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Barely dodging capture, a few gutsy souls had made a high-stakes leap from the seventh floor.
“Ugh, can you believe they dodged us like that? I was so ready to let off some steam,” Liu Tao vented, flipping a nearby table in a fit of irritation.
Lin Feng sighed deeply, his face tinged with unease. “You know, maybe it’s better this way—no more unnecessary drama.” His mind involuntarily recalled the macabre memento Zhu Hanfang had left behind—a severed finger—during his hurried exit the day before.
‘Another showdown is the last thing I need,’ Lin Feng pondered. ‘I’m not out to win some twisted game of thrones in this end-of-the-world nightmare. I’d rather just ride it out without the theatrics.’
“So, Lin Feng, are we still heading to the archery hall?” Song Zhe’s question cut through his thoughts, pulling him back to the present. Their food-finding mission had ended up empty-handed, thanks to Zhu Hanfang’s apparent raid on the supplies.
“Yeah, we should. The archery hall is perfectly positioned—right between the cafeteria and the main entrance. Makes grabbing supplies a lot simpler,” Lin Feng agreed, his reply accompanied by a weary yawn that revealed his worn clothes and exposed skin.
“You might want to consider a wardrobe upgrade. You’re showing a generous amount of skin for someone that looks like a girl,” Song Zhe commented.
“Excuse me, do I look like I’m in a fashion show?” Lin Feng quipped. “But you’re not wrong—it’s getting colder. The campus doesn’t even have a clothing store, so I guess we’re raiding the commercial street for some winter essentials.”
Night after night, Lin Feng had resorted to using his own tail and hair for warmth, a solution that was increasingly proving inadequate as the chill of the nights intensified. He found himself yearning for the well-curated women’s ensemble he picked off that zombie, now discarded due to some unfortunate misunderstanding regarding his apparent death.
As he pondered this, his thoughts veered to the bustling commercial street adjacent to the campus. If the university’s resources were nearly exhausted, annexing a nearby mall suddenly seemed like a viable contingency. The thought of having unrestricted access to luxuries once considered unattainable enlivened him.
“Hey, you two! Quit your daydreaming; dinner’s up!” Liu Mengqi’s voice thundered from above.
“Coming, coming! No need to blow out our eardrums. You’ll spoil the one redeeming quality you have,” Lin Feng retorted, wincing as he rubbed his ears. His keen sense of hearing was, at times, more a curse than a gift. Getting a good night’s sleep was a tall order in itself – perhaps that was why he’d been oversleeping of late? Clearly.
Dinner felt more like an informal picnic than a formal meal. At its center, a stove flickered and emanated warmth, enveloping the circle of young women partaking in a makeshift feast.
A short distance away, Liu Lao and the principal were deeply engrossed in a game of Chinese chess, their expressions taut with concentration, neither showing signs of conceding. In the midst of this, Liu Mengqi appeared to be the gathering’s undisputed social victor, seated comfortably between Ruo Lian and Yan Aoxue. Lin Feng couldn’t help but feel a twinge of envy, wondering when Liu Mengqi and Yan Aoxue had grown so close.
Not far from them, Chen De and Liu Tao were engaged in a spirited arm-wrestling match. Chen De’s solitary arm shook with effort, capturing the attention and eliciting giggles from a group of female students amused by his visibly strained, sweat-drenched forehead.
Meanwhile, Anna and Chen Ranran were caught up in a heated argument, their hands moving expressively as fingers jabbed accusingly close to each other’s faces.
The atmosphere crackled with an almost electric buoyancy, colored by a sense of newfound liberation. Everyone seemed to breathe easier, now that they were finally free from Zhu Hanfang’s oppressive grip. The experience served as a poignant reminder: freedom is often most appreciated when it teeters on the edge of being lost. United by this realization, the group seemed more harmonious than ever.
However, not everyone was riding this wave of euphoria. Yan Jie, a somewhat brooding presence in the midst of the celebration, shot an ominous glare toward Anna, who was deeply engrossed in her lively exchange with Chen Ranran.
“Ah, Lin Feng, Song Zhe—you’ve finally arrived,” Doctor Hu said, setting aside her research on food additives to welcome the newcomers.
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“Sorry we’re late, Doctor Hu. We were checking out the lower floors,” Song Zhe quickly chimed in, beating Lin Feng to the punch. Then he slid into a seat next to Doctor Hu, his cheeks turning a bit pink.
No way… Lin Feng thought. Song Zhe was his best friend, so Lin Feng knew him better than anyone else here. But this sudden seriousness, and even the uptick in grooming, was definitely suspicious.
Deciding to let his curiosity sit for now, Lin Feng took the seat next to them.
“Lin Feng, you should minimize physical activity for now. We wouldn’t want any lasting damage,” Doctor Hu cautioned, casting an appraising eye as Lin Feng settled into his chair.
“Got it, Doc. I doubt we’ll be fighting anytime soon, not unless,” Lin Feng started, before getting interrupted.
“Don’t jinx it,” warned Doctor Hu, covering Lin Feng’s mouth and giving his ear a playful tug. After scrutinizing Lin Feng’s ankle, she fetched a makeshift crutch from her office. “Use this in the meantime.”
Lin Feng tested the crutch; it fit snugly under his arm. “Thanks, Doctor.”
“Think nothing of it. After all, you saved my life,” Doctor Hu replied. Her eyes, now professionally scrutinizing, turned to Lin Feng’s tail and ears. “How do they feel?”
