Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 18: Wrapping Things Up
Xia Liang took over the Fourth Squadron from Zhu Yanchen, but the investigation of the Erosion Swamp was still unable to progress.
As soon as the concert ended, Xia Liang glanced at herself in the mirror and tidied up her hairstyle with a curling iron. While picking out perfume, she looked at the report returned by the Fourth Squadron.
It was all perfunctory nonsense.
As expected, they were disobedient. Xia Liang sneered.
The Fourth Squadron was an investigation team cultivated by Zhu Yanchen, specializing in collecting all sorts of strange information about the Erosion Swamp. Nowadays, anyone who valued their life knew to stay away from the Erosion Swamp. The reason why these people were willing to accept such dirty work wasn’t due to their noble sentiments, but because the Zhu family had abundant wealth and Zhu Yanchen could smoothly make this group of people dance on the edge of the cliff.
Most of the people in the Fourth Squadron were daredevils who risked their lives for money. They usually stayed in various corners, listening to the wind and doing business. Only when Zhu Yanchen offered a task reward, would these old folks be willing to put in effort in one direction.
And this was just investigation, not research.
Since their predecessors successfully invented the purifiers, the research progress of the Erosion Swamp had come to a standstill.
The erosion substance wasn’t a virus or bacteria. With purifiers in place, research couldn’t proceed normally. Even with layer after layer of protective clothing, the erosion substance would slowly erode those who came into contact with it once the purifiers were turned off.
Moreover, since the purifiers were sufficiently effective, a solution was already in place, and talented individuals were in short supply, so before reliable protective measures were available, no one was willing to bet their lives on something that could only add a little extra.
It was possible to conduct research on one’s own, but protective equipment wasn’t something ordinary people could afford to consume. Considering all factors, besides Zhu Yanchen, no one else was putting in effort in this area. The government’s research direction was also very fixed, with erosion substance analysis being just an added task, and the focus was still on improving synthetic humans.
Zhu Yanchen was listed as a member of the research project. But on the surface, he only looked at the data and didn’t make any substantial contributions to optimizing the synthetic humans. He would write reports on erosion substance analysis, but it was all nonsense, and the improvements to synthetic humans didn’t need any of it.
After a long time, everyone implicitly accepted one thing—that the son of the previous marshal was here to take credit and gain fame. The Zhu family held high status and power, and friends of the previous marshal even helped him out, inviting Zhu Yanchen to participate in any research and bask in the glory. Zhu Yanchen also knew how to measure his words and actions, staying quiet and not making any unnecessary commands.
Considering that Zhu Yanchen’s tactical level was indeed top-notch, he wasn’t a worthless person. Even if the researchers were dissatisfied, they would not really make it public and embarrass him.
Xia Liang sighed, put the selected perfume in her bag, and couldn’t help but exclaim to herself, “Academic researchers should still be honest.”
If Yi Ning was the candidate for the leader elected by the people, then Zhu Yanchen was pulled up by those old coots. Unfortunately, not only were those researchers disappointed, but even the old coots also misjudged Zhu Yanchen. He wasn’t as “well-behaved” as they had imagined.
Not to mention Zhu Yanchen’s private research, even the previous marshal didn’t know about the existence of the Fourth Squadron. Xia Liang prided herself on her amazing intelligence network, but it was only after being recruited by Zhu Yanchen that she found out about these things.
She didn’t care why Zhu Yanchen was so interested in these things, but she really didn’t like people who didn’t follow orders.
As the saying went, “strike the serpent’s head1“, and “capture the ringleader first2“. She didn’t really understand the research on the Erosion Swamp, but she was good at other things—she didn’t become Zhu Yanchen’s subordinate for nothing; she could still gather intelligence.
1(打蛇打七寸) Idiom referring to hitting the enemy’s weakest point (aka strike them where it hurts).
2(擒贼先擒王)Idiom referring to if you want to successfully deal with a problem, you need to focus your efforts on the leader/main culprit. By doing so, you’ll eliminate the root cause, making it easier to deal with the rest.
So in the middle of the night, “Dong Lao” appeared at Ai Xiaoxiao’s clinic.
…Xia Liang had never thought that the captain of the Fourth Squadron with such a bad temper would actually be a woman.
“Dong Lao?” Ai Xiaoxiao’s tone was full of disdain. “I’ve never heard of any Dong Lao. If you’re here to beg for food, there are some dumplings left in my kitchen. Would you like some?”
Xia Liang’s face twitched under her hood. This woman was lying through her teeth.
