Chapter 20: Yi Ning
At 8 o’clock in the morning, Zhu Yanchen slowly woke up.
He hadn’t slept so well in a long time. It wasn’t because of his mental stability, rather, it was because of real physical changes — Over the past ten years, in order to cover up the changes that happened to his body so that outsiders couldn’t see that he was eroded, Ai Xiaoxiao had removed innumerable lumps and overgrown bones from him.
She used them as research materials and kept them well. According to Dr. Ai, those removed tissues were enough to squeeze an adult out of them
Zhu Yanchen knew very well that after countless operations, his body was like a puppet patched together by various organs. With a layer of paint and some clothes, this puppet looked neat from outside, but its internals had been pretty much destroyed.
So pain had always followed him like a shadow.
It wasn’t any unbearable pain. It was just never ending, crawling slowly around all corners on his body. Because of this, Zhu Yanchen’s sleep quality had been severely bad, so much so that he had grown used to intermittent sleeping. He would sleep when he could manage to, and if the pain woke him up, he would just get back to work.
Zhu Yanchen almost forgot when was the last time he slept this long.
His diet hadn’t changed and the surroundings hadn’t changed either. Perhaps Shu Jun did something, but there was no way Zhu Yanchen wouldn’t know if Shu Jun made a big movement.
This good sleep of his was some information worth noting down.
Zhu Yanchen raised his eyes to look at Shu Jun — Instead of squeezing into bed with him, Shu Jun was lying on the sofa next to the purifier. The sofa was a bit narrow, so Shu Jun was curling up awkwardly, barely lying on his back. He hugged Monday in his arms, his mouth half open and the tip of his canine teeth protruding out of his lips. He slept so soundly.
The purifier was still running and the air smelled of pancakes. Zhu Yanchen sat quietly for a while, then put on his coat and got out of bed.
Being squeezed by a full-grown human next to a purifier, the broadsword felt so aggrieved. At this moment, it no longer cared whether Zhu Yanchen was an enemy or a friend and just opened its mouth miserably: “Help… Help…”
Zhu Yanchen: “…”
Ignoring the sword that was begging for help, he headed to the briefcase on the table. The metal buckle made a soft sound. The next second, a cold wind blew across his skin and a blade stopped next to Zhu Yanchen’s fingers.
Zhu Yanchen didn’t move.
“Oh, it’s you.” Shu Jun yawned and withdrew his sword: “Sorry, I was sleepy. Are you feeling better?”
“Much better.” Zhu Yanchen took out a needle from the briefcase: “Your arm. Time to draw blood.”
“Eat breakfast first. Last night, I bought some pancakes and heated them on the purifier. They’re still hot. The owner also gave us a bag of rock sugar, so I heated it together. We can make some sugar water later.” Shu Jun yawned again and let go of Monday, which was still shouting “help”.
Zhu Yanchen nodded politely and continued holding out the needle, standing completely still.
Shu Jun rubbed his unruly hair and stretched out his arm with a sigh. After a few days, there was still no sign that this monster appearance of his would disappear soon.
“Open your mouth.” Zhu Yanchen asked again as he put the blood sample into the testing machine.
But this time he hesitated for a few seconds: “If you don’t like me wearing gloves, I can take them off.”
The cloth didn’t feel very comfortable when it touched his mouth, but Shu Jun firmly refused: “Just wear them. I’m afraid that my appetite will surge up and I’ll bite your fingers.”
With a blank expression, Zhu Yanchen pulled out his gloves.
Five minutes later.
“…Everything is normal.” Zhu Yanchen looked at Shu Jun’s mouth and touched the mutated teeth for a moment. The inspection duration this time was much longer than last time, so Shu Jun’s chin felt a bit sore. But seeing Zhu Yanchen so focused on the inspection, he had no choice but to bear it.
“Your body seems stable for now.” Zhu Yanchen took out his wet fingers: “If you feel any discomfort, remember to tell me at once.”
Shu Jun rested his head on chin and said sincerely: “The pancakes are almost drying out, and I’m feeling hungry. I had one last night, it was delicious. There’s even soy sauce to go with them.”
Shu Jun had no idea if it was just his illusion, but Zhu Yanchen’s eyes seemed to soften a bit. He put back his briefcase and sat down to eat breakfast. If they disregarded the signs of erosion, this room was rather well-furnished. As the two sat down and ate their meals, it actually felt very warm.
A vague sense of familiarity came to him and Shu Jun shook his head.
Zhu Yanchen was unaware of what was going on in Shu Jun’s mind: “Let’s buy a large mud sled later. It only takes about ten days to go to X City. Looking at your physical condition, you don’t need protective clothing to go to X City.”
Shu Jun looked into Zhu Yanchen’s eyes and his brows slightly furrowed, then he replied absent-mindedly: “Uhm.”
“I plan to investigate X city for three weeks.” Zhu Yanchen then continued: “After that, I’ll continue to head east and go all the way to the beach. Finally, I’ll head back… I’ll go as far as I can last.”
Shu Jun stirred the sugar water with a spoon: “Uhm.”
“When I die, you don’t need to care about the corpse, just go back to Y City and find a female doctor named Ai Xiaoxiao. She’s a subordinate of mine with first-rate research skills. Although she can’t treat you like me, she should still be able to finish the treatment.” Zhu Yanchen said with a flat tone, as if he wasn’t talking about his own death. [T/N: What is this pain in my chest… (╥_╥)]
Shu Jun’s spoon stopped moving.
Zhu Yanchen didn’t wait for that “uhm” and raised his eyes. Shu Jun smiled at him and switched the topic once again: “Yesterday, the owner said that something strange happened near X City and wants us to stay away from it. If you want to specifically go there, can you tell me a bit about your purpose?”
