48 Hours a Day
Chapter 322 - The Journey Back Home
There was no one outside the bar in the early morning. Only a few cleaners were cleaning the mess on the floor.
After returning to the earth, Zhang Heng needed some time to get used to gravity again. Fortunately, unlike a real astronaut, his physical body remained in the same state as before he entered the quest. His bone mass and blood volume were still the same, and he did not feel thirsty. He also suffered no vision problems (usually hyperopia). Hence it was more of a psychological adjustment for him.
After all, all he did was wander in space for four days. Even with the moon having only a sixth of earth’s gravity, these minor problems could be resolved in a matter of an hour or two, unlike the Black Sail quest.
Zhang Heng walked to a small housing estate. Upon seeing a roadside stall that served breakfast, he ordered a bowl of hot soy milk, with two Youtiao and a boiled tea egg. When he was done eating, the road was already lively again, and white-collar workers who lived nearby could be seen leaving their houses. Commuting in big cities had always been a serious problem. Most of the workforce lived so far away from their workplaces that it was worse than the distance between the Cowherd and Weaver Girl. Left with no other options, they had to get up very early in the morning and to fill their stomachs as fast as they could before joining the mad rush to work. Many even developed the skill of eating while walking.
Zhang Heng had visited a number of cities when he was still a kid, where he would follow his parents to attend academic conferences or his grandfather to meet friends who came from elsewhere. It was at that time when he got into the habit of labeling every city he visited in his mind. For this particular city, he had studying here for a year and a half, but still found it hard to find the right words to summarize and describe it. It was like a bowl of thick soup thrown in with all sorts of ingredients, its strange and weird flavors brutally clashing and mixing with each other.
No matter how picky the diners were, you could always find the parts that you liked. At the same time, you had to endure the parts you didn’t like. Perhaps then, complexity was its label.
After finishing up the last sip of soy milk, Zhang Heng wasn’t about to join in with the crowded mess of white that boarded the city’s various public transports. Instead, he unlocked a shared bicycle by the roadside using a QR code. He then rode all the way back to school. As he approached a few stores, he stopped his bicycle to buy some local produce. It would be used to deal with the little brats that frequented his house every Chinese New Year. As for the robot vacuum cleaner that he wanted to buy for his grandfather, an order had already been placed on Xiaomi’s official website.
Nothing else happened in the next two days. Zhang Heng put his Paris Arrow into the locker of the archery hall and took with him for the other game items that had no problems passing security checks. After that, he bid Ma Wei goodbye before embarking on the journey back to his birthplace to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Whenever Chinese New Year was near, millions of people would rush to board the trains. Zhang Heng had to squeeze through the gargantuan crowd just to get to the ticketing counter. After rummaging through the entire human mess, he managed to board the train. He put down his carry-on luggage and started to look for his seat according to the number printed on the ticket. There was already someone at his designated seat, and it looked like a young couple occupied it. Seeing that the original passenger had arrived, the boy got up with a smile and told Zhang Heng that they couldn’t get double seats and asked if he was willing to change seats with him. At the same time, he showed his ticket to Zhang Heng.
Zhang Heng took a look at it. Fortunately, the seat wasn’t too far away, located at the end of the carriage. So, Zhang Heng agreed to change seats. The boy’s face instantly lit up with joy, and he repeatedly thanked Zhang Heng. There was a high chance there was no extra space over there, so Zhang Heng did not take down his small suitcase that had found a spot on the luggage rack. He could only carry his backpack, which had a drinking cup and other valuables such as a camera and the game items.
Zhang Heng’s new seat was close to the aisle. Seated next to him was a middle-aged man in a jacket. He had not stopped talking on his mobile phone since he got on the train, appearing as if he was explaining some work issues or discussing after-sales problems with his customers. He sounded like some kind of sales director of a particular manufacturer.
Opposite Zhang Heng was a girl who should be a student like him. She held a book called – “TOEFL Vocabulary, Root + Associative Memory” in her hand. She wasn’t the most attractive, having tiny slits for eyes and a flat nose, and a scrawny body as well. At least she was still young and seemed to have a lot of potential till maturity.
Sitting next to her was a slightly older woman. She had a pair of headphones on and was watching a drama on a tablet. All three looked ordinary, and Zhang Heng did not know if this was a sequel for completing the single-player game with competitive mode. He could not help but subconsciously observe the people around him. There were still other players in the real world, and there were a lot of them. Hence, it was perfectly reasonable that he kept looking over his shoulder.
Speaking of the battle with Jia Lai in the Apollo Training Camp, it was his first time single-handedly killing other players. Zhang Heng thought he would feel bad about it, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Maybe it was because he had endured too many battles and his hands were soaked with blood anyway. The people he killed were from the quest or monsters in the real world. That said, he was surprised his heart remained the same even after killing other players. When he stuffed Jia Lai’s mouth with sand and watched him suffocate to death, he was calm and unmoved throughout the whole process. Perhaps he was a little too calm. Jia Lai was the first real person he killed. For a moment, even Zhang Heng could not recognize him.
He wasn’t sure if his current situation could be considered normal since he had such a bountiful experience. Hence, it was hard for anyone to tell him what he should do right now.
When the girl with the TOEFL book noticed somebody coming towards her, she quickly emptied the seat opposite her by removing a bag of potato chips and an apple. Zhang Heng thanked her as he sat down. As soon as he put his backpack down, his phone vibrated.
A small ‘1’ appeared on the cute version of Aqua’s avatar in his WeChat contact list. It meant he just received a new message. Zhang Heng tapped on it. [I’m sitting opposite you. Did you see me?] Zhang Heng frowned and looked up at the TOEFL girl. She had her head lowered and was memorizing words from the book. She could feel Zhang Heng looking at her face and observing her thoroughly. At that time, she was in a panic. Instead of looking up, she only lowered her head further. Her ears were slowly turning red as well. Zhang Heng replied. (I will block you if you keep on doing this to me.]
[Hehe… I’m bored. What are you doing? Do you want to go to the haunted house with me? I heard the alley is very, very, haunted. Let’s catch some ghosts tonight. (‘-W-)]
(I’m on a train back to my hometown for Chinese New Year. You can go there yourself.]
(Huh. Does that mean you’ll come to the haunted house with me if you are still here?]