Chapter 87: Something Once Had
After hearing Shang Jianyao’s description, Jiang Baimian nodded and didn’t say anything.
Bai Chen and Long Yuehong suddenly felt a little heavy and didn’t know how to respond.
After a few seconds, Jiang Baimian looked at the blue LCD screen and said, “Which floor are we going to? The two elevators should be usable.”
At this moment, the numbers representing the other two elevators were normal.
“Sixth floor? We’ve carefully searched through the previous room already. It should be the safest place,” Bai Chen suggested.
“Alright.” Jiang Baimian nodded slightly and smiled. “Besides, Qiao Chu definitely won’t expect us to dare to continue staying there. Even if Qiao Chu returns, we’ll catch him off-guard.”
As she spoke, she took a few steps forward and pressed the button with her Ice Moss-wielding hand.
The silver-black door to an elevator soon opened, emitting a slightly putrid aura.
Jiang Baimian examined it carefully and walked in first. “Clear.”
After Shang Jianyao and the others entered, the elevator door slowly closed and went up steadily.
When they left, they didn’t close Unit 605’s door but left it ajar.
A white light now shone out from its interior, illuminating the metal door’s gap.
Shang Jianyao had just opened the door when Jiang Baimian suddenly stretched out a hand and blocked his path.
“There’s someone inside,” said Jiang Baimian in a low voice.
“How many?” Shang Jianyao seemed to be asking how many guests there were.
Long Yuehong raised his gun in response, prepared to fire.
Jiang Baimian slowly took a deep breath and glanced at Shang Jianyao. “One.”
“Qiao Chu definitely isn’t as fast as us… The stronger ones should have rushed to the City Intelligence Network Control Center… The weaker ones won’t act alone either…” Bai Chen quickly analyzed the situation. “Either all their companions have died, and they are Ruin Hunters who are searching for a place to hide alone. However, this is too much of a coincidence.
“This city ruin is so large and has so many buildings. How can it be possible that they happened to choose the one we previously stayed in? Or it could be that this apartment’s original owner—a Heartless—came back based on their instincts after the lights were switched on.”
“Yes, my rationality tells me that the probability of the former is equal to zero. But didn’t we happen to encounter many things along the way and ended up here? As humans, we shouldn’t be stubborn. We should be more vigilant.” Jiang Baimian originally wanted to say, “This might be because our luck hasn’t been good recently.” But she was afraid of agitating Long Yuehong, so she forcefully changed her words.
Just as she was about to give the order to change rooms, Shang Jianyao suddenly said, “I want to go in and take a look.”
“Okay…” Jiang Baimian pondered for a moment and said, “Let’s take a look. I’m also curious about this apartment’s original owner. Be careful.”
Shang Jianyao nodded and carefully entered Unit 605 with the assault rifle.
This place was almost the same as when they left. But the white tiles and brown floor now reflected the light, giving off an indescribable warmth.
After entering a certain range, Shang Jianyao could sense the person’s location without Jiang Baimian’s reminder.
‘He’ was deep in the corridor, in a small bedroom to the right.
Shang Jianyao walked over step by step and quickly saw that the bedroom door was open. Orange-yellow light seeped out.
On the small bed inside, on the blue bedsheet with many golden stars, lay a person.
She was likely a woman. Her body was slightly hunched, and her face was shriveled. She was covered in wrinkles like a dried orange peel. Her hair was long and messy, completely white.
Upon seeing this woman, Shang Jianyao instantly understood where the strand of white hair he had found on the bedroom pillow came from. At the same time, he recognized the other party. It was a Heartless he had seen during night duty.
The Heartless had already pulled up the messy, curled-up blanket and covered half of her body. She had her hands stretched out at this moment, holding something as she stared at it attentively.
Her sleeves were pink and a little white, looking as if they didn’t fit.
Upon sensing Shang Jianyao’s approach, the Heartless looked up at him before lowering her head to look at the booklet in her hand.
Shang Jianyao stared at her for a while before gently walking over with the assault rifle in hand.
