editors: apricot & juurensha
After traveling for two hours, their surroundings became quiet. The tall, vast mountains and beautiful ancient forest were all blanketed by a profound silence. Only the sound of wind blowing in their ears and the cars moving along the road could be heard.
The cars were all driving briskly along the winding national highway. As the surrounding area became quieter and quieter, the laughter in the car stopped, and everyone’s mood grew heavy.
“There’s a town one kilometer up ahead. No abnormalities, no hints of life. The bridge to the west is broken. Turn left at the second exit, and we’ll leave from the south bridge.” Li Ran appeared solemn and respectful. He seemed to know his way around.
The driver was a twenty-four or twenty-five year old man named Li Guoqing. He stared straight ahead and didn’t appear to be surprised by Li Ran’s remarks!
Wang Fan and Yang Lin’s expressions were calm, as though their light and happy banter just moments ago had been a mere illusion. The air in the car was so stifling that even Bai Jing felt depressed.
Only Xiao Sa showed no change in expression. His gaze was fixed up ahead, and it wasn’t clear who he was directing his next question to as he asked, “What anomalies have you guys discovered?”
Wang Fan’s eyes flashed with a trace of surprise. From getting in the car up until now, it was Xiao Sa’s first time speaking to them, and he had cut straight to the point as soon as he opened his mouth. “You are very perceptive. There are indeed some anomalies here. Half a month ago, the bushes nearby weren’t so thick or tall. They’ve grown very quickly, faster than anyone could imagine.”
“In addition, there are no active zombies, birds, or beasts around. Based on the intelligence and analysis we’ve had over recent days, they seem to have developed an awareness, or they now have a leader. Every time they appear, they do so in groups––“ Yang Lin added, his dark eyes flashing with wisdom and far-sightedness. No trace of his previous childish, foolish behaviour could be seen on his calm face.
“You’re talking about a zombie siege?” Xiao Sa meditated for a while, frowning as he thought, and did not realise that Bai Jing, who was sitting beside him, suddenly had an ugly expression on his face. He seemed to have been frightened by something.
Yang Lin nodded, and his eyes flashed with admiration, “You’re right. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but these past few days, no zombies have been spotted around the nearby bases, no matter how close or far away the bases are. Even the hunting teams haven’t met any zombies, other than…”
Yang Lin paused, then looked down in low spirits. Everyone understood; if there hadn’t been any news of the nearby base being destroyed, perhaps everyone would still believe that the world was peaceful.
Xiao Sa considered more than just that. He looked deeply into the distant mountains and forests. After a while, he asked, “Have you encountered any mutant plants?”
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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Qjcu Mjc jrxfv delmxis, “Qtja vb sbe uesr xcbk?”
Wljb Vj vlv cba ags ab mbcmfji jcsatlcu jcv rqbxf mjiwis, “Olaaif Alcu jcv P kfgf tfjvlcu ab atf Jjqlaji abufatfg klat atf jgws. Qtfc kf qjrrfv atgbeut Utbfclz Zbecajlc, kf fcmbecafgfv weajca qijcar. Ktf agffr lc atf obgfra tjv cba bcis yfmbwf atlmxfg jcv yluufg, atfs jirb atlgrafv obg yibbv. Ktflg gbbar, ygjcmtfr, jcv rafwr mbeiv jii yf aegcfv lcab rtjgq kfjqbcr. Ktflg bcis vlrjvnjcajuf kjr atja atfs mbeiv cba wbnf.”
The gears in Yang Lin’s brain turned quickly, his sharp eyes flickering with golden light as he looked up at Xiao Sa, “I’m afraid you haven’t finished talking? Did the fire at Phoenix Mountain have something to do with you?”
Xiao Sa neither confirmed nor denied it. He didn’t continue the conversation and gave people a deep and unfathomable feeling just by sitting there, akin to an unscalable mountain. It made people look up to him, but they wouldn’t dare stare at him straight on!
