Chapter 47: Leave it to Nature
Before the howl subsided, similar howls sounded from different parts of the Great Swamp. They echoed endlessly.
Du Heng listened for a while, and the smile on his face disappeared unconsciously.
After the dark Blackmarsh Wilderness quietened down, the middle-aged man—who called himself an antiquarian and historian—looked back at Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and the others.
“The situation over there is a little more troublesome than I imagined. It seems like I have to rush through the night.” As Du Heng spoke, he stood up.
Jiang Baimian didn’t stop him and said politely, “Be careful.”
Du Heng laughed and didn’t respond directly. Before bidding farewell, he casually said, “Young lady, the literal meaning of your name, white cotton, always reminds me of the past. Back then, there were many cotton fields near my hometown. Every season or a little later, I would see countless small clouds landing on the ground. It was a beautiful scene.”
Jiang Baimian stood up and smiled. “My father was a biologist who studied cotton enhancement. The month I was born was the season of the cotton harvest, so he gave me this name.”
At this point, she protested with a smile, “Although you are indeed older than us, you shouldn’t use the term ‘young lady’ on me.”
Du Heng laughed. “I’m much older than I look, and I’m also older than you imagine.”
He didn’t delay any further and waved his hand with a smile. “Pray we meet again.”
“Pray we meet again,” Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and the others politely replied.
Du Heng waved his hand again and turned around. He circled around the mound and walked north into the dark wilderness—where the sun had already set, and the moon had yet to rise.
Jiang Baimian sat down again and looked at the blond Daoist opposite her. “Madam Galoran, what about you? Will you also be rushing north of Yuelu Station?”
Galoran smiled and replied, “There’s no need to call me madam. On the path of seeking the true way, there’s no difference between men and women. If you want to show your respect, I don’t mind either. You can call me a Daoist priest.
“Of course. If you want to call me Little Lo, Little Ran, or Little Ga, that’s fine. This is nothing more than a different scenery on my path towards enlightenment. There’s no such thing as one being inferior or superior.”
“That’s pretty… pretty down-to-earth.” Jiang Baimian thought for a long time before she finally came up with an appropriate adjective. “I can tell that you’ve learned the Ashlands language well.”
“I didn’t do it willingly.” Galoran’s answer exceeded Bai Chen and the others’ expectations.
Galoran then explained with a smile, “The books regarding the Dao are all written in the Ashlands text. They lose their charm when translated into the Red River language. It will be impossible for the translated versions to give an accurate description.”
With that said, she threw the finished rabbit bone to the ground and stuck two greasy fingers into her mouth. She sucked them a few times before casually wiping them on her clothes.
Such casual behavior—together with her beautiful but slightly noble bearing—left Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and the others a little dumbfounded.
Galoran took out a waterskin and drank two mouthfuls. When she saw the people opposite her staring at her dazedly, she chuckled and said, “Sometimes, we can’t even differentiate between reality and illusion. We can’t even ensure our basic survival, so why should we care about such trivial matters? It’s better to do as we please and leave it to nature.”
Having said that, she looked at the crackling bonfire and spoke with an indescribable smile. “Just like the nobles in the First City’s Senate. They were clearly nomads who had been struggling to survive in the wilderness for decades. Without a clean water source, they had to vie for their companions’ pee. Now, they insist on being polite and respectful. It’s basically all kinds of unnecessary and elaborate formalities.
“Heh heh, while lower-ranking citizens freeze to death from hunger in the city, they stipulate that a banquet requires one set of cutlery per dish.”
Shang Jianyao, Long Yuehong, and Bai Chen had never been to First City. They had only heard some rumors and were unable to continue the conversation.
Jiang Baimian nodded thoughtfully. “It seems like you come from First City.”
The blond Daoist priest, Galoran, smiled. She didn’t confirm or deny the speculation.
Upon noticing the silence, Shang Jianyao changed the topic. “Daoist Galoran, what’s a Daoist priest?”
Galoran thought about it seriously. “It’s truly a little difficult to explain… Haven’t you guys encountered a monk before? You can treat Daoists as another type of monk. They belong to another religion and believe in a different Kalendaria from the monks.”
The veins on Jiang Baimian, Long Yuehong, and the others’ foreheads twitched when they heard the word ‘Kalendaria.’
Shang Jianyao took the initiative to ask, “Which Kalendaria do you believe in?”
Galoran’s expression became serious. “Master Zhuang.”
“…” All the members of the Old Task Force found it a little difficult to speak.
After losing Jingfa’s tail, Long Yuehong and Shang Jianyao shared the information they had learned from the honest mechanical monk with Jiang Baimian and Bai Chen.
Among the information was a very important piece of information: The Monks Conclave believed that this world was only a dream of the former Buddha, Lokeśvara-Tathāgata—which was why it was filled with all kinds of pain. Lokeśvara-Tathāgata was the Kalendaria that represented the entire year and leap month. It had another famous name beyond the Monks Conclave.
The name was: Master Zhuang!
Galoran took in their slightly abnormal reactions, but she didn’t ask any questions.
