All around the central business district buildings, white collar workers crowded in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, taking photos with their phones. 

As Wu Fang Street billowed with thick smoke, the people inside desperately ran out while the people outside clamored with curiosity. The streets were crowded.

Xu Qin struggled to break through the crowd and squeezed to the entrance of the alley. The firefighters and officers had cordoned off the area, shouting at bystanders taking pictures: “Everyone disperse! Disperse! —Hey you, why are you still trying to run inside?”

Xu Qin said: “I’m a doctor.”

The skinny firefighter looked at her suspiciously: “Which hospital are you from?”

Xu Qin replied: “Third Military Hospital.”

The other party lifted the barricade tape, Xu Qin bent under to pass through and ran into the alleyway.

Several vehicles that were blocking the road had been rolled onto their side to allow fire trucks to enter. Firefighters sprayed the high pressure water cannon towards the burning row of houses. The damp burning smell swept over by the black smoke assaulted Xu Qin’s senses, causing her eyes to water.

Wu Fang Street was full of old houses, many with wooden foundation. The houses were connected, so the space between them was narrow and dense, allowing the fire to spread extremely quickly. Even though there were now four high pressure water cannons in use, the fire had not weakened.

Most of the residents had been evacuated, only firefighters remained at the front lines.

The fire captains and instructors of several nearby squadrons gathered to look at the topographic map. The fire trucks were on the main road of the block, the fire had already spread to the side roads, many of which were alleyways that were too narrow for the fire trucks to enter and could only rely on the spray from the water cannons.

Song Yan suggested: “Send in small squads to extinguish the fires.”

The captain of the Wu Fang Street squadron thought this was inappropriate: “I’m against it.”

Song Yan: “Why?”

“A lot of the houses here have hidden safety hazards, if the fire continues to burn, it will be easy for the roof beams to collapse and the floor to cave in. It’s too dangerous for us to go inside. Besides, the correspondents have surveyed the area, all the families are accounted for, no one is left. There’s really no need to take risks.”

Another squad captain said: “I agree.”

Song Yan shook his head, pointing at the map: “Look here, the houses in the area that are currently burning are made from brick and concrete, yet still haven’t been able to be brought under control. But if it spreads to this area……”

Song Yan pushed his finger, pointing to the region adjacent to the burning area: “These are all wooden buildings from the Republican Era. Once the fire spreads here, it will be too late. The affected area will be at least twice or even larger than it is now, possibly becoming completely out of control. Moreover—”


Song Yan tugged at the corner of his mouth: “There are a lot of non-natives living alone in these apartments, if a couple of them are trapped, no one would realize that they are missing.”

Everyone’s faces turned grim, the instructor made the decision at once: “Do as Song Yan said. Assemble.”

Several teams planned out their route, quickly donned their fire extinguishers, and entered the scene of the fire under the cover of the high pressure water cannons.

When Xu Qin ran over, she saw Song Yan’s silhouette disappear behind the thick smoke of the raging inferno. The yellow caution stripe on his clothes flashed once in the darkness before disappearing.

The waves of heat surged forward, surrounded by flames and smoke. Xu Qin covered her nose and coughed violently, retreating dozens of meters away. Her face was aching from the heat and she couldn’t imagine what it would have been like for the firefighters.

Not long after entering, there was a sudden explosion.

The instructor reached for the walkie-talkie: “Song Yan?! Song Yan! What’s the situation?!”

The walkie-talkie chirped twice, and a laugh comes through: “Someone’s gas tank exploded. What, scared that I died?”

Suo Jun was speechless: “Dammit, be more serious.” 

“Hanging up.”


“No one’s allowed to go inside without an order.” Song Yan shouted, instructing his team members to spread out to extinguish the fire. The firemen scattered around the winding alleys, raising their extinguishers to put out the fire.

Faced with a sea of fire, everyone was trying their best to save an isolation belt to prevent it from spreading. At this moment, there was a faint cry of a young man: “Help!”

The voice gradually became clearer: “Help! Is anyone there, help!”

Song Yan was the first to hear it, lifting his hand to give an order. The people around him stopped, prickling their ears to listen while holding their breath amongst the crackling sounds of the fire.

“Fuck.” Song Yan cursed, roaring: “Everyone look up, search!”

Yang Chi was the first to find it: “There!”

Song Yan: “Which fucking direction?”

Yang Chi: “Eleven o’clock!”

