Chapter 57: Exchange of Intelligence
Shang Jianyao and the others met the 23rd Company’s OC outside Blackrat Town. He was in his thirties and wore a grayish-black uniform with a name tag with two stars.
“Wang Beicheng.” He offered his right hand to Jiang Baimian.
Jiang Baimian also stretched out her hand and shook it. “Jiang Baimian.”
“I’ve long heard of your reputation.” Wang Beicheng smiled and retracted his hand. He was about the same height as Shang Jianyao. His facial features were considered handsome, but his entire body was tanned and gave off a rugged feeling.
“I hope it’s mostly good,” said Jiang Baimian humbly. She then introduced Shang Jianyao and the others. “These are members of our Old Task Force.”
Wang Beicheng was not arrogant at all. He greeted Bai Chen, Shang Jianyao, and Long Yuehong one after another.
He then cast his gaze at Jiang Baimian again. “To be honest, we were all surprised when we heard that you applied to establish a new Old Task Force. This is one of the most dangerous missions, so there’s no need for you to do something like that.”
Long Yuehong’s face involuntarily turned a little pale when he heard ‘one of the most dangerous missions.’
Jiang Baimian smiled. “This is my personal pursuit. There are still some idealists above the Ashlands.”
“Sometimes, your purity leaves me envious.” Wang Beicheng smiled and sighed. “Unfortunately, people like us have wives and children. We can’t be willful anymore.”
Their small talk ended there.
Jiang Baimian began to talk about her experiences, hoping that the colleague opposite her could obtain useful information from her recount.
She first mentioned how she had heard the howling the first night they camped out in the wilderness and had suspected that something abnormal happened north of Yuelu Station. She then skipped the battle involving the wilderness bandit wearing an exoskeleton. She didn’t even mention anything related to Moat Town. She only mentioned that she had encountered a Blackmarsh Iron Snake midway and successfully killed it. The Blackmarsh Iron Snake’s skin was on the jeep’s roof; one couldn’t miss it.
After describing the ‘initial plot,’ Jiang Baimian directly talked about the trip to the steelworks factory ruins. She repeated the information provided by the bald Ruin Hunter, Harris Brown. Apart from using different words, there was no reduction in the content.
Wang Beicheng listened attentively. The polite smile on his face gradually disappeared.
Jiang Baimian then changed the topic to the mechanical monk, Jingfa.
In the beginning, she truthfully recounted Shang Jianyao, Long Yuehong, and Jingfa’s conversation, emphasizing Jingfa’s mind-reading ability—which was suspected to be an Awakened ability.
But when Jingfa caught up to her and used his Hungry Ghost Realm abilities to control the four of them, Jiang Baimian secretly concealed Shang Jianyao’s performance. She only said that she had determined Jingfa’s hatred for women not because of the Eternal technology, but because his lustful nature and physical condition were incompatible. This resulted in him having a warped mental state.
Jiang Baimian then said that she deliberately angered Jingfa and made him start unleashing uncontrollable violence. She then seized the opportunity to insert her left index finger into a certain socket on Jingfa’s neck. She used the high-voltage electric current stored in the electric eel-like prosthetic limb to destroy his main control system and body structure.
Here, Jiang Baimian had deliberately modified the facts. She did not mention that she had only wanted to hack into the mechanical monk’s internal information network and directly control him because she was worried that Jingfa had an emergency backup system and redundant body structure.
She then skipped the middle process and grafted on the subsequent outcome. As Jingfa had an emergency backup system and a redundant body structure, he still managed to escape from the jeep after suffering heavy damage. Thus, he was not destroyed on the spot.
“If it were me, I might not have as good a result as you guys even if I led a combat platoon.” After hearing about the mechanical monk, Wang Beicheng couldn’t help but sigh with emotion. “Combat robots coupled with real human intelligence and Awakened abilities simply make him a killing machine.”
“This was also a result of pressure. Otherwise, we would have been violated and tortured to death by the mechanical monk. How can that be justified?” Jiang Baimian laughed self-deprecatingly. “After we escaped Jingfa, we wanted to come to Blackrat Town and use the radio transceiver here to transmit the information we obtained to the company. On the way, we encountered two strange people while camping out in the wilderness. One of them was Du Heng, who called himself an antiquarian and a historian. The other came from First City. Her name is Galoran, and she called herself a Daoist priest…”
Her focus was not on how strange the two people were but on obtaining some information regarding the Awakened.
After that, the Old Task Force arrived in Blackrat Town and realized that it had been massacred. Therefore, they searched the scene and launched an emergency flare.
Jiang Baimian didn’t hide the results of her investigation and pointed out her suspicions regarding the Hyena bandits.
Towards the end, she talked about her real nightmare. However, she did not mention how Shang Jianyao had relied on his Awakened abilities to break free. She only talked about their good luck. It happened to be a change of shifts. Long Yuehong and Bai Chen realized that something was amiss and woke them up in time.
Finally, she related her real nightmare to the anomaly north of Yuelu Station and shared her guesses.
