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“Leah’s your leader? That’s probably the most shocking thing I’ve heard all day since I found out that Black Nest has taken over all of Europe!” Zhang Heng exclaimed.
“You only say that because you don’t know her. She’s a born a fighter like her brother. After Edward’s death, she became the most resolute anti-CTOS mutineer, employing her charismatic personality to influence and unite many.”
“Where are they now?” Little Boy sighed again, “We’re fighting a war we cannot win.”
“It’s tough to believe that even you would say something so dismal,” said Zhang Heng. “The Little Boy I knew would have never given up so easily.”
“I’m just stating the facts. This war has been going on for twelve years, and I’m starting to get real tired,” Little Boy chugged down the entire glass of milk in one large gulp.
“Then why bother to sabotage the cameras on the street and risk getting caught?”
“It’s only to send a message to those skeptical of CTOS that there are still people in the city resisting them. On top of that, Z’s second phase is about to begin. The people in Black Nest have appointed the three judges, and the jury also belongs to them. We may not have a chance to win, but we can always do something.”
Zhang Heng also finished his glass of milk. “One last question-how do I find Leah?”
“I don’t know. Black Nest is always sending people out to capture her, so her location is a secret that only the 01 knows. If you want to get to her through me, you best give up now. I don’t know where she is, and even if I do, I would never tell you,” said Little Boy as she picked up the two empty glasses from the table.
“I’ve answered all your questions, and I even gave you a glass of milk. Yes, you’re welcome. We’re even now. If there’s nothing else, please leave.”
Little Boy turned to walk to the sink, ignoring Zhang Heng. But after she finished washing the two cups, Zhang Heng was still sitting in the same spot.
“What’s the matter? Do you need me to open the door for you?”
“I don’t have any documents or identification on me.”
“Oh, I would like to express my sympathy for your tragic experience, but you can go to the police and bring the Proof of Loss, a photocopy or an electronic copy to your country’s embassy to have it reissued.”
“I don’t have a photocopy or an electronic copy. In fact, I have my doubts about whether my country still retains my personal information,” said Zhang Heng, “As I said, this world is different from the one I’m used to; there is no evidence of my presence here.” “Hah, your parallel universe theory again? I must admit, you’re pretty good at making up stories.”
“Do you have any suggestions?”
“If, and I’m saying IF… if what you say is true, then you’re in deep trouble. Without any identification, and since they can’t determine your country of origin, they might detain you until you die of old age. No one will care if you live or die anyway.”
“So that means I should avoid the police at all costs so I won’t get locked up, huh?” Zhang Heng got up from the seat. “Thank you for your consultation. I’m delighted to have met you.”
Zhang Heng walked to the door, but just as his fingers met the doorknob, Little Boy said, “Wait.”
She had a look of uncertainty on her face. After a long while, she sighed. “Do you have any money?”
“No, but I can borrow some off those ‘kind’ people on the street,” said Zhang Heng, “based on how I usually do things, survival is always my number one priority, I suppose.” “Are you even aware of how CTOS works? Do you know where all the cameras in the city are located? Do you know who you can trust and who the enemy is?” Little Boy’s frown deepened, “even if it’s just committing a crime, you are just a rookie in the criminal world. The police will surely catch you.”
“I don’t think so. Trust me, it’s not going to be easy to catch me.”
Zhang Heng pushed the door open. “What if I’m willing to offer you a job?” “Huh?” Zhang Heng stopped in his tracks. “…and a place to stay,” Little Boy added, “you don’t have any identification so you can’t stay in any of the hotels. I can take you in, but you’re sleeping on the couch, and you must listen to everything I say. You only do what I tell you to do. Of course, I won’t ask you to do anything absurd. On the other hand, I will teach you how to survive under CTOS, how to avoid cameras, lose a tail… and you are responsible for feeding Baby Croc.” “… did you really name your cat Baby Croc?”
“You just have to tell me if you agree or not,” Little Boy answered with a poker face.
“I want to learn your communication skills too,” Zhang Heng said.
“If you meet my requirements, I will consider it.”
“If that’s the case, I don’t see why I should refuse the offer,” Zhang Heng closed the door, “can I ask why the sudden change of mind?”
“Here’s a piece of advice-mind your own business. Don’t ask too much.” Little Boy turned and walked into her bedroom, then came back out with a quilt. She then spread it on the couch. “I only have two quilts,” she said, “this one is a little thin, but you seem to be in good shape, so you probably won’t freeze to death. I’ll get some necessities tomorrow. You’ll have to make do tonight.”
“Where’s the pillow?”
“You are pushing your luck here.”
“I prefer to call it a basic human need.”
“I don’t have any extra pillows. Do you want Baby Croc’s cat bed?”
Zhang Heng looked at the British Shorthair. As if noticing something, the cat stared back at him as well, daring him to try if you will.
“I don’t think it’ll agree to that suggestion.”
“You’re such a pain, you know? I have some old clothes you can use as a pillow,” Little Boy said.
After she was done dressing the couch, she found Zhang Heng a pair of slippers, a towel, and a toothbrush. “You are not allowed to use my cup, and before I buy you a new cup, rinse your mouth directly at the tap. When you pee, you must put the seat up,” Little Boy went on, “the water heater is ancient, so before you shower, let it warm up first. During winter, showers have to be done within twenty minutes, or the water will turn cold. Too much hair clogs up the drain, so it must be cleaned regularly. You can eat the food in the fridge, but it will be deducted from your salary, and we’ll split utility bills fifty-fifty. Do you have any more questions?”.
“Erm, if your boyfriend finds out that I live here, will there be a problem?”
“I don’t date.”
“But if it’s been twelve years, you’re probably around twenty-nine already.”
As if she didn’t hear anything, Little Boy turned off the lights of the living room.
“You should get some sleep. There’s a whole list of things to do tomorrow,” she said.
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