Under Liu Yan’s arrangement, the last note was handed to Zhang Min.
Immediately afterwards, Liu Yan stuffed Jue Ming into his room, handed him a book and a stack of newspapers to pass the time. Meng Feng brought lunch up.
“Don’t run around,” said Liu Yan. “This is for you.”
Jue Ming took the bottle of green tea, a drink that Liu Yan had brought out of the school cafeteria and had been reluctant to drink.
Jue Ming nodded, unscrewed the cap, glanced at it and returned it to Liu Yan.
"One, more, bottle."
Liu Yan couldn’t laugh or cry, and he said, “Keep it, maybe you can change it later.”
Liu Yan changed his sweaty shirt and went downstairs wearing a vest. The fat man with gold teeth ambiguously said, “Oh, Mr Liu is here.”
Liu Yan glanced at him, turned to the factory building and asked, “What about Brother Sen?”
One person pointed the way, and the fat man followed Liu Yan. Liu Yan went to the middle courtyard in a secluded area of the chemical plant. Lin Musen napped underneath the trees on a stone chair.
“Has everything been arranged?” Lin Musen didn't open his eyes and asked slowly.
Liu Yan said, “Almost. I recruited a person named Zhang Min, this person is very good.”
Lin Musen said, “I saw him. He turned in half a cigarette, a lot of food and a box of medicine.”
The fat man came forward with a smirk and touched Lin Musen’s chest. Lin Musen patted his hand and took out a cigarette for him. The fat man immediately back away with gratitude. Lin Musen took out two more cigarettes and handed them to Liu Yan.
The fat man's face immediately turned black.
Liu Yan took the cigarettes and asked, “What did you arrange for him to do?”
Lin Musen sat up, his hands on the stone chairs, and said, “He said he can do all kinds of work. He's a veteran and a doctor. I didn’t want to give him a job, but he wanted to be busy. So he and Meng Feng formed a team to patrol in shifts.”
Liu Yan nodded, no longer speaking, but didn't leave.
Lin Musen asked, “What else can I do for you?” His inquiry was directed at the fat man.
The golden fatty said, “Nothing.” He left after that.
After the fat man walked away, Liu Yan asked, “Who is he? Your subordinate?”
Lin Musen said, “No, he’s the owner of a restaurant in the city. I originally retreated there when I saw his place. He gave me all his belongings and stored food, asking me to take him away. Thanks to his rice, flour and food, we survived the initial outbreak. You’re a smart person. You know what to do and what not to do.”
Lin Musen’s eyebrows moved. Liu Yan avoided the problem and said, “Zhang Min is a doctor. My senior sister was a chemistry major. The post-graduate students were studying bio-engineering. They may have some ideas on the causes of the zombie outbreak. Do you want to hear about it?”
Lin Musen looked up and said, “It has become like this outside. Where and how did these zombies appear, what does that matter to me? Our current task is to survive, understand?”
Liu Yan said, “I think we should at least know why they move, what kind of restrictions they are subjected to, what their weaknesses are and their habits of migration. How does temperature, humidity and environment affect them? If we know the enemy and know ourself, then the victories of a hundred battles are certain. If we can find out all of this, fewer people may die.
Lin Musen indifferently said, “If that’s the case, then I’ll listen.”
Liu Yan said, “After dinner, I’ll gather the people who I think are reliable and have a meeting, and then we’ll call you?”
Lin Musen nodded slowly.
Meng Feng and Zhang Min leaned on their respective guns at the stone beach beside the stream. The light from the setting sun glimmered on the scale-like water surface as the water was carried downstream. A cool Autumn breeze and the sky was bright and blue.
Zhang Min was assigned to a group with Meng Feng. Today was the second day they had been cooperating. Their shift was from 3 pm to 6 pm, this was to prevent rivers from drifting down the river and suddenly landing on their part of the river bank.
Zhang Min, wearing a pair of open-fingered military gloves, looked into his wallet. Inside was a picture of him and Jue Ming’s big head.
Meng Feng had put on a full set of wear-resistant camouflage uniform, with a heat-resisting jacket and a thin vest.
Meng Feng, “Where did you say the military equipment came from?”
