Yanzhou Cemetery for Martyrs mainly housed the bodies of martyrs who'd died in the Qi’an warzone during the Period of Destruction. After the New Era was established, many graves were shifted over from other areas of Yanzhou. According to official estimates, there were tens of thousands of graves here, and most of the corpses had been cremated and compressed, taking up very little space. There were some without even a corpse, just leaving behind personal belongings or a personal record with their names.
The people of the New Era had a custom where, every Memorial Day, they would head to the Cemetery for Martyrs to pay their respects. Some people felt that paying their respects to the large congregation of martyrs would bless and protect them and make their wishes come true. Others just felt obliged to follow tradition and just came for a walk about.
As it was approaching Memorial Day, there were quite a lot of people visiting the Cemetery for Martyrs. During the journey there, Fang Zhao took the advice of the driver and got a queue number online.
The Cemetery for Martyrs had a place set up specifically for people to pay their respects. However, the space was limited. Thus, it was always full during the few days around Memorial Day, hence the need for a number.
There were too many people here to pay their respects. Fang Zhao’s number was quite far back and he had to wait approximately two or three hours before it was his turn. However, before it was his turn, Fang Zhao had decided to take a stroll through the Cemetery for Martyrs.
As he was approaching the cemetery, from a distance, Fang Zhao spotted the landmark of this area. A huge tombstone exceeding 500 meters in height.
The cab driver drove Fang Zhao somewhere close to the cemetery. There were too many people and the parking lots were full. Occasionally, gun-toting police officers could be seen patrolling. At this time every year, there would be large numbers of police officers situated here to maintain peace and order.
Seeing this, Fang Zhao alighted and made his way in by foot.
No fees were needed to enter the premises. All visitors were subjected to an identity check. As long as there was no issues with the identity and the number of people inside was still within the limits, the person was allowed to enter.
The path toward the cemetery was congested, but after entering, it was wide and spacious. This cemetery was huge and there were many different areas. The core cemetery, the Period of Destruction memorial hall, the plaza, loose graves, public worship area, etc.
That huge tombstone belonged to the core cemetery area and it had restricted access. Most people would head to the public worship area to pay their respects before heading to the cafes beside the plaza for some tea and chitchat. Descendants of martyrs would head to the loose graves or the core cemetery to pay their respects.
On both sides of the main street were two sidewalks sheltered by trees. The variety of the tree was Longxiang Tianluo, a tree that stayed green all year round. Even if a frigid winter season arrived at Qi’an City, the trees would still maintain a green glow full of vigor.
Ahead of the main street was the cemetery’s plaza. It was teeming with people, and the shops beside the plaza had a steady stream of visitors.
Only when they were paying their respects did people have solemn expressions. Everywhere else, be it walking through the plaza or taking a rest in a cafe, most people were in high spirits.
This was by no means disrespect for the martyrs. At the beginning of the New Era, a solemn and respectful attitude was the norm when visiting a cemetery. However, it all changed sometime later. There was a high-ranking veteran from the Period of Destruction who had been approaching the end of his life. Before he'd died, he had instructed his children and grandchildren to smile and laugh more when they came to pay respects to him in the future. The New Era that he and his comrades had fought so hard for was one where he did not want to see his descendants sullen and crying.
Little by little, people became less solemn when it came to paying their respects.
Memorial Day was, after all, a celebration. Since people came to pay their respects, they brought the same jubilant and festive spirit to thank the martyrs from the Period of Destruction who had fought for and secured a peaceful New Era for them.
Having experienced the end of the Period of Destruction, people of the New Era firmly believed that those lying here were their saviors.
When paying their respects, the elderly would pray for blessings for the younger generation. The younger generation would hope their wishes came true, hope for peace, hope for fortune, and hope for love.
It was still too early for Fang Zhao to head to the public worship area, so he headed in the direction of the huge and tall tombstone toward the core cemetery.
"Are you a descendant of a martyr? Can I verify your identity, please?" the receptionist at the core cemetery asked Fang Zhao.
