Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 56: Meeting Up
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Chapter 56: Meeting Up

Facing the heavy stone door embedded in the black metal wall, Shang Jianyao silently took a deep breath. He leaned forward and pressed his hands against it.

The three indentations above the stone door lit up one after another as if stars were falling from the sky.

Within the three ‘stars,’ illusory words tumbled, appeared, and quickly froze. They were: ‘Inference Clowning,”Corny Person,”Hands Immobility.’

Shang Jianyao focused slightly, and the blob of white light representing Inference Clowning suddenly lit up, becoming brighter and brighter.

Almost at the same time, the grayish-white stone door trembled slightly. Amidst cranking sounds, it constantly retreated bit by bit.

In just a few seconds, the grayish-white stone door—which had stumped Shang Jianyao for many days—opened completely.

Shang Jianyao then retracted his hands and inserted them into his pockets. He quietly stood in place and stared at the area behind the stone door.

A silver-white metal staircase silently stood there. It stretched upwards and had no end in sight. On both sides of the staircase was boundless darkness—so deep that it seemed capable of engulfing the entire world.

“As expected...” Shang Jianyao muttered. He took his hands out of his pockets and strode forward. Without any hesitation, he passed through the door and stepped onto the staircase.

One step, two steps, three steps...

Although he couldn’t see the staircase’s end, he still walked steadily and firmly. He didn’t hesitate or appear rushed. During this process, only his footsteps echoed in the surroundings. Apart from that, there was no other sound.

This overlapped with the darkness on both sides, producing indescribable fear.

After walking up for an unknown period of time, Shang Jianyao finally saw another splash of color amidst the darkness.

It was a grayish-white stone door similar to the one from before. It was still embedded in black metal walls—where the ends couldn’t be seen. There were also three grooves on it.

If not for the change in the situation under his feet and the lack of ‘star clusters’ around him, Shang Jianyao would have thought that he had returned to the original hall.

He thought for two seconds before speeding up, running, and skipping toward the new stone door. He then turned his body slightly, placed one hand in his pocket, and pressed against the door with the other.

Just as he had expected, white light rose from the grayish-white stone door’s three grooves one after another, condensing into an illusory star.

In the ‘star,’ countless words tumbled. Before long, they settled down. They were the same: ‘Inference Clowning,”Corny Person,”Hands Immobility.’

Among them, the white light representing Inference Clowning was much brighter than the other two. Unfortunately, the grayish-white stone door only trembled slightly this time. It did not swing back.

Shang Jianyao gently pushed with one hand before he gradually exerted strength with both palms. His back bent as if he wanted to press his entire weight against the stone door.

The heavy stone door didn’t budge much, and the gap didn’t widen.

Shang Jianyao retracted his hands and straightened his body. He looked at the rather bright Inference Clowning, the slightly dim Corny Person, and Hands Immobility. He then nodded thoughtfully.

After the three balls of white light dimmed and vanished, Shang Jianyao’s figure became blurry.

He really fell asleep.

After an unknown period of time, Shang Jianyao suddenly felt his body shake. He instinctively opened his eyes and saw Jiang Baimian’s black and straight eyebrows—as well as her bright and spirited eyes.

“What did you encounter?” Jiang Baimian heaved a sigh of relief when she saw that Shang Jianyao had finally woken up.

Shang Jianyao thought about it seriously and replied, “I slept very soundly.”

Jiang Baimian’s eyebrows twitched as if she had used a lot of strength to restrain herself. Long Yuehong—who was sitting on the left in the backseat—burst out laughing.

Bai Chen—who was in charge of driving—stepped on the accelerator harder. The jeep swooshed faster, almost leaving the ‘main road’ that didn’t have much junk.

Phew...

After a few seconds, Jiang Baimian slowly exhaled. “It seems like we’ve escaped the area with the anomaly. Bai Chen, find a relatively obscure place nearby for parking.”

She then cast her gaze at Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong in the back row. “We’ll camp here for the next few days. After lunch, Long Yuehong and Bai Chen will get some sleep. Shang Jianyao and I will be in charge of guarding and patrolling. Before the company’s troops send out a signal, you will be trained in wilderness survival around here.”

“Yes, Team Leader.” Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong had no objections.

...

A day later, in the Old Task Force’s camp.

Long Yuehong—who had just eaten lunch—took out a fruit, slightly bigger than a marble, from his pocket. It was covered in a grayish-green hard shell.

He then bit open the shell with his teeth, revealing the tender, white, and plump flesh inside.

Long Yuehong sucked the juice that spurted out before sucking the flesh out and chewing it.

“How delicious...” Long Yuehong praised sincerely after swallowing the fruit. Over the past day of training, his greatest harvest had been getting to know this food called Rawfresh Fruit.

This fruit came from a type of drought-resistant, hard-leaf shrub that grew in many areas. It didn’t take long to grow and could be preserved for a long time. It also didn’t have any toxins. The only problem was that it produced very little fruit. A shrub would only have a few Rawfresh Fruit, making them unusable as a staple. No one would deliberately gather them.

According to Bai Chen, these were many wilderness nomads’ best childhood memories.

