When Luo Yuan headed back down, half the staircase on the third floor collapsed, almost causing him to fall.
As he walked out of the building, the others surrounded him.
“Brother Luo, would you like to earn some money? If you bring my things out, I shall remunerate you fairly,” Cheng Guohua said airily, confident that Luo Yuan would say yes. He had tried to go up earlier, but he had retreated as the building looked too dangerous for him.
“We will, too. As long as you bring our things out, I will pay you,” the man of the couple said in a softer tone.
Luo Yuan was fed up. He had to hold himself back from slapping him. His face darkened as he said, “My life is worth more than you can pay me. You couldn’t afford me if you sold yourselves. Go look for somebody else.”
As soon as he finished his sentence, he turned away, not waiting to see Cheng Guohua’s reaction. He was afraid that he might not be able to control himself and would end up beating the man up.
The grains had been scattered all over the place and both Huang Jiahui and Wang Shishi were trying to gather them with their hands.
“Everything else is intact, but the bags were torn and about half the grains are scattered. We could get them back if we had a sack,” Huang Jiahui said in distress when she saw Luo Yuan head over.
Grains had always been precious, but even more so now that the end of the world seemed to be approaching. Fear had caused many people to try and buy as much as possible, which had resulted in a grain shortage all around the country. Furthermore, the crops that used to be taken care of could no longer compete against the weeds, which had proved resistant to high-concentration weedicide sprays. Therefore, the fields around the country were being neglected and grains were in short supply. If the issue was not solved or a new high-competence species was discovered, they would be facing starvation on a larger scale. Grains were always the main food source during a war.
Luo Yuan looked both left and right; everywhere around him was complete devastation. It would be very difficult to find sacks. He sighed and said, “I’ll look around, but I’m not very hopeful. If only that jeep was still here. I thought I earned it, but I somehow feel the loss now.”
“Oh yes! Why I didn’t think of that? There are so many cars in the parking area, it’s a waste to just leave them there. Why don’t we use them?” Huang Jiahui said brightly.
“Weren’t you a cop? And yet you know how to steal a car?” Luo Yuan looked at her, completely stunned.
“What?” Huang Jiahui felt uneasy being looked at that way. She seemed vexed as she said, “My dad used to have an old car with lots of issues. He had to start the engine manually most of the time. That’s why I know. I have seen it many times. Unfortunately, many cars today use the battery to start the engine. Hmmm…I wonder if there are any old cars in the parking area.”
“You can go look for one while I will wait for you here!” Luo Yuan did not want to ask about her family. It seemed like a taboo subject at the time.
Huang Jianhui clapped her hands and stood up. “I will check it out then. Hopefully I will find one.”
“Please look for some gasoline as well. With so many cars there, there must be some leftover. Get as much as possible. I’ll get you a container.” Luo Yuan looked around, but all he could find was a can of prunes. He poured them all out and put them into Wang Shishi’s hands while he passed the empty can to Huang Jiahui. “Just use this to scoop it up!”
She rolled her eyes and said, “Can I have your knife, too?”
“What do you need it for?” Luo Yuan asked curiously.
“The mouth of a gas tank is not all that big. Unless I open it up with the knife, how will I be able to scoop the gasoline up with this prune can? Should I use the rifle?” Huang Jiahui said impatiently, her tone full of resentment. Of course she would complain. She was a beautiful woman being asked to go get some stinking gasoline.
Luo Yuan smiled embarrassedly as he passed her the knife.
Huang Jiahui stared at him before she turned and walked towards the parking area.
Luo Yuan looked at Wang Shishi who was still working hard on gathering the grains. He patted her on the shoulder and said, “Alright, you can stop and rest for a while. I’ve got something to ask you.”
He led her to a place farther away from the building and sat down.
Wang Shishi also sat down apprehensively. “Uncle?”
Luo Yuan looked at her and knew that she was worried. It was normal for a little girl who had lost her parents to feel insecure, and be scared of anything happening for fear of being abandoned again. Which was exactly what he wanted to talk to her about. He said gently, “Sweetie, please don’t think any nonsense. How could I abandon you? You’re too cute. Plus, I have more than enough food to share with you.”
Wang Shishi blushed slightly and peeped at him. “Thanks, Uncle. Or maybe I’ll just call you Brother Luo from now on!”
“That’s up to you,” Luo Yuan said indifferently. It was just a name after all. “Also, please don’t restrict yourself next time, or people may think that I’m mistreating you. Just do whatever you want.”
“By the way, have you noticed any changes on your body recently? Do you feel stronger, for example?” Luo Yuan asked. He was thinking that the small amount of marinated rat meat that they’d been having for every meal lately might have had some kind of effect on her.
Wang Shishi thought for a while before she said, “I think I feel a little stronger. I used to get a stomachache whenever I run a small distance during gym class, but now I can run faster and my stomach does not ache either!”
Wang Shishi hesitated a little before she added, “And there’s been some other changes too.” Then she blushed and bowed her head.
