Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 139: Failed
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Chapter 139: Failed

Jiang Baimian was a little dumbfounded when she saw the pamphlet in Shang Jianyao’s hand.

While waiting for Bai Chen and Long Yuehong to get in position, she had imagined all kinds of possibilities after opening the door. However, she never expected to see something familiar yet so unfamiliar.

“The disappearance of Lei Yunsong and the others have something to do with those lunatics, who preach that knowledge is toxic?” Jiang Baimian muttered to herself, filled with puzzlement.

Just a minute ago, there seemed to be no connection between the two!

“They gave up on thinking?” Shang Jianyao’s question was a little sudden; it was like the solution to a math question that missed a few steps in the middle.

Jiang Baimian thought for a few seconds and nodded slightly. “...From the looks of it, that’s a possibility.”

She then added, “This is only a guess for the time being. We can’t determine if this pamphlet was accidentally left behind by Lin Feifei and the others or if it was deliberately placed to mislead any investigators.”

“As long as we can find one of the organization’s members, the problem will be resolved.” Shang Jianyao offered his plan seriously.

“You can then sneak in and join the gathering to freeload on food and drinks, gather clues, and search for the truth?” Jiang Baimian helped Shang Jianyao complete the entire plan.

This sounded a little absurd, like a child playing house. But anything was possible with Shang Jianyao’s abilities.

“With the intelligence they show, I can be the one distributing the food.” Shang Jianyao looked at the pamphlet in his hand, raised his right arm, and wiped the corner of his mouth.

Jiang Baimian laughed and reminded him, “Being illiterate doesn’t mean they have low intelligence.”

“Those who believe in such words are definitely very gullible.” Shang Jianyao was rather confident.

“That’s true. Those who can become a member of this organization are people who have been screened and are easily deceived. Yes, they should be easily frightened and misled.” Jiang Baimian nodded slightly and smiled. “Aren’t you worried that the organizers who deceive them might skip on the food because the members are too gullible?”

“That’s too much!” Shang Jianyao immediately felt indignant.

Jiang Baimian fell silent for a few seconds before saying, “To be serious, we have to be careful. Lei Yunsong, Lin Feifei, and the others are definitely not stupid. There’s no doubt about that. But why are they with such a group of people?

“I’m worried that your intelligence will be pulled down to that organization’s average if you really join them. This isn’t a joke. An Awakened’s abilities are rather bizarre and terrifying.”

“Corruption is mutual,” Shang Jianyao replied solemnly.

“...” Jiang Baimian was rendered momentarily speechless. She then walked to the window and opened a window pane. She waved at Bai Chen and Long Yuehong below, indicating that they didn’t have to be on guard.

Jiang Baimian and Shang Jianyao searched the room again, but they didn’t find any more clues. They then used a tool to open the room opposite, which was also suspected to be Lin Feifei’s residence.

This room was very messy. All kinds of items were placed everywhere, emitting a faint moldy smell.

In contrast, the only table present had the cleanest surface. It was mainly filled with books, paper, and a fountain pen that had been wrapped in transparent tape several times.

As they flipped through the books, Shang Jianyao and Jiang Baimian realized that most of the books had the stamp of Weed City’s public library. The few books that didn’t have the stamp gave off a dirty, old, and rotten feeling. It was unknown where they had been taken from.

Before long, they determined the kind of person that lived in this room: a simple family unit consisting of parents and a child. The father seemed to do physical labor, while the mother helped sew and mend clothes at home. The child was 11 or 12 years old and was self-studying.

“Such people likely wouldn’t believe those lunatics.” Jiang Baimian came to a final conclusion.

In other words, this was not the target’s room. They could leave.

Shang Jianyao nodded, suddenly walked to the table, and picked up the pen.

“W-what are you doing?” Jiang Baimian gave up on guessing Shang Jianyao’s thoughts.

Shang Jianyao answered without turning his head. “Grading the homework.”

“...There might not be enough time. If we miss any subsequent clues, we might reach a dead end with the investigation.” Jiang Baimian didn’t directly use her authority as team leader to get Shang Jianyao to stand down. Instead, she laid out the facts and tried to reason with him.

Shang Jianyao thought for a moment. As he nodded, he lowered his body and quickly wrote a few words on the paper.

In just a few seconds, he put down the pen and turned around to return.

Jiang Baimian turned her body and looked at the table. She saw neat words on the paper: “Study hard.”

Jiang Baimian immediately chuckled. After leaving the room and locking the door, she muttered, “This will scare them.”

“Fear is also a form of motivation,” Shang Jianyao said calmly.

“...” Jiang Baimian glanced at him from the corner of her eye and hissed. “There’s no need to keep making your train of thought so complicated.”

As they spoke, the two of them left the building and arrived at the courtyard entrance in Yellow Corner Alley.

There was also a sentry post here.

An old man in a dark-blue cotton coat sat inside. His face was wrinkled, and his skin was as rough as orange peel. However, his hair was not sparse at all; it wasn’t even white.

This made it impossible to determine his age from his appearance.

