Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 28: Mood Swings
Shu Jun froze.
They hadn’t even started discussing the plan’s details. He was just bragging a little. As the captain of his team, Shu Jun was used to making such comments to adjust the atmosphere, such as “Let’s make Groundwater cry this battle” or “What a great terrain. We can end the fight in a day”.
Of course, even if they eventually won, Luo Duan wouldn’t really cry, and the Blackbirds had never ended a battle in a day. Zhu Yanchen had been chatting with him for years, and he thought the other party was just casually responding, but he didn’t expect the other person to answer so seriously.
At this point, Shu Jun could still understand if Zhu Yanchen was trying to joke with him, but the later actions didn’t seem like it—
Zhu Yanchen’s fingertips were still on his skin, and the movement was extremely natural.
Whether it was flattering or with ulterior motives, Zhu Yanchen’s movements were too skillful, so much so that Shu Jun almost thought it was some kind of common etiquette. He opened his mouth, and all the jokes that followed got stuck in his throat.
This isn’t right, is it?
When Zhu Yanchen was in trouble, he lost control of his emotions for a while. Looking back now, it wasn’t too exaggerated. Facing real death for the first time after knowing the truth, and Zhu Yanchen was also his friend, his reaction was understandable.
Shu Jun didn’t intend to deny his feelings and interest in Zhu Yanchen, but they didn’t necessarily represent a confirmed love. Even though they had been chatting for years, there was still a big difference between real people and words. Moreover, there were still a lot of urgent matters pressing on them, and normal communication and understanding would suffice.
As a result, when the other party took action, his heart almost skipped a beat. Half of it was due to surprise, and the other half was a feeling he couldn’t figure out.
Zhu Yanchen’s face was also bloody. He had just hunted a group of mutant beasts with him so his clothes were slightly sweaty, sticking to his skin, and his breath was warmer than usual. The two were only a palm’s distance apart, and the atmosphere became a bit strange.
…No, it was probably his own romanticism that hadn’t been snuffed out, and he was thinking too much. A’Yan was originally thoughtful, so maybe he didn’t know how to behave appropriately in reality after being in a high position for a long time.
Watching Shu Jun frown and then retract his chin, Zhu Yanchen: “……”
Shu Jun couldn’t remember the past. For the current Shu Jun, his actions might have been too direct. Zhu Yanchen was about to withdraw his hand, but Shu Jun’s paw had already reached out.
“There’s a little blood on your face. Let me wipe it off for you,” Shu Jun said cheerfully, using the palm of his hand to wipe the blood off Zhu Yanchen’s face. There was nothing wrong with this behavior on its own, but Zhu Yanchen suddenly froze in place, and the two of them ended up touching each other’s faces, making the atmosphere even more awkward.
The two stood like sculptures against the background of the mutant beast’s corpses. Fortunately, there were more than two people present, and someone knew how to break the silence.
After having a full meal, Monday finally had the strength to speak. “Tsk.”
This sound was long and loud, full of disgust, allowing the two to seize the opportunity and quickly withdraw their hands.
“I’ll deal with this pile of things. We can roast and eat them later.” Shu Jun laughed. “We can talk while eating.”
“Mm.” Zhu Yanchen had already started dealing with the mutant beast’s corpse. Whether he was nervous or simply making a mistake, he applied too much force and got sprayed with blood from the beast’s insides.
Shu Jun: “…”
Zhu Yanchen: “…”
Finally, in the midst of Shu Jun’s carefree laughter, the awkward atmosphere completely dissipated.
A week later, at the border settlement.
It was late at night, and Uncle Pan was dozing off in front of the counter as usual. The sound of a mud sled stopping outside the shop woke him up, and he immediately put a smile on his face.
The two young men who came in looked somewhat familiar. Both wore masks that covered their faces and had uncommonly strong and handsome builds. The shorter one had gray-white hair, carried a large sword on his back, and had strange, pointed nails that were easy to recognize.
Seeing Uncle Pan turn his head, the gray-haired young man swung the bag on his back. “Uncle Pan, we’re back—look. How much is the skin of these mutant beasts worth?”
Upon hearing there was money to be made, Uncle Pan’s last bit of sleepiness instantly vanished. He agilely went around the counter and took the bag.
