Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 38: Price

Chapter 38: Price

At the steelworks factory’s door, Long Yuehong held the walkie-talkie and answered Jiang Baimian’s question. “Jingfa! He said his name is Jingfa!”

The person on the other end of the walkie-talkie fell silent for two seconds. Sounds of static transmitted across the airwaves. Jiang Baimian then anxiously said, “Retreat! On the double!”

As soon as she finished speaking, she switched off the walkie-talkie.

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong didn’t really understand why their team leader’s reaction was so dramatic. She didn’t even find out what had happened to the two of them after they encountered Jingfa and if they had been determined to be ‘Fated.’ She just ordered them to retreat immediately.

Although they were confused, the two of them had no intention of violating Jiang Baimian’s decision. On the one hand, they followed the Security Department’s standard operating procedures when they were out in the field and trusted their team leader’s experience and judgment. On the other hand, they were also filled with fear for the mechanical monk, who was full of strange theories.

The two of them didn’t say anything. They bent their backs slightly and widened their strides while holding their assault rifles, sprinting out of the steelworks factory.

With their genetically enhanced bodies and the fact that they had been training for a long time, it was not difficult for them to maintain their high-pace run for quite some time. It was not until they left the derelict cement road and were about to make a turn towards the jeep’s hidden spot that they slowed down and took a few breaths.

The jeep had already begun driving over in an attempt to pick them up. This time, Bai Chen was in the driver’s seat again.

Bang! Bang!

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong got into the backseat through their respective doors and slammed the doors behind them.

Huff. Huff.

The two of them exhaled heavily.

“Drive at full speed,” Jiang Baimian ordered Bai Chen. She turned her head and asked Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong, “How far were you from Jingfa when you used the walkie-talkie?”

Long Yuehong panted as he replied, “Very far. We were at the steelworks factory. Huff. Over at the door. Jingfa should have—huff—been behind the chimney by then. We weren’t able to see each other any longer.”

He didn’t see Jingfa anywhere. He only estimated Jingfa’s location based on the direction, approximate speed, and time from when the two parties separated. It could be said to be very inaccurate and could only be used as a reference.

Jiang Baimian clearly had a certain level of understanding of the steelwork factory ruins. She recalled the layout and said, “Speaking at that distance isn’t too safe... A mechanical monk’s auditory system is very strong. It can capture sound from relatively far away.

“Bai Chen, don’t worry about the electricity or overturning the car. Stay at the current speed.”

It was just then that Long Yuehong noticed that his team leader had already picked up the somewhat heavy grenade launcher and replaced it with a more explosive grenade.

“Team Leader, Jingfa said that we aren’t fated with the Monks Conclave. There’s no need to be so nervous.” He quickly revealed the key information to prevent Jiang Baimian from overreacting.

Jiang Baimian looked at the rearview mirror and shook her head indiscernibly. “That’s not the point. All of you should have learned that there are certain flaws in Eternal technology. All mechanical monks have certain mental problems.

“These problems are different for all of them. According to the information the company has gathered, Jingfa—yes, he’s one of the more active mechanical monks in the Ashlands. His problem is that he mainly...” Jiang Baimian paused before saying, “Hates women!”

“Huh?” Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong understood the meaning of her words, but they weren’t sure what they meant or how serious it was.

Jiang Baimian glanced at Bai Chen and said, “As long as Jingfa encounters women or even hears a woman’s voice, he will go crazy and indiscriminately attack everyone around him. Also, from the remains of certain corpses, we have learned that he has rapist tendencies.”

“He’s just a robot...” Long Yuehong couldn’t imagine it.

Jiang Baimian exhaled. “That’s why it’s so scary... Oh right, which one of you will use the exoskeleton?”

Without waiting for Shang Jianyao’s and Long Yuehong’s response, Jiang Baimian’s already serious expression became even more serious. “Quiet.”

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong instantly understood something. They turned their heads to look out the window, searching for the robot monk in the red kasaya. However, they could only see sparsely forested land, soggy gray soil, a black swamp, and rocks of different sizes. Apart from that, there was nothing.

At this moment, many potholes and rocks appeared in front of them. Bai Chen had to slow down the jeep. If the car really overturned, it would only exacerbate the problem.

Jiang Baimian’s left hand—which was holding the grenade launcher—inexplicably slid down and silently patted Bai Chen’s right elbow.

Bai Chen did not turn her head. As she turned the steering wheel to the left, she reduced the speed of the car to a crawl, almost returning to normal speeds.

During the entire process, the windows on both sides of the jeep were open.

A black figure—wearing a tattered monk robe and a red kasaya—suddenly jumped down from the tree beside the road and went straight for Jiang Baimian’s passenger seat. It was the mechanical monk, Jingfa!

However, Jiang Baimian seemed to have foreseen this already. She had already raised the grenade launcher and aimed it at the Eternal.

This series of actions made it appear as though Jingfa had taken the initiative to pounce at the grenade launcher.

The grenade—which was filled with powerful explosives—was strong enough to cause damage to the mechanical monk.

Just as Jiang Baimian squeezed her finger and was about to pull the trigger, the red glow on Jingfa’s metal face suddenly flickered.

