Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The villagers joined Li Du’s team. They squeezed into the car like ducks and chickens herded into their cages. They were holding tight onto bread and warm water.
Looking at them, it seemed unlikely that they had been in cahoots with the wicked intruders. They were simply regular villagers living in tough conditions, some kind of violent, malicious people.
Their team had stayed overnight in the wild before leaving the next day. Sometime during that night, the fog had cleared out. While the weather was still gloomy, the visibility at least improved.
Bolshevik Island was huge, and it was barren and deserted land. It was difficult for a big group to hide their tracks. Hence, they followed the track marks left behind to pursue the poachers.
Sitting inside one of the cars, Li Du asked, “Are there still poachers on this island?”
Steve frowned and said, “There are some. The tundra is one of Russia’s protected resources and people are not allowed to do any unauthorized scavenging and hunting, but there are valuable fur animals, minerals, and rare plants in the far north. Hence, there are always people who will take risks to earn some money.”
Li Du said, “The area of the islands is limited. How many resources can there be? Isn’t there anyone to stop the illegal poaching and catch the criminals?”
Steve took a deep breath and said, “Of course the authorities will intervene from time to time. The local government, maritime police, and the agriculture and forestry agencies have been trying their best to protect the tundra. There are also officials who take a firm stand for the environment and send ships to patrol the nearby seas. Once they spot people who hunt, fish, or poach illegally, they punish them severely.”
Brother Wolf, who rarely interrupted conversations, spoke up for the first time. He said, “These people are not just any poachers who are here to prey upon natural resources. They are highly skilled and when they find themselves falling into a trap, they would not put up a fight head-on. Instead, they would immediately retreat. That renders us practically helpless.”
Li Du jumped in to ask, “They have the signs of military training, right?”
Brother Wolf nodded.
Li Du asked Steve again, “What kind of people have you offended, exactly? Why would they set a trap for us to fall into?”
Steve replied impatiently, “How would I know? Who said I am the one who had offended these people? Perhaps it’s you who they are after? From the start of this trip, you were the one who had provoked people, one after another.”
Li Du thought about it and felt that Steve was right. He had offended quite a few of the ivory hunters and also the local gangs at the bride fair. The local gangsters had even exposed their identities as pirates just to seek revenge on him.
Perhaps these poachers were related to the gangsters from Vorkuta. These poachers, whoever they were, knew about his group’s wealth. A few days ago, the pirates had not only wanted to seek revenge but also meant to loot their supplies.
However, he felt that there was nothing special about the gangsters. Brother Wolf had felt that the poachers acted like retired elite soldiers. From that, it seemed like the poachers were not the same group as the gangsters.
Steve continued to question the villagers and Andrey. They were unsure of the identities of the poachers or their background. They only said that those people had called themselves “harvesters” and their jackets often bore traces of forest-related items such as moss, lichen, feathers, and animal hair.
The car continued on the journey. Now their entourage was a big one. There was a scout vehicle right at the front. From time to time, a drone would be released to the sky to monitor the surrounding area.
Li Du and his group had to be cautious. After all, their enemies were headed straight for them, and hence, they needed to be prepared.
They were now chasing after the poachers, following the tracks they left behind. However, they had to be cautious. Those tracks could have been left behind on purpose to trick and trap Li Du and his group.
Fortunately, as the car bumped around on the road, they did not receive any bad news. The images sent by the drones did not show any signs of a trap.
Still, Brother Wolf did not let his guard down. His philosophy was that as long as his enemy was still alive, he would need to stay prepared in case he might meet them the next second.
After a full day of driving, they set up camp in the evening.
The bodyguards busied themselves in setting up the tents. Li Du took advantage of the moment of privacy to ask Steve hurriedly, “That friend of mine, Tang Chaoyang. Are you close to him?”
After hearing that, Steve froze for a moment. He did not answer, turning to speak with Andrey instead. “Have you met any strangers on the island recently? There are very few people on the archipelago, right? If there were strangers, you’d recognize them, right?”
Andrey shook his head. “No, sir, I’ve been staying inside the research center…”
“Then go and ask those villagers if they’ve seen any strangers,” Steve interrupted him.
Andrey started to communicate with the local villagers. After some time, he translated what they told him. “Around a week ago, someone saw a car that looked like yours. Big and sturdy, fit for terrain, you know. They had appeared around Pioneer Island but never came to Bolshevik Island.
Steve asked, “What color was the car?”
Steve clapped his hands hard. Then he walked back to talk to Li Du and the Ford brothers. He laughed coolly and said, “Red Devil Blodwen is here. He arrived here earlier than I did. I’d bet anything the b*stard ganged up with the locals to make trouble for us!”
Li Du was puzzled. “Red Devil Blodwen? Who is that?”
“A whoreson. Did not expect that he would come here too,” Young Ford said, troubled.
“More details, please. What kind of man is he?” Li Du continued to ask.
Steve answered, “Red Devil Blodwen. His full name is Bobby Blodwen. Do you know the UK extensive financial wealth group? His family is controlling that one. This is beside the point, however. All you need to know is that the son of a bitch has the same goals as us. He has also come to Severnaya Zemlya to look for meteorites.”
Enlightened, Li Du said, “Oh, he’s a meteorite hunter too?”
“It’s very likely that he might have made some discovery. That could be why he and his people wanted to catch us, subdue us or shoo us off,” Steve said with a serious look on his face.
Li Du said cheerfully, “That’s good for us, though. Let’s deal with these b*stards and take whatever they found from them. It would save us the trouble and effort of searching, wouldn’t it?”
Young Ford started to laugh and patted his shoulder, saying, “That’s right, Li, you and I think alike.”
However, Li Du was still somewhat confused and asked Steve, “But how did you suddenly think of that guy?”
Steve shook his head and said, “I’ve never thought of checking if it might be this guy. You broached the topic of that mysterious friend of yours. He is also an explorer and he could have the same interest in the meteorites of Severnaya Zemlya. That prompted me to consider that perhaps those who targeted us did it for the meteorites.”
That was an important clue. They were no longer mystified regarding the attack on them and everything seemed clearer.
The night fell very soon and they went to their tents to rest. Brother Wolf had organized many teams to patrol the ground and stand guard during the night. He wanted to keep enemies from springing a surprise attack on them.
Thinking back on all that had happened, Li Du was somewhat troubled. The experience of the adventure was truly a new one for him and he had not expected so much adversity.