Chapter 17: Bad Reputation
The atmosphere between the two of them could be considered a little more relaxed than before. Now that the matter had been exposed, Zhu Yanchen no long had any hesitation and simply changed his shirt right in front of Shu Jun.
Shu Jun: “Ouch.”
Spotting Shu Jun’s embarrassed expression and thinking that he was being bothered by these abnormal scars, Zhu Yanchen quickly put on his clothes: “I’m sorry, I’ll pay attention next time.”
“No, no, no.” Being apologised to so politely, Shu Jun quickly waved his hand: “It’s just that looking at you, I feel… very hungry.”
Zhu Yanchen: “……”
Shu Jun: “……”
He seemed to have just ruined the pleasant atmosphere that was barely brewing.
Shu Jun had no idea why, but Zhu Yanchen looked more delicious than those mutated monsters. However, the thought of cannibalism was too terrifying and Shu Jun’s mind was already screaming in refusal. He was certain that he could still control his appetite.
But if Shu Jun could choose, he wanted to avoid such a primal struggle.
Zhu Yanchen’s expression remained unflinching as he put a coat on himself: “So let’s quickly solve the problem of the Erosion Marsh.”
Seeing that both of their attention was on it, the little Erosion Marsh began to play dead again. Zhu Yanchen thought for a moment: “By the time I count to three and it still doesn’t agree with you, you can smash its brain.”
Hearing such a resolute tone, the little Erosion Marsh quivered slightly.
“But…” But without its brain, the marsh wouldn’t be able to spit out more water, then the sword that Shu Jun wanted for his plan couldn’t be made.
“I can study its remnants and try for artificial concentration.” Zhu Yanchen lightly patted the Erosion Marsh, his white gloves sliding across its dark surface in a slow yet threatening movement, like a python crawling through fallen leaves. “The process is a bit troublesome, but it can still be done.”
The Erosion Marsh stopped shivering and shrank on the ground, its fear totally exposed.
Seeing that the marsh was no longer moving, Zhu Yanchen twisted the tips of his fingers: “Too bad then. After we go deeper into the erosion zone, there’ll be no lack of Erosion Marshes for you to hunt down. If this thing has a brain, maybe it can absorb more intelligence and go through some interesting changes.”
Zhu Yanchen’s tone was as cold and rational as ever, and his expression looked nowhere like he was joking.
Although Shu Jun felt a bit of pity, he was convinced: “Let’s do it then.”
“One, two —”
“Okay!” The Erosion Marsh coarsely yelled out, as though if was afraid that they couldn’t hear it clearly. “Okay! Okay!”
“……” Wasn’t its attitude too compliant now? How could this thing succumb to such a simple bullying tactic? Are you the Alpha or am I the Alpha, huh?
Zhu Yanchen hummed softly and wasn’t at all surprised by this outcome: “The rest is yours to communicate.”
Marshal Zhu must be terribly bad with children, Shu Jun slandered him while stroking the Erosion Marsh. The process of shaping the sword was utterly boring, so Shu Jun squeezed the marsh while also observing Zhu Yanchen, who was keeping himself busy with his head down.
This person was fully aware of his ‘deadline’, but rather than looking like he was awaiting death, Zhu Yanchen looked like he was awaiting a vacation, his expression totally calm. He wasn’t sure why, but Shu Jun felt a little uncomfortable seeing the other person like this.
His heart was wary but his mouth, as usual, couldn’t stop running: “Marshal, what is your plan after this?”
Zhu Yanchen didn’t look up: “We’re almost done with Village of The Impaired. We can discuss after you finish making the sword. I’ll let you stay here for 24 hours, you can…”
Shu Jun smiled and a dull crash sound pierced the air.
Only less than an hour had passed since they successfully negotiated with the Erosion Marsh. Hearing the sound of the weapon, Zhu Yanchen raised his eyes in surprise.
A big black sword was standing beside Shu Jun, its whole body pitch-black and reflecting the dim light. Its shape was quite like the one Shu Jun previously used. The only difference was that this sword’s hilt carried an egg-sized grey ‘jewel’ that was surrounded by ruffling veins. Zhu Yanchen tilted his head — Next to that ‘jewel’, which was actually the marsh’s brain, a mouth was twisting in dissatisfaction. Seeing Zhu Yanchen look over, it quietly snorted.
…For some intricate reason, it gave out a rather nauseating feeling.
“Not bad.” Shu Jun drew his sword, borrowed the force of a wind and waved it lightly.
“Is there no need to adjust anything?”
