Striving for ScienceChapters List
Chapter 2: Tree Stump
"The mighty river meanders Eastward, serene and wide,
stars form the majestic Big Dipper in the sky…!"
[Dàhé xiàng dōng liú ah, tiānshàng de xīngxīng cān běidǒu ah!]
"When faced with injustice, roar loudly..." Shen Changan hummed along with the music playing in the car, seeming to be in a good mood, although his singing was a bit off-key.
[T/N: "Hao Han Ge" is an inspiring song that encourages people to have the courage to pursue their passions and fight for what they believe is right. 刘欢- Liu Huan's song "Hao Han Ge" (Heroes' Song) express feelings of freedom, bravery, and adventure. It talks about the courage to do things and not being afraid of challenges or danger. ]
Mist enveloped the mountainous village road, and occasionally, wild birds flitted by in a hurry, making the entire road look desolate. Listening to Shen Changan's off-key singing, Ding Yang took out his phone and glanced at it. It had been less than half an hour since they swapped seats, but it felt like they had been driving on this road for hours.
He touched the pictures of the great figures he had on him, feeling reassured. Fortunately, he had laminated the photos, so he was not afraid of it getting wet from the rain.
As the car rounded a bend, Ding Yang noticed a drenched man in the distance, waving his hand as if asking for a ride. In the midst of nowhere, with such heavy rain outside, it was dangerous for someone to be walking alone. Ding Yang quickly spoke up, "Changan, there's a person up ahead who seems to need a lift. Let's give him a ride."
"Where?" Shen Changan hit the brakes, and the water in the mud puddle splashed several meters away under the pressure of the wheels.
Seeing the man being splattered with muddy water from head to toe, Ding Yang's lips trembled. It might be better not to pick him up; he was afraid the man would end up killing Shen Changan after getting in the car.
"Yang-Ge, where's the person?" Shen Changan looked around and, not seeing anyone, turned off the player. He looked at Ding Yang with confusion. "Did you see it wrong?"
Ding Yang blinked and then looked more carefully at the man on the roadside. It turned out it wasn't a person, but just a tree stump with a tattered piece of clothing thrown over it, giving the illusion of a man stretching out his hand from a distance.
"The rain is too heavy, it's playing tricks on my eyes." Ding Yang smiled awkwardly, feeling somewhat uneasy, he added "Let's keep going; Juan-Jie and the others are still waiting for us to return."
"Of course, we still need to make it back for the dinner gathering." Shen Changan glanced at his watch. "We have a little over two hours; we'll be on time."
The van continued to move forward. Perhaps Shen Changan's attitude had influenced Ding Yang, as most of his inexplicable fear had dissipated. To avoid an awkward atmosphere in the car, he started chatting with Shen Changan.
Fortunately, Shen Changan wasn't the silent type, and the two of them had a pleasant conversation. After chatting, Ding Yang looked out the window at the heavy rain and said worriedly, "This is the perfect time for harvesting rice. The rain is so heavy, I wonder whether it will affect the villagers' harvest."
"Summer rain usually comes and goes quickly; so we don't need to worry," Shen Changan glanced at Ding Yang while thinking his new colleague looked young but had a good heart.
"That's good to hear," Ding Yang smiled. "I'm from a rural area, and I often witnessed the rush to harvest rice in the summer. So, when we encounter bad weather, I can't help but worry. Changan, you're from a big city, so you might not be familiar with those rural matters, right?"
Shen Changan, with his fair and tender appearance, didn't look like a child who grew up in a village.
"I spent two years in the countryside when I was young, so I'm not completely clueless," Shen Changan smiled. "Before coming here to work, a friend told me that there are many delicious foods in this area. Is it the same in our Wuming City?"
When Ding Yang heard the words "our Wuming City," he unconsciously felt a slight closeness to Shen Changan and immediately responded, "Absolutely! Whenever people mention our local cuisine, they always compare it to the provincial capital. But in reality, other cities in our province also have many delicacies; but they just aren't as famous."
"With such heavy rain, it would be a shame if we can't make it to tonight's gathering," Shen Changan said after Ding Yang introduced several local delicacies. He pressed down on the accelerator, and the car surged forward with increased speed.
Nothing could stop him from pursuing good food!
"The rain... seems to be getting lighter?" Shortly after the van picked up speed, Ding Yang noticed that the rain outside suddenly became lighter, and even the water mist affecting visibility mist had also thinned out.
