Luo Yuan sincerely believed that they were already in hell, but the truth is that what laid before his eyes proved to be much worse. He could not imagine what the future would be like upon gazing into the distance. With the coastline coming inwards, numerous survivor bases built around the coastal area would be engulfed in water, leading to the inevitable deaths of its occupants. This much, he understood- the living environment for humankind would only get worse from here onward.
He went back to the fortification with sadness in his thoughts, collapsing into a corner with some force. He looked lost in thought, but his mind was empty. Luo Yuan looked up and noticed the sky had darkened. He snapped himself out of his trance and quickly tried to think of what to do next.
“Can’t wait no more. We have to leave here as soon as possible. Probably have to depart first thing tomorrow morning.”
For some reason, he had a premonition that the place would become immensely dangerous if they did not leave soon. He stood up and rummaged for the required firearms. Luo Yuan retrieved two sniper rifles, 18 rifles, along with a few boxes of grenades and bullets. He even found a dozen combat suits in the closet. The soldiers’ uniforms were ripped and worn out, so these were very handy.
With a whistle, the lizard came to him at the entrance looking troubled. It was grunting continuously. Luo Yuan comforted it and went out to chop a rattan. Skinning the bark off to make some strong ropes, he tied the few boxes into a bundle and hung them onto the lizard’s back.
When Luo Yuan got onto the lizard, it ran like a fleeing prey before its owner even gave out a command. Under the setting sun, Luo Yuan turned and looked towards the damaged sea bridge thinking this was probably the last time he would see it.
However, he suddenly stopped the lizard when they passed one of the streets. He jumped off and went to the side of a building. Pushing away some rattan which revealed a huge rock. Of course, it was easy for him to move the rock, so he pushed it away to enter a hole that was about a meter tall. The building was a supermarket, the one he had gone to a few days earlier which still had a group of survivors. Now that the bay was no longer existent, Luo Yuan felt obliged to notify them as a fellow survivor. This action was basic morality- the value that Luo Yuan held close to his heart.
It was up to them if they chose to listen or not. Luo Yuan was no longer affected by life and death after being through so much. He hurriedly got to the fourth floor where the survivors were hiding. The steel door that Luo Yuan damaged previously was already replaced with a new one.
He knocked on the door and asked, “Is there anyone here?”
His voice echoed in the quiet, empty supermarket.
“Don’t be nervous, if you recognize my voice, I came here a few days ago,” Luo Yuan continued.
After what felt like a long 10 seconds, there was finally a reply.
“Damn it, shut up. What do you want? Have you not taken enough? We have nothing else!” A person said in a suppressed voice, his tone laced with anger and anxiety. The man continued, “You’re too loud! It’ll cause us trouble! Everyone will die because of you!”
“Don’t talk to him! He’s bad luck. If he didn’t come in the other time, Xiaofeng wouldn’t have died. If he dares to come in, we’ll fight him!” Another person spoke in agitation followed by noises of commotion from the rest.
“That was him looking for death himself! Acting boldly and wanting to go out to have a look. Look what’s happened!” Another person said.
“It’s still him! If he didn’t come in, would Xiaofeng go out thinking it’s already safe? It’s all him, him him him!” Another raspy voice said.
“Quiet! Quiet! Are you guys only gonna stop when the devil comes?” Another person responded.
An argument broke out inside. Nobody knew that it was safe outside now, but even if they did, they would probably not come out. The fear of death had made them prefer the dark store and spoilt food rather than coming out and having a look for themselves.
Luo Yuan then became a bit hesitant, not sure if he should tell them the brutal truth. Perhaps ignorance was bliss, and they already knew they could not stay alive for long and were lying to themselves as having enough food was already a problem.
After much hesitation, Luo Yuan did not let the cat out of the bag. He merely brushed it off and warned them that it was getting more dangerous outside. He also added that he was leaving tomorrow and if anyone wanted to follow him they could meet him at Lanting subway station at 7 am.
Luo Yuan then elevated himself onto the lizard’s back once more and sighed. He was uncertain of the number of people coming, but he was almost certain that the biggest possibility was that not a single one would show up.
“Why is he not back yet?” Huang Jiahui was getting anxious.
She looked at her watch, and it was already 5 pm! Luo Yuan had gone out since noon. She kept trying to prevent herself from thinking that something bad might have happened to Luo Yuan. She talked herself into believing that he would be okay since there weren’t many beasts in Jiaping City now and Luo Yuan was very good at protecting himself.
