Chapter 5: Safe Zone (I)
The mountains that Wu Qi had called home for nine years were actually on the very edge of the mainland. The populated area that was closest to the mountains was a safe zone with the code SW0304.
The safe zone was built around the ruins of cities and towns from the civilized era. The outside was guarded with fences, the inside had hungry beggars, hooligans, and only a few strong youngsters left. Uncouth middle-aged and old men and weak women made up the majority of the population in SW0304. There was a district committee that had a force of arms that appointed jobs and provided food. But, the district committee was not responsible for maintaining social security and order other than looking dignified.
Thus, the keynotes were still famine, disease, riot, sex, and bloodiness. Although it was called the Era of Dawn, it was no different from the Dark Night Era.
Inside a dingy alley, a group of fat, sloppy, middle-aged men wearing dirty clothes were chasing after a tanned but smooth-skinned woman clad in ragged old clothes. The woman’s delicate foot tripped over a brick as she ran and fell to the ground in pain. The men that were chasing after her rushed forward.
The dark streets, the streetlamps that had died for God knows how long, the brick walls that mingled with the sounds of cockroaches and rats moving, the reeking, rotten sewage overflow from the manholes spread all the way to the dingy alley. A melange of shouting and groaning, the woman’s screeches and begging sounds for mercy filled the alley. Wickedness and shamelessness roared in the alley, making An Yi, who was passing by, wanted to vomit.
An Yi was a thirty-two-year-old mercenary. His tough, muscular body that was experienced from hunting, the Winchester Model 1893 shotgun on his back, and the Colt King Cobra tucked at his waist all made him one of the best and strongest young survivors. He was born during the middle of the Dark Night Era as a purebred h--o sapiens, a human with no mutation and no special abilities. It was hard for those who were not alive during the Dark Night Era to imagine the incredible luck that a purebred human had to have in order to survive. After all, in this era that was filled with mutated animals, virus carriers, and harbingers, so ordinary humans occupy the lowest level of the food chain.
In fact, he had some relatives who were harbingers, and through them, he was able to get fed when he was little. And then he joined the mercenaries. With all of his team members sacrificed, he completed a major task by sheer dumb luck, and as a result, he was rewarded with a huge sum of money all to himself. He spent this money on gene-enhancing prescription drugs that were developed by the Super Soldier Company and successfully evolved into a human with enhanced genes. That was how An Yi was able to survive to this day.
An Yi’s identity was the captain of the mercenary squad in safe zone SW0304. He led a small mercenary squad of eight people who were responsible for protecting the people in the safe zone from getting attacked or killed by mutated animals that ran off from the mountains. At the same time, they were responsible for rationing food and maintaining public orders. Eventually, he became the de facto warden of the safe zone.
He had the power to protect himself and others, as well as the power to decide life or death for others. Young women who dreamed of getting into An Yi’s bed were too many to count, which An Yi was particularly happy about in the past. There was, however, only one An Yi and too many women. Day after day, his worn-down body and the unsightly reality had made him realize everything about the safe zone. In this place, a human’s life and dignity are worth nothing. He was paid to protect the citizens in the safe zone, but more than once had he asked himself, were the people he was protecting still deserve to be called “humans?”
An Yi felt anxious as he passed by the noisy alley. He tried many times to step away from the alley, but he couldn’t bear to hear those disgusting noises anymore. He turned around and paced towards the dark alley.
Very soon, An Yi saw the naked woman who was on the ground, under four naked men. The woman was barely breathing, and there were many filthy wounds on her body. The insatiable men were still immersed in their pleasure, taking turns porking the prey beneath their bodies.
An Yi’s expression grew cold. He took out the Colt King Cobra, rotated the revolver and loaded the bullets. That sound alarmed those excited men, and that dark muzzle was the synonym of violence. The four men looked at each other, then faced An Yi’s ice-cold eyes that seemed to be judging human scum.
“F**k off!” An Yi uttered. Those bastards got up hurriedly, grabbed their clothes on the ground, and ran away.
An Yi was too lazy to waste his bullets on these scumbags, but these scumbags didn’t wish to bet on their lives. Even if An Yi did not use his guns and only used his fists, he could easily beat up these losers that only seemed tough but were actually cowards.
HE and the trampled woman were the only ones left after those men ran away. The woman was left in terrible condition, as her once-delicate smooth skin was riddled with scrapes and cuts.
An Yi knelt down and put his finger in front of her nose. She was no longer breathing.
Wrath rose from his heart, then it was crushed by the harsh reality. He was not meant to be a savior. What drove him to action was not so much his empathy toward this poor woman who was attacked, but rather his hatred towards those douchebags.
From now on, he will continue to have hatred towards those bastards.
An Yi covered the woman’s corpse with those ragged old clothes, then turned around and left the dark, filthy alley. In this safe zone that was betwixt and between—neither big nor small, there are many other dingy alleyways like this, repeating the same crimes.
He went back to his camp, a spacious room that had lighting and tidy furniture. It was late in the day, and just as An Yi was about to lie down to rest, he heard the bells chiming from outside the camp.
He rubbed his exhausted face and cursed, “Motherf**ker. It’s time to ration food for those maggots again.”
An Yi grumpily put his old leather jacket and shoes back on, walked to the wall, and grabbed the straps on his shotgun to carry it on his back.
Five minutes later, An Yi stood on the town square along with two other mercenaries from his squad. The lackluster abandoned buildings and the broken telephone poles encircled the drab town square. The uneven ground of the square had many cracks on the brick pavements, as well as aged flyer papers from fifty years ago. The sky was gloomy and grey, almost like iron blocks falling onto a person’s shoulders. The air was filled with dust and an unpleasant smell.
The small food rationing station was set up using a few plastic tables and blue cloth. There were five big pots of vegetable porridge and a few canned meat that were close to their expiration dates. Across from the table, people have lined up in long rows. They carried whisker baskets filled with medicinal herbs on their backs. These poor citizens all wore shabby, dirty clothes, and some of them were wearing broken shoes from years of wear and tear. Honestly, they were no different from beggars in the slums during the civilized period.
On the other hand, An Yi was neatly dressed, and he even had the luxury of being able to change his jeans or jackets once every few days. In comparison to those people, he was like the emperor.