Chapter 173: Art of the Gap
The snow had long stopped, but white residue continued covering the roofs and the sides of the road.
Jiang Baimian ignored Shang Jianyao’s attempt to mold a super-large snowball and smiled at Lei Yunsong, Lin Feifei, and the others. “Let’s have a good chat when we return to the company.”
The previous chaos had come too suddenly. Their mission was completed before they could get their hands on the self-assembled radio transceiver. Thus, they could only contact Chen Xufeng—who was in charge of Weed City’s matters—and report the general situation to the company through him. They also helped Lei Yunsong’s team apply for basic supplies.
In the end, the company got Chen Xufeng to prepare two cars, enough food, and the corresponding weapons and ammunition to last Lei Yunsong’s team for half a month. They were to return to the underground building as soon as possible to report for duty and undergo psychological evaluations and trauma treatment.
Lei Yunsong—whose eyes didn’t seem to be fully open—pressed the door as he replied to Jiang Baimian. “You mustn’t forget about making contact with the people from Mechanical Paradise. They definitely know some secrets regarding the Old World’s destruction!”
In their previous exchange after their recovery, Lei Yunsong, Lin Feifei, and the others recounted the reason for their team’s arrival in Weed City and their subsequent encounters.
They had discovered a few broken chips that originated from intelligent robots in a wilderness nomad settlement to the south.
After the repairs, decryption, and data restoration, they extracted some useful information. This information told them that the chips came from Mechanical Paradise’s robot guards. They had been attacked by hostile forces during a certain trade transaction and suffered heavy losses. As a result, some of the components had been lost.
Apart from its origins, the term ‘mainframe’ repeatedly appeared in the retrieved information. It gave one the feeling that the ‘mainframe’ had already occupied every industry in Mechanical Paradise—one couldn’t escape its control, no matter what aspect of life it was.
In addition, some of the timestamps in the information indicated that the ‘mainframe’ had likely existed before the Old World was destroyed and had already been put into operation.
In order to confirm these matters and obtain more information, Lei Yunsong’s team chose to come to Weed City and begin the investigation from the local Hunter’s Guild. This was because it had close cooperative ties with Mechanical Paradise.
It was clearly impossible for lowly wilderness nomads to be treated as equals. In order to ensure that the inquiry went smoothly, Lei Yunsong deliberately chose the best hotel and used their actions to show that they had a large faction backing them.
They didn’t know when the Anti-intellectualism Church’s Father took a fancy to them. They could only be certain that they had met the sickly man after they went to North Street and visited the Castellan.
Jiang Baimian tersely acknowledged Lei Yunsong’s ‘request’ and said, “It will ultimately depend on the company’s arrangements. The information you found might very well put you in charge until the end.”
Lei Yunsong exhaled and said, “We might not have a chance to go out into the field after we return. Our team might very well be disbanded.”
After working in the Old Task Force for so long, they still had a certain level of affection and obsession regarding this matter. Therefore, they hoped that Jiang Baimian’s team could take over this trail of clues and investigate further to give them an answer.
Jiang Baimian consoled him. “That depends on the final evaluation. There’s still a high chance.”
Lei Yunsong looked at his team members and smiled. “This is actually a good thing since all of us have families. Every time we leave the company and come to the surface, we would feel nervous and afraid that we won’t be able to return. Look, we almost perished this time.
“Taking this opportunity to transfer all of us to some internal department can be considered a blessing in disguise. We no longer have to let our wives, children, parents, and brothers worry about us anymore. After all, I’ve roamed the Ashlands for many years and visited many places. I’m much better than most of the company’s employees. Yes, I should be satisfied.”
It’s quite obvious that you’re a little reluctant when you put it that way… Sigh, very few company employees—who are accustomed to living on the surface—won’t miss the outside world, even if it’s filled with danger… Jiang Baimian inwardly criticized before smiling and waving her hand.
“Regardless of the final outcome, it’s a good thing. At least you will return alive. Have a safe journey!”
“See you later!” Lei Yunsong and the others waved their hands, opened the door, and got in.
After watching their car drive to South Street, Jiang Baimian slowly exhaled and spoke to Shang Jianyao, who was beside her. “How many times has it been? Why do you still have such high hopes?”
Shang Jianyao was again biting the large snowball that he had made.
“I’m just thirsty,” he replied vaguely.
Jiang Baimian clicked her tongue and walked toward the bulletproof SUV that Xu Liyan had given her. “It’s time for us to do something.”
As she spoke, she turned around and waved at Bai Chen and Long Yuehong—who were behind the second-floor window—indicating that they should get busy with their own matters.
After all, Eugene’s slave hunters were still outside the city, and the mission to hunt down the kidnappers was still ongoing.
The latest news Bai Chen obtained was that, after a short gunfight, Eugene’s gang had decided on a new leader and inherited the slave capturing certificate.
The new leader clearly didn’t want to find Eugene. He only wanted to capture the ‘real culprit’ and show his brotherhood to convince the masses.
After throwing away the large snowball in his hand, Shang Jianyao slid into the driver’s seat and started the car.
