Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 3: Market

Chapter 3: Market

Translator: virtual group Editor: virtual group

After Dr. Lin finished circling, she raised her fountain pen and looked at Shang Jianyao. She chuckled and said, “This seems to be derived from the Salvation Army’s slogan?”

Shang Jianyao tersely agreed and said seriously, “Dr. Lin, I think you have some misunderstandings about my condition, treating normal things as evidence of an illness.”

Dr. Lin straightened her body, and a smile surfaced on her fair face. “What misunderstandings do you think exist?”

Shang Jianyao fell silent for two to three seconds as though he was organizing his words. “You can’t understand this kind of pure and noble sentiment or have any idea what it means to be a person who has broken away from vulgar interests.”

Dr. Lin pursed her lips tightly as if she was spending tons of effort to stop herself from laughing. She nudged her gold-rimmed glasses up the bridge of her nose, breathed in slightly, and slowly exhaled. “Indeed. In this era, there is no room for idealists. Even the Salvation Army has degenerated.”

The doctor paused and said, “I can try to understand you, but you have to tell me how you came up with such thoughts. What made you have such urges?”

“Nothing. This is what I believe.” Shang Jianyao sighed and smiled. “Dr. Lin, you’re the most gentle and elegant woman I’ve ever met. I have something to tell you.”

Dr. Lin’s eyebrows twitched slightly. “I have...”

Before she could finish her sentence, Shang Jianyao added, “I imagined that you could be my spiritual mother, but I’ve just realized that our ideas are in two completely different worlds. What a shame.”

Dr. Lin broke out into a fit of coughs as though she had choked on her saliva. She then picked up the porcelain cup beside her and drank two mouthfuls. She randomly brought up a topic and muttered to herself, “Sigh, I’ve finished all the allocated tea leaves this month.”

Without waiting for Shang Jianyao to speak, she lowered her voice and asked mysteriously, “Have you recently heard any voices that no one else can hear? Or seen anything that no one else can see?”

Shang Jianyao shook his head firmly. “No.”

Dr. Lin observed Shang Jianyao’s expression for a few seconds before asking about something else.

After more than ten minutes, a sweet female voice sounded on all of the underground building’s floor simultaneously. “Here is the announcement of the time. The time now is 6 p.m.”

“The time has been broadcast.” After the voice repeated the announcement three times and stopped, Dr. Lin rubbed her eyebrows and said, “Let’s call it a day.”

She thought for a moment and said, “Since there’s nothing wrong with your sleep, and you haven’t seen anything that others can’t see, I won’t prescribe any medicine. Come back for a follow-up next week.”

“Alright, Dr. Lin.” Shang Jianyao stood up and walked towards the door. After he opened the door, he suddenly turned around and said, “Thank you, Dr. Lin.”

Dr. Lin replied with a smile, “You’re welcome.”

After Shang Jianyao left and carefully closed the door, Dr. Lin sighed and spoke to herself with a smile. “How polite.”

As she sighed, she picked up the folder on the table and flipped through the records:

“Name: Shang Jianyao.

“Age: 21 years old.

“Birthdate: 8th September, Year 25 (New Calendar).

“Family situation: Father, Shang Shi’an, was a D7 level employee. He went missing with the entire ‘Old Task Force’ in Year 37 of the New Calendar. Mother, Zhang Ruxin, was a normal D3 employee—a primary school teacher. She passed away in October of Year 40 of the New Calendar. The cause of her illness is suspected to be excessive grief. From October 40 to September 43, Shang Jianyao grew up in an orphanage on the 495th floor before being admitted into the university’s electronics department.

“Situation description: In May 46, Shang Jianyao voluntarily applied to become a confidential experiment volunteer and participated in the C-14 project. His reason for doing this was his hope to obtain great strength and investigate the truth behind his father’s disappearance.

“Experimental result: Failure. He didn’t undergo any changes compared to the control group.

“Complications: Logic confusion that resulted in him jumping to conclusions to a certain extent. There are no other abnormalities.

“Additional matters: Genetic results are normal...

“Comprehensive judgment: Moderate psychosis (suspected delusional disorder, awaiting observation)...”

Dr. Lin read for a while before jotting down: “Outcome of review dated July 10, 46 (New Calendar): No symptomatic improvement, but no deterioration either. No violent tendencies or signs of aggression. He can be considered temporarily harmless.”


Six in the evening was the company’s designated knock-off time. Apart from the specific project teams that needed to work overtime and some jobs that had 24-hour shifts, all the employees would leave the Administrative Zone on the 5th floor, the Research Zone between the 6th to 45th floors, the Factory Zone (and Maintenance Zone) between the 46th to 145th floor, the Indoor Ecosystem Zone between the 146th to 345th floor, and return to the Residential Zone on the 300th floor.

Due to the limited energy quota and the fact that both husband and wife—as well as the elders at home—might be working, many employees chose to eat at the Supplies Allocation Market on each floor.

This place was divided into two areas. One area was supplied with sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, flour, meat, vegetables, and fruits from the Indoor Ecosystem Zone, as well as cloth, sugar, salt, and other supplies from the Factory Zone. The other area provided all kinds of cooked food, which was affectionately known as the ‘staff cafeteria.’

