Chapter 29: Reminiscing the Past
Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong looked around. There were two things about the residents of Moat Town that left the deepest impression on them: Everyone wore an assortment of clothes as if they came from different places, and the clothes were covered in patches. Their bodies, hands, faces, hair, and clothes were dirty.
Apart from these two points, fatigue, thinness, and shortness were relatively common.
The townsfolk took a few looks at the outsiders. Upon seeing Tian Erhe also there, they stopped paying attention and worrying. They returned home, moved out stoves, started a fire, and prepared dinner. Otherwise, they would carefully take out a bowl of mixed grain and pour it into a pot. Another possibility was them getting some cold water and eating half of the leftover cold cornbread from lunch... The entire town gradually filled with the smell of smoke and food.
Tian Erhe noticed Shang Jianyao and Long Yuehong’s observation of the townsfolk and asked with a smile, “How is it? Did you notice anything?”
Long Yuehong opened his mouth, but he felt that it wasn’t polite to mention his impression of the town directly. Therefore, he closed his mouth and deliberated over his words.
Shang Jianyao retracted his gaze and frankly said, “It’s not clean.”
“It’s not clean... Heh.” Tian Erhe chuckled softly. “It’s definitely not clean compared to what you guys have.”
Although Shang Jianyao, Jiang Baimian, and the others had mud stains on their bodies because of their previous battle, they habitually wiped their faces when replenishing their water supplies.
Without waiting for Jiang Baimian and Bai Chen to interject, Tian Erhe pointed to the middle of the town square with his chin. “Although Moat Town has a clean water source, we still have to save on charcoal. I read that excessive chopping of trees will make the land less fertile. Therefore, we forbid the townsfolk from chopping down trees nearby. They have to go very far to do so.
“Occasionally, we can get coal from smuggling caravans. It is like the festive new year at that time. As you know, the White Knights have plenty of coal. Heh, it’s fine in the summer. You can even shower with cold water. However, all you can do is endure it during autumn. It’s better to be dirty than to be sick. If one can’t take it, they can boil a kettle of water and sponge their body.”
Tian Erhe paused when he said that. His smile became colored by other emotions. “Besides, they work from morning to night every day. Who would have the energy to do so when they get time to rest?”
Long Yuehong immediately recalled his two months of training. Jiang Baimian trained him and Shang Jianyao until they were exhausted every day. When they returned home, they only wanted to lie in bed and do nothing.
However, Pangu Biology had a staff cafeteria. He and Shang Jianyao could directly bring their lunch boxes over or choose not to. They could eat in the cafeteria with what was already prepared without tiring themselves out.
“No wonder.” He expressed his understanding.
Shang Jianyao didn’t say anything and nodded silently.
Jiang Baimian smiled at him. “I thought you would ask why they don’t wash themselves with cold water during winter. This seems to be effective in promoting blood circulation and increasing their resistance.”
“Poor physical constitution,” Shang Jianyao replied seriously.
At this moment, the town guard named Dog ran over with Tian Erhe’s family stove in his arms. He also had a small bag of charcoal on his back. He helped light the fire in a very showy manner before taking the initiative to join the patrol team in charge of the surrounding area, unwilling to leave.
This was not because he yearned to receive some braised beef canned food. Instead, compared to most of the ladies in town, Bai Chen and Jiang Baimian—who had their hair and faces cleaned up—were more attractive to young men like him. Jiang Baimian, in particular, was tall and had long legs. She had undergone genetic enhancement from the moment she was an embryo. She was as beautiful as a fairy in these town guards’ eyes, making them want to circle around her.
In the Ashlands, there was nothing conservative about relationships between men and women. Even if they had only known each other for a few minutes, they could still have sex with each other as long as they caught each other’s eye. Therefore, the town guards patrolling and guarding the area held their heads and chests high, showing off their abilities to the fullest.
Jiang Baimian scanned the area and almost laughed at their antics. She ignored them and walked to the back of the jeep, pulling out four more cans of food.
“Do you want a pot? Do you want a pot? There’s also cutlery. Do you want them?” Tian Erhe asked, his eyes lighting up.
“Sure, it’s much more convenient than us using lunch boxes.” Jiang Baimian did not mind at all.
“Doggy! Quick, go get my pot and cutlery! Count how many people there are!” Tian Erhe immediately raised his voice.
The town guard named Dog agreed quickly. It didn’t take long for him to carry an iron-black pot with five bowls and chopsticks inside. After helping to set the pot, he stole a glance at Jiang Baimian and spoke very feebly to Tian Erhe. “Mayor, can, can you stop calling me by my nickname? I’m already 20...”
“What’s wrong? I watched your dad grow up, and I’m still calling him by his nickname!” Tian Erhe replied angrily before waving his hand. “Go, go, go. Don’t spoil our appetite, I mean, our nice chat.”
Shang Jianyao had been staring at the pot the entire time and realized that the bowl inside was light-green and had extremely exquisite patterns. The chopsticks were ivory-white and spotless.
They were much better than the utensils most Pangu Biology employees used.
