Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The transport aircraft descended slowly, glided on a makeshift runway and landed. When it came to a stop, Lan Yu and Lu RanKong stood on each side of the tightly closed cabin door with soldiers lined up in order behind them.
The rear cabin door slowly opened and the wind rolled in with yellow sand. Lan Yu hurriedly closed his eyes and waited for the wind to stop before quietly spitting out the salty mud and sand in his mouth.
“Out of the cabin…” Lu RanKong was bellowing orders.
The soldiers flew out of the pod, and as they passed a device at the door of the pod, they would all stretch out their left hands and let the device put a metal ring on their wrists. At the same time, an ion gun and an equipment bag were taken off the rolling munitions belt on the right side.
When all the soldiers were out of the pod, Lu RanKong looked at Lan Yu.
Lan Yu looked back at him.
Lu RanKong yelled, “What are you waiting for? It’s your turn…”
Lan Yu reacted and put his left hand into the device, and with a click, his wrist felt a refreshing coldness, and a metal ring was firmly attached. He grabbed an ion gun from the munitions belt, put the equipment bag under his armpit, and jumped down the one-meter-high cabin door after Lu RanKong.
The landing place was so soft, that half of his boots were sunk into the yellow sand, and there was a blanket of sand as far as the eye could see. This was the largest desert of Kata Planet, and also a no-man’s land. A patrol would check it normally only when an unusual signal was received.
Another transport aircraft landed a short distance away and had also finished disembarking all the soldiers and was closing the hatch to return.
Lan Yu saw that leading those groups of soldiers were the baby-faced ensign from the 302 dormitory and the simple Colonel from 304. The two men also saw him and Lu RanKong and nodded their heads in greeting.
After the headcount and gathering, Simple Colonel walked over with Baby Face and asked, “RanKong, do you know the details of this operation?”
Lan Yu was looking at the desert in the distance with his hand on his eyes, when he heard this, and he couldn’t help but look at Lu RanKong as well.
Lu RanKong was very kind to them both, shaking his head and saying, “I received instructions just now, and the top couldn’t tell me what was going on here either. They only told me that a patrol was here the day before yesterday and they suddenly lost contact. In the last call, they said they found an interstellar beast.”
“But Kata Planet’s interstellar beasts are all harmless.” The baby-faced lieutenant wondered, while secretly glancing at Lan Yu.
Lan Yu knew he was remembering K killing hundreds of interstellar beasts, so he just pretended not to have heard him, keeping his cold face indifferently looking into the distance.
Lu RanKong continued, “Before, they wouldn’t hurt people, but this doesn’t mean that they will never hurt someone. Patrolling soldiers inexplicably disappeared, and I feel like they encountered danger. We have to be a little more vigilant, and this cannot be taken lightly.”
“RanKong is right. Kata Planet is a transit point for Sasu Planet domain and many migrating interstellar beasts will pass through here. Although most don’t hurt people, there’s no guarantee that there’ll be no accidents.” Simple Colonel said.
Baby Face looked around and suggested, “In that case, let’s split up and find it.”
“We can’t split up, we don’t know anything about the current situation. It’s better for both battalions to focus on searching in one direction.” Lu RanKong frowned and his face was a bit gloomy, “So then, Chen YuTan and I will go to the east and LinZhu and K will go to the west. If nothing is found, we will meet here in two hours and check the south and north.”
The simple Colonel Chen YuTan replied readily, “Okay, I’ll go to the east with you.”
Baby Face, also known as Lin Zhu, heard this arrangement, his face instantly showing sky-falling despair as he reached out to pull the corner of Chen YuTan’s coat anxiously.
Lan Yu, although coldly looking into the distance, was watching them out of the corner of his eye, and immediately after seeing Lin Zhu’s action, he let out a timely sneer and said, “Since someone is not willing to accompany me, then—”
“Your battalion cannot act alone.”
“Our battalion will stay.”
Lu RanKong and he spoke out at the same time.
“K will go to the east with me, YuTan, you and Lin Zhu will go to the west and rendezvous here in two hours.” Lu RanKong decisively assigned.
“Okay, see you in two hours then.” Chen YuTan again cheerfully responded and left with a rejuvenated Lin Zhu.
Looking at the backs of the two, Lu RanKong slung the gun in his hand, turned his head and bellowed, “Pups, let’s go.”
The voices were loud and full of energy.
The pups of the third battalion were standing there loosely, some hooking their shoulders and some using their guns as crutches. When they heard the order, they instantly stood at attention, each with their heads held high as if they were standing in a military posture.
The soldiers of the second battalion had already arranged themselves neatly, and when they saw the performance of the third battalion, they all focused their eyes on Lan Yu. Lan Yu sighed in his heart as he faced these expectant gazes.
This terrible desire to win or lose.
That said, why did the open and secret rivalry between the two battalions had to be manifested in these strange places?
He gently cleared his throat and bellowed as if he were a tenor, “Good boys, let’s go!”
——The word ‘good’ is even better than ‘pups’. They must be satisfied.
“Yes, sir!” The response of the good boys was loud and clear.