“No.” Shu Jun happily touched the sword. “In my life, my sword is the thing that I’m most familiar with. I know how each detail look like even when I close my eyes.”
Really, I’ve never seen a mouth on your sword before though… Zhu Yanchen thought as he slowly wiped his face.
“This mouth isn’t my aesthetic, but the marsh insists on keeping it.” Seeing the subtle expression in Zhu Yanchen’s eyes, Shu Jun hurriedly explained: “The brain is exposed to make it easier to control this sword. In fact, I also think it’s a bit…”
“As long as it can be used, it’s fine.” Zhu Yanchen promptly interrupted Shu Jun and changed the subject: “Does it have a name?”
He remembered that Shu Jun’s original sword was called ‘Qian Jun’. It was a nice name, but regretfully that sword had been destroyed in the big Erosion Marsh.
“Uhm, I’ve been thinking about it. It won’t be an issue to just call it ‘Erosion Marsh’.” Shu Jun began to entangle some rope and cloth to make a sword belt. “This thing only says one word at a time, and it’s terribly annoying…”
“Or we can just call it ‘Monday’.”
Zhu Yanchen: “……”
This creativity was really too much.
Getting his much-desired sword, Shu Jun’s face became noticeably brighter: “Let’s go, I’ll take you out to try the sword and get something to eat on the way. If we move fast enough, we’ll be able to clean up the situation at Village of The Impaired by today. Are we going to be here for 24 hours? When the matter is resolved, you have to promise me one thing.”
“What would it be?”
“If we have any time left, you’d better use it to sleep.”
“No, in terms of time —”
“I need time to train with this sword. I definitely won’t sleep. If we both stay awake for a long time, the next guard rotation will only be more difficult.”
Then Shu Jun cleared his throat, his tone becoming even more sincere: “Don’t worry, I won’t eat you while you’re sleeping. If you’re really worried, you can handcuff me at the cave entrance, so that I can’t reach you…”
Seeing that this person was coming back to his fiercely insistent self, Zhu Yanchen felt a slight headache and had to surrender: “Okay, if there’s any time left.”
Cleaning up the matter at Village of The Impared was both simple and difficult. In the face of this group of people who didn’t want to stay in the city, at first, Zhu Yanchen just wanted to close one eye and let them fulfil their own wish before death. He never expected that instead of living in a quiet life, these people had the guts to brazenly roam around, even doing things like stealing and feeding an Erosion Marsh.
So Zhu Yanchen couldn’t ignore them anymore.
These people had relatives and friends in the city. If they died in confusion and anger, they would certainly become the seeds of more chaos in the future. Humanity had already had a hard time trying to live on; there wouldn’t be enough manpower to deal with this.
For this situation, Zhu Yanchen originally had his own fixed plan, which might take a while but would definitely work. That said, Shu Jun was undoubtedly a good leader and had ample confidence. He might come up with a few new ideas.
As long as Shu Jun doesn’t jump into an Erosion Marsh like he once did, everything should be fine.
…For the first time in so many years, Zhu Yanchen felt a vague sense of expectation.
“Stretch out your hand and wear this.” Zhu Yanchen took out the monitoring bracelet.
[Harmony: 25%; Resonance level: 7; Vital signs are stable.]
At the same time, in the city.
A young woman sat at a lab table, ignoring the wall clock which showed that it was almost dawn.
In the huge room, quite a number of people were gathering. The air was filled with the smell of low-quality tobacco and alcohol. This wasn’t a regular clinic and no one took care of cleaning here. Blood-soaked bandages and gauzes could be seen everywhere, adding a bloody stench to the pungent air.
There weren’t many visitors in the early morning, so the men were chit-chatting behind the lab table.
“It’s been two days. Zhu Yanchen must be freezing out there.”
“Right? How long can a delicate young master like him live outside? The gods must all favour Marshal Yi Ning this time. Marshal Yi is good. A good leader shouldn’t just inherit the title…”
“Hush, hush. You can’t just spill nonsense about such matters.”
“Why can’t I? Zhu Yanchen is 28, no longer considered young. Except for his strategic capability, what else is he good about? We don’t ever see him in person and no one even knows what he’s doing… Hey, speaking of this, have you heard that an old man surnamed Dong works under young master Zhu? Those beautiful strategies were made with the help of Lao Dong. I don’t know where the previous marshal got such a good man. He must want to ensure that Zhu Yanchen doesn’t tarnish the family name…”
The woman frowned slightly and the pliers in her hand fell on the table with a loud “clang”. The men stopped talking and gave her a slightly horrified look.