Tian Erhe glanced at him and chuckled. “What, are you finding the bowl not big enough?”
“He thinks it’s too good and exquisite.” Jiang Baimian rushed to answer Shang Jianyao’s question as if she was afraid that he would say something rude.
Shang Jianyao didn’t mind and nodded to indicate that this was his opinion. The next second, he looked at Jiang Baimian and shut his mouth before whimpering for a while. Amidst everyone’s surprise and confusion, he asked Jiang Baimian, “Guess what I was trying to say?”
“...How can I guess?” Jiang Baimian’s expression was a little dazed, and she barely maintained her smile.
“Didn’t you guess correctly just now?” Shang Jianyao was rather regretful.
Jiang Baimian took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “If it weren’t you, I would definitely think that you were angry about what just happened.”
As she spoke, she did not stare at Shang Jianyao’s eyes but at the top of his head as if she wanted to rap it.
Tian Erhe watched their interaction with a strange expression. Finally, he smiled and said, “The camaraderie between you seems... relaxed and lively.”
“It’s mainly because he sometimes has a screw loose. Yes, that’s how it is.” Jiang Baimian emphasized Shang Jianyao’s strangeness in all seriousness, and Bai Chen nodded in agreement.
Shang Jianyao immediately asked, “How do you know I’m not trying to liven up the atmosphere?”
Jiang Baimian gritted her teeth. “...Try your best to maintain it.”
Tian Erhe laughed and picked up a set of cutlery. “These were all taken from an Old World ruin. There are too many similar items there, and they themselves aren’t worth much. Which Ruin Hunter will travel all the way here only to carry or drive back with cutlery?”
Jiang Baimian listened very seriously and felt inspired to reply. “Indeed. There are still many good things buried in the Old World’s city ruins. Well... just because they aren’t useful right now doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable.”
As she spoke, Jiang Baimian poured the five cans of food into the pot. “Mayor, before heating up the canned food, can you tell us about the Old World and your encounters back then?”
Jiang Baimian casually threw the empty food cans to the side and politely handed the yellowish-black cigarette to Tian Erhe.
Tian Erhe took the cigarette and lit it with the charcoal in the stove. After taking a suck, Tian Erhe narrowed his eyes and said, “My greatest wish now is to smoke three times a year. It’s my second time this year.”
After sighing, he looked around and revealed a reminiscing expression. “I was only a little over ten years old when the Old World was destroyed. I was still a... heh, a primary school student. My mother was a teacher at a middle school in the city while my father was an employee of a government unit. We had just started winter break back then, and the weather was a little colder than it is now.
“It might have been much colder. I don’t remember the reason, but it might have been because middle school holidays started later. However, my father got busier as the end of the year neared. Nobody watched over me back at home. Therefore, my parents took the weekend off to send me to my grandfather’s house in a village not far from Moat Town.
“I remember it very clearly. They said that they would pick me up eight days later, bringing Grandpa and Grandma to the city for the new year. Heh, it was wild back then. I ran around the village doing all kinds of things, but I would still miss home every night and look at the calendar. I counted down the days, looking forward to having my parents pick me up.
“On the penultimate day of the countdown, my companions and I wanted to go fishing by the river, but we were stopped by the adults. We could only play near a very shallow stream. We then heard an explosion and felt the ground shake.
“I was terrified. I just wanted to go back to Grandpa’s house and never come out again. The explosions came one after another, their intensity increasing with each subsequent one. Cough, cough. I even felt like there was a very strong earthquake on the Richter scale accompanying it.”
Shang Jianyao, Long Yuehong, Jiang Baimian, and the others listened attentively.
Tian Erhe stretched out his hands to warm them against the fire and continued recounting his experiences. “I fainted for some reason while this was happening. Maybe I was struck by the explosions’ shockwaves. Anyway, I didn’t find myself injured when I woke up.
“After I woke up, I continued running back and saw Grandpa’s collapsed house... They failed to run out in time... Back then, my grandfather and grandmother were much younger than I am now. They raised chickens, planted vegetables, and did everything.
“Ahem, let’s not talk about that. Back then, many people were still alive in the village. I followed those uncles, aunties, and grandparents all the way to town. There were still many intact houses in town, but we didn’t choose any of them. We chose this place because it had an open area. We could live in tents for the time being and not worry about the buildings collapsing.
“Back then, communications were also cut off. There was no signal. Everyone waited here for help and rescue. Unfortunately, there was no sign of it...”
Tian Erhe’s voice gradually softened as if he still remembered his fear and despair back then. “A few uncles and aunties didn’t want to wait any longer. They went to the supermarket and some houses, gathered some food, and tried to leave Moat Town to go to the city. I-I followed them, hoping to return to my parents’ side. Don’t laugh. This was a child’s instinctive choice.
“We drove for a while, crossing the broken roads. We then walked for a long time before we finally reached the city. However, it was even more terrifying there...”
Tian Erhe’s eyes gradually lost focus. He felt like he had fallen into a nightmare that he could never escape in his life.