Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Shen Si walked on the road, his gray jacket was blown up by the wind, as he walked forward with his head down against the wind. The road was quiet, without cars or people, empty and uncomfortable, and Shen Si knew why. Because in the playfield, no matter where you were, there will be a swamp under your feet, so there was no point in hiding anywhere.
A gust of wind blew over, scraping up the corners of his jacket, and just then, a footstep sounded, and before Shen Si could turn his head to look over, a familiar voice sounded out, “Brother?”
Shen Si turned his head to the side, and a familiar person was standing in the shadow at the corner of a wall.
It was Xi Luo.
Xi Luo was a teenager and still had a childish look, with a glance he didn’t look very old, but the expression on his face let him slightly bring a little mature feeling. Shen Si remembered that he had not seen Xi Luo since he ran to the Underworld Trade Union, so all organizations were probably useless now.
In the face of such a world-wide catastrophe, the right thing to do was to stay clear.
“Long time no see, Xi Luo,” Shen Si walked over, just before Xi Luo, he heard a subtle sound. Xi Luo moved away, so he saw a man collapsed in the alley behind Xi Luo, still looking a bit confused, his whole person shrunken in the corner, looking at something unknown.
“His name is Guan HeChang, he’s a Survivor, and he’s from the union.” Xi Luo whispered to Shen Si, “Although he is a Survivor, he is a dancer, and has a dance partner who is also a Survivor.”
Shen Si stared at Xi Luo, and after a moment he spoke, “What about his partner?”
“Stuck in the swamp.” Xi Luo frowned slightly, “Guan HeChang couldn’t pull her out, and even almost followed her into the swamp, and he ended up like this.”
People who were stuck in the swamp were impossible to be pulled out by others, unless they voluntarily gave up their dreams and aspirations. Only then could they climb out of the swamp, but very few could do so, and the swamp didn’t appear under everyone’s feet.
Only if a person had a clear dream and when only the strong desire to complete the goal was in their eyes would the swamp present itself.
“Did the swamp appear beneath his feet?” Shen Si referred to the now unmoving Guan HeChang.
“Yes, except that he broke free and seemed to contain himself.” Xi Luo pointed to his temple, “Survivors like him understand the concept of life and death better than most people. Not to mention that the Special Unit has been briefed one by one about this playfield before.”
Shen Si looked at Xi Luo, “What about you? Do you have any dreams?”
“Dreams? Not really, to be honest.” Xi Luo didn’t know whether to celebrate or regret shaking his head, “I don’t have anything I want to get. Perhaps the most longing I have is for my parents to return, but I know very well that they can’t. Death is forever, so the dream swamp will probably not appear under me.”
“As things stand now, that’s a good thing.” Shen Si smiled a little, “Watch your surroundings and be careful.”
Xi Luo froze in place, then looked at Shen Si who was ready to turn around and leave still a bit unresponsive. Although he had heard from the Special Unit that Shen Si’s personality had changed a bit, he still didn’t react well after seeing Shen Si smile.
After returning from the unlimited flow world, he stayed at Shen Si’s house, although not for a long time, Xi Luo had long understood what kind of person Shen Si was. He could almost be described with a single word, which was: indifferent.
Only his own affairs could make him interested, he wasn’t good at interpersonal relations, but he helped others because it is a necessary thing to do in society, and the whole person lived very spontaneously and very rationally. Xi Luo thought he was the only one to be a spontaneous and rational combination of an understandable person.
But when this man would smile, he became gentle.
“Wait a minute, brother, where are you going?” Xi Luo called out to Shen Si, “Is it a very dangerous place?”
“It’s hard to say whether it’s dangerous or safe.” Shen Si stopped walking, then turned his head to look at Xi Luo with a little mildness in his eyes, “Have you heard about the tenth floor of the unlimited flow world?”
“…The legendary tenth floor that can return you to the real world after ascending?” Xi Luo frowned slightly, “I’ve heard of it. Brother, you are looking for this place? Why?”
Shen Si nodded, “This tenth floor is the new playfield, and the final step in the assimilation of our world and the unlimited flow world. Finding that place is equivalent to touching the origin of the unlimited flow world.”
“Origin?” Xi Luo didn’t quite understand Shen Si’s meaning, but he knew exactly what Shen Si intended to do.
When Xi Luo was in the Underworld Trade Union, he had heard a lot about Shen Si’s deeds, such as using his ability to directly obliterate a playfield, and doing something in the playfield that caused all the dead people in the entire playfield to come back to life and leave. His deeds now were even louder than the three S-Rank Survivors.
