Chapter 37: The Visit At Midnight
After Zhu Yanchen was formally declared dead, Yi Ning’s workload increased manyfold.
He simply put up a canopy bed in the office to stay the nights there. Zhu Yanchen’s death had completely disrupted the rhythm of his campaign. Supporters thought that he was sure to win and their energy surged out of control. But, Zhu Yanchen’s father, Zhu Sheng, had been constantly making his moves as of late, and the Zhu family obviously had no plans to give up the leader’s position.
The Tang family behind Yi Ning ran around to handle different relationships, while the Xia family was still on the sidelines, constantly on watch. Only Marshal Yi was left to feel very worn out from all this.
At first, he just wanted to make everyone’s life better, but with matters reaching this stage, he had seen a lot of ugly things. The only thing that kept him standing was this belief. Yi Ning made himself a cup of coffee and continued to deal with the pile of documents.
It had to be said that old man Lao Dong and Ai Xiaoxiao, who were arranged by Zhu Yanchen, were really reliable and saved him a lot of trouble. It was just that these two persons also inherited Zhu Yanchen’s mindset. They both had a tendency to let the synthesised humans stay on defence mode, unwilling to let the purification procedure move on quickly. Even when Yi Ning only wanted to assign the Blackbird team with a surveying mission, Ai Xiaoxiao found it necessary to stare judgingly at him for a whole day.
The costs of daily maintenance for synthesised humans remained unchanged, but since they were staying on defence mode at the moment, the purification efficiency had become much lower. However, comparing this with other burning problems, Yi Ning could bear this loss.
The burden on the medical system was getting heavier, and the social security issues hadn’t been fully solved for a long time. In order to quickly stimulate the economy and overturn the situation, he must start the accelerated plan for synthesised human production as soon as possible.
Where is the research report by the institute…? Oh, yes, in order not to be seen by the players, confidential documents would only be sent through the screen…
With sleepiness crashing his head, his limbs felt as heavy as lead. Yi Ning tried to gnaw on the mountain of documents and began to consider whether he should get a glass of iced water.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
Yi Ning frowned. It was three o’clock in the morning, and he couldn’t think of anyone who would come to visit at his hour. But since the bodyguards let this person pass, there should be no problem — I hope it’s not the Tang family, I’m not in the mood to talk about the world’s messy issues at all.
However, after getting a clear look at the uninvited guest, Yi Ning suddenly became much more awake.
Luo Duan stood outside the door, holding a few cans of drinks in his hand. There were a lot of bandages on his body, but his temperament was still gentle and polite.
“Bitter Rain?” Yi Ning asked with uncertainty.
In principle, [Erosion] never forbade private interactions between ‘players’ and ‘NPCs’. After all, this was the real world, thus it would be unrealistic to completely ban such interactions. Since there really was no way to keep the water from leaking, they could only quietly separate the two groups and tried to ensure that the players only communicated with people from the coalition government.
Luo Duan smiled at him: “I can’t sleep, just strolling around. Can I go in, sir? I bring iced soda.”
“Sorry, I still have to work.” Yi Ning took a deep breath, not inviting him in. .
“Uhm.” Luo Duan didn’t seem very surprised. “I just want to talk about the recent mission arrangement for the Groundwater team. This should also be considered important business.”
Yi Ning pondered for a moment and moved to a side to make way. Since they were to discuss business, it might help him wake up his mind.
It was just that when Luo Duan passed him by, Yi Ning felt a sort of cold aura. That coldness faded in an instant. Probably just the chill from the iced drinks, Marshal Yi wiped his face.
The drink was refreshing, and Luo Duan indeed came here to talk about business. It could be seen that he had given the matter a lot of thoughts, and some of his ideas were quite reasonable. Yi Ning gradually lost his sleepiness, and the topic gradually shifted from the Groundwater team to all the players, then it turned to Yi Ning’s views on the recent ‘game plot’.
