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They followed the road and left. The sparse number of zombies were dispatched by Meng Feng’s machine gun until not a trace of them was left. When they arrived at the city, Liu Yan and Meng Feng boarded the lorry that was parked there earlier with a large number of supplies. Zhang Min continued to drive the car and take the lead. At 3P.M, they safely returned to the highway. The long line of vehicles was a surprising sight.
Lin Musen frowned. “You brought so many people back?”
Liu Yan got out of the vehicle and ordered someone to unload the supplies. “All of them are survivors who haven’t been infected. This is our boss.”
“How should we address you?”
Immediately, someone alighted the car and offered a cigarette to Lin Musen. Lin Musen had no patience for that. “All of you, go over there! Liu Yan, you’d best give me a clear explanation for this. What use do we have for these people? Get them under control. Don’t mess around!”
As soon as Lin Musen finished speaking, his subordinates moved forward with their guns raised and formed a circle around the people. Some people immediately shouted in anger, the women shouted out accusations, and the entire scene was chaos.
Zhang Min and Meng Feng had already prepared for this, and each of them had their finger on their own triggers.
“I’ll take the five on my left,” Zhang Min said. “You take care of the eight on the right.”
“No rush. See what Liu Yan does first. We’ll deal with them if it doesn’t work,” Meng Feng replied in a low voice.
From the moment they first met Lin Musen, there was a conflict between their ways of thinking that they all were aware of deep in their hearts. This was the mentality of Liu Yan and Meng Feng. The two of them, along with Zhang Min and Jue Ming, were the same.
On the other hand, Lin Musen was a different kind of person. Perhaps this kind of conflict would always arise and be difficult to avoid.
“Everyone, calm down! This is our leader, Lin Musen. Brother Lin doesn’t have any bad intentions, he just wants to confirm that none of you are carrying the virus,” Lin Musen said.
Liu Yan turned to Lin Musen. “I believe all of these people will be useful. Brother Lin, you just so happen to be lacking manpower. Meng Feng and Zhang Min don’t have enough people to help them, and it’s impossible to establish an armed squad. You wanted people. The more people we have, the stronger we will be. With more people, we can teach them how to handle guns and fight the zombies, then we will be able to protect ourselves.”
Lin Musen was not swayed by Liu Yan’s words, and retorted with his own question, “This is your reason?”
“We didn’t actually rescue that many people. We were hurried for time and it was too late to examine all of them. But it’s only ten minutes past three. We have more than enough time. We can examine them right here,” Liu Yan replied.
Lin Musen pondered for a moment, then nodded. “All right. You’re in charge of it. You must give me a reason for each and every person that stays.”
Liu Yan had won for now, and was pleased. “Leave it to me. You go ahead and rest. We even brought a lot of things back from the city. Maybe you’ll like the ketchup and canned fruits. Jue Ming, pass over your can of carrots… Don’t look at me with that kind of hatred. Quickly, good things must be shared with our good friends.”
Two followers brought a table forward. Liu Yan sat on top of a box that was packed with books and spread out a stack of paper. “Come over and register yourselves. Don’t be afraid. From now on, you’re safe.”
The crowd of people started to get into line. Meng Feng stood behind Liu Yan, like an eternal guardian. His dark complexion, steady and sharp gaze, as well as the gun in his hand – This was the most important.
Everything was out in the open and very obvious. Liu Yan couldn’t pull anything.
“What’s your name?” Liu Yan asked seriously. “What was your occupation before?”
“I was self-employed,” that person responded.
“Then you know accounting, right? What can you do for us? Hm… All right. We’ll teach you how to use a gun. Take this piece of paper, go and find Lin Musen and report to him. Be polite, and remember to address him as boss.”
Lin Musen was sitting on the cargo truck, its doors open, and he was eating from a can of fruits. Not long after, someone came over to express their loyalty to him. He narrowed his eyes, and accepted their oath with contempt, and threatened, “Do your job well, don’t cause trouble.”
Liu Yan, “Next.”
“You said everyone would…” Deng Changhe’s voice carried a barely suppressed rage.
“I will,” Liu Yan replied coldly. “I always keep to my word.”
