They had a lot of local specialties back home, and Xiao Luo's grandparents had prepared a selection of his favorites and placed them in Xiao Luo's room. There were chips, peanuts, and fried rolls.
After he finished tidying up the room, Xiao Luo made himself a cup of hot tea and stood by the window.
It was pitch dark outside, still drizzling, and everything seemed remarkably tranquil. Xiao Luo felt the stark difference here as if this was another life, compared to the city. Standing by the window, everything he had experienced in Jiangcheng was like a dream: protecting Chu Yue, becoming the boss of Luo's Workshop, annihilating the Dragon Gang.
Everything just seemed surreal at that very moment, like he was living two different lives.
One was a world full of killings, commercial maneuvers, and the treacherous underworld--like an exciting and dramatic TV series. And the other brought him right back to ordinary life in the village!
Ding. Ding. Ding.
A handphone ringtone brought him back to the present.
Xiao Luo picked up the black handphone on the table. The caller ID showed a string of asterisks, and he immediately knew that it was a call from Gu Zhanguo of NSA. His handphone was also NSA-issued and specially customized with an "8848" code. All their phone calls were channeled through a dedicated encrypted line, ensuring confidentiality, and preventing phone tapping and tracking.
His NSA phone could only be unlocked with face recognition and fingerprint detection protocols, without which neither of the special functions or even basic functions could be accessed. The phone would be useless to anyone except Xiao Luo.
Gu Zhanguo's authoritative voice spoke over the line. "Mie, your contact has set off and will meet you the day after tomorrow. Codename: Night Sparrow."
Xiao Luo nodded. "Roger that."
"There's one more thing that you need to know. Our spy in the Blackwater Company has sent a message. Khun Sa has access to your basic information and knows about your part in the Red Scorpion Mercenaries' massacre. He is enraged and has dispatched a team of his Cobra Mercenaries to infiltrate into the country. Their task is to neutralize you at all costs," Gu Zhanguo said.
Xiao Luo narrowed his eyes, and a fierce expression washed over him. "Let them come, I will be waiting. Whatever number he sends will all be killed."
His cavalier attitude concerned Gu Zhanguo, and he said, "As far as we know, there are eight men in the Cobra Mercenaries strike team. All of them are rated grade B operators in the NSA grading system, and they are highly experienced in military tactics. Do not take them lightly, they are far superior to the Red Scorpion Mercenaries. You must not underestimate them."
Xiao Luo took note of the warning, then made a request to Gu Zhanguo. "Can you arrange for some men to protect my parents."
He would be staying with his grandparents in Luo Village, so he needn't have to worry too much about their safety. But his parents were living on the farm, and that was a concern. He needed to arrange for a protection detail to ensure their safety round the clock.
"I've already dispatched 20 grade C fighters. They're being rushed to your location together with Night Sparrow. As for how they are to be deployed, the decision is yours," Gu Zhanguo said.
Xiao Luo was grateful for Gu Zhanguo's sincerity in making the arrangements to mobilize his NSA resources.
"Do you have any other questions?" Gu Zhanguo asked.
Xiao Luo answered without hesitation; he wanted to get to the bottom of this. "Why would Khun Sa have my information?"
"Other than being one of the leaders of Blackwater Company, Khun Sa is also a major drug dealer in the Golden Triangle. He had close ties with the Dragon Gang of Jiangcheng. After the Red Scorpion Mercenaries got into trouble, he asked the Dragon Gang to help him investigate," Gu Zhanguo said, "and you happened to be in their sights during that period, creating many problems for their gang operations. So the Dragon Gang identified you to Khun Sa as the one who destroyed his Red Scorpion Mercenaries."
Xiao Luo was stunned, and he couldn't imagine how he could've gotten himself entangled in an international network of crime.
The next morning, Xiao Luo got up early and started cleaning the house.
His grandparents had lived in the house since it was built and maintained it, but as they were getting on with age, they couldn't clean the house as thoroughly as they wished.
He started by first wiping the glass windows, the tables, the cabinets, and mopping the floor.
For the whole morning, Xiao Luo was kept busy, carefully wiping every nook and cranny that was usually overlooked during cleaning.
When he went out to refill the bucket of water, a middle-aged lady living just next door looked surprised when she saw him and said, "Hello, aren't you Little Luo? You are back for the new year?"
Xiao Luo smiled and greeted the lady. "Hi, Aunt Taoxiu, yes. The company is closed for the holiday season, so I've come back for the new year."
All the men in Luo Village shared the surname Xiao, as they were descended from a common ancestor. Their middle names were determined by their generation in the family tree, and funnily enough, many of his peers were of the same generation as his own father, so he had to address them as 'uncle' according to custom. This was something that Xiao Luo had been eating at Xiao Luo for quite a while now.
Xiao Luo had no idea what the middle-aged lady's maiden surname was, but he remembered her well because she often visited them ever since he was a young lad. His grandma addressed her as Taoxiu, so he just called her Aunt Taoxiu. At the same time, Xiao Luo used to be close friends with her son, Xiao Ping, when they were young. Xiao Ping was two years older than him.
Aunt Taoxiu had a rather loud voice, so when the neighbors heard that Xiao Luo had returned, they all came out to greet him. Very soon, there was a small crowd outside his home.
Xiao Luo was raised to be courteous, and he was a patient man by nature, so he greeted all the seniors that had come to greet him.
"Little Luo, you have gotten a lot more handsome in the one year since I last saw you. I heard last year that you had a girlfriend, why didn't you bring her back to meet your family?" a dark-skinned woman said.
A thin middle-aged man smiled and agreed. "She is right, it's about time you start a family. Back when I was your age, my son was already seven or eight years old."
Xiao Luo smiled warmly at him and replied, "Such matters all depend on fate. When the time is right, everything will sort itself out."
"Fate is a vague concept that cannot be explained easily, it still depends on you to make an effort to seek the right women out. Our country carried out a census recently, and there are 30 million more men than women. In other words, there will be 30 million men without a wife. Little Luo, you must try harder. Even if you are in no hurry, think of your parents and your grandparents, who will all be worried." The thin middle-aged man shared his opinion, which got the crowd nodding their heads.
The dark-skinned woman who was now munching on sunflower seeds concurred and said, "That's right, look at Xiao Qiudong, he is the same age as you, and he has a son now. He's hosting a feast at home tomorrow, and his wife is from Taiwan. The whole Luo Village knows about it. If you don't put in more effort, he will outshine you."
Xiao Luo merely forced a smile and nodded his head, as he knew they meant well. But he didn't intend to stand there and continue getting bombarded with more questions and suggestions, so he informed them all that he still had to clean the house and hurried back inside.
"You people shouldn't pressure him like this, I'm sure that deep down inside, Little Luo must be anxious as well. You all should know that he is the only one of his age that hasn't gotten married in our village." Aunt Taoxiu felt for Xiao Luo and came to his defense.
"We didn't scold him or anything, but this Little Luo has set too high expectations for himself. It's not good for him, and he may find himself in an unfavorable situation outside," the thin middle-aged said, standing with his arms folded, confident in his assessment of Xiao Luo.
The dark-skinned woman sighed heavily, weighing in on what the thin middle-aged man had said. "Huh, Xiao Qiudong didn't even go to university, now he is getting project contracts at the city of Zhoukou. He is earning so much over the past two years, and he even bought himself a house in the city of Zhoukou. Now look at Little Luo, he has been to a second-tier university, but in the end, he is just working for other people. Despite having studied so much, he can't compare to Xiao Qiudong's little finger."
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