Embers Ad Infinitum - Chapter 444: The Matter of the Town

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Chapter 444: The Matter of the Town

Han Wanghuo carried a paper bag and returned to his rented apartment in the Green Olive Zone with Zeng Duo.

“Preparations are almost done.” He nodded at the short, thin, and sickly Zeng Duo. “Only the last two matters are left.”

“I know. It’s been hard on you.” Zeng Duo—who had short hair and malt-colored skin—took the paper bag from Han Wanghuo. “I’ll do the cooking.”

Han Wanghuo fell silent for a moment before saying, “You don’t have to do this. You aren’t my servant.”

Zeng Duo looked down at the brown shoe on her foot and frankly said, “My requests are indeed more excessive than what you will receive. I want to make it up to you as much as possible while I’m alive.”

The request she made as a condition for selling her heart was to ‘save a town.’

That town was called Early Spring Town, and it was an Ashlandic settlement. Compared to most places, the production capability around Early Spring Town was relatively high—enough to feed the residents. The only unfortunate thing was that the surrounding water resources were somewhat polluted.

Due to the food sufficiency, Early Spring Town’s people didn’t dare or bear to leave. After a long time, they suffered from many diseases, and newborns often became abnormal.

Zeng Duo was one of the few healthy children in a cohort of children, and she had seen her fair share of such tragedies.

When she was almost an adult, she learned of the Ruin Hunter occupation from a passing caravan and chose to leave with them. She wanted to find a better settlement so that her people who were in suffering could have a place to relocate.

Her efforts suffered a setback from the beginning—the caravan suddenly turned hostile after leaving Early Spring Town and sold her to a slave owner.

Fortunately, she encountered a riot among the slaves before she suffered much. She took the opportunity to escape and entered a large town.

What she saw and heard later firmed her ideals as she gradually became a real Ruin Hunter. During this process, she was infected in the North Shore wastelands—her heart and other body parts underwent some level of mutation.

Unlike the people in her hometown, she realized that this mutation brought more benefits. It gave her greater endurance and greater explosive strength, allowing her to become an outstanding warrior quickly.

As she traveled in search, she returned to Early Spring Town several times. Before the New Year, when she felt that her goal was about to be achieved, she suddenly realized that the town seemed to be controlled by First City’s soldiers. They did some nasty experiments there because there were many infected mutants or genetic mutants in the town.

Zeng Duo—who had already found a new settlement—busied herself with saving Early Spring Town. Unfortunately, signs of her physical problems started showing, and her condition quickly deteriorated.

After getting a check-up at an unlicensed clinic, Zeng Duo realized that her mutations weren’t without their disadvantages. They had been lurking unseen and slowly fermenting until they were irreversible.

In her despair, Zeng Duo came up with the idea of selling her organs to get help. In fact, she no longer looked forward to saving all of Early Spring Town. She only wanted to save as many townsfolk as possible.

Han Wanghuo had been making preparations for this all this while. Be it weapons, ammunition, supplies, or getting reliable helpers, they weren’t easy to obtain.

“Since I’ve already agreed to it, it means that it’s fair.” Han Wanghuo thought for a moment and deliberately said with a cold expression, “To me, my life is more important than your entire town combined.”

Zeng Duo didn’t repeat her previous words and nodded slightly. “It’s not like I have anything to do. Someone has to do the cooking anyway, and I also need to eat.”

Han Wanghuo didn’t stop her and watched Zeng Duo walk to the kitchen with the paper bag containing the ingredients.

Before entering, Zeng Duo turned around and said after some hesitation, “Rest more. Don’t tire yourself out; this will accelerate the deterioration of your condition. Yes, I don’t want you to collapse before the mission is completed.”

I’ll take a gamble in advance and see if I can knock you out and drag you to the clinic... Han Wanghuo wanted to threaten her, but he ultimately didn’t say a word and only nodded indiscernibly.

Zeng Duo first prepared the ingredients. When it was almost evening, she methodically cooked three dishes.

Han Wanghuo picked up a piece of roasted pork butt and looked at Zeng Duo—who was sitting to the side and eating the leftovers from yesterday—with a frown. “You don’t have to do this, right?”

Zeng Duo swallowed the rice and quickly said, “We can’t waste the food.”

Just as Han Wanghuo opened his mouth to speak, similar scenes from the past few days suddenly flashed across his mind.

