Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 26: “Makeup Lesson”

Chapter 26: “Makeup Lesson”

A corpse was thrown very high and far into the swamp ahead, splashing up plenty of mud. It became embedded in the black and muddy surface before sinking inch by inch.

Beside it was two scenes that were mostly the same, except that the corpses were buried deeper in the mud.

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong stared at each other for a few seconds before retracting their gazes and walking to the jeep.

Jiang Baimian did not ask for a raise of hands to decide who would be the first to ride the heavy motorcycles. She immediately wore the corresponding helmet and sat on it. While carrying a mini submachine gun on her back, she turned her head to look at Shang Jianyao and the others and said with a smile, “I’ve always wanted to get myself one of these for a long time, but I never had the chance.”

Before she could finish her sentence, she had already revved the engines, producing a deep and mighty roar from the heavy motorcycle. Jiang Baimian lowered her torso. Although it was her first time riding a motorcycle, the way she posed looked rather professional.

The engine’s roar grew louder as the heavy motorcycle shot out like an arrow, racing along the edge of the swamp and heading into the distance.

“The romance of steel and fuel...” Long Yuehong muttered enviously. “As well as freedom and wind.”

With a boom, the heavy motorcycle turned around and stopped not far away.

Jiang Baimian propped herself up with her feet and pulled up her helmet visor. She laughed dryly. “Hey, erh, Bai Chen, which way should we go?”

Bai Chen looked down at her scarf and loudly replied, “Follow the jeep!”

“Huh? What did you say?” Jiang Baimian raised her hand to cup her ear, but it was blocked by the helmet. That didn’t change her smile though. She pulled her visor down and rode the heavy motorcycle back to the jeep as if she made that decision herself.

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong got into the jeep one after another. Bai Chen sat in the driver’s seat again and started the jeep.

They advanced through the Blackmarsh Wilderness at a relatively low speed due to such a roster. From time to time, they would change directions and circle around any obstacles. During this process, Jiang Baimian repeatedly used the excuse of investigating their surroundings to leave the convoy and speed off in different directions on her motorcycle.

Nearly two hours later, Bai Chen stopped the jeep, which seemed a little overburdened. She pushed open the door and said to Jiang Baimian, who had just come roaring back from the distance, “Team Leader, we’re almost at the settlement.”

Jiang Baimian propped herself up with one foot and pulled up her visor. “What do you have in mind?”

Bai Chen touched the rather rough skin on her face. “I’m worried that the wilderness nomads in the settlements will overreact if we go over like this. They are always very vigilant about such matters. How about this? You guys wait here while I ride the motorcycle over and finish the job before returning to bring you over? If they don’t allow us entry, I’ll try closing the trade outside.”

Jiang Baimian nodded slightly and said, “Our firepower is indeed terrifying.”

The Blackmarsh Iron Snake’s outer skin tied to the top of the jeep was even more terrifying.

Jiang Baimian immediately dismounted, parked the motorcycle, took off her helmet, and handed it to Bai Chen.

After watching Bai Chen’s back disappear into the sparse forest ahead, Jiang Baimian opened the jeep’s door and sat in the driver’s seat.

“Do you want one?” She smiled and picked up a simple cigar from the armrest compartment. These were the spoils of war they had previously obtained.

The tobacco leaf, roasted yellowish-black, exuded an indescribable fragrance.

“No thanks.” Long Yuehong and Shang Jianyao shook their heads at the same time.

“What’s wrong with the two of you? This is a luxury good!” Jiang Baimian put down the simple cigar. “Countless people who have been on battlefields are crazy about it. This allows them to relax their minds and keep their sanity. It’s just like how alcohol-based beverages can make people forget many unhappy matters they are unwilling to recall. Sigh, many people can only be happy when they are drunk.”

“That’s not true happiness[1].” Shang Jianyao suddenly sang.

