Chapter 953: Bonus Chapter: Meal
A convoy stopped in front of Serene Dream Hotel. Its leader was a person of Red River ethnicity dressed in a black formal suit and bow tie.
He was in his thirties, and he had bleached blond hair and light-blue eyes. Nothing about his appearance stood out.
The man led a small number of subordinates through the automatic revolving door and entered the hotel lobby.
The lady boss at the front desk wore a colorful dress and focused on the computer screen in front of her, ignoring the customers who stepped in.
“Madam Aynor, we need 20 rooms,” said the man in a slightly deep voice. He spoke fluent Ashlandic.
Aynor looked up at these people and curiously asked, “Where are you from? Why don’t I have any impression of you?”
She wasn’t Nanke Convent’s Zhou Yue, so she was good with faces.
The man introduced himself. “I’m the new steward of the Linhai Alliance’s Omnidirectional Commerce, Salinger.”
Aynor was rather relaxed. As she twirled her hair with her fingers, she casually asked, “It used to be Miens, right? Why isn’t he here? He no longer travels long distances like Tarnan because of his age?”
Salinger’s expression darkened. “Mr. Miens pa.s.sed away during the Heartless disease outbreak.”
Aynor fell silent for a few seconds before sighing and asking, “He contracted the Heartless disease?”
“No.” Salinger shook his head. “He was killed by a neighbor who contracted the Heartless disease. He was completely unprepared.”
Aynor let out a long sigh. “I heard about the Heartless disease outbreak. Did your Linhai Alliance suffer serious losses?”
“It was quite bad.” Salinger’s expression was solemn. “In the few large cities, the people who contracted the Heartless disease and the unlucky people they killed accounted for almost half. The small and medium-sized settlements were relatively fine, and there were only sporadic outbreaks. However, we already had a mature plan to deal with the Heartless. The army was only dealt a blow, and it didn’t collapse. After surviving the initial tragedy, people slowly gained a foothold and restored order bit by bit. It wasn’t as completely chaotic as when the Old World was destroyed.”
Aynor chuckled. “You have to know that when the Old World was destroyed, more than 90% of people either contracted the Heartless disease or died from the indiscriminate attacks. It was countless times worse than this.”
Salinger didn’t argue with her and continued, “We also lost a lot of supplies this time, so we brought forward our trading trip to Tarnan.”
“What about elsewhere? Was it similar to yours?” Aynor rarely left Serene Dream, much less Tarnan, but she was very interested in the outside world.
Salinger recalled for a moment before answering, “As far as I know, there were major Heartless outbreaks in the various large factions. However, some suffered seriously while others were relatively fine.
“The Salvation Army was relatively fine, but First City had it bad. It wasn’t bad for one-fifth of the population in the Ashlands’ largest city to survive. Oh right, I heard that the small and medium-sized settlements in First City had the same outcomes as ours—they only suffered small losses.
“Pangu Biology built a base south of the Blackmarsh Wilderness. It should be because the headquarters was seriously damaged. It was set up by the members outside and the survivors who escaped…”
Aynor quietly listened and laughed self-deprecatingly. “Fortunately, our Tarnan is remote. No Kalendaria pays attention to us. Only a few clergymen became Heartless.”
She retracted her gaze and clicked on the computer, arranging 20 rooms for Omnidirectional Commerce.
Of course, the rooms were definitely not free.
After settling down, Salinger saw that it was already late and that he and the others were still hungry. Therefore, he only left a portion of his people to eat rations and guard the goods, allowing the other subordinates to move around freely and search for food themselves.
He had come to Tarnan a few times with the old steward, Miens. He skillfully left Serene Dream and turned into a main road, planning to find a bar to fill his stomach and kill time.
The lights had just switched on, and the light on both sides of the road extended into the distance. Many Ruin Hunters set up stalls under the street lamps, and robot guards occasionally patrolled the area.
This wasn’t much different from the Tarnan in Salinger’s memories. The scene was equally lively and beautiful like before, but it lacked scenes of the religions giving away fried chicken wings and their various activities.
Salinger missed it.
He walked to the end of the street and approached the two bars.
Suddenly, he heard loud music and a man shouting ‘2-2-3-4, 5-6-7-8’ ahead.
Curious and having nothing else to do, Salinger walked over. Before long, he saw a group of people dancing a strange dance at Nanke Convent’s entrance.
In front of these men and women stood a tall, black-haired man in gray camouflage. He seemed to be the lead dancer as he constantly shouted out a beat and danced with utmost focus and excitement.
