Chapter 1220 - Chapter 1220: Ren Xiaosu's decision
1220 Ren Xiaosu’s decision
“Where’s Black Fox now?” Ren Xiaosu asked solemnly.
The mention of Tang Zhou’s name plunged into his heart like a knife.
Ren Xiaosu had only just returned to a peaceful life, and his sorcery training class had only just begun as well, but yet another familiar friend of his had departed from the world.
Actually, strictly speaking, Ren Xiaosu did not know whether Tang Zhou and he could be considered friends.
He first met Tang Zhou after the earthquake in the Jing Mountains. When Stronghold 113 got destroyed, Tang Zhou and Luo Lan fled together with Ren Xiaosu and company to the Li Consortium’s territory.
Later, Ren Xiaosu played the role of a double agent for the Qing Consortium in the Li Consortium and put on an act with Tang Zhou at Position 313, leading to the Li Consortium’s troops suffering a terrible defeat.
Much later on, Ren Xiaosu seemed to have rarely heard of this name. As the other party rose through the ranks, he was sent by Luo Lan to be the commander of a group of the Qing Consortium’s main forces.
Relationships such as the one between Ren Xiaosu and Tang Zhou were more the norm in this era of the wastelands. They did not meet often and each had their own life to lead.
Perhaps they had been acquainted before, but they soon returned to their respective roles in their own field.
The next time they heard about each other could very well be news of their deaths.
Everyone spoke of moving forward only because there were too many reluctant moments of sadness behind them.
“Commander Black Fox’s convoy has just driven into the stronghold.” The soldier said, “He should be here soon.”
While they were talking, the sound of brakes screeching could be heard at the door.
Ren Xiaosu ran out and saw Black Fox jumping down from a military truck. Meanwhile, Tang Zhou was lying quietly in the back of the truck, covered in blood.
Black Fox said in the most concise of manners, “We discovered his body 30 kilometers north of the valley after he used a flare gun to catch our attention. A flock of sparrows were attacking him when we found him. We found this metal tube on him, so I think he might have come to relay some information to us. Tang Zhou had already committed suicide before the sparrows attacked him.”
Ren Xiaosu took the metal tube and the note from Black Fox. There was information regarding Luo Lan written on it.
Some soldiers had already carried Tang Zhou down from the truck carefully. When Ren Xiaosu went forward to check on the wounds on the corpse, he noticed there was almost no skin on his body that was intact. He could imagine the suffering the other party had to go through after he died.
Black Fox pointed to a wound on Tang Zhou’s leg and said, “The metal tube was hidden next to his fibula. He must have cut open his muscles to hide it there. But what’s a little strange is that there were no knife wounds on his leg. I wonder how it healed so quickly.”
“It’s the black medicine.” Ren Xiaosu answered calmly, “I’ve given a lot of the black medicine to Luo Lan, so he must have passed it to him.”
With the black medicine, everything made sense. Before setting off, Tang Zhou forcefully cut open his leg muscles and hid the metal tube inside his leg.
Ren Xiaosu looked at Black Fox. “Did you check the sparrows’ bodies after you found him?”
“No,” Black Fox shook his head. “When we approached the sparrows, there was a silvery liquid-metal slowly seeping out of their bodies. To err on the side of caution, I didn’t let our soldiers get close. But if Future Commander wants to find the carcasses of those sparrows, I can still remember the location.”
“Mhm, you did the right thing.” Ren Xiaosu said, “Those sparrows were controlled by the AI, Zero. You were right not to touch them.”
If Black Fox and his men had come in contact with the sparrows’ carcasses, what Ren Xiaosu should do now would probably be to isolate the soldiers and shock them one by one with electricity.
Ren Xiaosu had mostly pieced together the clues in his mind.
Black Fox raised another suspicious point, “I’ve also heard of Tang Zhou before, and Commander P5092 should have heard of him too. The troops under his and Luo Lan’s command have always been known to be fearless in battles. I can’t quite figure out why he would commit suicide.”
“He did not commit suicide because he was afraid of dying.” Ren Xiaosu sighed and said, “He was afraid that he would subconsciously reveal the location of the metal tube if he should fall under the control of the nanomachines.”
After the nanomachines forcibly interfaced with one’s neurons, Zero could obtain a person’s complete memory and even some memories humans had forgotten in their subconsciousness.
At that time, Zero would only need to locate the metal tube accurately through the sparrows. With communications locked down in the Southwest, Ren Xiaosu and the others would not know about what had happened to the Qing Consortium.
Although Ren Xiaosu could also head to the Qing Consortium to ask them what was going on, it would be too late by then.
