Chapter 335 Acting alone
“Then why didn’t they send some more people?” Ren Xiaosu asked, “Aren’t they sending us to our deaths? They could have just sent the army to eliminate the bandits!”
“Do you know why that place has become an unincorporated zone?” Yang Xiaojin said, “It’s because it’s the transit hub of the Northwest with links to four different places, of which three lead to the Zong Consortium, the Yang Consortium, and Stronghold 178. Whoever sends their troops into this area will attract the suspicion of the other two. In the past, there was no lack of friction among the three groups over this matter. None of them wants anyone else to gain control of this route.”
“So that area eventually became a gathering place for the bandits since no one could do anything about it?” Ren Xiaosu asked. “No wonder the three organizations are conducting this operation together at the mention of exterminating bandits. Even Xu Xianchu had to specially make a trip to the Yang Consortium.”
“Yes, some large bandit gangs even settled down over there and turned to stealing women from the refugees to keep them company.” Yang Xiaojin said, “If there’s a need to deploy troops there to exterminate the bandits, the three organizations have to work together. Since everyone wants to kill the bandits, the mission must be carried out no matter what.”
“Everyone should have just sent their troops together then,” Ren Xiaosu said in a speechless manner. “What’s the point of sending us there?”
“It’s extremely easy for the bandits to hide in the valley because of the complex and peculiar terrain.” Yang Xiaojin said, “So someone has to first get a better understanding of the bandit situation in the entire valley and find out where they’re located to assess if there’s a chance of killing them in one fell swoop before making further plans.”
With that, Ren Xiaosu understood they were just going there to scout the path and did not have to participate in any battles. He and Yang Xiaojin weren’t even a part of this plan at the beginning. The primary mission was supposed to be conducted by the 30 nanosoldiers along with the Zong Consortium’s soldiers.
If the troops were deployed directly into the valley, many of the bandits might go into hiding or run away. Furthermore, it would be very easy for the three organizations to fight each other.
“When you say that you want to shake them off, it’s mainly Zong Cheng that you want to shake off, right?” Ren Xiaosu probed.
“Yes.” Yang Xiaojin nodded and said, “As the Zong Consortium is more familiar with the valley, they suggested they should lead the way this time. However, the banditry issue originated from them, and many of the bandit gangs have ties with them as well. If they lead the way, we can only see what they want us to see.”
In any case, they would have to avoid the Zong Consortium and not get led by the nose.
Ren Xiaosu did not have any problems with that. Honestly, Yang Xiaojin was a daredevil. How could a normal person barge into a bandit’s lair just like that? Ren Xiaosu asked, “Aren’t you worried that something will happen along the way?”
Yang Xiaojin glanced at him. “Don’t I have you to protect me?” Then she stomped on the gas at an intersection.
When they exited the stronghold, Yang Xiaojin deliberately drove to the rear of the convoy. By now, the convoy in front of her had turned down a side road. So when Yang Xiaojin suddenly took the other route and drove west, the vehicles ahead of her could not react in time.
By the time they realized the off-road vehicle driven by Yang Xiaojin had detoured, it was too late for them to turn around. They could only stop their vehicles and watch Ren Xiaosu and Yang Xiaojin drive all the way northwest, leaving a huge trail of dust behind them.
The Southern wilderness was filled with lush greenery. But in just the short distance spanning two strongholds, the landscape had suddenly changed from a lush green to a khaki land filled with sand mounds. From here to the north, it would be hard to see an entire forest again. The remaining vegetation that could be seen were squat shrubs,
Severe soil erosion had happened here before The Cataclysm, and desertification was already an unstoppable trend back then and could only have been prevented by putting in a great deal of manpower, logistics, and funding into its reversal.
But with the advent of The Cataclysm, the lands became completely deserted.
Zong Cheng had a calm expression as he stood outside the vehicle and looked at the off-road vehicle departing west.
One of the nanosoldiers on the ground asked, “Platoon Commander, what do we do now?”
The platoon commander gave it some thought and said, “We’ll continue with the original plan and carry out our mission.”
Yang Xiaojin and Ren Xiaosu were not included in their original mission plans to head deep into the northern valley. So even though Yang Xiaojin had just left, it did not fluster them.
Zong Cheng looked at the nanosoldiers and said with a smile, “They might have a more important mission to conduct. But that’s alright. I hope that we can happily work together in the coming days.”
Based on the established plan, Yang Xiaojin and Ren Xiaosu should have followed the convoy east where they would pass by the front lines at Mt. Shangying, Mt. Lianta, and Mt. Dingyuan before proceeding to the core of the valley.
But with Yang Xiaojin’s detour, she would have to pass through Mt. Daban, Mt. Tangwang, and Mt. Guan before meeting up with the rest of the convoy again. She had already planned for this as she wanted to see for herself what the banditry situation in the valley was really like.
After driving for a short while, they abandoned their vehicle and walked on foot. Although this would slow their progress, they would not be easily identified as members of an organization.
Yang Xiaojin had even prepared specific rags just so it would make them look like refugees who had escaped from a Yang Consortium factory.
Yang Xiaojin said, “Actually, there’s still many small human settlements in the valley. They’re all refugees who can’t stand the exploitation of the consortiums and have fled here to farm near a water source.”
“Aren’t they afraid of the bandits?” Ren Xiaosu asked.
“The bandits deliberately left quite a few refugees alone in the valley and won’t harm them.” Yang Xiaojin said, “I wonder who gave them the idea, though. Whenever an organization conducts an operation to exterminate them, if there isn’t enough time for them to go into hiding, they’ll simply stash their weapons and escape to the refugee settlements where they pretend to be refugees who live there as well.”
Ren Xiaosu was surprised by her answer. “What’s the point of doing that?”
“To the organizations, people are also a kind of resource.” Yang Xiaojin said, “When the Yang Consortium first started their operations to exterminate the bandits, they would escort any refugees back to the stronghold’s town if they came across them and make them work at the factories to continue creating value. But after about a year, the bandits who had impersonated refugees would abduct some of the refugees and head back to the valley.”
“It isn’t easy for the bandits either, huh?” Ren Xiaosu sighed.
“I suspect there’s someone behind the scenes advising them,” Yang Xiaojin said.
“Or it could be their own smarts,” Ren Xiaosu said as he stood atop a mound.
“I’m not saying the bandits are stupid, but someone powerful must be backing them.” Yang Xiaojin said, “Some years ago, the ruins of the Cataclysm civilization were cleared out. With nothing much left to scavenge, and the merchants too afraid to come by, what did they survive on in recent years? We also found out these bandits often acquire brand-new weapons and motorcycles. Some of the bandit gangs are even quite up to date with the latest news. If you tell me they don’t have some sort of corporation backing them, I’d refuse to believe it.”