558 To leave or not to leave
When the news was relayed back that the reinforcements from Stronghold 73 had been ambushed, the Zhou Consortium’s troops fell silent. Old Li asked, “Since the Qing Consortium had informed you all beforehand, why didn’t you deploy more troops over here?”
The commander of the Zhou Consortium troops at Stronghold 74 replied, “Originally, we wanted to mobilize more troops here, but didn’t something happen at Stronghold 73 a while ago too? Who would’ve expected something like this to happen? If not for the cave-in at East Lake in Stronghold 73, the reinforcements would’ve already arrived.”
Old Li fell silent because the Riders were also involved in the incident at Stronghold 73. Although it was only one of their members who went there, they were involved nonetheless. So strictly speaking, everyone with an ulterior motive at Stronghold 73 that day were accomplices to the Experimentals.
But while Old Li thought like this, others did not. For example, Ren Xiaosu simply felt that the incident was caused by the Pyro Company and the Anjing House and had nothing to do with him at all.
In the middle of the night, the Zhou Consortium troops in the stronghold deployed all their soldiers to the defensive fortifications even though it was already bedtime, leaving only a small number of soldiers with rotational breaks.
Based on the Qing Consortium’s intelligence reports, a few thousand Experimentals were already enough to cause a headache for them in their previous encounters. Their skin and muscles were so tough that not even bullets could penetrate, so they had to resort to using heavy machine guns.
But the Experimentals were also capable of moving very quickly. They could easily dodge their fire and get into the shooters’ blind spots while normal soldiers could not react fast enough to keep up with their movements.
When the speed and strength of the enemy were more than twice that of ordinary soldiers, they would have a feeling of being overwhelmed on the battlefield.
It would feel like the normal soldiers were moving in “slow motion” while the Experimentals were moving at a normal speed. Even if they possessed firearms, they would still suffer heavy casualties while fighting in that situation.
Although the soldiers could kill a lot of Experimentals, the Experimentals did not care about casualties at all. They could just turn the stronghold residents into Experimentals to make up for their losses after taking over the stronghold!
Old Li glanced at Qin Sheng and said, “By rights, you should go to a town immediately and live there for a year once you become a Rider. You can’t use your power or even use the skills I’ve taught you to survive in the wilderness. But at a critical moment like this, you and I should help the Zhou Consortium defend against external enemies first.”
Qin Sheng nodded at that. He understood the seriousness of the situation.
There wasn’t really anyone around the town outside the stronghold anymore. Even the refugees had already been shifted into the stronghold to help build the defensive fortifications. This was probably the first time the refugees had stepped foot in the stronghold, but they were made to wear an anklet tracker.
After all, the refugees would still have to leave the stronghold after the war was over.
At this moment, Ren Xiaosu was leading Fang Zhi and the others quietly towards the perimeter of the construction site. He whispered, “Do y’all have any other valuables on you?”
Fang Zhi nodded and said, “We managed to gather 30,000 yuan in cash and five watches.” Fang Zhi was visibly feeling the pinch. His own watch was very expensive and cost him more than 200,000 yuan.
Ren Xiaosu first used his watch to trade for some food. The officer in charge of watching over the grain supplies grinned from ear to ear. These supplies were not his own but the Zhou Consortium’s rations, after all. Since he could get a branded watch in exchange for some of these grains, he could not be happier to oblige.
Ren Xiaosu traded for around a dozen bags of grains, which would be enough to sustain them for at least half a month. However, Ren Xiaosu did not put it away into his storage space. Instead, he made Fang Zhi and the others carry them.
Immediately after, Ren Xiaosu used the remaining 30,000 yuan and five watches to bribe the supervisor of the construction site to allow them to leave.
The officer in charge of supervising the construction site even specifically instructed them not to head out after returning home. If they were caught and made to come back here again, not even the gods could help them.
There were more than 2,000 people at the construction site where Ren Xiaosu and the others were working. It had so many conscripted workers there was not even a place to house them all, so they could only sleep on the ground.
Therefore, no one would realize it even if a dozen-odd people disappeared.
When Fang Zhi walked out of the construction site, he felt extremely puzzled. “We got out so easily? They let us go just like that?”
Ren Xiaosu glanced at him. “They only brought you here to work, not line you up to be executed. There’s already so many people working there, so it’s not like they miss the few of us. It’s the private troops who’re supervising the construction site, and you know how they are, don’t you?”
In recent years, the various consortiums had been gradually downsizing the number of private troops. In another few years, they might not even be around anymore.
According to Zhang Jinglin, stronghold overseers used to be elected at the beginning. As the consortiums were still not strong at that time, some stronghold overseers could even rival the consortiums with the private troops under their control.
But gradually, as the consortiums grew more and more powerful, the status of the overseers became weaker and weaker. Even though they controlled the private troops, that only served as a proverbial loincloth for the overseers. In the end, their power was even further corroded by the highly addictive cigarettes the consortiums supplied.
In the current day, the consortiums had started replacing the overseers. For example, Luo Lan was secretly in charge of an entire stronghold even though he did not hold an official post in Stronghold 113 in the past.
And now, the consortiums openly took over all the strongholds. So, there was no reason for the private troops to exist.
Many officers in the private troops had also realized this point. They knew very well that the consortiums would not want to keep good-for-nothings like them under their payroll. In that case, they might as well earn whatever money they could so they would have nothing to worry about for the rest of their lives.
The group walked stealthily in the streets. From time to time, they even had to follow Ren Xiaosu’s lead to avoid any military vehicles that passed by. It took them two hours to get to the hotel where Li Ran and the others were staying. Along the way, Ren Xiaosu kept feeling that something was not quite right tonight. The stronghold was especially “active,” and it felt as if a war would be breaking out immediately.
Ever since Li Ran and the others got to the hotel, they had been waiting in the hotel lobby. Li Ran had wanted to go back to her own room, but Zhou Yingxue insisted they sit in the lobby to wait. She said it was impossible that Ren Xiaosu would stay at the construction site for too long and that he might escape as soon as it turned dark.
As expected, Zhou Yingxue rushed over happily to Ren Xiaosu when she saw him. However, she was turned off by the sweaty stench of this group of people.
Li Ran pinched her nose. “Hurry up and go take a shower.”
“How can we still be in the mood to take a shower?” Ren Xiaosu frowned and said, “Pack up your belongings immediately. We have to leave the stronghold tonight.”
“Why do we have to leave the stronghold?” Li Ran exclaimed. “We just arrived, and the concert hasn’t even been held yet.”
Ren Xiaosu cast an eye at her. She was really oblivious about the seriousness of the situation. Why would she still be thinking of the concert at such a time!
He said to Zhou Yingxue, “Use your power to make a tunnel leading outside the walls or something. We’ll leave through that.”
“A tunnel?” Fang Zhi asked doubtfully, “How wide is the tunnel?”
“Wide enough for a person to pass through.” Ren Xiaosu looked at Fang Zhi.
“What about our loudspeakers and instruments?” Fang Zhi exclaimed, “Even a single trumpet of ours is worth more than a 100,000 yuan!”
Ren Xiaosu was dumbfounded by what he said. He had not expected instruments to be so expensive.
Next to them, one of the ten plainclothes guards from the Wang Consortium said, “I don’t think it’s necessary for us to leave. Even if the Qing Consortium attacks this place, they won’t do anything to the stronghold residents, so we can just stay in the hotel without worries. There’s nothing to be afraid of. When the time comes, I can liaise with them as an officer of the Wang Consortium, and they’ll definitely let us go. After all, the Qing Consortium will not want to offend the Wang Consortium after just declaring war on the Zhou Consortium.”