“Then… should we introduce ourselves?” Waldo stammered, sounding much less confident he usually did on Facebook and Instagram.
This was mainly due to Leah being extremely attractive, even more so than certain female celebrities and hosts whose pictures he used to browse on the internet. In fact, most of the photos the celebrities took in private weren’t nearly as good as those posted on the internet
—some even looked like entirely different people.
Leah was one of those hailing from the rarer breed. She looked even prettier in person.
This was the first time Waldo had ever been in such proximity to such a beautiful girl. He was a nervous wreck. Stretching his hand, he spluttered, “I… my name is Waldo. Erm… I’m twenty-four and single. I like Gundam and DOTA2… Oh, and I’m Gaspard’s friend too.”
“Oh? The two of you know Gaspard?” Leah looked at Waldo, eyes wide. “Huh?” Waldo nearly choked at her response. He turned to look at Zhang Heng with a panicked look on his face, “Didn’t you… didn’t you use Gaspard’s identity to get in touch with her?”
“No, I told her we’re Edward’s friends,” Zhang Heng answered.
The whole 01 team was flabbergasted. “Huh?!”
Little Boy cocked her head. “Why did she believe you then?” she asked.
“Rocky is a stray puppy that my brother and I picked up. At that time, my mother didn’t allow us to keep any pets. So, we found a cardboard box and built a home for him in the yard and brought him food every day. But a week later, Rocky disappeared. We searched everywhere for him but to no avail. He just disappeared so suddenly. We haven’t seen him since. This is a secret between my brother and me. No one else knows about it,” Leah explained.
It all suddenly dawned on Philip. “No wonder you told Leo to write down ‘Rocky will be back next week.’ Wait a minute,” He looked at Zhang Heng, “How did you know that?”
Leah suddenly turned wary. “Didn’t my brother send you guys? Who are you?”
“We are Edward’s friends, and he did send us to save you. As for Rocky, I will explain everything to you when this is all over,” Zhang Heng said, not even flinching, although he made a promise that he knew would never be fulfilled.
By the time everything ended, all the players, including him, would have to leave the quest. There was no need for him to explain anything Ponytail had the Digital Video ready. He said to Leah, “Do you have anything you want to say to your brother?”.
“Is this some kind of prank show?” Leah raised her eyebrows.
“No, we have to send evidence to Edward to prove that we’ve saved you from Black Nest so that he will reveal the next phase of the operation to us.”
“And… What is the next phase of the operation?” Leah inquired as she accepted the camcorder.
“Edward will leak the evidence the press exposing Black Nest’s misdeeds by using CTOS to collect private data from citizens.”
“Err… then the CTOS project will most probably die under public pressure, or its launching will be put on hold until they can protect the privacy of people effectively.”
“I was asking about my brother.”
“Uhh… I… I don’t know.” Philip cast a helpless look at Zhang Heng.
“We will protect Edward from Black Nest until the whole thing is made public,” Zhang Heng replied.
“And then? What happens after that?” Leah asked, adamant about getting an answer.
“Then, there would be no reason for Black Nest to go after your brother. After all, this has nothing to do with personal grievances. Black Nest is only hunting Edward to prevent him from exposing evidence. Once it is out in the open, Black Nest probably wouldn’t bother your brother anymore, because if something did happen to him, the public would view Black Nest in an even worse light than before,” said Zhang Heng, “Of course, anything can happen, but as long as I’m here, I will keep your brother safe.”
Leah did not know if she should believe him or not. “One last question: if you have to choose between my brother’s life and exposing Black Nest, which would you choose?”
“Edward,” Zhang Heng answered without hesitation. Even though exposing Black Nest seemed to be more important, his main mission was to help Edward escape. If Edward died, it would mean nothing to the players who chose this side even if he could expose Black Nest.
Of course, Zhang Heng still supported the idea of exposing the tech company. As he said, once their secrets were leaked, Black Nest would have no reason to continue chasing Edward. After all, they were not a gang but an advocacy group. Advocacy groups were generally sensible and rarely worked themselves up over personal grievances.
The 01 Guerillas had also chosen Edward, but their reasoning was simpler—they did not want anyone to sacrifice their lives.
Leah rested her chin in her hands and contemplated their words. Waldo and the others waited nervously until she lifted her head.
“Why are you all looking at me?” Leah asked.
“We’re waiting for you to make a decision.”
“What decision? I’m already in your car, and there are so many of you. I can’t fight you. What else can I do besides going along with your plan?” Leah said.
“What she says makes sense,” Waldo shook his head, “No, we’re not the bad guys. Whatever it is, we are helping your brother. You have to do this voluntarily.”
“Alright, I never said you guys are bad,” Leah said, “At least you won’t be monitoring me twenty-four-seven like those Black Nest people. It’s what I loathe the most. When I think about how somebody is constantly scrutinizing every single thing I do or say, I get goosebumps all over. If what you’re saying is true, I don’t want CTOS to go online either. After all, all of us have secrets we don’t want anyone else to know, right?”
“I think she thinks like us hackers,” Waldo’s eyes brightened, “Can we recruit her into the 01 Guerrillas?”
“Dream on, buddy. You guys are galaxies apart,” Little Boy answered, “Just give up already. There’s no hope for you. Ask her if you don’t believe me.”
“I’m sorry, but you’re not my type. It might be hurtful to hear such harsh words, but I don’t want to raise your hopes, then disappoint you later on,” said Leah, “…but you are quite cute. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of girls wanting you.” Waldo’s face turned pink. He did not expect his love to come and go quickly. The whole thing only lasted less than three minutes.
Leah returned the video recording to Ponytail, and Zhang Heng handed his mobile phone to her.
“Take another one. I have a friend who prefers to work alone. He participated in this rescue, so he’ll need the video to prove to Edward.”
“Hah, so this is a joint operation?”