Yang Lin was somewhat discouraged and restless. He clutched his head, and some of his previous foolishness returned. Wang Fan was rather distressed, afraid that Yang Lin would scratch his own head off and quickly shifted the topic, “Looking at the plants around here, does it seem like there’s anything unusual?”
Xiao Sa glanced at him then expressionlessly shook his head. He casually threw out an irresponsible answer, “How would I know.”
Wang Fan felt like there was a fishbone caught in his throat and was unable to vent his feelings. He choked, then looked at the restless Yang Lin and suddenly felt a sense of camaraderie.
Xiao Sa turned his head back and finally discovered that something seemed to be wrong with Bai Jing. His eyes were unfocused, and he seemed to be on the verge of extreme panic.
“What’s wrong? Little Jing?” With this, he could no longer maintain his calm. Xiao Sa’s expression changed immediately as he nervously pulled Bai Jing into his arms.
Wang Fan and Yang Lin looked at each other, and a strange sense of satisfaction rose in their hearts. The pressure they had felt when dealing with Xiao Sa had crushed them like a big mountain, but now they could finally see the collapse of this big mountain as his formerly unchanging expression was finally affected. However, they were not happy for long.
“It’s alright!” Bai Jing pulled himself together and forcefully pushed down the unease he felt in his heart. He spoke quickly, “We can’t go to Yuxian. Let’s make a detour.”
Xiao Sa frowned, “What’s the matter?” He believed Little Jing would never make such an arbitrary decision without good reason.
Bai Jing looked sombre. He calmed himself then said, “I suspect that there are level five zombies up ahead.”
The originally steady car suddenly jolted as Li Guoqing’s hand slipped, and the car swerved before he hurriedly adjusted the wheel.
“Drive carefully––” Wang Fan roared, then turned his head and looked back. His expression could no longer be described as merely ‘shocked’. He stared at Bai Jing, “How could you know?”
Bai Jing glanced at him and then looked at Yang Lin. If it hadn’t been for Yang Lin’s reminder, he would have forgotten that level five zombies had developed intelligence. He had always thought that it was too soon after the apocalypse, and that he and Xiao Sa still had time. They had already reached the peak potential of human ability users, and as long as this momentum continued, they wouldn’t need to be afraid of any danger, but who could’ve known…
In this lifetime, the zombies were evolving faster and sooner. With great difficulty, he and Xiao Sa might be able to deal with a level four zombie. But if they were level five zombies, perhaps one would be manageable, but if there was more than one of those, they probably wouldn’t even be able to escape unless they hid in the space!
Bai Jing suddenly regretted that he had acted on impulse to vent his anger, which had caused him to insist on building up their forces at K City Base. If he and Xiao Sa were travelling alone, they could hide in his space when they encountered danger. Even if the journey took longer, even if they were threatened by the Zhou Family after arriving in the Capital, at least they could come up with other strategies and could leave themselves some wiggle room. Bai Jingcheng would protect him no matter what as long as he had value.
“Don’t worry, I’m here.” Xiao Sa and Bai Jing’s thoughts were similar. Seeing Bai Jing act so passively, how could Xiao Sa not know what he was thinking? He gently patted Bai Jing’s back, his movements similar to that of coaxing a child. His eyes were so dark they seemed bottomless, but the implicit tenderness in his actions made others feel inexplicably reassured, “I’ll protect you. Believe in me, hm?”
Bai Jing’s eyes were complicated, “Do you have a plan?”
Xiao Sa smiled and nodded. At that moment, his face was full of vigor that had a wild, predatory, inevitable momentum––
Bai Jing was stunned for a moment, staring at Xiao Sa in a daze. How long had it been since he’d seen this wild side of Xiao Sa? His heart instantly relaxed, and he felt some measure of relief. How could someone like Xiao Sa, with his character and style, do nothing but hide? If they really did that, how humiliating would it be for him?
“What are you planning?” Bai Jing had a bad feeling.
