Stray Ch10

Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong

Translator: Kinky ||

Chapter 10: Common Sense of Life and Death

There was nothing worth mentioning inside the building. The lobby wasn’t big and was filled with long wooden tables that were full of messy scratches and suspicious stains. There wasn’t even a single seat for guests to sit down. As for the tin-badge mercenaries, the leader nodded at the employees and left directly through the back door without staying long. There were only the shuffling footsteps of the applicants in the room, occasionally mixed with a few coughs. No one talked or asked questions. It seemed that everyone knew what was waiting ahead of them. The air was much thicker and colder than it was on the street.

People queued up for their certification test. The line was moving so quickly that Nemo suspected the staff behind the reception desk didn’t verify the identities of the participants at all.

This was completely different from what he imagined. The test should be more intense and formal, and the atmosphere should be tense rather than lifeless.

“Ann Savage.” The person in front got their certificate and quickly left through the back door. It was their turn in less than ten minutes. The receptionist was a thin, red-haired young man with a soft voice. It was difficult to tell whether he wanted to talk or was simply talking to himself. “Well… This is the twenty-sixth time. One hundred gold coins.”

Nemo decided not to think too deeply about the meaning behind this number.

“Nemo Light. One gold coin. Someone had already paid for it,” The receptionist glanced up at him hastily as he said in the same feeble voice. “Looks correct. Take it.”

The receptionist seemed to hate touching others. He threw a small piece of metal with a sling at the table and waved it weakly. The object that had just been covered by fabric was exposed, showing a black round badge that didn’t look exquisite. It had a simple owl relief cast on the front.

“Thank you for choosing Garland, and I wish you all the best.” He buried his head and muttered without emotion. Nemo almost didn’t hear what he had said.

“Is this really a formal test?” Nemo twisted the dice-sized metal cube that looked cheap. There were a few simple charms painted on it, which made it look more like a trinket sold to children in the market.

“Refugees have no records,” Ann said dryly. “Most people make one up. The name of an exile doesn’t represent anything. Official residents who turned into criminals are better verified, if this is what you’re asking.”

“But he didn’t explain the content of the test,” Nemo said. “What do we need to do? Fight with monsters, or…?” He swallowed the words “each other” as it made his stomach roll.

“It’s the same every time, so it’s pointless to explain. You’ll know then.”

Nemo curled his lips, feeling an itching sensation on the back of his neck as if someone was staring at him. He turned his head sensitively, just in time to see Oliver turn his face away.

‘Just my imagination,’ he thought.

After a few steps, he reached the back door that led into a courtyard that was equally mediocre. Most of the people who just came in seemed to be gone. There were two mercenaries holding their palms against the soil. Under their hands was a magic array that exuded a soft silver light. The space above the magic array was cut into a square hole, just enough for one person to pass through. The scenery on the other side of the entrance was clearly visible; a familiar green, accompanied by the pleasant sounds of singing birds.

The people who were taking the test walked in slowly. Nemo suddenly had an ominous premonition, and this premonition became a reality when he passed through the “door”. He was greeted by the gray-white ridges of the Ash Mountain Range.

They had returned to the shithole Frontier Forest. Looking at the distance from the mountains, they should be in the hinterland of the forest, as they could see trees with trunks that were amazingly thick, and the bark was covered with dense dark red moss. The singing of birds was strangely hoarse. The air was humid and didn’t have a fresh scent but was mixed with a faint rancid smell.

The only thing that made people feel at ease was that the mercenaries followed them at the end and entered this area with them. One of the mercenaries leaned down and opened a box in his hand. Countless beetle-sized insects rushed into the sky and scattered in all directions. The man, who had earlier nodded to the employees, stretched out his hand and briefly drew a spell on his chest, then cleared his throat loudly.

His actions were quite unnecessary. Nemo looked around for a while before changing the hand that was holding his staff. The people who participated in the test were horribly quiet, as if they were some new species of humanoid plants.

“The boundary is a circle, and this is the center. When approaching the boundary, the warning pendant will heat up. If you cross the boundary at all, it will melt away.” The man’s voice was exceptionally loud. He shook the sling in his hand, causing the gray metal block to vibrate with the rope. “If you’re still alive by tomorrow morning, and the warning pendant is still there, you’ll pass.”

“We’ll be monitoring your actions, so don’t dream of doing things you shouldn’t,” he added, gesturing to his companions, apparently not intending to allow time for questions. The mercenaries nodded to each other, scattered in all directions, and were quickly swallowed up by the dense shrubs and trees.

The humanoid plants that had just stood still finally came to life again. People gathered in groups of three to five and whispered to each other before dispersing. The mother holding her child was particularly eye-catching. She tied her child to her chest with a cloth belt before quickly moving into the woods.

“That’s it?” Nemo hung the sling around his neck and let the metal cling to the skin of his chest.

“Yes, that’s it.” Ann chuckled lightly, clenching her hunting spear. “The Black Chapter doesn’t keep idlers.”

As soon as her voice fell, a male scream came from not far away. Whether it was disturbed by the scream or had gotten its fill of sleep, the parrot finally woke up. It poked its head out from Nemo’s backpack and shook it vigorously.

