Chapter 35: The Gathering of Four
Used to disasters and obstacles thrown at them, the two wouldn’t panic just because of this piece of bad news. Regardless of the real situation outside, worrying and panicking wouldn’t change anything. Zhu Yanchen put down the surgical tray in his hand and carefully asked Shu Jun a few questions, then he picked up the tweezers again and started to treat the wound.
Shu Jun liked this feeling of being able to communicate smoothly. They didn’t spend any time questioning each other or denying their breakdown, while the efficiency of their discussion remained high.
Shu Jun closed his mouth contentedly, and somehow, out of thin air, peace simply took over his mind. Even the pain on his back didn’t affect his good mood.
Zhu Yanchen dealt with the arrow with extremely light and accurate movements, as if Shu Jun was a sculpture made of catkins that might collapse under a single breath.
This man is too serious about everything.
After fighting these past few days, Shu Jun had gotten familiar with the characteristics of the erosive substance in his body. This thing was so very simple. If his injury was bad, they would repair it in a panic, but if the injury wasn’t life-threatening, they would be too lazy to change their original state and only heal him at a normal rate.
In other words, Shu Jun’s wound would only get better slowly and wouldn’t worsen. But Zhu Yanchen was treating him very meticulously. He put anesthetic on Shu Jun and carefully cleaned up the torn flesh.
After his body improved, Zhu Yanchen’s hands were no longer cold. Right now, he was busy taking out the arrow with his palm pressed against Shu Jun’s back, and his body temperature was constantly pouring in.
Shu Jun suddenly felt a little uncomfortable.
He was sitting on the chair with his chin resting on the chair’s back, with Zhu Yanchen bending down slightly behind him. Shu Jun could feel the heat wrapping around his back. The skin where Zhu Yanchen’s hand touched was getting hotter and hotter. Due to some tension that he couldn’t quite name, his torn flesh felt as though it was turning into a piece of wood while his whole body was jammed against the air.
The two of them slept in the same bed, and Shu Jun had been falling asleep very fast, not feeling even a hint of awkwardness. If he had to bluntly expose his feelings, Shu Jun felt that he accepted it too smoothly — it was as if the two of them should’ve been sleeping together.
Before, he could still tease himself in his heart and joke around with his half-dead romantic seedling. Now that the other man’s body temperature had soaked into his skin like poison, he didn’t know what to do.
Shu Jun wasn’t one who disliked contact with other people. Whether it was daily interaction or combat, he had long been accustomed to physical contact with the same sex — To be honest, his team had been trained in water combat, and Shu Jun was very good at choking his opponent from the back in water. Every time he made a move, whether it was the area of skin contact or the duration, it was way more exaggerated than now.
He had never been this cautious before.
However, his body reaction wouldn’t lie. At this moment, he was as stiff as a frozen hairtail, the toughness of his body probably comparable to Monday.
Zhu Yanchen was still gently handling the wound and hadn’t moved his hand away. Shu Jun only wished Zhu Yanchen’s movements could be cruder, for in that way, he could stop his mind from wandering too far. Since he really had no way out of this, Shu Jun resorted to staring at a scratch on the table, but his heartbeat was still so loud that it seemingly banged against his eardrums.
“Are you feeling uncomfortable somewhere?” Marshal Zhu noticed his odd behaviour and stopped for a moment. The mechanical arrow had been taken out, lying amid a pool of blood on the tray.
“No.” Shu Jun squeezed the word out of his throat.
“Then I’ll start stitching.” Zhu Yanchen said softly and moved his face a little closer, and the tail-end of his breath brushed Shu Jun’s sensitive wound.
Let me live please, he lamented as more question marks started crushing his mind. Shu Jun could only sigh silently in his heart.
“Also.” But Marshal Zhu still didn’t plan to let him go. “Just now you talked about your feeling of hatred… Don’t hesitate, you can talk to me like before.”
This sentence sounded a little stiff. Perhaps because my stiffness has spread to Zhu Yanchen, Shu Jun thought helplessly.
