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Lai Jie still did not have enough manpower, even though he had lobbied everyone. That afternoon, there was a knock on Liu Yan’s work room.
“What is it?” Liu Yan lifted his eyes.
Deng Changhe’s expression was difficult. After a moment, he said, “They asked me to ask you about something.”
“Sit.” Liu Yan gestured. “What did Lai Jie tell you guys?”
Deng Changhe hesitated to speak, until Liu Yan said, “You know my temper. If you’re not going to say it, then leave. Don’t waste time.”
“Lai Jie told a lot of people… That if we don’t help rescue others, then he… won’t send the signal for rescue. That way… the rescue team won’t ever come, not until he makes sure that the Xi’an district and the surrounding areas have absolutely no survivors. Xie Fenghua said that he heard him telling Meng Feng…”
“What did he say?” Liu Yan was in disbelief, but asked gently.
“He said: I ask for your help on behalf of the military and the people.” Deng Changhe sighed.
He lifted his gaze to look at Liu Yan.
“Didn’t Wen Qiege already join him? How many more people does he need?” Liu Yan asked.
Deng Changhe shook his head. “Why don’t I go, along with you, Meng Feng, Zhang Min and Brother Wen, we’ll all follow him…”
“No need,” Liu Yan said. “I’ll go and talk to him.”
Liu Yan packed up his things and went downstairs. Lai Jie was playing with an empty syringe in the flower field, lazing around with a stack of litmus paper in his hand.
He had used yet another dose. Liu Yan frowned. On who?
Lai Jie raised his hand to touch Liu Yan’s face, rather inappropriately. “Did you change your mind?”
Liu Yan avoided his touch completely. “What do you need me to do, say it. Who did you give the vaccine to? You recruited another person?”
He walked towards the backseat of the car. Lai Jie immediately lifted his leg to block his way. “Don’t go in. Someone’s resting.”
Liu Yan, “I have the right to know who it is.”
Lai Jie smiled slightly. He was different from Zhang Min and Meng Feng. He had the charm of a mature man. His skin was tan, his body was well-proportioned, he was thin but not frail, like a soldier who was exposed to the hot sun all year round. He was only older than Liu Yan by four years, but talked as if he had experienced many things.
His hair was very short, and he liked to laugh, but compared to the polite, open, and sunny demeanour of Zhang Min, he had the aura of a ruffian.
“It’s a hero,” Lai Jie said. “One day, if I die, he’ll be the new captain of the Hurricane squad. With a captain, it will never disappear.
Liu Yan was quiet for a long time, then opened his mouth to say, “Give me the vaccine too, then. You’ve won.”
Lai Jie, “No can do. You have to go to the sea. General Meng Jianguo gave the order that all university students, scholars, scientists and specialists, no matter if they do language, finance, or natural sciences, they all have to go there.”
“You guys are important and have to be protected. We live to protect you. You are this country’s future.”
Liu Yan frowned. “I can’t join you?”
Lai Jie laughed. His smile carried a deeper meaning. He shook his head then said, “You’ve thought it through. I’m very touched. Those words from before were just to poke fun at you. Just Meng Feng is enough. He’ll work hard on your behalf.”
The spring blew across the vast plains, the flowers bloomed across the earth. Liu Yan stood in the middle of the beautiful flower field and let out a long sigh.
4th April, 2013
We organised a quick raid to search the entirety of Xi'an.
Meng Feng did not talk about the situation with the vaccine, and I did not ask. The members of the squad were me, Zhang Min, Jue Ming, Meng Feng, Wen Qiege, Deng Changhe, Lai Jie and his two squadmates.
Lai Jie is very strong. He has been through hundreds of battles, and developed a detailed route. He also had plenty of explosives and ammunition on hand. He even had a mini nuclear bomb.
It was pretty much useless in his hands, but once it was given to me, how could I let it go to waste?
I changed the details of its explosion and hence modified the bomb. I let the golden ball robot go ahead first to set down a wire to prevent another incident of Lai Jie being captured by the zombies.
We blew up a building that was almost one hundred stories tall, creating a landfill that was five thousand square metres in the middle of Xi’an’s city centre. We destroyed hundreds of thousands of zombies, and burned them all in the end. This ruined city was set ablaze, the flames rising to the sky, black smoke carried southwards by the northern wind.
Lai Jie used the life detector and scoured the entire city. The new pieces of technology that the military had given him could effectively receive satellite signals, and use real-time communication to create a very detailed digital network map. Meng Feng and Zhang Min used hang gliders to bomb the areas that were densely packed with zombies. We brought wandering groups of people back to the main road in the rain.
