"Good evening, my fellow audience. You are now watching the news on CCTV. The President has urged citizens to remain calm during his speech following the inspection of the Nanjing Military Base. He expressed his hope that citizens will stay united to help stabilize society, and his belief that the government and army will be able to diffuse the situation… The President claimed that reinforcements of both the Chinese and American military, as well as improvements in the technology and trading industry, are beneficial to both countries during his meeting with the Vice President of the United States in Southern China. The Vice President of the United States stated that the relationship between China and America is vital to the world’s development, and that the US is willing to cooperate with China towards a mutual goal…
The Yunnan Military Base is currently conducting a series of weapon and bomb training sessions, as well as examining the power of its heavy-lift launching vehicle… In other news, the northern lights phenomena in the North-Eastern region has attracted a lot of people…”
Luo Yuan was focused on the news, trying to analyze the current state of the globe. The tenants above his apartment were quarreling again.
“All you do is eat! We are going to die soon if you can’t get any food by tomorrow!” the female tenant yelled loudly.
“What am I supposed to do? Everything is out of stock at the supermarket, the wet market, even the wholesale market. I’ll try again tomorrow, alright?” The male tenant replied with a sigh.
“All I do is wait! How much longer do we have to wait? We are running out of food soon! I told you so many times to go grocery shopping earlier, but you refused to listen. You told me that you couldn’t get your leave approved. And now what? Your company has shut down!” Her voice could penetrate the walls.
“Why didn’t you go grocery shopping? Why do you always stay at home?” the guy was now raising his voice as well.
“You think I like staying at home? Who the hell is going to take care of the kids, though? Or am I supposed to bring them along to the supermarket? Are you insane? Do you know how dangerous it is out there? There are crimes happening every day!”
The sound of glass breaking and children crying reached his ears.
"Alright, alright! I’ll get some from my friends tomorrow. Things will be fine sooner or later. There is lots of food reserved in the National Granary. The government won’t just let us die," he lowered his voice, trying to comfort his wife.
"You’re driving me crazy! Why did I marry you in the first place? We are running out of food and you don’t even seem concerned! How are we going to survive the coming days?" the wife cried while she kept on shouting.
"Fine! I’ll go to the black market! I’ll get food no matter the cost, are you satisfied now?Just stop shouting, it’s beyond embarrassing!"
Their voices got gradually softer.
There had been so many changes during the past two weeks. Both the news and the internet had been reporting the same things, causing major panic in the public. No matter how aggressively the government tried to urge citizens to calm down, it was proving ineffective. In fact, things kept getting worse every day. Many resources ran out of stock, especially food, and everything was getting more expensive. As a result, there were crimes happening everyday. Robbery, rape, and murder had become a common occurrence. Luo Yuan was not affected, because he had been well-prepared for this situation.
"Hey, Yuan! Let’s have dinner!" Zhao Yali called, coming out from the kitchen.
Luo Yuan switched off the TV and sat down at the table. She had come back 10 days ago. It was sad that she had to go through this ordeal before she could even recover from the pain of losing her fiancé.
Zhao Yali looked cautious while she was eating. After a while, she started to speak, “I went to the wet market again today, but I still couldn’t get anything.”
Luo Yuan responded, “I think it’d best to just stay at home for a while. Things will get better. I don’t think the government would neglect something like this. They will do something to help soon.”
“What about your company?” she asked.
“I have no idea. Everyone is worried. No one can get any work done. I don’t know how long this can go on for,” Luo Yuan replied.
Zhao Yali looked depressed and said, “I’m planning to move back to my hometown. I’m worried about my parents."
Luo Yuan was not surprised. Zhao Yali had been calling her parents a lot lately and always looked bothered. “When are you leaving?” he asked.
“I think the day after tomorrow. My house is located in a village in the outskirts. I’ve heard that it’s very dangerous there, so I need to go back,” she told him, expressing her worry.
Suddenly Luo Yuan’s phone rang. “Beep!” The system had sent him a message. It read, “Optional F+ Level Mission: Make sure Zhao Yali gets back to her hometown safely. Mission fails if she dies.” “No deadline. (Accept/Decline)” Oh no! Another F+ Level Mission?
One of his hands went stiff.
“Are you alright? You look sick,” Zhao Yali said gently.
“Oh, I’m fine. When are you leaving again?” he quickly asked her in an effort to distract her.
