Embers Ad Infinitum - Chapter 566: Fate

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Chapter 566: Fate

In the evening, Jiang Baimian—who was typing away on the keyboard—glanced at the door from the corner of her eye and realized that Shang Jianyao and the others had already left the office.

She let out a long sigh of relief and stopped what she was doing. Following that, she took out a piece of paper, picked up a pen, and wrote according to her memories. “Go out, turn right, walk to the end, and take the elevator…

“Press button 349…

“After getting off the elevator and entering the square, turn left after seeing the flowers. Zone C, Room 12…”

Jiang Baimian quickly drew the map needed for her ‘battle back home.’ After repeatedly confirming that there were no errors, she packed up, picked up the map, and walked to the office door.

Jiang Baimian turned left when she stepped out the door.

She had just taken a step when she stopped and looked down at the map in her hand and the notations on it. Her gaze froze as the corners of her mouth twitched slightly. She had turned in the wrong direction! She had done so without realizing it!

The price of being directionally challenged is still quite terrifying… As Jiang Baimian’s eyes darted around, she took out the fountain pen in her pocket and added a sentence to the map: “Every time I turn a corner, it’s better to be slow than to rush it. Stop and think more for confirmation.”

She then chose the right direction and walked on according to the map.

495th floor, Zone C, Room 11.

After Long Yuehong got home, he realized that his mother, father, younger brother, and younger sister—Gu Hong, Long Dayong, Long Zhigu, and Long Aihong—each occupied a spot and were silent.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

Gu Hong sighed and asked, “In the past year or two, have there been a little too many people contracting the Heartless disease on our floor?”

This had happened several times with several succumbing to it!

“It’s still alright,” Long Yuehong consoled her.

Long Dayong looked at the door. “I heard many people say that it’s because we haven’t found the Poison Source on our floor that people are infected again and again.”

“It’s also possible that someone did something bad and brought bad luck to our floor.” Gu Hong mentioned a guess the middle-aged women had come up with during their chat.

Upon hearing this, Long Aihong blurted out, “Some people are suspecting that Bro and Brother Yao are the Poison Source and are contaminated. Ah…”

She suddenly realized that she had let her tongue slip. She quickly raised her hands and covered her mouth.

Long Yuehong was stunned. “What else?”

Long Aihong looked at her mother and then at her father. After that, she carefully said, “Some say that you are the source of bad luck. In any case, they mean that the rate of Heartless disease on our floor has clearly increased since you guys went out on missions. You definitely encountered something bad outside and brought it back to the company.”

This might be the Heartless virus or a corporealization of bad luck.

Upon seeing that he had already made his point, Long Zhigu clearly added indignantly, “They also gave an example. They said that Uncle Shen and Auntie Ren contracted the Heartless disease after your first mission. This time, it was Uncle Zhang after your return.”

Long Yuehong finally couldn’t help but retort, “But nobody contracted the Heartless disease when we returned from our second mission. We weren’t in the company when the Heartless disease erupted either.”

As he spoke, he actually felt a little guilty because Shen Du and Ren Jie’s Heartless disease was clearly related to Shang Jianyao to a certain extent. It was closer to someone silencing them.

“That’s right!” Long Aihong’s face lit up. “I’ll use this to refute them tomorrow!”

At this moment, Long Dayong glanced at the indignant Gu Hong and consoled his eldest son. “Don’t take it to heart. The main reason is that the Heartless disease has never disappeared. Over the generations, everyone can only pretend to ignore it. It’s very terrifying when it happens, so it’s inevitable that people will come up with all kinds of conspiracies. When new cases don’t appear in the future, they will quickly forget these matters.”

“I understand.” Long Yuehong tried his best to sit down. He then pretended to be cheerful and said, “We didn’t encounter just one or two Heartless on the surface. I didn’t see anyone infected either.”

Just as he said that, he suddenly realized that his parents, brother, and sister’s expressions had become a little strange.

Uh… It’s best not to mention that we had more contact with Heartless outside at a time like this to prevent everyone from thinking astray… Long Yuehong quickly understood what was wrong with his explanation.

622nd floor, Zone B, Room 59.

Bai Chen placed the laptop she had just received on the table by the window and switched it on.