A young man leaned against a third floor anti-theft window and weakly called for help. When he saw Song Yan, he wailed: “Save me, I’m begging you, please save me!”

Xiao* Ge ran over: “Captain Song, Jiang Yi and I can go in to save him.”

Song Yan glanced over at the building and made a judgment: “No. This building is rented out as individual small rooms, if every tenant has a gas tank, you won’t be able to make it out even with ten lives.”

As he was talking, a gust of wind came, billowing black smoke poured out of the window like a dark cloud. No more sound came from upstairs.

Song Yan immediately took off his firefighter suit. He was covered in sweat, but the high temperatures quickly evaporated it off his body.

Jiang Yi was shocked: “Captain Song, you were already disciplined for taking off your fire suit last time.”

Song Yan cast a glance at him: “There’s only a few of us here, who dares to tell? Huh?”

Everyone shut up.

Song Yan grabbed the drain pipe on the wall with his bare hands and climbed up to the third floor in just two or three strokes. Looking inside, the young man had already fainted.

The anti-theft window was scalding to the touch, Song Yan grabbed it and shook vigorously, releasing a cloud of dust.

Song Yan clung to the outside wall, with one foot on the air-conditioner panel and the other against the water pipe, bowed his head and yelled: “Rope!”

Xiao Ge tossed up two ropes in quick succession. Song Yan bound the anti-theft window with a rope: “Ready.”

Seven or eight firefighters on the ground grasped the rope firmly, exerting strength: “One, two, three!”

The entire row of anti-theft windows fell in response. Song Yan quickly dodged, and with one turn in the air, stepped onto the weatherboard of the neighboring window.

Song Yan pushed off the wall for support, turning over to land on the third floor.

The high temperature inside the room was like a steamer, black smoke filled the air. He narrowed his eyes, swiftly tied the rope around the young man’s waist, tied the other end to the window frame, and sent him down.

Yang Chi caught the young man, immediately carrying him out on his back.

Just as Song Yan was about to flip over and go back down, the door panel burned through. Flames threateningly swept into the narrow single room.

Song Yan cast a glance at the gas tank in the corner, and yelled down: “Get out of the way!”

He flipped over the balcony, grabbed the rope and rapidly descended.

In the same instant, there was a violent explosion.

Glass, metal, walls, wooden planks all exploded.

The window frame split, and Song Yan dropped down.


The sound of explosions came from the fire, the smoke gradually became lighter, and more firefighters went in with their extinguishers. Suddenly, a firefighter with a young man on his back rushed out: “Where is the doctor? Who knows first aid?”

Xu Qin immediately stepped forward: “Me.”

Yang Chi’s face was covered in ash, when he raised his face and saw Xu Qin, he was stunned for a moment.

Xu Qin also recognized him, but had no time to waste: “Quickly put him down!”

Yang Chi immediately set him on the ground.

Xu Qin quickly inspected his pupils and carotid artery: “Asphyxiated.”

Xu Qin lifted his chin, dug out the cotton balls in his nose, pried open his mouth, and cleaned out the towel fragments. Then she loosened the collar of his shirt and said calmly: “Leave this to me, you can go.”

Yang Chi hesitated for a moment, then quickly rushed into the fire again without looking back.

Xu Qin knelt, and began to give artificial respiration and CPR to the unconscious patient. She didn’t hand off the patient until several of her colleagues stepped forward to help.

By this time, the fire was under control. Song Yan and the others came out. Every one of them looked to be in a sorry state, faces and bodies covered in black ash.

Xu Qin stood by the side of the road looking at Song Yan. In one instant, his eyes met hers, then looked away without stopping.

Another group of firefighters went to do an inspection, in case there were still any uncontrolled fires.

The first team of firefighters who had gone in and came back out rested against the wall or fire trucks in twos and threes. Some were thinking while flushing their eyes with water, some were so tired they dropped to the ground to sleep.

Song Yan sat on the ground, leaning against a telephone pole. He leaned his head back to pour water into his mouth, his Adam’s apple moved up and down. The ground was wet and muddy but he didn’t care, as his clothes were so dirty they looked like they had been fished out of a pile of ash and stomped on non-stop by hundreds of people.

But——He’s still really manly dammit.

Xu Qin stood on the curb, which wasn’t much cleaner. She watched Song Yan without blinking, through the passing firefighters and spray of water cannons.

