Edited By: yjtc
This sentence alone was enough for Si Nan to fill in the gaps of this story’s beginning and end with his wild imagination. However, on the surface he remained very composed and expressed his curiosity with one word decorously. “Oh?”
Zhou Rong was very satisfied with his attentiveness.
“Rescuing the hostages involved the participation of 3 groups of people: Kidnappers, competitors, and hostages. The kidnappers were all dressed the same, while the competitors wore bulletproof vests with GPS chips embedded, and the hostages had nothing. During the competition, I had already rescued two hostages. All I had to do was to bring them through the jungle, and I would have completed my mission successfully. However, it was at this time that I met this Omega who offered himself up to me.”
Si Nan nodded in head in understanding.
“It’s not what you’re thinking. At that time, his face was all muddy and sweaty, you wouldn’t be able to tell if he was pretty or not. However, he did look very pitiful and was also very clingy. No matter where I went, he would follow. Once the sky darkened, he would be scared, and insisted on hugging my arm to sleep…”
Si Nan studied Zhou Rong’s muscular arm under his short-sleeved t-shirt, and again gave another understanding nod.
“…” Zhou Rong probed. “Why do I feel like your thoughts are a little filthy.”
“They’re not. What happened next?”
Zhou Rong was unable to find evidence of his listener’s filthy thoughts, and could only let it go.
“Next? I led these 3 hostages, trudging through the jungle on foot. Anything we had to eat was first given to this child, and if there was any danger, he would be the first one to be protected. He didn’t have to lift a finger to do any work, all the tent building, fire starting, and cooking were all left to us. We really took care of him, worrying about him all the time. And he too was very attached to me… Everyone understood, he was only a delicate and weak Omega, especially since he was so young.”
Zhou Rong inhaled on his cigarette, then ground the butt out on the floor. His expression became a little strange. “Until the last day, the night when we were at the edge of the jungle, about to reach the camp…”
“He confessed his feelings for you?” Si Nan asked.
A moment of silence before Zhou Rong replied gloomily, “No.”
“He knocked me out and tied me up. After expressing his thanks to me, he picked up my firearms and gear, then led my hostages away; only until the next day when the organising committee sent someone to rescue me did I learn that he was not a hostage, but a competitor representing Country A…”
“And so, I, who was originally leading the pack, had failed this event. Up till today, I still can’t understand why an Omega could be so treacherous and unscrupulous, burning bridges in such a manner!”
Zhou Rong slammed his fist into his palm then buried his face in the crook of his arm. Si Nan had to use all of his self-control before he could speak composedly, “Oh, Rong-ge, that’s really too tragic… How did you not realise he was a competitor?”
“Because the first thing he did when he entered the jungle was to dump all his equipment, empty out his canteen, throw away his rations, and bury his firearms. As for the GPS chip that had to be on us the entire time, and commonly used to identify the competitors, guess what did he do with it?”
Si Nan shook his head.
“He swallowed it.” Zhou Rong gritted out. “It had to be removed via surgery!”
…You guys really went all out for that absurd competition of yours, Si Nan thought sincerely.
“What’s even scarier is that this kid already has a partner. After the competition, someone from Country A picked him up. I saw that foreign Alpha bite him on the gland at the back of his neck with my own eyes.” Zhou Rong was furious. “What else could this be other than making use of my feelings?”
Piercing the gland at the back of the neck was a standard temporary mark. It would normally last for about three to four weeks, until it faded away with the Omega’s blood circulation. This was usually used for Omegas who had not been permanently marked. The temporary mark could prevent the Omega’s pheromones from being released, but most importantly, it identified the Omega as one who had been claimed, and it was a provocation for the Alphas around them.
Another unsubstantiated but widely accepted theory was that a temporary mark was enough to form a short-term agreement between the Alpha and the Omega. Or in other words, a mark of the Omega’s submission to its Alpha..
— Alphas would use this method of direct injection of their pheromones to increase the Omegas’ natural capitulation to them, and achieve a temporary dominance.