“Wow,” it said in surprise, “there are quite a lot of demons here. What’s the matter with you? Are you planning to commit suicide while I’m not paying attention? Don’t act like this.”

Its contractor gave it a painful look. He didn’t know whether it was out of disgust or anger because he hadn’t gotten enough sleep and he wasn’t in a mood to respond to it.

“Come with me and find a safe stronghold first,” Ann said. “Don’t touch anything, you two.”

Nemo silently took back his hand that was poking at the moss. The feeling of being watched came again. He frowned, and this time, he directly met Oliver’s gaze. He looked at the other party suspiciously, a little uncertain whether he should ask. After all, that expression looked like he had constipation. If he really had stomach problems and was embarrassed to talk about it, it would be rude to ask directly in front of a woman.

Oliver quickly turned his gaze away again.

Nemo shrugged inexplicably and followed Ann. It seemed that there were many experienced participants. There were a few people who were moving in the same direction as they were, only a dozen steps apart. He finally had a real sense that this was a test at this moment, which could be a good sign that the recent unpredictable, crazy days were heading back on the right track. After surviving this test, everything would return to common sense…

Nemo’s eyes suddenly widened.

The two people walking in front of them suddenly kneeled to the ground, and then fell heavily into the grass. Blood and brain matter splashed everywhere, and a strong smell of blood quickly spread. The two older-looking men instantly fell to the ground and remained motionless, while the young boy walking with them didn’t seem to react. He looked around blankly and tried to pull his partner lying next to him up, but didn’t get any response. The young boy collapsed as he stumbled towards Ann, screaming for help uncontrollably.

Nemo stared at Ann’s back. The female soldier didn’t say a word or move as she let the young boy run towards her. When he was about a few steps away from Ann, his body shook abruptly and then fell softly. His head disappeared and his entire tongue was exposed in the air, leaving behind a wound that was bubbling with blood.

With a slight thump, a living person had died right in front of them.

This was completely different from Old Ramon at that time. Nemo suddenly felt his stomach churning. If it weren’t for its emptiness, he would have turned his head and puked all over Oliver. Oliver turned pale and looked uncomfortable.

“Let’s go,” Ann said briefly. At the same time, the two men not far away also stood up silently. “It’s full and won’t attack again.”

Nemo stared at Ann in disbelief. Her tone seemed to be describing a freshly fed dog in her yard, as if she had just lost some dogfood instead of a person. For the first time in these days, he realized he had been living in another world; this world was heavy with death.

A little less than an hour ago, he privately thought that she was a gentle but inexpressive person, but people’s eyes didn’t lie. She didn’t really care.

“We just…” Oliver swallowed. “We could’ve saved him…”

“Not necessary,” Ann responded calmly. Her mood seemed to have turned sour. “Fighting that thing is thankless. It didn’t attack us, so it’s the most reasonable thing to walk away when it’s full.”

“But that’s…” Oliver seemed to be hit harder by what had just happened.

Ann turned around and walked a few steps forward. She herself was very tall, so she didn’t lose much momentum when she stood in front of Oliver, who was almost 6 feet tall.  

“Can you save him?” she asked coldly.

“I don’t know.”

“Compassion is the most useless thing here. That kid just now didn’t want your sympathy. He wanted you to risk your life to save him. You said you don’t know, then were you hoping that I would step up to save him?”

“Listen, little boy.” She grabbed Oliver’s collar. “It seems you have made a mistake. First, compassion without the premise of strength will make you die faster. Second, I think my life is much more valuable than that of a stranger. I don’t owe you anything. I have no obligation to respond to any of your expectations. This is common sense.”

“You listen too.” Ann gave Nemo a side glance, causing him to subconsciously shrink his neck. “It’s understandable that young people have heroic fantasies, but you better remember for me, if you make a mistake, it’s not my style to sacrifice my life to wipe your ass.”

After that, she waved her hunting spear casually, and a strange tentacle broke off beside Oliver, spouting sticky purple mucus.

Nemo didn’t dare look at the boy’s corpse. He was so thin that he wasn’t sure if he was even an adult. The joy of returning to the world of common sense disappeared at this very moment.

While Ann didn’t ask him, he felt a terrible sense of powerlessness. Can he save the child? Will he die like this—quietly, without a grave or tombstone, and the first feeling of those who knew him was relief? He began to vomit in another sense.

Ann was right. He did make a mistake. The survival and death that he believed were justified did not exist here.

“Oliver.” He approached the dejected, brown-haired young man. “Are we friends?”

Oliver raised his head and looked at him with a complicated expression for a while. “…Probably.”

“What she said is reasonable, but I still can’t accept it.” Nemo’s voice trembled with hints of spinelessness, but his tone was firm. “If I accidently rush out and cause trouble, don’t save me.”

Oliver gave him a knowing look and was silent for a moment before he finally sighed.

“Then I have the same request,” he responded hoarsely, kicking the turf on the ground uncomfortably.

Kinky Thoughts:

Ann just tells it like it is.

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2 thoughts on “Stray Ch10

  1. T^T they still have compassionate hearts, hope they can keep them throughout the story…
    Though Ann is right, you have to own the strength to match your sympathy, otherwise, you’ll throw your life away or simply not be of much help. Anyway, their intention was sincere

    Liked by 1 person

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