Chapter 17: On the Way
Translator: virtual group Editor: virtual group
Jiang Baimian, Long Yuehong, and Bai Chen stood there in a daze for a long time.
So your so-called participation is whether you want to ‘sing’ with those beasts… Long Yuehong wanted to say that after he gathered his thoughts, but he felt that whoever bothered with Shang Jianyao in such an atmosphere would be on the losing end.
After a few seconds, Jiang Baimian laughed. “Bai Chen, you forgot to guard your surroundings! Shang Jianyao, even if dozens of wilderness bandits come, they might not be able to defeat us. However, you single-handedly broke down the defense system from the inside!”
Shang Jianyao nodded solemnly. “Which is why I was considering it. Besides, I’m guarding against any unforeseen circumstances.”
“I was indeed a little surprised, but I didn’t let down my guard of the surroundings.” Bai Chen forced an explanation out of her mouth. She was a little ashamed of her loss of composure and her unprofessionalism.
As a human who had wandered the wilderness for many years, she had plenty of experience. It was not like she had never encountered nomads who had mental breakdowns and were in abnormal states. Furthermore, she had her fair share of them. Those people’s words and actions were much more exaggerated than Shang Jianyao’s. However, the problem was that Shang Jianyao acted mostly normal—normal to the point that Bai Chen wondered if he was occasionally joking or pulling a prank.
She never imagined that he would be so ‘creative.’
“Good. Stay alert at all times.” Jiang Baimian did not expose Bai Chen. She tilted her head slightly and smiled at Shang Jianyao. “When this training ends, it is indeed necessary to do a mental evaluation of all members.”
Shang Jianyao clapped lightly. “I wish you a perfect score!”
Bai Chen didn’t expect Jiang Baimian to be so straightforward in mentioning the psychiatric evaluation because it would obviously agitate Shang Jianyao severely. Although she had suggested it before, Shang Jianyao’s behavior back then wasn’t too exaggerated. It was barely within the normal limits. At most, he liked to joke, so the suggestion wasn’t very pointed.
Bai Chen similarly did not expect Shang Jianyao not to mind at all as if it were really just an exaggerated prank. Perhaps, he has long recognized his condition and accepted himself as such? He does not have an inferiority complex, nor is he sensitive about the issue?
Bai Chen shook her head and reminded herself that no matter what, she had to do her job well and not be affected.
At this moment, Jiang Baimian looked down at the electronic watch on her wrist. “Alright, let’s take turns resting. Normally, I should be in the same team as Bai Chen while Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong will be in the same team as we take turns to rest. However, the two of you are inexperienced, and it is very easy for you to ignore some signs.
“Furthermore, when you are out on missions, there are many dangers and limited conditions. There is no need to make it a point to distinguish between men and women. The most important thing is to be honest with each other and trust each other. Therefore, Shang Jianyao and I will be in the same team, and Bai Chen and Long Yuehong will be in the same team.”
Jiang Baimian smiled when she said that. “Actually, the conditions are very good this time. With a jeep, one will sleep in the front seat and the other in the back seat. It won’t disturb the other party at all.”
Bai Chen nodded and said, “I used to sleep in the same tent with two men, two women, a pig, and two chickens.”
Jiang Baimian immediately stood up. “Alright, you guys get some rest. Shang Jianyao and I will begin our night duty.”
She looked down at her watch again. “You have six hours.”
“Team Leader, won’t this be too long?” Bai Chen was a little worried. They would be on duty for six hours from that very moment. It happened to be the period when humans were most exhausted and sleepy due to their biological clocks. It was very easy for them to ignore any abnormal activity around them.
Jiang Baimian smiled and said, “The three of us are people who have undergone genetic enhancement. One thing we have in common is that we have plenty of energy. In this regard, I should be stronger than them. I can maintain a high level of focus, even if I don’t sleep for a day or two.”
“Me too…” Long Yuehong muttered.
Jiang Baimian turned to look at him. “What did you say? Are you badmouthing me behind my back?”
“He didn’t!” Shang Jianyao interrupted. “He said it in front of you!”
Long Yuehong choked and coughed.
Jiang Baimian waved her hand and said to Shang Jianyao, “You’re already pretty normal at times like this.”
She eventually said to Bai Chen and Long Yuehong, “Alright, the two of you should quickly get some sleep.”
