Chapter 305 A 21-kilometer-long mountain road
The troops that Qing Zhen and Luo Lan controlled were only two brigades originally. But with Luo Lan’s troops hidden where nobody knew, the Qing Consortium couldn’t incorporate them into their own forces.
As such, for the entire frontline troops, there were not many true supporters of Qing Zhen as one would imagine. A portion of the troops supported Qing Zhen while a portion supported Qing Yun. Most of them were neutral and only followed orders and fought battles.
This was also the reason why Qing Zhen wanted to get rid of Qing Yun’s supporters in the organization. If he didn’t chase away the people who harbored other motives, his orders could end up getting secretly disobeyed.
But even after Qing Zhen finished “cleaning up” those elements, he still could not defy the orders of the Qing Consortium’s Board of Directors. They were the true core of the Qing Consortium, after all.
If they gave Qing Zhen more time, he might even be able to turn the entire frontline army into his own people. However, the Qing Consortium’s Board would definitely not give him that time.
As a matter of fact, the timing of the Board was just right. There would not be too much of an adverse effect if they changed the leadership at the front lines at this time. And Qing Zhen had fulfilled his final role for them.
It was still Secretary Zhou who had come to escort Qing Zhen. Secretary Zhou stood at the entrance of the camp while Qing Zhen turned around and looked at the snowy mountains behind him.
Some of the soldiers wanted to stage a mutiny to save Qing Zhen, but they were stopped by him with a smile. “Don’t be rash. Your families are still in the stronghold.”
This was also the reason why the Board still had control over the military. If the entire military camp were to act rashly at this time, their families would probably die horrible deaths on that very night. So even though Qing Zhen had Qing Yun killed, the Board remained fearless of him. In their opinion, Qing Zhen was not so charismatic that he could make these soldiers abandon their families and children. But even if he did, Qing Zhen would not allow it.
It seemed like the Board already had Qing Zhen in the palm of their hands.
“Sir,” an officer said, “let us return together with you.”
Qing Zhen was amused. “Don’t be silly. Fight the war well with Qing Yi. I’ll still say the same thing: Don’t embarrass me.”
All the frontline troops had been taken control of by a commander named Qing Yi. This Qing Yi was also a core member of the Qing Consortium. However, as he had still been being groomed for a leadership post, the Qing Consortium had not really allowed him to step onto the battlefield yet.
“What about Mr. Luo Lan? He’s still at the Yang Consortium,” the officer said. “Last night…”
Qing Zhen waved it off and said, “I’m already prepared for that, don’t worry.”
After saying that, Qing Zhen followed Secretary Zhou into the car. Secretary Zhou ordered someone to put Qing Zhen in handcuffs. Qing Zhen smiled and said, “Are you that afraid of me? I’m not a supernatural being, so I won’t do anything to you.”
Secretary Zhou snorted in disgust and did not say anything. This time, he had even brought along many troops with him to escort Qing Zhen.
If Secretary Zhou had not been ordered by the Board to come, he would not have been willing to come here and face Qing Zhen, to be honest. The previous time when Qing Zhen killed someone at the command center without warning seemed to have given him bad trauma.
Secretary Zhou sat in the car and said calmly, “Qing Zhen, should I praise you for being smart? Or should I say that you’re stupid?”
Qing Zhen smiled. “What do you mean?”
The driver in the car did not dare to even blink and just stared straight ahead at the road.
Secretary Zhou said, “Well, you’re really smart; there’s no argument about that. A war that Qing Yun wasn’t able to win was turned around the moment you joined forces with the Yang Consortium at the front lines and destroyed the Li Consortium. Even I admire you. You’re truly a genius.”
Qing Zhen smiled. “You flatter me.”
“But if I say that you’re stupid, it’s not wrong either. If you didn’t attack the Li Consortium, the Board wouldn’t have dared to make their move on you so quickly. That’s why you’re only good at military affairs and don’t know how to handle politics.”
