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“Anna… you’re up? Look, I messed up, okay?” Lin Feng said, his voice heavy with genuine regret. Closing his eyes, he braced himself for the verbal torrent he fully expected from Anna.
Internally, he was kicking himself. “Actions have consequences,” he thought. And right now, he was mentally preparing for Anna’s inevitable outburst.
‘Ugh, why did I even open that notebook? Once I started, I just couldn’t stop myself. Man, I really screwed up,’ he mentally swore at himself.
But Anna’s reaction was a curveball he hadn’t seen coming. Without uttering a single word, she snatched the notebook from Lin Feng’s trembling hands and slid it back into her pocket. Then, she turned away, her footsteps echoing in the barren hallway as she walked off. Lin Feng opened his eyes, the tension palpable in the air. All that remained was a single tear glistening on the floor, leaving him awash in a sea of self-doubt and unanswered questions.
‘Man, I really screwed up this time, huh?’ Lin Feng thought, the weight of his actions settling in. He’d been sure Anna would let loose with a beating, the usual way she blew off steam. But she hadn’t. Instead, she’d walked away, her silence deafening. That lone tear she’d left behind on the floor seemed to scream louder than any words could have.
“Ah, good morning, young Lin Feng. You look somewhat downcast today,” Old Man Liu observed, appearing unusually sprightly for the early hour. The rest of the students were still sleeping from their night shifts, so eight in the morning was rather early.
“It’s nothing, Mr. Liu. You’re up rather early yourself. Sleep not coming easy?” Lin Feng asked.
“Heh, sleep is a capricious companion in my twilight years, young man. To enjoy extra slumber at dawn is now a luxury beyond my reach,” Old Man Liu replied, making his way toward the washroom to freshen up with a disposable towel and toothbrush.
“So, how’s your family doing these days? Any news?” Lin Feng ventured to ask, mostly as casual talk, but also to steer his mind away from the guilt.
Back on the rooftop, there was a fleeting moment when everyone could contact their loved ones. Lin Feng recalled that Old Man Liu had only a rudimentary cell phone—the kind typically favored by seniors. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t the most tech-savvy individual. There was a memorable episode when his phone’s cheerful “Good Old Days” ringtone broke the classroom’s concentration, causing everyone to burst into laughter. After that amusing disruption, other teachers showed him how to set his phone to silent mode, and since then, it had largely escaped notice.
Old Man Liu exhaled a weary sigh. “Family? I’m all that’s left, I’m afraid.”
“But I heard you have a son,” Lin Feng questioned, looking puzzled. To be exact, Old Man Liu only had that single son left, since his partner left this world a few years back. Or at least, that was how the story went according to his classmates.
“Ah, let’s leave him out of this. If that young man had even a fraction of your sensibility, our relationship wouldn’t be in tatters,” Old Man Liu said, bitterness seeping into his voice.
“I apologize, Mr. Liu. I didn’t mean to touch a nerve,” Lin Feng offered, scratching his head.
“It’s quite alright. That boy chose his path, and it wasn’t a good one. We haven’t spoken in years, nor do I intend to,” Old Man Liu said, standing next to Lin Feng, who offered an apologetic glance in return.
“He’s a few years older than you. I regret the expectations and pressures I placed on him. It led him to run away from home, and the next I heard, he was being sentenced on television. He should have been released a few years back,” Old Man Liu continued.
“Do you miss him?” Lin Feng asked softly.
“Indeed, over the years I’ve found myself wrestling with the thought that perhaps the fault was mine. He was a late-in-life child, all the more precious for it, and yet things still unraveled. Maybe the weight of my expectations was too much for him to bear. Despite these ponderings, I can’t summon the courage to tell him so,” Old Man Liu said, letting out a wistful sigh.
Lin Feng nodded. He knew well that parents often transferred their unfulfilled dreams onto their children. He was lucky; his own parents had always been supportive, albeit a bit laissez-faire.
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“Still, having you young folks around fills a certain emptiness. In a way, you all are like the children I wish I still had,” Old Man Liu concluded, gently patting Lin Feng’s long, white hair as he sighed.
(End of Chapter 48)
Amidst crumpled bags of biscuits and an assortment of snacks, Lin Feng munched away, his palate growing weary of the ceaseless spice. What he wouldn’t give for the crisp bite of an apple or the succulent taste of a tomato.
His thoughts drifted back to what Old Man Liu said earlier that day. “Still, having you young folks around fills a certain emptiness. In a way, you all are like the children I wish I still had,” Liu had said, chuckling warmly.
Watching a group of girls hanging on Old Liu’s every word as he regaled them with a tale, Lin Feng felt an unexpected warmth swell within him. Right then and there, he resolved: they would reach the archery hall by nightfall and await rescue from that haven.
Satiated but not quite fulfilled, Lin Feng stretched his limbs, discarded the empty snack bags into the trash, and ascended to the second-floor lounge. Peering through the broken window, he caught sight of zombies feasting below—a stomach-turning vision that instantly dampened his spirits.
So much for a good morning, he thought, shaking his head.
The day was set aside for rest and recovery; everyone was in the medical room, preparing for the evening’s venture to the archery hall. If only that mutant female zombie hadn’t pilfered his bow. He could have used this free time to sharpen his archery skills.
There was a finesse to it, a ‘feel’. One that could only be felt, rather than taught. All he needed was to practice enough to the point where firing was natural to him, and aiming wasn’t even required.
He was working with a modern bow these days—practical, yet lacking the visceral joy that traditional archery offered. And, of course, there were the minor inconveniences of slower loading and a rigid shooting stance. For now, though, practicality overruled passion.
‘Maybe even a Guinness World Record is possible, once I use my enhanced sense of time?’ he mused to himself, but was quickly interrupted by approaching footsteps. “How’s the injury?” he heard a voice inquire.
“It’s manageable,” Lin Feng replied, glancing back to see Yan Aoxue, who seemed as composed as ever, apocalypse or no apocalypse.
“You seem oddly at ease with the world ending,” Lin Feng chuckled.
“Do I?” Yan Aoxue’s eyebrow arched slightly.
“Forget it,” he said, his tone softer. “If it weren’t for you in that classroom, I’d be one of them by now. Thanks.”
“Survival demands collaboration,” Yan Aoxue said, her eyes meeting his as they both looked out through the shattered window.
Captivated for a moment by the scent of her perfume, Lin Feng’s thoughts temporarily drifted away.
“You two seem oddly relaxed,” another voice chimed in.
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“Anna! Have you considered a career in espionage?” Lin Feng exclaimed, noticing her by the door, her eyes tinged with irritation.
“About this morning—”
“Don’t! You saw nothing. You were sleepwalking,” Anna interrupted, her voice stubborn.
“Ah, yes, sleepwalking,” Lin Feng said, scratching his head in mock confusion. “Apparently, it’s a new habit of mine.”
“Sleepwalking?” Yan Aoxue looked between them, bemused.
“Yeah,” Lin Feng laughed awkwardly. “It’s the latest fad, you know?”
Without another word, Anna strode up to him and pressed a candy into his palm. “Be careful,” she said, her voice carrying a weight of unsaid things, leaving Lin Feng momentarily speechless.
(End of Chapter 49)