“There’s an arsenal in the basement.” Huo Dong and the others ran over to report, as Luo Yuan looked around, “But most of the items have been moved, 7 of the cannons placed at the embrasures were taken away too.”
Luo Yuan followed them into the basement, the spacious arsenal was completely emptied. Other than few dozens of large rocket missiles still neatly placed by the corner, not even a box of bullets was left.
“Who do you think moved these?” Luo Yuan asked.
“It shouldn’t be the soldiers here. If they wanted to move them, they would’ve driven the few tanks away too instead of leaving them there. The only possibility is that there could still be survivors nearby,” said Huo Dong said.
Everyone was delighted.
“There are still survivors?” said Luo Yuan, shocked.
It had been uninhabited this entire time, other than some plants and mutated beasts. Desolation and hopelessness were in their minds, as the place had given the illusion that all human traces had been wiped out. With that assumption, everyone seemed to breathe easily.
“Should be around here, I guess.” Huo Dong said, “It’s near the sea here so it’s all saline soil. Plants are lesser here than out there too. We should be safer here than anywhere else.”
“But they’re too inconsiderate; they didn’t leave anything at all! Even blankets and towels were all taken,” Wang Shishi pouted, muttering discontently.
Luo Yuan frowned a little. They had almost nothing now since all their belongings were gone. They had initially wanted to replenish the ones here but it seemed like nothing was left.
“Found any salt?” Luo Yuan asked.
Salt is not only a seasoning, but a necessary component to the human body as sodium and chloride helps to control fluid balance for the functioning of muscles and nerves.
They had not had any salt intake for the last 5 days. Although they did drink a few mouthfuls of mutated blood each day, the amount of sodium in the blood could never compare to the one in salt. Even Luo Yuan felt easily fatigued recently. If they could not find any salt any time soon, he probably would not be able to last any longer too.
“No, we searched everywhere.” Huang Jiahui shook her head, “If we’d known, we would’ve searched for them along the way.”
“We were rushing earlier. It’s just salt, nobody noticed. Who would’ve known it would be so hard to find even a bag of it now. I’ll go over to the opposite base, maybe there’s some there,” Luo Yuan said, sighing.
Less than a minutes later, he returned. It was just the same where he went, everything had been cleared.
Huang Jiahui sighed, “We’ve been out of it for so many days, one more day makes no difference. I guess the stations nearby would have been cleared too. Let’s resume the search tomorrow.”
“We can only do that now. Luckily it’s all sea water here. We’ll just boil them to get salt if everything else fails,” Luo Yuan said, shaking his head.
The group finished having dinner before nightfall; no one had much appetite since there wasn’t any salt. They chose an enclosed room after that, and slept off after dusting it and laying down the bed boards.
Even though the conditions were extremely bare, with not even blankets available, the square room seemed luxurious, compared to the damp and cold tree hole in the forest.
A peaceful night passed, as everyone finally got to have a good night’s sleep.
The weather was still gloomy the next day. The aftermath of the volcano eruption would not seem to clear up anytime soon, imminent of grey skies for a good, long while.
Luo Yuan had been sitting at the door since the break of dawn, wiping off imaginary dust from his machete with a cloth, while staring intently at it.
After such a long time of using the machete along with his willpower, his will had more or less left its mark on the blade, forming a faint, invisible connection between them. Holding the machete in his hand now almost felt like it was an extension of his own arm.
It sounded mysterious, but it was also a common case. You form an inexplicable bond with the things you use often. A lot of experienced technicians would have their own set of tools that they do not simply exchange for another, unless they were forced to. If they ever had to change it, the new set would feel foreign in their hands. One’s will could easily mark itself on tools that has been used for a long time. While the situation with his machete was much weaker in comparison, unnoticeable even, the connection did indeed exist.
Luo Yuan kept his machete back to its scabbard after a while, thinking to depart now as everyone else should have been done packing.
Just as he wanted to move, he heard voices of people talking in the distance. He looked towards its direction after getting over the initial shock.
On the sea bed under the sea bridge, 7 men were walking carefully and talking very softly. Their conversation was rather inaudible, as he was too far away.
They had various cold weapons and explosives with them. They looked like they were hunting, as the 5 men in front continuously poked the mud with their spears, while another 2 rifle-armed men were on the lookout. Luo Yuan could feel the tension, even from a few kilometers away.
Their luck was not bad. They witnessed an aggressive struggle in the mud after several minutes, as a man who managed to stab the beast’s body was flung away by its tail. He stood up quickly with his mouth bleeding, but retreated soon after.
