Jumping to conclusions was simply human nature. Once a contagious disease had been mentioned, scenarios of sanitizing, quarantine, and even death immediately filled people’s minds. Sometimes fear could be scarier than the actual threat.
Within just a few seconds, there was no one in sight. Luo Yuan was left standing there with a frown on his face.
He was not afraid of contracting the disease, but he had seen a mutated mosquito hovering near the man’s back when he’d collapsed. He walked towards the struggling, dying man and turned his body over to take a look at his back, ignoring any disgust he was feeling.
A purplish red bump the size of a fist had formed on his already swollen neck. A stream of black blood slowly flowed out of a red dot in the middle of the bump.
“It looks poisonous!” Luo Yuan’s face turned grim.
These mosquitoes were obviously not like the mutated mosquitoes in Hedong City. They had probably come from the woods, which would explain how they’d appeared all of a sudden. The military could handle larger beasts, but they would never have noticed, or even managed to control, insects the size of a fist. The whole defense of Hedong City was like a sieve to these tiny creatures – it could not prevent them from getting in.
Plus, they were too poisonous, which did not match the principle of evolution. No creature, even those at the top end of the food chain, would waste food by poisoning their victim. This would devastate the whole food chain and all species would eventually become extinct. Nature was self-balancing; once one of its links was destroyed, it would cause a chain reaction that would result in devastating repercussions.
It would make sense if the mosquitoes had come from the woods though. Then the poison would only be deadly towards humans. If their prey was a mutated beast, the effect would most likely be similar to a human being bitten by a regular mosquito. However, humans were not mutated beasts, they were too fragile. Poison that would only cause a numbing sensation to mutated beasts could be lethal against humans.
A piercing scream came from afar as a chilling breeze blew past Luo Yuan.
He woke up from his trance, got into his van and drove towards the nearby food market.
At first, there were still people running around helter-skelter, but within a few minutes of driving he could only see bodies on the ground, some of them still struggling while they seized and moaned.
He avoided the bodies carefully along the way. Along several kilometers of journey Luo Yuan came across no less than a hundred bodies.
The van came to a halt in front of the food market.
The guards were just about to close the doors when Luo Yuan jumped off his van and shouted, “Hold up! I want to buy some rice!”
“We’re closing, buy it tomorrow!” a gangly, rather dark-skinned guard said. He looked worried as he signaled for the guards around him to pull down the roller shutter.
Luo Yuan accelerated, holding up the steel slat forcefully before the guards could shut the roller shutter completely. “Come on, Brothers. This will only take a few minutes. If you’re fast, maybe even less than a minute.”
“What are you doing?” The tall, thin guard had been caught off guard. One moment the guy was getting off his car and the next he was already holding up the roller shutter.
“There isn’t enough food at home anymore, what with the things happening outside. You guys should know. Without food, my whole family’s gonna die of starvation.” The guards were armed, and Luo Yuan did not want to cause any trouble, so he took a stack of 100 catties of food stamps out of his pocket and thrust them through the gap of the roller shutter without even looking, “Please make an exception, Brothers.”
The gangly guard picked up the stack of food stamps and counted them – there were 18 of them in total. It would be a lie to say that he was not affected.
He might be working for the government but he was just extra personnel. Of course there were some side-benefits but it wasn’t much. It was barely enough for him not to starve. He had never seen this much money, but he hesitated, thinking of the mysterious deaths outside.
“Sir!” an older guard could not help but voice out when he saw his team leader hesitate. Money made the world go round. That was how the saying went.
The gangly guard came back to his senses once he saw the wishful expression on his subordinates’ faces. “How much do you want?”
Luo Yuan did not want to appear greedy, “Five packs of 50-catty new food.”
The guards’ eyes shone. Two hundred and fifty catties of food would cost at most 375 catties of food stamps; the leftover 1400 food stamps would all be theirs.
“You guys bring some packs over, quickly!” the gangly guard ordered. The market operated on a quota basis, but anyplace managed by humans always had its loopholes. They were the market’s guards after all. As long as the request wasn’t too big, they still had certain privileges.
Several buff guards rushed to the warehouse and brought the five packs over, pushing them towards Luo Yuan through the gap under the door.
