Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 18: Transaction Failure

Chapter 18: Transaction Failure

Translator: virtual group Editor: virtual group

Upon hearing Bai Chen’s reminder, Jiang Baimian—who was conversing with Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong—turned her gaze to the front.

On both sides of the squishy road were abnormally sparse woods. The left woods had the characteristics of a swamp. It was dark and muddy with many mosquitoes. On the right, weeds were everywhere. In the open was a black car dotted with mud.

With Jiang Baimian’s knowledge, it was naturally not difficult for her to identify it as an SUV. Furthermore, it was obvious that it had been actively or passively modified multiple times. The colors and the feel it gave off in many areas could not be made uniform.

Three people were standing outside the SUV. Some wore old cotton jackets, some wore wrapped nitrified leather, and some were draped in a wrinkled, black coat that was obviously too short.

In their mouths were crude cigarettes that were directly bundled up with brown tobacco leaves. In their hands were different weapons. There were United 202 pistols, submachine guns nicknamed Storm, and rifles from the Old World.

Beside these three people were two heavy motorcycles. They were black with a red pattern painted on them, giving off a flamboyant feeling.

A man sat on each of the two motorcycles. The two men were still wearing helmets, and they each carried a mini submachine gun.

“What can you guys tell?” Jiang Baimian was not flustered at all. Instead, she seized the opportunity to quiz Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong.

Shang Jianyao—who had already rolled down the window and was looking ahead—replied, “Well-fed.”

“...” Long Yuehong stared out the windshield. He had wanted to share his opinion, but Shang Jianyao interrupted his train of thought and made him forget what he wanted to say.

Jiang Baimian did not criticize Shang Jianyao. Instead, she nodded. “Good eye.”

The five people had very rough facial skin, but they did not appear jaundiced or thin. This meant that they could at least ensure that they had adequate food and clothing. This was different from a typical wilderness nomad!

At this moment, Long Yuehong finally found his train of thought and quickly said, “Well-equipped!”

Be it the modified SUV, heavy motorcycles, or the clothes and weapons on their bodies, they indicated that these people were different from the typical wilderness nomads.

Jiang Baimian nodded slightly and said, “We can make a preliminary judgment that they are a team of Ruin Hunters that are doing well or a band of wilderness bandits that are doing well. There are sometimes no differences between the two.”

Just as she said that, Bai Chen added, “The modification method of that SUV implies that it uses fuel. This means that those people are familiar with the area and know where they can get gasoline. That or they are confident they can get out of the wilderness before the car runs dry.”

Jiang Baimian didn’t say anything else when she saw that both parties were getting closer and closer. She picked up the grenade launcher and said, “Lift the Berserker up to the window and let them see it.”

Long Yuehong was a little nervous. “Team Leader, will there be a fight?”

“Who knows?” Jiang Baimian smiled and said, “Ah yes, remember this. In the wilderness, showing your muscles is a sign of friendliness. Justice, fairness, and communication only exist at the tip of a gun.”

Bai Chen echoed, “We call this ‘respect is only between the strong.’ Many nomads in the wilderness have once hoped that there would be a mighty person who’s benevolent, kind, and filled with love—one that would pity the weak and be willing to help them. Unfortunately, it’s nothing more than a fantasy. Perhaps there are such people, but there definitely aren’t many of them. It’s very difficult to encounter them. It’s more useful to rely on yourself than to anticipate them.”

“The Salvation Army in the past could really be counted as one. Now...” Jiang Baimian’s voice gradually softened.

“They’ll only show their friendliness if we show that we’re hard to deal with...” Long Yuehong nodded thoughtfully and understood his team leader and Bai Chen. He then had new doubts. “Why should I do the same? They can only see Shang Jianyao’s side.”

Before Jiang Baimian could answer, Shang Jianyao laughed. “Do you know how to play hide and seek? Does not finding anything mean that there’s really no one hiding there?”

Jiang Baimian laughed as well. “That’s an incongruous analogy. Long Yuehong, lift up the Berserker and get ready. It’s to shock and awe the enemies that might be hiding in the swamps and protect Bai Chen, who is focused on driving.

“Also, they might think that the people on this vehicle lack the necessary experience and are prey that can be attacked if you don’t do that, even if there really aren’t any enemies hiding in the swamps.”

Long Yuehong came to a realization. “I get it!” He immediately picked up the assault rifle and placed it by the window that had not been completely rolled up.

On the other side, Shang Jianyao had already prepared the Berserker and eagerly asked, “Team Leader, can I fire at will?”

Jiang Baimian chuckled. “How bold. The people in front are clearly not easy to deal with. Yes... You can shoot under three conditions. Either I give the order, or they continue approaching us despite our efforts to stop them. That or they show signs of aiming.”

As she spoke, the linear distance between the grayish-green, four-door Jeep, and the black SUV and the heavy motorcycles was already less than ten meters.

