Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 41: Plan

Chapter 41: Plan

Jiang Baimian seemed to be considering this problem. She smiled and put on a chill front. “It’s nothing too difficult. How about this? I’ll wear the exoskeleton and use its comprehensive warning system and my own acuity toward electric signals to give Jingfa a surprise.

“If we take him by surprise, we might be able to injure him seriously.”

“He’s an Awakened.” Shang Jianyao pointed out the problem.

Jiang Baimian chuckled. “I’m not stupid. I’ve already suffered a setback, so how can I not consider such factors? I’ll try my best to maintain a distance of more than 50 meters. This should exceed the limits of Jingfa’s Hungry Ghost Realm. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have used the ability only after he pounced from the tree. At this distance, my hit rate isn’t low, even if I’m using a grenade launcher.”

Shang Jianyao and the others pondered for a moment before accepting Jiang Baimian’s proposal. However, Bai Chen quickly raised another question. “Who will drive after you swap seats with Shang Jianyao? Who can guarantee that they can avoid Jingfa’s long-range attacks in advance?”

Jiang Baimian hissed. “That’s indeed a problem. I’ll think of a solution...”

Shang Jianyao fell silent for two seconds before taking the initiative to say, “Let me do it.”

Jiang Baimian considered this suggestion and muttered to herself, “If you are the one doing it, the plan needs to be changed. Compared to Jingfa, you have virtually zero experience. If I were to assign the task of surprising and seriously injuring Jingfa to you, I’m worried that it will put a great burden on you and stress you out. It will result in you making mistakes in judgment and making mistakes at critical moments.

“Oh... How about this? Since Jingfa wants to play hide and seek with you, lead him far away. We will take this opportunity to drive the car to a place where people often come and go in the Blackmarsh Wilderness. There are many vehicle marks and footprints there. It can effectively hide our tracks, preventing Jingfa from finding us or catching up to us.

“Don’t speak... This raises another problem. You definitely won’t be able to find us after you shake off Jingfa’s tail. That distance is definitely beyond the walkie-talkie’s effective range. Let me think. Hmm... Got it. Let’s rendezvous at a relatively famous spot in the wilderness.

“Bai Chen, is there any landmark nearby?”

Bai Chen observed her surroundings and looked at the sky. “The only landmark nearby is the steelworks factory ruins. But if we are heading for places where people often come and go, we will be driving straight toward Yuelu Station based on the direction we are heading in.”

“Yuelu Station?” Jiang Baimian frowned slightly. “How long will it take?”

“At this speed, it will take about a day and a half to get there. However, we definitely won’t be able to drive this fast the entire way.” Bai Chen gave a rough estimation.

Previously, the Ruin Hunter named Harris Brown and his companion—who relied on bicycles to traverse the trails—had also taken more than a day to reach the steelworks factory ruins from north of Yuelu Station.

Normally, it was impossible to reach the steelworks factory quickly by car. However, Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and company had already been driving at full speed toward Yuelu Station for quite some time under Jingfa’s pursuit. Furthermore, the jeep was definitely faster than bicycles. The Old Task Force’s destination happened to be Yuelu Station, so they had no intention of continuing north.

Jiang Baimian nodded thoughtfully. “If we use Yuelu Station as a rendezvous point, we can also attempt to forge some traces that point north. It will definitely be for the best if we can successfully get rid of Jingfa.

“If not, we can use this opportunity to lure him north, getting him involved in the unknown and making him slam head-on with the dangerous-sounding abnormality. After that, he probably won’t be able to catch up to us, even if he has the ability to escape.”

As she spoke, Jiang Baimian’s already loud voice became louder as if her excitement of tricking Jingfa was getting to her.

Shang Jianyao listened quietly and raised his hand like he did in school. “I have a question.”

“What?” Jiang Baimian looked puzzled. She felt that she had made herself very clear.

Shang Jianyao spoke in a slightly depressed voice. “I don’t know Yuelu Station, nor do I know how to get there.”

“...” Jiang Baimian was momentarily speechless. After a few seconds, she mocked herself. “I forgot that you are a newbie who has come to the surface for the first time...

“This means that you’ve done well! If it weren’t for the fact that I have to focus on driving, I would give you a thumbs up!”

After forcefully explaining her slip up, Jiang Baimian sighed. “I heard that there were many usable satellites in the sky before the Old World was destroyed. This enabled people to determine their destination easily, allowing them to skillfully choose the most suitable route to their destination, even if they had never been there.

“Well... I’ll wear the exoskeleton. When the time comes, I’ll continue driving. I’ll get out of the car to lure Jingfa away after we avoid his first wave of attacks. Bai Chen will take the opportunity to climb into the driver’s seat and control the car.”

“What if Jingfa launches an attack while you are wearing the exoskeleton?” Bai Chen thought of a possible flaw in the plan.

Jiang Baimian was rendered speechless.

Bai Chen looked at the rearview mirror and wore her usual calm expression. “I’ll get off the car too. I’ll lead the way for Shang Jianyao. An exoskeleton device can only carry a short person like me. It shouldn’t affect his mobility and reaction speed much.”

