Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 2: Virtual and Reality
When Shu Jun woke up again, he saw the cloudy sky that belonged to night.
He wasn’t in the place where he had fallen into the Erosion Swamp. The huge Erosion Swamp was nowhere to be found, replaced by jagged and weird rocks that surrounded him. As far as the eye could see, the world was only black, white, and gray. There was no one around; only deformed monsters that were pacing slowly in the stone forest.
Shu Jun was a little confused.
The mechanical battle armor had fallen into pieces, exposing his entire upper body, and his injuries were slowly healing. The communication device on his forearm barely functioned and emitted an occasional crackling static sound.
His gaze moved along the broken metal.
His skin should be a healthy wheat color, but now it looked like it was covered with a layer of dust, slightly whitened but also somewhat dull. Shu Jun subconsciously rubbed his forearm, and this action left a bloody mark on it.
His fingers weren’t right either. The nails that were originally trimmed had become sharp, a bit like the claws of a beast, and the color had turned opaque black.
Shu Jun gulped and swallowed. He did what any normal person would do—tried to open the communicator and contact the administrator.
However, the broken communicator only crackled with no intention of working.
Shu Jun, who had lost his goal, slowly laid back down and looked up at the night sky. If this was a dream, it was almost time to wake up. At some point, a contaminated mutant beast approached and looked down at him.
Shu Jun and that thing stared wide-eyed at each other for a while. The mutant beast blinked and gathered its six eyes into a pile. Its eyeballs were spinning as its saliva dripped onto Shu Jun’s face.
Shu Jun: “……”
It was too close. This distance wasn’t good to use wind. It was better to be gnawed on by this thing than to drown in the Erosion Swamp. He glanced around with the corner of his eyes but didn’t even catch a glimpse of the hilt of his greatsword.
The mutant beast opened its mouth, and a rancid smell washed over Shu Jun’s face. Shu Jun peeked at the thing’s throat, thinking about whether it was going to bite down, when the thing took its next step…
And firmly licked him.
Seeing that this thing had no intention of attacking, Shu Jun boldly stretched out his hand and decided to try the only thing at hand that could be considered a weapon—the claws on his fingertips.
As a result, as soon as his hand stretched about five centimeters, the mutant beast drooped its ears and ran away.
…The situation was getting more ridiculous.
Shu Jun stood up. Except for fatigue and pain from his wounds, there were no other abnormalities in his body. Once he got rid of this bug, he would definitely file a complaint with the <Erosion> officials.
The cold mud wasn’t suitable for resting. He found a cave that was a suitable size and was slightly higher in the stone forest. Shu Jun threw off most of his torn and tattered shoes and began to climb the weird rocks barefoot, collecting his thoughts during the process.
<Erosion> had been in operation for many years and always emphasized a realistic, immersive experience. They had never encountered such a serious bug before. However, now, when he tried to exit the game, he encountered failures, map errors, and model abnormalities. He only wanted to retire early, but he didn’t expect to receive a gift bundle of bugs in his face.
Shu Jun took a few deep breaths and cranked his neck.
…There was definitely someone out there trying to solve this issue. No matter what, he had to stay calm. Moreover, <Erosion> didn’t focus on an apocalyptic theme, so he wouldn’t be pushed to the brink of survival.
In the setting of <Erosion>, the world was once destroyed. Humans had revived a special life form from the polar regions. This microorganism named “Erosion Substance” accidentally leaked out and rapidly spread, devouring the entire human civilization at a terrifying speed.
They dyed the dead black, white, and gray and led creatures to abnormal mutation directions, which could be considered a type of “living radiation”. The so-called “Erosion Swamp” was a monster formed by gathering such things.
Fortunately, the survivors found a way to deal with it, and the purifier was invented in time to prevent the spread of erosion. The world was now in its first stages of civilized revival. It was easier to come up with interesting designs for the background of this era.
Players were the only group with abilities in the game and belonged to the United Government. Those who remained on the battlefield were mostly soldiers, who were on the front lines of purifying erosion.
The soldiers were equivalent to heroes in the game setting and were treated well. Even if combat players were trapped in the game, as long as they could find an NPC stronghold, they could comfortably wait for rescue.
He didn’t know which aspects the bug specifically affected, but he might be able to pass on some information to the outside world.
After determining his goal, Shu Jun felt a lot more relaxed. It was just that the situation was still a bit odd—there had been no major updates recently, so how could there be such a serious problem?
When it came to the plot update on the NPC side, he only heard one thing from his team members. The Grand Marshal of the United Government broke up with his girlfriend, whom he had been with for many years, but this kind of gossip plot shouldn’t lead to a program crash.
Thinking of the Grand Marshal of the United Government, Shu Jun couldn’t help but snort.
The game setting wasn’t important for these practical combatants. This NPC was their nominal superior, but he rarely appeared in person. Even if he did appear, he remained silent, wearing a gas mask on his face and revealing only a pair of eyes without much emotion.
The Grand Marshal of the United Government, Zhu Yanchen, was a formidable strategic talent in the game setting. His uniform was always tightly wrapped, and he covered himself completely with a mask, collar, and gloves. If it weren’t for the particularly cold look in his eyes when he glanced over, Shu Jun always felt that he was more like a robot.
The game designer really planned a girlfriend for such a person… or rather, an ex-girlfriend.