It was packed full of high-level mutant beast fur. If properly handled, these things could be made into excellent protective clothing. Uncle Pan took a deep breath. “Back then, when my brother left you two outside, I scolded him for a bit. He should’ve at least sent you off with a dog. You guys are amazing. How did you manage to deal with the Corpse Parasite?”
“We ran fast enough.” The gray-haired young man laughed. “So, Uncle Pan, will you help us handle this? We’re willing to pay you a ten percent commission, since we’re considered friends.”
“Sure, sure! If you two trust me, just leave the goods here and I’ll write a receipt. If everything goes smoothly, I’ll take care of it tomorrow.”
Since business had come to him, Uncle Pan couldn’t help but sincerely smile. “Hey, after so many years, I’ve also made mistakes. You two don’t look like newcomers. Welcome to our area. Although it’s a bit late to ask, how should I address you both?”
“Gray Claw,” Shu Jun answered very smoothly, then looked towards Zhu Yanchen beside him.
“Smoke.” Zhu Yanchen stubbornly held onto that name.
The settlement wasn’t a clean place, so no one used their real names on a regular basis, thus Uncle Pan was very accepting. “To be honest, this bag of stuff is really valuable. Since we’re now friends, I’ll only take a five percent commission for any services, whether it’s the skin or the goods you dig up. I’ll also discount your rent by half too. How’s that?”
Moved, Shu Jun reached out his hand. “Deal.”
Then he grinned and added, “My brother and I plan to stay here and make a living. Uncle Pan, you’ve cut the rent so much. Don’t regret it later.”
“Many friends, many paths*, right?” Uncle Pan shook hands with him cheerfully. “I’ll go get some wine. Let’s celebrate your return—your room has to be the best, right? I’ll leave the key here for now.”
*(多个朋友多条路嘛) Proverb that implies having more friends can provide one with a wider range of opportunities and options in life.
After speaking, Uncle Pan dragged his bag and bent down to go into the back room behind the counter. When he came out again, the bag in his hand had been replaced with three bottles of dusty wine and a large bag of pancakes.
Although Marshal Zhu didn’t put on airs, he still wasn’t comfortable with extravagant drinking. Zhu Yanchen pushed up his face mask and took a piece of pancake, slowly eating it.
His body was now so full of erosion that even sulfuric acid could be drunk, so a little alcohol was nothing to him. However, Zhu Yanchen had just recovered from a serious illness, and even if he was immune to erosion, he still had a normal human body—after seeing Uncle Pan hand him the bottle of wine, Marshal Zhu’s movements stiffened.
Shu Jun didn’t miss this bit of stiffness. He naturally intercepted the bottle of wine, pushed up his mask, and smiled quietly at Zhu Yanchen.
Then he downed almost half the bottle with his face unchanged. “It’s not that my brother doesn’t give face, but he’s allergic to alcohol. Come on, Uncle Pan… Ah, Pan Ge*. I’ll drink his share. Cheers!”
*(哥) When used with a name, it’s a familiar way to address someone who is male that you’re close to whose usually older or higher rank than you (like jie but for a man). || Note: Moving from calling him Uncle Pan (as a general polite term) to Ge means their “closeness” has increased.
“Cheers! I’m not the kind of person who makes things difficult for others. Brother* Smoke, I’ll go get you some water later.”
*Note: He’s using [Xiong di] (兄弟) which is a general term to refer to a close male friend. You can think of it as “bro” or “brother”.
It was late at night, and they had earned a lot of money. Uncle Pan was in a good mood and closed the store. He turned on the purifier and took off his entire face mask. Naturally, normal humans couldn’t outdrink an Erosion Swamp, so after drinking four or five glasses of strong alcohol, Uncle Pan was about to burst with laughter.
“Brothers, I’m not prying or anything, just asking casually.” After three rounds of drinking, they chatted about a lot of things, and Uncle Pan finally slyly asked the key question. “How do you two keep your bodies so…burp…healthy? It’s not just exercise. You guys are veterans, but your bodies are still so normal. Do you have any secrets or anything?”
This was what they had been waiting for. Shu Jun smiled.
Although Uncle Pan was a bit shrewd, he had a good character and a sharp mind. This kind of person was easy to get along with. Since Uncle Pan could sell information about his surroundings, he could naturally also sell information about them as well. Of course, it wouldn’t be negative information.
