Chapter 70: Intelligence
Jiang Baimian took precautions when she heard An Ruxiang’s question. She turned around and glared at Shang Jianyao, indicating for him not to speak. She then pursed her lips and said to An Ruxiang, “When we met him, he was sleeping by the side of the road. We were just about to wake him up when his face suddenly contorted. His body convulsed a few times before he completely stopped moving.
“H-he died just like that.” At this point, Jiang Baimian suddenly felt that her description was ridiculous. She immediately felt a little apprehensive and quickly added, “Do you believe what I just said? No, I mean, you have to trust us.”
Frankly speaking, Jiang Baimian wouldn’t have believed such a thing if she hadn’t experienced it herself or seen it with her own eyes. After all, very few mutated monsters in the Ashlands had such strange abilities. Furthermore, it hadn’t even been three years since Jiang Baimian was transferred to the Security Department. The number of missions she had undertaken was considerable, but not numerous. The mutated creatures she had encountered were considered relatively common.
An Ruxiang’s cold and indifferent face had already changed at the beginning of Jiang Baimian’s description. Her expression gradually became complicated and difficult to hide.
Although Jiang Baimian couldn’t understand what all of the other party’s microexpressions meant, she immediately felt strong, intense, and uncontrollable sadness.
Jiang Baimian had met An Ruxiang only once, but she had previously determined that An Ruxiang was very reserved and never revealed her feelings. Now, she saw An Ruxiang’s expression for the first time—an expression of losing control.
An Ruxiang took two deep breaths and said, “I believe you. This is because we encountered something similar after entering this city ruin. If you didn’t witness it with your own eyes, I believe you wouldn’t have fabricated such an experience.”
An Ruxiang’s voice was deep and hoarse as if she was trying her best to hold back something within her.
The man beside her had a mixed expression of grief and fear.
Jiang Baimian tersely acknowledged An Ruxiang’s words and didn’t offer any condolences. Instead, she asked, “What exactly did you encounter?”
An Ruxiang wiped the corners of her eyes, and her expression returned to normal. “We drove into this city ruin from a road deep in the swamp. We didn’t plan on exploring any of the secrets hidden here. We only planned on plundering at the ruin’s edges and returning with some valuable items.
“Just as we got a pile of supplies, Little Guang—one of our teammates—suddenly fell asleep. He fell asleep while moving a box of thick clothes. We thought he had an ailment attack and didn’t wake him up immediately.
“In the end, after we confirmed that he was only sleeping, his closed eyes distorted as if he had encountered something extremely terrifying. Th-then, he died.”
Jiang Baimian wanted to say, “It seems only one person can be forced to fall asleep at a time.” However, she looked at An Ruxiang’s eyes and resisted the urge.
An Ruxiang continued, “We were terrified after Little Guang died. We aren’t afraid of fighting Heartless and monsters head-on. But this kind of attack—which we have zero knowledge of or defenses against, much less know who is going to be next—is really terrifying and breakdown-inducing.
“We decided to leave this city ruin on the spot. After all, we had already made a sufficient harvest. To our surprise, we strongly believed that something abnormally precious was at the corner of the street ahead of us and that we had to obtain it. It was as if we were possessed.
“We went over just like that and saw a Heartless. She was female, looking somewhere between 17 and 26 years old. As you know, it is difficult to determine a Heartless’s age based on their looks.
“She was dressed better than the two Heartless we encountered while searching for items. Her clothes weren’t that dirty, and her face was relatively clean. However, her eyes remained turbid and bloodshot.
“Yes, she was wearing a white, shriveled down jacket. Back then, we felt like the abnormally precious item was somewhere on this Heartless. Therefore, we accelerated and approached her, prepared to shoot. However, we didn’t expect a large number of Heartless to appear. They appeared to have been laying an ambush nearby.
“It was a trap!”
Be it An Ruxiang or the man beside her, they couldn’t help but show a little fear at this point.
Jiang Baimian didn’t make a judgment or a guess and asked, “And then?”
An Ruxiang took another deep breath. “When the Heartless lying in ambush appeared, the feeling of being blinded by greed vanished. We no longer felt like the special Heartless had anything abnormally precious that we needed to get our hands on.
“Fortunately, only a portion of the Heartless had guns. Among them, some even used the guns as iron rods. This was probably because they were out of bullets. In short, we managed to get under cover in time. Hence, we didn’t die in the first wave of gunfire.
“What followed was an intense battle. Originally, we would’ve died there after killing multiple Heartless. However, the heavens favored us. For some reason, a mechanical monk in a red kasaya suddenly rushed over from nowhere and attacked all the female Heartless in an extremely brutal manner.
“I could sense that he was also filled with malice toward me.”
Jiang Baimian finally couldn’t help but blurt out, “Jingfa?”
That mechanical monk repaired himself and came to join in the newly-discovered city ruin’s bustle?
“You know him?” An Ruxiang asked in surprise.
