Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 15

Chapter 15: Overnight Stay

Translator: virtual group Editor: virtual group

Jiang Baimian turned around and looked over. At the same time, she quickly pulled out the Ice Moss gun that used 9mm rounds. Jiang Baimian observed for a while before asking, “Did you see what that figure looked like?”

While staying on-guard, Shang Jianyao replied, “His clothes are tattered, but he wears them thick like a groundhog.”

Jiang Baimian was not nervous and blurted out in surprise, “How do you know what a groundhog is?”

If she didn’t remember wrong, it was Shang Jianyao’s first trip out of the company to the surface. The only place where groundhogs would appear in the company was the Research Zone, which didn’t match Shang Jianyao’s recently-graduated status.

The only reason she could think of was that there was a picture of a groundhog in the textbooks. Shang Jianyao had made a judgment based on this, but it was very difficult for people who had never seen the real thing to make such a connection.

Shang Jianyao pointed across the river with the unarmed hand. “There’s one over there. It’s very similar to the pictures in textbooks.”

“…” Jiang Baimian traced Shang Jianyao’s finger and saw a highly nervous groundhog.

The groundhog yelped and burrowed back into the hole.

Jiang Baimian held it in for a long time before giving her evaluation. “You have sharp observation skills.”

Bai Chen looked up at the sky.

“He’s dressed so thickly during this season and at this hour. Furthermore, he’s alone. He must be a nomad in the wilderness. There’s no need to worry too much. We have the number and weapon advantage. He won’t dare come close. The only problem is that he might be related to some bandits and bring us some trouble. However, we won’t stay here for long. We’ll leave soon.”

Jiang Baimian retracted her gaze and smiled at Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong. “If there really are bandits, it’s a perfect opportunity for the two of you to train!”

Long Yuehong’s heart palpitated. “Team Leader, aren’t you worried that the bandits will have more people and more firepower?”

Jiang Baimian chuckled. “This place isn’t too far from the company. The Security Department often sends teams over for training and drills. If bandits with superior numbers and firepower really were here, they would have long been eliminated.

“Besides, many bandits in the Ashlands might be different from what you imagine. They might be closer to the state of tramps hugging each other for warmth in order to survive. They might not have too many guns or people because they won’t be able to gather sufficient supplies. Sometimes, the thin and weak ones in a band of bandits are the food reserves for others. Of course, those famous bandits are not easy to deal with. They have all found a way to ensure their extended survival.”

Food reserves… Long Yuehong was inexplicably terrified when he heard that. “Team Leader, how can you describe such a cruel thing in such a calm tone?”

“When you spend too much time in the Ashlands and see more, you’ll get used to it.” Jiang Baimian looked down at the thermal kettle on the solar charger.

Shang Jianyao remained vigilant of his surroundings, but this did not stop him from asking a question and gaining knowledge. “Why are the people in the settlements called wilderness nomads? That person just now was a real nomad of the wilderness.”

Bai Chen pulled the scarf around her neck and spoke with a slightly solemn expression. “Because settlements are never stable. The change in water source, the quality of land, the weather, and the migration of monsters all affect a place’s suitability as a settlement. Once the environment changes, people will have to wander around again in search of a new settlement.

“Also, of all the factors, the one that has the greatest influence on them and makes them migrate more frequently is actually whether large factions have discovered them.”

“Why?” Long Yuehong asked curiously.

Bai Chen glanced at him. “In the Ashlands, the most notorious bandits are not the largest ones, but the slave captors from the First City. They often conquer settlements and capture people back to serve as slaves. In First City’s occupied mine and inside the building factories, countless slaves have turned to corpses.”

Jiang Baimian nodded and added, “Some bandits will do the same, especially those who own mines.”

“If it weren’t for the slave captors in First City that capture the bandits, I believe the most active industry in the Ashlands right now would be the slave trade.” Bai Chen seemed to recall something and changed the topic. “In addition, the production of many settlements is unable to provide for all the residents. They have to leave the settlements frequently and go into the wilderness to search for fruits, hunt beasts, and pick up all kinds of items to exchange for what they need. In that sense, they are still wilderness nomads.”

Long Yuehong thought of himself as he listened. Although he could only eat meat once a week for years and often woke up in the middle of the night because of his hunger, it was not a problem for him to have a basic meal. Compared to the nomads in the wilderness, he felt like he lived in heaven.

“How pitiful…” Long Yuehong sighed.

Bai Chen glanced at him. “It’s indeed pitiful, but it’s best not to be too soft-hearted when you encounter nomads in the wilderness. The only difference between bandits and them is the degree of their hunger, how good your weapon is, or how sufficiently prepared you are. When I roamed the wilderness, I was often attacked. I also often attacked others. In the eyes of the wilderness nomads, there are no good or bad people. There is only life and death.”

