Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 11: Eve of Awakening
Shu Jun was momentarily lost in confusion.
Since waking up, mutant beasts’ attitudes towards him had improved quite a bit, but he hadn’t done anything special. As for communicating with the Erosion Swamp, he wasn’t sure if being unilaterally suspended counted as a form of communication. This was equivalent to a child who had just learned to walk being asked to bring back a gymnastics championship.
“How do I do it?” he asked humbly, kicking away a mutant beast that tried to attack Zhu Yanchen.
“I don’t know,” Zhu Yanchen replied candidly.
“Your fusion level is currently at 19%. Theoretically, this can be done if it’s higher than 15%,” Zhu Yanchen said, deftly dodging another mutant beast, the chain of his handcuffs buzzing as it stretched straight.
Shu Jun held his breath as the mutant beasts rushed towards Zhu Yanchen, ignoring his intentions. The distant low howl of the Erosion Swamp gradually faded away, and he didn’t know how to “contact” it. If he really howled, he felt stupid even thinking about it.
In the end, after holding his breath for a long time, Shu Jun only managed to produce one skill. The wind surrounded Zhu Yanchen, enveloping him in a transparent barrier. Even so, the mutant beasts kept coming, and they couldn’t break free. One of them, particularly sturdy, propped up a chair and was about to take Lao Wei away.
At this point, Shu Jun quickly realized what was going on. This old man could coexist peacefully with the mutant beasts, and he had specially arranged a meeting place, but the first move was deadly—there was no such thing as a peaceful negotiation, and the broken room in front of him was a trap from the beginning.
When he eavesdropped last night, this old man was all smiles, putting on an act for them.
Shu Jun was a little annoyed.
Noticing that the mutant beasts weren’t attacking him, Lao Wei squirmed in his chair and turned to face Shu Jun, revealing a strange smile.
“Not bad, not bad,” he said, opening his mouth to Zhu Yanchen. “It seems that you’ve brought a good mutant beast with you, but unfortunately, it’s not very useful. No matter how strong it is, it can’t stop the numbers on our side.”
Zhu Yanchen raised his hand and fired a shot. He undoubtedly intentionally missed by a few points, as the bullet grazed the melted earlobes of Lao Wei and hit the wolf-shaped monster behind him, splattering stinking black blood all over the old man. Lao Wei was startled, and his half-melted face twitched twice.
“Shu Jun, listen carefully. You don’t have to do those two things you were asked to do earlier if you can’t. It doesn’t matter,” Zhu Yanchen said, slightly raising his voice, as if to cover up Lao Wei’s previous words. “We’ll work together. This old man won’t be able to escape.”
Of course, Marshal Zhu wouldn’t have a “hail Mary*” step in his plan.
*Forcing ducks onto a perch (赶鸭子上架) Idiom referring to a situation where someone is trying to force something that’s not ready or suitable to do something it cannot do. It implies a sense of futility or absurdity, as if one is trying to accomplish something that is impossible or pointless.
“As a hostage?” Shu Jun licked his cracked lips and stared at the old man in the chair.
He had been living in a fog for the past few days, feeling uncomfortable, and had accumulated a lot of dissatisfaction. The truth of the world had turned his dissatisfaction into anger, but this anger couldn’t be vented towards Zhu Yanchen, who helped him. Thinking about how he had relaxed his vigilance last night and was fooled by Lao Wei, Shu Jun couldn’t help but be angry at himself again.
But since Zhu Yanchen had planned to come here long ago, he must have made adequate preparations. Just now, Marshal Zhu wasn’t surprised by Lao Wei’s move. Since he was willing to come to this Hongmen Banquet*, he was probably here for Lao Wei himself.
*It’s a metaphor nowadays used to describe superficially inviting someone to a meal, but the host has some ulterior motives. It comes from the historical event of the Hongmen Banquet where Xiang Yu tried to have his rival Liu Bang killed during a feast. || In this case, it really is a Hongmen Banquet, since the host is actually trying to kill them.
“As a hostage.” Sure enough, Zhu Yanchen repeated softly.
Finally, Shu Jun was able to vent his anger. He broke the necks of two mutant beasts with his bare hands, and the sharp claws cut open the abdomen of the third one, causing its smelly viscera to spill all over the floor. The large, mutant beast turned around and tried to leave the room with Lao Wei through another window, but Shu Jun cut off its head with a gust of wind blade from afar.
