Chapter 88: Ending of the Song
On the high roof—the empty rooftop—the mournful female voice sounded melodious and ethereal.
Jiang Baimian quietly listened for a while before looking around the silent, dark city. She sighed and said, “This song is not bad.”
Without waiting for Shang Jianyao and the others to respond, Jiang Baimian continued, “Let’s go down. The lights are off, and we don’t know what will happen now. We have to monitor the jeep and the armored vehicle after all.
“If we are careless and end up losing them, it will be even more troublesome when we face danger later.” She was not worried that there wouldn’t be any means of transportation tomorrow morning because there seemed to be quite a number of drivable cars in the city ruin.
“Yes, Team Leader!” Long Yuehong replied reflexively.
Jiang Baimian then looked at Shang Jianyao. “Turn off the speaker. Otherwise, it might easily make us a target.”
Shang Jianyao did not retort. He squatted down, picked up the small speaker with a blue bottom and black surface, switched it off, and threw it into his tactical backpack.
The surroundings immediately became extremely quiet, with only the wind howling at the high altitude.
As the four people from the Old Task Force walked towards the staircase, Bai Chen couldn’t help but turn her head and look at the city scene that stretched into the distance.
The buildings were hidden in the darkness. No sound came out, nor did any light appear.
“Team Leader, don’t you think this looks like a tombstone?” asked Bai Chen gently when she retracted her gaze.
Jiang Baimian looked back and fell silent for a moment. “Yes, those buildings are like tombstones of the Old World. One tombstone after another…”
Before she could finish her sentence, Shang Jianyao took the initiative to ask, “What’s a tombstone?”
There was no cemetery inside Pangu Biology. Every dead employee only had a line of words engraved on a corresponding wall.
“It’s…” Jiang Baimian organized her words. “Forget it. I’ll explain it to you later.”
She then walked down the stairs and switched on the flashlight.
They couldn’t take the elevator anymore. They could only jog down.
Fortunately, their physical fitness was relatively good. Three of them had undergone genetic enhancement. Therefore, their breathing was only slightly heavy when they returned to Unit 805, but they weren’t tired.
Jiang Baimian and Shang Jianyao separately checked the room again and confirmed that no dangerous creatures had intruded.
“Bai Chen, have a rest with Long Yuehong. I’ll be in charge of monitoring the jeep and the armored vehicle. Shang Jianyao, pay attention to the streets outside.” Jiang Baimian returned to the living room with the flashlight.
“Yes.” Bai Chen watched her team leader walk to the dining room window and mount the Orange rifle before saying in thought, “The place where the explosion happened seems to be the mysterious laboratory that Qiao Chu mentioned.”
Jiang Baimian didn’t turn around and focused on monitoring the vehicles downstairs. “Judging from the direction and the location, that is most likely. I wonder if Qiao Chu’s mission is to destroy that place or whether the explosion happened because he was entangled by Jingfa…”
Shang Jianyao looked at the spot where the flames and airflow had risen and said seriously, “I guess it’s the first possibility.”
Jiang Baimian subconsciously asked, “From the Eighth Research Institute’s situation that Du Heng described?”
Shang Jianyao shook his head. “I just counted the cars by the side of the road. The result was a single digit.”
“…” Jiang Baimian spat. “I shouldn’t have discussed a problem with you so seriously.”
Long Yuehong had not spoken since he left the rooftop. At this moment, he looked at the city ruin—which was drowned in the darkness outside—and spoke in a slightly ethereal voice. “Team Leader, I now understand why you want to investigate the reason for the Old World’s destruction and why you like to dig up past history from city ruins…”
Jiang Baimian listened quietly and smiled in relief. “It’s good that you understand.”
Long Yuehong wanted to say something, but he didn’t know how to express it. He could only continue staring at the silent, danger-filled city ruin before saying, “What will happen next?”
“Who knows?” Jiang Baimian continued staring at the jeep and the armored vehicle. “I only hope that all the changes don’t affect us. I only hope that Jingfa drove Qiao Chu out of this city ruin. That or both parties have fought to their limits and are seriously injured. In short, I hope we can stay here until dawn and drive away.”
