Author: 长洱 / Chang’er
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
After the little doctor finished speaking, the ship they were on suddenly touched something.
Everyone in the cabin shook violently.
“What’s the matter? Did we hit some rocks?” Duan Yang grabbed Lin Chen’s hand and instantly changed back to the nervous little doctor he was familiar with.
“It shouldn’t be.”
The sound of the motor stopped, and the footsteps above their heads became clearly audible, making everyone silent.
Suddenly, a piercing sound of drilling rang out on the deck above their heads. In the dark space, the sound seemed to echo in everyone’s head, causing all the stowaways to shrink back to the corner in fright. Duan Yang raised his head subconsciously as Lin Chen said, “Close your eyes.”
The next moment, there was a loud clicking sound, followed by the wooden boards being opened. The bright light from the sky poured down from above their heads.
The sudden light after more than ten hours of darkness made Lin Chen’s eyes sting. He covered his eyes and heard someone walking down to the cabin from the deck.
“Wake up. We’re getting off the boat,” the visitor shouted in a drawn-out tone.
Lin Chen’s eyes were barely opened when he saw someone holding a gun and kicked the middle-aged man who had passed away. There was no response from his feet. The man reached out his hand and tried to slap the middle-aged man to see if he could wake him, but was hugged tightly by a frightened villager.
“Please, save my brother. My brother could still be saved!”
“What, he’s dead?” The gunman probed the middle-aged man’s nose and then pressed against the middle-aged man’s neck, then suddenly stopped. “Damn, he’s really dead. What bad luck.”
There was no other emotion in his tone except impatience. It sounded like he was regretting that an animal had died early before the sale rather than a living person.
Some people in the cabin began to sob softly again. Their voices were low, but no one dared ask, “Why are you treating us like this?!”
At this time, any question would seem foolish as the breath of death was spreading like a virus.
Another person went down from the deck to the cabin. The person was wearing a loose-fitting green military uniform with shoulder insignia loosely fastened. He kicked the middle-aged man on the ground, cursed something, then bent down and forcefully lifted him onto his shoulder. The middle-aged man’s relative kneeled beside the body and wailed loudly, but someone hit him on the shoulder with the butt of a gun and told him to quickly catch up with the rest of the group.
Lin Chen deliberately fell behind with Duan Yang. The red-eyed, dark-skinned villager stumbled to their side and sobbed. “My brother’s life is too hard. How did he end up in such a mess like this?”
The salty, wet, and bright sea breeze slowly poured in. Lin Chen felt himself being pushed to stand up and followed the group to the deck.
Sure enough, the ship had already docked on the pier. He looked around. On one side was the long coastline. On the other side was the blue transparent sea with white seagulls in the sky, looking as if they had landed on some kind of expensive resort island. However, they saw the obvious dilapidated military vehicles and barricades on the distant coast, as well as the soldiers lazily basking in the sun, which indicated this wasn’t in fact a resort island. In their neighboring country, Xinni, there had been a group of idle rebels occupying a small area of the coastal region from south to north of Xinni for more than ten years. For various reasons, Xinni hadn’t yet been able to capture this area. It turned out that they had arrived in Li Jingtian’s home country. Lin Chen looked at the darkened reef ahead and sneered.
The villager was talking behind them. Suddenly, Lin Chen stopped. “What did you just say?”
“I… I didn’t say anything?”
At this time, Duan Yang asked, “You just said, that uncle just now, his parents have already passed away?”
“Yes, they passed away a long time ago. My poor brother is probably confused due to illness, so he thought my uncle and aunt were here.”
Hearing this, Duan Yang seemed to think of something. He put his hand in his pocket and grabbed Lin Chen. There was some commotion on the starboard side of the deck. The dead body of the middle-aged man was exposed to the sun on the deck. Two fishermen had spread a large net, wrapping the body from head to toe, then casually threw it into the sea, with one person holding the head and the other the legs. Seeing this scene, Lin Chen felt a ringing in his ears. He could hardly hear the loud wailing, but the moment the body was thrown into the sea, it left a deep impression on him.
