Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 46: Not Simple

Chapter 46: Not Simple

Upon hearing Jiang Baimian’s answer, the middle-aged man with long black hair and loose black robes found a seat by the bonfire and casually sat down, appearing very carefree.

The woman with blond hair and blue eyes—who was wearing a grayish-blue robe—casually sat down as well. She didn’t seem worried that Shang Jianyao and the others would harbor any ill intentions.

This confidence and attitude made Jiang Baimian unable to stop herself from laughing. “Do we look that harmless?”

Similar thoughts flashed across Bai Chen, Shang Jianyao, and Long Yuehong’s minds at the same time—These two people are clearly very confident!

“Wasn’t a city ruin recently found? Everyone has something to look forward to, so why would anyone have the time to kill each other?” The middle-aged man stretched out his hands and warmed them by the bonfire. “How should I address you?”

Jiang Baimian returned to her original seat and frankly replied, “Jiang Baimian. We are from a particular faction and have come to the Blackmarsh Wilderness to complete certain missions.”

She took the initiative to reveal a little information on her identity, but she didn’t reveal it completely. She hoped to make the other party have some qualms. It was best if everyone spent the night in harmony and parted ways the next day.

The reason she agreed to let the two come to the bonfire to communicate was mainly that Shang Jianyao’s Awakened abilities had limited range. It was definitely better to communicate at close range than at long range.

Even if the other party also had an Awakened, their main target would definitely be Jiang Baimian, who acted like a leader. This would then give Shang Jianyao a chance. Even if the other party could use a long-range ability similar to the Hungry Ghost Realm, Shang Jianyao—who would already be prepared—could still counterattack at this distance and carry out the corresponding influence.

“I can tell.” The middle-aged man had no doubts about Jiang Baimian’s identity. “Be it your looks, size, skin, clothes, or weapons, you don’t look like wilderness nomads. Haha, only that young lady there makes me doubt myself.”

He was referring to Bai Chen, who was roasting the rabbit.

Jiang Baimian was just about to reply with ‘We’re not young anymore’ when the middle-aged man continued speaking.

“My name is Du Heng. I’m a historian and an antiquarian. I’m ashamed to say this, but I’ve always been a rookie, even though I’ve been in the Hunter’s Guild for more than 20 years. I’ve only been promoted to Official Hunter recently. Sigh, I didn’t take on many assignments. I mostly used their resources and news to complete my research. See? I am here the moment a city ruin—which has never been explored—is discovered.”

He maintained a smile as he spoke, appearing very amiable. However, his answer made Jiang Baimian, Shang Jianyao, and company even more vigilant. They did not dare underestimate him.

An antiquarian and historian, who only seemed to have a pistol, actually dared to wander the Ashlands alone and explore a city ruin. Furthermore, he had lived until he was middle-aged—this in itself meant that he was definitely not simple.

The blond woman introduced herself. “My name is Galoran, a Daoist priest.”

Although she could speak the Ashlands language, some of her pronunciations were still a little odd. This made Shang Jianyao and the others feel that something wasn’t right.

With a faint smile, Galoran continued, “I came here because many people were walking this way. Hence, I came over to take a look.”

“How random...” Jiang Baimian bluntly gave an evaluation.

Galoran replied with a smile, “Otherwise? Ever since the Old World was destroyed, many people have understood one fact: Although we humans call ourselves advanced creatures, we are like falling leaves in a gale when facing the world and fate...”

As she spoke, she pointed at the sparse trees in the distance. “I can only dance amidst the wind, unable to determine where I will land. Since I can’t resist the machinations of fate, I might as well give up on such thoughts. I’ll go where the wind takes me and change the way I view things. I’ll experience the various sights along the way and search for the true way’s existence through them. Then, I’ll use this opportunity to distinguish reality and illusion and completely escape my shackles in the hopes of attaining eternal life.

“As the Daoist saying goes: humanity is governed by earth, and earth is governed by heaven; heaven is governed by Dao, and Dao is governed by nature’s way.”

Long Yuehong and the others were a little stunned when they saw such a beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed woman speaking with confidence and composure in front of them.

They could understand every word that came out of the other party’s mouth, but they were still confused when the words came together as a whole.

Finally, they could only conclude that her philosophy in life was: Adapt herself to the circumstances.

Jiang Baimian nodded seriously. “I think I understand.”

Du Heng thoughtfully glanced at Galoran and pointed at the rabbit. “I saw two hares when I came over. This means that there aren’t too few prey here. Why did you only capture one? There are so many people here...”

Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong’s faces flushed red when they heard this question.

Jiang Baimian sized them up from the corner of her eye and shook her head with a chuckle. “Heaven has the virtue of protecting life.”

Du Heng revealed a look of enlightenment. “Are you Monks Conclave’s parishioners, or are you from the Crystal Consciousness?”

“No.” Jiang Baimian casually explained, “We happened to encounter a mechanical monk from the Monks Conclave and had a conflict with him. We had a big battle.”

Du Heng’s mouth dropped open as he thought for a moment. “Does that monk wear a red kasaya?”

“Yes.” Jiang Baimian didn’t hide the truth.

Du Heng and Galoran sized up the four-man team again.

