Chapter 63: City
Before this, the tallest buildings Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong had seen were the few ‘chimneys’ in the steelworks factory ruins. They clearly couldn’t compare with the high-rise buildings they saw now.
This did not mean that the ‘chimneys’ were necessarily much shorter. It was more based on the visual impact. Be it in terms of length or width, these high-rise buildings were clearly superior to the steelworks factory’s ‘chimneys.’ Therefore, when taking every aspect into account, they could be called ‘colossal.’
What shocked Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong the most was that there were more than one or two such buildings. There were so many that it was difficult to determine their exact number.
These buildings were neatly arranged in a pattern that stretched on without end in every direction.
At that moment, Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong seemed to have become mice. This was the first time they had come to a human nation, and they could only observe it by looking up.
Under the setting sun, thousands of glass panes shimmered on the skyscrapers’ outer walls. They looked like they were made of gold or were being incinerated by ‘flames.’
Shang Jianyao’s and Long Yuehong’s eyes slightly narrowed as they resisted the slightly blinding light.
The jeep slowed down rapidly. It was unknown if Jiang Baimian was also shocked or if she was instinctively guarding against an accident.
As the car drove forward, the sun continued setting. The golden or orange glow on the high-rise buildings gradually faded.
Before long, the dazzling buildings fell into darkness and grayness one after another like old photos that had faded.
The city’s colors dimmed again.
Long Yuehong opened his mouth, wanting to say something. However, he couldn’t express his feelings with words.
In fact, it was not like he had never come into contact with a building that was more magnificent and miraculous than the current scene. The underground building that Pangu Biology used as a base was more than 2,000 meters tall. If it had been on the surface, it would have long collapsed due to the lacking support from the materials used.
But Long Yuehong usually lived in the underground building, so it was impossible for him to see the entire building from the outside. Therefore, he naturally couldn’t sense the building’s grandeur.
The row upon row of high-rise buildings in front of him left an indelible impression on him.
“Is this the Old World?” Shang Jianyao’s voice was inexplicably gentle as if he was asking himself a question.
“Yes. Didn’t you guys see the corresponding pictures in textbooks?” replied Jiang Baimian, who was sitting in the driver’s seat.
The military exoskeleton’s ‘comprehensive warning system’ allowed Jiang Baimian’s problematic ears to clearly hear what Shang Jianyao was saying without her cochlear implants.
Long Yuehong looked at Qiao Chu’s side profile and muttered, “The feelings the photos give are completely different from the real sight…”
It was only at this moment that he and Shang Jianyao saw more details as they calmed down while the car approached the buildings.
Some of the high-rise buildings were black, some were dark-blue, some were dark-yellow, and some were brightly colored. All of them were somewhat different. However, the glass walls and ordinary outer walls on their surfaces were either very dirty, looking foggy and stained. Otherwise, they were mottled and even missing.
Some green plants grew out of the cracks and tenaciously expanded their territory. Various birds circled back to their nests on a particular floor under the setting sun’s last rays of light.
On both sides of the road, the trees’ dense leaves were mostly yellowish. As the wind blew, they scattered down like rain.
Fallen leaves had piled up on the ground, and some even showed signs of decay.
Some of the street signs had fallen to the ground, some hung by their doors, and others were missing several words.
At a glance, Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong saw the words ‘foot bath,”hairstyling,”supermarket,”stir-fry,”barbecue,”hot pot,”clothing,”pets,’ and ‘police.’ However, these corresponding shops were either dilapidated or covered in dust. There was no one.
Cars were randomly parked along the way, seriously hindering traffic. Their frames and glass surfaces were covered in stains that had been washed away by the rain before solidifying again…
Everything was quiet except for the gentle breeze.
This city was long dead.
“Something’s not right…” As Jiang Baimian stared ahead, she used the exoskeleton’s comprehensive warning system to gather all the details around her.
Before Bai Chen could inquire, Qiao Chu looked into the distance and at the setting sun that filtered through the skyscrapers. He spoke first in a deep voice. “It’s almost night. Try not to speak until we enter a safe house without any problems. If you have to say something, keep your volume down.”
He then suppressed his voice and pointed to the left. “Turn into that door.”
It was a door that could accommodate two cars driving side by side. There was a sentry post in the middle that divided the lane equally. It seemed to allow entry on one side and exit on the other.
The metal fence that could block out vehicles had been lying on the ground for an unknown number of years, and its surface was covered in rust.
Long Yuehong subconsciously looked at the entrance and saw that its shape was closer to the gateway structures in textbooks. It was an archway made of brownish-yellow stone.
