Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 28: Entering Town

Chapter 28: Entering Town

Bai Chen fell silent. She looked around and changed the topic. “Are you still accepting foreign nomads?”

Tian Erhe followed her gaze and looked at an old and tattered tent. “Not anymore.” He sighed openly. “We are almost running out of arable land that can be shared.”

Upon saying that, he laughed self-deprecatingly. “It’s only people like me who are prone to being soft-hearted that would try their best to help others simply because they don’t want others to suffer. The others in town aren’t too willing. After all, the terrain here is special, making it impossible to open up new fields. There’s a limit to how much we can harvest. With more people, the share that everyone receives will naturally decrease.

“I was able to use reasons like lacking population and underutilization of the fields to suppress their voices in the past. However, we are even planting mushrooms in the forest behind us now. Heh heh, I’m already old. My body is getting weaker, so I probably won’t have the chance to head out again. Since I won’t see such things, I won’t be soft-hearted.”

Bai Chen couldn’t help but say, “Don’t keep mentioning your age. You look pretty energetic, don’t you?”

“Alright, alright, alright.” Tian Erhe straightened his furry hat and smiled. “There’s really good stuff in the Old World’s city ruins. Old Brute, Little Bull, and the rest found a book called ‘Mushroom Cultivation Technology.’ We followed it and actually were able to produce something.”

Bai Chen smiled. “Mushrooms are good. They are quite delicious.” She paused and said, “I can’t promise you anything. I can only say that I can sell you some high-quality seeds and fertilizers if there’s a chance in the future.”

Tian Erhe’s eyes lit up. “That’s great!”

As they conversed, the two of them passed through the town square and arrived near the three buildings arranged in a triangular fashion. On the right side of the small town square made of cement—in front of the public bathroom—was an empty space with six derelict cars parked.

There were milky-white cars, a silver minivan, a tall, large van, a medium-sized bus that could seat more than ten people, and a uniquely-designed electric vehicle...

In addition to these, there were also many vehicles with three wheels or two wheels crowded to the side. Some relied on electricity, some needed gasoline, and some moved solely on manpower.

A large shed covered all the vehicles. On the left side of the shed were three individual rooms side by side. They were interconnected to a certain extent, and all kinds of spare parts were placed inside.

Some of them were already damaged. Others looked very old. Some were well-maintained, and some were mixed with deflated basketballs and soccer balls.

“See if there’s anything you need.” Tian Erhe pointed at the three buildings and said, “They were all removed and taken back from city ruins.”

Bai Chen didn’t say anything else. She entered the building that acted as a warehouse and circled around it. She then pointed at a few things in quick succession. “This, this, and that...”

Tian Erhe nodded casually. “No problem. Bai, what do you intend to trade in exchange?” Although he was mayor, he did not have the right to give away the items in the town for free. Of course, with his authority and the level of respect he received in town, no one would object if he really did that. However, Tian Erhe had never violated his principles for decades. This was also one of the reasons why he was so respected.

Bai Chen subconsciously replied, “Food?”

Tian Erhe jogged his memories and said, “Not for the time being. Although the weather has been a little abnormal this year and the harvests haven’t been too good, our production has only dropped by 20%. With the surplus from the previous three years, it shouldn’t be a problem for us to survive the winter. If you can get a few pigs and a few cows here, not only will I welcome you with my hands and feet, but I will also cough out more! However, I believe that’s unlikely, right?”

What Moat Town lacked the most was meat. They could only rely on sending small teams out to hunt for resupplies. With insufficient food for humans, the population of chickens, ducks, and geese kept dropping. Furthermore, diseases would wipe them all out from time to time.

Bai Chen tersely acknowledged his words. “What do you think of my motorcycle? It uses gasoline. You should be able to find supplies for it.”

“There’s still a lot of gas left in one of the city ruins’ gas depot.” Tian Erhe laughed like an old fox. “What else can be used in exchange? Besides looking good, what use is this motorcycle to us? How many people can it carry at once?”

Prepared, Bai Chen said, “A light machine gun that uses 7.92 mm rounds...” She described the bullet’s length and other parameters in detail.

“Light machine gun?” Tian Erhe’s wrinkled face seemed to glow. “This is a great weapon for guarding the town. We do have such rounds.” Without waiting for Bai Chen’s response, he clapped his hands and said, “It’s a deal!”

“Alright, but I have to go back and discuss it with them.” Bai Chen agreed without hesitation. This was despite her having communicated with Jiang Baimian and being given the right to negotiate. In any case, not only was the light machine gun useless to them, but it also occupied space.

