Embers Ad Infinitum

Chapter 6: Night Encounter

Chapter 6: Night Encounter

Translator: virtual group Editor: virtual group

“Three favors for one price...”

Shang Jianyao glanced at the flowing figure before walking past ‘him’ and into the depths of the hall.

The ‘figure’ did not undergo any changes. It continued echoing “three favors for one price” endlessly.

A few minutes later, Shang Jianyao came to the hall’s innermost part and saw a heavy, grayish-white stone door. It was embedded in the black metal wall and bathed in the stars’ light, revealing three grooves on its surface.

The three grooves were located at a height of two meters. One was situated above the other two, seemingly forming a triangle.

Shang Jianyao quietly stared at it for a few seconds. Suddenly, a dazzling ‘star cluster’ was reflected in his eyes.

He then leaned forward and pressed his hands against the grayish-white stone door.

The grooves on the stone door’s surface lit up one after another with a white glow as if ‘stars’ were falling from the sky and crashing into it.

Within the three ‘stars,’ illusory words rapidly appeared. However, they seemed to be rolling and changing as Shang Jianyao’s thoughts jumped. They couldn’t stay still.

The grayish-white stone door—which looked abnormally heavy—creaked but only barely opened a crack.

Shang Jianyao stopped and caught his breath. Then, he exerted his strength again and pushed forward.

The ‘stars’ in the door’s three indentations dimmed when he stopped. They then bloomed with bright and pure light as he exerted force. The illusory characters in them tumbled and slowed down, but they did not stop.

The stone door shook slightly, but it did not budge at all.

Shang Jianyao pushed the stone door again and again. In the end, the blood vessels on his forehead popped out. His expression was warped and grotesque as if he had used all of his strength, but he still couldn’t obtain a better result.

Phew. He exhaled, paused, and stood in front of the door. He watched the three ‘stars’ in the indentations rapidly dim and disappear. He quietly watched all of this without moving for a long time.

After a long while, Shang Jianyao revealed a smile. He pressed his right index and middle finger together and placed them between his eyebrows.

In the next second, he seemed to have become much more serene.

Next, Shang Jianyao placed his left hand in his pocket and stretched out his right palm, casually pressing on the gray-white stone door.

This time, despite clearly not exerting any strength, the ‘star cluster’ reflected in his eyes became clearer and brighter.

Above the grayish-white stone door, ‘starlight’ lit up in the three indentations, condensing into a white orb. The illusory words from before also appeared amidst their tumbling, but the variability gradually slowed down.

Finally, they settled.

From top to bottom and left to right, the words in the three orbs of white light were: ‘Inference Clowning,”Corny Person,”Hands Immobility.’

The grayish-white stone door trembled slightly, and as a grinding sound echoed, it heavily retreated a little.

Behind the widening gap was a glimmer of light. A silver-white metal staircase also silently stood in the darkness.

Shang Jianyao tried to extend his hand through the door’s crack but failed. He tried again, stuffing his feet in. Unsuccessful nonetheless.

He used his hands and feet, trying out all kinds of positions. From using the Tree Pose to doing a headstand, he did not achieve any good results.

After his experiments, he was certain that he could only squeeze the tip of his finger and the tip of his nose through the door’s crack.

No matter how focused he was, the grayish-white stone door did not continue moving backwards.

After repeated attempts, Shang Jianyao’s figure gradually became blurry.

He finally stopped moving as he watched his body grow fainter and fainter.

In Room 196 in the 495th floor’s Zone B, Shang Jianyao—who was lying on the bed—opened his eyes.

He saw the street lamp’s light shining in through the four-paned window, the wooden table that was bathed in dim light, the ‘living room’ that was gradually turning dark, the end of the long bench, and the edge of the old bed that laid deep in the darkness.

The surroundings were so quiet.

Suddenly, the loudspeakers hanging from the ceiling out on the street sounded at the same time, producing a sweet voice that sounded a little childlike. “Good evening, everyone. I’m the news broadcaster, Hou Yi. It’s 8 p.m. now...

“At 5:20 p.m., a small fire broke out in a factory on the 102th floor. One person died, and three people were injured. The fire has been put out, and the losses are still being calculated. The board of directors’s Director and Vice-president Ji Ze has once again emphasized: ‘Fire is merciless; alarm bells ring’...

“From tomorrow onwards, Energy Zone’s No. 2 reactor unit will be officially suspended for maintenance. The energy allocation of all employees will be reduced by a quarter. There are no estimates when things will be restored to normal...

“Sun Chuci, chief scientist of the Geothermal Research Institute, said that he’s already trying to build a better geothermal model. This can bring about a change in the temperature at night while maintaining the optimal environment for the Indoor Ecosystem...

