“...The storm weather warning has been upgraded to red. Passage to Norzin’s lower city districts has already been closed and traffic in Norzin’s upper city districts has come to a standstill. Many industries have been hit hard, and there’s been severe infrastructural damage.”
"At present, the city's sewerage system is operating at full capacity and alleviating some ponding. However, according to expert estimates, this is merely an inadequate measure. If torrential rain continues on for another month, a third of Norzin might be submerged."
"Rolle Resource Development Company proposed utilizing the lower city district to construct a more comprehensive sewerage network. This would be a huge project, thus the company would appeal to everyone and hope to gain the support of the authorities."
"Experts say that the main cause of this torrential rain comes from a cold air mass originating from the Northern Highlands..."
Lin Jie listened to the news broadcasts from his neighbor's television as he worked tirelessly to mop up the puddles on the floor.
This torrential downpour had already gone on for close to an entire week. Just as the reports had mentioned, ponding on the roads was more than 30 centimeters high the previous day, when the situation was at its worst.
To say that traffic had been completely paralyzed wasn't exactly true because paddle boats and other water-way means of transport could still be used.
After waking up in the morning and coming downstairs, Lin Jie saw that some water had seeped through the crack at the bottom of the door, carrying leaves, branches, and other such debris into the bookstore.
Fortunately, the situation wasn't that severe. The water level outside hadn't continued to rise due to the drainage system, just that some drifting plastic bags had caught on the door, causing water to flow in.
Lin Jie squeezed the last of the accumulated water out of the door and stretched his back. "It's finally done, how tiring."
He placed the mop aside and admired the sparkly clean floor.
"I wonder if that little cat found its way home. Roaming around outside in such horrible weather is rather dangerous," mused Lin Jie as he thought about the black cat that had run away from his door on the day of Joseph's visit.
The kind-natured Lin Jie couldn't help but sigh worriedly.
Sounds from the television suddenly ceased. A string of curses ensued, followed by some loud banging noises.
Lin Jie could imagine how agitated the next-door shop owner was right now. Lin Jie went over to the adjacent wall, cleared his throat and asked, "Hi, do you need help?"
The unit next door was an audio-video store that sold discs and various digital products. But as a dealer of second-hand wares, the quality of their products could be a little lacking. Their business was similar to Lin Jie's own shabby bookstore and it was rare to even see more than two customers on most days.
"It's alright, thanks," the next-door owner replied, as another two loud thuds were heard.
Colin Ackerman glared furiously at the television and cursed under his breath, "Fucking hell... Damned television! Damned rain! Oh god, can't you save me!"
He inspected the television set and realized that there weren't any problems. Therefore, it was probably an issue with the circuits or power source. Colin then checked the wiring but didn't find any problem either.
It can only be a trip then. Colin thought to himself. But my door is nearly submerged and the circuit breaker is outside...
Due to the natural topography of the area, the audio-visual store had a slightly lower position compared to the bookstore. Colin frowned at the thought of having to wade through water and he really wished he could give a piece of his mind to those people that had designed the sewerage system.
"Wait a moment, maybe the fella next door could help," muttered Colin.
He might have just rejected the neighbor's offer for help because he was embarrassed, but Colin knew that the fella next door was a do-gooder that would basically help anyone if it was within his power.
"Um, cough cough, are you still there?" Colin probed.
The voice of the young man next door responded, "I'm here, do you need my help somewhere?"
Colin nodded to himself then explained, "It's like this, you should have already heard it. I'm having some problems with my television and I suspect the circuit breaker outside tripped. I'm a little tied up here so could you help me have a look?"
Since this fella liked helping others, having him do a little favor didn't seem like a problem. Moreover, the television had been broadcasting the news free of charge for him in the last couple of days.
Naturally, Lin Jie didn't mind helping. Truth be told, he was bored and wanted to find something to do.
"No problem, if it's the circuit breaker, I remember that it's..." Lin Jie prepared to step out. Suddenly, a black and fuzzy humanoid silhouette appeared through the glass window of the door.
Lin Jie experienced the strange yet familiar sensation once again.
"Ah, it's you! You've come." Lin Jie was slightly astonished. He never imagined that this hidden hand would appear again after just a few days. "Is something the matter? Or are you urging me to loan out more books?"
The black silhouette at the door shook its head and pointed to the left.
Lin Jie turned and noticed the figure was pointing at the next door audio-visual store. Joining the dots, he came to an understanding. "You are saying that you want to help me?"
The black silhouette nodded.
Lin Jie smiled and felt that this hidden hand was rather cute. Previously, it didn't have an actual body and could only use wet stains to express itself. Now though, it had taken on a shadow-like appearance.
This was probably the result of loaning out all those books—it had previously said that loaning out books would benefit it.
And now, it appears to lend me a hand as a show of thanks? Wasn't it already a pact from the beginning and I'm supposed to be paying the price, yet it even came to say thanks instead. What's going on? Why does it feel like a polite child? Rejecting the offer might hurt its feelings, mulled Lin Jie to himself.
"Thank you then, the circuit breaker is... Um... I can't seem to remember clearly," Lin Jie turned to the wall and raised his voice, "Where's the circuit breaker?"
Colin replied at once, "It's on the right wall near the back door of my store. Help me see if it's a trip. If it is, all you have to do is flip the switch down."
"No problem," said Lin Jie.
At this moment, Colin saw his television crackle and light up. The news broadcast was already over and a commercial was airing. "It's working! Thank you very much!"
Lin Jie smiled and nodded at the black silhouette. Through the glass window, the silhouette started to fade, as if it was gradually backing away through the curtain of rain.
Pleased with the solved problem , Colin slumped back into his sofa and picked up his remote controller to switch through channels. While watching the changing scenes on the television, Colin's face suddenly stiffened as he broke out in cold sweat.
He recalled the entire exchange with the bookshop owner next door up until the television lit up.
His voice had only sounded from the same spot all this time...