But it was a pity that he guessed wrongly. Marshal Zhu’s stiffness was purely self-induced.
It was the first time he had seen Shu Jun fight against another human. Previously, they only hunted mutated monsters, at which time Shu Jun always seemed rather relaxed, his attitude truly closer to ‘hunting’ than ‘fighting’. But just now, in that moment he became completely serious, his aura felt like that of a ferocious beast that had been awakened.
When Shu Jun was looking down at Wu Da’s eyes, Wu Da himself might not have paid attention, but Zhu Yanchen saw it clearly. Even if Zhu Yanchen tossed aside Shu Jun’s abnormal loathing, those eyes were drenched in piercing arrogance and a brutal intent to fight.
Zhu Yanchen wasn’t familiar with this kind of Shu Jun. Colliding head-on against another incredibly strong man actually had him instinctively and secretly frightened, yet his blood also boiled with zeal. But, by the time they returned to their room, that razor-sharp aura had melted, and the other man simply turned around unsuspectingly to expose his wound.
Zhu Yanchen had long been accustomed to such a scene. Shu Jun himself might not have noticed it yet — he unconsciously trusted Zhu Yanchen more than he was aware of.
As the past and the present were entangled, the person before his eyes had him immensely confused.
Zhu Yanchen stretched out his hand, pressed on the other man’s smooth, warm skin and treated the wound with care. He knew very well that dangerous toxins were surging beneath that layer of skin full of vitality. This sense of contradiction fascinated him. Feeling the other man’s temperature and breath also made sparks jump around his nerves.
Back in the morning, when Shu Jun leaned onto him to look at the data, Zhu Yanchen already felt the attraction, as though he was caught in a scorching vortex.
His desires were getting bigger, and one of them was the urge to ‘touch’.
……But this shouldn’t be an impulse felt between friends. Zhu Yanchen lowered his gaze and focused on the wound. By the time his mind calmed down, his thoughts jumped out of his mouth on their own volition.
“You can talk to me like you did before.”
“Okay.” Shu Jun replied.
Zhu Yanchen couldn’t see his expression, only the back of his head. Under the dim light, the other man’s grey hair was glowing beautifully.
Finally, the wound was stitched up. Zhu Yanchen straightened up and left the thickened air that was getting inexplicably warm.
In the few days that followed, it shouldn’t be said that earth-shattering changes happened to the settlement, but it indeed went through some adjustments. With a direct order from The Old Fourth, Hou Ye was no longer in charge of safety patrols, instead, he was transferred to managing the businesses in the area. Yu Jin was formally pulled into The Old Fourth, responsible for managing the law and order at the base.
The Old Fourth added a few new rules, and immediately, bothersome incidents were visibly reduced. Hearing that their opponent had become the boss in the truest sense, Wu Da and Wu Er ran away overnight. After initiating this series of changes, ‘Grey Claw’ and ‘Haze’’ also built some reputation for themselves.
Unfortunately, a notice came from Y City and they couldn’t continue to strike while the iron was hot.
Temporarily recruited NPCs weren’t treated as well as players, so the three of them were made to sit in a semi-open truck. Yu Jin couldn’t keep his eyes away from Zhu Yanchen, and Shu Jun could sort of guess what was occupying his mind — As a high-ranking official of The Old Fourth, there was no way ‘Haze’ could not be short of money. The fact that he specially came for the NPC mission meant that there was at least an 80% chance something was wrong with it.
However, it wasn’t convenient to ask about such matters too directly. He might offend the wrong person if he was careless. Because of that, Yu Jin looked as though he was being suffocated to death.
“For information.” Being gazed at with such fierce eyes, Zhu Yanchen took the initiative to speak up. “That place is a newly rescued area, maybe there are artifacts to dig up. The staff below are unreliable, so I have to see it in person, and the Player team is also more professional than ordinary bodyguards.”
It seems that he’s thought of this excuse since way earlier, Shu Jun chuckled lightly.