“We’ve met before,” Jiang Baimian replied briefly.
Qiao Chu—who didn’t stop them from conversing—quietly listened by the side as if he wanted to obtain useful information.
An Ruxiang didn’t ask any further and returned to the topic at hand. “With the mechanical monk joining us, we found an opportunity to escape. Shoushi took the initiative to cover our retreat. We had agreed upon a rendezvous place and time, but… Heh heh, he always said that he’s a punctual person, but he’s definitely going to be late this time…”
At this moment, Shang Jianyao took a few steps forward and said seriously, “Maybe it’s because he doesn’t wear a watch.”
An Ruxiang was stunned for a moment before she suddenly laughed. “Yeah, his precious watch’s strap broke during the ambush and dropped there.”
An Ruxiang smiled and wiped her eyes. After a few seconds, she spoke with an increasingly hoarse voice. “Back then, it wasn’t dark yet. We first found a place to hide for a while. When all the commotion subsided, we circled around and rushed to the rendezvous point. However, we ended up encountering you guys before we even arrived.”
“Weren’t the gunshots fired by you guys?” Jiang Baimian sighed thoughtfully. She then cursed herself. Seriously, why have I been neglecting things these past two days? I haven’t been careful enough.
“Perhaps it was due to Qiao Chu saying that a Nightmare Horse created the real nightmares, but my train of thought has been limited to mutated monsters. From An Ruxiang and the others’ encounters, it’s very possible that there are mutated Heartless in this city ruin. Furthermore, they are very special and have strange abilities—the kind that’s rare in the outside world.
“Apart from monsters that can forcefully make one fall asleep, there’s also the possibility of mutated Heartless.” Jiang Baimian said this to Bai Chen, Long Yuehong, and Shang Jianyao. At the same time, she reminded An Ruxiang to be careful of such mutated creatures.
Bai Chen nodded and said, “In First City and its affiliated factions, they call such Heartless Superior Heartless.’”
Long Yuehong felt another wave of horror.
An Ruxiang took a deep breath and said, “I’ve said everything I can. I believe it will give you some ideas and be of some use to you. Can you tell me where Shoushi is now?”
Jiang Baimian turned around and pointed at the street. “Walk straight and turn right. In the only outlet that has its shutters closed on the right side of the street. However, that street is relatively dangerous. There are many Heartless. It’s best you circle around them.”
“Thank you,” An Ruxiang and the man replied in unison.
At this moment, Shang Jianyao took a few steps forward and took out the folded piece of paper. “This was on him.”
“His Hunter badge.” Jiang Baimian also took out Wu Shoushi’s Ruin Hunter badge.
An Ruxiang reached out to take the items. She instinctively unfolded the piece of paper and brought it close to her eyes. She scanned it under the not-too-weak moonlight.
“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…”
An Ruxiang’s mouth twitched, but she pursed her lips tightly and didn’t open them. This made her expression slightly odd. Something seemed to be reflecting the moonlight in and around her eyes.
Jiang Baimian and the others didn’t say a word as they quietly waited for An Ruxiang to compose herself.
After a while, An Ruxiang exhaled and said, “Thank you. There’s no need to give me the rest of the items.”
With that said, she turned her head and spoke to the man beside her. “Ah Gang, let’s go find Shoushi.”
“Alright,” replied the man in a deep voice.
An Ruxiang didn’t stay any longer, nor did she bid farewell. She quickly ran toward the faraway street, planning to circle around and avoid the danger.
Jiang Baimian retracted her gaze and reminded her teammates, “The most important piece of information we received just now was that the ability to forcefully make one fall asleep is likely single-target.”
At this moment, Qiao Chu—who was wearing a helmet and a black metal skeleton—suddenly asked, “Who’s Jingfa?”
“A mechanical monk and an Awakened at the same time…” Jiang Baimian, Long Yuehong, and Bai Chen fought to be the first to tell Qiao Chu the information regarding Jingfa. Finally, they said, “The price he paid was enhanced lust. Since he became a mechanical monk by uploading his consciousness and lost the ability to satisfy his desires, his mind has become extremely warped. He also abhors women.”
“Abhors women…” Qiao Chu repeated and didn’t ask any further. He pointed ahead and said, “Continue. We’ll reach our destination if we circle around it.”
Shang Jianyao and the others started jogging with their weapons once again.
An Ruxiang—who had entered another street—suddenly slowed down and raised her hand to rub her temples in confusion.
“What’s wrong?” the man beside her asked curiously.
An Ruxiang replied with a solemn expression. “Don’t you think there’s a problem? Just now, we actually lowered our guard and even wanted to follow the person in the exoskeleton. At that moment, I forgot Shoushi and only wanted to gain that person’s favor.”
The man beside An Ruxiang gradually frowned. “Yeah. I-I… You know I like women, but I actually thought that it wouldn’t be too bad if it were him… Isn’t… that too odd?”