The train whistle was piercing, especially abrupt amidst the silence that shrouded the vast land under the skies.
A rumbling tremor immediately followed.
Everyone stopped what they were doing to look towards its source.
A black steel train slowly peeked out of the northern mountain range.
The crowd broke out in whispers.
Everyone here had a deep impression of the train—because the train that brought them to Oak Valley Concentration Camp was precisely a black steel train, just like this one.
“What’s there to look at!” The soldier that was assigned no.
3 shifted his gaze away, roaring.
“Guess you guys have more brothers joining this family.” No.
2 scanned his surroundings, grinning.
He was the one who had hopped onto the beech log today, after which killed a wood hauler.
2, a Koroshan with broad shoulders and strong arms was gripping the handle of his axe, looking towards Yu Feichen.
Through a distance, across the pervasive mist, Yu Feichen nodded at him.
Seeing this, the man with welts crisscrossing his neck pursed his lips, his eyes turning steely with his resolve.
“Tin Cloud isn’t giving us supplies, yet they keep sending us train after train of Koroshan pigs.
But this is also—”
The edge of the blade glinted snow-white under the daylight.
The sharp blade struck the man, whose larynx was still vibrating from speech, squarely on the back of his neck.
2 suddenly faltered.
His body swayed, slumping forward weakly.
3 suddenly turned around upon hearing the disturbance, but he was a step too late.
The Koroshan behind him, having gathered his strength, struck him hard on the back of his head with the back of the axe.
With a dull thud, he, too, fell.
The Koroshans who knew the plan swarmed together and pounced on the foremen near them.
For a while, the scene degenerated into chaos.
One of the foremen yelled loudly, but they were in the middle of nowhere.
No one could hear him.
They struggled and they fought.
A burly foreman broke free from the few men subduing him.
He ran away, screaming, but he was soon stopped in his tracks.
—Because when he turned his head back to check the situation in terror, he saw the pitch-black muzzle of Yu Feichen’s gun pointing straight at him.
After wavering for a moment, the foreman raised both arms in surrender.
He was immediately and securely tied up with the same rope used to bind the wood, alongside the several other foremen.
Yu Feichen bent over, reaching out to break each foremen’s jaw.
As the hinges of their jaws went slack, their mouths were only able to hang open, unable to form intelligible sounds.
The commotion of the crowd ceased.
They did cause some ruckus; however, while the sentry on the northern platform should have vaguely noticed something unusual, they’d only assume that the soldiers and foremen were torturing the Koroshan prisoners again.
The Koroshans watched this silently.
Those informed of the plan were naturally aware of the situation, and those uninformed naturally were made aware when they saw this development.
Yu Feichen gazed at the foremen that were tied together.
“What do you want to do with them?”
These foremen were recruited from the locals in this region and had been constantly brutalising Koroshans during these days.
However, unlike the ten soldiers who were guilty of unpardonable evil, at the end of the day, they had not killed anyone.
Yu Feichen glanced around him.
No one spoke, but hatred, as well as hesitation, complexed their expressions.
He knew the answer.
Koroshans were docile and kind by nature.
So he didn’t touch on it further, only tersely saying, “Bring them into the back of the truck.”
The foremen were flung into the truck compartment, resting next to the chopped logs.
When they were thrown in, no traces of their previous ferocity and authority were visible.
Their eyes were wide with abject fear, whimpering prayers from their throats.
Meanwhile, Yu Feichen stood in the clearing, looking towards the concentration camp.
Bai Song retrieved a pair of binoculars from the driving compartment for him.
While they were dealing with the guards, the train slowly approached.
Right then, rumbling steam rose from the train as it stopped at the south gate of the camp.
Soldiers jumped out of the carriage.
From afar, there were roughly twelve men, exactly one full military squad.
A rhythmic whistle shrilled from the south gate.
Two long, one short, and one long.
Yu Feichen lifted the binoculars and looked towards the south watch platform.
Only to see a sentry face the south gate, blowing a long whistle, then turning towards them, blowing two more long whistles in succession.
Yu Feichen recalled briefly that he would also hear these whistles usually.
It should be the mode of communication between soldiers across far distances.
He went to a thicket and searched the fallen body of no.
Not hearing a response from them, two more long whistles came from the watch platform.
Bai Song anxiously said, “What do we do?”
Time was running short.
Yu Feichen’s brows creased slightly as he rummaged no.
2’s pockets with his right hand, finally bumping into a small metal object in the shape of a whistle.
He raised the whistle, unhesitantly blowing a long whistle into the distance.
Based on what he just heard, after the whistle from the south gate, a whistle came from the north gate.
So, he guessed that a single long whistle represented ‘copy.’ (heard and understood)
As expected, the watch platform stopped after this long whistle died down.
If a long whistle was ‘copy’, then what did two long whistles represent?
There was no way to be sure, but when putting it together with the train that had just pulled up at the south gate, he could speculate this—they were calling for those at the lumber camp to return.
Return; return to the south gate, where there was possibly work for them to do, perhaps moving things down from the train.
Yu Feichen swiftly considered all of this.
His first guess was that the train carried a new batch of prisoners, as supported by soldier no.
However, if it was new prisoners, why would they be called back?
Was it something else? He couldn’t think of any large objects worth using a train to transport to a concentration camp.
This was by no means a military stronghold.
Regardless, the train had disrupted all of his prior plans.
He was clearly aware that today’s situation wouldn’t end well.
“Get on the trucks,” he said, “all of you.”
Whether or not the newly arrived train carried more Koroshan prisoners, his first priority was to get this group of prisoners out.
Someone asked, “Where are we going?”
“It’s going to turn dark soon.” Yu Feichen glanced at the sky.
Nightfall came early in the winter.
