Striving for ScienceChapters List
Chapter 16: It's For Their Own Good
"Let's all go back." Dao Nian stared at the thick mist in the dark night, his expression languid, as if nothing in the world could pique his interest anymore. "No need to pay respects."
A trace of worry flickered in Liu Mao's eyes, but he didn't dare to defy Dao Nian's wishes. He took out a token from his pocket and tossed it outside the car window, where it blended into the endless thick fog.
Soon, the dense fog dissipated, and the streetlights seemed to brighten up a bit.
Not long after the car drove away, an old, rickety bus rattled down the street from somewhere. Perhaps it had a bell attached because it kept making a jingling sound.
With each bell ring, several blurry figures appeared under the bus stop sign. They formed a queue and one by one squeezed onto the weathered and paint-peeled old bus.
Carrying Grandpa Zhang back to the residential compound, Shen Changan noticed that Grandpa Zhang was feeling downcast. He whispered, "Grandpa Zhang, let me fetch some vegetables for you. Don't close the door just yet."
"No need, I won't take such advantage." Grandpa Zhang waved his hand. "Go to sleep."
"Alright, then you rest well. Good night." Seeing that Grandpa Zhang, despite looking a bit disheartened, still had good spirits, Shen Changan felt relieved. He headed upstairs, took a refreshing shower, and enjoyed a sound sleep.
The next morning, when he woke up, he felt refreshed, as if his entire body had been rejuvenated. Too lazy to cook, he made himself a bowl of egg and vegetable noodles, and after eating hurried to the office.
He thought it was time to get himself some means of transportation. Walking to and from work every day was good for exercise, but it didn't allow him to sleep in. Plus, winter was just a couple of months away, and Wuming City was an area without heating. Those cold mornings would be tough to endure.
Entering the office, Shen Changan caught a whiff of the scent of fried dough sticks, deep-fried dough sticks. Looking around, he found a white porcelain plate and a coffee mug in front of Xu Ze. However, instead of bread and steak, the plate held neatly cut fried dough sticks.
Even drinking soy milk and eating fried dough sticks was so refined–no wonder he was the elegant boy of their office.
Noticing his gaze, Xu Ze wiped the corners of his mouth, "I have one left here. Would you like it?"
"Thank you, no need. I had breakfast at home." Glancing around again, Shen Changan noticed that Aunt Juan, who usually arrived earliest, wasn't there today.
Seeing that Shen Changan didn't want it, Xu Ze didn't insist, and finished the plate of fried dough sticks just as it was one minute before the start of the workday.
Shen Changan watched him quickly tidy up his desk within that one minute and place a folder in front of him. He sensed subtly that these few young colleagues of his were actually quite talented.
Ding Yang who was deathly afraid but always went on night missions, refined and particular Xu Ze who liked soy milk, fried dough sticks and hot pot, and Chen Panpan, who was incredibly well-informed. These three might seem eccentric and peculiar in other departments, but here, they were the perfect blend of harmony and compatibility.
Until noon when work was almost over, Aunt Jian still hadn't come. Shen Changan was just about to ask Chen Pandan why Juan didn't come when he heard an elderly man calling his name from outside.
"Shen Changan, which one of you is Shen Changan? Come out, quick!"
The tone didn't sound too friendly, and Chen Panpan, Ding Yang, and Xu Ze all turned to look at Shen Changan, with half worry and half barely concealed curiosity for the commotion in their eyes.
Shen Changan: "…"
Tomorrow was a day off, and he had only been here for a little over a month. Who would specially come looking for trouble with him? Countless thoughts raced through his mind as he stood up, walked to the balcony, and peered down. An elderly man, dressed in a white coat and blue pants, with a ruddy complexion, stood below, hands on hips, looking imposing, as if he were here to pick a fight.
Shen Changan was a bit bewildered. While he wasn't a once-in-a-century genius, he did have a brain that got him into a top university. As far as he could remember, he had never seen this elder before–why would he come looking for trouble with him?
"Uncle, may I ask what brings you here?" Though puzzled inside, Shen Changan smiled as he spoke.
The old man stared at him for a few seconds, his angry expression fading. He forced a smile with an obvious awkwardness. "Hello, I've come to find Shen Changan. Could you let me meet him?"
Ding Yang and the others, who had come out to see what was happening, were now even more puzzled. From the old man's tone, it seemed like he had a big grudge against Shen Changan. However, his manner of speaking to Shen Changan showed that he didn't even recognize him. Even the awkward smile had a hint of flattering.
Ding Yang whispered to Xu Ze, "What's going on here?"
Xu Ze shook his head. "I don't know."
The old man, however, didn't have the energy to pay attention to the expressions of Ding Yang and the others. He continued to ingratiatingly look at Shen Changan, "Young man, here's the thing. There's a Shen Changan here who has bullied one of my little grand-nephews. I've come to seek justice from him."
"Grand-nephew?" Shen Changan was certain he had no habit of bullying children. "May I ask how old your grandson is?"
"He's …six years old this year." The old man got angrier as he spoke. "I need to get this settled with him. If he doesn't explain, I'll complain to his superiors."
