The next morning, Zhou Rong had a headache — the old armoured vehicle was gone.
Carrying his gun, he turned a couple of times, roaring out, “Si Xiaonan!”
“Si Xiaonan, you better come out now. I’m not joking, quick!!”
The sound of an engine drew closer, and the armoured vehicle slowly made its way over from the other end of the street, stopping in front of the steaming Zhou Rong. The window wound down, and the driver seat will piled with milk powder, candy, and dehydrated cake. Si Nan had an assault rifle slung around him, and in his hand was a jar of honey. As he ate it, his face was tinted a light red.
When Zhou Rong saw that his shoulder was stained with the dark red colour of blood, he knew Si Nan had made a solo trip to rob a supermarket, and exploded. “Leaving the team without official permission! A lack of discipline! Comrade Si Nan, if you were an official member, I would have beat you up personally! Leaving without saying anything, did you consider the consequences?!”
Si Nan stared coldly at him.
“What are you looking at?! If you don’t want to comply, just…”
Zhou Rong had yet to finish, and Si Nan suddenly threw two cartons of cigarettes at his head before swiftly winding the window back up. With a foot to the pedal, he drove towards the main road.
“Hey! Bastard!” Hit by two cartons of Chunghwa cigarettes, he yelled after the vehicle.
Si Nan was truly angry.
Zhou Rong finally ended his tour of plunder. Carrying the two cartons of smoke, he drove his vehicle with a dark expression. The two vehicles drove down the expressway in a row out of B City, and returned to the industrial zone in the evening before night fell. The vehicle Si Nan was driving suddenly sped up, making a turn and headed to the factory’s back garden through a side road.
Was he trying to imply that they should go their own ways?
Turning the steering wheel abruptly, Zhou Rong chased after, a distance behind Si Nan. A few minutes later, he saw him stop by the back gate of the industrial zone. Si Nan jumped off his vehicle with some food items, and with a few moves, he flipped over the fence.
Zhou Rong got Chuncao to watch the vehicle while he silently followed after. With a run, he leapt over the fence, then climbed up the gingko tree beyond the fence and sneakily looked downwards.
Si Nan was still moving forward, following the deserted path and walking towards the ammonia treatment plant. There was an abandoned garage surrounded by weeds.
A slender figure was crouching at the empty space under a window at the back of the garage. Hearing footsteps, that person turned their head, and delightedly came forward.
— It was Wu Xinyan.
Being far away from them, Zhou Rong could not hear what they were saying. He watched them for a moment, an unpleasant feeling welling up within him, and he gave a long exhale.
What have I hoping in vain for? Zhou Rong thought self-mockingly.
That person clearly advocated for Beta rights. It was already good if he did not hate Alphas, what more could he want from him? Also, with his appearance and skills, in an apocalypse like this, there were probably tons of girls who would be willing to attach themselves to him.
Zhou Rong’s throat ached a little. Holding onto the branches, he jumped over the fence, and returned.
“They’re back?” Feng Wentai was incredulous.
The subordinate nodded.
Feng Wentai hastened out of the door, jogging down the stairs to the front yard of the factory. There were already several people gathered there, all survivors who had escaped from T City along with the special force soldiers. The three Alpha bodyguards from the Feng family were on guard there as well, blocking these people, and eyeing the outside with much hostility.
Outside the chain fence was a military armoured vehicle. Coming down from the vehicle, Zhou Rong and his people looked exhausted and weary. They were carrying the injured and comatose Yan Hao, as well as the body bag that contained Zhang Yingjie’s remains.
When Feng Wentai saw their dirty clothes and their mood, he understood, and his heart sank.
However, that captain with the last name Zhou turned his head with a quirk to his lips and ridicule in his eyes. “Feng-xiong! How have you been? Is everything at home ok?”