“My brother knows reliable people who can get some prescriptions.” Shu Jun lowered his voice mysteriously. “But we can’t get them immediately. If you need it urgently, we can discuss it.”
“That’s loyal of you. Just speaking on their behalf… I can manage myself, but some of my acquaintances are struggling. I can help you make some introductions, and of course there will be compensation…”
“Deal. Speaking of which, I have a little favor to ask of Uncle Pan.”
“What is it? Just say it.”
“Didn’t we have that kind of job before? The top brass here needs a few people to guide the ‘players’ team. I remember that job pays well, and we want to try something different…”
“Oh, NPC work.” Uncle Pan waved his hand, and the smile on his face faded slightly. “Listen, don’t do that kind of work. I heard from someone that you have to sign a bunch of messy confidentiality agreements and you have to be careful with everything you say and do. If this job is supposed to be easy, and the army people would have already taken care of it. Why should we do it? If ten people go, it would be lucky if one or two come back…”
“I don’t necessarily want to go. I just want to see what’s going on.” Shu Jun smiled. “Just let us know if there’s any news, and we’ll think it over.”
“Okay…burp, okay. Oh, I’ve had too much to drink. I need to write it down.”
Uncle Pan bent down and fumbled around under the counter for a while, almost bumping the lump on his head.
“You still have to manage the store tomorrow, so let’s call it a night.” Shu Jun decided to stop while they were ahead and downed the last of his drink.
They were full and drunk, and now all that was left was to rest. After spending a week in the erosion zone without any human contact, Shu Jun couldn’t help feeling a little emotional now that they had returned to normalcy.
Even though neither he nor Zhu Yanchen needed a purifier, he let the one in the room run anyway—it was just an old civilian model that couldn’t affect the alpha-class Erosion Swamp; at most it would feel like a tickle.
“Next, we just have to wait for the intelligence to spread.” Shu Jun took off his old shirt, letting out a bit of alcohol scent. “Your bags are almost empty. Let’s go shopping tomorrow, and remember to remind me to buy some clothes.”
“Nn.” Zhu Yanchen’s reply was a bit dry. After locking the door, he also took off his mask, revealing his expressionless face.
“There are still some pancakes left. I’ll make some fried pancakes later, and we can have them as a snack before bed. Do you want some?”
Shu Jun paused, sensing that something was off with Zhu Yanchen’s demeanor.
“Do you like Monday?”
Shu Jun: “……”
As if he had reacted to Shu Jun’s question, Zhu Yanchen quickly snapped out of his daze. “I zoned out just now, sorry.”
“If there’s anything you’re worried about, just tell me. We don’t need to monitor each other anymore… I’ll go wash up and then make the fried pancakes. By the time you finish showering, it’ll be ready.”
Although he felt that the other’s behavior was suspicious, since Zhu Yanchen didn’t want to talk about it, Shu Jun had no intention of delving any further—he knew A’Yan’s character; he wouldn’t hide anything important. After pouring himself a glass of water, Shu Jun wrapped the towel around his neck and happily went to take a shower.
Indeed, Marshal Zhu wasn’t thinking about the plan.
The plan of the two went smoothly, and their physical condition was stable all the way. The reality developed far beyond his initial expectations, and his most cherished person was by his side again. This was the happiest week for Zhu Yanchen’s mood in many years.
However, just now, his comfortable mood suddenly fluctuated.
Shu Jun and Uncle Pan were talking and laughing, having a very enjoyable conversation. Zhu Yanchen wasn’t used to the drinking culture and had to maintain a low profile to hide his identity. In the end, he didn’t even say a word and quietly nibbled on a pancake for two hours.
If it had been before, he would have wanted to reduce unnecessary socializing. However, seeing Shu Jun laughing happily at the small counter, he even had the idea of joining the conversation.
‘A rather strange emotion,’ he thought. It was not anger or dissatisfaction, but rather a peculiar longing.
However, Shu Jun and the Blackbirds held countless gatherings over the years. He would always see him with his teammates, laughing happily every time. He had never felt a similar emotion himself. At that time, he only hoped that Shu Jun could maintain that smile and live longer.
‘Perhaps my body has undergone some changes,’ Zhu Yanchen thought seriously.
When they successfully infiltrated the city later, he would definitely give himself a comprehensive check-up.
The author has something to say:
Shu Ge, you’re such a straight guy (×
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