Since Long Yuehong hadn’t opened the window, Shang Jianyao gave up on the idea of throwing the snowball at him—this would damage the glass.
“There are two things to do next.” Jiang Baimian—who was in the passenger seat—leaned back and took out Chen Xufeng’s ‘reply.’ Then, she simply said, “First, find Xu Liyan and make it clear that we are from Pangu Biology. We hope to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. Second, personally interrogate the fake Father and obtain as much information about the Anti-intellectualism Church as possible.”
This was a new mission given to them by the company.
As Shang Jianyao had been engrossed in playing with snow for the past two to three days, Jiang Baimian was worried that he hadn’t been seriously listening back then. Thus, she could only repeat herself.
“It’s already a mutually beneficial relationship.” Shang Jianyao spoke as if he and Xu Liyan were sworn brothers.
Jiang Baimian scoffed. “How long can this last? It’s also because the company noticed a rift between Xu Liyan and First City that it decided to try roping him in. If it succeeds, we won’t have to worry about not being able to leave Weed City, even if you brothers have a ‘falling out.’”
Relations that involved interests were the easiest and most stable relationship to change.
Shang Jianyao thought for a moment and asked, “What’s a mutually beneficial relationship?”
Jiang Baimian casually explained, “It just means that we aren’t on the same page in terms of status, but we can earn money and enjoy the benefits together. We can also provide some support depending on the situation. In short, the directors will definitely be satisfied if we can drive a wedge between First City and Weed City that can make the former suffer.”
“Why are they like children?” Shang Jianyao commented.
Jiang Baimian rolled her eyes.
As a sworn friend of the Castellan, Shang Jianyao easily met Xu Liyan.
Beside Xu Liyan was Jingnian—who still wore a long, hooded robe.
Upon seeing Jingnian, Shang Jianyao gently swayed his body with a strange rhythm before Jiang Baimian glared at him to stop.
“Castellan Xu, I have something to discuss with you.” Jiang Baimian signaled with her eyes that it wasn’t suitable for Zen Master Jingnian to hear her.
Xu Liyan smiled and shook his head. “Given my relationship with Jianyao, feel free to say anything. Yes, don’t worry about Zen Master. There’s a confidentiality agreement between us, and the monks have always been trustworthy.”
Jiang Baimian didn’t insist; she pulled out the chair opposite the desk and sat down. She then smiled and said, “Castellan Xu, have you considered increasing your strength?”
Upon hearing this, Shang Jianyao turned his head to glance at his team leader and shut his mouth tightly.
Xu Liyan’s expression turned serious. “What do you mean?”
Jiang Baimian’s gaze swept from Xu Liyan to Jingnian before she retracted her gaze. “Take this attack for example. Once the enemy breaks through the bodyguards’ blockade and restricts Zen Master Jingnian’s actions, you will be like a lamb waiting to be slaughtered. At that time, others can do whatever they want.
“I know that you can hire many bodyguards, including the guild’s Advanced Hunters. Normally speaking, it’s very difficult for anyone to assassinate you. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If your strength can be enhanced, it might spell victory at a critical moment. You should know very well that there are too many weapons in this world that exceed the norm, as well as humans.”
To Xu Liyan, the Father incident was the most dangerous situation he had ever faced since he was born. Every time he thought about that critical moment—the trembling from fear, the loneliness, and the helplessness—he would feel uneasy. This translated into nightmares for several days.
“Then, what should I do?” Xu Liyan tried his best to appear less anxious.
Jiang Baimian smiled. “In the Ashlands, there are many ways to enhance oneself, but very few are beyond the norm. The first is to become an Awakened, but that really depends on fate. It doesn’t mean that one can succeed by working hard or by having power and status.
“The second is to upload one’s consciousness and become an Eternal. This is indeed quite a temptation for humans in their later years. But Castellan, you are still young, and there are still many things that you haven’t enjoyed.
“The third method is mechanical modification. With your relationship with First City, it won’t be that difficult. However, you might not obtain the best equipment. Furthermore, your image isn’t that good…”
After saying that, Jiang Baimian changed the topic. “Look, my biological prosthetic limb doesn’t appear abnormal from the outside, but it has an ability that transcends a human’s capability.”
Silver-white electric arcs sparked out of her fingers.
Xu Liyan fell silent for a moment before saying, “Are you from Pangu Biology?”
“Yes,” Jiang Baimian replied with a smile. “Compared to immature genetic modifications, biomechanical prosthetics tech is already relatively reliable.”
Xu Liyan quietly stared at Jiang Baimian for more than ten seconds before finally asking, “What do you want?”
Jiang Baimian smiled. “We want very little; you’ll still live, and you will still control Weed City. You’ll also continue maintaining Weed City’s freedom. This is enough for us. If we can still buy some items that normal commerce can’t buy here, we will be very grateful. Castellan Xu, it’s impossible to maintain balance by placing a chip on one side of a scale.”
Xu Liyan thought for a moment and didn’t answer directly. “I’ll consider it.”