Edited by Beth
“Alone I stand in the autumn cold, on the tip of Orange Island, the Hsiang flowing northward…1”
“I see a thousand hills crimsoned through by their serried woods deep-dyed, and a hundred barges vying over crystal blue waters…2”
Ding Shi looked pained. “Rong-ge, I beg you. Please stop reciting. You’re making it sound like we’re going on the Long March. All we’re doing is breaking through a barbed-wire fence and stealing two helicopters, let’s just fly and leave, alright?”
“I’m making full use of every opportunity for patriotic education. When going past the Xiang River, a sacred place of revolution, doesn’t it bring anything to mind?” Zhou Rong was a little unhappy. “The road in front is torturous, and our situation so difficult. Shouldn’t you all be immersed in the surging enthusiasm of the revolution, and prepare to go all out and do your best?”
Ding Shi shoved the military binoculars towards him and pointed out the window, gesturing for him to take a look for himself.
In the distance, thick black smoke spewed from the local airport. On the viaduct, the multi-storey car-park, and within the terminals, all they could see were zombies. Two helicopters had crashed against each other, wings and turbines laying in fragments around them, with the bodies of the helicopters having already blackened from the fire.
Ding Shi shifted the angle of the binoculars Zhou Rong was using, showing him what was happening on the other side.
It was a privately-owned helicopter company. A few medium-sized helicopters were parked in front of the building. The tarmac was surrounded by a wire fence, with a few hundred zombies stumbling about beyond it.
Within the fence, the tarmac was empty. Not a single zombie could be seen.
“… It seems like the journey of revolution isn’t that difficult,” Zhou Rong spoke to himself.
They followed their original plan, dividing the team into two. Zhou Rong and the other three drove the two armoured vehicles and barged onto the tarmac, while Si Nan changed into the anti-riot uniform, slinging a rifle across his back and moved with Guo Weixiang onto the bus. They were to seek out a platform where the helicopters could land for them to eventually board.
“Yan Hao,” Zhou Rong suddenly called out.
Yan Hao was about to stand up to see Si Nan off, but hearing Zhou Rong, he stopped.
Zhou Rong patted his shoulder, speaking unconcernedly, “Lend me something…”
Lightning quick, he reached out and removed the ear stud on Yan Hao’s ear.
“What are you doing?!” Yan Hao evaded him immediately, bolting out of the vehicle.
Zhou Rong yelled, “On what basis do you get to wear a couple ear stud with my Comrade Xiao Si? Give it to me!” Before his voice had even faded away, he also jumped out of the vehicle. The two people momentarily descended into a fight.
Si Nan was stunned. Standing in front of the bus, he stared at Zhou Rong blankly.
“Who said that Si Nan is yours? Who are you to say that?!”
“Scram! In any case, he’s not yours! If you don’t believe me, just ask him!”
“There’s no need to ask, he’s definitely not yours anyway! You… go away!”
Zhou Rong pushed Yan Hao hard against the vehicle, desperately grabbing at the stud. Yan Hao struggled desperately under him, “I’m going to fucking scream! I’m really going to scream—!”
“So, why would you think that they were a couple?” Chewing on gum, Guo Weixiang leant lazily against the door of the bus.
“…” Si Nan answered blankly, “I don’t really understand you Alphas.”
Yan Hao raised his foot, kicking Zhou Rong away. Covering his ear, he rushed up the armoured vehicle.
Zhou Rong snorted. Surprisingly, he did not chase after Yan Hao, but immediately changed his target. Turning around and running to Si Nan, he placed his arms around Si Nan’s waist. With a burst of energy, he lifted Si Nan and his equipment up next to the bus. Si Nan’s feet hung one centimetre above the ground.
Si Nan: “…?”
Daringly, Zhou Rong kissed him.
It had been a few days since Zhou Rong smoked, but there was still a slight taste of tobacco in his mouth, so slight that it actually didn’t smell bad. His tongue probed between Si Nan’s lips, gently brushing across Si Nan’s tightly clenched teeth. Without giving Si Nan any chance to refuse, he parted Si Nan’s lips.
— although the action was swift and fierce, it was also surprisingly careful and considerate. It felt as though in that lick, it expressed countless indescribable emotions.
“Wait for me to come and pick you up,” Zhou Rong whispered right into his ear, then shot back to the armoured vehicle.
