8 Chapter Eight - Journey in a Horseless Wagon

    Ren Zexian was quite perplexed over the horseless metal carriage that Tyler commanded.  He had the composure several thousand years in the making, thus he did not panic as the carriage roared into life and began to move without spirit energy nor beast to drag it.  However, he asked many questions, clearly revealing that he did not have the knowledge of this world.

    "Think he suffered head trauma or something?" Patrick whispered to Dexter, Harry and Paul, who rode in the back of the truck bed with him.  Winston was in the passenger seat next to Tyler, while Ren Zexian now quietly sat with the rest of them.

    "What like amnesia?" Dexter questioned him.

    "But don't amnesiacs retain some common knowledge, just forget memories or how they came to know things?" Harry asked.

    "Who knows?" Dexter yawned.  "Certainly didn't forget how to use that sword."

    "Maybe he has a severe case of Chuunibyou syndrome," Patrick said, wisely.

    "Chuuni What?" Harry asked confused.

    "A japanese term, also known as middle school syndrome," Dexter said, half distracted.  "Basically suggesting that Ren here wanted to be a samurai so much that he failed to grow out of the need to live out his dreams."

    "Ah, fellow manga lover!" Patrick sang and grabbed Dexter about the neck.

    "Fuck off!" The other man growled and pushed the foolish man off of him.

    Ren Zexian was not deaf to their words.  Even though his cultivation was damaged, his hearing was still better than that of a mortal man.  There was a language barrier, but it was not as he was unfamiliar to their language.   This language once existed in a small land off of the coast of the main continent in Eld Dein.  However, the dialect was strange and many words were interjected that he was unable to recognise.  Such as, samurai and manga?

    His eyes glanced over the men.  The one named Dexter was of lightning root, which was considered to some a minor root, to others a major root outside the main five.  It was difficult to categorise.  The man himself had weathered skin and sharp eyes, his hair was the brown of tree bark and he was sturdy of body.  Beside him, Patrick was smaller of statue and had flax-coloured hair.  Harry's hair was black, like his own, but cut close to his head like his comrades, his skin much darker of tone than people he had seen before. The other back here was called Paul, who did not speak much.  And then there was Winston, who was also quite dark a man, though not so much as Harry.  Tyler, the argumentative one, was pale of skin, would make maidens of his acquaintance jealous for his near flawless skin.  His hair was of pale gold and were he not so bitter, he might be considered handsome.

    Ren Zexian turned to watch as the tightly packed houses with glass windows passed him by and he felt that the horseless wagon that these men called 'a truck' was fairly fast.  Not as fast as his sword, but still quite fast.  Ah, as two of these men had awakened their spirit roots, didn't that mean that there were other cultivators upon this low realm?  He glanced upward at the sky, but that there was no life scattering the blue and cloudless expanse.  Not even birds.  A pity.

    The sun's strong rays upon his skin stirred his soulsea and he closed his eyes, performed a few hand motions to draw in its strong yang energies.  He began to refine them in his body, directing them around his meridians to gather into his soulsea.  Some was attracted to his poison core, strengthening the yang within it.  Ren Zexian sighed.  While this would protect him in the long run, it would also slow his cultivation and in a land where spiritual energy was both weak and tainted, this would not be a good thing for him.

    Suddenly, the truck came to a halt and Ren Zexian opened his eyes and felt a jolting motion in his stomach.  He frowned, touching the space where his poisonous silver core should lie.  The balance of it remained strong, so why was it stirring oddly, ah but had that not happened before when...

    Tyler approached the locked, construction gate of the hotel that the civilian survivors had claimed as their base.  The hotel had been closed for internal renovations after being sold to a conglomerate, so there had been no zombies within the building at the time of the outbreak.  Most of the workers had been off sick, so work had stalled, leaving the place locked up and practically abandoned.  As the hotel already had a wall of fence and shrub, it became a perfect retreat for the survivors of the town.

    Once claimed, they had reinforced the borders with bricks and mortar found on site.  They had begun gardens and learned the hard way about plant mutations.  The stronger ones had formed squads and begun to search for food, blankets, clothes and the like in order to keep their small community going and not seek out army bases for refuge.

    Tyler banged on the metal gate, using a series of knocks that all learned as code for entry.  He then waited a few minutes, but the gates remained locked internally.  So Tyler knocked again.

    "Wait."  This request came from Ren Zexian, but as Tyler did not think much of the man with the appearance of one from the east, he called out to his leader instead.

    "Dexter, they aren't answering," he called out.

    "Give them a minute," Dexter suggested, dismissively.  Tyler was an impatient man by nature, couldn't wait five minutes let alone ten and he banged upon the gate once more.

    "They will not come," Ren Zexian stated, still subconsciously rubbing his gut.  "Or rather, they will come, but they will not be able to let you in."

    "What are you talking about?" Tyler demanded, irritably.

    "Hey, are you alright?" Harry asked, but his question was directed to Ren Zexian.  The man nodded briskly, but said nothing.

    "The hell with this," Tyler muttered as he ran to a nearby tree and proceeded to climb it.  This was an apple tree, the only reason it had survived the felling for wood that other trees close by had suffered.  However, it was not autumn yet, there were a couple of months before the apples would be ripe to eat.  Tyler did not care about that as he dragged himself to it's lowest branches.

    "What are you doing?" Dexter sighed and leapt out of the truck bed to reason with the man.

    "What does it look like?" Tyler asked.  "I'm going to climb over the wall and open the damn door myself!"

    "I would not do that if I were you," Ren Zexian told him.

    "Why the hell not?" Tyler demanded.  A loud bang came from the other side of the gate, startling Tyler enough that he almost lost grip of the tree branches.  That bang was followed by another and another as well as bone chilling low growls.  Tyler paled, but cautiously proceeded to climb the branches and peer over the wall.  "Oh **..."

    His friends and comrades were no longer waiting behind the metal gate and within the shelter that they had formed with their own ingenuity and hard work.  There was only a nest of zombies there now.

    The squad looked grim as the reality fell upon them.  There was conjecture about how the virus entered their small base.  Was it contaminated water or did someone return with a hidden bite or scratch?  But it was all just words.  They would never truly know how.
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