TN: Not sure why, but this chapter is three times as long as normal. I debated splitting it up but I have a chapter in reserve just in case. Warning for a bunch of scene changes (of sorts)
“This thing is all metal. I am afraid that the finished product might be too heavy or light. Want to try?” Yan Fei’s gaze swept up and down the piece of metal.
Since Luo Xun had never worked solely with metal, he was unsure of the final weight. However based on the weight of the part in his hand…
“It should be fine if its lighter by a third. I won’t be able to use it properly if it is too heavy.”
“Well then.” Yan Fei took the piece of metal, the other hand placed on top. The piece of material became one third lighter.
Luo Xun brightened in excitement at the surprising scene while holding the finished part. “This should be okay.”
He looked to see Yan Fei’s slightly tired looking face and hurriedly put the parts away. “That’s all for today, wait until tomorrow to regain some strength.”
Luo Xun was unclear if physical injuries had any direct impact on abilities. Anyway better to not let Yan Fei get too tired, better a thin but constant trickle of effort.
Yan Fei did not argue with him, smiled and handed over the remaining material in his hand. Luo Xun touched the pillow and fell asleep after working all day and cooking food for tomorrow.
Yan Fei laid on his side during the night, the room was well sealed so people could not see into the house. The sound of breathing on his left was heavier than before, obviously Luo Xun was tired.
Yan Fei silently closed his eyes after blinking in the darkness. He sank into dreams while listening to Luo Xun’s breathing.
The first day of assigned work, if there were no special cases, the place would be the same. The army had repeatedly stressed this the morning before. So early next morning in front of the building they climbed back into the same numbered truck, just like the day before. Cold wind blew all the way to the wall building site.
Luo Xun found the place he worked at yesterday. With this kind of non-technical work, once familiar the speed of completion naturally increased.
Luo Xun occasionally bought hot soup due to the cold but the rest of his food was his own. His food was clean and nutritionally balanced, better than the given provisions. It was also convenient since Luo Xun cooked some meals in advance for Yan Fei.
After four days of hard work, his allocated section of wall had reached the required height. He was given another section once an engineer inspected and cleared his work.
A lot of new people entered the district in the past two days. However he also heard that the number of people in the small high-rise area were less than in the two older northern districts since those areas were more densely populated. So many people had been lost in the disaster.
The east cottage area was most brutally affected. The migrant workers of A-city lived there, most were small business owners or wholesale sellers, white collar workers. The doors and windows of Ping Feng district were not secure, high density and a disorderly narrow courtyard.
After the disaster there would be no place to hide. For poorer city workers, there would be a few people crowded into a few square meters of room.
Despite Wang Duo’s superficial righteousness, he was actually an insatiable gossip who inquired about any news. The residents of Ping Feng district were almost completely wiped out, less than 10 people were rescued.
It was originally filled with dilapidated houses within the security perimeter so the army pushed for reconstruction. This sounded familiar to Luo Xun, he knew a place that had been transformed into a residential area with compact floors and seven storey high buildings but did not know the precise location after the apocalypse.
That evening, when Luo Xun returned home from work, Yan Fei gave him a big surprise.
Luo Xun’s face lit up with a smile as he took the slightly heavy crossbow. Yan Fei had made all the parts and assembled them. Luo Xun’s drawings were proven to be very accurate, no problems with the proportions. Yan Fei followed the attached and clearly marked assembly instructions. He had correctly followed the steps given.
Luo Xun lifted the crossbow and aimed at his usual target. With a *poof* the force of the bolt was comparable to his excitement.
“Good, no issues.” Otherwise the wall would end up peppered with holes!
Yan Fei smiled and picked up the drawing. “I think the crossbow is still a bit bulky, do you want to make a smaller design? A smaller crossbow would hold less ammo and be less lethal but would be lighter and more convenient to carry.”
“If you have free time.” Luo Xun naturally had no opinion, he had desired this amazing metal crossbow but feelings had not been enough before.
“Don’t worry…right if its smaller you can carry one with you later to defend yourself if your powers run out.”
The use of abilities seemed linked with spiritual power, using too much could lead to being run dry.
Yan Fei raised an eyebrow, he knew about this? Was there a psychic somewhere who said that? He did not continue ruminating on the topic.