“…” Si Nan stood where he was, his expression drawing a complete blank.
“Chuncao, let me go! Fucking hell, he’s taking advantage of him, Si Nan is definitely unwilling…”
“Yan Hao, don’t be agitated! Look, he’s clearly very willing!”
Pleased, Zhou Rong burst into the driver’s cabin, whistling happily.
Si Nan felt as though his head was steaming. However, he did not say a word, turning around and entering the bus. With an awkward gait, he walked into the bus and sat down behind the driver’s seat. Burying his face into his palms, it seemed as though he did not hear Guo Weixiang’s unwarranted exclamations coming from behind him.
Zhou Rong cupped his hands around his mouth like a trumpet. “Wait—for—me—to—come—and—pick—you—up!”
He then waved vigorously before pulling back into the car, watching the bus start slowly and vanish behind the viaduct.
In the other vehicle, Chuncao yelled, “Rong-ge! If you don’t move, I won’t be able to hold Yan Hao back anymore!”
It was four in the afternoon. The sun was shining brightly, the sky was still a long way from turning dark.
The city had transformed into an enormous graveyard. The bus drove down the viaduct, heading towards the city centre.
In the opposite direction, it seemed as though cities and towns formed a skyline. Two armoured vehicles sped swiftly towards the airport. The zombies loitering outside the tarmac where the helicopters were parked were alerted to the sounds and they started moving. However, a mortar appeared from a window of one of the vehicles. A shell exploded ruthlessly in the crowd of zombies, and smoke wafted across the area.
Two armoured vehicles smashed across the guardrails and through the wire fence. The shockwave turned the walls into ruins, and the vehicles rumbled their way onto the cement runway.
Behind the vehicles were two long trails of zombie flesh and blood. But soon, many zombies with broken limbs staggered their way up, moaning and groaning, following the vehicles past the barrier.
“Yan Hao’s team, get ready!” Zhou Rong’s voice sounded from the loudspeaker mounted on the vehicle. “Our targets are confirmed, Yan Hao and I will drive and act as cover, Ding Shi and Chuncao get ready to board the helicopter! Hurry!”
In front of the office building was a row of colourful helicopters parked on the grass. The two armoured vehicles blazed their way through, arriving in front of the grass patch. The vehicles turned and drifted, and even the angles of their swings were exactly the same.
Swish— The rear wheels of both vehicles turned outwards. Bits of wild grass sputtered up, fanning out perfectly in mid air.
“Why are the two of you so in unison?! Exactly what sort of relationship do you have!” Chuncao clamoured. She opened the window on the roof and climbed on top of the vehicle, starting to pry open the door of the helicopter in front of her. “I’m going to tattle! My new mom is going to get angry!”
Yan Hao: “Shut up! This is how the military driving course taught us! It’s a standard move, understand?”
Zhou Rong: “If you continue, I’m going to abandon you, and have a new child with your new mom!”
A second of silence descended upon them. Zhou Rong bit his tongue.
Ding Shi: “… A new mom?”
Chuncao: “Who’s the old mom?”
Yan Hao: “…?!”
Zhou Rong knew that he had said something wrong, and thus shouted hysterically, “I picked all of you up from the trash can! Shut up and work!”
Zhou Rong lifted the mortar, and with a long bang, the runway was razed to the ground. Torn bits of zombie flesh flew up into the sky, spraying outwards like a fountain.
After a couple sounds of metal clanging together, Chuncao shouted, “I’m done!”
Ding Shi: “Rong-ge, come on up!”
The doors of two large helicopters were forced open by military crowbars. Zhou Rong carefully surveyed the runway and the tarmac, confirming that there were no longer big groups of zombies before packing away the mortar. He swiftly picked up the equipment and items from the armoured vehicle and tossed them all chaotically into the helicopter.
The explosion alerted the zombies in the office building. The boss and staff of the helicopter company were dressed in dirty suits, their face drooping, and they swarmed out of the building to welcome the Alphas.
“Da Ding, don’t shoot anymore!” Zhou Rong shouted. “We’ve just stolen their aircrafts, killing and robbing is wrong!”
Ding Shi cupped his hands towards the leading zombie dressed in an Armani suit, Hermes tie and A.testoni leather shoes, babbling, “Sorry, boss. It’s now a critical period, so please understand. The army needs to temporarily take possession of your personal properties. After this war, you can bring your purchase receipt and invoice to the government and request for compensation…”
Zhou Rong slammed the door of the armoured vehicle shut. He carefully tucked the key away, and then leapt into the pilot’s seat of the helicopter.
