Stray Ch168

Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong

Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/


Chapter 168: Mutation

Pretending to be killed was much harder than they thought.

Except for individual majors that didn’t need to go on the battlefield, a few mediocre talents would be mixed in. Despite their aristocratic origins, those who could enter the combat major of Clementine Academy were all genuine elites. These young men could also be assistants to generals after graduation and they would not make the low-level mistake of losing teammates at the beginning of training. The two commanders had a clear division of labor and the joint army composed of two groups was walking on the flat snow, skillfully avoiding the dangerous narrow roads or the dense mountain walls of the lairs of monsters.

To disappear in this situation, it was estimated that they could only pretend to faint, and then roll down the gentle slope into the bottom of the valley.

The sun hadn’t set yet and the sky was clear again, and the reflection of the snow was very dazzling. Nemo chatted with Oliver in whispers and wandered at the end of the team with a very improper attitude.

“We may have to wait for the sun to go down.” He poked the skeleton helmet disguised as decoration on Oliver’s bag melancholically. “There are no powerful auras nearby and it’s not like we could pretend to be defeated by a snowfield droopy-eared rabbit.”

“You’re right,” Oliver responded in a low voice. “Have you seen a snowfield droopy-eared rabbit? That’s at least an ingredient.”

At present, the team was still advancing steadily, and the glacier where the glacier mammoth was located was still some distance away. Probably taking into account how much consumption it took for the people treading on ice and snow, the students entered the maze after lunch. For the time being, it wasn’t time for logistics to start worrying. They didn’t receive the task of finding food or setting up camp, so they were idle.

Oliver had even planned ahead and began to consider possible recipes for dinner for the entire regiment.

“Let me make an analogy,” Nemo quickly interrupted Oliver’s thoughts. “In terms of strength.”

Except for the few combatants who were assigned to prevent unexpected situation, the auxiliary personnel basically followed at the end of the team. They hung at the end like this, so it didn’t look particularly conspicuous.

Nemo bounced a little and saw the light blue top of a large piece of ice floe from behind the snow mount. They were getting closer to the glaciers…

Maybe they could only slip away in the middle of the night. The glacier mammoth was no bigger than a snake-maned lion, but they were as cautious as a fox caught in a trap. If they guessed correctly, compared to the last combat capability test, the focus of this one was probably teamwork, personnel control, and offensive strategy.

The two groups were specially arranged to work together most likely as a consideration for safety issues.

There were many naturally formed ice arches and strangely shaped giant ice cubes near the glaciers. They could find an excuse to leave temporarily after nightfall, then hide in those maze-like ice cubes. By the time the team members found that they were gone, the two of them would already be deep into the maze.

The snow under their boots made a dull creaking sound, getting thicker and thicker that it had almost buried half their calves. Nemo had already discovered a lot of spatial folding points. He was so bored that he began to calculate the possible ways forward. It was still far from nightfall, and he was ready to chat with Oliver for the rest of the day.

Everything was very peaceful, and there wasn’t even a beast in their field of vision.

This time Ollie stopped first. Nemo’s body stopped instinctively, still making calculations in his mind, and he almost stumbled into the thick snow.

“What’s the matter?”

“Something’s wrong.” Oliver grabbed a handful of snow and squeezed it casually. “The aura is too weak.”

“Right?” Nemo raised his eyebrows. “This place is really calm, and the level of those two commanders are really good.” The academy equipped each commander with the most basic topographic map, but the knowledge of specific routes was gone. From the habitats of demons and beasts to snow conditions in a specific climate, everything had to be calculated.

“Although there are some small bugs, the aura is not all…” Halfway through, Nemo broke off.

The aura was indeed too weak to be worth mentioning as they whizzed around under the snow. It felt like ordinary snow ants, although their number was really large, he didn’t really mind.

But now those auras were gathering.

“The aura is very weak, but it’s not normal that there’s only such a thing around.” Oliver frowned. “I also sense hostility.”

Nemo took a deep breath and felt it hard, but he could only feel the snow grains on his face and the chilling cold wind, so he could only provide what he knew. “To be honest, I can only think it could be snow ants from this strength… They don’t attack humans. But…”

“But?”

“Snow ants don’t have such exaggerated gathering behavior.” Those tiny auras gathered in the permafrost below the snow layer and became less tiny. “But if it isn’t snow ants, other than that it’s just— Fuck!”

Nemo suddenly raised his voice, but unfortunately, he was blown away by the oncoming cold wind and a few people looked back at him as a result.

“It’s a corpse-controlled stinger,” he complained with a pale face and pulled Oliver’s thick coat in his hand and strode forward. “Isn’t this thing extinct?”

“But I don’t sense any demonic… energy.”