Song Yan put down his water bottle, his eyes falling, and saw Xu Qin.

He looked at her for a few seconds, and suddenly the corner of his lips twitched with interest. He lifted his chin at her, raised his eyebrows, and the next second, he whistled. It was like cat-calling at a beautiful woman at the side of the road.

“Song Yan!” Suo Jun shouted at him to stop and lowered his voice: “Fuck it again!”

Song Yan was unconcerned, his thick fingers wiped at his chin to erase the water stains.

Suo Jun smiled in Xu Qin’s direction: “Comrade, I’m sorry, he’s just like that, he doesn’t mean any harm.”

Xu Qin didn’t respond, walking directly to Song Yan.

Song Yan squinted at her, unable to restrain the smile on his face.

Xu Qin stopped a few steps away from him and said: “Song Yan, come here, I have something to say to you.”

Suo Jun was flabbergasted, do these two know each other?

Song Yan tilted his head slightly, gazed up at Xu Qin, stared for a bit, finally stood up, patted his butt, and walked towards her. Xu Qin turned and walked towards the side of the road, but Song Yan brushed past her and walked in the direction of the fire truck.

Yes, she had thought too much. Xu Qin stopped halfway and turned to look back. He jumped up into the fire truck, leaving her with his indifferent, smiling side profile.

The fire truck slowly drove away.

Xu Qin’s face turned red, as if burned by the hot air nearby.

Xu Qin walked out slowly, the fire truck also on its way out. Individual and car were moving in parallel, neither looked at each other.

After leaving Wu Fang Street, a young man in a red t-shirt blocked the fire truck’s path: “Stop the car! Stop the car dammit!”

The driver stopped. Several fire trucks stopped one after another, blocking the alley.

The young man was furious as he paced back and forth alongside several fire trucks, pointing his finger aggressively at the firefighters inside: “You, fuck, you all!” He pointed to a Porsche that had been turned on its side, red in the face: “Who flipped it?”

Song Yan sat in the passenger seat, his right hand hanging out of the window, hands covered in blisters and scratches. He turned slightly, stuck his head out of the car, and said:

“I flipped it. Problem?”

When he said this, the corners of his mouth turned up slightly, but it was hard to say if it was a smile.

Red t-shirt didn’t expect the firefighter to have such a backbone, he pointed with a shaking finger and demanded: “Come down here.”

Song Yan opened the door of the truck and jumped down, taking off his fireproof jacket. He had only an army green singlet underneath, soaking wet, stuck against his tall, sturdy body.

Passing by Xu Qin, he left only a shadow.

Song Yan walked over and raised his chin slightly.

Red t-shirt was a head shorter, with thin arms and legs, skinnier than him. Seeing his intimidating presence, he couldn’t help but take a step back and said bravely: “You, do you know who I am? If you apologize and compensate me well I’ll let it pass this time, otherwise you can wait for your dismissal.”

Song Yan stared at him for so long, red t-shirt was starting to feel guilty, said angrily: “Look at this license plate, you know who I am……?”

Song Yan smiled, turning around suddenly to kick the car so loudly a dent was smashed into the license plate.

Red t-shirt flushed but didn’t dare make a move, only kept pointing at him and repeating: “You, you you——do you know I am——”

Song Yan took a step forward and approached: “I don’t care who the hell you are. Occupying the fire exit, turning a fire that can be extinguished in ten minutes into one that took two hours, burnt 78 households. What the hell are you doing? No one died and none of the wooden houses burned. The disaster was already enough for your rotten car to make headlines. If I were you, I’d tuck my tail and get lost.”

He finished talking, glancing at the man: “Nan Cheng District Shi Li Tai Fire Squadron, Song Yan, go file your complaint.” 

Red t-shirt stood there, dumbfounded.

Song Yan strode to the fire truck, grabbed the handle, and effortlessly jumped into the seat.

The truck started and drove away.

Xu Qin stood in place, calmly watched the giant red monster leave, her heart trembling as if shaken by the wind: after so many years, his arrogant personality has not changed at all, not even a little.

Translator’s note:

xiǎo 小 – little

When we add xiao + surname, it generally becomes a nickname. So in this occassion, Xiao Ge 小葛 = Little Ge, Ge being the surname (we are presuming at this point).

shí lǐ tái 十里台 – the name of Song Yan’s squadron. We’ll be using Shi Li Tai Fire Squadron.