Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 70: The Running Spine
The knight commander was right. They really didn’t lack food. There were many edible cacti in the desert, the roots of spiked spines, and fat gerbils who didn’t know where to get food. If they were lucky, they were able to catch a few round four-legged birds. Even the fuller goat had no shortage of food, and its enthusiasm for gnawing on cacti was fiercer than anyone else’s.
The biggest problem was the heat.
When it came to heat before, Nemo could think of the summer sun and the hot soles of his boots at most. The summer in Roadside Town wasn’t too hot, but even so, he still didn’t want to go out on days when the sun was too strong. Usually, he would nest in the deepest part of the library, directly below a cool breeze array, and then stick to the stone wall with a novel that had a description of a winter scene.
Now, it was different. Everything was hot. Even though Nemo covered his head with the dark shadow, the heat still pressured him from all sides. His whole body seemed to be stuffed into a red-hot metal tube, and every time he breathed, it felt like he was losing the last of the cool air that was left in his body.
Thus, he lay flat.
“…Nemo, you’re defaulting,” Ann said hoarsely, raising her hand and throwing a small piece of cactus into the sand at will. “Be a man. Since you have admitted defeat and dared gamble, you need to hold up your end and talk to Dylan.”
“But I’m dying,” Nemo responded sadly, crossing his fingers on his chest. He was lying flat on a large shadow, with some cover on his head, looking like he was imitating a half-shelled oyster. The black shadow stretched out countless tentacles and dragged the large oyster forward with difficulty, not much faster than the fuller goat. “Ann, if I really die, please be sure to leave my debt to Oliver.”
“Oliver is at least still standing,” Ann said coldly. “Even the goat is still standing—if someone were to die from the heat, that person would not be you. A demon warlock’s body is not that fragile.”
“Really?” Nemo reached out his hand from the shadows and shook the things in his hand. The gray parrot was slumped into a ball unknowingly, with an unnatural tongue that was hanging outside that kept getting longer and longer. “Superior demons are like this.”
“The bird’s body is too fragile,” Adrian explained. “It’s not very powerful now, so it’s not unusual… Don’t worry, it will get better at night. The night here will probably drop below zero degrees.”
“…” Nemo didn’t think that was “getting better”.
A few steps away, Oliver was still standing, but he seemed to have only half a breath left. As they went deep into the desert, there was little moisture in the air. Adrian’s conjecture was correct. This climate did have great restraint on both of them. At first, Oliver tried to make some ice to cool down, but now he couldn’t even conjure up a tiny piece of ice.
Nemo could barely help him out with his shadow.
“Don’t help him block it.” The knight commander instructed calmly, and even poked Oliver’s slightly hunched back with his bow. “Stand up straight, Mr. Ramon. This is the most basic… If you want to continue practicing.”
Oliver wiped the sweat from his face and gritted his teeth and walked forward, although his posture looked like his feet were forcibly dragging his body forward. In this atmosphere, Nemo didn’t want to continue lying down, so he sat up straight.
There seemed to be no change in Jesse Dylan. He didn’t even sweat a single drop, as if the endless wasteland was just a stage set. Seeing Nemo sitting up, he opened his mouth with interest—
“Help me!” As soon as Jesse was about to speak, he was interrupted by a hoarse cry for help from the distance. Nemo now seriously sat up and looked towards the source of the sound.
In the hot twisted air, a somewhat vague figure was waving desperately at them. “Help—”
But the team did not stop.
Nemo became distracted and stopped, suddenly falling behind. He quickly put away the dark shadow and was almost knocked down by the billowing heat on his face. After he stood firm, he found that he was not the only one who had stopped. Oliver was standing next to him, also looking at the figure, calling for help. His face was filled with doubts.
“Someone is asking for help over there!” Nemo yelled at the advancing team. Ann’s style had always been arbitrary, but even the knight commander seemed unmoved, which was a bit odd.
“That’s not a human!” Ann turned her head and shouted. She inhaled dust from the sand blown up by the wind and coughed a few times.
Nemo turned his head to look at the rickety figure who was trying to call for help, and goosebumps suddenly appeared.
“He didn’t come,” Oliver murmured, “…He’s not getting close.”
Nemo suddenly felt that the air wasn’t so hot anymore. “Then we…”
“You two, please help me! I’m really not a monster. My feet are trapped!” The figure became clearer, revealing the decent appearance of a typical businessman. “Please!”
“…He looks quite human,” Oliver whispered. He thought for a moment, then picked up a stone from the ground and threw it at the figure’s leg. Based on the speed of the stone’s flight, it didn’t seem like he needed to use much force.
The stone fell silently a few steps in front of the man, as if it had hit some invisible barrier.
The clear figure was distorted and its whole body spread out like melted butter in hot water. Its facial features became a tangled mess, turning into a fuzzy mass. It stretched out what were once its arms forward and leaned towards them.
The two of them glanced at each other, but they couldn’t even make a face in the heat, so they quickly turned and ran.
“What is that thing?” After catching up to the tail end of the team, Nemo asked in shock.
