Survivorship Bias Chapter 9
A colosseum of Darwinism
Wu You stared at Zhong Yirou and said after a few seconds, “Crow’s mouth1.”
Zhong Yirou choked on his remark, “No, who would have thought it’d be so soon?”
“It must be Yang Ming’s instigation,” Wu You concluded without hesitation, but soon he frowned again, puzzled by the development of the situation. “But you don’t even have supplies. A duel is meaningless.”
An Wujiu didn’t have many expressions on his face. He looked more like a well-trained AI than a human.
“In many cases, the plundering of life is more meaningful than the plundering of goods.”
An Wujiu thought that the current situation was because of three possibilities:
The simplest one. He was attached to Liu Chengwei’s black line.
The second one was more roundabout. Yang Ming was the one who cursed him.
The last one was that he wasn’t anyone’s black line, but they just hated him and wanted to kill him.
According to this situation, it was more like the third one. Because if it were the first two, both would’ve done it the moment the system assigned the red and black lines and duel rules. But it was impossible for someone who knew the object of their curse was An Wujiu to wait until now.
Yet coincidentally, the person who initiated the duel most likely didn’t expect that he happened to be the target of An Wujiu’s curse.
When the voice announced the rules, the system randomly assigned them each a red and a black line.
At that time, An Wujiu opened the game panel and saw the red line connected to the vagrant Old Yu and the black line connected to the robber Liu Chengwei.
They were terrible red and black lines. Even if the secret love lives and the cursed person dies to reach the best situation, he could only gain 5 points at most.
Fortunately, he had the ability to swap lines.
Without this ability, it would’ve been challenging to turn the tables.
When he headed over, the door to the drill room was wide open, and everyone was present. An Wujiu walked inside. The room was a bit bigger than he expected, with four suspended scarlet lasers in the middle surrounding a large area and four overhead lights. The room was devoid of other lights, looking much like a boxing ring with more amplification.
Outside the area stood a short column with a circular button on top.
An Wujiu felt surprisingly familiar with such a scene.
His teeth and hands chattered uncontrollably again.
Wu You stared at the dueling arena. “Since the total health bar has been counted and the one with fewer loses, why do we have to come to the dueling arena to fight?”
“The other people may stand in a team. It looks like the person with the most health bars will win, but even if Shen Ti, who has the most health, stands up and faces three or four people on the opposite side, their combined health bars will be higher than his.” Zhong Yirou sneered. “Besides, if it’s just computation instead of dueling, no one gets injured, and the cost of duels becomes very low. In that case, it’s comparing who can pull in more people. Only when it’s real, bloody, and comes to the consumption of supplies will people be cautious about taking sides.”
Liu Chengwei stood on the left side of the ring, seemingly ready. Even his blind eye radiated a fierce light.
In terms of physique, An Wujiu was lean and slender, so he was at a weight disadvantage, but in one-on-one melee combat, weight tends to provide an overwhelming advantage. Because of the lack of food and water, the energy bar on his head had begun to diminish while his opponent’s bar was still full.
What’s more, one of An Wujiu’s hands was severely injured.
The divine voice appeared again.
“I have already explained the duel rules before, and I will remind you again that the result of the duel between players in this round will not depend on your own strength and skills but on the number of health bars of the two parties. The side with a larger number of health bars will win the duel. Everyone can also choose to sit on the sidelines. The side with less health bars will become the loser in the duel and lose one health bar. The winner’s health will remain the same.”
“The duel ends when the winner drains one of the defeated’s health bars.”
It was a battle in which the strong grew stronger, and the weak got weaker.
For An Wujiu, against Liu Chengwei with a seven health bars, if no one was on his side to increase the number of health bars, this was a duel that would end in a definite loss.
“However, during the game, your pain will feel infinitely close to reality, so your skills and strength will determine the damage you cause to each other, and the damage will be irreversible. You can only use supplies for pain relief and treatment. Rest assured, even if you use fatal methods such as cutting the throat to cause damage during the duel, it will not be lethal. As long as you still have health bars and sufficient supplies, you will not die in the game.”
Standing in a team meant participating in the duel and getting injured. This situation will only make others even more cautious about choosing a team, and no one wants to consume the meager medicines.
