Access Denied Ch34

Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong

Translator: Kinky ||

Chapter 34: Countdown

Lord Hou’s surname was Hou. At first, he wasn’t part of the Old Fourth. When he was young, he did manual labor in the city and saved up enough to buy a small house with his wife. Life was comfortable back then, and everyone called him “Hou Ge” with a smile.

But things changed.

As he got older, he couldn’t do manual labor anymore, and his wife fell ill and never recovered. They never had children, and they wondered if it was due to the effects of the erosion. The government didn’t abandon them, but they only received a fixed amount of erosion purification medicine and a subsidy just enough to get by each month.

If the elderly couple didn’t have any illness or misfortune, these resources would have been enough to sustain them. But if they got sick with something else, they would have to rely on luck. Medical resources were scarce, and even if the illness was caused by erosion, the hospital might only offer partial exemptions. Moreover, as people got older, they became more susceptible to illnesses. Apart from obvious signs of external erosion, people could hardly explain what was wrong, and they had to pay for medical expenses themselves.

The elderly couple worked hard all their lives, and all their savings went towards medical treatment.

Lord Hou sold his furniture and his house, but he still couldn’t fill that bottomless pit. He decided to take a risk and went to the edge of the erosion zone, hoping to trade his life for some extra resources. But he was too old, and even the risk-taking groups wouldn’t take him.

That was when the Old Fourth approached him.

They offered a salary to elderly people like him to manage these types of settlements.

The settlement had its share of desperadoes. With incidents of arson and murder being common, people couldn’t do business with peace of mind. After the Old Fourth rose to power, although the people in charge were all elderly, the young people didn’t dare offend the Old Fourth, allowing the settlements to become more peaceful.

The salary wasn’t high, but Lord Hou had the advantage of living a long life and being shrewd. After staying in the settlement for a long time, he became a middleman and was able to hold onto his wife’s life.

Lord Hou was content with his current situation. Living in the settlement brought him peace of mind. The money bag from the Old Fourth swelled, but his own salary was purely superficial. However, compared to the days when he couldn’t even afford to drink soup, Lord Hou was quite satisfied with the status quo.

Although some people were curious about the boss behind the Old Fourth, Lord Hou wasn’t interested. Whether it was the government or the black market, as long as he could get soup to drink, he didn’t care and would mind his own business to live longer.

Lord Hou’s philosophy applied to other matters as well. Some ruffians were really annoying, and he had tried to deal with them before, but in the end, he suffered a loss. It was easy to advise the righteous, but it was difficult to deal with the unscrupulous. If there was no other way, as long as the young people in the settlement didn’t cause any fatalities, he would usually let them off after giving them a beating.

This time was no exception.

He recognized the two young men who were pinned to the ground; they were brothers who knew how to play by the Old Fourth’s rules and were quite capable at it, while the other two were strangers, most likely newcomers. Lord Hou walked through the crowd and stood in front of the four.

“Stop making trouble, okay?” he said. “Do you see the line at the edge of the morning market? If you want to risk your life, go outside. The Old Fourth isn’t here to be taken advantage of. Wu Da and Wu Er, did you cause trouble again? Apologize to them quickly.”

The two brothers, held down by Zhu Yanchen, snickered. Wu Da, who had shot Shu Jun, sneered at him, “Yeah, we’re really sorry.”

Then he quickly turned to Lord Hou and said, “You see, we’ve already been beaten up. We promise not to mess with these two anymore, okay?”

Same old story.

Lord Hou waved his hand irritably. “Harmony brings wealth. As for you two, I see that your injuries aren’t too severe so let’s just call it even and forget about it.”

This type of conversation usually had a 50-60% success rate. If the other party was still unwilling, Lou Hou didn’t mind using some resources to settle things.

“Gray Claw.” The young man with a shoulder injury sheathed his sword and reached out his hand. Lord Hou didn’t react immediately and hesitated before shaking his hand.

Not bad. The young man’s voice was clear and pleasant, and he even introduced himself, so he must be a reasonable person.

“…So we can continue fighting after we cross that line, right?” The young man continued to smile.

Lord Hou: “…”

It seemed that this young man with strange hair color had quite a temper.

“No, no.” Lord Hou leaned in closer and lowered his voice. “Young man, those two scoundrels know how to take advantage of others and have some unsavory friends in this area. There are only the two of you, so you’re at a disadvantage. If you cross that line, even the Old Fourth won’t be able to protect you, and there won’t be anyone to reason with. How about this. I’ll give you two some compensation, and you can just consider it as being bitten by a dog…”

As if guessing Lord Hou’s intentions, Wu Da and Wu Er got up from the ground with an expression of undisguised satisfaction. Seeing such villains act so disgustingly and unscrupulously, the onlookers booed and jeered.

