Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 13: A Blessing
Lao Wei’s attitude changed, and his gaze towards Shu Jun became somewhat kind.
After the Erosion Swamp escaped, the villagers disappeared without a trace. Shu Jun originally thought the old man had surrendered, but he had never seen someone surrender like this before, and the look in his eyes made him shudder.
With the residents completely gone, Zhu Yanchen picked a relatively clean room. It was clear that the room used to be a kitchen, and the supplies were poor, with only some salt and rice that had been eroded. Shu Jun started a fire and skillfully roasted the mutant beast leg. He carefully peeled off the skin, and added salt to the meat, making it much more delicious. If there were more spices, it could have been a great dish.
However, the erosion content was too high, and normal people couldn’t eat it.
Zhu Yanchen firmly stuck to the nutrient solution. This time, he also soaked something else—new food mixed with water that swelled up and looked like colorless jelly, which looked tasteless. Marshal Zhu loosened Lao Wei’s hands, cut off some gel-like substance, and handed it to the old man before eating it himself in a civilized manner.
Marshal Zhu followed the rule of not speaking while eating. Let alone chatting for a few words, Shu Jun couldn’t even hear the sound of the other party chewing and swallowing.
Lao Wei surprisingly followed orders, eating whatever was given to him, but he often looked towards Shu Jun’s side. Being stared at by such a semi-melted person, Shu Jun’s hands that were roasting the meat became stiff.
Shu Jun finally couldn’t resist. As he sprinkled some salt on the meat, he patiently said, “If you have something to say, just say it.”
“Fearful of outsiders intervening, every time we settle in a new place, we will select the next migration destination in advance. I know where Erosion Swamp went, and I can take you there.”
Zhu Yanchen’s spoon paused as Shu Jun used a small knife to cut a slice of meat. “Hey, I’ve never seen you cooperate like this before. Unfortunately, I don’t have the final say in this matter. You have to talk to him.”
He raised the small, oily knife and pointed to Marshal Zhu, who was a few steps away.
“No, he doesn’t understand. He has you tied up with a chain,” Lao Wei said mysteriously. “But you will understand. You will definitely understand.”
After speaking, he stared at Shu Jun with piercing eyes, as if expecting him to continue the topic.
Shu Jun had a stomach ache. Every second on the battlefield was precious, and he always disliked people who couldn’t communicate well. This old man was a typical example of talking in circles and not making any sense*.
*Three sticks can’t even make a fart (三棒子打不出个屁) Idiom referring to a situation where a group of people with inadequate skills or abilities try to accomplish a task but fails miserably. It suggests that their efforts are so feeble that they cannot even achieve the simplest result.
“I understand, I understand. Let’s finish eating first and talk later,” he replied perfunctorily, then cut another piece of meat and flipped the beast leg over.
Lao Wei’s face twitched, and Zhu Yanchen coughed a few times as if choking.
“A’Yan, how about we follow them at night?” Shu Jun swallowed the meat in his mouth.
The Erosion Swamp was just provoked by him, so it was probably still on guard, like the villagers in the Village of the Ruined—the village chief was taken captive, and the Erosion Swamp fled in a panic. They were definitely in a state of panic. Zhu Yanchen came for intelligence gathering, but it wouldn’t be easy to get good information by stimulating a group of people who were in a state of confusion.
It was better to wait until it was quiet at night and people had calmed down before asking the old man to lead the way and inquire about a few key people’s situations.
…Besides, Zhu Yanchen also needed rest. He hadn’t slept all night.
Shu Jun was playing with the small knife he had picked up and was just thinking about how to briefly explain his thoughts when Zhu Yanchen had already responded.
“Understood. I’ll rest first, and I’ll trouble you to watch for a while.”
This communication was as pleasant as usual.
Being stared at by Lao Wei was uncomfortable, and Shu Jun was afraid that he would blabber again, so he locked him in the inner room. Zhu Yanchen didn’t put on any airs either. He laid down on several plastic sheets that he had spread out on the ground and fell asleep like that.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, he lay on his side with his back to Shu Jun. Shu Jun continued to chew meat and subconsciously lowered his voice. It wasn’t as awkward as he had imagined it would be, maybe because they had been communicating in writing for too long.