“Ah, they’re working, I guess,” Lin Feng hesitated, sensing an unsettling undercurrent in Doctor Hu’s gaze.
“May I examine them?”
“Go ahead,” Lin Feng consented, albeit reluctantly, silently vowing never to set up a medical department for Doctor Hu in the future.
“Man, Lin Feng, kinda jealous here. If I knew the world was ending, I would’ve let a bunch of cats maul me for some of that cat magic,” Song Zhe said, a bit of longing in his voice.
“Oh, please. You could never be as cute as Lin Feng, even if you were a cat-girl,” Liu Mengqi chimed in, handing Lin Feng a pack of his go-to mini dried fish.
Lin Feng’s eyes lit up, glowing with unmasked delight.
Incredible, truly! The magnetic attraction of small fish to a cat was beyond science at this point. What Lin Feng once considered merely a fishy scent was now irresistibly aromatic, even more so than the fragrance of a woman.
“Sorry, Lin Feng’s foot hasn’t healed yet. He needs to avoid strong-smelling and spicy foods,” came a cautionary voice.
Lin Feng’s eyes tracked the small bag of fish snacks as it was pulled away. He suppressed a whine and wiped the drool from his mouth.
“And Doc, can we maybe skip the tail-petting for a bit? It’s giving me the weirdest tingles,” Lin Feng added, pulling his tail back to his side. Though a little disappointed, a sensible part of him agreed that staying away from strong and spicy foods was probably for the best.
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The day rolled along with a laid-back vibe, everyone chatting and hanging out. But when the clock hit 10 p.m., the mood switched gears. Time to get down to business. The combat squad geared up for some outdoor activity, leaving Song Zhe upstairs as a safety measure. Honestly, training was long overdue, but thanks to certain incidents, it was postponed till now.
“So, Instructor Lin Feng, what’s on the agenda?” Chen Ranran popped her hand up, looking every bit the eager student.
“Alright, first things first: zombies. I know most of you have crossed paths with the undead already, except maybe you, Liu Tao. So, we’ll bait a couple over and let you two have at it. Don’t worry; I’ve got your back,” Lin Feng said, unveiling his bow and a quiver full of arrows.
“We’ll hit the archery range later to work on your aim. And since Liu Tao is our resident athlete, he can teach us how to train. We’ll mix things up to play to everyone’s strengths, but the main thing tonight is getting over any fear of zombies,” Lin Feng finished, his voice steady and confident.
With that, Lin Feng sent a slightly reluctant Anna and Liu Tao off to lure a couple of zombies, setting the stage for the first phase of their urgent and necessary training.
Stationed on the second floor by a window, Lin Feng held his bow and arrow, poised for action. His attire, a borrowed hospital gown, had drawn much ridicule earlier, leading him to don this less-than-ideal outfit; especially given how Liu Mengqi brought out the same DNA card to strongarm him into it .
It wasn’t the gown that bothered him. Rather, it was its striking visibility in the dim light, turning him into a glowing, white figure, ill-suited for combat. But, the school’s doctor had already warned him: one more reckless act, and he’d be permanently assigned as her medical assistant.
Suppressing a yawn, Lin Feng surveyed the scene below, where fledgling warriors trained alongside seasoned veterans. ‘Is it bedtime already?’ he wondered.
One-armed Chen De was impressively effective. Each of his spear thrusts was precise, consistently finding the zombies’ skulls as their ultimate resting place.
In sharp contrast, Chen Ranran was a ball of tension. Though she aspired to join the police force and had the toned arms and legs to prove her dedication, she visibly quivered as she held her spear. Her physical skills were clearly beyond most girls in her class, but this wasn’t just a physical fight for her.
Mentally, she seemed unprepared to face zombies that unsettlingly looked like people she used to know. Lin Feng knew this was a typical snag, but letting inner fears take over could quickly lead to disastrous consequences. Cruel as it might sound, the only way to overcome this hurdle was to be thrown into the proverbial fire.
Suddenly, a piercing scream cut through the air. “Ah, no!” Chen Ranran fumbled and dropped her spear. A grotesque zombie lunged at her, and she froze in terror, her fear so intense that it manifested physically, leaving a wet spot on the ground beneath her.
Just as Lin Feng was about to release an arrow, a swift silhouette darted in. Anna’s weapon sliced through the zombie’s skull in one seamless motion, leaving it a crumpled heap on the ground.
Watching Anna’s decisive intervention, tears filled Chen Ranran’s eyes. She had written off Anna as naive just the day before. Now, the stark difference between Anna’s bravery and her own paralysis overwhelmed her with shame.
“Get up,” Anna said, her voice a sharp contrast to the surrounding chaos. She extended a bloodied hand that appeared delicate but emanated a sense of undeniable strength.
“Thank you,” Chen Ranran muttered, taking the outstretched hand. As she was pulled to her feet, she felt a newfound energy coursing through her.
“Listen, you want to be a cop, right? So focus. Take deep breaths, calm yourself, and hit them where it counts,” Anna advised, her steady hand guiding Chen Ranran’s trembling one. Several swift spear thrusts later, dark fluid leaked from the zombies’ punctured skulls.
“What’s that?” Chen Ranran suddenly whispered, her eyes locking onto a distant tree where a pair of glowing eyes watched them intently.
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Catching her gaze, Lin Feng felt a jolt of recognition.
“Wait a sec—is that what I think it is?!”