Chapter 89: Returning Home
“We want no condescending saviors. To rule us from a judgment hall.
“We workers ask not for their favors…”
Amidst the hoarse singing, the jeep drove through the forest in a rather wild manner.
Long Yuehong stared at the endless road and couldn’t help but sigh with emotion. “We’re finally returning to the company…”
Although the Ashlands had a blue sky, white clouds, the sun, and trees—as well as all kinds of scenery and abnormally open environments—he still missed the company’s stable and quiet life after spending so much time outside.
For the knowledgeable people in the Ashlands, the name ‘Pangu Biology’ was no stranger to them. But almost nobody knew where the company’s headquarters was. This added a layer of mystery to Pangu Biology. Many Ruin Hunters only knew that several powerful bandits resided in the area where the Old Task Force was located, and they didn’t dare approach it.
Jiang Baimian—who was sitting in the passenger seat—heard Long Yuehong’s sigh. She rubbed her ears and tilted her head with a smile. “I thought you didn’t want to return to the company at all. Those girls in Qifeng Town sure were enthusiastic.”
Long Yuehong blushed when he heard that. “There was nothing like that. Team Leader, don’t spout nonsense!”
Qifeng Town was located in the Blackmarsh Wilderness’s mountains and forests. Its location was remote and difficult to find. The Old Task Force couldn’t even drive the jeep in.
They had followed the guards at the foot of the mountain for about 15 minutes before the road opened up in front of them. They then saw a large piece of farmland.
The geographical advantage gave Qifeng Town a safeguard, but it also resulted in a lack of water resources.
This didn’t mean that there was no water on the mountain, but the water looked very dirty as if it had mixed with a lot of soil. Even if it was used to irrigate the soil, it still worried the townsfolk of Qifeng Town. They were afraid that it would be polluted and unclean.
Before they became one of Pangu Biology’s vassals, they had to gather rainwater or circle to the other side of the mountain and do the laborious task of transporting water over.
During harsher seasons and when the mountain trails were difficult to traverse, they could only bite the bullet and drink the dirty water that had set in. Their average lifespan was far shorter than that of Moat Town’s people.
Therefore, Qifeng Town’s townsfolk were sincerely happy and grateful when they saw the Old Task Force deliver a new water filter chip and repair the crude water plant.
For this reason, they took out their precious food to entertain their guests.
Back then, many Qifeng Town women had surrounded Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong, showing extreme enthusiasm—just like the men circling Jiang Baimian and Bai Chen.
Jiang Baimian smiled. “Whoa, I’m just hard of hearing, not blind. In those few days, you had ladies accompanying you everywhere you went. You looked pretty happy.”
Long Yuehong coughed and didn’t know how to respond. He was indeed quite happy back then. After all, this was the first time he had been so popular with the opposite sex since he was young.
Jiang Baimian did not ‘understand’ Long Yuehong’s true intention of coughing and asked mischievously, “Why? None of your relationships went beyond friendship? That shouldn’t be the case…”
Shang Jianyao—who was driving with the music on—cut in. “He was terrified.”
Long Yuehong wanted to retort, but he sadly realized that it was the truth. Those ladies were too enthusiastic—which scared him—making him afraid to do anything. Of course, this was also because he had heard his team leader mention the ladies’ true motives—marrying him and joining him inside the utopia-like Pangu Biology.
If not, they would strive to get pregnant and add outstanding descendants to the town.
In addition, Long Yuehong had to admit that a small part of the reason he was frightened was that the ladies looked dirty. After all, Qifeng Town lacked clean water before the water filter chip was delivered.
“It’s fine if you were scared.” Jiang Baimian clicked her tongue and asked Shang Jianyao, “What about you? Why didn’t those ladies pester you toward the end? Did you use your abilities on them?”
Shang Jianyao’s body slightly swayed with the rhythm of the music. “No. I just seriously discussed the current human situation with them. We discussed pollution, disease, famine, mutation, and the Heartless. We discussed the fate that all of us should shoulder.
“They were very touched and inspired. They all expressed their desire to return and think about it. Yes, it will take some time to digest. I hope they can figure it out as soon as possible.”
Jiang Baimian pursed her lips tightly, afraid that she would laugh. She eventually praised him with a ‘serious expression.’ “I underestimated you.”
Bai Chen sat in the back row and listened to the three of them chatting. She did not join in, but her expression appeared very gentle. She listened attentively and would occasionally smile.
The jeep drove for a few minutes before Jiang Baimian patted the armrest compartment and said, “Stop. It’s my turn to drive. Either way, we still have to change seats when we reach the door and undergo inspection.”
Shang Jianyao reluctantly parked the car and sat in the passenger seat.
Jiang Baimian then switched off the speaker and smiled. “Let’s go home!”
She then stepped on the accelerator and headed straight for the entrance to Pangu Biology’s underground building.
During this process, scenes from his previous experiences uncontrollably flashed across Long Yuehong’s mind.
