3 Law of the Jungle
When I think back to my arrival here one year ago, I can't help finding it laughable. Back then, seeing a crown-less old man made me scream out loud. There was a blond man to explain everything about this world to me. And now, it's been an entire year since I've died, since my consciousness arrived in this place called Split Zone No.13.
As I dashed through the streets of the city, I started coming back to my senses. I suddenly felt that someone was following me. Even without thinking about it, I knew who it would be. But just in case, I quickly turned around as I drew the bow on my back. By the time I faced him, I already had an arrow aimed.
Dressed in black, the robust figure was quick to react. He leapt up above my head, and as I turned to look at him, I saw him smile jokingly down at me. I grabbed at his ankle, causing us both to start falling. He unceremoniously kicked away my hand, moving off my momentum, and the two of us dropped to the ground. My crimson skirt swept across the ground and I landed steadily in red heels. My messy, red hair blew in the wind as I shot a look at the stalker before me.
As before, he was dressed completely in black. The black high-collared sweater he wore one year ago had been replaced with a black windbreaker. His hands were casually inserted into his jacket pockets, and his slightly long, black hair danced in the wind. A pair of shining, black eyes were fixed on me.
"Nie Zun, it's already been a year. Can't you wear something with a bit of color?" I sneered as I looked him over.
Nie Zun shrugged, his lips curving upwards just a bit. "Aren't you the same? Always wearing red, always running through the streets at night, like a lunatic. Have I ever asked you to change?"
I raised a brow. "It's not often that you're so lively. I didn't know you could say so much at once."
"Depends who I'm talking to," he replied, with an arrogant yet somehow charming smile.
His smile made my heart skip a beat, but immediately afterwards, I silently berated myself for being unable to resist a handsome man's smile. I looked at him spitefully. A year ago, he'd been withdrawn with a sullen expression fixed to his face, but nowadays, he was like the devil, hanging around me all day long.
I was about to respond with a sarcastic remark when a cute girl suddenly appeared in front of me. She was a newcomer who'd just arrived yesterday. Laurel, her name was. It was said that she was brought here after severe Stockholm syndrome triggered psychosis.
Her appearance was a very pure and innocent one, and her character was also sweet and kind. I guess, because she reminded me of myself when I was younger, I immediately took a liking to her. And since she was here in my Western District, of course, I would do my best to protect her.
Laurel scurried over when she saw me. She pouted her little, red lips and looked at me sadly as she said, "Ah Shen jiejie, I still don't really get it, the way time works here, so I can't get to sleep."
I pat her on the head, her fine and soft blond hair feeling nice beneath my fingers. I carefully explained, "This place is different from the world we came from. One day is divided into sixty periods. You can think of them as sixty hours. Day lasts for thirty of these hours, and then night lasts for the other thirty. During the day, things are as you've seen. The sky is gray, but everything is clearly visible. But when night comes, like right now, the sky is completely dark, and we can see maybe ten meters around ourselves. No matter how you try to light things up, you'll only be able to see that small area around yourself."
"Then, jiejie, how can you run through the night so quickly? You can't see in front of you, but you're still so fast." Laurel raised her head, her big, bright eyes shining towards me.
I smiled. "I've become used to it. When I run, I don't just rely on my vision. I use all five of my senses."
"Like a bat?" Laurel asked, with a tilt of her head.
"Right," I said, with a gentle rub of her head. "But don't worry. An hour in this place is much shorter than an hour in the world we're from. Once you get used to it, you'll be fine."
"That big brother is really good looking. He's always following you, isn't he, Ah Shen jiejie?" Laurel reached out her hand, attempting to grab onto Nie Zun's clothes. Surprisingly, he didn't try to avoid her. He simply shot her a shallow smile.
I smirked. "That's because he can't leave me."
"Oh? Why can't he leave you? Did he fall in love with you?" Laurel asked with amazement, her big eyes glistening.
