Chapter 119: Taste
A few wives? Long Yuehong—who was born and raised in an underground building—found it difficult to imagine such a thing.
Shang Jianyao began to discuss the matter seriously. “You’ll definitely be too busy.”
“Some places do have such customs, and some places allow a woman to marry several husbands.” Jiang Baimian recalled what she had seen and heard.
Shang Jianyao was immediately a little curious. “If we put the people of these two places together, what will happen when the two customs are combined?”
Jiang Baimian thought for a moment. “Maybe it will end up with a scenario that my second wife’s eldest husband’s third wife’s fourth husband is actually my son?”
Long Yuehong felt a headache coming on. He was momentarily unable to figure out the relationships.
As he swept his gaze across the area, he suddenly saw an RV a few meters away. A few people in cotton jackets and old down jackets were standing there, repeatedly bowing at two red candles.
The two candles flickered with light. In front of them were a piece of dried meat, a plucked chicken, steamed buns, cornbread, and other food.
“What are they doing?” Long Yuehong stood on his tip-toes, attempting to get a clearer view.
Bai Chen glanced in that direction. “They are paying their respects to the Bonnet God.”
“Bonnet God?” Jiang Baimian asked excitedly.
Bai Chen organized her words and said, “To the Rootless, vehicles are their most precious property and an important member of the family. Many of their customs arise from the vehicles. They always worry about bumping into something or falling into a swamp while driving. They are also worried that they will overturn due to certain obstacles. Therefore, they created a Bonnet God to worship and pray for a safe and smooth journey without any problems.”
Shang Jianyao clicked his tongue. “It doesn’t come under any Kalendaria?”
“That’s right. They actually don’t worship a Kalendaria,” echoed Long Yuehong.
Bai Chen’s smile flashed. “The Kalendarium’s jurisdiction isn’t that broad. In many places, many people have only heard of this term.
“Yes… Many churches that believe in the Kalendarium have tried to integrate the Bonnet God into their religion to rope the Rootless community in as believers. The one doing the best now is the Crystal Consciousness Church. This is also a sect that worships January’s Kalendaria, Buddha Subhuti.
“Among the other Rootless groups, the Bonnet God has already changed his name to the Bonnet Bodhisattva.”
“The competition between deities is so intense,” Shang Jianyao commented seriously.
Long Yuehong looked at the Bonnet God’s consecration—as well as the dried meat, cooked chicken, steamed buns, and cornbread—and said, “Isn’t that too wasteful?”
Even for Pangu Biology’s employees, this was considered a feast. They rarely ate like this unless it was a festive season.
“It’s not like they will throw the food away,” explained Bai Chen. “After the prayers, this food will be carried back and shared with the entire family. In the Ashlands, there won’t be any food wastage except in a few places.”
At this point, her expression softened a little, and the corners of her mouth curled up slightly. “In many wilderness nomad settlements, what the children look forward to the most is when prayers to the gods are made. That means that the subsequent meal will be very sumptuous. There will only be one or two sumptuous meals a year.”
“Is that so…” Long Yuehong treated this as the annual festive season in Pangu Biology and immediately felt the same way.
As they spoke, the four of them arrived at the camp’s busiest region. However, they were also far away from the oil tank.
This place was relatively empty, with only three relatively long RVs parked here.
They loosely formed a square with one missing side. The side doors were opened completely, revealing the tables, chairs, kitchen counter, and cabinets inside.
In the area they surrounded, there were all kinds of tables and chairs placed in a circle. The middle portion was left completely empty.
On the top of the RV facing the gap, several balls constantly flickered with green, red, or purple colors, enveloping the entire area in an illusory light show.
On the other two RVs were speakers. They played very rhythmic music, making the people gathered in the empty area twist and gyrate involuntarily.
Jiang Baimian stared at them for a while before extending her hand to grab the eager Shang Jianyao. “Don’t get involved. Let’s go in first.”
Shang Jianyao reluctantly retracted his gaze, fixed the tactical backpack that he was about to put down, and followed Jiang Baimian to the RV in the innermost area.
On the way, they encountered a young man who had shaved off his sideburns.
Jiang Baimian stopped him and asked with a smile, “Where’s your leader?”
As she spoke, she smelled the relatively obvious scent of gasoline coming from the other party’s body.