In the whole of Xi’an, on the two shores of Wei river, and even in Weiyang, there were three thousand people still alive.
They were either hiding underground, or hiding in the mountains isolated from the rest of the place. Most of them were willing to come with me, a few villagers wanted to stay.
Lai Jie tried his best to convince them, but left behind a number of them who refused to leave.
The groups of people were endless. Everyone was crying. Lai Jie got out of the car to walk with them, comforting them and telling them that “the country didn’t abandon you”.
They gathered outside of Hope Town, with people coming from all directions. Hu Jue opened the warehouse and all of the rations, and took the canvas sheet from the sauna to make a rain shelter for the refugees.
They were in the fields, in the wilderness, in the forest, by the river, staying safely there for now. All of the people I saw in all of those different places, all of them were crying.
Especially when Lai Jie climbed up to the signal tower, and set up the transmitter.
In the midst of the spring rain, Lai Jie, who was soaked, scaled up that signal tower, and everyone on the ground raised their heads to watch him.
“Hurricane squad to HQ, Hurricane squad to HQ…” Lai Jie stood in the rain, speaking into his communicator.
“Copy, this is HQ. XIao Jie?” A gentle female void said. “You’re still alive. Congratulations.”
Lai Jie laughed tiredly. “I’ve almost fucking gone to nirvana. I’m reporting about the mission. The Xi’an district mission is complete. There are a total of 3375 survivors. 69 of them are researchers. Requesting for HQ to send out a rescue team.”
“You’ve worked hard, Commander Lai. The next supply of explosions will be sent by the rescue team along the way. Please prepare a detailed mission report, and give it to Wu Shuangshuang to send it. The Flying Dragon squad was wiped out in the mission in Henan province. Wu Shuangshuang will be transferred back to HQ to form a new team. The rescue team will arrive after 48 hours. Good luck, Commander Lai Jie,” the woman said.
The call was hung up on the other side of the line. Lai Jie nodded his head then lay down on the ground, his wet hair sticking to his forehead as he looked up at the gray, cloudy sky.
That night, thousands of bonfires were lit in the wilderness. The residents of Hope Town automatically distributed hot water and food. The pastor walked through the crowd, offering comfort to the survivors one by one.
No one slept. No one knew how many hours had passed. The sky grew bright. Another long time passed. The sky was dark.
Liu Yan did not touch any mechanical parts or make any preparations. He would not be taking those things along. He sat in front of his table in a daze. Meng Feng had not come back. He was in charge of bringing people out for a last patrol, just in case something happened in the days before the rescue team arrived.
The sky grew dark and then bright again, dark and bright again. It rained for a good few days as if it was never going to stop.
Meng Feng did not come back that night either. He moved a chair downstairs and sat there smoking, just like many years ago, when he and Liu Yan broke up the night before he went off to the military.
On the third day:
“Liu Yan,” Meng Feng said. “I have some things to say to you.”
Liu Yan nodded, and walked out to the flower field with him.
They passed through the soaking wet plains, through the groups of people waiting in Hope Town. It was as if the sky had collapsed, hanging low and close to the earth, as though it was going to press down on them at any moment.
Hope Town’s wooden sign was slowly fading in the rain, dripping water onto the ground.
“Feng Hua.” Wen Qiege came over wearing his military uniform.
Xie Fenghua was squatting in the flower field, loosening the soil.
“You’re joining the Hurricane squad?” Xie Fenghua stood up. “Good luck, Brother Wen. You’ll definitely be able to survive.”
Wen Qiege nodded. “Thank you. I’ll show you some magic.”
Xie Fenghua laughed. Wen Qiege held a petal in his left hand and made a gesture, gently rubbing both of his hands together, then a countless number of petals flew out and landed in the mud.
Zhang Min stood in the rain with an umbrella. Jue Ming was wearing a black sweater and shorts, a white scarf around his neck. He looked up at the sky, the helicopter in the eye reflected in his clear eyes.
The blades of the helicopter beat in the air. Everyone on the ground started to move.
Hundreds of helicopters flew down from the grey-blue sky towards Hope Town. Lai Jie shouted, “Don’t crowd together! Line up for the quarantine! Go in order, if your name isn’t called, don’t move! We’ll call for you when it’s your turn! We’ll start calling names now! One by one! Everyone will be able to live on! We won’t leave anyone behind!”
Meng Feng stopped in his steps. Lai Jie was waving his hands in the distance, gesturing for him to come over and help.
He lowered his head, watching the footprints his boots had left in the soil as they slowly made their way along the river’s shoreline and entered a part of the birch forest.
“Liu Yan, let’s break up,” Meng Feng said.