“Yo, you’re even singing.” Jiang Baimian’s mouth opened slightly as she reprimanded him in jest.

Shang Jianyao nodded seriously. “I like music.”

“But the lyrics don’t seem right...” Jiang Baimian stroked the metal device in her ear.

Shang Jianyao replied as if he were discussing an academic question. “The lyrics can be modified to suit the current scene. This can help in expressing it better.”

“...” Jiang Baimian waved her hand. “That’s not the point. I almost forgot what I wanted to say after you interrupted me!”

She grunted angrily. “I mentioned tobacco because I wanted to raise the topic of war trauma. Although the battle you just experienced hasn’t reached that level, you still need to pay attention to such problems. Be it cigarettes, alcohol, or even drugs, they aren’t actually a good way to deal with the trauma. It’s easy for you to develop a serious reliance on them, and it’s not good for your health.

“If there are any situations where you are too tense, stressed, anxious, irritable, or unable to focus, you can chat with me at any time. I’ve taken some psychiatry lessons.”

“Yes, Team Leader!” Long Yuehong replied loudly. “Just now, on the way to the settlement, Bai Chen actually talked to us about this matter. I feel much better now.”

“Good.” Jiang Baimian praised him. “Ever since the higher-ups approved the establishment of this Old Task Force, the best thing I did was approve Bai Chen’s application. Tsk, you have to agree on my good taste, right?”

Without waiting for Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong’s response, she leaned against the driver’s seat and continued speaking, her eyes darting about slightly. “I don’t know when Bai Chen will return. Since I have nothing to do, I’ll tell you guys something else—something I didn’t tell you guys before.”

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong immediately sat up straight as if they were still in school.

Jiang Baimian chuckled. “Relax! Pay attention to our surroundings! Aren’t you afraid that a rocket will come from nowhere and wipe us all out? Alright, let’s get back to the topic at hand. Didn’t I tell you before? In the Ashlands, apart from an extremely small number of creatures, humanity’s most dangerous enemy will always be humans.

“Then, which humans are considered dangerous? Long Yuehong, what types of humans do you think are dangerous?”

Long Yuehong thought for a moment before saying, “Those wearing an exoskeleton.”

The military exoskeleton had left a deep impression on him in the previous battle. He even suspected that this would be one of the sources of his nightmares.

“Yes, there are also people wearing bionic artificial intelligence armor. These two types of people can deal with a team alone, or even wipe out a small nomad settlement in the wilderness.” Jiang Baimian cast her gaze at Shang Jianyao. “What other types of people do you think comes under this category?”

“A team equipped with heavy weapons, a team with outstanding firepower, and people who have installed a specific type of biomechanical limb or undergone corresponding mechanical and electronic modifications.” Shang Jianyao offered three answers in one breath.

“Indeed.” Jiang Baimian nodded slightly. She stroked her left arm with her right hand and said, “It has raised my strength significantly, but my original arm is still the best. You guys have to cherish what you have!”

She then added, “In addition, there are the monks from the Monks Conclave and the Genetically Enhanced. You might not know this, but people like you are called the Chosen Ones in many factions.”

“Why?” Long Yuehong asked in surprise.

Jiang Baimian laughed. “You two have had too much contact with such matters. Furthermore, you are one yourself, so you don’t understand how precious such technology is. Among all the factions, only our company and the White Knights can steadily carry out genetic enhancement and produce the corresponding liquid.

“Think about it. Wouldn’t a tall, muscular, fast, energetic person with good reflexes, solid coordination, a good sense of balance, strong immunity, powerful self-healing ability, relatively outstanding vision, and talent in firearms be like heaven’s chosen one to an ordinary person? Isn’t such a person synonymous with danger?

“However, don’t let your arrogance get to you. Some factions are extremely resistant to genetic technology, believing that this is a violation of nature and sacrilege towards the gods. They believe it’s the main reason for the Old World’s destruction.”