“He should be coming back anytime now… maybe he got delayed by something,” Wang Xiaguang comforted Huang Jiahui even though she was looking equally anxious.
“Should I go look for him?” Wang Shishi asked.
Huang Jiahui hesitated and shook her head, “Never mind, it’s almost nightfall.”
Zhao Yali did not speak, but her hands had an iron grip on her clothes.
The soldiers were still sleeping soundly with loud snores that echoed one another. They would probably not be able to wake up until the next day. The physical and mental exhaustion they endured required long hours of sleep to overcome.
The sky was progressively getting darker, and soon it was pitch black aside from the light from the fire in the subway station.
“Why don’t we eat first?” Lin Xiaoji asked while patting his already growling stomach. Their meal had been ready for some time now, and the rich collagen in the mutated meat would coagulate quickly and be hard to chew without healthy, strong teeth.
“If you’re starving, eat first. We’ll wait.” Huang Jiahui spoke softly.
“Then forget it,” Lin Xiaoji said. He had no guts to eat alone even though he had already been given permission.
Time passed slowly, and finally, heavy footsteps were heard faintly in the distance. The sound got clearer as the ground quaked then stopped when it was near.
Huang Jiahui breathed a sigh of relief and stood up.
“It’s the lizard’s footsteps. Brother Luo is back!” Wang Shishi chirped.
“I’ll go reheat the dishes,” Cao Lin said joyfully.
Just as she finished speaking, Luo Yuan had already appeared at the subway station.
“Why are you so late?” Huang Jiahui chided.
“Some stuff came up.” Luo Yuan replied hastily and spoke to Huo Dong and Lin Xiaoji, “Don’t eat yet, move the firearms from the entrance here first.”
Huang Jiahui was still the one who understood him best, and as usual, she caught on immediately, “What’s wrong?”
“Sea bridge… The water level has risen a lot. I don’t know the actual situation, but I don’t have a good feeling about it. We can’t stay here anymore. We depart to Hucheng tomorrow,” Luo Yuan said.
“Will it be too rushed? Lao Huang hasn’t recovered.” Wang Xiaguang spoke looking at the worried Zhao Yali.
“I’m concerned that it’ll be too late if we don’t leave tomorrow.” Luo Yuan sighed in reply.
Everyone was alarmed by this information. Things must have been severe judging from Luo Yuan’s expressions and words.
Luo Yuan looked at Zhao Yali who looked hesitant to speak. He told her gently, “You don’t have to worry about Lao Huang. I’ll feed it food cubes tonight, and it should be able to walk by tomorrow.”
The dinner was quiet with different thoughts running through everyone’s mind.
The comfort they experienced over the last three days had cleansed their gory and cruel memories. Thinking about having to go through new challenges and putting their lives at stake once more had everyone feeling particularly blue.
Zhao Yali cleaned the utensils quietly after their meal. She had been keeping to herself other than occasionally speaking to Wang Xiaguang. She felt out of place here. Luo Yuan observed her movements, and the familiarity of it brought back memories of when they rented a house together before the apocalypse happened.
She was somebody else’s fiancé then. Each time she wiped the table during the summer, her unintended exposure of her fair skin would make Luo Yuan’s heart beat faster. People thought she was too delicate, but it was only her being timid. She could clean the house to a sparkling state every day and make delicious meals, mastering each house chore to perfection. She was not used to holding a knife though, and her cuts often ruined the mutated meat. She was not used to firing guns either, and her bullet holes were often bloody and blunt. She was but an ordinary woman who took everything life threw her way with a tinge of naivety.
Luo Yuan sighed, asking her to head out with him after she finished wiping the table. Zhao Yali hesitated before following him out. Her expression remained cold as she asked, “What do you want?” Since the conflict, Luo Yuan had been cold and had not spoken to her for a long time. It made her bitter, and she resented him for it.
“I have something to tell you.” Luo Yuan did not know where to start. He thought for a while and said, “I said the tide’s risen at the sea bridge just now, but it’s much worse in reality. The place had already become a borderless ocean. I don’t know where the survivor group you were with had gone to but from the looks of it, I don’t think it ended well for them.”
Zhao Yali covered her mouth in shock. “My condolences if there’s someone you know or were close to.” Luo Yuan comforted her. “There’s nowhere else you can go now.” He added quietly in his heart.