Liu Yan said nothing.
“You’ll stay alive,” Meng Feng said.
“And you?” Liu Yan shot back.
Meng Feng, “I’ve already taken the vaccine. I have to go with Lai Jie. The next stop is the Central Plains.”
Liu Yan, “I know. While you were resting in the backseat, I was talking to Lai Jie.”
Meng Feng, “I heard it all. You’re always like this. Isn’t it better to play dumb sometimes?”
Liu Yan said nothing. The rain soaked his body. He suddenly felt so, so cold.
Meng Feng, “Look at the grave here.”
Liu Yan, “What are you trying to tell me?”
“When I first brought you here, I wanted to tell you.” Meng Feng’s voice was low, just like it always was, yet it carried the tone of someone who was unable to fight back against orders, and of someone who was brave. “In this world, there’s no such thing as not being able to live on after leaving someone.”
Liu Yan closed his eyes tiredly, and reached out with his hands. But Meng Feng took a half-step back, not letting Liu Yan touch him.
“I thought you’d hug me.” Liu Yan opened his eyes.
“No,” Meng Feng said. “I don’t dare to touch you anymore.”
Meng Feng met Liu Yan’s gaze. He did not dare to come into contact with Liu Yan, didn’t even dare to hold his hand. It had been difficult enough to build up his resolve. If he even touched him in the slightest, it would all shatter.
Liu Yan turned his head to look at the two tombstones. “His wife died, but he lived on for many years,” Meng Feng said.
“I understand.” Liu Yan nodded. “I understand everything.”
“Let’s live on for ourselves, okay? I wish you happiness, and that you achieve your dreams,” Meng Feng said.
Liu Yan stared at Meng Feng, and noticed that his eyes were red. The words were exactly the same as that night in that narrow, rented apartment. Meng Feng had said the same thing.
“I also wish for you to be happy, and that you achieve your dreams,” Liu Yan said gently, and turned away.
In that instant, it was like they returned to a year ago. Just within their reach, was a door that could never be opened.
Meng Feng turned around and left.
Liu Yan walked out of the birch forest, and saw the residents of Hope Town going through the quarantine checks. The military helicopters could carry nearly two hundred people. In the back of the helicopters, there were doctors using electronic equipment to examine the refugees and injecting the serum into them.
All their friends who had run together with him for nearly half a year were hugging Meng Feng and saying goodbye.
“I still love you, Liu Yan,” Meng Feng said. “But you don’t have to wait for me. After all, we’ve already broken up.”
“I won’t wait for you,” Liu Yan turned around to say.
Meng Feng sighed and kept his gaze on the ground. His profile was very handsome, but compared to a long time ago, there was a different aura about it – a military aura. He had to put his strengths to good use, to chase his dreams and make them reality.
On one side of the scale balanced his love, and on the other side balanced the pain of having to give up this love in order for it to go further, the pain of having to part.
“Liu Yan!” Hu Jue shouted.
“He’s going with you,” Meng Feng said. “Good luck, Hu Jue.”
Hu Jue nodded, and went ahead to get the vaccine. Zhang Min walked up to Meng Feng and hugged him fiercely, the two of them swaying in the rain.
“And you, darling,” Meng Feng laughed, scratching Jue Mings face with his fingers through his fingerless gloves. “Listen to what your dad says. There will be pandas.”
“Oh,” Jue Ming said. “Bye.”
“You’ll survive,” Zhang Min said. “Take good care of yourself, Meng Feng.”
“You too,” Meng Feng said. “Goodbye.”
Liu Yan was standing far away, watching Meng Feng say goodbye to his friends, until he was the only one left in the rain.
Meng Feng lowered his head, staring at the ground, looking lonely and extremely unfamiliar.
“Let’s go!” Lai Jie said. “The first and second batch of people are ready!”
“Number one, lift off…” The radio sounded, and the propellers started to turn. The engine of twenty helicopters started, the gusts of wind whipping up the entire field, the sound deafening. Liu Yan covered his face with a hand in the face of the fierce wind.
“It’s your turn!” Lai Jie shouted.
The last group of people in Hope Town got onto the helicopter. Meng Feng took out an envelope from his jacket pocket, and passed it to Wu Shuangshuang who was following the rescue team in their departure. Wu Shuangshuang kept it and as she passed by Liu Yan, said, “Let’s go to the quarantine area.”
The last of the helicopters still had space. Zhang Min helped Jue Ming put on his seatbelt. The people in the rear cabin were seated on two sides. All members of the Hurricane squad had come to see them off.
“Liu Yan!” Lai Jie shouted. “Thanks for your help! On behalf of all the people who were saved, I sincerely thank you.”
