After drinking, Luo Yuan leaned against the wall and looked aimlessly at the ceiling. He did not move at all.
The future was as bleak as this dark basement. There was not a sliver of light to be seen.
As the sun set, the sky began getting darker.
They had a rather lavish dinner and then began preparing to leave for the underground base.
Luo Yuan went out to get the car, but returned empty-handed after several minutes. His face looked upset.
“Why didn’t you drive the car up to the front door?” Huang Jiahui asked while she packed her clothes.
“The 4WD was squashed by a crumbling wall and the antique car has been stolen,” Luo Yuan said. “Looks like we have to walk there.”
“That thief should be shot to death!” Huang Jiahui said with spite as she threw her clothes.
“Forget it, it’s not like we didn’t steal it too.”
“Can’t we get another car?”
Luo Yuan lit a cigarette and took a long drag. “We wouldn’t have the keys, even if we found one. The underground base is not too far from here. Let’s just walk.”
“Not like there’s anything else we can do,” she said and sighed.
She pushed the clothes in and zipped the bag, then filled the Desert Eagle with the synthesized jade-white bullets Luo Yuan had given her and slotted the pistol on her hip. She hesitated before asking, “Should we pack some food?”
“Let’s not. We don’t have a car anymore, it’ll be too heavy,” Luo Yuan said, shaking his head. After thinking about it, he added, “Bring some water and condensed biscuits, just in case.”
He turned and saw Wang Shishi happily hugging a bear the size of a person. “Put that thing down! Get a backpack from the second floor and fill it with food stamps and gold bars from the bedroom and the safe in the basement!”
“Brother Luo, I… I can carry this!” Wang Shishi said with a pout. This Disney bear had been in her bedroom and was much better than the one she’d had at home. She had liked it ever since she had laid eyes on it.
Luo Yuan frowned, ready to lash out at her.
Huang Jiahui quickly advised, “Shishi, it’s not safe to bring this along. Put it down, you’ll get another one in the future.”
Wang Shishi jutted her lips before slamming the bear down with red eyes and stomping her way up the stairs.
Luo Yuan sighed. He knew that Wang Shishi had always liked soft toys. Before moving to the mansion, a dirty bear had always been sitting on her bed. She could only sleep hugging one of those at night.
Sometimes, when Luo Yuan came back from practicing his machete in the early mornings, he would find Wang Shishi crying in fits in her sleep.
This sudden apocalypse had brought a far more serious psychological trauma to Wang Shishi than it seemed. After all, she was still a teenage girl who had yet to grow up. There was no way she could bear all the trauma brought by the world, no matter how tough she was.
The apocalypse did not allow room for romanticism, nor toleration for sympathy. There was only elimination due to failure to adjust. Maybe life now would seem like heaven years down the road.
Luo Yuan stopped thinking and checked the weather outside. It was a full moon tonight, and it was bright and clear even without a flashlight. As for the bombings in the distance, they too had become less frequent as the night fell.
He checked the Rado watch he had found inside this house. It was 9 p.m. on Lunar New Year’s eve, apparently.
This time last year, he was watching the Spring Festival Gala in his rented room, thinking about where to eat the next day, but this year, he was worrying about surviving. Nobody could imagine the crazy changes the world could bring.
Luo Yuan headed to the living room. Wang Shishi had already returned with a backpack on her back. Looking at her throwing a tantrum, Luo Yuan tapped her shoulder and passed her the synthesized shuttle. “This is your companion. Your best and most loyal companion!”
Wang Shishi took the shuttle and nodded, seeming to understand the notion behind it.
Noticing that they were done packing, Luo Yuan checked the time and said, “The underground base opens at 12 a.m. but we should head out now, just in case something happens along the way. Jiahui, you carry the box with the clothes. Huang Yueying, you carry the box with the food. I’ll be on the lookout. Let’s go!”
Huang Yueying shuddered, her face a little pasty.
Since Luo Yuan had decided to take them to the underground base, she had thought that the way he looked at her had become a little strange. It had made her anxious the whole afternoon and that anxiety had finally peaked now that Luo Yuan had asked her to carry the box of food.
Food, clothes, and money held a different value to everyone during this apocalyptic era. To those with power, money came first as they didn’t have to worry about food or warmth; normal people placed food first, because they needed it in order to survive.
Luo Yuan was not powerful nor influential, but he was a strong, evolved person. He could easily obtain food or mutated beast meat. Despite the military control at the underground base, he would still be important as an evolved person and would not have to worry about food. He would be okay even if that food were to be gone.
