Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 30: One Eye
Luo Dan glanced at the empty vase without answering. Since he found out that Ai Xiaoxiao wasn’t his doctor, he closed his eyes and pretended to rest. Ai Xiaoxiao was too lazy to make fun of him, so she touched the wall a few more times, turned around, and left while humming a little tune.
As expected, just as the door closed, veins seeped out from the wall, and droplets of liquid fell once again.
“I…will…help…you…” Its voice was intermittent, like an old radio with poor reception.
The air became slightly sweet and pungent with pus, but Luo Duan didn’t respond to the invitation. He ignored it as if it were just a phantom. When the droplet saw that he wasn’t responding, it slowly retracted back into the ceiling, and the wall returned to its original state.
It didn’t leave and still lurked behind the wall as Luo Duan could still feel its breath. For the time being, it seemed that the thing didn’t intend to harm him, nor did it want to expose itself to people. Luo Duan decided to ignore it and see what it would do.
There was no such thing as a free lunch*, and even in his despair, he wouldn’t accept the support of a monster.
*Idiom referring to everything has a cost or trade-off, and nothing comes without effort or sacrifice.
Ai Xiaoxiao was unaware of what happened in the room. She left the ward in large strides and casually flipped through Luo Duan’s medical records.
All indicators were abnormal. This person’s body was on the verge of collapse. Some of his organs even showed signs of slight erosion. If Luo Duan failed to die on the battlefield in the next six months, he would only face even longer torment.
Ai Xiaoxiao chewed on her bubblegum and took out a tattered notebook to write down Luo Duan’s name and medical record number. When she arrived at her destination, she stuffed the notebook into her pocket before pushing open the door.
“Miss Ai.” The researcher inside the door nodded at her.
“Let’s get one thing straight, I won’t be here for too long.” Ai Xiaoxiao’s opening remarks were quite blunt. “I have a contract with Zhu Yanchen. When the time is up, I’ll leave… You guys will still be paid on time, right?”
The researcher’s expression twitched. “You don’t have to worry. Marshal Zhu has an account reserved.”
“Oh, good. Then let’s stick to what was agreed in the contract. After Zhu Yanchen’s death, I’ll be responsible for the maintenance of synthetic humans for a year. Even if the leader personally requests it, I won’t extend or shorten my working hours. The pay will be exactly what was agreed upon. You’re welcome to add a bonus to the remuneration, but there’s no way I’ll accept a deduction.”
Ai Xiaoxiao’s tone was quite indifferent. She counted on her fingers as she spoke.
“I won’t participate in your discussions, provide information about synthetic humans outside of my work scope, or accept treatment recommendations from the research institute. During this year, the relevant team must absolutely obey me, and I have the right to make personnel adjustments to my subordinates. That’s all. It’s all written in black and white. To prevent you from reneging, please sign in the ‘I Acknowledge’ section.”
The researcher took a deep breath as he felt a toothache. Despite Zhu Yanchen’s death there was still no peace—Dr. Ai’s greed and arrogance were well-known, yet Marshal Zhu had brought her on and thrust an aunt onto them.
If Zhu Yanchen were still alive, there would be room for negotiation. But with this contract, even Yi Ning couldn’t interfere. Ai Xiaoxiao was highly skilled and well-known in the civilian world. If she were forced out, not only would they offend the people, but the Zhu family wouldn’t let it go for fear of losing face.
Forget it. They had endured Zhu Yanchen for so many years, so enduring Ai Xiaoxiao wouldn’t be a problem.
“It’s not like it’s your money that was spent.” Ai Xiaoxiao saw the researcher hesitating and spoke up again. “Hurry up. I still have to clean up my new room.”
“Miss Ai, I’m a little curious. How did Marshal Zhu persuade you?”
The researcher quickly signed the contract and pushed it back. He couldn’t help but ask this question—Ai Xiaoxiao’s was notorious for her disobedience. The research institute had tried to hire her before, but they never even saw her shadow.
Ai Xiaoxiao stuffed the contract into her bag.
“I learned a lot from him, so this is considered a favor. You’ve worked with him for so long, yet you really haven’t noticed anything?… Tsk tsk, it seems that I was right not to join the research institute. I always felt that you guys had poor eyesight, but now it’s even worse than I imagined.”
With that, she left the researcher standing there, stunned, and walked straight out the door.
He had heard that Ai Xiaoxiao was straightforward, but this sounded like she had a grudge against the research institute. Noticed anything about Zhu Yanchen? He thought of Marshal Zhu’s research reports that were off-topic and shook his head hard.