“I’ll make them slowly when I’m able. Today I’ll stand up and walk around for a bit.”
“Hey! What’s the hurry? It takes 100 days for bones to heal.” Luo Xun stared wide eyed.
This beauty contrary to his appearance had an unexpectedly short temper.
These two days, Luo Xun was not a home during the day. The home had a night pot but Yan Fei really did not want to use that thing. Especially if he had to do number two. Yan Fei had to wait for Luo Xun to come back before be could go to the bathroom.
As for using diapers? What nonsense, he was no longer dizzy! It had been enough while in a coma.
“I hurt my chest, not my legs!”
“There’s still a fracture! Try to be as careful as possible, in case the injury gets worse.”
Luo Xun stared at Yan Fei, he had never seen such an uncooperative patient. If Yan Fei had broken his leg, would he have hopped on one foot to the washroom?
Luo Xun skipped the issue, collected his things and helped Yan Fei to the washroom. Back in the room Luo Xun remembered the previously taken photos on his phone.
“See here, are these the people who hurt you before?”
The picture showed the men and women that were on the truck the first day.
Yan Fei sneered, “Ah, that’s them, how were they? They didn’t cause any trouble for you?”
“They’ve been looking for some trouble but could not find a single target.”
Working on site with army soldiers, even if they wanted to make a fuss they were unable to. Li Tie, Han Li and Luo Xun always acted together, safety in numbers to avoid trouble. Everyone knew that people selected soft persimmons to pinch (take advantage of the weak).
The man named Xu looked to be of mixed descent, he had a tiger tattoo along his jaw. Such people would see the wind and set the helm (be flexible and take advantage of the situation). Saw people, followed societal conventions, saw zombies, killed them.
They would have been looking for trouble by stealing points, those with the goods did not dare say anything. Luo Xun and the others looked like university students but at that age young people were often the most hot-blooded. Once provoked they would rage, drawing bad attention from the soldiers.
“That’s good.” Yan Fei said with hooded eyes. Luo Xun could not decipher his thoughts.
For the first time doing something, the speed would be slow, but the second and third times would become faster.
Yan Fei spent a full four days to make the first crossbow. Two days later Luo Xun came home and was surprised with a pile of spare bomb ammo and the hand crossbow which was third of the original crossbow size.
It was small and delicate but packed quite a punch. Luo Xun quickly tested lethality and range. Although not as effective as the bigger version, it was enough for self-defense!
Yan Fei proudly smiled. “You can use this crossbow for self-defense. I don’t know how effective it will be against zombies, but against people…definitely no problem.”
Absolutely no problem! As long as the distance was close enough, the hand crossbow would definitely hit the target. Apart from not being loaded with gunpowder and having a shorter range, this weapon was no different than a handgun.
Against primary zombies and regular people, one well-aimed shot would be enough.
“What do you think of a crossbow with a better projectile? The lethality would be higher.”
With no way to vent energy, Yan Fei had shifted his attention to improving these things. Luo Xun looked at Yan Fei, if he could really make that kind of ammo, maybe ordinary people could deal with a secondary zombie as long as they were prepared.
“I’ll check to see if I can make some sort of design plan.”
Luo Xun felt like he had really picked up a treasure this time! What of cooking everyday? What of helping Yan Fei wash and go to the washroom? What of giving up half his bed?
Look at his new crossbow! Look at the damage! Incomparable to wood!
Started December 7, completed December 29. The wall was unexpectedly built in one month, according to the gregorian calendar.
The trench outside the wall was dug deep, the walls fortified and thickened. By this point the number of residents in the security zone had reached about 30,000! With such a large number of people, the labor force naturally increased a lot.
In addition to the original army troops, the population had not yet reached saturation point and most of the fortifications had been constructed.
Since the population had reached a certain level, troops were no longer responsible for allocating homes. Several buildings had been emptied and new arrivals were collectively placed in the empty halls. Thirty percent of the southwest rooms were vacant, which were rented by leasing with food or points.
Those who were rescued before, such as Han Li and the others, would also need to pay some points after a few years to keep their living environment. However if one wanted to move rooms? It would be the same as others and required food or labor rent.
