“Old Lee, you’re good at this sort of thing so combine the information they gathered and report it to me.” Cheng Yang said.
Old Lee took the soldier off to the side and questioned them. Luckily, the soldiers had exercised some common sense and conducted their interrogations in a way that didn’t allow the refugees to hear each other.
A moment later Old Lee approached Cheng Yang with a sour expression, “My Lord, the situation isn’t good.”
Before Cheng Yang could speak, Feng Lie asked anxiously, “What? Please say they just never saw her.”
Old Lee looked over to Feng Lie with sympathetic eyes. “Mr. Feng, I can’t guarantee that what I’m about to say is the truth, but it should be close. Several of the refugees, those that were healthy, corroborated the leader’s story. Although the others did the same, with a little encouragement, they immediately caved and told us a much worse version. There used to be many more people hiding with these men, including your wife, but anyone who didn’t listen to them were used as bait for the monsters when they scavenged for food. I think you can understand what happened.”
Old Lee’s word struck Feng Lie like a thunderbolt. He trembled before crying out, “Why her? Why Meng Meng? Why was she used?”
“Because she stayed loyal to you until the end. All of the women were offered safety and food so long as they allowed themselves to be used by that man. She was stubborn and resisted. She wasn’t the first or only person to resist, she was just unlucky to be chosen before the others.”
Hearing this Feng Lie’s face became moist with tears as he cried into Liu Hau’s shoulder. The soldiers gathered around him, doing what they could to comfort him. They couldn’t help but respect Nguyen Meng in their hearts.
No one doubted that Nguyen Meng was dead. Several people had matching stories without any collusion so the credibility of their information was higher than that of the leader’s.
“Meng Meng, you should have just done what kept you alive. I wouldn’t have blamed you.” Feng Lie bawled.
Feng Lie’s love for his wife was on full display, her death was a massive blow to him.
“Now that you’ve heard both stories, I’ll let you decide what the truth is.” Cheng Yang said without emotion, “I leave the fate of those refugees to you.”
Feng Lie wiped his eyes. The sadness held within them had been replaced by a bloodthirsty killing intent. “I know what to do my Lord.”
Feng Lie walked towards the leader who was wearing a glowing smile that complimented his suit.
Feng Lie glared at the leader, his expression as cold as a frozen wasteland, “If you can give me a proper explanation, I might just let you live.”
“My friend, I assure you that what I said was true. If the others were badmouthing me it can only be due to a grudge they must-“
“Stop.” Feng Lie ordered. With a single quick movement Feng Lie drew an arrow from his quiver and pointed his drawn bow towards the man’s chest. “Last warning, explain it properly or die.”
The cold gleam of metal shone off of the arrow and even the leader’s warm facade couldn’t hide his fear.
“I.. please sir, consider your actions. This is a society governed by law, if you kill me here the consequences will-“
“Law?” Feng Lie sneered, “Do you think laws still matter here?” Feng Lie pulled back the arrow and released it into the leader’s thigh, causing him to wail loudly.
“There, did that clear your head of those useless thoughts?” Feng Lie asked mockingly as he drew another arrow.
“Sir, if you stop now I’ll let it go but if the military find out you did this you’ll be imprisoned when society is reestablished.”
Feng Lie wordlessly released an arrow into his other thigh.
“It’s true!” The leader shouted, “That woman died but it was for the greater good of the whole group! It wasn’t my fault!”
“You… fucker!” Feng Lie roared sending an arrow directly into the man’s heart.
The man looked down at the blossoming red flower on his suit. “Sir, you…. You said you wouldn’t… The military will….”
Even on his deathbed the leader didn’t break character or show a hint of remorse. “Promises made between people can’t be broken, but you, you aren’t a person at all.”
Feng Lie turned around leaving him to bleed out on the ground. No matter what, the leader would die and in a few hours the monsters would ensure not even a corpse would remain. Only three arrows and a pile of bones.
Feng Lie had killed countless monsters since the world ended but this was the first time he had killed a man. Although he felt somewhat sick, the rage he felt knowing that the man he killed had thrown his wife into jaws of monsters stopped him from vomiting or regretting his actions.
“My Lord,” Feng Lie said as the leader died, “I left that animal in the street but I give you back the fate of the others. Meng Meng is already dead. Killing anyone else would just tarnish my soul.”
“You made the right choice.” Cheng Yang encouraged, “Well take the rest of them with us to Phoenix Village. If you want them, those that contributed to your wife’s death will be your slaves. You can use them to gather materials or just as meatshield.”
“I… I’ll accept your goodwill my Lord.” Feng Lie said after a moment of hesitation.
After that Cheng Yang and the other soldiers left without sparing the refugees another glance. There was no where for them to go so Cheng Yang wasn’t worried about them running from judgement. If they tried, they’d either be eaten by monster or find another hole to starve to death in. Either way, no one would pity them.
Over the next three hours, they visited another four locations. Their luck was good and they were able to rescue another soldier’s family. Although they didn’t find anyone at the other three locations, it wasn’t all bad since the soldiers still had hope.
When they finished searching in the fourth location, it was four in the afternoon. Although there was still an hour before they absolutely had to leave, due to the large number of people they would be escorting back to the village, the group decided to start heading back now.
The group retraced their steps, following the markers they had left. As refugee groups joined them their speed decreased as they needed to match the slower speed of normal people. This caused them to be attacked by monster more frequently.
Thankfully, since they had cleared the path beforehand, the monsters always attacked alone.
By the time they crossed the southern bridge, they were escorting over three thousand refugees. The caravan stretched for eighty meters and was over twenty meters wide.
Even with the sun high in the sky, the forest outside of the city was dark and gloomy. The unknown depths of the forest instilled a deep fear within the refugees.
After entering the forest their speed slowed to a crawl. Monsters would jump out from behind trees and dart through the refugees. With only thirty defenders, casualties were inevitable. Only a few people died due to two key factors. The first being that Pang Sun would heal anyone that didn’t die on the spot. The second being that the Mages strengthened by Cheng Yang’s Sacrificial Blood Cloud were able to one-shot the monsters that attacked them.
Cheng Yang hadn’t decided to save these people out of the kindness of his heart. He wasn’t a good person like Liu Hau. Rather, he knew that Phoenix Village’s population would be critical to its growth. Although Phoenix Village was overcrowded now, it would quickly expand. If they wanted to increase the population to fill the future village he had to act now. In the first few weeks of the apocalypse refugees were everywhere but if you wanted to find some a month from now it would be impossible.
The distance from Cloud City to Phoenix Village was only five kilometer. When they passed through the gates, Cheng Yang let out a long breath.
It was a smooth and uneventful journey despite dozens of people died. No one blamed Cheng Yang for the deaths and no one would dare to complain that the service was poor.
When those people saw the tall walls guarding Phoenix Village they let out cheers of joy. The walls meant they wouldn’t have to sleep with one eye open, always afraid that a monster would discover them. As for what life inside the walls entailed? Who cares. Its better than starving to death in the ruins.
Cheng Yang immediately passed the responsibility of dealing with the refugees to Yu Kai and went to the Territory Altar. He then started the research that increased Magic Defense for the four primary statues and the research that increased Mana for the Priest statue.
After that was finished, the territory still had two thousand six hundred Experience Fragments. Although there was some left over after starting the day’s research, how long would it take to collect the twenty thousand needed to upgrade the village?
Although he was curious, he didn’t really worry about it. After all, his territory was at the Standard Grade while nearly every other territory hadn’t even been claimed.