Time passed quickly, and while they were busy, three months had already gone by. The weather gradually improved, the ice and snow beginning to show signs of melting. Those at the base looked on and cheered, but Bai Jing only felt his heart grow heavy as he spent more and more effort practicing his abilities.
Xiao Sa was distressed watching him, but he also didn’t know how to console him. He knew that Little Jing was eager to become stronger, just like himself. He saw the weather getting warmer and heard the radio reports, and knew what was happening in other places. He understood very well in his heart that they did not have many peaceful days left.
Ever since the snow began to melt and cars could drive, many people had started to leave the base without Xiao Sa having to clean them out. Liu Wanfa also brought his people and left the base in a swagger, making a grand event out of it and narrowing his eyes as he looked at Yang Wenhua.
Local residents couldn’t wait to pack up their things and leave in a hurry, hoping to catch up with this season’s grain cultivation when they get back.
Bai Jing looked on coldly, pity in his eyes. None of them could know that after the baptism of heavy snow, the soil had deteriorated and no crops could be planted in the fields. When the weather truly warmed up, the sunshine brought not hope, but rather layer after layer of despair. Without a safe living environment, those people would surely die.
Bai Jing looked on indifferently and said nothing. He found that after his rebirth, his heart had become as hard and cold as iron and stone.
Under the faint sunlight, the bustling scene that been taking place during the snowy period was absent. The base became cold and empty, and the only thing that they could be grateful for was that the city wall had been more than half completed, the houses in the outer city were almost all built and only needed some finishing up, and as long as they worked a little harder, everything would be completed in a few dozen days.
In the meantime, not long after Xiao Sa rose up to level two, Cao Lei did as well. With the help of Bai Jing’s spring water, seven others from Chen Dawei’s group and five of Xiao Sa’s subordinates also developed abilities. Yang Wenhua was very envious – out of his twelve subordinates, only seven of them had developed abilities. Between Xiao Sa and Bai Jing combined, their power really ranked them as the strongest force in the base.
Bai Jing was busy practicing his abilities, and Xiao Sa wasn’t idle either. He ordered all his subordinates who weren’t on patrol duty to drive out and collect materials every day. He also asked the earth powers to speed up the construction of a three-kilometer secret tunnel that led outside the base. The entrance was built under the apartment where they lived. A cunning rabbit had three burrows; he would never leave himself with only one road of retreat.
On that day, the two of them had just returned from their trip outside and entered the base when they discovered that the atmosphere was heavy. There also seemed to be many new faces, with lots of people standing in the isolation area outside the gates. The guards at the door almost couldn’t handle it all.
Bai Jing frowned. They had not seen any people on the road, nor had they heard anything unusual. Of course, this did not rule out that they might have approached from a different road.
By the time they arrived at the office, Xie Minhang had already been waiting for a long time, his expression heavy. Bai Jing’s heart also turned anxious. He had known that their peaceful days would not last long, but he didn’t expect the end to come so fast.
“What happened?” Xiao Sa’s voice sank as he asked. He believed that Xie Minhang would not be so cautious if nothing serious had happened.
“Last night, the survivors’ base in C city was attacked by zombies. The military has already withdrawn completely, and many of the people outside are the survivors.”
Bai Jing sneered. There was nothing unexpected about the withdrawal of the army, and it was something they had anticipated. But, this was not enough to explain Xie Minhang’s current expression.
They watched as Xie Minhang’s face turned even gloomier while trying to hide his anger. He was gritting his teeth as he continued, “The army evacuated in the direction of City B, but another group of them remained to defend, and their destination is now Jing Sa City.”
“What did you say?” Bai Jing opened his eyes wide and laughed angrily. He had never thought that someone would think of attacking them.
“Where did the news come from?” Xiao Sa’s expression sank. They had really been passing their days comfortably recently. The base was continuously being improved, and although they did not have many people, the facilities were all completed, and the zombies in the nearby surroundings had been cleared out by him and Little Jing as they went out to hunt. As long as teams began to join, the base would soon be lively. Indeed, they had done too good a job, and unexpectedly attracted other people’s attention.
