Chapter 19    Exploration Mission

 Three kilometers to the north of safe zone SW0304 was a mountain range that spanned a few thousand kilometers. The mountain was filled with lush greenery. Even though it couldn’t be described as “What A Wonderful World,” it was the place that myriads of mutated creatures called home. The mountain ranged across the southwest side of the mainland, which became a natural barrier that separated the southwest area from the inland.

There was a high-speed railway tunnel in the middle of the mountain, and the entire tunnel was 12506 meters long. The construction process took a long time and a lot of effort because of the poor geological conditions, and the tunnel was extremely dangerous thus nicknamed as tunnel at primary risk.

The entrance was a circular hole made from concrete, and the edges bulged out from the inside like fish mouths. Above the entrance was a sixty degree slope that was covered with verdant greenery with a few “bald spots” that revealed the eroded light yellow composite material walls. At the top of that slope was a staircase that had a row of old barbed wires on the stairs. Inside those barbed wires were the thick jungle and animal’s heaven.

Four railroads extended from the tunnel. Flat concrete ground surrounded the outside of the railroads that had two long rows of rusty iron scaffolds and defunct power lines. Back in the civilized era, high-speed trains sped through the tunnels every day.

But now, it has been abandoned for half a century. The four railways showed obvious signs of damage and wind erosion, almost like a silent protest against the cruel world using its unsightly remains.

An armored truck weighted eighteen tonnes was traveling along the railways a few hundred meters away from the tunnel entrance. Its thick bullet-proof tires rolled along the once-smooth and hard concrete ground at a steady speed. The armored truck was covered with a solid layer of iron. The well-equipped Black Blunderbuss mercenaries stood at the back, holding either HK416 or MP5 in their hands. They could easily stick out their upper bodies to make precise shots.

The top of the armored truck was different from the last time. This time, there was an NSV 12.7mm caliber heavy machine gun, operated by Old Hu. Any creature with first-level mutation that dared to come near the armored truck would be blown into pieces by the merciless machine gun.

The driver was Assistant Liu, who was dressed up in an ink-black armed uniform. Wang Sheng sat on the passenger seat with a cigarette between his lips. He wore a specially-made fortified military gear, and the protective layer of his explosion-proof helmet was flipped up to the top of his head. He had his right elbow propped on the car window, his fist supporting his stubbled chin. His valiant round eyes looked to the side at the scenery outside the window, and it was unclear what kind of emotions were brewing behind those dark brown irides of his eyes.

Wu Qi, An Yi, and other members of the mercenary squad sat in the back quietly. Five members of the squad had come, including An Yi, who had enhanced first-level power and defence, and Zhou Qing, who had enhanced first-level danger sensing ability. Other members stayed at the safe zone to maintain discipline and ration food.

Wu Qi sat in the back, surrounded by quiet darkness. The only way to see sunlight and the clouds in the sky is to lift up his head and step over the one meter long iron board. He held the leather-sheathed long blade in his arms, and July the little red fox was still in his backpack. Wu Qi’s beautiful eyes looked in front of him. He didn’t object to low-light conditions. Dry and dark places reminded him of his childhood in the mountain cave, plus he had pretty good vision in low-light conditions.

Gao Yuan sat across from him. He held the long and rough sniper rifle in his arms, and he closed his eyes for some rest. Wu Qi learned from the short distance between them that Gao Yuan’s breathing was similar to his, which gave Wu Qi a favorable impression and made him realize the incredible quietude of professional snipers.

When they were just a few hundred meters away from the tunnel, restless movements came from Wu Qi’s backpack. As he loosened the opening of the bag, July the red fox stuck its fiery red little head out impatiently. Wu Qi slowly stroked along July’s soft fur, but July suddenly shook away Wu Qi’s hand, climbed on his shoulder, and jumped up.

That was enough to alert everyone in the back, including Gao Yuan. July stood on top of the iron board while all these hunky men watched. Its round little beady eyes stared intensively into the tunnel’s dark interior. It appeared to have caught the scent of something it disliked, it bared its teeth and had a never-before-seen menacing look on its face.

“Yo, so this little red fox is your pet, huh. It could go for a good price.” Old Hu laughed and joked when he saw July. He even reached out his gloved hand, hoping to pat July on the forehead.

“Hey, don’t look down on red foxes. Its bite force is enough to penetrate your glove and tear off your finger before you could react.” Wu Qi told Hold Hu calmly, but he stood up and looked at the anxious July, a bit shocked.

Old Hu’s hand stopped midair and he chuckled awkwardly. In the eyes of this hunky, manly man, there was some fondness for July and a little bit of pity because he didn’t get to pet it.

“July smelled the scent of something that got on its nerves. Probably some dangerous large beast,” Wu Qi said softly.

Old Hu relaxed his shoulders and leaned on his back. He said casually, “Don’t worry, what we are on is a C-level exploration mission organized by the Mercenary Group. Our goal is to explore the cave and gather some information. Even if we do run into some enemies, their powers wouldn’t be higher than first-level.”

“If it is just a normal exploration mission, then why does it require a dozen fully-armed and powerful mercenaries who could easily crush mutated animals with first-level superpowers? We even drove the armored truck,” Wu Qi said slowly as he looked into Old Hu’s eyes, “it’s not just something as simple as ten or twenty mutated animals in here, right?”

Old Hu looked at Wu Qi for two seconds and laughed. He lowered his voice and said, “You’re damn right, kid. If it is a small group of mutated animals, then just a few stronger mercenaries could finish this mission alone. I’ll tell you a little secret, there’s one thing written on the mission information, and that is ‘multiple plague-breeders were detected.’ The reward we get for finishing this mission is more than four times the compensation of an average C-level exploration mission.”

“Plague-breeders?” There was a glow in Wu Qi’s obsidian eyes.

“Yes. Rewards are increased if the missions involve plague-breeders. Because within the mutated animals that are on the same level, plague-breeders’ abilities are at the top, they even have cross-level combat skills. They are born cruel, probably because they didn’t evolve properly and mutated into zombies. They are genetically programmed to be hostile towards innocent purebred humans and well-evolved harbingers. Once they see a human, they’ll hunt down the human and won’t stop until the human is dead,” Old Hu explained to Wu Qi tirelessly.

The only person on the safe zone’s mercenary squad who piqued Old Hu’s interest was this teenager named Wu Qi. Unlike the “survivors” who had fear in their eyes during battles——like An Yi and others, the boy Wu Qi was a fearless “warrior” who fought against the monsters near their bloody fangs. He even dared to object to the powerful and prestigious Wang Sheng. Old Hu didn’t even dare to do that himself.

But Wu Qi’s face was too pretty. According to Old Hu’s aesthetic, men must have rugged masculinity.

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