Luo Yuan inspected the carcass of the guard beetle and confirmed that it was indeed a blue rank monster. Oddly though, its nutrition appeared to be on the same level as the one found in light blue monsters. Weak. He took a while to consider whether he should harvest the green beetle’s flesh, but he decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle. Truthfully, it wasn’t only its weak nutrition that he based this decision upon; he had lost his appetite just by looking at how awfully green all that mess was. Still, he noted what a waste it would be to leave a blue rank monster behind.
He found a spear-like exoskeleton and was tempted to build a new armor using alchemy. However, that thought made him remember what had become of his sword. Uncertain of what might have happened to its properties, he decided to cast an evaluation spell.
“Properties: M-Alloy, Green Beetle Exoskeleton”
”Weight: 4.3 kg”
“Secondary Effects: Attack Speed +1”
“Minimum Requirements: STR 11”
“Evaluation: The perfect combination of high-level alloy and green beetle exoskeleton. It enhances the sharpness of the blade.”
What had been originally just a plain sword had now become a sharpened sword with an improved strength of 4 points and a blue rarity level. Luo Yuan couldn’t help but feel joy at this accidental product of alchemy. He wanted to find out if it could get any stronger, so he plunged the blade into the hind leg of the carcass and began chanting. The blade instantly burned, lightening the dark green flesh gradually until it eventually turned into a dry piece of meat. He gently touched the flesh with his foot and – poof! – it turned into dust. He could see the blade glowing a brighter green than it originally had, somehow looking translucent. He gently waved the sword around, hearing the blade tear through the air particles, feeling how refined his weapon had become. He cast a second evaluation spell and found that, other than a slight increase in strength, its rarity had not changed.
Luo Yuan was excited at how the alchemy had improved his weapon; he continued casting spells on his sword while he moved from limb to limb on the guard beetle’s carcass. The more spells he cast though, the slower the merging process became and the lesser the increase in strength his weapon obtained. By the time all its limbs had been merged, his weapon only had a total strength increase of two points, and its rarity had not changed at all.
I guess the sword cannot achieve a rarity beyond the monster’s ranking.
He thought of his snake-skin bulletproof vest, and he immediately took it off and placed it on the back of the beetle’s exoskeleton. He started casting spells once again, and only stopped when the exoskeleton had become white as snow.
“Fortified Snake Skin Bulletproof Vest”
“Material: Snake Scales, Snake Skin, Green Beetle Exoskeleton”
“Weight: 0.3 kg”
“Minimum Requirements: N/A”
“Evaluation: A bulletproof vest fortified with snake scales and green beetle exoskeleton. It can protect the wearer against most blades and bullets.”
It would seem that the merging had also cancelled the former negative coercion effect that used to be on the vest; Luo Yuan had not remarked upon this change as the former effect had not had much of an impact. He held the vest, feeling the hardened texture that made it hard to bend on the edges. He put it on and felt slightly contorted from the tightness, feeling more or less like a walking tin can.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess.
He lit a cigarette from a pack he was carrying and took a deep puff. He had never been much of smoker, but the dire times he was going through had definitely changed him and stressed him out enough to constantly crave a smoke. He tossed his half-smoked cigarette aside, put on a wrecked jacket, and walked back towards the girls.
He stumbled a bit on the way, still recovering from the exhausting battle. He noticed that the girls were staring blankly at the sky. Blood was flowing non-stop from their noses, turning their faces into abstract pieces of art covered in bright red stains. He took the paper bag from them and saw that it was completely empty. They denied finishing the whole lot, claiming that it had already been less than half when they had taken it from him. However, he was sure there had been at least half left and was shocked by how quickly the meat strips had been consumed.
“I can’t even… I told you this would happen if you ate too much!”
“But we’re fiiine… Right?” Huang Jiahui blushed. She wasn’t sure if that was a side-effect of the meat strips or her own embarrassment being manifested.
“You won’t die per se, but these things…They are technically an aphrodisiac! They excite your body when you consume them! You know what, forget it. You girls survive bleeding a week every month without dying anyway.”
“You did not say that!” Huang Jiahui exclaimed, baffled by Luo Yuan’s remark.
Huang Jiahui thought about her own daughters back home, who couldn’t even handle a nosebleed by themselves, and was snapped back into the present. She felt anxious to continue their journey now that their hero had recovered.
