Chapter 39 Betrayal
The bolt was ejected from the crossbow violently, creating a small gust in the air. In a flash, the head of the bolt was buried deep in the tree trunk.
Chang was astonished by the result; he hastily ran up to the tree to check the bolt – it was 40 centimeters long, but more than thirty centimeters penetrated the tree, leaving only the tail of the bolt sticking out. He grabbed on the end of the bolt to try to pull it out, but it stayed put in the tree without even budging an inch. Chang tried another dozen times before the bolt was finally removed from the trunk bit by bit.
“This is more powerful than I thought!” Staring at the deep hole as well as the juice dripping from it, his voice was full of hope. “This is even more powerful than the pistol I got. The captain was right; a crossbow is definitely a better choice for attacking at short distances.”
“However, the trajectory isn’t as precise as I wanted to be…” Upon checking the hole, he found that the position of the hole was lower than where he aimed – this meant that the trajectory was curved. Since the crossbow was already much heavier than guns, it was harder to aim. Also, the weight of the bolt also altered the trajectory. If it was to be used in close combat, it could cause more harm than a gun, without a doubt. However, if the bolt needed to fly more than 50 meters, the effect would be significantly reduced.
Fortunately, in the shrouded fog, even Chang himself could barely see beyond 8 meters. Therefore, anything beyond 50 meters was out of his consideration.
The most important thing he needed to do now was to test out the properties of the bolts and to operate the crossbow fluently. Before sunset, he made countless holes on the same tree. Of course, if the tree was mutated and acted aggressively, Chang would have been easily torn apart before he even dared to make a second hole.
It was a pity that the evolutionary pace of this tree was much slower than the one he previously encountered – it didn’t turn into a horrifying monster and remained a stout tree.
The whole afternoon practice helped Chang learn how to wind the crossbow as fast as he could, as well as distinguish the functions of long and short bolts. He could now make a relatively accurate shot within 10 meters; everything seemed too smooth to believe.
The sky gradually became darker and Chang could see less and less in the dense red fog. When Chang could no longer see beyond three meters, he packed up the crossbow and took all the bolts back from the tree. Walking in the world of red and black, the fog slowly flew by his body, and he felt like a rat in a soup pot.
As Chang approached his dorm room on the first floor, his sensitive nose noticed a hint of a familiar reek from the room. Then, his heart sunk – this stench meant that there was a corpse in his room, and a corpse meant that someone had died. What was worse was that a person died in his room.
Chang already had an idea of who had died.
As he pushed open the door, he saw a corpse covered with a bed sheet lying on the bed of the family of three. The sheet covered most of her body and only her head was exposed in the air. Beside the body was another old man lying on a bed, bit his breathing wasn’t any better than the lifeless body; he was truly at the gates of death.
The person guarding the bed was their daughter. She never spoke anything when living in this dorm room, and at this moment, she straddled on the edge of the bed like a puppet, emotionless and tearless. No one could tell whether she was sad or not from her face. She just occasionally wiped off the sweat from her father’s forehead.
Even though she hid the sadness in her face, her behavior sold her emotions.
“…” Chang sighed heavily before walking into the room, and the corpse exuded an intense reeking stench as he expected. He walked passed the family and sat on his own bed. A surge of compassion and sadness raised from the bottom of his heart.
Last night, Chang was still hesitating whether or not he should give his bed to one of her parents, but today the girl’s mother had passed away. He wasn’t sad about her death, but his own actions – if he showed his kindness last night, even though it wouldn’t prevent their deaths, it could still provide warmth at the end of their lives.
However, if he let one of her parents sleep on his bed, he would have had a restless night. Would he have been able to escape from the attacks of the giant dog? Would he still be able to sit on his bed right now?
While Chang was struggling, a hand patted on his shoulder.
It was Qing shui.
“Come with me,” Qing shui said. He took out a crumpled pack of cigarettes and took two from the pack, handing one to Chang.
Staring at the cigarette, Chang noticed that even the dried tobacco had molded slightly in this terrible world; the white cigarette paper had turned green and yellow, causing him to recall the old man lying on the bed.
They didn’t talk much; each holding a cigarette, they walked away from the depressing atmosphere.
They leaned on the wall in the hallway. Chang lit his cigarette and said, “Do you know when was the last time I ever lit a cigarette?”
“I don’t know.”
“It was when I found out that Tao was dead.” Chang touched the finger bone necklace on his chest and said, “On the first day of the red fog, Tao asked me for a cigarette, but I didn’t have any. We went out together to look for antibiotics, but then…. then we took the pills together. I survived, but he died. When I woke up beside his body, I lit one for him.”
Chang inhaled the smoke deeply.
“Are you sad when you saw one of her parent dead?” Qing shui didn’t comment on Chang’s story, but instead glanced at him and asked something else.
“A little bit, but I wouldn’t say I was sad…” Chang thought again and said, “It was more like compassion; after all, I don’t know them at all.”
“Compassion…that’s a good term. But this is exactly what I want to talk to you about.” Qing shui said, “I just want to let you know that you shouldn’t be sentimental and show too much sympathy. It will demotivate you.”
“Why?” Chang was confused.
“Because sympathizing for the weak, in essence is betraying nature.” After a brief moment of silent, Qing shui’s words made Chang speechless.
Qing shui then added more as he felt like his statement wasn’t strong enough “What kind of world do you think we are living in? It’s no longer a society of order and discipline, and you should know this. It’s all about natural selection now; the fit will survive. The decision you made last night was absolutely right, so don’t let this kind of incident affect your judgment. Next time, you shouldn’t be affected by sympathy or compassion and make a wrong decision! After all, we can’t stop those who are doomed to be eliminated by nature. I don’t want you to end like that.”
Qing shui’s words made Chang lost in thought.
“Thank you…” Shortly after, Chang nodded his head and gave Qing shui a bitter smile. “But if I don’t even have sympathy and compassion, isn’t that a betrayal of humanity?”
“Don’t think too much about humanity; it’s just a philosophical concept. As long as you live on, you aren’t betraying yourself, your family, Pangzi, Jing and me. More importantly, you won’t betray your own life.”
As Qing shui finished his speech, he threw the cigarette butt on the ground and stepped on it. He left Chang in the hallway and entered the dorm room.