A part of Donghu City, Gaotang Town was a small independent city with convenient transportation and a well-developed economy. However, its forestry resources were poor. With its limited given revenue and additional income, the forestry station seemed much more desolated compared to the lofty police station about ten meters away. Luo Yuan walked into the lobby of the building. There were only a few workers at the reception counter and all of them were either playing card games or chatting it up. He went straight up to the second floor.
The Chief Officer was not in, so Luo Yuan could only knock on the door of the Deputy Chief Officer.
He opened the door and entered the office. A plump middle-aged man was inside. He had big bags under his eyes, which looked a little swollen. He took a quick glance at Luo Yuan and asked, “What’s the matter?” before he resumed reading the document on his desk.
Luo Yuan did not like being ignored, but he forced a smile and said, “Hi, I’m Chen Weiqiang’s brother-in-law. He came to Gaotang Town for an inspection with the city council Supervisor He yesterday and hasn’t returned yet. My sister has sent me here to check on him. Do you know where they went?”
The middle-aged man finally raised his head, the shock evident on his face. “Supervisor He and Chen did not come back. Hold on, let me make a call.”
He stood up, took out his phone and made call after call, the beads of sweat on his forehead teeming more and more by the minute. A few minutes later, he finally slumped back against his chair.
“Where did they go yesterday?” Luo Yuan asked curiously.
“Yesterday Supervisor He, Mayor Xia, Chief Officer Wang and Chen went up the hill for inspection after lunch. They should have been back by yesterday already. Have you called Chen? Is it possible that he’s gone somewhere else?” he asked nervously.
Luo Yuan was startled. This felt like a bad omen in his heart. He quickly replied, “My sister has called him several times and I visited the Ministry of Forestry this morning as well. His manager told me that my brother-in-law and his supervisor have not returned yet, and that it’s possible that they’re still on the hill. The most important thing to do now is to get help from the police!”
“Yes! Yes!” the man nodded his head. If anything happened to these superiors, not only would the local government be criticized, but he himself would also be fired from his position as Deputy Chief Officer. He quickly stood up and made a call.
“Chief Inspector Xie? I’m Cao Minghua from the forestry station… Yes, yes… I’ll be heading over in a while… It’s difficult to explain over the phone… I’m coming over right now!” He hung up the phone and said, “Come on, follow me to the police station!”
Luo Yuan and Deputy Chief Officer Cao quickly left and went to the nearby police station.
Ten minutes later, Deputy Chief Officer Cao walked into the Chief Inspector’s office along with Luo Yuan and explained everything one more time. Chief Inspector Xie was alarmed and he stood up, accusing him, “How could it take you so long to realize? It’s almost 24 hours!”
Seeing Cao Minghua’s grim expression, he gave a wave of the hand, “Let me call PA Zhao!”
He then took out his phone and walked out of his office. He looked very serious when he returned.
“Both of you go back and wait. I’ll get my people to go up the hill. I’ll make sure they find them.”
“Alright! We trust you, Chief Inspector Xie!” Cao Minghua nodded solemnly and got ready to leave.
Luo Yuan realized that it was none of his business but he had to go work on the case himself or else the mission could not be completed. He quickly said, “Chief Inspector Xie, I want to go too!”
“It’s very dangerous on the hill and we don’t have the manpower to protect you. Wait here patiently, okay?” Chief Inspector Xie rejected his proposal with a frown.
“I know that it’s dangerous, but that’s my brother-in-law. How can I just stay here and wait? I’ve had some combat training before. I promise I won’t be a burden to you,” Luo Yuan said, trying to appear anxious.
Chief Inspector Xie took a look at Luo Yuan. The man was tall and muscular. Obviously he had been working out and could possibly be of help up on the hill.
“Okay. But you need to follow the orders!”
“I promise I’ll follow them!” Luo Yuan answered immediately.
Chief Inspector Xie dialed on his phone again before speaking, “Captain Chen, have three members on call right now and report to my office!”
Barely a moment after he had hung up, a lean tanned middle-aged man came into the office, “Chief Inspector, you asked for me?”
“Yes, put your work on hold for now, there’s a more pressing matter. A few superiors from the city and Mayor Xia have gone missing on the hill. I want your team to find them now!”
The man’s facial expression turned serious at once, “I’ll go right away. Is there anything else, Chief Inspector?”
“Yes, this is Luo Yuan, one of the victims’ family members. He wants to come, take him along!”
He took a peek at Luo Yuan and replied, “Alright, I’m leaving right now!”
He then spoke to Luo Yuan coldly, “Follow me!”
The two of them left the office. There were already three people waiting in the corridor, two men and a woman, all whom looked younger than thirty.
Of course Luo Yuan’s eyes would set on the young woman. She wore a short-sleeved police uniform shirt, her waist was slim and her breasts pert, and her long legs were clad in a pair of nude stockings below the hem of her police uniform skirt. She was like a ripe peach, absolutely alluring.
“Guess this is what people call a uniform fetish,” Luo Yuan thought as he shifted his gaze to the two men. One of them was around thirty years old, tall, with a face full of pimples and a crew cut. If not for his police uniform, he could certainly pass for a mugger. The other man looked like the epitome of innocence. He seemed to be new to work.
“Captain Chen, what do we have today? How come it’s so urgent?” Crew Cut asked Captain Chen, his tone not very respectful.
“We’ll talk about it later. Everyone change into a long-sleeved uniform and get your weapons ready. We are going up the hill. Wang Fei, get a uniform for Luo Yuan too, he’s coming with us,” he ordered the rookie while he looked at Crew Cut.
“Yes, Captain!” Wang Fei replied immediately before turning to Luo Yuan, “Follow me. You must be the same size as me, right? You won’t mind wearing my uniform, will you?”
