Embers Ad Infinitum - Chapter 84
Long Yuehong felt enlightened when he heard Jiang Baimian’s words, but he also felt like he had fallen into a dream. He couldn’t help but look around again. He couldn’t connect the Heartless—who were seriously cleaning the fallen leaves and wiping the windows—with the ingrained image in his mind.
It wasn’t like the Old Task Force had never encountered the Heartless in this ruin on their way to the City Intelligence Network Control Center. They were the same species as the ones outside. They were fierce, irrational, and filled with aggression. They had strong hunting instincts as if they had degenerated to the point when humans had just escaped their feral state.
Back then, if someone had told Long Yuehong that the Heartless here would sweep the floor, wipe the windows, and maintain the wires, he definitely would’ve scoffed at them and treated them as a joke.
But this scene was actually happening in front of him now.
At a glance, the distant street lamps stretched endlessly, and figures were everywhere. After the city lit up again, countless Heartless returned to the streets or walked to the windows to do all kinds of things.
The Heartless were no longer fierce, nor did they treat Long Yuehong and the others as prey. They completed their work methodically and seriously, making the entire city appear prosperous—nothing like its former self.
At this moment, Long Yuehong felt like they were in a different world. The two parties lived in harmony, but they couldn’t establish a connection.
As Long Yuehong’s thoughts raced, he heard Jiang Baimian sigh.
“This is like a silhouette projected from the Old World of the past…”
Shang Jianyao suddenly asked, “Why are they sweeping the ground, wiping the windows, and maintaining the outer walls and streets?”
Long Yuehong subconsciously replied, “Maybe it’s some kind of instinct. This is what they did in the Old World. After they became Heartless, it became instinctual…”
As Long Yuehong spoke, his voice gradually softened until it went silent. He also realized that his explanation didn’t hold any ground. This was because the Old World had been destroyed for nearly 70 years. These Heartless were generations removed from the ones of the past. There were no longer those who had lived and worked in the Old World.
Finally, Long Yuehong forcefully added, “This instinct has been demonstrated and taught by their parents for generations. The mechanic’s descendants are still repairing equipment, and the cleaner’s descendants are still cleaning the streets…”
Jiang Baimian laughed and spoke before Shang Jianyao could reply. “Don’t engrave all kinds of nonsense into one’s genes. This will result in a physical breakdown. It’s indeed possible to teach, but it’s only useful for simple and repetitive jobs.”
Bai Chen remained vigilant of her surroundings and thoughtfully said, “After many generations of reproduction, the Heartless can already learn relatively complicated things? No, even if the current Heartless can master such things, the previous few generations of Heartless wouldn’t have been able to. The corresponding skills should’ve been lost…”
“Maybe someone is teaching them and instilling some ‘instincts’ in them.” Shang Jianyao retracted his gaze and voiced his guess.
Jiang Baimian, Long Yuehong, and Bai Chen recalled the strange, mysterious boy—Xiaochong—and were momentarily unable to refute Shang Jianyao’s words.
They had all taken several steps across the street during their discussion, hoping to see the figures behind the bright windows more clearly.
A few seconds later, Long Yuehong looked at the Heartless—who were sweeping the streets, pruning the tree branches, and walking elsewhere—and sighed with emotion. “Is this the Old World’s city scene? Is this how people lived and worked back then? Back then, were the lights so bright at night, looking as if the stars were reflected on the ground?”
Jiang Baimian looked up at the building opposite her because of that sentence.
On each floor, more than a third of the windows emitted yellowish or white light. The ‘people’ inside came and went, either wiping the windows, ‘watching’ television, playing with their ‘children,’ or chopping at the chopping board. Although no sounds came out, Jiang Baimian fully found it ‘lively’ and ‘vigorous.’
At this moment, she felt like she had been transported decades back in time, back when the Old World had not been destroyed. She could smell the scent of life.
As Jiang Baimian’s gaze kept moving up, her pupils suddenly dilated. She saw a red dot moving on the top of a tall building not far away. This seemed to come from a sniper rifle.
“Dodge forward!” shouted Jiang Baimian as she jumped and rolled to the side of the road before hiding in an open outlet.
With a snap, gravel flew up from the spot she had been standing in.
Thanks to their previous experiences, Shang Jianyao, Bai Chen, and Long Yuehong didn’t doubt their team leader’s orders at all. They reacted immediately and rushed into the outlets opposite the City Intelligence Network Control Center with different postures.
With two bangs, two more bullets flew from the top of different buildings and burrowed into the ground.
After Jiang Baimian hid in the room with her back against the wall, she took off the walkie-talkie, pressed the button, and anxiously said, “There are snipers on the rooftops in three locations at least. This style of ambushing ‘not entering despite coming to the anomaly’s source’ reminds me of a person—Hyena!”
This was the standard style employed by the Hyena bandits. This did not mean that they were the only ones who liked to use similar methods. However, they were the most famous ones around the area with at least three sniper rifles in their team. They might very well be the only team.