He did not wait for Feng Wentai’s response, and turned back to give his subordinates some instructions. “Make an inventory of the items as you carry it in, and record them down. Find a place for Yingjie’s body and wait for me to handle it.” He then waved at the crowd, smiling, “Dr. Zheng! My brother here is a little injured, could you please bring two people with you and carry him in to take a look?”
Other than these few special force soldiers, the thirty-odd survivors had already somewhat saw Dr. Zheng as their leader. Hearing Zhou Rong’s words, they did not say anything, and immediately went up to carefully carry the stretcher Yan Hao was on.
“Ah— We’ve only left for a few days, yet it feels like forever has passed!” Zhou Rong stretched his muscles that had stiffened up due to driving for a long time. His joints cracked, and he first waved at the crowd again, then smiled and patted Feng Wentai’s shoulder. “We’ve really troubled Feng-xiong for the past few days! We’ll note your effort down!”
Once the blood had coagulated and dried, after a period of time, the scent of pheromones would fade away, like how corpses would not leave fingerprints after a few days. Zhou Rong’s intense Alpha pheromones had long dissipated. If not, Si Nan would definitely not have been able to accept him striding about like a long-legged masculine hormone nuclear bomb.
However, Feng Wentai did not know that.
He only felt that upon returning, Zhou Rong had immediately acted as though he was the head of the family, and his despondent attitude increased further. Still, he was unwilling to reveal his feelings, and so smiled at Zhou Rong. “It’s good, everything’s good. This is my duty, there’s no need to talk about being troubled. Has Captain Zhou contacted Vice Minister Guo yet?”
Zhou Rong shook his head.
Feng Wentai’s smile dimmed slightly. “Then… We…”
Zhou Rong threw an arm around his shoulders. “Come, let’s go to the canteen. We’ll talk as we walk.”
“So this is the case now.” Ten minutes later, Zhou Rong shrugged, sitting at one of the tables.
It was dinner time, and all the survivors were queuing for food. Only some thin gruel and potatoes were available for them. Not far away, Feng Wentai’s bodyguards were sitting at another table. Each one of them had a gun in their waist holster, and in front of them were white rice accompanied by four other dishes. There were both meat and vegetables, as well as two bottles of beer.
Zhou Rong pretended to not see anything.
“Next, we’ll leave the factory. All the survivors will take the bus, and we’ll head to the general headquarters in Nanhai. We’ve already gotten the most updated information about the virus research, which is very important for developing a vaccine…”
“One of your people has died, and another has been seriously injured?” Feng Wentai interrupted.
Zhou Rong replied, “Yes.”
“And one that looks like… rather young?”
“We’ve lost him,” Zhou Rong spoke succinctly.
“Which means, there’s only the four of you now.”
Feng Wentai was silent for a moment. When he spoke again, there was an evident change in his tone, with some slight traces of aloofness in it. “Pardon me for being rude, Captain Zhou. It’s best for us now to remain staying in the factory, and we shouldn’t act rashly. You should transmit our location to the HQ in Nanhai and get them to send a helicopter over to pick us up. If the information you obtained is as important as you say it is, the central authorities would definitely take the initiative to come collect us…”
“There’s no more ‘central authorities’ anymore,” Zhou Rong replied calmly. “They’re unable to receive our location signal. Before we get into contact with Nanhai, we cannot be sure if Nanhai has fallen yet.”
“Then we should go to Dongbei,” Feng Wentai immediately responded.
“My family has some territories in Dongbei, as well as a grain processing plant. If the people under our employment are still alive, when we gather them up, they can form a relatively impressive military force. Also, the cold in the north can hinder the zombie’s movements, and from every angle, it is safer than going down to the south where the population is denser.”
Feng Wentai had clearly thought about this already, and he spoke continuously and pleasantly, changing the topic again.
