Chapter 8: Holy Communion
Translator: virtual group Editor: virtual group
“We should carry a baby vertically for 20 to 30 minutes every time we finish feeding a baby; we should feed a baby before they become extremely hungry…
Ren Jie’s preaching voice gently echoed in the room. Shen Du and the rest listened very seriously. From time to time, they would take out paper and a pen that they had prepared and jot down what they thought was important.
Shang Jianyao maintained his initial posture and focused on Ren Jie, but his eyes seemed to have lost focus.
After twenty to thirty minutes, Ren Jie stopped and swept her gaze across everyone. “That shall be all for today. All of this is the teachings of God.”
“Thy mercy be praised!” Before Shen Du and the rest could speak, Shang Jianyao had already stretched out his arms and started making the motions of rocking a baby. He appeared very enthusiastic.
“…” The rest of the parishioners were stunned for two seconds, but they still imitated Shang Jianyao in the end. They raised their arms, bent their elbows, and gently rocked. “Thy mercy be praised!”
Ren Jie’s mouth dropped open, but she said nothing. She looked at the old electronic watch on her wrist and said, “It’s getting late. We need to get back to our homes before the streetlights light up. Next is the last segment, Holy Communion.”
With that said, she entered the innermost room with Li.
In less than a minute, they came out one after the other. One held a variety of utensils—small bowls, large bowls, plastic lunch boxes, and porcelain spoons. The other held a large cylindrical container filled with black objects.
A strong fragrance quickly inundated Shang Jianyao’s nose, making him involuntarily raise his right hand and wipe the corner of his mouth.
It was the fragrance of sesame and sugar!
Similar items—including ordinary desserts—cost 60 contribution points per pound, making them more expensive than pork! As for the high-end goods, they cost about 720 points per pound. Shang Jianyao’s daily breakfast only cost eight to ten points.
Soon, Li distributed the utensils to everyone. Ren Jie carried a translucent plastic container in one hand and a soup ladle in the other. She scooped the black food into the parishioners’ bowls and lunch boxes. Each person received one spoonful.
For every person she gave food to, she would say, “This is today’s Holy Communion, black sesame paste.”
Those who received Holy Communion solemnly replied, “Thy mercy be praised!”
As a new member of the congregation, Shang Jianyao was the last one to receive it, excluding Ren Jie and Li. He received quite a spoonful that almost filled up the small bowl in his hands.
“This is today’s Holy Communion, black sesame paste,” Ren Jie said as usual.
Shang Jianyao replied sincerely, “Thy mercy be praised!”
Ren Jie—who distributed Holy Communion—was, to a certain extent, the embodiment of the Arbiter of Fate. Thus, the ‘your’ referred to the Arbiter of Fate, not Ren Jie.
Li observed Shang Jianyao’s change in expression and asked with a smile, “Are you touched?”
“Yes!” Shang Jianyao lifted the bowl with one hand and wiped the corner of his mouth with the other.
Ren Jie and Li didn’t say anything else. They returned to the bed and separated the remaining black sesame paste. They lowered their heads and said in a deep voice, “Thy mercy be praised.”
Everyone echoed in response and began to enjoy Holy Communion.
Holy Communion seemed to have been prepared early. It was a little cold, but it did not affect its taste. It was rich, sweet, and had the unique taste of sesame.
After Shang Jianyao carefully took a bite, he paused for a moment, and then he swiftly and repeatedly moved the spoon into his mouth.
Clang! Clang! Clang!
He didn’t even let the paste stuck to the walls of the bowl go to waste. He scraped them clean. After he finished eating, he looked around and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
After Holy Communion ended, everyone praised the Arbiter of Fate, who helmed December, and lined up to return the cutlery to Li and Ren Jie.
When it was Shang Jianyao’s turn, Li asked with a smile, “Any thoughts on your first gathering?”
Shang Jianyao replied seriously, “Delicious.”
Li’s expression froze as she asked, “What suggestions do you have for us? There’s no need to hold back. Since you’ve joined the parish, we’re all family. There’s nothing that can’t be said between family members.”
Shang Jianyao thought for a moment and said, “More for Holy Communion.”
“… Anything else?” Li managed a smile.
Shang Jianyao’s eyes flickered. “I should brush my teeth in advance.”
Li couldn’t help but cough. “Everyone can leave now. Shang Jianyao, please stay behind. The Guide has something to say to him.”
Shen Du and the rest left one after another. Li and her husband carried the utensils and entered the room inside.
Ren Jie walked to Shang Jianyao and said with a gentle smile, “You’ve just joined the parish, so you need to grasp the knowledge related to the prayers as soon as possible. Don’t worry, this is all extremely simple. Our lady, Arbiter of Fate, is a true deity that controls time, so ‘She’ doesn’t care about these things. There is no red tape.”