Luo Yuan dragged the food to the side when he saw that they were about to close the door. “Wait!”
The gangly guard was immediately on alert. He quietly pulled out his pistol while the others followed suit. “We’ve already given you the food, what else do you want?” he asked in a low voice.
Luo Yuan could sense everything that was happening behind the roller shutter; he pulled out another 6 pieces of 100 catties of food stamps and passed them through the gap generously, “Don’t misunderstand me, my friends. It was my pleasure working with you. I hope there’s a next time.”
Under the circumstances, nobody knew when the crisis was going to end. If the situation got more critical, this amount of food would not suffice. While these guards were not powerful figures, they could make a hell of a difference during hard times.
The gangly guard was obviously stunned by the amount of money handed over. He had never dealt with such a situation in his job, but he reacted fast, “Sure, I definitely consider you a friend. My name’s Zhou Feng. Come find me next time you want to buy food.”
“I’m Luo Yuan. See you next time.”
Luo Yuan shouldered one of the gunny sacks and carried two more packs of food towards the van.
He was stronger than the average person by 2.25 times. If an average person could carry 75 catties, Luo Yuan could carry around 170 kilograms, which equaled 340 catties. Five packs of food only weighed 250 catties, which was nothing for him.
Luo Yuan headed to the wet market. It was already closed and nobody was willing to open the doors for Luo Yuan, no matter how hard he tried to persuade them. The people inside had obviously been frightened by the deaths outside.
Luo Yuan could break in if he wished, but he was not ready to face the repercussions. Armed guards aside, even if he did manage to come out of the wet market unharmed, he would still attract the attention of the Hedong City Agency of Violence, and that made him think twice.
Luo Yuan drove back to the residential area and carried the food up to the third floor. A strong sour stench welcomed him when he opened the door.
“Why are you so late?” Huang Jiahui looked relieved to see Luo Yuan unharmed as she closed the door quickly. “I heard there was a malignant infectious disease spreading outside and a lot of people died.”
“Don’t worry, it’s not infectious.” He carried all five packs of food into the storeroom as he added, “The virus’ structure is simple and it could mutate on its own. This wave of mutation has a very limited effect on it.”
Huang Jiahui thought about it and instantly knew that he was right – flu viruses were constantly changing, sometimes up to a few times a year, but they did not have much of an influence on anything.
“Oh, I forgot! Have you both closed the windows?” Luo Yuan asked quickly.
“Yeah, we closed them a while ago. Stuffed the gaps with clothes too.”
“No need for that. The people outside died from mutated mosquito bites. It’s fine to leave a couple of gaps.”
Huang Jiahui felt goosebumps all over her body as she heard about the mutated mosquitoes. She had seen them before. They were large in size and once they bit you, a huge extremely itchy bump formed on your skin. She had seen people in the residential area scratch their skin to the point of bleeding after getting bitten. She was a little curious about it. “Getting bitten itches like crazy, but it’s not lethal, is it?” she asked.
Luo Yuan explained what he had seen outside. Huang Jiahui looked stunned as she stood there completely motionless. Her face had turned pale.
Luo Yuan did not say anything else. They checked their inventory and walked around the house, checking each corner to make sure that no mutated mosquitoes had made their way in. Then he said seriously, “This issue won’t be solved overnight. We have enough food, but there aren’t many portions of rice left. All portions will be cut in half from today onwards. We should be able to last another ten days or so.”
Wang Shishi walked out of the kitchen holding a bottle of vinegar. As her fingers moved, vinegar shot out from the bottle into the air, turning into tiny droplets. Gravity seemed to have no effect on them. She explained in a soft voice, “I’m not showing off. We don’t have a sprayer, so Sister Huang asked me to do this!”
The next moment, the drops exploded into mist.
The sour stench inside the house become even stronger.
“Stop, don’t spray anymore,” Luo Yuan stopped her with a pained look.
“What’s wrong?” Wang Shishi looked confused.
During the SARS outbreak, somebody had spread the rumor that vinegar could act as a disinfectant, and from then on, the public always thought of vinegar first anytime they were faced with a similar situation.
“I’ll explain later. Stop spritzing, it smells horrible. Come over here!”