“Rong-ge is here to pick you up, come out!”
In a night so dark he couldn’t even see his fingers stretched out in front of him, his voice echoed down the long streets. Zhou Rong put down the megaphone he had just scavenged from the abandoned ruins of an old shop, his eyes sweeping across his surroundings through the infrared lenses. Where, within a radius of a hundred metres, humanoid figures began gathering at high speeds due to the stimulation through movement. If you looked over, the zombies were densely packed, overlapping into swaying ghostly shadows.
Zhou Rong cleared out a few zombies behind him, which had been alerted to him through the hint of a breeze, then deployed a grappling-hook and swiftly climbed up an electrical pole.
In the very instant he left the ground, the crowd of zombies surged forward, mindlessly stretching their arms upwards with all their might.
Shouting up and down the large streets and winding alleyways could be said to be one of the most ineffective, while simultaneously dangerous, plans he had. Zhou Rong knew the best way would be to find a safe and secure location first, where he could rest while maintaining his body temperature and quietly await daybreak, where visual conditions would be easier for making a move— but he also knew that Si Nan didn’t have the luxury of time.
He could not, under such terrible conditions, survive through a long and life-threatening night in the perilous heart of the city, riding alone on a bike equipped only with a single gun.
Zhou Rong took a breath of freezing cold air, focusing only on the piercing pain that came about from his lungs trying to keep him conscious. Like a beast on the prowl, in the dead of night, he narrowed his eyes: “Sunken into antisocial behaviour, schizophrenic, unpredictable. Do not attempt to use any sort of stimulative measures to restore his sanity…”
“Mixed-blood omega,” he murmured.
He raised his gaze and looked into the empty space; the afternoon after their first meeting, surrounded on all sides in a large parking-lot, a young man who was tightly covered from head to toe in a biker’s jacket and helmet on the main road raised his head and made eye-contact with him from afar.
“Was that you?” Zhou Rong whispered, and as if he had secretly done this many times before, he raised a hand, wanting to pinch the soft cheek of that face, but all his fingers could feel was the bone-chilling winds of the winter’s night.
“Rong-ge was wrong, I didn’t mean to look down on omegas, I’m also willing to respect your opinion.”
“That is, if you’re willing to come back…”
“As long as you come back, Rong-ge will wait for you to decide for yourself.”
Zhou Rong closed his eyes, only allowing himself a short moment’s respite to wallow in his sorrows and regrets. He opened his eyes after a few seconds and forced himself back into a state of combat-readiness. He dislodged the grappling-hook from the top of the electric pole and rapidly made his way down to the next street.
At the same time, only a kilometre away:
In a random residential home.
The soles of a boot stepped onto a floor full of shattered glass, making light crunching noises.
The moment the noise was heard, a shadow in the corner of the house moved. In the pitch darkness, a black and rotten face could be seen as it turned around, as if smelling the scent of fresh human flesh. It’s cloudy eyes rolled over.
A flash of a shadowy figure brought with it a body wrapped in cold winds, staggering his way into the house, as if completely unaware of the life-threatening danger that lay hidden in the corner of the room.
Air constantly leaked out of the chest cavity that had largely rotted away, the zombie climbed up onto its shaky and unsteady limbs, its instinct to hunt exploded through the stimulation of the sweet Omega pheromones. It pounced and clutched onto the stranger and bit down!
The taste of bloody flesh filled its rotten mouth in an instant, but before the zombie could take a second bite, a sharp cracking sound came from its neck.
The zombie’s head had been twisted at a weird angle, which was followed by being picked up by the oncomer in a one-armed manoeuvre and slammed heavily into the wall; its brain fluids splattered across half of the wall.
Si Nan let out an unintelligible slurred whine, and in his haze, he could feel that his wrist hurt a lot, but he could not clearly see what had happened. So he lifted his other hand to feel, and seemed to touch what felt like wet blood and flesh.
I’ve been bitten by a zombie, such a thought flashed in his subconsciousness.
This was actually very bizarre, because his whole body felt as light and airy as though he was walking on clouds, dizzying flashes of lights and spots endlessly flashed before his eyes, his mental state switched back and forth between reality and fantasy. He couldn’t even recall who he was, much less figure out if he were standing, sitting, or passed out.
