editors: apricot & juurensha
A dreamless night.
Early the next morning, Wu Jin woke up disoriented, feeling slightly spaced out as he stood in front of the mirror.
There was no small hill from the Crosson base outside the window, nor were there the familiar twin towers, but he could still hear Caesar’s shouting when he opened the door.
“Little Witch, your votes are about to surpass Wei Yan’s!”
The Crosson Show’s third round of voting had already been launched. Wu Jin’s momentum was strong; it was almost equal to Wei Yan’s.
Thin Fire, who had originally been in the second tier along with him, had now been left far behind.
It could be seen from the backend of the contestant platform that the voting traffic came from all sorts of places. Star Blog users, who originally had only accounted for 30% of the total, had now climbed up to 45%.
Ten hours after the Crosson Show group performance was broadcast live, the trending hot search topics were still very effective in bringing in traffic, and the traffic flow was almost bizarre.
“#Cramming about survival shows for the lead dancer little brother’s sake, but my head is dizzy and bloated from reading gun foundation theory…”
“#Little Witch, mama is here to vote for you!!”
Zoe finished brushing his teeth and walked out of his room.
He patted Wu Jin on the shoulder, “It’s good to have active fans, but here’s the thing, Little Witch––Star Net traffic is high, and hot searches can attract a lot of fans, but there aren’t many who will stay behind you and accompany you for your entire career. Strength is still the foundation for consolidating loyal fans.”
Wu Jin nodded emphatically.
On the other side, Caesar was proud and complacent, “That coquettish man’s votes aren’t going up. It’s still Little Witch who is doing us proud!”
Zoe frowned, “Say, stop going up against others. You’re already short on brains, yet you’re picking on someone else all day long. Did that coquettish man get influenced by you? His mind doesn’t seem to be very sharp lately…”
Zoe was pondering over this, but on the other hand, this was quite in line with Caesar’s style––first pull others’ IQ down to the same level as him, then use his rich experience as a fool to defeat the other party. Therefore, he was happily agreeable, “Fine, then. Remember to play with Little Thin more in the future.”
Caesar hollered, “Get lost! I––”
Zoe led Wu Jin away directly, “Go downstairs to eat. Little Witch and I are going for special training, and you can continue to make up for your lessons at the company. Keep an eye on Thin Fire. Based on his votes, he’ll definitely make some sort of move in the near future.”
Thousands of miles away.
Silver Thread Roll Battle Team.
Thin Water coldly monitored the voting channels while Thin Fire stood to the side, flinching.
“One last time.” Thin Water spoke.
Thin Fire was overjoyed, “Thank you, big brother, thank you!!”
The two brothers quickly set up the scene, putting up two light panels in the living room. Thin Water was still as cold as ice as he put on an apron, cold as ice as he turned on the stove, and cold as ice as he fried an egg for his useless little brother.
During this period, Thin Fire held an SLR camera and occasionally bent over from the waist, stooped, and lay down on the ground in order to obtain the best angle.
Thin Water used the spatula to toss the fried egg onto a plate, “Shoot.”
After taking over twenty photos in a row, Thin Fire stood in the corner to fix up the photo and correct any blemishes––a dried and shriveled up fried egg became a golden colored, bright, and plump fried egg. Thin Fire quickly put together a collage of nine photos in a grid, then sent it out on the Star Net:
“I woke up early this morning and saw my big brother’s breakfast of love [heart][hug][hug], so touched!”
In just ten minutes, the Thin Army poured in from all directions, and there were almost ten thousand new comments as soon as he refreshed the page.
“Ahhhhh!!! Bone-deep cuteness is making my entire face red ahhhh!!!”
“Overturning water into fire, water into fire!!!”
“Big Thin hasn’t posted photos in so long; it turns out that they have to be dug up from Little Thin’s Star Blog! It suddenly occurred to me that Crosson’s voting opened up today! Hold on, Little Thin!! I’m going in right now!”
Thin Fire’s votes began to rise up steadily.
Little Thin finally breathed out a sigh of relief and retreated to the corner to eat the fried egg. The fried egg really didn’t look as good as it did after photo-editing and was small and flat. His stomach even rumbled after he finished eating it.
Thin Water snorted coldly and finally caved under his younger brother’s pathetic gaze, getting up to fry him another egg.
Thin Fire was very happy and finally mustered up some courage, “Brother… I really couldn’t help it. There’s a stalker fan by Wu Jin’s side, a mama fan who is accompanying him in the competition and helping him do well. He’ll probably still be following him after the holidays… should we change our strategy?”