“They are good at concealment.” Nemo gritted his teeth and hissed. Before those little things were scattered everywhere, he didn’t have any obvious feelings, but now he wouldn’t mistake it. “Didn’t we talk about abyssal magic? As the source, I’ll never mistake this fluctuation. They are converging to me… paying taxes to me.” Nemo used a simpler analogy. “This can’t be hidden. They are corpse-controlled stingers, not snow ants on the surface.”

Oliver’s expression went blank for a few seconds.

“How strong is it?” When he spoke again, he tried his best to remain calm. 

“It’s hard to say.” Nemo shook his head. The snowflakes on the tips of his hair were shaken off. “If there are no remains of powerful creatures nearby, then they do not pose any threat.”

“But this place looks quite old—”

“Ollie, don’t…”

“Well, if it’s a human remains—”

“Ollie!”

Directly in front of the team, a white dragon surfaced from the snow.

Strictly speaking, it wasn’t really a dragon, but a fake product made of “snowflakes” wrapped in debris which made it looked even funny at first glance. Even so, when the dragon that seemed to be piled up in snow opened its mouth, the joke-like idea completely disappeared from the minds of the crowd.

The mouth that was still falling snow residue opened extremely wide, spewing out an ice flame with a trace of dragon breath.

“…Ollie.” In the chaos, Nemo buried his face in his palm. “Remember to hold back.”

“The dragon bones turned out to be there.” Oliver looked at the snow dragon and his face almost became as white as snow. “I… I definitely didn’t summon it.”

“I know. Just asking for a good omen.”

Corpse-controlled stingers were extremely ancient demonic insects shaped like snowflakes. They inhabited the permafrost. If one were to look at its power, they weren’t much stronger than the average beetle, but they have an extremely deadly skill— Borrowing the power of a corpse.

They would attach to the bones of other creatures and use the information in the bones to restore the original appearance, physical power, and a very small part of the magical abilities of the creature. They would use this new body to kill their prey, wait for the flesh to cool completely, then slowly devour it. If they attached to chicken bones, the combat effectiveness would never exceed the level of a chicken. Scholars were once troubled by whether this thing was a subordinate demon or an intermediate demon. In the end, considering the probability of coincidence, people reluctantly classified them as subordinate demons.

But now they possessed a dragon’s bones.

Corpse-controlled stingers weren’t without weakness. They could pile up strength, but they couldn’t match the intelligence. Their brains were as equivalent to a mussel, and they usually act instinctively. As long as you dealt with them carefully, they weren’t too difficult of an opponent.

The problem was that this ancient demon insect had long been extinct in theory, and no one could figure out what they were. They were more worried about the ice flame that was hurtling towards them. The commander was a little flustered for a moment and several soldiers were almost caught in the flame.

“Think of a way to distract them, and then we take advantage of the chaos to retreat.” Ollie quickly made the decision. “I’ll just—”

However, before he could make a move, someone acted first.

The noble warrior Leonard reacted extremely quickly, and before the others could react from the impact of the snow dragon, he once again took the lead and rushed out. The broad sword in his hand cut solidly into the decaying dragon bones and the corpse-controlled stingers. The snow dragon mouth enlarged and roared silently at him, then directly arched its head towards Leonard.

The little nobleman neatly raised his sword to defend and held his balance hard. He stopped beautifully on the edge of the snow slope, lowered his body, and rushed to the snow dragon’s feet again to deal another heavy blow. The bones of the corpse were too old, and the fragile leg made an ear-piercing cracking sound. The snow dragon body tilted and was no longer worried about the broken bone. With lesser magic this time, the snow dragon once again spewed out an ice flame towards Leonard who rolled on the spot and decisively dodged it.

“Looks like we don’t need to make a move now.” Seeing the soldiers react, they gathered around. Oliver stopped striding out. “The hostility of that thing is weakening. When it drains all the powers from the bones, it’ll scatter and flee without incident.”

“Nn.” Nemo stared at the struggling soldiers and agreed with his lover’s view.

Unfortunately, just as he finished speaking for less than two minutes, a sudden changed occurred.

The corpse-controlled stingers used up the power of the bones and gave up. The huge bone dragon smashed down from the sky, hitting a warrior who wasn’t mentally prepared. He immediately fainted to the ground and rolled down the snowy slopes with the bones.

Below the snow slope was a large unnatural vortex, which was constantly changing shapes. The air there seemed to like a gelatinous substance, being roughly stirred, and the scenery coming from behind it was distorted.

The space folding point caused by the labyrinth reset.

Leonard leaned out of his body without hesitation and grabbed his companion who was sliding. He climbed the snowy slope sweating profusely, for fear that the power from spells would cause unnecessary snow collapse from the snow crust. Just as he pushed his companion to the top of the snow slow, the stone under his feet couldn’t bear it any longer suddenly loosened and fell off.