Forget it. Maybe Ai Xiaoxiao just didn’t like them, and her attitude problem wasn’t a big deal.
“Oh, and about your special ward.” Just a few steps out the door, Ai Xiaoxiao twisted back, and the researcher’s half-shaking head froze in mid-air. “It’s best to have someone test the concentration of erosion inside. The air in there doesn’t seem right.”
“We’ve installed military-grade purifiers at the entrance. An Erosion Swamp will never enter. It’s impossible to completely eliminate erosion as there’s a lot of erosion in the players’ bodies…”
“Testing won’t take much time, and I’m sure there’s a problem there.” She gritted her teeth. “If possible, please try to do it today—”
Her tone softened, as she had to use the word “please” for the first time, but unfortunately, the other party didn’t let her finish.
“That may have to wait until you take office and test it yourself. The special ward has an environmental test every month, and that’s the rule.” The researcher pulled out a polite smile. “Currently, you have no right to command us.”
Ai Xiaoxiao coldly shot a few glares and left with a flick of her sleeve.
Picking faults from the start and nitpicking about such trivial matters. He had at least gained a victory, and the researcher heaved a sigh of relief.
Ai Xiaoxiao arrived at her temporary residence and threw her bag onto the table. She had to admit that the quality of the room at the command center was quite good. The television in the room was also on, but unlike the special ward, her television was broadcasting a popular entertainment program.
It was Xia Liang’s tour. Xia Liang, the young miss of the Xia family, dressed elegantly and beautifully with exquisite makeup. She stood on the smoke-filled stage and sang soft, sentimental songs. Her voice was clear and pleasant, but unfortunately, Ai Xiaoxiao felt annoyed. She never liked young misses who were ignorant of the world, and even more so, she despised canaries that sang while treading on corpses*.
*Metaphor referring to someone who behaves in an insensitive or disrespectful manner, especially when it’s done in the context of someone’s misfortune or tragedy. || In this context, she showing her contempt that Xia Liang lives a comfortable life touring while ignorant of all the sacrifices and suffering from the people and “players”.
She turned off the TV aggressively.
Nothing was going smoothly.
Perhaps luck was such that it had its ups and downs. It was a great joy that Zhu Yanchen survived, but from then on—on the day the news of Zhu Yanchen’s death was released—she tried to contact Dong Lao, but he said that he could only meet her in at least a week.
There was no battle right now to command, so what was that old man doing?
As a result, Ai Xiaoxiao had to deal with the research institute first, which wasn’t a pleasant task. She detested it here to the bone and was too lazy to hide her emotions. She would definitely not have a good time here in the future. But…
Ai Xiaoxiao pulled out the contract and silently read the amount on it a few times, finally feeling a bit emotionally balanced.
It was almost time to meet Dong Lao, and she hoped that her luck would improve. After tidying up the room, Ai Xiaoxiao sat down on the bed. She fiddled with the cover of her notebook and began to ponder the possibility of secretly taking some equipment and inspecting the special ward.
Shu Jun and Zhu Yanchen walked into the Longevity Tavern one after the other. Although it was called a tavern, it sold all kinds of things.
It was now breakfast time, and the tavern was bustling with people. Steaming baskets of buns and crispy fried dough sticks were displayed on wire racks. Small side dishes were neatly arranged on the table, with marinated meat soaked in thick sauce, filling the entire tavern with the fragrance of oil.
After selling the mutant beast skin and having some income, Shu Jun felt more carefree. He happily bought a lot of food and led Zhu Yanchen to a corner. However, they were still particularly eye-catching among the group of people, and the people didn’t even bother to hide their gazes.
One was a military leader and the other was a celebrity player so they had long been accustomed to this kind of scene. As usual, Zhu Yanchen pushed his mask down a bit and calmly drank his porridge. Shu Jun stretched out his claws and happily poked the bun skin.
Most people had a habit. If the person being observed avoided their gaze nervously, the observer’s interest would increase; but if the observed object remained indifferent, the observer’s enjoyment would be greatly reduced. People watched as the gray-haired youth finished a basket of buns and began to crunch on the fried dough sticks. Gradually, their attention returned to their breakfast.
“The fried dough sticks are pretty good.” Shu Jun took a big bite of the fried dough stick, leaving the other half, and gestured it in front of Zhu Yanchen. “These are a bit soft. I plan to go buy some more. Do you want one? Or do you not like things that are too oily—”
Zhu Yanchen naturally grabbed Shu Jun’s wrist and took a small bite of the fried dough sticks.
