Si Nan did not fall asleep.
He tried to let his mind enter an empty state, like a fish swimming in the deep sea. He slowly meditated, grabbing at the fragments and snippets of images deep within his memories.
“… a born weakling, he needs to be kept in custody…”
“Run, run away quickly!”
“The humiliation that I’ve suffered today, I will definitely pay it back over and over again in the future! …”
“Ask your captain to come out.” In the wind a shadow stood on the tall iron railings, speaking coldly, “I have something to discuss with him.”
In the next moment, a man whose face could not be seen clearly walked towards him. Before he could speak, a fist landed on his face, blood spurted out of his nose and he fell backwards!
The sounds of sprinting, cursing and people talking clashed together. Numerous soldiers surrounded him, but to no avail. Suddenly, the scene changed. Faint light streamed between the narrow cracks of the window into the cell, creating a bleak shadow for the cement platform where the bed was. Covered with a coat, he sat on the edge of the bed, his palms together, his fingers propped between his brows. Suddenly urgent footsteps could be heard from outside the door, together with the jangling sound of keys.
He stood up, and the door opened.
“The inner, the inner facility has fallen, the lab cannot hold them back anymore… The cordon has been broken, there’s a car outside waiting for you, quick, come with me…”
He took the titanium icebox that was handed to him and walked out of the cell. The light, at the end of the corridor was as distant as the stars, the passage stretching out in front of him, like a journey that would never end.
A journey that would never end…
The armoured vehicle did an emergency stop. Si Nan’s body was thrown forward, and he was jerked awake.
In an instant, he was face to face with the writhing mass of zombies outside the window. He heard the driver yell, “We’ve reached our destination! Quick quick quick, clear our surroundings! People inside, get ready to follow——!”
Rapid bursts of gunfire was shot from the machine gun attached to the vehicle’s roof. Zhou Rong had removed his jacket, leaving him in a black tank top. His heat-resistant gloves had been burnt by the gun barrel to a terrifying degree, and shooting waves of bullets to force the zombies away from the intersection.
Still, there were too many zombies in streets of the Central Business District area. One wave came after another, and as far as they could see, it was a sea of zombies. All the team members had climbed up onto the vehicle roof to provide fire support, but they only managed to clear about a few metres ahead of them, and the armoured vehicle slowly made its way through the heaving packs of zombies.
This speed that was as though they were stuck in morning traffic was extremely dangerous. With the inexhaustible horde of zombies, the vehicle had nearly been pushed over a few times, and a few team members cried out, their bodies almost caught and dragged down by the zombies.
Zhou Rong roared into the earpiece, “Yingjie, come and take over! I’ll drive!”
The driver opened the window of the roof and pulled himself up. Zhou Rong took the opportunity to slide into the driver’s seat, and slammed his foot on the accelerator!
With a growl, the armoured vehicle shot straight ahead for several metres, crushing countless zombies under its wheels. At this time, a crash sounded, the driver’s window had been shattered!
A zombie’s wail could be heard, and a few pairs of withered hands reached into the vehicle at the same time, clawing towards Zhou Rong.
Zhou Rong twisted to dodge it, and Si Nan moved in perfect synchronisation, firing at the zombies. “Where’s the shelter?”
Zhou Rong’s hands were occupied, and instead, jerked his chin up towards the front.
A few hundred metres away, a shop building stood tall and the end of Zhongxin Street, and a banner with “Opening Sale, Crazy Discounts” fluttered in the wind.
Si Nan shattered the head of a zombie with a bullet as he dodged backwards. Greyish brain fluids, with a grisly odour, splashed across Zhou Rong, and he swore loudly, “Fuck!”
Si Nan, “Fuck who?”
On Zhou Rong’s left hand were zombies trying to clamber in, while on his right was Si Nan with a loaded gun. He made an assessment, then scolded, “… this damn shopping mall is killing me. Why did it need to have a sale, no wonder there’s so many people out there! Fuck their ancestors!”
At this moment, the wireless radio above their heads crackled to life, sounding very clear amidst the gun shots. A girl’s penetrating voice could be heard, “0011 calling for Command! Calling for Command!! Do you need assistance? Repeat, do you need assistance?!”
“Yes yes yes yes yes!” Zhou Rong threw his arm in front of Si Nan and slammed on the brakes. Using the intercom, he gave an earsplitting roar with nearly his entire body strength, “All of you, come down—! Seal the roof now—!”
As his voice rang through their ears, a ray of light suddenly appeared on the roof of the shop building in the distance.
In the next instant, a white flash shot up, blotting out the sky, and the brilliant light and flames engulfed the ground!
In the explosion, the armoured vehicle was like a kite on a broken string. Within a short moment, it was thrown ten odd metres away, the windows fragmenting, and everyone screaming silently as the vehicle spun terrifyingly.