Zhang Min shook his head and was very confused. No matter how tough Lin Musen was, he wouldn’t dare rob a military vehicle openly.
“Not so well-equipped,” said Zhang Min. “There are only six guns. Ammunition is scarce. It looks like they were picked up.”
Meng Feng murmured, “What’s that?”
Zhang Min smiled and opened his wallet to show him the card stickers made by Jue Ming and a couple of credit cards.
Meng Feng said,” That kid is your... hey? Brother, this doesn’t look like father and son.”
Zhang Min smiled awkwardly. “What you say is what it is.”
Meng Feng frowned at Zhang Min and said, “You too, right.”
Meng Feng said, “I see, you are too.”
Zhang Min nodded happily and faced him like it was a secret. The two got closer to each other. Meng Feng asked, “Your boy... has no parents?”
Zhang Min explained, “I just retired from the army when my father died. There were no relatives in the family. I learnt some things during my spare time. I couldn’t apply for a license, and I didn’t know what to do. I went up the mountain to collect herbs every day and then placed them in the shop where I collect them. One day, I found him in the valley. It just so happened that the valley was where cassia grew, so I named him Jue Ming.”
Meng Feng asked, “No identification? Didn’t look for a police officer?”
Zhang Min shook his head blankly and said, “There was nothing. His brain was still damaged. It took him three months after he was rescued to speak. Later, we went to a large hospital in the provincial capital for a check-up. When we tested his bone age, we knew that he was almost 11 years old. I asked my comrades in the police station to inquire about him, but there was no missing persons report. Finally, an acquaintance gave me a certificate and I settled down.”
With a laugh, Zhang Min said, “Nothing, no thoughts. He's very sticky, he always clings to me. I dare not say... Well, we just have to rely on each other. Don’t mention it anymore. What about your kid? Do you two live well?”
Meng Feng wasn’t angry. “His expression always looked like someone owes him money, what do you think?”
Zhang Min smiled and comforted him. “Live a good life, they'll grow in the future. Everyone's alive, so we should be happy and support each other.”
Meng Feng nodded slowly.
“Philosopher.” Liu Yan, after a busy day of work, came out for a walk by the river. He wore a vest, knee-length capris and carried a satchel on his back. He wandered over lazily and asked, “What are you doing?”
With a smile, Xie Fenghua pushed up her glasses and said, “Talking about you. You're the master of so many people’s destiny. Who'll be the master of your destiny?”
Liu Yan put his hands in his trouser pockets and shrugged indifferently. “I don’t decide anybody’s fate. I was just a signpost before the different roads. Whether they stayed or left, it was long destined. I just told them to go left or right. Have you seen two tall men coming out to patrol?”
“Here,” said Meng Feng. “What instructions does the leader have?”
Liu Yan came and sat down. Zhang Min raised his eyes and said, “Where’s Jue Ming?”
Liu Yan, “In my room. I’ve arranged a room for you, it’s next to Meng Feng and I. It used to be a small single room for a foreman.” He handed over the key. “I’ll give him dinner, and you’ll take him to your room later.”
Meng Feng gave way a little, and the two leaned back against a stone. Liu Yan took out a stack of jagged discs cut from tin cans from his satchel. He started to tinker with them underneath the final sunlight before dusk.
“What is it?” Meng Feng asked.
“A weapon that is convenient for woman and people who can’t use guns,” said Liu Yan. “Don’t touch it, it’ll cut your hands.”
Wearing canvas gloves, he assembled the sharp can lids and two poles and began to make a spring.
As the sun began sinking into the west, a fire was lit by the river. The next team member came over to take the firearms and began patrolling along the river bank.
A piece of cloth was laid beside the campfire. Liu Yan’s senior sister, Fang Xiaolei, Zhang Min, Liu Yan, Meng Feng, Ding Lan and Xie Fenghua sat around the fire. They opened four cans and a pot of steam buns from the cafeteria.
There was water boiling on the alcohol stove nearby.
Several people talked with each other. The river at night was very beautiful. East of the mountains, the moon rose. The mountains were covered in silver.
