Chapter 333: Meeting in the City (Part 2/3)
It was now a quarter after nine in the morning. The second round of morning classes at Acumen College had already begun, and the students in the area were more or less in class. The students were stuck on campus as their energy sapped away. The streets of the large activity area were more desolate than usual, with only the occasional car flying past on the low altitude magnetic rails extending off into the distance.
The Pingjiang District of Acumen College could compete for the throne of having the average lowest building heights within Xia City. There was the super-tall building complex Cloud City Water Village in the center, but this made the surroundings appear even shorter and flatter.
The crow flapped its wings, and it skillfully made its way through the gaps between buildings. It soon locked onto the entrance to an underground parking lot. It took advantage of a pedestrian's lack of attentiveness, and it flew in, practically sticking to the ceiling. It spiraled left and right as it flew in, and soon it reached the underground third floor. It found its final target in the middle of several hundred parked cars.
Amidst the sound of the fluttering of flapping wings, the crow dropped onto the rooftop of a common SUV. It knocked with its jet black talons, and the sunroof opened up to swallow the bird inside.
The inside of the car was filled with the fragrance of beef. In the driver's seat, a thick, muscular man held a bag of roasted meat fresh out of the oven. He ate using his hands, stuffing the pieces of meat into his mouth. The massive crow entered the car. When it collected its wings, it smacked the man's skull. The man didn't even raise his head. He was engrossed in eating.
The man's skin flushed red, something that was commonly seen among Caucasians. However, the man was Asian, so this gave off a feeling of abnormality. A mass of a beard like that of an artist's grew beneath the man's chin. It was fixed to his face, making him appear rather boorish.
The crow looked at this fellow inquisitively. Then it stood up in the shotgun seat, its claws hooking on to the seat. It stood quite steadily. Its enormous body exceeded seventy centimeters in height. As it stood in the front seat, it was no different in height from a normal person sitting down.
After swallowing the chunk of meat down his throat, the man turned to look at the crow. He locked gazes with the crow's pitch-black pupils and went, "Oh.” He rummaged around in the car with an extended hand and found a box. He tilted his bag of food, looking like he was about to dump the contents into the box.
"Did you eat yet? I'll give you some if you're hungry."
Yep, the man must be of the same trade. Otherwise, why would he treat a crow this way?
This enormous crow was none other than Luo Nan's pet. It was also Luo Nan's earliest 'believer'—Ink. Right now, Ink shared its sight with Luo Nan. Luo Nan could even control Ink, and he had Ink shake its head.
"Not going to eat? Well, forget it." The man crammed another chunk of meat into his mouth and chewed viciously. Then, he picked up a rubber band-shaped object from the control console and played with it using his fingers, revealing its toughness and elasticity. It shown with a luster of mauve. It was utterly eye-catching.
"Lift your leg."
Luo Nan was very cooperative as he gave the order to Ink. Ink hopped and lifted a claw askew in the air.
The man used two fingers to pull the rubber band open and put it on Ink's lower leg. The band immediately bound back, and the band wouldn't fall since talons were in the way. Ink's lower leg was now lined with a purplish red circle. It was really eye-catching.
Luo Nan felt Ink's sensations and knew that the band didn't have much influence, if any.
The man's voice came out indistinctly as he ate meat, "This little thing is specially made. It's a communications device, very easy to use. It's quite suitable for you mental-focused folks. You'll know once you try it."
He had bound a communications device on Ink's leg?
Luo Nan infused the object with his mental power. No reaction. Then he subtly interfered with the material plane, immediately stirring a key mechanism. The rubber band trembled slightly, sending out the corresponding signal.
There wasn't any sound in the car, but the middle-aged man in the driver's seat tapped his earlobe. "I can hear you."
So that was how to use it. It was indeed very convenient and effortless. Luo Nan reckoned that he could have achieved the same result of external communication by relying on his previous interference power, which lacked his understanding in the coupling technique and merely allowed him to blow scraps of paper.
Luo Nan only had a single question right now, and he used the communications rubber band to ask, "Isn't this a bit roundabout? We can just use the HexaEar."
Luo Nan still remembered that the last time he and Crag Burst mobilized together, the two communicated unhindered on the Psychic Wave Network using the HexaEar. They also seamlessly accessed the large operation of the Society. There wasn't a need to start a completely new channel of communications, right?
"That's you guys' communications network. My connections are insufficient. Besides, your partner hasn't entered the Society either. So that's why."
"Partner? Then you…. What's your name, sir?"
"My last name is Jìn."
"Fourth tone. The Jìn(靳) from putting together Gé(革) and Jīn(斤). You can just call me Old Jin. In any case, I'm a driver."
Luo Nan felt that this man was a bit moody. Perhaps his situation was similar to Worker Zhai's. They were people within the circle, but they weren't Awakened. They harbored some emotions of jealousy, and this was very normal. In any case, the Hidden Indigo Firm where Zhang Yingying works and the Martial Empress is reportedly the boss of had hired this man; he was an employee. Luo Nan needn't be worried about related psychological constructs.
These theatrics set up by Zhang Yingying made Luo Nan hide himself in the background. He attached his soul to his crow for some scouting. There was nothing that could be criticized from the aspect of safety. But in the end, he was still pulling the wool over people's eyes in a situation where cooperation was needed.
Luo Nan originally thought that the muscular old driver in front of him was to be his future partner for some time. However, it seemed that his partner was some other person?
The window rapped with noise during his pondering. Old Jin unlocked the doors, and someone opened a back door to sit in the back row. She wore a wide-brimmed hat, while shadow obstructed half of her face. She looked quite mysterious. She leaned back after sitting down. The movements of her limbs were rather lax. "Old Jin, my partner—oh, a rook with a height of seventy centimeters. A giant."