“At 6:40 p.m., there was an argument in the staff cafeteria on the 577th floor. A certain employee accused the cafeteria’s food dispenser of being unfair. He had one-tenth less of the same meat dish. The floor’s Order Supervisory Team has begun investigations...

“Between 7:20 to 7:30 p.m., two male employees were found fighting in the Rec Center on the 414th floor. The floor’s Order Supervisory Team has already begun investigations. The exact reason remains unknown. According to the employees present, this matter is related to the results of the central marriage assignment...


“...Having come to the end of the news, we shall play an acapella song like always. I hope everyone likes it. Thank you.


Shang Jianyao laid on the bed, in a spot where the light from the street lamps could not reach. His expression was calm as he listened to the broadcast without moving. Before he knew it, he had fallen asleep.

By the time he woke up, the street lamps outside had already been switched off, and the surroundings were pitch black.

The cold night air filled the room. Shang Jianyao realized that he had taken off his clothes at some point in time and had bundled himself under the blanket. He even had the thick, dark-green cotton coat draped over the blanket.

He didn’t have a clock or watch, so he didn’t know what time it was. He could only be sure that it wasn’t 6:30 in the morning because the street lamps weren’t lit yet.

He estimated that he might have fallen asleep before 8:30 last night. He slept two hours earlier than normal, so it was natural to wake up earlier.

After feeling the bulge in his lower abdomen for a few seconds, Shang Jianyao reached to the side of his pillow for a thick flashlight with a black plastic shell. He pushed the switch forward.

A beam of condensed light shot out, reflecting the sink diagonally across the room.

“I forgot to wash my face, brush my teeth, and soak my feet...” Shang Jianyao muttered. He suddenly lifted the blanket and got off the bed.

Within the company, apart from those who were assigned individual bathrooms—the higher-ranking employees and managers—everyone else could only shower in the large bathhouse that was part of the Rec Center.

Other than the employees who needed to bathe every day due to their jobs, everyone else could only shower two times a week. There was no compensation for not using the quota, and it couldn’t be brought forward.

After getting off the bed, Shang Jianyao didn’t waste any time. He put on the thick, dark-green cotton coat and rushed out with the flashlight, heading straight for the public toilet at the end of the street.

The battery in the flashlight was part of his energy ration. He didn’t dare waste it. Many employees prepared wooden barrels, spittoons, and other things at home so that they need not go out at night. Unfortunately, those things also required contribution points.

No one was in the public toilet so late at night. The sensor lights lit up in response to Shang Jianyao’s footsteps albeit they were rather dim.

After relieving himself, Shang Jianyao walked out of the public toilet and prepared to go home.

It was at that moment when he saw a beam of light coming from a flashlight from the corner of the corridor.

A few seconds later, a man in a dark-green cotton coat of the same style as that of Shang Jianyao quickly walked past and turned in the opposite direction of the public toilet.

Shang Jianyao stared at the man for two seconds before turning off the flashlight. He silently jogged in the darkness towards the small blob of light created by the other party.

He soon approached the man and realized that it was a middle-aged employee from a nearby block. He was Shen Du, a person he had to call ‘Uncle.’

“Hey!” Shang Jianyao suddenly jumped out of the darkness and patted Shen Du’s shoulder.

Shen Du’s hand trembled, almost throwing the flashlight to the ground. He looked at Shang Jianyao in horror before heaving a sigh of relief. “Jianyao, you scared me! It’s late at night. Don’t come over so suddenly to greet me!”

Shang Jianyao smiled. “Good evening, Uncle Shen. What time is it now?”

“It’s not 6 a.m. yet,” Shen Du replied subconsciously. Outside his house was a junction with a wall clock.

“Uncle Shen, where are you going?” Shang Jianyao looked around.

“I’m going... going to the bathroom...” Shen Du stopped mid-sentence. The direction he was heading in was directly opposite the public bathroom.

Under the flashlight’s illumination, his gentlemanly expression turned mixed. It was unknown if it was because of the cold night air or something else.

After organizing his words, Shen Du forced a smile onto his face and said, “I’m going to the public toilet in Zone C. Sigh, I dropped something there when I was at the Rec Center last night. I only realized it when I woke up just now and wanted to look for it as soon as possible.”

Shang Jianyao nodded, and his dark brown eyes seemed to be tainted with the same darkness around him. He then chuckled and said, “Uncle Shen, look. You’re wearing a green coat, and so am I. You’re a man, and so am I.”

Shen Du was confused when he heard this. Then, he came to a realization. “So, we are fellow parishioners!” He immediately became enthusiastic. “Are you also going to listen to the Guide’s sermon?”

“That’s right.” Shang Jianyao smiled in response.

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