After the wall was completed, the flattened Ping Feng district needed to be rebuilt. Thus there were the inevitable tasks of going out to collect supplies and rescue trapped people. The military had many search and rescue staff sent out but it was not enough for the situation in the urban area. All were stretched thin with later security zone construction and other objectives.
A-city, north base.
“What is this thing?”
A few people surrounded a strangely shaped carcass, the remains of a human form twisted so that little of its original appearance remained.
“This is one that destroyed a team…a monster.”
“Just one of them!? A ten people team completely wiped out by one zombie!?”
“Yes, it happened suddenly, the monster was mixed in with primary zombies, so…”
“…Is it the only one? Or are there others…”
“In fact it was the soldiers who did not pay attention to this. The zombie was stronger then normal and faster too.”
“At present…just for now…”
There was silence and no one spoke for a while.
“Well, let the scientists check to see what caused the second mutation. Hope it was an exception, not an…evolution.”
Luo Xun sang while busy cooking in the kitchen. Yan Fei sat on the sofa in the living room, playing tug of war with Puppy using a piece of rope.
A fracture sounded like a serious injury but in fact was not too big of an obstacle. Mainly because Yan Fei’s injury did not hinder movement and in general people would not touch his torso. Yan Fei was young and quick to recover, along with an ability, he got out of bed and wandered around the house within a week.
At first he stayed on the second floor but usually stayed away from the balcony. The first time Yan Fei went to the living room, he was surprised by all the boxes almost piled to the roof. There was also a sofa, as he walked around he found things were piled around everywhere!
He opened the balcony curtains to reveal some potted plants but Yan Fei only recognized some high grade flowers amongst the crops. It was not clear what the final plant would end up being. Though he discovered some garlic, leek and other plants, obviously the source of the vegetables that appeared on the table each day at home.
Who the hell was Luo Xun? This pile of things in his house and the stuff on the balcony, all the water and so on, where did it all come from?
Although he had doubts in his mind, he was savvy enough not to demand answers. The atmosphere between the two was currently harmonious and he did not want to provoke anything by pointing out issues.
Even if he asked Luo Xun, he may not tell the truth. So Yan Fei would rather wait until Luo Xun would tell himself, if he was willing to speak, he would listen. Since they first time they met, seeing Luo Xun’s fully equipped appearance, Yan Fei speculated that Luo Xun had rapidly reacted to the apocalyptic situation. Not too many wandered outside on the streets to collect any sort of supplies.
Luo Xun was in the kitchen making dumplings since it was New Years. The security zone was the same as usual but the people’s festive atmosphere eased off some tension. Even Luo Xun who had been busy with outside fortifications now had time to make more elaborate meals.
The dumplings had two types of stuffing prepared: pork green onion shrimp and mung bean paste fillings. The shrimp and green onion were well frozen in the freezer. It would be a rare luxurious celebration this year.
The lively melody in the kitchen was a performance by a cook in high spirits. Yan Fei looked up at the kitchen door, his hand held the rope too loosely. The puppy rolled over twice and hit the couch behind her, the other end of the rope dangling from her mouth. She stared at Yan Fei.
Yan Fei thought got a bit and did not grab the rope to play another round with the puppy. He instead stood up and went into the kitchen.
Luo Xun wore an apron. In front of him, two bowls of stuffing, a chopping board and a plate were on the table in front of him. He took a dumpling wrapper, loaded it with stuffing then closed his hands and squeezed to mold a dumpling.
Luo Xun’s dumpling skills were honed during middle school, then during his time as a freelancer as well as in his own kitchen. Over time he learned many cooking methods. Only the noodles were not made with white flour but made from a variant species that had a hint of diesel taste.
The base kitchen only cooked special things for Chinese New Year, even then there were no flour dumplings, at most some type of wheat noodle.
Luo Xun’s movements were very brisk, his mouth slightly curved. He radiated a warm feeling that set people at ease. It seemed like a feeling of home, something Yan Fei had never actually felt, belonging to a family.
*Ha, ha* The puppy waited for a long time but Yan Fei was ignoring her. She threw down the rope and ran into the kitchen, tongue lolling. Luo Xun heard a noise and turned to the doorway to see a large and a small figure leaning against the door frame. Puppy wagged her tail.