“Cao Lei recognized a few of the people who arrived. He was reminiscing about the past with them, and heard it from them.”
“You mean, Cao Lei’s army comrades came?” Bai Jing was happy once again. Their base was short of people presently, and although they now had five more level one ability users, if they really wanted to establish a proper patrol, they still didn’t have enough people. Talented people suffered from other people’s envy; this was an ancient law of humanity. Besides the bases established by the military, what other base managed to establish themselves without a few fights? The bases ultimately fell into the hands of those with the biggest fists, but he had really never thought that the first people they would have to fight against would actually be the national army. Surely it didn’t mean that he would have to offend them all?
Xie Minhang nodded, and looked very gloomy. “The news was spread out by the people who left.” They were really all ungrateful and vicious.
Xiao Sa didn’t care. As they expanded their power, conflict with other forces was unavoidable. Before, there had been no other powerful people near the prison. Now that others had heard that the zombies had been cleared out and that the base was only managed by their group of two hundred odd people, they would definitely have the intention to fight. He calmly said, “You don’t have to worry about this. The times are no longer peaceful. Anyone that now comes to seek shelter will have to pay 50% of their supplies. It will be the same for anything they hunt and bring back.”
“Yes, I understand.” Hearing Xiao Sa’s calm tone, Xie Minhang suddenly felt that he still needed to temper himself. He was still too easily excited and unable to maintain his composure. He wasn’t afraid of thousands of zombies, why should he fear a few thousand people? Only, going up against people was completely different from zombies. At least, zombies would not scheme and plot.
“Let’s go and ask.” So saying, Xiao Sa turned his head to look at Bai Jing.
Bai Jing nodded. He understood that Xiao Sa wanted to question Cao Lei’s comrades-in-arms, so the two of them went out to ask a few individuals about their whereabouts, and then went to the restaurant.
They had only just arrived at the entrance, and had not even entered, when they heard the sounds of men whimpering inside – and not just one person, either. They all said that men did not easily shed tears; they were afraid that this group of men must really have suffered.
“Fellow soldier, don’t you know? We are the special forces who protect the country, the common people. If the city is in chaos, others can leave, they can run away, but we can’t! Leader Deng had an accident, so we had no direct superior. We weren’t considered trusted subordinates regardless of where we went, and the top used us like living weapons. We accepted it, and struggled hard with our lives and worked hard, but damn it, we are still human, we have flesh and blood! When the army withdrew, they only left us behind to guard. Isn’t that just sending us to our deaths? And we even had to take the blame from the locals. Little Rascal was only seventeen and came to serve as a soldier right after he graduated from middle school. He was pushed into a pile of zombies. I’m really heart-broken. Tell me, how did this world turn out like this…?”
The people around him were also red-eyed, and some even followed his lead and grumbled, “Little Rascal even saved them a few days ago. Even if they weren’t grateful for their lives, they still didn’t need to do that…”
“But who can we blame? If the army doesn’t want us, the common people will naturally resent us.”
“But we’re also just cannon fodder that was left behind to die just like them…”
“Don’t blame them. The army has already become private soldiers for the people in power. It’s not easy to survive living in the cracks. Did you forget how Wu Weihua died? You guys are no longer soldiers. Don’t let me hear words about defending the country in the future.”
Everyone present fell into silence. Cao Lei gently lifted his eyebrows, breaking the silence. People would always only speak about other people’s shortcomings. He started, “Yo, Young Qiang. It’s different when others have already become a lieutenant. How did you also end up at this point? How about you share and cheer up your big bro?”
Young Qiang glanced at him coldly and was just about to speak when he saw Cao Lei’s face turn proper. “Young Master.”
Young Qiang turned around and saw that the two of them had appeared at the door. One was as calm as a mountain while the other was wild and intractable. They were clearly two extremes, but they matched each other perfectly when they stood together. He could tell that this was the master that Cao Lei had spoken about, so he stood up politely and nodded his head towards them, “Hello, you guys.”
“Hello, I’ve heard a lot about you.” Bai Jing smiled lightly and casually sat down in a chair. Once they were settled, someone came over and asked, “Young Master Jing, Brother Sa, what would you like to eat?”