Not far away, Yan Hao and Chuncao had also entered the other helicopter. They switched on the power and started the engine. The propellers churned out a huge wind, causing the zombies to stumble collectively.
A few seconds later, two dark green helicopters slowly raised into the sky, flying towards the city centre.
The city, the outer street of the second ring.
The business district was empty, and the roads still maintained the scene of when the apocalypse came upon them. The bodies that had been eaten by the zombies had turned black from rot, and flies were buzzing around the bones and rotting flesh. Mice scurried across the street as the bus made its way down, and dark human blood soaked the trash on the ground, slowly seeping its way into the drains.
Around corners and behind buildings, zombies would periodically appear, stretching their hands out blankly towards the speeding bus.
The sky was overcast and grey, watching over this hell on earth.
Guo Weixiang looked out of the window, gradually falling silent. Between his youthful brows was an undeniable sadness.
He suddenly realised that in the window, behind his shoulder, another face was reflected. Turning his head instinctively, he looked into Si Nan’s emotionless gaze.
“…. Eh? What’s wrong?”
Si Nan studied him for a few seconds before asking, “You’re worried?”
Guo Weixiang nodded, sighing deeply. He leant back into his seat, “I’m thinking about my grandfather.”
Si Nan remained quiet, not saying a word.
“My grandfather… hai, I don’t know if he’s currently fine. My parents had passed away very early, and I was brought up by my grandfather as a child. He’s of an age already, and I don’t know if he moved to Nanhai with the government. Say, why did this apocalypse come out of nowhere? Rong-ge keeps joking and laughing all day, but most of the time, he’s only putting on a front. When he’s sombre, he’s terrifying, but he would deliberately hide away and not let anyone see him like that.”
Guo Weixiang’s tone was very earnest. Listening to him, it was clear that in his life, other than his grandfather, he would only concede to Zhou Rong.
“Rong-ge says that as special force soldiers, we cannot be sighing and gloomy, as the hopes of the civilians rest upon us. Just one look from us, their hearts would pound in anxiousness. If we were to keep talking about the dangers and the apocalypse and things like these, they would not be able to endure it, and they would kill themselves.”
“Hai—” Guo Weixiang still could not help himself and gave a long, quiet sigh. “However, I cannot stop wondering about why this has to happen to our generation. Why are we so unlucky?”
Comrade Guo Weixiang’s eyes were unfocused, his limbs spread loose. With his neck straight, he looked like a wilting, yellowed little cabbage.
Si Nan looked pensive. A moment later, he bent over and picked up his backpack. Grabbing a can of Redbull out from his bag, he silently handed it over to Guo Weixing.
“… Huh?” Guo Weixiang was very surprised, and even a little moved. “… No, no, thanks, I’m not thirsty. Thank you, thank you, just keep it for yourself…”
It did not seem like he was down because of exhaustion. Si Nan pondered for a moment, then asked, “Do you need Zhou Rong?”
Guo Weixiang had a pained expression. “Hmm, how should I say this. Although the way Rong-ge nags is really asking for a beating, we’d sometimes still miss his nagging, especially during times like this…”
Si Na slowly returned to his seat. No one knew what he was thinking, and a moment later, words quietly escaped his lips. “I do miss him.”
“Right? The poem he recited, alone I stand in the autumn cold, on the tip of Orange Island, the Hsiang flowing northward… Under freezing skies a million creatures contend in freedom… How does the rest of the poem go?”
Si Nan responded coldly, “I’m referring to Zhou Rong, not Zhou Rong’s nagging.”
At first, Guo Weixiang did not realise what he said. A few seconds later, he shot up straight, looking at Si Nan’s frosty face with an expression that was both moved and shocked.
Si Nan was indifferent, as though he had forgotten about the bombshell he had just released.
He then closed his eyes, muttering to himself.
Guo Weixiang: “……”
Guo Weixiang perked his ears up, listening carefully for a long time. The measured unrecognisable chanting even sounded familiar, and he finally could not help but humbly ask, “What are you reciting?”
“On 4th July, 1776, the Declaration of Independence from Pennsylvania,” Si Nan replied. “I don’t know any poems, so just make do with this first.”