“Let’s not joke around, Miss Ai.” Xia Liang stretched out her foot and held the door. “You didn’t reply to my messages, didn’t answer my calls, and then sent me a pile of dog shit, which made me have to come here in the middle of the night… Haa, my old waist…”
After speaking, Xia Liang even pretended to sigh. It was just acting, after all, and she was a professional.
Ai Xiaoxiao raised an eyebrow; her expression clearly indicating: So you know it’s all shit. You’re not so simple.
“Then come in and have some supper,” Ai Xiaoxiao said after thinking for a moment, her tone reluctantly polite. “There are still some dumplings left in the kitchen…”
Xia Liang: “……”
“It’s not that I didn’t want to make a report, but everyone is tight on time, and the issue of the Erosion Swamp has been settled, so there’s no need to worry about it.” Ai Xiaoxiao went to fry the dumplings and poured some vinegar. Xia Liang didn’t pick up her chopsticks, so she ate alone. “Anyway, you don’t understand. Isn’t writing reports just a waste of time?”
‘You’re really good at fooling your new boss,’ Xia Liang thought silently. “So what’s the deal with the disappeared Erosion Swamp?”
Ai Xiaoxiao smiled but didn’t answer. She made a hand gesture like pulling a zipper across her mouth. “Marshal Zhu asked me to keep it confidential.”
“The higher-ups will continue to investigate. I already knew that, so I need to be prepared,” Xia Liang said patiently. “It was Zhu Yanchen who asked me to take over the Fourth Squadron, so don’t agitate an old man anymore.”
“They won’t find out… Oh, speaking of which, you came at just the right time.”
Ai Xiaoxiao wiped her hands and took out a chip from the inner room, which still had the smell of dumplings on it.
“Remember to find a chance to put this into the upper management’s system. Zhu Yanchen wants to erase some intelligence about the Erosion Swamp. It’s up to you now, Dong Lao.”
Xia Liang couldn’t even ask a single question and ended up getting into trouble for nothing. It was bad enough to get into trouble, but in the end, the other party didn’t even show a bit of respect. She was so angry that she was about to speak up when—
“I know what you’re thinking. There’s plenty of time for that. Anyway, Zhu Yanchen is definitely not coming back, so if you want to argue or fight, there’s ample time for that in the future.”
Not coming back? Xia Liang swallowed the anger in her throat.
“You really don’t know.” Ai Xiaoxiao waved her hand. “Consider this intelligence as my gift to you.”
Xia Liang didn’t let her off. “Be clear.”
“What did he tell you—let me guess: to prepare for success or failure?” Ai Xiaoxiao turned on the faucet, and the plates squeaked as she scrubbed them. “Isn’t that how Zhu Yanchen has always been. A little information here and there, revealing just the tip of the iceberg. He won’t tell you about his physical condition, just like he won’t tell me about his tactical plan… Of course, I don’t care either.”
Shaking the water off her hands, she put the plates back on the shelf. “I’ve been working with him for over a decade, and I’ve tried to persuade him. Zhu Yanchen has known for a long time that it’s only a matter of time before he dies from his research.”
“Now, the timing is a little clearer,” she said. “Okay, you can go now. I don’t like to keep people overnight.”
“Why?” Xia Liang couldn’t help but ask, seeing that this person was informed.
“Zhu Yanchen has talent. If he just acted as a marshal, he could at least have a good ending. Even if he just wasted his life away, the Zhu family could still afford to support him.”
Why choose a meaningless dead end? On the premise of having an out, why stick your neck into studying erosion? Isn’t it like taking off one’s pants to fart?
Ai Xiaoxiao looked at her up and down. “Who knows. Anyway, I’ve said both good and bad things. It’s hard to persuade a stubborn old ghost with kind words. What can I do?”
Looking at Xia Liang, who fell into silence, she added, “Don’t think about it. His situation is definitely worse than you think. He has enough money that I’ve worked hard to make him look like nothing’s wrong—who do you think I practiced my healing and plastic surgery skills on?”
Although it was late at night, Dr. Ai’s practice material was still awake. Zhu Yanchen was fully armed and hanging in the air above the Village of the Ruined with Shu Jun—since the Erosion Swamp was taken away, it was destined to be a sleepless night for the villagers.
“Anyway, as long as they give up their desire to feed the Erosion Swamp, it’ll be fine,” Shu Jun said lightly, carrying his new greatsword.
“I guessed it right. I’ll go down first. If I can’t make a deal, you can come.” Shu Jun drew his sword. “I have something to say to them.”