"Nope. I’m not."
"Sorry, sir. Since you are not a descendant of a martyr buried inside, we require a thorough screening of your identity as well as a 1,000 dollar deposit. May I know whether you still wish to enter?" the receptionist asked politely.
The deposit would not be returned. This restricted most people. The core cemetery held a greater importance and it was not a place where anyone could enter. Thus, this rule was carefully drawn up by the managing board of the cemetery after much consideration. The deposit money collected would not be channeled to anyone’s personal pockets but would be used for the maintenance of the cemetery.
Fang Zhao handed over his identification information, and after the screening of his identity, paid the 1,000. The receptionist helped Fang Zhao put on a blue bracelet that would track his position at all times to ensure he did not enter any restricted areas.
Most of the people entering the core cemetery area were wearing bracelets of different colors. Blue was for normal people paying their respects. Red bracelets were for descendants of martyrs. White ones were government officials, and black indicated that person was special.
Although normal visitors were required to pay a rather large sum, Fang Zhao observed that there were quite a number of people sporting blue bracelets walking about inside. However, under the watchful eyes of police officers and monitoring devices, the people had to think twice even if they wanted to do anything.
The huge tombstone was the most prominent landmark in the core cemetery. The people standing next to it appeared tiny in comparison. The gigantic ash-colored tombstone seemed like a pillar supporting the earth. Steadfast and silent, it had braved the weather for more than five hundred years, a figure of pride and sorrow.
Fang Zhao spent quite some time standing before the huge tombstone. After he had his fill, he went around and headed to the back.
Behind the huge tombstone, hiding in the shadows, were a bunch of neatly arranged smaller gravestones. With the huge tombstone as the apex, the smaller gravestones extended behind in a circular manner.
Each of these gravestones represented a deceased person.
The first row, which was closest to the huge tombstone, had ten gravestones. These gravestones were larger than the ones behind. The closer they were to the front, the larger they were. The larger ones had more words carved on them and held a greater significance.
From the left, the first gravestone belonged to a man known by everyone. General Wu Yan, who helped create the New Era. The Yan in Yanzhou was obtained from his name.
Other than Huangzhou, where the alliance headquarters was located, the eleven other continents got their names or dubbed them from the eleven generals who had founded the era. For example, the continent of Leizhou got its name from General Harmon Renault. Since then, the alliance had abolished the rank of "Great General" as a mark of respect.
"Wu Yan (17th year of the Period of Destruction—56th year of the New Era). A founding era General, 2nd in command of the 5th Corps. Recaptured Yanzhou…"
Wu Yan’s gravestone had a brief writeup on his lifetime achievements, mostly on how he ended a period of disaster and helped found the New Era in an awe-inspiring and domineering manner.
Reading the words that the government had carefully sculpted, Fang Zhao broke into a little grin.
Probably no one knew that little brat Wu Yan was actually a scaredy cat. All he was really good at was hiding himself.
Continuing forward, the smile on Fang Zhao’s face was extinguished.
The words on the second gravestone were: "Fang Zhao (?—99th year of the Period of Destruction), Commanding Officer of the 5th Corps…"
The 5th Corps was the predecessor to the Yanzhou Military. Created toward the later stage of the Period of Destruction, the 5th Corps had become the Yanzhou Military in the New Era.
Using the system for tracking time in the New Era, from the year the Period of Destruction had started to the founding of the New Era, in total, it had lasted for 102 years.
99th year of the Period of Destruction…
In the historical records of the New Era, after the difficult first 99 years of the Period of Destruction, by the 100th year of the New Era, the fighting had more or less ceased. Most of the two years that followed was disposing of the remnants and, at the same time, rebuilding their homeland.
Literally just a step away.
Fang Zhao’s gaze fell from the gravestone to what was underneath.
Was he was really buried under this gravestone?
Fang Zhao was in a complicated frame of mind. He did not even know what background music to play inside his head.