In the middle of the archway, most of the golden words had faded away. Only two of them could barely be distinguished: “… Yang … Yuan.”
The jeep quickly passed through the archway and drove through the door.
This was an area surrounded by seven to eight tall buildings. There was a lawn overgrown with weeds, a dirty pool filled with trash, a pavilion that seemed to block the rain, and trees that seemed to bear fruits.
“Turn right, first building.” Qiao Chu seemed to be very familiar with this place.
Jiang Baimian followed his instructions and passed through the narrow path between the two abandoned cars. She stopped outside the first building with brownish-yellow outer walls.
“Take some food and enter a unit.” Qiao Chu alighted the car first.
Shang Jianyao and Bai Chen left the jeep without hesitation and carried a pile of food out of the trunk.
Long Yuehong was a step slower and failed to take on the mission. He could only follow Qiao Chu and Jiang Baimian into the rightmost entrance.
This place was paved with brown tiles, and weeds filled the cracks. It seemed like no one had trimmed them in ages.
After Long Yuehong passed through the foyer, he took a step forward and went straight to the three silver-black elevators. He instinctively pressed the upward button and turned his body to let Qiao Chu enter first.
But the button didn’t react at all; it did not light up.
Long Yuehong was stunned for a moment before coming to a realization. “There’s no electricity…”
Jiang Baimian looked at the old-looking elevator and the rust-free button before saying, “That’s not right…”
This time, Shang Jianyao and the others could tell the problem without her needing to explain.
The elevator, the buttons, the floor tiles’ state, and the spreading of weeds didn’t look like they had not been maintained for decades. Calling it abandoned for less than a year was closer to the truth.
“Could it be that wilderness nomads used to live here?” Bai Chen raised a possibility.
The next second, she denied this possibility. “No, wilderness nomads don’t maintain useless things. Besides, didn’t they say that this is a newly discovered city ruin?”
“It’s not just that.” Upon seeing that Qiao Chu did not stop her, Jiang Baimian added, “The number of fallen leaves piled up on the streets, and the damage to the houses seems to imply one thing: Someone recently ‘maintained’ this city.”
She paused and voiced her guess. “Maybe someone is ‘maintaining’ this city periodically?”
“A smart robot? Even after humans are gone, smart robots still adhere to their duties?” questioned Long Yuehong immediately.
Jiang Baimian shook her head. “That’s unlikely. As far as I know, real smart robot technology only underwent great development before the Old World was destroyed. Products like these were still considered relatively extravagant. It’s unlikely that they can be used for such matters unless it’s in a place like Mechanical Paradise.
“Yes, it’s possible that this place is special.”
Qiao Chu listened to their discussion for a while and didn’t say anything. He turned around and walked into the staircase. He didn’t stop until he reached the sixth floor. He turned into the right corridor and entered the innermost room.
The dark-red door to this room was half-closed and not locked. The doorknob had come off, revealing clear rust.
After passing through the door, Qiao Chu—who was carrying a silver rifle on his back and a United 202 pistol attached—looked back at Shang Jianyao and the others as they entered.
He had a habitual smile on his face, but his eyes were very cold. “Let’s rest here. While sleeping, one person will guard the floor-to-ceiling windows and monitor the tunnel’s exit. Another person will patrol the room and pay attention to everyone’s situation. Once anything abnormal happens, wake everyone up immediately.”
Jiang Baimian was puzzled. “You also know about the real nightmares? How… how are they created?”
“A special mutated creature called a Nightmare Horse. As long as your dream is affected by it, dying in the dream is equivalent to dying in reality,” Qiao Chu replied casually. “It chased me for more than 100 kilometers.”
“Why?” Bai Chen had never seen a monster with such patience and perseverance.
Qiao Chu did not answer and prepared to leave the door and walk into the room.
At this moment, Shang Jianyao revealed an unconcealed smile. “I know the reason! It wants to f*ck him!”
Long Yuehong and the others were silent.
Qiao Chu frowned slightly and glanced at Shang Jianyao. “Did you exchange your brain or your ability to think for powers at Star Cluster Hall? Don’t write off the problems now. When you enter the Sea of Origins, your symptoms will only worsen. Forget it; you won’t have a chance to enter either.”
“You know so much… How impressive.” After hearing Qiao Chu’s words, Jiang Baimian praised him sincerely. “Where exactly are you from?”
Qiao Chu thought for a few seconds, straightened his black trench coat, and bowed slightly. “Then let me reintroduce myself. Eighth Research Institute’s commissioner, Qiao Chu.”