Zhu Yanchen frowned. He hadn’t even spoken yet, but Shu Jun had already landed on the ground, running towards the villagers who had already gathered, shouting and holding weapons at the entrance of the camp.
Lao Wei had many bandages on his body and was being supported by the woman who posed as the corpse handler.
“Give us back the Erosion Swamp!” he angrily shouted.
The woman, who wasn’t wearing any headgear, had swollen and misshapen eyes that looked like peaches, obviously showing signs she had been crying.
“You still believe that your loved ones can be revived by the Erosion Swamp, don’t you?”
“My daughter can already call me ‘mom’. She’s the one who has recovered the best. She still recognizes me and wants to be held. I know she must be in there…”
Shu Jun thrust his greatsword into the ground, and as it remained silent, he kicked it.
The tone was no different from that of the “loved ones” during the ritual.
“Let me introduce you to your Erosion Swamp. We have reached a friendly cooperation agreement,” Shu Jun said, patting the sword hilt. “I don’t think it looks like a little girl at all.”
There was a commotion, and the woman covered her mouth as if she were about to vomit. “You… You’re not human…”
“You just said that your daughter has ‘recovered’ the best and can still recognize you.” Shu Jun’s voice was clear but no longer cheerful. “Let’s experiment.”
The wind suddenly rose before the villagers could react. Shu Jun flashed to the woman’s side, and with a smooth movement, his thick blade swung toward her neck, stopping just in front of it.
His movement stopped at just the right moment, and the blade edge barely touched the woman’s skin, leaving no injury.
The greatsword—Monday—thought it could taste a little bit of blood, but Shu Jun stopped halfway. It immediately whined, “Cut! Cut!”
“This is the ‘daughter’ who can still recognize you.” Shu Jun lowered his voice, and his gray and white eyes were as cold as ashes. “Miss, it’s okay to be deceived for a while. Just don’t be deceived for too long.”
The woman’s legs went weak, and she slumped to the ground. Shu Jun put away his sword and narrowed his eyes. “Who else wants to verify? I’m ready anytime.”
The villagers were silent for a while.
The woman was still supporting Lao Wei, but he couldn’t stand either. Zhu Yanchen’s gunshot wound still hurt, and he groaned, “Then… at least we can have some memories…”
“And you,” Shu Jun half-knelt down and propped his sword on the ground, staring directly into Lao Wei’s eyes. “My friend should have warned you. If the Erosion Swamp grows up, it will eat all of you.”
“Even if what you say is true, we’re all half-dead. We can be buried together with our loved ones without regret…”
“I’m not talking about that.” Shu Jun’s voice grew softer and softer. “My friend is worried about you. But, how should I put it… Personally, I have very limited sympathy for you.”
He stretched out his hand, and a little erosion substance gathered slowly in his palm, forming a ball.
“This place is not far from the city. If the Erosion Swamp grows up, the ‘players’ will have to come and deal with this hidden danger. There may be sacrifices by then, and I don’t really want to see that scene.”
The erosion substance was carried by the wind, circled Lao Wei, and then flew towards the villagers, making sure everyone could see it.
“I can turn the Erosion Swamp into a sword, and of course, I can turn the erosion substance into my scout. You can continue to live freely without any problem. It will follow this village all the time. If I find that you are raising an Erosion Swamp again, I will rush over and personally send you back to the city. In this way, everyone will reunite at the corpse disposal plant—oh, sorry, the corpses are processed in batches, so there’s a chance not everyone will be in the same batch.”
Shu Jun laughed, baring his sharp canine teeth.
Feeling suddenly threatened by a fierce beast, Lao Wei swallowed his saliva.
“That’s all I have to say.” Shu Jun’s voice remained low. “Take care of yourselves.”
After speaking, he stood up, drew his sword, and walked back to Zhu Yanchen in a straightforward manner.
“They won’t make the same mistake again.” The coldness in Shu Jun’s eyes had long disappeared.
“What did you say?” Zhu Yanchen wasn’t standing close enough, and Shu Jun’s voice was sometimes high and sometimes low, so he didn’t hear everything clearly.
“Just a harmless little lie.” Shu Jun smiled. “I scared them and said I could use the erosion substance as surveillance. Next is just a regular threat. Speaking of which, I have to thank Teacher Zhu for guiding me… Teacher Zhu, where should we go next?”
The author has something to say:
Shu Ge is not naïve. After all, he has been a captain for ten years (?
Fierce, but also professional!
But the Marshal can also be fierce. It’s just not his time yet.
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