Nothing unexpected happened that night. When the sun rose from the horizon and dyed the clouds golden red, the four Old Task Force members were already gathered around the bonfire, drinking warm water and eating energy bars.
“How beautiful and spectacular…” Long Yuehong looked in the direction of the sunrise and realized that his vocabulary was limited.
The magnificent scene, the scene that contained infinite vitality, made Long Yuehong and Shang Jianyao—who had come to the surface for the first time—feel as if their bodies and minds had been cleansed. They felt an indescribable sense of beauty and hope.
“I was more embarrassing than the two of you back when I saw the sunrise for the first time.” Jiang Baimian did not mock them.
Bai Chen also stared at the sunrise, but she said nothing. As a human who was born in the wilderness and grew up in the wilderness, she was already accustomed to the sunrise. However, she still felt inexplicably happy and excited every time she saw it.
Jiang Baimian stood up and spoke after she filled her water bag. “Alright, pack your things and get ready to leave. Long Yuehong, you and Bai Chen will sit in the back row. Have a nap. Shang Jianyao and I will take turns driving.”
“Yes, Team Leader!” Long Yuehong retracted his gaze and replied loudly.
After clearing the bonfire, he saw that the empty husks of the canned food they had eaten last night were casually thrown to the ground. “Team Leader, aren’t we going to recycle them?”
Pangu Biology was located underground and lacked mineral resources. They had always lacked metal resources. They had to use the food they produced, genetic enhancement liquids, biological agents, underground brine, and salt extracted from rock surfaces to exchange for the corresponding resources with other large factions.
Jiang Baimian looked back and fell silent for two seconds. “There’s no need. Takes up space.”
With that, she opened the door and sat in the driver’s seat.
Since Team Leader had said so, Long Yuehong resisted the urge to recycle. He quickly returned to the car with his gun.
A simulated engine sound sounded as the grayish-green four-door jeep left the clearing with a dense number of solar panels spanning open. They moved away from the small ruins.
After a few minutes, a black figure walked out from behind a half-collapsed building and crept closer to the extinguished bonfire.
‘He’ sometimes paused, using plants and broken walls as cover. Sometimes ‘he’ crawled, his elbows moving forward alternately. After ‘he’ confirmed that the four people had really left, ‘he’ suddenly jumped up, rushed to the bonfire, and picked up the empty metal cans.
‘He’ was wearing a black sackcloth and carrying a rifle. ‘He’ was about 1.6 meters tall, and his face had no skin or flesh, just silver-black metal. There were many cracks on the metal surface, vaguely revealing lines and components of different colors below. One of ‘his’ eyes was blinking red, and the other had long been ‘extinguished.’ His hands were like bones, made purely of silver-black metal.
This was an artificial intelligence robot.
“Acquired. Acquired…” It let out a monotonous voice without any fluctuations. It carried the empty cans and ran back to the rear of the ruins. After making many turns, it burrowed into a hole formed by steel columns and concrete that were randomly placed together.
In the hollow was a boy wrapped in a tattered cotton jacket and bundled in animal fur. The child was only 12 or 13 years old. His face was dirty, and the crevices between his hands were caked with black mud. Beside him was a tattered tricycle filled with all kinds of junk and trash.
He took the empty canned food and smiled uncontrollably. Then, as he divided the empty cans into three groups and placed them in different junk piles, he smiled at the robot. “Little Seven, this is almost full. I can exchange a new eye for you now. We still have to save up a little here for this pile. Winter is coming, so we will need to exchange for plenty of food and coal, as well as your batteries. I’ll exchange this pile when I get back…”
As he spoke, the boy scratched his head and smiled in embarrassment. “There’s almost nothing to eat. I’ve been eating a little too much lately…”
Little Seven nodded hard and said in the same monotonous voice, “Good arrangement.”
“Get in the car quickly. Let’s go back to the settlement.” The boy sat in the driver’s seat of the tricycle.
Amidst beeping sounds and a bumpy road, the boy drove the tricycle into the distance amidst the ruins and plants that could barely be considered a path.
As he cycled, he spoke to the robot behind him. “Little Seven, do you think Mommy and Daddy will come back after winter ends?”
The jeep maintained its speed as it continued moving through the Blackmarsh Wilderness.
When it was almost noon, Bai Chen—who was driving—suddenly frowned after turning a corner. “There’s a group of people ahead…” Without waiting for Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and Long Yuehong’s response, she added in a deep voice, “They saw us.”