Chapter 14: Crossroad
Humans are very resilient creatures.
The next day, everyone had adapted to their life living in the examinee’s rest stop.
Although it was not a town, when compared to the hunter’s cabin, it was much better.
There was food to eat, they could sleep at ease, they wouldn’t die by going out and there weren’t any chickens chasing after you reminding you to submit your answers.
Opposite the rest stop was a house that was three storeys high. It hung heavy plastic curtains that had turned yellow with age and is no longer transparent. Only a faint circle of incandescent light could be seen emanating from within.
There was a wooden sign displayed outside. The word “Warehouse” was written.
“What’s a warehouse?” The twin girls asked in unison.
Old Yu was very patient with children. He explained: “It’s like a grocery store. It sells everything. You haven’t seen it before?”
Not only the girls, many others also shook their heads. They said: “Where we come from, we don’t call it that.”
“Is that so?” Old Yu muttered.
He was rather crafty so when he followed everyone in, he immediately tried to chat with the owner. After exchanging a few words, he found out that the owner was from the same town.
The owner of the warehouse was surnamed Zhao. He was a very unfriendly fellow townsman.
“Big brother. I’ll call you big brother now.” Old Yu said this passionately.
The owner Zhao Ding was at most fourty years old and is definitely younger than Old Yu. He had a strong build and a straight back, yet he shamelessly acknowledged this “big brother” nickname. Holding his cigarette, he said monotonously: “Up to you.”
Old Yu said: “Big brother, you must have been away from home for many years. My accent isn’t strong but yours is even more so. If not for seeing the word “Warehouse”, I wouldn’t have noticed.”
Smoke constantly poured out from Zhao’s mouth: “I guess.”
“You’ve always had a shop here?”
Old Yu let out an “oh” and tentatively asked: “Looking at brother’s posture, were you a soldier before? Why did you come here to open a shop?”
Zhao finally glanced at him from amidst the smoke. He said a long sentence: I haven’t but seeing your posture, were you really once a soldier? How did you become fat like this?”
Old Yu: “………..”
Zhao inhaled the cigarette a few times and extinguished it after only the butt was left: “Don’t try to act close. It’s not going to work here. You may be acting all touched today but you might be dead tomorrow.”
Old Yu: “……….”
“If you’re going to buy something, hurry up and do it. If not, leave.” Zhao said this and pulled out a new cigarette.
The first floor of the warehouse was covered in smoke. The sick patient Zhou Jin went in and left immediately with a coughing fit. But he didn’t give up the opportunity to shop.
Because there were more things in this store than he had imagined.
It looked more like a comprehensive supermarket with a shabby external appearance. There were clothes, blankets, pillows, pots, pans, cups, spoons, chopsticks, medications and anything you would want to find in a supermarket. Things that you don’t find in a supermarket were also here. From the first to the third floor, it was completely filled.
Every floor had several shopping carts which were coated in a layer of dust.
They all pushed a cart each and started to sweep through the goods like crazy. It was as if ghosts had just entered the village.
“Wait, none of these things are priced!” Yu Wen suddenly cried out.
Zhou Jin picked up a few bottles of cough syrup and also a box of anti-inflammatory pain medications: “I’ve noticed that a long time ago. Cough, cough………..This is probably like those at tourist attractions. The price must have been doubled.”
“Taking advantage of us while we’re on the brink of death and ripping us off. It’s expected.” Everyone agreed.
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Everyone knew this truth, but no one stopped their actions.
When money could be exchanged for their life, they don’t feel bad about spending it.
Yu Wen still felt that something wasn’t right. He pushed his cart around to find his brother and found You Huo standing in the corner of the third floor.
What surprised him was that You Huo was also purchasing goods.
“Brother, you’re also pushing a cart?” Yu Wen went over and asked.
You Huo heard this and glanced at him. His expression seemed to be saying ‘What nonsense are you spouting?’.
Yu Wen awkwardly waved his hand and said: “It’s nothing. I was just looking…..”
If even his brother is buying something, then it should be okay.
Yu Wen felt relieved and started to flip through You Huo’s shopping cart.
He had originally thought that he would see a bunch of emergency equipment such as flashlights, batteries, ropes, knifes……..
But all this great master got was a change of clothes and a black backpack.
That was it.
“Uh…..Brother, are you getting anything else?” Yu Wen asked.
You Huo flipped through the hangers and took out a black down jacket. He threw it into the cart: “Just these.”
Yu Wen suddenly felt that he, with the light sticks, flashlights, batteries and the such…….., was like an idiot attending a concert.
When they returned to the first floor, everyone had almost picked out everything that they needed and they all pushed their cart over to the checkout counter.
You Huo didn’t like crowds so he stood away from them and waited lazily by the wall.
The old lady at the front asked the owner: “Just these. How much is it?”
Zhao had already smoked several cigarettes. Looking through the smoke, he scanned through the items in the cart. He snorted inexplicably: “You can tell in one glance it’s your first time.”
Everyone didn’t understand.
Zhao: “When people come here, they would only be brave enough to take this number of items.”
He raised two fingers.
“What do you mean brother? Two items?” Old Yu asked.
Zhao: “Yes. And that’s the most generous one.”
How fucking expensive is it?
Everyone silently glanced at their carts filled with items. Zhou Jin finally couldn’t help and ask: “……Can we use WeChat, Alipay1? Or card? I don’t have much cash.”
Yu Wen added: “I haven’t taken out cash in years.”
Zhao: “Wechat, Alipay doesn’t work here.”
Zhou Jin and Yu Wen were disappointed.
Zhao also said: “Cash is also not accepted.”
Yu Wen: “Huh? Then what do we use?”
Zhao pulled out a card from under the counter. It looked exactly like the small room card they had received earlier.
