Chapter 34: Praying Mantis Preying on Cicada
The foggy forest.
The Red Team continues walking through the grass and weeds that are up to their knees.
Zhang Mu Han is walking in the very front. Although his girlfriend Xia Zi was lovey-dovey with him yesterday, she looks like an experienced player today; she’s carrying a gun, and observing the surroundings as the sentinel of the group.
Han Chen and Jin Xi follow behind them, and Sun Dian continues to be at the end of the pack.
They’ve been walking for an hour now. The inclination is getting higher and it’s also getting quieter; they haven’t spotted anyone from the Blue Team yet.
After walking for another while, Zhang Mu Han suggests everyone to take a break behind a large rock. Jin Xi sits down beside Han Chen. She holds up her water canteen and takes a drink. She looks towards Sun Dian across from her, “Professor Sun, which school do you teach at?”
Sun Dian is tying his shoelaces. He lifts his head to glance at her and then lowers it back down again.
“My real life has nothing to do with the game.”
Jin Xi takes another sip from the canteen before handing it to Han Chen. She doesn’t say anything. Han Chen takes the canteen and takes a gulp of water. He’s also staring at Sun Dian with his calm eyes.
Zhang Mu Han laughs, “Professor Sun has always been like this. He likes to do things alone and is always mysterious. Beauty, why bother about him? Why don’t you ask about me?” Before he finishes his sentence, Xia Zi, who’s leaning on his chest, pokes him, “I’m still here! You want to die?!”
Zhang Mu Han raises his arms like he’s surrendering, “My princess! I was only joking!”
Xia Zi is a bit upset nonetheless. She glances at Han Chen, “Her boyfriend is much more handsome than you. Don’t bother comparing yourself to him.”
Zhang Mu Han wraps his arms around her waist, “Don’t be mad……” They rub their faces against each other and whispers in each other ears, ignoring everyone else around them.
Sun Dian hasn’t laid his eyes on them once to begin with. Han Chen and Jin Xi both shift their gaze away; their eyes meet, and Han Chen signals at her with his eyes before standing up, “Jin Xi, come with me to take a smoke over there.”
“Mm,” Bai Jin Xi gets up and follows him.
Zhang Mu Han watches them, “Don’t go too far.” Xia Zi hits his chest with her fist, “Do you not have eyes? They also want to have some time together. You two sure are romantic. Don’t waste any time.” The two of them chuckle together.
Han Chen and Jin Xi don’t respond. They walk for about ten meters to another big rock. Han Chen takes a look around to make sure it’s safe and then gestures for her to stop.
Jin Xi leans against the rock, and he does indeed lights up a cigarette, holds it between his fingers and presses his other hand against the rock. He says in a low voice, “When the battle starts in a bit, I’ll take care of shooting down the others. You have to follow me and be on an alert of the surroundings.”
Jin Xi nods, “Be careful of your safety.”
Who knows if T would hide a real gun in the forest? Bullets have no eyes. They can take a life in a minute.
“Mm,” Han Chen inhales from the cigarette. He’s wearing camouflage clothes and a camouflage helmet on his head. With him looking downwards at her, it makes him seem even taller and his facial features are even more prominent.
Jin Xi turns to look ahead, “How did you figure out that Zhang Mu Han was not a suspect yesterday?”
He also turns around and leans against the rock just like her with one of his feet against the rock’s surface. He answers while smoking, “He was the last to draw.”
Jin Xi shifts her eyes sideways to look at him. She can’t believe that his observation is completely different from hers.
Now that her thought process has been stimulated, she feels an urge to smoke. She holds out her hand, “Give me one.”
Han Chen puts the cigarette in his mouth, reaches into his pocket, feels around and takes it back out empty handed.
“I only have three left,” he says, “there’s none for you.” He glances at her, “You can take a sniff instead.”
Jin Xi: “……” This fella!
The cigarettes are in his left pocket and she’s standing on his right side, so she can’t reach them and can only give up. He exhales light smoke as he breathes. His suggestion to her from just now seems to have made a psychological effect on her; she feels as if the smoke is entering her nostrils and she can smell its scent.
Han Chen watches her subtle movements; the tip of her nose wrinkles slightly and a hint of smile flashes across her rich dark brown eyes. Just like her, he also suddenly feels the smoke hovering inside his nose and mouth crisscrossing and entering down into his lungs.
He inhales the cigarette deeply, tosses the remaining half of it onto the ground and steps on it. Jin Xi is a bit surprised to see him “waste” it, but he’s expressionless, not revealing any of his feelings.
Han Chen lifts his head and looks ahead while continuing with his reasoning, “In T’s last sniping incident, he showed his strong planning and control skills. This time, he planned this competition in advance, picking the location, the members and even the starting point of where the two teams will combat each other as part of his criteria——he must have a very intricate plan. If this is the case, if he is among us, he could not have possibly been the last to draw, letting others decide which team he should be on and with whom.”