It was obvious that Thin Water didn’t believe him, “How could that be? Not even the paid fan manager sisters are so diligent.”
Thin Fire bellowed anxiously, “Big brother! It’s true! I…”
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
Ktlc Qjafg rlifcmfv tlw klat j uijcmf. C ibcu alwf ijafg, Dlu Ktlc fcecmljafv ribkis, “Ueqqs, sbe kfgf gjcxfv 65at lc atf filwlcjalbc wjamt, tw? Qlat sbeg rmbgf, sbe’v yf atf bcf qjslcu obg atf eqxffq fnfc lo sbe obgwfv j JU. Pc atf cfza wjamt, lo sbe vbc’a wjxf la ab atf abq atgff––”
Thin Fire panicked and tossed out half an egg with a plop, “Big brother… no… brother ahhhh, I promise…”
Ten in the morning.
The suspension car had only just stopped in front of White Moonlight’s building when Secretary Qu hurriedly rushed them inside, “Little Witch, put on your sunglasses. Don’t get seen by the fans, be good.”
Zoe was helpless, “Sister Qu, how could there be fans chasing him all the way to Azure Cosmos…”
Secretary Qu glared, “There are some, the kind with money and power. Here’s the same reminder again: look out for Little Witch and don’t let him get stolen away!”
Wu Jin: “……”
It wasn’t until the suspension car drove away that Zoe let out a sigh of relief, “Mama fans, we’re no match for them, can’t compete.”
There was more than one route to Azure Cosmos. The two of them flashed their training cards at Star Harbor and were immediately picked up by a special star ship. The interior design was low-key but luxurious, and training organizers’ brochures could be seen everywhere:
‘100 Tips to Getting Stronger – Training and Discovering the Profound Mysteries of Your ♂ Body’ by Instructor Arjun.
‘Surprise! 20% off hell training package, accommodations included. Greatly recommended by Azure Cosmos’ underground competitions. Buy four days, get one day free’ – Spokesperson: Instructor Arjun.
The two of them were bored enough to flip through all the information brochures. This ‘Instructor Arjun’ was practically omnipresent.
Zoe closed the pamphlet and was only able to come to terms with this style of conduct after a period of time, “There are quite a few seniors from the battle team who’ve gone there before… they all said that it doesn’t look reliable, but is still really useful. After all, it’s provided by Floating City.”
The image of Wei Shi’s silver mask immediately came up in Wu Jin’s brain, “Big brother Zoe, what is Floating City?”
“One of the four major forces of Azure Cosmos.” Zoe explained, “I’m not clear about anything else, but don’t walk around randomly after we get there. It’s rumored to be very dangerous.”
Wu Jin’s eyes grew wide.
Zoe recalled, “About four years ago, something happened in Floating City, and it even involved several Federal politicians.” He then shook his head, “Later on, this matter was buried and hidden.”
The star ship slowly sailed into the asteroid belt and landed at an inconspicuous port.
Azure Cosmos consisted of the main city and several auxiliary cities. The four major auxiliary cities: Floating, Zhi Wei, Black Sands, and Chu Yun, were all controlled by different powers and divided into the different districts of the main city.
Two weeks ago, when Wu Jin and two of his teammates went to the main city to look for Red, the district they’d been in had belonged to Floating City.
However, this was the first time that Wu Jin had stepped into Floating City itself.
Wu Jin put his hand into his pocket as they entered the port. The silver mask badge was slightly cool against his fingertips.
The harbor was covered in a layer of thin mist that was dispersed by the heat generated from the star ship’s landing. This was a bustling city of its own that was no less flourishing than the main city of deep space. The familiar silver mask could be seen on the billboards at any time, and AI law enforcement patrolled the streets. Silver skyscrapers stretched up into the fog, and large quantities of goods were continuously being moved around on the other side of the port.
Fog creeped up at the edge of their vision; the city was surrounded by a deep, natural rift, making it seem like the entire city had risen up from the abyss to float in mid-air––it was easy to defend, but hard to attack.
The name of the city was Floating.
A long time passed before Zoe sighed emotionally, “… To be able to build a city here, they’re really damn rich.”
Very soon, the person responsible for them had also arrived at the port, handing each of them a mask each.
“Foreign visitors need to go and do a customs registration. After arriving at Floating City, there are three identities to choose from.”
“Without the mask, you’re still you. When you put on your mask, no one will look into your past. For clients participating in the training programs, we generally recommend keeping your identities confidential…”
Wu Jin was curious, “What about the third identity?”
Their guide raised their eyebrows, “The third kind are those who are protected by the glory of Floating City. They can move unobstructed in the city, and are respected in all the ways one can imagine. See that badge? That’s their identification token.”