“I’ve said it before. You’re not short but petite. Your height is considered above average for people in the wilderness. I’ve seen plenty of nomads who are less than 1.6 meters tall.” Jiang Baimian casually refuted Bai Chen before nodding. “I won’t harp on how dangerous this matter is. Since we are born in the Ashlands and have come to the surface, we are expected to take the corresponding risks when the time calls for it. If I’m required to take the risk, I won’t pass the responsibility to you.”

She exhaled and reminded Bai Chen, “Remember to bring some food.”

At this point, Jiang Baimian suddenly shut her mouth and even released her right hand—which was on the steering wheel. She raised her hand and pointed at the compressed biscuits and energy bars in the armrest compartment. She then pointed at her mouth and puffed her cheeks.

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong were rather confused. They were just about to ask when they saw Bai Chen turn her head and shoot a glance at them.

The two of them stopped talking at the same time.

Although Bai Chen didn’t understand what Jiang Baimian was trying to express, she could tell that her team leader was unwilling to discuss this topic any longer or even have a conversation.

At this moment, Jiang Baimian gripped the steering wheel again and said, “Shang Jianyao, you have to consider how to deal with Jingfa’s Hungry Ghost Realm. It will be troublesome if he stops playing hide and seek and suddenly approaches you. It will be bad if he narrows the gap to within the effective range of his powers.”

“I will properly...” At this point, Shang Jianyao paused for a moment before nodding heavily. “Think about it!”

After answering, he quickly said to Bai Chen, “There’s no time to lose. Let’s bring the food along and get ready to alight. You can also eat a little now. You might not be able to stop and have food for a long time after that.”

“Alright.” Bai Chen picked up the food in the armrest compartment and gave half of it to Shang Jianyao.

Shang Jianyao opened a bag of compressed biscuits and stuffed the food into his mouth.

Less than a minute later, Jiang Baimian suddenly jerked the steering wheel so that the jeep could avoid the laser fired by Jingfa.

Without needing to be instructed, Shang Jianyao opened the door and pounced out of the jeep. This time, he didn’t roll down using the momentum. He jumped with all his might instead.

With a sizzling sound, a laser penetrated the ground.

If Shang Jianyao had rolled down like before, he would have been hit by the laser. Even if the exoskeleton were armored in places, he would not have been spared.

Right on the heels of that, Shang Jianyao exerted strength with his knees, propping up the auxiliary joints. He jumped more than 20 meters away and rushed toward the distant Jingfa.

Like the previous few times, Jingfa immediately retreated, distanced himself, and circled around Shang Jianyao.

Jiang Baimian took the opportunity to slam on the brakes and slow down the car, allowing Bai Chen to roll from the passenger seat to the ground uninjured.

Amidst the rustling, Bai Chen closed the door behind her and used the momentum to roll before hiding behind a low shrub.

The jeep instantly accelerated again as it headed for the main road that people often passed by in the Blackmarsh Wilderness.

At this moment, Shang Jianyao—who had chased after Jingfa—returned to the vicinity. Covered in an iron-black metal skeleton and a small number of armor plates, he pointed at the powerpack behind him and signaled for Bai Chen to sit there.

Bai Chen jumped out of the bushes and used the exoskeleton’s auxiliary joint as a ‘ladder’ and a ‘handle.’ She climbed onto the powerpack in two swift movements. This made her much taller than Shang Jianyao even though she was sitting.

Compared to carrying Bai Chen with one hand, doing this allowed for minimal obstruction to the exoskeleton’s mobility and aiming.

Next, they had to chase after Jingfa and drive the mechanical monk further away. They had to play hide and seek with him and buy time for Jiang Baimian and Long Yuehong to escape Jingfa’s pursuit.

Shang Jianyao—who was wearing a metal helmet—ran two to three steps. Without anyone attacking him, he actually took the initiative to jump and roll.

Bai Chen shrunk her body and tightly gripped the metal bone on the exoskeleton’s shoulder to prevent herself from being thrown off. She knew that Shang Jianyao was trying to make sure they worked well together before Jingfa counterattacked.

After tumbling a few times, Shang Jianyao—who was wearing the exoskeleton—strode forward and chased after the mechanical monk in the red kasaya, thanks to the comprehensive warning system’s long-range vision.

The red light in Jingfa’s eyes flared as if he had become unstable due to him catching sight of a woman. His metal joints bent, and he bounced up, jumping to the side.

He did not go completely crazy. He continued carrying out his original strategy. After all, his hatred for women came from the psychological distortions caused by his body, not the price an Awakened had to pay. Hence, he had a certain level of self-control.

Upon seeing this, Shang Jianyao—who still had grenades hanging from him—didn’t return like before. He continued chasing after Jingfa in an attempt to close the distance.

After a few minutes of pursuit, Bai Chen—who was on the powerpack—suddenly bent down and said in a deep voice, “That’s not right. Jingfa is circling towards the jeep! He wants to bypass us and continue chasing after Team Leader and Long Yuehong!”

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