Confirming that the woman hadn’t looked back, they continued gossipping: “The Zhu family is getting worse and worse by each generation. Back then, Zhu Rong built the Players’ system with his own hands… Then when it came to the previous marshal, he optimised the entire system again. What about young master Zhu? He never shows up and never contributes much to the system, while no one knows if all those strategies he came up with were created by himself. He doesn’t even look like the previous marshal.”
“Don’t you think that Marshal Yi Ning looks more like a kin of the previous marshal? Look at his actions so far: advocating for further improvement of the system and focusing on urban development. Don’t both of them look like the style of the Zhu family? The previous marshal might not have only one woman. See, the lady and he have such a big age gap —”
Reaching this point, a few men giggled. But before they could finish their laugh, a bloody scalpel flew over, cutting a cigarette butt and completely putting off the fire.
“Ai, Ai jie…”
The woman stood up. She was average in height, but her thin figure made her seem quite tall. On her beautiful face, a layer of impatience was hanging between her eyebrows, giving her a rather overbearing look.
She stretched her hair band and tied a low ponytail: “Get out of here if you have nothing to do. Don’t stay here talking nonsense. If you’re any bit wise, you should sweep the floor. Remember to shut your mouth when sweeping.”
At the explosion of the clinic owner, the men ran away at fast as lightning.
Ai Xiaoxiao sneered and closed the clinic’s main door.
The apocalypse had brought about a huge gap in knowledge. Even when humanity had been trying to rebuild everything for several hundreds years, experts in niche fields were still in short supply. Medical personnel were even more highly paid. Except for a few freaks, few people would open a clinic by themselves.
Ai Xiaoxiao was one of those ‘freaks’.
As for why this woman went out to do it by herself rather than working in a comfortable public hospital, everyone knew well — Compared with doctors in regular hospitals, Ai Xiaoxiao was stellar at hospice care and plastic surgery.
But this was currently an area with zero demand.
Medical resources were scarce and the public wouldn’t give sick people a large amount of purification medicine before they died just to reduce a bit of pain. Almost all doctors with surgery expertise were allocated to the army, and the rest would only perform an operation if it was to save a life. No one would have the free time to perform plastic surgery on people who had been eroded to make their bodies look more normal.
No one was allowed to get it, no matter how much money they were willing to spend. The medical union of the coalition government had made their stand very firm on this point.
But Ai Xiaoxiao didn’t have the same stand. As long as the money was in, she could get everything and do anything.
Since she searched for materials to make medicine on her own and performed the surgeries on her own, she was qualified to practise medicine, which meant that she walked in a grey area. Her fees for common illnesses weren’t high, so most people who had headaches or fever would look for her, which reduced a lot of burden on nearby hospitals.
Moreover, no bad incident had ever happened at Ai’s Clinic. As time passed, the people above gradually ignored her. Since there were gaps in the policy in the first place, it was difficult to block all roads.
However, Miss Ai earned a lot of money but had a rather random temperament. She opened and closed the clinic as she felt like. Visitors who used abusive words could be chased away as she wanted. Everything was very casual.
Sometimes, she would just drive away a whole group of visitors.
Ai Xiaoxiao locked the door, turned the key indifferently and walked inside.
The mutated monster had delivered the chip to her room, and its corpse was lying on her table. This creature had always had a short lifespan, then after modification, it completely turned into a type of ‘disposable’ messenger.
After all, there weren’t many messengers that could cross the erosion zones without being noticed. They had limited options.
Ai Xiaoxiao dexterously connected the chip to the computer and conveniently pulled out a caffeine lollipop to chew it in her mouth. In the dark room, the running data were reflected in her eyes.
“More than ten years of hard work and your life is about to end, but no one wants to take care of your debt.” She chuckled. “This is so sad. Marshal Zhu, what on earth are you really planning?”
But these data were indeed extremely valuable. Zhu Yanchen was an excellent researcher himself, and his explanation of his own condition was rather detailed.
If the previous marshal knew his son’s true condition, he probably would be fuming with rage.
Thinking of this, she felt funny again. But before she could let out a laugh, someone pressed on the doorbell.
“Who is it?” She pushed aside her chair with irritation and quietly decided that she would shoo the visitor away.
“It’s me.” An old man’s voice came. “I’m Lao Dong, Zhu Yanchen’s right-hand man. I have something to discuss.”
Translator and reviewer at Strictly Bromance blog. In essence, she lives to indulge in plot-driven stories sprinkled with camaraderie and slow-burn drama-free romance, especially more so if they belong to adventure, mystery or supernatural genre. A trope that she always thirsts after: “Comrades who go through life and death together”.