“The day after tomorrow. I’ve booked a train ticket,” Zhao Yali repeated. She added, “You can keep everything in this house. Don’t be a stranger!”
She looked happier at the thought of returning to her hometown. Luo Yuan felt uneasy looking at her smile. Zhao Yali would probably die if he declined the mission. He could not put her in such danger. He was silent for a while before he said, “Since you’re so generous, how about I accompany you there?”
“That’d be great, I have lots of things to carry though, so don’t complain later.”
Zhao Yali did not reject his offer because she thought that Luo Yuan would just accompany her to the train station. Plus, she would be gone forever and wouldn’t be coming back to Donghu City anymore. Even though she had been throwing lots of things away, there was still quite a lot to carry, and she had even considered shipping it back to her hometown.
“I think you misunderstood. I meant I’ll be accompanying you back to your hometown. It’s very dangerous in the villages. It’s too risky for you to go there alone,” Luo Yuan said in a serious tone.
“Oh! I’ll be fine, don’t worry. It’s not that far away. It’s just an hour’s journey by train,” Zhao Yali said. She had looked surprised for a second.
"Alright, here’s the deal. I’m not letting you go back alone. I’m going to book a ticket online right now. What’s the destination and departure time?" he asked.
“Yushui City, 1.30p.m.,” Zhao Yali answered.
She knew that Luo Yuan would insist on following her. She was not an opinionated person, plus, all the bad news she had heard on TV and read on websites had made her really worried. However, at the same time, she was facing a dilemma. She did not know how to explain to her parents who Luo Yuan was. She was not sure what people would think of her considering her fiancé had just passed away.
Luo Yuan suddenly asked her, "Is it possible to leave tomorrow?"
"Actually, you don’t have to come with me. I really don’t want to trouble you. I also wanted to go back tomorrow initially, but there weren’t any tickets. There are lots of working foreigners going back to their hometown as well. It’s very difficult to get one."
He waved his hand before saying, “I’ve resigned already, so my schedule is wide open. Just need to book a ticket.” He walked to his room, logged onto the railway service website, and booked it.
Luo Yuan returned to his bedroom after dinner. He took out a long wooden box and removed the lid. There was a Zhanmadao1 lying inside it in a sheath. There were special designs engraved on it. Luo Yuan held the handle while he slowly pulled the sword out from the sheath. Its body was flat and its blade was very thin. The tip was curved but sharp, which made it look scary. It was strong enough to break through any normal metal with just a single strike.
"Materials: 165cm of alloy."
"Rarity: Light Blue."
"Secondary Functions: Attacking Speed +1."
"Equipment Requirements: Strength 11-points."
"Note: This is a modern Zhanmadao. It can break through most materials, including metal.”
Historically, the Zhanmadao had existed since the Han Dynasty and it was similar to a Modao2, a sword that could to kill a horse as easily as it could kill a man. It was a famous weapon in the military battlefield, popular among frontline generals and knights. Apparently, the modern version was different from the ancient one, though. The handle of the modern Madao was shorter and easier to hold using one or both hands, and its body was shorter, reaching an ideal length that added strength to the sword.
Although Luo Yuan’s strength was still below 11-points, even after a period of intensive training, he could still use it well. His only concern was his high energy consumption.
He played around with the sword, swinging it in the air a few times. As this type of sword was very heavy, the gravitational force pulled it forward, making it easier for him to handle it. A normal person without any basic skills or knowledge couldn’t have pulled this off. It was not a big deal for Luo Yuan, though.
He was skilled at using the sword, and his every strike seemed effortless yet impactful in the battlefield. He practiced with the sword in his bedroom, stopping after half an hour. Then he took out a leather cloth and wiped away any unseen dust particles on the sword before sliding it back inside the sheath.
“Although F+ Level Missions are always dangerous, my strengths and skills have improved since my last mission. I got a new attribute point and there are five more points which I haven’t allocated yet. If I allocate all my attributes on knife skills, I think I’ll succeed. I have just the weapon for it!”
1 Zhanmadao is a single long broad-bladed sword with a long handle suitable for two-handed use. Dating to 1072, it was used as an anti-cavalry weapon. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_swords
2 Modao was a sword that could to kill a horse as easily as it could kill a man. It was a famous weapon in the military battlefield, popular among frontline generals and knights. Apparently, the modern version was different from the ancient one, though. The handle of the modern Madao was shorter and easier to hold using one or both hands, and its body was shorter, reaching an ideal length that added strength to the sword.