“Team Leader, what you said doesn’t seem auspicious,” replied Shang Jianyao casually.
Jiang Baimian said angrily and helplessly, “We’ve been unlucky so many times. Things always reverse when pushed to the extreme. It’s time for happiness to come.”
Long Yuehong felt inexplicably guilty when he heard the word ‘unlucky.’ He scratched his mouth.
It was unknown if Jiang Baimian’s words were really effective. Although explosions, gunshots, and roars occasionally sounded in the city ruin for the next few hours, they did not spread toward the tunnel.
By the middle of the night, it became completely silent.
As time passed, the horizon gradually lit up. The buildings broke free from the darkness’s stranglehold and revealed their figures.
But in the eyes of Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and the others, the buildings increasingly resembled tombstones—black, gray, or yellowish, faded tombstones.
After quickly having breakfast, Jiang Baimian ordered, “Let’s go.”
This time, she got Bai Chen and Long Yuehong to sit in the armored vehicle and take turns driving. She and Shang Jianyao were in charge of the jeep.
Under the morning light, they did not return along the original tunnel. This was because the path was too winding and dangerous. Without Qiao Chu’s guidance—who was familiar with the situation—it was very easy for the vehicles to sink into the swamp.
Furthermore, Jiang Baimian suspected that some of the roads there couldn’t support the armored vehicle’s weight.
According to An Ruxiang and the traces left behind by Ruin Hunters, they circled north and left the city ruin via a relatively fine route.
On the way, they didn’t forget to gather some watches, LCD screens, sunglasses, and all kinds of useful metals. They even found two barrels of suitable oil for the armored vehicle.
As they drove, Jiang Baimian narrowed her eyes and said to Shang Jianyao in the passenger seat, “There’s a convoy coming from ahead with dozens to a hundred people.”
As soon as she finished speaking, she came to a realization. “About a hundred people… This is Wang Beicheng’s company.”
It was a team sent by Pangu Biology to investigate the anomaly here.
As expected, they quickly saw armored vehicles and other things. They also saw the 23rd Company’s OC, Wang Beicheng.
Wang Beicheng was also surprised to encounter Jiang Baimian and the others again. He straightened the grayish-black beret on his head, looked at the armored vehicle behind the jeep, and spoke to Jiang Baimian. “Didn’t you guys go to Qifeng Town? Why are you here again? How did you get yourself an armored vehicle?”
More importantly, it seemed like they had entered the newly-discovered city ruin earlier than them.
“Haha, an accident. An accident.” Jiang Baimian laughed dryly.
Jiang Baimian then became serious and roughly explained how they had been bewitched by Qiao Chu and how they had entered the city ruin through a separate path.
Her explanation included information on the City Intelligence Network Control Center, the mysterious laboratory, the Superior Heartless, Nightmare Horse, Xiaochong, Du Heng, Galoran, and the final explosion.
Whilst explaining, Jiang Baimian only hid the Awakened knowledge provided by Du Heng and the parts where Shang Jianyao’s abilities were useful. She cleverly linked the reason why they escaped Qiao Chu’s charm to the Superior Heartless and the boy, Xiaochong.
From a certain perspective, this was actually the truth.
Wang Beicheng’s expression turned solemn as he listened. Finally, he sincerely said, “Thank you so much. If not for this information, I don’t know how many people would’ve died if we rashly entered! Besides, the Superior Heartless and mutated creatures you’ve encountered are definitely not the only ones. It’s still very dangerous for our company, even if we know about them in advance.
“I’ll immediately send the information back and request reinforcements. Next, we probably will only build an outpost at the edge of the city…”
Jiang Baimian waved her hand. “What you do has nothing to do with us.”
Wang Beicheng looked at the armored vehicle again, rubbed his hands, and smiled hesitantly. “Can you reinforce the troops?”
To them, an additional armored vehicle and a heavy machine gun meant the addition of considerable combat strength.
Jiang Baimian smiled. “No problem. However, we have a lot of things in the armored vehicle. It’s impossible to take them away in the jeep alone. You have to help us transport them back to the company. I have a list of everything. Also, that armored vehicle’s heavy machine gun is also our war spoil. It has to be counted as our contribution.”