“Thank you, but it’s not necessary.” The young man’s voice carried a hint of amusement.

After speaking, he walked over to his companion and said something in a low voice before inserting his sword into the ground.

“As the Old Fourth said, we’ll go over there and fight.” The mechanical arrow was embedded deeply into his flesh, but the white-haired young man didn’t seem to care. “I’m enough on my own, but you can bring as many people as you want. How about it? Dare to come?”

Wu Da and Wu Er were stunned. Even if they had a bad reputation, they couldn’t lose face. People despised thugs, but they wouldn’t actively provoke them. But if they were regarded as cowards, their lives wouldn’t be easy. If they admitted their defeat in public, their reputation would be tarnished, and their cronies would probably abandon them.

They had specifically learned that Yu Jin’s companions were newcomers, which was why they had made such a move. They didn’t expect the newcomer to be so reckless.

“We can bring as many as we want? Don’t cry and beg for mercy later. Lao Er*, wait here. I’ll go call some people.”

*Term use for younger brother or second in command.

“Everyone has it tough. If we cause trouble here, the Old Fourth won’t be happy. You better think it over.” Wu Er focused on playing the good cop while occasionally glancing at Zhu Yanchen.

“My friend won’t help. Don’t worry.” Shu Jun saw through his little tricks.

Wu Er forced a laugh and stopped talking.

The morning market was already the busiest place in the settlement, and as more people gathered to watch the show, the scene became more chaotic. Lord Hou sighed, realizing that things were going to get ugly and he didn’t have the energy to deal with it anymore, he simply stepped aside.

As a result, Wu Da brought back fourteen people. Even though the locals knew he was a crook, the buzz of discussion was still loud.

Lord Hou once again sighed and lamented that the situation wouldn’t end well. Before he could finish his breath, the companion of the young man with white hair walked up to him.

“Why don’t you go persuade him or try another approach? This won’t end well.” Lord Hou spoke first, thinking that the person had come to mediate.

The man shook his head, reached into his coat pocket, and pulled out a small metal badge. The antiquated and delicate silver metal badge had a blue gem embedded on the front, exuding a sense of preciousness that was out of place in this area.

The “IV” brand on the badge was quite striking.

Lord Hou had just taken a deep breath, but it got stuck in his throat, turning into a weird sound like a whistle. He recognized the badge. The last time he saw this thing was five or six years ago, when he was “recruited” by the Old Fourth. Anyone with this badge was either a valued guest of the Old Fourth or a high-level cadre.

Oh, Wu Da and Wu Er kicked the wrong iron plate*. He thought blankly.

*Idiom referring to running into an unexpected or more formidable opponent. It implies that the person thought they could take advantage of the other party but instead encountered someone who was more capable and stronger.

“Smoke,” the man introduced himself succinctly. “This group of people shouldn’t be strangers to playing with fire. Report any unusual incidents to me, whether it be a recruitment task, business dealings, or everyday disputes.”

Lord Hou straightened his body, half worried about not fulfilling his responsibilities, and half relieved. “Yes!”

Not far away, Shu Jun had already lifted his greatsword.

Although Wu Da’s bones were injured, he stubbornly gestured with his gun, afraid of being looked down upon. His group of cronies had all sorts of weapons and were rushing towards Shu Jun with disorganized movements that were lacking in technique.

In front of the public eye, abilities couldn’t be used, let alone the peculiarities of the Erosion Swamp. Thus, pure combat skills were what were needed.

And this was what he wanted.

Just the two of them couldn’t overturn the overall situation, so they had to fight for their share from the wolf’s mouth. The first step was establishing dominance.

On one side were the local thugs who bullied and dominated the settlement; on the other was a warrior who had been risking his life for ten years. Despite being outnumbered, even though the wind was still, Shu Jun still seemed to be dancing on air. Wrapped in white cloth, his greatsword sliced through the air as he combined strength with momentum. The greatsword seemed to become a feather, elegantly twirling in the air, inevitably colliding with a target on each trajectory.

Onlookers began to whistle, and some even cheered with cries of “Gray Claw”.

Shu Jun moved like a phantom—constant shots of bullets, throwing darts, and arrows… not a single succeeded in wounding him. Wu Da emptied two magazines of bullets, and sweat was already beading on his forehead. His opponent didn’t seem human. The oppressive feeling was as if he were an evil spirit. Even though his opponent was wearing a mask, he could still feel a heavy sense of fighting spirit and some kind of strange anger from him.

In front of that greatsword, his henchmen were like fallen leaves swept away by the wind, writhing and falling to the ground. Wu Da hadn’t even had time to turn around and run away before the greatsword struck his abdomen. He was thrown into the mud, and it took him a while to stop tumbling. He then fell to the ground, vomiting in the muddy water.

