Chapter 92: Familiar Life
After opening the door with a brass key, Shang Jianyao used the light from the street lamps on the ceiling to see the familiar wooden bed, sink, burgeoning screws, a red-painted wooden table, and a matching high-back chair.
It was identical to when he left.
Thanks to the underground building’s excellent ventilation system and unique geographical environment, Shang Jianyao didn’t even find the room depressing, nor did he see any obvious accumulation of dust.
He slowly walked in and closed the door behind him. He removed the old rag hanging by the sink, turned on the tap, and wet it.
Shang Jianyao then bent down, occasionally squatting down to wipe all the spots he could.
When he was done, it was exactly 7 p.m. Shang Jianyao—who had already showered and changed into his regular clothes at the Security Department—immediately took his key and headed for this floor’s Rec Center.
Along the way, the employees—who had eaten dinner—returned one after another, many of whom knew Shang Jianyao. They nodded at each other as a form of greeting.
Shang Jianyao soon arrived at Zone C’s Rec Center. He saw a few young men chatting by the door, and Shen Du was walking toward him.
The middle-aged man—who had ‘guided’ Shang Jianyao to join the Life Ritual parish—revealed a look of surprise. “Jianyao, you’re back from the field?”
Shang Jianyao smiled and replied, “Yes, I’m back from picking up trash.”
“…” Shen Du couldn’t quite understand Shang Jianyao’s answer. He then explained, “I heard it from Old Chen. I didn’t see you for a few days and thought something had happened to you. He ended up telling me that you had joined the Security Department and gone out into the field.”
“What a pity,” Shang Jianyao replied.
“…” Shen Du couldn’t keep up with Shang Jianyao’s train of thought at all. He could only speak to himself and smile. “Everyone misses you. See you later.”
Shang Jianyao revealed a troubled expression. “Unfortunately, I didn’t bring you any gifts. Why don’t I give you a performance?”
“No, there’s no need.” Shen Du realized that he was whistling in the wind. He then hinted at tomorrow morning’s gathering and quickly bade Shang Jianyao farewell.
Shang Jianyao entered the Rec Center and greeted people he knew or didn’t know.
Chen Xianyu, the Rec Center’s PIC, was sitting on a creaking stool. Upon seeing Shang Jianyao enter, he quickly raised his right arm and waved, indicating for Shang Jianyao to come to him.
“How was it? How was your harvest this time?” he asked curiously. Without waiting for Shang Jianyao’s answer, Chen Xianyu pointed at the scattered items in front of him. “Do you want me to help you sell anything? I’ll only take a few contribution points as commission.”
Shang Jianyao squatted down, picked up the tattered mechanical watch that Old Chen had been trying to sell for a long time, and asked seriously, “Won’t it be too crowded to have an armored vehicle here?”
“?” Chen Xianyu didn’t understand what he meant.
Shang Jianyao continued asking, “Can heavy machine guns be sold in such a place?”
“Do you think the company is dead!?” Old Chen cursed instinctively. “They will definitely get you to hand over such things! Uh… that’s true. You just came back, and all your gains are still under review. I wonder what you’ll get in the end.”
At this point, Chen Xianyu scolded jokingly, “You can just say it directly. Why beat around the bush? Armored vehicles and heavy machine guns? Why didn’t you say that you obtained a military exoskeleton?”
Shang Jianyao thought for a moment. “That depends on whether you really want it. What a pity…”
“Pity my ass!” Chen Xianyu cursed and asked in concern, “How was it? Did the fieldwork go well?”
Shang Jianyao recalled. “It was very thrilling.”
“What’s there to be thrilled about!” Chen Xianyu laughed. “How can a rookie like you have any dangerous field missions? At most, you’ll hunt rabbits in the vicinity of the company and play some form of wilderness survival.”
Shang Jianyao tersely acknowledged it. “Rabbits are really difficult to deal with.”
“Haha.” Chen Xianyu laughed derisively. “Back when I first hunted for rabbits, I remember that I used an Old World rifle, a kind that’s already obsolete. In short, the entire rabbit was reduced to pieces with one shot. It pained my heart…”
At this moment, an employee came over to look at the items on offer. Chen Xianyu quickly introduced the items and ignored Shang Jianyao.
Shang Jianyao slowly straightened his body, walked to the most deserted corner of the Rec Center, pulled out a chair, and sat down. He didn’t chat with anyone and quietly looked around.
A group of men was gathered around a wooden table, playing cards. Whoever lost this round would have their stool removed and could only play while squatting.