“Ding Lan, you should steal something,” said Liu Yan. “Last time, I saw Lin Musen with a lot of chicken feet.”
“You’re a pickpocket.” Fang Xiaolei glanced at Liu Yan. “Be careful of those from the underworld assaulting you.”
Ding Lan laughed, and then said, “I dare not take it. I’m scared that he'll check the accounts, but do you know how much he has stored?”
“How much?” asked Meng Feng.
Ding Lan, “A lot. Basically, all the food in Yu Town is in the warehouse.”
They couldn’t fathom the thought. Ding Lan said, “You can’t imagine how much. He killed people. The warehouse is full of looted things. I ordered the list for a whole day. According to our way of eating, there is enough for 500 people to eat for several years.”
Xie Fenghua said, “To be honest, according to the principles of a small society, what he needs most now is people,” said Xie Fenghua. “Ding Lan and I summed up that if he gathered a small group of about 650 people, he would just be able to maximise the benefits. If there were few people, it would be very dangerous. There would be no sense of hardship, and no amount of reserves would be safe. If there are many people, they can unite to protect themselves, do more and begin production...”
“Can you persuade him, but I don’t think he'll listen to you,” said Liu Yan. “He told me that if he recruited 100 people, he wouldn't recruit any more. Such few people cannot produce at all...”
“Shh.” Zhang Min’s ears moved and he motioned for silence.
As soon as Lin Musen arrived, he stopped talking.
“Speak, what’s your opinion?” said Lin Musen lightly as he took off his gloves.
Liu Yan said, “Let’s share our experiences first, starting with senior sister.”
Fang Xiaolei began to say that it was the same as Xie Fenghua and the others. When it was Zhang Min’s turn, he explained his whole journey in detail, including the story of himself being bitten but he neglected to tell the story of how he was injured.
The campfire’s light lit up Liu Yan’s face. He said, “Is a vaccine useful?”
Fang Xiaolei thought for a moment and said, “When you were infected, it was probably the first wave. Because of the difference in their conditions, they resisted the vaccine.”
Zhang Min nodded slowly and Fang Xiaolei continued, “ But after the mutation, the virus has mutated again. You mustn't try your luck again.”
Lin Musen suddenly said, “If you draw some blood from him...”
Liu Yan said, “Don’t think about this idea.”
Lin Musen said lightly, "Why? Maybe just a little... "
For a moment, there was a horrible thought in everybody’s heart. After a long time, Zhang Min smiled awkwardly and explained, “If I can save people with blood transfusion, I will not save that blood. But there are no antigens in your body, and our blood type is not right. How do I say this...”
Fang Xiaolei interrupted, “To be clear, he can’t. Even if all the blood in his body was transfused to you, you'll only gain the ability to resist the pathogens for a few days, this is called passive immunity in biology.”
“According to the current outbreak situation, this will be a long and almost endless war of resistance. It isn't something that can be solved with a few tubes of serum. If you want to survive, you need a vaccine, Mr Lin.”
“What’s the difference,” asked Lin Musen coldly.
“A serum is used for passive immunisation for a short time. It has a very short lifetime against the effects of bacterial endotoxins and exotoxins. It may not work. The vaccine is to inject the virus into you so that you can resist the virus forever. I don’t know if he has formed antibodies. I think no...” Fang Xiaolei emphasised, “As long as the conditions are met, I'll do experiments.”
Zhang min said, “If there’s a chance, I’d like to try...” Before he could finish that sentence, Liu Yan stopped him with his eyes. Zhang Min stopped talking.
Lin Musen snorted.
Fang Xiaolei lightly said, “Don’t discuss this issue again. Zhang Min, you mustn't be stupid enough to let the zombies catch you just to try, understand?”
Zhang Min replied, “I understand.”
“Talk about your brother,” said Meng Feng. “What else did he say?”
Zhang Min, “When dealing with zombies, you can cut off the ends of their spine.” With his hands raised as if he was holding a virtual head, he made a slight twisting action. “Dealing with normal people is the same.”
Lin Musen nodded thoughtfully, and Fang Xiaolei said, “Xiaokun told me that your senior brother followed his classmates to the South China military region’s second garrison for refuge. Can you contact him?”