In my head, I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the thought. Him, love me? Please. Two people who couldn't wait for the other to die—what kind of love could there be between them? I looked over at Nie Zun's cunning eyes, and a trace of hatred flit across my heart.
"If you're going to roll your eyes, just do it in your head. If you actually roll them... In the dark of night, a woman dressed in red rolling her eyes at you is a truly horrifying scene." Nie Zun spoke leisurely.
I grew embarrassed. Had I really been unable to contain my eye-rolling to my thoughts only?
When she heard Nie Zun's words, Laurel started giggling. Seeing Laurel's pretty smile brightened my mood. But her laughter was brief, and suddenly, she screamed. It was what you'd imagine of a girl's scream. I followed her gaze until I saw a green-haired snake woman, roughly as tall as a human.
I say snake woman because she had the lower body of a serpent and the upper body of a human. Look at that thick serpent's tail—or should I call it a leg? Wow. I really wanted to tell her to lose some weight.
Our appearance in this world is conjured up by our consciousness. As long as a person's mental prowess is strong enough, they can take on any shape or form they desire. That's the reason behind all the strange creatures here.
In this place, our mind's capabilities equate to our strength, so we call it our mental force (MF). Our abilities are quantified by this mental force. When a person first arrives here, their mental force is measured by the guide—that is, the blond haired man. The upper limit of the MF scale is 100, with most people's MF falling between 10–20, or 30–40 if they are a bit stronger.
The strength of one's consciousness can slowly be improved with time and practice, just like one's willpower. However, unless your willpower was extremely strong while you were alive, in the real world—in other words, unless you were very strong before you came here—you could practice day and night, but your MF would only ever increase up to three levels. In other words, when you arrive to this place, your abilities have already been set.
Generally speaking, because one's mental capabilities are limited, and because the strength of one's brain waves is limited, it's difficult to change your appearance after it's been set. Each person only has a certain amount of MF available, and maintaining a new appearance requires spending a portion of it.
About a month after I arrived here, I'd grasped how to manipulate my mental force. I've only ever expended a few levels to alter my appearance—to make myself slimmer, more elegant, and to turn my hair red. Aside from that, I maintained a rather human-like appearance, and I really couldn't understand those people who spent so much of their mental force to maintain appearances of strange creatures. As an example, the snake woman in front of us that would do well to lose some weight.
I comforted Laurel, "Don't be scared. Her name is You Ji, and while she's far from being kind, she won't harm you."
"You Ji, look at your appearance. You're scaring the poor girl. Can't you turn into something more pleasant?" I looked over at her serpent's tail.
You Ji extended her hand and stroked her green hair. She gave me a coquettish look. "I really liked snakes when I was alive. Now that I have the chance to shapeshift, it's only natural that I'd want to be joined together with a snake."
My lips twitched as I pointed to her spinach-like green hair. "You think that a snake that grows green hair is attractive?"
"Hmph. It's called being trendy." She rolled her eyes at me. Her eyes were still very lovely though. She looked at the still-frightened Laurel, and then over at Nie Zun behind me, slouched with his hands in his pockets.
Then her eyes returned to me. "You'd better be careful of Jiao S. I don't know what kind of tricks she's trying to pull, but she's been roping in a lot of strong characters recently. The Eastern District is growing more restless by the day, and there are always corpses turning up there. There are some really dangerous people in the group that she's gathered."
I laughed lightly. "She's always done things strangely and without order. As long as I don't offend her, she won't take the initiative to bother me."
You Ji joined in the laughter. "Oh, please. Doing things without order? Who could compete with the Western District on that front? Who's as strange as you, coming and going as you please, without letting anyone know? You know, you're the commander of the Western District. Don't just live each day without a care, playing around, leaving Nie Zun and me to take care of business. I'm telling you because I'm worried that, even if you don't provoke her, she'll decide that someone as carefree as you would be easy pickings."
I nodded, to let her know that I'd be careful. When I didn't say anything else, You Ji simply let out a sigh. With a flick of her tail, she turned and left.
