The flashlight shone upon the fractured wall. Zhou Rong studied it for a moment, then signalled to the right. “Here.”
The three people quickly pressed on, following the wall. Zhang Yingjie staggered a little. Chuncao turned back to help him, only to be avoided.
“I can do it myself,” Zhang Yingjie gasped, smiling self-mockingly. “Later I will... no longer recognise you. Let’s not harm our team, stay further away from me.”
Chuncao’s little face was stained with tears, and she was silent.
Right in front, Zhou Rong’s eyes were red. However, he did not turn back, and his voice was very steady, “Yingjie, hold on for a while more. We’ll get out within two hours, there’s still time for you... to at least return back to open ground.
They passed through a passageway, going along the stairwell destroyed by the zombie gorilla. Zhang Yingjie smiled, “Is there enough time? Actually, I’m fine with anything. When a person’s life goes out, it’ll be the same anywhere. It’s just that I really want to know if my wife and child are still alive. If I could just see them one more time...”
They were now travelling through a long corridor with labs on each side. Chuncao suddenly stopped, shining a light incredulously at a safety sign above their heads. “Look, Zone E.”
They all looked up.
“North Zone E” was in white with a green background, hanging askew in the dark.
Did Si Nan somehow managed to stumble into Zone E while getting chased by the zombie King Kong?
Zhou Rong made an attempt at gallows humour. “Very good, at least we saved time walking around.. This way.”
Zhang Yingjie stopped for a moment, wheezing a couple of times. Zhou Rong ignored his dodges, reaching out and supporting him, speaking in a low voice, “Zone E has the latest antivirus research, there may still be some proto-antibodies left behind. From the estimated time when the base had collapsed, the antibodies may have yet to expire. If it’s still effective...”
Zhang Yingjie instantly responded, “Rong-ge, I’m not getting that injected into me. Don’t joke about this. If the hope of the entire world is exchanged for my life, I will definitely descend all the way down to the 18th level of hell in the future.”
“... If there are two samples.” Zhou Rong said hoarsely, “If there are, I’ll definitely inject you with one of them.”
Zhang Yingjie still wanted to say something, but Zhou Rong tugged at him. “Let’s go.”
The fork ahead was lit up by the flashlight. On the ceiling six metres above, the air duct had broke and fell, hanging down like a python on a tree. Zhou Rong looked at the map on his tablet.
— The left led to a testing site, but it was not stated what sort of testing site it was; on the right was a classified bio-information lab, and as it was important, it was ranked a red S-level.
Zhou Rong was unable to decide on which direction to choose, then Chuncao’s ears suddenly perked up. “I hear something.”
In the dark, Zhang Yingjie barely managed to stop his heavy pants.
Sound gradually drifted down from upstairs. It sounded as though a group of people were pounding towards them, and the noise they made was interrupted with the familiar sounds of suppressed gunfire.
The three of them looked up, and within a few seconds the chaos was right above their heads. Dust and dirt rained down on them.
“...” Zhou Rong suddenly realised something, and his face changed abruptly. “Fuck! No!”
But his yell was to no avail.
Loud, rapid bursts of gunfire could be heard from above, sounding no different to an exploding missile. The reinforced concrete ceiling suddenly collapsed, and Zhou Rong, Chuncao and Zhang Yingjie scrambled out of the way. Three other special force soldiers came crashing down along with the concrete chunks!
Yan Hao rolled and stood up, his voice hoarse from shouting, “Don’t let them come down! Shoot! Shoot! Captain?!”
Zhou Rong really wanted to kick him right on the spot, but by then it was too late. An unceasing mass of zombies followed them, tumbling right through the hole in the ceiling, and swiftly moved around the place!
Zhou Rong fired his weapon as he roared, “Why did you guys come here?!”
Guo Weixiang, “To provide you with assistance!”
Zhou Rong, “Fuck off!”
Ding Shi, “... We were chased here by zombies!”
Yan Hao lifted the heavy assault rifle, tossing an ammunition bag half the size of a person out. In the midst of gunfire, he turned his head around and shouted, “There was nowhere else to go! We could only go through the floor! Don’t say anymore, it was all an accident!”
Zhou Rong hugged the ammunition bag with two arms, grabbing a grenade in the mess. Throwing it towards the crumpled ceiling, he yelled furiously, “Everyone get down—!”
The sounds of an explosion thundered around them, and half of the corridor above them was blown to pieces.
The six people who finally managed to meet again did not even have time to reminisce before they were thrown into different corners by the impact of the explosion. Next, fragments of metal and concrete came raining down, blocking the passage completely.
It took dozens of minutes before the ground stopped shaking. Dust billowed about in the dark.