Liu Yan said, “No, I can’t. It's always safe to follow the military.”
“I think...” Xie Fenghua said, “the key now is, what's your long-term goal? To stay here and wait for the army to come to the rescue, or to survive on your own?” Xie Fenghua continued softly, “Your food will always be finished. It’s better to send someone out to contact the army. Right now, you don’t know anything about the outside world. It's impossible for the country to not have countermeasures.”
“Chick, I haven’t seen you,” said Lin Musen.”
Xie Fenghua smiled and said, “I’m not one of yours. I live by the river and come here to eat.”
Lin Musen cautiously scanned Xie Fenghua’s eyes before looking at Ding Lan. Liu Yan thought of something else and said, “Senior sister, according to Zhang Min’s accounts, after being bitten and infected by a zombie, there will be a short period where people fall into a coma before turning into a zombie.”
Fang Xiaolei frowned and nodded. “Yes, Mr Zhang’s friend fell into a coma after being bitten by his daughter. After that...”
“About seven hours,” said Zhang Min. “During this period, the pupils dilated, his body temperature became cold, the blood remained and grey spots appeared on the face.”
Fang Xiaolei said, “Seven hours. As long as you grasp this period and observe carefully, we don’t have to be too afraid of the virus. People often die in fear.”
“Correct.” Zhang Min nodded in agreement.
Liu Yan asked, “Is it possible for this virus to mutate?”
Fang Xiaolei nodded and said, "It's very likely.”
Lin Musen got up and said, "I don't understand. Please talk slowly. After that, Liu Yan, summarise the valuable information and report it to me.”
Liu Yan handed him the can lid that had been modified and said, “Try it on a zombie.”
Lin Musen took the new weapon and left.
Fang Xiaolei glanced at his back and sighed. “If he didn’t explain clearly just now, he might have eaten Zhang Min raw.”
Liu Yan had also felt a little cold when he heard Lin Musen push forward the idea about the blood. “He doesn’t show it, but he must be very scared. I’m afraid Zhang Min will be regarded as a mobile blood bank.”
Zhang Min said, “As long as I can save people, I won’t hesitate. I don’t mind being a blood bank.”
Everyone looked at Zhang Min, and nobody spoke.
“That’s it,” said Zhang Min. “If Jue Ming were infected, I'll also beg someone for some serum. Is it useful? I would only need a bit. If it doesn’t work, is it because there’s not enough? Then just a little more... can you understand my mood?”
Meng Feng joked, “It’s not necessarily a good thing to not be infected. To escape the mouths of zombies, but to be eaten by thousands of living people. You've saved one, but can you save another? Do you have enough blood to save everyone? This is really bad.”
Everyone began to laugh.
“Fang Xiaolei said, “If you can contact the epidemic centre, or if you can play a role in the development of this vaccine, you must first find the organisation. Without a laboratory, can you make a centrifuge, Liu Yan?”
Liu Yan bit his lip and said,” I... can try. I’ve never paid attention to medical machinery.... you’ll have to give me blueprints.”
Fang Xiaolei said, “How could I have blueprints?”
Liu Yan said, “At least you have to roughly describe it. It’s like taking a mountain apart. I haven’t even seen a centrifuge... maybe there are people like Zhang Min who have managed to resist the infection.”
Fang Xiaolei nodded slightly. “I just think that being idle is bad. Anyway, regardless of that, the molecular microscope and the bioreactor is handed to you. They should be delivered within a week, have you heard me?”
Liu Yan screamed, “What are those?! Never heard of it!”
Fang Xiaolei ignored Liu Yan and continued, “Maybe the high-temperature environment has become an indispensable catalyst which greatly shortens the coma duration. What do you think Zhang Min?”
Zhang Min nodded slowly. “Anyway, this virus must've mutated.”
Meng Feng could barely understand anything, unlike the confused Lin Musen. At the moment, he asked, “Can this disease be cured?”
Fang Xiaolei said, “I haven’t seen anything like this virus, I can’t definite it. Liu Yan, come on... After you give me all the equipment, let’s go step by step. There must be other people who've produced antibodies. Now, most of the medical institutions around the world should already be working on it. Have you seen that kind of vaccine?”