The one in the back had swept her gaze onto Ink riding shotgun, and she immediately let out an exclamation of admiration.
A normal rook would have a height of around fifty centimeters at maturity. Ink's body far exceeded that. Such information could be easily found on the Internet, but this person was able to distinguish the species of crow with a glance. She understood the pertinent field of knowledge through and through. She ought to be an enthusiast or a professional.
The person took off her wide-brimmed hat as she spoke. Her black hair dropped down like a waterfall, contouring a bright and beautiful face full of vitality. Her face seemed to light up the dim car.
Yes, it was a woman. She looked young, around twenty years old. Her skin was the healthy color of olive, but her skin tone wasn't dark. Instead, her skin shone with the bright luster of life. Capturing the description accurately, her skin was filled with collagen, expressing an abundance of vitality.
She casually bound her hair into a ponytail. Luo Nan could see that she was quite tall. She just straightened her back, and her head nearly touched the roof of the car. Her form-fitting hunting clothes stretched tight during this, causing her figure to appear all the more curvaceous.
"Old Jin, I'm not late, right?"
"Depends on how fast the car goes." Old Jin made a simple reply, then poured the rest of the roasted beef into his mouth. His cheeks bulged as he chewed viciously. He knocked against the control console, and the car started up in AI mode to speed out of the underground parking lot.
Luo Nan was stupefied at such a bold eating style. Then, the beauty sitting in the back reached out with a hand, and Luo Nan subconsciously got the feeling that she wanted to shake hands in greeting. He was about to order Ink to extend a wing in response, but the beauty had already tapped Ink on the head. Then she started rubbing Ink's head.
"This crow's not bad. Oh, or should I say spirit bird, familiar, or servant? Which one sounds better?"
"Peony also carries a communications device. You two can talk directly." Old Jin's voice was hard to make out, but he gave Luo Nan an introduction.
"Peony?" Luo Nan stirred the rubber band to give it a try.
"Hi. Mr. Crow, hello."
"Hello to you too. In any case, Miss Peony, it would be better if you could stop pressing against Ink's skull."
"This giant's name is Ink? That's easy to remember. It will be easier to call out later…. Also, don't add a 'Miss'. Peony is my codename. You can just call me by it."
"Then you can just call me Crow."
According to what Zhang Yingying said, everyone participating in the operation didn't know his true identity, and this included his partner. This was, of course, another safety measure, one that Luo Nan accepted.
Peony laughed. She had very beautiful eyes and very long eyelashes. The skin under her eyes was very youthful and plump, the color of which was very bright and full of moisture. Her eyes curved into exquisite moon-like arcs when she laughed. It was very attractive.
"Sure thing. I'll leave the 'Mr.’ to Ink. Mr. Ink, that has quite the ring to it."
"Caw!" Hearing people say its name over and over, Ink inexplicably awakened with self-awareness. It opened its mouth to voice out in a sound that was inevitably hoarse and unpleasant to the ears.
"So he agrees, right?"
By now, the ordinary SUV they rode in already cut its way into the high-speed magnetic rails. The driving route would have them spiral into the sky from Cloud City Water Village.
As the car changed lanes, the crow glanced at the skyscrapers reaching through the skies far in the distance. It paid particular attention to Ocean Sky Cloud City right in front.
It couldn't see the fine details of the building, but starting a week ago, waves and waves of 'tourists' displayed special interest over the viewing platform of the 142nd floor. They would stay for half a day, or even a full day, each visit. They didn't just use the viewing scopes atop the platform, they even brought their own equipment to look with delight and joy.
These 'tourists' pair off quite nicely with some 'construction workers' at Gear. A lot of different types of data and information came back and forth between them. It could be said the Gear was studied meticulously and thoroughly from the inside out.
It was very interesting. From current intelligence, it seemed that the origins of these people were quite complicated. At least four or five batches of them were from investors. There were conflicts between them, and there was also cooperation. Each of them showed off their schemes, playing with extreme delight.
But no matter how openly they fought and how covertly they maneuvered, these people's target was clear. They were all observing and surmising: Were there deeper secrets to the building that was Gear? Could they publish something out of them?
So Luo Nan understood that although Gear appeared to be peaceful, it had already sunk into a torrential undercurrent. And it was falling deeper and deeper.
The reason for which was still unknown.
Ah, the stress!
The car remained silent like this the entire way, and they arrived at a different underground parking lot fifteen minutes later. It should belong to some business hotel downtown. This area was linked to the recycling stratum. Thick walls could be seen at one side as the car made its way down. There were decadent and crazed figures of people wandering around beyond the walls.
It was impossible for sight to penetrate the body of the car and the thick walls, but a thirty meter radius of area was all within the scope of Ink's perception. This area turned into a meticulous scene, and the scene was projected into Luo Nan's mind, located several kilometers away.
Using pure observation, mental power could penetrate through walls regardless of it coming from Luo Nan himself or his believers. Nothing couldn't be reached. The only thing that was restrictive was the finite range that could be covered.
A radius of thirty meters. This was the limit of Ink's natural perception. However, separated by space, Luo Nan could also use various methods of strengthening to expand the range substantially, though temporarily.
Luo Nan compared this with other information, and he felt that this ability was quite sufficient.
The car accurately parked in the middle of a parking spot, and just ahead was an elevator. Old Jin smacked his lips. He had eaten all the beef completely clean.
"Well, time to get out. What happens next has nothing to do with me."