“How do you come to that conclusion? What if the lock was placed by Ming Yi?”
“They were only a group of three, locking the gate is meaningless.” Qing Shui rubbed his chin. “Only if there are large amount of people staying in here would locking the door be effective to prevent an attack on the people. Otherwise, they can just hide anywhere convenient. It makes no sense to lock the door. Do you know what this suggests?”
“What does it suggest?” Chang shook his head with chagrin. “Just tell me the conclusion next time. I am not smart as you, and I can barely answer your questions.”
“I too was actually asking myself when I was asking you.” Qing Shui climbed the wall, and continued to talk to himself, “If there are more than 100 people living in here, it means it is easier to survive in Zhengzhou than in Kaifeng. You just can’t find a big group of people living in a school in Kaifeng. In fact, the environment is too harsh for any human to survive, except under the shelter of the military base. I am pretty sure the ecology of Zhengzhou is more beneficial to humans than to other species.”
“Well, that sounds like a good news.” Said Chang. “Rare good news.”
While they were talking, Qing Shui had climbed to the top of the wall. As he found a stable position, Chang handed over Pangzi’s body to Qing Shui so that they could go behind the wall altogether.
“I got him.” Qing Shui jumped off the wall with Pangzi on his back.
Chang’s climb looked effortless as he climbed and jumped over like a cat.
“How do we find them though?” The campus seemed empty. Perhaps it was because it was dark, but they had found no trace of life.
“The grass! Someone walked here before, if they weren’t Ming Yi’s, then it must be someone else’s.” Qing Shui asked Chang to carry Pangzi again. He then pointed at a spot under the light as he said, “As long as we can find a human, that means we are one step closer. We just need to follow these foot tracks.”
“There is a trace? Are you sure?” Chang looked down at the grass, but he couldn’t spot any differences.
“You probably can’t tell, just follow me.”
“Hmm..” Chang caught up with Qing Shui and tried to crack a joke. “If you had such a keen ability of observation before the red fog, then I think you would have made a good private detective.”
“I don’t think so. Even if I had this ability, I would still be a teacher. I like teaching.” Qing Shui picked up the topic as he said, “But you all would never be able to cheat. I would have caught you right away. Hahahaha.”
“Uh…” Chang sunk back into silence, “I don’t know what to say about your joke…”
Qing Shui nodded expressionlessly to end the conversation and continued to be the guide.
They soon approached a building, and Chang and Qing Shui worked together to find an entrance. Not long after, they found a modified room with windows sealed by wood. The door was reinforced to resist any potential attack. It was obvious that these could have only been modified by a human.
“Here it is.” Qing Shui’s knuckles drummed on the door insistently.
“Who is that?” A voice of vigilance sneaked through the door immediately.
“We’re just passing by here. Can we stay for a night? We are looking for someone.” Qing Shui shouted.
His words caused a burst of disturbance in the room, soon after, a familiar voice asked, “Mr. Li? is that you?”
It was Ming Yi who spoke. The door was opened from the inside, asMing Yi revealed himself from the dark.
“Chang! Mr. Li! Come on in.”
“This is our day, isn’t it?” The flashlight in Qing Shui’s hand illuminated the room.
Other than Ming Yi, there were another 7 or 8 figures lying on the ground, covered by blankets. All of them were so thin that they seemed emaciated with sallow faces. They looked like refugees in a famine. Chang glanced at them one by one. It was easy enough to tell that they were students. The sudden arrival of the red fog probably blocked their way back home. Loneliness and fear kept them together, but it seemed like they would soon starve to death.
“How did you get in?” Although they were grasping for their last breath, their mental guards were never put down.
“Wasn’t too hard. I shared some of my food with them, and they let me in for exchange.” Ming Yi walked to the other end of the classroom to keep some distance with the students. “Of course, we had disputes and they are still unfriendly. But that shouldn’t be bothering us as we will be leaving tomorrow. Let’s not talk about them, I am just so happy to see you back. You guys did it, you rescued Pangzi!” Ming Yi smiled with joy.
“It’s true that we rescued him, but the openings on his body with the spider eggs could kill him. I don’t know how to deal with them.” Chang placed Pangzi on the table and asked, “How is Jing?”
“She is over there.” Jing lay on one of the desks. “She is better, but still in coma.”
“Good to hear that. Alright, let’s think about how we can get rid of these spider eggs.” Chang made sure Pangzi was lying comfortably. He tried to gently squeeze out some green spider eggs from Pangzi’s arm. The stickiness felt awful in his hand. Chang felt slightly desperate as he turned to Qing Shui and said, “How are we going to clean out the spider eggs? There are so many!” Chapter 75: Goodbye
Translator: Letty Editor: DarkGem
“I have no idea either.” Qing Shui examined all the openings on Pangzi. “The spiders have laid eggs on him one by one, which means that, at this moment, we can only do the same – clean them one after the other. It could be done faster if we had equipment but we don’t have anything on hand now.”