Salinger recalled what he had seen and muttered to himself, “After-meal entertainment…”
He watched those people dance for a while and was vaguely affected by the rhythm. His body swayed slightly.
At this moment, an Ashlandic woman walked out of Nanke Convent. She was also wearing a gray camouflage uniform, and she was tall and had a ponytail. She smiled and shouted at the people at the door, “Mealtime!”
The tall man leading the dance stubbornly completed all the remaining eight-beat actions. He cheered. “Time for Pork Stew!”
The people who had been dancing rushed into Nanke Convent.
Upon seeing this, Salinger was just about to return to the bar when the nearly 1.8-meter-tall woman at the door smiled and greeted him. “Let’s eat together. There’s still plenty of room.”
The other party was enthusiastic and sincere, and Salinger was curious about the taste of Pork Stew. He didn’t refuse and walked over, entering Nanke Convent.
There were three to four round tables in the impluvium and the hall. Hot white steam was rising from the pots, carrying a rich and special fragrance.
Salinger couldn’t help but gulp a mouthful of saliva. The next second, he saw the black-haired Abbess Zhou Yue—who was wearing a white robe tied with a hemp rope.
“Good evening, Abbess Zhou.” Salinger greeted politely.
Zhou Yue widened her eyes and sized him up. “Which faction are you from?”
“Linhai Alliance’s Omnidirectional Commerce,” Salinger replied frankly.
Zhou Yue tersely acknowledged it and happily said, “Miens, so it’s you. It’s been a while.”
Salinger was stunned for two seconds. “I’m not Mr. Miens; I’m Salinger. I’ve only been here two to three times before.”
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He felt that Abbess Zhou’s failure to recognize faces seemed to have worsened—much worse.
After he was done, he saw the tall woman—who had previously invited him in—move a recliner, sit under the eaves of the hall, and leisurely flip through a book under the light.
“What are you reading?” Salinger—who planned on thanking the other party—went over and found a topic to make small talk.
The woman smiled and raised the book. “Old World’s ‘Study of the Gold Coast’s Folklore.’”
“Oh…” Salinger wasn’t interested and asked, “Any changes in Tarnan recently?”
The woman smiled and replied, “They are strict with foreign robots. They say that they are guarding against spies.”
“Robot spies?” Salinger had a look of disbelief.
At this moment, the tall man—who had previously led the dance—appeared at Nanke Convent’s entrance and said to the people gathered outside, “Today is the recital compet.i.tion!”
“Recital compet.i.tion?” In his confusion, Salinger saw the lady in front of him looking at the door and asked, “You know him?”
“Isn’t that obvious?” The lady laughed.
Salinger asked, “What is he doing?”
“Organizing some entertainment activities.” The lady held a book in one hand and raised her finger with the other. “Some time ago, it was a singing compet.i.tion. A little earlier, it was a dancing compet.i.tion. Recently, he’s been having radio gymnastics and recitals…”
Salinger saw a faint and obvious smile on the lady’s face as she counted.
As the two of them spoke, the recital at the door gradually sounded. “Generals having suffered ruin and shame after countless battles, gaze in the direction of where they parted. Everything is so distant, that old acquaintances are parted by death.
“The waters of Yi murmur still in wintry westerlies; everyone present has what seems like snow on their clothes and crests.
“Heroic warriors sing away in their never-ending grief. Those crying birds probably wouldn’t be crying tears but blood if they could comprehend such sorrow and gloom.
“Who shall share this intoxication with me under the bright moon1?”
After quietly listening, Salinger thanked the lady in front of him for her invitation and walked into the hall.
He saw many believers sitting in chairs and praying attentively in front of the dragon symbol formed by the shattered mirror shards.
Zhou Yue had black hair draped over her shoulders, and she wore a white robe with a hemp rope wrapped around her waist. She stood there as if she was untainted.
Salinger walked over, looked back at the lady reading under the eaves, and said to Zhou Yue, “Abbess Zhou, does that lady live in Nanke Convent?”
Otherwise, why would she leisurely set up a recliner here to read?
Zhou Yue smiled and nodded. “Yes.”
Salinger sighed sincerely. “There seems to be many more people in the temple all of a sudden. It wasn’t like this in the past.”
There were very few believers previously.
Zhou Yue tersely acknowledged it and raised her arms. She then raised her body slightly and looked up at a certain spot. “Everything is but a dream. Why so serious?”
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