“Isn’t that too sinister?” Long Yuehong blurted out a response as he held the walkie-talkie.
The Hyena bandits actually didn’t want to explore the anomaly and search for something more valuable. They only wanted to finish off the Ruin Hunters that had withdrawn.
“They’re bandits,” Jiang Baimian replied in amusement. “Fortunately, they were probably blinded by the changes after the city ruin regained power. Hence, they didn’t deal with us immediately.”
“But we were also affected by the changes in the city ruin,” stated Bai Chen simply.
“It’s also possible that we came out after they had just finished climbing more than 20 floors and had yet to catch a breather. Furthermore, there’s electricity now. Thus, they can use the elevator now.” Shang Jianyao sighed inexplicably. “Unfortunately…”
Long Yuehong had a tacit understanding. “What’s a pity?”
“It’s a pity that I was attracted by the changes in the city ruin. Otherwise, I could’ve danced a Gold Coast hula dance for them first.” Shang Jianyao’s tone revealed a clear sense of regret.
“… I’m looking forward to such a day in the future.” Jiang Baimian held the walkie-talkie and casually said, “The most important question now is how we will escape Hyena’s ambush. They definitely have more than just snipers in place.”
“Hyena and the others have armored vehicles, heavy machine guns, and rocket launchers. After using snipers to control our range of activity, they will send people to sweep the area.” Bai Chen recalled the various pieces of information she had heard and calmly gave the most likely development.
“What should we do?” Although Long Yuehong wasn’t too alarmed, he still felt that they were in danger.
Without the military exoskeleton, it was impossible for them to avoid heavy machine gunfire in such a limited area. Be it their grenade launchers, rifles, or grenades, they could not break through thick armor.
If the military exoskeleton were still here, he could try using the electromagnetic weapon.
Jiang Baimian fell silent for a few seconds before issuing an order through the walkie-talkie. “There’s definitely no sniper in the City Intelligence Network Control Center. Hyena and the others won’t dare to enter that area at all. Therefore, we can head to the entrance by sticking close to the walls. This is their blind spot.
“After finding a spot in advance and waiting for the armored vehicle to arrive, Bai Chen will shoot the machine gunner immediately and temporarily suppress him. If the armored vehicle’s fire control system is intact and the heavy machine gun can be controlled from the inside, I’ll try unleashing Thunder Spear at the firing point. In short, the goal is to create an opportunity for Shang Jianyao to approach.
“Shang Jianyao, go to the bottom of the armored car when the time comes. You will be less than a meter away from the personnel in the vehicle, so you can use your abilities to their fullest. You also don’t have to worry about the sniper threat.”
Jiang Baimian named her electric eel-like biomechanical limb’s attack ‘Thunder Spear.’
“Alright!” Shang Jianyao seemed to have wanted to do so long ago.
Bai Chen also gave an affirmative.
Long Yuehong listened silently, and after two seconds of silence, he asked, “What should I do?”
“Cheer for me,” Shang Jianyao said seriously.
Just as Shang Jianyao said that, Jiang Baimian added, “You’re in charge of guarding the surroundings. What if it’s not just the armored vehicles? I’ll give you the grenade launcher later.”
Long Yuehong immediately replied loudly, “Yes, Team Leader!”
Jiang Baimian was just about to say something when she suddenly turned her head and sensed something. “Incoming! There’s only one vehicle on the street to our right.”
She quickly told Shang Jianyao and the others the information and found a pair of metal scissors in the room.
The Old Task Force’s four members immediately returned to the entrance and moved along the wall, heading to different spots. During this process, they exchanged a few weapons with each other and prepared themselves for what was to come.
The armored car soon appeared at the street corner.
On one side were three large wheels. The armored vehicle’s surface was painted military-green. There was a door on its side and dark bulletproof glass on the front. The armored vehicle was more than twice the size of an ordinary vehicle. An iron-black heavy machine gun was mounted on the top; something that resembled an antenna was also erected.
Long Yuehong only took a glance before the words ‘steel,”hard,”strength,”steamroll,’ and ‘indestructible’ surfaced in his mind.
At this moment, a pleasant sound of music quickly approached from the distance and turned into the current street.
The source was a large blue car with large metal cans. The car’s headlights were on, and it played music as it sprayed water onto the street. A Heartless in an old, orange-white cotton coat sat in the driver’s seat, steering the steering wheel in a slightly stiff manner.
His eyes were blank, and a black, peeling earpiece hung from his head.
This sprinkler—which illuminated the road ahead—drove very quickly, almost colliding with the armored car that came out from the side.
With a creak, the Heartless driver reflexively stepped on the brakes, causing the vehicle to block the way.
The armored car’s driver had never encountered such a situation before, so he stopped the vehicle as well.
Upon seeing this, Jiang Baimian’s eyes lit up as she shouted, “A chance!”
Amidst the light and melodious sprinkling of water, she took a step forward and pulled back her left arm.
The pair of metal scissors in her hand was immediately ‘entangled’ by crackling, silver-white electric arcs.