An Wujiu’s wrist was still trembling, and it had only been a few minutes since his wound was stitched. A heavy move would definitely tear it open.
He began to seriously calculate if his account balance was enough for Zhong Yirou to perform several surgeries.
Liu Chengwei had already entered the laser arena as required. Without the option to refuse, An Wujiu also followed him in. The arena’s lasers expanded upwards and downwards, forming four barriers of red lights that enclosed them on all sides, and the dim room became eerie for a moment.
“You will be given weapons at random before the duel commences.”
A square blue holographic projection appeared in the middle of the duel arena, with characters representing two people and a blank weapon bar below both characters. Like a slot machine, the bars scrolled, and at some point, the rotation began to stop, the weapons in the bars gradually coming to a standstill.
An Wujiu stared as the nailed club slowly slid up the bar.
It was a good weapon, but it eventually moved up and disappeared.
The bar froze, and there was a red cross, as with Liu Chengwei’s.
“There are no weapons for this duel.”
“Are there any other characters joining the duel? Please choose a team and deposit the number of health bars on your character’s panel. Counting one minute.”
This minute was extremely long, and the duel room was strangely silent. An Wujiu didn’t look at the stage. He stared at Liu Chengwei’s mutilated eye and thought about the follow-up plan after losing the duel.
Time passed by, and no one made a selection.
Everyone chose to sit on the sidelines, which was the best possibility that An Wujiu had imagined.
“No one joins. An Wujiu’s health bars are three, and Liu Chengwei’s health bars are seven. The duel will begin after a countdown of five seconds. Please get ready.”
The holographic display suddenly transformed into a massive and imposing countdown number, dropping from 5 to 1. It caused people to hold their breath unconsciously.
Above their heads, health bars emerged. An Wujiu only had three. His muscles were still paralyzed and had not awoken, yet a massive fist headed towards his face with savage force in this brief second.
His reaction was subconscious, and he didn’t know how he reacted so quickly.
Under prediction, he avoided the punch, which smashed hard on the light screen of the duel arena, shattering a patch of light particles that burst and immediately recovered.
Liu Chengwei felt slight disbelief about An Wujiu’s avoidance. In reality, he was a gangster who participated in countless street fights, and his experience in one-on-one combat was not an exaggeration.
But just like that, every punch of his was dodged by An Wujiu.
Each evasion carried the wind with it.
Anger igniting his desire to win, Liu Chengwei couldn’t stand his opponent’s complete lack of attacks, even using such a fast speed to anticipate his punches and dodge them directly.
“I’ll let you hide!” Liu Chengwei roared, turned around, and raised his hand to punch, but his arm wavered.
An Wujiu recognized his fake movement, but the instant he moved his body, he felt something wrong, as if all his muscles had frozen.
He couldn’t move.
Liu Chengwei lifted his leg and kicked An Wujiu in the abdomen. Before his body could drown in pain, he fell back and leaned against the cold and hard wall of light.
That wasn’t good.
He tried to attack, but his muscle spasms worsened, and even the flesh around his cheekbones twitched without reason. After his mind wandered for half a second, Liu Chengwei stepped on his injured arm and immobilized him.
Blood began to spread from the sole of Liu Chengwei’s foot. His fists struck An Wujiu one after another. Although it was a non-weapon duel, Liu Chengwei wore a metal exoskeleton on his knuckles, making the attacks on An Wujiu’s already seriously injured body foul.
The falling punches were like an unstoppable rainstorm, fists heading straight for the vitals as the other couldn’t fight.
“The health bar is dropping so fast.”
Liu Chengwei was ruthless.
Wu You in the audience stared at the rapidly shortening health bars on An Wujiu’s head and stayed in place, unable to lift his hands.
He looked aside slightly and saw Zhong Yirou frowning. Her eyes focused on An Wujiu as if noticing something strange.
“He has post-war stress disorder symptoms2…”
Wu You heard and took a step closer to Zhong Yirou. “What did you say?”
Zhong Yirou glanced at him and lowered her voice. “Post-war stress disorder. He has been slow to react, and his talking speed is also strange, accompanied by convulsions and shaking hands. I thought it might be some psychological disorder, but his evasive action just before seemed trained. When facing a battle, his muscles tensed, his face twitched, and his spirits were weak. He has likely experienced brutal war.” She paused. “Or a massacre.”
