Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 14: Blackmarsh Wilderness

Chapter 14: Blackmarsh Wilderness

Translator: virtual group Editor: virtual group

It was not until the jeep completely drove past the silver-white door that Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong adapted to the light outside. They lowered their right arms, widened their eyes, and looked out the window.

After getting over the initial, indescribable horror, they saw a clear blue sky dotted with white clouds of different shapes, a flock of birds that constantly changed formations, and a mountain wall that shimmered with a faint golden glow under the sun.

“Sun... Sun!” Long Yuehong shouted at the huge, orange-yellow fireball in the sky. He fixed his gaze on it. Even though his eyes stung and tears fell, he couldn’t bear to look away.

“Don’t look into the sun in such a state. It hurts your eyes! If you really want to look at it, here.” Jiang Baimian drove as she dug out a certain item from the armrest compartment and handed it to Long Yuehong.

Long Yuehong—who was leaning against the glass window—turned around and saw a pair of black-tinted glasses.

“...Sunglasses!” He recalled the knowledge he had learned and found the corresponding name for it.

At this moment, Shang Jianyao turned around and said, “If you don’t want to wear it, I will.”

Long Yuehong looked over and saw that Shang Jianyao’s eyes were red as if tears would fall at any moment.

“Haha, you’re also staring at the sun?” Long Yuehong couldn’t help but laugh.

The next second, he saw Shang Jianyao snatch the sunglasses away and put them on the bridge of his nose.

“Hey...” Long Yuehong didn’t know whether to be angry or to reflect on his actions.

“There’s one more here.” Just as Long Yuehong was about to pounce on Shang Jianyao, Bai Chen—who was in the passenger seat—handed him another pair of sunglasses.

This pair of sunglasses was more exquisite than Jiang Baimian’s. They were like two ‘hearts’ that were strung together. The color of the lenses was not pure black but had a hint of red instead.

“Don’t break it. I spent a lot of money to exchange for it back then,” Bai Chen reminded him.

“Thank you,” Long Yuehong sincerely thanked her and put on the sunglasses.

With this ‘equipment,’ he could finally observe the sun carefully and compare its differences with the pictures he had seen on projector slides.

“This is the sun...” Long Yuehong sighed after an unknown period of time. He took off his sunglasses and returned them to Bai Chen.

Shang Jianyao also retracted his gaze and thoughtfully placed Jiang Baimian’s sunglasses back into the armrest compartment.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Long Yuehong glanced at his good friend.

Shang Jianyao replied solemnly, “I’m wondering where I can get sunglasses.”

The people in the underground building didn’t need such an object at all. Only a few project teams used it. Therefore, it had never appeared in the Supplies Allocation Market or the small bazaar on the 495th floor’s Rec Center.

Jiang Baimian, who was driving, exhaled. “I knew you weren’t paying attention.”

Bai Chen smiled and said, “When we pass by the nomad settlements in the wilderness, we can go in and take a look. Perhaps a piece of compressed biscuit can be exchanged for a pair of good sunglasses.”

“That’s how I got mine!” Jiang Baimian echoed. “Why did you use so many things to exchange for yours?”

“I exchanged it from a female Ruin Hunter. Back then, she found it beautiful and wanted to use it herself. She didn’t lack supplies.” Bai Chen recalled the situation back then.

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong did not listen carefully. They leaned against their respective windows and stared at the scene outside. Be it the large trees on either side, or the brown squirrels that occasionally ran past, they watched everything with relish as they exclaimed in amazement.

After an unknown period of time, Long Yuehong sat up and sighed with emotion. “This is different from the Ashlands environment I imagined...”

“What did you imagine it to be?” Jiang Baimian casually asked as she made the jeep jump on the bumpy road.

Long Yuehong tried his best to find an adjective. “It’s... It’s...”

Shang Jianyao turned his head and helped him with the description. “Dark, cold, damp, and depressing. A sky covered in dust and dark clouds that sunlight can’t penetrate. Everything is gray.”

“That’s right! That’s right!” Long Yuehong agreed with the description completely.

Their textbooks did not describe the Ashlands in detail. They only talked about the conditions, pollution, disease, and famine. This naturally made them form a terrible impression of the Ashlands’ environment.

As for the employees who had been to the surface, they could not speak much due to confidentiality regulations. Even if they occasionally mentioned that the weather was sunny and the environment was good, the listening crowd would subconsciously ignore them.

Jiang Baimian held the steering wheel with her elbows and looked ahead. She chuckled and said, “Maybe it was like that when the Old World was first destroyed, but it quickly improved. Only some parts of it are still in such a state.”

Bai Chen added, “That also means danger. It means pollution, disease, and abnormalities.”

“Is that so...” Long Yuehong pushed his face against the window again and admired the beautiful scenery of the mountains and forests bathed in the sunlight.

Shang Jianyao was the same.

Jiang Baimian saw them through the rearview mirror and smiled to herself before pressing a certain button.

With a beep, the glass windows on the four car doors suddenly retracted.

Long Yuehong jumped in fright and straightened his body. “It... It... You can even retract it like that?”

“I want you to breathe the air outside.” Jiang Baimian pretended like she had not just pulled a prank.

Shang Jianyao’s posture did not change at all, as if he enjoyed the feeling of the glass window sliding past his face. He looked rather comical. He then narrowed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“How is it?” Jiang Baimian asked with a smile.

