At the end, they decided to cancel their KTV plans. Wang Xiaguang’s mother had called and it had sounded urgent, so Wang Xiaguang decided to return home, even though she didn’t want to. Zhao Yali did not come home that evening. Luo Yuan switched on his desktop computer to play a game, but then decided against it. He could not calm himself down. He felt depressed and he knew something was bothering him, which made him want to scream bad. He kept scratching his head in frustration. In the end, he walked to the living room and started shadow boxing. He had only four points in his close combat skills. However, his ability to attack became very powerful when he combined his 12-point Dexterity with his combat skills.
His movements produced several sounds as he fought against the air. He could injure someone severely by hitting them, and might even kill them if he striked their vital points. Initially, his shadowbox was meant to provide stress relief, and every single one of his attack moves was a violent one. However, eventually, he had gotten addicted to it and slowly discovered the joys of boxing. He felt pumped and excited. "Beep. After a sufficient training period, your Free Combat skills have improved. One point for Free Combat." He had been so into it that he hadn’t realized there had been a skill upgrade. He had been practicing for almost an hour. When he stopped, there was a puddle of sweat on the floor and his shirt was completely drenched. He felt his blood boiling and circulating fast. He enjoyed the feeling.
It was the first time that he had had such a long training. He had not expected it to be so addictive. He felt better compared to how he had felt before shadowboxing, and he headed straight to the bathroom to take a shower. He could not predict any future turmoil. The only thing he could control was himself, and he had to keep improving if he wanted to be ready to face any future challenges. Be it the stone age or the 21st century, capabilities were always the key to survival. It was only the level of cruelty that varied. The reason he had undergone so much training in the past was to get strong, and that hadn’t changed.
The next morning, Captain Chen gave him a call to tell him to come and collect the snake skin right after breakfast. He immediately called a cab and headed to Gaotang. He walked into the restaurant where Captain Chen and Zhao Qiang were having tea.
“Hi, Captain. Hi, Zhao Qiang. There you both are!” Luo Yuan greeted them, smiling.
The two of them just watched him without saying anything. Luo Yuan felt uncomfortable. He smiled awkwardly while he asked, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you looking at me like that?”
Captain Chen coughed once and stared at him seriously.
Luo Yuan got panicked. He thought he might be involved in a criminal case. However, the only fight he had had recently was the one with Wang Fei. What if Wang Fei was dead? He rejected that thought because if that were the case, then he would be meeting them at the police station, not at a restaurant.
He decided to just ask them directly, "Did something happen?"
Captain Chen tapped the table with his finger and replied slowly, "No, nothing happened. But we have some questions for you, and you better tell us the truth."
"What is the relationship between you and Chen Weiqiang? What you told us before does not match my investigation report. I believe you know us both well enough. It’s your call whether to tell the truth or keep lying," he tried to intimidate him indirectly.
Luo Yuan was trying to figure out what the best plan would be while he listened to the Captain.
He knew he could not hide it any longer, so he replied with a grin, "I see his girlfriend as a sister, so it makes sense to treat Chen Weiqiang as a brother-in-law, doesn’t it? Besides, it was just a spur-of-the-moment idea during a stressful time. Is it really so bad to be passionate and helpful?”
Zhao Qiang laughed before saying, “Of course not! However, you seemed to be too passionate, which seems suspicious, if you ask me.”
Luo Yuan carefully answered, “Is this an occupational disease? I know you meet a lot of bad people in your line of work, but it’s unfair to question a good person. Don’t you agree?”
Zhao Qiang tried to pry by asking, “Oh, really? Do you have a crush on that woman? I think so, otherwise you wouldn’t be so passionate about her. I heard that the two of you are living together. Is it true?”
They had met all the family members of the victims, and Zhao Yali had been the most impressive one. They had only found out that she was not his sister after talking with her. Captain Chen and Zhao Qiang had decided to tease Luo Yuan to get back at him.
“I’m not that kind of person.” Luo Yuan was speechless. Although he did like her, he would never have done that to Chen Weiqiang.
“Hey, enough. We’ve got more important matters to discuss,” Captain Chen interrupted Zhao Qiang. “Here’s the deal, Luo Yuan. Would you like to join the police? We’re talking about an official officer role, which is different than working in federal defense,” Captain Chen told him.
“An officer? I thought that required specific qualifications,” Luo Yuan said uncertainly.
