The short-statured man stayed seated on the straw mat the entire time.
He stared at the open iron gate, his lips quivering, but his body never moving.
Yu Feichen didn’t force him.
Raising the light, he led the other five men out.
On their two sides, the iron gates on some of the cells were still locked, some were nominally closed, and some were even wide open.
The beddings inside were in disarray, as if people were just sleeping there a while ago.
Only, everyone had either left, or vanished.
When they reached the end of the corridor, the main door leading outside was open.
This wasn’t surprising since the prisoners were gone, thus there was no longer any need for the door to be locked.
After stepping out of the door, the night mist greeted them, and the shadow of the tall grey wall loomed ahead.
“We’re in the middle of the concentration camp now,” Yu Feichen said.
He pointed to the right, saying, “There are a few more barracks there.
It might be where the women and children stay.
I need one or two men to go over there.”
No one spoke.
They all looked at him.
Yu Feichen supplemented, “Those who go over there need to be back to our cell by dawn and tell me the detailed route to that place, where the women and children are staying, and whether there are any soldiers on night watch or living next to them.”
Still no one spoke.
After encountering many unreliable employers, Yu Feichen had learnt one thing: if you’re going to give orders, then the orders need to be detailed enough, because no one ever knows if the person carrying out the orders is a smart man or a fool.
So, he went on to supplement, “If you’re in danger, protect yourself.
Tell me everything you see.
Make sure to be back before dawn.”
The silence continued to hold for a minute until the brawny blonde finally spoke.
“Are you really going to help us escape?”
Seeing their hesitant and fearful gazes—Yu Feichen slowly exhaled.
It suddenly dawned on him that these weren’t the employers or temporary teammates who trusted and obeyed him unconditionally.
They were ordinary people in a world at war, who had just experienced inhumane treatment.
He and they were nothing more than cellmates who had never known each other before.
“What’s with this place anyway? Why isn’t there anyone?” The big-nosed man also opened his mouth to speak.
“Besides, if we escape, they’ll catch up and kill us.”
“After I gather enough information, I’ll tell you the plan.” Yu Feichen said, “And when that time comes, you can choose whether or not to escape.”
“I want to escape, we’re passing our days like cattle here.” The friar grabbed Yu Feichen’s arm and said, his voice tremouring, “I won’t last to see tomorrow.”
The non-stop drudgery in the brick kiln wasn’t something that a man like him, who could only read, translate, and say prayers, could endure.
He had already been whipped once today.
Another one more whip would have killed him.
Escape! He must escape!
However, no one was willing to leave the main group.
Bai Song opened his mouth; right as he was about to step up and volunteer himself, he suddenly heard the brawny blonde say, “I’ll go.
My ma was taken over there.”
He looked at Yu Feichen.
“Only if you’re sure that you really want to free them.”
Their eyes met.
Yu Feichen slowly nodded.
“I’ll go as well.” Gerold, the chemistry teacher, said.
His wife was there too.
“I’m going to the southeastern corner to find an escape route.
There’s a chemical plant over there,” Yu Feichen told him.
“It’d be better if you follow us, you might be useful.”
Hesitance appeared on the chemistry teacher’s face.
Ultimately, the brawny blonde said, “Don’t worry.”
The chemistry teacher nodded and walked to stand behind Yu Feichen.
Unexpectedly, the big-nosed man also chose to explore the women and children’s barracks.
They parted at the wall.
The road was very long.
Yu Feichen observed the surroundings as he led them towards the southeast based on what he remembered from the day.
About an hour later, those buildings appeared before them.
Pipes were criss-crossed over the ground, and seals were pasted across the doors of the buildings.
Holding the oil lamp to the window panes of some of the short grey houses, they could vaguely see some chemicals stacked inside, along with reagent racks and suchlike.
“Boron… trifluoride.” The chemistry teacher pressed up against the window, squinting his eyes to read the name of the reagent on the bale.
His expression didn’t look good.
“It’s a highly toxic reagent.”
In the middle of the cluster of short buildings, there was a two-storied building bigger than the rest of them.