Xiao Sa glanced at him and said lightly, “Bring a few extra dishes, and bring another bottle of wine. It’s my treat today.”
“Okay, Brother Sa. You guys just wait a bit.”
After the man left happily, Cao Lei spoke up. “Young Master, let me introduce him to you. He is Zhang Baoqiang. We used to be in a team together. He’s trustworthy.”
Bai Jing nodded, and also did not beat around the bush. He directly asked, “Tell me what you know about the situation. Which army is coming? Who do the forces belong to? And how many people are there?”
Zhang Baoqiang did not hesitate. Cao Lei had mentioned Bai Jing’s character to him before, and he knew that this young master was a direct and upfront character. He answered, “About 5,000 people. On the surface, they belong to General Yang, but in fact, General Yang has already sided with Zhou Family. This time when he went to B City, he brought along 80,000 people and materials collected from various major cities.”
Bai Jing laughed coldly, and a fierceness made itself known around his eyebrows. Why was it them again? It really was true that enemies met often on a narrow road. They just refused to let him live in peace.
“Don’t be angry.” Xiao Sa patted his hand, then looked at Zhang Baoqiang and said, “How did you find out?” These matters were supposed to be confidential. His question did not mean that he distrusted them, but he still needed to know how this became known.
“A few days ago, we were in C City. Old Lei had mentioned this place, and kept asking us to come over. Only, we had too many people at the time…” How could he be willing to burden others? Let alone, he had also been worried about his parents back then.
Cao Lei punched him. He had really been worried about this fellow for nothing if all he could do was treat him like an outsider.
Zhang Baoqiang smiled bitterly. Faced with his former teammate, he could only take the punch head-on. At that time, the situation had been so bad. He knew that Cao Lei was working for others. It might’ve been easy if there were only one or two of them, but he was dragging a large group of people with him, and they also had a group of old, weak and disabled people. How could he go and bother others? If he hadn’t learned that there would be danger, he probably wouldn’t have come to bring news. Only, he had not expected that he had really overthought things. Zhang Baoqiang’s eyes darkened, his expression unreadable. If he had come here earlier, perhaps his parents would not have died, and some of his soldiers would also not have died in vain.
The atmosphere in the room was very depressed. Cao Lei also felt that it was no fun seeing him like this and simply turned his head, too lazy to even look at him.
After a moment of silence, Zhang Baoqiang went on to say, “There are always some special channels in the base. Yan Liang has always been arrogant. When I heard hints about what was happening, I immediately brought my people over. They will arrive the day after tomorrow at the latest.”
Xiao Sa thought for a moment. “What are your plans for the future?”
Zhang Baoqiang glanced around at his subordinates, and his voice was steady and firm when he replied, “I want to settle here, the warehouse housing is very good. In the future, I’ll have to trouble Boss Xiao to look after us.”
Bai Jing was slightly disappointed. He had originally thought that he would be able to bring this man under his command. However, the other party had already stated things so plainly, and he also would not insist on it. Anyway, as long as he was in the base, given that he was also Cao Lei’s comrade, it would be a good thing for them.
Xiao Sa nodded. “Asking me to look after you would be treating us like outsiders. You are Cao Lei’s friend, and we can trust you. They can tell you the rules of the base later, and you don’t need to be polite if there’s anything you need. Only, the base is currently short on people, and I hope you guys can help with the patrols whenever you can. I’m afraid it’s going to be chaotic soon.”
“Thank you, Boss Xiao. We’ll follow your orders as long as it’s something we can do.” Zhang Baoqiang let out a relieved breath. In fact, he had been very worried just now. He was different from Chen Dawei. He didn’t want to join with the label of seeking refuge. Although the base was very good now, he still had a kind of doubt in his heart and believed that having his own forces was the better way to go. However, he had been surprised by how quickly Xiao Sa agreed, and hoped that this time, they could really settle down.
BTTA has moved to Chrysanthemum Garden for convenience~ thank you Kiki and ISO for hosting us in recent months!