment.

However, Ren Xiaosu did not act rashly. His shadow clone was enough to deal with these Experimentals. If he were to casually fire a shot and reveal the presence of a sniper here, it would be very easy for the Anjing House or the Pyro Company to associate it with Zhou Yingxue.

But that would still be very unlikely.

If it really became necessary for him to take a shot, Ren Xiaosu would no longer care whether his actions would reveal anything.

Suddenly, Ren Xiaosu saw a young man rush against the flow of the crowd and towards the battlefield.

That person’s stride was delicate, and it did not look like he was a supernatural being. In fact, he might not have even gone through any physical training before, so after running for a while, he started panting heavily. Breathing in such a way could easily hurt the lungs.

There was a camera hanging from the young man’s neck as well as a dark blue badge. Ren Xiaosu could not see what was written on it, but he could guess the young man was probably a reporter.

The stronghold residents now understood the kinds of monsters they were facing. They had been complaining about how the Zhou Consortium had mobilized a large number of forces to tear down many of the residences in the city and built defensive fortifications in their place. They had even conscripted all of the adult men into the army, with only a small number of them escaping the call-ups. This made the residents of the stronghold very unhappy at that time.

But when they personally saw how easily the Experimentals could tear apart humans, they finally recognized what the Zhou Consortium troops did from the bottom of their hearts. Only when their own interests and lives were threatened did they understand the significance of the Zhou Consortium troops.

But while the residents were fleeing in a panic, a reporter was actually rushing towards the scene of the battle just so he could gather firsthand news to report about. Ren Xiaosu did not quite understand what went through the minds of these reporters.

A moment later, the Experimentals in the underground tunnel seemingly retreated. Meanwhile, the Experimentals facing the shadow clone suddenly tried to escape. They turned around and got far away from the shadow clone, the Experimentals running to a manhole cover. One of them stretched out its gray hands and tried to pull open the manhole cover to get into the sewers.

However, the manhole cover did not budge!

If not for the fact that the Zhou Consortium troops had already welded the manhole covers shut in advance and stopped these Experimentals from escaping into the sewers, their presence in the stronghold would probably contribute to extreme instability later on. Who knew what they would do after they got back out?

If the Experimentals hid in the sewers and escaped separately, not even the shadow clone could catch up to all of them.

The direction where the Experimentals were escaping towards was where that young reporter was standing. There were not many residents around that reporter anymore as everyone had already fled.

He stood in a daze on the street and stopped in his tracks. When the young reporter saw the Experimentals surrounding the manhole cover, he was astonished. But his reporter’s instinct kicked in, and he kept pressing the shutter button of the camera he was holding.

Behind those Experimentals, the shadow clone had come chasing after them. The white mask the shadow clone was wearing looked extremely out of place in the camera’s viewfinder. The calm expression on the mask seemed to form a stark contrast with the fleeing Experimentals.

Of course, the welded manhole covers could not stop the Experimentals. They used their arms to break the manhole cover apart. But just after they escaped inside, an explosion came from the sewers. Ren Xiaosu had used Shadow Door to cast ten grenades beneath the manhole and forcefully blow them back up to the surface.

But they were still intact Experimentals when they went in. By the time they were blown back out, they had turned into fragmented pieces of Experimentals.

Only at this moment did the Zhou Consortium’s emergency response force in the stronghold arrive.



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The First Order – Chapter 1


In the chaotic darkness, the young Ren Xiaosu awoke and started wiping off the sweat on his forehead. Then he looked towards the boy of around 14 who was standing at the door.

“Liuyuan, did anything happen?” Ren Xiaosu asked.

Addressed as Liuyuan, the boy’s full name was Yan Liuyuan.

From his appearance, Yan Liuyuan looked like a very harmless and innocent person. However, he was holding a bone knife in his hands and standing guard at the door. It was deep into the night at the moment, but he did not close his eyes even though he looked very sleepy, as he had to keep watch through the night.

Yan Liuyuan shook his head and said, “No, everything is fine. Hmm, what exactly is this sickness you’re experiencing in your head? Even the town’s doctor can’t diagnose what’s wrong with you?”

“You don’t have to worry about such things. What I’m experiencing is not a sickness.” Ren Xiaosu said firmly, “It’ll be dawn soon, and I’ll be going out to hunt. You should sleep for a while so that you can get up in time for school.”

“OK.” Yan Liuyuan nodded, glum. “But what’s the point of studying in a wasteland like this…”

“It will be useful for you in the future,” Ren Xiaosu said in an irrefutable tone.

“I want to go out to hunt too.” Yan Liuyuan pouted.

“Who’s going to keep watch at night if something happens to you? Me, who’s unconscious?” Ren Xiaosu stood up and prepared to go fetch water from the town center as it was less dangerous to do so after dawn broke.

During the night, it was a lawless land out there.

Dark clouds were building up without rest in the cloudy sky. A drop of acid rain eventually fell from above. It got blown about by the strong winds and finally landed in front of Ren Xiaosu.

Ren Xiaosu was lying on the ground in the wilderness. He frowned and felt that he was a little unlucky today as the acid rain arrived before his prey appeared.

Someone mentioned that he must be careful of the beasts while moving around in this wasteland.

But Ren Xiaosu felt that the person left everything else unspoken, because many things could still kill a person out in this wasteland. One of them was the acid rain.

However, Ren Xiaosu still did not make a move. If he couldn’t catch some game today, he and Yan Liuyuan would starve to death before they could die from the disease caused by the acid rain.

Ren Xiaosu’s eyes popped when he heard a bird’s wings flapping. However, the rhythm of his breathing did not change.

Ren Xiaosu had used a tree branch to prop up a black cauldron and scattered some black bread crumbs underneath it a short distance ahead of himself.

