Walking closer, they realized that it was a 60-meter-tall giant lighthouse. There were a few of them in the distance, but they were no longer used for guiding directions. Instead, it gave out a glaring light like a mini sun in the dark, illuminating the place as bright as day. Attracted by the light, countless mutated insects gathered around the lighthouse. Some of them were even killed by the huge electric arc that let out an occasional spark or two.
The base of the lighthouse was covered with dead insects. As Luo Yuan and the gang were walking towards the lighthouse, they spotted another pile of dead insect bodies – about 40 meters high – on top of the existing ones. At this rate, the lighthouse would probably be buried by the dead insects, come next morning.
The lighthouse was like a giant insect’s vacuum; almost all the nearby insects congregated at a single spot. There were hardly any insects along the way as Luo Yuan continued his journey. After passing the other three lighthouses, a silhouette of a city appeared in front of them.
It was a city filled with darkness. It was around 8 o’ clock at night and the sky was already almost pitch black. There were no lights at all from the faraway cities; it was immersed in complete darkness. If not for the funnels that were puffing thick smoke, it could very well pass off as a dead city. The air was reeking of industrialism; some of which foul, while some were choking. The odor was even stronger than it was prior to the apocalypse.
Most of them who were used to fresh air were not able to adapt to this environment, and started coughing. It was probably not being managed properly as the fumes were released straight into the air. But at that moment, even radical environmentalists would be rejoicing. At least one of them in the gang was enjoying the stench.
"What is that? Is that a wall?" Luo Yuan asked curiously about the shadow that was surrounding the city.
Although Commander Xia’s vision was not as good as Luo Yuan’s, he knew what he was talking about. "That would be a carnivorous vine. They are dangerous and capable of swallowing an entire animal. Here, we use it as a wall. It works even better than a real wall, and although it is not able to defend us against large-size mutated beasts, it can stop the smaller ones from entering."
The wall of carnivorous vines was five meters high. There were mouths that looked like flowers snapping open and shut, while exuding a sweet fragrance to attract its prey. They were not scarce after the apocalypse, and throughout his journey, Luo Yuan had seen more than 10 types of its species. However, using them as a wall was a first. It was something new to him, and he could not help but observe it a few more times.
They walked around it and found the entrance. The wooden door was six meters tall and five meters wide. It was locked. The moment they arrived, a sound was heard from a hidden loud speaker.
"Everyone, stop walking. Who are you? Which unit are you from?"
"We’re the survivors from the outlands!" shouted Luo Yuan, not wanting to cause any trouble.
The person on the other side paused, "Please flash your ID towards the camera, and stay back for the inspection."
There really were a few cameras around. Luo Yuan hopped off the giant lizard, showed his ID and waited patiently. The sentinel was efficient, as after half a minute, the door swung open. A team of four fully armed soldiers walked out. One of them checked his ID carefully, and looked at Luo Yuan, "This is yours… How about the rest? All of you, please come here for identification."
Luo Yuan felt a little uncomfortable. Perhaps it was the fact that these enforcers gave off a forceful and condescending vibe. But soon, he felt better. He reminded himself that this was the reconstruction area, not the wilderness. He should begin to adapt to the norms here by now, as he no longer called the shots.
Everybody flashed their IDs. Once the identification process was over and done with, the person said, "The IDs are valid, but we regret to inform you that as there were no survivors coming in for the past two months, the service center had been shut down and nothing can be done now. I’m afraid you are not allowed to enter the city today. Please come back tomorrow instead."
"What did you just say? We traveled a long way to get here, and we are already right in front of the door. Do you expect us to sleep outside for the night?" Before Luo Yuan could finish his sentence, Lin Xiaoji could not help but interrupt. Anger was written all over his face; the rest were dissatisfied too.
"We’re really sorry but there’s nothing we can do. This is especially for quarantine purposes, as the most important task cannot be carried out at night. For the safety of Desert City, we are unable to let you in." said one of the soldiers, in all seriousness. Lin Xiaoji was just about to retort, but he was stopped by Luo Yuan. "That’s enough, let’s just sleep outside tonight!"
"Thank you for understanding!" a soldier said, with a sarcastic look on his face.
The door was then shut. Looking at the city of darkness upon them, they had lost all their excitement.
After walking a few hundred meters away, they found a relatively flat space to be their campsite of the night. Instinctively, they then collected some twigs nearby to start a fire.
The atmosphere was depressing, even Luo Yuan was down in the dumps. He understood that it was a mandatory procedure, as they had been in the wilderness where they could have been infected by unknown strains of viruses and bacteria. That was clearly the reason why they would not let them in just like that. Although it was well-understood, he was not pleased with the misfortune. Of all people, why must this happen to him?
They talked for a little while, before everyone sat quietly, deep in their own thoughts. As they will be entering the reconstruction area tomorrow, many things that they never had to worry about before, such as jobs and life, ought to be discussed now.
‘Pre-apocalypse’. This term was made up of two words that were so mundane, yet so wonderful. Even the thought of it was enchanting. Only fictional characters would rejoice when they knew that war was coming, but to most people, they were sick of wars. After all, you only have one life, and peace was what most people wanted.
The city not too far away was really quiet and peaceful. Even out of the city, there were hardly any mutated beasts out there. They were like two different worlds, one was heaven while the other was hell. They did not have to put their lives at risk there, nor did they have to be in a constant state of fear. They could even have the luxury of a nine-to-five life there like they used to.
It was a full moon night today; the clear moonlight emitted a mesmerizing halo. Luo Yuan could not remember what the date was today, and he could not determine whether it was summer or fall. It felt like forever since he left prior to the apocalypse, so long that it was almost wiped out completely from his memory.
He frowned and snapped out of his thoughts. There was a light quake on the ground, with soft sounds of a collision. Noises could be heard as if buildings were collapsing from a distance, as well as people screaming. He stood up and looked into the horizon.
The noise sounded like the desert bug that he encountered previously.
"Luo Yuan, what’s wrong?" Hua Jiahui asked curiously, as she noticed Luo Yuan standing up.
They did not have such sharp sense of sound like Luo Yuan did, so they were oblivious of their surroundings!
Luo Yuan shook his head and said, "Nothing!"
It was too far away from what was happening anyway. As the bug was elusive, it was pointless for him to rush there. Also, the city should have good defense force. The sound of collapsing buildings still echoed from time to time, while the crying and screaming noises were getting more and more intense. Although the hysterical screams were just a few kilometers away, Luo Yuan could empathize the people’s fear and desperation.
The defense system of the city was highly efficient. In a few minutes, gunshots and roars of cannons could be heard. The sound became weaker as it dissipated through the air. Not long after, Luo Yuan’s facial expression had changed. It seemed like there were going to be more than one bug coming their way.