Chapter 62: Tunnel
Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and Long Yuehong had heard Bai Chen mention mutated mosquitoes, so they knew how dangerous they were toward unprepared humans.
Mutated mosquitoes always moved in large numbers, and they flew quickly. They could tolerate a certain level of heat and low temperatures.
They were relatively small in size and difficult to be hit by bullets. Even if they encountered sharpshooters—or if the swarm was too dense—mutated mosquitoes would be unafraid of losses due to their large numbers. The number of bullets and ordinary bombs a team could carry could not compare with the number of mosquitoes.
Mutated mosquitoes usually lived on plant sap, but they yearned for blood. They had strong survival abilities and extremely terrifying offensive abilities. They were brainless and fearless. Even if more than half of their kind was lost, they would still come for blood one after another.
Their bites came with poison that could paralyze a human body and an animal’s body and slow their thinking.
Their proboscises were longer, firmer, and sharper than those of unmutated mosquitoes. They could penetrate clothing fibers and pierce into the target’s skin…
For many Ruin Hunters and wilderness nomads, this was a hellish tide that could devour life. Upon encountering mutated mosquitoes, it was difficult to escape the swarm even with the advantage in numbers.
Of course, as one of the most ferocious creatures in the Ashlands, humans were not incapable of resisting such mutated mosquitoes. However, all the solutions required relatively special equipment. For example, flamethrowers, special mosquito repellent spray guns, a Pangu Biology Herbicide Round, a complete set of biochemical clothes that could defend against toxic gases, sufficient numbers of incendiary rounds, technologically immature kinetic armor, or rare, terrifying bombs from the Old World that could cause high temperatures around the explosion’s core…
Unfortunately, the Old Task Force didn’t have any of these items.
Fortunately, the jeep they drove was relatively well-sealed. It was impossible for the mutated mosquitoes to force their way in. Furthermore, this vehicle was electric-powered, so there was no fear that the mosquito swarm would fearlessly block the exhaust pipes and other places. At the same time, the mutated mosquitoes’ proboscises were not strong enough to puncture the rubber tires.
This was indeed good news for Jiang Baimian and the others, but it was also bad news.
The ventilation system had to be switched off; otherwise, it would eventually be blocked by the mutated mosquitoes.
As a result, the air quality in the car would rapidly decrease until it was unbearable. Shang Jianyao and the others had to rush out of the mutated mosquitoes’ encirclement before that happened.
Bai Chen had experience dealing with such terrifying creatures. The same moment Qiao Chu gave the order, she had already closed the windows and turned off the ventilation system.
As Bai Chen continued stepping on the accelerator, she habitually consoled everyone in the car. “Don’t worry. These mutated mosquitoes won’t distance themselves from places with vegetation. As long as we pass through these vines, they should give up.”
“Left…” As Qiao Chuyu nodded, he directed the way forward.
Jiang Baimian muttered thoughtfully, “Even mutated creatures have the instinct to continue living in swarms. Therefore, such mosquitoes won’t leave places with dense vegetation… This is a necessary condition for them to survive. The blood of humans and animals is only a very attractive delicacy…
“That’s true. The Old World has been destroyed for so many years. The mutated creatures that can’t reproduce would’ve died long ago…”
Qiao Chu ignored Jiang Baimian’s mutters. He was more focused on identifying the path blocked by the greenish-black vines than before.
A few seconds later, the moving jeep encountered the mosquito swarms.
Smack! Smack! Smack!
The finger-sized mosquitoes with dark-red heads were like miniature bombers. They used themselves as bombs as they smashed into the windshield one after another.
In Shang Jianyao’s eyes, this was like the first rainstorm he had seen in Moat Town. Countless water droplets smashed against the glass with all their might. However, unlike the rain, these ‘droplets’ did not slide down and stuck to the glass instead.
Smack! Smack! Smack!
Be it the windshield or the windows on both sides, they were covered with black mosquitoes amidst a series of continuous sounds. The dark-red heads and hideous proboscises were densely packed together, giving one a headache.
Bai Chen and Qiao Chu couldn’t see the road ahead. The jeep was like a wild horse that had lost control at the edge of a cliff. They had no idea where they were heading.
Long Yuehong’s face quickly turned pale. He wanted to save himself, but he didn’t know what he could do or how to help.
Jiang Baimian’s and Shang Jianyao’s bodies tensed up. Their expressions were filled with worry and confusion. Their life-preservation instincts and hormonal secretion from the life-and-death situation seemed to allow them to sense the anomaly in their current situation.
At this moment, Qiao Chu stopped looking ahead and glanced down at the mechanical watch on his wrist. The dial was attached with a compass filled with engravings.
“Head in the 3:12 direction.” Qiao Chu seemed to have established a map of the swamp’s depths in his mind. He then relied on the equipment to ‘navigate manually.’
Bai Chen was no stranger to using clock positions as an indicator for bearings. However, the ones she had encountered previously had never been this specific. Therefore, after being momentarily stunned, she immediately reacted and started steering.