That large bird landed beside the cauldron and looked around sharply with an alert gaze. The size of the bird was not that much smaller than the cauldron, in fact.

As it stood in the same spot preening its feathers, Ren Xiaosu did not make a move and continued waiting.

The bird finally seemed to let its guard down as it started sneaking towards the cauldron as a thief would.

However, when it entered into the boundary under the cauldron and was about to lower its head to peck on the bread crumbs, Ren Xiaosu pulled hard on the rope in his hand. Right after, the young man jumped up and rushed towards the cauldron like an unbridled wild donkey. Before the large bird could flip the cauldron over, he mustered all of his strength and used his body to pin down the cauldron!

“Phew!”

Ren Xiaosu heaved a sigh of relief as he had waited an entire night just to catch this sparrow. Fortunately, his efforts had not gone to waste today, especially since such good opportunities were hard to come by.

Clattering came from inside the cauldron as the struggling sparrow battered its tough wings against it. At this moment, the short melody of the clock striking the hour rang from the refugee stronghold.

Ren Xiaosu turned around and looked at the town. He wondered when he could finally bring Yan Liuyuan to live inside the stronghold.

To Ren Xiaosu, the people living in the stronghold were fortunate because they did not have to face the dangers of the wastelands.

However, not just anyone could enter that place as they wished.

Right at this moment, the activity in the cauldron quieted by a lot. He let out a sigh and checked if the ragged cloth was wrapped firmly around his hand. Then Ren Xiaosu slowly lifted the cauldron up to create a tiny opening and put his hand in. He attempted to grab hold of the large sparrow by its legs!

However, life was not always that smooth sailing. Ren Xiaosu yelped right after putting his hand under the cauldron.

Ren Xiaosu pulled out his hand and had a look at his palm. The web between his thumb and forefinger was bleeding, as not even the ragged cloth could protect it against the sparrow’s sharp beak.

Ren Xiaosu got angry. He removed his ragged jacket and wrapped it around his hand. Then he thrust his hand under the cauldron again and grabbed the sparrow by its neck this time.

He took the sparrow out from under the cauldron and tucked it in his arm. With a strong twist of his hand, the sparrow’s neck broke and it went limp.

At this moment, Ren Xiaosu felt a pinch in his heart because the large sparrow’s claws had punched several holes into his jacket.

Suddenly, his mind went blank, and Ren Xiaosu fell to his knees. It was as if a massive copper bell had been struck inside his head. Then he descended into a chaotic darkness.

Oh no! In the past, this sickness only occurred at midnight, but now it came earlier?

This was not the first time his sickness had “acted up.” Almost all the people in town knew there was something wrong with his head, and his pain would flare up at random times.

Only Ren Xiaosu knew that it was not pain but a state of confusion that he was experiencing.

Wait a minute. This time, it was different from the past. The black mist in his mind had dispersed and revealed a “palace” beyond it!

Ren Xiaosu’s eyes flew open, and he stood up. He looked at himself in disbelief. “I came to this quickly?”

He originally had a chance to get a closer look at the palace’s appearance, but he knew better. There was no difference between remaining unconscious and dying out here in the wilderness. Right now, he had to rush back to the town that was situated outside of Stronghold 113 before the heavens opened up with the acid rain!

Ren Xiaosu tied the sparrow’s legs together and slung it over his shoulder. Then he lifted the big cauldron and inverted it onto his head before running away. Pitter-patter. Raindrops started falling on the cauldron.

The cauldron had turned into his umbrella.

Before he could run far, however, the silhouette of a person holding a bone knife stood in his way. “Give your catch to me—”

But before the person could finish his sentence, he saw a big cauldron swinging in closer and closer, until it smacked into his face!

“Damn!” The robber fell backwards. He had not expected Ren Xiaosu’s attack to be that swift! And it was so forceful too!

Then he saw Ren Xiaosu lower the pot before swinging it back up and placing it over his head to use as an umbrella, all in a single, continuous motion…. The robber had not even fallen to the ground, yet Ren Xiaosu was already running off into the distance!

The robber laid on the ground facing the sky as the acid rain came down. It was a little painful and stung his face. There was something about this that he could not understand.

In most situations, shouldn’t there be some interaction between them? Just how many times had this young man encountered a similar situation to react so instinctively!?

Something was not right. He could hear that young man’s footsteps approaching again!

The robber hurriedly sat up and turned around to look. He discovered that the young man was coming back to him!

Ren Xiaosu had not planned to return, but he distinctly heard a voice reverberate from the palace in his mind, “Quest: Gift your catch to someone else.”

Who said that? Ren Xiaosu turned around and walked back to the robber with some uncertainty.

The robber said in panic, “Let’s talk this over…. Hey, that’s not right, I’m the victim here….”

Ren Xiaosu sized up the robber. He noticed that there were no others nearby.

“You want this sparrow?” Ren Xiaosu asked.

The robber’s eyes lit up. “I do!”

“Here, take it.” Ren Xiaosu stuffed the sparrow into the man’s arms without explaining himself.

That unfamiliar yet neutral voice intoned again, “Quest complete. Awarded: Basic Skill Duplication Scroll. You may use it to learn another person’s skills.”

Ren Xiaosu was stunned, because he could feel a leather parchment appear within his mind!

A Skill Duplication Scroll that he could use to copy another’s skills? Like hunting? Survival? Or some other skill?

The robber hugged the large sparrow tightly in his arms and began to express his gratitude. “You’re a good person—”

Before he could finish speaking, he saw Ren Xiaosu grab the sparrow back before leaving again.

The robber was confused.

He stared at Ren Xiaosu’s receding figure as he scurried away…. The fuck is this guy! What is he after?



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