The cost of dining in the cafeteria was higher than the cost of cooking at home, and it didn’t taste great. However, with the energy quota that everyone sorely lacked and the fatigue from a day’s work, it seemed to be a better choice.

This was also promoted by the company’s higher-ups—they hoped to reduce energy consumption by providing food in a centralized manner.

When Shang Jianyao returned to the 495th floor, there was still about 20 minutes before the cafeteria opened at 6:30 p.m. As certain jobs needed the employees to wash up, be sterilized, or undergo other necessary things after work, the board of directors stipulated that the cafeteria would open half an hour after work to ensure fairness.

For the employees who returned to their respective floors before 6:15, the Rec Center next to the Supplies Allocation Market was the best place to while the excess time away. People could gather together and chat about life, work, and other things under the lamps. This also gave them a clear sense of superiority when compared to the people struggling to survive outside.

Some of the employees also seized the time to sell things that they no longer needed at home in exchange for more contribution points. Therefore, small bazaars would appear in Rec Center’s hall every night from 6:00 to 6:30 and 7:00 to 8:30.

As soon as Shang Jianyao walked in, he saw the Rec Center’s PIC, Chen Xianyu, sitting on a small stool that creaked from time to time. In front of him was a pile of strange items.

“What is this?” Shang Jianyao squatted down and picked up a rectangular object with a metal shell and a black screen.

“Who knows? It’s quite sturdy and can be used to smash people or be used for bulletproofing.” Chen Xianyu poked his chest.

“Where did it come from?” Shang Jianyao asked while fiddling with it.

Chen Xianyu cleared his throat and said, “From my comrade’s youngest son. He’s currently in the Security Department. He just came back from an Old World city ruin. Sigh, time really flies. I was there when he was born and watched him grow up...”

Chen Xianyou smiled and added, “Anyway, it was screened. The company doesn’t need it, so he didn’t have to turn it in. Thus, he got me to sell it on his behalf. As you know, I don’t have to go to the cafeteria. Somebody will get me food.”

He had many employees under him.

Shang Jianyao looked at the spider web-like cracks on the black screen and said after some thought, “How much?”

“It’s not expensive at all, 500 points.” Chen Xianyu casually offered a price.

Shang Jianyao slowly put down the item and mumbled, “That’s ten pounds of meat.”

The moment ‘meat’ was mentioned, he and Chen Xianyu gulped at the same time.

Shang Jianyao swept his gaze and picked up another item. “Is this a watch?”

“Yes, it’s a watch. It has a complicated mechanical structure. It can still be used even now. You just need to adjust it a little.” Chen Xianyu’s eyes lit up. “What do you think of it? Do you want to consider buying it? Its needle and time markings will glow at night. You don’t need to turn on a flashlight to see it clearly. I’m telling you, there are no more than 100 people in the entire company who have a good watch. If you have it, you don’t need to rely on the radio anymore or come here to look at the clock to determine the time. You will become the object of envy of all the residents on your floor. There might be young ladies who will take the initiative to date you...”

The silver watch in Shang Jianyao’s hand had many cracks on it and was covered in rust. On the emerald-green watch plate, the second hand was ticking with glass shards everywhere.

“How much?” Shang Jianyao asked calmly.

Chen Xianyu paused for a moment before saying, “Sixty thousand.”

Shang Jianyao quickly put down the watch as if it scalded him.

With a monthly salary of 1,800 points for D1 employees, it would take almost three years of not eating or drinking for one to save up that amount.

Chen Xianyu didn’t expect Shang Jianyao to buy it. He was only joking with the young man. He then pointed at the pile of cylindrical metal containers in the middle and said, “Do you want to buy this? It’s good stuff—military canned food!”

Shang Jianyao picked up a can and saw that the plastic film outside was already tattered. The labels were extremely blurry, and only the words ‘Braised Beef’ and ‘500g’ could be vaguely seen.

“How about it? Doesn’t it feel heavy? This means that it is filled with good stuff!” said Chen Xianyu, his saliva splattering everywhere. “Hear me out. This military canned food is extremely delicious. It is a delicacy that I will never forget in my life. It is much better than the shrunken canned food from the Salvation Army!

“If it weren’t for the fact that my comrade’s child dug up an entire carton, you might never have a chance of eating it. As for the price, 60 contribution points each. Isn’t it very cheap? It will cost 50 points if you go to the Supplies Allocation Market to buy a pound of raw pork. Furthermore, it doesn’t contain any seasoning. Nobody will cook it for you, and you might not even be able to buy the meat! Also—ahem—after this can is finished, you can still give the metal shell to the Supply Management Department and get some contribution points in return. Isn’t it worth it?”

Shang Jianyao looked at the old man. When he finished speaking, he suddenly asked, “How long has it been since its expiry date?”

“Expiry date? How would I know? I don’t even know how to convert our years to the Old World’s years.” Old Chen’s eyes widened. “Anyway, the New Calendar is only at 46. It’s definitely edible.”

As he spoke, he revealed a reminiscing expression. “Back when I was in the Security Department, I went out on a mission and lost my supplies. I almost starved to death. Fortunately, I found a military warehouse and found canned food like these. Who knew how many years it had been since they expired. I still ate them, and they were fine. The taste was amazing.”

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