Deng Changhe took in a deep breath. It was obvious he had been enduring it for a long time. Liu Yan stretched out his hand. “Hello, let’s do some self-introductions. I’m Liu Yan.”
Deng Changhe, “I’m just a police trainee, a neighbourhood policeman. I might not be your opponent but, Liu Yan… We serve the people. Uncle Wang said we have to protect every single person, just like we protect our parents. If you…”
Meng Feng, “You talk even more than Liu Yan does. Go to the side. You’ll understand in time, young boy.”
Liu Yan couldn’t help but laugh a bit, and instructed Deng Changhe to go look for the gang leader Lin Musen and report to him.
Zhang Min lit a stove with a bit of solid fuel, and gestured for Deng Changhe to come over, and instructed him with a few words.
“Yo, fellow policeman!” Lin Musen was shaking his leg as he sat in an unseemly manner.
Deng Changhe looked at him, and didn’t say anything.
Lin Musen’s eyes immediately narrowed, his gaze fierce. “Hello, Brother Lin. I’m not good with words,” Deng Changhe said.
He pulled a gun from the pouch behind his waist, the muzzle pointed towards himself, and the butt of the gun facing Lin Musen. He solemnly passed it over to Lin Musen.
Zhang Min’s instructions from earlier paid off, and was very effective. Lin Musen accepted the handgun, and was very satisfied with this gesture.
“Very good, kid,” Lin Musen said.
Liu Yan, “What’s your name? What did you used to do?”
He lifted his head, and the man in front of him replied, “Wu Weiguang. I’m a pastor. We meet again. Hello.”
Liu Yan recognised the person in front of him from the administration office, the one who came forward to say that they knew a bit of medicine and was willing to help Zhang Min.
“Hello.” Liu Yan shook his hand. “A pastor… There’s a job like that in the country?”
“There always has been,” Wu Weigang said. “Are you also a believer? I graduated from Jinling Theological Seminary in Nanjing.”
“I’m not, but my grandmother was.” Liu Yan knew this title of “pastor” was a position in the protestant faith, and was different from the priests of catholicism. A pastor’s responsibility was largely managing the church and spreading the gospel. Sometimes, they would also act as an apostle.
Wu Weiguang held onto Liu Yan’s hand and did not let go. “What happened to her?”
“She passed away,” Liu Yan said.
Wu Weiguang said gently, “ Then, I think she always will be, because she converted to the faith.”
Liu Yan laughed and nodded.
Wu Weiguang was still holding on to Liu Yan’s hand as he said seriously, “Stay strong, child.”
Meng Feng watched the pastor’s hands, and was immediately unhappy.
Meng Feng, “You’re a pastor? Are you under the Holy Order or part of a monastic order? Do you know how to heal? Area of effect healing or something? Or dispelling negative effects on others?” (not sure how to translate it in a way that makes sense but he’s basically making references to magic and spells in games like WoW like he’s a healer lol)
Liu Yan knew of the Protestant church, and had a good impression and vague knowledge of their teachings. It was a long story, and he could not explain it in detail to Meng Feng right now, so he just said, “Stop talking nonsense, Meng Feng.”
“It’s all right.” Wu Weiguang pulled back his hand. “The Lord forgives all who do not know of him.”
“You probably won’t be allowed to… preach here. I also ask you to not reveal your identity to Lin Musen,” Liu Yan said.
“I’ll be aware of it,” Wu Weiguang replied.
Liu Yan continued, with a plea in his eyes as he looked into Wu Weiguang’s. “You know basic medical treatments, then we’ll consider you as a western doctor… without a license, and you can assist Zhang Min, okay?”
Wu Weiguang nodded. “You’re a compassionate person. Bless you.”
He took the piece of paper and went off to find Lin Musen. “They don’t have any other intentions. They just want to make you feel better. They’re good intentions,” Liu Yan said softly.
A man came up. “My name is Hu Jue, nice to meet you.” He said the brand name of a world famous company, and pulled out a namecard to pass to Liu Yan.
Liu Yan was in disbelief. “You’re… Head of the Asia Pacific region?!”
“That’s right. My wife and parents are all overseas. I flew back this time to negotiate a contract, I didn’t think… Do you know any way I can…”
“With all due respect, do we look like we have any airplanes or flight tickets?” Liu Yan said.