Wu Jin looked in the direction the guide pointed. A silver mask glowed in the virtual projection.
It was exactly the same as the one Wei Shi had given him.
The fingertips of the hand Wu Jin had placed in his pocket rubbed gently against the badge.
After passing customs, a suspension car came over and quietly picked up the two of them.
The base for special training was located in a huge building tens of kilometers away from the port. There were many other similar ‘training camp clients’ waiting in the hall when the two of them arrived.
Fat, thin, tall, short, they were all different, but they all wore the same matte white mask.
Before stepping inside, Wu Jin spent nearly ten minutes putting on the mask. There were at least six or seven hidden buttons, and the material was soft and close-fitting. The shape of the mask could be adjusted to suit the shape of one’s face.
Wu Jin seriously suspected that the mask wouldn’t fall off even if he was hit so hard his head was sent flying.
Zoe looked at the other trainees with interest.
“There are other survival show contestants like us, mercenaries, people from cutting-edge security companies…”
While he spoke, ‘Instructor Arjun’ from the advertisements suddenly appeared.
‘Instructor Arjun’ wore a gaudy gold mask that had two feathers protruding from it. He sounded like a young man of around twenty eight or twenty nine, and his tone of voice was coquettish:
“Now, open the concealed compartment on the right arm of your combat suit. Do you see the black device? There’s nobody here who doesn’t recognize it, right? It’s a pop-up life-saving capsule. So, the first thing you have to do––”
“Is to pull the power from the life-saving capsule.”
The trainees fell silent for a moment, but they had already been prepared to do so, and everyone did as they were told.
“Alright then. Turn left and head twenty meters down to obtain your guns. On behalf of the training project team and for the sake of your lives, I suggest that you sleep with your guns.”
“After picking up your gun, go and sign the training waiver form. By the way, if something happens to you here, the life insurance you bought won’t pay out––oh, because the training death rate is too high, dying here is usually considered fraud by the insurance companies.”
Behind the masks, the trainees’ eyes gradually tensed up.
After picking up the guns, Instructor Arjun whistled, “Line up and come in with me one by one for your evaluations. You will then be assigned one-on-one drillmasters.”
Zoe motioned at Wu Jin, gesturing for him to step into the queue first.
When it was Wu Jin’s turn, there was a slight gap left in the door.
Instructor Arjun spoke without lifting his head, “Remove your combat uniform and report your height and weight…”
The sound of rustling came. Instructor Arjun glanced up at the mirror in the training room and stilled suddenly, his eyes lighting up. The feathers on his mask quivered in excitement, “178… 61…”
178… 61… – this refers to his height and weight (in cm and kg)
Wu Jin: !!!” He hadn’t even reported it yet!
A faint green sheen flashed through Instructor Arjun’s eyes, his gaze practically gluing itself to Wu Jin’s body. Wu Jin stood with his back facing him. The physique of a youth hovering on the cusp of adulthood was a little thin, but the unobtrusive musculature was very attractive beneath the lights. The skin tone of his shoulder was delicate and soft, a milky color that tickled people’s hearts.
He coughed lightly. After all, this was a training program, and he hadn’t reached the point where he was a beast who would make a move on the students.
However, ‘communication’ was still required.
Instructor Arjun had a pleasant smile on his face as he opened his mouth, “Your one-on-one drillmaster has been determined. Little student, come here and let’s add each other as friends on the terminal…”
Wu Jin obediently scanned the code, but Arjun’s next words suddenly got stuck in his throat, and he looked towards the crack in the door like he’d seen a ghost.
Wu Jin was still facing the mirror, and his eyes were wide open in surprise.
There was something slowly squeezing its way through the gap in the door––and it actually turned out to be a guinea pig.
The guinea pig was washed and clean, fluffy and soft. A walking leash was tied to the back of its front paws, and after it slowly squeezed itself in, it was slowly pulled back out by its owner.
While the gap in the door was widened and closed again by the guinea pig, Arjun stood up with a clatter and ran out in a panic.
On the other side of the door, Wu Jin quietly filled out the skill assessment form while sounds of a quarrel come in intermittently from outside.
“How come you’re here? Did something happen at the base?!”
“… What?! He’s…!!! Oh god, I’m going to die… why did you only show up now?!”
“You were slow because you were walking the guinea pig? Just for the sake of this stupid guinea pig? I… $&#…”
The owner of the guinea pig spoke coldly, “Apologies. This is my therapy companion. That person will come in five minutes.”