After an unknown amount of time, feeling like an endless century, Si Nan gasped as he regained his consciousness. Vaguely, he felt something was wrong, and struggled to prop his body up to take a look.
In front of his nose was Zhou Rong’s… crotch.
Zhou Rong had a finger on his temple, and the corners of his mouth twitched. His voice was trembling because of the enormous pain.
“If I become impotent, I’m going to kill you…”
The team members were groaning awake. Outside the vehicle, the explosion from a single rocket had cleared more than half the street of zombies. The scene was devastating, and rolling thick smoke covered up the previously flourishing shopping area.
Static sounded… And that girl coughed. “Hi everyone, are you still alive? Repeat, is anyone still alive?”
Zhou Rong replied, “Chun Cao, let’s agree on this. Next time before you launch the rocket, could you discuss it with me first? Do you know that Rong-ge nearly became a eunuch just now?”
Chun Cao responded, “It’s not like you use it anyway. Just get rid of it.”
Si Nan glanced at Zhou Rong with a strange look in his eyes.
“What are you thinking about?” At that moment, Zhou Rong was very sensitive to any form of provocation.
I never would have guessed that it would be the boy-toy Yan that would be on top, Si Nan thought. A book really should never be judged by its cover.
Thanks to the rocket, the heavily damaged armoured vehicle finally limped its way through the street, arriving at its final destination — the shelter.
It was this shopping mall’s underground warehouse. In the previous century, it was once a bomb shelter, so it functioned perfectly as a military base, withstanding countless of attacks from the zombie army as the virus outbreak spread its reach.
The underground shelter had over a thousand people in it. Most of them were customers and staff of the shopping mall. Gender and age varied amongst them, and everywhere was the muffled sounds of crying.
Zhou Rong finally rallied up with his team, and enthusiastically called out, “Cao’er!”
Chun Cao, “Captain!”
Si Nan side-stepped hurriedly, and Chun Cao brushed against him as she flew past. The two of them crashed into a hug, spinning around, and Zhou Rong effortlessly picked up the girl who barely reached his shoulder and swung her around. If this was a cartoon, this would definitely be the moment where thick rivers of tears came down their face and scattered all around them.
“There’s no more ammunition,” Chun Cao’s eyes were full of pining tears. “Last night, I brought Da Ding and Yang Zi to sweep the passageway, and all the bullets were used up then. Just now, that rocket we launched was also our last one… Fortunately, we have enough provisions, I’ve made them block up all doors and windows of the warehouse, afraid that the zombies would come in again. After all, we can’t go up fighting hand-to-hand…”
Zhou Rong patted her head, speaking affectionately, “Call me papa.”
Instantly, Chun Cao went, “Papa.”
Zhou Rong ejected two bullets from his gun, grabbed his cheap daughter’s hand and spread it open, first putting both bullets in her palm. After a moment of thinking, he took one back.
“The last two bullets in the entire team.” Zhou Rong smiled. “Save it for your suicide.”
Chun Cao immediately cut their father-daughter relation off, walking away with a cold face.
When the chaos erupted, there were about two to three thousand people who escaped to this shelter. However, as the infected were mingled amongst them, upon entering the confined space, they mutated into zombies, and rapidly infected many of the civilian survivors.
Fortunately, some of the team members under Zhou Rong had managed to get in contact with the local government, and promptly escorted the medical team here. After multiple purges, only a thousand odd people were left. They had all undergone a preliminary checkup, and it was confirmed that there were no more infected hidden amongst them.
Chun Cao then brought a few teammates to drag the dead zombies out for incineration. They also cleared out the zombies roaming within the shopping mall and the safety passage. With no more ammunition left, they could only anxiously wait for Zhou Rong to come rescue them.
Zhou Rong stepped onto a milk crate and coughed. Not paying attention, he nearly hit his hand on a ceiling light, and quickly protected his head.
The massive crowd watched him blankly, and the occasional sobs of a young girl could occasionally be heard, but it soon quietened down.
“Are you here to save us?” Someone mustered up his courage to ask.
“I’m the captain of Squad Six, Unit 118 of the Classified Battalion from B Military Area Command.” Zhou Rong again pulled out that somewhat wrinkled missive, and solemnly displayed it to the crowd. Under the lights of the warehouse, that bright red government stamp was very conspicuous.
As though gaining a sort of faith in that red colour, the crowd slowly got excited.
“The higher-ups have sent me here with a location device and establish the safety and lives of the civilians, maintain the social order of the people during this virus outbreak, as well as send a location signal to them. Soon, the government would spend the utmost effort to come here and rescue us.”
“For the time being, everyone, please maintain your calm. Do not panic, do not spread rumours. Keep to the schedule and please remember to measure your temperature at regular intervals…”
“What’s going on outside? Are those monsters zombies?” A man in the front row shouted.