Zhang Min said, “They say it’s a new medicine in the United States.”
Fang Xiaolei nodded slightly. “It’s likely to be a vaccine that's not completely successful. It needs to be improved, but when the zombie tide erupts, it has to be taken out to be used first.”
Meng Feng asked again, “What will it look like if it goes on like this?”
Fang Xiaolei said, “In an epidemic, there's a calculation formula. The speed of infection is related to the population per square kilometre. The transmission rate obtained from individual case sampling is also integrated, which involves...”
Liu Yan, “Just tell us the conclusion.”
Fang Xiaolei found it very difficult to word and finally said, “Very, very, very rough estimates. If there's no vaccine and no isolate measures are being undertaken, then the entire world will be infected and it will take about 18 months.”
“So short a time?!” Liu Yan suddenly moved.
Fang Xiaolei said, “Eighteen months later, apart from areas isolated by the natural environment, most of the population will become the living dead.”
“And then?” Meng Feng couldn’t help but ask.
Fang Xiaolei said, “Then if we are safe, for example: hiding in the mountains, waiting for them to decay and be recycled naturally, it will take about fifteen to twenty years.”
Liu Yan said, “So it’s safe and you can come out.”
Fang Xiaolei said, “There'll still be latent viruses, it’s hard to say.”
Liu Yan thought for a while and said, “Your assumption is only the worst-case scenario.”
Fang Xiaolei, “Of course. If we think about the benefits, sooner or later, there'll be a new improved vaccine. Assuming that Zhang Min is still carrying antibodies, I’m sure that it won’t do much. Otherwise, how could doctors die?”
Liu Yan, “Yes, even if there's no serum, scientists can also study a fungus that can oxidise, erode and corrupt corpses quickly. This will decompose all zombies and cause them to enter the soil ahead of time. The high-temperature environment cooperates with fungi and microorganisms which causes decay and spreads them properly. It’s not difficult to destroy them.”
Fang Xiaolei smoothed her hair and the diamond ring on her hand shone.
“That said, there are many smart people in the world, and you're one of them.”
With a smile, Fang Xiaolei said, “Remember the equipment.”
Liu Yan forgot about it and the matter was brought up again. He wanted to cry.
Fang Xiaolei said, “If you can persuade the leader of the underworld, I suggest that you all move north together. I need zombies for research.”
Liu Yan, “Well, I think it’s safer to go north. It’s almost autumn. The cold can make the zombies unable to move.”
Zhang Min whispered. “I also discovered one thing, you know what?”
“They don’t eat animals, they don’t touch plants. They only eat people, they eat their kind. Why?”
Meng Feng said, “Isn’t this good? At least we don’t have to worry about zombies everywhere.”
Liu Yan nodded and Fang Xiaolei said, “This may be determined by the characteristics of the virus, but the natural environment hasn't been damaged, which is a good thing. Human beings are also part of nature. In this world, even if all humans are extinct, the environment wouldn’t change much.”
Liu Yan said, “So you want to say human beings should die?”
Fang Xiaolei smiled and shook her head gently. “Of course not. We have to live well. There's always hope.”
Meng Feng said, “Live, go back and bathe, sleep then go.”
Zhang Min smiled and said, “It’s a good thing you don’t have to pay for the mortgage. Just living is good.”
Liu Yan couldn’t help but shake his head as he looked at the ring on Fang Xiaolei’s hand and her eyes.
“Live,” said Liu Yan. “We'll meet senior brother one day.”
Fang Xiaolei smiled and nodded. The crowd dispersed. Liu Yan said, “Philosopher, if a zombie is climbing out of the river at night and invites you to a meal...”
“I’ll scream loudly for the police.” Xie Fenghua nodded happily.
Ding Lan said, “Ignore him. Let’s live together in the factory.”
Liu Yan walked along the river. Fang Xiaolei was right. Human beings were insignificant to the entire planet. Maybe this catastrophe that was sweeping through the world was just a single moment in the Earth’s five billion year life.
AutumnBreeze: ;-; Why so much terminology. My brain can’t cope.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Cat.