“Captain Zhou and the other brothers are very loyal to the country, and are very respectable. However, in this apocalypse, you should still think about yourself. If Captain Zhou is willing to bring your subordinates and join us, I would definitely not dare to slight all of you. When we reach Dongbei, I would make sure everyone of you would have an easy and comfortable life — there’s no need to mention about riches and luxuries in the apocalypse, but at least, your life will be no worse than how it was before. What do you think of this?”
Chuncao, Guo Weixiang and Ding Shi finished taking stock of all items. Carrying their lunchboxes, they entered the canteen. From afar, they saw Feng Wentai and Zhou Rong sitting face to face in a corner, and a few bodyguards from the Feng family were sitting nearby, drinking beer, looking as though they were up to no good.
Chuncao immediately took a couple of steps forward, only to see Zhou Rong waving her away with his hand behind his back.
“How should I put this,” Zhou Rong laughed. “As a special force soldier, we’ve been trained by the country for so many years. Right now, it’s the time when the country needs us the most…”
Feng Wentai was impatient. “I understand that, but Captain Zhou should also consider your subordinates as well. Two of your people have already sacrificed themselves, and what can the country give them? A medal? A pension? Even the entire B Military Zone could perish! The government seems like they can barely even protect themselves, what pension can the country provide?!”
“Feng-laoban,” Zhou Rong scoffed. “Yan Hao hasn’t died.”
Feng Wentai choked.
Zhou Rong observed his countenance, and coughed before he could continue.
“Also, if we set off to the north, what happens to everyone here?”
Feng Wentai surveyed the surroundings. In the distance, they were queuing for their food. Many were looking at the miserable gruel in their bowls, then looking over to the bodyguards’ food and beer, revealing an unsatisfied expression.
“We don’t have much supplies,” He spoke in a low voice.
Zhou Rong quietly looked at him.
“If we were to bring everyone, I’m afraid all the food will be finished halfway. In the freezing weather, if we’re unable to gather more supplies, everyone might just die.”
Feng Wentai deliberated for a moment, and finally continued, “In my opinion, those who have problems walking, as well as the weaker ones, it would be better for them to remain in this factory. Also, the non compliant ones, to prevent them from causing any internal struggle in our journey, we should just let them survive on their own. This is also a way of mediating…”
Zhou Rong did not utter a word, and his amusement deepened.
Feng Wentai’s meaning was very clear. There was no need to bring along the women, the old and the young, and it was better to leave the ones who looked more argumentative behind as well. He was an Alpha, their destination was his home. For all they knew, when they arrived at Dongbei they even need to rely on him for supplies. And so, only the ones who were willing to yield to him, comply with him would be allowed to come along with him.
As for the food and items stockpiled in the factory, they would definitely bring the supplies back with them.
By the time they returned to Dongbei, Feng-laoban would naturally be able to stage a comeback with everyone, constructing a strict and impartial Utopia — Of course, by then, Zhou Rong and the others who had been with them since the start would not be slighted.
“Feng-laoban is truly farsighted,” Zhou Rong clapped and exclaimed.
Feng Wentai smiled modestly.
“But,” Zhou Rong said earnestly. “We still have to go to Nanhai.”
“The zombies still retain many of their basic functions, and one of them is seeking warmth. Once winter sets in, most of the zombies would head south. If we were to head north right now, we would definitely meet countless zombies along the way, and this is one reason.”
“As for the second reason,” Zhou Rong’s unscrupulous smirk gradually faded away. That pair of deep set eyes, his face with its sharp features, finally revealed his real attitude — his disgust, his haughtiness, his anger. No matter what he was looking at, he was above them, and his aura was of an oppressiveness that did not allow anyone to rebut him. “The virus research that Zhang Yingjie had used his life to exchange for must be delivered to the army. Even if Nanhai has fallen to the enemies, we will still persevere until the day we can find the military.”
“On this journey, we will not give up on any one of the survivors. Whether old, female, pregnant, or a child, as long as we see them, we’ll save every single one of them. If we’ve exhausted our food supply, we’ll plant our own food. If there are no materials, we’ll look for them. As long as us soldiers are still here, the country will survive. No one would be abandoned.”
