Liu Yan entered the farm. There were four small, three-story buildings and each building was attached to a simple wind-powered generator. In the evening, Auntie Yu started to cook, smoke spiralling out of the chimneys. These past few days, they basically never had a properly cooked meal.
In the canteen, Auntie Yu served up the food. Liu Yan glanced around and noticed that there were nearly a hundred more people, both male and female. There were more women than men.
“Here I was afraid the symbols wouldn’t work,” Hu Jue said. “I couldn’t sleep at all. It’s good that you found us.”
The food in Meng Feng’s mouth spluttered out as he asked, “Symbols?”
“Didn’t you find us by following the symbols?” Deng Changhe asked.
Zhang Min was confused. “No… Was it covered by the snow? Where did you put down symbols?”
Hu Jue didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “We crossed from Hanzhong, through Baoji. All the road signs were marked with ‘Meng’ and an arrow to guide you northwest…”
“A scam!” Meng Feng roared. “We went on the east side of Xi’an! On Highway 108! Jue Ming! Hey, your clairvoyant directions are unreliable!”
Everyone burst into laughter. Liu Yan shook his head helplessly.
“Thank Jesus for his guidance,” Wu Weiguang said. “You still found us in the end.”
Liu Yan nodded his head. “Anyway, I can finally unload this responsibility from my shoulders. It’s up to you all now,” Hu Jue said.
Liu Yan declined humbly and said, “There will be more things that require your help in the future.”
Hu Jue nodded and smiled. “I won’t refuse.”
Meng Feng and Liu Yan were very familiar with the people who were rescued from the refuge, and they were all excited that day. However, the one hundred and seventeen people that Hu Jue rescued did not know them at all.
After Meng Feng and Zhang Min ate, they went over to talk to the new survivors to test them and form them into squads.
Liu Yan took over the map of the farm and distribution of resources, as well as the names of all the people and gathered everyone for a meeting. Of course, without Lin Musen’s calculative and authoritative presence, there were no surprises and incidents.
The strategy for reforming the land was in motion. The game had begun.
They finished the meeting on the second floor of the farm owner’s building. Liu Yan gathered everyone’s opinions, noted in detail each member’s specialties, and started once again on building designs.
This was the first time they were truly safe, no matter the time, the geography, or social conditions.
Time was, without a doubt, the most important factor. The cold would persist for a very long time.
Their geographical advantage: the farmhouse was located in the most secluded part of Taihang Mountain and was not the only path through the mountains, be it from north to south, or east to west. Unless the zombies travelled all across the mountains, the chances of them being attacked here were very low.
The path the zombies were taking for their migration was still unclear to Liu Yan. But for the time being, whether they were travelling southwards, or moving like birds and heading north in the spring, they would not come here specifically.
Three hundred kilometres to the east of this farm was Xi’an. To the west was Tianshui, and to the northwest was Lanzhou. There was a gas station ten kilometres away with a few villages surrounding it, but they all contained less than a hundred people each.
Their social harmony: Lin Musen’s gang system of ruling was finally over, and everyone sighed in relief. Although no one knew when this outbreak of zombies would end - maybe tomorrow, or maybe thirty years from now - the future would probably be long and arduous, but as long as they continued to have trust in one another, everything would slowly take a turn for the better.
In the evening, Liu Yan collected all the lists and registries and passed them to Hu Jue. “I’ll leave all the management things to you. I’m not suited for it. I only know how to tinker around with toys. Thank you for your hard work.”
Hu Jue was Liu Yan’s senior of ten years, like a well-mannered big brother, but he never took advantage of his older status. He smiled at Liu Yan’s words and took the lists to make arrangements. Liu Yan pulled back the curtains in the study room. It was snowing slightly outside again. Jue Ming and a few other children were having a snowball fight. Zhang Min and Meng Feng were each talking to their squads.
Starting tomorrow, he was going to live here. Two rooms on the third floor had been cleaned up already, and were left specially for them.
There was a knock on the door. Liu Yan turned around. Wu Weiguang pushed open the door and came in.
“Pastor, how are your teachings going?” Liu Yan asked.
“I didn’t come here to preach to you, but if you’re thinking about converting, I would be willing to guide you,” Wu Weiguang replied.
“No thanks, I don’t have the notion as of yet. What is it?”
Wu Weiguang seemed to struggle with finding the words, and mulled over it for a minute. “It will be Christmas in a few days.”