But how to deal with the unlimited flow world? Time rewind? Impossible, the ability to appear from the world of unlimited flow, they are still human after all and didn’t have the ability to fight with the whole world. Even if there were Survivors in the world, it wouldn’t leave any trace to the world of unlimited flow.
“…Can I come along? I will help you find this origin.” A voice sounded behind Xi Luo.
Xi Luo turned his head, and behind him, Guan HeChang, who had been shrinking in the corner, stood there, holding the wall, his dark eyes shining with a little empty expectation, “Are you Shen Si with the time ability? Can you take me with you? No. Even if you’re not going to take me with you, I’m prepared to follow you there, and I will.”
“Why?” Shen Si looked at him.
“I don’t know.” Guan HeChang looked at his hands, and after a moment he looked up blankly, “Something seems to be missing in my mind, and I want to get back what is missing, and then… I seem to be ready to take revenge on someone, although I can’t remember who that person is.”
Shen Si and Xi Luo looked at each other, and they both saw the surprise in each other’s eyes. Something erased from his mind?
Xi Luo spoke tentatively, “Do you remember your occupation?”
“Occupation? I am a Survivor and a member of the Underworld Trade Union.” Guan HeChang replied in the tone of ‘how could you ask this question’, “Do I have another occupation?”
At that moment, Xi Luo understood.
Guan HeChang had completely erased his aspirations and his dead partner from his mind, so that he wouldn’t be swallowed by the swamp because of his dream, nor would he need to give up his ideal; all he needed to give up was his memory and his expectation of the future.
When one day, after the dream was no longer a swamp that swallowed people, his memories may come back. What else could be said? He was indeed a Survivor, it was clear that he would do trade-offs for living. Maybe that was the best way to go at this stage.
“Can I follow you?” Guan HeChang crossed Xi Luo and approached Shen Si, “I have a feeling that if I follow you, I will be able to get back what I have lost.”
Shen Si nodded, “Yeah, that’s fine with me.”
“Then I’ll follow too.” Xi Luo sighed, “I don’t have anywhere to go now anyway.”
Shen Si didn’t refuse, since going anywhere in this situation now was the same; people were either consumed by their dreams or have given up on them.
“Most playfields actually have more than one stage. They would be divided into several other levels, such as dream playfields, I remember that they’re divided into two stages: finding out the dream master and waking up the dream master.” Xi Luo looked at Shen Si as he walked beside him, “The first stage of the dream isn’t completely without a solution.” Saying that, he glanced at Guan HeChang who was following behind him, “There must be a large number of people who forget their dreams for self-protection like Guan HeChang, and there are some people who have no dreams.”
“Those who are really firm in their dreams are the minority.”
“Then what kind of world will the second stage be?”
“I don’t know.” Shen Si shook his head, “So far I didn’t even last until the world entered the second stage, so I only know the content of the first stage of the playfield. As for the second stage, maybe we can find out afterwards.”
Xi Luo looked at Shen Si blankly, “Brother, what do you mean you haven’t persevered until the second stage so far? Also, why does the Special Unit know that the world will be a dream playfield after assimilation?”
“You don’t know?”
“Am I supposed to know?”
“Then you shouldn’t know.” Shen Si laughed a little, “You’re still young, it’s not time for you to be upset over something bad.”
Xi Luo was just about to say that he was not young, but thought of his own underage age so he closed his mouth. Just as he was thinking about how he should retort, a miserable scream came from not far away.
The two men looked at each other and they rushed straight out, and just after turning down a road, they saw Jian Nian standing there.
Jian Nian was still wearing simple black clothes and black pants, and a thin windbreaker which was blowing in the wind, holding a crying little girl in his arms. The girl was constantly struggling to grab something ahead, but Jian Nian didn’t put the girl down. On the opposite side of Jian Nian was a dream swamp that hadn’t yet completely swallowed the person completely.
Only one hand was exposed in the swamp, and that hand was swallowed up as Shen Si passed them. Within a few moments, a clay figure of a woman was spat out of the swamp and turned into flying sand in the sunlight.
“Mama!” The little girl crumbled and shouted.
As if hearing footsteps behind him, Jian Nian turned his head with the child in his arms. In the cold weather, his lips were pale and his delicate face no longer wore a smile, but a very quiet and silent expression.
At the sight of Shen Si, Jian Nian slightly hooked the corners of his mouth to reveal a very subtle smile. “Shen Si,” He hugged the child, “this playfield is really scary. What’s even scarier is that even I will be swallowed up, right?”
