Luo Yuan whistled as soon as he stepped out of the gate. The soldier was initially confused but later widened his eyes and took a few steps back. His hand automatically crept towards his dagger at his hip.
The ground quaked a little when a large object the size of a small hill could be seen from around 100 meters away. The object was a gigantic beast- approximately a dozen meters long and 6 meters tall. Scars and wounds were spotted all over its body, and its bloodied flesh made it look very intimidating. It grunted while its head pointed towards the sky and smoke that was some ten meters long came out with some sparks.
The beast was agile, it shook its head and sprinted over quickly. It was hard to describe, but the scene resembled a high-speed train approaching 200 – 300 kilometers per hour!
The soldier turned pale. He only had a similar experience once, and that image will be forever scarred in his mind. It was during the beast wave when their battalion faced beasts like the one in front of him now. A fourth level beast managed to enter their fortification from a careless mistake and had killed eight soldiers. This was on top of turning over two tanks and causing chaos that increased the death toll to more than fifty people. In the end, it met its doom at the hands of a few machine guns.
To the soldier, the appearance of such a beast was akin to seeing death itself. However, the calmness of Luo Yuan and his signaling whistle earlier had the solder thinking. Even though he was a nervous wreck, he managed to stay rooted without fleeing or attacking and said with much difficulty, “You…”
“Don’t worry. I see that it’s a bit far from here to where you guys rested. Walking will take too much time, why not ride my lizard?” Luo Yuan said with a smile. Just as he finished, the giant lizard had already slowed down and arrived in front of Luo Yuan. After three days of rest and light green level food, in addition to its incredible self-healing ability, it was already feeling much better despite not looking like it.
The lizard leaned towards Luo Yuan’s chest and snuggled against him – looking exactly like a playful puppy. However, the scene looked anything but cute to an ordinary person. Luo Yuan tapped the lizard’s back and hopped on it. He then spoke to the soldier, “Come up too.” The soldier gritted his teeth and nodded.
“It must be true that a soldier who has returned from the battlefield is not as easily frightened of mutated beast compared to ordinary people,” Luo Yuan thought. However, when he pulled the soldier up, he realized that the man had frozen like a statue with his muscles tensed like a rock.
Luo Yuan felt like he had accomplished his purpose. Was the distance that far? Not exactly! They would have arrived within 15 minutes if they just walked. There was no need to bring the lizard along. His sole purpose for doing so was to intimidate the soldier. No knives or guns could do that better than the massive creature in his possession.
Integrating a group into another group, particularly when a smaller group would absorb a larger group was hard to do without a strong leader. Strong not in the sense of attitude but rather their capabilities to lead. It was especially so when the other party consists of battalion soldiers – a group that was so highly disciplined and spirited was the hardest to get along with. Luo Yuan neither expected nor imagined that he could have them completely on his side. He only hoped that they would not cause his group any trouble.
Although the giant lizard did not run, the journey had only taken them 3 minutes. The soldier almost fell when he hopped off the creature. His legs were giving up on him. Luo Yuan looked at the entrance without any intention of going in. He said, “Go let your mates know and ask them all to come out.” The soldier either had a quiet personality or was too shy to speak to strangers. He nodded stiffly and went into the crumbled building instantly.
Luo Yuan waited in silence as he leaned on the lizard’s back. Within a few minutes, an unkempt middle-aged man who looked like the leader came out from a hole in the building followed by five other people who looked the same. They looked closely at the gigantic beast as they walked towards Luo Yuan. Although they seemed to have mentally prepared for it, their halted steps showed that they were still fearful. To conceal their fear, they decided to walk over briskly.
“Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Zhou Yicheng, the battalion commander of this battalion. May I know your name?” The middle-aged man said with a forced smile. He looked like he had put in a lot of effort to smile, but maybe the muscles he needed had not been used for a long time as his gesture was incredibly stiff.
“It’s Luo. Battalion Commander Zhou, let’s skip the pleasantries. I’ve heard that you guys intend to join us?” Luo Yuan spoke directly. The middle-aged man was taken aback by his directness and sighed, “Yes. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve exhausted all our resources here. There’s nothing else for us to do but to wait for our deaths. I’m the battalion commander; I don’t want my comrades to die with me, so please take us in.”
“Nothing to worry about, Battalion Commander Zhou. Survivors are rare these days. We’ll help out if we can but our team doesn’t have a lot of people- there are even a few girls with us. To prevent unnecessary friction and misunderstanding in the future, there’s something I must say first.” Luo Yuan said coldly.
The man and the soldiers sneaked another glance at the lizard. The former smiled forcefully as he said helplessly, “Please, speak.” Luo Yuan went right ahead, “I believe your soldiers have high integrity and discipline. Since you guys intend to join us, I only have one condition – that is for you and your team to be disciplined and follow orders. If you can’t do that, you can go back to where you came from. Do you think you and your team can you do that, Battalion Commander Zhou?” Luo Yuan directed the question to the commander but was looking at all of them as well.
Zhou Yicheng closed his eyes and opened them a moment later. In an exhausted manner, he said, “This is what we should do. I understand.” He took a deep breath and turned towards the other soldiers to speak, “We’ve already come this far… Everyone’s tried their best. From this moment on… I’m no longer your battalion commander, and you’re all not soldiers anymore. You hear?”
The replies were scattered. Some were firm while some sounded hesitant. Some of the soldiers even shed some tears. Luo Yuan took in the reactions. It did not matter whether they were genuine or acting. Regardless of their answers, how they acted in the future was far more important.
He turned towards Zhou Yicheng and asked, “I thought there were about a dozen of you? Why are there only 6?”
