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Nervously biting his lip, Lin Feng studied the firmly sealed door of the medical room, a standalone structure he had only explored to the first floor, where the school doctor held usual consultations.
With a sense of stubborn resolve, he knocked once more on the resolutely silent door.
A loud bang came from the other side, like a boot smashing into the door.
“You got rocks in your head? You that desperate for the damn fever medicine?”
“Yes, it’s crucial,” Lin Feng responded promptly, sensing a potential pivot in the situation.
Following a pregnant pause, a response finally drifted from behind the barrier.
“Alright, I’ll give you ONE chance. I’m loaded up with food and water here. Saw the supermarket? That was me. Cleared it out. But the damn power’s out, so the med room’s pitch-black.”
“So, you need my assistance to restore power?” Lin Feng deduced from the cryptic words.
“Fix it, and we have a deal.”
“Okay, I’ll attend to this issue. I trust you will honor your word,” Lin Feng affirmed, his blue eyes narrowing as he withdrew, the soft patter of his steps fading into the distance.
Once the retreating footsteps had vanished, the man behind the door cautiously cracked it open to peek out, promptly shutting it again.
Circling around to the rear of the medical room, Lin Feng pressed his unusually sensitive ears against a glass panel on the wall, straining to interpret the sounds from within.
As he suspected.
During his interaction with the man, Lin Feng’s acute hearing had detected the stifled cries for help from a woman inside. Particularly when he agreed to leave, the woman seemed to muster all her strength for a desperate outcry.
Returning to the supermarket, he selected a pristine voltage tester and fetched a bundle of wires from the electric scooter repair shop. In his initial rush to the medical room, he had failed to inspect closely. Now it was clear – the supermarket had been efficiently emptied of any substantial food, corroborating the man’s story. Yet, why was there a woman’s voice inside?
At the supermarket, he found a duck-billed cap and placed it over his distinctive ears. Despite the principal’s assurance of mutants posing no threat, Lin Feng was aware of the prevalent societal fear: ‘those who are not of our kind harbor different hearts’. He understood the complexities surrounding the mutant issue couldn’t be resolved with simple platitudes. Should they survive this apocalypse, he was certain that a prolonged period of adjustment and integration would be required between mutants and ordinary humans.
Seeking to avoid unnecessary complications, Lin Feng discreetly hid his tail back into his trousers, making his way towards the medical room.
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Upon reaching the room’s rear side, he diligently traced the maze of electrical wires, following each connecting pole, leading him in the direction of the generator.
The generator’s placement was rather convenient, not too far from the medical room within the old dormitory area, comfortably settled within the courtyard of a single-story housing complex. It was well protected by encircling walls. Scaling a few of these barriers would lead one directly to the old broadcasting room, presumably the location from which the principal had been making his announcements.
However, the courtyard was teeming with zombies, undoubtedly attracted by the constant hum of the generator.
This is quite the predicament, Lin Feng mused, his brows furrowing in concern. His path to the medical room hadn’t revealed any overt damage to the electrical wires. If there was a problem with the circuitry, he could only deduce two potential issues. Either the medical room’s fuse was at fault, or the generator’s power supply was compromised.
Yet, penetrating the dense horde of zombies to access the courtyard housing the generator seemed like an impossible task. It was likely that the principal was entrapped in the broadcasting room; Lin Feng could only hope he was holding up well.
Scratching at his duck-billed cap, he yearned to scratch his ears instead.
The situation was complex and chaotic. To get the medicine, he had to repair the electrical wires, and to do so, he needed to talk to the principal.
Time was a luxury he couldn’t afford. When he had touched Liu Mengqi’s head, her fever had felt alarmingly high. The last thing he wanted was for his lifelong friend to suffer brain damage from the persistent fever.
Casting a look at the sky, he realized, with a start, that dawn was swiftly approaching.
“Damn it!” Despite not making much progress, the mere act of clearing zombies on his path had consumed a great deal of time. Adding to this, following the electrical wires while simultaneously clearing more zombies had stretched the hours further. Glancing at his phone, he was taken aback to find it was already around half-past four in the morning.
If he attempted to eliminate the zombies encircling the generator’s courtyard now, he was sure to run out of time. His only choice was to retreat. With the cover of night receding, he would lose a significant advantage. His night vision capabilities would be useless under the brightness of day. Interestingly, the zombies didn’t seem to possess the night vision abilities typically depicted in films and novels, which had allowed him to navigate with relative ease in the darkness.
Making a hurried retreat along his original path, he returned to the medical room and rapped lightly on the door.
“Hello, are you still there, fellow student?”
After a series of chaotic noises, the man’s voice rang out from behind the door.
“Have you solved the electrical issue?”
“Um, I have identified the root of the problem following the circuit, but as dawn is breaking, I won’t be able to assist you until tomorrow. Could you possibly provide me with some medication in the meantime?”
“You dare ask for medication? Since you’re only able to assist tomorrow, you can come for the medication then. As for your friend’s fate, why should that concern me?”
“… Understood. I’ll arrive early tomorrow.”
