All the soldiers shouted in unison, and the frigid air carried their voices into the night.
A burly man named Vincent Wagner was driving the military jeep, and he glanced at his passenger through the rearview mirror. He cleared his throat and reluctantly asked, "Is this really it for you, General? Are you really leaving the service?"
The man to whom he was speaking was Ryder Valdez. He was a young man who had only been in the army for five years but had already made great contributions.
At the age of twenty-seven, he managed to become the youngest General to ever guard Mapleley.
After rising to the rank of General, he had led his men into countless battles and won, earning himself the title God of War.
"Now that we're unconquerable in Mapleley, who will dare pick a fight with us?"
After saying that, Ryder took out a photo.
In the photo, he was next to a woman with fine features. She looked like she was in her early twenties, and she had long hair, which was tied in a ponytail. Her eyes were bright, her nose was straight, and her mouth was plump. She was even lovelier than those female stars.
However, in the photo, she didn't look happy.
"I wonder how you're doing now, Zoey," Ryder murmured, staring at the woman in the photo.
It was the only picture he had gotten with her. A happy smile soon curled his lips as memories flooded his mind.
Five years ago, Zoey Swain, who just started her senior year in college, founded Sanhoy Group and then went on to become one of the most well-known successful businesswomen in Linbourne.
Unfortunately, at the critical moment of Sanhoy Group's development, she had been set up. She was drugged, and slept with one of her company's security guards.
And that lucky security guard was Ryder.
"Linbourne's Prominent Woman Allegedly Involved with a Security Guard!"
Before Ryder and Zoey could even make it out of the hotel, the news had already spread like wildfire. The media went on a frenzy, and Zoey's reputation went down in flames.
Overnight, Zoey went from being a formidable entrepreneur to being a woman who had a one-night stand with a security guard.
And along with her name, the market value of Sanhoy Group plummeted.
In order to perform damage control, the Swain family searched for and found Ryder and convinced him to marry Zoey.
The news of the two's nuptials quickly gripped all of Linbourne. For a while, it was all everybody could talk about, but at the same time, the Swain family had become a joke.
However, not long after their wedding, Ryder left secretly and went on his own way, hoping to make himself worthy of Zoey.
Over the past five years, he had made Zoey his inspiration. Whenever he thought about giving up, he just pictured her perfect face, and then he was ready to give his all again. Zoey was the reason he had reached the peak of glory.
However, Ryder also felt debilitating guilt when he thought of her.
Three days later, an airliner landed at the Linbourne International Airport.
"Finally, I'm back."
Ryder deplaned and, for the first time in five years, set foot in Linbourne. He couldn't help putting on a bright smile.
"Mommy! Mommy, where are you?"
At the airport's arrivals area, Ryder heard a little girl crying. For some reason, he felt his heart crack a little.
Before Vincent could continue, Ryder interrupted him. "We're no longer in Mapleley, Vincent, and I'm no longer General. Put away the title."
Looking at Ryder's serious face, Vincent trembled slightly and muttered tentatively, "Ryder?"
Seeing that Ryder dipped his chin in acknowledgement, he smiled and proceeded, "I can't help noticing that that little girl looks a lot like you. Are you related?"
Ryder turned to look at the crying little girl and knitted his brows. The moment he laid eyes on her, he couldn't look away. A strong sense of familiarity came over him.
The poor thing was still sobbing, and every second of it broke his heart.
As if sensing Ryder's gaze, the little girl suddenly stopped crying and looked in his direction. She wiped her tearful eyes with her tiny hand.
Ryder and the little girl stared at each other for a few heartbeats. Ryder couldn't explain why, but he felt strongly drawn to the little girl.
She had a delicate face and smooth skin. She blinked her big, misty eyes at him. Her eyelashes were long, and they had tears on them.
The little girl seemed four years old. Although she was still a kid, she was already magnificent. She would definitely grow up to be an incredible beauty.
"Daddy!" the little girl suddenly called out.
Before Ryder could react, the little girl was already running to him. Then, she hugged his legs tightly.
At this moment, Ryder's ears started ringing. He felt as if his mind was melting.
Standing aside and watching this scene, Vincent was also shocked. He asked, "Is she really your daughter, Ryder?"
After a while, Ryder snapped back to his senses. He squatted down and faced the little girl who was staring at him with huge, expectant eyes. In the gentlest voice he could muster, Ryder started, "Young lady, I think you've mistaken me for someone else. I'm not your daddy."
However, just as Ryder finished his sentence, the little girl burst into tears again.
"No!" She whimpered in between sobs, "Daddy doesn't want me anymore! Daddy doesn't want me anymore!"
All the passers-by looked over and started whispering and pointing at Ryder.
Ryder began panicking. He didn't know what to do. He couldn't stand seeing the strange little girl cry.
As the General in Mapleley, he had made numerous men tremble with fear, but now in front of a bawling four-year-old, he was helpless. If news of this ever spread, many would absolutely be dumbfounded.
"I'm so sorry, sweetie, but I'm really not your father."
"Daddy doesn't want me..."
Every time Ryder tried to say something, the little girl cried even harder.
Five minutes passed.
Finally, with sweat all over his forehead, Ryder decided to carry the little girl in his arms.
Once again, the little girl stared at Ryder with her big, tearful eyes. From the moment Ryder scooped her up, she had held on to him and refused to let go, fearing that he would leave her.
"Ryder, since this little girl likes you so much, why don't you raise her like she's really yours?" Vincent teased Ryder with a smile. Ryder shot him a death glare, which immediately made him shut his mouth.
Helplessly, Ryder took the little girl to the airport's information desk.
The little girl started crying again when Ryder set her down, but Ryder suppressed his emotions, turned around, and left with Vincent.
As soon as Ryder and Vincent left, a long-haired woman in a black business suit rushed into the airport's information desk.
"Sloane! Oh, thank God!"
When she saw the crying little girl, she almost collapsed with relief. Tears welled up in her eyes as she locked the little girl in a tight embrace, unwilling to let her go.
For her, this little girl was her everything.
Five years ago, not long after she got married, she found out that she was pregnant, but the father of her child suddenly disappeared. Her mother told her that her husband asked her father for five hundred thousand dollars and then left.
At that time, she was so heartbroken that she attempted to kill herself but gave up at the thought of her baby.
She spent the last five years in total humiliation. During her pregnancy, her family seized the first-ever enterprise she had built from the ground up. And all that pain and disappointment were because of that man who abandoned her and their daughter.
She hated that man. He left without saying goodbye and vanished into thin air, and she hadn't heard from him in five years.
"Mommy, I saw Daddy!" Sloane exclaimed, blinking her doll-like eyes.
Then, she pouted and appeared as if she was about to start crying again. "But Daddy doesn't want me anymore!"
Hearing her little girl's words, the long-haired woman shivered. She felt as if she had just been struck by lightning.