“I’m not used to being with people for a long time.” When Shu Jun thought that Zhu Yanchen was asleep, Marshal Zhu suddenly said this. “…If there’s anything unpleasant, just say it. Don’t mind me.”
If it weren’t for the fact that there was still a chain connecting the two of them, Shu Jun would have thought that they were travel companions who went out to sightsee together.
Forget it. He was an unexpected addition anyway. The A’Yan he knew wasn’t particularly outgoing either. Ignoring the current delicate situation, the other party’s attitude was still good.
“Okay,” Shu Jun replied in a low voice, almost choking on the meat.
Zhu Yanchen let out a nearly soundless sigh, slightly arched his back, and his breathing became lighter.
With sharp, hooked claws, Shu Jun couldn’t happily suck his fingers. He wiped the oil off his hands with a cloth and realized that this was a rare moment of peace. Zhu Yanchen was asleep, and there was no interference, which was just right for quiet contemplation.
Just because Zhu Yanchen didn’t have any animosity towards him didn’t mean that he didn’t hate the “NPC” organization that controlled his companions. When he learned the truth, his head felt like it was splitting apart, and he quickly forgot the details of the truth. Players… No, synthetic humans probably had some sort of control mechanism in their brains. Even Zhu Yanchen, as a Marshal, had difficulty understanding it, so it was probably hard to deal with.
Zhu Yanchen never talked to him about this topic, but he needed information about it. Even if it took time to figure out his physical condition, he couldn’t just follow Marshal Zhu around like an idiot without doing anything.
Shu Jun glanced at the chain on his wrist.
At the moment, he only had one wish: that Zhu Yanchen was really his “friend”. He didn’t know why the high-ranking Marshal Zhu had come out alone, nor why he stayed behind. At this stage, their relationship was still harmonious, but if their positions conflicted in the future…
Shu Jun sighed and looked at Zhu Yanchen along the chain. He was still facing away from him, with his back slightly bent, and lacked his usual sense of propriety, as if he were enduring some kind of pain. Thinking of the wounds on the other’s body, Shu Jun moved closer, attempting to check the bleeding.
The smell of the food had dissipated quite a bit, and only now did he realize that Zhu Yanchen smelled a bit off.
It wasn’t an unusual odor and didn’t stink. Shu Jun’s sense of smell wasn’t particularly keen, but he was familiar with this kind of scent. As an elite team in the game <Erosion>, the Blackbirds often traveled to the front lines of the battlefield. In addition to direct casualties, there were also many cases of serious injuries that didn’t heal.
There would always be a scent on a patient’s body which smelled like damp soil from a grave; a scent that he smelled on Zhu Yanchen at the moment.
Based on just the new injury, it was impossible for the smell of decay to develop so quickly. This person’s body wasn’t very healthy, and his condition had likely persisted for some time. Shu Jun frowned and moved closer. He began to genuinely despise Zhu Yanchen’s protective suit and face mask, which concealed all possible clues. Even at such a close distance, he could only see a little pale skin through the goggles.
Now that he thought about it, he didn’t know whether it was naturally fair or a sickly pallor. Zhu Yanchen moved skillfully, had considerable fighting power, and appeared to have no problems with his physical strength, so these thoughts had never crossed his mind.
As he was busy observing, he suddenly met Zhu Yanchen’s open eyes, and he didn’t have time to move his body away.
Zhu Yanchen: “…What’s wrong?”
Shu Jun was briefly embarrassed, but quickly adjusted his mood. “Nothing, I just couldn’t control my emotions and thought it would be nice to really kidnap you.”
As expected, Zhu Yanchen didn’t find this joke funny. However, the emotions in his eyes were particularly complex, so much so that Shu Jun couldn’t understand them very well.
“Indeed, that would be nice,” Marshal Zhu replied calmly. “I have rested. Let’s go see how Lao Wei is doing…”
“You’ve only slept for how long?! Isn’t it only fifteen minutes?”
“I’ve rested well.”
“If you collapse at this stage, I’ll be in trouble too.” Shu Jun pushed the person back without hesitation. “Sleep. If you don’t sleep for at least five hours, I won’t let you get up.”