A loud bang could suddenly be heard from downstairs. The students looked up in surprise and saw Instructor Arjun running away for some unknown reason.
The owner of the guinea pig slowly came in through the door. “I’ll be conducting the following assessments.”
He glanced at Wu Jin, “Room A073. Your instructor will arrive in five minutes. Alright, next.”
Wu Jin held his gun and opened the door to training room A073.
There was armor on the ground, and the holographic dynamic target was an armored insectoid beast that crouched in the dense grass and prepared to make trouble as soon as the training room door opened. Wu Jin poked at it curiously with his hand, and the insect suddenly shrank back into an armor-covered shell, moving vigilantly to one side.
Wu Jin’s hands were restless. He looked left and right but didn’t see any sign of the instructor, so he simply adjusted the settings to the lowest level of difficulty and pressed the button to start training.
A few minutes later, the door to A073 opened silently.
Wu Jin’s instructor looked on indifferently from the entrance. The rabbit spirit held the gun like he was holding a carrot, poking at the insectoid beast like he was beating a hamster.
Even at the lowest level of dynamic target shooting, there were enough insectoid beasts that had been missed to form two rings around the training room.
“Drop your center of gravity.” The instructor spoke leisurely.
Wu Jin stilled for a moment, then with a pew pew pew sound, missed another seven or eight insects, but his small curls suddenly perked up and bounced joyfully in the wind.
“Big brother–-” A powerful arm abruptly held him down even before he could finish speaking. The youth’s shoulder sank slightly, and as he was only wearing a combat vest, the man’s palm subconsciously rubbed against his skin. It was as soft as silk, like it had been padded with rabbit fur.
The instructor tugged him into his embrace and adjusted Wu Jin’s messy shooting posture.
The two of them were instantly pressed closely together. If it had been a month ago, Wu Jin would have been on high alert, like a rabbit who was held up by its ears, his legs not even daring to twitch. Now however, he was already very familiar with this and swiftly followed the big boss’s instructions to shoot.
The instructor tsked, “Relax your shoulders.”
Wu Jin blinked, then abruptly turned around––
The man wearing a pure white mask had chilly, indifferent eyes. He was wearing a standard instructor’s combat gear and a dark cloak with a warm golden fringe and a golden Floating City badge at the collar. The deep contours of his eyes could be seen through the mask, and he appeared cold to the point of deadliness when his eyes were narrowed.
The man’s voice was very deep and a little hoarse, like a callused hand rubbing against the muzzle of a gun.
Wu Jin finally came to his senses after he reacted, looking over in a daze, the back of his ears slightly flushed.
The instructor glanced over him indifferently.
Wu Jin’s gaze roved down. Dark leather army boots, straight trouser legs, and further up, to the waist with its holstered gun.
It was kind of… cool!
Wu Jin swallowed a mouthful of saliva, his eyes envious.
The man, who had noticed the rabbit spirit’s line of sight wandering around his crotch: “……”
After the low level dynamic target training ended with a ‘beep’, Wu Jin picked himself up and was about to call out to big brother, but was puzzled when he saw that big boss’s gaze was cold and indifferent.
“Off target 86 times. Unqualified.” The big boss was expressionless as he spoke.
Wu Jin nodded repeatedly, obediently acknowledging his mistake.
His expression was anxious as he thought about whether he’d done anything to make the big boss unhappy.
It seemed that he had…
His miss rate was too high.
He’d bailed on their appointment yesterday.
He hadn’t folded the coat up properly.
The man looked down and saw that the rabbit spirit was so nervous that he was practically about to start hiccuping.
Wu Jin lifted his head up in a daze in time to see the big boss opening up the training room settings. His hands moved as fast as lightning as he changed the holographic scene design in the blink of an eye.
Wild planet grass became a cartoon paradise park.
The slimy iron armored insectoid beast turned into bouncing and crying metal slimes.
metal slime – reference to a recurring monster in the Dragon Quest series. Introduced in the original game, it is a slime with a metallic body rumored to be composed of the fabled Orichalcum alloy.
It took Wu Jin a moment to react, “Thank, thank you Big Brother! But I… I’ll use the insects for training… this is too cartoonish…”
The man raised his eyebrows, “Lively and cute.”
Wu Jin was bewildered, “What…”
The man repeated indifferently, “Live-ly and cu-te. Don’t you like that?”
Juurensha: Ahahahaha, WS attempting to be Little Witch’s type, this is great. Also, I love that guinea pig so much, it’s ADORABLE
xiin: actually, i think WS is getting revenge for Little Witch’s thoughtless words… *whistle* probably angry that he’s not the right type