Su Heting never heard of him before.
The trading center was a mixed bag of all sorts of people, good and bad. Professional stand-in fighters were all outlaws of questionable backgrounds who typically accepted only cash transactions. There were often cases in which they took the money and absconded with it, or did the dirty on their own kind.
This was presumably a pseudonym.
He replied with a “beware of scammers.”
It was already four in the morning. Su Heting had exhausted all his stamina and was so tired he could barely open his eyes. The Hermit did not answer for a long time, so he lay in bed and fell asleep.
But he did not sleep well. In his dreams, the Inspector kept pursuing him relentlessly. Su Heting had such a deep impression of that flying kick of his that his arms still felt sore and numb when he was jolted awake by his phone.
Still in a daze when he woke up, he answered in a hostile tone, “What do you want?”
Stumped for words, Xie Zhenshu took a second to answer, “Passing info.”
Su Heting frowned, “Who are you?”
He answered, “Xie Zhenshu.”
Su Heting took two seconds to realize who this was. He held the phone away from him, took a glance at the number, then held it back to his ear. “Wrong number.”
“The Hermit introduced you to me.”
The other man’s voice was slightly husky, as if he had activated some kind of voice changer.
“Ooh…” Su Heting imitated the Chief’s tone. “What info?”
Xie Zhenshu said, “King Shen’s.”
Su Heting was up against King Shen two days later. He almost forgot about this himself.
There was an issue with the ventilation in this room, and it was stuffy as hell after sleeping for the whole night. Feeling hot, Su Heting messily brushed aside his hair and said to the other man. “No need. Don’t want it. Bye.”
He hung up without giving the other man a chance to reply.
The Hermit had sent a whole new bunch of messages in the early hours of last night. Su Heting scrolled to read the messages.
Hermit: Big news!
Hermit: Titan’s dead!!!
Hermit: I dare not speak of the details.
There was a pause of almost half an hour in between.
Hermit: When you wake up, go collect the info on King Shen. There’s something important inside.
Hermit: You must go get it, k!
After a moment of silence, Su Heting called Xie Zhenshu back.
“Hello.” He said with sincerity, “That was my younger brother who answered the call earlier.”
◈ ◈ ◈
Su Heting left home right on time.
During the daytime, the Black Market was filthy, messy, and boring, with household garbage piled up in a heap near the apartments. Without the light show, all that was left here were old, dilapidated hunchbacked buildings. There were many Hybrids at the corners of the street alleys, most of whom were working.
Su Heting stopped at the red light and glanced at the Armed Squad’s car and drone.
Although there were patrol officers everywhere, they were not on Punisher of Heaven’s regular payroll and had only received a short period of armed training. The one holding the entire district in check was still the Armed Squad. They were well-equipped and would regularly review and update the Hybrids’ data. In other words, they know exactly if anyone made any modifications to their bodies.
In the past two years, Punisher of Heaven had been using a wide array of weapons against the Hybrids, for example, the sensor locks that had been slapped on Su Heting before. Simultaneously, the equipment of the penitentiary was also being updated. It used to be real people carrying out the interrogation and torture in the past, but there was no need for them now. With brain-computer interfaces, mental invasion was enough to make the Hybrids suffer a fate worse than death.
But there was no need to go by the book when it came to places like the trading center and the arena. They provided Punisher of Heaven with financial support and so enjoyed special privileges in all the Anti-System Survival Zones; they could have their finger in certain underground industries.
“Looking for an organization?” A girl with twin ponytails wearing a JK uniform stopped beside Su Heting and interrupted his thoughts. She stuffed a poster into his hands and introduced the group enthusiastically, “Our language organization is currently recruiting newcomers~!”
Su Heting opened up the poster and saw multi-colored scribbles drawn with highlighters.
He asked, “Expletives Organization?”
“You know your stuff.” The girl with twin ponytails smartly raised two fingers to her temple and flicked them at Su Heting, bubbling with energy as she said, “Respect, motherfucker!”
Su Heting, “…”
He numbly folded up the poster.
The green light came on, and the girl with twin ponytails waved at him cheerily, “See you next demonstration. Bye, kitty!”
Everyone in this organization had a screw loose.
Su Heting stuck a hand in his pocket and gave her a perfunctory wave with the other hand that was holding the poster.
◈ ◈ ◈
It was now afternoon. Su Heting arrived at the trading center at exactly 4 p.m.
The upper floors at the trading center were all closed; these would only be opened at night. Meanwhile, the basement had a total of eight levels. The first two levels dealt with the reselling of garbage, most of which were dug out from the refuse dumps of the Old World. Hybrids who did not have much money could find scrap steel here to do implants. Often, one could also catch sight of antiques like tapes and compact discs.