Lao Wei fell to the ground with the chair.
All the mutant beasts hidden in the room were almost dead, and the number of those entering the room from outside couldn’t keep up. Seeing that the sea of beast tactics didn’t work, Lao Wei’s confident demeanor began to fade.
He struggled to take out a bright toy whistle from his clothes and blew it hard.
The low howl of the Erosion Swamp in the distance instantly became louder, and the mutant beast attacking Zhu Yanchen turned red in the eyes. They no longer protected their weak points, and bit straight into Zhu Yanchen’s arm holding the gun. The other party had suddenly changed their attack, which didn’t give Zhu Yanchen time to adjust his posture, resulting in a deep wound on his forearm.
The flowing blood was slightly grayish-black.
“This thing’s saliva is very poisonous. If you get bitten by them a few more times, even a healthy person won’t be able to hold on. If you cherish your life, tell your pet… Your subordinate to stop.” Lao Wei clearly remembered the warning from the gunshot just now and quickly changed his words.
“He’s not my subordinate. He’s my partner,” Zhu Yanchen hoarsely said. He glanced at his wound, stepped on the mutant beast’s throat, and shot its head several times.
Zhu Yanchen looked indifferent, but Shu Jun had reached his limit.
Re-evaluating the relationship internally was one thing, but harming “Smoke” in front of him was another. Days of consecutive panic, anger brought on by the truth, and self-blame for powerlessness, Zhu Yanchen’s injury became the last straw. It ignited his negative emotions to the point of explosion.
Shu Jun didn’t know whether he was angry that Zhu Yanchen was injured or that he didn’t care about such injuries at all at this point.
Right now, he was too lazy to distinguish.
Shu Jun unconsciously twisted the chain, and the sound of the metal chain rustling was corroded and broken by him barehandedly. After the chain was broken, Shu Jun was like a beast released from its cage. He rushed up in one step, and his sharp claws directly pinched Lao Wei’s throat.
He wouldn’t lose his mind, but his appearance obviously scared Lao Wei. The old man swallowed his saliva and didn’t move.
“Tell those things to stop.”
Shu Jun bared his sharpened teeth. “Otherwise, I’ll pick you up and kill them myself. Let me make it clear. I’m not very skilled with this claw. I might accidentally leave a few cuts on you, so don’t complain later.”
Lao Wei frowned. “I’m an old man, and I’m about to die. Your threat doesn’t scare me. Your… um, friend is young, and if you listen to my advice and treat his wounds immediately, it may not be too late. Otherwise…”
This old man had more courage than he had imagined.
Seeing that Shu Jun was a reasonable person, Lao Wei started to talk in circles, trying to persuade the crazed mutant beasts to calm down. Shu Jun knew that in terms of fighting skills, Zhu Yanchen could defeat those monsters, but he couldn’t avoid getting injured. Marshal Zhu was also limited by the environment since he was in the erosion zone. If they continued like this, their cooperation could win, but they were bound to suffer.
Shu Jun was getting impatient and subconsciously stirred up the wind around him. This time the wind wasn’t clear; it was a black smoke-like substance that circulated around him, filled with killing intent. Suddenly, the mutant beasts reacted, flattening their ears and tails, and running out of the room in a frenzy.
And at the same time, Shu Jun’s hand that was holding Lao Wei underwent another transformation, and the black substance rolled over his skin again. Shu Jun’s breath became even more rapid, and he caught a glimpse of the bracelet as it vibrated slightly.
[Fusion degree: 21%; Erosion level is slightly unbalanced.]
He didn’t understand it, but it didn’t matter. He was still conscious. When the mutant beasts were gone, Shu Jun turned his attention back to Lao Wei.
Perhaps the oppressive power of those gray-white eyes was so strong that Lao Wei didn’t babble any longer and became unnaturally obedient. Zhu Yanchen simply bandaged his wound and walked over, trying to take the toy flute from Lao Wei’s pocket.
“Stay away from me,” Shu Jun warned. “I’m not feeling quite right.”
He was hungry again—a hunger he had never experienced before. Fortunately, Lao Wei, in front of him, didn’t arouse his appetite. Apparently, he had no particular preference for human cuisine.