Hu Jue sighed. “What should I do now? I don’t know what the situation is like in America. They’re all in New York. Is this only happening in China? I’m afraid that…”
Liu Yan, “I think you already have an idea, or else you wouldn’t have survived until now.”
After nearly half a minute of silence, Hu Jue nodded and said, “Yes. I can only take it one step at a time.”
“What field of study did you major in? I have to make some reasons for you to stay that won’t mean a waste of rations,” Liu Yan said.
Hu Jue replied, “I majored in management and graduated from Harvard. I believe you will need someone who can manage this large amount of people, resolve conflicts and a leader who can motivate teams. I also remember you just said there’s someone else who is in charge here, is that person…”
“He’s a gangster. You… You look like a smart person, but I still have to remind you, I don’t recommend that you talk too much about management to him,” Liu Yan said.
Hu Jue, “Don’t worry. I’ve met lots of people like that. I know how to deal with them.”
Liu Yan handed him a piece of paper. Hu Jue left.
“I can cook,” the woman said.
She was Rou Rou’s mother.
“There’s already people who can cook,” Liu Yan said. “You… can go and look for that Wu Weiguang later. He’ll make it easier for you.”
Rou Rou’s mother nodded, leaning against Rou Rou’s father’s shoulder. “But first you have to find… some other reason. Let me think.”
“I can help you to clean, take care of the children.” Her voice was small and on the verge of sobbing.
“And you?” Liu Yan asked.
The father said, “I’ll take care of her. Whatever you want us to do, we’ll do it.”
Liu Yan wrote “Logistics” and “Reserve” on the paper and passed it to the father, then gestured for him to greet Lin Musen.
This time, there were only seventy-three people, but Liu Yan spent more time on this than last time. He also remembered all their names.
It took nearly two hours. When the sun descended behind the mountains, Zhang Min had finished boiling the medicine, and was at the front of the convoy handing out a bowl to every one of the members.
Lin Musen drank a big bowl of the tonic. It was so bitter that his brows furrowed together. Zhang Min repeated, “There must be windows in the cargo containers, to prevent heatstroke.”
Lin Musen nodded, and let him bring some people to saw open some windows in the containers. Under the gorgeous twilight, the highway stretched on endlessly towards the sky. Liu Yan packed up some things, and let others move them into the car. He organised the papers in his hand and came over to say, “It’s done.”
Lin Musen, “How many people did we recruit this time?”
Liu Yan, “Seventy-three.”
Lin Musen, “How many were left behind?”
Liu Yan, “No one was left behind.”
Lin Musen said coldly, “You owe me an explanation. Were you just putting on a show earlier?”
Liu Yan, “The papers are all in your hands. If you think there’s someone who shouldn’t stay, tell me and I’ll tell them to get out.”
Lin Musen took in a deep breath. “I didn’t notice earlier. What did you recruit so many women for? And the majority are children.”
Liu Yan, “Children can also be trained. They’re all ten or so years old, they can walk and run. They even survived until now, so they won’t be a burden.”
Lin Musen, “And the women?”
Liu Yan, “The women and children are the men’s families. Honestly, Brother Sen, I think that once we leave this place, we’ll eventually have to stop and rest somewhere. We can’t always drive the cars and go everywhere, right?”
Lin Musen nodded. Liu Yan continued, “Once something happens, the women will always be more calm than the men. When the situation is difficult to the extreme, they can always face the problem calmly. A lot of women are the same as men and have the ability to hold a gun, provided that you are willing to train them.”
“If you want to take 10,000 steps back and say, they’re part of the men’s families… You see, Brother Sen?”
Lin Musen glanced into the distance. Auntie Yu had a stove set up by the roadside to cook. The women were gathered by Auntie Yu’s side, helping of their own accord.
“If you want the men to protect their home,” Liu Yan said. “They need to have something that they care about. This ‘something’ is enough for them to sacrifice themselves and protect their families.”
Lin Musen, “And what about that one? What’s going on with that? You recruited someone from a cult for me?”
Wu Weiguang was standing not too far away, holding a bible and talking to Rou Rou’s parents.
“The Lord pitied her, and called her back to Him. May she rest in peace in Heaven…”
“Wait, Brother Sen,” Liu Yan said. “Don’t disturb them.”