“Five of us are injured, and there are another two who have yet to return,” Zhou Yicheng said bitterly.
“Injured?” Luo Yuan asked.
Zhou Yicheng’s expression saddened as he knew that an injured member would be a complete burden to a surviving group. He could not gauge the attitude behind Luo Yuan’s tone and quickly said, “They can still walk. They’re the best soldiers! As long as… they rest for some time.”
“I think you’ve misunderstood me. Bring out the injured members. I can heal them when we return to our temporary shelter,” Luo Yuan said knowing what was on Zhou Yicheng’s mind.
“That’s wonderful!” Zhou Yicheng was ecstatic.
The other soldiers were delighted as well, and a few of the impatient ones were already going into the building to retrieve their injured comrades.
“As for the pair who has yet to return, give me their coordinates. I’ll go look for them,” Luo Yuan continued.
“Okay, great.” Zhou Yicheng was surprised and said, “Bring the map over quickly.”
Luo Yuan went out on his lizard but when he returned he only brought one person as the other had already died.
When he delivered the news, there was no extreme reaction other than silence. It was too common for them who have struggled in conditions no different from hell and survived.
The team departed quickly.
There was a total of 13 people- Luo Yuan and the 12 remaining survivors. This was nothing for the lizard as everyone fitted nicely on its broad back. Half an hour later, they made it back.
All the injured members were immediately carried inside the subway station.
“Prepare plenty of food and hot water. Is Chen Xianfeng not back yet?” Luo Yuan spoke while walking.
“He’ll most probably be back before lunch,” Cao Lin answered.
“Mm… let me know when you see him.” Luo Yuan then turned and spoke to Zhou Yicheng, “Everything is limited here but if you notice anything lacking or unsatisfactory do let me know.”
Zhou Yicheng sighed and said, “Sorry for the trouble.”
Luo Yuan waved, “You’re not taking me as one of your own if you remain so courteous. You can only do greater things once you’re all well fed and rested. Besides, there’s something I’d like to mention first. This area is just our temporary shelter. We’ll depart again after five to six days. At that point, you guys can decide whether you prefer to stay or leave with us.”
Zhou Yicheng quickly asked, “Brother…Brother Luo, where you are heading to?”
“It’s getting more and more dangerous here, especially since Jiangnan Province is near to the sea. The earlier we leave, the better the chances we have at surviving.” Luo Yuan then thought about the turtle and got into a trance. He had always had a bad premonition. The ocean made up 70% of the earth, and the amount of living creatures it contained would far exceed those on land. In addition to the length of time since the outbreak, they would have long evolved into much stronger entities in comparison to those on land. Once these creatures, or even just a small portion of them, moved towards the land, the ecology of the land would be destroyed without a doubt.
He snapped out of the trance and continued, “To the northwest, around Taklamakan. We’ve heard that they are reconstructing that area so it should be safer there.” Zhou Yicheng did not reveal anything, but he asked, “Which route are you taking?”
“We’ll take the state highway through Jiaping passing Anhui Province and Beihu Province. The deeper inside it is, the safer it will be.” Luo Yuan had thought long and hard after staring at the map. Zhou Yicheng seemed to want to speak but hesitated. After a while, he decided to talk, “Why not through Hucheng City?”
Luo Yuan was startled. He realized from Zhou Yicheng’s tone that he seemed to be hiding something. Luo Yuan said, “Is there anything you are not telling me? Or is there something you know?” Zhou Yicheng suddenly felt as though the sky had darkened and the air around him thickened. Breathing seemed to be a chore, and his heart lost a beat. What is happening? His steeled resolve allowed him to stay calm. His eyes were glancing around but could not notice a trace of strangeness. By now, his vision darkened, which was a sign that he was about to faint. Just as he felt like he was losing consciousness, the feeling disappeared all of a sudden, just like how it had come. “I’m sorry. I still can’t control my aura.” Luo Yuan said apologetically. It had happened quite a few times now in the past few days which made most people afraid to go near him.
Zhou Yicheng could not respond. He was gulping for oxygen like a fish out of water. He finally recovered after some time and said. “It’s alright. I’m at fault for not being clear. This is not considered confidential now anyway.” There was nothing else Zhou Yicheng could say. Whether the episode earlier was a threat or simply Luo Yuan losing control, he ought to behave accordingly being under someone else’s shelter. He arranged his words and spoke slowly, “You should know that the reconstruction area is China’s last resort and final base to counterattack.”
Luo Yuan nodded. Of course he understood. Countless of similar incidents had happened throughout history, and this was the result of exchanging space for time. The only difference between now and then is that the enemy used to be humans instead of mutated beasts.
“Yeah, this is the government’s plan but everything happened too quickly. Who knew that the situation would worsen at such a rapid speed? There’s no time to prepare at all.” Zhou Yicheng said. He then continued, “According to what I know, despite a significant amount of construction work being done there, they have only completed phase 1 and 2. Sourcing for such large quantities of equipment and raw materials needed was not an easy task.
Hucheng City is the country’s center for finance and technology. Its status is unparalleled in the whole of China. It is seen as invaluable since it developed labs containing a lot of advanced equipment. The country simply cannot and will not give it up. There are a few of such cities, and none of them have given up completely.
“How do you know? This type of information is highly classified. Its exposure could leave all survivors mad.” Luo Yuan asked.
“One of the people in-charge of Hucheng City is my friend in military school. He coded the message to me but that phone is destroyed now.” Zhou Yicheng changed his expression and told Luo Yuan seriously, “Send us to Hucheng City. I’ll bring you guys to the reconstruction area. A few additional people on a large aircraft would not be a problem.”