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Guo Miao-Xu Jianju’s comrade-in-arms, joined the army the same year as Xu Jianjun. After that, the both of them returned to their hometown, where one was discharged, and the other found another profession.
Among his circle of friends, Guo Miao was the one Xu Jianjun interacted with the most. At nearly every event of the latter’s life, Guo Miao would leave supportive messages, encouraging his friend to courageously brave through the storms as they would pass and dawn was just on the horizon.
“He’s done more harm than good to himself. Starting a business is a perilous thing, especially for those who have no experience. You actually pay a tuition fee when you first start a business. The key lies in how much you learn from that experience. Everyone falls sometimes, but the difference between winners and losers is that the former always finds a way to get up,” said Han Lu. “Instead of staying on the bumpy path until the end, you need to learn from your past failures.”
“Is this a lesson on entrepreneurship?”.
“No, it’s small talk between friends. I don’t know why, but I always forget how young you actually are. Are you proficient in basic computer operations? How is that possible? You’re so young… Why do I feel like there’s nothing you don’t know? Is this some kind of supernatural phenomenon, like the prophets in the Bible?”
Han Lu’s shoulder almost brushed Zhang Heng.
“I just happen to know a little more,” Zhang Heng answered. Zhang Heng swiftly retrieved Guo Miao’s current address from the Internet-it wasn’t too far from where they were—about 400 kilometers away. It would take around four hours if they used the motorway.
“If it’s alright with you, let’s go now.”
“Erm, Guo Miao was also a soldier like Xu Jianjun. It would be better if we bring more people with us, or even hire a bodyguard or
“There’s no need for that. I can manage that part.” Zhang Heng got up from his seat.
“Whoa, that sounds very reassuring, but to be on the safe side…” Han Lu pointed to a message in the group chat on Zhang Heng’s phone. “Would you like me to find some of our old friends to intimidate that woman, show her who’s boss?”
She then spread her hands in surrender. “Hey, I don’t want to deliver myself to their doorstep only to be bushwhacked.”
“As I said, you can still choose to stay at home. I can always record a video for you,” said Zhang Heng. “The fewer people know about this, the better. When this is all over, I hope you’ll keep it a secret too.”
“Why? Are you in danger as well? Do you need my help?” Han Lu was quick to read between the lines of Zhang Heng’s request. “…I know many people…”
“If I ever need it, I won’t hesitate to ask,” said Zhang Heng. “But right now, let’s focus on how we can solve your problem.”
Han Lu did not mention the bodyguard idea anymore after that. The red Lexus subsequently took off, speeding in the direction of the location pointed by the navigation app.
Four hours later, they exited the highway and entered a small county town where Guo Miao worked as the head of security in a plastic processing factory. Zhang Heng spoke to the old man at the gate and learned that Guo Miao was also on duty at the factory tonight. “Should we come back tomorrow morning instead? The security guards in the factory are all his subordinates,” Han Lu suggested. “…or we can wait until he gets off work tomorrow morning and intercept him on his way home.”
“Determining if you are a target of the Dreamland of Death is just the first step. I don’t want to spend too much time on this part. The real problem is figuring out how to lift the curse,” said Zhang Heng. Stepping out of the vehicle, he looked at the time on his watch.
Drive another three hundred meters, and remember to keep the engine running. Then, close your eyes, count to ten, then open your eyes again. After that, don’t speak, just listen carefully.”
“Huh? Is this… some sort of game?” Han Lu asked. “You can treat it like a game,” answered Zhang Heng as he pulled his hoodie over his head.
Han Lu did as she was told and parked the Lexus three hundred meters ahead of them. She saw Zhang Heng’s silhouette from the rear-view mirror. He stood under a street lamp, staring at the factory building; his face expressionless, like a statue. Han Lu shrugged.
She let her eyelids fall and counted to ten in her head. When she reached eight, she could hear the heavy breathing of a man coming from the backseat.
When she finished counting to ten, he spoke up.
“Who are you?” the stranger asked, still gasping. Han Lu’s quickly opened her eyes. Zhang Heng, who was still standing under the street light ten seconds ago, was now seated at the car’s back with a man. His head was covered with a sack, and his limbs were bound.
“Don’t panic. We’re just doing an aftersales visit,” Zhang Heng said.
“What aftersales visit? Did you get the wrong person?” asked the bound man. He sure was a brave one. Most would have wet their pants at this stage, but while his breathing had quickened, there wasn’t the slightest tremor in his voice. He really was a soldier.
“You’re Guo Miao, right?” Zhang Heng asked.
“Yes, that’s me,” Guo Miao answered candidly. His wallet was still at the back of his pants, so he did not see the point in lying.
“Then we didn’t get the wrong person. You spent ten yuan on a murder democide order on a website called Murder Without Risk.”
“Who are you?! Are you the police? And no, just having the intention to kill is not illegal,” Guo Miao snarled. He still didn’t understand the situation he was put in. Just a second ago, he was enjoying a late-night hotpot with his colleagues, and the next moment, his hands and feet were bound, and there was a sack over his head.
Though he couldn’t see where he was, Guo Miao surmised that he was probably in a car from the shape of the seat he was sitting on. He had even deliberately raised his voice to see if anyone else could hear him.
Suddenly, he received a punch in the lower abdomen, and a hard object was placed against his crotch.
“Save that thought. We’re not asking for money, nor do we want your life. We just have a few questions to ask. All you have to do is to answer them nicely, and we will let you
Once he heard that, Guo Miao immediately became compliant. “What do you want to know?”
“Have you ever browsed our online store?”
Guo Miao kept quiet.
“Just like you said, thinking about killing someone is not against the law, and no, we’re not the police either.”
“Yes,” Guo Miao finally admitted.
“Then what was in the package you received?”
“A black feather, something like an instruction manual, and a strange photo. They asked me to follow the steps in the guide, and the target will die unexpectedly.”
Han Lu gripped the steering wheel hard, trembling slightly.
“Did you follow the instructions, then?”
“Mmm,” Guo Miao nodded. “I wrote down a name and burned it with the feather. Then, I poured the ashes into some water and sent the picture to the target in a message.”
“One last question, and please be sure to tell us the truth. Your answer will determine if you’ll get out of the car with everything intact, or in pieces which will be eventually discovered in the trash.” Zhang Heng paused for a minute. “Whose name did you write?”
Guo Miao gulped. “Han Lu. That woman killed my best comrade-in-arms, and I have to make sure he gets the justice he deserves.”
“Congratulations, you’re free to go, Mr. Guo Miao.”
Zhang Heng opened the door on Guo Miao’s side.
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