It was afternoon, and a Chevrolet Suburban had just arrived at the capital’s international airport.
In the car, Xia Lei firmly patted Liu Zhengnan on the shoulder. “Try not to go out for the next two days. Just stay in the factory. I’ve already talked to Zhou Xiaohong too, so she’ll help you.”
Liu Zhengnan stared at the makeup mirror on the passenger seat. He still looked visibly shocked as he stared at Xia Lei’s face being reflected back at him, instead of his own. He couldn’t find even a single inconsistency despite observing himself multiple times. Whenever he saw his reflection, he couldn’t help but feel that his soul had somehow accidentally entered Xia Lei’s body.
Xia Lei, who was in the driver’s seat, also wore an unfamiliar face. He looked to be in his early thirties, with a darker complexion. No one would ever suspect that he was Thunder Horse Company’s Director in the least. Most people would only see him as nothing more than a migrant worker, one who did demanding physical labor on construction sites. He would not warrant more than one look at him on the streets, much less attract attention.
“Hurry in, your flight is about to take off.”
“Then I’ll be going now, Brother. I don’t know what you’re going to do, but… be careful.” Liu Zhengnan began to leave as he finished his sentence. He opened the car door and got out.
“Remember what I told you. I’ll be leaving too. Take care.” Xia Lei said his goodbyes and drove off.
He didn’t tell Liu Zhengnan that he was going to Korea, nor did he say what he was going to do there. Xia Lei’s withheld the truth not because of a lack of trust, but rather because he wanted to protect Liu Zhengnan. After all, Liu Zhengnan was an ordinary person. There was no benefit in letting him know the truth, and only danger awaited him if he found out.
Even Xia Xue wasn’t aware that their father was a leader of the FA Organisation’s agents. Her version of the ‘truth’ was that he had been stuck in Cuba for a few years, and was able to return to the country recently after being saved by the local police.
Xia Lei drove into the airport’s car park, where he quickly parked his Chevrolet and got out. He then entered a Buick business car, which had been waiting by the side.
Two people were in the car, and Park Taeyong was the driver.
“Is everything ready?”Xia Lei cut to the chase and asked.
“Everything’s ready. The weapons have been shipped to the dock, and the ship and her crew are all ready. They’re on standby, waiting for us,” said Park Taeyong.
“Let’s go,” said Xia Lei.
The Buick drove out of the airport’s parking lot, heading for Jilin province.
Park Taeyong was a very focused driver. Xia Lei, on the other hand, had nothing to do at all, and was deep in thought, pondering every member of the Zodiac Team. His father had given him more power by giving him command of the team, but he still didn’t know much about any of its members. He needed to know how to manipulate each member’s individual strengths so that he could use this team most effectively.
“Park Taeyong, what’s your specialty?” Xia Lei broke the silence after a while.
Park Taeyong paused for a bit. “Uh, driving. My specialty is driving.”
“You mean driving cars?” Xia Lei was a little disheartened at the mundane reply. Anyone could drive a car. Did it even count as a specialty?
“Well, yes. But besides driving cars, I also drive passenger planes and fighter aircraft. I can also drive tanks.” Park Taeyong laughed. “Boss, I’ve always been in charge of transportation for our team’s missions. There was one time when your old man sent Yelena and I to bomb one of the FA Organisation’s training bases in Siberia. I remodelled an aircraft meant for distributing pesticides, and used it to drop the payload.”
Xia Lei was speechless.
“Could I ask you for a favour, Boss?”
“What is it?”
“Our vehicles are lagging behind. If you give me the money, I can remodel our vehicles. It would be of great benefit to future operations. Oh, and I promise that every cent you give me will be spent on the upgrades.” Park Taeyong was earnest, and probably worried that Xia Lei would mistake his request as him trying to cheat some money out of him.
Xia Lei laughed. “No problem. How much?”
“Two million would suffice.”
“I’ll give it to you after the mission is complete.” Xia Lei agreed candidly.
“Thank you, boss. You’re straightforward, just like your old man, except you have money and he doesn’t.”
Xia Lei laughed and changed the topic. “Oh, right, tell me about the others too. I don’t know any of you too well, but I still need to have some sort of understanding of you guys.”
“No biggie, I can fill you in,” said Park Taeyong. “I’ll tell you about Amanda first.”
A picture of the black girl from England, with her unforgettable figure and striking resemblance to Rihanna, appeared in Xia Lei’s mind. He was very curious as to what Amanda specialised in.
“She’s British and lives in London. Her single mother was lying in an alley with a gunshot wound to the carotid artery when your old man found her. Amanda was only eight at the time ー young and pitiful. But she isn’t the same weak girl she used to be. Now she’s a very skilled hacker, adept enough to easily hack into the CIA’s backend. Besides that, she’s also been our tactician for many of our past operations.”