Beside them were more people. Some of them had their arms crossed as they gave comments. Some sighed loudly to express their pity, some giggled and constantly mocked, and some frequently urged them to be quicker, eager to have a go.
Further away, Ren Jie and the other women sat together and chatted about the various rumors in the company. Some of them diverted some attention to use shredded cloth to reinforce shoes’ soles, while some used the wool exchanged from the Supplies Allocation Market to knit winter clothes for the children while feeding babies with plastic milk bottles—which had been passed down for generations.
In another corner, a few young couples each occupied a corner. They were whispering. In front of them were packaged candies, desserts, and orange-yellow or green glass bottles. These were all luxury goods exchanged for at the Supplies Allocation Market. Typically, people would only exchange for some during the festive season. However, young people—who had just been assigned jobs and were in a relationship—were relatively extravagant. After all, they had meals to eat at home.
Outside the Rec Center’s window, at the edge of the ceiling lamps’ illumination, figures flickered in and out of hiding between the two rows of rooms. Sometimes they stretched out, and they separated at other times.
On the way to the Supplies Allocation Market, someone held empty glass bottles of different colors, wanting to exchange them for some contribution points.
Every relatively empty area inside and outside the rooms had become a battlefield for children to run around…
Shang Jianyao looked at this scene with a calm expression and didn’t move at all.
After an unknown period of time, Long Yuehong walked in.
After greeting everyone he knew, Long Yuehong discovered Shang Jianyao in the corner. “Why are you here?”
He remembered that Shang Jianyao liked to stay at home at this time and wait for Newspoint and the various radio programs after that. Furthermore, he had just returned from outside, so he definitely needed more rest.
Shang Jianyao did not answer Long Yuehong’s question and asked with a smile, “Why didn’t you look for Feng—the girl from the radio station?”
“Feng Yunying.” Long Yuehong sat down and let out a long sigh. “I just went to look for her and realized that she’s in a relationship with someone.”
Shang Jianyao sighed. “Sigh, I’ve undergone genetic enhancement…”
“Stop!” Long Yuehong cut him off forcefully and said, “Actually, I can understand why. I’ve been away for a month. She doesn’t know when I’ll be back, nor does she know if I’ll be back. Besides, we’ve only just met. We can barely be considered friends, so why would she wait for me?”
Shang Jianyao glanced at Long Yuehong. “Do you know what I want to say?”
Long Yuehong replied with a solemn expression, “This is the Ashlands.”
“No.” Shang Jianyao shook his head. “Even if you didn’t go out for fieldwork, the chances weren’t high.”
“…” Long Yuehong didn’t know whether to cry or be angry. “Your words hurt!”
“Let your mother introduce you to another one.” Shang Jianyao pressed the table with one hand and stood up.
“Yes, there are still at least two months until our next field training…” Long Yuehong nodded and asked,” Are you going back? ”
Without waiting for Shang Jianyao’s response, Long Yuehong muttered to himself, “That’s true. After I came back, I felt at ease and relaxed. I feel very, very tired the moment I relax.”
As he spoke, Long Yuehong stood up as well. “I think it’s better I return to sleep.”
Shang Jianyao glanced at him. “Newspoint is about to start.”
“Aren’t you tired? Why are you listening to Newspoint?” Long Yuehong was a little surprised.
Just as he said that, he suddenly came to a realization. In the Old Task Force, he might be the only one who felt that tired…
Shang Jianyao didn’t say anything else. He waved his hand, bade Long Yuehong farewell, and returned home.
Under the light from the ceiling lamps, Shang Jianyao’s figure elongated and contracted randomly.
Before long, Shang Jianyao opened the door and entered his room. He took off his coat and lay on the bed. He didn’t switch on the light and allowed the light from the corridor outside to shine through the window, making the room half-bright and half-dark without any obvious dividing line.
In this silence, the loudspeaker hanging from the ceiling outside emitted a static sound before a sweet, childlike voice sounded.
“Good evening, everyone. I’m Newspoint broadcaster, Hou Yi. It’s 8 p.m. now…
“Today, the Vice President of the company’s Board of Directors—Lin Yang—inspected the Energy Zone and emphasized the need to ensure a constant energy supply for winter…
“According to the weather forecast on the surface, a cold tide will come south from the icy plains in the next few days. Temperatures in the Blackmarsh Wilderness will drop by 5°C…
“… Another case of Heartless appeared in the Factory Zone today. The infected person is already under control…
“… The Entertainment Department has invited all department heads to discuss the year-end performance…
The voice from the radio echoed in the slightly cold room, adding some life to the area.