Without needing Jiang Baimian’s instructions, Shang Jianyao walked over and shouted with a smile, “Grandpa.”

The old gatekeeper quickly put on his military-green cotton hat and muttered, “Don’t call me with such affection. If you have something to say, say it. If there’s a question, pay up.”

Shang Jianyao calmly repeated the words: ‘You are a man, so am I.’

The old man’s eyebrows immediately twitched. He raised his finger and pointed diagonally across him. “Th-there’s quite a number of them in that building.”

Shang Jianyao didn’t correct the other party’s ‘deviation’ in inference. He took out Lin Feifei’s photo and asked, “Have you seen this person?”

“Yes.” The old man’s voice became louder. “Don’t think about it. Don’t even think about it. She’s not selling her services.”

At this point, he lowered his voice. “I suspect that she’s a mistress kept by some noble on North Street. A man will come looking for her every few days.”

“How do you know?” Shang Jianyao asked curiously.

The old man chuckled. “I live on the same floor as her. How can I not know?”

“Then, do you know Old Zheng?” Shang Jianyao inexplicably changed the line of questioning.

The gatekeeper at Red Silk Alley said that Old Zheng was the one who mostly told him about Lin Feifei’s matters.

The old man was stunned for a moment. “I’m Old Zheng.”

“Ah, then forget about it.” Shang Jianyao returned to the topic at hand. “Does she live in the room facing Yellow Corner Alley?”

“Yes.” Old Zheng was very certain.

Shang Jianyao continued probing. “What does the man who often comes for her look like?”

“I couldn’t really tell. He wears a hat and props up his collar every time. He even has a face mask over his face, acting all suspicious. It’s obvious that he’s somebody, and he doesn’t want to be exposed,” said Old Zheng as he recalled. “He’s quite tall. Uh... he’s a few centimeters shorter than you.”

Shang Jianyao then asked, “Have you seen the woman in the photo today?”

“I saw her. Slightly past 8.” Old Zheng laughed. “She was wearing a mask back then, and her baseball cap was pressed very low. People who aren’t familiar with her definitely wouldn’t be able to recognize her. However, she comes in and out every day. I can determine that it’s her based on her outline.”

This old man clearly paid special attention to Lin Feifei.

“Where did she go?” Shang Jianyao asked.

Old Zheng shook his head. “How would I know? I saw her walking toward South Street with a large bag. A black travel bag...”

Upon hearing this, Jiang Baimian was very sure that Lin Feifei had already moved. Regardless of whether Liu Dazhuang died or not, she would move.

After asking about a few more details, Shang Jianyao took out a bag of compressed biscuits and handed it to Old Zheng.

“Young man, that’s the way!” Old Zheng’s eyebrows relaxed as he praised him.

After leaving the courtyard, Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, Bai Chen, and Long Yuehong met up in a quiet corner of Yellow Corner Alley.

After hearing his team leader’s recount, Long Yuehong said in surprise, “It actually involves the organization that’s stuffing pamphlets everywhere?”

No matter how he looked at it, he felt that the organization wasn’t presentable and had a comical sense.

“We can’t be sure yet.” Jiang Baimian thought for a moment and said, “But no matter what, we have to contact Chen Xufeng and get him to send a telegram back to the company to ask about such organizations. We have a chance of encountering those lunatics next. It’s better to be prepared.

“Yes... You guys can walk around in a while. Don’t be in a rush to ask if anyone has seen a woman carrying a black travel bag. The focus is to observe those Ruin Hunters and see what clues they can find. Shang Jianyao and I will leave a message for Chen Xufeng.”

“Yes, Team Leader,” Bai Chen and Long Yuehong replied.

Due to the restrictions of the environment, they spoke softly.

Just as Jiang Baimian was about to give a few more words of advice, Long Yuehong suddenly asked in confusion, “Lin Feifei knew how to disguise herself when she left that courtyard. Why was her face seen when she was ‘waiting’ for Liu Dazhuang?”

That didn’t make sense.

Just as he said that, Long Yuehong realized that Shang Jianyao had looked at him. He felt a little shaken, and he kept wondering if he had asked a stupid question.

Jiang Baimian was stunned for two seconds before she smiled. “Not bad; you even noticed this. You can go one step deeper next time and put yourself in that environment to see what decision you will make.”

After complimenting him, she asked, “If you were an ordinary Ruin Hunter, what kind of questions would you ask in passing when you go to Red Silk Alley and question the shop owners about whether they had seen Liu Dazhuang?”

Long Yuehong thought for a few seconds and deliberated before saying, “I’ll ask if they’ve seen anyone more suspicious.”

Jiang Baimian smiled. “So, is a slightly beautiful woman waiting by the side of the road suspicious, or a person wearing their cap low and masking their face, making it impossible to identify them?”

Long Yuehong came to a realization. “In such a situation, overly disguising oneself is actually a characteristic. It makes one memorable.”

Jiang Baimian smiled and added, “That’s right. Besides, apart from us, who else will ask if they’ve seen a woman like Lin Feifei in the short term?”

Then, her tone became meaningful. “But that might not be the case in the future.”

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