The door to the building was locked.
But once again, the brick Bai Song brought came into play.
After confirming that there really wasn’t anyone around, this child directly smashed the glass of the window.
They went in through the window to come face to face with many intricate instruments.
This was undoubtedly a chemical plant.
“Are they making coal gas?” Looking at the massive reactor in the centre, as well as the dozen or so two-person high metal tanks stacked on the floor, Bai Song whispered, “Is it possible that they’ve already taken over our coal mines?”
The friar’s voice was still tremouring.
God above, God above.
Why should the sacred Korosha have to go through all this…”
Coal gas? Only a naive child would assume so.
The chemistry teacher’s face paled further.
Yu Feichen didn’t say a word either.
After going through the ground floor, they went up to the second floor.
In the dim darkness, forty autopsy tables were lined up.
Pitch black shadows were cast against the wall.
There were also a variety of instruments and torture tools on the autopsy tables, silhouetted by the dim light of the oil lamp.
Bai Song looked down and suddenly jolted, cold sweat breaking out all over his body—a protruding spike was just a centimetre in front of his eye, nearly poking him through the eyeball.
Why was there such a thing?
“God above.” The chemistry teacher picked up the iron clip of an electroshock device.
His eyes looked lost.
“They’re performing many cruel experiments.”
Yu Feichen walked past the autopsy tables and experimental set-up to the office desk and filing cabinet on the opposite side.
But when he pulled the cabinet door open, he found nothing inside.
Like the prisoner’s barracks, this place was empty.
Similarly, there was nothing of value in the drawers until Yu Feichen pulled the last one open.
A newspaper clipping slowly floated down.
They gathered around, looking at it under the light.
The first thing they saw was the accompanying photograph of an albino strapped to an autopsy table, in pain and being subject to electric shocks.
He was the same albino they had seen on the day they first arrived at the concentration camp.
The report stated that signs of the God of Truth’s punishment for the Koroshan traitors had already appeared; the genetic disease carried by this patient was one of them.
At the same time, many dwarfs, lame, and blind people had appeared among the sinful Koroshan populace.
The divine punishment had not only appeared, but would eventually spread to all sinners.
“Are there no cripples among their own?” Bai Song muttered.
The empty autopsy tables, the sealed buildings, the emptied filing cabinet.
None of these indicated that Oak Valley Concentration Camp was abandoned.
Had the operations in this place been halted by an unforeseen accident, or had Oak Valley Concentration Camp accomplished its mission?
“Here.” Yu Feichen finally found an iron fire pan under the table, which contained, in addition to the remnants of charcoal, a few charred pieces of paper.
As they rummaged through the pile of ash, they found some paper fragments that hadn’t completely disintegrated.
Sparse bits of text still remained.
“Success… Korosha… end… purifying… sin,” Bai Song slowly read out those fragments.
No one could understand the logic behind those words.
“In the future, they would destroy the evidence of their guilt and leave this place.” They went back out.
As Bai Song jumped through the window, he said, “Then what about us prisoners? Were we released?”
They each jumped out.
A grey, cylindrical structure jutted out in front of them, glowing with a ghostly hue through the mist.
When they approached, they could see the characteristic hue of fresh cement on its exterior.
Its out-of-place texture and colour suggested that this wasn’t an original building of the chemical plant, but a new addition after Oak Valley Chemical Plant was transformed into Oak Valley Concentration Camp.
Bai Song suddenly shuddered.
“What’s that?” he said.
The chemistry teacher responded to him in a low voice.
“It’s an incinerator.
Haven’t you seen one before behind a funeral home?”
A moment of silence passed as everyone remembered the cloudlike wisps of white smoke they had seen from a distance at the brick kiln during the day.
What could possibly be worth burning in such a remote place as the Oak Valley Concentration Camp?
Probably only… corpses.
Or, more specifically, Koroshan corpses.
The friar’s breathing became many times louder as unparalleled fear seized his heart, like he had just been thrown into a tower of burning corpses, and was now burning to ashes by the flames.
