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It was morning, and Zhang Heng had breakfast at the hotel with the rest of the 01.
“Why are you looking at me? Is there something on my face?” Little Boy asked as she picked up a plate. “Nothing,” Zhang Heng answered, averting his gaze. Despite having similar faces and precisely the same childhood… the Little Boy in front of him right now and the twelve-years-older Little Boy whom he had lived with for the past few months were not the same people.
What determined a person’s identity wasn’t DNA or other biological characteristics, but experiences and memories. Up until now, Zhang Heng was still uncertain as to what happened to Little Boy in the twelve years. Other than that same rock-head stubbornness, there was an unmistakable look of exhaustion in her eyes. Nevertheless, despite the same soul, Zhang Heng knew that the woman who leaned against the window listening to the rain pattering had disappeared entirely from his world—just like the storm that night. The group of six parted ways in the parking lot, and Zhang Heng stopped to buy a few bottles of black tea from the vending machine next door to drink on the road. Two hours later, the remaining three drove a rented car to the ski resort.
Philip parked in the open-air parking lot, opened the door, and took in a deep breath of the frigid but fresh mountain air of the Alps. On the other side of the car, Zhang Heng and Ponytail were already on the snow, their boots crunching loudly on the ice.
Since it was the peak season, the ski resort was swarming with tourists.
Most of them were residents from Grenoble and other neighboring towns. There were also a handful of foreigners, so Zhang Heng’s presence did not attract too much attention.
“Have you been here before?” Ponytail asked
“Nah, you know me, never one for physical sports. E-sports is an exception, of course. What about you?”
“My wife and I came to this place when we were on our honeymoon. We only stopped by a bar on the mountainside for a couple of beers, and we didn’t ski. Man, that was a long time ago…” Ponytail sighed and looked up at the snow, “It looks like we have a lot of work to do.”
The ski resort southeast of Grenoble was built on a considerably vast area. The ski trails on the mountain alone were more than 300 kilometers long, ranging from simple to professional trails. On top of that, a neverending stream of tourists continuously poured into the area. The good news was that if Black Nest followed Leah here, it would be virtually impossible for them to screen every single person. Also, in the case of an emergency, they would not respond as quickly as they did in an urban area.
That was half of Zhang Heng’s plan completed. On the other hand, it also meant long and tedious preparation work.
“Should we ask the others to delay the operation?” Phillip asked.
“I’m afraid the situation might change for Edward. After all, most of Black Nest’s resources have gone into locating him. I don’t know how long he’ll last. The faster we do what we need to do here, the better,” said the ponytail man.
“Don’t worry, I’ve already got a rough plan, and all it needs is a little refining. If all goes well, the preparations should be completed in two days. Best have Little Boy bring Leah to the ski resort as soon as possible,” said Zhang Heng, “so that Black Nest won’t have enough time to develop a complete surveillance plan.”
Ponytail and Phillip looked at each other, stunned.
“You took only one look at the mountain, and you already have a plan?”
“That’s because this isn’t my first time here.”
Zhang Heng took out his phone. “Now, we can start allocating the work.”
He dialed the number of the man with piercings. About seven seconds later, Piercings answered in a hushed voice, “Hey, unless it’s an emergency, I’ll call you back in half an hour.”
Before Zhang Heng could reply, the man hung up.
About twenty-five minutes later, he called again. This time, he spoke in a normal tone.
“What is it?”
“Are you busy?”
“Ah, since that night, the police had been on a lookout for me. I can’t go back to where I stayed. My bags and luggage are all there, and I now have less than 400 euros on me. On top of that, I don’t speak French. When you called me earlier, I was spotted by some police officers on patrol. I’ve only just escaped,” he complained. “What about you? Your face got captured by the surveillance camera that night when we were in the bar, right?”
“I have some very talented technical support. They changed my identity in the database of the hotel I checked into,” Zhang Heng grinned.
Piercings started sobbing. If only his technical support hadn’t died so soon, he wouldn’t have had to suffer like this, doing everything solo with a serious language barrier to add.
“If you can’t stay in the city anymore, how about getting out of it?” “Get out? I still have to figure out how to get Leah away from those Black Nest goons.
“Yes, as previously agreed, we will act separately. Each of us will be responsible for a part of the work. You can choose first.”
“Tell me about your plan first.”
“Give me a mailing address, and I’ll send you an encrypted email.”
Fifteen minutes later, Piercings typed in the code, anxious and excited. He opened the email Zhang Heng sent him and scrolled to the bottom of the page. All of a sudden, he became overwhelmingly outraged. He dialed Zhang Heng’s number and practically shouted, “You’re setting me up! You want to use me as bait?!”
“Well, if that’s how you feel about it, you can take the other job. Leave the baiting to me then,” Zhang Heng said calmly.
“The other one needs a full team, and the core requirements are too ridiculous! No one can do it!”
“Oh, there is, and I can.”
“Then you’re not actually giving me a choice at all!” Piercings snapped. Back in the bar, he thought that Zhang Heng must be a kind person since he promised to let him make the first choice.
“I’m sorry. This is the most suitable plan I can think of. And frankly, my job is even more dangerous,” said Zhang Heng.
That Piercings couldn’t deny. Although he might have to play the role of bait in this plan, Zhang Heng’s job, which included coming face to face with Black Nest, was actually a lot riskier.
So, after a moment of silence, Piercings asked, “Are you confident we’ll be able to get Leah away from Black Nest?”
“Eighty-percent certain,” Zhang Heng answered, “If all fails, we’ll go directly to Edward.”
“Oh, don’t bullshit me. If we can’t save Leah, we will never know where Edward is,” Piercings sneered, “But since I don’t have a better idea, we’ll give your plan a try.”
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