“This does resemble an Awakened’s ability…” Wang Beicheng—who was nearly a generation older than Shang Jianyao and the others—recalled what he had seen and heard. He hesitated and said, “When I was young, I followed a battalion and participated in a major transaction between large factions. I chanced upon a sect called Dawn’s Morning Star. They were afraid of dreams but also used them. Back then, the parishioner I conversed with was an Awakened. He called himself a Dream Guardian and believed that he was fighting for the sake of preventing people from being swallowed by nightmares. The nightmare he described is a little like what you described.”
Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and the others looked at each other and asked Wang Beicheng, “He didn’t show you his abilities?”
“No.” Wang Beicheng shook his head. “This might have something to do with me being more vigilant.”
Jiang Baimian thought for a moment and inquired, “Which Kalendaria do they worship?”
Wang Beicheng already knew that Shang Jianyao and the others had obtained information regarding the Kalendaria from the mechanical monk, Jingfa. Therefore, he didn’t hide anything and frankly replied, “It’s Dawn. A deity who rules over February.
“They say that this Kalendaria is the light that illuminates a dream.” At this point, Wang Beicheng looked at the already dark sky. “Any other information?”
“No.” Jiang Baimian smiled slightly. “I’m thirsty from all the speaking.”
Wang Beicheng laughed. “I’ll skip the pleasantries. It’s almost night. Find a place to camp and rest. As for me? I have to arrange for a few reconnaissance sections to go out and gather information based on the information you provided. I can’t waste any time.
“Ah, right. It’s best to sleep under the watch of your companions on night duty. This way, you can be woken up in time if anything abnormal happens.”
Wang Beicheng didn’t mention how uncomfortable it would be to sleep in such a fashion. In the Ashlands, such matters weren’t a problem at all. Every experienced person knew that survival was better than shame or embarrassment.
“Don’t worry; we have experience.” Jiang Baimian waved her hand and bade Wang Beicheng farewell with Shang Jianyao and the others before returning to the parked jeep.
After they found a place and finished setting up the tent, Long Yuehong finally couldn’t suppress his confusion and asked, “Team Leader, why did you hide the matter regarding the exoskeleton?”
Their internal consensus was to hide Shang Jianyao’s secret, so there was no need to elaborate on it.
Jiang Baimian replied casually, “There’s too much to say. There’s no need for that. It might even end up involving Moat Town.”
Bai Chen—who was less emotional—asked in concern, “Didn’t we already discuss reporting Moat Town? However, we said we wouldn’t mention the exact location and only talk about how we encountered their hunting team in the wilderness.”
Jiang Baimian laughed. “There’s no rush. This will have to wait until we return to the company. That’s when we report it following procedures. Also, what’s the use of telling Wang Beicheng’s team? It will only increase the risk of information leaking.”
“It won’t be a problem even if it’s leaked, right?” Bai Chen didn’t understand.
Jiang Baimian sighed and pointed at Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong with a smile. “Tell me about the employees’ attitude towards wilderness nomads.”
Shang Jianyao—who was in charge of guarding the area—didn’t hide anything. “We are a little xenophobic. We are afraid that taking in too many wilderness nomads will result in a resource reduction in all aspects.”
Long Yuehong glanced at Bai Chen and spoke softly. “That’s right. Although we are lacking in manpower, everyone thinks that we can continue living like this. There will be more and more newborns in the future. There’s no need to take in a large number of wilderness nomads.”
Jiang Baimian then waved her right hand at Bai Chen. “You heard that, right? If we are only sporadically taking in the best wilderness nomads like you and using your experience, knowledge, and abilities, the employees won’t object. They might even find it highly understandable. However, it would be unacceptable if we were to take in all the wilderness nomads in an entire settlement at once.
“Although the Security Department’s combat platoons and companies—who are active outside—might have feelings of sympathy after knowing about the various settlements’ situations, they are still humans. They also have parents, wives, and children living in the company. They are also affected by all kinds of commentary.
“If they leak the news of Moat Town to their relatives and friends before the Board of Directors makes a decision and there is public opinion on this matter, it’s very easy to end up with negative effects.”
Bai Chen was still a little confused. “Can an ordinary employee influence the Board of Directors’ decision?”
From her point of view, such high-ranking personnel would not be affected by the low-ranking masses’ public opinion.
Jiang Baimian smiled. “Currently, you’re still more accustomed to the wilderness nomads’ ways. You aren’t used to some of how things work in the company. Pangu Biology might not be small, but it’s not big either. Which board member doesn’t have relatives and friends who are ordinary employees? Besides, internal stability is imperative. This will directly affect the combat platoons and companies’ status and position.
“If there is negative public opinion, the plan’s details will definitely be different, even if the Board of Directors insists on taking in all of Moat Town. Whether they are given official employee treatment or treated as a peripheral vassal force, there will be divisions to a certain extent. Whether they directly send people to manage it or have it be like Blackrat Town means big differences.”
Bai Chen didn’t say anything else. She lowered her head slightly and thought carefully about Jiang Baimian’s words. In her experience as a wilderness nomad, those in power and status had absolute say.
At this moment, Long Yuehong muttered, “But I still think that’s just one reason.”
As he was already used to it, he did not lower his voice when muttering to himself.
“Maybe Team Leader is afraid that Wang Beicheng will take our exoskeleton for his use.” Shang Jianyao deliberately glanced at Jiang Baimian and smiled.
Jiang Baimian raised her eyebrows slightly. “I’m afraid of him?”