“This is God’s warning to us.” He uttered in a trembling voice.
“God… God is sending a prophecy, he has blessed me with the eyes to glimpse into the future, he is warning us to stay far away, far away from this land of sin…”
His eyes darted around restlessly.
As if clutching onto his last straw of hope, he exclaimed, “There’s a door over there!”
In the southeastern corner, at the end of the encircling fence, there was an iron gate!
Like all iron gates, when it wasn’t locked from the other side, it was possible to pull the latch and push it open.
With a creak, the friar’s trembling hands pushed the gate open.
The iron gate opened wide.
It was a misty expanse of wilderness out there, and the oak mountain that stood like a dark shadow in the near distance.
Yu Feichen’s hand pressed the friar’s shoulder, forcibly turning him around.
“We should head back.” He led the friar to retrace their steps, saying, “It’s still in the night.
I don’t know what are the consequences of going out there now.”
Bai Song and the chemistry teacher gazed deeply at the gate, then turned to leave with them.
Yu Feichen looked ahead.
They had scouted out the road.
All they needed now was to—
The oil lamp burnt to its end, and the flame went out with a soft pop.
Utter darkness enveloped them.
And at this moment, the friar’s thin body suddenly burst out with extraordinary strength.
His clothes tore free with a ripping sound; he struggled out from Yu Feichen’s grip, shouting incomprehensible words as he bolted straight towards the iron gate!
The mist outside the door instantly engulfed him.
“Hey, you!” Bai Song wanted to call hold of him, but not the slightest silhouette could be made out through the mist.
The head that poked out was the first to vanish completely, followed by his body, and finally his legs, feet, and the corners of his clothes.
Just like that, a living human had vanished into thin air.
Behind the gate, the mist still churned silently, as if no one had ever left.
They stared in that direction, stunned, chills running down their spine.
This bizarre scene had completely overturned all that they had previously known.
What the hell had just happened? How in the world was such a thing possible?
This place—what kind of place is this?
The pale hints of sunrise started to emerge in the sky.
“Go!” Yu Feichen’s tone was much deeper and colder than before.
They returned to the barracks before the break of dawn.
The brawny blonde and the big-nosed man had already returned, and the short-statured man was still in his original position, unharmed.
Yet, the friar, who had vanished, never returned
—just like the two who had vanished from this cell.
As five o’clock turned into six, the prisoner’s day began.
The soldier who checked the cells stood in front of their door doing a headcount, then let out an angry roar as he drew out the gun at his waist and pointed it inside.
“Put it down!” A voice reprimanded.
The sound of boots rang out.
The platinum blonde-haired senior officer arrived even quicker than the chief warden.
His lips were pursed and his pale ice-green eyes scanned every corner of the cell.
His expression seemed to contain a thin trace of rage.
His fingers slowly gripping the cold iron bars, he spoke, each word clipped.
“What happened here?”
Yu Feichen was in little mood to answer.
But as he watched this scene, he kept feeling that this senior officer was angry for a different reason from the soldiers checking the barracks.
Not because prisoners had escaped, but because he was hung up on the safety of the prisoners.
“Senior officer.” The chief warden had arrived.
Yu Feichen was just about to say something, when the other spoke first.
“Tonight,” the senior officer looked at the chief warden late in arriving, forehead once again breaking out in cold sweat.
His eyes were glacial and his tone was flat.
“Lock me in too.”
Yu Feichen leaned back against the wall with his arms crossed, measuring him up.
Coincidentally, he had just been about to say, in a faux sincere tone, that if you really want to know, why don’t you come and stay the night.
Bai Song moved closer to Yu Feichen.
After everything that occurred during the night, his wariness of the Black Badge Army had stepped up significantly.
“What does he want?” Bai Song said, “Is he trying to kill us all?”
Yu Feichen said, “He won’t.”
Bai Song, “Why?”
Perhaps, after the many times that he had played a spook, he had unwittingly developed a sort of—
“Intuition, probably.” Yu Feichen, letting out an almost imperceptible sigh, said.
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