“Of course not. Thank you!” Luo Yuan smiled and asked, “Sergeant Wang, you just passed the civil servant test this year, didn’t you?”
Wang Fei laughed and said, “*ss, I didn’t pass, I graduated from the police academy. I came here to be a defense team member using some connections. But I can transfer if I perform well. Anyway, let’s get to work now!”
“That doesn’t sound bad. At least the benefits should be good!”
“They’re decent enough to survive!” was the man’s reply, but his tone was mixed with a hint of determination. He took two sets of uniforms and two pairs of boots out of his locker and handed one of them to Luo Yuan. The weather had been warm and humid lately, and it was evident that the long-sleeved uniform had been ruled out for a short period of time as it smelled moldy, but overall it was still clean.
When Luo Yuan was done changing, Crew Cut came in and tapped Luo Yuan’s head, “Could pass as a policeman. Where are you from, kid? How come you’re following us up the hill?”
Luo Yuan was a bit unhappy and moved his head out of the way discreetly while smiling, “My brother-in-law has gone missing on the hill. I’m coming along to search for him. My name is Luo Yuan. What should I call you?”
“Just call me Zhao Qiang.”
Zhao Qiang knew that he had annoyed the young man and grinned, “Don’t mind me, it’s an old habit. So, who is your brother-in-law?”
“He works for the Ministry of Forestry,” Luo Yuan answered vaguely and ignored Zhao Qiang in favor of asking Wang Fei, “Can you give me a gun for self-defense? I heard it’s quite dangerous in the forest.”
Wang Fei shook his head, “I can’t simply give you a gun. It’s against the rules, no way!”
Luo Yuan quickly asked, “How about a knife or something? You can’t have me going into the forest completely unarmed, right?” This was an F+ mission. It would definitely be very dangerous for him to go in without a weapon.
“Okay, let me ask Captain Chen.”
Wang Fei walked out of the locker room.
A moment later, he came back and said, "No gun, but you can have a knife. We’ve seized a lot of them, anyway. I’ll take you to the storeroom.”
The two of them went to the storeroom, which was located at the end of the corridor. Wang Fei opened one of the big boxes. There were all sorts of weapons inside: knives, watermelon knives, daggers, fruit knives, machetes, butcher knives… It was like a collection of domestic-use sharp weapons.
“Pick any one!” Wang Fei said generously.
Considering there were snakes and other similar creatures around the area, as well as rattan and twigs on the hill, Luo Yuan supposed that a short weapon, like a dagger, would be practically useless while a watermelon knife seemed too fragile and would not be able to inflict much damage. After some consideration, he decided upon a machete used for hacking and chopping.
Luo Yuan slashed through the air a few times to try out how it felt in his hands, and was rather satisfied with it. At the same time, he whispered ‘Identify’ silently and a string of words appeared in his head.
“Sharpness: 10 – 15.”
“Equipment Requirement: Strength 9.”
“Remarks: This is a modern agricultural weapon, suitable for land reclamation, wood chopping, and of course capable of killing. Its quality is average, but the blade is strong. It’s perfect for hacking and chopping!”
“Not bad. It’s sharper than the kitchen knives at home,” Luo Yuan thought before saying, “This one.”
“Let’s go then! Captain Chen is waiting for us!” Wang Fei said.
The two of them went out the entrance, where everyone was already waiting inside the police car. Luo Yuan picked up his pace and quickly got in the car. The car took off and headed for the outskirts.
After a while, they drove down an avenue and turned into a small road. Both sides of the road were framed by endless green fields.
“This is the farmland, right?” Luo Yuan asked, unsure.
Weeds were all over the farmland. Surprisingly, they reached about a meter in height, covering the soil completely. It looked like a green ocean whenever the wind blew.
“I guess so.” The female cop sitting at the passenger seat also seemed surprised, “I don’t remember the grass being this lush when I came by about 10 days ago. This is unbelievable, the weeds are going to take over the road soon.”
“If the weeds have already grown up to this height, won’t it be worse in the forest? How could you accept this mission, Captain Chen? It’s possible that all of us could go missing too!” Zhao Qiang joked.
“True, I’ve heard that it’s very dangerous up the hill now,” the woman added.
“Tell Chief Inspector Xie if you dare then. Why are you telling me? You could talk to the inspector if you wanted to. I can’t help on this issue," Captain Chen replied grimly.
He was preoccupied by the sudden increase in missing persons cases as well. There had already been five people missing, and most of them had come from the village near Zhu Hill. He was more aware of the dangers of Zhu Hill than anyone else. However, he could do nothing but obey the Chief Inspector’s orders.
“I guess it can’t be that dangerous on the hill, right? All of us are carrying weapons. We could handle the situation, even if we come across a wild boar,” Luo Yuan tried diverting the conversation.
If they continued to discuss this further, the policemen might just go back to the police station after a short drive. That was when the policemen realized that there was a relative of one of the victims with them.
“Alright, stop discussing this. We’re policemen. If we surrendered this easily every time we faced adversities, everyone would be laughing at us! We will go up this hill, and we’ll head back if it’s too dangerous. At least we’ll have done something. What do you think, Luo Yuan?” Captain Chen said.
“Sure! If we were all in danger, I think my brother-in-law would do the same thing…,” Luo Yuan replied softly. This was his only choice for now. He could only give up if the mission became too dangerous. Although this would deduct a lot of his EXP, it was still better than losing his life.
Half an hour later, they drove into a remote village and made a stop there. Luo Yuan got out of the police car and looked towards the front. The hill was a stretch of dark green, its eminence less than 200 meters, yet it was enough to distress Luo Yuan.
“It’s almost 11:00 am. Let’s have lunch first and we’ll depart for the hill in an hour!”
Captain Chen shifted his gaze from the hill to his watch as he made his way to a roadside store.