After the world and the world of unlimited flow assimilated, all the electricity failed, communication equipment could no longer work. The Inspection Unit people also had no way to recover, and finally the Inspection Unit and Special Unit all left the headquarters, divided into various places to save ordinary people. Of course, some people from the two organizations had also been swallowed by the swamp.
Whether it was some of the Inspection Unit’s research lunatics or some of the Special Unit’s obsessive people, they were the first members of the organization to be swallowed up by the swamp.
“We can’t keep sitting around, let’s go out and take a look.” Xia LeYu proposed, “There is no playfield that can’t be passed, and I stick to this idea even now.”
Jian Nian also left at this time, since he probably realized the route Shen Si left and knew where he was going to go, so he sought it out alone. Unfortunately, he didn’t see Shen Si along the way, and wondered if Shen Si had met something on the way. Just as he was about to turn back to look for someone, Jian Nian suddenly heard screaming.
He didn’t want to bother about it, but if Shen Si was here, he would have come to take a look, and only after thinking about it did Jian Nian turn around and walk over. At the end of the road Jian Nian saw the person who was screaming.
The young mother was trapped in the pale red swamp, and she pushed her daughter out hard, but the young child didn’t understand her mother’s meaning. The child who had managed to realize the horror of death these days just grabbed her mother’s wrist hard, trying to pull her out of this terrible place.
The child’s strength was very small, the woman was sinking in; if this continued, the girl would soon be pulled by the woman and sink into the swamp together.
“Get out of here and leave mommy alone!” The woman didn’t want to pull her daughter’s hand, she desperately wanted to push the girl out, because she knew very well that she could not be pulled out, much less wanting her daughter to give herself a burial.
“Mama! Mom!” The girl cried as she yanked her hard.
Jian Nian sighed as he walked over and pulled the woman’s wrist, but the moment he pulled her wrist, Jian Nian frowned slightly. He could feel that his pulling was useless, the woman sank down little by little over time, and the mire beneath her feet was like a beast that would swallow its food without chewing. No matter how hard Jian Nian tried, there was no way to pull the person out of it even a little bit.
After leaving the Special Unit, this was the first time that Jian Nian encountered the dream bog, but also the first time he recognized this playfield.
“Don’t think nonsense.” Jian Nian spoke, as he tried to make the woman give up her dream, “You want to come out of this must give up the dream, forget about your desire! Now! Immediately!”
“Can’t do it!” The woman cried out.
Jian Nian frowned, “But what about your child? Between your dream and your child, you choose to die for your dream?”
“I can’t do it! My daughter is my dream, so how can I abandon my daughter?!” The woman’s voice was harsh and desperate, she looked at the girl who grabbed her hand with love in her eyes, “Leave me alone, take her out of here, please, I beg you. Meng Meng, mommy will always love you.”
Jian Nian froze for a moment, and instead of letting go, he continued to try to pull the woman out. But as before, he simply couldn’t make the woman budge.
What the young mother loved and desired was her child, that’s why she didn’t want to give up. But she simply couldn’t give up, her daughter was her life! How could she leave her child behind to live alone? So, the woman fell deeper and deeper until her whole head was trapped in the swamp.
The girl defiantly tried to jump in after her, but Jian Nian let go of the woman’s hand to pick up the girl away from this swamp. At that moment Jian Nian suddenly understood the horror of this playfield.
The unbreakable desire would become a weapon to kill oneself; the mother’s love for her children, the wife’s love for her husband, and even the common man’s love for money. As long as it could be involved in a little, these things would be distorted.
Even his love for Shen Si would turn into a swamp, and the swamp called dreams would swallow up all those who carried love, leaving only a clay figure with only a form, and finally turning into fine sand.
A familiar voice sounded behind him.
Jian Nian turned his head, and saw Shen Si walking over, and at that very moment, there was another figure overlapping with Shen Si.
He saw himself, he was standing there in simple clothes, and the overlapping figure with Shen Si came over. He took his hand, and that smile had gentleness that Jian Nian had never seen before. It was Jian Nian’s desire and the future that Jian Nian wanted to have the most.
“This playfield is really scary.” Jian Nian opened his mouth, “What’s even scarier is that even I will be swallowed up, right?”
Shen Si walked over, “What are you saying?”
Subconsciously take a step, the foot just stepped on the ground for a moment, and just as Jian Nian the place was soft, like the sand by the beach. This wasn’t the road that he was just standing on, and Jian Nian didn’t even need to look down to know what was happening.
Jian Nian directly threw the child in his arms out, and Xi Luo took a step back, holding the little girl, his whole person a little confused.