Jiang Baimian—who was behind Shang Jianyao—wanted to remind him, but she saw Shang Jianyao squatting by the bed and looking at the item in her hand together with the Heartless.
After considering for a second, Jiang Baimian followed him. She leaned over Shang Jianyao’s head and looked at the booklet.
With her experience and knowledge, she immediately recognized it as a photo album.
Every page of this photo album was made of transparent plastic. Inside were many colorful photos.
Jiang Baimian saw a little girl first.
The little girl was wearing furry clothes and looked rather cute. She was being hugged by a young woman with a dignified and elegant smile on her face. The girl was crying very sadly.
At this moment, the Heartless flipped through the album and went to the next page.
This also allowed Jiang Baimian to see the back of the photo. The white color there was slightly yellowish. Someone had written a sentence with a black pen: “When Nan Nan was one.”
Jiang Baimian seemed to understand something. As the Heartless flipped through the photos, she glanced at the other photos.
In those photos, the little girl gradually grew up. She was either riding a man’s shoulder or being held by a man and woman—who appeared in the photos repeatedly. She had also worn a green monster suit with a tail. She had also been in pink, making her skin look fair and tender.
Behind these photos were the same black handwriting.
They wrote: “When Nan Nan was two.”
“When Nan Nan was three.”
“When Nan Nan was four.”
When the photo album was flipped over, the words stopped at “When Nan Nan was seven.”
Jiang Baimian silently finished looking at the photos. She looked up and sized up the Heartless lying on the bed again.
The Heartless’s body was slightly hunched, and her face was shriveled and wrinkled like a dried orange peel. Her completely white hair was long and messy.
Jiang Baimian closed her eyes and leaned into Shang Jianyao’s ear. “Let’s not disturb her.”
Shang Jianyao nodded, slowly stood up, and retreated to the living room area.
Jiang Baimian wiped her eyes and pointed outside. “Let’s go somewhere else.”
Bai Chen and Long Yuehong had no objections.
Before long, they found a temporary hiding spot on the eighth floor. The layout was identical to Unit 605.
“You can only see the jeep and the armored vehicle through the dining room’s windows. Bai Chen, go there and monitor the vehicles.” After checking Unit 805, Jiang Baimian looked around and began issuing missions. “Long Yuehong, stay here by the floor-to-ceiling windows and observe the street outside. Shang Jianyao and I will rest for a while. It’ll be your turn in an hour.”
“Yes, Team Leader!” Bai Chen and Long Yuehong went to the vantage spots with their weapons in hand.
Shang Jianyao didn’t rest. He found a spot with a power outlet and sat down. He then took out the palm-sized speaker from his tactical backpack—as well as various small instruments, tools, components, and wires.
“There’s no need to be in such a rush to fix it, right?” Jiang Baimian saw through his intentions.
Shang Jianyao tested the tools one by one with the lamps’ glow as he replied, “This is very important.”
“Why?” Jiang Baimian was slightly stunned.
“Don’t you think you can perform better with music accompanying you at critical moments?” said Shang Jianyao without looking up. “This speaker seems to have its own storage chip. There must be Old World music in it.”
“… I don’t think so.” Jiang Baimian gave up trying to persuade him.
In any case, Jiang Baimian didn’t think she could really rest here. This was because the existence of Superior Heartless and mutated creatures made her worried about a rookie like Long Yuehong.
Jiang Baimian said that she wanted to rest, but she was actually just resting with her eyes closed. She would still divert her attention to sense her surroundings.
In that case, Shang Jianyao could do whatever he wanted.
With a Genetic Enhanced’s physique, Shang Jianyao would still be energetic even if he didn’t sleep for one or two nights.
While Shang Jianyao focused on repairing the speaker, Long Yuehong guarded the outside and looked into the distance.
Although this was only the eighth floor, he could still see the city’s lights spreading out like stars.