There was another entirely different manifestation of post-war stress disorder.
After hearing this, Wu You felt a little sympathy for this person while being afraid of him. He turned and looked at the two people on the stage.
It was a passive and vicious battle with no chance of winning.
As if driven by muscle memory, An Wujiu tried to block with his uninjured hand, but his twitching muscles impeded him more than his opponent’s violent attacks, which used every inch and second.
The most frightening thing was that under Liu Chengwei’s pounding, An Wujiu seemed to have hallucinations. He felt his blood flow backward, and his beating heart became a hard lump about to rip out his throat.
Memory fragments flashed before his eyes again and again. Sharp blades stabbed into his waist and abdomen, arms and legs fractured, and pharmaceutical tubes… The hallucination’s pain was more genuine and terrible than reality’s.
“Are you hiding? Let me see how you hide!” Liu Chengwei dragged his long hair back, forcing An Wujiu to raise his head. The man laughed cruelly with contentment, stood up, lifted An Wujiu, and grasped him by the neck, facing Yang Ming’s direction.
“Is this the ruthless character you spoke of?” Liu Chengwei smiled contemptuously and spat on the ground. “I don’t think so.”
An Wujiu was overwhelmed by the recurring visions, muscles so tense that he could do nothing but watch as the man in front of him consumed the last of his health bar.
It was all over.
He now had two health bars only, matching Yang Ming.
“The duel is over.” Shengyin declared the result emotionlessly, “The character [Robber] wins, and the loser [Intern] loses one health bar.”
“Requesting both characters to leave the dueling arena.”
Liu Chengwei didn’t expect it to end so soon, not even feeling he had enough fun. An Wujiu was the person Yang Ming marked as a target. He described him as a bug in the survival game. Defeating such a person, Liu Chengwei gained a vanity he never had before.
Survival in this game is nothing.
He wanted to become a human who could dominate.
“If I had known how rapidly health fell, I would have taken my time to torture you.” He threw An Wujiu to the ground, swipped his hands, and left the dueling arena with his head held high.
An Wujiu fell on his side and raised a hand to wipe away the dripping blood. Trying to control his abnormal muscles, he pressed on the ground with his less injured hand and struggled to stand up.
Unsteadily, the pale An Wujiu came out from the arena.
Although the duel was much more difficult than he had imagined, at least the first step of his plan succeeded.
No one spoke, just like when the duel started, yet everyone’s faces changed.
Applause sounded in the quiet room.
It was Yang Ming.
With a smile, he clapped and walked from the dark corner of the room to An Wujiu, admiring his defeated appearance with great satisfaction.
“An Wujiu, what have you experienced since the last game round?” Yang Ming raised his eyebrows, and his slender eyes looked at An Wujiu. “Looking at your current appearance, I’m afraid you’ll never be able to return to the way you were before.”
He constantly remembered how he spent the ten-day-long nightmare of the previous round, how he groveled at An Wujiu like a dog only to be pushed out by him and finally killed a man to steal his points, surviving to the end.
Now, the devil-like guy in front of him claimed to have amnesia and couldn’t remember anything.
He obviously won the game unharmed and entered this round pretending to be an innocent and weak person who was seriously injured and dying.
It was all just a lie to hide his face.
“You’re the one who said that the Altar is a colosseum of Darwinism*3 and the weak deserve to die.” Yang Ming held back his anger and pinched An Wujiu’s chin.
“What about you now? Shouldn’t you follow your own creed and go to hell?”
For a moment, An Wujiu felt very wrong.
The loud ringing in his ears prevented him from pulling himself out of the illusion.
On Yang Ming’s thin face, he saw the dry trees in Siberia, the strange ancient Western language, the bottles and jars soaked with organs and prosthetics on the black market, the blank and spotless circular laboratory, the windowless prison-like place.
And the strange blue sky on the giant monitor.
Fragments of everything grotesquely blended together, like witchcraft or a programmed virus, intertwined chaotically in his mind, leaving only the last vestiges of his voice of sanity.
He woke up knowing nothing and hadn’t had time to save his mother.
Did he really want to die like this?
An Wujiu’s disorientation made Yang Ming feel humiliated, and he sneered, “To think that you can pretend so much, enough to bear the humiliation.”
