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180 Mie

 [Inside the study room of the library of Huaye University]

A sheen of sweat reflected off Bai Ling's forehead and nose. She had been typing rapidly for quite some time and felt extremely tired. Her fingers were sore and tingling, as though they could turn numb at any minute.

She was wholly absorbed in the ongoing battle. There could be no distractions in her mind, not even for a split second. As it stood, she was already staring defeat in the face.

Despite her best efforts to stop the attack, the opposing forces were breaking through, bearing down menacingly across a broad front this time. The coordinated strike of their four top-class hackers could best be described as an unstoppable tsunami. Bai Ling suffered one defeat after another, steadily losing grounds. Her desperate rearguard action was to no avail. Her face grew grim, and she bit on the lips so hard that her delicate, red lips looked about to bleed.

...

...

"It's over. BaiLing has lost!"

In the headquarter of the NSA, everyone gasped with shock and anxiety. They could not accept that their enigmatic protector of Hua Nation had finally met with failure this time.

...

...

In the study room of Huaye University's library, Bai Ling stopped coding, she was utterly devastated and demoralized. She stared blankly in a stupor, unable to come to terms with what had just happened. Her face looked a deathly white as if her soul had left her.

She was defeated. She couldn't believe she really lost, not just the battle, but the war!

She had worked hard over the last three years specifically to prevent such an attack. Studying the attack patterns by opposing hackers, developing new tools and bots, testing her betas, enhancements. She had worked out simulations for future attacks and defense strategies strenuously and had been making continuous progress. All this effort just so that she could have the ability to help her nation ward off the neverending cyberattacks from hostile foreign powers.

She was raised with the idea of loving and serving her country, and she had taken it to heart. As soon as she realized she was especially gifted in information technology, she felt duty-bound to protect the internet frontier of Hua Nation. No one in the non-virtual, real-world, knew that she had been the key player in helping Hua Nation overcome more than a dozen cyber crises. Each of these attacks would have brought about catastrophic consequences.

No one knew, not even her best friend, Chu Yue. She led a double life, and she enjoyed it.

She was the proverbial silent profession, a covert life of never seeking glory for herself and never seeking public attention. Only she would know about each event, and these would be secrets she would cherish dearly for the rest of her life.

But in this life, there was only her. There was no one else she could depend on, no one else to seek solace from. When the defeat came, she felt a deep sense of, not just frustration, but emptiness. A void. Her dreams were now dashed, and she was feeling lost.

...

...

"BaiLing of Hua Nation has been finally defeated. From now on, Hua Nation will become our back garden where we can stroll in whenever we want. Hahaha..."

Somewhere on the globe, a group of blonde-haired men was in celebration. Everyone was exhilarated and shouting in excitement. Someone even popped a bottle of champagne. Breaching the internet of Hua Nation meant that they would have access to its networks, which means access to all of the country's information. She was entirely now at their mercy. It wasn't just the loss of hundreds of billions from the treasury and trade, but infrastructure, communications, and even defense would immediately be compromised. This was a disaster of biblical proportions!

As she sat staring blankly, she noticed a series of codes appearing rapidly on her screen. The unstoppable incoming flow of digital traffic through the main gateway seemed to have stalled. Packets of malicious data designed to corrupt and steal were being identified and neutralized across the networks. BaiLing switched to a graphic interface. A new firewall appeared to have been set up very quickly and acted like a deep chasm halted the hackers' offensive.

"What happened?"

Astonished, the group of hackers stopped their celebration and immediately started to analyze the event before launching another round of attack against the newly identified firewall.

They switched to graphics. An army of bots zeroed in on the new firewall, finding ways in through its defenses. Wonton and savage destruction everywhere. Much to their disbelief, the firewall had been written with a different set of codes, and their frenzied attack was only able to tear a small corner open. The moment they finally broke it through, another firewall rose up in front of them, blaring with red alarm and preventing them from advancing.

"What the f*ck?"

The hackers' eyes widened in consternation. Not discouraged, they clenched their teeth and continued their attack.