After a few seconds, Jiang Baimian probed, “Did you join this religion while in First City?”
Galoran nodded. “Yes, the Eternal Time Sect.”
A smile gradually appeared on her face. “Back then, my mother had just passed away. I also didn’t get along well with the rest of my family…”
Shang Jianyao suddenly interrupted the Daoist priest’s reminiscence. “Why weren’t you sad when you mentioned your mother’s passing? Instead, you smiled.”
Galoran chortled and spoke in perfect Ashlands language. “Birth, aging, illness, and death are the laws of this world, just like spring, summer, autumn, and winter. They will always alternate in a cycle. Although my mother has died, she remains asleep between the heavens and the earth. She remains a part of nature. Perhaps one day, she will start afresh in a different form, just like how spring comes after winter ends.
“Since I understand this, why should I cry in grief? That energy is better served to reminisce.”
Shang Jianyao wanted to retort, but he couldn’t find any flaws in the other party’s theory. He could only shut his mouth sullenly. He vaguely felt that Galoran made sense, but her views were too extreme.
Galoran was just about to continue the previous topic when a desolate howl sounded from north of Yuelu Station.
This time, the howls became louder and more hoarse. It had clearly changed.
Galoran turned her head and smiled when she heard that. “It seems like I have to go there too.”
She slowly stood up, wrapped her left hand around her right, and bowed. “The Perfected Man has no self; the New World is before us.”
She then patted her Daoist robe and drifted north.
Shang Jianyao gave a simple explanation as he watched the Daoist priest—Galoran—leave. “Perfect Man is another way of addressing the Kalendaria…”
Jiang Baimian had already stood up and was looking in the direction that Galoran and Du Heng had left in. Suddenly, she laughed. “Seriously, why didn’t they prepare a car? Why did they choose to walk? With their abilities, this shouldn’t be too difficult…”
Who wouldn’t have something to rely on if they dared to traverse the wilderness in the darkness?
Such people had no need to delay their arrival deliberately and wait for the first batch of Ruin Hunters to trigger most of the dangers.
“It might have happened too suddenly,” deduced Bai Chen from her perspective.
“Maybe it’s to maintain their image,” said Shang Jianyao, giving a perspective most people wouldn’t think of.
“I inexplicably find you making sense…” Jiang Baimian almost laughed. “I’m referring to the historian named Du Heng. As for Galoran, she said it herself: it’s naturally better to walk if one wants to see the various sights on a journey.”
Without waiting for her team members to speak, Jiang Baimian pretended to be serious and said, “What confused me the most was another question.”
“What is it?” asked Long Yuehong—who was in charge of guarding the surroundings—nervously.
Jiang Baimian could no longer hide the smile on her face. “Shang Jianyao, why didn’t you participate in the ‘chorus’ like you previously did?”
She was referring to the first time Shang Jianyao howled when they heard the anomaly in the swamp’s depths.
Shang Jianyao glanced at his team leader and said seriously, “You’re so childish.”
“…” Bai Chen and Long Yuehong almost laughed out loud, while Jiang Baimian was rendered speechless. She could only scratch her ear and say, “Huh, what did you say? Seriously, can’t you speak louder? Forget it, forget it. Let’s eat.”
After taking the lead in finishing the compressed biscuits and energy bars and replenishing the waterskins, Jiang Baimian reminded them seriously, “We have to be more careful tonight. You heard the commotion just now.”
After Bai Chen, Shang Jianyao, and Long Yuehong replied, Jiang Baimian smiled. “However, we need to rest when it’s time to rest. We still have a long day tomorrow. Also, we need to begin training your ability to find food. This doesn’t only refer to hunting and searching. You also need to distinguish which leaves, roots, and parts of a mutated animal can be eaten.
“You also need to determine how long it will take before a genetic agent injection is needed after eating certain foods. You also need to determine which soil can temporarily serve as food for one or two meals at most… Don’t think that the past few days was an adventure in the Ashlands. With sufficient food, it can only be called an armed tour!”
Long Yuehong felt a sense of fear when he heard this, but Shang Jianyao was eager to give it a try.
Jiang Baimian thought for a moment and added, “Also, don’t be confused by the different religions’ theories. Although it can indeed provide a certain level of spiritual comfort, it’s equivalent to escaping reality in an environment like the Ashlands. There are many latent dangers.”
Long Yuehong nodded and curiously asked, “Team Leader, are there many such strange religions?”
This was something rarely mentioned in Pangu Biology’s textbooks.
“Plenty. When people are in pain and despair, it’s very easy for them to give themselves up to religion.” Jiang Baimian chuckled. “From what I know, there are probably more than ten underground religions that can cause considerable harm in First City.”
After warning everyone, Jiang Baimian took over Long Yuehong’s mission and patrolled the surroundings. She also instructed her team members to do an after-action review of all their encounters today.
They did not encounter any accidents that night. Not long after dawn, the jeep began driving north.
Noticing that their destination was not far away, Jiang Baimian—who was in the passenger seat—began introducing Blackrat Town to her team members. “The residents of Blackrat Town are actually a group of Subhumans.”