Xia Lei clearly understood. ‘A crafty rabbit has three burrows’ was a very famous saying, and one that applied to Amanda. The rabbit looked cute and gentle, but was actually very careful and sneaky. It was obvious from her skillset and characteristics that she was the Zodiac Team’s Rabbit. She fit the ‘crafty rabbit’ role perfectly. Likewise, Park Taeyong was the Horse, since it resembled speed and was used for transportation. He was also a perfect fit.
“Where is Alessio?” Xia Lei then thought of the handsome Italian, who was the team’s Dragon.
“Alessio is from Sicily, Italy, which is basically gangster heaven. His parents were the victims of someone’s revenge, and murdered in cold blood. Street violence and gun fights ended up being his new parents, and he started shooting and killing by the age of eight. He’s one of the fiercest in our squad, and is anything but afraid of death. He’s always on the frontlines, and dispatching the most opponents.”
He was the fiercest, he was not afraid of death, and he always charged ahead to kill the most enemies. Alessio’s description made him seem like a fierce dragon crossing a river. It was most likely the reason why Xia Changhe gave him the code name ‘Dragon’.
“Bagu comes from Congo. He was orphaned at a young age when he lost his parents to the chaos of war. As a forest and mountainous regions expert, he’s familiar with everything there is to know about forestry. He’s able to easily navigate the wilderness and locate sources of water in any sort of complex, hilly area, which makes him a necessity for battles in those environments. Your old man always said that he’s basically a goat in a human’s body,” said Park Taeyong.
Considering goats were able to come and go as they pleased on precipitous cliffs, it was fitting that Xia Chenghe used ‘Goat’ to as Bagu’s code name.
“How about Marcus?” Xia Lei recalled the American, who was the Ox of the Zodiac Team.
“Heh, you mean the heavy guy?”
“He’s heavy?” Xia Lei recalled the large man, but didn’t feel like he was particularly burly. He just seemed slightly sturdier than the rest of the team.
“It’s his clothes that cover it, but as soon as he takes them off, he’s King Kong. He’s practically all muscle, and he’s also our wrestling expert. He was on a rampage in America’s underground boxing scene for years,” said Park Taeyong with a laugh.
“If your old man hadn’t stop him, he probably would’ve changed professions to compete as a professional boxer by now. He’s always called him a bull, especially since he’s the most impulsive member. He’s always getting into trouble.”
Xia Lei couldn’t help but laugh. If he was an expert wrestler, he’d surely be as sturdy as an ox. Xia Chenghe didn’t give Marcus the moniker ‘Ox’ for nothing.
“How about E’er Demutu?” asked Xia Lei.
“He’s a Mongol, and the only non-orphan among us. His ancestors were all hunters, and he follows suit. He’s an expert in everything that has to do with hunting... But when I say hunting, I mean people, not animals. No trace of his victim is ever left at the assassination scene. If your old man wanted someone to magically disappear, E’er Demutu would normally be asked to complete the task. And to top it all off, he’s never failed.”
The tiger was the king of all creatures, and a famously adept hunter. Xia Chenghe most likely named E’er Demutu ‘Tiger’ without a second thought. Xia Lei was a little surprised, however. The man looked completely ordinary, with absolutely no notable features in any way. He was the type of person who could never be found in a crowd. To think that he was actually an assassin…
“I suppose I don’t need to introduce Yelena, right?” said Park Taeyong with a smile. “She’s been with your old man for the past two years, and you’ve seen her often enough. She specialises in the disposal of potential threats. I don’t know how she does it, but even the CIA's best spies can’t escape from her. When we’re with her, we don’t need to worry about being spied on or tracked.”
“Yeah, I know her. She likes to hide the information in her chewing gum. So how about the other five?” asked Xia Lei.
“You haven’t met them yet. I’ll tell you about them when they arrive.”
“Okay. I agree that there’s no point in telling me now, since I don’t even know what they look like.” Then, Xia Lei suddenly had a thought. “Hmm... I know that Yvevgenia was the Pig, but she died. My dad said that someone replaced her. Do you know who assumed her role?”
Park Taeyong only shrugged in response. “If I’m going to be honest with you, Boss, I don’t know either. Your old man just told us that there would be a new member joining, but he didn’t say who. We’ll see each other again one day, and I’ll know who the new Pig is when the time comes.”
Xia Lei had always thought that his father kept the new Pig’s identity a secret only to him, not to the rest of the Zodiac Team as well. The new Pig was turning out to be very mysterious.
Ring ring ring, ring ring ring...
The satellite phone suddenly rang.
After sending Liu Zhengnan off, Xia Lei had turned off his regular phone. The Zodiac Team used satellite phones to communicate with each other in order to prevent wiretapping and tracking.
Xia Lei answered, and was greeted by a woman’s voice. “I’ve infiltrated the Korean National Police Agency’s surveillance system, Boss.”
Xia Lei could tell that it was Amanda, but he was surprised by her. “But why are you doing that?”
“To locate Gu Kewen. I can find her using facial recognition, we’ll know her whereabouts so as long as she appears in Korea,” explained Amanda.
Xia Lei laughed dryly. “Go ahead.”
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