Shu Jun pursed his lips as he carefully climbed up the cave. The stone platform was cool but dry, which was much better than the muddy ground. The erosion in the heights wasn’t serious. He took a breath of the chilly night air, which dissipated the burning sensation in his lungs as if it had never existed.
A light shone through the stone forest beyond the horizon. That was probably a military stronghold in the game. After finding the destination for tomorrow, Shu Jun nestled into the cave and quickly fell asleep.
On the other side of the horizon, the interior of the stronghold was in chaos.
Zhu Yanchen sat at a desk, feeling as cold as an ice sculpture. No one wanted to stay in that suffocating office; only one person persistently rushed towards it.
“Miss Xia, you can’t go in. The Marshal, he’s now… uh, in a bad mood.”
“Even if we’re broken up, he won’t treat me as an enemy.” Xia Liang raised her teary eyes. “He needs me. Let me see him, please.”
The guard at the door choked, but in the end, he was no match for her tears offensive and let her in. The beautiful girl picked up her dress, thanked the guard pitifully, and disappeared on the other side of the door.
“Sir, is the scene cleared?”
As soon as the door was closed, that weak appearance disappeared instantly, and Xia Liang’s expression turned cold. She stared at Zhu Yanchen, who was behind the table, with an unhappy expression on her face.
“I told you in advance that I have a date with my girlfriend at this time. You specifically summoned your nominal ‘ex-girlfriend’, so the situation must not be good.”
“Something happened to Shu Jun,” Zhu Yanchen said concisely.
Xia Liang crossed her arms in a manner that was very inconsistent with her image and furrowed her brows tightly. “Haven’t you been discussing tactics with him all this time? How can something go wrong fighting that monster?
“In order for his team to win, he fell into the Erosion Swamp. I tried to intercede but couldn’t make it in time.”
“……” Xia Liang was silent for a moment. “Unfortunately, his way of dying leaves no bones behind. There’s no way to find him.”
“It was my mistake.”
Zhu Yanchen lowered his eyes. His handsome face was full of dark clouds.
Despite pretending to be a couple for several years, Xia Liang had never seen him show such obvious emotions. She only liked women, so in order to escape an arranged marriage by her family, she hit it off with Zhu Yanchen, who wanted to avoid a political marriage, and declared they were dating—one of them was a singer who performed all over the place, while the other had rooted himself in his office. They hardly ever met in person, which saved them the trouble of putting on their act.
If it weren’t for the two families urging marriage, they wouldn’t have released the news about their breakup.
Over the years, the two of them became acquaintances. On the opposite side, Marshal Zhu basically had no private life or hobbies and only worked mechanically day by day. Xia Liang thought this person’s feelings wouldn’t fluctuate by nature.
Having said that, Shu Jun was the most powerful humanoid weapon under Zhu Yanchen, so it wasn’t like his emotions were completely incomprehensible.
“If you ask me, you’ve been paying too much attention to that guy. It’s a pity that your weapon broke, but wouldn’t it be nice to get a new one?” Facing an acquaintance, she didn’t bother to hide her bad temper. “So, why did you call me over?”
“Shortly after he fell into the Erosion Swamp, it moved as a whole. The situation is quite abnormal.”
“I see. Those guys above will definitely pull you to study together. You want me to lead your personal team to investigate this matter privately.”
“Yes. Go with the Fourth Squadron to investigate this matter.”
After that, Zhu Yanchen took out a chip and put it on the table. “I called you here mainly because of this—the chip used in the plan. This is now under your care.”
“You want to continue to promote that plan? How troublesome. I should have guessed this day would come when we made that agreement.” Xia Liang put the chip into her satchel and then gave a standard military salute. “Yes, sir.”
Zhu Yanchen nodded. The emotions that seemed like they were illusions had long since disappeared. Xia Liang could tell this guy had sealed himself in a shell again.
However, they weren’t friends, and she wasn’t interested in Zhu Yanchen’s personal matters, so she didn’t intend to pry. It was just that, as a subordinate, she still had to fulfill her responsibilities…
“Oh, by the way, let me remind you. Since I’m now transferred to the Fourth Squadron, I need time to hand over what I have in hand. No matter how many people you have on your side, you have to find someone to guide the Blackbirds.”
Before going out, Xia Liang turned her head.
“There are quite a lot of people who keep in touch with Shu Jun. We can’t let them find out—”
“—They must not be allowed to discover that ‘over there’ is virtual, and ‘over here’ is reality.”
Wait, what? The bombshell already dropped? This isn’t like Nian Zhong style. Usually, such huge bombshells are revealed 150+ chapters in.
Note: Zhu Yanchen is the gong in this novel. His alias is Smoke [Yanchen] (烟尘) which translated would be mean soot/smoke & dust. The Yanchen (延辰) in his name is different Chinese characters. Throughout the novel, Shu Jun would refer to either of them. To distinguish between them, Smoke will be used when he’s referring to the alias, while Yanchen will be used when referring to Zhu Yanchen himself.
Sometimes Shu Jun would call Smoke A’Yan (阿烟) as an affectionate way to address him. This will be kept in pinyin because there’s no good translation for it in English.
So while Shu Jun is talking, he may be referring to either Zhu Yanchen or Smoke, which is the same person. Just keep this in mind.
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