“Zhu Sheng should pick someone from the Xia family. With Zhu Yanchen’s death, the Xia family’s stand is swinging back and forth. Zhu Sheng isn’t a person who insists on blood relations, meanwhile, there are but very few outstanding people in the Zhu family. To adopt a child from the Xia family and raise him to be the heir, it can be done… Uhm, considering Zhu Sheng’s personality, even if he does something more excessive, I won’t be surprised.”
Unlike Blackbird’s Shu Jun, Luo Duan was obviously interested in the ‘game plot’ and had even done his homework. The two talked fairly smoothly, and by the time Yi Ning got back to his senses, it was already close to five o’clock in the morning.
“…Since you’ve been supported to reach this position, they shouldn’t give up on you so easily. Zhu Sheng hasn’t yet decided on a new candidate. This period of time is the most important to you. But I think you already know that, otherwise you won’t be awake at this hour.”
Luo Duan’s voice was quite soft and actually soothing to the mind. He walked to the heap of documents and bent down to pick up the copies that fell to the ground.
“Marshal Yi, as a subordinate, I still want to remind you…”
Luo Duan paused, and there was a little more subtle emotion in his voice.
“…to pay more attention to your own health.”
As the words fell, his badly injured body suddenly twisted a litte, but Luo Duan reacted very quickly. Almost immediately, he stretched out his hands and propped them on the edge of the table. But, being shaken like this, the mountain of documents instantly scattered all over the ground.
“Ah, I’m so sorry.” Luo Duan smiled and began to bend over to pick them up again. “It seems that I’m sleepy too, so let’s stop here today. The topic of medical security just now is quite interesting, I’ll come back tomorrow.”
A sedative-filled water pillar quietly rose and snuck into Yi Ning’s drink can.
“You go back first. When morning comes, I’ll ask the assistant to clean up for me.” Yi Ning glanced at the bandages on Luo Duan’s wounded body, gulped down the remaining liquid in the can and gave Luo Duan a hand.
Luo Duan raised the corner of his mouth: “Good night, Marshal Yi.”
I really should rest, Yi Ning thought. As soon as he let himself relax, the drowsiness struck instantly. Before work starts at nine o’clock tomorrow, I can still sleep for four hours.
The heavy door closed behind Luo Duan.
Luo Duan stretched out his hand, and another water pillar condensed within his palm, with Yi Ning’s multi-access key hooked at its end. A matchbox-sized card lay quietly in Luo Duan’s hand.
The corridor was filled with sticky darkness, and something cold came out of his pores, wrapped around his neck, trembling with an ominous frequency.
“Let me… help you…” That voice clung to his neck as it spoke in an eerie tone, as though it was a mix of the voices of men, women and children randomly fused together.
“No.” Luo Duan didn’t look back.
Before Yi Ning woke up, he still had four hours. He had a lot of access in hand, but if possible, he hoped he wouldn’t have to use the Marshal-level authority.
However, things didn’t go as smoothly as he thought.
Relying on his water-type concealment ability, Luo Duan easily avoided the camera and sneaked into the lower level of the Headquarters. Just as he was about to go deeper, the coldness around his neck started twitching again.
“Some… someone is coming.” It emphasised with that eerie voice: “Someone… is coming.”
Although Luo Duan didn’t want to pay attention to this thing, he quietly hid away.
Before his eyes, two figures appeared at the end of the corridor, heading underground. Luo Duan frowned — judging from their actions, those two mustn’t be the staff here.
……Who are they?
At this moment, Shu Jun was feeling uncomfortable all over.
In order for him to enter the Headquarters, Zhu Yanchen had turned off the defensive purifiers for a few seconds with Lao Dong’s assistance from outside. However, the power of military purifiers was amazing. Even if the defensive purifiers were only put outside of the building, Shu Jun still felt very uncomfortable.
Luckily, he didn’t bring Monday, otherwise he had no idea when Monday would be screaming until. But at this moment, it was in Ai Xiaoxiao’s hands, so probably its situation wasn’t much better over there either.
Hundreds of military purifiers were working like mad, and Shu Jun had an urge to vomit.
“Hold it.” Zhu Yanchen stroked his back with one hand and said in a low voice.
