Chapter 68: Inspection
The desolate, hoarse howl was still echoing when similar sounds echoed from elsewhere in the city ruin. They weren’t that loud, but their undulations made one’s scalp tingle.
The most terrifying thing was that countless roars came from 100 meters away from Shang Jianyao and the others.
At this moment, the clouds in the sky seemed to have been scattered by such a commotion. Half of the yellow moon’s face was temporarily revealed.
Bright light scattered and shone on the buildings—dozens to hundreds of meters tall—at the end of the street.
The windows reflected the moonlight in the rich darkness, revealing countless figures.
It was impossible to see these figures’ appearances clearly. The only certainty was that they seemed to be looking at Shang Jianyao, Jiang Baimian, and the others. Furthermore, their bodies were slightly hunched.
Shang Jianyao and the others subconsciously reacted. They each carried out the necessary maneuvers to use a nearby obstacle to provide themselves with cover and concealment. Even Long Yuehong did not slow down much after experiencing such situations several times. He fully showcased his training’s effects.
The clouds quickly moved, blocking out most of the moon again. The buildings at the end of the street sank into the darkness again, leaving only faint outlines visible.
After a while, seeing that they wouldn’t be attacked, Qiao Chu—who was wearing the exoskeleton—left his hiding spot first. However, he didn’t return to the middle of the main road. Instead, he came to the street’s left side, paved with dark-red stone bricks. Here, trees—with their leaves still intact—blocked any line of sight from above, preventing him from being targeted by a sniper at the end of the street.
Jiang Baimian, Long Yuehong, and Bai Chen similarly closed in on Qiao Chu one after another.
Shang Jianyao looked up at the sky and saw that the moonlight and starlight were getting weaker. He suddenly pounced out from his hiding spot and did two rolls before arriving beside Wu Shoushi. He then dragged the corpse, bent his back, and quickly entered an open outlet by the left side of the street.
This outlet’s signboard hung down diagonally, half-broken. Only the two Ashlands words ‘Snacks Holdings’ could be seen.
Inside the outlet, dusty rectangular tables were lined up in two rows.
Shang Jianyao didn’t care if they were dirty or not. He placed Wu Shoushi on one of the tables and proceeded with providing resuscitation by following the first-aid knowledge taught by Jiang Baimian. He undid the other party’s top and started doing CPR.
“It looks like it’s useless…” Jiang Baimian had come in at some point in time and watched Shang Jianyao complete the process.
Without giving Shang Jianyao a chance to speak, she habitually instructed, “Check his body and see if there are any clues.”
Qiao Chu—who was wearing the exoskeleton—walked to the open door. He pursed his lips and looked inside for two seconds. “There’s no need. Let’s head to our destination as soon as possible.”
Jiang Baimian looked back at Qiao Chu and sincerely said, “If we can figure out this Ruin Hunter’s encounter and find the real reason why he was sleeping by the street, we should be able to avoid a large number of dangers in our subsequent operations. This area is really strange. The monsters are more terrifying than I imagined—likewise for the number of Heartless. What do they eat to survive?”
Although the Heartless had the instinct to reproduce and wouldn’t gradually disappear because of an individual’s death, they were also biological beings. Hence, they also needed sufficient food. In the city ruins—which had lost agriculture and industrial support—it was impossible for the Heartless to maintain a population of this size by hunting their own kind, mice, and insects.
The ecological environment would gradually be balanced.
“Maybe this city has plenty of supplies… Heartless have survival instincts and will take the initiative to search for these things.” Bai Chen also entered the outlet and guessed the reason.
As for whether the food reserves had expired or not, the Heartless wouldn’t consider too much about it. It was almost equivalent to them being brainless.
“Maybe.” Jiang Baimian did not deny the possibility. After all, she didn’t know where the city ruins were in the Old World. What if there were food reserve warehouses here, just like those discovered in other ruins?
Furthermore, if the Heartless continued reproducing for generations, it was entirely possible for them to evolve and gain the ability to eat raw rice and flour.
Upon hearing the ladies’ discussion, Long Yuehong couldn’t help but say, “There are many Heartless here, and the situation is strange. Shall we retreat? Just moving some of the things on the road can be considered a great harvest!”
As Long Yuehong spoke, his eyes were fixed on Qiao Chu.
Qiao Chu ignored him and only urged Shang Jianyao, “Hurry up.”
He seemed to have accepted Jiang Baimian’s words and felt that it was necessary to investigate Wu Shoushi’s encounter. Otherwise, it would also be dangerous for him.
After saying that, Qiao Chu seriously patted away the dust on his body.
Shang Jianyao held the flashlight and did a thorough check. He didn’t find any obvious injuries on Wu Shoushi, but Wu Shoushi’s face had contorted as if he had seen an extremely terrifying object or encountered an extremely terrifying event.
This was very similar to the strange deaths north of Yuelu Station as described by the bald hunter, Harris Brown.
Coupled with Qiao Chu’s words, Shang Jianyao could make a preliminary judgment that they had died from the Nightmare Horse’s attack.
As for where the monster was and how far it was from here, he had no way of knowing.
Shang Jianyao then took off Wu Shoushi’s clothes and searched for any inconspicuous traces.