The former retracted his gaze and smiled. “You guys are pretty good. As far as I know, the probability of a Monks Conclave mechanic monk that wears a red kasaya being an Awakened isn’t too low.”

Galoran nodded in response, indicating that she had heard of similar talk.

“He is one.” Jiang Baimian confirmed their guess. She looked around, not letting her gaze linger on anyone. Then she asked with a smile, “The two of you seem to have a deep understanding of the Awakened?”

Since Du Heng had uttered ‘Isn’t it good for everyone to have a chat?’ and Galoran adapted to her situation, Jiang Baimian didn’t stand on ceremony. She began to ask for information that was definitely rare or unknown to ordinary people.

If the other party didn’t answer, she definitely wouldn’t force him. If they did, she would consider sharing a rabbit leg with them. After all, the four of them had no intention of eating their fill with such small prey. The main course still consisted of energy bars and compressed biscuits. If that really didn’t do the trick, they still had a few more cans of food.

Du Heng stroked his beard. “Gosh, that stumps me.”

As he spoke, he smiled broadly.

Before the blond female Daoist—Galoran—could speak, Du Heng smugly added, “However, I know several Awakened. They tell me that the Awakened are also seeking and searching for the New World in their minds. It’s no different to how everyone in the Ashlands is searching for the door to the New World in reality, hoping to stop starvation and the plague of diseases and abnormalities.

“Yes, the Monks Conclave calls the New World the Pure Lands.”

Shang Jianyao listened very seriously, seemingly coming to a realization.

At this moment, Galoran interrupted with a gentle expression. “There’s a chance that the Monks Conclave mechanical monks wearing red kasayas have already entered the Sea of Origins.”

Du Heng slapped his thigh and said, “That’s right, that’s right. The Sea of Origins! They mentioned this term.”

Jiang Baimian quietly listened and thoughtfully asked, “Where will one reach after crossing the Sea of Origins?”

“I don’t know,” Galoran replied calmly.

Du Heng smiled and didn’t answer, but he didn’t express his ignorance.

Jiang Baimian thought for two seconds before asking, “Then, where do we enter the Sea of Origins?”

Galoran looked at the crackling crimson bonfire and said, “Everyone addresses that place differently.”

At this moment, Du Heng interrupted with a smile. “The more common name is Star Cluster Hall.”

Shang Jianyao’s eyes flickered, but his expression did not change visibly.

“Is that so.” Jiang Baimian nodded slightly. “I’ve never come into contact with Awakened, so I don’t know much about them.”

With that said, she didn’t give Du Heng and Galoran a chance to speak. She turned to Bai Chen and asked, “How’s the roasting?”

“It’s almost done.” Bai Chen retracted the branch that skewered the rabbit.

“They are guests. Give some to the two of them,” Jiang Baimian instructed.

Bai Chen knew how rare the information they had just heard was, so she didn’t resist at all. After letting the roasted rabbit cool down, she tore off the rabbit’s two hind legs and handed them to Du Heng and Galoran.

Bai Chen had wandered the Ashlands for many years, but this was the first time she had heard of the Sea of Origins and Star Cluster Hall.

Du Heng didn’t stand on ceremony. He reached out to receive it, grabbed the tip of the femur, and ate it while hissing about how hot it was.

“Not bad; it’s roasted perfectly...” As he ate, he praised the food vaguely.

Galoran was much more cultured than him. She pinched the protruding bone—which was not too hot—and nibbled off the rabbit meat.

At the same time, Bai Chen divided the remaining roasted rabbit into four portions and placed them in their lunch boxes.

Shang Jianyao took a bite and felt that the meat was indeed very dry. However, as he chewed, he found it more fragrant than the meat dishes offered in the company.

Long Yuehong was in charge of guarding the surroundings, so all he could do was watch helplessly. He couldn’t enjoy the food immediately.

After finishing the tiny bit of rabbit meat, Jiang Baimian smiled when she saw Du Heng sucking his finger without any regard for his image. “Du... Sir, didn’t you say that you are a historian and that you are knowledgeable? Then, what do you know about the newly-discovered city ruin north of Yuelu Station? Do you know which city it corresponds to in the Old World?”

Du Heng took out a wrinkled handkerchief, wiped his hands, and chuckled. “I don’t know. Many of the Old World’s information was lost during its destruction, as well as during the Chaotic Era. This included many highly precise maps. However, I’m certain of one thing. There’s definitely something abnormal about the newly-discovered city ruin. It has great research value.”

“Why do you say that?” Jiang Baimian asked on behalf of Bai Chen, Shang Jianyao, and Long Yuehong.

Du Heng looked up at the northern sky. “When the Old World was destroyed, many people living in the towns and villages around the city survived. However, no one has ever mentioned or attempted to explore the city ruins. Yes, this information was obtained from Ruin Hunters who later discovered the ruins.”

Jiang Baimian and Bai Chen agreed with this point. Tian Erhe from Moat Town was so young back then, but he still yearned to return to the city to find his parents.

“Such details imply that the city ruins are definitely not simple.” Du Heng gave another conclusion.

Just as he said that, a hoarse and desolate howl suddenly sounded from the north. “Howl!”

In the quiet night, it was as if a nightmare had descended.

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