Zhou Rong replied, “It’s only a mutated strain of rabies. Please don’t spread rumours, next.”
“Our, our,” A lady cried. “Our family, what’s happening to them?”
“Yes, my child is still in school…”
“My mother is already over 80 years old! …”
Under the light, Zhou Rong’s jaw tightened slightly, giving off a steel-like, grim air.
But he immediately smiled, and although it was brief, but it was very convincing, and his voice was also very steady. “Please be assured. The army would never give up on any citizen.”
The sprouting panic subsided slightly. The people, with no other choices available, chose to believe him, and more questions appeared. “When would the rescue arrive?”
“Where will we be sent to?”
“When will the plague be over? Will the government send us back?”
Si Nan leant against the shelves, staring at Zhou Rong who was patiently answering every single question, and on his forehead was an indiscernible wrinkle.
Not far behind him, Chun Cao had her arm across Yan Hao’s shoulders, lolling against him and asked softly, “Why do you keep staring over there? That person looks so dirty, and is also a Beta.”
“Eee— You clearly are.”
Yan Hao smiled. “Tomorrow, when the helicopter comes to pick the civilians up, will we also…”
Before he finished, he saw Si Nan walked past them and headed to the back door of the warehouse.
“Si Nan!” Yan Hao hurried after him. “It’s not safe out there, where are you going?”
Si Nan answered politely. “I need a shower.”
In the simple bathroom of the warehouse’s staff area, hot water sprayed from the shower head, and steam quickly filled up the room, blurring the dirty exhaust louver.
Si Nan stood under the shower with his eyes closed. The stream of water washed the dried dust, mud and blood away, and his body slowly returned to its originally clean appearance. The water flowed past his naked body to his feet, into the drain, gurgling away.
He did not know how long had he not taken a shower already, only feeling that his pores were cleansed, and his muscles and bones releasing the last of their aches; if his skin could make a sound, it would most likely be singing a hymn.
A while later, he turned the water off. Hastily scrubbing his body dry, he casually wiped off the condensation on the mirror, and finally, a clean face free from dirt stared back at him.
In most people with asian and caucasian blood, the asian genes tended to dominate, and it was the same for Si Nan. However, after looking carefully at the tip of his brows, the corner of his eyes, and the outline of his face, his mother’s classic, breath-taking beauty could be seen from his face.
Only, there was no trace of a feminine delicateness on him, and what replaced it was a sort of toughness and resoluteness, as though he had experienced years of harsh reality.
Si Nan bent over to pick up his trousers and shirt. Just as he was about to put his clothes on, he suddenly glimpsed something in the mirror, and his actions paused.
He almost inched his body around, staring at the back of his right shoulder. He suddenly understood why he was unconscious previously——
Next to the clean shoulder blade, there was an obvious palm-sized bite mark. The wound gaped open, already hardened, and spreading from it were horrifying lines of purplish-black.
—— That was a bite mark from a zombie.
“Rong-ge has just sent the location signal. Tomorrow afternoon, an aircraft would be dispatched here to send these survivors to B Military…” In the corridor, Chun Cao had her arm hooked around Yan Hao’s neck. Her words suddenly stopped, and she stared behind her.
Yan Hao asked casually, “What happened?” When he turned his head, he was stunned as well.
A young man had just stepped out from the bathroom. His wet hair looked extra black, and because of the steam, the part of his face that was revealed looked bloodlessly white and cold.
He turned and saw Yan Hao, not speaking a word, nor did he move. His eyes seemed to be hiding a pair of gleaming amber pieces. After a moment, he gave a brief smile, swinging the carbine off his shoulder and tossing it over.
Yan Hao caught it unthinkingly, only to hear him say, “You can have it back.”
“Si Nan…” Yan Hao unconsciously blocked him, but instead watched him turn and walk to the storeroom.
His body proportion was amazing, his shirt casually tucked into his trousers. The waist of his trousers hung off his hips, and as he walked, his vigour and efficient movements were on display. Chun Cao poked at Yan Hao’s arm, covering her mouth and saying quietly, “… You guys rescue people according to their looks?”
Zhou Rong finally managed to disengage himself from the crowd. When he finished dealing with the snottily crying manager of the shopping mall who was grabbing on to his hand, he looked up to see Si Nan standing in the shadows behind the door. He had a hand in his pocket, and was silently staring at him.
Zhou Rong observed him for a moment, then stroked his chin wickedly. “What? Wanna hook-up?”
“I don’t do hook-ups while working, but I can consider it when we’re back at the base… What are you doing?”
Si Nan undid his third button, pulling his collar slightly open. He signalled him to look at his back shoulder, where a section of the concealed bite of a zombie was exposed.
“… I might have been infected,” He said hoarsely.
Zhou Rong’s face turned ashen, and remained standing in place for a long time.