"That’s how it used to be. However, ever since we reported the snake incident, the Chief Minister has been paying close attention to this issue, and he issued a memorandum to recruit more policemen. That’s why I wanted to check with you."
Captain Chen had been impressed by Luo Yuan’s performance. Most importantly, he admired his character. Luo Yuan had saved his life, and he had also been willing to sacrifice himself for his friend.
"What’s happening? Is the situation getting worse?" Luo Yuan did not agree right away. He was too shocked.
"I don’t want to hide the truth from you. You will find out eventually. We are facing a workforce shortage in almost all levels, but especially in the villages. There are too many criminals and people just keep going missing. I also heard that the government is going to burn down the forest once they have enough manpower," Captain Chen said, looking very serious.
In fact, the police force was not the only department in need of new recruits. The city armed force had to do the same thing. All weapons had to be regularized and several tons of them had been shipped to the city. This news could not be disclosed to the public if they wanted to avoid chaos.
Luo Yuan hesitated. He had never wanted to be a cop. Besides, the risk of being a policeman was a lot higher than it used to be. He could get killed anytime. However, it was difficult to predict the future. No place was 100% safe anymore. If the villages had become so dangerous so fast, then the danger would soon spread to the city as well.
“I need to think about it,” Luo Yuan told Captain Chen after some consideration.
“Alright, I understand,” Captain Chen agreed, nodding his head. Since the day they had come back from the forest, several policemen had left on medical leave and two had handed in their resignations. Wang Fei had been one of those two.
“Oh, here you go!” Captain Chen seemed to remember something. He passed a parcel to Luo Yuan with a smile and said, “Your eyes were very sharp. I was so sad to go back to the office and find this. All the snakeskin has been used to make bulletproof jackets. There are eight pieces in total and the Chief Officer treasures them all. I’ve been asking to have them for quite a long time, but he only gave me one,” Captain Chen told Luo Yuan. “It’s made of four layers of snakeskin, and it’s stronger and lighter than any normal bulletproof jacket. To be honest, I felt like keeping it for myself,” he explained sadly.
“Oh dear! It’s done,” Luo Yuan said happily as he took it into his hands and touched it. It was so light, it barely weighed 250 grams1.
He opened the parcel and held the bulletproof jacket in his hands. It was a vest with a few snake scales attached to the front with superglue. It felt so smooth and shiny when he touched it. It was like artwork. Its only imperfection was its hard material. However, it was still considered a good piece compared to the heavy bulletproof jackets made of iron plates.
Luo Yuan secretly used his superpower to analyze the vest.
"Snake Skin Bulletproof Vest."
"Rarity: Light Blue Color."
"Secondary Functions: Protection against certain animals (Weak)."
"Equipment Requirements: None."
"Comments: This is a good bulletproof vest, perfect for preventing bullet and knife penetration. Since it is made from rat snake skin, it could protect you against rats, frogs, and birds. Then again, it could also make them more aggressive."
"Oh! It’s a light blue piece of equipment!" Luo Yuan was so happy and excited.
Most objects were grey, and very few of them were white. Only pieces of really sophisticated technology and equipment were a light blue, blue, or dark blue color. For example, his mobile phone was blue while normal phones tended to be light blue. The more advanced the object, the darker its color would be. But when it came to a bulletproof jacket or something similar that had nothing to do with technology, it was very difficult to get such a good rating.
"What do you think? Not bad, right?" Captain Chen asked with a smile.
"Indeed! Thank you so much. Although I still need some time to consider your offer, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any help," Luo Yuan said as he kept on smiling. He felt safer now that he had the vest.
"Oh, thanks! I wouldn’t want to experience that kind of adventure again, though!" Zhao Qiang quickly said.
They continued to chit chat for a while until Luo Yuan got up to leave.
Luo Yuan saw many harvesters by the roadside on his way home. He did not understand why until he recalled what Captain Chen had told him. Apparently, the governors in Gaotang had decided to burn the farmland and the weeds in order to prevent disaster. Nobody could predict the effectiveness of those measures, but the aggressiveness of the government was telling. The world seemed indeed to be coming to an end.
1斤 (catty) is one of the unit measurements of weight in China, Taiwan, Peninsular of North Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Malaysia. It was commonly used amongst the Chinese community but kilograms is getting popular in the modern society. A catty is approximately 500 grams in China and Taiwan, while it is approximately 600 grams in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Malaysia. Therefore, half a catty is about 250 grams in China.