Shang Jianyao looked outside in all seriousness. “It smells like fresh shit.”

“...” Jiang Baimian admitted that Shang Jianyao had a sharp sense of smell, but she didn’t want to agree with him.

Bai Chen—who had been watching Jiang Baimian roll down the car window—interrupted thoughtfully, “Team Leader, when were you born?”

“Year 23 of the New Calendar. Why?” Jiang Baimian casually replied.

“You’re three years younger than me...” Bai Chen was slightly shocked.

Long Yuehong was even more surprised. “Team Leader, you’re only two years older than us? You’re already a D6!”

“This is the benefit of working in the Security Department. It may be dangerous, but promotions happen really fast. After all, your superior, such as me, might die at any moment,” Jiang Baimian joked.

She paused and casually added, “Besides, I’ve previously made some contributions. Ah, I forgot to remind you that it’s important to observe the color of the air. You have to wear a gas mask in advance sometimes.”

In the next half-hour, the jeep stumbled through the forest. Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong remained like children, watching the scenery outside attentively. They were curious about everything.

Upon seeing the soil in front of them gradually turning black and the trees around him starting to thin out, making the road less rugged, Long Yuehong suddenly frowned and said, “I keep having the feeling that the environment outside isn’t right. There’s something missing...”

Shang Jianyao sat up straight and spoke in a deep but not low voice. “There’s no one.”

Nobody... Yes! Long Yuehong slapped his thigh and said, “Yeah, apart from a few outposts along the way, there are no humans at all!”

The people at the outpost were undoubtedly all employees of the company.

“The people nearby have either been recruited by the company, wandered to another place that has food, or...” Jiang Baimian changed the topic. “When we pass the outpost ahead and truly enter the Blackmarsh Wilderness, we will have a chance of encountering humans.”

Bai Chen didn’t turn around and added in a low voice, “But that might not be what you want...”

Jiang Baimian tilted her head and asked, “What did you say?”

“Team Leader, focus on driving!” Bai Chen restrained her emotions and shouted with a smile.

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong fell silent. From time to time, they would look out the window at the increasingly open area.

After an unknown period of time, Long Yuehong suddenly asked, “Team Leader, I haven’t told my family that I’m going out for field training and that I won’t be returning home soon. What should I do?”

“The higher-ups will send someone to inform them.” Jiang Baimian looked at the road ahead and gently pulled the steering wheel.

Long Yuehong shut his mouth.

There was another long silence in the jeep.

After they passed by Pangu Biology’s border sentry, the terrain ahead became increasingly flat.

The soil here was grayish-black and relatively soft. On the soil were clearly all kinds of intersecting marks. Some belonged to wheels, some came from animals, and some came from humans.

The trees around the road were sparser, allowing people to see the black swamp in the distance.

These trees’ trunks were black in color, and their leaves were dark-green. Some of them were very tall, at least 20 to 30 meters tall. Some were very short, only about the height of a person. The thing they had in common was their warped and grotesque angles. They looked like dead monsters that appeared dark even under the sun.

“We don’t have to be too careful at the edge of the swamp. Once we venture deeper, we have to slow down and pay attention to whether the road ahead has been swallowed by the swamp. If we really drive into a swamp, we have to abandon the car and retreat.” Bai Chen took the opportunity to lecture the two men. “Team Leader, there’s a clean water source over there.”

Jiang Baimian nodded. “Alright, let’s take a rest over there and get some of our water supplies replenished. Shang Jianyao, Long Yuehong, you guys will drive while the terrain is open and not too dangerous. I hope you can finish learning by today.”

She turned the wheel and let the jeep drive into a sparse forest area in the wilderness.

An underground river burrowed out of the surface here, flowing for a few hundred meters before returning underground.

Jiang Baimian walked to the riverside with a solar charger board and a thermal kettle that had a large capacity. She said to Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong, “There’s usually no problem with such flowing underground water, but we still have to observe two things.

“First, we have to determine whether there are any clear abnormalities in the plants nearby. Second, we have to see if the creatures in the water appear strange compared to their own kind. Then, if the conditions permit, boil the water before filling up the waterskins. If not, put in Bio Cleansing Capsules.”

After observing for a while, Jiang Baimian squatted by the river and filled the kettle with water. She then put the thermal kettle on the already charged solar charger and plugged it in. During this process, she took out a milky-white plastic bottle, poured out a white capsule the size of a fingernail, and threw it into the water.

This was a Bio Cleansing Capsule, unique to Pangu Biology.

Long Yuehong excitedly watched from the side as if he wanted to try it himself. For him, who needed to go to the Supplies Allocation Market every day to get hot water, this was relatively new. He had quite a big family, and a child’s energy quota was limited.

A kettle for hot water was not cheap either. Therefore, he could only take a thermos and go to the hot water room in the Supplies Allocation Market to get water.

After Jiang Baimian was done, she stood up and glanced at Long Yuehong before she jokingly scolded him. “At times like these, what you should do is draw your Ice Moss to prevent any creatures from attacking us or snatching our supplies. There’s no need to mention Bai Chen. She’s extremely experienced. Look, Shang Jianyao is also paying attention to his surroundings.”

After drawing his Ice Moss pistol, Shang Jianyao—who was looking at the ‘source’ of the river—suddenly said, “Team Leader, there’s a figure darting over there!”

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