Qing Zhen laughed and said, “Then is Secretary Zhou implying that I should have allowed the Li soldiers to live and made them into my own mercenary troops at the front line?”
Secretary Zhou looked at the driver. “I didn’t say that.”
“Look at how cowardly you are. You dared to say that but you won’t admit it?” Qing Zhen said, “Even if I didn’t attack the Li Consortium, they would have come and attacked us all the same. When that happens, would I have to sacrifice my troops’ lives just to carry on with the act? That’s something that I, Qing Zhen, cannot do.”
On the battlefield, putting on an act would require people to sacrifice their lives.
And what Qing Zhen wanted was to incur the least casualties possible and fight the perfect battles. Then the surviving soldiers would be able to return home.
Secretary Zhou asked hesitantly, “Have you not considered yourself before?”
“Consider what?” Qing Zhen laughed and said, “Isn’t this just about going back and being placed under house arrest?”
“Did you think you’d still be placed under house arrest after killing Qing Yun? This time… it’s not going to be as simple as that.” Secretary Zhou sneered.
“I see.” Qing Zhen sighed.
The vehicle escorting Qing Zhen was speeding northwards. Following the off-road vehicle were many other soldiers also escorting it. From this, it was clear that the Qing Consortium’s Board thought very highly of Qing Zhen. They were worried that something would happen during the process of escorting him back.
When the convoy drove back into Stronghold 111 two days later, Qing Zhen rolled down the window with his handcuffed hands. “Such a familiar smell. I’m finally home.”
Secretary Zhou looked a little tired. As a civilian employee, he had been sitting in a car for two straight days and had barely gotten any shut-eye. He could not take it anymore.
On the other hand, Qing Zhen still looked very energetic. He wasn’t even like a prisoner coming back to stand trial.
Secretary Zhou yawned and said, “You’re still in the mood to appreciate all this?”
“Wait, why are the theaters all closed?” Qing Zhen suddenly asked.
When the convoy passed by a few theaters, Qing Zhen was surprised to find that all of them had been sealed shut.
Secretary Zhou looked out the window and said, “These are the theaters you usually enjoy going to. Since they don’t know which singer you actually like, they just arrested all of the ladies.”
In the past, when Qing Zhen visited the theaters, he would never go to a fixed place, nor did he ever reveal which singer he liked. It was precisely because he was worried that he would implicate the other party.
However, Qing Zhen did not expect the Qing Consortium to be so ruthless.
Qing Zhen looked out the window and fell silent. No one knew what he was thinking.
Secretary Zhou asked, “Why aren’t you saying anything?”
Qing Zhen suddenly said, “The flowers I’ve been cultivating at home should probably have withered by now, right? I wonder if anyone has been caring for the vegetables I planted in the backyard.”
Secretary Zhou laughed in anger. “You’re still in the mood to talk about this?”
“What else should I talk about then?” Qing Zhen said calmly, “If this were a peaceful and prosperous era, I would probably have become a flower farmer instead. The military and politics can’t be more interesting than cultivating flowers.”
“It’s a pity this isn’t a peaceful era then,” Secretary Zhou said calmly.
At this moment, the car came to a stop.
The Qing Consortium’s headquarters were halfway up the mountain, and the vehicle was parked at the entrance to the winding, switchback road.
Secretary Zhou got out of the car and said, “The Board has ordered that you make your way up the mountain on foot.”
Qing Zhen glanced at him. “This mountain road is 21 kilometers long.”
“That’s right.” Secretary Zhou adjusted his glasses and said, “The Board wants you to think carefully when you’re walking up. Who gave you everything you have today? Take off your shoes and get moving.”
There were soldiers standing guard on both sides of the mountain road. When they heard this, they could not bear to look at Qing Zhen anymore.
A lot of people probably would not expect that the Qing Consortium’s silent tiger would actually end up in this state.