So, was this arrangement intentional? Regardless, it only proved her insignificance to Luo Yuan. It was a pity that she had been there for such a short period of time. Despite the fact that she had performed well, it still had not changed the bad impression she had made on Luo Yuan.
Now that they were leaving, she had to make a decision. She built up the courage and said through gritted teeth, “Brother Luo, can you come to my room? I have something to discuss with you.”
“What is it? Can’t you say it here?” Luo Yuan asked, curious.
Both Huang Jiahui and Wang Shishi looked over at her suspiciously. Their gazed made her break out in cold sweat.
“It’s about the underground base. I have some intel.” Her hands clutched the hem of her clothes, the veins popping out on the back of her hands.
Luo Yuan got serious. He had only recently moved to Hedong City and had no connections, thus he didn’t know much. Huang Yueying, on the other hand, was local and had been staying in the area for a long time. He was not suspecting a thing as he told the other two girls to wait.
Huang Yueying’s heart thumped wildly as she opened the door to her bedroom, closing it immediately after Luo Yuan had stepped in.
Just as Luo Yuan was about to ask her what she wanted to tell him, Huang Yueying squatted down and reached out to pull down the zipper of his pants. She was, after all, a demure married woman. Her seduction tactic was direct and lacked any coyness.
“What are you doing?” Luo Yuan asked in a hushed voice as he took a step back.
Huang Yueying remembered how Luo Yuan had killed people without batting an eye. Her mind went blank as she trembled, “I… I…”
“Is there anything else that you want? If not, I’m leaving,” Luo Yuan said emotionlessly.
Huang Yueying had not expected things to go this way. Her face turned pale as she clung onto him. “No, don’t go.”
Luo Yuan looked at Huang Yueying, who was both begging and fawning. She looked like a frightened pigeon ready to collapse any time now. He sighed inwardly, but still made himself say, “This did not happen. We can’t stay here any longer, let’s go.”
Huang Yueying nodded uneasily and forced a smile, Her smile troubled Luo Yuan.
The two of them came out of the room. Wang Shishi’s eyes travelled back and forth between them, but of course, her lack of experience did not allow her to read anything. They both looked calm and collected. Huang Jiahui though, appeared thoughtful.
Luo Yuan and the girls walked out of the residential area cautiously. The bombings had stopped, leaving the growls of the mutated beasts to fill the air.
Large shadows flew across their heads from time to time, the wind they produced making rubbish and dust dance around. The ruined buildings on both sides of the road cast crooked shadows under the bright moonlight. Some people were rushing down the street in pairs or threes while the four of them lugged their belongings with hastened steps. The street was eerily quiet. No one was speaking.
Cars drove by, some of them stopping to pick up people, but most of them just zooming away.
Half an hour later, the crowd seemed to grow as they got closer to the construction site. The six-lane street was full of people.
Those who had driven there could no longer move forward with their cars and got off to retrieve their luggage from the back of their cars while they cursed, unable to wait any longer.
Luo Yuan frowned as he took in the scene. They still had more than two hours to go. It was only 10 p.m. If the Second Lieutenant had not lied, then it was not even close to the time the underground base was to open.
“What’s up?” Huang Jiahui asked anxiously as she took in Luo Yuan’s worried expression.
Luo Yuan said quietly, “It’s still far from the given time, yet there’s already so many people waiting. This is very strange.”
“You never told us, how many people can the underground base host?” Huang Jiahui asked worriedly.
Luo Yuan hesitated before he said in her ear, “Three hundred thousand!”
Huang Jiahui’s hand flew to her mouth, her face losing its color. Three hundred thousand slots? What would this mean for the 4 – 5 million people in the city? She dared not imagine. Sympathy was a luxury in this apocalyptic era. She quickly pondered the problem, “This should be confidential, otherwise the consequences would be unthinkable. Do you think the secret’s been exposed?”
“I hope I’m wrong!” Luo Yuan shook his head.
Nothing in this world was completely confidential, let alone a life-and-death matter.
Conscience and morality had always been ingrained in everyone living in a structured society. Even the worst of criminals were restrained by those shackles. Humans were social animals. Everyone had someone they could not leave behind; choosing was a torturous decision for people because in this case, it also meant discarding somebody else.
When maintaining secrecy was so hard, breaching confidentiality was only logical.
Friends had other friends, and relatives had more relatives; secrets no longer remained secrets under such circumstances.