Luo Yuan returned a few minutes later, visibly disturbed. He had searched through the whole residential area, but he had not found anything.
“Did you all see a person standing there just now?” he asked everyone.
“No, my eyes were only on you, Boss,” Sun Xiaowu said, looking embarrassed.
The others shook their heads too.
“Boss, could you maybe have been mistaken?” Huo Dong asked carefully, beginning to get nervous.
Was he really mistaken? Luo Yuan was not sure. The shadow had disappeared within the blink of an eye. His 13-point Dexterity was faster than normal people’s by 3.3 times. Unless that person had supersonic speed, his eyes would have caught them. Yet they hadn’t.
Luo Yuan thought back to the palpitations last night, his expression becoming serious. If it had been illusion, it was strange to have it happen twice in such a short period of time.
“Maybe I’ve really been mistaken,” Luo Yuan said without letting anything show. Telling them about this would not be of much help. It would only add to their fear.
He cut short his practice at the mansion, and asked Huang Jiahui to be on alert and open fire as a warning if anything seemed to be wrong. He went out again twice, but made no new discoveries.
He carefully searched the whole Jingyue Residential Area one last time, going through every room in the crumbling buildings. What spooked him was that there were no survivors in the whole area. There weren’t even dead bodies.
Most of the houses’ interior was still neat and tidy, showing no sign that the owners had left in a rush. Important resources, like food, had all been left behind.
This was not normal at all. The whole residential area was exuding a strange aura.
When he returned to the mansion, Cao Ling approached him hastily, avoiding everybody else, and whispered, “Did you see Ning Xiaoran?”
Luo Yuan was shocked. “What happened?”
“I don’t know what’s going on. She was here just now. I asked her to throw the garbage away, but she hasn’t returned yet. It’s been almost half an hour. You just came back from outside. Did you see her?”
“Did you go through the rooms?” Luo Yuan asked calmly.
“I’ve already searched everywhere. I even looked in the basement, but I can’t find her. It’s so dangerous outside. She couldn’t have gone out, could she?” Cao Ling said anxiously, pure terror showing on her face.
“Did you mention this to anyone else?” Luo Yuan asked.
Cao Ling looked hesitant as she said, “Not yet, I can’t have them go out there alone and risk their lives for Ning Xiaoran!”
They were outsiders after all, and could not compare to Luo Yuan’s own women. If the news had spread and Wang Shishi or Huang Jiahui were to go out and look for Ning Xiaoran, the rest of them would be held accountable if anything happened to them.
Luo Yuan nodded appreciatively and praised, “You did well. Don’t tell anyone else, I don’t want them to panic. I’ll go look for her now.” Luo Yuan stood up, holding his machete.
“Ning Xiaoran won’t be harmed, will she?” Cao Ling asked worriedly.
Luo Yuan kept quiet and went outside with quick steps.
It was rainy and gloomy. The sky was already getting dark despite the fact that it wasn’t even 5 p.m.
“Where are you, Ning Xiaoran?”
Luo Yuan shouted as he walked, his footsteps promptly concealed by watery mud. The residential area was still considerably large and there were buildings and plants all over the place, blocking his sight.
He would not be able to find anyone this way, not anytime soon. In fact, he had already given up hope. He knew how dangerous it was outside. It was half an hour since Ning Xiaoran had disappeared. It would be a miracle if he could even find a trace of her body.
He could only leave things to fate now.
Luo Yuan had been searching for nearly ten minutes. He was about to give up, when suddenly he saw a shoe stuck in the mud.
It was a woman’s sneaker. It looked like it had just gotten stuck. The mud around it was still fresh. Luo Yuan thought it looked familiar.
“It belongs to Ning Xiaoran!”
He lifted his head in alarm. She must have walked through the bushes beside it. They looked like they had been walked on.
Luo Yuan had not expected the usually timid and quiet girl to be so bold. Did she not know that bushes hid all sorts of mutated creatures?
The rain got heavier as thunder roared.
Luo Yuan quickly followed the tracks on the bushes. He finally found something when he passed by a crumbled building.
A figure dressed in a beige jacket was slowly walking towards the front under the rain.
Her steps were wobbly. She fell to the ground a few times, but each time she stood back up and kept walking forward.
Luo Yuan picked up his pace and was behind her within a second. His grasp on the machete tightened. He could sense that something wrong. How could a weak woman, who had already fallen a few times, still be safe when she’d been outside for half an hour? This sounded strange to him.
“Where are you going, Ning Xiaoran?”
Ning Xiaoran continued moving forward as if she had not heard him.
Luo Yuan was startled and his grip tightened even more.
The rain got heavier. The sky was completely dark by now and lightning stroke, offering flitting rays of light.
Luo Yuan followed her for a little longer, but in the end decided not to linger around. He could feel a strong sense of incoming danger. He would regret it if the mansion was attacked and he was not there.
He stepped in front of her and saw that she looked completely dazed. She did not even seem to realize that he was standing in front of her.
This was not an expression of a normal person. Luo Yuan narrowed his eyes and slowly pulled out his machete.
His urge to kill got stronger as Ning Xiaoran got nearer. A frightening aura came out of him as the air around them felt restless. Low-level beasts nearby ran helter-skelter as if sensing their impending deaths.
Just as Luo Yuan was ready to strike, Ning Xiaoran spasmed and her eyes rolled back into her head.
