Chapter 83: A Lit Up City
City Intelligence Network Control Center, 17th floor.
Qiao Chu—who was wearing the exoskeleton and carrying a silver rifle on his back—returned to the elevator lobby.
He was just about to press the button so that the elevator—which had previously stopped on the 16th floor—would go up when he saw the number representing the elevator beside him jump from 16 to 17.
This meant that the elevator’s door would open in two to three seconds, and the person inside was most likely a friend, not an enemy.
Qiao Chu didn’t hesitate. Ripples—which seemed real and illusory—spread out from his golden eyes, which were blocked by the goggles.
Almost at the same time, he saw countless figures around him.
These figures were slightly illusory as they surged to the potted plants in the elevator lobby and crazily ate yellow leaves, shriveled branches, and dry soil.
Qiao Chu did not feel any physical hunger, but he seemed to be influenced by this scene. He couldn’t help but believe that he was starving and was in dire need to eat something. Such thoughts filled his mind, preventing him from thinking about anything else.
Hungry Ghost Realm!
Qiao Chu’s hands—which were covered in black metal bones—immediately reached into a pocket. Qiao Chu took out a bag of dried beef and tore it open forcefully. He then crazily stuffed the black beef jerky into his mouth in an attempt to swallow it.
However, the beef jerky was as hard as stone. It was impossible to swallow it without using saliva to moisten it or using his teeth to tear and grind the meat up.
Qiao Chu undoubtedly choked. He even felt that he would choke to death here and become the research institute’s commissioner who died the most ridiculous death.
Qiao Chu managed to resist the starving self-awareness to a certain extent because of his survival instincts and the fact that food had already entered his mouth. This allowed him to divert his attention to start chewing.
At this moment, the grayish-black metal door to the elevator beside Qiao Chu opened. A black robot—wearing a tattered monk robe and a red kasaya—jumped out.
The red light in Jingfa’s artificial eye lit up as if it dyed the world red.
Jingfa looked at Qiao Chu—who was wearing a military exoskeleton. He did not raise his arms directly and use the grenade launcher, laser weapon, and flamethrower. Instead, he took a large step forward and jumped over, prepared to knock the other party out with a literal iron fist.
As Qiao Chu couldn’t stop biting, chewing, and swallowing the beef jerky, he barely managed to shrink his body and roll to the side with difficulty. This barely allowed him to dodge the mechanical monk’s punch.
During this process, Qiao Chu followed the strong urge to search for food and reached into his pocket with his right hand. Not only did he take out an energy bar this time, but he also took out a stack of poker cards.
At this moment, Qiao Chu had already swallowed the beef jerky until his eyes rolled back, leaving behind tears. But this also eased his hunger a little. Qiao Chu now had the strength to throw the stack of poker cards to the ground.
With the sound of the poker cards falling to the ground, Qiao Chu rolled to a spot near the stairwell. Qiao Chu’s eyes reflected Jingfa—who had quickly turned to pounce at him again with brightly shining red eyes.
“Go… play… cards…” As Qiao Chu swallowed the beef jerky and energy bar, he spoke three words in a very indistinct manner.
Jingfa—who had just pounced at Qiao Chu—was stunned. The mechanical monk’s head spun half a circle as he looked at the poker cards on the ground.
The red glow in his eyes flickered as his feet uncontrollably walked over. Jingfa bent down and picked up the cards. At this moment, nothing seemed more important to him than playing cards.
Even if his companions needed help or if danger was close, he had to play a game of cards first.
When Jingfa picked up the poker cards, Qiao Chu’s hunger vanished instantly. He returned to normal, but he still choked a little. He could completely imagine what he had become under the metal helmet.
As Qiao Chu was still desperately swallowing food to prevent himself from choking to death, his face distorted, and his eyes rolled back slightly. His tears and mucus flowed freely, and there was nothing about him that could be called handsome.
This infuriated Qiao Chu greatly. He diverted his attention to raise his arm, prepared to use the grenade launcher and the electromagnetic weapon simultaneously to attack Jingfa.
At that moment, Jingfa had already turned around and spoke in his unique, cold electronic voice. “Let’s play cards together.”
The price Jingfa paid was so high it made his mental distortions so serious that he didn’t just play cards quietly and attentively. Instead, he decided to combine the two ‘hobbies’ into one and get Qiao Chu to join him!
As the mechanical monk spoke, Qiao Chu saw countless blurry figures again. He strongly believed that he was very hungry and needed to eat something.
Fortunately, he still had food in his mouth and food that he had yet to finish. This staved off the ‘hunger’ at the beginning, allowing Qiao Chu to divert his attention to do something else.
Qiao Chu quickly raised his left hand and covered the metal helmet’s goggles.
He suddenly became extremely depressed. Even though he felt very hungry, he didn’t want to eat or do anything.
No longer choking, Qiao Chu moved his left hand away and looked at the mechanical monk, who was walking to him with the poker cards in hand.
The depression seemed contagious. Jingfa suddenly felt like everything had become meaningless and that everything was just an illusion.