Zhou Rong leaned back in his seat, raising his chin slightly. His thick and defined eyebrow rose up, and he looked at Feng Wentai condescendingly.
His lips that were as thin as a blade, his tanned, muscular neck, his biceps that even his uniform could not hide, as well as the assault rifle hanging off his right shoulder, they all radiated with a domineering, masculine strength.
Feng Wentai was oppressed to the point where he seemed to have lost his breath. When he regained his wits, he then realised that he had actually been threatened by a Beta. His embarrassment turning into anger, he spoke, “You make a nice speech, but you soldiers are still…”
“You can go canvass the people you want to bring along,” Zhou Rong said composedly. He held his hand out, an elegant gesture that motioned Feng Wentai to go ahead. “I won’t stop anyone who wants to leave with you. However, you’re not allowed to bring even a bullet with you. Now, go.”
Feng Wentai stood up quickly, and a few bodyguards stood up with him as well, their hands all on their waists.
The three special force soldiers immediately walked towards them, each with an assault rifle. Chuncao coughed loudly.
Zhou Rong was still seated comfortably, as though he did not register the hostile atmosphere in front of him. Feng Wentai gritted his tetteh, staring at that wicked curve to his lips. He wanted to say something harsh, but did not have the guts to do so. A moment later, he could only raise his hand, commanding angrily, “Let’s go!”
The Alpha bodyguards followed their boss out of the canteen. Chuncao sauntered over, glaring fiercely at their backs. “The Feng fellow cannot be contained anymore.”
“I know,” Zhou Rong cut her off.
He thought for a moment, and slowly made his arrangements. “Tonight, set up a watch duty overnight. Make sure there’s eyes on the granary, the garage as well as the front and back gates, and pay attention to Feng Wentai’s movements. The window of the armoured vehicle Si Nan is driving has been pierced, and it cannot withstand any bullets. Move everything inside including the weapons into the new vehicle and lock them up.
Chuncao nodded along with his instructions, and Zhou Rong suddenly seemed to recall something. “Where’s Si Nan?”
“He just returned to the dorm to get some bedding and blankets, and said he’ll be sleeping behind the factory tonight.” Chuncao found it strange, “Why is he going there?”
Zhou Rong remembered Wu Xinyan who was waiting in the garage behind the factory. He kept silent, and his eyes were gloomy.
His cold expression made the three members a little apprehensive, and Chuncao leaned against the seat, quietly asking, “Rong-ge?”
“Comrade Xiao Si is an adult — If you have the time to care about other people’s matters, why don’t you start thinking about how to get a partner yourself instead?” Zhou Rong stood up and ruffled Chuncao’s hair. He laughed, and returned to his usual, careless manner. “Daughter, be good. Go get some potatoes for your father, don’t forget the chili and soy sauce.”
“That’s mine,” Si Nan said indifferently.
Wu Xinyan, “…”
Wu Xinyan pulled her extended hand back, giving up on that jar of honey. Instead, she turned to that vacuum sealed pack of braised eggs.
Si Nan lifted his lids. His possessiveness over the braised eggs were evidently not very strong, and his thick eyelashes again swept down.
There were no lights in the abandoned garage. In the winter night, everything was dark. The howling winter wind could be heard, as though a herd of zombies were groaning in the distance.
Eating the braised eggs, Wu Xinyan shrank within her blanket. She did not seem able to tolerate the quiet, and so broke the silence. “Hey… Why do you have such a sweet tooth?”
Si Nan rarely took the initiative to start a conversation with outsiders, but he would answer the questions they posed him. “I don’t know.”
“Do you like anything as long as they’re sweet?”
“Don’t you find them cloying?”
“My body needs sugar,” Si Nan said indifferently. “I often have low blood sugar.”