Luo Xun was startled. “Why did you come over here?”
“See if you want any help.”
“Help?” Luo Xun glanced in puzzlement. “You can wrap?”
Not guaranteed the dumpling would break apart while boiling.
“…It will be slower.”
Compared to Luo Xun’s speed, in the time Yan Fei made one, Luo Xun would have wrapped seven or eight.
“You can sit on the couch and wait.” Luo Xun gave a side glance. “Young master~”
With a handsome face, a pair of unblemished hands and injured with a fracture, Luo Xun did not dare use this ‘young master’.
“…I can try, really.” Yan Fei felt his type was despised and he needed to prove himself.
“You recuperate for now. I’ll teach you for the next lunar year celebration.”
Luo Xun rushed to use up the dough and stuffing since the finished dumplings could be frozen. Then even if there was no time to cook at home, there would be some ready made food.
“Next lunar year?” Yan Fei’s eyebrows quirked and his mouth curled with slow realization.
Next lunar year? Chinese New Year? A nice thing to do, his heart warmed with expectations.
“Okay then.” He wanted to add something but now there was no reason for him to stay in the kitchen.
He had just walked in, this had not been well planned.
“By the way, who came looking for you?”
“Oh, that was a few university students and officer Ding, the one who registered them.”
Since they did not enter and returned directly to 1601 opposite them, Yan Fei did not know what they were up to.
“The officer said to wait until after New Year’s day to go out of the safe area to collect supplies.”
Thus Luo Xun had time and decided to make more dumplings today.
“Out of the safe zone!?” Yan Fei’s heart tightened. “Collect what materials?”
“There are so few supplies in the safe zone that there’s a shortage of everything. In fact, there were not that many people in the army. There were not enough to settle funerals and organize staff to build various facilities. House rent would be collected after the New Year. With the lack of resources in the safe zone, residents could use any previously collecte materials to redeem points.” Luo Xun casually explained.
The current base point exchange system was not perfected, just a prototype. However it would be the basic system used for a long time, at least until the base had the capacity to be self-sufficient. No, it would be more accurate that it would slow down once there was nothing left to collect.
The kitchen was suddenly quiet for a while until Yan Fei opened his mouth.
“I will go with you.”
“No need.” Luo Xun did not look up and did not see Yan Fei’s angry expression.
“We set on the fourth and your injury still hasn’t fully healed. We did just speak with the local doctor. Although you have been recovering quickly, it is best to rest for at least a month…what’s wrong with you?”
Luo Xun was half finished when he looked at the doorway to see Yan Fei’s handsome face with a dark atmosphere, eyes sparking dangerously. Many women would have swooned at the sight.
“I am not that delicate.” There was no need for him to stay at home all day, as if a single touch would cause him to break!
“…I…of course not.” Luo Xun became aware that his words had hurt Yan Fei’s self-esteem. He paused for three seconds then hurriedly explained.
“You’ve almost fully recovered, there is no need to venture out now for a short trip. I know the place we’re going to very well, a material market to the north. I went there the first day of the apocalypse and did not see any zombies. Lieutenant Ding said that the place had been cleared by the army so there is little danger. We’ll be going there to get some needed materials…”
“What are you going to take? Why do you need to go there?”
Yan Fei listened to Luo Xun and pointed out key points that were not clearly explained.
Luo Xun paused his dumpling wrapping and smiled. “They came to me because I use solar equipment.”
“Aren’t there a few panels outside on the balcony windows? I placed them myself to absorb sunlight to convert into electricity. Some of the troops knew about the equipment but not the mechanics and came to ask me.”
Luo Xun did not think they found him suspicious, fortunately he had an excuse – apocalypse conspiracy theories. Some countryside friends bought a set of equipment years ago in preparation for disaster, then the apocalypse actually ended up arriving. Later when he found that the district had lost power, he tried to install the panels on the windows.
Otherwise, it would have been difficult to explain having his own installations of such things despite living in an urban area. Even more fortunate, he did not fill up all the window space with solar panels. People would ask where these friends lived that they needed so many solar panels?
Yan Fei’s brows rose higher, solar panels? All kinds of supplies in the house? Water tanks…and the set of distillation equipment on the kitchen counter?
