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Zhang Heng was wrapping the broken blade in canvas when he heard footsteps approaching “We completed the plan according to your instructions. Want to take a look?” Little Boy asked.
“Good. I’ll be there in a minute,” Zhang Heng answered, but he didn’t budge from where he was standing. He pointed at a brightly lit arch bridge in front. “Is that Pont Neuf*?”
“Yes, it’s also called Pont de pierre*. Built in the sixteenth century and repaired for almost a hundred years, it is still used today. It’s considered one of Toulouse’s places of attraction,” Little Boy walked up next to Zhang Heng
Under the moonlight, the reflection of the bridge on the river against the sea of burning city lights gave off a beauty few words could describe. It was simply magnificent.
The two gazed in silence at the spectacular view. A moment later, Little Boy spoke up again. “If everything goes as planned, we will meet those guys from the newspaper forum tomorrow. When Edward is finished with the interview, we’ll transfer him to a safe place. How about you? Any plans after this?”
“Will you return to your country?”
“Oh, if everything goes well, most probably. My passport is about to expire soon anyway,” said Zhang Heng. As soon as the ninety days were over, all players would be sent back to the real world. Since he could not tell this to the 01 Guerillas, Zhang Heng used his passport as an excuse. Coincidentally, his passport would also expire in ninety days, making for an acceptable explanation. “I still have no idea why you’re willing to get yourself involved in the entire thing. Unlike us, you’re not from here, and you don’t live here… But hey, whatever it is, I still want to thank you,” Little Boy said.
“Don’t need to thank me,” replied Zhang Heng, “I’ve learned a lot from all of you throughout this time. Consider it helping each other out.”
Little Boy nodded and was about to return to the cabin when Zhang Heng suddenly said, “Make more friends and live a happier life.”
“What?” Little Boy thought she must have heard wrong.
“Other than these people from 01, you probably don’t have any other friends, right?”
Little Boy was taken aback. “How do you know that?” she gasped, “We’re all geeks, and we don’t really care what the public thinks of us. For me, 01 is enough.”
“… perhaps you’re right. I take back what I said.”
“Will we meet again in the future?” Little Boy asked.
“Perhaps someday; I’d like to try the cookies you baked.”
Little Boy frowned. “Fine. I’ll learn when I’m free, but I can’t guarantee they’ll taste good.”
“Trust me, you may not be a genius in the kitchen, but when it comes to baking, you’re practically a Michelin star chef.”
Zhang Heng then returned the game console to Little Boy.
The highest record on it was now his 999999 points.
“Is it just me, or do we actually know each other?” Little Boy asked, looking puzzled. “No, I just happen to know someone who’s almost exactly like you.”
“Is she your friend?”
“Mmhmm, and she’s also my landlady,” Zhang Heng answered, “Better get an early rest. We’ll be busy again starting tomorrow.”
In the conference room, Vincent could clearly feel Mr. Coffee’s excitement, and the woman who was assigned with him was now gone.
After the explosion in the parking lot, she simply dressed her wounds, returned to her place, packed her bags, booked a flight, and took a taxi to the airport. Three hours later, she was gone from Toulouse. Everyone in Black Nest was flabbergasted. And after Mr. Coffee’s rectification movement, the whole team was even more saddened. Many had been complaining about the two people sent from headquarters, and some of them even hoped that Vincent would step forward and stop all this nonsense.
However, they were all declined by Vincent. Since surrendering his position as leader, he had done his best to accommodate Mr. Coffee’s every request like a good deputy would, and thanks to his almost omnipresent poker face, no one really knew what he was thinking
The technician wiped the cold sweat on his forehead and finished the report. “We fixed the flaws in Zero so the enemy can no longer use it to collect information,” he said.
“So, you’re saying that the swimming pool incident happened because they used Zero to find Edward?” Mr. Coffee put both his legs on the table, fiddling a spoon with his hand.
“Yes… that seems to be the case,” the technician nervously stammered, growing even more nervous by the minute.
“Relax. I’m just asking you a few questions. Even if your answer’s not satisfactory, I can’t possibly use this little spoon to kill you.”
The joke was in no way funny, but the technician forced himself to smile.
“I just find it hard to accept that a toy that costs tens of billions of euros to build has such weak protective measures. Didn’t you say that this thing is very secure, that even if someone did find a loophole, it would take more than three months to crack? But… it hasn’t even been four weeks since this thing went online,” Mr. Coffee grumbled as he tapped the spoon on the table with a slow, menacing rhythm.
The technician was on the verge of tears. “I… I don’t know either,” he managed to croak.
Only making that guarantee to Vincent and the others, he did not expect it to come back and bite him, and so soon too. Until today, the technical team still marveled at their adversary’s ability to sniff out and exploit vulnerabilities in the system. It was hard to imagine that anyone at all would be able to pull that off in such a short amount of time.
“Who could it be? Edward? He knew CTOS like the back of his hand, and is also a very skilled hacker, right?”
“No, after doing some research, we agreed that this is not Edward’s usual method of attack.”
“Then who is it?”
“I… don’t know,” the technician answered awkwardly.
“Will there be other attacks on Zero?”
By this point, the technician had lost all confidence. “Probably not. Uhh, I… I don’t know either,” he babbled.
“Don’t you have any other lines besides I don’t know?” Mr. Coffee sighed, “I could hire someone off the street for a couple of euros to replace you so he can tell me ‘I-don’t-know’ all day long.”
It was then that Vincent spoke up. “We came across a very good technical team in Grenoble —it’s possible they did it.”
“You see that? Now that’s professional,” Mr. Coffee clapped his hands, “From this point onward, we must consider the existence of this team of technicians whenever we make plans. Okay, the next question… why did Edward choose to hide in Toulouse?”
“We’ve already looked it up. It’s because he knows a man called Jimmy. Thanks to an accident that killed his son, he hates Black Nest,” the technician quickly answered.
“No, he was waiting for someone,” Vincent corrected, “He wants to reveal all the information he has to the public, but since he’s worried about his sister’s safety, he hasn’t done anything. He doesn’t have to worry about that anymore, though.”
Mr. Coffee looked interested. “How does he plan to do that?”
“Based on his character, he won’t just select one channel. Besides, he will make sure to choose the most lethal method, knowing how he’s made up his mind.
“Very good. Monitor all the airports, train stations, and highways—find out which journalists, public figures, or influencers are coming to Toulouse. Whoever they are, they will definitely be meeting with Edward. And then…” Mr. Coffee paused, “…we show up and kill everyone.”
Pont Neuf: New Bridge, also known as Pont de pierre (Stone Bridge) is the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine in Paris, France.
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