“Do you all have this? You use this.” Zhao flicked the cart while showing enthusiasm that he had not shown the entire time. He smiled and said: “Isn’t there an exam ticket at the back of the card? Do you see the points? The things here in my shop are bought with those points.”
“It’s not expensive. Daily necessities, including clothing of any kind is 0.5. Food, medicines etc is 1 point. As for knives and anything that can be used as a weapon, it’s 2 points. It’s very easy to remember. Do you want to calculate the price yourself first?”
Everyone froze on the spot. Their faces were pale.
Just the items in their shopping carts were enough to give them a negative score.
Zhou Jin looked at his cart filled with medicine and gasped. He started coughing violently.
No wonder these shopping carts were coated with dust. No wonder even the most generous people would only take two items.
The points that they have were all earned with their blood, sweat and tears. No one knew what the next exam would be like.
If they bought one or two things here and end up just one point away from passing when they calculate the cumulative score, they would probably cut their stomachs open in regret.
Zhao didn’t find this scene strange.
After scaring them, he reverted back to his usual lukewarm attitude and said: “Here, I’ll check it out.”
As soon as he said that, the people around the counter took two steps back.
“No one’s buying?” You Huo who stood waiting by the wall suddenly spoke up.
Everyone, including the owner, set their sights on him.
He straightened up, pushed the cart over to the counter and took out the room card from his jeans pocket. Handing it to Zhao, he said: “Checkout.”
He looked at the items in You Huo’s cart with an open mouth. The cigarette butt fell onto his shoe.
You Huo held onto the card waiting for a while and appeared to be slightly impatient.
Zhou snapped back to his senses and hurriedly extinguished the cigarette butt with his foot: “I’ll check it out——–”
The clothes, jeans, black bag and down jacket added up to a total of three points.
You Huo heard this and nodded.
He seemed to think that he still had plenty to spare and started to scan across the shelf behind the owner. He then said: “Add another pack of cigarettes and a lighter.”
Yu Wen couldn’t hold back: “Brother, you don’t even smoke so why are you buying this?”
You Huo placed the clothes into the black bag and said without raising his head, “Just in case.”
Two minutes later, You Huo returned to his room with the bag hanging from one of his shoulders. The points on his examination ticket was now 15 points and, in a speed faster than someone falling from a building, he had become the one in the group with the lowest score.
Yu Wen looked at his unchanging expression and felt that his brother was really tough.
Seven days at the examinee’s rest stop passed in a blink of an eye.
At 3:12pm on the last day, the entire group checked out and Boss Chu personally kicked them out the door.
“Here, go straight ahead. There is a crossroad 200 metres ahead. Now go.” Chu Yue waved at them and said, “Don’t waste anymore time. It won’t be good when it gets too late. I hope this isn’t our last farewell.”
She said that and then closed the door.
The lightbox with “Accommodation. Heating. Catering.” flashed a few times before suddenly going out.
These houses still remained standing amongst the snow and fog but, with none of their lights on, they looked like houses that had been abandoned for many years.
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“This really isn’t a haunted house?” Yu Wen shuddered.
You Huo recalled the invigilators’ words.
He had asked if this was a supernatural event, but the invigilator’s response was no. The other party had wanted to something else at that time but, before he was able to speak, he had received a warning.
What exactly is this?
You Huo mulled over this inside. When the next exam starts, he will find a chance to trick the invigilator into spilling the truth.
Hopefully the invigilator this time is one that is honest and easy to fool.
200 metres wasn’t very far.
Everyone very quickly arrived at the place mentioned by Chu Yue.
It was indeed a crossroad. A solitary pavilion sat in the middle of the intersections and a figure was slumped against it.
That person saw them and struggled to stand up.
When they got closer, they saw that it was the tattooed man who didn’t want to stay at the rest stop.
But, compared to his appearance at that time, he was now covered in blood and his left arm hung lifelessly beside him. One of his legs was also broken.
“How did you become like this?”
Although they didn’t like him very much, no one wanted him to die or become disabled. Afterall, he was originally just a stranger and they held no grudges against him.
The tattooed man said with a hoarse voice: “It’s good enough not becoming crazy.”
“How long have you been here?” Everyone looked at the pavilion.
The tattooed man said: “Two days.”
“Why didn’t you go to the examinee rest stop?”
The tattooed man revealed an embarrassed expression which also held a hint of anger: “If I go back, I’ll be her grandson. Also…….I couldn’t find the way back after I left. All I could find was this.”
“Then why didn’t you continue on?” Yu Wen asked.
The tattooed man swept his eyes across and pointed at the roads: “Look at those signs yourself.”
With his reminder, everyone now noticed that there was a sign erected at each of the four roads.
Under normal circumstances, those signs would say xx road or xx street.
But this wasn’t the case here.
The four signs each said respectively:
Inside the pavilion, a small horn suddenly sounded and the familiar voice that was heard from the radio once again appeared here.
【This round of exam is designed to be 3+1+1.2 Congratulations on successfully completing one of them, there are currently four other exams pending.】
【Examinees have the right to choose and can complete them in any order.】
【Please make your choice within 30 seconds.】
【Latecomers will have their examination opportunity stripped.】
At a crossroad like this, they would rather remain in place until they died.
The dog Yu Wen grabbed You Huo and said: “Brother, I’ll choose whatever you choose!”
The others all looked over at him.
What they didn’t expect was for You Huo to look around and say expressionlessly: “There’s a choice? From my perspective, all of the signs are saying Foreign Language.”
Yu Wen: “Huh???”
What was even more frustrating was, in You Huo’s eyes, he could see a figure standing at the end of every intersection.
That figure was tall. Standing under an umbrella in the snow, that person appeared to be waiting for him.
You Huo coldly sneered. His face was green with anger.