There were stones tied to the fishing net that were wrapped around the body. As the body that had lost its soul flew into the sea, it made a parabola and then sank straight into the water.
Everyone on the boat looked towards where the body was dumped, and at this moment, Duan Yang took Lin Chen’s hand.
“Consultant Lin, did you know that only a simple operation is needed to save that uncle?”
His words were somewhat inexplicable, and what was even more inexplicable were Duan Yang’s actions.
He looked at the young man, and the other party gave him a bitter smile. After he said this, Duan Yang let go of his hand and walked forward as if nothing had happened.
Lin Chen was terrified. There was a small and warm ring clinging to his palm, which was quietly handed over by Duan Yang just now when he took the opportunity to speak to him.
Lin Chen didn’t dare look at it in the crowd. God knew what Duan Yang suddenly handed over. Taking advantage of the opportunity to line up to go ashore, he and Duan Yang fell to the end again.
“I don’t know. I just found it in my pocket.”
“Is it yours?”
“I don’t remember having it in my pocket. It was probably stuffed into it by the dead uncle before he died.”
“How did you know?”
“I remembered that when the uncle was talking about his parents, he seemed to put his hand on my trousers. What do you think this means, Consultant Lin?”
Lin Chen thought, ‘How could I possibly know what this means? Being kidnapped is bad enough, but encountering a sudden death of a stowaway in the cabin and the weirdest thing was the stowaway told a lie before he died and quietly stuffed a circular, round thing that resembled a ring into your pocket. To make matters worse, you even gave me the thing. Why do I always stumble into these kinds of things?’
“Aren’t you a psychologist? Can’t you speculate on the dying psychology of that uncle?”
Lin Chen felt that his temper wasn’t very good since Xing Conglian left. Otherwise, he shouldn’t be as impatient as he was now when he heard what Duan Yang had just said. “I’m not a fortune teller.”
“Think of it as the deathbed of a stowaway with delusional memories who handed you his family heirloom.”
“But you obviously know that this isn’t the case. That uncle… that uncle is very strange.”
“Perforation of the stomach is not a common disease in ocean voyages. How could he have a sudden perforation?” Duan Yang murmured.
“Stowaways, stomach perforation—why is it so uncommon?” Lin Chen asked back.
Duan Yang frowned. He lowered his voice and put his mouth close to Lin Chen’s ears. “Do you think there are drugs in his stomach, or he swallowed something hard before he left, which caused his stomach to perforate?”
“I don’t know. This should be your judgment as a doctor, but it shouldn’t be drugs.”
“Do you think traffickers who own this line still need to smuggle drugs through human flesh?”
“You’ve already guessed it!” Duan Yang gave him a depressed look.
“A person who still remembers to leave clues for you before he dies is mixed in with a bunch of stowaways. If it’s not a drug dealer, then who is he?”
“It can’t be an undercover agent, right?”
Duan Yang’s voice was so loud that Lin Chen couldn’t help but kick his calf. The young man staggered, and suddenly there was a strange look in his eyes. “What did he give me?”
“The size is either a family heirloom or a positioning device.” Lin Chen held the ring tightly in his hand. “This is just speculation, mainly to give you some confidence in your survival. Remember not to tell anyone about this thing. Fortunately, he secretly stuffed it into your pocket. If he had given it to you openly, would you have shouted it out loud for the whole world to know?”
As they spoke, they had already been taken to what looked like an 18th– or 19th– century transit station for human trafficking rather than a customs office. The two-story building by the small seaside had a few wooden tables where office workers sat with their feet up, while ceiling fans spun above. The room was crowded with smuggled immigrants from all directions, including men, women, and even people who looked like beggars. The officials inspected each person like they were inspecting livestock, and cries and resistance could be heard constantly. They would tear open women’s clothes, pinch their breasts, and haggle with the smugglers.
After a transaction was reached, the office staff took out a stamp and would stamp their “goods”; sometimes it would be on the face and sometimes on the back of their hands, indicating ownership.