Shang Jianyao nodded, indicating that he was listening.
Ren Jie slowed down and said, “We don’t have a fixed prayer time, but we often choose the moment when we wake up in the morning. We thank the Arbiter of Fate for letting us remain alive. We value the birth of babies and the departure of the deceased the most. Therefore, our formal rites, or rather religious ones, are usually like sermons when a newborn is one month old or when the dead are buried. The time is not fixed.
“Well, there is a grand ceremony on the first day of December to welcome the arrival of our lady, the Arbiter of Fate. On the last day of December, there is also a grand ceremony to pray that our lady will open the door to a new world.
“You’ve already learned the salute. It’s to imitate the way you hold a baby and rock it gently. The corresponding language is mainly divided into three categories: When it comes to the topic of death and passing, say, ‘The End will belong to the Arbiter of Fate.’ When it comes to the loftiness of life or the grace of our lady, use ‘Thy mercy be praised.’ When it involves new life, say, ‘Newborns are likened unto the sun’ or ‘Life what’s most important.’
“Basically, that’s all. As for Holy Communion, it’s different every time. It might be black sesame paste. It could also be milk, fruit juice, soy milk, meat soup, vegetable soup, or yogurt. Heh heh, have you discovered anything in common?”
Shang Jianyao thought for a moment and said, “They’re all delicious.”
“…” Ren Jie maintained her smile.” They are all liquid food or close to it. Liquid food is a staple for newborns and those who are about to die.” Without waiting for Shang Jianyao to speak, Ren Jie pointed to the door. “Alright, you can go back now.”
Shang Jianyao looked back and did not take a step forward. Instead, he asked, “Auntie Ren, how many Kalendarium are there in total?”
“After a normal person understands the definition of a Kalendaria, they will definitely think that there are 12, but that’s not the case,” Ren Jie said with a smile. “There are a total of 13 Kalendarium. One of them is the Kalendaria that represents the year of the leap month. Heh heh, when leap months aren’t applicable, ‘He’ represents the entire year.”
“‘His’ title is?” Shang Jianyao pressed.
Ren Jie shook her head. “I’m not sure either. We believe in the Arbiter of Fate. Therefore, we don’t have to understand the other Kalendarium.”
Shang Jianyao didn’t ask any more questions. He turned around to leave Zone A, Room 35.
With the help of the flashlight, he traversed the original route to return to Zone B, Room 196. Every time he approached an intersection, he followed Shen Du by turning off the flashlight and sticking to the wall.
When he returned home, Shang Jianyao walked to the sink and picked up the toothpaste that was so thin that it seemed to be only a thin layer. After a great deal of effort, he finally squeezed out a bit of toothpaste onto the toothbrush that had sparse bristles.
After brushing his teeth and washing his face seriously, Shang Jianyao saw that the ceiling was still dark, so he sat in front of the wooden table, leaned against the back of the chair, and closed his eyes.
He raised his hand and massaged his temples before putting it down again.
Shang Jianyao’s figure appeared in the wide hall that was filled with stars.
He first looked at the cold, pitch-black metal wall nearby before raising his head and looking up into the sky.
The countless resplendent points of light were like the stars described in textbooks. They formed one star system after another, and multiple star systems formed many galaxies.
There were boundaries between these ‘galaxies,’ but they were not that distinct.
Shang Jianyao had already counted how many ‘Milky Ways’ there were here. Now, he began to count again:
“One, two, three… eleven, twelve, thirteen.
“Thirteen…” He fell silent as his figure gradually faded, disappearing into the hall that seemed to contain stars.
After waiting for a while, Shang Jianyao saw the area outside of the window instantly brighten.
The street lights lit up at the same time. Daybreak had been ushered into this underground building.
Still wearing the thick, dark-green cotton coat, Shang Jianyao picked up his plastic lunch box, walked out of the room, and headed to Zone C.
His destination: Supplies Allocation Market.
On the way there, Shang Jianyao ran into Long Yuehong, who lived nearby. It was obvious that Long Yuehong had woken up early and didn’t need to line up to use the public toilet.
“The job allocation results are going to be released today…” Long Yuehong deliberately waited on this path to meet Shang Jianyao so that someone could share in his anxiety.
“That’s right.” Shang Jianyao looked ahead and saw a woman at the door of the room, making a fuss about a baby.
His expression changed instantly. He seemed to be thinking about something, but there was also a hint of confusion.
Long Yuehong glanced at him and asked as they walked, “What’s wrong with you? Did you have a nightmare last night?”
Shang Jianyao fell silent for two seconds before saying, “I’m doubting life.”