They resumed walking, getting ambushed several times along the way. Most attackers were shot dead by Huang Jiahui with the rifle. After less than an hour of walking, they arrived at the Shanshui District. Huang Jihui was very fidgety and kept mumbling to herself constantly.
The Shanshui District was a high-rise zone, where every unit was at least ten floors high. Huang Jihui lived on the seventh floor. Unfortunately for the trio, the power supply had been cut, so the elevator was out of commission. They had to climb their way up the stairs and by the time they reached the seventh floor, Huang Jiahui was completely out of breath and looking white as a sheet.
Luo Yuan looked ahead of her and saw that the metal gate was ajar. There were several dents on it made by both big and small punches, one of which was aimed right at where the lock had been, causing the door to break open. He deduced that the punches were made by a green beetle’s front limbs.
Huang Jiahui got herself together and frantically dashed towards her home.
“Ningning? NINGNING! Where are you?”
Luo Yuan and Zhao Qianqian quickly ran after her. The room was a complete mess. Everything had been tossed all over the place as if a hurricane had swept inside. The living room glowed from the reflection of the green beetle carcasses, and the walls were marked by bullet holes. Luo Yuan examined an empty bullet shell he found on the floor.
“Someone was here. You should look for your daughter. I think she’s still alive considering there’s no blood in the room.”
Huang Jiahui sighed in relief, but was unable to find her daughter anywhere in the house. She ran towards the phone in a panic. Something had just occurred to her, and she dialed before she could even hear a dial tone. “Yujiahui, is Ningning with you?”
“Yeah, she’s safe. Lucky I got there in time before anything happened.”
She exhaled, “I can’t thank you enough! I was worried sick!”
“She is my daughter too. It’s been getting really dangerous recently. I think it’d be best if she stayed with me for a little longer.”
“Oh, okay. That’s fine. Sounds reasonable. Could you please put her on? I just want to hear her voice.”
“I’m out on a mission at the moment. How about tonight? You could move here too. I’ve already spoken with Xiao Yan. You guys would get along just fine.”
“Ugh! How could you even suggest that? I can’t believe it!”
“Jiahui, please. Listen to me. It’s really f*cked up out there right now, alright? People are dying every minute! It’s too dangerous for you to be living on your own. If you move here, I could protect you. I mean it, I…”
She abruptly slammed the receiver and tossed the phone on the couch.
“Was that your ex-husband?” Zhao Qianqian asked.
“Something like that. We’ve been too caught up with work to get an official divorce yet. But we’ve been separated for more than two years. Forget about that assh*le. Look at this mess! You guys want anything to drink? There should be some tea left, I’ll go put the kettle on,” she said, trying her best to remain calm. She walked into the kitchen, where they heard her shout, “The gas has stopped working!”
“What? The gas?” Luo Yuan echoed in concern.
The units in the Donghu District ran on an interconnected system of gas piping. Only a handful of households use a canned gas supply. Luo Yuan was not as concerned about the power outage, because it was not as much of a necessity compared to the gas supply. Civilization could still function without power, but it would be slightly inconvenient to live without gas. People would have to go back to the stone age and start their own fires to cook their meals.
This hit him hard. It was probably the first time that he felt that the end was near.
From the broken window, he could see several green beetles casually taking a stroll, undisturbed by any human presence. It was as if the world had been dominated by aliens.
Luo Yuan took out a cigarette and struggled to light it. He was shaking. He took a puff and nervously beat its ashes to the ground.
Zhao Qianqian was confused, “The government would handle it, right? They wouldn’t let us die of starvation, would they? Otherwise, what are we going to eat?”
“Let’s hope they will,” Luo Yuan said as he stood. “I have to go now.”
From the outside, Luo Yuan might seem to have recovered from all his injuries, but he was aware that it was only the effect of the meat strips that was keeping him from collapsing. Once that effect wore off, he wasn’t sure what would become of him.
Zhao Qianqian got up nervously.
Huang Jiahui hesitated, caught in a dilemma. She looked at the broken door and recalled how angry she had been on the phone. “Xiao Luo, is it alright if I stay at your place for now?”
“Of course it is. I’ve got plenty of rooms to spare!
At times like these, it was indeed a terrifying thought for a woman to be alone; especially when her house lacked a proper door.
Zhao Qianqian stood silently, completely baffled.
Huang Jiahui quickly packed some essentials. She was out the door with her luggage in less than ten minutes time.