“I don’t know.”
“Because I don’t know what’s there, so I want to personally go there to confirm. Humans haven’t set foot in those ruins for two centuries, so anything is possible.” Zhu Yanchen picked up the handkerchief and elegantly wiped his mouth: “What else did the owner tell you? Please tell me.”
“He said my nails are too long. Young people shouldn’t follow this style.”
Shu Jun pushed the sugar water in front of Zhu Yanchen: “Just kidding, later you can ask him yourself. That uncle talks a lot and I haven’t grasped all the important points. After all, I haven’t seen him for more than 200 minutes, so any new information might have appeared by now.”
Zhu Yanchen nodded and hurriedly drank the sugar water. As he was about to clean up the cups and plates on the table, Shu Jun stretched out one hand and grabbed his wrist.
“A Yan.” Shu Jun’s tone sounded as though he wouldn’t accept any refute: “I hope you’ll personally introduce Ai Xiaoxiao to me. To be honest, for the sake of your people, you’d better live longer.”
As he said this, the smile on Shu Jun’s face disappeared. He raised his eyes to stare at Zhu Yanchen’s reaction, his pupils shrinking.
“If my partner disappears too early and there’s no benefit left for me, I don’t know what I’ll do.”
Zhu Yanchen stretched out his other hand and pushed Shu Jun’s hand away very gently.
“I understand.” He said.
Only then did Shu Jun continue to eat the pancakes with satisfaction, but he missed Zhu Yanchen’s soft whisper that followed.
“…And I certainly know what you’ll do.” Zhu Yanchen moved his lips quietly.
Inside Y City.
Marshal Yi Ning was in a bad mood.
At first, he just wanted to give Zhu Yanchen a stumbling block in the stronghold. He wanted the mutated monsters to ambush from outside to prove the necessity of producing more ‘players’ — With this, Zhu Yanchen would see that he couldn’t protect himself well even with his big background, and the lack of combat power would be made evident.
If there were no issues with the plan, Zhu Yanchen would be fine. He might suffer some minor injuries and lay in the hospital for a month or two at most. Yi Ning had prepared everything and even specially reduced the defence at the stronghold that day, but things went completely wrong.
Before the mutated monsters waiting outside the stronghold were released, another mutated monster escaped from inside and snatched Zhu Yanchen away. It was as if someone knew what Yi Ning was going to do and took the opportunity to make a move first.
After the accident, Yi Ning immediately contacted the Tang family, who had been providing him with financial support. What he wanted was the benefits of positive public opinion, not an assassination.
However, the Tang family said that they knew nothing about it.
Yi Ning anxiously sat back on his chair and began to look through the speech he had prepared. The higher-ups had come up with some very fluent excuses, but these wouldn’t be needed in the short term.
Why was this happening?
Yi Ning was born as a commoner, and both his parents wandered around the eroded zones to mine for gold, spilling blood and sweat on a daily basis. When Yi Ning was four years old, they died of a chronic disease caused by erosion. He just survived alone, stumbling and suffering for an unknown amount of time before he climbed to his current position. No one knew better than him what benefits would be brought to the public by increasing the production of ‘players’.
Right now, the ‘players’ — no, the ‘synthesised humans’ — were only stationed in the stronghold. Under the jurisdiction of the coalition government, they were used for purifying and exploring new places. If Yi Ning’s idea became reality, a brand-new synthesised human could live in the city and truly contribute his labour as a ‘casual player’. Those with poor performance could be sold to the capital in batches, and it would no longer require manpower from ordinary people to riskily mine gold in those eroded zones.
In this way, people could be completely separated from work that was at risk of erosion, and the workload would be greatly reduced.
It might be troublesome to keep the ‘truth’ from them, but as long as the goal was established, the rest could be slowly taken care of — As long as there weren’t too many synthesised humans in the city, even if they caused trouble, they could be suppressed by the army.
The citizens truly liked this proposal. No one wanted their relatives and friends to do life-threatening works, let alone the reduction in workload. On the other hand, Yi Ning, who was born as a commoner, was also more lovable than young master Zhu. As such, Yi Ning’s popularity had been increasing.
But Yi Ning didn’t let his vigilance down.
Since Zhu Yanchen could hang on until now, the first reason was because the Zhu family’s relationships were deep and wide enough, and the second reason was because this man was really good at forming strategies. Compared to those pretentious people from big families who were only specialised in putting up facades, Yi Ning truly appreciated Zhu Yanchen as an opponent. In terms of ability, Zhu Yanchen had no weakness to pick at apart from being too low-key.
But now that the opponent was gone, Yi Ning wasn’t happy.
On one hand, he couldn’t quite understand — The plan he was pushing for would undoubtedly benefit people’s livelihood. If Zhu Yanchen had a similar idea to him, he would even be willing to withdraw from the competition. The previous Marshal Zhu also expressed his appreciation for him in public, yet Zhu Yanchen remained to be like a stone.
On the other hand, objectively, it was a huge loss to not have Zhu Yanchen here. Yi Ning couldn’t find the right person to take over the management of those synthesised humans that used to be under Zhu Yanchen, and besides, no one could replace him when it came to strategic planning.
Originally, he planned to increase the production of synthesised humans as soon as possible, but now, cleaning up this mess was already a big problem.
Yi Ning pushed the speech aside and rubbed his forehead. As if the situation wasn’t chaotic enough, the communication device began to beep loudly.
“What is it?”
“Sir, it’s the synthesised human you’re directly in charge of, the leader of the Groundwater team, Luo Duan… He wants to see you.”
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”.