Iron Mountain was not very tall, but took up a vast area and was next to a great reservoir. The surrounding area was covered in luxuriant vegetation. Man-made slab stone paths trailed through the woods. There were also numerous wild tracks and old roads.
The official had brought with him a special task force. It was the team's job to take down the target, while the police was in charge of checking the perimeter and dealing with the logistics. The keynote of this operation was explicitly expressed as: "Search in small groups, do not disturb the general public, and subdue the target with a single strike."
Dividing the squad into two teams, the official had one team stay with him and Wang Ruoxu while the other one spread out to check for suspicious people and any traces of recently dug ground.
"My goodness, the extent of damage to the dragon ridge is more severe than I expected. The mountain is filled with evil Yin energy… sigh, my only hope is that the corpse is not yet refined, or we may not leave this place alive today…"
Right now, Wang Ruoxu was wandering around the mountain, holding the compass while mumbling bizarre things to himself.
The soldiers in defensive formation around him were disgruntled. The presence of the official and their sense of discipline were the only things that kept them from losing their temper. The official himself was also getting anxious, and could not help urging, "How is it going?"
"The situation is rather complicated here. I'll need a little bit more time."
Wang Ruoxu replied gingerly. Moments later, he seemed to have detected something when he pointed into the distance, "Try there."
He led the team to a clearing and some men went over to examine the place right away, and even dug around with shovels. They then reported back, "Sir, we didn't find anything!"
The official's face darkened. "Priest Wang, we really don't have much time. You'd better hurry up."
"Yes, of course!"
Swallowing his curses, Wang Ruoxu wiped away his sweat with his sleeves.
"Han Dapeng to the team, Han Dapeng to the team… no abnormality over here, no abnormality, over!"
"Neither here, over!"
"The same at my postion, over!"
"Remain vigilant and keep looking!"
Sticking the walkie-talkie back into his pocket, Han Dapeng bent over slightly, his eyes roving about the surroundings. This was a standard position during battle readiness—to search for clues from the faintest traces was not all that difficult in theory. All you had to do was to look for footprints and observe the ground and the leaves and branches.
A dozen men fanned out and searched their respective areas. The section allotted to him seemed to be in order and he had found nothing out of the ordinary so far.
He stopped abruptly, for he heard faint footsteps to the northwest.
It was definitely not one of his teammates!
Frowning, Han Dapeng looked around and spotted a big leafy tree. He then climbed onto it, hiding himself among the leaves. One could not make him out unless they looked up and watched carefully.
The sound was getting closer. He held his breath, waiting for the interloper.
The thick growth of grass was disturbed, and out came a young man and a young woman. Both were tall and slender, with an easiness to their movements.
'Are they tourists?'
Han Dapeng hesitated, but was immediately resolute again. No matter who these people were, the orders were to take down any intruders. The two were chatting randomly down there, facing him sideways. He could not make out their faces.
Patient, he remained hidden, fixing his gaze upon them. When they were finally under his tree with their backs to him...
Thrusting against the trunk with his strong calves, he pounced down headlong. With his knees slightly bent and spreading his arms widely, the momentum gained by this move was so incredible that once he got these two under his grip, they would be subdued instantly.
However, he was almost on them when the two sidestepped away from each other simultaneously, as if they had eyes on the back of their heads.
'They knew where I am all along!'
Han Dapeng was shocked, but his movements did not slow down. He bent forward even further, then with the impetus gained, he landed with a roll.
He took out his dagger as soon as he bounced back to his feet, ready for close quarters combat. He thought he had distanced himself from this opponents, but his blood chilled right away, for a ghost-like figure had been standing by his side the entire time.
A pain ran through his skull and Han Dapeng went unconscious.
Putting down his hand, Gu Yu was quiet for a few seconds before crouching down and running through Han's stuff. "It might sound like boasting, but I've just knocked out someone from the special forces."
"They've really gone for it… hey, that's a nice dagger."
Xiaozhai also took a look. She picked up the dagger and gave it a fancy spin. The blade glistened wickedly. After playing around with it for a little while, she put it back and said, "It seems the mountain is swarming with their men."
"We need to be careful. Let's try not to engage in fights if we can help it."
"And don't blow our cover. Oh, here…"
Xiaozhai suddenly pulled two drama masks out of her bag and handed on over. "Take this!"
"To wear it, obviously!"
Putting it on, her entire face was concealed. He could only see a grimacing clown now, which was rather creepy.
"Seriously?" He asked helplessly.
"Of course!" She nodded.
Her majesty had spoken! Gu Yu had no choice but to put on a mask as well, which turned out to be a painted face riotous with color.
Now they had really become Bonnie and Clyde.
"The team to Birdie, the team to Birdie! Do you copy, Birdie!"
Shortly after they left the spot, another soldier arrived from deeper on the mountain, running close with a walkie-talkie in his hand. He saw from the distance that his buddy was lying on the ground and quickened his steps.
Reaching Han Dapeng, he checked the unconscious man swiftly and was relieved—luckily, the man was only knocked out.
He then checked the surroundings and spoke into his intercom, "Attention all units, two hostiles have been spotted. They are both combat capable and should be still somewhere on the northwest."
"Has the target shown up, Black Canine?"
"Not sure. One of them seems to be a woman."
"A woman? See if you can catch up with them. If not, go back to carry out your task."
At the same time, the team leader staying with Wang Ruoxu reported immediately after the message. "Sir, someone seemed to have broken into the restricted area on the mountain. The situation is getting rather dangerous. Would you please consider descending the mountain?"
"Oh? Are they with the target?" The official asked.
"We are not sure yet. All we know is that they have a certain level of fighting capability."
The official pondered and came up with a provisional solution. "Here's what we'll do. I'll wait in the Guanyin Pavilion up there while you gather more men. We'll search the entire mountain!"
Such an order was to make sure they would be ready for any complications. Their strategy today was hence changed.
With that, the team leader escorted him up to the Guanyin Pavilion and left some men behind. The gate was shut and the jittery abbot was to keep the official entertained.
The police outside the mountain was informed of the order, and came up at once as backup while at the same time calling for urgent reinforcements from the county. A police car dashed away, causing many turning heads.
Panting and wheezing, Li Suchun was running desperately across the mountain. After hustling about for several days in a row, he was on the verge of exhaustion already. The running only brought him more staggering and stumbling, but he dared not stop.
Just then, he had brought himself to the Guanyin Pavilion in the hope of finding some food, but only found the front gate closed and the atmosphere tense.
Li Suchun realized instantly that the place was not safe!
He ran back in a haste. There was a hint of resolution in his fluster. His eyes were fixed upon a spot deep in the mountain, as if something was there that could settle him down.
He was still running when he failed to pay enough attention the ground and his feet got entangled in a section of withered vine. He stumbled over with a thud.
Before he could get up, a rustle came from the bush ahead, which was then brushed aside, revealing two strange figures wearing masks.
Time seemed to have frozen. The three exchanged various looks; some were tentative, some exciting, some alerted. It was after some time that one of them spoke with a laughter, his voice clear and rich. "Well, how lucky we are."