For a D6 like her, she usually ate in the canteen. After lights out, she slept on time. The energy allocation was enough for her to be on the computer for two to three hours a day.

After drinking a mouthful of cold water, Bai Chen played a comedic show. Although she didn’t know many of the Old World’s jokes and wasn’t able to laugh sincerely, she felt very calm and relaxed just from hearing the laughter and the canned laughter. She felt indescribably happy.

Laughter echoed in the otherwise quiet room as Bai Chen stared at the computer screen without focus.

She stretched out her right hand after some time, pulled open the desk drawer, and took out a cracked, heavy component.

Bai Chen looked down at the component and gradually smiled as she muttered to herself, “I’ll listen to you this time and bravely forge forward. I won’t be held back by the past anymore…”

495th floor, Zone B, Room 196.

The Shang Jianyaos—who felt that they had mostly recovered from the mental trauma—entered the Mind Corridor again and came to Room 522.

With the previous two experiences, he familiarly took the safest route to a certain spot in the ruins. Along the way, apart from the few inevitable battles, there was only calmness.

Even the room owner—who wasn’t an Awakened back then—could deal with those battles and escape before the other Heartless rushed over. Shang Jianyao naturally dealt with them easily and didn’t even cause much of a commotion.

This also brought about a problem. Shang Jianyao realized that a large number of Heartless hadn’t gathered from all directions due to the lack of sound from one of the battles—unlike what the owner experienced. This resulted in several Heartless loitering along the originally safe route in a place where he shouldn’t encounter Heartless.

Is this a butterfly effect? By quickly finishing the fights, I end up keeping the Heartless—who should’ve moved over—in their places? Shang Jianyao muttered to himself.

He quickly came up with another question. “Since this scene is a manifestation of the room owner’s psychological trauma, how did he—who didn’t encounter a Heartless here—know that such a change would happen if he were careful?”

Shang Jianyao laughed. “It’s very simple. The rotten limbs of humans here imply that the Heartless were here not long ago. When the room owner saw this, he definitely thought that if it weren’t for the considerable commotion caused by the previous battle, there would definitely be another fierce battle now. This guess was memorized by his subconscious and became a hidden rule of this psychological trauma.”

Shang Jianyao—who had convinced himself not to stay any longer—continued along the room owner’s route.

Strangely enough, according to the previous pattern, the number of Heartless the room owner encountered decreased, but the quality increased. Toward the end, there were even Superior Heartless. However, Shang Jianyao didn’t encounter any powerful enemies after going past the limits of his previous exploration by shaking off the Superior Heartless.

He didn’t even see any ordinary Heartless again.

“Doesn’t this mean that there are more dangerous creatures in this area that prevent the Heartless from entering?” Shang Jianyao split into ten. The one who spoke was the timid but very careful one.

The Shang Jianyao wearing a deer-hunting hat with a pipe in his mouth nodded. “It might not be a creature.”

He indirectly agreed with the timid Shang Jianyao’s guess.

“What should we do now?” asked the Shang Jianyao wearing the caricature version of his childhood clothes.

The eager Shang Jianyao replied without hesitation, “Naturally, it’s to continue! Even the room owner survived while not being an Awakened, much less us.”

“Then, how do you know that the room owner didn’t encounter anything during this exploration and left behind terrifying latent dangers?” asked the timid Shang Jianyao in response.

“That’s right, that’s right.” Another Shang Jianyao echoed.

At this moment, the Shang Jianyao holding the small speaker asked curiously, “I’m wondering what will happen if one of us dies here after we split up. Will there be nine left in the end, with our personalities no longer intact, or will we still be able to recover to ten? However, everyone will suffer relatively serious mental problems? Do you want to give it a try?”

His suggestion only received one vote of approval; the other Shang Jianyaos objected.

After some discussion, the Shang Jianyaos returned to one. They carefully followed the room owner’s route and entered deep into the area.

As he walked, a seven-story building appeared in front of him.

This building looked a little old, and large patches of green plants draped the walls.

Shang Jianyao focused and realized that there was a signboard above the lobby entrance on the first floor. On it were the words: Iron Mountain City’s Second Food Company.

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