Leonard’s entire body slid down with the collapsed snow shell, and before he could scream, his figure was instantly swallowed by the twisted vortex.

“Stay away from there!” The commander immediately ordered. “He’s an excellent warrior with a clear will, and he’ll be fine! If something really happens, even if you go in…”

Hayden didn’t hesitate.

No one paid attention to the short male nurse. The thin young man decisively crossed the snow slope and took the initiative to plunge into the vortex. Then came Elmer who was standing next to him. The big young man was stunned for a moment, scratching his head, with an unexpected confusion on his face, but his steps were still firm.

“…All retreat to me!” the commander’s voice broke a bit. “It— It’s probably dangerous over there! You heard the warning from the school, don’t be stupid and be a hero at this time!”

“Soldier, nursing, logistic,” Marilyn Lawler said softly. She stared at the team of healers who obediently retreated, without any expression on her face. “They need a healer.”

“’No survivors shall be abandoned’,” she sighed after a while. “’I must walk in the world with kindness, and anyone who’s injured or sick will be treated’… Since the damage is irreparable, I prefer to increase the survival rate of my companions.”

The beautiful girl let out a sneer, and then slid gracefully into the vortex.

The vortex continued to change and was about to disappear.

“Uh, although this situation is quite embarrassing.” Oliver packed his backpack, grabbed Nemo’s wrist, and the two rushed to the vortex together. “But it doesn’t look bad for the two of us, right?”

The logistics department’s deserter was uncharacteristically smiling. “Goodbye, everyone!”

The swirling vortex completely disappeared.

When Quentin Leonard stood up from the hot and humid jungle, half of his heart felt tragic heroism while the other half was completely dumbfounded. The noble warrior took off the badge with an insulation spell painted on it from his armor and clenched the broadsword in his hand…

Then Hayden, who came later, smashed into the ground and almost vomited blood.

“You…”

Then came Elmer causing Hayden who was hit below to let out a muffled groan. If Leonard hadn’t been wearing armor, he would probably have broken his rib by now.

“I’m sorry.” Elmer scratched his head, quickly moved his big body and carried Hayden to the side while Leonard rolled his eyes and was just about to stand up…

When Marilyn fell gracefully and landed beautifully half-kneeling on Leonard’s back. She glanced at the warrior under her feet, frowned, and crushed her heel twice before casting a healing spell.

“…” Leonard couldn’t say anything despite the instantaneous healing of his injuries. He took a deep breath and propped his hands on the ground…

“I’m sorry,” Oliver said dryly, jumping off Leonard’s back. This time Nemo moved more neatly than him, as his Demon King even calculated the place to land in advance. Although Oliver himself noticed something wrong below, his movements weren’t as proficient.

“Is there anyone else?” Leonard hissed angrily. “If there is, I’ll just lie here.”

“The vortex has disappeared.” Nemo patted the snowflakes off his body and looked curiously at the jungle around him. “No one will come.”

“So it’s…only you who are here,” Leonard murmured.

He could probably guess why Hayden and Elmer came down first, and he felt grateful for it from the bottom of his heart. It was an unexpected joy that Marilyn would follow.

There seems to be no shortage of food and water in this environment. The noble warrior was confident in his own strength. Coupled with Elmer’s logistics equipment, if they act carefully, the possibility of successfully holding on before rescue came was high. However, Leonard couldn’t figure out the purpose of Oliver Borne and the little snowflake White. There was no friendship between them and the grievances weren’t deep enough that the two would come down and sacrifice their lives just to pit him.

Six people stood opposite of each other silently creating an awkward and tense atmosphere.

“Everyone, I have memorized the relevant information,” Marilyn was first to speak. “There have been more than 500 cases of distress among students in the Great Isamel Labyrinth. We have had more than 500 cases before, and the record of the fastest rescue is two weeks. Overall, the mortality rate is about 30-40%, but we’ve been lucky here. Some have been thrown into the desert or swamp.” She lifted her chin and looked around the room. “I can deal with most of the wounds and toxins if I can make sure there’s enough food.”

“Well, I think we will be fine,” Elmer glanced at Oliver carefully, and added in a jarring voice. “First of all, we have to, ahem, scout and find out the situation nearby, and then find a safe place to camp.”

“If you are not in a hurry, it is better to recover your strength first.” Hayden’s shrinking look disappeared again, looking extremely calm.

“I also agree to take a break.” The little nobleman narrowed his eyes and turned his face to the remaining two.

“Let’s have a chat first. For example… I’m very curious about the intentions of the two of you.” He raised his voice slightly. “After all, you two don’t look a couple of busybodies.”


The author has something to say:

Oliver & Nemo: I’m so moved. It’s the first time I’ve received such an evaluation. I even want to record it for Ann to play in a loop (……

Ann: Hehe.


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