"It looks like we'll make it back in time to change clothes for the dinner gathering." Shen Changan was in a good mood, and when he smiled, his eyes curved like a beautiful crescent moon.
After the car drove out of the mountain village road, the phone that had been without signal gradually regained its communication function. Before the car even reached the main road, Ding Yang's phone started ringing.
Just as he pressed the answer button, Gao Shujuan's piercing voice came through the speaker, without even using the public speaker function.
"Xiaoding, where are you and Xiaoshen? Why couldn't I reach you on your phone?"
"I heard there was a landslide in Yumi Village, and someone had an accident. You two should come back first and wait until the weather improves before going over!"
"That boy Xiaoshen just started working, and he's so polite and gentle. As his senior, you should take good care of him."
When the polite and gentle Shen Changan heard this, he smiled at Ding Yang. Indeed, he appeared really polite and well-behaved. Ding Yang listened quietly to Gao Shujuan's nagging and after hanging up the phone, he silently looked at Shen Changan with a complex expression. If he went back and told his colleagues that this polite and gentle new colleague could drive a van like an airplane, who would believe it??
Ding Yang couldn't help but touch his own face. It was undeniable that people with a gentle appearance and fair complexion had an unfair advantage.
Shen Changan drove back to his place and lent Ding Yang a set of unworn clothes to change into. Ding Yang felt a bit embarrassed, repeatedly saying that he would return them after washing them clean at home.
"Yang-Ge, You're too polite." Shen Changan handed a cup of ginger tea to him while saying. "I live nearby, so it's more convenient to change at my place."
Ding Yang still felt a bit embarrassed. He glanced at Shen Changan's house, which looked like a model house. Maybe it was because Shen Changan had just moved in, there wasn't much personal touch yet. Housing prices in Wuming City were not high, and most families preferred three-bedroom apartments of ninety square meters or more. A two-bedroom apartment of about 70 square meters like the one Shen Changan lives in was not considered mainstream in this area.
He didn't ask whether Shen Changan had bought or rented the house. Holding the teacup, he took a few sips. "We still have an hour until the dinner gathering. Should we sit for a while?"
"En." Shen Changan turned on the television. Since the house didn't have broadband yet, the TV only received a few local channels, and the screen was still floating with snowflake dots.
Ding Yang glanced at the TV and couldn't help sitting up straight. He trembled as he pointed at the TV. "Changan, look at the news quickly."
The city TV station was broadcasting an emergency news bulletin, reporting a road collapse leading to the Yumi Village. There was an accident involving a car, and the driver died despite rescue efforts. Other vehicles were advised not to travel on that road at the moment.
"Thank goodness we made it back in time," Shen Changan looked at the TV and expressed his relief. "Otherwise we would have been stuck and it would be too late to make it back."
"The collapsed road segment is where we passed through." Ding Yang, being a local, was familiar with the nearby routes, so he immediately recognized the collapsed section shown on TV. "Did we happen to miss any collapsed areas when we were coming back just now?"
Shen Changan looked at Ding Yang with a complicated expression. "Yang-Ge, do you still want to encounter something like that?"
"No, don't you find it odd?" Ding Yang said. "We didn't come across any other vehicles when we returned, yet in the video, there was an ambulance. Isn't there something unusual about it?"
"Yang-Ge, our job is to promote science, not to promote strange events." Shen Changan calmly patted his shoulder. "Perhaps the ambulance was in the nearby village and happened to be in this car accident. It's normal that we didn't encounter them on our way back. The collapse likely happened after we left. Don't scare yourself; it's just an accident."
The gentle pat on his shoulder brought a sense of calm to Ding Yang. After considering it carefully, he realized that Shen Changan's words were rational. They were both sitting here safely, so there was no need to unnecessarily frighten himself.
After finishing the whole cup of ginger tea, Ding Yang felt a bit bloated and went to the bathroom to relieve himself.
"At 3:08 pm this afternoon, we received a call and rushed to the scene, but unfortunately, the victim was beyond saving..."
Shen Changan glanced at the TV screen, which displayed the surname, age, and physical features of the deceased, urging the family members to come and claim the body as soon as possible.
He turned off the TV with the remote control and turned to see Ding Yang coming out of the bathroom. In a low voice, he said, "The deceased was only in his thirties. It must be devastating for his family, waiting for his return”
Ding Yang let out a sigh, "Such is life. It reminds us to cherish our loved ones and avoid leaving any regrets behind."