Lin Chen and Duan Yang were taken out separately and sent to a table in the corner. There were python and jaguar flags on the table, and the office worker was sleeping there.
The person escorting them woke up the office staff and communicated in an unknown language for a long time. Suddenly, the office staff nodded, picked up the seal on the table, and stamped the backs of their hands.
Duan Yang rubbed the seal that had a python and jaguar pattern on his hand vigorously, only to find that the thing couldn’t be rubbed off. He said to Lin Chen with a sad face, “Consultant Lin, we have become pork in a meat factory.”
“Well, it’s still the kind that passed quarantine.”
“Please stop joking.”
They were taken out of the small building individually and finally came to a dilapidated military airfield.
A transport helicopter with rusty wings was waiting there, but the people sitting there weren’t the familiar people that were sitting in the cabin. On the contrary, there was a group of heavily armed mercenaries instead. Their eyes were sharp, and they raised their chins to look at Lin Chen and the others. Obviously, they were going to be transported to an unknown place with these mercenaries.
This showed two points. First, the place they were going was extremely dangerous. Second, the person who kidnapped them wanted them to arrive at their destination as soon as possible, so they chose helicopter transportation, which was much more expensive than sea transportation.
Lin Chen looked at Duan Yang’s face. He was afraid this young doctor, who had covered his mouth and nose because he was dissatisfied with the air in the cabin, didn’t know just how terrible the situation he was in.
He glanced at the blue sky and white clouds outside the window. Holding onto the relic of the middle-aged man who didn’t leave any name for him, his gaze finally fell on the blue stamp on the back of his hand.
Just as Lin Chen was scratching his head and thinking about the meaning of the python and jaguar pattern on the back of his hand, Xing Conglian was stepping on a tree stump, holding his binoculars, and looking coldly at Zaratul’s arrogant golden banner in the distance.
The python wrapped around the jaguar symbolize Zaratul’s own ambition to swallow an elephant, but this wasn’t the point. The point was that all entrances and exits around the mines were heavily guarded, and this place wasn’t like the rumored abandoned mines from long ago.
In the distance, smoke and dust rose, and low cement factories stretched endlessly, with some of them partially collapsed, revealing rusted cranes inside. Some intact factories seemed to have people coming in and out. There were even helicopters hovering from afar that landed within the mining area.
It was true that the abandonment of the mines was a fact, but the scale of vehicle access here within an hour showed that it wasn’t exactly as stated in the intelligence.
“Boss, this is… Is Zaratul engaged in a secret factory here?” Kang An’s uneasy voice sounded.
“Are the Gaomeng people really here? Is this a trap, like you said? Why did the militants in Zaratul drive all the Gaomeng people here?” These questions belonged to Wang Chao.
“Does it look like your boss is a fortune teller?” Xing Conglian impatiently.
“Boss Xing, where are my people? Are they dead? Why can’t I see them?” The bar owner also pulled on him and asked.
“There.” Xing Conglian stretched out his hand and replied casually, pointing at a dilapidated factory building in the distance.
Moda Nar snatched the binoculars and looked at them for a long time. “It seems there are many soldiers surrounding that factory building. Why do you think my people are locked there?”
“The places we passed along the way have already indicated the route of your people. They were driven here from east to northwest. They will inevitably encounter the long-awaited resistance of the Zaratul militants. Now that they have encountered resistance, your people will choose to find a bunker. If they aren’t killed, they will enter the factory to hide,” Xing Conglian answered.
“Fuck, does that mean those Zaratul bastards are besieging my people? I’m going to fight them!”
After the bar owner finished speaking, he rolled up his cuffs and rushed over.
Xing Conglian kicked the bar owner to the ground. “Sir, if you walk another fifty meters, you will be stepping on a minefield. Can you go court death on your own and not drag laozi into it?”
The bar owner was so scared that he hurriedly crawled back.
“Boss, what are we going to do now? If the Gaomeng people are really trapped in that factory, what’s going on?” Wang Chao asked.
“God knows. Since we’re here, let’s go in and take a look.” Xing Conglian glanced at Kang An, who took out a cigarette and put it in his mouth.
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