The third floor dealt in food. The lands outside were no longer fertile to grow anything. Punisher of Heaven had dozens of large-scaled underground greenhouses that were used as cultivation bases for beans and mushrooms. It was only here that one could occasionally catch a glimpse of real, expensive meat.
The next three floors were the free trade markets. This was where Jiali operated a scavenged goods store. She would usually use doing missions as a pretext to get a permit to get out of the city to look for the daughter she lost.
As for the seventh and eighth floors, these were where the sex and pornography industry plied their trades.
Su Heting and Xie Zhenshu had arranged to meet at basement level 3.
The moment the cat stepped out of the lift, he started to wag his tail.
What a wonderful aroma.
Even if it was synthetic meat, it smelled delicious.
It was only yesterday Su Heting ate to his heart’s content, and he had already forgotten all about the taste of that big plate of chicken today. His life was all about instant noodles and a supply of mushrooms he could never finish. He stood by the railing to wait for Xie Zhenshu, repeatedly soaking in the aroma of various foods. But when he still did not catch any sign of the guy after ten minutes, he began to suspect if the guy was retaliating against him.
Su Heting: I’m here. Where are you?
Xie Zhenshu: You brought a tail with you.
Su Heting: ?
It’s not like my tail is breaking any law.
Su Heting replied: Why the heck do you care?
Xie Zhenshu: .
Xie Zhenshu: Someone’s tailing you.
Su Heting put on his earpiece and dialed, then pressed the screen shut. Once again, he stuck his hands into his pockets and started heading inside.
Xie Zhenshu’s signal wasn’t good, and there was static as he spoke, but he was not flustered. It was as if he knew Su Heting wasn’t afraid.
There were many Survivors in the food zone. Most were family members carrying baskets of groceries, and some were pushing strollers. Su Heting blended in among the crowd and walked at an unhurried pace that seemed more like a stroll.
He asked, “How many?”
Xie Zhenshu said, “One car.”
To think he would be monitored even when he went out shopping for groceries.
Su Heting thought of what the Hermit had said and began to think back to the match that day. He did not do anything except to crush Titan’s modified arm, which was not fatal at all.
Why would they come looking for him now that Titan’s dead?
“Get in the elevator and go up.” Xie Zhenshu stared fixedly at the screen. “I’ll back you up there.”
It just so happened Su Heting was nearing elevator #1.
The elevator coincidentally reached this level just then, and its door opened to both sides. There were a bunch of people inside, and an unfamiliar man in a suit and sunglasses standing in the middle met Su Heting’s in the eyes.
Su Heting’s intuitive radar suddenly started blaring amid the din and commotion around him. Without even thinking, he swiftly covered his head and squatted.
“He has a gun.”
The gunshot from the man in the suit sounded almost at the same time as Xie Zhenshu’s voice.
Su Heting’s hairs stood on end.
I’m the number one champion when it comes to dodging bullets!
He did not wait to applaud himself. Amidst the chaotic screaming, he kicked the man with the sunglasses in the chest and sent him back into the elevator. The Survivors inside covered their heads and screamed as they fled, but there was a man with a three-year-old child in his arms still trapped inside.
Su Heting strode into the elevator, and the man with the sunglasses lifted an arm to shoot at him. Without saying a word, Su Heting made a sudden grab for the elbow of the man with the sunglasses and knocked the gun to the ground, then abruptly wrenched the other man towards himself.
The bullet struck the elevator’s doors with a “bang”, sending up a small spray of sparks.
The child immediately burst into tears.
Outside the door, a stampede of footsteps surrounded the entrance. Su Heting smashed hard on the button for the next level.
“Shoot.” Someone commanded. “Shoot him!”
The man in the sunglasses banged hard at Su Heting with the back of his head, right into Su Heting’s nose.
Acerbic pain instantly washed over him, and Su Heting’s eyes promptly reddened. As soon as he loosened his grip, the man with the sunglasses backhandedly elbowed him.
The other man’s strength was a force to be reckoned with—this was no ordinary Survivor.
The elevator’s doors were about to close, and the man with the sunglasses still made to jam the doors. Su Heting yanked at the back of his collar with all his might and slammed the man’s head hard against the side of the elevator’s wall.
The man’s sunglasses were already smashed to a pulp.
The child was still crying.
Su Heting lifted the man with the sunglasses and punched a fist right in his face. The latter’s body flipped to the side and slammed into the side of the elevator’s wall once again.
Su Heting turned back to pick up the gun, then crouched down to comfort the child.
“Hush.” He shook his cat ears. “I’ll show you a magic trick.”
Su Heting picked up the pistol and playfully flipped his palms at the child. The gun disappeared.
“How was it?” He sniffled, and blood trickled down his nose. “Cool, right?”
Not only was the child crying now; even the child’s father had been frightened into crying.
The elevator arrived at the first floor.