Ding Yang, Xu Ze and Chen Pandan all turned to look at Shen Changan with expressions that said they never expected him to be that kind of man.
Shen Changan: "…"
He observed the elderly man carefully; he didn't seem like someone deliberately lying. Shen Changan had no choice but to say, "Could there be some misunderstanding in this?"
"What misunderstanding could there be? Because of him, my little grand-nephew lost a big handful of hair. You don't know, in our family ...it's extremely difficult for us to have children. With something this big happening to the child, how could we elders not be heartbroken?"
Shen Changan: "…"
It wasn't me, I didn't do it. I swear.
"Look, could you let me meet Shen Changan and settle this matter?" After saying this, the old man gave Shen Changan another ingratiating smile, as if Shen Changan's nodding or shaking his head was of utmost importance to him.
"Uncle, I believe there might be a misunderstanding here. I've only been in Wuming City for a little over a month, and I've only helped children pick up their toys–I've never bullied a child," Shen Changan smiled bitterly, "How about this–you bring your grandson over and ask if he's mistaken someone else for me?"
The elderly man's expression stiffened, and even his voice changed. "Are you... Are you Shen Changan?"
Shen Changan pushed up the glasses on the bridge of his nose: "Uncle, I am Shen Changan."
The elderly man stared at Shen Changan blankly for nearly half a minute, then suddenly changed his tone and laughed dryly: "At first glance, young man, you don't seem like the type to bully children. My grandson said that the person who bullied him had a fierce face and was extremely ugly. You, on the other hand, have a dignified appearance and radiate good fortune. You can't possibly be that Shen Changan."
Shen Changan: Huh?
"Sorry to have bothered you all. I'll take my leave." The elderly man turned and rushed out, even sprinting when he neared the gate.
"This old man...runs pretty fast." Ding Yang patted Shen Changan's shoulder nervously, "Luckily, this elder isn't a stubborn person, or if he insisted it was you who bullied his grandson, he might come here making noise every day and cause you trouble in the future."
"I said Changan wouldn't be the type to bully children." Chen Pandan thought of how Shen Changan had beaten up the hooligans who harassed her and coughed lightly, "Even if he beats up hooligans, he wouldn't harm children."
In the courtyard, the old tree, with nutrient solution hanging from it, swayed gently in the breeze. A few leaves fell to the ground, twirling in the air.
"But you're pretty unlucky to encounter this kind of thing," Ding Yang sympathetically patted his shoulder. "Go pray to the gods when you get a chance, maybe it'll help."
"If praying to gods worked, I wouldn't need to come to work." Hearing "pray to the gods", Shen Changan's expression became rather faint. "When it's time to leave work, let's all go home to eat."
"Right, right, let's go home for lunch."
In his office, Du Zhonghai held a teacup, looking through the window with amusement as the young people dispersed in a hurry.
He touched his somewhat balding head and walked to the balcony. After looking outside for a while, he slowly headed home for dinner. His wife was in a good mood today and had made potato and pork ribs stew - he'd better hurry home to eat.
When Shen Changan returned home for lunch, he found that Grandpa Zhang's door was tightly closed, and there was no response when he knocked. He guessed that Grandpa Zhang might have gone out, so he prepared dinner for himself alone. After finishing his meal, he sent a few text messages to Dao Nian as usual.
Through his persistent efforts, Dao Nian had now improved to the point where he regularly replied to his messages. Although his responses were brief, this progress was worth acknowledging.
In the afternoon, when they returned to work, Aunt Juan was still absent. According to Chen Panpan, Aunt Juan's younger sister lived in the countryside and something big seemed to have happened there. Aunt Juan had taken leave to visit her sister in the countryside.
Shen Changan sent a text message to Aunt Juan, but she might have been busy as she didn't respond.
After getting off work, Shen Changan didn't directly return home, but went to the supermarket instead.
He pushed his shopping cart while sending a message to Dao Nian.
Changan: Dao Nian, do you have any taboos?
After several days of communication, Shen Changan and Dao Nian's friendship had developed to the point where they could address each other by their names directly. For someone who lacked the desire to communicate with others, this was remarkable progress and something to be celebrated.
Changan: Is there any fruit you particularly like?
Changan: Alright, I'll pick something out. Come over early tomorrow, and I can make some appetizers for you.
When Dao Nian replied with an added full stop, it seemed that he was quite pleased about the idea of coming over to Shen Changan's place as a guest.
Dao Nian put down his phone, leaned lazily on a soft couch, and raised his index finger slightly, gesturing for the person standing in front of him to continue speaking.
"Sir, impurities have appeared in the north and spawned some evil ghosts. The Taoists among the humans have already rushed there, and set up an altar there. We..."
Dao Nian interrupted, "No, let them handle their own matters."
"The sir speaks wisely, we shouldn't indulge the human habit of seeking help from gods and Buddhism for every little thing," Liu Mao said, "They are capable of handling such matters themselves. If truly unable, the underworld will intervene without need for worry."
Dao Nian glanced at Liu Mao and nodded slightly.
Although humans often claimed to be the children of the gods, they also frequently said that indulging the child was akin to killing the child.
So, they are doing this all for the good of humanity.
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