“Beyond my expectations, you scared them away instead of making them behave,” Zhu Yanchen said.
“I don’t know how I did it. Maybe it has something to do with this wind.” Shu Jun grinned. The wind filled with the black substance was still circulating around him.
During their conversation, Lao Wei’s gaze kept drifting toward Shu Jun’s hand, which was seeping with the black substance and his expression gradually became more complicated.
“Take him with us first.” Zhu Yanchen and Shu Jun kept a distance of three steps. “The Village of the Ruined is not a fixed village. They are probably on the run by now since they don’t welcome strangers. But they have to go through the erosion zone. If we chase them, we can catch up with them.”
After speaking, he took out an instrument that looked like a pocket watch and said, “If we’re just tracking the reaction of the Erosion Swamp, this instrument can still be used…huh?”
Shu Jun felt dizzy and disoriented due to hunger, and he just wanted to finish things quickly. “Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s chase them. A’Yan, do you still have any food left? Let me have it first—hmm?”
Shu Jun didn’t have an Erosion Swamp detector, but he still sensed that something was wrong.
The low howling of the Erosion Swamp had somehow gotten closer without him noticing it. To be precise, it was right outside the door. A very strange emotion was transmitted through the howling—it was simpler than the emotion of the one at the corpse disposal area.
As an allusion, at this moment, it was like a wild animal, half fearful and half curious, looking at humans approaching while disguised in a doll costume as its own kind, not knowing what to do.
…Shu Jun had fought against Erosion Swamps many times before, but he had never felt what was called the Erosion Swamp’s emotions, so he was a bit confused.
Zhu Yanchen wanted him to keep the Erosion Swamp from running away, and it seemed that he had succeeded. Shu Jun could feel that the Erosion Swamp was whispering softly and secretly observing him, but he didn’t know how to convey the information back.
How about using the wind that’s covered with erosion substance to make contact? It could be considered physical contact. He didn’t want to be suspended in the air by a liquid column again.
Shu Jun thought about it and did it. A gust of wind passed through the crack in the door and blew outside. He realized after he had done it that, unlike the mutant beasts, the Erosion Swamp had no intelligence at all, and he had no need to talk to it.
‘I must be starving to the point of delirium,’ Shu Jun thought.
“A’Yan, the Erosion Swamp is outside. If you want to see it, go ahead.” Shu Jun grimaced, grabbing Lao Wei with one hand and pulling a mutant beast’s corpse to the ground with the other. He tried to overcome the feeling of nausea and found a piece of meat to fill his stomach for the time being.
Zhu Yanchen nodded, tightened his protective suit, and took out a small gadget that Shu Jun didn’t recognize. He was about to open the door—
At this moment, the Erosion Swamp’s emotions outside the door suddenly changed drastically.
“Wait!” Shu Jun shouted.
All of the harmless confusion, curiosity, and fear disappeared from the Erosion Swamp’s emotions. What it showed now was purely instinctual—the desire to fight.
What happened to the camaraderie they had just talked about?
Shu Jun didn’t care about his hungry stomach anymore. He bit the leg of the mutant beast and held it in his mouth, grabbed Zhu Yanchen, and ran away from the other end of the room in an instant.
The bracelet on his wrist vibrated frantically as if it were about to explode in the next second. The Erosion Swamp’s roar hit his eardrums, and in the midst of that intense emotion, Shu Jun could barely discern a little bit of meaning.
[I want information.] A simple thought looped over and over again in the midst of its immense fighting desire. [I want information.]
It was so noisy that Shu Jun couldn’t help but curse in his heart.
Unexpectedly, the Erosion Swamp outside the door became quiet for a moment, and then it broke in.
[I want information!] Its emotions had become more intense.
If this was his first autonomous conversation with an Erosion Swamp, then it was quite a failure. As soon as the thought crossed his mind, a stream of liquid grabbed his leg and pulled him to the ground.
‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ Shu Jun thought hurriedly in his heart, but it was clearly not very effective. The piercing scream, which only he could hear, grew louder and more anxious.
With his last bit of strength, he threw both Zhu Yanchen and Lao Wei out.
If you want to fight, then it will be one-on-one.
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