Although he had yet to see the starry night, he had at least seen photos and could make the corresponding connections. After staring at it for an unknown period of time, he finally sighed. “How beautiful…”
In addition to its beauty, Long Yuehong felt that such a scene also contained a unique flavor. However, he couldn’t describe it.
After a while, Long Yuehong sincerely said, “Unfortunately, this place is too low. It would definitely be more beautiful if we could look at it from a very high spot.”
Upon hearing this, Jiang Baimian stood up and walked to the floor-to-ceiling window. She stared out for a long time before smiling. “Do you want to give it a try at the top of the building? Do it while ‘everyone’ is very polite and while it’s still very quiet.”
“Alright,” replied Long Yuehong immediately.
Jiang Baimian turned around and asked Shang Jianyao and Bai Chen, “Are you guys going?”
“Sure.” Bai Chen knew that this was the time to relax a little.
“I’m almost done.” Shang Jianyao stood up and stuffed the mess back into his tactical backpack. He only held the small speaker with a blue bottom and a black surface. “I wonder if the battery can still be used.”
“Let’s go. Let’s go. We’ll try again when we get back,” Jiang Baimian urged.
They quickly took the elevator to the top floor, then climbed the stairs, opened the door, and entered the rooftop.
Before they approached the rooftop’s edges, they saw the scene around the building.
Lamps covered the surroundings, emitting yellow or white light. Some of them were situated by the side of the road, some came from different buildings, and some were built on high ground. They were like lighthouses that illuminated an area in a boundless sea, but they were also like dazzling stars slowly flowing in the night sky.
Near these lights were figures moving or cars driving past, making the city even more lively.
“How spectacular…” Long Yuehong sighed with emotion again.
Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and the others didn’t say a word. They stood at the edge of the rooftop and stared at the picturesque scene dazedly.
They couldn’t find the right words to describe what they saw.
After an unknown period of time, Shang Jianyao suddenly took two steps back and squatted down.
“You have to match it with a song at a time like this…” He put down the speaker and continued fiddling with it, beginning to tune it.
At this moment, another desolate roar echoed from the City Intelligence Network Control Center.
As the roar echoed, Jiang Baimian saw a bright fire erupt from the corresponding spot.
A deafening explosion sounded, drowning out all the commotion. Grayish-white gas quickly gathered and rose up like a gigantic mushroom.
This made the building—where Jiang Baimian and the others were—tremble uncontrollably.
Shang Jianyao subconsciously stood up, walked to his companion’s side, and looked over.
As the surging flames and airflow expanded, the lights in the area flickered a few times before extinguishing one after another. This included the building where the City Intelligence Network Control Center was located.
Right on the heels of that, the entire city—be it the street lamps or the lit building windows—went dark one area after another.
In just a few seconds, the city became abnormally dark. Only the weak moonlight and starlight made the row upon row of buildings appear indistinct. The buildings looked like monsters hiding in the depths of a nightmare.
The figures moving behind the windows, the Heartless who were busy outside, and the cars driving on the road were also swallowed by the thick darkness, preventing them from seeing anything else.
The entire city ruin fell silent again.
Shang Jianyao and the others blankly stared for more than ten seconds, their hearts inexplicably heavy. They didn’t know how to express their emotions, so they could only continue watching.
After a while, they subconsciously looked down at the bottom of the building.
In the weak light, a Heartless crawled out of a window. Her hair was completely white and messy.
She climbed up and jumped down with some difficulty, quickly disappearing into the building’s shadows like an old ape.
Long Yuehong retreated two steps as if he had suffered a blow.
He accidentally kicked the speaker Shang Jianyao had placed on the ground.
The speaker immediately produced sizzling sounds.
The Old Task Force’s four members instinctively turned their heads and looked over. Almost at the same time, a melancholic female voice sounded from the speaker.
“Reminiscing the past…
“A painful yearning that I can’t forget…”
On the empty sky platform, in the boundless darkness and the dead city, this song sounded like weeping as it echoed from where Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, Long Yuehong, and Bai Chen stood silently.
Note 1: From Jam Hsiao’s “Endless Love”