Jiang Baimian took a breath before continuing, “Those stronger than Genetically Enhanced are those who have undergone genetic modification. They often have abilities that humans do not have. In this regard, Subhumans that are abnormal due to pollution have similar performance. I’ve even seen Subhumans who can carry out photosynthesis by themselves and not have to eat for three months. However, the technology for genetic modification is still very immature. The failure rate and mortality rate are rather high. Don’t try it easily.”

Subhumans were normal humans themselves. However, they had been infected during the Cataclysm that destroyed the Old World, which resulted in mutations.

Although a large portion would die shortly after infection, some still managed to survive and pass on their abnormalities to their descendants. Normal humans discriminated against these people and banished them from the settlements. They were also given the insulting name of ‘Subhuman.’

Due to their physical changes and similar encounters, it was inevitable that Subhumans would hate normal humans. They always carried an indescribable resentment, and the two parties gradually became mortal enemies.

This development resulted in the term ‘Subhuman’ truly spreading across the Ashlands, becoming an academic term.

In the New Calendar era—many years after the Old World was destroyed—there was still intense pollution in certain areas. The abnormalities had not disappeared amongst the human population, so new Subhumans constantly appeared. Of course, most of the living Subhumans in present times were the result of natural reproduction.

“I didn’t know that there are such Subhumans...” Long Yuehong knew what a Subhuman was, but he had never heard of the Subhumans described by Jiang Baimian.

Jiang Baimian tersely acknowledged his words and glanced at Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong before speaking nonchalantly. “Apart from the ones I mentioned just now, there is also a type of human that can be considered dangerous, or you could say, extremely dangerous.”

“What kind of human?” Long Yuehong was abnormally curious. Shang Jianyao was the same.

The two of them had more or less learned all of the things that had been mentioned in the textbooks and from their training. However, nobody had put together the content from the perspective of ‘dangerous humans.’

Jiang Baimian lowered her head and smiled. “Awakened.”

“Awakened...” Long Yuehong and Shang Jianyao repeated softly.

Jiang Baimian looked up at the two of them and said, “The Awakened are humans who have undergone strange mutations for some reason. All of them have some strange and terrifying abilities. Some people used to think that some of an Awakened’s abilities should be described as funny. However, it has been proven that no matter how funny an ability is, it will become very terrifying when used in the right circumstances.

“To date, no faction has been able to figure out the law governing the production of the Awakened. All experiments on artificially-produced Awakened have failed. Therefore, there are very few Awakened, and they are not easy to encounter. I was in no rush to inform you about them. Ah, right. This is knowledge that needs to be kept confidential.”

Long Yuehong worriedly asked, “Team Leader, you make the Awakened sound so strong. How should we deal with them if we encounter them?”

Shang Jianyao remained silent, not saying a word.

Jiang Baimian smiled and said, “Other than a small number of very powerful Awakened, the powers of most Awakened have a limited range. That range limit isn’t that high. Based on this, you should try your best to distance yourselves and solve the problem with firearms from afar if you encounter them.”

“I see...” Long Yuehong began to imagine the corresponding scene.

Shang Jianyao nodded slightly as if he was pondering over something.

Upon hearing this, Jiang Baimian added, “Also, don’t only focus on these dangerous humans. Our bodies are too fragile. If we are careless, even a seven-year-old child has a chance of finishing us off.”


Bai Chen rode on the heavy motorcycle. After circling around for a while, she actually followed a seemingly muddy path into the swamp.

Ten minutes later, a red dot appeared on the road in front of her.

A gently moving red dot of light.

It was a warning.

[1] Author’s Note: From May Day’s “You Are Not Truly Happy.” Originally, in order to prevent censorship for this book, I made this book completely a fantasy. However, sometimes, in order to trigger a resonance with readers, I will still quote and modify some real-life poems or lyrics to allow everyone to produce the corresponding melody and scene in their minds upon reading it. This is very necessary for the later scenes.

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