“That thing just now? That’s a tongue.” Jesse finally seized the opportunity to speak. “The mirage tongues in the desert. By the way, Mr. Ramon’s stone may have hit its jaw.”
“In other words…”
“It was asking you to walk into its mouth on your own volition.” Jesse sounded like he was in a good mood.
“…You all realize it at first glance?” Oliver sounded deflated.
“I’ve heard of it.” Jesse shrugged. “That thing can’t speak human words on its own. Although those few words of help sound similar, they are different from the voices of people. You are really the most naïve snake-level I have ever seen. You’re quite lucky to have survived until now.”
A familiar voice faintly came from behind, that was slow to fast, astringent to smooth.
“Someone is asking for help over there!” Nemo heard his voice coming from a distance, and then Oliver’s. “…He didn’t come over.”
Finally, it was Ann’s voice.
“That’s not a human.”
“That’s not a human.”
“That’s not a human.”
It was repeated over and over again. The slightly low female voice echoed in the wind. Nemo shivered and hurriedly took a few more steps forward. Despite the loud wind, he could hear Ann and Adrian’s small talk clearly at this distance.
“Have those two been bitten?” Ann asked leisurely.
“It doesn’t sound like it,” Adrian replied quietly, still holding a bow in his hand.
“It doesn’t seem like they’re stupid,” the female warrior said with relief.
Unlike Jesse Dylan, the two veteran soldiers didn’t even bother to look back. Nemo suddenly felt tired. He and Oliver walked dejectedly together and began to make a fuss about everything that seemed normal on the road. In a way, this was a good thing. At least their attention had been distracted a little bit by the high temperature.
It was a pity that the next cactus was only a cactus, and the stone was just a stone. No other strange monsters reappeared. The scene in front of him kept repeating, and the annoying high heat once again became impossible to ignore.
Until a pile of strange things appeared in their vision.
Originally, the scene in front of them was cut into two flat pieces; half was the desert and the other half the sky, but now the two pure color blocks began to mix with impurities. Several strange towers stood in the distance, with strange shapes that didn’t look like man-made objects.
“Go over there to rest tonight.” Adrian pointed to the towers that seemed to be fixed on the horizon.
At this moment, the sun began to set to the west, and the temperature was no longer unbearable. Nemo’s steps suddenly became a lot lighter, and even the gray parrot could flutter its wings and fly a few steps. Oliver did his best to freeze a few small pucks of ice, although they all knew that as the temperature dropped, the utility of this thing would be greatly reduced.
After walking through the desert for most of the day, Nemo’s deerskin boots were filled at least halfway with sand. Now that everything was back on track, he grabbed Oliver and planned to lean on him so he could empty out the sand in his boots.
Suddenly, a huge spine passed between the two of them.
Oh, spine. Nemo thought lightly. He almost dropped the boots in his hands in the next second.
He looked at the giant spine-like thing in horror. Oliver didn’t look much better either. He stared blankly at the monster next to him, subconsciously trying to draw his sword, but he instead grabbed the deerskin boot that Nemo was holding.
The two of them subconsciously froze in place.
The spine went away leisurely and swam on the sand like a snake, making a pleasant rustling sound. Seeing that it finally crawled away, the two of them breathed a sigh of relief at the same time. Nemo numbly snatched the deerskin boot from Oliver’s hand and shook off the remaining sand inside, then changed his foot and took off his other boot.
“Your whole body is so stiff.” Nemo continued to support Oliver as his eyes were fixated on the sole under his feet as he focused on emptying out the sand in his boot. “No way, Ollie.”
“…I think that’s probably because…” Oliver’s voice was dry and cautious “…The one you’re leaning on isn’t me?”
Nemo’s movement paused for a few seconds. He solemnly put down the deerskin boots and shook the sand clean, then put them on carefully before taking a few steps back…
A small bone joint more than half a person tall at the end of the spine fell out of line. It was standing beside them in a daze, staring straight at the two of them with four black bean-like eyes.
On a closer look, the gap between it and the spine was quite large, but the slightly yellowish white shell was close to the shape. A face belonging to a reptile was exposed where there was supposed to be a cross-section of bone, but it was surprisingly flat, like a lizard who had flattened its face on a wall to survive. There was a thin tail that dragged behind the shell that was covered with silver powder-like scales.
No wonder he felt something was wrong. Oliver shouldn’t have turned around to let it lean on him. Nemo controlled the dark shadows between his fingers but couldn’t find the strength to defend. The small creature looked at them pitifully before rolling over stiffly on the spot.
“…Forget it.” Oliver put away his sword. His expression twitched a little. “Even if it’s dangerous, you should be able to defend against it by yourself.”
Nemo nodded with a sullen face.
It turned out that their trouble had just begun. The two had just taken a few steps forward when the thing whizzed up. As soon as their footsteps stopped, the monster would stop immediately. Nemo sighed, turned his head, causing the bone-like creature to immediately pretend to drop dead.
“Are they in trouble again?” The small talk of the team ahead came again.
“Seems like it,” Adrian answered the question for the female warrior.
“Cross… Let’s just throw them away.”