But with a mutated mosquito swarm in front of her, she couldn’t accurately drive according to the navigation instructions. There were definitely deviations.
Qiao Chu did not mind because he also knew that it was impossible for humans without a supplementary chip or the corresponding genetic modifications to accomplish such maneuvers at such high speeds. He had given a highly precise bearing so that the deviation would be within an acceptable range.
At this moment, Shang Jianyao suddenly said, “You can wear an exoskeleton and drive.”
Qiao Chu had previously seen the military exoskeleton device in the trunk. After some thought, he nodded and said, “Do it quickly.”
Normal exoskeleton devices had short-ranged positioning capabilities. This was often integrated into the comprehensive warning system and facilitated the wearer via a supplementary chip.
“Let me do it,” Jiang Baimian volunteered.
Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong had no objections. They immediately turned around and dragged the military exoskeleton from the trunk.
With their help, Jiang Baimian quickly adjusted the metal skeleton’s length and wore the equipment.
After the system’s self-checks were complete, she quickly said, “It’s done.”
“Stop the car.” Qiao Chu immediately retracted his gaze from his watch.
Bai Chen stepped on the brakes without hesitation.
With a screeching sound, the jeep suddenly stopped. Shang Jianyao and the others lunged forward from the momentum, but thankfully, they were held back by the seat belts. Many of the mutated mosquitoes covering the windshield and the windows on both sides were flung out.
As for Jiang Baimian—who did not have a seatbelt to secure her—she easily offset the inertia with the military exoskeleton.
As soon as the car stopped, Bai Chen immediately unbuckled her seat belt, changed gears, and pulled up the handbrake. She then crawled to the backseat from the armrest compartment.
Jiang Baimian stretched out her arms that were covered in black metal bones, picked Bai Chen up, and placed her on Long Yuehong’s side.
She then followed Bai Chen’s ‘path’ and quickly climbed into the driver’s seat.
Smack! Smack! Smack!
The swarm of mutated mosquitoes with dark-red heads slammed into the glass windows again, densely covering them.
Jiang Baimian—who had a powerpack behind her—couldn’t lean back. She could only lean forward and start the jeep. She buckled her seat belt as she steered the steering wheel with one hand.
Qiao Chu lowered his head again and differentiated the changes in the compass on his watch. He kept reporting the direction to take using clock positions.
With a supplementary chip, Jiang Baimian controlled the jeep accurately. In the harsh environment filled with black mosquitoes, she made the jeep traverse the swamps and vines through great danger.
In a highly focused state, the passage of time seemed to become a blur. After an unknown period of time, when Shang Jianyao and the others began to panic, the large mosquitoes covering the windshield and the windows on both sides began to fly up one after another.
These mutated creatures soon left the jeep and flew back ‘reluctantly.’
Shang Jianyao, Long Yuehong, and Bai Chen saw pure, boundless black mud in front of them. No plants were growing on the surface, but bubbles occasionally popped.
“2:24.” Qiao Chu looked up and stopped paying attention to the changes in the compass on his watch.
After Jiang Baimian turned the steering wheel, everyone in the car saw a path that led downward.
It slanted into a swamp, and a black hole was at the end.
“Drive in,” Qiao Chu ordered.
Jiang Baimian—who was wearing the exoskeleton—didn’t hesitate to drive the jeep down the path.
The black soil on the road was soft and muddy, and many of the jeep’s wheels had sunk into the mud. But something harder seemed to be propping them up from beneath the mud, allowing the heavy jeep to stabilize.
The jeep quickly drove into the hole. At the same time, Jiang Baimian switched on the ventilation system and the headlights.
Shang Jianyao and the others immediately took a deep breath and sized up the surroundings through the glass windows.
The cave was pitch-black, with only the sound of water droplets dripping to the ground intermittently. Where the headlights illuminated, the rock walls and roads were relatively flat, stained with a certain amount of mud.
“It doesn’t seem natural,” Jiang Baimian evaluated as she drove.
“An underground tunnel of the Old World,” Qiao Chu replied simply.
Jiang Baimian nodded and thought for a few seconds. “It’s a little strange that there’s no moss growing… Its previous environment wasn’t suitable for living beings?”
Qiao Chu ignored her and calmly said, “Keep driving straight.”
The tunnel was originally silent, but the jeep would occasionally bump into cracks or bumps in the ground. Therefore, intermittent crashing sounds tore deeper into the tunnel without any returning echoes.
In this deep and strange silence, Shang Jianyao and the others didn’t say a word. It was as though they were heading to the end of the world.
Several minutes passed before light gradually appeared in front of them. It quickly formed an arched exit.
Jiang Baimian—who had goggles on—was unaffected by the change in light intensity. She allowed the car to rush out of the tunnel.
The sun outside was already setting in the west. The setting sun’s rays shone on the ground as if plating it with a layer of gold.
Not far away, buildings—dozens or more than a hundred meters tall—stood orderly. No sound came from the buildings, nor was there an end in sight.
They bathed in the red sunlight like a dead jungle consisting of steel and concrete.