“Indeed, not to mention that one Grey Claw was as good as ten of them.” Yu Jin said with a grin. “By the way, can I still call you Haze later? Will it be inconvenient…”
After all, Yu Jin is a veteran who has seen many things at the border area, Shu Jun could hear the subtext between his lines.
The inspection was quite strict when entering Y City through ordinary channels, where it would take a long time just for verification of permanent residents. Before they could even worry about Shu Jun’s identity, Zhu Yanchen’s definitely couldn’t be concealed.
The temporarily recruited NPCs were different. They were brought in directly by the army, and the monitoring device also had a positioning function. Temporary NPCs were not allowed to go to sensitive places and nor stay in the city for too long. For such people, the entrance inspection shouldn’t be too strict, and giving a few greetings to the army leader would usually do the trick.
There were many staff in The Old Fourth whose identity must remain unknown, and it was normal for them not to reveal their whereabouts. Judging from Yu Jin’s reaction, the majority of them were probably dealers who specialised in dangerous underground businesses.
“It’s fine to call me that way.” Zhu Yanchen turned his head and looked at the high wall of Y City.
“Then do you have any plans later? It’s a rare opportunity to enter the city, also we’ll have to spend a bit of time queuing.” Yu Jin pulled twice on his hair that was dyed fluorescent blond. “I’m going shopping in the commercial street. You can’t buy anything good in the settlement.”
“We’re going to find a clinic. Grey Claw will have to check his body.”
After all, they couldn’t control what Yu Jin wanted to do, and if they lied and were exposed, they would only appear more suspicious. As such, Zhu Yanchen chose to tell the truth.
“Hey, Ai’s Clinic is good. Or we can send brother Grey Claw there later, let’s go get some supplies first. I know a good weapon shop —”
“I want to be with him.” Zhu Yanchen continued.
Shu Jun: “……”
Too straightforward, too straightforward. Even if Mr. Marshal made up an illness for Shu Jun, he wasn’t hurt enough to not be able to walk by himself, and they weren’t kids who needed to go hand in hand to find the toilet either. This seriously sounded a bit suspicious.
Yu Jin was choked for a few seconds, then his eyes swept over the two of them and suddenly he came to a realisation. This time, his tone turned rather ambiguous: “So you two are like that. Oops, I’m bothering you.”
Shu Jun slapped his mask and sighed exaggeratedly, while Marshal Zhu continued to look out the window, obviously not intending to clarify the misunderstanding.
Pragmatists are really scary, Shu Jun thought in silence.
Ai’s Clinic wasn’t difficult to find, for it was located in the most prosperous area in the city, yet its appearance was noticeably shabby. In fact, it looked more like a haunted house than a medical clinic. At the moment, a sign with the line ‘Closed today, doubled price if you want consultation’ written in blood-red letters was hung on the door. Regardless of whether one looked at the sentence or the font it was written in, the haunted house aura only got a bit stronger.
Zhu Yanchen flipped the sign and decisively pushed the door open.
No one was in the main hall, the lights were off and the garbage was randomly brushed into the corners. Following a faint light from the corridor, the two turned into a small consulting room that had lights on. There were only two people inside.
“You’re here.” The girl in white was biting a lollipop and her voice was a little vague. “Congratulations to a certain someone on coming back from the dead.”
As she said so, she smashed the lollipop and locked the door. The old man standing beside her was silent, his eyes fixed on Shu Jun.
“Let me introduce myself, I’m Ai Xiaoxiao.” The girl in white stretched her hand towards Shu Jun and politely shook hands with him. “All of you, follow me.”
Shu Jun glanced across the room. This small room wasn’t even ten square meters, so he couldn’t imagine where he could follow her to.
Ai Xiaoxiao chuckled and kicked the table by the window twice. The table rattled and slowly moved away, revealing the steps heading underground: “It’s time for a thorough inspection, Mr. Erosion Marsh.”
Then, she squinted at the sword behind Shu Jun and directly poked a spot on the cloth, her finger precisely landing on Monday’s exposed brain: “And this little thing.”
Monday’s excruciating scream of “Noooooo —” instantly reverberated across the room.
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”.