“What changes?” Luo Yuan asked as he thought to himself, “Don’t tell me she has evolved?” He knew that the identification technique that could be used to cook food was not able to trigger evolution.
“Brother Luo…” Wang Shishi’s face was blushing a deep red. She twisted her shirt in her fingers as she said, “I…I think my breasts have gotten bigger, and every time I eat rat meat I feel like they’re swelling.”
Luo Yuan instinctively looked at Wang Shishi’s breasts and found that they had indeed changed. Her chest, that used to be almost flat and only slightly stuck out, had now become bigger and the two dots in the middle were hard and pointed. It was obvious that she was not wearing any underwear.
Unfortunately, there was no girly underwear inside the house.
Wang Shishi felt shy under Luo Yuan’s gaze. Her breathing became heavy and quick as she said in a low voice, “Brother Luo, I know boys like touching girls’ breasts. You can touch them if you want to.”
Luo Yuan blushed slightly when he heard her and said angrily, “Who told you this? Why would you learn such naughty things at such a young age?”
Wang Shishi started trembling in fear. Her eyes turned red and tears slid out as she said, “Brother Luo, I haven’t done anything naughty. My ex-boyfriend always wanted to touch me but I never let him.”
In other words, she had wanted him to touch her, but instead of showing gratitude, he had scolded her.
Boyfriend? Luo Yuan was speechless as he looked at Wang Shishi, whose body had just started to develop. He had always thought of himself as someone pure. He had only gotten himself a girlfriend when he’d gone to university, and they’d had intimate relations only after they’d been dating for a year. He felt that he had distanced himself from society and was no longer able to follow the latest trends.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. I should not have said that you’re a bad girl. Please stop crying,” Luo Yuan tried to comfort her. He had initially wanted to educate her, but he gave up eventually. At least what she’d said proved that she was a kind, grateful girl. Her method had just been a little unorthodox.
As he talked, Wang Shishi felt even worse. Tears kept rolling down her cheeks as she sobbed, “You’re such a hypocrite, saying that you don’t want to touch me…when you have been touching me all along.”
“What?” Luo Yuan was shocked. He tried to think back, but he could not recall what she was referring to. Confused, he asked, “Are you kidding me? When did I touch you?”
“At the parking area. When you pushed me down, your hand was on my breast…It still hurts!” Wang Shishi said, pursing her lips.
“Did I?” Luo Yuan said embarrassedly. It had been an emergency, so he hadn’t payed much attention. He did not even know where he had put his hands.
Luo Yuan apologized and talked to her for a while before Wang Shishi finally stopped crying.
An old Volkswagen Santana that was missing a door drove over, making a deep rumbling sound. It stopped beside the pile of supplies.
Huang Jiahui got out from the car. She seemed to be in a bad mood as her face and hands were stained with greasy black oil. She strode over to Luo Yuan and stared at him. When she noticed Wang Shishi’s puffy eyes, she asked, “Why are her eyes red? Have you been bullying her?”
“Who do you think I am? Do I look like a bully to you?” Luo Yuan said sincerely, feeling guilty at the same time.
Huang Jiahui blushed slightly as she thought, “I’m not sure what kind of person you are. If we hadn’t been found, somebody would have killed us while I was still in a daze.”
She continued to gaze at Luo Yuan, looking like a typical policewoman interrogating a criminal.
“Ask Wang Shishi if you don’t believe me!” Luo Yuan tried to defend himself.
“Uncle… Brother Luo did not bully me. I started crying because I was thinking of my parents!” Wang Shishi said in a lower voice, peeping up at Luo Yuan.
“Did you hear? Do you understand now? You cops only know how to accuse others. It’s turning into an occupational disease. Alright, let’s start moving things. We’ll look for a place to stay and then we’ll take it from there,” Luo Yuan said brightly, feeling relieved. He stood up and walked towards the pile of supplies.
Huang Jiahui looked at Wang Shishi doubtfully again. She had observed a light grey handprint on her chest. It could only be seen if somebody looked closely. Had she not been in the police for so many years, she might have missed it.
“And I in the wrong here? He is a total beast, who won’t even leave a little girl alone. I just left for a minute and he already got to her,” Huang Jiahui thought as Luo Yuan walked away. She stopped Wang Shishi before she could follow him. “You must not stay alone with him again, do you hear?” she said earnestly. “Don’t go into his bedroom either. If he tries to do anything to you, you must say no.”
“Sister Huang, Brother Luo is a good man,” Wang Shishi defended Luo Yuan.
“He has a good character, but not when it comes to others. You may not understand yet, but he wants to get you alone…” Huang Jiahui said patiently.
“Sister Huang, I already knew this. Many girls my age have sex. If Brother Luo wanted to, I’d be willing. Now let’s go move the supplies!” Wang Shishi walked towards Luo Yuan as soon as she finished her sentence. Huang Jianhui was left standing there speechless for quite a long time.