“But there are so many… and we don’t even have alcohol for sanitizing.” Chang gripped the edge of a table as powerlessness and hopelessness surged within him. “If we rinse the openings by water, he’ll get infected, and we can’t use our fingernails to dig them out either.”
“I guess the only thing we can do today is to clean out those that are on the surface; we’ll have to figure out how to deal with the rest tomorrow.” Qing Shui pinched a pile of spider eggs and threw them on the ground.
“Don’t throw them on the ground! What if they hatch?” the students immediately spoke out against Qing Shui.
“Don’t worry, they can’t hatch successfully without proper temperature.” Qing Shui kept working without taking the students’ concerns into mind.
There were more than a hundred of openings on Pangzi, and the size of the spider eggs were as little as red beans. It was already challenging to clean the surface. Chang and Qing Shui were very cautious, making sure that no openings were torn further. But at the same time, they also needed to be careful that their fingers didn’t touch the openings directly. All of this resulted in the task of cleaning out the spider eggs being very time consuming.
Later, Ming Yi and the other soldier joined. Together the four of them spent more than two hours to roughly clean the surface. By the end, their eyes were drooping and they were on the verge of collapsing. It had been such a long day.
The trek through the jungle had been full of danger. From the moment they stepped in, their nerves had never loosened. Countless times they barely slipped away from the sickle of death; the pressure they took on would have crushed anyone’s mind before the red fog.
They had fought to come to this place, 80 kilometers away from Kai Feng, and finally upon relaxing, the last stream of strength slipped away.
“Hey bro, I am sorry, this is the best I can do today… I am just too tired now.” Chang leaned against the desk. “I can’t even hold my eyes open now… Are you feeling better?”
“Uh…uh…” Pangzi struggled to utter some sound. His tongue was still stiff even if his condition had improved compared to two hours ago.
“I am glad to hear that.” Chang grinned feebly.
“Uh…uh…” Pangzi once again tried to say something but only his eyes talked with turbid tears.
“Man… What are you talking about?” Qing Shui teased Pangzi. “Can’t even tell what you are talking from your lip movements, so just sleep now. We’ll figure something out tomorrow, okay?”
“Tomorrow…” Like a computer running out of power, Chang fell asleep while still sitting.
Qing Shui was quick to follow Chang’s example when he sat down beside him.
The classroom was extremely comfortable compared to the places they had gone through, and the two soldiers’ heads drooped as well. They went lower and lower, then completely collapsed onto the ground.
The students gradually relaxed as they saw the four threats lose their consciousness.
The air cooled down as the time approached midnight.
Chang slept so deeply that he relaxed his guard completely. Still, at one point he became aware of some vague movement nearby. His body told him to lift his eyelids, but the drowsiness knocked him back to the dreamworld. As far as he knew, the noise he heard didn’t move closer to him, so he gave up this meaningless struggle and returned to the state of deep sleep.
He didn’t wake up until the sun turned the black world to scarlet.
“Qing Shui…” The first person he noticed when he regained conscious was his teacher, then Pangzi who was lying in a pool of blood.
“Pangzi is dead.” Standing in front of the corpse, Qing Shui murmured, “It was all my fault. I didn’t notice anything about him changing his mind.”
“What are you talking about?” Heart sinking, Chang stood up in a haste. “He was doing good yesterday, he can’t be dead!”
“It was suicide.” Qing Shui stood aside to reveal the tragedy. There was a deep cut in the throat that had caused excessive blood loss. And there was a knife clenched in Pangzi’s hand.
“Why? Why would he do that?” Chang was on the verge of having a mental breakdown, his hands shook uncontrollably.
“He left a letter to us.” Qing Shui handed Chang a piece of blood-stained paper.
The piece of paper was ripped off a textbook. The handwritten characters were mostly squiggles; apparently, Pangzi had not recovered by the time he wrote this letter. Chang flattened the wrinkled paper and read with mixed emotions.
“Brother Chang, Mr. Li, this is my letter to you. By the time you will be reading this, I would probably have died already. I want to tell you so much but I’m no good at expressing my feelings on paper. Therefore, I think, ‘Thank you’ are the words that I want to say the most. I made this decision on my own and, please, don’t feel bad for me. To be honest, I have been thinking about leaving you guys; after all, I was always a burden along the way, taken care of and protected. Thank you. Without you, I would have died alone somewhere at the very beginning. I knew I was such a useless person but I was too afraid to be left behind at the same time.”
“I wanted to gain some sort of ability to help out but we all know it is a rare event. We can’t just have all the luck that we pray for. So, I blamed myself for being a coward.”
“The moment I saw you come back, I was in tears already; I have prepared to die when I was caught in the spider web. When I think about putting myself in your shoes, I would probably have made a different decision. Therefore, thank you, and I will never forget what you have done for me. Taking this into considerion, I am braver than before. Thus, I decided that the burden, I, must be dropped.”
