Qing Zhen had not expected he would miss Xu Xianchu by such a narrow window, having just returned later by a moment.
However, he was not someone to dwell on such matters. Since he had missed his chance to get him, there was no point in regretting it.
“Let’s enter the stronghold,” Qing Zhen said calmly. Actually, what he should be most concerned about was not Xu Xianchu, but how the old fogeys from the Qing Consortium were going to punish him. Or rather, how they were intending to usurp his authority.
A lot of people in the outside world thought the Qing Consortium was helmed by Qing Zhen. But in actual fact, he only controlled a portion of the military.
Because the consortium’s external affairs were mainly handled by Qing Zhen, outsiders thought that Qing Zhen was very influential within the Qing Consortium.
Only Qing Zhen himself knew that the old fogeys in the consortium never trusted him. With batches and batches of the organization’s Shadows constantly getting replaced, the “face” of the Qing Consortium was the only thing that mattered to the old fogeys.
A saying that had circulated from the Qing Consortium went: “Violence is only a means to maintain order; it can never be order itself.”
In short, a Shadow should stay hidden instead of coming into the open.
With Qing Zhen stealing all the limelight after his confrontation with the Pyro Company, and the old fogeys of the consortium long wanting to suppress his arrogance, they turned to placing him under house arrest and relieving him of all his authority.
Xu Man whispered, “Boss, we’re going to report to the War Department tomorrow. All of our men will probably get separated and assigned to the other forces.”
“OK.” Qing Zhen nodded nonchalantly. “Go ahead.”
“Do you have any words you want me to tell the others?” Xu Man asked, “Why don’t you step out of the car to say a few words to the men? Or we can go with you to wander the wilderness? There are so many of us, and we even have guns too, so we can do anything that we want.”
Qing Zhen chuckled and shook his head. “Many of them are waiting to be reunited with their wives and children back home. But you want to tell them to go back to the wilderness and try to survive there instead?”
“They’d be willing,” Xu Man said.
Qing Zhen opened the car door. The moment he came out, all the soldiers inside the military transport trucks behind him also alighted from their vehicles. The town was suddenly overcrowded with several thousand soldiers, resulting in all of the refugees running away in panic.
“Gentlemen,” Qing Zhen said calmly as he looked at the soldiers in front of him, “after you get assigned to other forces, perform your best and don’t embarrass me.”
Once Qing Zhen finished, several thousand soldiers straightened their backs and answered in unison, “Yes, sir!”
The soldiers understood the fate awaiting them.
“Back into the vehicles!” Qing Zhen then got into his car nonchalantly.
The garrison standing on the ramparts was a little startled after witnessing this scene. It seemed like none of the Qing Consortium’s troop commanders were anywhere near as influential as Qing Zhen.
After entering the stronghold, Qing Zhen returned to his residential villa. He took a shower and then put on a new white suit. He had someone burn his old suit.
As soon as Qing Zhen’s group entered the stronghold, some of the Qing Consortium’s big shots eagerly took over his operational command. The several thousand-strong troops were divvied up as they got assigned to the forces under the different big shots based on a list. The soldiers under Qing Zhen’s command were all brave veterans. Now that the big shots had a chance to take command of a portion of these troops, no one was willing to let this chance slip away.
But it seemed that Qing Zhen did not mind at all.
After his shower, Qing Zhen came out of the villa’s front door. His personal car that had been parked at the door was gone. He smiled. “They even took the car away.”
He headed outside. But the two soldiers on guard duty looked at him awkwardly and said, “Boss Qing Zhen, you can’t leave the house. Please don’t make it difficult for us.”
Qing Zhen raised his eyebrows. “The old fogeys only said that I’m not allowed out of Stronghold 111. When did they say that I can’t even step out of the house? Is someone making things up? Don’t worry, I’m just going out to listen to some singing. Who in Stronghold 111 doesn’t know that I like listening to singing?”
The two soldiers looked at each other. How could he be in the mood to listen to singing at a time like this? Could it be that the renowned Boss Qing Zhen wasn’t worried about his own situation? But the soldiers still did not step aside for him.
Qing Zhen did not say anything. Then, a bullet came from nowhere and hit the flagstone pavement in front of the two soldiers. There was a hidden sniper nearby protecting Qing Zhen!
The two soldiers knew the sniper had shown them mercy. Even if the sniper had shot them dead, the Board would not impose a heavier punishment on Qing Zhen over such a small matter.
No one would want to cause any more trouble during the handing over of command of the combat troops!
Qing Zhen was still looking calmly at the two soldiers when they decided to step back. “Thank you, Boss Qing Zhen, for showing mercy to us.”
“Alright, don’t worry, no one will make things difficult for you two.” Qing Zhen chuckled and walked out.
The two soldiers couldn’t help wondering about this as Qing Zhen left them. Everyone had heard he kept a lot of trump cards around him, but no one expected it to be true.
But didn’t the Board usurp Qing Zhen’s authority? How could anyone still be willing to follow someone who had fallen out of favor with the consortium?
They heard Qing Zhen humming happily as he headed towards the prosperous part of the city. One of the soldiers asked as Qing Zhen walked away, “What is Boss Qing Zhen singing?”
“I don’t know. We don’t even have the money to go and listen to concerts.” The other soldier was unsure about what song it was.
In the evening, Qing Zhen sat down alone inside a theater. Everyone else had left the place as they feared he was poison. Only Qing Zhen was watching the performances as the performers on stage rotated.
He leaned his head against one of his hands. The more alcohol he drank, the clearer his vision became.
In this theater, there was only a sweet and sorrowful voice drifting up to the neon lights.
“A posthouse, a crossroads, how many officials go north and south every day?
“Promotion brings untold joy; demotion sends one home in silence.
“Fame and fortune have always been fleeting. Life keeps flowing and growing….”
At this moment, someone walked up from behind him and said, “Qing Zhen, the Board has something to discuss with you. They’re requesting you attend the meeting.”
Qing Zhen smiled. “Tell them I’m not going.”
On his way back from the jewelry shop, Ren Xiaosu thought about his future plans. Now that he couldn’t sell the gold in his possession and might even get targeted by others at any moment, he was starting to worry that he couldn’t exchange them for cash.
Initially, Ren Xiaosu was not enthusiastic about opening the shop because he still had gold. But now, he had to reconsider opening the shop to do business again. He couldn’t possibly expect to live on the subsidies given by the school to students, right?
Should he sell the black medicine? Ren Xiaosu didn’t want to do that. After all, it was more difficult to earn gratitude tokens than money.
As he walked, he suddenly realized he was back at the shop when he finally looked up. But the moment he came into the shop, he saw Wang Fugui acting suspiciously as he promoted something to a man.
When Ren Xiaosu got closer, he was surprised to see it was the black medicine being promoted.
From Wang Fugui’s expression, it was obvious he was not explaining the proper use of the black medicine. Moreover, the middle-aged man had an indecent look about him.
Ren Xiaosu felt sad. Was he destined to be a drug dealer forever?!