The space inside the shield was narrow, and with the blazing of the fire, the temperature continued to rise. Hot air that seeped through slapped against Su Heting’s damp forehead, like waves lapping on the shores.
This distance was dangerous.
So dangerous that Su Heting could get a clear look at all the details on the Inspector’s face.
The Inspector’s pupils were slightly dark, and they appeared calm and indifferent under the billowing smoke of the flames. The corners of his eyes were sharp, with an upward lift that left only a bit of shadow at the end as if they were hiding veiled emotions. Raindrops ran down along his straight nose, but his eyes were lowered as he exchanged gazes with Su Heting.
That gaze was quite distant, as if he wasn’t here to save Su Heting, but merely happened to be passing by.
Su Heting said, “… That was fast?”
He thought the Inspector would not answer, but unexpectedly, the Inspector replied, “So-so, I guess.”
Su Heting, “…”
The Inspector retracted his arm, and the black shield disintegrated on the spot, turning into countless diamond-shaped fragments that covered his right arm. At a glance, it looked like a steel arm guard.
The cannon in Bifang’s beak blew a crater in the ground. Caught in a ring of fire, the range in which both of them could move was very limited.
The Inspector said into the communicator, “Report the number.”
“Yes, sir!” The voice in the communicator was full of trepidation, but it spoke smoothly without wavering. “A total of four Bifang have been observed. Three are on this street, while one is in the midst of moving east. There are also fifty-six Nocturnal Wanderers gathering nearby.”
“Split up,” The Inspector said. “Hua Zhi and Dongfang, intercept the eastward-moving Bifang. Xiaogu, stay behind to protect the masses.”
“Copy that!” The voice in the communicator paused for a moment before asking, “What about the Bifang on this street?”
“I’ll handle it,” The Inspector said.
“I have support.” The Inspector casually pulled off the communicator and pushed it in front of Su Heting. “Say something.”
Su Heting was momentarily taken aback. “Huh—?”
The moment the word left his mouth, the Inspector turned off the mic on his end.
“Who’s that?” The dude on the communicator was caught off guard. After a momentary daze, it belatedly dawned on him. “A newcomer???”
Once again, Su Heting locked eyes with the Inspector. He even thought of introducing himself again. “Seriously, man…”
I am an undercover agent.
The Inspector simply said, “Here it comes.”
Two Bifang converged overhead and swooped down. At the same time they sped forth, they opened their beaks, and the cannons between their beaks instantly lit up.
Facing the glares of the cannons between those beaks, Su Heting asked loudly, “Where’s your shield?”
The Inspector said, “Cooldown time.”
Bifang let out a resounding “beep”, and the cannons between their beaks instantly burst through the street. The ensuing blasts of air blew up the debris on the ground in its wake as it shot straight toward them.
Sparks erupted from Su Heting’s right hand, and waves of flames flared up from his fingers to burn his right arm. He held up his right hand; his fingers had already turned into a crimson barrel.
“Hey.” The wind blew apart the stray locks of hair before Su Heting’s forehead, and the “X” in his right eye instantly materialized. The cat aimed at the cannon between the beak and said, all puffed up with pride and arrogance, “Let me show you the universe’s most invincible—”
He did not finish his words.
A crimson artillery shell suddenly shot forth!
A loud bang erupted as that crimson artillery shell and the cannon from the beak collided midway and exploded, sending sprays of sparks all over the sky.
The airwaves from the explosion swept over them, lifting Su Heting off his feet and into the arms of the Inspector. The Inspector then raised his arm, and the black diamond-shaped fragment covering his right arm moved in response. They successively clicked and linked tightly together under a series of clanking sounds, instantly forming a barrel similar to Su Heting’s.
Wild waves of flames leaped across the landscape ahead, blocking the Inspector’s line of sight. He hoisted up the barrel and said to Su Heting, “Give me the target’s position.”
The two Bifang circled and turned around to join together in a charge towards the sky. Rain fell like a broken chain of pearls, bouncing between their wings.
Su Heting’s modified eyes locked on to Bifang. There were also data prompts in his right field of vision.
[X locked. Attacking unit is fleeing.]
Su Heting gripped the barrel of the Inspector’s gun and lifted it slightly. “Shoot—”
The words had only just left his mouth when he felt the barrel of the gun heat up and heard an earth-shattering “bang”! Once again, the wave of air lifted him back into the Inspector’s arms.
The Bifang on the left was the first to be struck. This time, it only made a “beep” sound and did not fire the cannon between its beak. Its head exploded, and it went tumbling and crashing into the other one.
The Inspector did not stop and fired another shot.
The other one promptly shrieked and blasted off into the sky. With stiffened wings and bent neck, it plunged down together with its companion amidst the exploding shower of sparks and water.
The Inspector’s diamond-shaped fragments disintegrated apart with a “swoosh” and once again formed back into a black shield that steadily sheltered them overhead.
