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415 The Road Back, A Bumpy Ride Around and Across the Mountains

 Day 71 - 10:21 AM - Marikina-Infanta Highway, Barangay Alas-Asin, Santa Maria, Laguna

Early in the morning, Mark and his group left New Infanta Settlement. The officials of the military and even the soldiers that participated in the mission were in complete attendance to see them off. There was also Emika and her family. Emika and Mikio seemed to want to come along. However, they could not.

Differently from when they arrived, the soldiers and their families were not with the group anymore. They were replaced by Pearl and the Salvador family joining the group. Unexpectedly, there were a few people that remained loyal to their family despite abolishing their power and joining the military settlement. Aside from the five members of the Salvador family, there were also four Mutators with them.

Of course, Mark had no problems with these four to join in. In fact, they already proved their personalities for being loyal to Darren's family even if they did not have any authority within the settlement. Mark also did not detect any ill intent from them. Rather, they seemed to be more excited as they looked at Mark like seeing a popular actor.

They left New Infanta Settlement a few minutes after sunrise. However, the drive back alone was long. They just arrived at the barangay where they left Chaflar to guard the supplies could not carry anymore.

There was a small town here in this barangay which seemed to be untouched since the start of the apocalypse. However, it seemed that the cause of deaths in this place were mutated animals than the infected. Traces of blood could be seen everywhere but the dead bodies were almost non-existent. This was the difference between the behaviors of the infected and Mutated animals.

The infected might eat dead corpses on the spot, especially the Biters. Still, they would leave a huge mess of an unfinished meal after they felt full. On the other hand, Mutated animals were more prone to drag their meal somewhere safer or their nest before eating. That was the reason for the non-existent corpses in the area despite the traces of deaths almost everywhere.

Reaching the place where they left the supplies taken from the mansion, they immediately saw the dragon sleeping like a log. As for the reason of its current state, just looking at the bones and blood scattered around the area, anyone would understand.

\"Hey, you lazy dragon.\"

Mark started kicking Chaflar on its side to wake it up.

Feeling something heavily hitting its scales, Chaflar annoyedly opened its eyes. Seeing Mark, it hastily opened its eyes wide and bounced back in surprise. The dragon was like a dog caught doing something bad.

Well, Mark had no plan to blame it at all. Even though Chaflar was a reptile that did not need food too much, it would still love to eat. Back within the confines of the city, there was no way for it to eat live animals that could satisfy it enough. Being back in its natural habitat, it might have gone and hunt as much food as it could before falling asleep.

Seeing that Chaflar was already awake, Mark spoke.

\"We're going to get some of the supplies but you will stay here, alright? We'll be back for the rest of the supplies later. Guard this place properly.\"

Seeing that Mark was not angry, Chaflar felt relieved. It nodded intently though it just looked like a huge lizard bobbing its head.

\"Big brother, your dragon is really well tamed, isn't it?\"

Annica suddenly came to look at Chaflar. This made the dragon look at the girl since she was quite unfamiliar.

\"What I did with this dragon is different from your ability. Mine is only applicable to those intelligent enough. Your ability is more useful even to those with lower intelligence. So, expect that you will need to use that ability a whole lot at the base.\"

Mark replied.

\"I don't mind. That is in exchange for our protection, right?\"

Annica said without hesitation. She knew her role well it seemed.

Mark looked at everyone loading as many supplies into the vehicle as possible. Because most of the people of the Salvador Family knew how to drive, they managed to request three pickups from the military. This way, they would have more space to transport supplies.

The loading of the supplies took longer than before. Without the soldiers, their manpower was severely lessened. Because of that, they decided to eat lunch first before continuing on the road.

Of course, this time, the road was different.

After leaving Chaflar behind once more, they entered a branching road going away from Marikina-Infanta Highway. It was not a concrete road, however. It was a dirt road going up a hill and would lead to some of the most rural places in the area.

The road was not too bumpy, however, it was still an uncomfortable ride. Because of the road going up and down, the speed of their travel was rather inconsistent.

There was another road which was flatter and was more developed. They would have used that if not for the fact that they would need another hour or more of travel to get there and the entrance to that road was way closer to the termite nest. This was the shortest route they could take right now.

Along the uneven road, they encountered quite a number of mutated animals and insects. Nevertheless, aside for a few feral ones, most of them ran away at the sight of several vehicles and Gifre.

As for those that tried to hinder the group, they would become the menu for dinner. Of course, the animals and not the insects. Even though the insects had already gone larger, not all people would want to eat these insects unless they were too desperate for food.

***

Day 71 - 1:32 PM - Makaira-Daraitan Road, Madilay-dilay, Tanay, Rizal

After almost an hour at the dirt road, they reached Makaira-Daraitan Road, the only road that would lead to Barangay Daraitan.

It was the main road in this area. Nevertheless, despite being the main road towards Barangay Daraitan and the tourist spots nearby, the road was pretty much an isolated one.

