The two soldiers who had not returned yet had only dared to venture out when they saw nothing had happened to Yang Xiaojin and Luo Xinyu. By going outside together, they took the necessary precautions.
But now that almost ten minutes had passed, the two of them were still not back.
Xu Xianchu stood at the edge of the hollow and peered out into the forest. Although it was only evening, the sky had already turned black due to the rain.
“Could something have happened to them?” someone asked.
“But there wasn’t any noise,” someone said, curled up in the corner of the hollow. “Surely they couldn’t have been attacked at the same time and made no sound, right?”
Logically speaking, that should have been the case. But wasn’t this exactly what made it even more frightening? Xu Xianchu had instructed everyone to go out in groups, but even so, something still happened.
Xu Xianchu said, “Don’t think too hard. They might’ve been delayed just a little. It’s only been ten minutes, after all.”
Everyone in the hollow became quiet. Although Xu Xianchu comforted everyone by saying that, those two soldiers didn’t reappear as time slowly ticked by.
Xu Xianchu said, “Who’s willing to go and look for them with me?”
Ren Xiaosu was taken aback. Xu Xianchu was even willing to risk the unknown danger and acid rain to go into the forest and search for his subordinates.
But no one in the hollow volunteered. Who would be willing to go out and seek death at a time like this? Some of the soldiers even urinated at the innermost part of the hollow and filled the entire hollow with the smell of urine. As a result, Ren Xiaosu and the others were forced to sit near the outer part of the hollow where there was ventilation. Although it was a little cold there, at least they didn’t have to smell it.
Xu Xianchu sighed and said, “If you all don’t help the others, don’t blame others for not helping when the same happens to you.”
Ren Xiaosu was not worried about that since he did not expect anyone to save him. Even Yang Xiaojin, who was his ally, would probably abandon everyone in the event of any danger.
As they were not related to one another, it was already great that they did not sabotage each other.
The sound of rain pouring over the forest came from outside. Ren Xiaosu said to Yang Xiaojin, “I’ll keep watch for the first half of the night. You go and get some rest. The forest ground will become very difficult to walk through after the rain. It’ll use up a lot of your stamina. Be careful of those soldiers too. They’re up to no good.”
Ren Xiaosu had known ever since the two of them seized the gun that the soldiers would cluster together from time to time. This spelled potential trouble for them, but Ren Xiaosu had not figured out how to handle it yet.
“Mhm.” Yang Xiaojin nodded. Then she closed her eyes and leaned against the wall to get some rest. But even so, Yang Xiaojin’s gun was still pointing at everyone, including Ren Xiaosu.
Ren Xiaosu smiled and did not mind it. If it were him, he would have done the same.
A team of 11 people had inexplicably turned into nine. Ren Xiaosu looked at the remaining soldiers in the hollow and saw some of them sitting and smoking. The cigarette smoke was still laced with a smell that nauseated Ren Xiaosu.
He found it hard to imagine just how vulnerable the defenses of the stronghold was when even the soldiers of the stronghold were using such psychoactive drugs to stimulate themselves.
Was this only happening in Stronghold 113 or were most of the soldiers from the other strongholds also the same?
These soldiers had brought quite a lot of cigarettes along, and Liu Bu had also prepared ten packs for them. However, they lost most of them while they were making their escape. Right now, they only had around half a pack or a full pack left on each of them, while some of them did not even have any left at all.
The group of people sitting there were smoking together, filling the entire hollow with smoke. Fortunately, Ren Xiaosu, Yang Xiaojin, and Luo Xinyu were all sitting at the outer edge of the hollow, so they were not that greatly affected.
They heard one soldier saying to the others, “Lend me a cig. I’ve run out.”
“I’ve run out too. This is the last cig I have.” The soldier beside him moved a little to the other side. Actually, he still had more than half a pack left in his pocket, but the days ahead of them were still so long. Who the hell knew how long it’d be before they could finally get out of this place? He did not even have enough to spare for himself.
The soldier who wanted to bum a cigarette looked to the others and said, “Lend me a cig. I’ll return a pack to you when we get back to the stronghold.”
By this time, his “withdrawals” had kicked in. He didn’t hesitate making a promise like that just so he could smoke a cigarette. And cigarettes were not cheap in the stronghold.
“Who knows if we can even get back to the stronghold alive?” someone scoffed. “What are you going to pay with at that time, your life?”
Ren Xiaosu sighed. These soldiers were really like a disorderly mob. While two of their comrades’ lives were still at stake, they fell into infighting over some cigarettes.
The soldier whose withdrawal symptoms were starting to kick in could only sit inside the hollow when he failed to get any cigarettes. Ren Xiaosu observed him as he started shivering while beads of sweat began forming on his forehead.
Although these soldiers smoked a better quality of cigarettes than the town’s workers, their withdrawal symptoms were more intense.
If they encountered danger at this moment, this addict would probably not even able to stand up, let alone resist.
Ren Xiaosu looked at Luo Xinyu, who was still awake, and said, “What on earth is it like… inside the stronghold you’re from?”
This was actually one question that Ren Xiaosu was most curious about as he had always yearned to live in the stronghold, because all of the best quality daily necessities produced in town would get selected and transported into the stronghold. The people inside did not have to eat cornbread, could wash their faces every day, and it was said they had electricity as well.
Ren Xiaosu and Yan Liuyuan used to think that the place was heaven, but now it seemed that it was not as beautiful as they had imagined.
Luo Xinyu was delighted when Ren Xiaosu took the initiative to talk to her. She still needed to rely on him plenty during the journey. She explained in a whisper, “Actually, there’s people who made them like this on purpose. A mutiny by the private army in one of the strongholds happened, and the overseers of the other strongholds slowly began bearing ill will for the soldiers. While the big shots hoped that there would be people to protect them, they wanted their soldiers to stay loyal and have no ambition. So these cigarettes are the best tool to make them lose their ambition.”
Ren Xiaosu asked, “Is smoking too much of this stuff OK?”
“Of course not.” Luo Xinyu said, “Some veterans in the stronghold behave like zombies…. And some of their wives even ran off with others as a result.”
“It’s such a mess in the stronghold.” Ren Xiaosu sighed.
“That’s nothing.” Luo Xinyu said, “I’ve seen a 60-year-old woman with a dozen gigolos she’s paying to support. You could say she’s robbing the cradle!”
Ren Xiaosu was stunned. “A 60 year old? I don’t think robbing the cradle properly describes that.”
Luo Xinyu was startled. “Then what would?”
Ren Xiaosu thought for a moment before saying, “Having children in old age!”
Luo Xinyu was speechless. Luo Xinyu realized that Ren Xiaosu’s brain was truly wired a little differently from others. It was no wonder the townspeople all said he was sick in the head! He was clearly a normal person, yet he exhibited signs of mental illness. Just how did his mind work?!
At this moment, someone in the cave exclaimed, “What is this?! It’s so wet!”
After he said that, the group ran out of the cave as though they received a great shock. Ren Xiaosu looked into the hollow but was puzzled. There was nothing inside.