But in spite of all that, he knew that he had been bitten by a zombie.
He made loud clattering noises and stumbled to a sit on the ground, leaning against the damp and dirty wall, he stretched out both his long legs shakily, as painful ripping sounds came from his chest when he gasped for breath.
Bitten again, he thought.
“You’ve been bitten again.” Someone spat out the words one by one, fueled with anger.
It was a blond-haired, blue-eyed young man dressed in military camouflage, who didn’t appear to be that much older, looking to be in his twenties at most. However, due to his prestigious background, the man’s shoulder was already decorated with badges, with the line of his brows and the corners of his eyes giving off an air of arrogance; an expression of contempt and anger combined.
Si Nan leaned back into the electric chair, he wore a white tee-shirt, his figure slim and lean like a youth going through puberty, and his head was raised up with nonchalance.
“So, you gonna punish me?” It’s probably been a while since he cut his hair, but his tousled fringe could not hide his bright gaze full of mockery. Speaking without a care, “Do it, then.”
The man was probably enraged by this sort of attitude, the man gripped his collar and shouted, “You think we’re doing this to harm you? You’ve always been a monster! Besides being experimented on and receiving special training, what other options do you have! Had father thrown you into an orphanage to begin with, you would have become just a low-life, punching hours in at a convenience store or delivering take-outs!”
Si Nan raised an eyebrow, “Oh? In your eyes, the definition of a low-life are those who drive to make food deliveries? You sure are an educated young master.”
The man opened his mouth again as if to continue scolding, however, Si Nan’s lips curved up at the corner with malevolence.
“I had thought that after the ‘dirty and scheming’ mother of mine had died, your father who fell into a drunken haze of despair up until the end of his life, was the real definition of a low-life.”
A loud smack rang throughout the room, the man’s slap had sent Si Nan’s head sideways, where slowly, drops of blood dripped down out of the corner of his mouth.
“…” The youth gasped for two breaths, then turned his head back to smile at him
“Or you could also say that, you, who harbored a heart full of hatred for your father, yet still worked as hard as you could just to be acknowledged by him, probably couldn’t even begin to be compared to a low-life…”
He had thought he would be receiving another slap to the face, but after the man raised his hand, it stopped abruptly in mid-air instead. After five seconds of complete silence, he suddenly roared angrily: “Shock him!”
The moment his words fell, blue light sizzled alight. Si Nan’s whole body tensed and arched backwards from the shock, his hands and feet unable to resist cramping up from the seizure.
The electroshock ended after a few seconds.
However Si Nan did not regain consciousness, his posture remained sunken deep into the back of the chair, unmoving, and for a moment there were no signs of movement, not even the rise and fall of his chest could be seen.
The man waited another ten seconds, and suspicion finally arose from the depths of his eyes. He cautiously walked up and stopped for a moment, before placing his hand to the youth’s artery on his neck, only to feel that the pumping beneath his thin skin was abnormally weak. He tried again and reached for the youth’s nose with his forefinger, his breathing coming out in small wisps, it was almost undetectable.
How could this be?
“Send a few people over.” He switched on his own communicator on his shoulder, curtly issuing an order, and unlocked the cuffs on the youth’s wrist.
Right at this moment, Si Nan’s originally pale and slender fingers that had been devoid of any signs of life, clenched into a fist, the veins in the back of his palm tensing.
The moment the man noticed something was up, he swiftly retreated, however the oncoming sharp winds were as quick as lightning, Si Nan grabbed ahold of the arm-rests and lifted his whole body up sideways, sending the man flying towards the corner of the room with a kick!
The thundering sound of collision rumbled through the ground, the man who was caught off guard cried out in pain, his body spun and sank down. He opened his eyes in alarm, only to see Si Nan leaning down in front of him, a knee on his chest as he aggressively pulled him up by the collar of his military camouflage uniform.
Cold sweat dripped down from the corner of the youth’s pallid forehead, the after effects of the electroshock treatment had yet to fade completely; however in doing so, the pain had shrouded him with a striking layer of eerie light upon him, forming an unknowing, domineering attraction, that made one unable to keep their eyes off him.