“I am not sublime nor altruistic, the reason behind my decision is simple fear. When you were getting me out from the spider webs, I saw how the other victim had suffered. I don’t want to be like her; it was so painful to look at. I would rather die with a sleek slice of a knife. Please, please, don’t feel sorry for me! I know it better than anyone, I cannot be saved. Some of the eggs are in my bloodstream; the slightest itchiness constantly reminds me of how close I am to becoming her.”
“I can’t wait for the morning. In fact, there must already be spiders hatched in my body.”
“I really appreciate that you didn’t leave me behind in the jungle, but now, allow me do die in peace. It was my pleasure, to meet you, Chang and Mr. Li. I have no regrets now. Thank you.”
“By the way, brother Chang.”
“Do you remember teasing me before, saying that you’d make my finger bone into a pendant if I died? It is about the time you made it real; give me a chance to stay with you, become your lifelong brother. Please, whenever you want to give up, think of me. The least you can do is live for me.”
The paper wasn’t large enough to contain words that Pangzi wanted to tell, and at the corner of the wrinkled paper Chang found the last sentence skewed.
“Lastly… If Jing asks where I went, I beg of you, please don’t tell her I suicided. I don’t want her to be sad for me. Just tell her I found my family.”
His signature was right beside the sentence: Shiyu Li (Pangzi), September 14th, 2014.
Chang repressed his sobs. He closed his eyes but they trembled rapidly under his eyelids. The corpse had begun to perish, so he sliced off its index finger and placed it into his pocket.
“How selfish of him to commit suicide… How could he do that?”
“He didn’t want to be a burden to us.” Qing Shui was expressionless, but the corners of his eyes had become watery.
“Let’s fulfill his last wish, the cremation. He will be free from these torture filled days.”
Chang picked up Jing with one hand and dragged Pangzi with the other. He tottered out of the classroom.
Qing Shui stared at Chang’s back and silently wiped off the tear that was about to fall.
He woke Ming Yi and the other soldier.
“Wake up! We should be leaving.”
“Leaving for where?”
“The research institute.”
Pangzi (Shiyu Li) – Pangzi is often a nickname for those who are chubby, it is named after a person’s physical appearance. It is a common practice to name after a chubby person in a Chinese novel as Pangzi as Chubbiness is their most noticeable feature. Pangzi’s real name Shiyu, means rain that comes in time. Chapter 76: Department of Biology and Genetic Engineering
Translator: Letty Editor: DarkGem
Chang dragged Pangzi’s body to the street, wandering around until he found an abandoned vehicle from which he snapped a section of a tube. He then siphoned the gasoline from the gas tank and poured the liquid onto Pangzi’s broken body.
While Pangzi was gradually covered by the gasoline, Qing Shui finally woke the soldiers up, and they walked out from the classroom together.
“He is dead?” askedMing Yi, gazing at Pangzi’s body and heaving a sigh.
Chang quietly asked for a lighter from Qing Shui, and a small flame was lit on the tip of the lighter. It then quickly fell onto Pangzi’s body.
The raging flame melted his body and burned the alien lives lurking in him.
“Let’s go,” Qing Shui said, after patiently waiting until the last bit of flame transformed into a stream of dark smoke. “Fortunately, he didn’t die in suffering.”
“You are right, this is the last thing I could feel happy about for him.” Chang turned away from the ashes of his dead friend. “Where is our next stop?”
“The research institute.” Qing Shui gazed toward the northwest. “I am really curious what human science and technology can do in this new world.”
“Where is the research institute?” asked Chang.
“There was a small village within Zhengzhou, called Xu Zhai. It was completely rebuilt seven years ago during an urban transformation project, and then they decided to use the land for the huge research institute.” Ming Yi tried hard to recall what he had heard from the captain. “It was for biology and genetic engineering. I had also heard that for the last seven years the government had built a lot of these research institutes in the suburbs. It started when they recorded the red fog for the first time. I think they must have known a lot about its secrets.”
“But they never foresaw that it would become a global phenomenon,” Qing Shui said, looking fixedly at the red sky. “Let’s see what they have in there!”
The sorrowful emotions were deeply buried and covered in Chang’s heart. He gently pinched the finger bone in his pocket before picking Jing up and putting her on his back. With Ming Yi’s guidance, they headed toward the northwest of the city.
As they went further, the change along the path became clearer. And it was quite different from what was in downtown Kaifeng.
The ecology around Xu Zhai was highly impacted by human activities; the plants seemed sluggish, and the grass was much shorter. Mutated animals were barely seen in this area; they even saw people wandering on the street to look for food. Apparently, it was much easier to survive in here than anywhere else, and wanderers didn’t seem to be worried about not having military protection.
“What a peaceful place!” Chang couldn’t help but exclaim.
“How do you come to that conclusion? What if the lock was placed by Ming Yi?”