Chapter 7: Sermon
Translator: virtual group Editor: virtual group
Shen Du smiled immediately. “Let’s go together. Be careful to avoid…” He didn’t finish his sentence. He looked up at the ceiling, indicating for Shang Jianyao to be careful.
Surveillance cameras were installed in every floor’s Residential Zone, but there weren’t many of them. They were only installed at key intersections and indoor public spaces.
In comparison, there were more surveillance cameras in both the Indoor Ecosystem Zone and the Factory Zone. However, their numbers paled in comparison compared to the Research Zone and Administrative Zone.
Shang Jianyao followed Shen Du’s gaze and looked at the intersection ahead. He smiled and said, “Maybe it isn’t even turned on.”
“That’s true.” Shen Du agreed with Shang Jianyao.
This was because such situations were too common in the company. From time to time, it would be revealed that certain equipment had been damaged and could not be used. Usually, it was just placed there for show.
It was said that this had something to do with the chaos that happened when the Old World was destroyed while the survivors hastily retreated into the underground building.
Furthermore, it had been 46 years since the start of the New Calendar. It was very normal for some equipment to be damaged. The corresponding production line might not have been rebuilt due to a lack of resources, technological loss, or lack of information. Therefore, it was impossible to replace or repair them.
“However, we still have to be careful. The company has always been very strict about matters regarding religion.” Shen Du reminded him and walked forward with the flashlight.
When he reached the intersection, he switched off the flashlight and used the careful method of sticking close to the wall to make a right turn.
Shang Jianyao followed behind him and looked at the surveillance camera on the intersection’s ceiling.
A red dot was blinking slowly.
Shang Jianyao looked at the red dot and suddenly raised his hands. He pinched his cheeks and pulled up the corners of his mouth, making a face.
He then rubbed the muscles on his face that had been squashed by the flashlight. He mimicked Shen Du and moved against the wall.
After walking for a while, covering different turns and bends, Shen Du stopped in front of Zone A’s Room 35. He then raised his left hand and knocked thrice.
“Newborns are likened unto the sun.” A voice that was deliberately kept deep came from the room.
Shen Du stretched his neck forward and replied in the same deep voice, “Life what’s most important.”
With a creaking sound, the door opened, and a faint yellow light flowed out.
“This is?” The woman who opened the door saw Shang Jianyao behind Shen Du. She was in her thirties and had obviously been genetically modified. Her eyebrows were black and straight, her nose was high, and the corners of her eyes were raised. She was both beautiful and unique.
Shang Jianyao stepped forward and said sincerely, “This is my first time participating. Uncle Shen brought me here.”
The woman’s frown gradually relaxed as she said thoughtfully, “So you’re a new parishioner.”
She looked around and stepped aside. “Come in quickly, don’t let anyone see you.”
After seeing that this lady had acknowledged Shang Jianyao’s identity, Shen Du no longer had any doubts. He strode into the room and switched off the flashlight.
Shang Jianyao followed behind and surveyed the surroundings, taking in the situation within the room.
This room was much bigger than the one he lived in. Furthermore, there was a door right inside, indicating that there was an inner bedroom, a bathroom, or a small kitchen.
This reminded Shang Jianyao of his previous home. This meant that the owners of this room were married and above D4 or one of them was a D7 team leader.
The room outside was about 2.5 meters by 5 meters wide. A closet and a cupboard were by the innermost wall. Separated by the two pieces of furniture was a large double bed. It was placed horizontally, and at the foot of the bed was an aisle leading to the inner bedroom.
Beyond the large bed was a small living room made up of chairs, stools, short stools, a coffee table, a desk, and a sofa.
At this moment, two candles were lit on the coffee table, creating a faint yellow glow. Many people were sitting around—men and women, young and old.
Shang Jianyao didn’t do a careful count, but from how packed it was, he felt that there were at least ten people.
“Jianyao, register first.” The woman who opened the door took out a soft-covered notebook from somewhere.
Shang Jianyao took the pen and wrote his name on the blank page as he wore a look of curiosity. “You know me?”
The woman smiled and said, “When your parents lived here, we were barely considered neighbors. However, you probably don’t remember me. You can call me Auntie Li.”
“Okay, Auntie Li.” Shang Jianyao didn’t stand on ceremony at all.
“Alright, quickly sit down. The Guide is about to begin the sermon.” Li pointed to an empty stool.
Shang Jianyao politely asked, “Where are you sitting?”
“I can sit by the bed,” Li replied with a smile.
Shang Jianyao didn’t ask any further. He took a few steps to the side and sat down.
After about two to three minutes, the door to the bedroom opened, and a figure walked out.
This figure was not unfamiliar to him at all. It was Auntie Ren, whom he had met at the Rec Center in the evening. She was a D3 employee who served the company’s Strategy Committee.
At this moment, Ren Jie was still wearing the same polyester shirt, but she had changed into a pair of gray pants. On her beautiful face, which had traces of age, her expression was holy and dignified.