Jiang Baimian immediately saw many people. The figures were slightly illusory as they laid on the ground around her. They crazily grabbed soil, rocks, and leaves and stuffed them into their mouths.

Their stomachs bulged as if they would burst from eating anything at any moment. However, they didn’t feel satiated at all; they ate whatever they saw.

Jiang Baimian seemed to have become one of these people. She didn’t have the physiological feeling of hunger, but she felt that she should be very hungry. She felt like she was starving and had to eat something.

This urge, this self-awareness, made Jiang Baimian unable to control herself. She immediately relaxed her right index finger—which was pressing on the trigger—and threw the grenade launcher back into her lap. She then took out a bag of compressed biscuits and crazily tore open the packaging before stuffing the food into her mouth.

During this process, she didn’t even have the time to drink water. Despite choking to the point that her eyes rolled back slightly, she couldn’t help but continue swallowing.

She was not the only one. Bai Chen stepped on the brakes and crazily ate an energy bar. Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong also took out their food and irrationally enjoyed a late dinner.

They couldn’t be bothered that an infamous and dangerous enemy was lunging towards them.

The robot monk, Jingfa, landed beside the jeep with a click.

He opened the passenger seat door with his left hand and aimed his right palm at Jiang Baimian and Bai Chen, which also had Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong within the blasting range.

It was only at this moment that Jiang Baimian broke free from the hunger illusion she experienced.

The slightly illusory, pregnant figures on the ground around her had already disappeared.

Almost at the same time, Shang Jianyao leaned forward slightly and lowered his head.

Jingfa paused for two seconds. He did not use any laser weapons or fire to purify the four of them. The red light in his eyes flickered a few times before he said, “Do you think this Penniless Monk wants to send all of you off? This Penniless Monk won’t do as you wish. This Penniless Monk will first take you deep into the swamp and find a place where no one will disturb you so that you can enjoy yourselves.”

As he spoke, he only paid attention to Jiang Baimian and Bai Chen.

Jiang Baimian’s expression changed slightly, but she didn’t respond. She seemed to be considering how she could get themselves out of this conundrum.

At this moment, Shang Jianyao straightened his body and asked in confirmation, “Are you an Awakened?”

“Yes.” Even though they were enemies, and he would go crazy from seeing women, Jingfa seemed to maintain the principle that a monk shouldn’t lie.

He examined Shang Jiangyao’s seat. He then walked to the backseat and opened the door as he continued aiming the laser weapon and flamethrower in his right hand at Jiang Baimian and Bai Chen.

“This Penniless Monk will sit in the middle,” said Jingfa coldly and emotionlessly.

This way, he could monitor everyone in the car and allow the jeep to drive to his destination smoothly.

Shang Jianyao quickly alighted from the jeep and made room for Jingfa as if the latter was not an enemy.

Jingfa did not let down his guard. He boldly sat in the middle of the back row.

Shang Jianyao sat to the side as if he was thinking about something. “Hating women is your flaw?” Shang Jianyao did not use the word ‘price.’ Instead, he used the term ‘flaw,’ which ordinary people often used to describe mechanical monks.

Jingfa didn’t lie and replied truthfully, “No, the price I pay is increased lust. I originally imagined that I could obtain peace and be unaffected after I transmitted my consciousness to the bionic robot chip. However, that wasn’t the case.”

Shang Jianyao looked enlightened. “I thought you couldn’t lie.”

“Not lying is a precept of the conclave.” Jingfa answered all of Shang Jianyao’s questions. “Either way, all of you will be liberated. It doesn’t matter if you know.”

Shang Jianyao closed the jeep’s door and curiously asked, “What was that ability?”

“Hungry Ghost Realm of the Six Realms of Rebirth and Existence—Samsara.” Jingfa’s red eyes looked at Bai Chen. “Drive; keep going straight.”

Upon hearing Shang Jianyao and Jingfa’s conversation, Long Yuehong and Bai Chen felt an indescribable sense of absurdity.

The mechanical monk clearly held them hostage and wanted to kill them somewhere, but Shang Jianyao and Jingfa were acting like good friends that had not met in years.

Just as Bai Chen stepped on the accelerator, Jiang Baimian laughed. “Haha, I understand! You hate women because your current body makes it impossible for you to satisfy yourself. Your attempt to escape by uploading your consciousness ended up magnifying your flaws infinitely! Your mental state has already warped. Only physical violence can provide you with a certain level of relief! Haha, doesn’t your conclave preach purity? Yet, a monk like you has such a tainted heart!”

Jingfa—who was forcefully suppressing his fluctuating consciousness—immediately lost control. His eyes lit up as his body leaned forward. He was just about to pounce on Jiang Baimian—who was in the passenger seat—and launch an attack at her.

Jiang Baimian did not dodge. Instead, she took the initiative to meet him. She flicked her left arm and gripped Jingfa’s black metal neck. Her left index finger extended as if she was prepared. With a slightly silvery-white electric current, Jiang Baimian inserted something into a hole in the robot monk’s neck.

It was a ‘tool’ attached to the electric eel-like biomechanical limb. It had components that could connect chips, circuits, and sensors. It could also be used to read the data of computer-related objects and crack certain firewalls!

Apart from having a human consciousness, the mechanical monk was essentially an artificial intelligence robot.

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