“What you’re saying is, he also rigged the draw?”
“The time it took was too short and the wooden sticks were provided by T, so we couldn’t notice anything suspicious,” he answers, “However, T must have known which ones were red and which ones were blue.”
Jin Xi thinks for a second and nods.
“How did you find out?” Han Chen turns his head to the side and looks at her.
Jin Xi smiles and answers, “T might disguise himself as somebody else with a different personality today. As a professional killer, he might have received such training and possess this ability. However, it’s impossible to fool others when it comes to being boy and girl friends with somebody. They’ve been interacting with each other very naturally since yesterday and today: making body contacts here and there, some subtle interactions, the way they look at each other, giving you or me a pinch and leaning against one another……Therefore, they must be a pair of boy and girl friends who are passionately in love. This doesn’t suit the criminal profile of T——he’s emotionally distressed, has let go of everything in life, free of all ties and worries and is determined to turn himself in on the day after tomorrow.”
They rejoin the team soon after. Zhang Mu Han stands up and says, “It’s possible that we’ll bump into them ahead. Let me arrange our team a bit: Han Chen and Jin Xi, you two will be responsible for the left wing; Xia Zi and I will take care of the right wing. Professor Sun, your shooting skills are excellent and you move fast, so you’ll be in the center. Let’s not disperse ourselves too far out. Watch my hand signals to move ahead.”
No one has any objections.
The five members of the Red Team form themselves into a triangle and continue climbing up the mountain quietly.
It’s almost 10am and the fog has dissipated. The sun shines through the canopy and onto the ground, lighting up an area of the forest. All five of them walk around the sunlit areas, dodging in the shadows and in between trees as they continue to move forward slowly.
Jin Xi’s back is slightly bent as she follows behind Han Chen. He takes one step; she takes one step after him. He stops; she stops immediately. They bump into each other lightly every now and then. Their faces touch against each other and their bodies come into close contact, but they don’t make a sound.
When they come to a steep rising edge covered with tall ferns, Jin Xi raises her head and suddenly sees a flash of sunlight penetrating through the leaves ahead. Her heart skips a beat. Han Chen pulls her quickly. She falls into his embrace and the two of them ducks behind the bushes.
The sound of gunfire comes on at the same time, filling the atmosphere.
The battle begins.
Twenty minutes later.
About a hundred meters away on the other side of the forest.
It’s where the five members of the Blue Team are stationed. Li Ming Yue is lying down behind a low sloping area, taking a peek outside every now and then and making fast attacks towards her opponents. You Chuan is on her right. He has even better reflexes than her. He makes his shots and hides back in a flash. The two of them make up the first line of offense, combating strongly against the Red Team.
Ke Fan and Yan Er have gone to each side of them, completing a fan shape team formation. They’re raiding their opponents with gunfire and expanding their area of attack. Fang Xu is the farthest away. He’s hiding behind two rocks in the highest elevated section, taking aimed shots between the crack.
After attacking for a while, Yan Er retreats carrying his gun. He runs over to Ke Fan and says in a low voice, “Big Ke, this won’t do. I thought we would be able to finish them quickly, who knew that Han Chen would be so skilled and be able to suppress Ming Yue and Xiao You by himself.”
Li Ming Yue darts her eyes at him and says calmly, “I wasn’t suppressed. Look who’s talking? Your shoulder was hit by Han Chen’s girlfriend’s sniper, wasn’t it?
“Alright, quit bickering,” Ke Fan halts them softly. He thinks for a bit before putting his finger into his mouth and blowing a whistle.
Xiao You from afar retrieves his gun, runs over bending down and gives Ke Fan cover.
Ke Fan pulls out the map from his backpack and lays it on the ground.
At this point, Fang Xu also notices them gathering together, so he secretly makes his way over and says, “That Han Chen pair is too strong, let’s avoid them. Xia Zi is the weakest of the five. We should concentrate our attacks and finish her first. And then Zhang Mu Han will definitely get all worked up.”
No one disagrees.
You Chuan, who has been quiet all this time, says, “Set up an ambush and lure them over.”
Ke Fan’s eyes glisten as he nods. He takes a look at the map and decides, “The sun is in the East right now. After finishing off Xia Zi, let’s lure them to the West. Find a spot to set up an ambush attack. Yan Er, you take the lead in a bit. You Chuan and I will give you cover.”
But Yan Er glances at them and points at his shoulder, “I’ve already been shot here, so I may die easily. Let’s switch to someone else.”
Li Ming Yue and Fang Xu who are standing on the side both chuckle.
Ke Fan also takes a look at Yan Er, and then turns his head to You Chuan, “Xiao You, you go. Watch for your own safety.”
Xiao You nods.
Han Chen and Jin Xi sense that the number of gunshots has decreased from the other side after a while.
