Chapter 6: Safe Zone (II)
An Yi stood on a small staircase with high and mighty expression on his face. He didn’t need a megaphone to let his voice be heard by every single person at the town square.
“One basket of herbs is one dollar. One dollar gets you one bowl of porridge! Those who gathered higher-valued herbs shall bring them to the inspectors for examination. One basket of higher-valued herbs gets you three dollars. Canned meat is thirty dollars each, first come, first serve! I know you people are hungry like wolves, so I will repeat the rules again! If you dare to snatch the hard-earned food from others in public, I will open up a hole in your chest that goes through your body! Commence!”
An Yi waved his hand, and then the workers who rationed food, and the people waiting in line started moving. An Yi stood on a high platform and looked down at the people who were in line for food. Some of them were wounded adolescents, some were half-dead middle-aged men, and only a few of them were women. Because gathering herbs on the mountains was a very physically-demanding task, not only did it require a long walk in the scary mountains, it also required thorough knowledge in the medicinal herb species. Even if you gathered the herbs, you still had to watch out for the mutated animals who can smell humans and the bandits that robbed people. They were lucky enough to be alive every day and safely standing there for a bowl of porridge.
The safe zone couldn’t afford and didn’t want to care for those who had no skills to work. They just let them starve to death in desperation. The women who were decent looking still had some values left, but nobody would pity or give to the useless ones that do nothing but waste natural resources. Even if those people try to rob and make a scene, they would be killed by An Yi or his comrades as a demonstration for those that might share similar intentions.
In order to maintain discipline in a society of desperation and hunger, they needed bloody violence to instill fear and respect into the survivors. An Yi was good at his job in that sense.
A swarthy and skinny little boy exchanged a bowl of porridge and carefully carried it with both hands. His small eyes and hunched back gave him the appearance of a street rat. When he was about to leave the square, hundreds of hungry and vicious eyes locked in on him instantly. Once he dared to leave the square that was currently under An Yi’s watch, they would sneak out from corners and closed doors to snatch the food from the little boy.
The boy didn’t dare to leave the town square. He walked to a dim small alley and waved. Soon, a woman walked out, using the walls as her support. The woman was all skin and bones, and the clothes on her body were made from old rags. Her mahogany skin and bony body were enough to stop any man that wanted to vent his lust.
“Mommy, hurry and eat this.” The little boy carried the bowl of porridge that he exchanged with a day of hard work to his mother with his trembling hands. The woman smiled weakly and took the bowl of porridge.
She only had about one-fifth of the porridge, then passed it back to her child.
“You have it, Baby.” Her voice was calm as if she lost all hope for reality. As a mother, she could not care for her son, and she needed her son to provide. If self-blame was a wood stake, then her heart had already been impaled by the wood stake. The only thing that kept her from dying was her love for her son.
The boy looked at his mother and could not stop the tears from falling out. He took a sip and then passed the porridge back to his mother.
“Mommy, we each take a sip and pass.”
Had this happened in the civilized era, a moment like this would have been a tear-trigger for everyone that was watching, and many would have helped them out. But, in the Era of Dawn after the Dark Night Era, the citizens in the safe zone were all struggling to survive and weren’t completely out of the gruesome dark night yet. The number of people who would offer to help the mother and son was zero.
It was because everyone was barely getting by. The people that could work had to provide for their families, and there wasn’t an ounce of energy and kindness left for them to help out others.
Pretty soon, there was only one-fifth of the porridge left in the bowl that wasn’t even much to begin with. The boy wanted his mother to have the rest, but the mother refused. They sat at the corner of the square against a wall, and by now, there weren’t many people paying attention to them anymore.
Just then, an old lady who was sitting near them leaned over. She reached her trembling, bony hands to the little boy and pleaded: “Good boy, both of you have eaten today. Grandma is still starving, I’m about to die from hunger… Please, good boy, could you spare Granny the rest of the porridge…”
The little boy glanced at the old lady and tightened his grip on the metal bowl. But the begs from the poor old lady who was on the verge of death had softened his heart. The boy looked to his mother for help.
“Son, you should have the rest. You’re still growing, one bowl of porridge is not enough.” The mother stroked the boy’s head and smiled bitterly.
The boy understood his mother. He lowered his head and decided to finish the porridge to give him the energy for a day of labour tomorrow where he could bring food to his mother to keep her alive. But, he still turned around and looked at the old lady with pity. If he didn’t give her food, then she would probably die within a few hours.
But if he gave her the food, how long could he and his mother survive?
The boy finally made the decision. Just as he raised the bowl to his lips, the old lady picked up the walking stick on the ground and chopped at the boy’s left groin. The boy cried out in pain and fell to the right. The bowl dropped to the ground, spilling the porridge on the ground
The old lady suddenly gained some energy. She jumped to the puddle of porridge on the ground like a hungry wild dog. She lapped at the porridge, attempting to bring some food into her mouth.
However, a shadow suddenly covered over the old lady who just fought for food. An Yi’s icy expression made him look like the demon from hell. He said coldly, “Snatching hard-earned food from others in public. Die!”
Bang! Violent music rose from the Colt King Cobra. Blood splattered and soiled the ground. The old woman’s face fell into the puddle of porridge, her dull eyes still had a yearning for food from when she was alive, along with a tinge of confusion. That scene was a scary warning for all the hungry people lurking around!
An Yi, the Demon Supervisor who was in charge of maintaining social orders, was never not stingy with his bullets.
He rubbed his dirtied leather boots on the ground and returned to the platform that overlooked the town square as if nothing happened. What happened at the corner of the square drew the attention of all the hungry citizens on the square for only a brief moment. They lowered their heads and contemplated how to have the porridge that they got, or their can of food if some were lucky enough to get some.
No one pitied the old lady, who was now just a dead body. The Demon Supervisor An Yi was extremely cruel when he was doing his job of maintaining order. The ones who worked longer and lived longer were already used to this, besides, he was the one protecting the interest of the hungry civilians that worked. They obviously have nothing to complain about.