Si Nan imagined that scene. For some reason, he was vaguely uncomfortable about it, as though in his subconscious he felt that the truth was not as how Zhou Rong depicted it. However, since Zhou Rong had done him a favour, it would not be polite to doubt him. He replied earnestly, “Yes, Rong-ge, you’re right.”
“So now you know why you shouldn’t look for Omegas as your partner? Don’t think that their occasional displays of weakness mean that they’re interested in you. A Beta like you, will be conned by them to the point where you’ll be left with nothing, not even your bones.” Zhou Rong pulled out his cigarette box before putting it back in after a moment’s consideration. Instead, he took out a box of fever medication and extracted two pills, motioning at Si Nan to eat them.
“Go and sleep, I won’t chat with you anymore. If your fever subsides tomorrow, it means you’re not infected. If it doesn’t I’ll have to shoot you tomorrow.”
Si Nan leaned against the wall at the room’s corner, and behind his head was a cushion Zhou Rong made out of a thick shirt. With the dim light coming from the door crack, he could see that a large part of the medicine box had been darkly stained with blood.
“… Thank you.” He paused, then gave a small smile. “I’ll heed your warning… I won’t look for an Omega as my partner.”
Zhou Rong patted him on his head.
It was at this moment when two knocks sounded on the door. Zhou Rong got up and opened the door slightly, revealing Chun Cao standing outside. She said quietly, “We need to discuss the retreat for tomorrow, Rong-ge. The helicopter won’t be able to land directly on the roof…”
Zhou Rong gestured at her, cutting her off.
“Ask Yingjie to come here and stand on guard with his gun. Don’t allow those who made the most fuss earlier to come close to this area.”
The door shut gently. Si Nan closed his eyes and listened as Zhou Rong’s footsteps faded away.
The next day, the doctor put down the thermometer, astonished. “37.3˚C.”
Zhou Rong gave a courteous nod of thanks, but everyone who saw his face knew that what he wanted to say was “You idiot.”
Under Zhou Rong’s triumphant expression, the doctor left resentfully. Zhou Rong kicked Si Nan with the tip of his shoe, implying that since he was no longer having a fever, he should not lie there and pretend to be dead anymore, it was time to get to work immediately. Next, he turned around and clapped his hands together, calling out loudly, “Very good — time to wake up! Pack your gear, move the resources, and clear the passageway! Hurry the fuck up and prepare for the arrival of the helicopter!”
The bodies on the floor all climbed up sluggishly. Chewing on a seaweed pork floss bun, Si Nan left his little room only to see Yan Hao sitting outside in the cramped corridor, long legs folded up uncomfortably, with the carbine that had been returned to him in his hands. Hearing Si Nan walk out, he lifted his head and revealed a tender smile.
Si Nan’s footsteps faltered.
Yan Hao stood up, stretching his stiff limbs, then turned and left.
Zhou Rong was a monster who did not need any rest, he was always energetic than anyone else. Before lunch, he had personally drawn out their path of retreat, and divided the survivors into fourteen teams in which they would successively make their way up to the roof through the safe passageway one by one. He had also cleared out all the zombies roaming about that passageway, and sealed up all the doors and windows on every floor. The special forces soldiers patrolled around, ready to report any anomalies through their walkie-talkies.
At 3.30pm, when Zhou Rong had Yan Hao bring a team to clean up the roof of the shopping mall for the 101st time, the booming sound from the rotors of four helicopters echoed throughout their surroundings, announcing their arrival.
“They’re here!” Yan Hao waved vigorously as he shouted into the walkie-talkie. “The helicopters are preparing to land. Arrange for the first team to come up.”
The survivors had mixed feelings of joy and sorrow. They sobbed as they climbed up to the roof under the escort of the special force soldiers. The pilot opened the doors to the aircrafts, and yelled in the turbulence, “Come in from the front, don’t go near the back of the craft — hurry hurry hurry! Don’t crowd in, enter one by one!”