Ren Xiaosu had previously met the Wang Consortium soldier controlled by Zero on Mt. Zuoyun. According to Zero, it only needed a very minute amount of nanomachines to control the minds of humans through neurotech.
The nanomachines were hidden near the brainstem, and they could continue to remain dormant without expending much energy. The bioenergy generated by human motion was far greater than what the nanomachines consumed in their dormant state.
If Zero only used the nanomachines as a tool of control and not a tool of combat to improve the “strength” and “muscle density” of the human body, the host would be like a massive charger that could provide continuous energy to the nanomachines inside.
“I have to make a trip to the Central Plains,” Ren Xiaosu said.
The Great Hoodwinker immediately replied, “Future Commander, we’ll go with you then.”
However, P5092 shook his head and said calmly, “Future Commander, you mustn’t go.”
“Why?” Ren Xiaosu asked, looking at P5092.
“The Wang Consortium’s troops are already garrisoned at the northwest border, and the war between our two sides might break out at any moment.” P5092 analyzed, “Now that Luo Lan has gone to the Central Plains, there could be two outcomes. The first would see peace talks taking place. You’ve said before that Wang Shengzhi wanted to hold a peace negotiation that would see Commander Zhang eventually taking over the Alliance of Strongholds. I think this should be the same for the peace talks between the Qing Consortium and the Wang Consortium. After all, other than Commander Zhang, Qing Zhen is the only one left who’s capable of ruling over the entire Alliance of Strongholds.”
P5092 continued, “If their peace talks are successful this time, the Northwest will have to face a two-pronged attack from the Southwest and the Central Plains. Future Commander, have you ever considered the consequences of that?”
Ren Xiaosu shook his head firmly. “That won’t happen.”
P5092 analyzed, “Of course, Future Commander, if you’re judging this from an emotional viewpoint that the Qing Consortium will never do anything to betray the Northwest, I have nothing to say. I trust your judgment. In that case, let’s discuss the second possibility. If there’s a conflict between the Wang Consortium and the Qing Consortium, the entire Alliance of Strongholds will be brought to the brink of war. If you are not in the Northwest at that time, I’m afraid it’ll affect the morale of the army. Moreover, if you risk your life and our strength gets weakened because of an ‘outsider,’ who’ll be left to protect the Northwestern people? Personally, I think Luo Lan is a necessary sacrifice.”
At the side, Zhang Xiaoman muttered, “Why do we always have to sacrifice someone? Can’t there be fewer casualties instead?”
P5092 looked calmly at Zhang Xiaoman and said, “What do you think war is about?”
Zhang Xiaoman flinched and did not say anything more.
Right, casualties were unavoidable in wars, after all.
Ever since the word “war” appeared in the history of human civilization, every war that had been fought was extremely cruel.
The participants of wars left their hometowns and families to head to the battlefield where they carried arms to eliminate as many of the enemy’s fighting forces as possible.
How could there be any room for logic and emotions when it came to something like that?!
Victory was only that final moment of jubilation, short-lived but brilliant.
But before the victory, everyone felt like they were walking through a long, humid, and stuffy dark tunnel. No one knew where the end was, with sacrifice and death the norm.
To P5092, how could there be no casualties in war?
Since someone would die, why couldn’t it be Luo Lan?
At this moment, P5092, as the military commander, naturally did not want Ren Xiaosu to leave the Northwest.
Everyone felt that the Wang Consortium was already insane, so how could Ren Xiaosu head to the Wang Consortium at a time like this?
However, Ren Xiaosu said to P5092, “When I was still a refugee, I thought about how to survive each day. I was OK with eating bark and roots. Once, I set a trap to catch a rabbit, but I ended up getting kicked by it. At that time, I felt that it was already good enough to survive. As long as I could continue living with Yan Liuyuan, I would do anything. But later on, it became a little different. I slowly understood there was something more important in this world than surviving.”
With that, Ren Xiaosu walked out. “I don’t want any of you to follow me. If I need your help, I’ll just activate the enchanted doorway.”
Yang Xiaojin stood in front of Ren Xiaosu to stop him from leaving. “At least let me go with you? Have you forgotten your promise?”
Ren Xiaosu said in seriousness, “Xiaojin, you really can’t go this time. Because you could very well end up facing your aunt.”
“Although I can’t shoot at her, I can help you kill other people,” Yang Xiaojin said calmly.
Ren Xiaosu smiled and said, “It’s not going to be that simple. Listen to me, don’t go this time.”
The two of them had just agreed that as long as Ren Xiaosu went somewhere dangerous, he would definitely have to bring Yang Xiaojin along.
