The Central Plains, the province of Nanyu 1 .
Inside a travel agency of a third-tier city, a couple was sitting on a couch, reading the prices off a list. They were students of a local university and had spotted the travel agency at random while out for shopping today. They decided to come in to have a look.
With the approaching winter vacation, they thought they could go on a trip and have a bit of "pre-Spring-Festival hookup" while they were at it.
"Let's go to Nanzhong, it's warm there," suggested the young man.
"It's a bit expensive— 5000 yuan 2 for a four-flight trip. Don't you have anything cheaper?" The young woman seemed rather sensible.
"There is an ongoing strict inspection and all cheap shopping tours are cancelled. Only the deluxe tours are open for booking at the moment. They cost more, but the food and accomodation are excellent.There is absolutely no arranged shopping destinations and the safety is guaranteed," explained the agency owner with a smile.
"But still, 5000 yuan is, is too much…"
The girl would love to go, but they were on a limited budget and could not bring themselves to spend that much money. The boyfriend went on reading the list and a while later, he suddenly said, "Why, there are still Tianshan tours in the winter?"
"Quite a few of those, actually. The view is unique and it's off season at the moment, so there's a discount—five days, double flights, and 1800 yuan 3 only. Very reasonable price." The owner was pushing for a sale.
The girl read the plan more carefully and asked curiously, "Urumqi, Dakang, Tianshan… hey, why isn't Huo Zhou included? I thought it's rather close."
"You got me there. I'm only following the orders of our head office. It seems all tours passing Huo Zhou are cancelled."
The two looked around for quite some time but could not decide on which tour to pick. They decided to leave it be for the time being.
On their way back, the boyfriend spent the entire bus ride playing with his phone and did not say a single word, which vexed his girlfriend slightly. She tugged at his arm and asked, "What are you doing there?"
"Nothing, just flipping through some weibo posts." The boyfriend handed her the phone. "It just happens that they are talking about Huo Zhou there."
Taking over the phone, the girl saw news titles arranged in rows, all highly popular ones.
"After XX Dam Project, another major project is launched in the country."
"Emigration of 700,000 residents is in progress, proper resettlement guaranteed."
"Why was Huo Zhou chosen for the location for the largest photovoltaic plant in the world? Let's hear what the experts have got to say…"
The girl scrolled down the screen and found it strange. "The news here sounds empty. There isn't much detail."
"Well, build whatever they want. It's none of our business!"
The boyfriend stretched, drew his girl into his arms, and thought only about where to go to eat later.
Huo Zhou was a city too far away for them to care and 700,000 people was but a number, which they forgot all about in a few minutes.
Southwest, in a certain city.
Inside a backroom in some residential area, two people were sitting opposite each other. One was slightly older with streaks of white hair. The other one had a gloomy face—he was none other than Zhang Wei himself.
"They have taken action, which is an opportunity for us." The old man's eyes were lowered, as if he was deliberately not looking straight. His voice did not fit his appearance either, for it sounded somewhat shrill.
Zhang Wei's eyes flickered, as if he was afraid to meet the old man's eyes. He asked, "Shall we mobilize our disciples in Huo Zhuo?"
"Absolutely not! Your reckless move earlier almost exposed us, not to mention the three capable experts we lost. We will not arouse their suspicion this time. Let them do their thing. With the expense of moving 700,000 people and the loss of the natural resources of the entire region, even the colossus will need some time to recover. When the anomaly is at full-blown next year, we will move into action, then… hoho!"
The unexpected laughter of the old man was rather grating. He went on, "I have been studying the legacy of our ancestors and I'm getting onto something. Maybe we can use the secret skill to enhance our physical bodies to reach a more advanced state. To do that, the spiritual essence of Flaming Mountain is essential. Hoho, gods are on our side!"
"Really? Is there any side effect?" Zhang Wei asked curiously.
"Shortening your life by a few years, that's all. What's that comparing to restoring the glory of our ancestors?" Slowly, the old man looked up. Zhang Wei lowered his head at once, forcing himself to look away from the ghastly red pupils.
Huo Zhou, the countryside.
Inside the spacious courtyard, a middle-aged couple was casually tending to some chores. Holding one dried corn cob in each hand, the woman rubbed them together and the corns fell into a winnowing pan with a rustling sound.