“There aren’t enough aircrafts!” A pilot shouted at Zhou Rong. “We’ll transport a batch of them first and then come back again!”
Zhou Rong, so busy that he was covered in sweat, waved his hand to acknowledge it. Finding an opportunity, he ran to the back of the team and dragged out Si Nan. He shoved a military knife that had been warmed by his body temperature along with an apple from somewhere into his arms.
“Get on!” Zhou Rong pointed at the helicopters, shouting into his ear. “Go, hurry!”
Someone next to them was unhappy. “Hey, didn’t you just say that the women and children are to go first, and the men would be in the next group?”
Zhou Rong ignored him, pushing Si Nan forward with his strength. The white-collar worker, dressed in a suit and jostled by the crowd, was furious. “This is too much! What’s your name? I’m going to complain about you to the military command!”
“Zhou Rong—!” Zhou Rong berated, “Go, go complain!” Without another word, he continued dragging Si Nan to the front.
“It’s full, it’s full! Stop coming up!” The pilot’s roar travelled through the crowd amidst the chaos. He closed the doors of the aircrafts, blocking the few youths in front who were desperately trying to push their way in. The four helicopters simultaneously lifted off, turned, and flew off towards the north.
Loud curses and groans rang throughout the crowd. Zhou Rong swore silently, exhausted, and dropped his ass onto the ground.
Si Nan took out the apple and crunched into it, before leisurely handing it to him, “You want half?”
Zhou Rong took it grumpily, viciously taking a huge bite.
The two of them sat by the railing, sharing this precious apple with each other. Zhou Rong went up to maintain order within the crowd and rearrange the teams.
The survivors were very restless. Having their hopes of nearly being rescued dashed again, this group of people who had been left behind were especially disappointed. They were even more tense and worried than before, and their hopelessness spread through the atmosphere. The limited number of special forces soldiers were unable to completely control the scene, and even the medical team had to come help restore order amongst the crowd.
“What’s with them?” Zhou Rong frowned.
A couple of nurses were huddling in a corner of the roof. They crouched, leaning on each other, looking like they were in discomfort. Their faces were pale and wan and there were dark circles under their eyes.
“They’re a little tired from overwork.” The doctor explained, “They’ve been doing rounds everyday, disinfecting everything, and they haven’t been able get any uninterrupted rest. That day when your men moved the bodies of the zombies out for incineration, no one else was willing to help. They were the ones who helped move them using stretchers…”
The doctor looked rather unwell himself. Zhou Rong observed those nurses for a while, and suddenly asked, “How are their temperatures?”
“They’ve all been checked, they don’t have any wounds on their bodies!” The doctor said unhappily.
“My apologies.” Zhou Rong immediately said. “When the aircrafts return, your men will definitely be the first to board.”
Only then did the doctor ease up.
Si Nan finished the apple. He was fine now. His fever had already abated, and his entire body had a sort of lazy ache to it. Although it was not a strong discomfort, it was enough to make him feel too lazy to move. Leaning against the railing, he observed the devastated city below. A moment later, he retrieved that locket from within his shirt, opened it, and looked at that old photo of the smiling couple in a trance.
“Your parents?” Someone behind him asked.
Si Nan glanced over. It was Yan Hao.
“Your parents are both very…” Yan Hao wanted to say good looking, but before the words could come out, he felt that it seemed a little disrespectful, and so corrected himself. “Remarkable.”
Si Nan laughed, replying casually, “Too bad I didn’t inherit those genes.”
“This is something that’s acquired.” Yan Hao smiled and asked, “You’re of mixed parentage? I always thought you were a member of the T City’s local SWAT team.”
Si Nan did not respond.
Yan Hao silently studied him from the corner of his eye. The way Si Nan carried himself was decidedly neither elegant nor meticulous. Instead he was more similar to the special force soldiers around him, competent, sharp, and decisive.
Even so, after a few interactions with him, he realised that there was an indescribable, almost invisible difference in his behaviour. It was completely different from him, from Chun Cao and even from Zhou Rong.
