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With a powerful kick, the hat-wearing man was thrust into Liu Lin’s clutches. Without hesitation, Liu Lin sunk his teeth into the man’s throat.
The crowd watched in astonishment, their eyes riveted on Zhu Hanfang, the man behind the forceful kick. An instinctual fear caused them to retreat.
“Zhu, help me!” The voice of the man in the hat weakened, a gaping wound on his neck pouring blood. With grim determination, Zhu Hanfang silenced him with a swift blow to the head, ensuring he wouldn’t turn.
“Zhu, damnit, help!” The man with the cap rasped, blood gushing from a nasty gash on his neck. Zhu Hanfang, without a second thought, slammed the butt of his weapon into the man’s head – one less future walker.
“You want to be next?” Zhu Hanfang spat, his eyes combing the room like a predator seeking prey.
The bald man jerked his hand from beneath a woman’s skirt, unable to meet Zhu’s piercing gaze.
Zhu growled, “With me, you get riches, luxury, even women. But pull a stunt like this idiot,” he nudged the dead man with his boot, “and I’ll make you wish for a walker’s bite. Our real prize is upstairs. These days, a box of cookies is worth more than gold. Hell, worth more than a night with a lady. No screw-ups. We move at nightfall. Gear up.”
Lin Feng groaned, rubbing his temples. “Why’s my head pounding so much?” He blinked, trying to sit up.
“I think Song Zhe’s getting some food,” Lin Feng said, trying to stand, but his shaky legs sent him back down. The thud caught Song Zhe’s attention.
“You’re up! I thought you were going to nap all day,” Song Zhe joked.
“Had a weird dream… about some apocalypse with the two of us,” Lin Feng said, his voice low.
Song Zhe handed him a water bottle, his face neutral. “Not the best dream, huh, Feng?”
Lin Feng glanced at the bandage on Song Zhe’s head. “I was getting it mixed up with real life.”
“Reality can be weirder than dreams sometimes. Cruel, too. Have some water and eat. We can chat after,” Song Zhe suggested, placing some snacks next to Lin Feng.
After eating, Lin Feng felt rejuvenated. He made his way to the storage room’s entrance with a slight limp and swung the door open and was suddenly hit with a burst of cold. To his dismay, he realized he was only wearing a shirt and no pants. Quickly draping a blanket around his waist and pulling on a jacket, an annoyed thought crossed his mind: ‘Whoever took my pants is in for it.’
Upon reopening the door, Lin Feng was met with a somber sight: his classmates, each lost in personal despair, scattered around the display hall.
A forlorn female student, Xiaoling, made a slow move towards the staircase.
“Xiaoling, stay away! That place is pure horror!” a voice cautioned.
Overwhelmed, Xiaoling whispered, “Chen Fang, this hunger is unbearable. If I must die, I’d rather it be on a full stomach.”
Chen Fang felt Xiaoling’s grip on her leg, pulling her towards the stairs.
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Trying to make sense of the situation, Lin Feng thought to himself, ‘What’s with the panic? It’s just stairs, isn’t it?’
Without waiting for an answer, he made his move towards the staircase.
“Lin Feng, hold on!” Song Zhe’s voice cut through, urgency evident in his tone.
Lin Feng, raising an eyebrow, questioned, “What’s the matter? Have zombies infested the downstairs?”
“It’s not great,” Song Zhe replied through gritted teeth. “Zhu Hanfang’s taken over the lower floor and is keeping all the food to himself. That guy is really something else. Scumbag…”
‘Tsk. I just knew it’s either the zombies or Zhu Hanfang’, Lin Feng clicked his tongue mentally, ‘I just didn’t think he would go so far as to starve the entire floor.’
As Song Zhe and Yan Aoxue recounted recent events, Lin Feng absorbed the shocking truth: he had been in an unconscious state for four days. Bizarrely, during this period, his hair had undergone a drastic transformation, now an enigmatic blend of silver-grey and black, and surprisingly long, reaching up to his butt.
‘An evolution, perhaps? Can’t think of any reason why I would pass out for that long.’
During his unconsciousness, Zhu Hanfang, after plundering the food supply, had firmly entrenched himself on the 6th floor. The survivors managed to recover just a box of food. Split among the dozen, it was pitifully inadequate.
Zhu Hanfang then presented a chilling offer: allegiance in exchange for sustenance. Driven by hunger, several of the students, mostly males and lesser females, sought refuge in his twisted promise. However, when a distraught female student returned from the clutches of the lower floors, her appearance a silent testament to horrors endured, no other female student risked the descent. The group was haunted by the unspoken dread of her experience.
As days turned bleak, a few souls, engulfed by hopelessness, braved the perilous journey downstairs against the fervent pleas of their peers.
Surveying the room, Lin Feng noted the familiar faces. The majority of the women were accounted for, but only a handful of men were present: Song Zhe, the venerable Liu, a maimed Chen De, and the stalwart Liu Tao.
Inquiring about an absent face, Lin Feng posed, “Where’s Zhang Yicheng?”
“On the day of the incident, Zhu Hanfang’s lackey tried to harm Tan Xin. Afterwards, Zhang Yicheng killed one of Zhu Hanfang’s men and then escaped from the teaching building with Tan Xin. We haven’t seen her since,” Yan Aoxue answered Lin Feng weakly, leaning against the wall. Her once rosy cheeks had become gaunt, and she no longer had the demeanor of the young lady she once was, looking rather pitiable as she shrank into herself.
“Brother, you’re finally awake. We’ve all been waiting for you to lead us in taking back what’s ours. I believe you’re the only one amongst us who can do it,” Chen De, with one of his hands missing, approached Lin Feng and patted him on the shoulder with his remaining hand.
Chen De had heard about Lin Feng’s ordeal, but he didn’t mind. He also heard about Lin Feng’s immense strength. Grateful to Lin Feng for saving his life, Chen De had been waiting for him to wake up so he could express his gratitude in person.
“I’ll find a way. Is your arm feeling better?”
“Your timely help made all the difference. I owe you a debt I’ll never forget.”
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The atmosphere was palpable as the surrounding women cast their gaze upon Lin Feng, their eyes radiating a fragile hope. If even he faltered, they faced the grim prospect of becoming Zhu Hanfang’s playthings.
A voice, laced with playful sarcasm, piped up, “Our Sleeping Beauty awakens at last.”
Lin Feng’s face lit up, recognizing the voice as Liu Mengqi’s. There she was, his playmate since young, beautiful as always, with a bounteous chest that threatened to swallow him whole. Yet even her bubbliness couldn’t hit the shadows of malnutrition in her eyes.
Their embrace was a mesh of warmth and familiarity.
“Your lovely mountains seem to have grown again,” he remarked playfully, a tear quietly streaking down the corner of his eye.
Her eyes twinkling, she retorted, “Curious? Perhaps if you ask nicely…”
Laughing, Lin Feng whispered, “I’m just elated to see you unharmed.”
Pulling back, Liu Mengqi mentioned, “Right, anyway, Old Liu told me to fetch you once you’re up.”
Acknowledging her words, Lin Feng, with a slight limp, ventured to the staff room. There, he found Mr. Liu and the school doctor engrossed in a map.
“Mr. Liu, Doctor, I’m up. But… wait, Doctor, why are you wearing my pants?”