Out of the five people there, the three with crude cigarettes in their mouths had already raised the firearms in their hands. The other two leaned over the heavy motorcycles, gripping the accelerator with one hand and a submachine gun with the other.

If it weren’t for the fact that the grenade launchers’ and assault rifles’ muzzles were sticking out of this side of the car windows, they might have already switched positions and launched an attack.

As the black SUV and heavy motorcycle were not parked on the ‘main road,’ but in an open area of the sparse woods, there was no danger of colliding with each other despite the fact that the two sides got closer and closer.

During this process, Bai Chen reduced the speed of the car and made the jeep move bit by bit, preventing the other party from overreacting.

Jiang Baimian suddenly shouted, “Do you know what anomaly happened deep in the swamp last night?”

A muscular man in his thirties—wearing a wrinkled black coat and holding a Storm submachine gun—spat out the crude cigar in his mouth and replied loudly, “It was too far away. We aren’t sure!”

Jiang Baimian shouted again, “What are you guys doing here?”

“Winter is almost here. We have to hunt more beasts to prepare for it!” The man’s eyebrows were messy, and there was an old scar at the corner of his right eye. He had a ferocious aura, like a brown bear that had donned human clothes.

Without waiting for Jiang Baimian to shout again, the man asked, “What are you guys doing here?”

Jiang Baimian replied, “We are Ruin Hunters!”

“Ruin Hunters...” The muscular man muttered before suddenly laughing. “A few months ago, there was news from the swamp’s depths that an unrecorded city ruin had been discovered. Ah, perhaps the anomaly in the swamp’s depths last night was related to this matter! Although the two matters are several months apart, who can be sure? Hunters, do you want to know the city ruin’s general location? You can exchange it for food!”

He roared so loudly that everyone in the jeep could hear him loud and clear.

Shang Jianyao stared outside attentively as if he would fire at any moment. Suddenly, he asked, “Team Leader, he shouted too loudly, causing damage to our ears. Do we need to fire at him?”

“...There’s no need.” Jiang Baimian replied to Shang Jianyao before raising her voice. “We have military canned food, energy bars, and compressed biscuits. Name a price!”

The man’s eyes flickered slightly. “Sixty cans of military food!”

“Forget it then!” Jiang Baimian seemed to have no intention of bargaining at all and had only asked perfunctorily.

At this moment, the jeep had already driven past the black SUV’s location. The distance between the two parties gradually increased.

The man didn’t insist and replied loudly, “I hope there’s a chance to make a deal next time!” With that said, he maintained his vigilant posture and watched the jeep drive further and further away from his firing range.

At this moment, a thin young man in an old cotton-padded jacket, with a simple cigar in his hand, anxiously asked, “Boss, why aren’t we shooting?”

“That’s right. Even though they have somewhat considerable firepower, we have that thing!” The man lying on a heavy motorcycle with a scraggly beard straightened his body and pointed at the black SUV’s trunk. “They must have a lot of supplies!”

The man shook his head. “No matter what, our losses won’t be small. It’s not worth it. Not worth it at all.”

The young man in an old cotton coat, who was holding the United 202 pistol, said in confusion,

“Boss, humans die for wealth while birds die for food! Besides, isn’t it all about who’s most ruthless and fiercest in the wilderness? In any case, we might die for no reason tomorrow. Why don’t we take a gamble today!?”

The man glanced at him coldly. “In the wilderness, those who are ruthless and fierce don’t live long. There isn’t much pure prey here. Most of them are hunters and prey at the same time. If we continue being fearless of harm, we will quickly become prey for others.

“Look at those beasts. When they are full, they won’t launch an attack on beasts that are similarly as strong as them. They know that they might become someone else’s prey once they are injured, so they reduce the need for unnecessary hunting. Are you guys worse than beasts?”

Another man—wrapped in animal hide and carrying an Old World rifle with a simple cigar in his mouth—added, “Boss is right. Besides, didn’t you notice? The food that those people had just now only included military canned food, energy bars, and compressed biscuits! Don’t you know what that means?

“An ordinary Ruin Hunter will only be in such a state when they first set off from a certain city or border town of a large faction. However, there doesn’t seem to be any large faction towns or cities that we know of nearby.”

The man sitting on the other motorcycle mumbled, “Maybe they just found an Old World’s military warehouse?”

The man in the lead exhaled and said, “Alright, everyone, stop fighting.”

He then smiled. “Didn’t you notice that it’s very likely that they will pass by that spot? There aren’t many routes in this area for vehicles to pass through. Not many know of the anomaly there either. Get in the car. The distance is about right. We’ll follow them secretly. When they encounter the trouble and are at the end of their ropes, we’ll wipe them all out!”

The other men immediately revealed looks of surprise. “Yes, Boss!”

They enthusiastically got into the SUV and started the heavy motorcycles.

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