You Ji quickly disappeared from my sight, and I found myself lost in thought. Of course I knew about Jiao S. Mr Blond of the Northern District. Si Luo of the Southern District. Jiao S of the Eastern District. And Li Shen of the Western District...
Not too long after my arrival here, before I'd become the Western Commander, I was out on a street in the Eastern District. With my own two eyes, I saw the Eastern Commander, Jiao S, tear a girl to shreds. The girl had been screaming in anguish, but Jiao S remained expressionless, almost as if she were simply ripping up a sheet of paper. She pulled the girl's limbs off, one by one, and after the girl's limbs regenerated, Jiao S would, once again, rip them off. She seemed to have spent an entire day doing that.
Because it is only our consciousness that exists in the Split Zone, any time our bodies are torn or wounded here, they'll regenerate and heal soon afterwards. Our physical appearances are simply a kind of illusion, not our true physical shells. But because it is our consciousness that exists here, we still feel pain. In other words, when someone repeatedly rips you to shreds, you will feel the pain boring into you, but you'll be unable to escape it. That was one of the frightening aspects of this world.
All that said, it's not impossible to die here. Every person in the Split Zone has something that can protect them—that is, their splitting key. At the same time, every person carries a weakness—their split symbol. When someone inserts their splitting key into another's split symbol, the person bearing the split symbol will die. In whatever form they were in, they will die in this world. And their true physical body in the real world will be declared brain dead soon after. While I'd always had some difficulty believing things about this world, I've already seen a lot of people die here.
Of course, this place isn't without its own rules and order. Anyone who inserts their splitting key into an innocent person will hear a flute's song float down from the grey sky above. As the flute sounds, their body will burst into a million pieces, like a beautiful blood storm. You wouldn't be able to see any pieces of flesh, just a leftover bloody residue. Those who assassinate another will also die here, in this cruel fashion. They will feel that pain until the flute no longer sounds, and then their consciousness will also cease to exist in the physical world.
That's just a legend though. While it's true that the killer will burst apart and die, whether or not one hears the song of a flute... Well, I've never killed anyone, so naturally, I've never heard it. All I know is that, when someone starts to burst apart, they will cry out in anguish before their death. Even if I've grown some guts in my time here, I still get chills when I hear their cries.
The only way to leave this place is to find the soul splitter that brought you here and insert your splitting key into their split symbol. You may be wondering, then, why someone would use their splitting key on an innocent person instead of their soul splitter? It's simple, really. Being able to find your soul splitter in this place is harder than climbing to heaven. Don't even mention finding the soul splitter that brought you here, I have yet to see any soul splitter in my time here.
People eventually grow tired of this place. They don't want their families to wait for them anymore, to suffer as they care for a vegetable. And so, they choose to kill another and be destroyed with them. Since you cannot kill yourself here, if you want to die, someone else must either kill you, or you must kill someone else and suffer the consequences.
As each day passes, people become fed up with their situations. This place is hardly a safe one. It's filled with bloodshed, with conspiracy. Hiding our split symbol from others has become an everyday concern, a source of worry, for everyone here.
Stockholm syndrome is when a captive hostage develops positive feelings and sympathies with their captor and negative feelings for police/authorities.
If we wanted to go with the 'splitting' theme, the line '...Stockholm syndrome triggered psychosis...' can also be translated to '...Stockholm syndrome triggered (her) mind to split.' The author, again, uses the schizophrenia/mind-split term, which I opted to translate as 'psychosis' this time around.
Last chapter, Li Shen described her body in the 'real' world as being in a vegetative state, and the blond man responded that medically, it would be cerebral death. This chapter, people are described as being brain dead when their consciousness dies in the Split Zone.
The distinction, I think, comes because cerebral death means that only part of the brain—the cerebrum—is dead. Of course, this is the part of the brain we think of, the part that makes us us. However, cerebral death means that the brainstem still functions, and thus, a person's heart still beats and they still breathe. Whole-brain death, however, means that someone can only remain 'living' if they're put on life support. In other words, dead dead.