“You’re welcome. It’s what I should have done,” Liu Yan said. He walked up to the helicopter. Li Yan and Wen Qiege came to send them off.
At that moment, Xie Fenghua screamed, taking off her seatbelt and rushing out of the cabin, shouting, “Li Yan!”
Li Yan roared, “Fenghua! Why are you here?!”
Xie Fenghua started to cry, and jumped into his embrace. The two of them hugged each other in the whipping winds, sobbing.
“Stop dallying!” The pilot shouted. “Get in! What now?”
Liu Yan immediately noticed something and shouted, “Wait! Let them talk!”
Wu Shuangshuang, “That girl… Is she Xiao Yan’s girlfriend?”
Liu Yan shook his head, confused. “I don’t know either… He’s been here for a few days but never met Xie Fenghua. God… This is too cruel…”
Xie Fenghua and Li Yan held each other tightly, sobbing and crying.
Lai Jie shouted through the wind, “All right, we’re about to leave! Xiao Yan! Let her go! Or the helicopter is going to leave!”
“You have to come back alive... Li Yan… I’ll wait for you…”
Li Yan wailed. “I just knew you were alive! I knew it! You have to live too!”
“Get on!” Lai Jie shouted. “It’s taking off! Wu Shuangshuang, get her inside!”
Wu Shuangshuang undid her seatball and half-carried Xie Fenghua on board. Xie Fenghua was crying herself half to death, shouting to the outside of the cabin, “Li Yan! You have to come back!”
“I will!” Li Yan shouted through the wind. “Fenghua, I love you–”
The last helicopter left the ground with a deafening whir. Liu Yan looked out of the cabin’s exit. Li Yan was standing in the rain. Behind him, in the distance, was Meng Feng.
He hadn’t even turned his head around to look, but Liu Yan knew what he was feeling. It was the same as what he was feeling right now.
The door of the cabin slowly closed. Xie Fenghua’s hot tears were carried away by the wind.
The helicopter turned around and flew towards the east, crossing the devastated land and heading towards the open sea.
Xie Fenghua was sobbing quietly, leaning into Ding Lan’s embrace as she spoke haltingly, “I’m already very glad… that I could see him again… My only regret is that I want a child… Like Li Yan…”
Liu Yan, “Are you trying to agitate those of us without a uterus?”
As soon as he said that, the entire cabin laughed. Xie Fenghua laughed through her tears, and the heavy atmosphere grew much warmer.
“One day, we’ll meet them again,” Liu Yan said. “Keep on fighting, philosopher.”
Outside of Hope Town, Meng Feng’s tears slid down his cheeks. He raised his hand and glanced at the diamond ring on his ring finger.
On the helicopter, Liu Yan looked at the crimson dusk and the fiery setting sun.
“Calling HQ, calling HQ,” Wu Shuangshuang spoke into the communicator.
“Copy, this is HQ,” a female voice replied.
“This is Wu Shuangshuang from the Hurricane rescue team.”
“Lieutenant Wu Shuangshuang, please report,” the woman said.
“In the process of our search and rescue, we discovered General Meng Jianguo’s son, a veteran of the K3, Meng Feng. Sergeant Meng Feng offered to sign on, and Lai Jie took him into the Hurricane squad. There’s a letter that he wants me to give to General Meng,” Wu Shuangshuang said.
The woman, “Please wait, I’ll ask the United Front Division for you.”
After a long pause, the woman spoke again. “I’ve received orders from the higher-ups. The transport plane number 16 that you are on will change its course and stop at sector six of the United Front Division. Please take proper care of that letter, Lieutenant.”
“We’re changing course?” Zhang Min asked. “Meng Feng is the general’s son?”
“An exceptional father like him wouldn’t have any ordinary son.” Wu Shuangshuang’s eyes carried a smile. “Before we left, Xiao Jie made arrangements for you to go to sector six. The conditions there are better than the other refugee centres.”
7th April, 2013
I think Meng Feng might be about to go crazy. He can’t be left alone to face unknown dangers.
Lai Jie told us. It was Meng Jianguo’s ultimate order that all the surviving engineers have to go report to the refugee centres in the sea. But I feel that there must be some kind of accommodation there. They also lack mechanical engineers.
Without a mechanical engineer, they’re unable to utilise their equipment to the fullest potential.
I have to go back. Back to Meng Feng’s side. I have to speak with his father.
Meng Jianguo must definitely love his son. As long as I can sit down and have a few words with him, it’ll all be okay.
I won’t wait for you, Meng Feng, because I’ll be right there with you very soon.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cael.