After finishing a few cobs, she became distracted and asked suddenly, "What on earth is going on in your head? People of the township government are visiting every household and I heard they had set a three-month deadline. Everyone has to move."
"The hell with their deadline. Forget the pretty name of 'requisition for government project'. It's a resettlement plan, isn't it?" The man tilted his head and grinned, baring his yellow teeth. "I want good money and I don't give a sh*t whose command it is. I've talked to my sixth and eighth brothers. We're together in this. None of us will move if we're not happy with the money."
"Is, is it all right to do that? They're pushing it real hard this time." The woman was worried.
"They can't afford the publicity. One resisting family is a tartar, ten together makes it a negotiation. Haven't you heard of the saying 'the law doesn't punish numerous offenders'?" The man couldn't care less.
That was just how things worked. With a massive migration project like this, the later stages of the resettlement were relatively easy, whereas the early stage persuasion work was extremely tedious.
The authorities had adopted an approach similar to that of the peach flower miasma: they worked things from multiple angles at the same time, which would complement one another.
On a macro-perspective, a research base and a photovoltaic plant were to be constructed in Huo Zhou, hence the state's need to requisite land and houses, which was why a group migration was carried out. In terms of the mode of migration, different methods were to be adopted, including centralized resettlement, scattered resettlement, active settlement, government-arranged settlement, etc. These people would be allocated to eleven cities in the Central Plains, where they would be given favorable policies in residence registration, education, employment, and so on and so forth. Numerous new housing facilities were also being built as they spoke.
Those were the gains the government promoted.
On the other hand, the abnormal climate of Huo Zhou was there for everyone to see. The experts were also advertising seemingly convincing theories, fanning up the flames with reasons and science, pushing people into actively abandoning the area.
That was the loss they advertised should anyone wanted to stay.
If, in the end, there were still those refusing to leave, the government would then stop wasting time and resolve to eviction.
The county of Ashan, a gold mine.
The county was a vital center of resources of Huo Zhou. Apart from two small-scale gold mines, various other minerals were found here, including nitratine, coal, bentonite, and many others.
This gold mine was set up a decade ago, and from a small pit, it had since gradually expanded into a massive one as we saw now, which was eighty-five meters deep and filled an area as vast as 920,000 m^2. The entire mining process was carried out in this pit.
Piles of whole and broken ores covered the bottom of the pit; the space between the piles had formed passages along which dozens of trucks traveled on a daily basis, taking the ore out of the mine. On average, every ton of gold ore would produce 2 grams of gold.
Old Zhang was a truck driver who had been working here from the day the mine was built. Right now, he had no work to do and was squatting down in a corner, looking around in boredom.
Dynamite was set off twice a week in the diggings to excavate new ores. Today was time for another blast. While the dynamite was being prepared, all staff had to stop their work at hand.
As a matter of fact, after a decade of working here, he was detecting something unmistakably strange these days.
According to their leaders, it was called "to welcome the Spring Festival with a hundred days of hard work". They had ran this campaign before, which usually took place between December and the Spring Festival. During this period, everyone was to put all their effort into their work like there was no tomorrow and would be rewarded with a generous bonus.
This year, however, something felt different.
It was as if they were fighting for their lives. Instead of an assembly of labor, it felt more like a rush harvest, as if the gold mine would be gone tomorrow and they had to dig out as much as they could before that...
While he was deep in his thought, a shrill and urgent whistle went off across the diggings, accompanied by simultaneous broadcast reminders. Old Zhang rose to his feet right away, met with his fellow workers, and drove their trucks together to a hill on higher ground.
The whistles stopped abruptly after a few more rounds. After the safety officers made sure the area was evacuated, the dynamite buried in underground holes was detonated. There was a series of "Boom!", which reminded one of smouldering thunders, and the sky seemed to be shaking along with the earth.
Old Zhang strained his neck and looked down. Dust and smoke rolled in the air, covering the entire pit, which would not dissipate even after a long while, as if trying to bury this land dense with scars.TL/N: a fictional name, literally means "Southern Henan" TL/N: roughly a little under 800 USD TL/N: roughly 280 USD