Shang Jianyao also had Rawfresh Fruits in his hands. He was stuffing the last clump of tender white flesh into his mouth. This wild fruit’s flesh was not as soft and dense as he had imagined. Instead, it was a little like an apple and had a crisp texture.

The taste was slightly sour, but the sourness did not hide its sweetness. It energized one the more they ate.

After chewing and swallowing the thin seeds hidden in the flesh, Shang Jianyao clapped his hands and stood up.

Jiang Baimian was just about to announce the start of afternoon training when she suddenly saw three fireworks explode in the northern sky. One yellow, one green, and one blue.

“The company’s signal flare...” She frowned and muttered to herself loudly, “Aren’t they a little too fast? ”

“Could it be a sham?” Bai Chen thought of a possibility.

Jiang Baimian took a closer look and shook her head. “This is the company’s special signal flare. Outsiders can’t fake it. Besides, the color sequence is also right. Maybe a team from the Security Department happened to be training nearby and went there directly? Or maybe the company had long noticed the anomaly north of Yuelu Station when we first heard the roars that night?”

Shang Jianyao suddenly smiled after hearing that. “Why don’t we first send Long Yuehong over to confirm it?”

“Why me?” Long Yuehong asked in surprise.

“I can only command you.” Shang Jianyao was very calm.

Long Yuehong glanced at him disdainfully.

At this moment, Jiang Baimian smiled and said, “Shang Jianyao makes sense.”

Long Yuehong’s face turned slightly pale.

Jiang Baimian continued speaking. “Let’s return to Blackrat Town first. Once we’re nearby, we’ll get someone to wear the exoskeleton and do some scouting.”

Long Yuehong immediately calmed down when he heard that the scout was going to wear the exoskeleton. He slapped his forehead and muttered, “How could I forget this...”

Jiang Baimian tilted her head. Although she didn’t hear him clearly, she could roughly guess what Long Yuehong would say. She smiled and retorted, “Do you think you can take on the scouting mission? How many Security Department employees do you know? When we get there, I’ll definitely be the one doing the scouting.”

With that said, Jiang Baimian strode towards the jeep, leaving behind only a light sentence. “Pack up.”

...

When it was almost evening, the Old Task Force returned to the hilly area where Blackrat Town was located.

After Jiang Baimian scouted with the exoskeleton suit, confirming that the people who had released the signal flares were from Pangu Biology.

After putting away the exoskeleton, Bai Chen drove Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and Long Yuehong to the bottom of the hill.

There were more than ten Pangu Biology employees in grayish-black uniforms. They carried standard Berserker assault rifles and blocked the path from different directions.

Bai Chen stopped the jeep according to a given gesture.

Jiang Baimian opened the door first and walked over. On the way, she took out a red, rectangular name tag with gold letters on it and wore it on her chest.

On the name tag, the words ‘Pangu Biology’ reflected the setting sun and shimmered.

Two armed members wearing the same nameplate came forward. One of them held an electronic device with a screen, while the other asked, “Electronic card number.”

“02310162155,” Jiang Baimian skillfully uttered a string of numbers.

The Security Department employee with the equipment in hand inputted this string of numbers and pulled out Jiang Baimian’s information. He quickly compared the photos and characteristics before raising his hand to give a salute. “Good evening, Team Leader Jiang.”

After Shang Jianyao, Long Yuehong, and Bai Chen verified their employee electronic card numbers, the two Security Department employees opposite them made way.

“Which company are you from? How did you arrive here so quickly?” questioned Jiang Baimian casually.

The Security Department employee who had just asked for the electronic card numbers replied, “We set off after we received news that something abnormal had happened north of Yuelu Station. We only saw your emergency flare on the way.”

The employee holding the electronic device added, “We’re from the 23rd Company.”

Jiang Baimian was not surprised by their answer and felt relieved. “How many platoons did you send?”

“The entire company is here. We drove armored vehicles.” The Security Department employee opposite her didn’t hide anything.

“Not bad.” Jiang Baimian smiled.

Within Pangu Biology, the Security Department was in charge of external missions. The basic unit was the combat platoon.

Every combat platoon had 20 to 30 people. There was a platoon commander (D7) and a deputy platoon commander (PC), ranging from D4 to D6.

In order to make it easier to command, a combat platoon was further divided into three to four sections. Each section had a section commander (SC), either a D4 or D5.

Likewise, three combat platoons formed a company. Along with the addition of auxiliary personnel, a company had about 100 people. The officer commanding (OC) was generally D8.

Above a company was a battalion, numbering between 400 to 500 people. This was the Security Department’s largest force. The corresponding commanding officer (CO) was a D9.

If a large-scale war broke out, a few battalions formed a unit, temporarily forming a brigade. It would be commanded and managed by different brigade commanders (M1-level management). Big Boss’s personal guard, the brigade directly under management, and the brigade that guarded important projects were common exceptions. Furthermore, they had fewer people than real brigades.

In other words, a company was considered one of the Security Department’s cornerstones.

“Where’s your OC?” Jiang Baimian asked.

The employee holding some electronic equipment opposite her replied honestly, “In Blackrat Town.”

Jiang Baimian nodded. “Take us to him. We have important information.”

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