Wu Xinyan sighed in relief. “I was still thinking about having heard others saying that only people who had experienced a lot of suffering like eating sweet stuff. If you were to have a tragic story, then I would really be unable to handle it — Fortunately, I’ve only thought too much into it.”
“… Be a bit more normal.”
Si Nan took out that pack of candied apple he could not bear to eat from his pocket. He then started eating it, and the sound of chewing could be heard in the dark.
After a while, Wu Xinyan’s voice could be heard again, and this time, she was a little hesitant. “Say, would that Wan fellow really come here tonight?”
With a chunk of candied apple in his mouth, Si Nan mumbled. “If Zhou Rong asked where did you go, Feng Wentai would definitely say that you ran away yourself, and are missing. That bodyguard with the last name Wan knows that when Zhou Rong starts asking others about it tomorrow, he would no longer have the opportunity to get to you anymore. So, he would definitely grasp this last chance tonight.”
“Also, you’ve said that the Wan fellow has followed you here today,” Si Nan swallowed the candied apple, licking his sticky fingers. “Tonight, when everyone is asleep, he would definitely come here.”
Nodding, Wu Xinyan’s face was pale.
On the ground were two sets of bedding lying parallel to each other. Si Nan and Wu Xinyan each nested within one set, and in between was a pile of snacks. After Wu Xinyan finished the braised eggs, she wanted some chocolate. Just as she picked a piece up, she suddenly thought of something and politely asked, “Can I eat this?”
“You can.” Si Nan said, “Chocolate is one thing I don’t eat.”
Before Si Nan had to time answer, they suddenly heard a series of light footsteps that stopped outside the window.
He was here!
A shudder ran through Wu Xinyan’s body, and chills spread to her limbs. With a pleading gaze, she turned towards her side, only to see Si Nan glancing towards the back with a preoccupied look. “… Zhou Rong?”
Suspicious, he stood up, his blanket wrapped around him. “What are you doing standing there?”
The person outside the window who never spoke a word finally coughed, and it really was the very unique mellow, bass voice of Captain Zhou. Somehow, it sounded a little guilty. “Yo, Comrade Xiao Si! I… I was unable to fall asleep, so I was strolling about randomly. Have you eaten?”
Si Nan replied him with a cold silence.
“…” Wu Xinyan greeted him nervously. “C-captain Zhou, g-g-good evening…”
Si Nan signalled at her to ignore him.
Zhou Rong was extremely awkward. “Good evening, good evening. Why aren’t the two of you going back to the dorm? Without any lights or fire, isn’t it cold huddling here?”
“We…” Just as Wu Xinyan spoke, Si Nan again signalled at her. This time, he even creased his forehead unhappily.
Wu Xinyan, “???”
She tilted her head, looking at Si Nan. Si Nan frowned, looking back at her.
Zhou Rong chuckled a couple of times. “You guys should head back to the dorm. It’s fine. It’s not good if you catch a cold out here in the cold weather. I’ve gone through this before, everyone understands this. You guys are still young…”
Wu Xinyan sincerely felt that she should provide an explanation, she really should explain the situation. However, Si Nan’s expression evidently did not want her to say anything. The two of them silently looked at each other for several seconds, and Wu Xinyan finally could not help herself but explode. “What exactly is going on between the two of you?!”
Si Nan said, “He yelled at me.”
Outside the window, Zhou Rong, “…”
“He even said that he wanted to beat me.” Si Nan spoke frostily. “Who exactly will be beating who? I’ll leave him with one hand.”
Wu Xinyan’s jaw dropped.
Zhou Rong’s embarrassment had reached the apex of his life. “Si Xiao Nan! I’m wrong, I’m here to apologise to you! I shouldn’t have shouted at you in the morning, don’t be angry anymore. Come, I’ll give you something to eat…”
A rustle of a plastic bag. Zhou Rong took something out.
“Here,” He said. “Come on out. I’ve brought you a large piece of Dove chocolate.”
Si Nan, “…”