The two battalions split into several columns and headed east, the slow gradually ceasing to be soft yellow sand beneath their feet, becoming slabbed loess, cracking open piece by piece endlessly.
Every now and then the skeleton of an unidentified animal would appear in their field of vision, and flocks of vultures circled in the sky.
The army had been marching for most of an hour and nothing unusual had happened. There was no sign of the patrol, nor did the heat detectors detect any other strange humans in the vicinity.
Lan Yu looked up at the white sun, licked his lower lip which was dry and peeling, took out the canteen from the quartermaster’s bag behind him and drank two sips, then screwed the cap back on the bottle.
Lu RanKong had been walking in front of him, the upright back not showing even a trace of fatigue. But when the sound of Lan Yu turning the cap sounded, he turned his head slightly sideways, then stopped and turned around, yelling to the soldiers in the rear, “Rest in place for ten minutes!”
The soldiers all sat down in place, drank water and smoked, and unbuttoned their tops to fan themselves. Lan Yu also sat down on a rock by the roadside, took off his military boots, and shook the sand out that had gotten into them.
Lu RanKong sat silently next to him, and Lan Yu saw him pull out the small crossbow again, seriously polishing it with a small file. He was really afraid that the soldiers of the second battalion would see this scene, and with their desire to win ignited, they would want him to do something about this as well.
He wanted to ask who had yarn and wanted to knit a sweater on the spot.
Beep, beep, beep. A terminal sound rang.
Lu RanKong stopped moving his hands, looked down at the number, and hesitantly pressed the hang-up button. Just as his hand went up, he saw out of the corner of his eye that Lan Yu was looking his way, so his finger moved and he accidentally clicked on connect.
“Uncle Yu, it’s me… Yes, I’m fine, don’t worry… I’ll be safe… I won’t go back, I’m comfortable in the army and I don’t need his so-called concern…” His tone was respectful, but his voice was getting lower and lower, and he turned his body sideways with his back to Lan Yu.
Lan Yu knew not to eavesdrop, and consciously put on his military boots, stood up and walked away.
There were two vultures fighting in the distance, and he watched them with interest for a while, walking around the resting soldiers in that direction.
The two captains of the second battalion stood up and tried to follow him, but he stopped them with a raised hand, “You guys rest. I’ll take a stroll.”
He walked leisurely forward, and a small dirt mound appeared ahead.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye glanced there seemed to be something moving, but when he stopped to look, there was nothing.
It was a blurred vision.
He continued to walk forward, the two large birds in front of him had gone crazy, pecking each other with their beaks and beating with their wings, the black feathers scattered all over the ground. He bent down and touched a stone on the ground, ready to throw it at the two birds, but when he straightened up and glanced behind the dirt mound, he saw a corner of a black object exposed.
It appeared to be a pair of army boots.
“Who’s there?” Lan Yu asked.
No one answered.
Was there a soldier hiding here for something?
He got alert and moved carefully to the side, and the situation behind the dirt mound slowly came into view.
The scene made Lan Yu’s eyes widen, but his pupils suddenly tightened, and he almost cried out in surprise.
There were several bodies in uniform lying on the ground. The skin and flesh were gone, only the white skeleton remained, and several vultures were pecking around to eat the remnants of flesh and blood. He finally knew why the two vultures were fighting and grabbed his lapel nervously, subconsciously taking a few steps back and turning around to call for help.
At that moment, he felt another movement around him.
He looked quickly this time and caught the bizarre scene. The air in front of the dirt mound distorted, like a layer of rising water vapor or like the rippling layers on the surface of the water when a stone is cast.
Then, a transparent shape slowly emerged.
Lan Yu watched in amazement, forgot to react for a moment, until the transparent figure suddenly took shape and turned into a huge arthropod insect. The insect was the size of a calf, with long oval wings that were hard and black, and six arm-thick legs that were bent and covered with barbs like steel needles. Its form resembled a cockroach, except that the head was also draped with long hair.
The mandibles around its mouth twitched, and two bowl-sized crystal-like eyes looked at Lan Yu for a moment, and then fluttered the wings, emitting a rustling sound. Lan Yu only felt that at this moment all the blood in his body was flowing backwards, his heart stopped beating, and every one of his cells were exploding.
He seemed to have lost ownership of his body, his soul had died, leaving only an empty skin. He was afraid of many things in his life, but most of all, he was afraid of cockroaches, let alone cockroaches that were so big beyond his imagination. He tried to open his mouth to call out to someone, but his voice only came out in two low, airy squeeks.
The big bug swooped in as soon as it showed its shape. The pattern under its abdomen and the mucous-tipped teeth in its mouthparts were reflected in Lan Yu’s dilated pupils.
In the moment of the insect’s approach, his mind went blank. Guided only by instinct and with stiff limbs, the left hand grabbed its head of hair pulled down, while the right left a vicious scratch on the insect’s face.
It was only when his fingers touched the hard, cold shell that he reacted with a jolt, and his reflexes belonging to K were activated, instantly leaping backwards and tumbling. With this burst of potential, he leapt back several meters, he pulled out the ion gun and placed it on his shoulder in the air.
As he landed on the ground, he aimed ahead and pulled the trigger.