He failed to persuade Zeng Duo each and every time. Although this woman wasn’t tall, she was unimaginably stubborn.

Therefore, Han Wanghuo chose to focus on eating.

...

Jiang Baimian was first delighted when she heard Long Yuehong’s words. She then hesitated for a few seconds and spoke as if nothing had happened. “I didn’t see him. Maybe he has already turned into another street. Yes, we’ll find him after we’re done here.”

She was worried that they were still in the Virtual World. That would drag Han Wanghuo down with them.

Since they already knew that the other party had shown up in the vicinity, it wouldn’t be too late to ask after they were out of their current situation and back to their original selves.

Long Yuehong also understood this problem. As a bodyguard and driver, he only replied with one word: “Alright.”

Shang Jianyao looked at the window beside Jiang Baimian regretfully and took the opportunity to instruct Long Yuehong, “Drive faster.”

Long Yuehong followed the plan and drove the car to a building not far away as if he wanted to enter an underground parking lot.

At this moment, there was still a power outage in this area—the cause of the accident had yet to be determined. The underground parking lot was pitch-black, and only the emergency lights were switched on in certain places.

Taking the opportunity of it being dark, Long Yuehong pretended to switch off the headlights carelessly.

An instant later, a dark, sealed space formed in the car.

Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and Long Yuehong didn’t sense any abnormalities. This meant that they hadn’t been enveloped within the Virtual World for quite some time.

This plan also used the fact that the Virtual World’s owner had claustrophobia as a test to see if they were still in an illusion.

Before taking action, they couldn’t determine the exact price the other party paid. They only came up with different solutions based on various guesses. Of course, if their guesses weren’t right, Jiang Baimian and the others wouldn’t have been able to ‘approach’ Marcus or obtain his memories. They could directly switch to surrendering.

Long Yuehong switched on the headlights again and seized the opportunity to leave through another exit.

Following that, they escaped their imaginary tailing, switched vehicles, and removed their disguises according to the plan.

...

In the aristocratic VIP room, the blackout didn’t affect Marcus and the others’ enthusiasm for watching the gladiator match.

The gladiator named Joey had fought an Icelander slave today and finally killed him at the cost of being injured.

After the thumping and shouting subsided, a noble’s phone rang. His friend told him: “Another ‘rat’ has caused damage. There’s a huge power outage in the city...”

Before the noble could ask about the details, he suddenly heard static coming from the phone—the signal here seemed to be problematic!

He vaguely sensed some anger.

On the other side, having learned the same information, Marcus’s expression suddenly turned livid.

...

After returning to the safe house, the four Old Task Force members—who had rendezvoused again—cast their gazes at Shang Jianyao.

Jiang Baimian was in no rush to ask about the harvest and first asked in concern, “Is there any problem with the remaining power in the Bangle of Blindness?”

Shang Jianyao had transferred the remaining aura in the Bangle of Blindness into his mind world after all. This was a taboo among Awakened because it was very likely that the corresponding aura’s owner would locate their mind world and descend directly.

Awakened at the Mind Corridor level often did such things in the Mind Corridor.

It was precisely because of this that Shang Jianyao could hide from the Virtual World’s owner.

Shang Jianyao smiled casually. “It’s fine; I’ve locked it up with the Destiny Pearl’s remaining power. Maybe they will fight first.”

Whoa, driving a tiger to devour a wolf... Jiang Baimian criticized inwardly and asked, “Any gains?”

Shang Jianyao seriously spoke about the words Marcus’s mother had left behind. The main points were: First, be vigilant of Mechanical Paradise and don’t trust the Source Brain.

Second, be careful of the Eighth Research Institute.

Third, maintain a distance from Avia. She has something very dangerous and impressive.

Fourth, Wasteland Ruin 13 has an Old World laboratory. The password is Messiah.

After hearing Shang Jianyao’s recount, Genava fell silent. He didn’t know why the Source Brain wasn’t to be trusted.

Jiang Baimian glanced at the smart bot and deliberated before saying, “After all these twists and turns, we’ve circled back to the Eighth Research Institute. Also, it seems like Oray does have some secrets. I wonder if he hid them with Avia or in Wasteland Ruin 13’s laboratory... Yes, this is probably how some of his research results were handled.”

Oray was an artificial intelligence and robot expert.

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