“Are you scared of me?” He asked with a smile.
The man’s breath was stuck in his throat, the anger burning from the overbearing shame, as well as another sudden raging yet indescribable emotion, had forced him to the point where he couldn’t make a sound.
“You’re scared of the monster that I am, and yet you still wish to control the power of this monster—”
When Si Nan smiled, a hint of white teeth peeked out from the corner of his lips. On such an elegant young man’s face, it appeared quite playful and attractive.
But if you looked into his eyes, you would only feel cold terror in your heart, as if you were looking right at a demon screeching awake in the deep abyss of hell.
“Foolish and greedy, yet so ignorant,” The young man leaned in next to his ear, speaking softly, “You will all pay for it.”
The door to the laboratory behind them was forced open, security guards rushed in and pulled the youth away in a flurry, one of them came forward to help the man up from the floor carefully.
Someone was loudly berating, someone was roaring, and yet Si Nan did not hear anything clearly. He didn’t even look at the man shooting him disbelieving looks from across the crowd of people. The moment he turned around, he had already forgotten whether he had received heavier punishment that day, he could only remember the twisted feeling of joy in the depths of his heart.
You will all pay for it.
And I would not care at all.
Because fate brought everything with it into the grave, leaving me behind with nothing, so I have nothing left to care about at all.
Dawn, six o’clock:
The depth of the night rotated and lifted from the ground, an endless expanse of ash blue appearing at the peak of the dome of the sky, just like discoloured spots on black cloth after several washes, it expanded slowly within sight.
Zhou Rong held the gun in with one arm, and hid behind an electrical circuit box in the corner of an alley. He licked at the wound on the back of his hand that had been cut when he stumbled down from the second floor, exhaustedly puffing out a breath of hot air that condensed into white clouds.
On the road not too far ahead, zombies were slowly walking out of the shadows, roaring and staggering, forming into groups.
It’s another brand new day in the apocalypse.
“Si Xiao-Nan…” Zhou Rong mumbled coarsely, “ Give me a bit more courage, I’m begging you,”
As if realising something, the zombies changed directions in unison, squeezing into the small alley. With gritted teeth, Zhou Rong stood up from behind the electrical circuit box and pulled the trigger, felling several zombies upfront. Alongside the gunshots, however, more living dead simply excitedly stepped over their comrade’s corpses, fighting and scrambling as they pushed forward.
Zhou Rong made a break for it and ran, his shouting had nearly used up all the energy he had in his body, “Si—Xiao—Nan!”
On the messy floor full of filth inside the rental house, Si Nan suddenly twitched from his unconsciousness, his eyelashes trembling as he opened his eyes.
The first rays of sunlight shone through the window lattice, illuminating the beheaded body of a zombie, a black and dry withered bones of an infant in the corner of the house, the wall splattered full of rotten blood and spinal fluid, as well as a digital clock that still blinked with green light underneath the desk that had toppled over.
The daylight grew clearer at an exceedingly arduous pace, showing itself as a long and thin strip of light on the floorboards. At the end of the light’s trail, the unidentifiable bite wounds in the mess of blood and flesh on Si Nan’s wrist had dried out and scabbed over, turning into a dark purple scar, just beginning to …
Beneath the scab was newly regrown tender skin, the pink that had yet to completely fade away, quietly bathing in the thin fog of the dawn of a new day.
Si Nan shut his eyelids tightly, and only opened them again after a few minutes, sitting up in a daze.
“…Is anyone here?”” He looked around him, asking with a hoarse voice.
Silence spread across the rental home with no reply.
“Zhou Rong?” He asked quietly, “Rong-ge?”
Si Nan dragged himself up, his mind still a little foggy, and walked to the window with unsteady footsteps. In the gap between buildings, the first rays of daybreak suddenly shone through from the horizon on the east, making his pupils contract instinctively.
As if lightning had just struck into the hazy depths of his mind, everything that had happened in the past twenty-four hours replayed in a quick flash before his eyes— the cement slab that collapsed in the construction site, Yan Hao whose wrist had been snapped broken, Zhou Rong who had been yelling in a panic, the endlessly bustling and crowded zombies…
The last scene that remained frozen in his memories was the searchlights that swept to and fro in the skies above the city, the loud roar of the helicopters as it broke through layers of clouds, flying faraway towards the south.
