Chapter 74: Underground Corridor
“Alright.” Shang Jianyao immediately led the way. Holding the Berserker assault rifle, he walked past Qiao Chu to the stairwell, which led to the underground engine room.
At this moment, an arm appeared in front of him.
“I’ll take point,” said Jiang Baimian said in a low voice. Of course, no matter how hard she tried to suppress her voice, it was still not soft enough due to her lack of reference.
“I’m an Awakened.” Shang Jianyao remained very persistent, and his expression was serious and solemn.
“Why? Saving all of humanity starts with us?” Jiang Baimian chuckled. “Can you sense attackers in advance?”
Shang Jianyao nodded. “Yes.”
“…” Jiang Baimian never imagined that she would receive such an answer. Her subsequent words were left stuck in her throat. After a few seconds, she inquired, “How large is the range?”
“Ten meters,” Shang Jianyao replied frankly.
Jiang Baimian heaved a sigh of relief. “Then, my sensing range is greater than yours. In such an environment, the earlier we discover the attacker, the better. Therefore, I’ll take point.”
At this point, she smiled. “It’s not that I don’t want you to shoulder the responsibility, but there are specialists in every field. Professional matters should be left to the most professional ones. If there comes a day when our team encounters a more dangerous situation, and your ability is most suitable for resolving the situation, I won’t hesitate to send you out.”
Shang Jianyao didn’t say anything else. He nodded, took a step back, and made way.
Jiang Baimian adjusted her holster and slung the grenade launcher over her shoulder. Then, she gripped the Ice Moss with one hand and kept the other free.
The stairwell interior was a very cramped environment; it had limited dodging space. Therefore, there was no room for mistakes.
Due to this consideration, Jiang Baimian temporarily gave up on the United 202 pistol—which easily suffered stoppages—and the grenade launcher that could easily backfire on her. Although she often maintained and calibrated her United 202 and knew that it was unlikely for there to be any problems, one could never be too careful in the environment they were in. If she was truly unlucky and encountered a stoppage, there was no place to dodge even if she wanted to.
Of course, her grenade launcher was also slung in a manner that allowed her to use it with the greatest ease. As long as the Heartless gathered at the bottom of the stairwell, she had the guts to choose a firing trajectory to wipe them all out.
As for herself, she would definitely issue an order to take cover.
The free hand was preparation for holding a flashlight. Jiang Baimian could sense the enemy’s electric signals, but she couldn’t see the stairs in the dark.
There was not even a hint of moonlight or starlight in here.
With the flashlight in hand, Jiang Baimian bent her waist slightly and looked at the yellowish light ahead as she walked down the stairs. She didn’t dare walk too fast, afraid that she wouldn’t have time to react if she were attacked.
After Shang Jianyao, Bai Chen, and Long Yuehong entered the elevator lobby, she turned around and reminded them, “Take a prone position when I say so.”
She was worried that the Heartless would fire a grenade from the bottom or throw a hand grenade.
Although it was quite possible for Qiao Chu to blow up the grenade in advance with the comprehensive warning system and the precision aiming system’s help, she still had to be wary of shrapnel.
If the other party’s grenade or hand grenade had toxic gases, Jiang Baimian had no other choice but to make everyone hold their breaths while they rushed back to the first floor. When the time came, apart from Bai Chen, everyone could rely on their genetically enhanced physiques to last until they used the company-produced ‘Universe Biological Antidote’ that they carried with them. Qiao Chu’s exoskeleton came with an ‘anti-poison filter system,’ so he didn’t need to be considered.
She couldn’t be sure if this plan would eventually work. If the Heartless even had thermobaric rounds, Jiang Baimian could only resign herself to fate.
However, she was not too worried about the latter two situations because she felt that the Heartless could not maintain firearms and ammunition well. After the Old World was destroyed, almost nobody had entered this place. Only a few batches of people had come this time, and they did not have that much equipment.
Jiang Baimian felt a headache coming on when she thought about the Superior Heartless’s strangeness and the fact that they could use all kinds of weapons.
Upon hearing Jiang Baimian’s instructions, Long Yuehong subconsciously replied, “Yes, Team Leader!”
His breathy voice immediately echoed in the stairwell, echoing down the stairs with a buzzing sound.
Long Yuehong came to his senses and realized that he had made another mistake.
Jiang Baimian, Bai Chen, and Shang Jianyao praised him almost simultaneously.
Qiao Chu watched coldly. He switched on the flashlight attached to the exoskeleton and used the light beam to signal the four people in front not to waste time.
Jiang Baimian thought for a moment and confirmed that there was nothing else she needed to remind or emphasize. She then turned on the flashlight, held the Ice Moss, and walked down the stairs step by step.
The wind here was a little chilly. The right wall was already discolored, and the left handrail was mottled black with rust.
Under the yellowish beam of light, the stairs circled deep into the darkness as if they were entering a behemoth’s mouth.
This deepened Long Yuehong’s anxiety and fear uncontrollably. All kinds of thoughts raced through his mind as he once again suspected the need for this operation.