“Is it possible you’ve actually forgotten everything?”
The wounded An Wujiu’s mouth oozed blood from the corners, and he only said in a weak airy voice, “I really forgot. You can kill me if you want, but you won’t necessarily win in the end even if I die…”
“What did you say?!” Yang Ming grabbed his collar and yanked him closer.
An Wujiu lowered his voice and replied softly, “The mantis stalks the cicada, not knowing that the oriole is lurking behind…”
Yang Ming was quiet for two seconds.
The inner heart struggled for a short moment. Entering this round of games, An Wujiu became reticent and silent, saying very few words, but every word made Yang Ming uneasy.
Was An Wujiu testing his determination to kill him?
Or had he already found a partner? After killing him, he was ready to take the position directly. This game is not about force. It’s about who has the final highest survival score, keeps their secret love alive, and gets rid of their cursed person. That was the optimal solution.
What An Wujiu meant—could it be that he has found a person who can get the highest score under the optimal solution?
Who was it? Zhong Yirou? Ueno? Or Wu You?
He couldn’t find the answer. In his anger, he shoved An Wujiu to the ground.
Although Yang Ming already had doubts, he couldn’t let An Wujiu go so easily. At least, he had to torture him.
“Why don’t we do this?” Yang Ming squatted in front of An Wujiu, stared at his face for a while, then turned around and suggested to the others with a smile, “Let’s test whether he’s really lying.”
Ueno asked, “How do we test?”
“Let’s continue dueling. An Wujiu only has two lives left. I don’t believe that he can still pretend when he is about to die. In other words, you are not at a loss if An Wujiu genuinely lost his memory. There will be one less deadly rival, and you’ll have more supplies. What a great deal.”
The dueling room was quiet. Not a single person objected to this cruel plan.
Just as Wu You raised his foot to step forward, Zhong Yirou grabbed his arm. She shook her head at him.
Liu Chengwei has clearly joined hands with Yang Ming, and other people may have also reached cooperation with him in the dark. People like them, who have a disadvantage in force value, will be new targets as long as they step up.
An Wujiu fell to the ground, his hair sticking to the blood on the side of his face. The flashbacks muddled his senses, and he could barely hear Yang Ming’s humiliation.
“With that face, you would be very popular in the real world.” He patted An Wujiu’s face twice with his withered hands. “What a pity. I heard that after brain death, a person is completely dead. Though, even if you become a vegetable, you can still be a good and obedient sex doll, don’t you think?”
Hearing this, Old Yu spoke out to stop him. “Yang Ming, you’re going a little too far.”
An Wujiu’s consciousness returned in a blur, and he heard their conversation.
“What? Do you sympathize with him? Why don’t you step up and give a health bar to him?” Yang Ming stood up. “I was just about to ask you to consume his next health bar…”
Things changed too fast.
The blame suddenly shifted to someone else. Wu You felt something was wrong and whispered to Zhong Yirou, “Could Old Yu be… the person Yang Ming cursed?”
But Zhong Yirou unhesitatingly shook her head and paused for a few seconds before telling the reason. “It’s because Old Yu himself stood up.” She added quietly, “Wanting to let Old Yu come forward, he’s testing whether Old Yu will stand in line. Only those vacillating will become an outcast.”
Wu You observed her expression for a moment and didn’t say anything.
Faced with Yang Ming’s decision to throw out another person, the others were even more silent.
No one wanted to enter the dueling arena with An Wujiu, despite only having two blood bars. Even if they win, they’ll make enemies for themselves. Yang Ming took the initiative to select someone, in turn making the others deeply grateful.
“Wait a minute…” Yang Ming suddenly changed the topic.
“Since you are so opposed, I’ll give you another chance to choose the camp you want to go to, and you will not be in this round.”
Every word he said seemed discrete, but it was actually not too far from a threat. After speaking, he turned to face the dark corner of the room.
“How about letting Shen Ti go?”
- Used to describe someone who talks about something bad which becomes true; like saying someone jinxed it.
- seems to be identical to PTSD; keeping it as post-war stress disorder as that’s how the author worded it
- Theory of biological evolution where species develop thanks to the natural selection of innate abilities that help improve their ability to survive. Alternatively, “survival of the fitter”