“It’s indeed a bit oily. No need. Just help me get another bowl of porridge,” he said.
Shu Jun glanced at where Zhu Yanchen had bitten, feeling a bit uncertain. Marshal Zhu’s actions were too straightforward that he couldn’t really tell if this was the practical style of a realist or if it had a hint of intimacy.
…Well, he could’ve just bitten the other end. That way, Shu Jun wouldn’t have to worry about this issue. He stuffed the fried dough stick into his mouth and looked deeply at Zhu Yanchen.
The latter was still drinking his porridge at a steady pace, expressionlessly.
Forget it. They were sleeping in the same bed. What did it matter? Shu Jun shook his head. “How about I get some steamed buns?”
As soon as he finished speaking, there was a sudden silence in the tavern. Shu Jun immediately shut his mouth and instinctively lowered his body.
“Listen up, everyone, there’s news! There’s news!” A thin man with shifty eyes slipped into the store. “The Blackbirds is recruiting three NPC guides. They’re leaving in five days. They’re going to the northwest of the ruins of X City. The work is tough so they want experienced hands that can pass three assessments!”
After that, the man swiped electronic money from the tavern owner and quickly ran away.
Shu Jun: “…”
He could understand the first part, but the latter half was complete gibberish. He was completely confused. Zhu Yanchen pointed to the rim of Shu Jun’s bowl with his chopsticks, pulling his attention back.
“Did you understand?” Amidst the clamor of discussion, Shu Jun lowered his voice. “What are the three assessments?”
“Good physical condition, recommended by someone, and willing to undergo a combat assessment for free.” Zhu Yanchen lowered his gaze. “In short, those who are too abnormal are not wanted, those without a local sponsor are not wanted, and those who cannot participate in combat are not wanted. This is the highest standard for recruiting people on the edge of society by the United Government.”
They didn’t have to worry about being abnormal or combat effectiveness, but as for sponsors…
“Oh, you two are here too?” A loud, sturdy voice rang out, and the two were slapped on their backs by a big hand the size of a cattail fan. Zhu Yanchen barely managed to maintain his composure, but Shu Jun almost choked on a bite of his steamed bun.
“Uncle Xiong.” Shu Jun wiped his chin. The other person wore a mask, but the two brown lumps on his head were easy to recognize.
“You call my brother Pan Ge but call me Uncle Xiong? Is that the correct way to address me?” Uncle Xiong grumbled unhappily. “Just call me Xiong Ge—what’s going on with you two? Want to try an NPC task?”
“Thinking about it. What about you, Xiong Ge?”
“Hey, my brother won’t let me go even if he dies. He says he’ll break my legs if I dare to go. This job is really dangerous. You two have to think carefully.” Uncle Xiong rubbed his nose. “But if you really want to go, I can introduce you to someone.”
“What do you mean?” Shu Jun immediately pulled up a chair for Uncle Xiong.
“I know the toughest guy around here. He’s done over a dozen NPC missions, and he’s still alive. Impressive, right? I heard before that they wanted to make him a fixed NPC, but he refused. He’s a real master… Of course, you two are masters too. So I thought, if you really want to go, my brother can vouch for you. Then you can just watch that guy and do whatever he does during the test. You’ll definitely pass.”
“His nickname is ‘One Eye’—his real name is Yu Jin—and he’s a big shot around here. We’re a bit friendly, so I can introduce you to him later.”
Yu Jin—the name sounded familiar to Shu Jun, but he couldn’t remember where he heard it from. He smiled and agreed, intending to continue chatting with Uncle Xiong, but he unintentionally looked over at Zhu Yanchen on the side.
Then Shu Jun forgot what he wanted to say.
Marshal Zhu was looking at him with unusual concentration. His gaze was quite complicated, mixed with restraint, nostalgia, and inexplicable expectation, as sharp as an icicle. Their eyes met head-on, and Zhu Yanchen didn’t look away. After a few seconds, Zhu Yanchen turned to Uncle Xiong and spoke up for the first time.
“Thank you. We’ll go buy weapons later, and please help us set up a meeting time…”
“…If possible, it would be best to meet today.”
The author has something to say:
Marshal Zhu: …The old way of getting along seems to have no effect, what should I do?
Shu Ge: Is he flirting with me, or is he really straightforward? Anyway, let’s focus on the important stuff first. We both have leftover feelings from our confession flags.
Question: Who is more straightforward?
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