Liu Yan thought about it, then replied, “Meng Feng really… doesn’t look forward to this holiday. But I promise he won’t interfere.”
Wu Weiguang rubbed his nose, then laughed and said, “I implore you to walk around. I think they have a lot of things to say to you.”
“Mm, I was just planning to do that,” Liu Yan said appreciatively.
By dusk, everyone had returned. It was a very busy and hectic day. Meng Feng wore fingerless gloves and a full military uniform as he explained the defensive measures set up to ten or so men in the canteen. These men had been chosen to temporarily be his little squad.
Zhang Min has Jue Ming gathered in his arms, his long legs crossed, and occasionally interrupted to offer his opinion.
“That’s all for now,” Meng Feng said. “Our plan still has to accommodate the things that Liu Yan fiddles around with, then we can start setting it up in detail. Just as long as everyone has an idea…” From the corner of his eye, he saw Liu Yan come downstairs, then casually instructed, “Dismissed. Get ready for dinner.”
There was a rundown corridor next to the canteen that led to the common lounge area. Behind the lounge was a mahjong room. The four buildings had a pool, a garden and fake hills.
“The previous owner really was quite a sophisticated person.” Liu Yan held Meng Feng’s pinky in his hand, shaking it lazily as he laughed. “Paintings of mountains and flowers, bamboo… Look.”
Zhang Min and Jue Ming held hands, swaying as they walked behind them. “Mm, bamboo forests,” Zhang Min said.
“We can raise a few pandas here in the future. Liu Yan used to really like pandas,” Meng Feng said.
Liu Yan, “...”
Zhang Min laughed. “Just as well. Jue Ming also really likes pandas.”
“It’s Christmas in a few days? Will there be presents? Is a panda the present?” Jue Ming asked.
“Oh, I forgot. What’s worth celebrating about those foreigner’s holidays? Don’t forget your ancestor’s things…”
Liu Yan, “What's the relation between celebrating Christmas and forgetting your ancestor’s things? Don’t change the meaning.”
Jue Ming, “That's right, that’s right…”
Meng Feng,” Anyway, I’m not allergic to those foreigner’s ideas. I don’t care about Christ, and I don’t care about his mom, uh-huh?”
Zhang Min, “Uh-huh uh-huh?”
Liu Yan, “You’re just taking your anger out on Jesus because you got scolded for being late that winter when you celebrated it with me…”
Meng Feng, “How many times have I told you that the train was late! Is it easy for me to ask for days off! I travelled thousands of miles to celebrate some foreign holiday with you, I suffered tailgating, accidents, derailment, getting destroyed by the scum of the railways to see you at 6pm and then to get back on the train at 10pm, only four hours, and then I have to watch for your mood…”
Jue Ming, “Meow meow meow..”
Zhang Min, “Woof woof woof!”
Liu Yan, “Sergeant Meng Feng! Don’t force me to expose you! I waited in the cold at the station for you for ten hours, you’re obviously the one who fell asleep and missed the stop…”
Meng Feng, “Ah! The light here is so bright! Anyone have a camera?”
Zhang Min, “Let’s have a look over there.”
Jue Ming, “I’ll go look for the camera.”
Zhang Min and Jue Ming put on an act, slipping away as they laughed cheerily and sauntered away.
There wasn’t much electricity, but it was enough for basic lighting and amenities. The previous owner of the farmhouse took good care of the place. There were batteries to prevent power outages.
Today, when Liu Yan and the others returned, the hall was lit up brightly. Elvis Presley’s “HEY JUDE” was playing, an indescribable sense of romance flowing from the music.
“I was just… too excited for two days straight,” Meng Feng said woefully. “When I thought about coming back to see you, I couldn’t sleep for forty-eight hours… So, on the train…”
Liu Yan, “Could’ve just said that and it would have been fine. What did you need to save face for? Is it that difficult to admit that you love me so much? Not like it’s something embarrassing, and you won’t lose a pound of flesh, why not just admit it?”
Meng Feng was so angry he clenched his teeth. He really wanted to hold Liu Yan down and punch him.
Wen Qiege was quietly standing outside the mahjong room. He was tall, wearing a proper field uniform, his expression serious and stern.
As Liu Yan looked at Wen Qiege, it seemed like he was waiting for someone. His eyes met Liu Yan’s. Meng Feng gently nudged Liu Yan and turned away to say, “This kid is not bad. They said he killed a lot of zombies on the road, and let Deng Changhe stay in the car to protect the others while he went down on his own to clear the way… The hundred people that were saved afterwards from Yanan and Xi’an were also rescued by him and the people he brought along.”