Shu Jun lifted the sword up and down, passing over the broken, black tree stump, and plunged the sword deeply into the wet, muddy ground. Then he lightly jumped, landing steadily on the handguard of the sword, without getting any mud on him.

He crouched like a wild beast on the sword, looking down at Wu Da from above.

We’re done for.’ Were the words that filled Wu Da’s mind. He simply closed his eyes and buried his face in the muddy ground. Wu Er saw that the situation wasn’t good and had already run away without a trace.

It was the first time the audience had witnessed a serious battle. Cheers and applause broke out one after another. Having achieved his objective, Shu Jun didn’t say anything and just put the sword away, walking back to Zhu Yanchen.

“Let’s go back.” Zhu Yanchen was still staring at the arrow behind Shu Jie. “Your wound needs treatment, and there’s something I need to tell you.”

“How convenient. I have something to tell you too.” Shu Jie clicked his tongue.

Seeing that the Wu brothers had suffered a loss, Lord Hou happily followed behind Zhu Yanchen, not hiding his joy.

He didn’t need to say much; this action alone was enough to explain everything. Lord Hou had worked for the Old Fourth for quite some time and wasn’t at the bottom of the hierarchy. The person he was now respectfully following must be someone from the Old Fourth, and his status couldn’t be low either. 

It had been calm here for several years, and finally, a new and interesting person had arrived.

Having watched a great show, everyone dispersed happily.

“Gray Claw” and “Smoke”… It seemed that this settlement was about to change.

Zhu Yanchen didn’t have a habit of bossing around old people, and the inn was quite far away from the tavern, so he let Lord Hou go back first. With an injury on his back, Shu Jun carried his sword on his shoulder and didn’t say a word all the way.

“You go first.”

“You go first.”

As they entered the hotel room, they almost simultaneously spoke up.

The next moment, they both said at the same time, “I’ll go first.”

Zhu Yanchen: “…”

Shu Jun finally relaxed his expression. He took off his shirt to make it easier to deal with his injury and took the initiative to sit on the chair. “A’Yan, you first. That old man looks like he’s in a good mood. How did your negotiations go?”

Zhu Yanchen pursed his lips and looked at Shu Jun for a while without hiding anything. “I’m the founder of the Old Fourth and have proof of their high-level status. They won’t trouble us anymore.”

Shu Jun didn’t have much of an idea about the Old Fourth, thinking of them only as local bosses in the neutral zone. He choked a little. “You’re doing so many things at the same time—have you ever slept these years? I thought when you said, ‘uniting people on the fringe areas,’ you meant starting from scratch. My god…”

Zhu Yanchen obviously had no intention of elaborating on his struggle. He picked up the medical tray and began to examine the arrow that had sunk into Shu Jun’s flesh. “Let’s not talk about that now. What did you want to say just now?”

Shu Jun stiffened his face. “Oh, actually, I’m the big boss of the Erosion Swamps.”

Zhu Yanchen’s hand slipped, and the tray almost fell to the ground.

Shu Jun laughed out loud. “Just kidding, just kidding. The atmosphere needs to be lively first. After all, what I want to say isn’t very good—I’m going to join your ‘gloomy future association’.'”

“In the battle just now, I clearly felt the desire for destruction.”

Shu Jun’ voice became serious and his tone turned sharper. “I don’t want to hide it from you. I really don’t care about humans. I have my own hatred and the impulse to vent it. But the killing intent and hatred just now were definitely not mine—now I think it might have come from ‘intelligence’ obtained from Sweet Edge.”

“A’Yan, when you were making deductions earlier, you always treated sentient Erosion Swamps as ordinary creatures trying to survive. Now it seems you were a bit optimistic.”

If sentient Erosion Swamps were treated as common intelligent life, they would be wary of humans only because humans had a means of purification and could pose a threat to their survival—under this premise, the sentient Erosion Swamps would hold hostility towards humans and synths. But their methods wouldn’t be too extreme, so there was a possibility of a conservative defense.

“If I hadn’t met you and my physical condition hadn’t stabilized, I would have been eroded alone like Sweet Edge… I’m sure even if I remained myself, hatred would be the emotion that would sustain me until the end.”

“The Erosion Swamps are very simple. They only care about the result. What if they consider ‘hatred’ as a powerful human emotion?”

In the eyes of the Erosion Swamp, the insane hatred that desired to destroy everything was just “high-quality intelligence” that benefited survival. So they would preserve this impulse, share it among themselves, and make it a part of their instinct—hatred would drive them to attack actively, never stopping until the “enemy” was completely destroyed.

Their remaining time may be even shorter than expected.

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