Sure enough, Xiao Sa did not hesitate to say, “We’re going to Yuxian!”
Even before Bai Jing could speak, they were interrupted by Wang Fan, “Hey––Say, you two, don’t treat us like we’re dead, okay?”
Bai Jing looked at him indifferently, and Xiao Sa’s expression instantly turned blank. Wang Fan felt a chill all over his body and suddenly felt a little regretful. Had he really made the wrong decision to leave the base this time? Why did he feel like he had encountered two unlucky stars? He steeled himself and spoke stiffly, “What do you guys mean by level five zombies? How could you know? And why would you go to Yuxian even knowing the danger there?”
“Take the meaning of the words literally!” After rolling his eyes at Wang Fan, Bai Jing glared fiercely at Xiao Sa, “I also want to know: why do we have to go to Yuxian?”
Seeing that his lover’s expression wasn’t good, Xiao Sa’s previously firm decision suddenly melted into putty, “If Little Jing doesn’t want to go, we’ll make a detour up ahead. You should know, as long as it’s something you want, I’ll obey.”
Bai Jing’s expression softened, then he quickly felt that it was wrong. His brain was in a jumble, full of twists and turns, and he burst out, “You clearly know that we have a tail. How could we make a detour? And where can we go after we detour?” The zombies were in Yuxian, but the situation up ahead was hidden and unclear. How could they guarantee that they could avoid a direct confrontation with the zombies even if they made a detour?
Xiao Sa laughed darkly then restrained Bai Jing within his embrace. He looked carefully at his angry lover and ignoring the outsiders who were watching, he spoke cautiously, “I’m serious. If you don’t want to go, we can make a detour. We don’t need to worry about the tail behind us. But, do you really understand my thoughts? Do you know why I want to go to Yuxian!?”
Bai Jing nodded sullenly and obediently let Xiao Sa hold him, his long fingers clutching at Xiao Sa’s chest. After a moment of silence, his eyes turned red and damp, “But I’m scared. I don’t want to see you hurt and bloodied ever again. I really thought you were going to die that time.” Every time he thought of how Xiao Sa had looked on Phoenix Mountain when he didn’t know whether Xiao Sa would live or die, Bai Jing was overwhelmed with pain and was terrified even now––
Xiao Sa’s heart jolted with a violent shock. He had never known that Little Jing was suffering from such pain. He could imagine that if the comatose person had been Little Jing, he would definitely lose his mind. He wrapped his arms around the person in his embrace even more tightly, feeling a lot of heartache. “I’m sorry. It’s my fault. It won’t happen again in the future. We’ll make a detour in the small town up ahead and go to Qingtan, then take the highway up from Liangping––“
“No––!” Bai Jing raised his head and smiled softly, a ray of pure light flashing across his eyes. His voice was crisp and clear as he spoke firmly, “I’m not that weak. I just couldn’t think straight for a while. We definitely have to go to Yuxian!”
Xiao Sa’s heart was full of mixed feelings. He suddenly didn’t know what to say. This was his lover! He was so delicate and fragile and yet so strong and determined. How could he not love such a person? It was worth it even if it cost everything he had to keep him safe…
The speakers were unaware, but the listeners were all paying attention. Other than Li Ran, anyone who could live up till now were all worldly and intelligent. After hearing their words, even Li Guoqing, who was driving, had his ears perked up. The fear from hearing about level five zombies was dispersed. Yang Lin’s eyes darted around, then he stretched out his head and asked, “What’s in Yuxian?”
Bai Jing’s lips twitched. He smiled superficially and said, “Zombies––“ He wasn’t lying.
Xiao Sa turned his head and looked carelessly over at the people in the back before returning his gaze to the driver beside him. He boldly laid down the bait, “Yuxian has things that can improve ability users’ powers.”
Xiao Sa dropped a bombshell, and dead silence instantly reigned! After a while, Yang Lin patted his thigh and spoke fiercely, “Lao Tzu is ready––!”