“Drive deeper in and dump the truck in the mountains.
You guys head to the oak mountains.”
With that, he looked at the truck dragging logs.
“Leave that truck to me.”
“What are you going to do?” Bai Song asked.
“I’m returning to the concentration camp.”
He got behind the truck and peeled the bulletproof vest off the stocky soldier, putting it under his own clothes.
It was fortunate that this model of manufactured goods had adjustable sizing; it wasn’t too noticeable when worn on him.
“They’re still in there,” he heard someone say, “my younger sister is still in there.”
The women, children, and elderly, as well as the pregnant women and disabled people, were still in the concentration camp.
Moreover, a new batch of prisoners might have arrived on this train.
He hadn’t received any mission objective or hints when leaving the Gate of the Eternal Night to this godforsaken place, so he’d just have to attempt to rescue everyone.
He fastened the topmost buckle and said, “I don’t mind if anyone wants to help.”
There was a short silence.
Then, something surprising happened.
A man walked out first.
Following this, three more came out from the crowd, gathering next to him.
After which, practically half of them had come forth, whereas the other half were still deliberating.
Yu Feichen broke into laughter.
Sometimes, these Koroshans were so soft it gave him the impression of a flock of lambs being brought to slaughter.
Sometimes, some of them were adorably kind.
Perhaps, softness and kindness were one and the same.
“All with whips go over that side.” He started by stuffing all the inspectors into the leaving group, including the big-nosed man.
This eliminated all possibility of the big-nosed man ratting them out, sparing him from the condemning weight of his conscience bearing down on him for the rest of his life.
Yu Feichen felt that he had done a good deed.
Soon, he chose ten strong and fit men from those willing to assist him.
The brawny blonde was among them.
Bai Song wanted to come too, but Yu Feichen mercilessly excluded him.
“You know the route; lead them away.”
“Can you handle guns?” he asked, noticing the calluses on a man’s hands.
“I can,” that man replied, “I often go hunting.”
“Not bad,” Yu Feichen patted his shoulder, giving the rifle that originally belonged to no.
2 to him.
Someone else voluntarily offered up—I can handle guns, too.
Yu Feichen gave no.
3’s gun to him.
That both of the guns were put to use, neither wasted, put him in a good mood.
Immediately after, it was time to assign the drivers.
There were only three in the crowd who were proficient in driving trucks in mountainous terrain, including Bai Song.
The remaining could only drive cars.
However, they had four trucks.
Three of the trucks would be filled with Koroshans, driving into the night canopy.
This left one to bring Yu Feichen’s group to the south gate, carrying wood for cover and a few immobilised foremen.
There weren’t enough hands.
“What should we do?” Bai Song fretted.
Without turning a hair, Yu Feichen got the brawny blonde to change into a foreman’s uniform, sitting in the front passenger seat of the fourth truck.
Then, he sat in the driver’s seat, expertly checking the coolant and firing up the engine.
“Oh I see, you know how to drive too.” Bai Song, who was forced to drive the truck on a tour around the camp last night, inclined his head, looking up at him gloomily.
Yu Feichen was convinced that Bai Song’s attention always strayed far off the mark, relaxing at intense moments and tensing at lax moments, focusing on insignificant trivialities.
He watched Bai Song, saying sincerely, “I can drive anything.”
Bai Song nitpicked with him.
“Can you drive a plane, then?”
Yu Feichen changed the gear, starting the truck.
“Yes.” His tone was matter-of-fact, as though he was saying: I know how to drink water.
Bai Song still wanted to carry on, but Yu Feichen brought the conversation back to business.
“Take the binoculars,” he said, “when you see that the sentry is gone, lead them away.”
Bai Song nodded at him.
Yu Feichen silently recited to himself the sentence Mogrosh told him about ‘trusting your teammates’, and drove the truck towards the north gate.
Midway there, the watch platform discovered that there was only one truck driving over, and began whistling manically.
However, no matter what they blew, Yu Feichen only responded with one type of whistle.
Finally, the sentry lost the patience to keep whistling.
The moment the truck was driven through the north gate, the sentry came running down the watch platform.
Yu Feichen stopped the truck, speaking in a low voice to the brawny blonde next to him, dressed as a foreman.
The brawny blonde took in a deep breath, and he nodded.
Soon after, Yu Feichen snapped the buckle of a soldiers’ cap on his head, put on a military jacket, and opened the door on his side of the truck.
Soldiers were familiar with each other, but soldiers and sentries might not necessarily be.
So, he got the brawny blonde to roll down the window on the other side of the truck first to talk to the sentry.
“Where are the others?” the sentry asked.
“Everyone is to assemble at the south gate.”
“The trucks broke down.” The brawny blonde poked his body out, his bulk blocking the entire window such that the sentry was unable to make out Yu Feichen’s silhouette.
He asked, “Why are so many people needed at the south gate?”
“It appears that new prisoners have arrived.
I’m not sure, either.” The sentry’s tone was frenzied.
“Three trucks down? Are you kidding me?”
“They’ll be over right after fixing them up.”
“What are you guys up to?”
Yu Feichen got off the truck, circling around towards the sentry.
At this time, the sentry’s gaze was wholly fixed to the brawny blonde.
Yu Feichen was only wearing the Black Badge Army’s military uniform that was familiar to sentries, so it wouldn’t attract attention.
The next moment, an icy cold gun muzzle was pressed to the sentry’s temple.
In another moment, the sentry became the first to surrender and was knocked unconscious, tossed to the back with the foremen.
Yu Feichen turned his head over, gazing at the trucks driving from the lumber camp in the distance, hiding into the dense forest trails.
The dusty grey horizon at dusk was tinged blood red.
He inhaled deeply and returned to the truck.
—The night had only just begun.
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