They went to Nanhai.
In the moment he registered this reality, Si Nan’s blood ran cold, as though his lungs were suddenly frozen into ice.
“None of you…” He immediately grew anxious, looking out the window with all his might, hoping to see a hint of the helicopter’s shadow in the dim light of dawn.
None of you waited for me.
—Why didn’t they wait for me?
Si Nan stepped backwards precariously, then sat down defeatedly on the floorboards, and held his head in his arms. The strong feelings of regret bit down mercilessly onto his heart like a venomous snake, the indescribable pain seeping into every organ and limb of his body like venom.
I’ve ruined everything, he thought as he grabbed at his hair frantically, I ruined everything again.
Yan Hao was injured by me, maybe Zhou Rong too… I lured my teammates into the heart of a city infested full of the living dead, injured them, then left them behind and ran off on a bike!
How could I run off just like that?!
Are they safe now, where are they? Did Zhou Rong try to look for me, would they circle back?
Countless questions mercilessly pulled his heart deeper and deeper into hell, where Si Nan couldn’t breathe.
I was wrong, I’m still here, please come back and look for me… He thought as he trembled, fingers subconsciously scratching at the floorboards, leaving behind countless criss-crossing white lines.
I was wrong, please come back and look for me…
The light of daybreak shone brightly through the window from up above, scattering into the narrow rental home, Si Nan closed his eyes from pain in the bright light.
He was willing to pay any price just to go back twenty-four hours ago, to grab onto the him who was leaving on the bike in a craze, and give himself a hard slap. Or alternatively, he was even more willing to return to the moment right before he had turned against the unprepared Yan Hao and Zhou Rong, and snap his own wrist clean, stopping the consequences he couldn’t take back right there before it could happen.
However, there was nothing he could do now.
He had no weapons, no food, no transportation, and stood alone in the heart of a city packed full of zombies.
Alone with no backup.
Never before has he ever realised as clearly as now, after he had painstakingly established new connections to this new world, that he would actually cut them all off with his own hands, falling back into the dark depths of loneliness.
Dawn, 6:30 AM:
Strong pangs of hunger woke Si Nan, he opened his eyes in a blur, the corners of his eyes wet and reddened.
It was already bright out in the city, the sounds of the zombies’ heavy footsteps and groaning came from the streets.
—he needs to leave.
Si Nan stood up, and stars exploded beneath his eyelids. As a result of spending a winter-night on the cold hard floor, he had come down with a fever. He could even feel his own forehead burning up, his footsteps were light and airy, and every step felt like he was walking on springs, but he knew he absolutely cannot collapse now.
Zhou Rong had left the military tanks parked at the helicopter landing bay out on the outskirts of the city, if he hurried over now, he could probably still make it to Nanhai.
“I’m sorry…” Si Nan spoke softly, pausing for a moment and talking to himself again, “Wait for me.”
He pushed open the door, shivered from the cold, and staggered out of the rental house.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
Zhou Rong couldn’t recall how many times he had pulled the trigger, using the heavy-fire of the submachine gun to keep the zombies at bay, then narrowly escaped up the wall or tree branches. How many times had he relied on the aerial route to clutch onto a slim chance of survival?
Fortunately, lady luck favoured him, never once was he truly pushed to the brink of desperation with nowhere else to go, not only that, he even found an unimaginable blessing in broad daylight: in the corner of a ruined cupboard inside a shop, he found several small pieces of bread, although dried and yellowing, it was still good enough to eat.
“I thank the greatest invention of all mankind— preservatives,” Zhou Rong mocked in a self-deprecating manner, he squatted on top of the wall and finished two pieces of bread in a few bites, and carefully wrapped up the remaining two to keep.
“Comrade Si Xiao-Nan, ge is warning you, if you still choose to be picky at this time I really will spank you on the butt…”
He stood up while leaning on the branches, the crowd of zombies and their claws beginning to encroach a few centimetres below his feet. He jumped up onto the roof, following along the wall and speedily walked towards the main road..