Gunshots fired quickly as the 2 men pulled the triggers aiming at the mud. The beast was shot as the mud was slowly stained red.
They either did not have much bullets or were trying to save them, as the gunshots stopped after a few seconds.
The rest of the men went in as a substitute, brutally stabbing their spears into the struggling ball of mud, while some people were flung away by the force.
These men were ruthless, as their attacks never stopped. The struggle in the mud gradually got weaker and weaker.
A few minutes later, the mud was completely devoid of movement. A eel-like mutated beast about 4 meters long surfaced after the men dug around the mud.
One of the men stabbed his spear forcefully through the beast’s body and all of them carried the body back without wasting any time. They disappearing into the forest in a flash.
Huang Jiahui who walked over, saw Luo Yuan glancing downwards, and asked curiously, “What’s up?”
“I saw people down there just now, not a small number of them too,” Luo Yuan said.
Huang Jiahui exclaimed in disbelief, “There are people down there? The tide will be coming soon, how can they still be there?”
“This place is the sea bed and the tide ebbed not too long ago. Of course it’s safer staying here rather than out there,” Luo Yuan said nonchalently, seeing that the place had less plants compared to other places, “You guys wait up, let me go see what’s up. If it’s within walking distance, we can pass through this seabed. If not, we could at least go home with some salt.”
“Do you need another few people to go with you? If they’ve taken all the weapons here, they should have plenty there. I don’t believe in people turning heartless in an apocalypse, but we should still take precaution,” said Huang Jiahui worriedly. She was less naïve now that she had been through so much.
The destruction of societal structure has made everyone unscrupulous. The pressure to survive a further-decaying humanity, was intense.
“It’s only gonna be troublesome with too many people. Don’t worry, I’ll return in a flash,” Luo Yuan said. With his capabilities now, he would not get hurt unless it was a heavy rain of bullets. Even then, he would only be lightly wounded with the defense of his clothes. He could still escape. If he had too many people with him, he might cause animosity instead.
Huang Jiahui knew how Luo Yuan was, so she could only ask him to be careful.
Luo Yuan nodded and jumped off from the bridge’s rails some ten meters from the ground. With his will, he slowly floated down like a feather, with his feet already stepping on solid ground the very next moment.
Huang Jiahui only came back to her senses from watching him, when Luo Yuan turned to wave at her.
The route was not an easy one. It was filled with soft mud and pits. Luo Yuan’s shoes and pants were stained with mud within a blink of an eye. He shook his heavy shoes, flinging the mud away.
After a while of having his legs in the mud, Luo Yuan finally arrived where the group of men hunted. There were a long trail of footprints extending to the inner part of the forest, an clear indication of their whereabouts.
The plants were sparse and short, their average height barely 3 meters. They resembled more of a thicket instead of a forest, by the current standards.
Luo Yuan followed the footprints and arrived at a small village, after about half an hour.
All the trees within several hundred meters’ radius were chopped down, several dozens of various colored tents were placed in the middle. What shocked Luo Yuan was that there were a lot of people here, who seemed merry. They all wore torn clothes but their faces were painted with all sorts of pigments, concealing what they really looked like.
These pigments must have certain effects. Otherwise, no one would paint such pungent substances on themselves. Luo Yuan could even smell the scent, far from where he stood.
Luo Yuan was further taken aback, when he sensed a strong aura.
He continued walking and soon discovered a large creature by the corner of the village, “A dark blue level mutated beast! There’s a dark blue level mutated beast here!”
It was a fiery red lion-like beast but larger and more valiant than a lion. Even while it was lying down, it was about 3 meters tall. Its fiery fur danced in the breeze like a ball of flames.
It was extremely sharp; its ears were twitching and standing up as its eyes opened to look towards Luo Yuan, as he approached it.
Luo Yuan’s hand went to the handle of his machete gently, as he moved back slowly.
He did not want to start any battles. This beast was obviously someone’s pet. It would be disaster to the whole village, if it ever got killed or hurt.
The creature did not attack right away. Confusion seemed to flash across its eyes as it stared intently at Luo Yuan, without further reaction.
Suddenly, its tail wagged joyfully, as the hostility in its eyes vanished.
Under Luo Yuan’s cautious gaze, the creature moved towards a tent on the left and stopped at the entrance. Its head lowering into the tent as it howled a little. Not long after, a woman with the same painted face followed the beast out.