Under this incomprehensible depression, the dark-black mechanical monk seemed to comprehend something. He suddenly sat down cross-legged, pressed his palms together, and muttered, “Namo Annutara-Samyak-Subhuti. All conditioned phenomena are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, a shadow…”
Qiao Chu immediately relaxed. He exerted strength with his waist and abdomen and relied on the military exoskeleton to jump into the air. White gas spewed out, horizontally propelling him into the stairwell.
After landing, Qiao Chu raised his arm and aimed the grenade launcher at the mechanical monk in the tattered monk robe and red kasaya.
Jingfa continued reciting the scriptures in a low voice as if he had achieved enlightenment.
Qiao Chu looked at the loaded grenade and realized that it was not a highly explosive grenade. He immediately hesitated.
As the designated enemies were Superior Heartless and mutated creatures, not a robot, he didn’t change the grenades before taking action.
One or two of such grenades probably couldn’t destroy the mechanical monk. This would instead help the other party escape their depression. The electromagnetic weapon similarly shared the same characteristic.
It might not have been too late to replace the grenade launcher on the spot. Qiao Chu couldn’t make the already depressed person feel even more depressed or constantly depressed. Once Qiao Chu failed to grasp the moment, the situation would become terrible for him when the mechanic monk’s depression ended and didn’t dish out another round of control.
After considering for two seconds, Qiao Chu pursed his lips and decided to give up on this opportunity. He ran to the stairs, gripped the handrail, and jumped down, firmly landing on the next floor.
Just like that, Qiao Chu used the exoskeleton’s ability to jump down the stairs one floor at a time. He quickly left the 17th floor and went straight to the bottom.
At this moment, Jingfa ended his recital and looked up again. On his black metal face, his mechanical eyes emitted a blood-red glow again.
The next second, Jingfa jumped into the stairwell from his lotus position in a way that exceeded a human’s body structure.
He mimicked Qiao Chu’s method of descent—press down on the handrails, flip over, and jump down.
Upon hearing Du Heng, Jiang Baimian didn’t hesitate and turned to Shang Jianyao and the others. “Let’s leave immediately.”
After giving the instructions, she nodded at Du Heng. “Be careful. Pray we meet again.”
Du Heng smiled and said, “When the time comes, I hope you have sufficient important information, intelligence, or data to trade.”
He then glanced at Shang Jianyao. “It’s not a good thing to work hard to improve your Awakened abilities. The price you have to pay is something that can never be made up for. Consider the pros and cons yourself.”
Without waiting for Shang Jianyao’s response, Du Heng stood up, bent his waist, and jumped into the trees’ shadows, heading toward the spot where Xiaochong had disappeared.
“Let’s go.” Jiang Baimian retracted her gaze.
Shang Jianyao nodded, straightened his body, and jogged to the back of the team with the Berserker assault rifle.
They soon arrived at the fence by the side.
Long Yuehong—who was in charge of the left—quickly glanced outside the fence. He suddenly met a pair of turbid, bloodshot eyes.
Heartless… Long Yuehong was shocked. He instinctively raised his assault rifle while dodging to the side.
On the street outside, lights flickered on the metal poles’ tops, each illuminating an area.
As far as Long Yuehong knew, these were probably Old World street lamps. Currently, at least half of them were still working.
The Heartless stood under a street lamp diagonally in front of the team. He was wrapped in a shriveled blue coat, wore a wide-brimmed hat of the same color, and held a broom and an iron dustpan.
There were some wrinkles on his face, and his skin was very rough. There was no intelligence in his eyes. He only stared blankly at Long Yuehong and the others without any signs of attacking.
This scene surprised Long Yuehong, and he stopped his attempt to pull the trigger.
The Heartless quickly lowered his head and swept away the fallen leaves that had accumulated by the side of the road.
Bai Chen and the others suddenly had some baffling guesses when they saw this scene.
“Let’s head out first.” Jiang Baimian quickly snapped to her senses and quickly flipped over the metal fence.
Long Yuehong, Bai Chen, and Shang Jianyao left the City Intelligence Network Control Center under their companions’ cover and returned to the streets outside.
“He’s sweeping the fallen leaves…” Long Yuehong couldn’t help but look at the Heartless—who had no inclination to ‘hunt.’
Jiang Baimian looked up and opposite her. “Look over there.”
Following the direction of Jiang Baimian’s chin, Shang Jianyao and the others saw a tall building.
At the bottom of the high-rise building were streetside outlets. On each floor, a few glass windows emitted a bright light.
The light seemed to form a halo around them, inexplicably warming Long Yuehong’s heart.
Among them, many figures were moving around behind some of the lower floors’ windows. Some of them seemed to be hugging infants as they paced back and forth by the windows. Some held rags and seriously wiped the glass. Some sat on the sofa by the windows, holding something unknown as they blankly stared at the LCD screen on the wall opposite them…
The figures—which Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and the others could barely identify—were wearing old and messy clothes. Their actions were stiff, and their gazes were sluggish. They were clearly Heartless.
On the LCD screen that the Heartless was looking at, the scene was colorful. Scenery, people, words, and a square frame were displayed. However, the entire screen remained fixed in place without any changes.
But this didn’t stop the Heartless from watching very attentively.
Jiang Baimian fell silent for two seconds before speaking with a complicated tone. “It’s these Heartless who regularly ‘maintain’ this city… Every time the lights are switched on, they will become like normal people…”