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Chapter 374: Looking for a Needle in a Haystack
Bosen opened a wrinkled paper bag and found a small piece of oatmeal bread and a thumb-sized piece of smoked meat covered in dust.
He was delighted and looked up at Jiang Baimian and Shang Jianyao. Upon seeing that they weren't paying attention to him, he quickly wiped the smoked meat and stuffed it into his mouth.
He ignored the complicated and unpleasant smell around him and nibbled at the small piece of oatmeal bread.
Perhaps he was afraid that the food would be s.n.a.t.c.hed away, so he wolfed down the food and quickly choked himself. However, he was an experienced scavenger. He skillfully removed a tin-white water bottle he had previously picked up and gulped down the liquid in it.
At this moment, Jiang Baimian and Shang Jianyao were searching through the pile of trash for possible clues.
The trash that had been bagged up and categorized was relatively pleasing to the eye; it could be efficiently examined. The trash that had been directly thrown into the bin with all kinds of trash mixed together formed a fermented, moist, and sticky environment. Some things had already rotted, and the smell struck them hard.
Upon hearing Bosen's drinking, Jiang Baimian—who was wearing a gas mask—turned around and looked at the scavenger.
He was in his forties. His eyes were blue, and his face was weathered by the elements. The light-yellow beard by his mouth was messy and stained with many crumbs and water droplets.
After swallowing the food that choked him, the scavenger raised his left hand and wiped his beard.
Jiang Baimian noticed that his hand trembled slightly unconsciously. After some thought, she took off one of her rubber gloves and took out a photo from her pocket. “Do you know such cigarettes?”
It was a photo of the Flagship cigarettes taken by Genava.
Bosen screwed on the cap of the water bottle and pointed at himself with his left hand. “Are you asking me?”
“Yes,” Jiang Baimian replied affirmatively. She was just about to say that she could pay him something when Bosen looked at the photo seriously and said, “These are Flagship cigarettes. Its filter is short and useless. It has almost no taste when smoked.”
Compared to the other cigarettes available in First City, Flagship cigarettes were known not only for their pungent smell and their similarity to rolled cigarettes but also for their short filter that didn't bring much utility.
“You've smoked this before?” Shang Jianyao asked curiously.
Perhaps it was because these two people hadn't s.n.a.t.c.hed his food and were considered people he could get along with peacefully, Bosen was no longer as vigilant as before. He smiled and said, “I occasionally find some cigarette b.u.t.ts in the trash room. There are all kinds of brands. As long as they aren't wet, I'll pick them up, find a fire, and light them up. I will take a few deep sucks and take it in. It would be an even better day if I could find some food and fill my stomach.”
Bosen had already realized that the two people in front of him likely had a different goal than him and that he wasn't competing with them.
Upon hearing that he had picked up cigarettes, Jiang Baimian's eyes lit up. She patiently asked, “You know all kinds of cigarettes?”
“I've smoked some in the past, and there are often discarded old newspapers in the trash room. Advertis.e.m.e.nts for all kinds of cigarettes are printed on them,” Bosen said proudly. “I can read!”
Jiang Baimian immediately asked, “Then, where did you pick up the Flagship cigarette b.u.t.ts?”
Bosen tried recalling. “Back when I went to the Green Olive Zone to sell some miscellaneous items, I picked some up when I was pa.s.sing by the port. I was somewhat looking forward to it, but...”
The buyer of the Flagship cigarette had only taken a few puffs before throwing it away. Coupled with the short filter design that didn't have any filtering effects for certain components, the residual taste was almost zero.
Jiang Baimian was a little disappointed and asked in confirmation, “You didn't pick up such a cigarette b.u.t.t in these few blocks?”
“No.” Bosen shook his head firmly.
Jiang Baimian thought for a moment. “Which buildings have you been to in the past week?”
She was prepared to use the process of elimination.
Bosen thought for a moment. “Geder Building, Hurst Apartments...”
As he spoke, he pointed with his right hand.
Jiang Baimian realized that there was something wrong with his right hand as well—it wasn't that nimble.
After memorizing the buildings' names, Jiang Baimian stood up, walked out of the trash room, and took out her walkie-talkie in a quiet corner.
She gave Bai Chen, Long Yuehong, and Genava orders. “Geder Building and Hurst Apartments... shall be given secondary priority. Prioritize checking the other buildings on the list.”
After receiving an affirmative reply, she put away the walkie-talkie and returned to the trash room.
At this moment, Shang Jianyao and Bosen were already chatting happily.
“Are you looking for something? There's no rush. There's still a few hours before the garbage truck arrives.” Bosen consoled his new friend.
“Yes.” Jiang Baimian nodded, squatted down, and put on the rubber glove.
As Bosen rummaged through the trash for food and valuable items, he chuckled. “I often find interesting stuff here. I found a bag of clothes in an opaque bag last winter. Guess what was in there?”
