Embers Ad Infinitum - Chapter 228
Upon seeing this, not only Han Wanghuo, but even Jiang Baimian, Long Yuehong, and Bai Chen were stunned.
This was no longer a matter of whether they could keep up with Shang Jianyao’s train of thought. Instead, both parties seemed to be in two different worlds. Their conditions and expectations were completely different.
The next second, Jiang Baimian suddenly realized that following Shang Jianyao to walk away seemed to be the best choice.
After hearing Han Wanghuo’s confession, she was momentarily at a loss, unsure about what expression or words she should use.
An apology was unwarranted since the Old Task Force didn’t do anything excessive. They only came over to make a simple inquiry. If they just brushed it away with a laugh to smooth things over, it would appear insincere. Jiang Baimian felt that it was even worse if she skipped the topic and asked about something else. Han Wanghuo had said so much in such an agitated manner, but to have everyone treat it as if nothing had happened would simply be an insult.
If she really wanted to respond, Jiang Baimian felt mixed. She felt that nothing she said was comparable to Han Wanghuo’s life to date. After all, they were pure ‘humans.’ Whatever she said would appear to be cheap. Therefore, it was better to follow Shang Jianyao—who suddenly danced and left—so as to end the story with absurdity.
This was good for both parties.
As her thoughts raced, Jiang Baimian turned around and followed Shang Jianyao out of the building.
Long Yuehong and Bai Chen naturally chose to follow when they saw that their team leader had made a decision.
In just ten seconds, Han Wanghuo was left alone in the room.
Han Wanghuo looked at the kitchen with the remaining footprints, then at the empty living room. Finally, his gaze landed on the open door.
He was still a little confused, unsure if a group of visitors had really come and left after dancing in front of him.
He subconsciously pulled down his sleeve and covered the amber scales on his arm again.
At this moment, a mask suddenly popped out from the door; it was a graceful monk mask.
Jiang Baimian chuckled dryly and raised her index finger. “Final question.”
Just as she said that, a monkey mask with a furry face and a protruded mouth and a fat pig mask with nostrils that could stuff garlic in them appeared beside her.
In addition, Bai Chen—who was wearing the ferocious man mask—also walked back to the door.
Han Wanghuo felt mixed emotions. He didn’t know whether to be angry or smile as he replied, “Speak.”
Jiang Baimian cleared her throat and pretended to be nonchalant. “Did you betray information about Bishop Renato’s return to the Vigilance Church’s headquarters to the merfolk or mountain monsters?”
Han Wanghuo scoffed. “What’s the benefit of selling that information to them? To be welcomed back as a Subhuman?”
“I knew it wasn’t you!” Shang Jianyao said happily.
Although it was possible that Han Wanghuo was lying, Jiang Baimian felt that what he had previously said was likely true. In other words, he stood on the side of humans.
This wasn’t a confirmation based on an Awakened’s ability, but a judgment based on Han Wanghuo’s usual performance and the logic behind his words.
Jiang Baimian heaved a sigh of relief. “We still believe you, but there are things we still have to ask. Actually, we have a suspect, and it isn’t you.”
Han Wanghuo had been investigating this matter yesterday. He forgot his explosive emotions and asked, “Who do you have in mind?”
“DiMarco or someone who represents the Underground Ark,” Jiang Baimian replied truthfully.
Han Wanghuo nodded thoughtfully. “I’ve also considered it. The Subhuman invasion is a disaster for the Red River people and the Ashlanders, but not for the Underground Ark.”
“As long as the Subhumans can’t enter the Underground Ark and as long as the Underground Ark’s exchange of supplies to the outside world still takes a majority of this area’s smuggling business, there’s a high chance that the Subhumans will negotiate with them and eventually reach a certain cooperative agreement. After all, to merfolk and mountain monsters, these fellows won’t be an eyesore if they continue hiding underground,” Jiang Baimian echoed. “And to DiMarco in the Underground Ark, does it matter who he cooperates with?”
At this moment, Bai Chen interrupted. “The merfolk, mountain monsters, and the Underground Ark have a closer relationship than Redstone Collection’s current townsfolk and the Underground Ark.”
“That’s true. Their ancestors were the same as DiMarco’s ancestors; they were all natives of this city.” Jiang Baimian recalled the information and agreed.
Han Wanghuo added, “Due to the competition for the smuggling business in recent years, both the Red River people and the Ashlanders have an unpleasant relationship with the Underground Ark. It’s also normal for the Underground Ark to take the opportunity to shuffle the cards.”
At this point, Han Wanghuo suddenly laughed self-deprecatingly. “I don’t think I have to worry about this matter. I’ll leave the rest to you.”
Jiang Baimian immediately said, “Actually, you don’t have to think that way. Harbinger Song has always been very moderate with Subhumans. He doesn’t mind your background. Besides, he appreciates your previous performance and believes that you have truly become Redstone Collection’s sheriff. He has hinted to us that he will pretend not to know that you are a Subhuman as long as you have never betrayed Redstone Collection.
“You know Weiler; he’s very easy to talk to. As long as you don’t have a beautiful wife, he’s still trustworthy. Yes, only Harbinger Song, Weiler, and the four of us know for the time being. We will leave Redstone Collection in a few days, and we might not have a chance to return in this lifetime.”