At this time Jian Nian’s foot went into the swamp, Shen Si looked at the swamp and tried to get Jian Nian out. Planning to give the child to Guan HeChang himself over to help, Xi Luo turned his head, before he could open his mouth Xi Luo saw the expression of Guan HeChang.
He stared intently at the swamp at Jian Nian’s feet, his eyes full of horror and deep-seated hatred, his hands clenched so tightly, that Xi Luo even saw his white fingertips. The palms of his hands pierced by nails with blood dripping out, but he didn’t notice it at all.
It seemed that even with the loss of memory, he was still filled with resentment towards these things.
Swallowing the words that were already on the tip of his tongue, Xi Luo ran to Shen Si and Jian Nian’s side, carrying the little girl.
“Well?” Xi Luo looked at them, “Can we get him out of it?”
“It’s okay, it didn’t continue to sink down.” Jian Nian smiled and looked at the swamp, “I certainly won’t let myself die in a strange way.”
Controlling his love and desire to keep his ideals at the bottom of his heart, Jian Nian had long been accustomed to this matter, so he was able to stop sinking from the swamp, and also detach himself from the swamp.
Yanking his trapped foot out, Jian Nian heaved a sigh of relief, “This is no problem.”
Of course, Jian Nian was well aware that there weren’t many people who could do it, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many people who had been swallowed up.
The swamp beneath his feet disappeared and the ground turned back into a hard asphalt highway. Jian Nian sat on the ground, looking at the little girl who was still crying in Xi Luo’s arms, and after a moment he looked at Shen Si, “What about this child? Do you want to take her with you?”
Shen Si looked at the little girl, and he naturally didn’t want to take a little girl to her destination, but they didn’t know what to do with this child now. Having just lost her mother, she was still crying constantly, and her father wasn’t here, nor did they know if he had been swallowed by the swamp or had wandered off.
“We can’t just leave her here.” Xi Luo put the girl on the ground, “Should we leave someone behind to take her to the Special Unit people?”
Jian Nian and Xi Luo looked at each other, finally Xi Luo pointed at himself blankly, then Xi Luo shook his head, “I don’t want to.”
“You’re a kid too, it’s better to act with the Special Unit.” Jian Nian smiled and patted him on the shoulder, “Be good, little friend.”
Xi Luo closed his eyes and sighed, “So don’t look at me as a child.”
After making sure Jian Nian was really okay, Shen Si stood up, and just then he saw Guan HeChang, whose hands were trembling where he stood.
Shen Si walked over, and patted Guan HeChang’s shoulder, “Are you okay?”
“…I’m fine.” Guan HeChang showed an almost smile, then he pressed his temples, “Just now when I saw this gentleman trapped, my heart suddenly welled up with a surge of anger. I have a feeling that I want to burn that swamp with a fire. It’s like… I have someone who was also swallowed by this thing.”
With that said, he loosened his hands that he had clenched until it hurt, and then he looked at his fingers, on which were two platinum-colored rings with a letter engraved on each, “How strange, why am I wearing two rings?”
Without needing Xi Luo to explain, Shen Si understood that the rings were probably his partner’s, and presumably he had taken them off when he tried to pull his partner out.
“I forgot a very important thing, forgot a very important person. I would love to remember who that person is, but every time I think of it that way a voice tells me it’s better not to think of it.” Guan HeChang stared at the ring somewhat blankly, “What can I do to help?”
Shen Si leaned against a pole and thought, “Thinking about it will tell you the truth, not thinking about it will make it a little easier, it depends on whether you are ready to know everything or want to be happier.”
“Truth or happiness?” Guan HeChang looked at Shen Si blankly, “What about you? What would you choose?”
Shen Si gave him a look, and after a moment Shen Si shook his head, “I didn’t choose anything.”
“Mn, because in the beginning in my case there was no choice. Just like time; time has only one line. The unknown forward or the known past, I am this straight line, not affected by anything nor can I make any choice.” Shen Si laughed a little, “Because you still have a choice, it means your life is not yet the worst.”
Guan HeChang didn’t understand Shen Si’s meaning, and watched Shen Si walk over and gestured to Xi Luo and Jian Nian, who followed Shen Si with the little girl in their arms.
It seemed normal.
So, are you happy now? Guan HeChang was tempted to ask this question, but he didn’t ask it, but even if he did, there was no point in asking, because he already knew the answer.
In the case of no choice to move on, walking on was the worst choice, otherwise you’d not be happy.
But Guan HeChang felt that Shen Si was actually not as unhappy as he thought. He was moving forward, with a gentle smile on his face, a pose like he had everything in his hands.
…What an unreadable person.