As they walked down the stairs, the stairwell was extremely quiet as if the entire world had died.
If it weren’t for the fact that he could still hear their light footsteps, Long Yuehong felt like he might’ve had a mental breakdown because of the environment and atmosphere. Even so, he felt like time passed abnormally slowly.
After an unknown period of time, Qiao Chu—who was tailing the team—suddenly said, “We’re here.”
“Phew…” Long Yuehong heaved a sigh of relief.
It was great that they weren’t attacked while in the stairwell!
After leaving this cramped and sealed environment, there was at least room to run, roll, and jump. They could execute effective dodges.
“They actually didn’t take the opportunity to attack us…” Bai Chen muttered to herself.
Jiang Baimian subconsciously replied, “The Heartless shouldn’t be preventing us from entering the underground engine room. They don’t have the motivation or intelligence to do so unless this is their lair.
“As hunters, when they discover that their prey is too strong and difficult to deal with, the best choice is to observe in the dark, wait for an opportunity, and summon more companions to provide help. These are generationally-advanced Heartless. They don’t lack such instincts or intelligence when hunting.”
Long Yuehong worriedly looked around after hearing what he was most concerned about. “In other words, they are hiding in the darkness around us?”
“That’s right, that’s right.” Shang Jianyao smiled and echoed, “Once someone acts nervous, weak, and lacks vigilance, the Heartless will target them.”
Isn’t this referring to me? Long Yuehong was alarmed. He instantly overcame his fear and tensed up, preventing himself from revealing any flaws.
“Alright, I’ve confirmed that there are no electric signals in the area behind the door.” Jiang Baimian didn’t stop here just to speak. “However, we should still follow procedure and be careful.”
They immediately took cover and prepared to provide suppressive fire. None of them relaxed.
Jiang Baimian then controlled her strength to slam into the emergency access door leading to the underground engine room. She used the rebound to turn around and hide to the side.
After confirming that no one was attacking, they continued forward in tactical formation and rushed out of the stairwell, heading into the underground floor.
As the flashlight beam swept the area, they saw the layout clearly.
They were at a junction. There was a corridor to the right and left, and there were many rooms on both sides of the corridor.
Jiang Baimian asked Qiao Chu, “Where’s the underground engine room?”
Qiao Chu looked around and said, “I’m not sure either.”
He then added, “Walk straight and scout the way. If you find it, tell me directly. If there isn’t, come back, and we’ll change directions.”
He barely thought about it as if he had already made up his mind.
Jiang Baimian and the others didn’t find anything amiss. They entered the corridor straight ahead according to their previous formation.
At this moment, Qiao Chu took two steps forward and emphasized, “When you reach the end, don’t be in a rush to turn elsewhere. Come back and report first.”
“No problem.” Shang Jianyao seemed to be answering on Jiang Baimian’s behalf. He even waved his hand with a smile.
“Alright.” Jiang Baimian focused her attention toward the front again.
The quartet followed the flashlight down the corridor and entered deeper into the building.
On either side of them, some rooms were open, and some were tightly shut. A few doors were made of wood, and some were cast from grayish-blue metal. From time to time, they would see a square table, a long table, chairs, and various machines inside.
However, none of them looked like a power supply room.
As they walked, Jiang Baimian suddenly raised her hand and fired a shot at a room to the side.
With a bang, a figure staggered through another door and lunged into the corridor opposite them.
As the flashlight beam swept over, Shang Jianyao and the others saw a figure in a white shirt’s back.
The figure’s right arm was tilted toward the shoulder, and the redness rapidly spread. The figure had clearly been shot. However, his speed didn’t slow down at all. He disappeared from their line of sight before Jiang Baimian and the others could fire a second time.
Bai Chen retracted her gaze and said, “There’s something wrong with his injury.”
“What’s wrong?” Long Yuehong asked anxiously.
Bai Chen glanced at Jiang Baimian. “Although the Ice Moss’s strength can’t compare to the United 202, it’s nothing to scoff at. It shouldn’t have only dealt this tiny bit of damage when it hits a person.”
Jiang Baimian nodded slightly. “Could it be that the Heartless’s muscles have evolved to such an extent that they can effectively reduce the spinning or tearing of bullets?”
“We can’t confirm the reason, but we have to be careful in the future. We can’t misjudge their injuries.” Bai Chen reminded everyone with a serious expression.
“I hope their heads are hard enough,” replied Shang Jianyao with a smile.
Long Yuehong silently remembered this point.
The Old Task Force continued forward. On the way, they didn’t encounter any Heartless again.
They soon arrived at the end of the corridor.
Jiang Baimian used the flashlight to illuminate the open room on the right, wanting to determine what was inside.
The first thing they saw was a person!
It was a hunched old woman—with a wrinkled face—in a dark beanie and a black cashmere dress. The hair straggling from the old woman’s beanie was completely white. Her hands were holding swaddling clothes that were red and blue.
She looked up at Jiang Baimian and the others with her turbid eyes and paused before saying, “You guys… disturbed… Xiaochong…”