Jiang Baimian came over and helped Shang Jianyao quickly complete the inspection. “There’s a circle of skin around his wrist that’s fairer than the rest of his skin. This means that he used to wear a watch, but it might have dropped somewhere… There aren’t any recent injection holes… Unfortunately, there’s no way to do a blood test here. It’s difficult to determine if he’d inhaled anesthetic gas…”
She then straightened her body and looked at Qiao Chu, Bai Chen, and Long Yuehong with a slightly solemn expression. “There’s a high chance that he was forced into sleeping by abilities similar to the Nightmare Horse’s. What we can’t be sure of is whether the Nightmare Horse did this or another monster.”
“It’s not a Nightmare Horse,” Qiao Chu said very firmly.
Jiang Baimian nodded. “Oh… Do you know what a Nightmare Horse’s roar is like?”
Qiao Chu opened his mouth as if he wanted to simulate it, but he felt too ashamed and eventually gave up on the idea.
At this moment, Shang Jianyao stood up. He held the flashlight and seriously asked, “Is it like that?”
Just as he said that, he mimicked the most sonorous and most terrifying roar from before. He did not show any signs of embarrassment. Of course, he kept his volume down.
“No.” Qiao Chu shook his head and denied it without hesitation.
Jiang Baimian frowned slightly. “It seems like the most terrifying monster in this city ruin isn’t the Nightmare Horse.”
This was what she wanted to determine from her previous question—whether the Nightmare Horse was the one letting out the loudest roar, which attracted a series of responses.
“Then, was it like this?” Shang Jianyao repeated the roars he had heard previously.
“None of them.” Qiao Chu—who was wearing a helmet—couldn’t help but ask, “Can’t you just imitate a horse’s neigh? A Nightmare Horse’s roar is almost identical to a normal horse’s neigh. It’s just slightly different.”
Shang Jianyao glanced at Qiao Chu. “I’ve never seen a horse.”
With that said, Shang Jianyao turned around, bent down, and checked Wu Shoushi’s pocket.
The first thing he flipped out was a brass badge. On the front of the badge was a human face engraving with blurry facial features, a saber, and a spear. A small chip was embedded in the back.
Shang Jianyao had previously seen such a thing and knew that it was the Hunter’s Guild badge. He casually handed it to Jiang Baimian.
Jiang Baimian did not read the chip’s contents and directly put it away.
The missions that Wu Shoushi previously completed had little to do with his encounters in this expedition.
The second item Shang Jianyao found was a blue and white checkered handkerchief. This handkerchief looked very old. Its surface had a few lint balls, but it was folded neatly.
Shang Jianyao shook open the handkerchief, but he didn’t find any clues. He then folded it and stuffed it back into Wu Shoushi’s chest pocket.
The third item he found was half a piece of black chocolate wrapped in tin foil. This chocolate had clear signs of melting and hardening, but there were no bite marks.
As Shang Jianyao flipped the piece of chocolate around, Bai Chen suddenly said, “It’s probably something he just licks or places in his mouth to suck when he wants to eat it.”
Bai Chen spoke very calmly as if she was already accustomed to such customs.
Shang Jianyao nodded slightly and asked, “Do you want it?”
Bai Chen shook her head. “There’s no need to take it in a city ruin like this.”
There had to be a lot of supplies that could be found here.
Shang Jianyao didn’t ask anyone else and continued searching through Wu Shoushi’s clothes.
The fourth item he found was a piece of paper that was also folded neatly. The words on the paper were rather neat: “I owe Ruxiang a canned beef.
“I owe Ah Gang two payments and a large bag of compressed biscuits.
“I owe Cripple Zhang half a bowl of oil.
“I owe Olenc a pistol and ten rounds.
“I owe Little Guang one serving of meat.
“I owe Ruxiang a flower…”
Shang Jianyao quickly finished reading it and refolded the paper before putting it in his pocket.
“Don’t tell me you want to help him pay the debt?” Jiang Baimian was a little surprised. However, she wouldn’t be too surprised about anything Shang Jianyao did.
Shang Jianyao replied expressionlessly, “If we encounter his companions, I’ll give them this paper and the Hunter’s Badge.”
Jiang Baimian nodded slightly and didn’t say anything else.
The fifth ‘item’ that Shang Jianyao found was 12 coins in Wu Shoushi’s pocket. From their patterns and shapes, they likely belonged to the Old World.
Long Yuehong glanced at the coins and asked in surprise, “Are the Old World’s coins still usable?”
“Sure, but we don’t look at the face value. We only look at what metal it is and how heavy it is,” Bai Chen explained simply.
Of the 12 coins, seven were silver-white while five were golden. Shang Jianyao looked at them for a while before putting them into his camouflage backpack’s small compartment.
After that, apart from Wu Shoushi’s clothes, pants, and shoes, he only found Wu Shoushi’s black pistol.
“Ubei 7, there are still five rounds.” Shang Jianyao identified the gun model and latched the gun on his belt.
This gun’s bullet caliber was 7.62 mm, different from the ones they had prepared when they set off.
As for the automatic rifle that Wu Shoushi carried when he first met them, it was nowhere to be found.
After the search, Shang Jianyao put the clothes back on for Wu Shoushi.
“Let’s go,” urged Qiao Chu impatiently when they didn’t receive any clues.
Jiang Baimian and the others did not object and followed him out of the building by the street.
Shang Jianyao was the last to leave. He looked up and suddenly jumped up, pulling down the metal door.
With a rattling sound, the outlet was sealed.
Qiao Chu couldn’t help but say, “What’s the use of that? The Heartless can open doors. When the time comes, he will be their food.”
Then, he said in a deep voice, “Follow me!”
Shang Jianyao didn’t do anything else. He followed behind the team and continued holding his gun as he jogged towards a certain spot in the city ruins amidst the deep darkness.