If Si Nan was able to regain sanity, there was a large possibility that he would take full advantage of the daylight to leave the city center, and head towards the expressway to the airport where they parted ways— even if he did feel disappointed that squad 118 had left him behind, he would still probably scavenge the military tank for extra resources and think of a way, or snatch another helicopter, to fly to Nanhai.
But now, he should still be in the city.
Zhou Rong surveyed the environment of his surroundings, his gaze locked onto the roof of an office building not too far off, and calculated the probability of success of gathering fuel to light up a signal, and after a while, he clamped down his teeth and made up his mind.
“Not much, I’ll hit it just once,” Zhou Rong pondered on Si Nan’s butt, and his teeth itched while thinking, “At most twice.”
This imagination gave him boundless energy. Zhou Rong pushed his body forward and leaped, climbing onto the tree branches next to the sidewalk from the rooftop, jumping to the ground following after, and sprinting off before the group of zombies on the road could react.
Si Nan lifted up the display racks that had fallen to the ground, and disappointedly realised that besides garbage and junk, there was nothing edible.
When the apocalypse occured, the city had been robbed clean by the people escaping from the danger, and then later, the survivors that remained in the city had scavenged through it repeatedly. Not mentioning vacuum-packed food and cans, even bubblegum, snacks, seasonings were all snatched clean. Right now, not even bread crumbs would be left over.
Si Nan grabbed a chair, and knocked over a zombie that had secretly snuck up to him from behind, and then stood up in dizziness with a bloated head.
Hunger and thirst consumed all his senses, other than the intense overpowering hunger, he basically couldn’t feel anything else.
If only there were something to eat…. he thought in a haze.
Just a little to eat is good…
Suddenly his ears were piqued, he heard the sound of car tires rolling across the asphalt not too far from him— there’s someone here!
How could there be people here? Are they survivors or a rescue team? Or was it… had squad 118 came back for him?
As if he had suddenly been injected with a vial full of heart-strengthening medicine into his bloodstream, Si Nan’s whole body felt reinvigorated, he ran out of the small alley like he was flying, rushing onto the main road like a sharp arrow, and barely managed to catch a glimpse of a blue and white striped car leaving far away.
“Hey! Hey—!” Si Nan shouted without a regard, “Zhou Rong!!”
However that car did not stop, it made a turn at the end of the road and drove into another district.
Si Nan didn’t even think about it and chased after it. He has probably never ran this fast before in his life, not even when he was pursued by bloody zombies in B military base, the zombies that had gathered up into masses hadn’t even had the chance to graze the corners of his clothes before he leaves them far behind to eat his dust.
“Zhou Rong!!” He shouted with all his strength until his vocal chords tore.
After turning into countless different streets, Si Nan’s footsteps stopped at the crossroads, and surveyed the surrounding area with gasping breath.
A hospital, a school, a traffic guardhouse, streets and gardens… the zombies walked in twos and threes, circling in place, dragging their rotted feet in limping steps, roaring in unintelligible grumbles.
Where is he?
Where’s Zhou Rong?…
Si Nan’s gaze slowly fell inch by inch into despair, and just like he had suddenly caught sight of a life-saving grass, he skidded to a halt—
Not too far ahead, behind one of the gas filling stands of the petrol station, the back of a white-blue coloured SUV peeked out from behind.
Si Nan couldn’t help but take a few steps forward, and stopped his footsteps right after. Through the gaps between the petrol stands, he sees the door of the car pushed open, a large hulking figure of the driver in a hoodie got out and went to the trunk of the car, the man dug out several packs of compressed biscuits and water, and then reentered the driver’s seat.
Si Nan, who had been in a feverish haze, felt as though he was suddenly doused in ice and snow— that wasn’t Zhou Rong.
Who are they? Are they dangerous? Do they have weapons? Are they an alpha?
The heat of the moment passed, and Si Nan’s battle-worn senses began blaring instinctively, logic reminding him that he should immediately hide himself, keep tailing them, observe their behaviours before making any moves; however the hunger that had reached its limits made him hesitate, he really wants to ask for some… or pinch a bit of something to eat.
He had never been this hungry before.
Si Nan quietly gulped down his saliva, his mouth watering.