The battle against the Blackmarsh Iron Snake and the military exoskeleton; the recital of Moat Town’s children; the encounter with Jingfa in the steelworks factory ruins; the massacre of Blackrat Town; Qiao Chu’s powerful bewitchment; the Superior Heartless and mutated creatures. Then there were the Heartless that looked like normal people after the ‘lights’ lit up; the mournful song that echoed in the dead city; the enthusiastic Qifeng Town; the wilderness survival training…
In just a month, he felt like he had lived for more than ten years.
The four soon saw the entrance to Pangu Biology’s underground building.
At this moment, Long Yuehong’s heart finally returned to normal. He felt extremely at ease. He was like a fallen leaf that had finally drifted back to its roots.
Jiang Baimian sighed as she drove. “You want to come back after leaving for a long time, but you want to head out after staying inside for a long time. Humans are really contradictory creatures.”
The car continued forward and approached the door.
After a series of inspections, the Old Task Force’s four members returned to Room 14 on the 647th floor.
“Give me all the things you brought back.” Jiang Baimian looked around and said, “These will be returned only after the company’s inspections.”
She smiled and added, “Don’t worry. The items that are handed over to the company will definitely be returned in the form of contribution points as compensation. The company won’t treat you unfairly. As for the trinkets, the company most likely won’t think much of them and will return them to you.
“Haha, I wonder if Wang Beicheng and his company are back. We have an armored vehicle’s worth of items with them.”
Upon hearing the name ‘Wang Beicheng,’ Bai Chen thoughtfully said, “I wonder if they found any useful clues regarding the city ruin.”
Jiang Baimian tersely acknowledged her words. “I’ll ask when we meet later. I hope the confidentiality level isn’t too high. Sigh, I don’t think the chances of them finding clues are high. That laboratory has been blown up, and the roaring creature inside might’ve been vaporized…”
As she spoke, Shang Jianyao had already taken out the harvests he had brought with him and placed them on the table. They were: a pair of black sunglasses, a mechanical watch that had a black faceplate, a transparent glass ball with yellow petals that he obtained in Moat Town, a piece of paper from the steelworks factory’s hospital ruins, a recording pen from the Blackrat Town girl, a Ubei 7 pistol from Wu Shoushi, 12 coins, and the Hunter’s Badge from the exoskeleton-armed bandit…
The rest of his items were in the jeep.
Jiang Baimian swept her glance and pointed at the piece of paper. “What’s this?”
“A piece of paper picked up from the hospital’s outpatient department in the steelworks factory ruin,” replied Shang Jianyao.
“Why didn’t you tell me about it?” Jiang Baimian subconsciously asked.
Shang Jianyao said boldly, “I forgot.”
“… That’s true. We encountered Jingfa back then.” Jiang Baimian retracted her gaze. “It’s just nice. I’ll pass it to the higher-ups and let them study it to see if there’s any useful information.”
After settling this matter, Jiang Baimian invited everyone to sit down and smiled. “I know you’re all tired, but you still have to do an after-action review of the entire field training session.”
As she spoke, she glanced at Bai Chen. “What do you have to say?”
Bai Chen thought for a moment and said, “I’ve said all that needs to be said in the previous few rounds of after-action review.”
“It’s mainly from a general perspective this time.” Jiang Baimian guided the discussion topic.
Bai Chen fell silent for a few seconds before saying, “There were too many accidents. This single field training session had dangers equivalent to the dangers I encountered in the past three years.”
Just as she said that, Shang Jianyao nodded in all seriousness. “It’s mainly because we were unlucky…”
Long Yuehong’s expression collapsed when he heard that.
“Enough.” Jiang Baimian interrupted Shang Jianyao’s ‘statement’ and smiled at Long Yuehong. “I don’t believe in fate or luck. There’s nothing scientific about them at all!”
Long Yuehong exhaled silently. He was just about to say something when he saw his team leader smiling at him.
“However, your name does suck a little. Why don’t you go back and change it? How about Long Aihong? Your parents will definitely be satisfied.”
“…” Long Yuehong responded with a blank expression upon hearing the similarly-feminine name. “Team Leader, I thought you didn’t believe in superstition?”
“In the Ashlands, it’s sometimes better to be safe than sorry.” Jiang Baimian laughed as she spoke. “Haha, I’m joking. Yes… I’ll label you as qualified in this mission report. At the same time, I’ll write that you aren’t used to the Old Task Force’s lifestyle and suggest a change of job. There won’t be any black marks this way, even if you are transferred to another position.”
Long Yuehong was touched. “Thank you, thank you.”
Jiang Baimian smiled and shook her head. “There’s no need to thank me so early. I only have the right to give suggestions. Whether you can be transferred will depend on the higher-ups. Unless I write that you and I are at odds, are completely unqualified, and there’s a problem with your mind, only then can I guarantee that you will be transferred. However, that will leave a mark on your file.”
“I understand. Thank you, Team Leader,” replied Long Yuehong sincerely.
Jiang Baimian smiled and said, “Actually, I’m a little unwilling to part with you. Bad luck isn’t necessarily a bad thing sometimes. Think about it. If we didn’t encounter so many accidents, how would we have entered the city ruin and discovered that the Old World’s humans were doing some very dangerous experiments? This is a very valuable harvest!”
Long Yuehong weakly defended himself. “Team Leader, I’m really not that unlucky…”