Under the winter night’s cold winds, the young man didn’t wear much. He wore a long-sleeved, red cotton T-shirt and a pair of baggy pants. There were a few droplets of sweat on his forehead as if he had just undergone an intense exercise.
“It’s Caravan Leader,” the young man emphasized.
“Yes, Caravan Leader.” Shang Jianyao was always one to go with the flow.
The young man choked. “I mean, our leader is Caravan Leader. No, that’s not his real name, nor is Leader his last name. He’s the Caravan Leader of our caravan.”
“Where’s your Caravan Leader?” Jiang Baimian asked before Shang Jianyao could speak.
The young man pointed at the RV right inside. “The one peddling the wares.”
After answering, he sized up Jiang Baimian and smiled. “Shall we dance?”
“No thanks.” Jiang Baimian rejected him without hesitation.
When they conversed, they had to shout at the top of their lungs because of the loud and bombastic music.
Jiang Baimian felt like a fish in water.
The rejected young man didn’t pester her. His body swayed with the rhythm as he made way.
As he looked at Jiang Baimian’s back, he raised his right hand and sniffed his forearm. He muttered to himself in confusion, “She doesn’t like the smell of this type of gasoline?”
Just as the Old Task Force was about to reach the target RV, an old lady suddenly jumped out of the shadows around them. She held a brown dustpan with many bottles and cans inside.
“Want some gasoline? Or do you want diesel?” The wrinkles on the granny’s face were obvious, and she looked a little thin.
While Long Yuehong and the others were a little confused, Shang Jianyao asked a question, having adapted very well. “Is it delicious?”
“…” The old lady was momentarily speechless. “It can’t be eaten.”
She then said loudly, “By sprinkling some on you, you can become the camp’s most popular person!”
She freed a hand and pointed at a small bottle. “This is Orange Company’s Type 15 gasoline, the purest kind. Furthermore, the smell is perfectly mixed. Just a dash, and who knows how many ladies will be infatuated with you tonight!”
Jiang Baimian fell into thought and muttered to herself, “As many vehicles require gas, many people here also love the smell of gas? Maybe the fragrance of flowers is far less charming to them than the smell of gasoline or diesel.”
“Ah, what did you say?” The old lady was a little hard of hearing, and the environment here was very noisy.
Jiang Baimian laughed involuntarily and said loudly, “We don’t need it!”
As they watched the old lady return to the shadows in slight disappointment, the Old Task Force quartet boarded the RV deep inside.
The space inside was rather spacious. There were actually many tables and chairs. Opposite them was a milky-white platform that reached Shang Jianyao’s chest.
There were a few high stools in front of the platform, and behind the platform was a wooden cabinet with all kinds of bottles and cans.
Between the wooden cabinet and the platform stood a man nearly 1.8 meters tall.
He looked to be in his forties or fifties. His hair was very short, and he had a large white beard that contoured his mouth. He wore a black leather coat that shimmered with a little grease.
“Want something to drink?” the middle-aged man asked with a smile.
Jiang Baimian pulled a high-stool over and sat down before asking in return, “Do you guys have alcohol?”
Long Yuehong felt somewhat surprised.
In a place with adequate food like Pangu Biology, alcohol-based beverages were considered restricted items. Very little was produced every year, and everyone only had a very tiny amount. In the Ashlands filled with famine, it was surprising to him that one could easily encounter an alcohol seller!
The middle-aged man—who was suspected to be the Rootless’s Caravan Leader—laughed and said, “Fruit wines from wild trees. I don’t know what fruit it is either. It grows here every summer, and it’s sour and astringent. No one will eat it, nor can it be preserved until winter. But when it’s brewed into wine, the fragrance is surprisingly good.”
After everyone in the Old Task Force sat down, Jiang Baimian joked, “I thought people who live in vehicles and drive their entire lives wouldn’t drink.”
The man immediately laughed and said, “That’s why we frequently drink every winter.”
He sighed and said, “My grandfather’s generation couldn’t return to their hometown because of the Old World’s destruction. To get over their mental problems, they often had to rely on alcohol to numb themselves. This resulted in many accidents, and they lost some vehicles.
“When it reached my father’s generation, we had a rule for the convoy. It’s a rule that everyone has to tattoo on their bodies.”
At this point, he turned around, pulled up his clothes, and revealed his back. On his bronze skin were two tattooed rows of striking words: “If you drink, don’t drive. If you drive, don’t drink.”