"What do you mean by 'you guys' and 'they'? From now on, it's all 'us'," Number Two grinned and patted Shi Jin's shoulder. "Xiao Jin Jin, you have to trust Number Three, we really are doing legitimate business."
Shi Jin was not in a good mood and gritted his teeth as he asked, "So, are you saying that all the mangoes in these trucks are real?"
"Well..." Number Two withdrew his hand and asked with concern, "Xiao Jin Jin, are you tired? Do you need a break?"
This attempt to change the subject was really not well thought out!
Ignoring him, Shi Jin stepped on the gas pedal and closed the distance between his truck and the one in front.
In the early hours of the morning, the convoy veered off the small road and drove along an obviously temporary road towards the depths of the dense forest. As Shi Jin lacked experience driving in such terrible road conditions, he voluntarily switched positions with Number Two in a self-aware manner.
After driving through twists and turns for another hour, the convoy finally arrived at its destination - a hidden village deep in the forest.
Number Two got off the truck and spoke a few words to a short, thin man guarding the entrance of the village. The man nodded and blew a whistle, and then a large group of men dressed in camouflage emerged from various hiding places in the village. Without needing any instructions, they went straight to the truck to unload the cargo.
Shi Jin observed the men and noticed a hint of military bearing in their every move. His heart skipped a beat. The dense jungle, the mysterious cargo, the potential roadblocks, and the suspected military personnel all indicated that this delivery mission was far from simple. It was better for him to play dumb and not arouse anyone's annoyance due to his curiosity.
Number Two, who had been paying attention to Shi Jin's actions, smiled even more deeply.
The delivery men quickly unloaded the cargo. One after another, metal boxes painted with dark green paint were transported into the village. In less than fifteen minutes, the truck was completely empty. Number Two and the thin man exchanged greetings and returned to the vehicle.
"Are you tired?" Number Two asked, closing the car door.
Shi Jin nodded, "Yes, I am."
"Then go ahead and sleep," said Number Two as he started the truck and took another cigarette, but didn't light it. "When you wake up, take over for me."
Shi Jin nodded again and glanced at the village hidden in the darkness ahead. He leaned back in his chair and said, "You can smoke if you want. I'm more afraid of you getting tired and crashing the truck than inhaling a few puffs of secondhand smoke."
Number Two laughed and cursed, "You're the one who would crash the truck." But as he spoke, he took out a lighter and lit his cigarette.
Another day of high-speed driving passed, and in the early hours of the second day, the convoy safely returned to the orchard.
Shi Jin spent two days on the truck, unable to eat or sleep well. When he got off the truck, he was practically half-dead and had to be dragged back to the dormitory by Number Two. As soon as he touched the bed, he fell asleep.
After a deep sleep, Shi Jin woke up at noon the next day with a growling stomach.
Luckily, there was a cafeteria in the dormitory building. After washing up, he headed over and spotted Number Two eating noodles at a table near the door. Shi Jin walked over and sat across from him.
Number Two noticed him and waved with a smile.
"How do you have so much energy?" Shi Jin asked weakly, observing Number Two's energetic appearance.
"It's because your spirit is too low. You don't seem like a young person at all," Number Two replied, calling over the cafeteria chef to serve Shi Jin a bowl of noodles. He looked Shi Jin up and down, shaking his head.
"Although you're cute with your chubby figure, your physical fitness is really poor. You'll be a liability in critical moments. You need to train more."
Shi Jin rubbed his belly, which was now two sizes smaller than before, and knew that his physical strength was a big problem. He thought about his eight-pack abs from his past life and picked up his chopsticks to twirl his noodles, determinedly saying, "Alright, I'll do it! I've already lost the weight, now it's time to exercise."
Number Two raised his eyebrows in surprise, impressed by Shi Jin's decisiveness. He said, "Great, let's start then. The mango orchard is on the farthest hill from the dormitory. After breakfast, go there and run ten laps around the orchard."
As Number Two spoke, Shi Jin's noodles slipped from his chopsticks and splashed into his soup bowl, making a mess.
Good physical strength and a great figure cannot be achieved in just a few days. Shi Jin gritted his teeth and didn't need anyone to supervise him. Every day, he voluntarily ran up and down the mountain, and his body quickly slimmed down. He even grew a bit taller, but his clothes became a size smaller.
Number Two leaned against the wall in the monitoring room, watching Shi Jin run from one screen to another.
He exclaimed, "I've never seen a newcomer with such high quality. He's self-disciplined, diligent, observant, crisis-aware, mentally tough, obedient, doesn't ask unnecessary questions, doesn't look where he shouldn't, isn't arrogant, and has a sense of propriety... If I didn't know his background, I would have thought he was a graduate from a military academy who had snuck out."
Lian Jun also watched the monitor and asked, "Did you ask everything I told you to ask?"
"I did," Number Two replied. He seemed to have thought of something and a strange expression appeared on his face, as if he wanted to laugh but didn't.