The rain of fire poured down in torrents and smashed onto the shield surface. That gargantuan shadow dropped sharply between the buildings on the streets. It slid again together with the collapse, bringing up clouds of dust.
Both men were very close together under the shield. Unlike just now, this position was a little suggestive.
The Inspector held up the shield with one hand and blocked Su Heting with the other hand to prevent the cat from being blown away. His chest was wide, and it felt a little hard to rest one’s head against it. That shirt chafed against the back of Su Heting’s neck. It looked like a polite and restrained distance, but the Inspector’s slightly swaying cross earring inadvertently touched the tip of Su Heting’s ear.
Unable to help himself, Su Heting shuddered and leveled his ears flat at the sides, a sign of vigilance.
The atmosphere was extremely delicate.
The Inspector released his hand. “It’s over.”
Su Heting wanted to run, but there was a “click” on his right hand as the black diamond-shaped fragments formed into a handcuff to cuff him.
He turned his head back. “?”
The Inspector snapped the other end around his own wrist and said in a detached voice, “You’re under arrest.”
Su Heting, “…”
The heck is wrong with you?
◈ ◈ ◈
Su Heting had been arrested.
Su Heting sat with the Inspector.
“My name is Dongfang.” A handsome young man leaning over the backrest of the car seat was all smiles as his gaze hovered over Su Heting and the Inspector’s handcuffed hands. “How do I address you?”
“Your father,” Su Heting said.
“Whoa,” Dongfang wasn’t offended. “Quite the intense character, he is.”
The car door opened, and a pretty young girl of about seventeen or eighteen years old with long, straight black hair climbed in. She was reticent and a little mature, but when she came in, her gaze also moved towards the handcuffs.
“Zhizi,” Dongfang propped his face. “Can you give me—?”
Hua Zhi raised her hand and whacked Dongfang off the backrest with the report book. She did not even turn her head, neither smiling nor annoyed.
“Sir, Bifang’s test report is out.”
The Inspector, who had been leaning against the glass dozing with his eyes closed, opened his eyes and took the report.
Hua Zhi said, “It’s not an ordinary Bifang this time. There is no Supreme God making a guest appearance here.”
Su Heting’s cat ears twitched, drawing the attention of everyone in the car. He sincerely suggested, “Do you guys want to silence this witness first?”
“Silence what witness?” A bespectacled head popped out outside the car. From the voice, it seemed like the dude who had spoken over the communicator earlier. He wondered in puzzlement, “Isn’t he our new guy?”
Su Heting tugged at the handcuff.
I’m an undercover agent.
The Inspector was still looking at the report even as his hand was pulled by Su Heting. Offhandedly, he said, “Give him a jammer.”
Dongfang rummaged in the car for a moment and took out a bell, which he handed to Su Heting. “There’s only this left.”
Su Heting looked up slightly. “What?”
“The strongest signal jammer,” Dongfang said. “Prevents systems and Punisher of Heaven from eavesdropping.”
Su Heting suddenly remembered that the prompt tone of incoming text messages had not sounded once today. He initially thought that the Chief had heeded his warning.
Hearing no movement from Su Heting after a long time, the Inspector took it for him. The bell was tiny, and it would even tinkle when shaken. It also came with a positioning design to prevent them from getting lost in the darkness of the night when they split up to act separately.
Su Heting burrowed his brows as he realized the crux of the matter. Staring at the Inspector, he asked, “You’re not the reconnaissance system of the Punishment Zone?”
“Uh-huh,” The Inspector held the bell in hand as he locked eyes with Su Heting, “do I look like one?”
Su Heting scooted closer and scrutinized the Inspector.
This face looked no different from a real person.
But this was the Punishment Zone.
Everyone here today could be fabricated by the Supreme God System with data. Think about what happened earlier. All those Bifang and Nocturnal Wanderers were creatures that could not possibly appear in the real world.
“Don’t be so easily taken in by the Punisher of Heaven’s lies.” That bespectacled dude said softly, “We are all just human.”
“What do you mean?” Su Heting asked. “You people just slipped in here for team-bonding?”
“We are not human survivors like you who sneaked in.” Dongfang braced himself against the backrest of the chair. “We are prisoners who never did escape Guanggui District.”
After the destruction of the Old World, the Supreme God Alliance occupied Guanggui District, the symbol of human beings’ high technology. There, hundreds of thousands of human beings were still imprisoned by artificial intelligence.
“Do you know of the human farm? I think you do, right?” Dongfang continued. “Several of our bodies are in that farm, with our consciousness sent into exile by the Supreme God. We have been wandering in the Punishment Zone for two or three years.”
It was still raining outside the car. Raindrops pelted the glass, making a disarray of water streaks on its surface.
In the silence.
Su Heting poked the Inspector in the back with his tail.
“Prove to me you’re human,” he said.
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