Potential triggers for the entire novel:
Domestic abuse, sexual assault, suicide, nonconsensual sex (main cp).
T97 mentions this is an experimental work. Read @ your own risk.
If any of the above are landmines for you, please stop reading now.
Two days later, Shi Shanyan was re-assessed in the partitioned zone. The re-evaluation included an innermost feeling declaration segment, which required him to describe his aspiration for a better life in an elegant, positive language. Shi Shanyan drew a few duck eggs on the paper and said, “I’d like to hand in my paper.”
The system could not detect the words on the paper and answered, “Serial no. 01AE86, please answer seriously.”
Shi Shanyan twirled the pen and said, “I’m done answering.”
After a moment of silence, the system responded frankly, “If you want to eat eggs, I can put in an application for you.”
“I’m bored.” Shi Shanyan leaned back in his chair. The expression in his eyes was frosty. “Hurry the fuck up and let me out of here.”
“You may go out.” The system said, “The lawn before the building is always open to you.”
“Am I a dog that needs to pee on the lawn?” Shi Shanyan countered with a smile.
“Serial no. 01AE86, please do not do that.” Red lights flashed on the system. “Although this place is uninhabited, it’s still public property…”
“I said I want to go out.” Shi Shanyan held up his pen and rubbed his temple. He stared at the system, “Don’t pretend you don’t understand.”
The system’s database could never cope with how much of a tough nut Shi Shanyan was. It felt what human beings call a “headache”, and attempted to adopt a gentle communication style like that of a guidance teacher. “A vacation is a good time to take a break. You can sleep, or perhaps, read.”
Shi Shanyan leaned forward and said to the system, “Shut up.”
◈ ◈ ◈
Yan Junxun had just received the replacement number issued by the Inspection Bureau. He got himself a communicator, and was sent out by the panda for grocery shopping. He was wearing a white T-shirt today, standing in the wet market near his house. The weather was so hot that his forehead was dripping with sweat.
The panda kept instructing Yan Junxun through the earpiece. “Don’t buy the yellow vegetables. The news said that they were stored in the vacant lot next to the coke plant and its coal ash all over. You’ll fall sick if you eat them!”
“Okay.” Yan Junxun carried the eco-friendly, reusable bag in his hand. “Got it.”
“And the ‘molten iron’ bean sprouts from the Southern Front Alliance too.” The panda was washing the dishes in the kitchen, its paw making a few scrubbing motions in the water. “That stuff is a variant, and it’s so hard it’s almost like pieces of iron. You won’t be able to eat it.”
The wet market was choked full of people. Yan Junxun was so hot that he could scarcely breathe.
Tingbo District was really not suitable for human habitation. The exposure to dust in summer was rather severe. It seemed like it was an expanse of lush green everywhere, but remove the system data, and this place was just a picture of desolation. There were no days off for the chimneys of the coke plants, which spewed thick smoke every single moment.
Yan Junxun was growing more displeased about getting driven out of the house. He hated standing among the crowd, especially this kind of noisy crowd. The fish vendor was helping the customer to fling the fish down to kill it, but it did not die even after smashing into the ground. Instead, it hung on for dear life and flapped its tail, almost leaping onto Yan Junxun.
Yan Junxun wanted to go home.
“After buying the vegetables, remember to make a trip to the milk shop.” The panda was unaware of what Yan Junxun was going through. It said happily, “I’ve ordered fresh milk and some yogurt cubes.”
Yan Junxun turned to the side to let the plump auntie beside him pass. She squeezed her way before the vegetable stall and hollered, “How much for the bitter gourd from Guanggui District…”
The connection was cut off. Several minutes later, the communicator rang again.
Yan Junxun held the reusable bag up high and connected the call. “I know!”
“… Is that so?” Jiang Lian hesitantly paused for a moment. “Did he go over to you?”
“Who?” Yan Junxun turned his back to the stall and frowned. “Shi Shanyan? No, I haven’t seen him. If he has broken out of prison, it has nothing to do with me.”
“He thrashed the system surveillance camera in the partitioned zone.” Jiang Lian said quickly. “Did you forget to put the restraint lock back on him?”
Oh yeah. He had forgotten about it.
“Call Su Heting, or Fu Chenghui. Anyone’s fine, as long as he’s from Black Panther.” Yan Junxun lifted his bag and looked behind him. The vegetables he wanted to buy were almost all snatched up. If he did not get to buy it, the panda would surely nag non-stop at him when he got home. He only wanted to hang up the call as soon as possible. “He has a Data Positioning Chip on him.”
“Do you think he will flee?” Jiang Lian had some indeterminate doubts about Shi Shanyan. “I can’t contact…”
“He won’t.” Yan Junxun answered without hesitation. “I’m hanging up. I’m on vacation right now.”
Without waiting for Jiang Lian to answer, Yan Junxun hung up the call. Grocery-buying was the undertaking he was focused on at present. Who cared if Shi Shanyan escaped? Even if Tingbo District were to fall into the enemies’ hands, he had to get his hands on the vegetables first!
Resources were scarce everywhere after the war. The panda said before that it had once worried about supplies. The situation was already much better now; at least no one would starve. But fresh vegetables all came from the development zones, and they were regularly shipped out at fixed times from the vegetable industrial base every month. If he missed out on them today, he would have to wait until next month, when the cargo ships transporting vegetables arrived in Tingbo District.
Yan Junxun was unable to make his way through the crowd. He also saw stalls selling fruits, but they were all expensive. In the midst of this mad scramble, the communicator rang again. Yan Junxun ignored it. He only wanted to get this over and done with. By the time he managed to squeeze his way out of the crowd, his white shoes were already both smeared all over with footprints.
Holding the heavy eco-friendly bag in both arms, Yan Junxun stopped before the vending machine. He was all drenched in sweat. Wanting to drink a can of beer, he jabbed at the light screen with his pinky finger, but could not click on the correct spot. He glanced out of the corner of his eye to see that there was no one around. After a moment of silence, he said in a small voice, “I’d like—”
“Welcome.” The vending machine let loose an adorable meow and said, as if it was a kawaii young girl, “Please activate voice interaction using meowmeow language~”
He knew it! The vending machines in this district had a voice interaction mode added to cater to the needs of the majority of otaku in the residential area. This was something left behind from a few years back. Now, only young children would stand here and “meow meow meow” with the vending machines. The mature adults simply just clicked.
Yan Junxun refused to concede. “Please give me a can of beer.”
The vending machine emitted a cheerful sound effect as the kawaii girl’s voice continued, “Activation failed~! Please imitate this little vendor’s example. Meow~ Can I ask the adorable Xiaofan1 to give me a can of Summer Days Super Cool Ice-Cold Beer meow~!”
Yan Junxun took a step back, but was then driven back into place by the glaring sun. He stood for several minutes before he finally gritted his teeth and forced back his shame to say, “… meow…”
A hand suddenly reached out from behind Yan Junxun and jabbed at the screen.
The vending machine said in disappointment, “You have given up your interaction with Xiaofan. Xiaofan has regretfully lost an adorable little kitten.”
The can of beer toppled down with a clatter. The vending machine was still making cutesy sobbing sounds. There was no one else but the assaults of heatwaves around, not even a trace of the wind.
“Did I interrupt you?” Shi Shanyan poked his head out and teased, “Uh… you can continue with your meows.”
Yan Junxun’s expression was indescribable. The redness extended upwards from his ears and neck. He turned his head around, his eyes so watery that it looked as if he was about to cry. Only his tone was fierce. “… I’ll kill you!”
This is the start of Vol 2. Charon’s Ferry.
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