"It was indeed a coincidence that he stumbled upon our contact point and ended up staying in the mountain cabin. According to him, when he first arrived in Y province, he was so poor that he couldn't even afford to stay in a hotel. After asking around, he found out about the small park outside that didn't require an entrance fee, so he went there to spend the night. While wandering around, he spotted the house on the mountainside."
It was quite impressive that he could spot the house from the park.
Lian Jun moved his hand on the wheelchair's armrest and said, "Go on."
Number Two held back his laughter and continued, "As for the mahjong parlor, it was because he was underage and had no education, so he couldn't find any job. He thought he was pretty good at playing mahjong, so he decided to try his luck at the parlor. The bigger parlors have strict regulations, and he was afraid the boss wouldn't let him work as a dealer. After some field research, he finally chose our little mahjong parlor, which seemed to have loose management."
Number Three, who had been silent all along, couldn't help but ask, "So he was wandering around our base..."
Number Two finally laughed and replied, "He was eyeing the chickens we raise on the mountain. I heard that on the day Number Four went to catch him, he was even stewing a pot of chicken soup at home."
Even the usually composed Number Three couldn't help but chuckle at the words. He opened his mouth, then sighed, "Well, it seems he has some fate with us."
"Indeed, he's just unlucky," Number Two recalled the annoyed expression on Shi Jin's face when he talked about his situation, and his laughter grew even louder.
Jun Lian's lips curved slightly, but the arc was so shallow that no one noticed. He stopped looking at the monitor screen, turned his wheelchair, and ordered, "After he reaches the standard physical condition, let Number One teach him marksmanship and combat skills. When he's ready, bring him to me."
Let Number One teach him? It's been a while since Number One has taken on a new recruit.
Number Two and Number Three exchanged a glance, nodded, and respectfully replied, "Yes, sir."
On the mountain, Shi Jin stopped, sweating profusely, and leaned on his knees to glance at the sudden drop of his progress bar to 700 and wondered, "Why did it suddenly drop?"
After returning from delivering goods last time, his progress bar slowly dropped from almost full value to 720, staying at the same value as when he finished the call with Shi Weichong. Although his score had dropped a few points due to his physical changes during this time, it had always remained above 710.
Xiao Si was also puzzled and guessed, "Could it be that Shi Weichong's side caused the drop? Didn't you remind him about the assistant's matter during the phone call before?"
Shi Jin thought for a moment, wiped his sweat, and replied, "Probably. Anyway, let's continue running. Today's task is not yet complete."
In the blink of an eye, a month had passed. During this time, Shi Jin persisted in running circles up the mountain every day. He had lost weight and grown taller, and had become familiar with everyone in the dormitory building.
He had also followed Number Two on a few more "mango" delivery trips, but they never went to such a remote place as the first time, and they never encountered danger again.
Now, he had completely shed his previous appearance after being reborn.
His once exquisitely dyed flower boy curls had become neat black straight hair. His fair skin had turned into a wheatish color, and his features had become more defined and three-dimensional. His eyebrows and eyes were handsome, and his lips were red and teeth white. When he smiled, he was especially charming.
Number Two was shocked. He never expected Shi Jin to look like a fresh idol, and he always teased him about his milky smile.
After the transformation, Shi Jin's progress bar dropped to 690, safely within the safety line. Strangely, Lian Jun's progress bar did not increase anymore, and even slowly retreated to 600 after his stomach was taken care of.
Shi Jin was puzzled until he heard Number Three mention that Number Four and Number One had gone on a mission together and were not in the orchard anymore. Only then did he understand why Lian Jun's progress bar had stopped moving.
He had tried to inquire about Number Four's situation from Number Two and Number Three, but unfortunately, both of them were shrewd and tight-lipped. He was afraid of arousing suspicion by asking too deeply, so he only got some superficial information that was not very useful.
The days suddenly became stable and leisurely, even giving off a feeling of peacefulness. But clearly, this tranquility was just an illusion. The progress bar never stops, and stability is like a flower in a mirror or a moon in water - it disappears with a moment's inattention.
One early morning, Shi Jin was abruptly awakened from his sleep by Xiao Si's urgent tone.
"Jin Jin, wake up! The progress bar suddenly started to rise, both yours and Dearest's! Yours is at 700, Dearest's is at 750, and it's still increasing. There must be something wrong!"
Shi Jin's heart skipped a beat, and he quickly shook off his drowsiness. He rushed to the window and noticed that the headlights of a car were flickering in the direction of the orchard gate. He quickly got dressed and went outside, only to bump into Number Two, who was also coming out with his phone in hand.
"What's wrong?" Shi Jin asked anxiously when he saw Number Two's troubled expression.
Number Two furrowed his brow and explained briefly, "There's news at the gate. Number One and Number Four have returned. Number One is injured and unconscious. I'm going to check on him."
Number Four has returned?!
Shi Jin's heart skipped a beat as he glanced at the two progress bars still increasing in his mind. "I'll go with you," he said.
Number Two nodded and didn't waste any time. He made a call to the infirmary while hurrying outside.