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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