Lin Musen looked as if he had seen a monster, a finger pointing at Liu Yan and jabbing his front. Meng Feng, who had just finished drinking his medicine, saw that something was off, and immediately walked towards them, his face dark.
With his hand by his side and not easily noticed by Lin Musen, Liu Yan signalled to Meng Feng not to come over.
“This pastor,” Liu Yan said. “I can’t explain it to you right now, Brother Sen. But I personally guarantee that you’ll definitely think he is important to have around in the future.”
Lin Musen, “Your “guarantee” isn’t worth shit! Liu Yan! I really put too much trust in you. You brought back so many people without telling me. Now you listen to me…”
“I think Mr. Liu Yan kind of has a point,” Hu Jue said. “Brother Sen, how many people did you have before you set out. Can you tell a humble member?”
Lin Musen didn’t reply. Hu Jue continued. “There is generally more safety in numbers. As we travel this road, we don’t know how many will survive. Brother Sen, please calm your anger first. There is indeed some wishful thinking on Liu Yan’s part.”
Liu Yan threw him a look. Hu Jue said, “Those who survived until now, it’s not for sure that they will survive later.”
Lin Musen, “So what you’re saying is, I should see how it goes first?”
Hu Jue, “Yes. There are more people to filter through, train them, and the ones that stay at the end are definitely the best of the best. Whether they can continue to survive, it depends on their performance… Including myself. I’m serious. I hope to contribute to the team. Please give me this opportunity.”
“Mm.” Lin Musen seemed to be convinced for now. Liu Yan and Hu Jue knew what he was thinking. The next time they bumped into zombies, Lin Musen would definitely abandon those he thought were unable to carry their own weight.
“Don’t let them cause any trouble,” Lin Musen muttered. “Liu Yan, if any one of these people causes a ruckus, you’ll take responsibility for it.”
Liu Yan, “I understand. If there’s a mistake, you don’t have to do anything. I’ll take care of it.”
Lin Musen, “Good that you know it.” As he said that, he turned and got into the car, and shouted. “We move at seven o clock! Your cars don’t have enough fuel, so you can’t drive them! Everyone, pack up your things. You’re limited to two kilograms. Onto the cargo trucks!”
Liu Yan let out a breath of relief. Hu Jue finished drinking the medicine from his paper cup, and said lowly, “He has a lot of reserves, enough to feed a lot of people?”
Liu Yan, “When he first asked how many people there were, and I told him seventy-three, he didn’t have any objection to it… It proves that there are enough rations to feed these people. I knew a girl who managed his warehouse for him. She told me, Lin Musen had enough supplies to feed a thousand people for two years…”
Hu Jue nodded.
“There are only a hundred people here,” he said. “If everyone eats six hundred grams of food a day, that’s only 60 kilograms of food a day… Do you know when we’ll be chased away?”
Liu Yan, “Those are all from Meng Feng and Zhang Min risking their lives, bringing those supplies back from the wave of zombies, from stores in town… They risked their lives to get them. Look at those cargo containers, if it’s just the flour, there’s at least tens of tonnes of it, and that’s without including the rice and noodles. There are also those supplies that were found along the way… Let’s split up now. Don’t talk to me too much. He’s already not very fond of me.”
30th August, 2012
We stopped for a day’s rest at the southernmost part of Hunan before beginning our journey again. We recruited seventy-three survivors, and left behind thirty-six infected ones. The life detector didn’t show any signs of life again.
Lin Musen gave the order to go around all the major cities, and only stop by villages.
A pastor by the name of Wu Weiguang brought along six middle school students to join us. They’re around Jue Ming’s age, and made the convoy’s atmosphere quite lively. The pastor saved ten middle school students from the zombie horde, and they only knew how to cause a ruckus. He watched four of them die, blessed them, wished them a peaceful rest in Heaven, and worked hard to persuade the other children to live on with a positive outlook.
Perhaps that is just like the decision I’m making now, to let all of the seventy-three survivors stay.
I don’t know if the decision I made was right or wrong. Only time will be able to prove that. Fate is elusive and distant, just like that daydreamer, with his book of poems and a pillow.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cael.