With the authority over the alarm system, the two had smoothly penetrated all the way in. Their destination was very clear — usually the lowest floor of any base was the synthesised human’s production plant, while the lowest floor of the Headquarters was the system responsible for controlling the ‘truth’.
Since Zhu Yanchen was never a bossy person, the air of the four-person gathering earlier was very casual. Compared to Zhu Yanchen, the other two were obviously more interested in Shu Jun, which actually made him feel a tad awkward. But even with a slightly odd atmosphere, things were discussed clearly.
Originally, Zhu Yanchen’s idea was very simple — Lao Dong and Ai Xiaoxiao made the synthesised humans turn their focus to defence, and at the same time, The Old Fourth went to spread news of Erosion Marshes developing brains. When public opinion surged high enough, they would leak the records obtained from the ruins of X City, and certainly, things would ripple out from there.
Even if the Player System couldn’t be disbaled immediately, the plan to increase their production would inevitably be affected. Zhu Yanchen had already foreseen his own death. He originally only wanted to be a fuse to blow the problem to the surface.
But in the end, he didn’t die.
The situation had gotten a bit embarrassing for him now — Marshal Zhu had carefully planned every step, even his death date. He didn’t want to be the leader at the beginning, and as such, he didn’t manage his image at all, and his reputation among the commoners was terribly bad. Even if he stood on the roof of the Headquarters and, out of thin air, pulled out a glamorous show of him coming back from the dead, he would still not be able to win the subsequent election.
Not to mention that Zhu Sheng was still in power. Even if Lady Luck was on Zhu Yanchen’s side and he somehow won the position of the leader, from behind, Zhu Sheng could still turn him into a mere puppet.
When they discussed this matter earlier, Lao Dong’s eyes almost rolled to the sky and back. Ai Xiaoxiao looked at Zhu Yanchen with a humourless smile, with the word ‘serve him’ written on her left cheek and ‘right’ written on her right cheek.
“Should we give the evidence directly to Zhu Sheng?” Shu Jun didn’t know much about politics, so he could only ask instinctively.
“It’s pointless.” Lao Dong said hoarsely: “The information obtained from X City can only prove that there existed a synthesised human who integrated with an Erosion Marsh. This system has been in operation for two hundred years, yet only a single case of such nature has been discovered. Zhu Yanchen’s judgment wouldn’t be valued. At best, this evidence can be used as a fuse, blow up some public opinion, and make people pay attention to this matter.”
“If you are Zhu Sheng, you have a plan in your hand — it has a 95% probability to promote social development and allow you to gain power for yourself, but on the other hand, there’s a 5% probability that it’ll bring about a large-scale disaster. There’s only been one case in two hundred years. How would you choose? If we target public opinion in the very first place, we may force the coalition government to investigate further.”
“The old man really blabbers on and on.” Ai Xiaoxiao took a sip of tea. “In short, if you want to liberate the synthesised humans and investigate the Erosion Marsh as much as you want, you must gain control over the coalition government as soon as possible. And to get the coalition government, Yi Ning and Zhu Sheng are enemies that you can’t ignore.”
Lao Dong glared at Ai Xiaoxiao and the latter glanced back disdainfully. A smell of fire and medicine hung in the air.
Shu Jun didn’t want to remember anymore. Thinking of these messy political problems made his stomach twitch again. He didn’t know if it was affected by the discomfort of the body, but he felt a trace of aura of ‘his kin’ from a distance away — the aura was there one moment and disappeared the next. It lingered very far away, and as they entered the deepest floor of the base, it dissipated like smoke.
Something seems odd.
But since they had both reached this point, it wasn’t appropriate to suddenly change their direction. In any case, the point was to prepare for the upcoming NPC mission. Shu Jun withdrew his suspicious gaze and followed Zhu Yanchen into the ground.
In the dark corner, a strand of erosive substance slowly dripped down. It pulled itself extremely thin and quietly followed behind them.
It murmured behind Shu Jun’s back.
“It’s almost… mature… That’s great.”
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”.