He…did he also have an ability? The power to predict the future? Could that be the reason how he was prepared in advance?
Yan Fei’s brain had headed in a strange direction and took a while to return to normal. He pointed out a key fact. “Solar energy…the district currently has no power?”
“Ah, its been stopped for a month.” Luo Xun nodded, the better dumpling wrappers were used up but he continued cooking.
“Let’s take a break for now and we’ll discuss after the new year.”
Yan Fei still did not want to see Luo Xun go out while he stayed home like a housewife. He was mollified that Luo Xun was concerned since he would not stand being treated like a porcelain doll locked in the house.
There was also the fact that by having an ability, Yan Fei’s safety should be higher than Luo Xuns. Luo Xun confusedly glanced at the door where Yan Fei had disappeared.
He steamed the dumplings, thin skin with big filling. It had been a long time since Luo Xun and Yan Fei had eaten homemade dumplings. The two men ate heartily, the chopsticks flew forward leaving after-images.
Puppy’s plate had two open cooled dumplings with pork stuffing. She was curious about the human food but not too fond of eating it. Instead she played and occasionally licked to taste.
In one sitting they finished four plates, two of each kind of filling. The two eaters leaned against the sofa, not wanting to get up. The radio broadcasted news about the construction of various bases. It sounded like the majority of bases had been established, everywhere was thriving and the future of human happiness was just around the corner. There was belief that they would retake the city and restore past human glory!
Luo Xun and mentally laughed. The radio did not mention how many people had died. How many people had become zombies or the exact number of survivors in each base.
How big was A-city? How many people were there? A total of five bases had been established: north, east, west, southwest and northeast. Based on the southwest base Luo Xun was currently situated and assuming the other bases had similar numbers, the five bases together only totalled around 150,000 people.
Even if one added the army, A-city only had 100,000 soldiers for a grand total of 250,000 people. How many lived in A-city? At least 20 million!
Luo Xun heaved a sigh, the air smelled of dumplings.
“What’s the matter?” Yan Fei sat up, he usually did not eat so much at a meal so he decided to strike up conversation to speed up digestion.
“Nothing…just listening to this kind of sappy news, a little…”
The current news were not as pragmatic as the later days. Now everything would rather be whitewashed then reporting something meaningful.
“It will be so, otherwise people will panic, no way around that. God knows what will happen.”
Yan Fei looked out at the balcony and did not know how Luo Xun had managed it. The small trees and plants were a lush green as if it was not currently winter outside.
The room was warm, it was not easy to maintain such a temperature even before the apocalypse began.
“I know, but…” Luo Xun shrugged.
“I heard there are search and rescue teams. I will be working with a team on the third to rescue some people. Our cars will all be at the back of the procession with two military vehicles. I will try to bring back some of the metal and steel so you can have crafting materials.”
Luo Xun had originally collected a stash of metal materials but he did not expect to meet Yan Fei, so he prepared enough for his own use only. Now he had been living on base, trying not to overuse his resources. But now with Yan Fei, as long as he was willing to cooperate to provide weapons, Luo Xun would have the ability to go out and explore, search for supplies.
Farming at home was safe, but he knew that one day he would need to fight, the base may no longer be safe. Who had a better chance of survival? A person who had never fought, always farming at home? Or a regular fighter, home growing only as a nutritional supplement? The answer was obvious.
Yan Fei meditated while looking with one eye at Luo Xun who looked expectant.
“These two days I will make some ammunition. You go out and see which is most convenient for your weapon then I will prepare some more.”
“There should be enough ammunition at home and I’ll confirm it tomorrow…What do you want to eat for the next few days? I’ll cook some extra, if you want to eat, just heat it up…”
“You have decided to go out and leave me at home?”
Luo Xun choked, how did Yan Fei suddenly sound abandoned and resentful? He had to find a way to placate the unruly patient.
“I won’t be at ease just leaving Puppy at home by herself. The house has a lot of things and the security on base has not been perfected yet. Honestly if it weren’t for you I’d be afraid at home. Constantly in fear that someone would break in to rob supplies.”
It was not a lie, even with all the safety precautions, if someone knew there was a hoard inside the house, Luo Xun was afraid to think of the aftermath. This was one of the main reasons he was allowing Yan Fei to stay and encroach on half his bed.