Jin Xi asks softly, “What should we do?”
“Let’s wait and see,” Han Chen looks down at his watch.
It’s been a little more than two hours, but T hasn’t made a move.
All of a sudden, they hear gunshots raining on one side. They look at each other and then rush over carrying their guns. About ten meters away in the forest, Xia Zi is sitting against a big rock. She throws her gun to the ground and looks extremely unhappy. Zhang Mu Han and Professor Sun are on each of her sides, returning attacks to their opponents. Xia Zi rips away the square sensor device from her chest and throws it onto the ground——this means that she has already been “shot dead” by the opponents. Her life gauge is zero and she has been eliminated from the competition. Therefore, the sensor device is no longer of any use.
Han Chen and Jin Xi hold up their guns immediately and join the battle.
Zhang Mu Han takes a few steps back to where Xia Zi is and says smiling, “It’s okay. There’s still me. I’ll take revenge for you.” But Xia Zi pushes his shoulder away, almost causing him fall on his back.
“If it weren’t for you pushing me out to the open, how would I have died so fast?! Are you even a man?!” She’s clearly furious. Her voice is so loud that both Han Chen and Jin Xi could hear.
Zhang Mu Han is a little embarrassed. He smiles trying to hide it, “I didn’t have any choice. I’m the commander, so what would the team do if I die?”
Xia Zi stands up angrily, “I don’t care! It was Xiao You who shot me. I saw it just now. You have to take revenge for me!”
“Okay!” Zhang Mu Han agrees energetically. He pulls her behind him, holds up his gun and starts to fire shots at the opponents.
In the next while, it’s a complete brawl.
In the forest area ahead, they can see their opponents peeking out of their hidings constantly. Zhang Mu Han is determined to take revenge, so he closes the distance carrying his gun. He doesn’t forget to command his teammates, “Let’s go after them! Don’t forget to maintain our formation!”
Sun Dian and Xia Zi follow him immediately. Han Chen and Jin Xi also chase after them.
Over on the Blue Team side, their team formation changes continuously. The five of them take turns in attacking and covering each other as they retreat to the West. It’s not until now that they notice the landscape is rather flat and not suitable for setting up an ambush. And Zhang Mu Han and the others are chasing closely behind them. Therefore, Ke Fan decides to continue moving ahead. There’s a hidden path on the side of the forest and a broken bridge beside the river. Obviously, they follow the path continuing to the West, moving farther and farther away from the original battle location.
Very soon, they reach a dead end; the edge of a cliff. The sky is already getting dark and it’s starting to drizzle. Below the cliff is a hundred-meter-wide river, making big noises from the rushing waves of water. A sturdy looking and swaying suspension bridge connects this side to the other side of the mountain. And on the opposite side of the mountain, the sky is covered with dark clouds, looking like it’s about to rain.
The landscape on the other side looks more convoluted. It’s clearly a great place for ambushing. Without a word, they rush across the bridge.
When Han Chen and Jin Xi make it to the bridge, they see Zhang Mu Han and the other two are already on the other side, rushing into the forest ahead of them.
They’re both stunned. They look at each other and see vigilance and seriousness in each other’s eyes.
Isolated mountain, suspension bridge, a completely unknown and enclosed environment.
Even though the landscape is complicated on Mountain Wulin and they have not been given any communication devices, at least there is a path that leads them back to the outside world. And at the end of it, numerous police officers are on guard. The moment that they sense something is wrong, they can seek support immediately.
If this bridge in front of them is broken off by someone after they cross it, there will not be a path to return. It will be difficult for the police to find them.
Therefore, is T waiting for them on the other side?
And clearly, the other eight members have crossed the bridge already!
Han Chen grabs onto the rope on the side of the suspension bridge and shouts, “Come back! You must not cross the bridge!” But just as he finishes, a “bang” sound rips across the sky. Han Chen almost instantly pulls Jin Xi into his embrace and falls down to the ground.
Zhang Mu Han and the others turn around and look at them, but they turn back and continue into the forest.
Jin Xi is pressed against the ground by Han Chen. She lifts her head and looks at the side of his face. There’s actually blood running all the way to the back of his ear.
Jin Xi feels her heart being squeezed. She holds his face with her palms, “Han Chen! Are you alright? Are you okay?!”
Han Chen’s left ear is still ringing. The moment he looks down, he sees her eyes. He tightens his fingers around her waist as he lifts his other hand to smear away the blood, “I’m fine. I just got scraped.”
Jin Xi’s heart feels relieved right away, but it’s still beating very fast. They both look up at the wall of rocks behind them.
At the spot where she and Han Chen were standing just now, a clear bullet hole that only a real sniper could leave behind is engraved deeply into it.
It’s as if it’s a silent warning to them——
Cross the bridge. Immediately.
Chapter 34: Praying Mantis Preying on Cicada