Life seemed to come back to her pupils as she moaned. Even though they still looked a little dazed, they did not look as hollow as they had earlier.
Luo Yuan controlled his murdering instinct, but he did not relax. His eyes followed her. He was ready to attack if anything went wrong.
“Oh! Brother Luo?” Ning Xiaoran seemed to have woken up from a dream as she looked at Luo Yuan with a shocked expression. Her face was already flushing red before she had even finished her sentence.
Then she noticed their surroundings and said nervously, “I… Why am I outside?”
“You don’t remember walking here alone?” Luo Yuan asked.
“Me, alone?” Ning Xiaoran’s jaw dropped.
“You’ve already been out here for half an hour. If I didn’t come searching for you, you probably would have been eaten by the beasts. Try to remember how you came here,” Luo Yuan asked. He would not be able to drop this matter unless he got to the bottom of it.
Ning Xiaoran was close to tears. She was scared and cold, her body trembling like a frightened pigeon, “I… I don’t know, I don’t know how I ended up here.”
“Calm down first. Think carefully. What were you doing before this?” Luo Yuan guided her.
“I… I think I was throwing away the garbage. I was throwing it out door, but I felt that it was not… not so nice to dump it by the door. It’s not too dangerous to go a few steps further. Then… then I can’t remember,” Ning Xiaoran stuttered.
Luo Yuan thought this was ridiculous, but noticing Ning Xiaoran’s trembling body, he decided that it was not a pressing matter. “It’s late,” he said. “Let’s go back first. Think about it carefully again later, but don’t tell anyone about it yet.”
“I… I understand,” Ning Xiaoran nodded and looked around nervously. She was terrified.
Luo Yuan turned around to leave. Ning Xiaoran followed hurriedly, clutching onto the corner of his clothes after a short hesitation. Her face flushed crimson.
About ten minutes later, the two of them arrived at the mansion.
Dinner was already served, but no one had eaten because Luo Yuan was not home yet. They were sitting on the couch chatting. They all stood up together when they saw him return.
“Why did Ning Xiaoran follow him out? I was just asking where she was,” Huang Jiahui said, looking shocked. She seemed a little upset, her hands tightening around the hem of her clothes. Her mind must have jumped to a different conclusion, seeing the two of them come in huddling like that.
Wang Shishi hummed coldly as she looked away.
“We’ll talk about this later. Jiahui, find something for Ning Xiaoran to change into. Cao Ling, go make some ginger soup in the kitchen. We still have ginger, right?” Luo Yuan asked.
Cao Ling quickly stood up. “Yes, of course!”
Huang Jiahui hurried to get a change of clothes as she took in Ning Xiaoran’s purple lips. The girl was obviously freezing.
Zhao Dagang nudged Jin Meili. She glared at him and stood up unwillingly. “Do you need a towel?”
Zhao Dagang was speechless. This was a no brainer. She should have known what to do.
Jin Meili waited for Luo Yuan to nod before she ran to the bathroom and brought him a towel.
Luo Yuan waved his hand, “Give it to Ning Xiaoran.”
Wang Shishi was at her wit’s end. Jealousy flooded her. She felt like someone had just snatched away her favorite toy. Luo Yuan, though, could not spare any attention for Wang Shishi right now. His mind was on Ning Xiaoran and how her consciousness had been manipulated.
A system notification suddenly rang in his head,
“Level E Mission: Find and Eliminate the Reason Behind the Disappearance of the Population of the Jingyue Residential Area,
Time: 3 days. Reject/Accept.”
Just like he had thought. There was indeed something wrong.
For some reason, Luo Yuan felt relieved. A Level E Mission meant that there had to be a blue level beast around, and he had already killed a few of them.
He knew the mission was going to be difficult, but at least it was not hopeless. There should not be a problem as long as he was careful.
This was probably the reason why there were no other higher level beasts claiming such a large area despite the fact that it was a deserted territory
The question was, where was this beast now?
He had turned the whole Jingyue Residential Area upside down earlier, but he had not found anything. The hardest part of the mission was obviously finding enemy. He would fail if the beast remained unseen.
Luo Yuan accepted the mission without a second thought. It was safer there compared to other dark blue level beast territories. If he could not survive there, then how could he keep trying to make it through the apocalypse?
Ning Xiaoran changed and had a bowl of ginger soup, her face finally radiating warmth as she sweated. It seemed like she was not going to catch a cold after all.
The atmosphere was a little charged during dinner. Everyone knew it was not normal for Ning Xiaoran to go out, but they were smart enough not to question her about it.
After dinner, Luo Yuan lit a cigarette and said meaningfully, “Everyone be more careful tonight.”
Luo Yuan had not said it out loud, but the underlying meaning was clear and it terrified everyone.
Cao Ling was putting up a tough front, but her pale face reflected the fear she was feeling. She looked at Ning Xiaoran, thinking of her disappearance that had yet to be answered.
The only one who had remained calm was Huang Jiahui.
Luo Yuan sighed as he took in everyone’s reactions. He could not blame them. They were normal people after all. Courage only came with capability. If Luo Yuan did not have the system, he would most likely feel like them too. Huang Jiahui used to be in the police force at least, and had gotten used to all sorts of things happening after being with Luo Yuan for so long. They had managed to survive a few times now despite coming face to face with death.