She did not speak too loudly, so it took Jiang Baimian a great deal of effort to barely hear her. The Pangu Biology D6 employee with a ponytail shook her head. “You can’t be so sure. I’ve encountered many wilderness nomads who know how to be grateful and are willing to respond with kindness.”

“For example?” asked Shang Jianyao.

Jiang Baimian smiled brightly. “For example, Bai Chen!”

Bai Chen fell silent for a long time before saying, “Team Leader, the water is boiling!”

Jiang Baimian nodded and said to Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong, “Go get all four waterskins from the car.”

After replenishing their water supplies, Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong started learning how to drive the jeep.

As the road was wide and there were no other cars, as well as zero need to park the vehicle in a fixed area, they mastered driving almost effortlessly. This was in part due to them being from the new generation that had been genetically enhanced. Their concentration, reaction speed, and coordination of their hands and feet were all considered excellent.

“It felt like I was flying.” Long Yuehong reluctantly let Bai Chen take the driver’s seat.

Shang Jianyao nodded in agreement. If not for the fact that the roads were relatively soft and that the swamp was getting closer and closer, making the situation complicated, he could have driven the vehicle into the air.

“It’s getting dark. Be careful.” After Long Yuehong sat back in the backseat, Bai Chen stepped on the accelerator and said, “There’s an abandoned building complex ahead. It’s said to be a rest stop beside an Old World highway. We’ll camp there for the night.”

Jiang Baimian took the opportunity to teach Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong. “The reason we don’t continue on our way after dark isn’t that there might be more dangerous creatures appearing at night. Basically, we will encounter them during the day as well. The main reason is that there isn’t enough light after dark, greatly reducing the area we can see clearly.

“This will make it difficult for us to discover the potholes and swamps ahead of time. Similarly, it will be very fatal if we can’t sense the approach of dangerous creatures in advance. You should remember that most beasts and monsters aren’t too difficult for humans, with sufficient firepower, to deal with as long as we can discover them in advance. Our most dangerous enemies are mostly our own kind and diseases.”

Bai Chen, who was driving, interrupted Jiang Baimian. “I’ve encountered mutated mosquitoes before. Each of them was the size of a finger, and their numbers were incalculable. When they gathered together, they were like a large black cloud that swamped from the horizon, blocking out all the sunlight.

“Their bites released a terrifying poison that numbed the bodies of humans and animals and slowed their thinking. Back then, dozens of nomads were swarmed by them and had all their blood drained. Whether it was pistols, rifles, machine guns, or rocket launchers, they couldn’t deal much damage to them. Fortunately, we picked up a few flamethrowers that were still usable. With them, a third of us survived.”

Long Yuehong’s scalp tingled when he heard this, and his fear of the wilderness increased.

Shang Jianyao’s eyes flickered as if he was thinking of a way to deal with such a monster.

Jiang Baimian nodded slightly and said, “In such a situation, the company’s Herbicide rounds are a good choice.”

As the four of them conversed, the jeep drove to a small ruin.

Most of the buildings that did not exceed the third floor had collapsed. Their surfaces were covered with creepers, and the original walls were virtually invisible. It was as though a green surge had drowned them.

In front of these buildings was a large open space with a pile of rocks of varying sizes. The ground had many cracks, and clumps of plants creeped out of them.

After Bai Chen stopped the car, she scanned the area and said, “There are no new traces of human activity… We’ll rest here for the night. There’s a clean water source nearby.”

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong alighted from the car one after another. They followed Jiang Baimian’s instructions to gather wood and set up a bonfire. They also used charging boards that had been under the sun for the entire day to recharge the jeep’s high-performance batteries. Unless one knew the wilderness very well and knew which settlements or corresponding ruins could provide gasoline, fuel cars could only move about in their own sphere of influence unless one brought along a sufficient number of filled gas barrels. Pangu Biology was rather lacking in oil resources.

They did not prepare tents because they could sleep in the jeep—two of them would keep watch, and the other two would rest before taking turns.

The fire soon illuminated the gradually darkening environment. Jiang Baimian took out a few cans of military food and began to heat them.

Shang Jianyao, who had eaten an energy bar, carried the company’s standard assault rifle, nicknamed Berserker, and patrolled the surroundings to prevent any accidents. He suddenly felt something and looked up at the collapsed building complex that had been swallowed by the creeper vines.

At the top of the buildings’ edge, a black figure flashed past before it disappeared behind an obstacle.

Shang Jianyao was not afraid. He spoke to Jiang Baimian, Bai Chen, and Long Yuehong as if nothing had happened. “Hurry up and eat.”

“Huh?” Long Yuehong was confused.

Shang Jianyao calmly said, “It seems like something is approaching.”

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