He couldn’t strip the person naked to find clues, and there was no team doctor to consult. Shu Jun sat down casually on the plastic sheet and also closed his eyes, beginning to think about the plan ahead.
Zhu Yanchen’s fingers moved in place, as if trying to grasp something. He didn’t say anything else and once again turned his back to Shu Jun, falling heavily asleep.
Lao Wei stayed in the inner room until sunset.
“The new place we found isn’t far—just to the west,” Lao Wei said. His legs had completely deteriorated, and he couldn’t walk at all. If it weren’t for Shu Jun’s ability to control the wind, they would have encountered a lot of trouble on the way.
One of the advantages of being able to fly was the expansive view. The Erosion Swamp was a mass of blackness. Set against the grayish-white land, even at night it was conspicuous. Not to mention the scattered flickers of light around it. Despite the efforts of the villagers of the Village of the Ruined trying to cover up those lights, they never thought to guard against the sky.
As they approached the new town, Lao Wei called a halt.
Shu Jun grabbed the two of them and came to a sudden stop in midair. The sky over the erosion zone was always gloomy, so the three of them hovering in the sky didn’t stand out much.
“The ceremony is underway.” Lao Wei’s eyes sparkled, which made his appearance even more terrifying. “You can take a closer look and wait.”
Shu Jun and Zhu Yanchen exchanged glances.
Afraid that Shu Jun would again be evasive, Lao Wei quickly added a few more words. “Young man, I don’t know who you are, but it was our fault that the soldiers were harmed from the corpse disposal department. However, we also have our own difficulties. As you can see, with our appearance, we’ll just be waiting to die in the city. Even if we die, we can’t rest in peace. We’ll be used as fodder for the Erosion Swamp by that one surnamed Zhu.”
The surname Zhu wasn’t very common. Shu Jun turned his head, clearly interested. Since Zhu Yanchen didn’t say anything, and the information was being offered up, why not take it?
Seeing that Shu Jun was interested in this topic, Lao Wei became more excited and rambled on.
“Let me tell you the truth. The real corpse disposal worker is my grandson. He’s still in good health and lives in the city. He tells me a lot of things from the inside, and what I say is guaranteed to be true. For so many years, everyone’s efforts have been focused on strengthening purification, but only Zhu Yanchen insists on researching those strange things for over a decade without any results.”
“Think about it. Even if we die, we should have a dignified death. We’re unlucky people anyway, and taking medicine is useless. Do you think it’s fair? Since that one surname Zhu is useless, we thought we’d move out. At least we could have a grave and die with dignity. It’s also because heaven has pity on us… Look, look over there.”
His partially melted hand pointed to the Erosion Swamp below them.
Shu Jun saw the woman who was impersonating a corpse disposal worker again, as her hairpin was particularly recognizable. At this moment, she was touching the edge of the Erosion Swamp with great care, whispering, “My little darling*. My little darling.”
*She’s using (囡囡) which is a term of endearment for a child/baby.
What followed made Shu Jun’s hair stand on end.
The liquid column on the surface of the Erosion Swamp rose even higher, outlining a mottled shape in the air. The shape wasn’t that of a single person, but like a group of translucent figures floating in the air above the Erosion Swamp. The erosion was mottled, and only parts covered by it could be seen.
At first glance, the pool was covered with a mix of various body parts, which hung silently like withered black lotus leaves.
The woman was still shouting, “My little darling, come over here.”
The corrosion substance continued to surge and barely formed into a little girl. Trembling, it started to move and tried to get closer. In the end, it stopped two or three steps away from the woman, opened its arms, as if seeking a hug.
Shu Jun had personally slain many monsters spawned by the corrosion substance and also fought with the Erosion Swamp itself, but he had never seen this situation before.
“We’ve found a way to survive.” Lao Wei’s tone became excited. “I knew we weren’t forsaken. We’re not sick. This isn’t a misfortune but a blessing.”
“But you’re almost completely eroded. How did you survive?”
“Like you, we can survive and turn back into normal people, can’t we?”
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One thought on “Access Denied Ch13”
Thank you for the update ❤️💯