For them, traveling through the Ashlands was still more convenient with a jeep.
Wang Beicheng took a deep breath as if he had a headache. “Alright.”
After bidding farewell to Wang Beicheng’s company, Long Yuehong and Bai Chen returned to the jeep.
As she drove, Jiang Baimian thoughtfully said, “Since we encountered Wang Beicheng and the others, it means that there shouldn’t be any danger on this road. We won’t encounter Qiao Chu again. Shang Jianyao, you can remove your Inference Clowning effect.”
Shang Jianyao was playing with a pair of black sunglasses. He sometimes wore them, and sometimes he took them off.
Upon hearing his team leader’s instructions, Shang Jianyao smiled and said, “There are many couples in the company who are free to date.”
Jiang Baimian was stunned for a moment before she patted the jeep’s horn. “That’s right. Why would I think that true love is assigned?”
Shang Jianyao then turned his head and said to Bai Chen, “Humans can also be trusted and relied on. After the past few days, do you think you can give your back to us for protection?”
Bai Chen was stunned, and her eyes flickered uncontrollably.
At this moment, Jiang Baimian interrupted. “Why does this sound so familiar? You plagiarized what I said!”
“It’s called quoting,” replied Shang Jianyao in all seriousness.
Bai Chen’s lips unconsciously curled up as she listened to their argument.
Shang Jianyao looked at the confused Long Yuehong and smiled. “Organ transplant, neural reconstruction, artificial uterus.”
“…” Long Yuehong’s facial muscles twitched a few times, and he resisted the urge to beat Shang Jianyao up. After all, he wasn’t Shang Jianyao’s match.
He recalled the past and realized that he had unknowingly been influenced by Inference Clowning. He immediately blurted out a question in fear. “Do you usually use Inference Clowning to mislead me?”
Shang Jianyao didn’t turn around and directly said, “You don’t deserve it.”
“…” Long Yuehong didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.
Jiang Baimian finally couldn’t stand it any longer and said to Shang Jianyao, “Have a nap first. It’ll be your turn to drive later.
“Phew, I’ve finally gotten rid of the mess here. We can’t delay any further. Our destination, Qifeng Town!”
Having heard that, Shang Jianyao massaged his temples and wore his sunglasses. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.
Deep in Star Cluster Hall, in front of the grayish-white stone door at the top of the silver staircase.
Shang Jianyao looked at the three grooves above him. With one hand in a pocket and the other stretched out, he pressed against the door.
White light rose from the indentations and condensed into three illusory stars. Among them, the white light representing Inference Clowning was much brighter than the other two.
The next second, the white light—which showed the words ‘Corny Person’—rapidly lit up, quickly matching Inference Clowning’s brightness.
After a brief pause, the heavy stone door trembled slightly and slowly opened.
As the gap widened, Shang Jianyao saw the scene inside clearly.
It was an illusory ‘sea’ that stretched as far as the eye could see. Light gently slid across the water surface.
Sea of Origins.
After Jiang Baimian drove the jeep deep into the swamp, she woke Shang Jianyao up. “It’s your turn. Let’s have a safe journey from now on!”
Shang Jianyao opened his eyes, took off his sunglasses, and went to the driver’s seat without a fuss to swap seats with his team leader.
After taking his seat, he saw an endless grayish-black wilderness ahead. There were few clouds in the bright-blue sky.
“The weather is great.” Shang Jianyao nodded. He first put on his sunglasses and took out the small speaker from his tactical backpack.
Upon seeing Jiang Baimian look over, he stretched his body and smiled. “How can you drive without music?”
When Bai Chen and Long Yuehong looked over, Shang Jianyao switched on the speaker.
A hoarse shout sounded. “Arise, ye prisoners of starvation…
“Arise, ye wretched of the earth…”
Shang Jianyao waved his hand amidst the passionate and emotional singing. “Let’s set off!”
Before he could finish his sentence, Shang Jianyao floored the accelerator and let the jeep speed through the wilderness and into the distance.
(End of the First Volume—Prelude)
Note 1: From The Internationale, you can refer to the Tang Dynasty band’s version.