Shen Changan showed a slight smile, "Come on, let's head to the dinner place."
"Oh, okay," Ding Yang quickly nodded. Since experiencing the exhilarating ride with Changan, he found it hard to refuse any of his suggestions.
The dinner venue was small and had a plain decoration. The weathered advertisement sign outside the store was coated in a layer of dust, its colors faded over time. It was displaying the price of "22 Yuan per person," an incredibly affordable price.
By the time Shen Changan and Ding Yang arrived, their other colleagues were already sitting around the table. Seeing the two of them approaching, Chen Panpan waved at them, "Xiao Yangzi, Shen Changan, this way."
"Changan, can you handle spicy food?" Du Zhonghai, sitting at the innermost seat, wiped the slightly greasy table with a tissue, while saying, "Their cold pot fish and cold fried chicken are their specialties.”
"I can tolerate it, but only to some extent," Shen Changan couldn't help but glance at Du Zhonghai's forehead. There was a new addition—a wig that was slightly parted in the middle, giving Director Du an appearance resembling a traitor (Chinese).
"Then, let's have it mildly spicy, mildly spicy," Du Zhonghai patted his plump belly, seemingly making a tremendous compromise. He called the boss, "Boss, prepare a mildly spicy pot today, with fresh fish fillets."
"Don't worry, it will definitely be freshly slaughtered." The boss glanced at Shen Changan and smiled, "Director Du, is this your new colleague?"
"Yes, this is our new colleague, Xiaoshen," Du Zhonghai nodded with a smile.
"In honor of the new colleague, I'll offer you a serving of pumpkin pie." The boss nodded at Shen Changan and hurried into the kitchen, his figure exuding a majestic aura, like a general about to go into battle.
"Hehe, there's a new customer today, so the boss will surely show off all of his best skills again." Chen Panpan rubbed her hands together, her face full of anticipation.
Shen Changan: "..."
So the colleagues brought him to the dinner so enthusiastically, just because they valued his status as a newcomer?
"Don't feel upset." Xu Ze'an comforted, "We can let you have the fish maw later."
Shen Changan: "..."
This consolation wasn't very helpful.
However, when the cold pot fish was ready, Shen Changan, in front of everyone, still took the fish maw in his own bowl. Even though the spiciness brought tears to his eyes, he desperately ate a lot of it.
As a "utilized" new colleague, he had to eat his way back to his roots.
When it was time to pay, the boss asked Shen Changan with a smile, "Young man, how does the fish taste at my restaurant?"
"It was delicious." Shen Changan replied, his tongue almost numb from the spiciness.
“That’s a must. I've been running this restaurant for over ten years." Delighted, the boss even waived off an odd two yuan from their bill.
Du Zhonghai and Gao Shujun lived nearby, so they went home together after the meal, leaving four young people to continue on their way.
"I'm so full…!!" Chen Panpan rubbed her belly, "When I get married, I'll definitely find a man who can cook well."
"So, do you have a boyfriend now?" Xu Ze asked expressionlessly.
Chen Panpan: "..."
"Any little sister looking to get married? The brothers can help. Come, come along with us," A group of drunken hooligans staggered over, their large gold chains around their necks gleaming brightly under the streetlights.
Xu Ze and Ding Yang hurriedly stood in front of Chen Panpan, frowning as they looked at the group of hooligans with their colorful hair. Ding Yang said, "Guys, this is the main street. Please be more polite."
"What's wrong if it's the main street?" One of the thugs in a floral shirt pushed Ding Yang, causing him to lose balance and bump into Shen Changan beside him.
With a snap, Shen Changan's glasses on the bridge of his nose fell to the ground, and a piece of the lens shattered.
Touching his bare nose bridge, Shen Changan looked up at the thugs. "Didn't anyone tell you that gathering in public places to molest or insult women can result in a prison sentence of more than five years?"
"Hahaha, oops, we're so scared," the hooligans burst into laughter. One of them even stepped forward and puffed up his chest. "So what if I harassed someone? I'm molesting, if you have the ability, come and hit me."
These seemingly well-mannered men were always good at talking, but when it came to actually taking action, they were the most cowardly.
This kind of gentle and svelte man just has a sharp mouth. When it comes to making a move, they are more of a wimp than anyone else.
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