Zhou Rong coughed as he pushed away the rubble pressing down on him with great force, standing up, looking wretched. “Is everyone still alive?”
Some time passed before a moan could be heard from nearby. It was his invulnerable daughter Chuncao, “I’m alive...”
Zhou Rong raised his voice, “Yingjie! Yan Hao! Xiangzi! Ding Shi! Are you still alive?!”
“Uhh...” Guo Weixiang was up ahead on the right. “I dislocated my elbow...”
Ding Shi hissed in pain.
“Deal with your own dislocation!” Zhou Rong called out as he casually shot at the remaining zombies around them, then turning his flashlight on.
The blast had thrown them into the right fork, towards the classified bio-information lab — if Yan Hao and Zhang Yingjie had not died under the collapse, they were most likely in the corridor that led to the testing site.
Zhou Rong tried to call out a few more times, but did not get a response.
In front of him, the rubble had formed a seamless obstruction, and countless zombies were trapped underneath it. Behind him, the corridor with alloyed walls stretched ahead endlessly. They had already entered the central area of Zone E, and what came next was the sealed focus of the shelter — the classified bio-information lab.
Zhou Rong’s flashlight swung back down.
Although the corridor looked a mess, there was no damage on the walls and ceiling. There was no sign that violence had occurred in here — which meant that when Si Nan had been chased by the zombie gorilla to the fork, he had chosen the passage that was now blocked to him.
He had gone to the testing site.
Zhou Rong lifted up a large piece of debris, tossing it to one side. He then heaved up a rebar, and moved it away.
Just like a trapped beast forcing a path through its cage, he panted hoarsely, his eyes bloodshot. After a long while, he shakily stood up, staring straight at the endless pile of rubble, and finally sobered up.
He gave himself a harsh, tight slap.
Chuncao happened to be walking behind him, and her feet paused. “Rong, Rong-ge...”
He had his back facing her and only after a moment did he slowly turned around. His expression had already regained its calmness, and only in his voice could the pained, unconcealable hoarseness be heard. “Everyone, get ready. We’re going to the classified lab.”
“Once we blast open the doors, we’ll leave after retrieving all the virus research as well as the proto-antibodies.”
At the same time, on the other side of the forked path, Yan Hao gripped his bleeding shoulder, gritted his teeth and stood up. “Yingjie?”
Zhang Yingjie had already climbed up from the floor full of rubble. Leaning against the wall, he could not stop coughing blood. Thinking that Zhang Yingjie had injured his internal organs when the ceiling collapsed,Yan Hao stumbled towards him and crouched down. Yet before Yan Hao could say anything, Zhang Yingjie pushed him away.
Zhang Yingjie vomited a mouthful of black blood!
Yan Hao was stunned.
Zhang Yingjie could barely lift his head, wheezing as though his chest was a pair of bellows. His face was ashen and haggard, with bloodshot eyes and dry, chapped lips.
“If... if I don’t recognise you later...” Zhang Yingjie pointed at his own temple, smiling wanly. “Stick a knife right here. Do it cleanly...”
Yan Hao’s mind turned blank. His lips trembled as he shook his head.
“We didn’t have time to exchange a few words just now, but at least I managed to see all of you again. Luckily you’re all...”
Before Zhang Yingjie could finish, Yan Hao’s knees came crashing down, and he hugged him tightly.
Yan Hao did not make a sound, his shoulders and arms shuddering fiercely, and hot tears rolled down his cheeks.
By this time, Zhang Yingjie had already started to feel a little muddle headed. He wanted to push Yan Hao away, but in this darkness of dozens of metres, in this hell on earth where the smell of gunsmoke still lingered, a warm embrace and tears from a comrade-in-arms made him unable to raise his hands against him.
Moments passed before he finally shivered and patted Yan Hao’s back.
“Don’t be like this. At least everyone’s fine... At least everyone’s still around, 118 is still around, isn’t it?”
“You must complete your mission,” Zhang Yingjie swallowed. “You must collect the data and the antibodies and walk out of this place, all right? You will definitely be able to reach Nanhai. When the higher ups finally develop the vaccine, the entire country, the entire world...”
Yan Hao sobbed.
“Listen to me, Yan Hao!” Zhang Yingjie pushed him away by a little. Looking into his eyes, he enunciated clearly, “You can’t be like this. Do you know why the higher ups had pulled Rong-ge up from nowhere to become our leader? Because you’re too careful! Because you’re reluctant to hurt people! Because you always want to take care of everyone!!! If it’s Rong-ge, will he be doing this now? He would definitely not waste any time on crying!”
“Stand up, move forward!” Zhang Yingjie helped himself up with the support of the wall in much difficulty. He looked to the front, gritting his teeth. “As a soldier, I have yet to complete my mission. How can I die in this place?!”
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