Han Wanghuo fell silent. After a while, he slowly said, “I can’t get over myself. When my identity as a Subhuman is discovered, even if only a few people know about it, I will still feel like I’m walking outside naked. This is especially so when I try my best to appear brave, upright, and fair. The thought of someone here knowing that I’m a Subhuman makes me feel like a clown performing a comical act.”
He paused, and his voice deepened. “Besides, I can’t help but think about it. What if—what if Harbinger Song tells the new bishop about me one day? What if Weiler gets alcohol from a smuggler, gets drunk, and accidentally divulges this matter one day… In the end, my thoughts will definitely become: If neither Harbinger Song nor Weiler are in this world, there won’t be any accidents or risks.”
Han Wanghuo exhaled and chuckled. “Malicious thoughts can be a very terrifying thing. It’s better for me to distance myself from it as soon as possible.”
At this point, Jiang Baimian couldn’t persuade him any further. She could only say, “We’ll try our best to investigate the matter before you leave.”
Han Wanghuo nodded solemnly. “Since Harbinger Song has no ill intentions, there’s no need for me to be in a rush to flee. I can stay for a few more days and settle everything that needs to be handled. Heh heh, including the information regarding Mechanical Paradise that I agreed to help you gather.”
After bidding Han Wanghuo farewell and returning to the jeep, Long Yuehong looked back at the small building with the ajar door and sighed sincerely. “This is the first time I’ve learned that the identity of a ‘human’ is actually so important.”
Jiang Baimian tersely acknowledged his words. “Weren’t those Subhumans’ ancestors normal humans back then as well? But when disaster descended, mutations happened, and the Old World was destroyed. That changed their fate and their descendants’ fates forever. I quite admire Han Wanghuo; he didn’t succumb to such a fate, and he has been working hard to resist it.”
Shang Jianyao leaned against the window and watched the building grow further and further away. He suddenly said, “Should we rope him into the company?”
“We can give it a try.” Jiang Baimian didn’t object. “I’ll send a report back in the afternoon and see what the company says. We can’t take matters into our own hands; otherwise, it will be troublesome if we bring him to the door, only for him not to gain entry.”
Although there was no lack of Pangu Biology employees showing contempt or discrimination toward Subhumans, they at least didn’t go as far as having hatred for them.
Among the major factions in the Ashlands, this was considered very enlightened. Pangu Biology even took the initiative to take in Subhuman ethnic groups as vassals.
Furthermore, strictly speaking, most of Pangu Biology’s employees were no longer considered pure humans. In some factions that believed that genetic enhancement violated the laws of nature, the Chosen Ones had a similar status as Subhumans.
After settling this matter, Jiang Baimian suddenly smiled. “I discovered something interesting.”
“What?” Long Yuehong was very cooperative.
In the passenger seat, Jiang Baimian looked at the rearview mirror. “Han Wanghuo kept saying that he’s selfish and that all his beautiful performances were faked to make him look like a human.”
At this moment, Bai Chen—who was driving—calmly interrupted, “As a wilderness nomad and a Subhuman who’s not considered very strong, he’s definitely not a good person to be able to survive until he joined Redstone Collection.”
In that case, Bai Chen would also use the same evaluation on herself. At most, she would remove the word ‘sub.’
“I understand.” Jiang Baimian expressed her understanding. “Back then, he definitely couldn’t avoid using adjectives like ‘fierce’ and ‘cunning.’ But haven’t you realized it now? After pretending for so long—Uh, after being a Knight—his perspective on the problem has completely changed. Yes, I’m referring to the sentence ‘malicious thoughts can be a very terrifying thing. It’s better for me to distance myself from it as soon as possible.’”
Long Yuehong recalled and asked in surprise, “Did the act become real?”
“Something like that.” Jiang Baimian laughed. “This can practically be used as a research blueprint. It can be used to determine how one’s behavior changes one’s mind.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Shang Jianyao—who had taken off his mask—asked with a smile.
Jiang Baimian’s eyes darted around. “If it weren’t something good, I wouldn’t even consider reporting to the company and asking if I could obtain a spot for further observation.”
At this point, she turned her head and looked at Bai Chen. “Little Bai, how did you come into contact with the company back then?”
Bai Chen deliberated for a moment. “I-I applied for a job…”
“Huh?” Jiang Baimian was shocked.
Shang Jianyao then excitedly imagined the scene back then. “The company set up a stall on Weed City’s streets and raised a banner with the words ‘Pangu Biology Recruitment’ written on it?”
Jiang Baimian wanted to curse at the ridiculous scene, but she was too embarrassed to say anything because she had similar thoughts.
Bai Chen shook her head and said, “I joined a Ruin Hunter team, hoping to take on missions that needed the numbers. Later, after completing a few missions, the leader came to me and asked if I was willing to join Pangu Biology.
“After a preliminary inspection and entering the underground building, I learned that a Ruin Hunter I knew had recommended me to the company and said that I knew a lot about the Blackmarsh Wilderness. The requirements for the Ruin Hunter team’s search for new members were tailored for me.”
Jiang Baimian nodded. “I see. I thought you encountered a team that was carrying out a mission for the company. No discord, no concord.”
As they spoke, their jeep drove at an adequate speed toward the Vigilance Cathedral north of the city ruin.