But it was different this time. That was because the people Ren Xiaosu needed to face were Wang Shengzhi and Yang Anjing.
Regardless of what Yang Anjing had done, she was still Yang Xiaojin’s aunt. When the cap-wearing girl lost her parents during her childhood, all the familial warmth she experienced came from this aunt of hers.
Yang Xiaojin had said she was willing to make an enemy of the Wang Consortium for Ren Xiaosu’s sake. However, Ren Xiaosu could not bear to see her get caught in the middle.
“If there’s really any danger, I will activate the enchanted doorway.” Ren Xiaosu said, “That I promise you.”
In the end, Ren Xiaosu still set off alone.
After he left, the first thing Yang Xiaojin did was to summon Zhou Yingxue from the black market and instruct her to stand by in the living room 24/7. This way, if the enchanted doorway was opened, Zhou Yingxue would be able to help Ren Xiaosu immediately.
What that meant was that she had to sleep on the sofa in the living room.
At this moment, Ren Xiaosu and the others were still unaware that a gigantic creature was rushing northwards. It seemed like it wanted to block off Ren Xiaosu’s path.
In the periphery of the Sacred Mountains, two figures dressed in ghillie suits lay quietly in wait on a hillside.
The core region of this eerie mountain range was shrouded in a strange white fog all year round. It was like a natural barrier that stopped outsiders from prying in.
That was exactly why almost no one from the rest of the world knew what was happening here in the Sacred Mountains.
One of the figures raised his wrist and looked at his watch. The moment the hands struck 10 o’clock, the white fog that enveloped the Sacred Mountains noticeably thinned until visibility cleared up.
“Director, quick, look,” Zhang Baogen, who was lying on the hillside, said.
Hu Shuo, who was next to him, took out a pair of binoculars. He wanted to carefully observe what was going on in the Sacred Mountains while the white fog dissipated.
However, he was a little disappointed. They were still quite a distance away from the core of the Sacred Mountains, so all he could see was some raw materials being transported in, followed by safes being escorted out by convoys of vehicles.
There were a lot of trucks, with the traffic on the road looking rather busy.
Hu Shuo frowned and asked, “Baogen, do you think those vehicles look like some kind of insect?”
“What insect?” Zhang Baogen was a little puzzled.
“Ants,” Hu Shuo said softly.
They were lying on the hillside while the black, medium-sized cargo trucks on the road at the foot of the mountain resembled worker ants moving about. The truck convoys shuttled in and out of the mountain range along the same route in an orderly manner, working tirelessly round the clock.
The Sacred Mountains were like a huge ant nest that was constantly producing something.
But when Hu Shuo remembered that these vehicles were filled with heavily armed soldiers and transporting something mysterious, he found this ant nest a little terrifying.
Hu Shuo asked, “Has the news from the South been relayed back yet?”
“Yes. One of their units has even crossed the boundary of the Zhou Consortium’s former territory and gone further south,” Zhang Baogen answered.
Hu Shuo said, “It’s the same in the North as well. One of their units headed to the grasslands quietly. I initially thought the Wang Consortium wanted to form an alliance with the new lord of the grasslands. However, those troops did not make contact with the nomads and just disappeared in the grasslands.”
Hu Shuo only had one question in his mind. What was the Wang Consortium trying to do?
“Director, what’s our next step?” Zhang Baogen asked.
“Go and tell everyone to retreat to the Northwest,” Hu Shuo answered after a moment of thought. “But after you inform them, make another trip to Stronghold 73. I realized that a quarter of the vehicles that traveled South were heading there. Investigate what they’re transporting. Be careful. If anything happens, head to Xiuzhuzhou immediately to look for Shentan. I’ve already marked his location for you.”
“Aren’t we going into the Sacred Mountains to have a look?” Zhang Baogen asked.
“We mustn’t go in.” Hu Shuo shook his head and said, “We might not be able to get out.”
“But, Director, didn’t you say before not to disturb Brother Shentan?” Zhang Baogen said, “You said to wait until he and Ms. Lian Yi have a baby before we go and find him.”
When Hu Shuo heard this, he got angry. “He’s such a disappointment. Ms. Lian Yi is clearly so willing to marry him, yet he’s playing hard to get. He insists that he needs to have feelings for her first before he can further their relationship. I should go to the Northwest now to look for Ren Xiaosu and get some of that freaking black medicine!”
“You want to drug him?” Zhang Baogen was shocked. “Is that really necessary? As long as he continues living in Xiuzhuzhou, it’s only a matter of time before he has a child….”
Hu Shuo looked at the convoy driving out from the foot of the mountain and suddenly said with a sigh, “We might not have that much time left.”