Luo Yuan was startled from his slumber by noises from outside the tent. He instinctively gripped the handle of his sabre and slowly opened his eyes. He tried to gently maneuver his way out between the limbs of the two ladies but they were instantly woken by his not so gentle movements.
“What’s going on?” Huang Jiahui was alarmed and grabbed hold of her pistol.
“No no no. It’s nothing. Go back to sleep. I’m just going to take a look outside” he said as he unzipped the tent and walked towards the noise.
There was an argument happening and it was loud even though the people tried to lower their voices.
“You’re letting us eat this crap?!”
“How is it supposed to fill our hunger? The porridge is so thin I can see my own reflection!”
“Get yo leader’s ass here right now! I don’t believe y’all have insufficient provision for the few of us here. Are you trying to piss off our Boss Luo?”
“Calm down, fellow brethren. Please try to understand. Yes, we do have sufficient provisions but that doesn’t mean we can afford to splurge it all at once. We don’t know how long we’ll be in here – we can’t just feast luxuriously now and worry about it later.” A middle-aged man explained while trying to offer a bitter smile. His explanation did calm the outrage as the crowd contemplated the possibility of provision deficiency.
Before he could continue justifying the lack of food provided, the middle-aged man was muted at the sight of Luo Yuan walking over with his murderous weapon. He froze.
“Oh…Boss Luo. You’re awake. I’m so sorry to have disturbed you.” The middle-aged man apologized generously with a big smile and a low bow.
Luo Yuan recognized that this was one of Su Jianhao’s henchmen, who seemed skilled with false pleasantries and honeyed words – definitely not a person to simply underestimate.
He frowned as he walked towards the big pot and saw how thin and transparent the porridge was – so thin he could see the bottom of the pot, and so little that each person would only have a single serving that could hardly fill their hunger. There was a dish of stir-fried vegetables that was equally minimal placed right next to the pot. He examined it with a spatula and left it as it was.
The middle-aged man’s name is Huang Zhongchan. He attempted to repeat his rehearsed lines about curbing the possibility of provision deficiency but failed as he looked at Luo Yuan. His forehead wrinkled, his heart was beating quickly against his chest and his palms were sweaty and he felt like he released buckets of sweat. He couldn’t help but be reminded of what Luo Yuan was capable of – the monster seems calm now but for how long? Had he known Luo Yuan would show up he would have decided against delivering the food on his own, but it is now too late.
Luo Yuan looked at Huang Zhongchan, not saying a word, scaring him pale and he could hardly smile. He did wait for Luo Yuan to speak, “I…I’ll take this back and bring a fresh pot of rice instead.”
Luo Yuan could see the fear in Huang Zhongchan’s eyes. He was amazed by fear he could impose on others by killing a man. He replied, “Well? Why are you still here? GET TO IT THEN.”
Huang Zhongchan sighed in relief that he wasn’t about to be slaughtered. He quickly summoned two other lackeys to have the pot of porridge removed and then hurried away.
It didn’t take long for a fresh pot of rice to arrive. This time, a proper meal was prepared – even more so than the meals they had when they were still at the villa. He did not eat together with the men but instead took his food and walked into the tunnel.
When he returned to the tent, the ladies had awaken from their sleep and were brushing their teeth with a small basin of water that was brought over.
“How much drinking water do we have left?” he asked. They had accidentally dropped their luggage while they were trying to escape the day before. The only things they have left are those that were in their backpacks, which isn’t much.
“Last I checked we had five bottles of water and some vacuum-sealed biscuits left. The rest are just money and some strips of gold…which I’m afraid are useless to us here.” Huang Jiahui answered.
“Get rid of the provision tickets. They have no value anymore. Let’s keep the water and biscuits as our emergency provision.” He frowned again as he felt the earth tremor lightly, “It’s not safe for us here. We need to get out as soon as we can.”
“BUT WHY, Brother Luo? Isn’t it safer here, under the solid bunker where no monsters can intrude?” Wang Shishi quickly interjected, surprised by how soon he had planned for them to leave.
“Do we really have to leave?” Huang Jiahui added calmly.
He nodded and said, “No matter how safe it may seem, this is still an incomplete underground bunker. The provisions they’ve prepared are clearly not enough. The refugees may have brought their own provision but that’s only sufficient for three to five days, any longer and a riot is bound to break out. I may not have starved myself but I can imagine how crazy a whole bunker of starving men would become. How about we leave after a few days of good rest?”
“But…where can we go?” the girls asked.
“We could return to the villa first as we have enough food and supplies prepared that can last us for about a year or maybe even more. And besides, maybe by then these monsters would have left the area due to the lack of food.”
Wang Shishi had to resist the urge to vomit after hearing him describe the monsters eating the other humans in such a casual manner.
“Would the people here die?” Huang Jiahui couldn’t help but ask, worried about the lives of the innocent and the suffering.
Luo Yuan understood her sentiments, so he sighed and responded, “Compared to the people on the outside? They’re quite lucky to be alive for the time being. If it’s about ten or thirty or forty people, I might be able to help them out but I’ve estimated that there are about a thousand or more of them here. Even if we did supply them the entire villa’s provisions, how many days would we all survive? Don’t think too much into it, eat.”
He brought out his bowl of rice but any appetite he had left was now gone. He took a few mouthfuls and just left the food as it is, feeling surprisingly guilty. He understood that this sort of survivor’s guilt can be quite dangerous. He also understands that he’d have to risk his own life going out hunting monsters for food to feed so many people. He’ll have to wait and see if anyone wants to follow them when they leave, then and maybe only then, will he decide if he can save any of them.
Luo Yuan woke up the next morning finding that many people could not stop vomiting and running to the toilet. Their skin began to itch and rashes covered their bodies. Many also came down with severe fever. By the afternoon, even Huang Jiahui started to fall ill, weak to the bones, unable to move.
He initially thought it was an epidemic, causing mass hysteria in the underground bunker. One of the things that they lack most these days is medical supplies. Any epidemic could prove to be deadly to the diminishing population especially when they are not able to tell whether their illness is the result of genetic mutations – of which they would have no vaccine or antidote to fight against.
A young man determined that this was the side-effect of being exposed to severe radiation. He was a doctor but one that lacked medical supplies to aid the fallen men and women. He couldn’t do much but to ask Luo Yuan to fetch some salt water for the sick to drink.
Luo Yuan may not be a doctor but he was a science major back in university and he knew that iodized salt contained potassium iodide which functions to prevent the radiation from further entering the veins but does not protect the body from other kinds of radiation such as nuclear radiation. However, they have no other options.
Several hours after drinking the salt water, Huang Jiahui miraculously recovered. He wasn’t sure if it was the salt or her body’s natural healing that helped her recover from the illness. Unfortunately, on the second day, three men died from the exposure to the radiation. On the third day, most of the sick had recovered almost completely. The doctor couldn’t help but be surprised by this miracle.
Luo Yuan was certain that the human body had not gone through the same mutation as the beasts and monsters they encountered but it has nonetheless improved. What was once considered as a deadly radiation may no longer be as lethal as it was before the apocalypse – just as how Luo Yuan and Wang Shishi’s bodies were hardly affected by the radiation.