Luo Xun hurriedly continued speaking. “You see my house has quite a lot of stuff. I went out and got it right as the apocalypse started. I saw the zombies and got frightened. I usually stay at home and play video games so I recognized the creatures. So when I saw a corpse I was afraid the apocalypse was coming and I ran to the supermarket to grab as much as I could. Now I have a lot but am afraid that someone will see…You keeping house is safer than me trying to keep house.”
Wait a minute…what if Yan Fei took the house while he was away? Luo Xun completely forgot to consider that possibility!?
“Huh.” Yan Fei coldly hummed, still somewhat uncomfortable with the answer. Though better to consider himself a house guardian than a person left behind.
“Then you should be careful, lest you come back and find I took everything.”
“…oh” Luo Xun had just been thinking of that.
Generally speaking, people would keep their word, but those who said “You go, I will look after the house for you, don’t worry~” those people with that kind of attitude would likely stab you in the back with a rusty knife.
The car slowly approached the safe zone entrance. Luo Xun used his telescope to see the new wall. A group of soldiers pushed some metal parts, large plates to the wall then another soldier touched some metal which twisted and condensed in his hand. The soldier then placed his hand against the wall and the pieces merged into a crude metal wall.
So the army had metal ability users, but they seemed weaker than Yan Fei. He could freely manipulate the metal, if he was there he would have built the wall much quicker than the soldier.
The telescope shifted to the other direction, sure enough another group also had a metal ability soldier who power was similar and needed to be in contact to shape the metal. Luo Xun just did not know how many metal ability users were in the army?
“Are those the new arrivals? Why are they living in tents outside the city? Are there no vacancies?” He Qiankun whispered to the others.
“Didn’t you know that a few days ago, someone came in infected with the zombie virus? Several people were bitten in the west bank neighborhood!”
Wu Xin looked confusedly at his larger friend, everyone lived together, how could he not know about the news?
“I know? What does that have to do with this?” He Qiankun was also confused.
“It’s closely related! Now rescued people and those returning from outside need to be observed for at least half a day in the tent area. Those with open wounds are observed for 24 hours. All in order to avoid the virus.” Li Tie smacked He Qiankun.
“Oh, oh, oh, say so earlier. I know already.”
Luo Xun and the others sat in a small military truck and did not drive their own. Though Luo Xun had a car, it was too frail. It could deliver some things in the safe zone but on an expedition? Don’t even think about it.
They spoke with lieutenant Ding who agreed to let them borrow the truck for the outing to the building material market for supplies. Wang Duo was the driver since he could drive a truck, Han Li sat beside him and the rest were in the back. To the side there was another small military vehicle filled with soldiers.
The troops had reached an agreement – the military personnel in the area would temporarily act as foreign aid. This was in order to build the base information network, early development of internal network and the resuming of communications. Li Tie and the others were technology related major students and had decent hands-on ability.
This time, the two vehicles were out searching for materials with Luo Xun focusing on solar panels along with relevant materials for Li Tie and the others. Fortunately, the nearby material market was the largest and had all these things!
Maybe Luo Xun could get some materials for Yan Fei.
For this mission, the cost of renting a car was free of charge and everyone could keep half the goods in the vehicle. Li Tie and the others needed machine parts, solar charging equipment and PVC pipes. Li Tie was a follower of WasteWoodHouse, he would also grow food at home for self-sufficiency.
The goal was a lot of steel in addition to getting extra batteries for Luo Xun. These materials were necessary for those with metal powers.
The trip out of the city was very smooth, hardly a shadow of a zombie all the way north to the entrance of the mall.
Luo Xun looked at the dark blood and long dead, rotten remains of dogs and felt nauseous. It looked like no one had come to the place after his own trip around a month earlier.
Then again the troops mainly rescued the trapped masses and some important people. In the safe zone, most people were tasked with constructing the wall. Even when going out to search for supplies, everyone searched supermarkets. Who would come to hardware stores in search of food?
Luo Xun had been here before and directed people to open the solar equipment store. Some soldiers heard some movement in the back aisle and took out their guns.
They went to investigate the situation and soon gunfire rang out.