Tian Erhe looked up at the sky and frowned slightly. After some thought, he said, “It’s going to rain soon, and it’s getting late. It’s not suitable for us to continue moving in the wilderness. Yes... you can bring your companions over and rest here for the night. They don’t have to be disarmed. I trust your judgment in companions.”

Bai Chen glanced at Tian Erhe in confusion before looking up at the dark clouds gradually approaching from the horizon. She then replied, “I’ll ask for their opinions first.”

Tian Erhe did not blame Bai Chen for her hesitation. He only smiled and said, “Be quick. It’s going to rain soon.”

Bai Chen immediately walked out of Moat Town, retrieved her firearms, and mounted the motorcycle. She returned to Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and Long Yuehong and told them the details of the deal and Tian Erhe’s good intentions.

“Team Leader, what do you think?” Bai Chen leaned against the heavy motorcycle and waited for Jiang Baimian to make a decision.

Jiang Baimian did not mention the possibility that Tian Erhe or the people from Moat Town could have ulterior motives. She asked with interest, “Mayor Tian is 77 years old? He experienced the Old World’s destruction?”

Bai Chen nodded without hesitation. “Yes, I’m certain. He has been saying that all these years, and he often recounts the past. A lie might be able to last a long time, but it will only continue if it definitely brings benefits. Also, he has never used this identity to cheat others of anything.”

Jiang Baimian turned to look at Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong. “Then let’s go.”

“Team Leader, isn’t this a little dangerous? Didn’t you say that many wilderness nomads might become wilderness bandits at any moment?” Long Yuehong didn’t hide his worry.

Jiang Baimian smiled. “Whoa, you can still remember this? Not bad. Having such concerns means that you’ve improved. However, with our firepower, they won’t dare do anything as long as we take precautions. If they want to take us down, they will have to pay for it with at least 30 to 50 lives. Furthermore, there’s still more than a month until winter. Even if they don’t have much to eat, they won’t be willing to pay such a high price. Who’s more dangerous? Us or the beasts in the wilderness?

“Indeed, people won’t care too much in winter when they are about to starve to death. Besides, a settlement is a limited environment. The small area is actually more advantageous for a smaller group of elites like us.” As she spoke, Jiang Baimian glanced at Shang Jianyao with a smile.

Shang Jianyao immediately turned his head to look at Long Yuehong and pretended to ask solemnly, “Have you forgotten what our team name is? Have you forgotten what our duty is?”

“O-Old Task Force, Investigation Unit for the Cause of the Old World’s Destruction...” Long Yuehong was not stupid. He instantly understood the reason behind the two questions Jiang Baimian asked Bai Chen. “Team Leader, are you trying to get clues from Mayor Tian?”

Jiang Baimian turned around and looked at Bai Chen. With a bright smile, she said, “There might not be any clues. Mayor Tian was definitely not old back then. However, we have to ask since we’ve encountered each other. Since you find Moat Town trustworthy, it will be the same for me. I trust you.”

Bai Chen’s eyes drooped slightly. After a moment of silence, she said, “Yes, it’s safe.”

“Let’s go!” Jiang Baimian shrunk back into the driver’s seat and started the jeep.

Under Bai Chen’s guidance, they entered the swamp and slowly navigated the maze of paths that were virtually indistinguishable.

They arrived at Moat Town before the sky turned completely gloomy.

This time, under Tian Erhe’s orders, the town guards didn’t request them to turn in their weapons. They only led them to the right after they entered before getting them to park outside a wooden shed around the corner.

“You can sleep in the shed tonight. As for the car, it can handle getting drenched,” Tian Erhe explained briefly. “Don’t set up a bonfire. I’ll get someone to bring a stove over for you and give you some charcoal as a gift for this transaction. Our people will patrol and be on guard. I trust you understand why.”

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong were curiously sizing up the interior of Moat Town. Jiang Baimian was not surprised and smiled at Tian Erhe. “Understood! Mayor, I wonder if I can invite you for dinner?”

As she spoke, she took out a can of braised beef and a yellowish-black leaf cigarette that she had prepared beforehand.

Tian Erhe’s eyes widened as the wrinkles on his face unfolded one after another. “That’s good stuff! Why? What’s the matter? What else do you want to exchange for?”

Jiang Baimian smiled. “I want to hear stories about the Old World. As you know, knowledge equals wealth.”

“Deal!” Tian Erhe smiled very happily. He quickly turned his head and ordered the guard beside him, “Doggy, quick, bring my stove over! Hurry!”

The guard named Dog didn’t dare grumble. He quickly ran to the three buildings.

At this moment, the sky became darker and darker. The people working in the fields behind Moat Town returned one after another, as did the hunting teams closest to them.

The small town became lively, and pairs of curious eyes looked towards the corner where the jeep was parked.

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