There were very few houses on the roadside and there was more flora to be seen along the way. Furthermore, there was barely any vehicle abandoned by the roadside. Most of the vehicles were even parked properly which meant that the owners did not manage to use these vehicles to leave at all.

Despite those, not a soul could be seen around. Not even a single infected on the streets.

Nevertheless, Mark and the others managed to notice something odd.

Mark went down the vehicle to investigate some stores they passed by.

The very few stores on the road were rather looted cleanly. If it was obvious that the owners tried to keep their things, it would be fine. However, everything that was not edible or usable was still left. There was also the difference between the dust gathered on the tables and counters.

If things were left untouched for a long time, the thickness of dust would rather look evenly spread. However, the spots where the dust was rather thin clearly left the mark where some food containers were placed before. This made it obvious that whoever took the items did it after a long while.

Furthermore, in Mark's estimate, the thinness of the dust at those spots indicated that the items were taken not long ago. Probably a few days or so. Of course, it was still not sure. Maybe a week or more had passed already.

It made everyone wonder if someone passed by this place in the same direction they were going.

With those thoughts, they continued on the road.

As they went deeper this isolated road, the sceneries had gone contrary to what they expected. The more they continued, the more structures and houses they saw on the roadside.

Of course, it was quite understandable if anyone tried to think why.

There as barely anything along the road. However, business and work opportunities exist at the ends of this road where tourist locations existed. Anyone who knew their priorities would surely live near these locations.

However, it also meant that more animals present as these places were where they found more humans as food. Because of that, Mark and his group encountered more animals along the way. It was a pity that they could not carry any more carcasses and they could only leave the dead animals by the roadside.

Still, Mark had to do some inventory sorting and made Gifre prioritize carrying more things than fighting. It was because some of the animals they killed had useful body parts such as spiny scales or hard shells. Even if these parts could not be used as weapons or armor, these could still be used for traps and other things.

Midway, they finally reached the highest point they could go on this road. It was not because it was a dead end. In fact, Makaira-Daraitan Road still continued up the mountainous path. However, as they reached the forked road, they needed to take Daraitan Road that would go down the hill.

This was the final stretch of road before they would reach the very same barangay where Mark first met Miracle and some of the [Blood Children].

Nevertheless, they noticed something which made them traverse the road more carefully.

In the middle of the dust-covered road, footprints could be seen. Not animal footprints but footprints that belonged to humans. Furthermore, the footprints did not only belong to a single person but a group. As Mark investigated, there were seven different footprints according to the print left from their shoes.

It also seemed that they had traversed this road several times before as the same footprints could be seen going different directions and at different times. It was very probable that these were the same people that scavenged the stores along the way. However, those stores were probably scavenged first as Mark did not notice footprints in those areas.

Even though they became careful, it was actually unnecessary. They did not encounter any ambush or humans along the rest of the way.

After a few minutes, they finally saw the clearing allowing them to see the mountain ranges in the northeast. In front of them, the part of the very same Agos River that flowed northwest of New Infanta Settlement could be seen.

Being a tourist location and a resort area, the scene by the riverside was soothing.

Well, it was like that if the rule out the fact that they could see the wreckage of a large passenger plane just on the other side of the river.

Unfortunately, they had no time to enjoy this scene yet.

As such, the whole group crossed the river in their vehicles.

There was a wooden bridge that allowed medium-sized and lighter vehicles to cross. As for the lorry, however, they had to make it across the shallow part of the river. The river was rocky which made it easier for them to cross despite feeling uncomfortable. In the least, they did not get stuck because of mud.

Finally, they entered the vicinity of Barangay Daraitan.

Mark could not help but scratch his head.

After they cleaned up this place during scavenging and training, it seemed that some people stumbled here. It looked like the owners of the footprints decided to live in this place this while when he went off to fetch Mei and the others.

Furthermore, there were more of them. From what he could detect, there were actually thirty people. They occupied the small elementary school northeast of the barangay.

Well, he had no problems with it as long as they were not hostile. He would not hesitate to eradicate them if they made an idiotic move.

Of course, the lookouts of the new group also spotted them. They were ready to fight in case Mark's group were to attack first. Still, they were hesitant as Mark's group did not look like easy pickings at all and more of a threat just with Gifre alone. Rather, they seemed that they did not want to fight at all.

Seeing Mark's group was just passing by, the lookouts sighed in relief. Still, they were confused as to why a group of vehicles would go to a direction that was supposed to go up the mountains. Sure enough, these people thought of the road leading up to a base of survivors there.

Exiting from the east side of Barangay Daraitan, they had to traverse a long dirt road along the rocky riverside.

Seeing the end of that dirt road that was supposed to be a dead-end, Mark smiled.

Huey and the others surely did their job properly.

A road that was not there before was properly made. It was one of the tasks he left for them since it would be troublesome to travel without a good road to traverse up the mountains.

It was not the best kind of road, still, it was better than nothing.

After two more hours of a bumpy ride and uncomfortable, Mark and his group finally arrived at the base between the two mountains.

The scene there as they arrived, of course, made Mark scratch his head and frown at the same time.