Shang Jianyao cooperatively replied, “A coat or cotton coat?”
“No, no, no.” Bosen shook his head. He smiled and said, “A pair of dark-blue socks, a pair of black leather boots, a pair of silk underwear, a pair of black pants, a white shirt, a black vest, and a formal black suit. They are the kind of clothes that n.o.bles like to wear the most. Furthermore, they were very new with no traces of mending.”
“This sounds a little strange.” Jiang Baimian's thoughts raced as she roughly understood what was going on.
A certain aristocrat was following in the footsteps of Redstone Collection's coroner, Weiler. While accompanying someone's wife, the husband returned home early and left him trapped in the room.
Without the luxury of time to put on his clothes, he crawled out the window and fled in a panic while dressed in his 'Emperor's New Clothes.' Subsequently, he had either encountered a nearby subordinate, met a sheriff and claimed to have been robbed, or taken someone else's drying clothes.
Afraid that the clothes and shoes he left behind would be discovered by her husband, the wife hurriedly threw them in a bag, gave the excuse that she was throwing out the trash, and brought the clothes out before throwing them into the trash room.
Bosen was just about to respond when he discovered a rotten apple. His eyes lit up as he placed it in a linen bag he had brought.
After doing this, Bosen smiled and said, “Yes, I can imagine a love story. Unfortunately, I didn't dare to sell that set of clothes in Golden Apple Zone or Red Wolf Zone. I could only send it to the Green Olive Zone, but I also got five Oray for it. That month was absolutely lovely...”
Shang Jianyao listened with relish and expressed his opinion. “That outfit is worth at least 50 Oray.”
“50? At least 200!” Bosen retorted.
Jiang Baimian glanced at him and nodded slightly. “You seem to have received a certain level of education?”
“I'm a citizen,” Bosen emphasized. “I once joined the army.”
“How did you become a scavenger then?” Jiang Baimian asked curiously.
Bosen fell silent for a moment before saying, “I was once the best marksman in camp and made many contributions. I later injured my right forearm in a war, reducing my agility. I then left the army. Back then, I was a.s.signed a lot of farmland in the southern suburbs and lived a good life for several years. This lasted until the weather changed drastically one year, and our food production plummeted. The Senate refused to help us... Later, I couldn't shoulder the debt. I could only sell the fields to a n.o.ble and enter the city...”
Jiang Baimian asked, “Then, why don't you become a Ruin Hunter and go to the North Sh.o.r.e wastelands to earn a living? At your age, there should still be some oil in the tank.”
Bosen smiled bitterly. “The day I discovered that the debt interest was too high to bear, my left hand began to tremble from time to time. I can't use guns anymore with these hands of mine...”
After a brief silence in the trash room, Shang Jianyao asked seriously, “Then, do you hate the Senate for not helping you? Do you hate those n.o.bles for taking the opportunity to provide you with high-interest loans, thereby giving them an opportunity to repossess your land?”
Bosen's expression changed a few times. He lowered his head and looked at the ground. “How can I not hate them? Hume, Jaspar, Paris... They sacrificed their lives one after another before for those lands. However, they still ended up in the hands of n.o.bles who didn't take any risks during the war.”
He suddenly looked up and roared in pain, “Us citizens died in hordes before we had First City. However, they only want to strip us of our lands and send us to those factories! Most of the slaves in those factories don't even live past three years!”
Jiang Baimian quietly listened and looked at Shang Jianyao. This was the first time she understood First City's internal conflict so clearly.
Alpha Building, in the attached trash room.
Bai Chen and Long Yuehong also wore gas masks as they rummaged through the trash with Genava.
A large number of companies and chambers of commerce were stationed here. There were also condominiums that were provided to employees. They were originally not on their list of inspections today, but Jiang Baimian's update had made them give up on Geder Building and Hurst Apartments.
“What a test of patience.” Long Yuehong almost made an a.n.a.logy that it was akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.
Bai Chen turned her head and glanced at him. “It's in such a place where clues are almost impossible to find that the real Father might be careless. Make the best use of our time. We have to finish searching before the garbage truck arrives.”
As she spoke, her hands didn't stop moving.
As unofficial personnel, they had to avoid times when there were many people while searching the trash to avoid alerting the enemy. At the same time, they had to do so before the garbage truck transported the trash away. Otherwise, who knew where the trash would come from when they were mixed together?
“Alright.” Long Yuehong held in his disgust and continued his work.
Genava didn't feel any discomfort in this regard.
Time pa.s.sed quickly. Long Yuehong picked up a thin plastic bag and poured the trash inside onto the ground.
As he swept his gaze, his eyes suddenly froze.
There were several cigarette b.u.t.ts with a short filter in the pile of trash. These were the cigarette b.u.t.ts of Flagship cigarettes!
Long Yuehong subconsciously looked up, out of the trash room, and toward Alpha Building—a 27-story-tall monolith.