...

...

The headquarter of the NSA of Hua Nation was in dead silence; the mood was despondent. Everyone looked dispirited and had their heads lowered. Suddenly, a heart-stirring cry broke out And broke the lull.

"It's not breached yet. A new firewall appeared and stopped those bastards outside of the border!"

The excited voice was infectious, and very soon, everyone was alive again. Everybody was either looking at the main screen or focused on the computers in front of them. They were speechless.

The executives of NSA were glued to their computers, cheering on incoherently.

"Haha... God bless Hua Nation. God truly blesses Hua Nation!"

A middle-aged man in a suit jumped up excitedly, crying out, "Look at those bastards! Don't they look like the zombies who were blocked by the Wall-nut in Plants vs. Zombies?"

A wave of laughter filled the room upon hearing his comment. It was indeed an apt analogy.

Nevertheless, the room quieted down again quickly. The foreign hackers had not given up yet. Gnawing at the firewall that blocked them, unlike the Wall-nut in the game, they were still persisting like a horde of zombies with a single-minded purpose of finding fresh blood and meat.

"This doesn't seem like to be BaiLing's firewall."

"Yes, the key feature of BaiLing's firewall is its ability to be rebuilt speedily. But the current firewall takes a much longer time for reconstruction. But it's unique for its sturdiness, and that has made it difficult for the attackers to penetrate the wall."

"Hmm, this can only mean one thing; someone else has joined in the battle."

The computer experts in the hall instantly spotted the new firewalls' uniqueness and exchanged their thoughts and opinions. They finally concluded that it could not be BaiLing but someone else who was defending Hua Nation against the hostile foreign hackers this time round.

What? There was another person?

The news was passed on to the executives of the NSA, and it immediately caused quite a stir. Did it mean that there was another computer genius besides BaiLing that was hiding in Hua Nation?

Most of the people present were shocked, several were excited, and some also felt personally responsible. They blamed themselves for failing to do justice to such talented people. No effort had been made to find gifted people and to nurture then so far. They came to deeply regret this, while at the same time wondered how many more geniuses were neglected in Hua Nation.

After convening a special meeting, the senior officials of the NSA reached a unanimous decision to consent to a mission to locate, support, and nurture these brilliant minds hidden among the population of Hua Nation. They would form the core of a future virtual space force that will defend the country for the next decades. a.

Five minutes later, rousing cheers and applause broke out from the hall.

"Retreated. The b*stards have retreated!"

"We won! Those bastards finally realized they couldn't move forward even an inch more when they went against the third firewall."

"Good job. How awesome!"

...

...

In the study room of Huaye University's library, Bai Ling's wide-eyed expression said it all. She continued to stare at the computer screen in disbelief. All the codes from attackers vanished in a flash. She imagined an impregnable firewall composed of new lines of codes was standing in between like the Great Wall. As she checked the networks, Bai Ling couldn't find any bugs or loopholes, at least not from the first look.

"Who is this person?"

Bai Ling was in awe and admiration for whoever had achieved this. It was overwhelming. She saw clearly how this person intercepted the fierce attackers with only three firewalls. The walls served collectively as a defense in depth. As the first wall breached, the second would be formed before the opposing force could breakthrough. As the second wall faltered, the third wall was raised to prevent further breaches.

How was it possible for a human's brain to figure out the millions upon millions of permutations needed to set up those firewalls, and code instructions to instantly locate and fix the breaches in the firewalls in such a short time?

Besides her deep admiration for this expert, Bai Ling's own ego as a hacker had also taken a blow. Overcome with curiosity and impatient to wait even a moment longer, she sent the person a message.

"Who are you?"

...

...

Xiao Luo received the question and countered with the same question, "Who are you?"

"BaiLing."

BaiLing?

Xiao Luo chuckled. He thought for a moment, then typed on the keyboard and replied, "Mie!"

The only reason he called himself Mie was that it was his generational name. This was based on the Xiao family's genealogical tree, and Xiao Luo's generation happened to have Mie as their name.