She walked between the big bed, the closet, and the cupboard and scanned the room for everyone.
“Jianyao?” She immediately saw Shang Jianyao sitting upright, slipping effortlessly into addressing him by an affectionate diminutive.
Shang Jianyao stood up, took two steps forward, and greeted her. “Auntie Ren, I just registered. Uncle Shen brought me here.”
Ren Jie’s eyes flickered as if she were considering something. Then she smiled. “So that’s how it is. You’ve already passed the examination. Have a seat.”
When Shang Jianyao sat down again, she looked at everyone and said, “Since a new parishioner is participating, I’d better introduce our parish.”
Clap! Clap! Clap!
Shang Jianyao clapped enthusiastically.
Shen Du and the rest either turned their heads or turned to look at him with the same blank gaze.
Ren Jie had probably heard that Shang Jianyao was someone with a rather flippant personality. After being taken aback momentarily, she laughed. “You don’t have to do that. This isn’t a corporate convention.”
She paused for two seconds. After Shang Jianyao stopped, she said in a deep voice, “All of us here have never actually left the company or stepped onto the surface. The information we have on the Ashlands comes only from the company’s broadcast, the textbook’s introduction, and the descriptions of the Security Department’s employees. All of this information has been confidentially screened beforehand.
“We don’t really know the true Ashlands, just like we’ve never really seen the sky.” Her gaze swept around and landed on Shang Jianyao’s face. “We know that after the destruction of the Old World, after a long period of chaos and disputes, humans finally managed to rebuild order in certain areas and started the New Calendar.
“We also know that shadows continue cloaking the Ashlands. The land of order is like an island amidst the sea, as spoken of in textbooks. It borders chaotic lands, no man’s land, and various wildernesses and mountains. Pollution, mutation, and famine are like tidal waves that come wave after wave in a never-ending fashion.
“Most fatal of them all is the Heartless disease, which is the Bestial Transformation Disease taught in the textbooks. Until today, we still haven’t grasped its pathology and spreading patterns. Perhaps, the people around us and we will degenerate to become real ‘beasts’ when we wake up one day, unable to communicate with each other, only having the instinct to hunt.”
Ren Jie took a breath and continued. “This is what we know, so what do we not know? How did the Old World get destroyed? How was the new order rebuilt? On the Ashlands, there are many rumors spreading among humans: Some of the Old World’s actions angered the gods, so they were destroyed by ‘Them.’ The survivors passed the test, so they were saved by ‘Them.’
“This rumor is partly true and partly false. It’s true that there is indeed a group of deities in this world. ‘They’ share control of time and manage different months. Therefore, ‘They’ are respectfully addressed as the ‘Kalendarium.’ Of course, there are also people who address ‘Them’ as ‘Perfected Man,’ ‘God of Age,’ ‘Eon God,’ ‘Messiah,’ ‘Painter of the Past,’ and’ Current Master.’
“What’s fake is that the Kalendarium didn’t destroy the Old World because they were angered. This is only an inevitable result of normal development. Life is lofty and sacred, but it will ultimately pass away. The world is no exception, just like how a year will eventually come to an end and prepare to start a new year.
“Our parish is called Life Ritual. We believe in the most special Kalendaria—Arbiter of Fate who helms December. ‘She’ marks the end but also symbolizes the arrival of a new year. ‘She’ is the terminator of the Old World and also the establisher of the New World.”
When Ren Jie said this, apart from Shang Jianyao, everyone else stretched out their arms, seemingly hugging and rocking a baby.
“The End will belong to the Arbiter of Fate.” Their deep and clear voices mixed together and echoed in the room.
Ren Jie looked at Shang Jianyao and continued. “The New World actually has not come. Now is the time when the deities test all living beings. Only the Arbiter of Fate’s devotees who have entrusted themselves to the Arbiter of Fate in the form of a sacrificial ritual can enter the New World and escape the cycle of time, obtaining eternal life with no more suffering.”
“Thy mercy be praised!” The congregation rocked their arms again and spoke in a low voice.
Shang Jianyao mimicked their actions and said, “Thy mercy be praised.”
Ren Jie nodded in satisfaction and said, “Alright, let’s officially begin the sermon. Our Life Ritual worships life and respects death. Therefore, we value new life and funerals the most. We will mainly be talking about new life today.”
Shang Jianyao sat with his back straight. Like the people around him, he listened very seriously.
Ren Jie’s voice gradually softened as her expression turned holy. “We should let a baby sleep on their back; we should let infants develop the habit of playing during the day and sleeping at night; we should hum a song when a baby sleeps; we should seriously distinguish a baby’s cries.
“Short but deep, sometimes high, sometimes low means hunger; intense crying means anger; suddenly being loud and shrill before a long pause that turns into a gentle, mournful whimper means pain…
“We should gently pat the baby’s back and let them expel the air in their stomach… We should hold the back of a baby’s head when we carry them… We should breastfeed…”
Shang Jianyao’s eyes gradually glazed over. His mouth opened slightly, unable to close.