Yan Hao thought about it, and changed the topic. “What did the captain chat about with you last night?”
Si Nan joked, “The Sorrows of Young Werther.” 1
“How he got eliminated by an Omega during the International Special Forces Jungle Competition?”
… Zhou Rong this strange man, he had definitely spread this embarrassing incident amongst his team himself.
“He must have only told you about how the Omega youth knocked him out and tied him up against the tree, apologised, then stole his firearms and hostage, right?” Yan Hao understood at once. “As for the flowers and the confession…”
Si Nan asked curiously, “Flowers? Confession?”
Yan Hao peeked at the crowd. Zhou Rong was in their midst, explaining again and again why he was going to let the medical team board the helicopter first.
“The reason why Captain Zhou remembered this for so long is because after the youth tied him up, he kissed him to express his apology.”
Si Nan, “…”
“That was the one and only close interaction Captain Zhou had ever had with an Omega,” Yan Hao said, smiling slightly. “So, if he told you that after the competition, he went looking for that youth to settle their accounts — he was lying… He actually bought flowers and wanted to confess, only to discover that the other person already had an Alpha, and so came back in a rage, tossing the flowers away.”
Si Nan shook his head slowly, exclaiming after a period of time. “… How tragic.”
Yan Hao agreed sympathetically, “Exactly.”
The sounds of the whirling helicopter blades drew nearer. Two helicopters had returned.
“Queue up! Queue up! Hurry!” Shouts and yells fluctuated through the crowd. The exhausted pilots bellowed through a loudspeaker, “Medical team! Where’s the medical team—!”
Those few nurses were pushed right to the front. Their faces were ashen and they entered the aircraft as if they were lifted into it.
Zhou Rong watched this scene from afar. He did not know why, but his eyelid kept twitching, and he felt a vague sense of unease. However, by now, the scene had already reached fever-pitch. Everyone was shouting as they shoved their way to the front, and some of the smaller and weaker ones were nearly pushed to the tail of the helicopter, the rotating blades at the end nearly brushing past their heads, and shrieks rang about them.
“There’s no more space! It’s full!” The loudspeaker amplified that voice to an ear-splitting volume. The pilot yelled, “Wait for the next one!!”
The pilot gave Zhou Rong a thumbs-up. With a bang, the door to the aircraft closed, and slowly made its way up to the air.
Involuntarily, Zhou Rong watched the helicopter depart, and a sudden unjustifiable fear seized his heart.
The whooshing wind fell silent, and the world froze at this moment.
Zhou Rong turned his head without consciously willing it. His eyes pierced through the crowd, and met Si Nan’s rapidly contracting pupils.
In the next instant, a funeral bell seemed to toll in the void. Zhou Rong abruptly started running, “Fall back—!”
“All of you! Fall back—!!”
The helicopter spun as it fell, its shadow getting larger. Amidst the terrible screams, it crashed into the second helicopter resulting in an earth-shattering explosion!
The force of the explosion immediately threw countless people off the roof, tumbling down to the ground below. Yan Hao, caught off-guard, fell over the railing. At that critical moment, his wrist was caught by Si Nan in a death grip!
“Climb up!” Si Nan called out to him.
Yan Hao gasped, gritting his teeth, found footing on the ledge of a window on the top story. About to leverage Si Nan’s help and climb up, he looked past Si Nan and seemed to notice something. His face changed immediately. “No! Don’t bother about me! Quickly, run!”
Si Nan’s chest was pressed against the railing, and with Yan Hao’s weight, he could barely catch his breath. Summoning up all his strength, he barely managed to turn back to take a look.
In the twisted wreckage of the helicopter, the door had been forced open. Countless people ran out, their smoking bodies on fire. They rolled on the ground, screaming miserably. Behind them, even more bodies stumbled out, gripping survivors nearest to them and biting savagely into their necks.
— There had been infected people amongst the survivors on the helicopter.
A new wave of the zombie virus outbreak was happening right before their eyes.