The soldiers listened attentively for Cheng Yang’s announcement.
“My only request is that no matter what, while we are in the city, you put the needs of the team before your own.” Cheng Yang announced, “If you aren’t able to comply with this, I have no choice but to expel you from the team. This isn’t me trying to bully you but a decision made for the greater good of Phoenix Village. The reason I say this is because we can’t spend too long searching for just one person’s family. Each of you will provide Old Lee with two possible locations your family could be. We will visit each location for a maximum of thirty minutes before leaving for the next location. We will start will the southernmost locations and work our way north. In addition, all rescue operations will stop at five. After that we will come back every day until each location has been checked. Does anyone have a problem with this?”
After hearing this the crowd began to murmur. It was to be expected, which person would be willing to give up on their family just like that?
One by one the soldiers decided to give in and checked in with Old Lee. In the end, everyone accepted the conditions, something that surprised Cheng Yang. Although everyone wanted to spend as long as they could searching for their families and to be the first in line, they knew it was unreasonable.
After everyone made their decision, Cheng Yang led them across the bridge.
This wasn’t the first time Cheng Yang had crossed the bridge that bordered on a natural wonder so he wasn’t impressed. The rest of the soldiers couldn’t help but gasp in admiration as they looked over the sides.
If this bridge had appeared in the old world, it would have made national headlines and become a top tourist destination. Here, however, it could be seen at every major city in four different places.
The bridge, which was several tens of meters long, was made out of a porous red rock with black flecks. It looked like the entire thing was made from cooled magma. If someone were to watch the formation, they would have seen the chasm drop down at incredible speed before the bridges stretched across from the city side.
There was a tight ring of dense forest right at the city side edge of the bridge. Once Cheng Yang’s group passed through it, the scenery totally changed.
The south was covered in lush natural forests while the north was nothing but ruins, bones and dried blood. Although they had seen a similar scene in Huimin, it was still hard for the soldiers to see their home had been destroyed.
The outskirts of Cloud City, where there weren’t any high-rise buildings, had collapsed. Even the squatter shacks had collapsed into ruins.
The ruins of Huimin were already being reclaimed by the forest when they arrived but Cloud City was different. If not for the monsters wandering about it wouldn’t be difficult to image this was a city that had suffered from a normal earthquake.
Cheng Yang didn’t bother with the monsters that were on their own. Instead he left them to the soldiers who would have a harder time gathering Experience Fragments. Cheng Yang only stepped in when they met groups of monsters so they wouldn’t have to waste time dealing with them.
Cheng Yang and the other traveled north-east for about a kilometer in order to reach the apartment of a soldier named Shu Yuan. His family had lived in the suburbs originally, but due to some financial matters they were forced to move into the city. Not willing to just waste away, Shu Yuan used the last of his money to buy a transport truck and work independently. That decision had allowed him to be saved by Cheng Yang right at the start of the apocalypse.
He lived closest to the southern bridge so it was the first stop for the rescue team.
They were traveled in a line three wide towards the apartment complex when they heard someone call out to them.
“Help us…” The voice was gravelly and cracked. “Please…. Help…. us….”
Although the voice was weak, it couldn’t escape the sensitive ears of a Professional.
“Yoko, what should we do?” Liu Hau asked, concern written across his face.
Liu Hau was an incredibly compassionate person and Cheng Yang knew the only reason he even asked was to set an example for the other soldiers. If not for that, he probably would have rushed over immediately.
“We’ll save them.” Cheng Yang said after watching his friends beg with his eyes, “With so many people dead its only right to try and save those we find. However, our goal is to save the families of our soldiers. Saving everyone we run into will slow us down. You’ll have to be prepared to abandon some of the survivors into later.
“I understand.” Liu Hau said with a grateful smile.
Cheng Yang followed Liu Hau towards the source of the sound. After poking around for a bit, they found the entrance to a cavern in the ruins.
Liu Hau bent down to look inside, “How many of you are there?”
“Eighteen.” A voice said before collapsing into a coughing fit. “Please. Water. We haven’t had any for days.”
“Come out first, then we’ll give you water.” Cheng Yang said.
“Are, monsters… gone?” the man asked with a trembling voice, “Horrible, horrible creatures.”
“Don’t worry.” Liu Hau coaxed, “We killed all of the ones near here.”
Only after hearing that did a pair of men crawl out of the hole. They were haggard and had sunken eyes. They looked like they were on the brink of collapse.
“Give… water.” One of the men croaked.
Liu Hau handed him a disposable bottle filled with river water.
Cheng Yang and the others didn’t blame the men for being so impolite. Faced with the imminent deaths, the fact that they hadn’t done anything evil to them was good enough. If anyone raised a fuss over formalities they could only be considered extremely pedantic.
In the eyes of the others, these men seemed to be lifeless husks but Cheng Yang thought differently. When he looked into their eyes he saw the burning desire to survive. In the apocalypse only that could be considered ones true strength. It took a lot of bravery to call out to an unknown group in their situation. Especially a group that used strange powers and weapons like theirs.
“Didn’t you say there were eighteen of you?” Liu Hau asked, “Why aren’t the others coming?”
The man took a long swig of water before replying with a clearer voice, “They’re too weak. Wait a moment and I’ll pull them out.”
Cheng Yang tried his best to suppress the dark thoughts within him. Even if they wanted to survive with all their might, if they were too weak they would just drag his team down.
“Yoko, it seems like that cavern of theirs is quite safe. Lets leave some food and water with them so they can recover and we’ll pick them up on our way back.” Yu Kai suggested, seeing Cheng Yang’s brows furrow.
By this time the two men had deduced that Cheng Yang’s group wasn’t filled with bad people, so when they heard Yu Kai’s words they immediately began to beg.
“We’ll just follow. You don’t need to guard us but just let us follow behind you. We’ll die otherwise.” the men had fallen to the ground in order to bow before the group, “Please, save us.”
Cheng Yang picked up the man, “You don’t need to worry. I’ll follow my friend’s plan and come get you in the afternoon. Before you get your hopes up I need to warn you, our base is outside the city so if you follow us there will be nowhere to hide from monsters during the journey. We may not be able to protect you. Honestly, you are safer here.”
“Is that true?” The man asked with a complicated expression.
Cheng Yang chuckled. “With our strength do you think we would need to lie?”
“So it is true.” The man sighed. Cheng Yang’s argument was too convincing. If they really wanted him dead they could have just ignored him. They could even kill him right now and no one would be able to stop him. “Still, we want to follow you.”
At that time one of the men an the bottle of water down into the hole. The other one hugged Cheng Yang in gratitude.
As Cheng Yang comforted the man he said, “Old Lee, have everyone chip into the food we’ll give them.”
Without Old Lee having to do anything, the soldiers began handing him parts of their rations, quickly amassed eighteen peoples worth of dried meat and energy bars. Even if they had a small lunch, they would still be able to eat a hearty dinner while these people had been starving for days. They weren’t so heartless as to hog their food.
After giving the two men supplies, Cheng Yang’s group continued on their journey. After watching Cheng Yang leave, the two men retreated back into their hole, praying for Cheng Yang’s safe return.
By the time they arrived at Shu Yuan’s house, they had run into over eighty other survivors. Cheng Yang followed the same policy for every group he met. Telling them to lie low and warning them of the dangers of travelling with them. Even though some of the group had been lucky enough to hide somewhere with supplies, Cheng Yang’s group gave away all of their food and water to those in need,
Thanks to the fact that god didn’t change the terrain inside of the safe zones too much, Shu Yuan was able to pinpoint where his building had been immediately.