“I’ll go and talk to him?” Liu Yan said lowly.
“Liu Yan, you’re all back,” Wen Qiege said.
Liu Yan nodded and glanced to the side. Meng Feng had taken his cap off, and was smoking a cigarette on the couch. “I heard you did pretty well,” Liu Yan said.
“That one who was locked away… What happened to him? Did you see him before you left?” Wen Qiege asked.
After a short daze, Liu Yan remembered back in the refuge, the one who indirectly died by Wen Qiege’s hands.
“Mm,” Liu Yan lied. “Before we left, Meng Feng opened the lock and let him out so he could join his new zombie friends. He joined the army migrating to the south.”
Wen Qiege’s expression relaxed a little, but there was still grief in the furrow of his brows.
Liu Yan more or less understood. Wen Qiege was here waiting for them.
“I want to show you guys something. I don’t know how to…” Wen Qiege said.
“Treat us like family!” Liu Yan called over his shoulder.
Meng Feng laughed and got up, putting an arm around Liu Yan’s shoulder. Wen Qiege looked at them for a while then said, “This way.”
His expression showed that he was conflicted, and he did not say a word the entire way. He brought them up to the second floor. The easternmost part of the resort was very humid, the floor and walls carried the smell of mold. It was cold and desolate.
Meng Feng glanced towards the end of the corridor. Everyone was staying in the west building. There were no accommodations in the east building.
Wen Qiege took out a ring of keys, opened the door to room 217, and brought them inside.
There was no electricity in the dark, humid room. On the bed lay Lin Musen, his body covered by a thin blanket, his legs entirely broken from the knee down. There were traces of blood on the bed sheets.
It was very smelly in the room, but it seemed as if someone would come and clean up from time to time. There were a few wild flowers in a glass vase on the bedside table.
Lin Musen was dying. He lay on the bed, his breathing slow and raspy, his chest rising and falling like a bellow.
“When we found him, his legs were trapped under the armoured vehicle,” Wen Qiege said.
“I’m still thinking about when you all were going to tell me about this,” Liu Yan said as he nodded.
“How did you know he was still alive?” Meng Feng frowned.
Liu Yan laughed. “Tang Yichuan designed the wind generators. If he didn’t ask us about what happened to his sister, that means he already found her. Lin Musen was also probably…”
“Let Zhang Min come,” Meng Feng said. “Let him take a look.”
Wen Qiege seemed to be relieved, and quickly went outside to call for someone.
After a moment, Zhang Min came up. He pulled the blanket off Lin Musen’s body and took a look.
“Medicine is scarce,” Wu Weiguang said. “I can only perform amputation on him.”
“Even with the amputation, he won’t be able to live for very long,” Zhang Min said. “Everything below his knees are rotten, the muscle tissues are infected and purulent… Fortunately, there’s no virus.”
“Mr. Zhang, can you use traditional acupuncture and ointment to cure him?” Wu Weiguang said.
“I’ll try my best. It’s hard to say,” Zhang Min said.
The room was silent for a while. Lin Musen opened his eyes.
“Liu Yan,” Lin Musen said.
“Brother Sen.” Liu Yan’s voice was calm.
“Under the cargo vehicle, in the wheels… I… Left a package… Give it to… Yixiao…”
No one replied to him. Lin Musen continued, “Xiao Wen, our brothers… How many survived til today?”
“Six,” Wen Qiege answered.
Lin Musen laughed helplessly. “Wang Shu?”
“Other than you and Tang Yixiao, everyone on that vehicle died,” Wen Qiege said.
Lin Musen nodded his head slowly. “In the future, they’ll listen to you…”
“... You, listen to Meng Feng, treat him as your boss.” Lin Musen sighed, as though he had passed on his leadership. He closed his eyes and said, “The breeze is coming in through the window, help… Brother Sen to close it.”
They left Lin Musen’s chambers. Wen Qiege locked the door, and sighed.
Meng Feng stayed behind and went downstairs with him. “How long have you and the others followed him?”
“Five years,” Wen Qiege said.
Meng Feng knew that Wen Qiege carried some emotions towards that leader of his. He turned around so that the two of them stood face to face, and said, “Listen. I’m not your boss, and there’s no need to listen to me.”
Wen Qiege nodded. “Everyone is born equal. You just have to be responsible for your own conscience,” Meng Feng said.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cael.