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Aware that he hadn’t yet rectified the situation, Lin Feng understood the occupant inside was unlikely to grant him entry. However, he had garnered one critical piece of information during their conversation. The individual behind the door wasn’t a classmate. He firmly rejected the idea that a student of his age could exhibit such cold indifference towards him. His school had a section repurposed into a commercial district, and so the comings and goings of outsiders were a commonplace occurrence.
Determined, Lin Feng made his way towards the supermarket. He packed a diverse array of snacks into a backpack, along with several bottles of sour plum juice and an assortment of dried fruits. He also picked up a half-consumed apple from the ground and slipped it into the bag. Knowing Liu Mengqi wouldn’t be able to eat much currently, he aimed to bring foods that were easy to digest.
After some deliberation, he fished out a few chargers for Android and Apple devices from the supermarket’s checkout counter and squeezed them into the bag.
Scaling the tree where he had previously stashed milk tea powder, he then climbed another one to gather the various weapons he had previously extracted from the zombies.
Checking his phone, he saw it was already 5:40. The first hints of dawn were starting to show, and he had to quicken his pace.
Ignoring the scattered zombies on the road, which seemed to multiply infinitely, he noticed the path he had initially cleared was now repopulated with a new horde of zombies pacing over the bodies of their fallen comrades.
Bypassing the corridor adjacent to the lotus pond, Lin Feng paid no heed to the horde of zombies hot on his heels and dashed straight towards the teaching building.
As the number of zombies multiplied behind him, they began to cluster together in their pursuit of his diminutive figure.
Navigating the spiral staircase while avoiding the grasping arms of the zombies ahead, he strained his agility to the limit. Blood vessels popped alongside his eyes, a result of the strain. His eyes felt somewhat sore, yet Lin Feng forced himself towards the room on the fifth floor, the one with a hole in it.
With a swift two-step leap, he found himself next to the hole. He planted his hands on the ground, gasping for air as sweat beads dripped from his forehead incessantly.
Had there been just a handful more zombies in the stairwell, forming a denser crowd, he might have been caught in a sandwich attack.
However, luck held significant sway in this post-apocalyptic world. After wiping the sweat off his forehead, he turned to see a few of his classmates awakened by the zombie commotion, their eyes wide with curiosity and confusion.
“Um, you’re Li Yixin, aren’t you?” He identified a female student in the group, a familiar face among them. Lin Feng started.
“Yes,” the girl named Li Yixin instantly straightened up, moving to stand in front of Lin Feng.
“There’s no need for nerves; we’re all classmates here. You’re close to Tan Xin, right? Could you do me a favor? Once Mr. Liu wakes up, could you pass on a few items to him?” Lin Feng, wearing an expression of fatigue, reached for the two backpacks slung over his shoulders.
Unzipping one of them, he handed over the milk tea powder and a sizable pack of chargers to Li Yixin.
“Feel free to brew this milk tea powder and share it among yourselves,” said Lin Feng, carefully placing the items on the ground. He handed Li Yixin a pack of Q-candy before making his way to the boys’ dormitory.
The sixth floor had become the improvised dormitory, with classrooms partitioned into separate sections for the boys and girls. Lin Feng had just been in the girls’ section, near a small cavity in the wall.
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Upon entering the boys’ section, he noticed a striking lack of anxiety in the room. Boys were scattered across the floor, snoring loudly, seemingly oblivious to the tension of the post-apocalyptic world outside. Playing cards were strewn about, suggesting recent activity.
He approached Zhu Hanfang, who was deep in sleep, and gave him a light tap.
“Hmm? Who dares to interrupt my slumber! Liu Mengqi? Aren’t you ill?”
“Quiet! It’s me, Lin Feng,” he whispered, tossing several snack packs into Zhu Hanfang’s lap and placing the folding dagger back into his hand. He left the sleeping Zhu Hanfang, tiptoeing out of the boys’ dormitory.
His own room was situated upstairs in what could be described as the ‘mutation zone’, where he found Liu Mengqi asleep on his bed.
Indeed, Liu Mengqi wasn’t the only one under the weather; several other students, plagued by food issues, were dealing with stomach troubles and malnutrition. For safety reasons, these students had been relocated to the 7th floor. They were well aware that Zhu Hanfang and his clique were peddling half-truths, yet outnumbered and unwilling, they found themselves cohabiting with the supposed ‘mutants’.
Lin Feng didn’t hand over all the knives and snacks to Li Yixin earlier. The food he had risked his life to procure was his by right, and he would share it on his own terms. The knives, on the other hand, were intended for Old Man Liu at a later time.
He would only distribute weapons when he was confident that everyone was in a stable emotional and rational state. Despite Zhu Hanfang’s reckless demeanor, Lin Feng believed he would not harm their classmates, given he had previously saved Chen De.
Regarding those who succumbed to Zhu Hanfang’s influence, Lin Feng had little interest in meddling with their affairs. Trying to convince them of Zhu Hanfang’s manipulation now would likely backfire and earn him their resentment.
Upon reaching his storage room, he swung the door open and stepped inside.
Zhang Yicheng looked up briefly, recognized Lin Feng, then returned to his slumber unperturbed.
Song Zhe was sprawled out on the floor, cradling his big beard in his sleep, seemingly unaware of Lin Feng’s entrance.
And then, there was Liu Mengqi!